Thursday, February 3, 2011

SR34: Return to the Lake of Fire

This session happened Saturday, January 22, 2011, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.  Normally this would have been run on Friday the 21st, but four of the six regular players could not make the game.  Saturday was to have been my monthly game, but two critical players could not make that either, so I ran Southern Reaches instead.  (My three game groups currently have a lot of overlap.)

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
– Dame Yasha of Bereste (Su Bel’s human cavalier cohort)
Mog the Doomed (half-orc barbarian)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
 – Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

With Sal, Tycho, and (most importantly) Agnes unavailable for an expedition, the remaining adventurers decided that the Terrace of Fallen Horse would be too dangerous to continue investigating [too many traps].  They instead decided to return to the ruins east of Drop-off Tower where they had found the Lake of Fire inside a ghostly tower that could not be seen from the outside (or did not exist).  After a short ride on horseback, they entered the base of the tower ruins and stabled their horses in the first room.  Thorngrim set up several illusory walls to protect the horses from any monsters that might wander by and then the group climbed the stairs once hidden by the adamantine door.

The stairs opened onto landing in the center of the Lake of Fire.  The adventurers followed the trails to the far landing on the left and started climbing the brass spiral stairs up.  The extended stay in the extreme heat started causing the heat exhaustion before they reached the top.  To combat this, Su Bel cast endure elements on each member of the group, which helped considerably.

The top of the stairs went through the ceiling and into a different environment – one not as hot but significantly more humid.  The stairs ended inside a small structure shaped like a step pyramid.  All around was heavy jungle with a trail leading off into the foliage.  Following the trail, the adventurers were attacked by small humanoids up in the trees throwing banana-smelling tanglefoot bags.  When the tanglefoot bags were not immediately followed by an attack, Thorngrim set to using prestidigitation to remove the sticky material from the adventurers.  Shortly afterward, while the group was at an intersection deciding on which path to follow, a swarm of monkeys attacked the group, biting and scratching at the adventurers.  After some quick effort, the monkeys were driven away, but the adventurers were slightly disturbed by the event.

Further through the maze of trails, Mog discovered a pit trap prior to stepping in it.  While he was contemplating how to disable it, six girallons [four-armed, white-furred gorillas – no, really] charged the group.  With a simple “I think I’ve solved our pit problem,” Mog readied to receive the girallon charge.  During a furious fight, the adventurers were able to kill five of the girallons and drive away the sixth.  Several adventurers were wounded but Thorngrim’s dog Snips was killed by one of the girallons.  Mog attempted to console Thorngrim by saying, “It’s how he wanted to go – killed by a monkey.”  Afterward, Mog threw the girallon bodies into the pit trap, filling it most of the way up.  Rather than press on however, the adventurers retreated to the basement ruins where they had stabled their horses and camped.

The next morning, still under the effect of Su Bel’s endure element spells, the group returned to the jungle level.  Following the winding trails, the group made their way to the heart of the jungle level, where they were attacked by a tribe of 16 monkey-goblins herding 6 swarms of monkeys into the adventuring party.  At the end of the fight (during which there had been some friendly fire issues with a pair of fireballs), the monkey swarms were destroyed and 11 of the monkey-goblins killed.  The last of the monkey-goblins fled rather than face the fury of Mog’s attacks.  Nearby the adventurers found the monkey-goblin shrine to their gods, which appeared to be the girallons.

Tired of being in the jungle, Thorngrim cast fly on Mog and sent him above the jungle canopy to scout for a way out.  Mog discovered that ten feet above the canopy was another ceiling and there were a set of stone stairs up relatively near the group.  He returned and reported what he had seen, leading the group in the correct direction to find the stone spiral staircase leading up to the next level.

Cautiously climbing the stairs, the group made their way up to the next level of the tower.  When they passed the ceiling, the air temperature dropped, but not the humidity.  The stairs opened onto a rough-floored area filled with fog thick enough to limit visibility to 20 ft.  Still smarting from the monkey-goblin fight (and the errant fireballs), the group decided to return to the base of the tower again and camp.  In camp, Su Bel cast a divination to seek the safest route past the mist.  She received the message, “The center is uplifting.”

In the morning, the adventurers made their way back up through the tower, once again using all of Su Bel’s low-level spells to cast endure elements.  Back at the mist level, the group used a rope to avoid becoming separated and started a spiral search pattern, looking for the walls to this level.  The adventurers had discovered that each level of the tower was circular and Thorngrim reasoned that if they found the wall and put their back to it, they could slowly make their way to the center.  The wall was quickly found, but while Thorngrim was making his way slowly towards the center, he was attacked by manticore spikes.  The adventurers retreated to the wall and Su Bel cast wall of stone to create a partial shelter from the manticore’s attacks.  Turtled up, this mostly protected the adventurers from the manticore, which did little additional damage.  When it attempted a fly-by attack, it was quickly targeted and killed by the adventurers.

Searching the body, Thorngrim discovered the manticore was wearing an amulet that let it see through all of the mist.  Putting it on himself helped Thorngrim rapidly locate the center of the mostly empty immense area of this level.  Thorngrim then laid out a line of arcane marks from the stairs to near the center of the room, but when he stepped forward to place the last mark, he unexpectedly fell up through the ceiling, screaming all the way!  Mog, ever the half-orc of action, quickly stepped forward, hammered two spikes into the floor, tied a rope to the spikes, and stepped forward.  Unfortunately, he was unable to hold onto the rope and fell uncontrollably up.  This left Su Bel and the two cohorts alone.

Su Bel cast sending to get a message to Agnes explaining the situation*.  She then ordered Dame Yasha and Kainen to wait several hours until it became apparent that the adventurers would not be returning and then return to the horses to wait for Agnes and the rest.  She then tied the rope to herself and stepped into the center of the room, immediately falling up through the mists, past the ceiling…

…and into a large, warm body of water, taking a large amount of damage from the fall.  She failed to keep her head above the water and started drowning.

Both Thorngrim and Mog had fallen into the next level of the tower.  Thorngrim had been able to thrash enough to keep his head above the water, but was losing that battle when Mog arrived.  Mog, able to swim as any half-orc of action can, swam to a nearby sandy island with Thorngrim in tow.  Expecting the rest of their group to eventually follow, they waited on the island.  When Su Bel fell through ten minutes later, Thorngrim cast fly on Mog, who then flew out to rescue the drowning cleric, pulling her to the island.

The island they were on was about 40 ft by 20 ft, completely sandy with two palm trees, and in a large circular room full of warm, crystal clear, salty water.  The walls and ceiling were covered with illusions of being in the middle of a warm and sunny ocean.  Not seeing an immediate exit and with Su Bel slightly traumatized by nearly drowning, the adventurers decided they were ready to return to Drop-off Tower.  Using a second rope, the original rope was lengthened and tied off to one of the palm trees.  Thorngrim then cast fly on the three of them and they flew up out of this chamber and down to the floor of the Mist Level, where they rejoined Dame Yasha and Kainen.

Quickly making their way back down to the base of the Ghost Tower, the adventurers retrieved their horses and rode back to Drop-off Tower.  Several stiff drinks were then imbibed.

*End of session*

*Actual content of the sending:
“Agnes, Mog and Thorngrim have gone up through ceiling on left side, Third floor.  Follow path if we do not return.  Path marked.  Su Bel”

[Players of the old convention module C2: Ghost Tower of Iverness should recognize the general levels of this tower.  I jettisoned the castle ruins, switched around the order of the Tower levels, and swapped out the monsters for most of the levels to things that fit the Southern Reaches.  I’ll discuss this more in a later post.]

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