This is bi-weekly Sunday D&D game in Zürich, Switzerland. We’re not using any specific “game world” per se, and standard D&D 3.5 rules, core books only.
The campaign moved on to the Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur (Open Design).
The vault has been robbed!
The party gained access to the white key by talking to the Regis’ couple, promising them to either return the diamond, or pay 10k. Unfortunately the party was attacked by an elder xorn at the entrance and Silas was killed. He was subsequently raised by Jeffar in Bostwick, but that put a little dampener on the players. And on top of that, Nic announced that he preferred playing board games and was going to quit the game! Oh well… Thus, Silas will be quitting the game.
The party then made a second entry, explored tunnels, and finally found some treasure. When trying to sell it to Angus Carl in Twain, however, it turns out that it’s all enchanted copper and glass beads! Damn! Fooled by Larin Karr…
Challenges overcome: Elder xorn CR 8, two wraiths CR 5, pit trap CR 2.
New level for Auroleva!
All these sessions, Corian had a high Bluff check and never used it. This session it all came together.
At first they saw a few bugbears in the distance. Corian turned invisible, Flax and Belflin hid in the shadows, and Aurleva cast Barkskin on herself. The bugbears ran. They found a piece of leather armor with a drow inscription saying “Hairy Fang Scout Battallion, 3rd Squad” or something the like. I’m assuming their dark elf masters know at least some of the party’s strengths. And the drow have had various other contacts with them: The drow party confronting the orcs at the underdark lake, the drow wizard living with the Crushed Skull orcs, the bugbears that ran when Belflin startled them at their camp fire near the ogre cave… Random encounters are forcing me to add a significant element of drow elements to the campaign’s future.
Later they saw two of the bugbears slain and one of them with pieces of grey dessicated flesh on his morningstar. The enemies must have used bows. Weird.
Finally the party met 13 gnolls lying in wait for them. Did the bugbears order this attack? Maybe. On a whim I decided to add a hidden hill giant to the mix. The two flying invisible archers were surprised to find the hill giant there, but within seconds the fight was over, the gnolls and the hill giant ran, the gnolls carrying torches for the hill giant, illuminating the target for Belflin. The last gnolls finally dropped the torches… The party found 1000 gp and two scrolls. Nice.
To bad Silas the cleric wasn’t there when the party met three wraiths. Two got Constitution drained and they decided to try something new: Cast Fly on themselves and use Dimension Door to get to the surface. I ruled that this was no problem.
Some healing in Bostwick, and they returned by the same route. I let them have 1d6 damage for missing the tunnel by a bit, but nothing serious. They found the wall accross the tunnel and the two towers. A flying invisible language comprehending Flax went ahead and discovered the goblin archers. The party decides to bluff their way in – as gem traders! They have enough jewelry on them, excellent Bluff checks, and Corian knows the Tongues spell. Excellent choices in order to avoid combat. They meet Gorl, show them their gems, ask for the hexagonal gem, are shown the statue of Belphegor, and learn that it is not for sale. The party leaves, holes up in extradimensional space using the Rope Trick, and the next day they use two Dimension Door spells to get to the gem. The first Dimension Door took them into the kennel of the hell hounds, but Corian uses the surprise round to cast the second Dimension Door which takes them to the statue. The giant wakes, but on the second try Corian’s cohort Flax has retrieved the gem from the statue, they all link hands, and use a third Dimension Door to get out. As they prepared by using Fly on themselves, no problem.
The session really allowed Corian to shine.
All that remains is to get the gem hanging around Winifred Baum’s neck. Corian tries to talk her out of it, but she gets a +15 circumstance bonus unless he tells her a “spectacular” story. They failed to convince the poor woman and now they really need to think of other ways to get to the gem… We already established that an equivalent real-looking gem was probably worth around 10’000 gp. Quite a lot…
Generally speaking the party is now very famous in the valley. People believe they’ll get rid of the green dragon of Twain for them, that the priestess of the temple of the everlasting sun, Jeffar, has been gaining in power and grace ever since she raised Belflin the elf from the dead, and with Corian talking about “his party” to Winifred Baum I think it won’t be long until people will wonder how Crus is going to react to this all.
Challenges overcome: Thirteen gnools CR 1, Bog the hill giant CR 7, the poison needle trap on the chest CR 2, four goblin archers in the tower CR 2, Gorl the fire giant and cleric of Belphegor CR 10.
Belflin, Silas, and Auroleva delve into the Underdark, looking for the temple of Belphegor, the evil god of fire.
On the first day, they meet some Gnolls, but using sign language the two groups pass each other. During the night, the gnolls come back. The party feigns sleeping, and the gnolls decide to attack! The fourteen gnolls did not last long and a chest loaded with 1300 gp was discovered. Some sort of tribute to be paid, maybe?
On the second day, a wraith was fought and bested, and a group of Crushed Skull orcs was met later that day. One of the orcs knew Giant and gave Belflin directions to the ogre caves. The party followed the directions, got overtaken by the orcs by nightfall, but again nothing happened.
On the third day, the party reached a big cave and discovered a red dragon called Thuskamasker in an abandoned Belphegor temple. The dragon graciously agreed to a gift of 1300 gp in a wooden chest and let Belflin go.
The party also found a secret door with an Infernal inscription but did not investigate.
And the party got into a fight with some ogres. Their surviving leader Klusko offered to find a hexagonal gem for 1000 gp after all but two of his clan were killed. Belflin, growing suspicious, decided to search the premise and discovered the very key they were looking for in the ogre’s treasure chest.
The party also befriended a lonesome & lost hobgoblin and finally arranged for him to become Crus’ servant.
Challenges overcome: thirteen gnolls CR 1, one wraith CR 5, ten ogres CR 3, Klusko CR 7, hobgoblin CR 1
One player is in Brazil, another is sick, and a third can’t come. It’s just Marco and Claudia! All three of us went to the same bakery to get croissants and bread or cake, and we spent two hours on the balcony eating breakfast and basking in the April sun. Good times.
Belflin and Corian decide to investigate the missing body up in Bostwick and with Flax’ help they discover the secret passage down into an old crypt. Behind a secret door they find the bones they were looking for, a fresh corps, and four ghouls. An easy fight!
Behind the double door they find an Unholy Blight trap and two wraiths. They retreat as fast as they can, organize Jeffar and “mayor” Wycheck (even though the two don’t seem to like each other). Together, they beat the wraiths and discover the amazing Rod of Death. This rod would be worth about 75,000 gp to a priest of Nergul, god of death.
A 150 ft drop into the Underdark is ignored.
The party then turns south and decides to investigate the missing workers in the Thorfax mines. I had planted this seed myself in order to introduce a beholder outpost. But with only two characters in the party (a ranger level 7 and a sorcerer level 8), I had to switch plans. I had already been toying with a cloaker outpost, Belflin already hated cloakers with a passion, and KoboldQuarterly #4 featured a “Cloaker Ecology” – I hadn’t really read the article, but there it featured stats for a so-called dread cloaker. Cool.
So I quickly invented some caves and let the party know where five miners had disappeared in the last few days and weeks. I figured that these miners had been kidnapped (“grappled” by a cloaker and carried away) and they had tried to drop some of their items, trying to lead their fellow men to the cloakers. It turns out that the end result was too confusing and I pointed them towards the caves with extra high ceilings. Corian knows the Fly spell so finding a tunnel leading towards a separate set of caves with the five miners and five cloakers was no problem.
The party fought one cloaker guarding the access to the caves, another cloaker guarding the miners, and three cloakers pursuing them. The last fight was a very close call. When one of the cloakers had the archer paralyzed I wondered what to do – coup de grâce? Then I figured that it would try to enslave Belflin instead. It carried him back to the slave pit, took all his gear, and moved away. Beflin was unable to stop it.
In the mean time, Corian was fighting the last cloaker with the help of his fourth level cohort. The sorcerer prevented the cloaker from grappling him, withstood a stupor moan, and brought the cloaker down with some Magic Missiles and Flax flanking. Who would have thought that we have such a tough sorcerer in our party?
The party brings the miners back to safety, get an ordinary longbow and some arrows for Belflin, and the next day they go looking for some cloaker butt to kick. It doesn’t take them long to find the dread cloaker in his lair. They beat him eventually…
Challenges overcome: Four ghouls CR 1, two wraiths CR 5 (XP shared with two NPCs), trap CR 4, five cloakers CR 5, a dread cloaker CR 7.
The party prepares to leave Bostwick. Flax has returned from the land of the dead. Jeffar berates the party for their foolishness. Belflin tells her – again! – how the orcs and trolls of the Underdark have to be kept under control lest this valley be overrun by monsters.
It’s August 23 and a full moon rides the night sky. Flax is back and visibly shaken. Corian spends many hours talking to her.
The party rides back to Pembrose and on to the old keep. The reconstruction is far from finished. They leave the horses with the workers and take the dark read past the dungeon cells, through the torture chamber, the secret room with the goblin heads in jars, into Vordek’s graveyard. And they realize that there must be a reason Vordek the ghost keeps coming back. All he ever says is “Don’t touch my bones!”
By now he is no longer a match for the party. Silas turns him, and the two elves stick some arrows from their magic bows into him. Silas prepares a consecration of the graveyard and blesses the dead. The party assumes that Vordek was the torturer down here and that these graves are the graves of his victims. Giving them proper burial rites and releasing them from the Material Plan will put Vordek to rest. And so it is.
The party makes its way to the Crushed Orc encampment, where Karamutenga approaches the guards, jumps them out shadows and intimidates them. “On your knees!” he snarls. They obey. The rest of the party approaches slowly. As a discussion starts up, the orcs recover their wits, jump up and run away. With two swift strokes Karamutenga cleaves them into pieces.
The sound of slaughter has alarmed more orcs. A gong is rung, but the four additional guards are quickly slain. As the party enters the big cave, Karamutenga throws down a dead guard and makes another Intimidate check! Kersux doesn’t give the signal. The orcs are uncertain. Karamutenga stares them all down and challenges the leader to single combat. This they understand! They mutter their approval and Kersux accepts. Slowly Karamutenga descends into the cave and faces the orc leader. Karamutenga the female half-orc wears a chain shirt and wields a greatsword. Kersux the male orc wears a beautiful half-place and a very nice greatsword with pearls inlaid into its handle. The orcs form a circle around the combatants.
With a roar they jump each other and after two mighty blows Karamutenga buries her blade in Kersux’ throat. Silence descends. Finally the second in command calls his comrades back. “Kersux is dead! There is no point in staying here anymore. Those who wish for a better life than this dog shit follow me!” Most of the orcs follow him until Karamutenga barks at the remaining orcs: “What are you staring at? Begone!” They break and run.
Apparently the drow wizard Phren cast Fly and Invisibility on himself as soon as Kersux died. He did not have to time take his crystal decanter and wine glasses with him – just his gems and his spellbook. Still, the party finds a small statue of Orcus that must have belonged to Quarant, the orc ambassador at the ruined keep talking to Thugler. Then again, the party never learnt that much because they entered the keep via a backdoor, surprising Thugler and Quarant, slaying Quarant in the surprise round and Thugler not much later. The party also finds another gem encrusted statue of Orcus, a platinum spider pendant, more gems, and gold. Payback time!
The party follows the orcs and manages to talk to Phren. But nobody seems to know about the two other keys. Apparently the orc party that found them (and Kersux among them) must have sold them away. The only other interesting parties Phren knows down here are the ogres and the fire giant and his temple of Belphegor to the east.
The party decides to return to the surface, ride to the ruined village north of Twain, and take the secret passage into the Underdark, saving them a long trip underground.
They also take the opportunity to slay the remaining giant stag beetle, turn the two wraiths in the catacomb and take the mummy’s golden star pendant. They also stumble into an assassine vine as they explore the village. This was a tough fight because I ruled that the party was spread all over the ruins, searching. So in the surprise round I rolled a d10 to determine in which building everybody was. They managed to save Belflin just in time.
As they burn the vine down, they discovered that it had grown out of or into a cellar, and in that cellar Flax discovered a passage in the Underdark.
They descended the stairs and reached a cave. They cautiously moved into the cave. Belflin made the Spot check and realized that one of the stalagmites must have moved (the roper has +18 to hide down here!). Belflin decides to lead the party around it. I ask how much distance he wants to put between himself and the stalagmite. He answers: “Fourty feet.” Uhhh… the roper strands have 50 ft. reach… And so Initiative is rolled and the fighting begins. Just a single strand attacks in the surprise round. The elves have actions readied and shoot some arrows. Then the first round begins. Belflin doesn’t want to move back, opting for a full attack. On the roper’s turn, he manages to attack all six party members, latching on to them and draining 2d8 strength from all that don’t make their DC 18 Fortitude save. Everybody is dragged closer to the roper. Flax faints, Auroleva is reduced to Strength 3. On the second round more people faint. Everybody is dragged closer. Karamutenga and Belflin charge the roper, but with AC 24 this is a tough bugger. Corian tries his trusted Magic Missiles but Spell Resistance 30 is way out there. I saw my first TPK coming. The party had already befriended the Minx brothers, so I decided that they must have followed the party. They start shooting arrows. But two fifth level rangers are no big help when time is essential and the party is facing a roper. I decide that a Coup de Grace is not possible for the roper because that would mean no longer concentrating on the one victim still resisting his weaking effect: Karamutenga! And at last, with two mighty swings of her newfound greatsword, she shatters the roper.
The party spends a week recovering from the fight. On the first night, Karamutenga and the Minx brothers bring the party back to the surface and build a little shelter. As soon as they feel better, the Minx brothers escort the party to the Hog’s Head inn in Twain. The Ettin slayers, nearly slain Underground! The inn is busy with curious miners and farmers wanting to hear the story. The Minx brothers take their leave.
And so do we. Off to a new Pizza joint!
A roper. Way over their head!!
I hope awarding the Kersux XP to Karamutenga only is not unfair…
The game starts with the party returning to Crus and talking to him regarding that Stone to Flesh spell for one of the elves, Corleon. Crus will order one from Reme, and in two weeks he’ll transcribe the spell and cast it for the elves. The party decides that the elves should pay for it: 1650 gp for the scroll and another 660 for the casting. (The party would have gotten the spell cast for free, being Crus’ eternal friends because of the Larin Karr books they gave him.)
Then the party returns to the elven encampment in the forest of Nin to tell Elenkar the good news, and to talk her into using a Locate Object near Greylock’s cave and near the green dragon’s cave in order to find the missing elven statue. The party thinks that these two are the two likely candidates: 1. greedy, 2. powerful, and 3. attuned to nature.
The party was warned about Greylock from the Minx brothers, Crus concurred, and Flax & Corian manage to trick farmer Tommy Bartlen into admitting that he could arrange for a meeting with Greylock, as Greylock is the guy to turn to if you need a dirty job done.
Anyway; Elenkar agrees and comes along with four snipers. The statue is located in the dragon’s cave, and Corian uses Invisibility, Fly, and Detect Magic to get himself and Belflin into the dragon’s cave (after they camped for two nights at the foot of the hill waiting for the dragon to leave again). The heist is a success, no traps are triggered, greed does not trick them into exploring the rest of the cave, and so the situation with the elves is finally resolved. Lord Kyle pays them the 2000 gp reward and that was that.
Then the party decides to venture underground again, looking for the Crushed Skull orcs. They defeat Vordek the ghost easily, they kill the infamous cloaker and take his stuff (over 3000 gp), but then their good luck has come to an end.
As they prepare their camp, an earthquake shakes the passage. The party takes cover in an alcove, and a land-shark breaks through the tunnel wall: A bullette! Corian manages to shout out a warning to his friends and Flax tries to hide behind a stone column. The bulette hesitates to attack the elves in the party and goes after Flax. Tremmorsense! Within seconds, Flax is dead, and the rest of the party only barely manages to slay the beast.
AC 22, 94 hp, and bite +16 (2d8+8) and 2 claws +10 (2d6+4). Ouch!
And with my green dice, I managed to deal 24 points of damage on a bite attack twice, too. My players felt crushed. Corian’s cohort is dead. All the newfound treasure goes into for the poor girl’s resurrection. Jeffar in Bostwick is not happy to find the party is still crawling through the Underdark. And yet she also realizes that the orcs might still be a danger to her valley and so she reluctantly casts Raise Dead. Yay!
The game session ended on a grim note!
Am I turning into a Killer DM after all? That’s three dead in recent games: Belflin, Kubo (both played by Marco), and now Flax (Corian’s cohort played by Claudia). I feel evil. I hope that the Crushed Skull orcs are either easy to outwit either using social skills or using clever tactics.
Cohort XP are good for XP hungry players, but somewhat weird.
Poor Auroleva: An elf multiclassing as a Druid/Cleric. Will the 10% XP penalty impact her a lot? Somebody must have analyzed the math behind those tables… My gut feeling says that it amounts to a one-level penalty as lower levels get more than 110% XP, so all it means is that she catches up slower than other people once she falls behind. In the example below the level 6 characters are getting 125% XP compared to level 7 characters
Divination magic led the party to Twain. They were trying to figure out who was setting fire to the barns. There, they discovered that elves are setting fire to the barn! They captured them, talked to them, and the one called Corleon agreed to lead the party to their camp in the forest of Nin. On the way, unfortunately, the party was attacked by two Cockatrice, and one of them turned Corleon to stone! Needless to say, negotiations were difficult. At least the elves agreed to a ten day truce. The party has ten days to find the statue.
Pretty creepy to find that cockatrice can turn you to stone in this remote area where nobody knows how to cast /Stone to Flesh/… And remember that somebody told the party that there are two gorgons living in the Gaskar hills…
As for the keys, they discovered that Winifred Baum’s wife is wearing one of the keys! A present from her cheating husband…
The party also met the Minx brothers Borden & Garsen. It turns out that they found Winifred Baum’s pendant with some Crushed Skull orcs and had sold it to Tinker in Pembrose (for 500 gp), who then sold it to Regis Baum for 2000 gp… (Ok, he also had to pay Angus Carl to get it done.)
I think the characters are frustrated because both Lord Kyle and Elenkar seem to be incompetent.
Level 7: 5250 ⇒ 1312 per person Level 6: 6300 ⇒ 1575 per person
The party decides to ride to Pembrose, spend the night, ride to the ruined keep, and investigate the spot marked “L. K. 3 keys” on their map. When they reach the underground lake, they are suddenly surrounded by a party of drow males and some Crushed Skull orcs. Belflin and the drow try to intimidate each other, and Belflin wins his check! What the party doesn’t know is that the drow and orcs are themselves in a stand off. So the party wriggles itself out of the situation and continues. The next day the orcs try to sneak up to the party as they camp having followed them home to their lair. But Belflin hears them, and they manage to ambush the orcs. Karamutenga slaughters many an orc tonight. Too bad Silas can’t wear his impressive full plate at night. His celestial dogs do distract the orcs and the resulting fight is fast an furious.
Some shadows are also encountered later that day and destroyed by the power of Muir that Silas invokes. Corian also manages to lure a Xorn away by using Fly and dropping gold coins…
When the party arrives at last, they find an anti-magic effect protecting a huge two-winged door and three hexagonal holes. Three key holes! They set up camp and decide to return.
At night they are attacked by a phase spider that manages to poison Belflin. He makes a saving throw for the first bite, but fails his save for the second bite. -8 to Con. Silas casts Bear’s Endurance, and the party manages to slay the creature. The cleric tries to heal Belflin, but rolls badly. The phase spider has been dead for a few rounds, and Beflin fails another save. -7 to Con. And Silas is out of spells. No scrolls and potions to keep Belflin alive… He writes his last wishes on a parchment, says goodbye to Dog the tame weasel, and thinks of the homeland… Time passes, and he hears the song of birds and a breeze heavy with the perfume of flowers. Arcadia awaits! …
The party is lucky to avoid encounters on the way out and ends up at the Church of the Ever-Shinig Sun in Bostwick. Belflin has to be raised from the dead by Jeffar. The diamond they had to buy from Angus Carl in Twain cost them nearly all their party treasure and they had to sell Belflin’s dwarven +1 composit longbow Str +3… But sell it they did and Belflin returned from the dead.
Everybody was relaxing, they wanted to know about XP, and so we stopped the game an hour early, calculated XP, rolled for hit-points, talked about the next steps to take, and looked at new spells.
Instead of using an initiative board we used index cards that we just put in the right order. That takes less space at the table which is good.
I hate to think that I wasted precious time yesterday cooking up drow stats. Today I rediscovered that the book has NPC stats in the back of the book. I love NPC stats with class levels in source books.
Vault of Larin Karr by W.D.B. Kenower – totally recommended! There’s tons of random encounters in the Underdark because you’re supposed to roll for an encounter every six hours and you can only cover 6 to 12 miles a day down there. And as the forest is huge with about 40 miles between villages, getting around underground is tedious and dangerous. You really need to know where you’re going or you’ll end up lost and most probably dead. I like the result. My players are cautious about the Underdark. It did not register immediately and running around in circles down there probably wasn’t as much fun. (→ 2007-12-02 To the light) I’ll have to ask my players about this.
I really loved how we played all the fights without battlemaps today! Yay.
Level 6: 17250 ⇒ 4312 per person
The party fights Uela the goblin sorceress and her weasels in the keep’s cellar, and frees the two dwarves Torbin & Korbin. The party returns the dwarves’ treasure, unlocks the empty treasure chamber, and explored the dungeon, found the torture chamber, and finally realized that they had been down here before, coming from the other side. Down here was the realm of the ghost Vordek! (→ 2007-09-09 Vordek) And Belflin’s weasel Dog is actually one of Uela’s weasels…
Later the party fought the gelatinous cube in the court yard, eventually returned to Lord Kyle, talked to the constable about the orcs and hobgoblin, gathered information on thieves robbing Angus Carl in Twain and Tina the witch in Bostwick, more stables have been burnt down.
The party goes to talk to Crus. They exchange news of the Underdark, give him the books they had found, and he confirms sight of the green dragon that has appeared in the forest of Nin. The hours pass as they sip heavy wine sitting on the roof of his tower, looking out into the night, chatting…
Claudia asked me to make a list of open plots. Here’s what I can think of:
I’m sure I forgot a mission or two, and I deliberately left out hints you’ve seen to missions not yet discovered.
Level 6: 1200+300+900+600 ⇒ 750 per person