Monday, July 9, 2018

DM Report: Deeper into the Caverns

The party keeps exploring. Here is the setup and here is the previous report.

After a night's rest the party decamped from the goblin tunnels, set up the mercenaries and 10 of the henchmen on the hilltop and examined the eastern tunnel. Starfalcon (ranger) and Akio (henchman monk) rapidly determined it was the lair of jermlaine. Jermlaine that seemed to avoid the sunlight of the Cavern of Herds. The main party switched to the Trog Tunnels and, after driving back the tentamorts in the junction, went east, following that tunnel a long way until it opened up into a rocky cavern almost a mile long. Near the cavern, in the tunnels, they encountered a snyad and parleyed. The soon learned of the 'war in the walls'; a century long fight between the snyads of this area versus the jermlaine to the north. After discussions the party gave the snyads 8 daggers for their fight.

This led to jokes about being arms dealers

In the large cavern they encountered a rhinoceros beetle of vast size with strange markings on it, but could outpace it, leading to the party pulling ahead, exploring, pulling ahead, etc. They spotted a large entrance to the north, but had caught a strange glimmer in the east so explored there first.

One a ledge well above the cavern floor they found an inert flesh golem wearing a strange harness made of leather, bronze, and adamantine that had been forged onto the construct, the dwarven maker's marks visible. The party noted it looked like a repairman's harness, or a power lineman's. 
Telnar used a spell to blind the beetle and the party slew it with ranged weapons as it blundered about. During the fight a vast shadow was cast from the north.

  Going to the northern entrance the party noticed there was an obvious magical effect separating the two caverns, the next cavern a bit larger than that of the beetle. Another entrance, also warded, was visible on the far wall. A quartz seam allowed faint sunlight to enter the central cavern and illumine it like twilight.   The party entered the middle cavern and saw, 100 yards away, a massive giant slug, 80'-90' long, covered in metal nodules and with a spike-tipped tentacle between its eye stalks. With a flash a bolt of lightning lashed out from the tentacle and struck Telnar, injuring him and destroying a scroll and a potion. The party withdrew and soon saw that the magical barrier prevented the slug from entering.
  Once again Telnar was able to blind the beast and the party closed to fight it. After more than a turn of fighting, the slug crushing people, lashing out with its acid-dripping tongue, and blind-firing its lightning every other round the party killed it.
  The eastern end of the cavern had a tunnel surrounded by natural salt seams and wards against evil and a tunnel that went on for a long distance. The west entrance, towards the Cavern of Herds, was likewise surrounded by salt and wards. The north entrance led to another mile-long cavern, this with a vast puddle of water covered in mold, obvious green slime on the far wall, and a massive snail, its shell appearing to be an opening into starry space. Exhausted and very low on spells - and concerned that the moon beetle, asteroid slug, and star snail seem to be blocking something evil! - the party retreated back to rest.

Overnight a runner from the main area delivered a report: a ship had flown from the moon and had hovered over the mountains just east of Skull Mountain before returning. The party found that the Space Elves had somehow delivered another asteroid slug! They are now firmly convinced that Something Bad is to the east.
  The party restaged, went to the the junction, killed a tentamort, and went southwest. They killed the three subterranean lizards handily and took the last tunnel in the area. After 2 miles they saw a light and entered a cavern just in time to see a party of humans/humanoids (hard to tell) fleeing south from a fire. The fleeing group had a two-wheeled handcart. The party noted a tunnel going east, but pursued those that fled, cautiously.
  After 2 more miles they entered a 1.5 mile long, twisted, wet cavern, the fleeing group visible a mile ahead, a strange blue-green light shining from a lantern on the handcart. The players pursued, but noted the ochre jellies, yellow molds, etc. and realized that the blue-green light drove off the many oozes in the cavern. Without the light the party retreated back to a less corrosive area then returned to the fire and the eastern tunnel.

  A mile down the tunnel they came to a vast, gated wall with very tall men on it. After parley they entered the verbeeg village on the south shore of the hydra lake, the source of the singing they had previously heard. The verbeeg were very open about the group that had fled - hobgoblin traders. The tunnel south, they were told, went on more miles after the slime cave to a hobgoblin settlement in the mountains over Banath. The hobgoblins came each month to trade fresh food, tools, and such to the verbeeg. The verbeeg were mining silver. 
  Discussing the area when the party was able to prove they had killed the hydra the slight tension/hostility of the verbeeg melted away. The verbeeg told what they knew (mainly about getting to and from Banath) and mentioned the Flashing Cave and the lake monster. The party purchased a boat and set out onto the lake for the Flashing Cave, careful to stay south and east away from the lake monster.

  Soon they were drawn up on the shore of an entrance to a cave that, yes, flashed faintly in odd, irregular patterns. Akio scouted ahead and soon reported that the large cave had a door in the back and that there were 20 beings, resembling hairless, sexless humans, in the cave and that they flashed. The party moved on.
  Pretty soon they were fighting 20 shockers and their 6 pet volts. Luckily they encountered them in groups, not all at once, and had enough non-metal weapons to bring them down with only minor damage all around. It was still a tough fight and everyone was hurt (they had left the henchmen to guard the boat). Going on they opened the door, revealing a room with an obvious connection to the quasi-plane of lightning, as a spell  Summoned a lightning elemental. Luckily, Clint's aura warded it out and they dealt with it quickly, but now they were hitting the limit of spells, etc.
  They took the (rather serious) treasure haul with them and met the henchmen on the way out - they had pulled the boat far upshore and pulled back from the lake after hearing a terrifying roar from the north. The party, largely healed and almost completely out of spells, rowed south, thanked the verbeeg with 1/2 the money from the Flashing Cavern, and headed back to the Cavern of Herds, portaging their new boat. They stashed the boat in the goblin halls, rested, then headed out of the mountain.

Discussion
  The party is very pleased; they have explored and largely cleared out the caverns closest to this area of Skull Mountain and know that other caverns are distant down Slug Alley or the Hobgoblin Highway. While the verbeeg are concerning, they seem pretty focused on mining and trading. The party is going to keep a close eye on the caverns in case new threats move in to the areas they have cleared.
They are discussing clearing out the yellow musk creeper at the outside entrance to the Cavern of Herds, but are hesitant to do so until they have the means to block the tunnel from monsters from the Briars.

More
Virtually everyone leveled (not the paladin) and the loot was great, including a Ring of Wizardry (1st-3rd)! Next adventure will the more Briars mapping, then they will try Level Four of Skull Mountain proper.