June 15, 2008

Running the Tomb, Part 6: Balloons Away!

Back to our “Tomb tale”…

What follows is Spoiler City. You were warned.

Our current player–character breakdown:

Adrian P. (covering for Mike F.)
Ceralt, 14th-level Fighter
Phelan, 9th-level Magic-user

Ken H.
Dendyr, 14th-level Cleric
Valdamane, 10th-level Paladin
Forethal, 9th-level Cleric

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

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

Our intrepid heroes turned their attention to the only unexplored passage, and headed north. They discovered the sneaky secret door hidden behind a false door, despite my attempts to lead them astray. Alas, they missed a second, important secret trapdoor immediately thereafter. A series of double doors led to a fateful passage—filled with potent sleep gas!

(This was my first lapse as DM, into “Old Softy.” I asked the players at the outset they wanted me to “go easy a bit” and they, valiant souls, would have none of it. They unanimously wanted to beat the Tomb on Gygax’s ground, and I respect them for that. I gave them a save not mentioned in the module … at –5 penalty. Back to our narrative.)

Forethal and Ceralt make their saves, barely, and stagger in place. The other PCs drop face forward, dead asleep. Elsewhere, a huge stone juggernaut comes rolling out of the room where until now it lay, quiescent. Rrrrrruble.

The rules: the PCs are asleep 2 to 8 rounds. Each round, if a 4 on a d4 is rolled, the juggernaut rolls 1d6 squares (10-60 feet). The closest characters are about 80 feet away! The PCs who save are extremely foggy, so I allow them 1d6 5-foot squares of movement … and Forethal rolls a 1. Ceralt does better and exits the corridor immediately, leaving his companions to their fate; did I mention he was Lawful Evil? Luckily, the remaining PCs, due to kind dice, only sleep two turns.

Turn one: I roll a 4, and the juggernaut rolls! The stone beast rolls 20 feet and stops. The cloest characters are a mere 30 feet away.
Turn two: The beast stays dormant.

The PCs flee back to the corridor.

At this point they doubled back a bit, confused. Which was the correct way? Many rolls for secret doors take place. Eventually, however, our heroes once again turn north and discover a secret hatch over a roughly dug tunnel that led to an adamantium door with three slots. Rath noted that the slots are the width of a sword blade. After some hand wringing, the PCs plunged three magic swords hilt-deep into the slots simultaneously, and the valve swung silently open, granting access to the pillared throne room. At this point the players, familiar with Acererak’s riddle, knew they were getting closer to their final objective.

Investigation of the pillared hall revealed many things: many burnt skeletons surrounding a glowing orange gem, an ornate throne chair atop which sat a scepter and crown, several glowing doors to the north, and two more stone devil faces high up on the northern wall. Every so often a strong breeze blew through the area.

The party investigated (visually at first) the throne, and then moved around the massive chamber counter-clockwise. Forethal detects a vague wish-related magic about the gem, but given the many burnt skeletons that littered that area none dared attempt a wish or to even touch the gem. The doors were inspected, but not opened. (Earlier harsh lessons obviously had an effect here and the PCs avoided touching most objects!) Eventually the PCs spread about the room and began looking for secret niches in the many pillars.

The characters touching the pillars—all but Ceralt, who maintained a guard position—suddenly found themselves floating weightlessly up to the ceiling, victims of some malign magic! Yet another breeze blew, pushing the floating PCs northward. They soon realized with some horror that they were being relentlessly pushed toward the two gaping demon mouths on the far northern wall!

Forethal and Brandice, the two PCs closest to the faces, tried desperately the push away from the stone idols with their 10-foot poles. Quint and Rath, sans poles, also were towed
helplessly northward. Ceralt surged toward Brandice, and dripping opposite ends of the 10-pole, they brought Brandice “down to earth” long enough to tie him to Ceralt. Rath meanwhile placed a foot on either side of the face that meant to consume him, pushing off and buying a few more seconds of survival.

Ceralt and Brandice hastened to assist the others, several of which were struggling at the very edge of being sucked into a mouth to an uncertain fate. Bracing with their legs and using iron bars, the remaining characters held off—barely—until help arrived. Shortly thereafter the effects of the magic on their persons wore off and they regained normal gravity.

None the worse for wear (except perhaps badly frightened) the party walked straight back to the ornate throne mentioned in the riddle to be both key and keyed. Forethal had earlier discovered a silver ornamentation at the base of the throne that matched the crown. He gripped the scepter and touched the silver tip to the silver rune. A moment later, the entire throne shook and lowered into the floor with a rumble, revealing a brightly glowing foyer beyond. The party stashed the crown and scepter and moved into thee opening toward the brightly glowing area ahead…

Stay tuned, gentle reader, for Part 7: There Will be Blood.

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