Caverns of Thracia, part 2
Players: J, VM, ME, HJ, SH
J continued with Rolf the Footpad. Uz’iel had mumbled something about needing to visit the lodge and was nowhere to be found, and since Rolf’s purse looked fairly empty he had to find new companions to visit Thracia — or be content with labor honest or dishonest.
He found Alia (HJ), a fearless ex-legionnaire from the north, who had Folker (henchman) in tow. Folker owed gambling depts to Alia, and agreed to act as shield-bearer for her in exchange for 3gp/week to be deducted from his debts, plus a 20% share of any loot.
They were joined by Darios the Elementalist (VM), a Dwarven Vaultguard called Jira (ME), and a Priestess known as Mearra (SH). Darios seemed to be pretty well off, and hired two henchmen more — a footloose couple Hira and Ghiza.
The journey to the ruins of Thracia went uneventfully, with Rolf showing the way.
Similar group of gnolls as Rolf and Uz’iel has observed a week ago was guarding one of the ruins. Circling wide around them the companions headed for the same entrance to the tunnels that Rolf and Uz’iel had used last time.
A single tribesman we seen spying at the gnolls and heading then underground. After waiting for a short while the group followed, silently, with Jira in the lead. Down the stairs… as Jira peeked across the corner she saw light ahead.
After conferring a moment it was decided that light or no, forwards seemed like the better direction than the right fork of the rope bridge. Coming around the corner, however, the light had now vanished. Mindful of Rolf’s warning they crossed the bridge without light, not wanting to rouse the giant bats.
The tunnel continued straight on to a T-intersection, with doors facing the hall they had entered through. Sharp ears picked whispers from beyond the doors. Rolf scouted first to the right, and discovered barred double doors. Not wanting to find out why they had been barred, the group took the left fork.
They came to a wide room with pillars supporting the partially collapsed ceiling. The wall of the room opposite the tunnel they entered through was open to a huge cavern and there was a small balcony-like protrusion on top of the dark emptiness. Imagining bloody rituals they decided to press on, towards the tunnel opening on the right.
Unfortunately light of their torches attracted giant bats from the cavern, causing them to attack the lantern-bearer Hiba. Alia and Jira quickly dispatched the bats, however, showing the less martial types how it’s done. Unfortunately Hiba went down from a bat-bite before the dust settled. Mearra ministered to her, and was able to revive her enough to walk — but not good for much else for a fair while.
Last session I had completely forgotten about the cleaving rules. This time I remembered, and I have to say HJ loved them. Her dice were steaming.
During the combat Rolf had slipped ahead, sneaking along the next corridor in darkness. He had discovered doors with light faintly showing from beneath them and had almost been discovered. On his way back to the others, however, he triggered a trapdoor in the floor and fell down into an icy cold river… the other heard his yelp and a splash and move ahead to investigate — and discovered the open trapdoor, but no sign of Rolf.
Moving ahead they found the same double door Rolf had seen and Alia and Jira promptly kicked it in — giving one of the tribesmen inside a black eye. Battle was quickly joined, and though it was touch and go they were finally victorious: Darios burned one of the men with his flame bolt, and henchmen fought valiantly, but it was clearly Alia and Jira who carried the fight, besting four heavily armored tribesmen, a trained bear — and capturing one of the tribesmen.
Meanwhile Rolf managed to swim to shore in pitch blackness. He could faintly see light ahead, and sneaked closer, discovering the cookfire of a tribe of lizardmen. Keeping well back, he found a cavern wall and followed it in the opposite direction. It eventually led to a door and a tunnel, up some steps, another corridor… and a door he could hear bestial grunts from behind. Just as the door creaked open Rolf legged it back the way he had come, and laid an ambush at the bottom of the stairs. A bottle of lamp oil on the last few steps made them if not slippery, at least less than ideal footing.
After a few moments and some barked bestial exchanges from up the hallway steps approach. Undeterred by the pitch blackness Rolf managed to kill the gnoll that was coming down the stair with a single strike. Planning and underhandedness paid off. Unfortunately it was not enough: the gnoll made a fair racket falling down, and more bestial noises started coming closer. Taking the better part of valor Rolf ran back to the cavern and the underground river and hid. The gnolls did not enter the cavern.
Considering the tunnel to be too dangerous to attempt Rolf decided to risk his lantern, and continued in the opposite direction, following the cavern and the river. He was lucky to spy what seemed a stalactite wobbling on the ceiling of the cavern as we has about to walk beneath it, and a couple of stirges lurking next to it — and ran back. Frustratingly, all routes seemed blocked by non-trivial threats.
While Rolf had been walking in the dark the others had bandaged their wounds and were taking stock. Most temptingly, the room they were in contained two large chests. No traps were to be seen, so Alia tried to open one of them… and felt a terrible cold in her bones as strength was leached from her arms!
Alia originally had STR 18, but the curse on the chest brought it down to 3!
The dungeoneers decided to have their captive tribesman try opening the second chest, which was probably a smart move as the second chest appeared to have an identical curse on it. The chests now apparently safe to touch they were still locked, and Jira took her axe and hacked through the lid of the first — which released billows of foul-smelling gas. The seasoned adventurers were able to hold their breaths till the fumes dissipated, but all but one of the henchmen fell unconscious. Maddeningly, the chest was empty. With others backing a safe distance away Jira axed the second chest as well. No gas escaped this time, and a lovely glitter of jewels greeted her eyes.
Suddenly paranoid, the group decided that they would have to do without magical healing … and Mearra cast Sense Danger to check the objects in the chest. They all seemed safe and were promptly looted.
While the chests were being investigated by the others, Darios had lowered a lantern down the open trapdoor on a rope — which both Rolf and the lizardmen in the cavern below saw. While the lizardmen started throwing rocks at the lantern Rolf braved the river and started struggling upstream. Just as he reached the rope one of the lizardmen managed to hit and break the lantern. A desperate lunge found Rolf hanging on the rope for dear life before it was lost i darkness — now target of the spears of the lizardmen.
Dario called for help, and with combined forces they hauled Rolf through the trapdoor just as a spear struck him senseless. With no recourse to magical healing Mearra tended to Rolf the best she could, and was able to revive him, but he wasn’t in shape for much anything and would require a weeks rest unless magical healing was to be found.
Taking a break before heading back with their treasures the group retreated to the chamber the chests had been in. Luckily they kept guard, and saw light briefly appear in the direction they had come from. Deciding to move as quickly as they could, they headed back that way — only stopping to spike the trapdoor so it should be safe to cross even for the invalids.
Lurking in the dark of the hall they had fought the bats in, they saw a warrior emerge from the closed room they had passed on their way in, and call something down the hall in the direction of the rope bridge. A few moments later footsteps started coming from that direction. They also saw a tribesman wearing somewhat tattered green silk wrap and holding a stick topped with a human skull emerge from the room, appear to give commands to the guard, and return to the room.
Three warriors appeared from the direction of the bridge, and were directed down the hall towards the party by the guard before he followed the shaman(?) to the room. Their exit blocked and much worse for wear from their earlier adventures the group ran — or limped — back. Jira stopped to un-spike the trapdoor, heedless of the approaching tribesmen. Unconscious Folker was left behind: there was no way they could carry him and escape the tribesmen.
Past the treasure room, down the hall they jogged. The hall ended in doors. Heedless of possible danger they burst through them and spiked them shut. A temporary reprieve, at least. From beyond the door they found stairs leading … down. Hearts sinking, they moved cautiously forward, and came to a large cathedral-like space their lanterns could not properly illuminate.
What they did see was rows and rows of corpses. Some recent, some ancient. Rolf recognized Pius lying among them. While the others waited by the doorway, Rolf scouted forward… till some of the dead started to stir, and rise! An expeditious retreat followed, during which Ghiza was dropped. Hiba tried to pull him along till she saw the undead approach and ran after the characters.
The door was quickly unspiked — and a brief combat with the lone tribesman guarding it followed: the warrior’s deft spear brought Jira down just as the undead rounded the corner. The tribesman stepped back in shock, Darios swapped his backpack for Jira’s — she had the loot — and everyone moved as fast as they could past the tribesman, many lightening their loads to keep up.
Again heading towards the outside world they ran, jumping across the by now familiar trapdoor as the tribesman turned to follow them. Brief sounds of carnage were heard from behind as the undead caught up with Hiba. Entering the corridor they had seen the shaman in earlier, they were confronted by him and two tribal warriors. From the tunnel behind them they could hear the sound of the trapdoor opening, and splashing water as some of the pursuing skeletons fall.
The shaman spoke halting common, and called the characters defilers. Still, the tribesmen did not seem eager for battle, and by quickly offering tribute the party was allowed to pass — leaving Jira and Folker to fate unknown. Just as they were turning the corner to the rope bridge they one of the skeletons came within view, and witnessed the shaman rising his hand and controlling it with a word.
Happily the shaman had not yet realized they had plundered the treasures — if that had been the case the characters could not have bribed their way out.
Two days of hard travel later the survivors were back in the relative safety of Mitylene. While everyone was exalted by their newfound wealth, Darios was rather wrought: he had only belatedly realized that his spellbook had been in the backpack he had left behind…
Thre dead henchmen, one dead PC, a crapload of loot including a pair of magical eyeballs: all four survivors hit level 2 — and Rolf hit the levels-per-session ceiling and is now one XP short of level 3.
This was an exciting session! It was great fun seeing the waves of cautiousness / let’s move on / oh-shit-oh-shit rise and fall.
There was one moment in the Rolf’s adventure in the cavern below where I goofed up a bit — screwing up surprise rules momentarily, but that happens. I also belatedly realized that as the tribesman speared Jira, he would have been allowed to cleave… which could well have brought another character down. Next time I shall remember!
I also skipped wandering monsters for the trip back to civilization, since it was already getting a bit too late. Next session I’ll have to set up a timer when the Escape from Dungeon rules activate. While this was a great session, we can’t allow things to stretch like this in general.
Overall, the dice were really on fire tonight. Basically three 1st level characters just bulldozed four 2nd level fighters in superior armor, and then summarily dispatched a 3+3 hit-die bear. *blink*
They truly deserved every bit of gold they managed to carry out. :)