Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DM's Report: Midsummer at Skull Mountain

System: AD&D 1e with the Far Realms supplement.
Campaign: Seaward, which has been ongoing since 1978

  After what the party learned last time when clearing out the entrance to Skull Mountain (the third time that needed doing!) they returned to Oldbridge, leveled up, re-equipped, gathered henchmen, and headed back for Midsummer. Sa. was mildly upset his druid was out (because Midsummer) and the party spent a lot of time talking, since they had three objectives;

    1) Explore the third secret door they discovered last time, which they never even opened.
    2) Use the magical binoculars mounted on the peak to try to look at the surface of the third moon.
    3) Deal with the evil female in a robe that had been controlling the previous inhabitants.

  The party assembled was;

    Je. played- Brigid, a 3rd level human barbarian (custom class)
        and Brigid's henchman, Byron, a 1st level cleric

    Ja. played- Seeker, an elf 3rd/4th magic-user/thief
        and Seeker's henchman, Kaspar, a 2nd level scout (custom class)

    Al. played- Starfalcon, a half-elf 3rd level ranger

    Sa. played- "Clint", a human 3rd level paladin
        and his various henchmen, starting with Akio, a human 1st level monk
        as well as Arthur, his 2nd level human man-at-arms (custom NPC-only class)
        also Willem, a 3rd human level hedge mage (a custom NPC-only class)

    Ni. played Owen, a human 3rd level magic-user
        and Owen's henchman, Octavius, a 1st level half-ogre fighter
        plus Owen's brownie familiar, Mortimer

    The party also had their hirelings with them: Alon (merchant), Jerb (porter), and Merle (medium footman).
  That is a total of 11 with character sheets! So they set out with 14 horses and 3 pack mules up the Old Road toward Skull Mountain.

  The party staged out of the walled town of Esber, the town closest to the Briars. While Esber is still prepared for battle the party's report of clearing kobolds and such from the mountain has eased fears greatly. They also received a 10 gp bounty each for returning the Count's horses and reporting the fate of his patrol.

  It is literally the height of Summer, so the weather was very hot, something made worse in the Briars. Since the daytime temp was usually over 100 degrees the party traveled without armor and made frequent stops, adding to the travel time. The party encountered a ragged, gaunt man along the road. Although they were fairly sure he was a fugitive from justice their time limit led them to give him some rations and warn him to mend his ways. While gathering wood Kaspar encountered a brush cat, which he killed with some well-placed arrows.

  When they finally reached the plateau outside the entrance to Skull Mountain they discovered the bodies of a few of the kobolds killed on the last adventure, but now gnawed upon and then well-rotted. Starfalcon identified the tracks of 4 trolls, one of whom was 'very large'.

  The party reached the entrance cave, finding the main doors still sealed. Seeker scouted what they call the North Door; the door was open and the entrance room had rotting corpses of kobolds thrown into the corners. With the party at the entrance he went into the attached storeroom to find - a troll, sleeping in its new nest.

  Very quickly the party formed into 2 group - the main group at the North Door watching the other 2 entrances to the entrance room as Starfalcon, Brigid, Seeker, and Kaspar ambushed the sleeping troll.
  The attack went well, but there is only so well you can do against a troll. The troll was up and fighting quickly. At the same time in the entrance area Akio sensed a troll coming down the east hall and Octavius saw a troll charging, full speed, down the north hall.
  Clint, Arthur, and Akio covered the east while Octavius set spear for charge to the north and the 'flying squad' continued fighting to the west. Seeker and Kaspar did well with arrows while Brigid dealt wounding attacks and Starfalcon took advantage of the ranger bonus damage very, very well. The troll from the east engaged Clint and Arthur, a little damage flying around. Octavius did great damage with his spear - and the troll pushed down the spear and hurt Octavius badly!
  Byron rushed in and healed Octavius while Akio moved to back him up; Clint and Arthur stayed engaged; Seeker and Kaspar fell back into the entrance room while Brigid and Starfalcon held the door. During the next round Brigid and Starfalcon dropped the troll to the west, Seeker and Kaspar shifted fire to the north and east, respectively, and combat continued.
  But! Brigid and Starfalcon caught a glimpse of a very large troll coming into the room to the west!
  The party began to retreat to the south door, under pressure. Owen dropped a Stinking Cloud just inside the west door, catching the big troll. Clint, Starfalcon, and Brigid formed a line in front of the south door against the two trolls while Byron healed Octavius further.  Over two rounds they dropped the two trolls and, looking at how much magic was used (Owen's Magic Missiles were also gone and Byron was critically low on cures and all the fighters were wounded) they decided to retreat while the troll was blocked by the Stink.
  Unfortunately, the troll burst out of the cave in full pursuit while they were only halfway across the plateau.
  And, on spotting him, Brigid went berserk and charged right back.
  Luckily, Clint has Boots of Striding and Springing  so he was able to reach the big troll alongside Brigid. The two of them did a lot of damage in the first round! But, they also took plenty in return. In the second round Akio arrived, attacking from behind while Clint and Brigid kept doing well and the troll missed all but a love-tap on Brigid. In the third round Brigid and Clint both hit again, Starfalcon arrived and engaged Ranger Powers, and Octavius finally made it - and rolled maximum damage, cleaving the troll from shoulder to hip!
  Before an hour was up the trolls were gathered and burnt, the guard area was swept and found empty, and the troll nest looted. An hour after that the party was setting up a hidden camp on the eastern slope of the mountain, resting.
  In the morning Clint and Byron healed everyone up and the party went back into the guard complex. The found that the one secret door which they knew of but hadn't opened was trapped and decided to leave it alone. Seeker finally realized an earlier hope and had Octavius rip the lower grate from the kitchen chimney, then clambered up the long, long shaft.
  Along the way he found the grate from another fireplace (about 70' higher up); he could just see the corner of a Tonildan rug and the foot of a chair or table, both covered in dust in a room lit, somehow. At about 90' he found a side shaft that smelled of old smelter smoke and fumes angling off southeast and down. And at 120 feet he came to the upper grate, where he found, on the far side, the Wizard Mark of a member of a Mage House known for mage/thieves and evidence they had been stopped by the grate long, long ago.
  In the rest of the complex they found a very old cell behind double iron grates - inside were skeletons still with their hands wrapped around each other's throats.
  They left this area alone, too.
  Last, they went to the Wizard Locked door and had Octavius try it.
  A half-ogre with an 18(00) strength: he rolled a 1. The door opened.
  Beyond was the far side of the bronze doors from the main cave, sealed up and held by an adamantine bar sunk into the living rock on either side. And in the other direction was a 20' wide, 36' high corridor stretching deep into the mountain. The corridor walls were carved with bas reliefs of cultists walking into the mountain accompanied by various devils.
  The party followed the corridor for 1/10th of a mile before coming to a pair of evil shrines, one to ice (to the North) and one to fire (to the South), both behind pillars. The ice altar emitted cold, the fire altar emitted heat, and both were stained with old blood.
  The followed the corridor further until it opened into a massive space 150' across, 200' wide, and 180' high. The north section had bas reliefs showing a devilish sea full of spiked seaweed, sahuagin, and sharks. The south section was carved to resemble a vast volcanic plane covered in fire with orcs and devils. In the middle of the north wall was a 20' wide, 10' long raised pool of water; the middle of the south was was a 20', 10' high fireplace.
  The entire area was lit from above with a eerie, ruddy light, like the reflection of a forest fire from low clouds. The party continued down the middle of the space, between two rows of mighty columns, and kept going down the main corridor.
  After about another 150' they finally reached the end - another set of huge bronze doors. But these are braced from this side with mighty timbers, each the size of a tree trunk, and huge iron stakes hammered into the solid rock floor. The timbers have obviously been enchanted to resist age and, according to Clint and Byron, enchanted to cause evil beings discomfort and unease.

  The party, focused on their goal of stopping the female cult leader, hurried back to camp to prepare for the next day, which was the day before Midsummer Night!

  The next day the party sent Seeker and Kaspar to the peak to observe the Old Road with the magical binoculars while Brigid, Octavius, and Starfalcon concealed themselves in the entrance cavern. Akio and Byron remained near the stables/North Door area with Clint. Willem and Arthur remained at the camp with the hirelings as a reserve.
  About 5 in the afternoon Seeker saw dust from the road a,d the two rushed to the Room of the Eye; by 5:30 they observed a robed woman enter the plateau follow by two huge humanoids, 7'-8' tall and also robed. Both big figures were pulling a gaol cart, both holding 4 human prisoners.

  The figures left the gaol carts in the center of the plateau, by the massive bonfire pit, and approached the cavern. The party prepared for trouble as the three walked in.
  At that point Kaspar opened fire; the three were surprised for a segment, meaning that Kaspar (as a scout) got a +4 to all bow attacks for the round. He feathered the brisket of the northern-most giant twice and general combat began.
  The medium figure threw back the hood of her robes, revealing her to be Arlissa, an evil mage the party had encountered years before and a known devil worshiper. As the party watched a door opened on the side of her capuchon, then closed and the door vanished. This prompted Owen, who knew that she had an Imp familiar, to hit the area with Sleep spell, in hopes of catching it (the spell failed).
  At the same time the party's 'trick' appeared - Clint, on horseback with lance, rode out from behind a large stalagmite and charged! He struck the southernmost figure (they were both revealed as more trolls) and continued on so as to wheel and return.
  Melee began with Starfalcon once again showing why anyone facing trolls needs a ranger friend and Brigid not berserking, but doing great damage. Seeker came in invisibly and back-stabbed a troll at a key moment, dropping it, and Clint's return pass put down the other just as an arrow pierced Arlissa and she fell over-
  and vanished in a puff of sulfuric smoke as her familiar Dimension Doored both of them away.

  Clint immediately spurred onto the plateau and spotted both of them out toward the gaol carts, Arlissa already regenerating to consciousness. Akio used his tremendous speed to follow as Clint rode down Arlissa and hit her full on with his lance square in the chest, breaking his lance and ending her life.
  The cackling imp seized her soul and vanished back to Hell.

  The party freed the prisoners, who were mainly villagers but did accept a healer (custom hireling) into service. Another prisoner was a nobleman; the last survivor of the Count's patrol who was slated to die at midnight.
  All were hungry, thirsty, exhausted, and sore for days to weeks of beatings. The party settled them in their camp with the various henchmen and hirelings and returned to the complex, making their way to the peak.

  As Midnight approached Seeker watched as Selene, the smallest moon, moved into view. The magical device revealed - a village on the surface of the moon, built as a circle around a central area. In that are was a stone shelf around a great pool. In the pool rested what appeared to be sailing vessels, but there were vast constructions of wood, metal, and crystal on the rock shelf in the shape of dragonflies and a swan.
  The party all looked and soon observed one of the dragonflies lift off and fly away!
  Turning the device toward the city of High Morath they observed that's nations Midsummer Festival, which involves the Pyrotechnics spell.
  Turning it toward Timber Lake they observed a dragonfly ship landing in the lake and being met by elven boats! Starfalcon explained that each year at Midsummer the royal family of the elven Kingdom of Tirgalen goes into the lake with just their personal guards for a 'special ceremony' that all others are forbidden to observe.
  They then looked towards the Demon's Eye, the lip of the volcano on Black Island, out at sea. They watched a massive humanoid figure, at least 30' tall, climb to the rim, look out towards the mainland, and then climb back down into the glowing mouth of the volcano.
  Last, they turned their gaze back to Selene as it slipped out of the focus of the device. seeing another sailing vessel fly toward the moon village.
  The party realized that the sailing vessels would fit into the dry dock on the peak of Skull Mountain.

  The party made an OK haul of cash and a good haul of magic items, including a golden llama, a familiar's hat, and  a flametongue, among other things.

  Before they left they took an intact door from another section of the Guard Area, used it to replace the door shattered by Octavius, then had Mortimer bar it from the far side and before using Dimension Door to come back, sealing off the long corridor from intruders.

  The party returned to Esber without serious incident!