April 25, 2008

Running the Tomb, Part 2

As mentioned previously, this past Sunday I had the pleasure to DM an old-style Tomb of Horrors session with friends (including two active members of the Goodman Games clan). The player–character breakdown:

Mike F.
Ceralt, 14th-level Fighter
Phelan, 9th-level Magic-user

Ken H.
Dendyr, 14th-level Cleric
Valdamane, 10th-level Paladin

Steve C.
Rath, 7th/8th-level Dwarf Fighter/Thief
Forethal, 9th-level Cleric

Will W.
Quint, 12th-level Ranger
Brandice, 4th/6th-level Drow M-U/Thief

What follows is Spoiler City. Don’t read if you intend to enter the ToH as a player!

Play began with the arrival of the party at the burial mound of Acererak, deep in the Vast Swamp.* The paladin quickly organized the party and they began a sweep of the mound, paying extra attention to the massive stones of blue-grey rock that made up the ‘face’ on the huge cairn mound. No sooner did they approach the stones when a sea of undead surged up from burrows beneath the stones and attacked, surrounding most of our heroes (save the cautious wizard)!

Ceralt and Valdamane charged forth and cut a swath through the foul juju zombies and risen zombie-bugbears, but the other PCs were less fortunate and were wounded by the zombies ragged claws. Phelan assisted from a distance, lobbing magic missiles from his trusty wand, as the undead moved to surround him. Before things got too dire, the clerics Dendyr and Forethal used their turning ability to reduce half the remaining undead to bone shards and the last of the undead were then dispatched in quick order.

The party soon circumnavigated the burial mound and began digging on the distressed northern side. Several hours of work later the party unearthed a tunnel entrance. The party marched into the corridor, Dendyr using his magic to detect for traps. The thieves approached a set of two doors at the end of the corridor, and each began an attempt to disarm the trapped doors. Brandice blew his attempt badly, and soon a 10-foot thick slab of stone was rumbling across the corridor, threatening to entomb the PCs!

I, as DM, began my first—but not last—ominous countdown of the evening. As soon as the count began, the party bolted for the entrance (thieves heading out last just as the lead-covered slab loudly sealed off the corridor behind them).

Undetered, the party resumed digging. They discovered two more entrance corridors, and to my delight as DM choose the second false entrance to try first. More cautious this time, Rath soon disarmed a devious trap at the southern false door that would have sent the ceiling raining down on their heads! They promptly departed for the last remaining tunnel.

The party spent a good deal of time examining the many gruesome drawings and features in the true entrance shaft. Dendyr discovered Acererak’s mocking, clue-filled message hidden in the floor runes, while Phelan discovered a concealed door sealed behind the illustrated wall mortar. The PCs paced out the corridor and soon discovered the huge demon face and misty archway at the tunnel end. Brandice meanwhile busied himself with a mysterious box that projected from a wall illustration … and landed in a 30’ pit with poisoned spikes for his trouble (he luckily missed the spikes)!

Dendyr the cleric and Valdamane the paladin approached the great face with its mouth of dead black. Wisely, Dendyr used an augury to seek his god’s counsel. The spell rules gave him a 84% chance to receive correct information, and he simply asked if the face bode weal or woe. I had Ken roll the dice over my screen … a 97. Uh oh. Weal, the DM stated with certainty. Demonstrating a paladin’s classic bravery, Valdamane crawled into the demon's mouth—and was promptly disintegrated by the fixed sphere of annihilation therein.

Dendyr and Phelan, working together, eventually found the means to dispel the archway mists. Ceralt strode confidently into the archway … and was teleported straight back to the other end of the entrance tunnel. The party then entered the archway, taking care to stay on the red tile path, and they found themselves transported away by stomach-churning magic to parts unknown…

*DMs using the Known Realms (I used Greyhawk in this instance to fit with the old-style theme) could easily locate the Tomb in the Great Swamp or the Gloom Marshes of Tashgar.

See my next installment for the 2nd half of our session report!
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