Saturday 13 April 2013

Team Adventure - Pyramid Scheme

The next morning, Elysia despatched Relic and Rufus to scout out the two roads and see what lay ahead. It was not long before the pseudo-dragons returned to report that to the north-west lay seemingly endless tracts of sand dunes, whilst to the south-west, there appeared to be rocky hills rising out of the desert. There was a brief debate within the party about the direction that they should take; some thought the city sounded worth investigating whilst others were keener on the hills; somebody remembered that many weeks earlier (or so it seemed) Benbo had mentioned mountains across a desert and thought this might be them.

I should note at this point (for it was overlooked in last time’s report) that the party had left town without Benbo. The hobbit had not been present when they started their journey into the desert and nobody was particularly inclined to search for him.

The team set off towards the hills and arrived about mid-morning. The terrain was harder going but they nevertheless reached the high places with no great mishap.

At last, a break from sand!
From the peaks, they could see down across the desert plains and far off in the distance, Alurax (with his hawk-assisted vision) was able to pick out a tiny black speck on the horizon. Thinking that this could be the pyramid about which the obelisk had spoken, the party pressed on, coming out of the hills and into the desert again. Elysia sent off Relic to see what he could find out about the distant object but the team were setting up camp amidst the dunes before the pseudo-dragon returned, very hungry and thirsty, to relate that it was definitely a pyramid, with the ruins of some sort of temple outside.

When the sun rose, the party was eager to get moving again, now that they had confirmation that they were on the right track. It was not long before something unusual happened. Alurax suddenly went rigid in the saddle, moaned, clutched his head and fell to the sand. The rest of the party gathered round, very concerned. The doughty fighter soon recovered his wits to relate that he had experienced a weird vision; he had been in a moonlit desert when he was confronted by a mysterious figure in rags, beckoning to him. When he refused to approach, the figure came to him, revealing that it was the spirit of a long-dead king, who was now cursed by the gods to linger outside the afterlife as punishment for his greed and arrogance in life. He told Alurax that he needed help; if the party could seize the Staff of Ruling and the Star Gem from the tomb within the pyramid, then his soul could move on to the afterlife after hundreds of years. He also warned Alurax to beware of somebody called Munafik, whose heart had become filled with darkness.

The other members of the party seemed to consider that Alurax had been chosen by the King’s spirit to enter the pyramid and lift the curse. They rode for most of the day, with the distant pyramid getting slowly larger on their horizon.

Hmmm...I wonder if that's worth investigating
At last, however, they arrived at the foot of the huge building. It was getting on for late afternoon by now, but the gang were undeterred and scrambled up the steps which led to the only visible entrance. 

Inside the entrance, they found a passage running to the left and one to the right. Ahead of them was a long dark hall with four thick pillars on each side. Away at the far end of the room was a statue, dim and hard to make out in the gloom but Elysia used her Wand of Illumination to light the chamber and they could make it out. Alurax recognised a similarity between the figure he had seen in his vision and the statue, concluding that it must be of the King. It was also noticed that the statue was not carved of the same material as the wall against which it stood; further examination showed that it seemed to be concealing an entrance. Alurax and Gullhor tried to shift it but it was too heavy for them so they enrolled the assistance of Larsh and with his furry strength, the statue was soon heaved aside to reveal a short passage to another room, which had another statue of the King and two passages leading off to either side.

Concluding that the statue must hide a similar door, the party soon had it shoved aside and sure enough, a long passage lay beyond. It sloped downwards and the party followed it for about seventy feet until they arrived in a large room. On the far side, facing them were three statues of the King, with two more on each side of the room. The party edged around what appeared to be some kind of altar in the centre of the room. Elysia noticed that the ceiling and walls were covered in strange inscriptions and Ferros used his Comprehend Languages spell to decipher that they repeated the name of the King in many different but archaic languages.

On examining the altar, the party noted that there seemed to be the impressions of a left and right hand on one side of it. They were reluctant to place their own hands there, and instead conducted a thorough search of the room. One of the statues on the side opposite the main entrance yielded to the power of fighters and polar bear, only to reveal a small but empty room beyond.

Not wishing to leave any stone unturned, Alurax volunteered to place his hands onto the impressions on the altar. Nothing happened when he did so; nor did it when Gullhor tried. Then Ferros and Alagon remembered that the King’s name was almost everywhere in the room and thought that perhaps uttering this might give some result. So it transpired, and with a click and an eerie grinding noise, one of the statues on the side wall slid slowly aside to reveal a passage into the darkness beyond.

With Alurax and Alagon leading the way, the party moved further on into the tunnels and chambers. The passage led them into a grand hallway – or perhaps it had been grand once, many years ago. Now, the plaster frescoes had crumbled to rubble and there were axe and hammer marks all over the walls. At the far end was a broken door, showing the signs of violence.

The party decided to investigate further and found that beyond the door was another huge room. This had carvings in the wall which, when translated by Ferros, read ‘Treasure Room’. If it had ever contained treasure, there was none there now; merely broken pots and smashed chests. An archway at the end of the treasure room led to a room inside which lay a stone sarcophagus. Its lid had been heaved off and smashed into fragments. The sarcophagus was empty apart from a thick layer of dust. On the wall behind it, there were words which read “Here lies the true tomb of the King. Know that you have arrived too late to plunder his riches”.

Gullhor speculated that even if somebody had plundered the tomb, they might still find the treasure somewhere else in the pyramid since it had been said by the man who spoke to Alurax in the tavern in Sandholm that nobody had ever returned from the desert.

Meanwhile, Elysia and Ferros had despatched their pseudo-dragons to investigate some of the side passages that the party had passed on its way to the plundered tomb. The reports came in; the two passages that they had found just inside the main doorway led to a room with a statue of the King in on one side and a similar chamber on the other side but this one had a statue which held a large bowl in which blazed flames. The second pair of side passages led to deep wells within the pyramid, one of which was filled with murky water whilst the other was fed by a fountain that came pouring out of a hole in the wall of the well.

The party decided to check out the flaming bowl room, and were soon examining the statue, which stood at the top of a flight of stairs. Alurax approached the fire and noticed that it gave out light but no heat. Curious, he put his hand into the fire and found that he was not burnt. He tried placing a small twig into the bowl and at once, the fire flared up fiercely; when it subsided, there was no sign of the twig.

It was at this point that Galadeus, who had been checking around the room, noticed that as well as the tracks of the party, there were other footprints disturbing the dust, which climbed the stairs but did not go back down again. However, this observation did not deter Alurax from clambering into the bowl of fire. As had happened before, the flames blazed up, momentarily blinding everybody and when they could see again, there was no trace whatsoever of the trident-wielding fighter. Alurax was gone.   

DG note - a shorter session than usual this time, since it was Junior Grognard's tenth birthday this weekend and after we broke for lunch, the lads wanted to do other stuff. Nevertheless, they got a long way in a couple of hours, which pleased me greatly.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

An Adventure for Every Monster - Demon, Type V

Frequency     Rare
No. appearing 1-3 or 1-6
Armour class  –7/-5
Move  12”
Hit Dice 7+7
Percentage in lair 10%    
Treasure type G
No. of attacks 7
Damage per attack 2-8 & 6 varying    
Special attack  See below
Special defences +1 or better weapon to hit
Magic Resistance 80%
Intelligence High
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  L (7’ tall)
THAC0  12
XP value 3000 + 12/hp


Cause Darkness, 10’ radius at will
Create illusion
Cause Fear
Detect Magic
Read Languages
Dispel Magic
Polymorph Self
Telekinese 5000gp weight
Project Image
Use Symbol of Fear or Discord
Gate in a demon of Type I to IV (60% chance of success)

Demons, just like everybody else, dream. However, being demons, those dreams are typically demonic. Just how much trouble this can cause, we will now relate.

Our adventure takes place in an area of neglected countryside near a small town that is experiencing an influx of settlers, prospectors and, of course, adventurers. The town has its problems, as does any frontier town, but recently, those problems include three very grisly murders; all of young, handsome men who have been literally ripped to pieces. The town constable is perturbed to say the least, as are many of the menfolk of the town. In fact, the party may well find when they arrive that the streets are a lot quieter than they are used to and many males stay behind locked doors at night.

What could be causing this wave of consternation? The answer lies several miles outside town, in an old and almost forgotten temple, once the haunt of a cult of the Snake God, now however a lurking place for another (albeit similar) cult. This one worships Lazulari, a Type V demon who, as many of her kind tend to do, has required the regular sacrifice of strong warriors. Fortunately, there seems to be a regular supply of them in the town, where her cult members have been busy as of late. They’re not, however, the ones doing the horrific murders.

Lazulari is not the demon she once was. Until a few weeks ago, she gladly accepted the offerings made by her cultists; warriors would be brought to the temple, held till the day of the sacrifice and then slain on Lazulari’s altar. She would then channel the demonic energies to her cultists and everyone would go away happy.

That is, until her cultists brought her Jerrif, a fighter who was, shall we say, rather on the handsome side, ostensibly Chaotic Neutral but with a hidden tendency towards acts of badness. Lazulari sensed the evil within him but she also found his charisma and looks rather overwhelming. In short, she fell in love with him.

She commanded him imprisoned rather than sacrificed and spent many hours trying to turn him to evil. Jerrif, however, was having none of it and although frustrated and angry, Lazulari could not bring herself to kill him. Nor indeed did she wish to Charm him. That would be cheating. She wanted him to come to her of his own free will. The new feelings she was experiencing have started to manifest in ways that she could not have imagined; romantic dreams were only part of it. She was determined to woo him and set about discovering the strange world of human love.

On three occasions, she has assumed the shape of a young girl and gone into town to see if she can find out the way to a man’s heart and use that knowledge to seduce Jerrif. That plan went badly wrong when the men she chose, although handsome, turned out to be less than gallant and laughed at her attempts at romance. Angered, she assumed her real shape and slaughtered her mocker.

After three attempts, she gave up and set about obtaining, through demonic assistance, tomes and scrolls of a romantic nature to see if they could help in her plan.

Meanwhile, obsessed by dreams of romance, her ability to grant the wishes of her cultists is starting to go decidedly off track. The cult members are now getting rather impatient, if not irritated by her lack of demonic prowess and some are wondering if perhaps they might have better luck with another Type V demon. This is almost certainly the case and it is likely that other Type V demons are already eyeing up the potential.

And what of Jerrif? The poor chap can’t help but be a little nervous of what awaits him. He had heard stories of demon love and what might work for them certainly won’t leave him in very good shape. The human frame just isn’t robust enough. He’s desperate to escape before she gets kinky. 

The party have several opportunities to enter this adventure.

The town constable may hire them to investigate the murders. Clues may well lead them to a young girl present before each murder and her trail may lead back to the temple.

The cultists may well try to hire muscle to aid in their attempt to depose and dispose of Lazulari.

Jerrif’s friends and fellow adventurers aren’t convinced that he’s dead and seek help to track him down. A mischevious DM may plant the seeds in the party’s mind that Jerrif has gone over to the dark side during his imprisonment.

Lazulari herself may be seeking an exit strategy. Knowing that her position in the hierarchy of the Abyss is imperilled by her strange behaviour and suspecting her cult of treachery, she may try to cut a deal with the party if she can approach them in a manner that is not going to cause them immediately to attack. If the party agree to help her, she will not turn on them, provided that she and Jerrif are allowed to stay together. If the party interferes with her plan, she will turn on them.

She will use her treasure either to aid her in combat or to bribe the party to assist her.

12500 gold pieces
525 platinum pieces
4 gems
1 piece of jewellery

Magic items: Any 4 plus one scroll 35%

Given that Jerrif has been reluctant to reciprocate Lazulari’s feelings, it may be that if there is another fighter in the party with a similarly high Charisma (say 16+), then the demon may transfer her sentiments to him.

If the party help her and all goes well, they will have acquired an ally, albeit one that is, like most of her swords, double-edged. The attention of the Authorities of the Abyss will also become more focussed on them with all the bother that this entails.

Ironically, the outcome of this adventure will actually be quite negative for the nearby town if the cult survives and lazulari departs, either killed or into hiding.  A new Type V demon will arrive soon and with no romantic delusions to cloud her mind, will start to wreak havoc in the area. The cultists will also be able to warn her about the party and its abilities, so they will be less likely to be able to take the new demon by surprise.