[T.P.K. - Total Party Kill. Read on to learn more...]
[Also? SPOILERS! This series will spoil what’s in Barrowmaze, so take that into consideration before reading.]
PCs (The Motley Crew)
“Drake” – male human Assassin, 3rd level
Harkyn (the Hare) – gender fluid Elven Nightblade, 3rd level
Frank the Cleric – male human Cleric of Silvanus, 2nd level
Brock – male Dwarven Vaultguard, 3rd level
Samsokn [the “k” is silent] – male Dwarven Craftpriest, 3rd level
Recovering from Injury
Quillian the Green – male human mage, exploring Barrowmaze for the loot to establish a chantry [but mostly for the loot]
Kord – male human Bard, seeks tales of heroism to tell…and exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Norman – male human guide, hired to lead the adventurers to Barrowmaze but not fight
Chick-Magnet – female war dog (0-level), actually a male man-at-arms cursed into a different form
Ackerby – a porter
Karmak – a porter, referred to as “Jeeves”
Wilstap – man-at-arms
Bolix – professional torchbearer
Sunday, May 19th, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
Still in Ironguard Motte, looking for some magic armor [to no luck], Brock hired a human named Ackerby to be his porter. Upon hearing about this, Harkyn followed suite, hiring a local named Karmak to carry their locked chest. Harkyn doesn’t quite understand human culture and calls Karmak “Jeeves” as Harkyn thinks that is the correct name of human servants.
Harkyn also ran into a person they knew from back in more civilized areas of the kingdom, an assassin by trade. The assassin heard about treasure being taken from the moors and wanted to try his luck. Harkyn dragged this fellow back to the adventuring group and introduced him as “Drake”. It is not entirely clear is Drake is his real name, but it is the one he is using now.
The members of The Motley Crew in Ironguard Motte spent the rest of the day walking back to Helix. Back in Helix, Brock and Harkyn made arrangements with Turken at the general store to store their locked chests in the storeroom. Turken charges Brock 5gp for storage until September 1st, which is when the adventuring season starts winding down before the rains arrive. He charges Harkyn 9 gp, mostly because he thinks Brock might die before September and he’ll be able to re-rent the space, whereas Harkyn is a survivor and will make use of the space the entire time.
Harkyn also left word at the Mercenary Guild for Norman and Chick-Magnet to be ready the next day for another trip into the moors. Samsokn decided to hire a man-at-arms [Wilstap] to support him and hold his extra supply of crossbow bolts.
Moonday, May 20th, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The adventurers met up at the Mercenary Guild with their crowd of hirelings just after dawn and headed south, into the Barrowmoor.
A couple hours in, while traveling through an area with trees, a giant python fell out of a tree onto Frank and started constricting him. Before the python could kill Frank, the rest of the adventurers attacked and killed the python. Brock and Drake took some time to partially skin the python, taking the head and a five-foot stretch of skin for later use.
As a result of pausing to skin the python, the group arrived at the field of barrows a little after Noon. The group decided to investigate Barrow 27. On their map it appeared to need diggers to be uncovered and they wanted to verify that. Actually at Barrow 27, they found it completely covered in grass and dirt.
Having verified that item on their map, they next walked over to Barrow 26 to explore it. Frank volunteered for sledgehammer duty and 20 minutes later, the sealing stone was cracked and fell away, exposing a set of stone stairs. After tossing a torch down the stairs to see if anything attacked it, the group entered the barrow. They found a rounded 60x60 foot room with demonic murals covering the walls and ceiling. In the center was a very large bronze brazier, unlit.
After exploring the room and finding nothing else of note, they investigated the brazier more closely. Despite the brazier containing charcoal, they could not light it. They even added some of Frank’s military oil to the charcoal to no avail. Taking some inspiration from the murals, Frank shouted out several choice curse words to no effect [other than shocking a few of the other adventurers]. Not certain what to do, they tied rope to the brazier and hauled it over to the base of the steps. At this point they needed to take a rest, so they returned to the surface and talked about what to do next. Ultimately, they decided to go explore a different barrow and return to this barrow later to take the brazier back to Helix to experiment on. [What could go wrong?]
After their rest, the group walked over to Barrow 25. Frank once again volunteered for sledgehammer duty and after 20 minutes of hard work, the sealing stone was shattered. The exposed stairs led down to an octagonal room with four pillars. Each pillar had gemstones embedded on it, decoratively arranged. After searching the chamber for traps, they settled down to looting the gems from the pillars, collecting 19 gems [the number per pillar was randomly determined] over 20 minutes.
With gems in the loot bag, they checked the three passages leading out of the room. Each passage has steps down to a locked door – which they have no ability to pick. Deciding that the stone walls around the door cannot be any thicker than the sealing stone, they applied the sledgehammer near the hinges and brute forced their way past the door on the left. This led to another octagonal room lined with burial alcoves. While looking around, Drake nearly fell into a pit trap in the center of the room. Unfortunately, his hireling, Bolix, did not catch himself and he fell into the pit and died on the spikes at the bottom.
The group started searching the burial alcoves. Near the end, Harkyn broke off and climbed down into the pit to retrieve Bolix’s corpse for return to Helix. After 30 minutes of searching, the group was able to put a good amount of coins and a magic ring into the loot bag.
With loot and a need to return Bolix’s corpse for a proper burial, the group decided to head back to Helix. On the way back they saw a patrol of lizardmen, but both groups decided to acknowledge each other and go about their business.
Back in Helix, Bolix’s body was turned over to Osen at the Mercenary Guild, explaining what happened. Samsokn contributed an additional 10 gp to the standard 5 gp Death Benefit the guild provides. They arrange to hire 10 diggers and five guards for the diggers for the next day. That night [after selling off the loot], a wake was held for Bolix at the Brazen Strumpet.
[This is where the players got into trouble. It wasn’t quite stopping time for the evening and some of them were close to leveling, so they decided to go back for “one more barrow”.]
Hernesday, May 21th, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
A little hung over, the adventurers picked up the diggers and guards at the Mercenary Guild and headed south. Near the field of barrows, they ran across a pack of ghouls. Frank was paralyzed in the first round, with Chick-Magnet, Drake, and Brock getting paralyzed in the second round. Harkyn and Samsokn were starting to get overwhelmed when the hired guards left the diggers and approached the fight. The shift in numbers convinced the ghouls to break and run rather than die [again]. Rather than waste time in the moors waiting for the paralysis victims to become mobile, packs were re-apportioned and the paralyzed people were carried. By the time the group reached the field, most of those paralyzed were moving again. Frank was the last to recover.
The adventurers walked the diggers over to Barrow 17 and set them to digging with the guards keeping a watch over the diggers. The adventurers returned to Barrow 25 to finish clearing it. Using their sledgehammer, they bashed the walls around the two remaining locked doors. Behind one of those doors was an empty room and behind the other was a partially collapsed room where a gem was seen in the debris. Brock stepped in and retrieved the gem and verified there was nothing else of worth.
With a minimal return on their trip, the adventurers walked over to Barrow 24. Brock took a turn on the sledgehammer and broke down the sealing stone. The group cautiously went down the stairs and found a square room with a door in the near left corner and tapestries hanging in the other three corners. Frank and Brock went to check the door while Harkyn started a clock-wise search for secret doors, Drake started a counter-clockwise search, and Samsokn and Wilstap observed from the center of the room.
At about the same time, Harkyn and Drake each discovered a ghoul hiding behind the tapestries in the opposite corners. Drake was instantly paralyzed, but Harkyn, an elf, wasn’t and they cried out in alarm. This drew all the attention to Harkyn and away from the paralyzed Drake as the fight started. A third ghoul stepped out from behind the remaining tapestry and rushed at Brock and a very surprised Frank. Rapidly, Brock and Frank were paralyzed by that ghoul. Samsokn and Wilstrap made a fighting retreat to the foot of the stairs, fending off the ghoul that had paralyzed Drake. Chick-Magnet joined them there but was paralyzed after attacking a ghoul. Harkyn was only able to make it partway across the room as a fighting withdrawal and ended up facing the other two ghouls near the center of the room. Harkyn killed one of the ghouls, but eventually fell to the onslaught of attacks from the other ghoul. Samsokn and Wilmar held on a little longer but eventually fell to the claws and fangs of the last two ghouls.
Up on the surface, Norman, Ackerby, and Karmak heard the fight down below. As the sounds of each adventurer were suddenly cut off, they gathered at the top of the stairs to see what was going on. They observed the last stand of Samsokn and Wilstrap. When the ghouls looked up the stairs at them, they fled, running as fast as they could over to Barrow 17. When they reported all the adventurers had been killed by ghouls, ghouls that might be coming to Barrow 17, the guards and the diggers panicked and fled.
Late that night, Norman led the bedraggled hirelings back to Helix, where they reported the death of the entire Motley Crew to Osen. Most of the hirelings then went to the Brazen Strumpet and spent their pay getting very drunk.
End of Session
[So – TPK. There was discussion afterwards about what happened. Harkyn and Samsokn’s players felt that they should have fled instead of doing a fighting withdrawal, but it was very difficult to make that decision with the other PCs paralyzed but still alive. They knew if they fled, the other PCs would become ghoul food and rise as ghouls later. And for a moment, it looked like maybe they could win the fight and rescue everyone. Unfortunately, Samsokn’s dice hated him and he only hit once out of six tries. Harkyn’s dice rolled just under what was necessary to kill a second ghoul and the ghouls rolled well at the end.]
[I decided that the treasure from the evening’s first expedition would count as money spent to no benefit, so those making new characters would start at 3400 XP – it was a good haul as the magic ring was a +2 ring of protection. There was some gnashing of teeth when they learned how much XP they had just lost and the leveling they could have done instead of making new characters, but they thanked me for the XP for their new characters.]