Monday, October 18, 2010

Watchfires & Thrones Session #25

The party, now safely back at the Mad Manor, began casting about for rumors relating to the revival of the recently dead. Having spent a sizable fortune on returning Mock to life, they needed a cut-rate solution to their dead Grumble problem. Luckily for them, they heard a tale about a ruined monastery just down the river from Blackpool. They bribed a local fisherman to take them downstream to the base of the rocky promontory upon which the Groaning Ruins stood and, before long, found an entrance into the catacombs below.

Anwar had taken the precaution of turning himself invisible the night before the party left for the ruins. However, always a team player, he was more than willing to continue being the party torch-bearer and mapper. This lead to the inclusion of a floating torch to the party’s ranks and a miniature-less base to the party’s figures on the battle map. His role as torch-bearer would be short lived, however, when Fanta gave him grief about his chosen role and Anwar thrust the flaming brand into the Old Blood’s hand.

For the sake of complete disclosure, I must now reveal that this week was a busy one and I didn’t have the time to craft the entire session’s adventure from scratch. Standing in for my own imagination was James Maliszewski’s “The Ruined Monastery” from Fight On! #1. James has been kind enough to use parts of Stonehell Dungeon in his Dwimmermount campaign; it’s only fair that I return the favor. There be spoilers ahead…

Down in the catacombs, the party found a crumbling meditation chamber, its wall scarred by the excavations of previous adventuring bands and other less seemly creatures. A band of ravenous rats scurried forth to defend their lair once the party moved into the chamber but, aside from an unfortunate nip suffered by Krunk, the rodents were swiftly dispatched. A search of the chamber turned up a tarnished candelabra and the 2’ tall wooden statue of the goddess, Amencia. The statue seemed to have put to one side and then forgotten, and, although it was not crafted from precious metals, the party decided to drag it along with them. A wise decision as it would turn out.Past the meditation chamber lay a circular room with a sunken pool. The basin was filled with dirty water and the floor and walls of the room were covered by a massive colony of that pernicious dungeon threat, green slime. This led to some humorous arguing by the party. The metagaming faction posed that there had to be treasure in the pool—the presence of the green slime as a barrier could mean nothing else. The other faction argued that they weren’t going to mess around with the stuff but if the metagaming thinkers wanted to do so, that was fine by them. A dead rat was tossed into the pool and a crowbar slightly dissolved before the party left the room behind them, unexplored.

The winding corridors brought the party to a barrel-making woodshop, a place where the monks made containers for their wine (“This is a monastery! You know what monks keep in their cellars?” exclaimed Anwar, the Diet Coke of Evil™, at one point.). Upon entering this cave, the demihumans chose to examine the area with their infravision and kindly asked the Fanta and the invisible Anwar to outside and down the hall so that the torch Fanta carried would not spoil their infravision.

As the rest of the band scouted the cave, the two magic-users stood waiting to be called back into the company of their armored companions. As they did so, the sounds of padding feet was heard from directly behind them. Turning around, the two found themselves staring at the leanest, largest-headed wolf they had ever glimpsed. The beast growled and leaped towards Fanta, as he was the only visible target.

Fanta was lucky enough to fire of a magic missile, but the bolt inflicted only minor damage upon the beast. The wolf counteracted with the lightest of nips and the fight took on a certain mincing quality as the melee turned into more of a slap-fight than brawl. This continued until Krunk and Waren, alerted by the sounds of battle, arrived to put down the beast. A search of its corpse turned up a crude leather collar around the wolf’s neck. Somebody owned this thing.

Pressing on through the treasure-free workshop, the party found themselves back in the winding halls of the catacombs. A short distance away from the workshop stood an unusual section of corridor. In a wide alcove stood a stone pedestal, bare of any decoration. Immediately, the party decided to place the wooden statue atop the podium to see if that had any effect. Upon doing so, Hoover’s keen ears caught the sound of grinding stone coming from somewhere to the north. The party headed in that direction.

A choice of passages presented itself and the band continued northwards, coming out in a ruined scriptorium. The shelves had collapsed, a pool of inky water covered the floor, and the ceiling looked as if collapse was imminent. A pile of fuzzy yellow books stood in the corner, inviting exploration, and Hoover, Waren, and Anwar headed towards that while the rest poked the black water with their pole. Hoover, clutching his specially-built, collapsible 10’ pool in hand, extended the rod and prodded the pile of ancient texts. The piled collapsed and a gout of yellow mold spores erupted in a fatal cloud. A cloud with a 10’ radius. It seems they make poles that long simply for this kind of an event and the party escape unharmed from the deadly spores.

The inky pooled turned out to be exactly that: ink from the scriptorium mixed with rainwater. At this point, the party was ready to return back to their choice of passageways, but a small cadre decided to check a northern alcove for secret passages. As they did so, the remaining party found themselves accosted by another one of the large-headed wolves who appeared on the far side of the inky pool. Charging at Hoover, the wolf was almost sent flying into the pile of killer books, but ranger’s shield bash/deflection maneuver failed. It was a good try, though, and a reminder that just because the rules don’t have feats or explicit rules to adjudicate something like that doesn’t mean it’s not allowed. In fact, it’s even encouraged by yours truly. The rest of the party rushed from the alcove and the wolf was swiftly slain.

With the scriptorium a bust, the party did indeed return to where the passages diverged and followed the wider of the paths. This brought them to another crossroads and a prolonged discussion about which way to go. All the time, I was snickering and shaking my head (“My blood pressure goes up when you do that, Mike”), for their choice in this matter determined whether or not we’d be able to conclude the day’s adventure in a single session or extend it to next week. I fully expected the longer choice to be made, but Krunk’s insistence that something was to be found to the north took the party that way.

There, some of the party found an opened secret door; the rest were unable to comprehend that a passage existed. Despite efforts to physically guide them into the concealed passage, only three of the band possessed the proper philosophical outlook to pass through it. In the chamber beyond, a slain monk with an ancient key was found (and looted). While this was occurring, the rest of the party had a run in with slinking spiders. The poisonous predators were overcome, the party reunited, and deeper they went into the catacombs.

Another intersection was encountered and could have derailed the “Let’s get this done by 4 PM” train, but the party detected a faint light coming from one tunnel, so the invisible Anwar was sent down the corridor to discover what was causing it. From around a corner, the turban-wearing sorcerer caught sight of a cowled figure attempting to open a stout iron door. A quartet of skeletons stood at rapt attention, their empty eye sockets focused on the entrance to the chamber. The mage tiptoed back to the party to make his report.Preparing for battle, the party moved down the corridor as quiet as they could, but the clanking and jingling of their armored fighters alerted the cowled figure. “Dispatch whoever is making that noise,” he commanded and the skeletons rushed around the corner and into the party’s line of sight—and immediately spun back around and fled under the effects of two clerics’ turning attempts. The party followed in the wake of the running bones.

Confronted by the party, the cowled figure commanded them to go elsewhere and leave him be. He had as much right to be in the catacombs at they did. Fanta approached to negotiate and get a better view of the locked door, suggesting that the party’s mages might be of assistance in opening that portal. With both sides planning to betray the other as soon as possible, a truce was forged—and immediately broken by Krunk’s sword. The cleric put up a token defense before succumbing to the party’s attacks. The skeletons were herded out of the chamber by Aieglos and Waren, and the party discovered that the key Fanta had found did indeed unlock the heavy iron door, reveling a spiral staircase beyond.

The party proceeded down the stairs, descending deeper and deeper into the earth until they passed the 150’ mark. There, the stairs emerged from the roof of a tremendous cavern, its center holding a circular labyrinth. From their vantage point on the stairs, they could see there was a red glow emanating from the middle of the maze.

At the bottom of the stairs, the party approached the labyrinth’s entrance. Walls of 10-foot height, crafted of brass, composed the maze. It was decided that Anwar, being still invisible, would enter the maze and try to reach its center, for that was there the party believed they would find the goddess’ blood. Tapping carefully ahead of him, the sorcerer stepped into the labyrinth.The sorcerer soon discovered that the labyrinth had a strange property: every time he moved, a horrible groaning arose (thus giving the ruins its name) and the two innermost sections of the maze turned at different speeds, alternating the maze’s layout. Despite this constant motion, Anwar could not foresee any difficulty reaching the maze’s center, provided he had enough time. Which, of course, was not about to be given to him.

As he closed in on the blood’s resting place, there was a sudden clap of thunder and Anwar caught the glimpse of an animated suit of armor appearing atop a glowing rune carved at one of the labyrinth’s dead ends. This constructed guardian made its way toward the magic-user, seeming to be in no way affected by his invisibility. Luckily, every time the animated armor moved, so did the maze. Even its guardians affected the labyrinth’s layout.

A cat-and-mouse game quickly evolved between the magic-user and the animated armor, with Anwar getting close to the center of the maze. There, he could see a blood-red gem floating at eye level and glowing with a crimson light. His move to snatch up the bauble was thwarted when the gem’s guardian suddenly stood in his path thanks to a turn of the wheel. To make matters worse, there was another crack of thunder and a killer frog appeared in the maze and began to hop towards the mage.

Now surrounded, Anwar moved to escape the labyrinth while Rondo Fleagle, seeing both the mage in danger and the only sizeable treasure so far discovered, entered the maze. With now four creatures moving about, the labyrinth was in constant motion. Sections of it became veritable turntables, whisking the adventurers and the maze’s guardian past one another with barely enough time to exchange blows. Anwar found himself boxed in during one of the maze’s rotations, flanked by both the deadly frog and the sword-wielding suit of armor. Both struck at the sorcerer and succeeded in bringing the now very visible mage to Death’s door.

With Anwar downed and the guardians’ attention on his now-recumbent form, Rondo was able to charge through the middle of the labyrinth, snatching the gem from the air. This attracted the guards’ attention. At the same time, there was another thunderclap and an albino ape appeared in the maze, sniffing about for prey.

With their own members outnumbered, the party took action to try and rescue them (or at least the gem). Aieglos climbed up the stairs to try and pepper the guardians with arrows, but discovered that an invisible barrier prevented his missiles from hitting inside the maze. Hoover and Krunk entered the maze to try and take some of the heat off Rondo and to pull the bleeding Anwar to safety. With so many intruders inside, the labyrinth spun even more, increasing the chance of more guardians appearing. And appear they did. In short order, a zombie was summoned, followed by a second killer frog, a pair of stirges, and even one of the dreaded Tomb Herd. Things were looking poorly for the party.

A lucky turn of the maze, however, brought Rondo and Hoover close to one another and the dwarf, aided by the ranger, leapt to safety. Meanwhile, Krunk was trying to reach the unmoving Anwar with the guardians closing in. Another revolution of the wheel brought the near-dead mage past Hoover and Rondo, but he sped past too quickly for either to grab him. Waren stepped towards the mouth of the labyrinth as the zombie approached Hoover and Rondo and managed to turn it…but another revolution or two of the maze had the repulsed zombie fleeing back towards the duo. The two took it down as it reached out to attack them.

Krunk was meanwhile dodging the guardians and reached Anwar. Throwing the magic-user over his shoulder, he carefully maneuvered himself. Having by now figured out how the maze rotated and what to expect, Krunk stepped just enough to get himself lined up for a fast run for safety. As the labyrinth spun one more time, the berserker weaved his way down a twisting path and jumped free of the spinning maze. Free of the shifting pathways and bearing the relic they came to acquire, the party fled the cavern. A quick but cautious journey back through the catacombs brought them back to daylight in time to meet their ride at the dock. They headed back upriver, intent to bring Grumble back from the grave…


  1. Amazing Mike...this was simply brilliantly conceived in your campaign setting even though it came from James' book. You adapted it perfectly to our particular party and campaign setting. I'm curious as to how this gem will bring the dwarf back to we just touch it to his skin?

  2. Something tells me that it won't be that easy Pete, but one can hope...

  3. You could 'suppose... I try' unknown magic items carefully, myself. Rouse 'the bum up', if able. Let Mars 'butt in' if the dwarf is unresponsive... I mean, that is his job? If this includes practices that are specifically anti-Spider God, 'stuff the heresy and hie away' to a different recourse altogether. The 'gem, in the end', might just do it's magic it's own way.