Tuesday, August 11, 2015

DM's Game Log: Return to Dwarf Hill

NOTE: Somehow an early draft was published; edits are now included.

 Dwarf Hill is the name of a large hill on the eastern verge of the Stone Hills just beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Seaward. It had long had a reputation of being both the hiding place of dwarven treasure and of being haunted by a banshee. About 18 months ago (real time) an adventuring party had found a hidden ravine on the eastern edge of Dwarf Hill and cleared out a small band of brigands hiding in a hillside dwelling. The party had found a tunnel into the hill that eventually bridged an underground stream but then ended in a door  - a door with a long-dead body in front of it and the chalked warning "Glyph" on the wall nearby.
  This weekend a new party returned, this time with a dwarven fighter/cleric along who believed he knew the password to temporarily deactivate the glyph.

  The party consisted of:
  Fiona, a human fighter; 2nd level
  The Sparrow, a half-elven fighter/thief; 1st/2nd
  Konrad, a dwarven fighter/cleric; 1st/1st
  Seamus, a druid; 2nd
  Thoren, a half-orc fighter/thief; 1st/2nd

  No henchmen this time around.
  The party travelled to the border along the Wyvern Road meeting no one of more than middling interest with only a heavy rain to break the monotony of the road. After three days they left he fortified village of Estham for Dwarf Hill, 5 hours into the wilderness. They arrived and found the stone hut still empty, but intact. They quickly rechecked the areas they had cleared out on the first trip and then scouted the bridge and door - they seemed undisturbed.
  They crossed the bridge and examined the door. Seamus used a lantern to peer carefully into the darkness along the underground river's passage and thought he detected another bridge upstream and higher in the cleft. Kaspar said what he hoped was the password and opened the door... safely.
  The area beyond was obviously a mine; the door opened into a central collection area with two drifts radiating away from it and doors further into the hill. The party heard a faint tapping in the distance, but could not identify the direction the sound was coming from. The tapping sounded like either metal on stone or water on metal and was very regular.
  The party explored the nearest drift first. The dwarf identified the ore as a source of tin. The drift showed that the vein was played out in the area. In a remote side shaft they found a half-elven body, long dead, under a pile of rubble. On the wall nearby they found tally marks; the count was 64. Returning to the main area they opened the first door and found an area with tin ore in bins. While poking through the bins the animated skeleton of an ogre burst forth and fought the party. The party slew it in 2 rounds, then opened another door in the room, revealing another passage and door.
  About this time Seamus, Fiona, and Konrad all began counting on their fingers and marking each 10 count with a tally mark on the wall. The others realized they were counting the individual taps they were hearing! Concerned, those unaffected quickly led the counters through the glyphed door (saying the password!) and across the bridge, where the sound of the water drowned out the tapping. In a few turns the three counters were feeling fine, although shaken by their sudden obsession with counting. The party realized tha, based on lantern oil, the obsession hit after an hour of the tapping, camped in the stone hut and made plans for the next day.
  After a quiet night the party once more said the pass word, entered the mine, and began to search, but much less cautiously than usual.They found another body in the second drift (beneath 91 tally marks) and stairs leading up. They also found a central equipment room with mining tools and 4 handcarts. As they approached an hour within the sound of the tapping they retreated into s short drift, Seamus put wax plugs into his ears, and the rest (all members of the Church) began chanting the Litany of the Saints.


  All felt an immediate lessening of the psychic pressure of the sound of tapping.

BTW, this is, in my game, the basis of the Chant spell.
   After about 5 rounds a figure leaped out of the darkness! It looked like an emaciated dwarf dressed in rags carrying a heavy tool hammer and was obviously undead. Most of the party was surprised - the creature swung at Seamus, but missed. Seamus missed in return and then the thing ran off, seemingly into thin air.
  The party continued, finding two more main drifts and continuing to explore. They found two more bodies and what they suspected was the main lair of the creature. And while once again stopping in a small alcove to chant the creature attacked again, striking Fiona for quite a bit of damage.
  And removing every trace of her sense of direction. She was so puzzled she couldn't even obey 'follow the person in front of you' instructions. Kaspar took her my the hand to lead her through the tunnels. A second ambush dealt damage to Kaspar, as well, and the confusion. Both could still fight and even cast touch spells, but not travel!
  On the fourth attack, however, Seamus was more prepared. This time he was not surprised and he had a spell ready - Faerie Fire! The creature was limned by the spell and the fighters closed in (some with hand-holding) and destroyed him soon, but not before he confused another member of the party.
  The party retreated back to the hut, rested, healed up and by late the next day the weird confusion had ended.
  The returned and examined the higher floor, finding it empty (other than a mithral key they discovered after following a few clues) and - the other bridge, seen before. With some quick thinking and luck they were able to bypass the Wizard Lock on this door and enter the final chambers.
  This was the bolt-hole of a long-dead wizard who had taken over the space as a place to hide from his enemies. The party slew a ghoul set to guard the outer door (Thoren got initiative and killed it with a single mighty blow!) and then drove off an imp (the dead mage's familiar, trapped by a spell) to find his corpse and a basic spell research library.
  They gave the dead proper burial and then used the carts to haul out the loot. Several of them leveled up.

  The monster ws one I have had stuck in my head a loooooong time. Way, way back in Dragon Magazine #58, which came out in February of 1982, was a special section on dwarves that included a new undead, the Rapper. I modified them a little bit and have wanted to use them for, oh, about THIRTY-THREE YEARS! Although only 4 HD their abilities to drive people mad, turn invisible, and affect people with a Lose the Path effect combine to make them a nice, creepy threat. The party realized that a little foolhardiness and a few blown saves and one rapper could wipe out an entire party rather easily. I have had Dwarf Hill floating around in various incarnations for 3 decades and finally a party went past that glyphed door!

  More on the campaign in general soon.