A Token Victory
This morning, JG took the initiative. He told me to clear the dining table and get Team Adventure ready to roll. I needed no further bidding and things were soon in place. I remembered (but the last session was a while ago) that they were hunkered down in room 22, busily getting their spells back and curing each other. JG, after a bit of prompting thought to cast Read Magic on the spell book and duly noted down what spells it had in it. He didn't actually do anything with said spells, however.
The party then set off up the corridor, heading back towards the ogre room where they had identified several passageways as worthy of attention. They had intended to look up the corridor past the zombie room but as they were about to turn up that corridor, they heard the door opening and the chant of "Brains! Brains!" getting louder. TA decided to skeddadle very quickly across the ogre room and down to the area that abuts onto the water area. They had remembered that there was a passageway leading off it, ending up in room 17. As they approached, they spotted a large winding wheel on the wall and a bony arm sticking through a heavy portcullis.
Alurax and Hruthnor decided to turn the wheel and sure enough, the gateway raised a bit. They tried this several times, each time retreating as the portcullis lifted. Eventually, their bravery cut in and they got it all the way up. Everyone else was up at the bend in the passageway while our heroes tried to see what was inside and debated the wisdom of going in.
Suddenly, there was the sound of bowstrings and Akurath took an arrow from an unseen shooter. Another missed Elise. The rest of the party scrambled down to the entrance to 17, and Alurax and Hruthnor stepped in. They started to look around the room; I watched carefully and when they moved across the centre of the room, I deemed that the portcullis had slammed down again. Fortunately, the rest of the party swiftly raised it and got them out, just as a leathery flapping in the ceiling cavity got louder and louder.
The arrow had come from one of the three remaining kobolds who now jumped out from their hiding place at the corner of the passageway and fired again. Garazor took an arrow this time. The members of the party who were facing the right way fired back and one kobold crashed to the floor. The other two legged it.
Finally, the party decided to give the passageway to room 21 a try. They got halfway down the passage before a querying glance from the DM gave them cause for pause. I described what they saw, both thieves having failed their find traps rolls. I had to carefully guide them from conclusion to conclusion before they eventually realised that a section of the wall about six feet off the ground was marked with grubby and large fingerprints. As if someone had been pushing at that bit quite often. They cottoned on that it was some sort of switch to activate the traps and pushed it. Then pushed it again. This switched the trap back on. Lannius edged forward, using his 10' pole and set off two sets of spears that flew out of the wall, then drew back in again. Needless to say, if the entire party had moved down the passageway to the door, at least two members would have taken a possible 3d6 of damage (I'd have allowed a save vs DEX to halve that).
Finally, switching off and switching on again, using a real light switch as a prop, they worked it out and moved forward in relative safety. Both thieves failed their locks roll for the door and most of the strongest characters also failed their Open Doors rolls.
Surprise, surprise, Zhastar the hobbit got it open eventually. Inside, they could see bundles and bundles of stuff, but being very cautious (I wonder why that could be so?) they sent Lannius in, having just about made his Hide in Shadows roll (okay he missed it by one but I was in a generous mood). He made several runs, bringing all the bundles out and eventually the last stone token as well.
JG was delighted to have found the last token and they set off back to the 3rd level and the treasure chamber. But as they were heading along the passageway towards the area of 25 and the shaft, guess who they should see, coming the other way? Yes, eight lean and hungry figures. JG scented the odour of corruption and the chance for revenge. Elise and Zhastar were put to the front and in came the ghouls - holy symbols were displayed and though Elise failed her roll, Zhastar made his and rolled an 11 on the d12. An oil bomb came sailing over the heads of the party and I rolled to see where in the ghoul pack it would land. JG rolled his 2d6 per ghoul caught in the splash and three went down. (yes, I know that in the rules, a direct hit gets the 2d6 and splash damage gets 1-3 but as the oil bomb fell amongst four of them, I ruled that each was susceptible to the full damage. Hey - they could have rolled a 2, or I could have rolled and found only two ghouls were hit) A fourth was on fire but this was only a temporary setback as Alurax and Hruthnor gunned it down with arrow and crossbow bolt. The surviving ghouls shambled off up the corridor and JG and party descended to level 3. I was rolling to see if they met anyone else on their journey to the treasure room but no-one else came up.
JG took each of the tokens and slotted them into place. The pillar started to rise into the ceiling, leaving an empty space behind. JG thought that this was it, and that there was no pay-off. Then the bottom of the pillar, now flush with the ceiling, opened up and gold pieces cascaded out.
"How many?" asked JG
"Oh, hundreds" I said
"What, a thousand?"
"Yeah, about that"
Lottery factor strikes again. He was somewhat disconsolate to find that there were no magical goodies in the haul until I pointed out that they had found plenty of magic goodies elsewhere in the dungeon.
There remained only the task of dragging all this loot back to the surface. When they reached the shaft, I pointed out that the rope would not take the weight of characters loaded with stuff and so Lannius climbed up and hauled each bundle up one at a time. He was halfway through when the sound of shuffling and the words "Brains! Brains!" came down the corridor. He at once descended on the rope and waited until the zombies had gone. No-one seemed particularly interested in bundles by a shaft (the cleric's priorty is new recruits, after all) and once the area was safe, the rest of the loot and the party ascended. Pausing only to collect the bones of the friendly ghost, they left the dungeon.
I concluded it there. As a wee giftie to the party, and to equip them a little better for the nasty world outside, I've decided to list out all the magic items that they've found and either let JG pick one for each member or let the dice decide. There will be no xp for these items - just a little something to give them a chance in the big bad world.
The Hex Factor
I had come to the conclusion that eight is too strong a party to be taking on first level dungeons. I had decided quite a while ago that JG would have to reduce the character roster by two and now had come the time to do so.
He decided that Garazor and Alia would be leaving the party at this stage. JG's rationale was that the party he picked (Akurath, Hruthnor, Alurax, Zhastar, Elise and Lannius) filled the slots that he reckoned were necessary for a party. Two fighters, a F/Mu, a Cl/Mu, a cleric and a Thief. In retrospect, Alia had sleep but sleep is in the spellbook that they picked up, and Garazor, whilst very handy, was always seen, I think, as a guest character. Never mind - he may well reappear - it's a big sandbox out there!
Next time, the party starts in the real world, no soft corners. Experience points are there for the taking, but so is death in all its cold and heartless glory.
New Story Arc Begins In Valiant's X-O Manowar #4 - Out Tomorrow... - As well as new adventures of Aric of Dacia, the collected issues of the first arc of this new run of X-O Manowar (Vol 1: Soldier) will also be available to...
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