Monday, March 24, 2014

"Knock Knock! Who's there? Your DOOM!" Chapter 10 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 2 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 1 Elf)
Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
Babu (Level 1 Thief)
Jack (Level 1 Warrior)
Knott (Level 1 Warrior)
Wheezy (Level 1 Halfling)
Last week, the party cleared much of the first level of the secret lair of the serpent cult near Wince, getting as far as a flight of stairs descending down before they decided to retreat to a defensible position and rest.
They moved all the cots into a single cell, formerly used by cultists guarding the entrance, and closed and barred the door. Valerius had the first watch.

Before resting, Jack made two announcements to the group. First, Jack was not a man at all. He was a woman who had been pretending to be a man! Her name was Jilana, and she fled a live of servitude and arranged marriage back home. Also, she was not a warrior but was, in fact, a cleric of Amun Tor! The party was shocked for a moment, but glad they had another cleric, hoping this one would be proficient in their craft.
Settling down for a rest
About an hour into Valerius' watch, there was a gentle knocking at the door. Valerius woke everyone and they positioned themselves around the door and prepared for battle.
Valerius queried, "Who is it? What do you want?"
The voice responded, "Open the door! I must tell you something!"
Valerius dubiously countered, "Can't you tell us through the door?"
The voice said, "I don't have much time! Open the door else I must leave."
Valerius, wary of a trap, slowly opened the door.
The figure beyond was clad in black robes and leather armor, his bald head, lack of eyebrows, pallid complexion, and sinister countenance bespoke of a member of the serpent cult. The figure was holding two clay flasks of oil with burning wicks, which he promptly tossed into the room.
One grenade shattered and burst into flame, catching Knott on fire, while the other failed to shatter.
As the figure turned to escape, the party quickly rushed him, surrounding him. He was quickly stabbed to death before he could even act.
"Ahh! My Initiative was lower than I anticipated!!"

 The party saw that the hall had been barricaded at both ends. One end was completely walled, the other left a small gap open to allow exit one at a time.
Another cultist wearing armor and carrying the weapons of a warrior called out to them from beyond the gap, taunting them. He dashed back towards the guard post near the entrance. The party gave chase, only to encounter a devious trip-wire+clothesline combination trap. The armored warrior continued south down a corridor, trying to lure the party deeper into the dungeon. Valerius, wary of more traps and an ambush, had everyone stop and withdraw.

"Come and get me, COWARDS!"
Gwen asked her lazy familiar Cake the rat to scout down a hallway. Cake responded, "Well, I WOULD, but it's all the way over there I'm way over here!"
The group retreated to their cell and re-barred their door to continue their rest. Gwen, perhaps unwisely, allowed Cake to take a watch. Cake immediately fell asleep, meaning there was no one to wake the next on watch, or the next. Luckily, the remainder of the rest was uneventful.
"Nope! We're not falling for it!"

Waking an unknown number of hours later, the group continued their expedition. They travelled west the south, cautiously retracing the path of retreat made by the mysterious warrior, searching for traps at every doorway and intersection, sometimes unsuccessfully.

They passed through the large columned chamber and travelled west, then north, to a heavy wooden door which was barred from within. It took Valerius maybe fifteen tries before he was able to kick the stout door down, given anyone within plenty of warning and time to prepare.

Inside was a sitting room with overturned chairs and upturned tables. Behind the table was the mysterious warrior.
The overturned chairs were very nice. They were upholstered in velvet with brass hobnails and fancy arm-rests.
 The party rushed in with Sausage at the lead followed by Valerius. As Knott came through the doorway, he was attacked from behind by an assassin that could have been the twin of the cultist who earlier knocked on their door. The assassin was cut down in a single stroke. The warrior was soon felled by Sausage and Valerius.
"Curses! I am undone by my lack of Hit Points!"
A brief search indicated that the assassin bore a magical short sword, an ancient looking weapon with a curved sinewy blade. Written on the blade in a curvilinear script was the word "Scute". When Babu took the blade, he was overcome with ambition and paranoia. He knew then that he would one day rule Nagina Samrajya- the ancient kingdom of the Serpent People! He will eliminate all the fools who oppose him through the subtle art of assassination! Wait, what? Whoah! Where did that come from?

Anyhow, they continued searching, finding a room shared by the twin assassins, a room for the warrior, and a room for one other, as yet unaccounted for cultist, apparently a spellcaster for within his room was a chest protected by a glyph of warding. Babu failed to disarm the chest and was paralyzed until Jilana uttered a prayer to revive him. Within they found clerical robes, a mace, and a scroll with two "cure light wound" prayers written to Set, god of the serpents.

Exiting the chambers of the cult lieutenants, they took the west passage, noting that the way south was blocked with mud and dirt from a ceiling collapse. Northward took them into a large flooded natural chamber supported by a column.
Valerius: "It's a flooded cavern. So I'm going in alone then?"
Valerius trudged through the wet sticky muddy bottom to inspect the door to the east. In so doing, he was attacked by a large killer frog.
Valerius about to get french-kissed by a giant carnivorous frog.

When Knott came to help, he, too, was similarly attacked. The frogs were swiftly dispatched and it was soon verified that the east door joined up with the main entrance.

The party turned back and retraced their steps, south then east then south through the secret door. They took the boat to the west passage from the crocodile cavern and found the way blocked by mud and debris from the ceiling collapse. Wheezy the halfling scrabbled through a narrow gap and explored the way south, finding a flooded cavern filled with rotting decaying bodies and the putrescent stench of the dead. Disgusted and repelled, wheezy returned to report. The party elected not to follow up.

The party then took the boat back to the south corridor from the crocodile cavern. They explored the south passage and found that excavations had ended abruptly. They backed up and explored the west passage until they located the den of the giant weasel. Searching the mud, they found coins of all kind littering the muck, plus the tattered clothes of the Archon of Wince!

Afterwards, they returned to the hybrid guard post and decided to descend to the lower level.

A = Assassin Fight
B = Lieutenant Chambers
C = Giant Frogs
At the bottom of the stairs, the party encountered a labyrinth of natural caves and passages. At Valerius' instruction, they kept left, heading west.

They soon explored a small empty room only to be attacked by a giant spider!
Gwen: "Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!"

Sausage became pinned, impaled by the spear-like pedipalp of the humongous arachnid. Luckily, the spider's poison had little to no effect and the spider was soon killed. Gwen, whose player is apparently upset by spiders, stayed far far out of the room, repeating "Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!". One of the prayers of Set soon returned Sausage to health and vigor.

Continuing to explore, the passage turned north. After finding an empty room, the party continued north until they encountered a huge chamber lit by dim torchlight. The chamber was thirty feet wide but over a hundred feet long and curved to the east at the far north end.

A large creepy cavern!
Within the chamber were several large masses of what appeared to be amniotic sacs. Within each was the silhouette of a human being transformed into more of the snake-human hybrids the party encountered in the guard post upstairs.

Trust me, each pile of skulls was an amniotic sac.
Before they could act, they were set upon by eight hybrids who had camouflaged themselves and were blending in with the muddy walls of the cavern!
The party is beset by snake-human hybrids!
Two threw small cages containing venomous snakes, one at Sausage and one at Valerius, which burst open on impact. Sausage was bitten and fell! Each of the others bore spears and scimitars upon the rest. Babu fell, then Jilana, then Wheezy. Absalom moved to Jilana and restored her to health using the remaining prayer to Set, but Absalom was soon cut down himself, quickly followed once more by Jilana, and then Knott! Gwen and Sausage took down a serpent but were themselves removed from the fight, leaving only Valerius! And wait? What about Cake? Yes! Cake too!
Valerius and Cake the Rat have left the serpent-hybrids bereft of names!
Valerius was surrounded by seven serpent-hybrids. He became a cyclone of flashing steel, with Cake nipping at their heels like a rabid dog! After a gory melee of serpentine death, Valerius and Cake had defeated all of the hybrid abominations! Valerius checked on his companions. All had survived, even Knott who survived by sheer luck alone!

Valerius was so impressed with Cake's fighting ability, he declared Cake his own familiar, ordering Gwen to find a new one! Cake pointedly reminded Gwen that he had yet to receive his cheese!

Cake sitting on Valerius' shoulder after the battle.
After a short rest and some restorative prayers to Justica and Amun Tor, the party was ready to continue. They continued to take the far left passages, which now led east.

The party then entered a small cave containing a carnivorous theropod the size of a large bear chained to the north wall, the jawbones of its victims jammed into the mud walls like prizes. Noticing that the chain only allowed the beast to within five feet of the south wall, the party's ranged fighters moved forward, only to comically retreat as they realized that being within five feet of the beast put them within reach of its snapping jaws!
"Look, it can't come near the wa... OH DEAR GOD! RETREAT!"
Instead, they pelted the poor beast with arrows and sling stones from a safer distance until the monster was dead.

With that, the party moved into a very large cavern containing an underground lake. The cavern ceiling was supported by eight glowing pillars of natural stone, giving the chamber an unearthly green cast. A flat-bottomed skiff rested on the shore near them.

D = Giant Spider
E = Snake-Human Hybrids
F = Bonesnapper
TO BE CONTINUED!

Afterthoughts
I got to use my Dwarven Forge cavern pieces a lot that night, which was a lot of fun. I don't get them out very often. They're pretty but they're kind of a pain. The walls are too high and block visibility. I'd much rather have shorter cavern wall pieces like my dungeon walls.

Speaking of the dungeon walls, I can't recommend them enough: War Torn Worlds Fat Dungeon Walls.

Almost all my pictures feature them. They are fantastic! I own two packs. My players agree that they're the best investment I've ever made on gaming. They're way more flexible and visible than tiles, and easier to arrange. They're shorter than minis so they don't block visibility or hide the action. They're also made of rubber so they won't break or shatter if you drop them, they're light weight, and won't chip.

What I WISH I had were cavern walls like those dungeon walls: rubber, short, and just walls. I don't need the floor, I have a game mat (several, in fact), or tiles. Cast dungeon floors are a waste of poly-resin, or rubber.

So, given that, I took a stab at making what I want. I made them out of clay, so they're not EXACTLY what I want, but they're short and will get the job done.


Next week: Against the Cult of the Reptile God, Part Three! "The Lair of the Serpent Lord"