Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The A-Team", Chapter 3 of Deception Pass

The party rescues some more prisoners who form a way cooler new party that the players wish they could play, all while taking on a charming vampire (or is he?), setting off some clever traps (or are they?), and meeting a defenseless old man (or is he?). Nothing is as it seems in the Secret Citadel of the Shape-Shifting Cyclops!

The party:
Ser Valerius, Armiger Errant, Executor of Justicia (Human Level 5 Paladin)
and his Celestial Lion Mount.
Absolom, Justicar (Human Level 4 Cleric/Level 1 Monk)
Thaddeus, Under-City Scout from Swallow (Human Level 5 Ranger) 
Gravy, Priest of Thumn (Human Level 4 Cleric)

Not Appearing This Week:
Balatan of Clan Brocktaw, Bronze Draconic Priest of Bahamut (Dragonborn Level 4 Cleric)
Ser Valerius and the Dragon
Sablius the Bronze Dragon
While the party rested overnight in a side chamber, each member took a turn standing guard with the young dragon Sablius. Sablius had been artificially aged from a hatchling by the evil Oni named Krugli. The dragon had the body of a nearly adult dragon but the mind of a six-year-old. The party had originally planned to clear the lost citadel in order to make it a safe home for the naive and impressionable dragon. However, Valerius was having second thoughts. He did not feel the remote location made a safe home. As soon as they left, he was certain that other forces like the oni would come and take advantage of the dragon. 

He offered to give Sablius a home in the manor he was going to build in Wince. There he could be protected, could have a safe place for his hoard, and could consume the occasional livestock. He made his case to Sablius. Valerius was very persuasive and was obviously becoming a strong father figure for the dragon. The dragon agreed to accompany him back to Wince.

He told the rest of the party of his plan the next day. Princess Murti exclaimed, "Seriously? We're THIS close to the Western Gate! Now you're going all the way back to WINCE?! That's farther back than when I met you people! I just need your help to get through the Defile. Once on the other side, it's only one or two days south to Horek! There we can free my imprisoned royal guard and I can re-take my throne in Kalmath!"

Valerius explained, "I'd like to help you, but I have bigger priorities than the internal politics of Kalmath. Once we get out of this citadel, you can re-join Knott, Jilani, and Babu, along with those guards we freed, Willie and Drew. They'll take you the rest of the way."

Princess Murti sighed exasperatedly and rolled her eyes in defeat.
Princess Murti of Kalmath
From the burial shrine of the dwarfish hero Oron, they explored more of the lost citadel. They found the upper floors of the tower and their commanding views over the Defile of Castragon far below. They asked Sablius if he could fly. Sablius, excitedly taking everything in, replied, "I've never been into this room before! What's 'fry'?"

In another tower, they located a trap door and a chute leading to the lower floor. Valerius and Absolom climbed down the chute. On the lower floor of the tower they could see three ballista pointing towards the entrance door, set to fire at anyone that opened it. They cut the string and climbed back up the chute, only to have the rotten ladder rungs disintegrate under Valerius' weight. Valerius fell with a thud. At that, Gravy lowered a rope and the pair climbed back to the top. 

They then carefully re-entered the shrine with the statues of the dwarfish gods with glowing eyes and three ogre carcasses and descended the stairs. 

Amilia the Scullery Maid
Using Thaddius' map of the citadel, they found their way to the great hall where they hoped to study the battle plans drawn on the wall map. They were surprised to find a young human woman setting the table. The woman was as startled as they and made to run. They quickly calmed her and showed her that they meant her no harm and wished to talk. She hesitated and the party began to speak with her. While doing so, they inspected the adjacent kitchen, noting that a door in the south wall was barricaded shut with boards.
Amilia the Scullery Maid
The woman's name was Amilia. She was a scullery maid from Flinch. She was accompanying a merchant caravan through the pass when the caravan was stopped by ogres led by a vampire, her master. She told them that she cooks for five other servants: Ashlor, Hugo, Nevra, Willie, and Drew. She also prepared meals for the masters: a vampire, a cyclops, a minotaur, and two dwarfs. She knew nothing about the battle plans, but she could summon her master if they had more questions. In fact, if the party wished, she would take them to her master's quarters upstairs. He would be most interested in meeting the new guests. The party agreed to accompany her, noting that vampires do not need to eat.

The Vampire
Amilia led them upstairs via a wide spiraling ramp. Once in the corridor leading to her quarters, Valerius stopped her. He instructed his lion and Sablius to stay back in the antechamber with Balatan, Princess Murti, and Amilia. The rest of the party advanced cautiously.

They entered Amilia's quarters to find a dormitory with six beds. A tall gaunt ashen figure with blood-red eyes stood in the center of the room. He was carrying a spear with a long curved blade. In a strange halting voice he spoke to them, "Ah, unesspected guests. Plead, come in. Come cloter toe I may pick with du."
the "Vampire"
Valerius rushed in, attacking with his flaming sword. Absolom and Gravy followed suit, surrounding the "vampire". Valerius first attack caused the vampire to glow brightly. Unable to turn invisible, the vampire gave up on his ruse and turned back into a horned blue giant oni.

The vampire-oni tried repeatedly to charm Valerius, eventually succeeding. Unfortunately for the vampire-oni, Gravy had prepared a blessing to restore Valerius to his senses. The oni then used his icy cone of cold on the party and tried to escape, but was cut down before he could make it to the door. Upon the vampire-oni's death, Amilia started as if coming out of some kind trance or charm. She promptly thanked her rescuers. 

Entering the room into which the oni tried to escape, they triggered a automatic reloading arbalest rigged to a rotating turret. Whichever door opened, the arbalest would rotate and fire. The trap was ineffective and missed and was quickly destroyed. Within the room the party found 17 trunks and chests. 14 of the trunks were filled with trade goods seized from caravans. Three of them were locked. Valerius threw two of the chests against the floor and walls until they smashed open. In the first chest they found a pile of gold coins. In the second was 100 gemstones. Thaddius, annoyed at the commotion and noise, opened the third with his thieves' tools, revealing 30 wooden carvings and scrimshaw. While counting the gold, two of the coins revealed themselves to be cleverly disguised golden beetles that crawled over Gravy, trying to bite him. Gravy eventually crushed each bug.

The Secret Exit
The party then took another corridor, filling in the blank areas on their map. They crossed the entrance hallway and found secret stairs down to the defensive octagon below. They took another door and another corridor, turning left, and through a door at the end of a hall. Opening the door triggered a heavy blade to swing down and hit Valerius square in the shoulder. 

Inside the room was a four-poster bed and piles of paper but was otherwise abandoned. The party searched the room and found a hidden footlocker. Absolom, using Thaddius' tools untrained, was able to open the footlocker. The locker began shouting "Help! Help! Help!" which it repeated a total of 25 times. The party readied itself for battle but no one came. 

Within the footlocker they found several spell books, a dirk with a black blade, and a satches of gems and coins. 

The papers on the floor included merchant log books and a manuscript written in an exotic alien language.

Gravy also found a secret door leading down a long corridor to a dead end. Thaddius approached the dead end, only to collapse a false floor and pitch forward into a thirty-foot pit lined with spikes. The injured Thaddius was helped out of the pit by Gravy. Absolom, meanwhile, located a lever that reset or deactivated the false floor. Once made save, the party crossed and located the hidden door at the dead end of the corridor. Behind the hidden door was a small room and a ladder leading up. At the top of the ladder was a hatch. Thaddius opened the hatch and the party was outside on the side of the mountain. There was no obvious path down to the stairs but the two towers could be seen about two hundred yards down-slope.

The party back-tracked and exited the sleeping chamber. They took another corridor. A side door on the right was locked. Thaddius tried a key found on one of the dead oni and the door opened. Inside was another sleeping chamber, a matress on the floor, some blankets, and a trunk. Within the trunk was some lamp oil, ten gold bars stamped with an exotic seal of some type, some loose coins, and two sealed wax scroll cases. Gravy found a secret niche in one of the walls of the room. Within the niche was a fine hammer of dwarfish craftsmanship, a phial of liquid, and a bag of gold coins. 

The Fochlucan Bandore
The next door down at the end of the corridor was closed. Thaddius listened closely and heard the sound of some twangy stringed instrument and strange haunting mournful singing. They cautiously opened the door and found an old man sitting on a tatami mat and playing some type of long lute. The man stopped playing and looked up. He was blind but he smiled at the newcomers.
Just an old blind man.
Valerius instructed his mount to protect Sablius, Princess Murti, Amilia, and Balatan in the hall, several dozen feet back. Valerius, Absolom, Thaddius, and Gravy then entered the room, spreading out to occupy each of the corners.

"Please, please, come in. I so rarely have guests! I normally play for my masters. Would you like to hear me play for you?"

The party hesitated. Was it really just an old man, another slave? Was it an oni in disguise?

Valerius was the first to respond, "Later, old man! First, answer my questions!" With that, he called upon the goddess Justica to compel the old man to speak only the truth! The old man was unperturbed and inscrutable.

Valerius asked his questions, "Are you one of the oni?"

The old man replied, "I am but a simple old man, playing his fochlucan bandore."

"Are you some other type of shape shifter?"

"That's a very strange question."

"Is this your true form?"

"This is what I am. I am but a blind old man."

"Answer my question with either a yes or a no! Are you an oni?"

"How very rude!"

"Yes or no!"

"I don't know how to answer your question. It's very confusing."


"I.. I..", the old man rolled his blind eyes and cursed, "畜生! Ohhhhhhwoooooo!Waaaaaaooooooo!"

The old man gave up his disguise and turned into an oni. He instantly turned invisible. The party split up, each taking a different corner. Absolom called upon the goddess Justica for aid. Miraculously, a corner of the room was illuminated with sprinkling gold faerie dust, revealing no hidden oni.

Suddenly, from another corner came an icy blast! The oni was once more visible. Valerius and Thaddius engaged the blue creature in melee. The oni waved his hand and darkness fell upon the room, making it difficult to hit the creature. The oni turned into gas and tried to escape into the hall. Valerius caught up with him and, with a holy strike blessed by Justica herself, the Oni was forced back into his solid form. No longer able to take gaseous form, the oni found his way blocked by the dragon and leonine mount that filled the corridor. He was trapped!

The Rod of Wonder
The oni then turned and pulled a strange rod out of his robe. The rod was clockwork, composed of many rotating metallic gears, rings, and puzzle pieces. The oni rotated a gear and slid a fitted piece into place. The round metallic orb at the head of the rod began to glow.
The Rod of Wonder
He turned the gears and rings and pointed it at Valerius and to everyone's surprise, Valerius sprouted leaves all over his body like a bush!

Valerius and Thaddius pressed the attack. The oni used his wand again, this time pointing it at Thaddius. The oni shouted, "Zzzzap!" and mimed firing some kind of discharge at Thaddius. The oni then bellowed laughter in some kind of believed triumph! Thaddius was otherwise unaffected. Absolom, back in the room, realized what had just happened and shook with laughter of his own.

The oni once more spun and rearranged the various bits of the wand and suddenly the room filled with monarch butterflies, blinding everyone save Absolom!

No one seemed to be able to hit the trapped Oni. The oni again reconfigured the mechanical rod contraption, once more filling the room with darkness. The darkness could not save him, however, as he was eventually defeated by the party, with Gravy delivering the killing blow!

The party then sat down and rested while they waited for the butterflies and darkness to dissipate.

Inside the room, they found that the old man was sitting on a locked chest. Gravy looked under the tatami mat and found the key that opened the chest. Within the chest they found some gold, gems, a quiver of silver-tipped arrows, a pouch containing a few pinches of some kind of silvery powder or dust, and some pieces of clothing.

The Silent Guard
The party returned to the burial chamber of Oron the Dwarf and inspected a door they passed earlier. Valerius opened the door and a cloaked figure behind a table fired a crossbow at them, missing. Valerius and Absolom called out to the shadowy figure, insisting that they meant no harm and that they were here to help. No one responded so they cautiously and slowly entered. They found the robed figure to be nothing more than a dummy, a mannequin connected to a crossbow rigged to fire at whomever opened the door.

The room was filled with junk. Forty minutes of sifting through the junk yielded two sacks with gold and silver, seven bejewelled swords, a tarnished silver place setting for six, and a purse filled with coins.

The A-Team is Formed
The party returned to the lower level via a different staircase. At the bottom of the staircase was a hidden door that opened into the defensive octagon. The bodies of the two guards caught in the fireball the day before were gone. Off to one side they found a small niche, a guard post. Within they found one of the guards resting, recuperating from being blasted the previous day. He reached for his weapon but the party took no offensive action and explained their purpose, apologizing for the day before.
Ashlor of Horek
Calmed, he introduced himself as Ashlor, a half-elf warrior from Horek, banished for his support of the royal family and his defiance against the Vizier. He was an adventurer who came to the citadel to rid the Defile of the ogres that menaced it. He failed, was captured, and ultimately charmed and put to work guarding the entrance. He explained that the fireball the day before broke the charm and that he and his colleague Homer, also a warrior, faked their deaths hoping to escape the oni. They rested in this niche overnight. When he woke up this morning, Homer was gone.

Suddenly, Ashlor recognized Princess Murti. He immediately fell to one knee, bowing, and pledged his blade to her cause! He was instructed to stay with her and the rest behind the party.

The party then explored some empty rooms including an well filled with water and phosphorescent slime, two unused barracks, and a garbage heap which they judiciously avoided. Inside one room they surprised a young woman wearing wizard robes. The woman was watching out a spy hole into a corridor outside the room. Valerius and Absolom becalmed the woman, showing her Amelia.
Nevra of Thither
The woman revealed that her name was Nevra. She was a wizard of some repute from Thither who was captured by the ogres when she tried to cross the Defile alone. She has been here several weeks, where she has been placed on guard duty. She came to her senses a few hours ago when the charm suddenly ended. Valerius asked her to join Princess Murti, Ashlor, Amilia, Balatan, and Sablius at the rear of the party, and help protect the princess and the dragon.

The group of rescued slaves of the oni were quickly becoming a party of their own. A young bronze dragon, an exiled princess, a half-elf adventurer and warrior, a female wizard, and a dragon-born priest, banded together! The party started referring to the new party as "the A-Team" and to themselves as "the B-Team", suggested that they were merely henchmen for the other, more interesting group of adventurers.

Nevra told the party what to expect and filled in their map. She told them to avoid one corridor and its pit traps.

The "B-Team" then proceeded down an unexplored corridor which led to the entrance tower. Valerius opened a door to the right and was immediately attacked by a jittery goblin, one of the guards at the entrance. Valerius moved into the room and engaged the goblin in combat, the other goblins, trapped in the room, fought viciously for their lives, but were ultimately defeated by Valerius, Absolom, and Thaddius.

The Last Report of Gramble
The "B-Team" then explored some more empty rooms before returning to the storage room outside the dungeon. They moved some furniture and found a door, likely leading to the room behind the barricaded door in the kitchen. They nervously proceeded with caution.

In a small room at the end of the corridor they found the long dead remains of a dwarf warrior. Suddenly, before anyone could act, Valerius seized as if gripped by a giant fist. He then hunched over into a crouch and shouted, "The citadel is under attack! I must report immediately to my commander!" and ran off down the corridor.

The party gave chase. Valerius reached the barricaded door and found it locked. He slammed into it with all his strength and burst it from its hinges. He then ran up the ramp and into the chamber of old man-oni with the lute, his blue bulk lying in a corner.

Valerius called out for his commander, "Sir, it is Gramble! I must report that we are under attack by the wizard Taskern! To arms!" but no answer came. Thaddius, Gravy, and Absolom caught up with him. Valerius, mad with fear, saw the humans as threats, "Intruders! Invaders! What have you done with my commander? I will kill you!"

With that, the possessed Valerius rushed at the party. Absolom called upon the power of his goddess and cast out the spirit within Valerius. The spirit left Valerius and fled to the back of the room.

Gravy then stepped forward, and as confidently and as dwarf-like as he could manage, said, "Gramble. I am your commander. Report!"

Gramble, confused but convinced, gave his report. With his final task fulfilled, the ghost faded from existence.

Ogres in the Cellar
Confident that they had cleared the upper two levels of all inhabitants, the party decided to descend the ramp. They had earlier detected the strong musky smell of ogres in that direction and saved it for last. Thaddius roved ahead stealthily. There he saw ten ogres, some sitting, some sleeping, some fighting. They were in a large mining chamber that seemed to have no other exits. He returned to give his report.

Valerius noted that the ramp leading down was weak and shored up by hastily placed support timbers. He reasoned that the removal of the timbers would cause a cave in that would trap the ogres. Weary from their day of exploration and fighting and low on energy, the party opted to collapse the tunnel.

Afterwards, both parties left the citadel and descended the long flights of stairs that hugged the side of the cliff. Sablius was like a cat let out of the house for the first time. He was frightened of the sky, cold and white with occasional flakes of snow, and the vast spaces around him. Eventually, the reached the road at the bottom of the defile. It was mid-afternoon. They rejoined Knott, Babu, Jilani, Willie, Drew, and even Homer, who had camped here while they waited. There was no sign of the gnome they released from the dungeon the day before. In fact, no one had seen the gnome since they were released.

The entourage now consisted of 11 people and a dragon. The group decided to escort Princess Murti the final few miles to the Western Gate, where they camped for the night. The A-Team would continue the journey with the princess while the B-Team would head back to Wince with Sablius. As they settled in for the night, the red sun setting across the forbidding wasteland to the west, Valerius talked of leading a force of men to re-settle the Secret Citadel, and once more establish law and order within the Defile of Castragon, but that would have to be an adventure for a different day!

"Stop it!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Photos from last Friday's game

The party enters the room with Sablius (sadly unpainted), some goblins, and a magic minotaur!

Trevor (Thaddius) rolls two twenties simultaneously! The big red one lights up.

Balatan, Valerius, and Celestial Lion are fighting the  magic minotaur! Absalom and Gravy are, for the moment, down for the count. Note the goblin-cicles which were turned into frozen terrain by a Cone of Cold.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Sablius", Chapter 2 of Deception Pass

After defeating a shape-changing Oni, the party head upstairs to discover a group of ogre guards led by a fire giant. They finally find Princess Murti in the company of some goblins, a giant minotaur, a devious dwarf, and a young bronze dragon named Sablius! Not all is as it seems in the Secret Citadel of the Shape-Changing Cyclops!

The party:

Absolom, Justicar (Human Level 4 Cleric/Level 1 Monk)
Thaddeus, Under-City Scout from Swallow (Human Level 5 Ranger) 
Gravy, Priest of Thumn (Human Level 4 Cleric)

Balatan of Clan Brocktaw, Bronze Draconic Priest of Bahamut (Dragonborn Level 4 Cleric)
Ser Valerius, Armiger Errant, Executor of Justicia (Human Level 5 Paladin)

First, A Flashback
It was four months ago. Aline was absent-mindedly shopping in the bazaar of swallow. She came across a mysterious tent. Upon entering the tent, she was surprised to discover it larger on the inside than on the outside. A bearded old man doddered on a bench. The shop was filled with curios and artifacts, so she perused a while. She turned around and was shocked to see the old man standing behind her. He held out his hand, saying, "Aline, these are for you."

She held out her hand and took the two round stones offered to her. The old man said, "Give one to a friend. Someday you will need help. On that day, call upon that friend, and he will appear."

She examined the the stones. They were ordinary river rocks. She looked up and the old man was gone! In fact, the entire tent was gone! She found herself in an empty stall in the middle of the market, surrounded by people. 

Time passed. A few days ago, she met Valerius, proud defender of justice and paragon of virtue. She slipped one of the stones into his pack. 

Today, Valerius was in Swallow. He was attending the trial and sentencing of the villain known as the Spider. Valerius was confident in his conviction and was certain that justice would be served this day. 

Speaking before a private ceremony in the Temple of Justice was Zhamach, the assistant to Magistrate Orthat. Zhamach performed the ceremony of truth. He grabbed the dark elf Spider by the sides of the head, and stared intently into the villain's eyes.

Zhamach, Priest of Justica, assistant magistrate of Swallow
Zhamach had insisted on the closed proceedings. He did not wish to alarm the townspeople by revealing the existence of the dark elf race. Valerius insisted he be able to attend and Zhamach found no way to deny the paladin. In front of his trusted confidants within the Temple of Justice, Zhamach declared that the Spider was guilty of the crimes of which he had been accused. However, after praying to Justica on the matter, he announced that the sentence of death was to be commuted. The Spider would be taken to the dungeons beneath the Temple of Justice and held there against his will for the remainder of his natural life, where he might learn the error of his ways and one day repent.

Valerius was outraged, but kept his calm. He betrayed none of his emotion to his superiors. And suddenly, surprisingly, he was standing in a dark room of dwarfish manufacture in the company of his oldest friend Absolom, as well as his colleague Thaddius, the newcomer Gravy, whom he had met twice in Flinch, and the dragon-born priest Balatan, who had journeyed with him from Flinch to the Wave Echo Cave mine and back again. The slain body of a dead man, ten feet tall with blue skin and stubby ivory horns, lay sprawled and dead amid half-a-dozen scattered suits of dwarfish armor.

Meanwhile, twenty-three miles away in Swallow, Aline was standing in the inner sanctum of the Temple of Justice, perhaps more bewildered than the startled priests and curates assembled around her.

An Oni Among Us
After exchanging greetings, the party filled Valerius in on the current situation. They explained that they wished to save Princess Murti and that she had been captured by these mysterious blue ogres. 

So apprised, Valerius sat and meditated in order to summon his holy mount, a celestial lion! The majestic beast's appearance was heralded by mighty roaring and electric guitar and was backlit by glowing smoke effects and lasers. It was very impressive! The lion was white and as large as a pony. Little vestigial wings, like those of a dove, sprouted from its shoulders.
Valerius and his resplendent Celestial Lion Mount

Ogres and a Fire Giant
They continued their quest to rescue Princess Murti. They explored a hallway and found a set of stairs leading up. They took the stairs and entered into a large room, and ancient shrine to lost dwarfish gods. The room was illuminated by the glowing eyes of the two statues that bore silent witness over the tall chamber. Within the room were three brutish ogres wearing chain mail. They were on guard and watching the exits. A large gong stood on the far wall.

The party rushed in, ganging up on the nearest ogre. The second ogre rushed to the aid of his colleague while the third sounded the gong in alarm. All three ogres were quickly dispatched when, suddenly, a large door down a corridor between the statues was thrown open.

Down the hallway came an enraged fire giant carrying a blue flaming sword. The team assembled to meet this new threat. The fire giant responded by firing a cone of frigid ice from its sword of azure flame.  Three members of the party were caught in the blast but survived.

Valerius, riding his leonine mount, charged and engaged the giant in battle at the entrance to the room. The giant clutched its necklace and threw a small fireball into the room. Valerius called upon the holy power of Justica to land a branding smite upon the giant. The giant began to glow. Sensing trouble, the giant tried to escape. It turned to flee down the hall but the rest of the party surrounded it. 

Suddenly, the party was engulfed in darkness, a magical darkness that filled the corridor. The party attacked the hidden giant ineffectually. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the darkness vanished, leaving naught but a puff of smoke where the giant had stood.

Valerius quickly rushed down the hall to where the giant was headed, hoping to catch a glimpse of where it may have gone. He let his lion lead the way. The lion turned back to the corridor. Valerius then charged back into the dwarfish shrine.

Suspicious, Thaddius took another look at the puff of smoke. It was still there. It was not dissipating. Thaddius called the other back. Together they threw attack spells at the puff of smoke until it exploded, leaving the charred body of a blue giant with horns dead on the floor. Thaddius had seen through its clever ruse!

Meanwhile, back in the shrine, Balatan had seen the door through which they entered open and close by invisible hand. When the puff of smoke was killed, leaving the dead giant, a great howl of anguish filled the chamber. A side door then mysteriously opened and slammed shut. 

Certain they were on the trail of another invisible giant, they gave chase. They hustled down a corridor but stopped short at a closed door. Wary of a trap, they inspected the door first and entered cautiously. There they found a room filled with weapons and practice targets. After ensuring no invisible beings lurked within, they continued on through another door, taking a corridor to the left.
The Secret Citadel of the Shape-Changing Cyclops!

Opening the next door, they found themselves in a long high chamber, the burial vault of an ancient dwarfish hero. The room was well lit and filled with goblins! Among the goblins was a dragon, twenty feet long with bronze scales! Next to the dragon was a ten foot tall minotaur wielding a silver wand in one hand and a rod made of a thigh bone and covered in leathery skin, stretched taut with black staples. At the head of the room was Princess Murti, blindfolded and gagged, her wrists manacled above her head and chained to a post. A pile of coin and treasures were piled knee deep around a sarcophagus on a raised dais. 

The minotaur pointed his wand at the intruders and addressed the dragon, "Intruders, Sablius! Here to take your gold! You must kill them, Sablius! Do not listen to their lies, KILL THEM!"

The party rushed into the room and engaged the goblins. The minotaur pointed his wand at those in the hall and bathed them in a cone of ice and frost. The dragon followed up by breathing forth a bolt of lightning that incapacitated Absolom and Gravy! The cold and lightning also eliminated over half of the assembled goblins. The minotaur followed up with a bolt of lightning of his own, fired from the silver wand.The bolt struck Valerius and Thaddius!

Balatan tried reasoning with the dragon, speaking to it in draconic, appealing to their mutual heritage. The dragon simply looked at Balatan like he had no idea what he was saying. Balatan was forced to defend himself from the dragon's claws and bites. Balatan, however, was unable to land a blow against his foe.

Valerius and his lion entered into melee with the minotaur while Thaddeus went to save Princess Murti. Before the ranger could free her, a dwarf appeared from thin air! It was the same dwarf they encountered in the company of the two mercenaries below! Thaddius held off the dwarf's axe while he freed the princess. The princess removed her gag and hood and rushed to help Gravy and Absolom.

Before she could make it, Gravy got a second wind and leapt to his feet! The priest of Thumn then gave a prayer to the moon, revitalizing his companions so they might continue fighting. Absolom returned to his senses and immediately regained his feet. 
Princess Murti of Kalmath
The princess explained that the creatures were called "Oni" and that they were once common in her lands before being driven out. She said the oni were starving the bronze dragon, a type of dragon known for their good nature, in an attempt to force it to eat helpless victims and turn it to evil. For the past several hours, they had been goading the dragon to kill her but it refused.

Sensing the dragon's confusion, Absolom and Gravy began a dialogue with the creature, speaking to it in the Common tongue. The dragon listened to them. The minotaur shouted at the dragon, but could not overcome their words. The dragon stopped fighting. Balatan, meanwhile, left the dragon to join Valerius in fighting the minotaur.

The minotaur struck Balatan with the rod of bone and flesh. The rod immediately drained Balatan of ten years of life! Weakened, Balatan fell to his knees. 

Thaddius moved to help Valerius, followed by the dwarf with whom he was fighting. Now all four were locked in mutual battle! Gravy revived Balatan who stood and re-entered the fray. 

The minotaur fired another lightning bolt, this time at Balatan, Gravy, and Absolom. The bolt took Balatan and Gravy down again! By this time, the dwarf had changed form into that of a massive armored ten feet tall giant! Absolom spoke a prayer of rejuvenation and brought Gravy and Balatan from the brink.

Eventually, after suffering magic missiles and barely avoiding the life-stealing rod, the party was able to defeat the minotaur! The great beast reverted to his true form as an oni and fell dead. 

The armored giant that was the dwarf, desperate to escape and gain reinforcements, flew to the corridor, turning invisible as he went. As he did so, the party unleashed arrows and spells at the fleeing phantom. Luckily, several of their missiles struck the invisible foe and it fell, dead and visible, to the corridor floor!
An Oni in its natural form

The party was exhausted from the long battle. They rested for an hour and bound their wounds. They spoke with the dragon and learned its story.

Sablius was six years old, still a wyrmling. However, the oni known as Krugli, the minotaur, had raised Sablius from a hatchling. Sablius had never seen another dragon and had never left this crypt. Krugli used the rod to artificially age Sablius. He also taught Sablius to speak the common tongue and the foreign language of the oni. He brought Sablius treasure captured from merchant caravans to sate the draconic instinct to hoard treasure. He also brought prisoners, taken captive in those same raids, for Sablius to eat. 

Sablius had no desire to eat these defenseless beings, but Krugli starved Sablius, tortured him, and used his magic charm power upon him and eventually forced Sablius to reluctantly devour his helpless victims. 

However, now Sablius was free. Sablius wished to see the world. Absolom asked if Sablius would like to accompany them to Horek. Sablius refused. He wanted to see the world but did not wish to leave his lair and his hoard. Absolom understood.

The party inspected the hoard but left its treasures to the dragon out of respect. However, Thaddius made an offer of exchange. He offered the mace of Tzann in exchange for a gilt suit of gleaming plate mail armor. The dragon accepted. 

Absolom and Thaddius then removed the sarcophagus lid to inspect the remains of the dwarfish hero interred within. Upon doing so, a loud voice shouted "Thief! Thief! Thief!" repeatedly for a total of 25 times. Wincing at the noise, they inspected the contents. The inner coffin was made of iron and still intact. Atop it were found two short swords, a crystal ball, and two palm-sized river rocks, each inscribed with a magical rune. 

The team decided to rest for a few hours in one of the empty side chambers. A watch was placed outside the door with Sablius. Over the next few hours they identified the short swords as being magical in nature, as was the crystal ball. The two river rocks began floating and hovering around the user's head. One rock magically enhanced strength while the other enhanced charisma. 

The hours passed uneventfully and the team was not disturbed. After a long rest, Balatan found his vigor and vitality returning to normal. Refreshed and restored, the party was ready for a new day.

They decided that they must make this a safe lair for Sablius, they must defeat the remaining foes. Somewhere in this citadel they were told there was a vampire, a fox with seven tails, an old man, and others. Where they in fact oni in disguise? Or where they what they appeared to be?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

"The Secret Citadel", Chapter 1 of Deception Pass

Absolom rejoins the party and they head into the mountains to rescue Princess Murti, who was captured two months ago by a mysterious flying cyclops with magic powers. There they find an ancient dwarfish citadel where nothing is as it seems!

The party:
Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan parentage (Level 5 Half-Elf Wizard)

Thaddeus, Under-City Scout from Swallow (Level 4 Human Ranger)

Balatan of Clan Brocktaw, Bronze Draconic Priest of Bahamut (Level 3 Dragonborn Cleric)

and Re-Introducing...
Absolom, Justicar (Level 4 Human Cleric)
And Introducing, FINALLY...
Gravy, Priest of Thumn (Level 4 Human Cleric)

Meanwhile, in Flinch...
Their pacification of the lost mine of Elder Flinch now completed, the party contemplated their next move. Valerius had returned to Swallow to attend the trial and sentencing of the Spider. Winterfrost returned to the Feywild. This left Aline and Thaddius. 

Thaddius wanted to take a party of adventurers into the mountains to rescue Princess Murti. Two months ago, Thaddius was a member of the expedition, along with Absolom, Babu, Knott, and Jilani, that undertook the mission to escort Princess Murti through the Defile of Castragon. The expedition was ambushed high in the mountain pass by a cyclops casting spells from a magic wand. The cyclops defeated the party and took them prisoner, Absolom, however, was knocked over a cliff to fall to his doom. They were taken to an ancient abandoned citadel on the slopes of Mount Ignoit. After a few weeks of captivity, Thaddius was able to escape but was unable to free the rest of the party. He vowed to get help and return.

Now Thaddius was in Flinch, recruiting an expedition to free his colleagues. 

Aline and Thaddius' first recruit was Balatan, the draconic priest. While talking to other potential recruits, Absolom walked in!

Absolom was looking healthy, more robust, stronger than he had ever looked before. Thaddius, taken aback, greeted his friend. Absolom explained that he had survived the fall and had been rescued by some monks who lived in a secret temple high atop Mount Pachuat. There he spent a year recovering from his injuries and training in the martial arts of the monks. Thaddius, confused, said that he had never heard of such a temple and that only two months had passed. Absolom explained that space and time did not apply within the temple and that it was a secret, magical place. 

The next day, the party took the ferry across the lake and passed through the massive ruined Eastern Gate into the Defile of Castragon. 

The Shadow of a Man
After a few hours of hiking, they came to the spot where, eight days ago, an enterprising ogre had built a makeshift roadblock only to be defeated by Varis, Fitong, and Braxton. The roadblock had been mostly dismantled, but the ogre's body was now carrion. A strange beast was feeding on the carcass. The beast resembled a giant eagle with the head of a stags. It looked up and beared its gruesome fangs and bloodshot eyes. It let out a whooping call that echoed through the canyon as it took to the air. Thaddius identified the beast as a peryton. 

It was soon joined by two similar beasts who had been sheltered from view. The three beasts swooped upon the party, grasping and clawing with their mighty talons. After a vicious battle, the beasts were defeated.

Almost immediately afterwards, the carcass of the dead ogre rose up as an animated zombie. It lurched towards the party, a puppet controlled by the dark energy of the defile. Absolom turned the vile thing and it wandered away. The party then peppered it with arrows from range, eventually destroying the undead monster. Afterwards, they continued on.

By noon, the party reached the hidden stairs that climbed Mount Ignoit to the secret citadel. There they stopped for lunch. Absolom reached into his bag of holding to retrieve a piece of equipment, only to find a sleeping man!

He pulled the man out of the bag. It was Gravy! Gravy awoke, groggy and disoriented. He adjusted his dented helmet and rubbed his eyes. He had no idea how he came to be located inside the bag. Gravy, of course, never has any idea how he came to be located anywhere, so that was nothing new. Gravy was a wandering priest who often showed up in Flinch before disappearing again for weeks at a time. 

The party was nonplussed by Gravy's sudden appearance, but nonetheless offered him food and asked if he would accompany them on their quest. Gravy absentmindedly agreed. 

After lunch, they began climbing the hidden stairs to the Secret Citadel.

The Secret Citadel
After hours of climbing stairs cut into the side of a sheer cliff, several members were exhausted. Above, they could see large semi-circular stone wall and two towers built into the cliff, the top of one of the towers was heavily damaged. The stairs ended in a short landing in front of a heavy iron door built into the base of the wall. Balatan and Thaddius approached the door and were surprised when it shot out like a piston, hitting them with incredible force and slamming them into the ground. Simultaneously, thousands of steel ball bearings were released onto the floor. They could hear someone running away and slamming an inner door behind them. The outer door piston tried to reset but was old and rusted and became stuck. The party carefully, slowly, and cautiously entered the inner area. 

They found a semi-circular corridor inside the stone wall and a smaller round structure within, the base of one of the towers. A door and several arrow slits were located in the tower base. A large pile of rocky debris formed a mound on one side of the tower, the scree of an ancient rock-slide mixed with tumbled stones from a ruined upper part of the tower. A crossbow quarrel shot out of one of the arrow slits, hitting Thaddius. 

The party, moving slowly over the ball bearings, made their way to the pile of debris, large enough to allow access to the open part of the tower above. As they started climbing, dozens of scorpions began to swarm out of the pile. Alarmed, they retreated quickly, brushing off the scorpions. Swearing off the pile of debris, they moved to the inner door. The door was old and rotten and easily busted off its hinges.

A Fire Giant?
Inside they found three goblins armed with short spears. The goblins were frightened to death and hesitant to fight. As soon as Aline moved to cast a spell on one, they all dropped their weapons and ran away. Thaddius managed to grab one for interrogation. The other two ran down the left-most of three corridors.

The goblin prisoner revealed that he was the slave of a fire giant who would eat them if they disobeyed. When asked in what direction the prison cells lay, the goblin indicated one of three corridors, the one to the far right, but could offer no other information. He was not allowed to go there. When asked about the crossbow quarrel, for there was no crossbow in the tower, the goblin answered that a human guard was normally stationed outside the tower. A moment ago, he came inside, fired his crossbow, then ran off down the middle corridor. The goblin was told to flee down the stairs, which he did.

Thaddius, on hearing of a possible fire giant, began to question their ability to rescue the princess.

A Vampire?
The party cautiously made their way down the far-right corridor, ignoring a passage to the right when they were spotted by two human guards in a room farther down the hall. The guards closed a door with an opening to allow them to fire arrows from cover and began shooting at the party. Aline responded with a magic spell that caused one of the guards to momentarily catch on fire while Absolom called upon the holy power of Justica to close the opening.  While the door was completely closed, the party rushed down the hall. When the remaining guard reopened the door, they fought weapon-to-weapon through the opening. 

The guards were soon defeated but not killed. Thaddius recognized them immediately. They were mercenary caravan guards named Willie and Drew. He had seen them on several of his many smuggling trips through the defile. When questioned, they revealed that they had been captured by a vampire and that the undead fiend had threatened to drain their blood if they tried to escape. They bore no ill will towards the party and simply wished to escape. They told the party that the prison cells were just down the hall to the right. 

Learning of the vampire, Thaddius now questioned whether each of the three corridors was ruled by a different monster or whether they were truly facing the creatures they thought they were facing.

Prison Break
The party made their way down the hall, passing through a storage room filled with assorted junk, and into the dungeon. The dungeon was locked but unguarded. When asked why he didn't remember where the dungeon was after he escaped from them, Thaddius replied that when he escaped, it was completely dark. He made his way out by feel and luck alone and was unable to recognize any of the passages. 

Within the dungeon, they found nine cells. The cells were occupied by Knott, Babu, Jilani, and a gnome merchant named Aro. Princess Murti was nowhere to be seen. When asked, the prisoners said she was taken away by the vampire several hours ago. 

Absolom called upon the aid of his goddess, Justica, to point him towards Princess Murti. He got a sense of her location, somewhere northwest and up from their current position. The party took the rescued prisoners back to the room with the two human guards. Thaddius gave Knott some of the old rusted weapons from the storeroom. They told the guards they were free to go so long as they helped escort the freed prisoners back down the mountain to Flinch. 

Flying Armor
The party then moved in the general direction of Princess Murti. The passed through a great hall that had been blasted by an explosion in ages past. A large mural of a map of the valley was painted on one wall. Arrows and symbols indicating troop movements and plans of attack were drawn over the map, showing a planned assault of Flinch and Swallow. The party kept moving.

They moved into an antechamber with four exits. As they entered the room, the door behind him mysteriously slammed shut. Continuing their pursuit of Princess Murti, they chose the door to the left. Beyond the door was a display room filled with suits of dwarfish armor.

They cautiously made their way through the room. Suddenly, one of the suits of armor flew into the air and fell down crashing to the ground, barely missing from Thaddius. 

"Is that you, master?"
They hastily exited the room down a corridor leading them roughly back to the entrance tower. They came to a large room, a defensive position and intersection of several corridors. They saw three guards, a human, a half-elf, and a dwarf carrying a staff. Thaddius recognized the human as Homer, another captured caravan guard. They had put a table on its side in front of the far corridor, the one that led to the entrance, and were awaiting attack. The dwarf was watching the rear and alerted his colleagues of the party's appearance.

Gravy confidently strode into the room, announcing that the citadel was under attack and that the guards were to go that way, indicating a direction, immediately. Homer was confused, he squinted at Gravy for a moment and asked, "Master, is that you?"

The dwarf next to him looked visibly annoyed, rolled his eyes, and slapped Homer on the back of the head as if to say, "I am your master, idiot!" He then pointed the staff at the party. A cone of ice and snow blasted the party, incapacitating Balatan, Gravy, and Absolom. 

Thaddius rushed into the room to do battle and Aline responded with a fireball spell. The human and the half-elf were taken out immediately. The dwarf, mysteriously, seemed little affected. 

Meanwhile, Gravy and Absolom quickly bounced back from being frozen. They shook off the ice and began healing the rest of the party. 

The dwarf, injured and under attack from Thaddius, flew away down far hallway! As he did so he faded from visibility!

A Mystery Revealed!
Shaken from the attack, the party retreated to the armor room. As they were moving to open the far door, suits of armor were rising into the air and crashing around them. Sooner or later, someone was going to get hurt! 

Suddenly a cyclops became visible in the middle of the room! The cyclops produced a wand and engulfed the party in another icy cone of cold, much as before. The party assaulted the cyclops with spell and blade. Wounded, the cyclops turned invisible and tried to flee. Absolom called forth the power of his goddess to cause the room to fill with sprinkling glowing glitter. The glitter formed the outline of the invisible cyclops. The party then attacked the fleeing invisible cyclops with arrow and spell, slaying it before it could escape.

The monster once more became visible as it died. However, it was no longer a cyclops, but a strange blue-skinned humanoid, twice the size of a man, with yellow eyes and short horns on its forehead. It was wearing dark blue garb like that of a ninja, complete with tabi socks and wrapped arms and legs. 

Thaddius suspicions were correct. They were fighting a legendary oni, a shape-changing ogre magi.

Down the corridor they had left, they heard loud plaintive wailing, like a Japanese Noh singer mourning the death of a comrade. 

The implication was clear. Thaddius gritted his teeth and sighed. There were more.


Deception Pass was an AD&D adventure written by Rich Stump for Dungeon Magazine #23. It was originally designed for 4-7 players of levels 7-9. It's was a good fit for an adventure set in a mountain pass. The pass Deception Pass was in fact very similar to how I imagined the Defile of Castragon and it even featured ogres, sort of.

I'm running the adventure in 5E, using 5E Monster Manual statistics. The original module had two oni disguised as dwarves in the "Is that you, master?" section. After reading "Cone of Cold", I quickly removed one of the disguised oni. I didn't want a TPK so soon.