Thursday, October 6, 2016

Return to Skull Mountain - After the Second Session

  Follows this report.

  The party:
  JL - Brigid, 6th level human Barbarian (custom class)
      Byron, 5th level Cleric henchman
  JR - Seeker, 4th/6th elven Magic-User/Thief
      Kaspar, 3rd level human Scout (custom class) henchman
      Marion, 1st level human Bard (custom class) henchman
  AJ - Starfalcon, 5th level half-elf Ranger
  ST - "Clint", 5th level human Paladin
      Willem, 5th level human Hedge Mage (NPC class) henchman [at base camp]
      Arthur, 5th level human Man-at-Arm henchman
      Akio, 3rd level human Monk henchman
      Baldric, 1st level human Fighter henchman
      Meritus the Tall, 1st level human Cleric henchman
      Spearman hireling [at base camp]
      Healer hireling (custom) [at base camp]
  NH - Thorin, 3rd/3rd half-orc Fighter/Thief

  After recovering from the fierce fight in the torture chamber the party returned to the second level and retraced their way to the storage room off of the torture chamber. From there they continued onward, eventually returning to the Large Corridor. While confirming that this was the same corridor they were attacked by a group of Fire Mephits that were Summoned by a trap in the bas reliefs. The battle was relatively brief and they continued, son finding more large doors and another statue, this one (like the other) 30' tall but of a massive yeti with tentacles in lieu of arms. The party loaded down Byron with protection items and backed up as he Blessed the statue. There was a blast of intense cold, the statue crumbled, and the party checked on Byron. They let him wear the Ring of Warmth until he was fully healed.

  At this point they concluded that the Large Corridor encompassed an area, perhaps a temple complex. The decided to enter through come concealed doors and explore. Then - shadows attacked.
  There was a fierce fight where one shadow was killed and the others driven off
  The instantly learned that the entire space within was a single, massive temple.
They eventually mapped it as 180' x 140' and 80' to 85' high.
  They carefully proceeded down a path flanked by columns toward what appeared to be stairs. The space was so large that their light lights just made an island in a seemingly endless darkness. Clint sensed that his holy aura only protected him, now, not an area around him. Clint and Byron both felt an oppressive weight of evil. Brigid noted that the hilt of her sword (which has the appearance of a lovely woman and sometimes displays emotion) showed fear!
  Very quickly they saw that the steps mounted up to a dais with a foul altar. The altar was flanked with 10' statues of Imix and Cryonax and above it was a 30' statue to Geryon. The party decided to Consecrate the altar but as they began to mount the stairs they heard rustling and rattling from throughout the temple. Spinning around they saw a horde of skeletons rushing them. Byron attempted to Turn them only to sense that undead could not be turned in that room.The party decided to keep the weaker henchmen and casters in back and have the best fighters form a perimeter at the base of the stairs.
  Too bad Brigid (the best fighter) went berserk and counter-charged. 

  There were a lot of skeletons, enough that there were a lot of attacks from the flanks. The party was cutting them down quickly, but noted that the felled skeletons were slowly knitting themselves together!
  Off a bit, by herself and completely surrounded, was Brigid - who was killing a lot of skeletons. After about 3 rounds, as enough of them were down (I use modified 'vermin' attacks, so the fighter types were getting 2 or 3 attacks per round) that the party almost relaxed Brigid's sword, Mor Altach, began singing its battle-song. A moment later Shadows appeared and attacked Brigid, hurting her and draining some of her strength.
  Byron had decided that he had to destroy the altar with a Consecration while the party still could and began the spell. A final surge by the main party killed (however temporarily) the skeletons on them as Brigid felled one of the shadows with a mighty blow. Kaspar and Seeker engaged the last Shadow as the Consecration was finished...
   ...and a mighty bellow was heard from the darkness. As the first splash of holy water struck the vile altar a portal to Hell opened and something came through. The party heard it charging at them and in a flash of enchantment Brigid was Held!
  The Barbed Devil slammed into the party like a battering ram, wounding Starfalcon and Arthur and almost killing Clint with its bite, all in the first round. With their toughest fighter paralyzed it was looking rather dicey. When the spell was finished and the altar was ruined for evil yet the devil remained the party was very concerned.
  Beginning of the second round Seeker actually stepped in to cover for Clint. A moment later Mor Altach cried out in Eirean 'Mistress, I will free you!' and Brigid could move. She leapt into the fray, allowing Seeker to step back out.
  The Barbed Devil fought fiercely but in the end it fell. With its death Clint felt his aura return and the oppressive weight of evil lifted.

  Brigid almost collapsed from the after effects of berserking, strength loss, and damage. The party used up all their healing spells and moved to a less creepy area to wait for Brigid to recover her strength. Brigid noted that her sword appeared to be sleeping.

  They realized from their map that there was another section left. Moving out they found the last portion of the Large Corridor. They examined a number of side passages acquiring a bit more loot and losing a summoned creature to Yellow Mold and just barely avoiding a large nest of Rot Grubs.
  A Necrophidious detached itself from the bas reliefs but Brigid (once again berserk!) and Starfalcon destroyed it as the rest of the party was hypnotized. In a section that had obviously been the quarters of the leader they fought a pack of Mephits (fire and ice) and found a hidden treasure room. Last, but certainly not least, they found both the main stairs to level three and a spiral staircase (going down) behind a secret door.

  Confident that for the first time in centuries the Evil Temple was thrown down and purified, they returned to base camp, rested for a full day, then went to the Black Door up the Right Eye Staur and finally tried Seeker's silver key - it worked! Inside they found much newer construction holding a small apartment, complete with kitchen, servants quarters, etc. Long abandoned, they tooks some books and re-locked the door.
  Then they returned to Esber - after resealing the lower levels!

DM Comments
  Well, they did it, something only one other party has done and it took that party for trips to level 2 to accomplish it.
  Over the many years I have run variants of this dungeon I have had 4 TPKs on level two and had many players driven to distraction trying to figure out how to keep the altar from being repaired. The secret is if you use Bless the altar just "gets better" after 21 days; you must use Consecrate to make it permanent. But if you do use Consecrate a trap Summons a Barbed Devil to drive off intruders and fix the altar!
  Oh, and FYI - when you Bless the altar it summons an 8 HD Ice Para-Elemental to destroy you.

  With the altar actually destroyed the random encounters get a lot more rare and no longer include things like mephits. The Headsman and Torturer will not be brought back. The Xeg-Yi was released from the guardian post. Those sorts of things.

  It is always fun to run this level for me because it is all about the atmosphere and pacing.

  They plan an expedition to level three in November.

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