Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Fall of the Temple of Gruumsh

Yes The Background
In my 1e campaign the Orcish City-States of the West spend a lot of time fighting each other, more than they do fighting Men or Dwarves. But every few generations the shamans prophecy that the time for an Overking has come and orc begin questing in the Stone Hills for the Regalia of the Orcish Overking. Any one item is said to be enough to make an orc the unrivaled leader of a city-state. All items? Every orc in the region will obey you. This has occurred 5 times in the past, and each time the lands of Men and their allies have trembled on the verge of destruction.

A little of Orc society in Seaward
The Orcs are in 5 great tribes, the Dripping Blade (with the devil-lord Ilneval as their 'patron'), the Broken Bone (under Baghtru), the Blood Moon (under Shargaas), the Pale Hand (under Yurtrus), and the Black Cave (under Luthic). The sixth 'tribe' is the Vile Rune, the shamans and witch-doctors, whose ultimate allegiance is to Gruumsh. The bearers of the vile rune travel freely among the Orcs.

Orcs brook no hereditary nepotism; the sons of a chief are just orcs. All are born level at the foot of Gruumsh's hellish throne and all positions must be won via effort. When an Overking dies his body is taken by shamans to the long-hidden temple of Gruumsh hidden deep in the Stone Hills and buried, his regalia scattered and hidden. Then those shamans are murdered to hide the locations.

But after the Fifth Overking the prophecy changed; all of the regalia was kept in Gruumsh's temple and the next Overking could find them at once.

Recently
The Baron of Wyvern Keep warned that orcs were crawling the Stone Hills during the Winter 7 years gone. Patrols and adventurers soon found that the vile tune had announced it was time for a new Overking. The players confirmed this...
...and promptly spent years assaulting Skull Mountain, dealing with the bandits of the borderlands, venturing to Banath, and wiping out foul demon cults!

But finally things were getting very bad, with organized orcish warbands cooperating between tribes to drive back patrols! The call went out the the Company of the Dark Moon sent a team.

Players and Characters
Nick played Owen (5th level magic-user human)
Sam played Konrad (4/5 fighter/cleric dwarf)
Jen played Ingrid (6th level fighter human)
Jack played Seamus (5th level druid human)
Alex played Starfalcon (6th level ranger half-elf)
Henchmen - ten total, including Octavius, the 5th level half-ogre fighter

Adventure Overview
With divination, help from a genie (long story), sage research, notes from a book found in Skull Mountain, ranger work, and some luck the party was able to get a rough location of the entrance to the temple complex. Getting there involved fighting two orcish warbands, one with a leveled half-orc commander, the other with a brace of tough ogres. A third warband, much larger than the first two, began pursuing them but they were able to find the illusion-cloaked entrance.
They were attacked by a grizzly bear (an enchanted bearskin akin to a Figurine of Wondrous Power they left behind because of its bulk). In the maze-like upper levels they found many zombies and skeletons. As they went deeper into the complex they fought a number of dretches and strange devil-dogs (based on wild hunt hounds from the old Deities and Demigods) in a series of skirmishes. At a great stair they had to answer the questions of a spectator. Realizing that they had to think like an orc, they passed the test.
Deeper still they fought two massive algoids and a ju-ju zombie who was obviously formerly a Broken Bone chief (the fate of those who fail to become Overking!) and finally were attacked by an invisible stalker guarding a door.
Exhausted, they rested and recovered spells.
The pause was also to prepare for the next cavern, a massive space larger than the Cavern of Herds -  a cyst within the earth a mile across and half a mile high filled with a fungus forest. They descended a 1/4 mile ladder after learning the mobats were only interested in flying creatures. While odd tracks were visible in the fungus forest, the trail was clear. After a half-mile they came to a chasm; at the base was a roaring river riddled with obsidian rocks a quarter of a mile below. The 50 yard long rope bridges (with no guide ropes!) stretched from the edge to 2 rock spires and finally to the massive orcish temple on another rock spire. The rope bridges were such that only one person could safely dross at a time and a slow walk - otherwise the oscillations would pitch people into the river.

The Temple
Within the gigantic temple the party was immediately attacked by 5 ju-ju zombies. Moments later the former Overkings shambled from their tombs to stop the invaders - each as a mummy! Since the last rope bridge was now only mist the party went all-out, releasing Golden Lions, a Quartz Warhorse, and using spells and items with abandon. The weaker henchmen without magic weapons all lit torches and prepared oil flasks for a last stand.
The ju-ju zombies bought enough time for the mummies to close and the fighting was fierce, lasting a total of 10 rounds. With careful battlefield maneuvering, the use of oil on closing mummies, and some hard fighting the party prevailed with no deaths (although mummy rot was had by quite a few!).

The Aftermath
The statues of the various orcish devil patrons all collapsed because non-orcs had desecrated it. The party found the five tombs of the Overkings with their symbolic burial goods (4,000 electrum pieces and 5 amethysts each), and teh regalia of the Overking, which they took with them.
The orcish warband that had been following them was within the fungus cavern, but they had found a passage to an iron boat on the rver. They cut free the last bridge and left, eventually reaching a landing (the enchanted boat returned to the temple after they left it).
The trip back to Wyvern Keep was easier than anticipated - all shamans and witch-doctors had lost their spells and the inter-tribal truce was off. The party force-marched to Wyvern Keep and met with Bishop Alturin (visiting from the Four Counties) and the Royal Magister (dispatched from the capitol) and with their aid destroyed the regalia! The kept their loot and received rewards from the king.

Thus ended a 7 year adventure arc.

The Regalia
These items are meant for orcs; if used by anyone else they slowly warp that person's will until they seek out an orc shaman and volunteer to be a slave to the orcs.

The Ring of Yurtrus- Grants Leadership.

Bands of Baghtru- Grants strength and endurance.

Shargaas' Amulet- Grants great resistance to poison and disease.

Luthic's Armor- Grants incredible protection from physical harm.

The Dripping Blade- This scimitar rivals the greatest elven and dwarven weapons of power.

The Eyepatch of the Chosen of Gruumsh- Grants resistance to magic and light.