Session Eighteen (crikey, have we got that far already?) and our heroes began the session in town, having rested up and recovered from their trip to the hill giants’ castle and the encounter with the ogres.
While they were there, Elysia made some enquiries about the picture that she had discovered in the Shadow House and the map that had been concealed behind it.
Eladar, her brother had returned to the town after some confidential business on behalf of the Council of Elders and he was able to point her to rumours of a lost dungeon somewhere to the north of the moors. He was able to deduce that since the map was annotated and detailed, it must have been drawn by a survivor. It was also likely that the picture of the figure in the head-dress had been drawn by the same person, and possibly meant it was linked to the dungeon in question.
The party set off, heading north on what is coming to be known as the Commercial Road. Not long afterwards, they met a merchant convoy, which was travelling with protection due to the presence of wolves nearby (the party had heard them on their two returns to town). Elysia asked about the legendary significance of lions since they had now found the overgrown sculpture of a lion and the drawing of the figure in the head-dress showed two lions in it as well.
The merchant to whom they spoke said he didn’t know himself but he had a cousin who was a sage and he would write to him to see if he knew anything about it. The party thanked him and moved on.
The theme of lions in the encounters and adventures the party has been having is a recurrent one and this is going to be developed in later sessions, if the party decide to go with it. To introduce a few more hooks into the campaign, I'll be using the sage as an info-dumper with the possibility that, if they get on well with him, more hooks can be slipped to them in the same fashion. There'll be no compulsion to go with these - the party have plenty of other things to do if they so choose.
That evening, they camped very close to the place where they had found the dead lion during their adventure of the Ruined Chapel. Nearby, they were alerted to something else dead by the plethora of ravens. Ferros didn’t try to Speak with Animals this time, but there was no need as the bodies were revealed as two ogres, riddled with arrows and hacked about. Around the bodies was a mass of hoof and footprints and there was some discussion as to whether they should follow the trail and find out who killed the ogres.
I know who killed them and what happened there; another possible adventure hook is dangling, waiting for someone to bite. In truth, I had rolled Ogre as an encounter but I felt we'd have enough ogres just recently and so, as I had done with the mountain lion in the adventure of the Ruined Chapel, decided to let the corpses tell the story instead.
It was decided that they should press on and north they rode the next morning, plunging back into forest before noon. The going slowed and by late afternoon, they were only a few miles further northward when they heard yet more howling; clearly wolves were active here as well.
Those wolves! They really are everywhere, aren't they? The frequency of encounters with these furry foes reminds me of just how common they were in the mediaeval landscape. A generous offer of bounty on wolfheads could bring the hunters flocking - hmmm, another idea to use later.
As they rode to try and find the source of the howling, Relic, who had been flying above the party, swooped down to tell Elysia, via their telepathic link that he had seen two distant flying figures, vaguely humanoid with large wings. Not knowing what the creatures were, they decided to investigate and headed in that direction post haste.
Suddenly Alurax pulled up the reins of his horse, which reared and shied back. In the gathering gloaming, the fighter had nearly ridden over the edge of a sixty foot sink hole, totally surrounded by trees and thick vegetation. The party spread out to examine the depths, with Elysia using her Wand of Illumination as Alurax and Cafaror lowered themselves down on ropes lashed to trees.
At the bottom, the two brave fighters found a tunnel entrance, down which they forayed. They were soon in a network of tunnels and at the first turning, turned right. The first cave they entered had a mysterious mass of golden growth on the floor, which appeared to grow very rapidly when they brought their torches anywhere near it. Common sense prevailed here and the two pressed on, taking the tunnel on the far side of the cave. With a diversion down a side tunnel which took them to the bottom of another sink hole, they ended up in a cave where a slithering lizard-like creature with five heads came shambling towards them.
They’d never seen a hydra before but their fighting abilities made short work of it and it soon lay dead on the floor, revealing a hoard of coins which they resolved to investigate later.
As they made their way along the tunnel that led away from the hydra, they heard a flapping sound from behind them and turned to see Relic approaching. He had been sent by Elysia to see where they had got to and if they were all right. They assured him that they were, and that there was nothing to worry about. The little pseudo-dragon returned to his mistress to relay the news to her.
Junior Grognard and Cafaror's player seemed wholly unconcerned about the fact that they had split the party, despite my constant warnings against doing so. I found myself running between the two groups, one in the dining room, one on the stairs, dice and Monster Manual in hand. Would it all end in tears? We shall see.
The rest of the party, having failed to communicate with Alurax and Cafaror, had caught sight of the winged creatures again, a little way to the north, apparently wheeling and diving in the evening air. They set off to try and find out where they were coming from and what they were. Before long, they arrived at the edge of another sink hole, down which they descended en masse. At the bottom another tunnel led into the darkness. Before long, they were confronted by a t-junction and they turned left, emerging into a large chamber. At one side was a carved and ornamented entrance, chiselled into the rock, flanked by two rampant lions. Ferros led the way in but almost as soon as he entered, he found out what was guarding the room – a huge spider swooped down on the end of a length of cobweb and lunged for the cleric. The rest of the party pitched in to help and realised that the roof of the chamber held six more of the arachnid horrors. The fight was on!
Meanwhile, Alurax and Cafaror were exploring the cave system further and came across a cave where two huge toads came hopping towards them out of the darkness. They were poisonous but this didn’t matter as the two fighters managed to hack them to pieces before they had managed to bite anybody.
After they had despatched the toads, they pressed on and heard in the distance, shouts and sounds of weapons, but decided to ignore them and continue their exploration. They eventually found their way into a cave where two of the weirdest creatures they had ever seen came shambling out to meet them. They had tortoise-like shells, tiny beak-like faces, antenna-like tentacles and some sort of tail that ended in a bony propeller formation. They had no idea what the creatures were but they soon found out as Alurax’s sword crumbled to rusty fragments as he delivered a blow to one of them, whilst Cafaror’s armour followed suit soon afterwards.
They ran for it and soon found themselves in the sink hole down which the rest of the party had come.
The beasties were approaching them and had a hungry look in their tiny eyes. Alurax very sensibly switched to his longbow to riddle them full of arrows and fairly soon, they were standing over the bodies of two dead rust monsters. They returned to the original cave to find the lair of the rust monsters contained at least twenty gems, which they pocketed and then headed down the last passage that they had not explored. This led them to the cave where the rest of the party had been busy battling the spiders. All seven horrid creatures were now dead, but Elysia and Zanurax had been poisoned and were now lying motionless on the floor. Some healing magic from the clerics enabled them to recover (the poison was to keep the victims alive but helpless so that they could be eaten at the spiders’ leisure later).
The party had been debating whether to call a halt here and return to town, or at least to the Moat House to recover and recharge their spells and hit points but I pointed out that the gateway in front of them was clearly man-made and might they want to at least take a look through it?
Beyond the gateway was a flight of stairs. Alurax and Cafaror decided to investigate and found themselves facing a chamber, the floor of which was divided into twenty four coloured flagstones.
Like this but with magic!
On two of the flagstones were silent and motionless figures which, when subjected to closer scrutiny were revealed to be statues.
Alurax and Cafaror stepped onto two of the squares (which surprised me as it's usually Adthar who goes rushing in) and immediately noticed that the rest of the party were moving and speaking incredibly quickly. The rest of the party, however, watched their comrades moving very slowly. Moving to another square revealed another weird effect – and so it went on, as they trod slowly across the multi-coloured floor; from bright, flashing, pulsing colours to pitch blackness, stinking clouds of noxious gas, randomly targeted firebursts and lightning bolts and – most surprising of all – the transformation of Cafaror into an elvish version of himself.
The two managed to make it across the floor to a ten-foot wide strip of sanctuary on the far side but then the rest of the party decided to try and cross as well. The tale of strange effects and weird wonders became very complex and hard to follow but to cut a long story short, Elysia, Ferros and Zanurax vanished before everybody’s eyes, Adthar trod on a flagstone and morphed into an ettin, Alurax went back onto the floor (to try and get a good transformation) and managed to get turned into a lion.
I wear a mane now; manes are cool
Adthar's new look
Only Galzor made it across in one piece more or less. In case anyone is wondering, Elysia, Ferros and Zanurax were turned ethereal and as well as that, Ferros is now six inches high, whilst Zanurax is nine feet tall.
The party now realised that this was the room on the map that they had found, on which were the words “die unless ye fly”
I had intended to use this as a good old-fashioned Let the Dice Decide Lottery Room and had used the results chart for the Wand of Wonder (DMG p136) to generate a truly random feel, substituting only the Grass Grows result for a polymorph effect, the reasons for which will probably be seen in the next session.
Earlier, Elysia had sent Relic on beyond the room of tiles to explore – he had found that on one wall of the corridor beyond, someone had scrawled in lampblack “Please help me” but there was no indication of who it was or to what it referred. The map that they had gave their direction as left at a crossroads, but also added ominously “Here we lost two”.
The room into which ettin Adthar walked seemed harmless, although there was a small side room which the lumbering giant investigated. Inside, he found an effigy of a strange creature that had webbed hands and feet, scales and gills. As Adthar reached in and grabbed it, portcullis gates crashed down at either door to the main room and the floor began to sink, water rising up through holes in the stone. Cafaror, who had come in to see what was going on, was trapped as well although Adthar thought that with his new-found strength, he could bend the portcullis gate and escape. Unfortunately, the bars were too strong even for him and the floor dropped even lower. More enraged pulling at the bars had little effect until he could only get his hands to the bars, which finally yielded. The water was rising up now and would soon be over his heads. He hung on and Cafaror climbed up the ettin’s back and through the small hole which, due to his slighter elvish frame, he could just slip through (that, and the fact that he had no armour now).
A flash of magical power appeared as if from nowhere and suddenly Adthar’s ettin frame had shrunk down to a fraction of his former size – six feet high as opposed to ten. He managed to wedge his heads and shoulders through the hole and finally the water began to recede. The floor rose up again and Cafaror and Galzor completed the bending of the bars to allow the ettin through.
Adthar managed to haul the portcullis up and bend more of the bars to wedge it in place, then walked to the other portcullis and did the same. As he was about to step through and lead the party onwards, there was a flickering of torchlight form the darkness beyond and the wavering shadow of somebody coming down the corridor. Who – or what – it was, we shall discover next time.
A fun session, refreshingly argument-free was had by all this week. The use of the Disco Floor of Random Doom totally worked although I'll not be going too wacky every session. A bit of light relief can be a welcome break sometimes. It was almost worth it alone for the look on the face of Cafaror's player when I described his new form as "more slender and a good deal more attractive"; he thought for one awful moment that he had been turned into a girl!
I decided to leave it on a cliffhanger for the simple reason that we'll not be playing again until the 5th November, so I wanted to have a situation where everyone reconvenes with a fixed point from which we can begin, rather than sitting around in town, trying to argue which of the many hooks they should follow (and using up a lot of time that could be spent adventuring)
Gauntlet Roadshows: Gaming Thunder - *LIVE FROM CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY...* GauntletCon ran this weekend, with nary a hitch (*except a hilarious one I’ll mention below*). I ran four sessions of *Wo...
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