Thursday, July 5, 2018

DM Report: Deep Into Skull Mountain

Setup found here.

Later the same game-day the party sent the henchman mage/thief to watch the trog caves while Invisible as they scouted the cavern again, making sure their map is accurate and paying close attention to the waterfall and the eastern tunnel. They heard distant thunder from the eastern tunnel.

  As the sun was setting on the surface (and the quartz-refracted light was fading) the henchman spotted the trog chieftains parley and then all the remaining trog warriors (120+!) gather and then then start heading for the Cavern of Herds. She gave the danger signal and headed for safety.

  The mercenaries were formed up at the hilltop, henchmen archers joining the shortbowmen and crossbowmen, men-at-arms joining the heavy footmen, the religious brothers and clerics with the cook and healer. A 1st level cleric began Chant and as battle got closer another henchman cast Bless and Telnar cast Prayer.
  Baldric (Clint's 5th level fighter henchman), Clint, and Hans were off to the side, mounted, ready to charge. The trogs approached, the Hand tribe on the left flank, the Head tribe on the right flank, both chieftains in front with their toughest warriors. The shieftains had their war shields made of human bone lashed together with sinew, the surface the cured skins of past PCs they had killed (Hi, George and Marvin! Remember that game in '84?).
  The plan was for missile fire to work on them as they got close, the cavalry to charge one flank as they approached, then then pike-backed PC melee types to slam into the main body.
  The Lanz and Franz, the barbarian brothers, both went berserk. And charged the Chieftain of the Hnad tribe.
  Realizing their plan was in the wind, the cavalry charged the Head chieftain and the melee PCs backed the barbarians' play. On their own the henchmen and mercenaries began moving downslope to improve archery and perhaps assist in melee with pikes.
  The Chant had kicked in and the Prayer juuuust was in time the barbarians were covered, but the cavalry was outside the Prayer when it was cast. See here for how this matters.
  Clint targeted the Head chieftain, but missed. By one. Baldric and Hans hit tough fighters. The barbarians, berserking and armed with two-handers, hurt the hand chieftain very badly. The archers rained fire on the mooks in the back of the mob. The PCs reached the melee and as the others wounded boss Ingrid brought down the Hand chief.
  Trogs made a morale check.
  The cavalry rode through the mob, and the left flank turned into a meat grinder of PCs and tough henchmen vs. a mob of trogs. Only 2 of the good guys had been affected by trog stench, and it never really affected battle.
  The right flank tried to envelope the melee, so the cavalry charged again, and again Clint missed the Head chief by 1 point. The archers were being very effective on the trogs in the back as the melee wore on through a few rounds. The cavalry rode through again, then circled wide and charged again. AGAIN Clint missed the Head chief, although by 3 this time! The trogs finally enveloped the melee group (Baldric and Clint stayed within the pocket to join in) and the barbarians reacted to the Head chief's battle roar by charging him.
  The PCs dropped the last of the toughest warriors of the Hand tribe and turned on the leaders of the Head tribe.
  By now, after a rather long slog, the trogs failed their morale check by enough to break and flee, including the chief. Baldric and Clint remounted and joined Hans in the favorite thing in the world for cavalry - killing broken infantry fleeing in the open. The fleet PCs did the same, cutting down wounded trogs. The chief rallied 3 of his tough warriors to hold a rearguard and - the barbarians cut him down where he stood.
  The trail of dead trogs stretched the entire half-mile to the entrance to their cavern complex. At the entrance the barbarians were able to realize the battle was effectively over and their berserkergang ended, leaving them exhausted. The party deployed Continual Light objects as the last of the quartzlight ended and returned to the hilltop to healing (no spellcaster had any healing spells left at the end of it and a few potions were used, too).

  The next morning there was a major foray as the party piled up the dead trogs in a bare patch by the cave wall and burned them all in a massive pyre, the smoke rising up and exiting through the many fissures in the ceiling. Then they entered the trog caverns and, in a largely offscreen bit, slaughtered the (inherently evil demonspawn creatures) trogs left in the caverns. There was another pyre, the party found treasures hidden in a deep pool, and they returned to the hilltop for the night.
  At the same time a minor foray returned to the Goblin area and returned with more fresh food, replacement arrows and bolts, and the spearmen that had been left behind to bolster the troops.
  The mercenaries and half the henchmen (the lower levels) were left behind on the hill as the party went caving.

  The party returned and explored the trog cavern area and noted a tunnel to the east lined with various fungi, including luminescent ones. The southern tunnel was similar, so they considered going south, but first they did a careful search of the trog caves and found - another bedroom, similar to the one above the mess hall in Level One-Guardpost, and with identical furniture!

Average Tunnels in the Caverns

 They went south. The massive tunnel/cavern took some time to cross and the occasional patch of shriekers and violet fungi kept them slow and wary. Beyond was a very long cavern with a stiff wind blowing toward them, strong enough to ruffle hair and make a whistling noise. As they continued the wind picked up, as did the noise, until they spotted three Wind Walkers approaching at tremendous speed! Quick thinking and spell casting Dispelled/Disrupted the summoned creatures before they could do more than a little damage.  They pressed on beyond and entered another cavern, pitch black, and a moment later Clint was snatched up into the darkness!

  His Continual Light rod revealed he was fighting the largest Cave Fisher ever seen on a ledge high above. Ingrid used her Gauntlets of Swimming and Climbing and her Ring of Free Action to swarm up the wall while Clint's brownie henchman, Aloyzius, Dimension Doored himself and Telnar to the ledge.
  The fight was very serious and before the Cave Fisher was slain it took Clint to 1 hit point, the 12th time (or so) the character was dropped to 1 h.p. in Skull Mountain.
  The players got down with a Rope of Great Length found among the dead bodies and explored the cavern. The 400 yd by 200 yd cavern had a 100 yd wide sinkhole in the center dropping at least 800 feet. With no other exit, they healed Clint a bit and headed back. Their mapping indicated that the sinkhole is a mile south of the Cavern of Herds.

  The next day they traveled east, facing more shriekers and violet fungi in that long tunnel until they came upon a 100 yd across junction of 4 major tunnels. Almost ambushed by the 3 tentamorts lurking at the tunnel mouth a fierce fight killed all three. The other 6-12 they could see retreated up toward the distant ceiling. They again heard thunder from the eastern tunnel, leading them to believe it leads to the same place as the eastern tunnel from the cavern of herds. The southwest tunnel led to a large cavern with enough luminous lichens to reveal the size (almost 1/8th of a mile) and the 3 large Subterranean Lizards approaching; the party withdrew. Travelling down the southeast tunnels they had gone some distance when a piercer almost struck Hans. The ceiling was covered with stalactites, so they had to slow to a crawl for safety.

  After an hour they reached the next cavern. It had a small quartz seam allowing a bit of sunlight to filter in, illuminating the vast space like late twilight. Although split up by a few massive stone pillars up to 120 yards wide, the cavern was a half mile long and a quarter mile wide with a high ceiling. Moving cautiously they had gone in, wary, but did not see the ten-headed hydra until is had cut off their escape.  It charged and they prepared for battle.
  At first they did very well, then the lernean hydra had 12 heads. the henchmen leapt into action with torches and Clint used his flametongue and after 7 rounds and a terrific fight that injured everyone in the party the hydra was dead 'for real'.
  They found the hydra's hoard where it faced - a huge subterranean lake.
  The lake had a bit of the refracted sunlight at the strand showing crabs and fish in the water. There was very mild wave action in the shore and distant, very far away, they heard a snatch of song for a minute or two....

  Jack said the singing was much more terrifying than the hydra.

  Mapping seems to indicate that the strand is at least as far east as the easternmost edge of the Cavern of Herds and about a mile south.

  The party retraced its steps, wary of the many dangers, and reached camp in time for a hot dinner of beef steaks, roasted potatoes with butter, stewed greens with vinegar, and a mug of ale.

More Saturday!

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