The session began with the Team trying to decide who would go down the shaft that they had discovered hidden inside one of the pillars. In the end, Ferros volunteered to lead the way and they found that at the bottom of the shaft, there was a narrow subterranean passageway that turned after a few yards and then ran straight for at least fifty feet or so. The team followed Ferros down the passage and our brave cleric found that at the far end, it opened into a vaulted crypt. Around the walls were niches into which coffins would be placed. Now, however, the niches were filled with scattered pieces of coffins, gnawed bones and other grisly remnants of those who might once have made their way down. Ferros moved into the room to investigate, only to find himself menaced by the sudden appearance of four ghouls – filthy, clawed monsters whose arrival was accompanied by the hideous stench of mouldering bodies and rotting flesh.
Ferros, newly the Scourge of the Undead, was undeterred by this awful manifestation and stepped forward, raising his holy symbol high. The light of the cleric’s faith burned bright and the ghouls reeled back in fear, shambling back towards the rear of the room. At that, the rest of the party poured into the crypt and with their bows poured missile fire into the retreating monsters, finishing off three of them. The fourth made its escape down a passage at the far end of the crypt and was not seen again.
Meanwhile, the Team, having found no loot on the bodies of the ghouls, started to search the crypt for hidden compartments and secret doors. Ferros noticed that his torch was flickering as he approached the southern end and Alurax deduced that this must have something to do with an air current that had to be coming from somewhere. They traced it to a hole that had been ripped in the wall at the back of one of the niches. They proposed to crawl down it to see where it led; Elador suggested that they be roped together, with the rest of the party holding the end of the rope in case something bad happened and they needed to be retrieved quickly. This they did, and at the end of the roughly-hewn passage that led back about fifteen feet, they found a small cave where bones and skulls littered the floor. Beneath this horrible detritus, they managed to uncover a hoard of silver pieces and several interesting items, including some vials of holy water and a scroll that conferred protection against the Undead on its reader. Whether these were the pitiful last possessions of a dead cleric or their presence was a macabre coincidence, the Team could not tell.
On the far side of the ghouls’ den was a smaller passageway, no more than a tunnel perhaps three feet across. Ferros and Merlin began to explore it but soon realised that its length and complexity meant that they were likely to end up lost. They abandoned the exploration and returned to the crypt where they reviewed their finds.
It was probably a good job that the party decided not to explore any further; the module stated that getting lost was a certainty if they decided to press on. They had roped themselves together for the crawl so that they could be extracted if need be - a very good idea for which I gave out some XP rewards.
Adthar took the lead as they followed the trail of the escaping ghoul and found that the passage led, by way of twists and turns to a junction. To the left was a corridor that vanished into the darkness but to the right, a flight of steps led downwards and there was the sound of lapping water. Going further, the Team found that the stairs led to a cave in which was a wide, deep pool. On a ledge on the far side, amongst more bones and litter were what seemed to be coins. Merlin set off round the ledge to get to the far side, accompanied by Galzor who was in for a nasty surprise as up out of the water rose a huge crustacean armed with massive pincers. It used these to terrible effect, badly wounding Galzor. The rest of the party now weighed in, hacking and chopping at the monster, a Giant Crayfish. It was finally despatched and sank back down into the water. While Merlin pressed on to the far side to investigate the coins, Adthar stripped off his armour and dived into the water to see if there was anything worth recovering – his efforts were rewarded with a silvery pin fitted with a small ruby and a bone tube, sealed at each end with wax. Surfacing again, he was in time to see Cafaror make the same descent to remove the crayfish’s claws, obviously to add to his growing souvenir collection. Cafaror's player was really getting into the souvenir collecting thing, which I am encouraging, partly because it is a very good attempt at individualising the fighter and partly because I have some interesting ideas for this in future adventures.
Once the party had dried off, they set off again up the passageway, aiming to see what lay at its end. They arrived in a large room which had several doors and passages opening off it. They tried to open one door, only to find that behind it was just a blank wall. From further into the dungeon, they heard a strange, dull clanging noise. Bemused by this, they moved further into the room only to find themselves under attack from a band of gnolls who were camped in an adjoining room.
The gnolls were a tough enemy although Adthar’s masterful swordplay made short work of four, with Alurax killing three. The rest of the party finished off the last two.
I'd set the gnolls' HP at 9, the average of 2d8 (saves having to check different HP totals for each individual monster) and with them being larger targets, the d12 damage from the longswords the party's fighters were using seemed to be delivering one-hit kills quite often in the combat.
Although there was no treasure in the gnolls’ lair, looting the bodies yielded a haul of no small size.
Having won their bitter fight, the party was in two minds as to which way to proceed. They decided to follow a long sloping passageway that they had sidetracked on the way to the gnolls’ room. At its end, they found a door, beyond which was another passageway and a door to the left. Ferros decided to open it a crack to see what lay beyond but at that point, he was surprised as it was wrenched open and an orc stabbed a spear at him. The thrust missed and moments later, the orc lay dead on the floor. Its companion, halfway up the passageway took a defensive position as the party hurtled towards it, whilst at the end of the passageway, a third orc started screaming “Intruders! Intruders!”
As previously mentioned, I'm moving away from human/human combat and so had exchanged the guards at this point in the module with orcs, a preferable solution for all concerned.
Battle was joined; the Team fought its way up the passage, into a small room and to the far side, killing or sleeping everything that stood in their path. Beyond the small room, they entered a larger chamber where they faced eight orcs, two hobgoblins and a tough individual in armour with a huge mace, who watched and waited for his chance to strike.
He didn’t get it; the Team engaged the orcs and punched through enemy lines. Alurax struck, then landed a blow that rocked him back on his heels. This was JG's use of the d30 for this session, a score of 23. When I announced that their foe was still standing, their eyes widened in horror. They had never met somebody with so many HP before and it was a shock to the system. Not for long, however. Galzor’s mace blow was tellingly effective (another d30 roll) and Elador fired a magic missile which sent the heavyweight crashing to the floor. He had only tried to hit Alurax once and missed. The party's tactic of rushing the big foe and taking him from front, sides and rear to get hit bonuses had paid off again (remember the ogre in the previous session?)
Soon, the party’s martial prowess – and the death of the enemy champion - finished off the opposition and the last two surviving orcs threw down their weapons and raised their hands, much to the chagrin of Alurax, who was fired up with a combat frenzy. The party cast a glance around a room littered with bodies and could not help but feel somewhat pleased with themselves.
They were in for an unpleasant surprise!