[This session was a rollercoaster and nearly ended in a TPK. Tripp and Radagast’s players could not make the game, so Brock, Harkyn, and Brother Thaddeus decided to go it alone. Read on to see how it played out…]
[Also? SPOILERS! This series will spoil what’s in Barrowmaze, so take that into consideration before reading.]
Brock – male Dwarven Vaultguard, exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Harkyn – gender fluid Elven Nightblade [yes, I said “elf” twice], also exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Brother Thaddeus – male human Cleric, pillaging pagan tombs for the glory of St. Ygg! [Read: “exploring Barrowmaze for the loot”]
Norman – male human guide, hired to lead the adventurers to Barrowmaze but not fight
Dar – male human man-at-arms (0-level) with an axe, a shield, and a never-say-die attitude
Thorsday, April 4, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
Early in the morning, Tripp was feeling sore and a bit feverish from the zombie wound he took two days ago and needed more bed rest to recover. Radagast, a fast friend, volunteered to stay in Helix and keep an eye on Tripp (and make certain none of the townsfolk took advantage of Tripp and his bag of coinage). [Neither player could make it to the game, so I worked out a reasonable in-game reason for the characters to remain in town.] Harkyn, Brock, and Brother Thaddeus still wanted to go back to the Barrowmaze, so they went by the Mercenaries Guild to bulk up their numbers.
Osen, the guildmaster, was happy to see them again. Norman had provided a very positive review of the group and was willing to work with them again. When asked about the availability of men-at-arms, Osen looked through his rolls to see who was available, but only came up with one name, Dar. Dar fought with axe and shield and had his own chain mail armor. The group asked to hire both. After Brock and Harkyn put up the 5 gp death benefit deposit for each, Osen sent a runner to find each hireling and have them meet the adventurers in the common room of the Brazen Strumpet. Less than an hour later, the entire group was assembled and headed south, into the Barrowmoor.
Unlike the easy trip through the Barrowmoor earlier in the week, the group drew the attention of a pack of four crocodiles this time. Not wanting to tangle with the beasts [especially to no profit], they fled through the marshes, eluding the creatures. [I, the GM, remembered to roll for an encounter on the way this time. Four crocodiles would have been tough for 1st-level characters, so I think the PCs were right to flee this encounter.]
About an hour past Noon, the group arrived at the field containing the barrows. There was some discussion about having Harkyn double-check the barrows already explored but the group decided they might do this if there was time before they needed to leave for the day. [Harkyn’s player wasn’t present for most of last session and so never got rolls to check for secret doors. The players wanted Harkyn to check this session, but could not justify having a dwarf ask an elf to double-check the dwarf’s work.] Instead, the group decided to start by finishing the exploration of the 5th barrow.
Brock checked the soil he’d scattered on the steps down to the barrow. It had clearly been disturbed in the intervening two days, but he could not read the signs to tell by what. The group cautiously entered the barrow, leaving Norman on the surface as look-out.
The group checked to see if the two already explored rooms [the entry room and the room on the left] looked any different than last seen. When they did not, Brock forced open the door to the room on the right. From the door, this room widened out in a funnel shape to be 50 feet wide. Standing in the center of the widest part of the room was a stone sarcophagus. The floors and walls were bare stone. Harkyn and Brock searched the walls for passages or traps, respectively, while Brother Thaddeus walked into the center of the room to get a closer look at the sarcophagus. Dar stood guard at the door.
As Brock and Harkyn were completing their examination of the chamber’s wall, Brother Thaddeus noticed a glop of something fall to the floor next to him and start sizzling on the floor. Looking up, he discovered that a 10-foot patch of wet-looking ceiling was rippling and congealing just above him. Brother Thaddeus let out a cry of panic…er, warning and took a quick step back. The now active gray ooze slammed a pseudopod into Brother Thaddeus’ chest, dropping to the ground as it did so. The ooze’s acidic slime immediately started eating up Brother Thaddeus’ banded mail. Brother Thaddeus frantically stripped the now useless armor off before the slime ate into him. Brock drew his short bow and sunk an arrow into the ooze while Harkyn’s shot from their composite bow went wide of the mark. [This unfortunately was the beginning of a pattern for Harkyn...]
The next round Brock and the ooze attacked simultaneously. Brock’s arrow hit the ooze again, but failed to kill it. The ooze’s attack, on the other pseudopod, did not fail to hit and kill Brother Thaddeus, slamming the young catechist across his back, dissolving much of his torso. [It took him to -6 hit points.] At this point, Dar, enraged by what the ooze had done, rushed forward, swinging at the ooze with his hand axe and killing it.
After catching their breath, the remaining characters bundled Brother Thaddeus’ remains up into a cloak in order to return him to the Shrine of St. Ygg in Helix. [I missed the part of the rules where characters can roll on the mortality table after receiving some sort of treatment. We later discovered this and rolled on the table. He received the result: “That’s a bad way to go. What’s left of you isn’t pretty.”] They then opened the sarcophagus, hoping the contents would make the death of Brother Thaddeus meaningful in some fiscal way. They found a mummy inside, luckily it was the inert kind. With a sign of relief, they set to unwinding its bandages.
The corpse inside the bandages was wearing a silver ring and a necklace with a red stone pendant. They also found a potion vial in the sarcophagus with the mummy. Unfortunately, the people they knew who could evaluate these treasures, Tripp and Radagast, were back in Helix, so they bagged up the treasure and moved on, returning to the surface.
Looking around outside, they noticed two barrow mounds relatively nearby that were not on their map. Eyeballing the distances, Harkyn and Brock decided to check out the closest barrow next, which happened to be one of the two “new” mounds [#6, in fact]. They walked over to check it out and found it still sealed. Brock pulled out his sledge hammer and proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes breaking down the sealing slab of stone.
Entering the exposed barrow, carefully and specifically checking the ceiling, Harkyn and Brock found a long narrow room with five, eight-foot tall statues, each in its own alcove. Harkyn noticed that the eyes of the statues were gems, rubies for the two statues on each side, black opals for the single statue at the end of the chamber. [We also noticed that the description of this barrow mentions that all the doors are bronze, but the only doors in this entire barrow are secret doors! I should have noticed that BEFORE I read aloud the part about the doors and marked those words out instead of tipping my hand that there was more to this barrow than the one chamber. My bad.] Brock also noticed that the statue with the very valuable black opal eyes was trapped – there was a small metal tube just barely detectable in the back of the statue’s mouth.
After a great deal of discussion while taking a break, Harkyn and Brock decided to remove the ruby eyes from the side statues before messing with the trapped statue. During the 20 minutes this took, Harkyn’s elven keen eyes noticed that there were two secret doors in this chamber: one behind the trapped statue and one behind the statue to its left. They decided to hold off opening the secret doors until setting off the trap in the statue [Tripp being the only one able to disarm traps the safe way].
To try and side-step the effects of the trap, they used a torch to partially melt one of Harkyn’s candles and stuff the pliable mass into the statue’s mouth. Once ready, Brock took a position beside the statue [and partially on it] and Harkyn took position at the foot of the stairs at the far end of the chamber. Dar was sent up to the surface with Norman [explaining what kind of crazies the adventurers were to Norman - "You won't believe what they're about to do..."]. Both adventurers were convinced that the trap was actually a flame trap of some sort, so they were trying to not be right in front of it. Then Brock started prying loose the black opal eyes.
There was a grinding sound as the statue’s mouth opened wider and then a pause. Just as Brock was sure the wax had worked, the gas pressure popped the wax wad out of the statue's mouth and the area around the statue filled with poison gas. Brock staggered out of the gas cloud coughing, but easily shrugged off the effect of the poison. Harkyn sprinted back to the surface until Brock called the all clear. [Clearly the elf was starting to get skittish.] As the trap did not reset, Brock spent the next ten minutes calmly prying the black opal eyes the rest of the way out.
With the gems secured, it was time to try the secret doors. Brock and Harkyn decided on the secret door on the left and opened it. The chamber beyond was lined with burial alcoves, but all the contents were piled in the center as part of a giant-rat nest. Brock realized there were more than five of the giant rats [the player specifically asked me if there were more than five], but charged forward anyway. He was quickly surrounded by eight of the giant rats defending their nest. The remaining four moved to attack Dar and Harkyn near the door while a black rodent of unusual size lurked in the background [the pack leader].
For the first couple of rounds it seemed like the adventurers and their man-at-arms would be able to slog through the fight and eventually win. Brock was killing one rat per round and only getting bit by one rat in return while Dar killed two of the rats attacking him. Harkyn’s shots tended to go wide, fear of rats filling Harkyn’s eyes. Then came the round where Brock failed to kill a rat and three of them sunk their fangs into him at once. Brock went down under a pile of greasy, black fur. This shook Harkyn’s confidence. The black pack leader squeaked at the rest of the pack and they stopped feeding on Brock’s fallen body to attack Harkyn and Dar at the door. Harkyn targeted the black rat specifically with arrow fire while Dar fought whichever rat was within arm’s reach with his hand axe.
Standing in the doorway, Harkyn and Dar only faced two giant rats at a time, but numbers were on the rats’ side. Half a minute later, Harkyn finally killed the black pack master, but the rest of the rats were in a blood frenzy and kept attacking [high rolls on their morale check]. Then Dar fell, and it looked like he too was dead. Harkyn took a half step back in preparation to flee. Harkyn’s next shot went wide and, even though Dar stood back up at this point, Harkyn’s nerve broke and they fled, leaving Dar to face the last three giant rats on his own! [Dar, an NPC, was being played by Brother Thaddeus’ player so he had something to do. He misread Dar’s AC (5) as his hit points (6) and thought Dar had died when he really still had one hit point left. Harkyn’s player was already planning to flee before we discovered the error and had Harkyn flee rather than die under the onslaught of the giant rats. Honestly, I don’t blame her at all – I’m surprised she and Dar stayed as long as they did.]
Harkyn ran back to the stairs and prepared to shoot at any rats that came out of the secret door while Dar stood firm and continued the fight. Dar killed another rat, protected by the banded plate keeping the rats from reaching his bloodied flesh. This seemed to shake the last two rats out of their blood frenzy and they fled through a gap in one of the burial alcoves [first morale roll under an 8 for the entire combat – a 2]. Dar staggered out of the statue alcove and announced it was done.
Harkyn and Dar returned to the chamber past the secret door and attempted to revive Brock. Brock was just barely alive, but lost both of his arms to the rats hurried feasting upon him. [I made a GM call here as I initially missed the part of the Mortality Table where he needed to be healed to one hit point within one round or he’d die. I decided to let him live rather than die a second time. This is also when I realized we should have rolled for Brother Thaddeus and I retconned the roll. It didn’t help.] After two tourniquets were applied to Brock, Harkyn and Dar searched the rat’s nest for any potential loot and found a couple handfuls of coins and a scroll tube. They then called Norman down to help them carry the barely conscious Brock out of the barrow so they could head back to Helix.
As bad luck would have it, the wounded group ran across 2 skeletons on the way back to Helix. The group tried to run and evade the skeletons but were slowed by the heavily wounded Brock. The battle went badly. Harkyn’s first two shots missed and it took two hits for Dar to kill one of the skeletons before the second skeleton sunk its boney fingers into Dar’s chest, damaging his heart and lungs. Dar fell to the moist ground, coughing blood. Harkyn finally hit with their bow, destroying the last skeleton before it could attack Harkyn back. Norman badly bandaged up Dar and the bloodied group staggered back to Helix, arriving several hours after dark.
Banging on the door to the Shrine to St. Ygg, they woke Brother Othar and explained the situation to him. As Brother Thaddeus was brethren of St. Ygg, Brother Othar agreed to cast cure light wounds on Dar, Brock, and Harkyn if the three of them would transport Brother Thaddeus’ body to Ironguard Motte and the Temple of St. Ygg there. They agreed to and received enough healing to ensure Dar and Brock would not die that night from their wounds.
Freysday, April 5, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The next morning Harkyn had Tripp and Radagast identify the loot found so it could be sold to pay for multiple castings of restore life and limb in Ironguard Motte. The red stone on the chain was a Bloodstone Gem. The potion was a potion of clairvoyance and the three scrolls were of magic missile, levitating disk, and web. All of these were sold at The Rosy Quartz Jeweler and Money Lender for quite a good amount of coin [and XP].
It took the entire rest of the day to make it to Ironguard Motte. Arriving at the Temple of St. Ygg with a letter of introduction from Brother Othar, the Temple took 500 gold each to cast restore life and limb on Brock and Dar. The temple took all of Brother Thaddeus’ money [even though that was more than 100 gp less than the spell cost] with the understanding that Brother Thaddeus would owe services to the Temple to pay off the rest. The spell could only be cast once a day, so it would take three days to cast it on all who need it. Brother Thaddeus would go first, but the adventurers were welcomed to stay at the temple while they wait. They gratefully accepted.
Saturday, April 6, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on the remains of Brother Thaddeus. It utterly failed to bring him back and the brothers announced he was now one with St Ygg. [This is not true. With modifiers, the player rolled -6, 1 on the table, which reads “Your soul is extinguished in the oblivion of nothingness. No additional attempts are permitted.” The Temple will not admit that St Ygg could not save one of his own, so they claimed Thaddeus was “one with Ygg” to cover.]
Yggsday, April 7, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on Brock and his arms miraculously regrew! However, the new arms had opinions about him, his companions, and anything Brock happened to be doing and now he could now hear those opinions. Continuously. [“Whispers from beyond plague you. It is difficult for you to ignore them and you suffer -2 to hear noise throws and -2 to surprise rolls.”] Brock focused on the positive: he had both of his arms back, even if they kept talking to him.
Moonday, April 8, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on Dar. It healed the grave damage to his heart and lungs, but the brethren told him his soul was marked and outsiders will now attack him on sight. [“Your soul is marked and all extraplanar beings wish you dead, targeting you over your allies. Every week, there is a 1 in 6 chance an invisible stalker will be sent to destroy you.”] Dar decided that exploring the Barrowmaze was no longer for him and chose to stay at the Temple to figure out his path. He thanked the adventurers for their generosity and paying for the casting of the spell. Harkyn and Brock parted ways with Dar on good terms.
They also spent the rest of the day shopping the market with their pile of loot. Each purchased a potion of cure light wounds from the Temple of St. Ygg. Harkyn was able to locate a small bookstore named "Solutions" that was also a stop-over place for mages travelling through [I made this up as a likely solution to Harkyn's lack of master to go get spells from]. Harkyn bought a scroll with shield on inscribed on it and starts studying it. [Harkyn is barely 100 XP from 2nd level and getting their first 1st-level spell.]
Tuesday, April 9, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
Harkyn returned to Helix to meet up with Tripp and Radagast for another expedition to the Barrowmaze. Along the way they picked up two new adventurers travelling to Helix. [New player joining the group, the GM from the Rise of the Runelords game I'm in, plus a backup character from Brock's player as Brock is on bed rest until in-game April 21st. I'll properly introduce them in the next session report.]
End of Session
[So there seems to be some gray areas in the ACKS rules for when you get to roll on the Mortality Table, so I made a ruling, sticking with the OSR tradition. I decided that after a fight anyone can attempt an 18+ check to bandage another character’s wounds and stabilize the victim, even without the Healing proficiency. The Healing proficiency gives much more and can actually heal damage. I’m using this as a form of first aid. This also allows the access to the Mortality Table, but roll high.]
[I’m also messing with the day names for the calendar. I have not settled on all of them yet – so they’ll be in flux for a bit, but generally it should be clear. I’ll post the full list and go back to retcon the entries once I settle on a list of days. I haven’t made a decision about the months yet. It probably won’t come up in play, so I’m inclined to let it go, but I thought that about the day names and changed my mind between sessions 1 and 2.]
[As it turns out, a pack of giant rats is pretty threatening and a gray ooze is downright frightening. Luckily the PCs weren’t surprised in either fight, even though Brother Thaddeus died anyways. Dar turned out to be a bit of a surprise. In the first combat I rolled high on his morale and it stuck with him, even when I had Brother Thaddeus’ player run him. And he almost got away with it. I expected the encounter with the skeletons to be quick and end in the players’ favor. Unfortunately Harkyn’s dice betrayed the group and just would not roll double-digits to hit until after someone died. Maybe next session they will behave…]
Session 3 [Not yet written]
UPDATE: corrected dates - there were two April 7, now only one.