TI4.64: God-killers! – the Sarnas descent, part four

Characters for this session:

Jotunn, level 6 warrior

Cauleigh, level 4 warrior

Fennec, level 3 wizard

Crompton, level 3 rogue

ably assisted by their NPC allies:

Mizva, level 4 human warrior

Whitey, level 4 half-elf rogue

Deep below Sarnas, the party has set in motion an hour-timer that seems to require them to investigate an octagonal chamber with five un-pulled levers. They spend time investigating a possible escape route, but turn back after finding merely traps, endless T-junctions, and a false door hiding the message: Mighty Sezrekan Dreams.

The first lever

40 minutes, and where we left them: despondently, after a number of T-junction loops, deciding to head back to the octagonal room with six levers, 10′ square iron hatches on six of the sides, and short tunnels from the remaining two sides.

Right from the start it must have been obvious that there is something to “solve” but the party does not waste time in recriminations. With due caution as to party order they make their way back around the strange chamber with a shallow pit in it – Crompton makes sure everyone stays clear of it – and down to the levers again. An atmosphere of tense waiting seems to be present. The rope’s end – they descended far down and used all of its 70′ length – hangs beside the levers.

“This feels like gladiatorial animal pens” – Fennec

“So far we have found something intensely magical, so… at this point it’s the levers” – Cauleigh

“Yep, suck it and see” – Fennec

50 minutes: The party check their gadgets and weapons and stand ready! Cauleigh decides he’ll be the one to throw levers over: picks the one next to the already-operated one, calls on Ikmal, and thows it. An iron hatch, next to the half-open jammed hatch, flings up and with a fiendish snarl a stinking ghast flings itself out – and comes up short! A heavy iron chain tethers it but a terrible stench rolls over everyone.

Jotunn shields the party while Cauleigh dodges behind the ghast. He seems to slip but easily corrects himself [Mace of Stunting prevents fumbling] and smashes the creature’s spine to shards. Jotunn slams his Zolman tower shield’s edge down and with a horrid crunch its skull gives way.

 

The hour sounds

Jotunn rearranges the party so that everyone is aware of where a chained creature might stop.

“I think we’re just wasting our time, quite frankly” – Fennec

Next lever: same result, but merely a shambling zombie. Cauleigh switches to his ice-brand Regdar (who is sulky) and deals with it. The zombie ignores damage to claw at him, but the wounds don’t infect. [L3 LK SR]

Next lever: a ghoul. Fennec throws a GY as it lunges at Jotunn, and he easily avoids its poison. Taking no chances they hack it apart.

2nd-last lever: another zombie. Jotunn blocks, the zombie catches him a little off guard and wrestles the tower shield down, but his axe is good enough to deal with it anyway. [Jotunn takes a spite damage].

A distant chime sounds the hour.

[Taking out most but not all of the undead sacrifices, by the hour, limits what the powers can do. So, a lot better than what it could have been, but not ideal.]

Final lever: a stronger ghast than the first! Some of the party choke [L4 CON, Fennec fails, is stunned and cannot cast] and the ghast rakes Jotunn’s face [rolls a fail]. Jotunn is paralysed! The others finish it.

 

By the pricking of my thumbs…

Fennec senses a change in the physical environment. The magic of the shaft up has changed. [The upper shaft is locked down, and the “escape” chamber has rotated 90 degrees] A hatch begins ratcheting open in the very centre of the room, directly below the rope that leads up through the shaft. Fennec can see steps down: senses a great presence. An evil chuckle is heard! He smears Blessed Oil on Jotunn, but it has no effect. [Though as I helpfully point out, Jotunn can now be used as a magical blunt object]

A huge – but ghostly – hand grasps the edge of the hatch, shoving it home faster, and a vast and somewhat see-through ghast emerges from below!

[This is Sezrekan’s Ghostly Going. Now that the sacrifices have been made, it is free. Some special rules are laid around it, basically allowing only magical damage, and magic weapons, to harm it. Magic FX such as BP/FP or Walls will not harm it. As its enchantment is god-level, Anti-magic has no effect.]

Crompton hurls the Skeletal Dust – Cauleigh, who has moved forward blowing the demon whistle, hurls himself out of the way – but being a physical substance, the dust simply drifts through it.

The ghostly ghast looms over the room and begins drawing power from the corpses. Cauleigh tries Regdar, but the FP effect goes straight through. Fennec burns 4 more charges off his Dis-Spell wand (21 remain) but nor is that an answer, though it may have stopped the undead essence being drawn up.

Whitey stays back readying gear [uses his super-heroic potion, and magic resistance ring] while Mizva swings in to Jotunn’s normal front-rank position. Crompton swipes with Anti-magic axe and Mizva hammers with his mace, but those two alone are completely overwhelmed as the ghost manifests physical force, smashing them back to the iron hatches!

[This is an ‘overwhelming victory’ – the victor gets positional advantage and entire losing side suffers]

Crompton [makes L5 LK] is not stunned by the impact but Mizva [L3 LK] is stunned and down. Jotunn [L5 LK] is partly shielded by his tower shield, and Fennec [makes L3 SPD] is partly shielded by Jotunn! But damage is shared all round [51 each] and everyone is hard-hit.

[Crompton uses a boon to sacrifice his Lost Knife of Moloch blade and avoids most damage.]

Jotunn [L11 CON] begins stirring: he can angle his shield to protect himself! Crompton, attempting to hold it with his ring of undead command, leaps back into combat. Laughing maniacally the ghostly giant ghast begins battering at Fennec. Fennec responds with everything his feeble mana store can give him: L4 TTYF! Cauleigh deploys his kite shield, draws his mace again, and leaps in too. Whitey jokes as he washes his donut down with his heroic potion:

“Well that was unexpected!”

He focuses his mana through his Bracer of Selene: it glows: his arrow charges up: he looses it with a white flash of TTYF. [The Bracer allows his adds to be applied via arrow, rather than raw IQ. Using the donut, which just costs 1 WIZ initially, leaves Whitey 24 WIZ for 4xTTYF.]

This time the party is able to avoid the worst of damage. And the TTYFs blew gaping holes in the weird ectoplasm that this creature consists of. But on the other hand, its physical presence includes poison…

“I’m powering up again!” – Whitey

Mizva stumbles forward, shield and mace at ready. Jotunn receives a LF from Fennec and moves as though he is unaffected by paralysis. So everyone pitches in – except Fennec who hides behind Jotunn. Though the party staves off the creature, Mizva is poisoned and falls flat on his face!

A defensive round follows – though Whitey’s 3rd TTYF still counts – Jotunn manages the creature’s aggression so that the fight tends to follow him, while Crompton drops healing into Mizva.

Fennec yells, “It is weakening!” and wastes his final staff’s charge on a GY. But overall, they buy enough time: the ghost-ghast is weaker, and Mizva is shielded from further damage.

[Defensive result: the ghast scores 9 spite, any of which may paralyse, but I allow the best attribute to be used for SR. No-one is paralysed, and the spite is shared]

“This is my last shot!” – Whitey

“Pistol time!” – Cauleigh

Cauleigh has primed his pistols not long ago and the charges are still safe. Two magical scrimshaw rounds strike the ghost-ghast. Crompton continues defending Mizva; Jotunn shields Fennec as best he can while striking with axe. Fennec swipes with his staff [which is magical]. Whitey’s final TTYF-arrow slams home. The ghost-ghast falls in tatters towards the undead, each piece trying to get to a corpse.

 

 

Mighty Sezrekan stirs

There’s a lull during which Fennec and Crompton see to Mizva, and the others splatter the ectoplasm into smaller fragments until they disperse. Jotunn returns to full mobility, Mizva gets some movement back. But a movement as of something very large can be heard below.

 

Hasty planning time!

  • Exits no longer work as before
  • Rope can’t be quickly climbed
  • Dust of the Radiant Sun or a firebomb; a zap dagger; pistols, are all possible missiles
  • Or Jotunn’s tower shield might block the hatchway

A stronger red glow illuminates a gigantic ghast – very solid – eyes and mouths open and close all over its body – acid drips from its gaping maw and skin – and as they try to decide on a target the awful stench of a thousand tombs fills their noses and they stumble back!

 

Fire in the hold!

Gritting his teeth and ducking down to get the angle, Cauleigh drives both pistol balls into it, then Whitey hurls…

[it’s a 3, but since that would kill him Mizva uses his boon to let Whitey reroll that]

A powerful firebomb engulfs the ghast-god and blazes fiercely! Air sucked in from above whistles past the adventurers.

Whitey and Mizva hand round their spare fire-resist gingerbread pieces. Everyone is protected to some extent as the ghast-god, badly weakened, smashes its way up through the hatch.

 

Sezrekan’s fiery ending

Fennec yells for Whitey to use the Radiant Sun, but he’s dubious about the usefulness of that (given there’s already a major burning effect). There’s a lightning debate about using the Dis-Spell wand but the only thing it could affect is the magical fire. The creature is huge, and both Cauleigh and Jotunn – who is still in LF –  opt for ducking in and striking its legs or wrists. Mizva gets his mace ready, Whitey ducks around plying his bow. Fennec hurls his zap dagger. Crompton hurls two beaten-iron daggers which bounce off, and flicks a silver dagger in.

The severest danger is the effect of the blaze. Jotunn bravely soaks as much of this as he can.

Fennec applies Blessed Oil and joins the others – even Mizva – hammering into the dying god again – it strikes back as their equipment heats to scalding point and flammable gear smoulders or chars. Finally, it falls to bits and they finish it!

Poisoned adventurers are given a sip of TBT.

Crompton tries not to grieve over the loss of the zap dagger Fennec used, which is destroyed like the silver daggers.

 

Now, where?

The T-junction option, with steps up, has shifted. Now, the short tunnel simply leads to a ledge over a large spiked pit. Opposite, there’s another door, more or less flush with the wall.

[Resource conservation starts hurting here. With spare Fly Me meringues they would simply fly out. With spare rope, they could explore. Whitey has a few doses of a weak levitation potion, and Mizva thinks he has one dose of a more powerful version. He is wrong.]

 

The riddle of the rope

A casual assurance from Mizva that he has some levitation potion lays the ground for a miscalculation.

“But once the fire’s out, we still need to get back up…” – Cauleigh

Whitey has some similar potion – a few doses – and it is used for Whitey to scramble up, untie the rope above, and traverse the pit, check the door, and tie the rope off to its latch-handle.

“I’m ready” – Whitey

As Whitey operates the latch, and the others pull, he uses the momentum to whip round the door and stay well out of the line of fire.

Beyond, down a short tunnel, creatures can be seen. One taller, others no more than 4′ tall. Fennec looks closer… yes, those are reflections – a large bronze mirror stand at the end of the short tunnel.

But just as he realizes this a bronze eye opens in the mirror and three low-power TTYFs hit the party. Cauleigh, who has no soak, is in pain, but the others are OK: Crompton has a bounce, Fennec a soak (which loses 6 pts).

Cauleigh tries a pistol shot but at this long range he is only able to hit the mirror.

“What do we do? Do you want me to just shut this thing?” – Whitey

Whitey slings himself around to shut the door, and whips back across the rope just before his 12 minutes of levitation expires.

 

A warm wait

All water is gone, but several members brought special “spit in a bottle” water restorer with them. By that means, everyone gets at least a half-pint of water. The last donuts are now gone.

Ten hours pass by, the heat slowly fading to merely pleasant. During this time, Fennec rebalances his mana and heals everyone that needs healing.

[The 10-hour rest here moves the timeline past the 24-hour mark. There’s now most of a day to go before Daisy reopens the stone block]

 

Not much of a bed, for a god

It’s time to explore the god’s resting place. It seems that he lay on a slab in a cut stone chamber, but all furnishings are gone, other than a few intriguing metal wall fittings that the others eventually drag Fennec away from…

 

Crompton sinks himself

Lacking any great ideas the party elects Crompton head across the pit, open the door, hit the TTYF mirror with his axe, and establish a bridgehead. He swigs Whitey’s potion, and hand-over-hands across quickly. Then a precious 3 minutes is spent trying to time the “unlatch and swing”. Three more TTYFs are sent over, costing Fennec another 6 soak.

At length Crompton makes the tunnel, floating along to where he triggers a pit trap in front of the mirror. [IQ+Roguery for inspecting the tunnel, fails forward] He loses something small and useful down it.

Crompton concludes that the best way to get leverage on a strike on the mirror is to boost off the door. His axe strikes the eye convincingly, then the law of momentum takes over and he finds himself floating halfway down a pit, about 6′ above the spikes. It’s too wide to chimney up.

At length, after agile contortions, Crompton retains his axe but drops his breastplate neatly over some spikes, so that when the potion gives out, he won’t die. Then, he begins hollering!

 

The extraction of Crompton

Time passes and the others decide to use the third and last dose of levitation to get Cauleigh across to Crompton. [I found this hard to believe and felt I should have handled Crompton outside of earshot] He too finds the transition from floating holding a rope, to getting the door open and floating inside, not simple. But he finds what the issue is.

“Pit trap!” Crompton hollers up from the darkness ahead, and floats a WoW up.

“You’ll have to untie the rope – I’m rescuing him from a pit!” – Cauleigh to Jotunn.

“No – how are you going to get back?” – Jotunn

Grumbling, Jotunn unties the end [good STR check] and Cauleigh begins whipping it in.

Miraculously [L6 LK] the rope-end does not snag and Cauleigh floats it across and down, and now has to figure out how to brace.

He ends back at the door-jamb, turns sideways, braces: and Crompton is winched up with great difficulty. He retains his breastplate but loses his boots and pants. And one or two other little things he is not yet aware of.

With Crompton safe Cauleigh now launches off and floats across to rejoin the others, with the rope’s end. As it’s tied off, his levitation ends. Crompton receives some nasty rope-burns as he makes the crossing. He reports that the mirror is just a solid bronze mirror – it was all just a nasty trap.

 

A mighty pyramid is raised

After cursing whichever malevolent god decided that trap was funny, Jotunn and Cauleigh pull hard enough for the rope to break. By good fortune it’s the mostly burnt end that parts, so they still have about 65’ of adequate rope. Now all they have to do is use Mizva’s levitation potion and float an end up, tie it off, and climb out…

“Hahah, funny thing, I guess I must have traded that potion off after all…” – Mizva

“I guess we’re making a mighty Dwarf ladder and climbing up the hard way” – Cauleigh

After some trial and error, this is the pyramid:

  • Jotunn stands at centre, holding the tower shield above his head;
  • Crompton and Fennec brace the shield;
  • Whitey and Mizva stand on the shield bracing one another;
  • Cauleigh clambers up and – using Regdar – boosts himself off those two and chimneys up.

[A L8 STR SR would be ideal, but partial success allows partial progress. Midway, Cauleigh begins receiving STR penalties and grabs a rest, sacrificing some CON. He DAROs up to L8 on the final roll anyway. Everyone receives the 349 AP Cauleigh accrued, since this was a team effort.]

 

Escape from Sezrekan’s Tomb

The Golden Hourglass is still there. Cauleigh avoids it and ties the rope off to the piton: the remnant Whitey left when he cut it is still there.

Much hauling and resting later, all six are out!

There are now two choices: stone-cut steps leading past a savagely-smelly area, or a chimney-like crevice or vent down which the demon spiders seemed to attack.

They head up the steps and onto a lower stage floor. From here, steps lead up to Redbeck’s, and two level shafts offer other options; or finally, there’s a huge bronze chain offering a way straight up.

 

Repeat customers!

On the whole, heading back to Redbeck’s to buy pants seems a great idea. Into the dim-lit shop they go.

“We don’t get many repeat customers… we’ve dusted off a few extras…”

“You can see my need” – Crompton

“I can see something flapping wild and free…”

While Crompton buys a makeshift sarong Fennec looks over the new stuff, mostly bottles. He finds 3½ things that Detect as exciting. Using OmniEye at surface-check-only level, they appear to be invisibility, strength, and detection.

“All of this is in lieu of us others buying stuff” – Jotunn

After tagging Cauleigh in to finish the bargaining, Fennec buys the three for 375.

Crompton and Whitey identify a couple others as holy water: but choose not to purchase. But a spare sack is purchased, so now they have something to keep all the bits and pieces in.

 

A green sprout of hope

Bidding farewell to the merchants (“come back soon!”) the party heads off… weirdly enough to retrace its steps to the secret door, behind which lies an immensely dangerous statue trap.

Eventually, having been poisoned by stone chips, they decide not to keep trying to break the statue, and head back down to the earth pit: the one that can be swung across with tarzan-ropes.

A pair of demon spiders scramble towards them from the far end, but the demon-befriending-whistle again makes them pause and they are quickly dealt with.

They cross the pit the boring way: easing down, walking across. Where Jotunn planted the acorn, a small green shoot is growing. Jokes are made about “watering” it. Then there’s a comfort stop while everyone uses one end of the pit. Then they ascend, pyramid-style, Whitey up last with a leap and grab onto the team’s hands.

[Though Whitey is about Mizva’s height, he is lighter-built and lighter-armoured, and the obvious candidate for a leap up]

 

Chains and options… where to next?

Gibbering chthonic fuligin pseudopods attack! No magic works, but no-one is teleported. The attacks seem weaker than they did originally and are dealt with quickly.

The party next assesses the end of the tunnel, a gaping opening into a rough vertical shaft. Their keen Dwarf eyes pick out the following options:

  1. Three chains of different lengths plunge down from above them. By dextrously scrambling up the chains, they could conceivably manage an overhang and see what lies above. It would be an insane risk, for a lone climber.“I’m not insane” – Whitey[Jotunn looks at Crompton]“I’m insane – but not stupid” – Crompton
  1. Or, by swinging from chain to chain, they could leap across into a promising-looking crevice or shaft. (A small ledge below offers some fail-safety for this manoeuvre.) A very fit adventurer could do that.“I’m very fit” – Cauleigh, drawing a scowl from JotunnBut getting everyone across, given success in that manoeuvre, will take a lot of rope-tying and untying, and if something attacks they will be badly exposed.
  1. Or, by sliding down to what looks like crude platforms fixed to each end, they could investigate what lies down the three chains.“I don’t see any point in heading back below” – Fennec, speaking for everyone
  1. Or finally, they could give up on this end of the tunnel and head back across the pit and up to an unexplored chimney, or the spinning brick tunnel. From the brick tunnel, there are still two doors, and an archway, that have not been tried yet.

And as they discuss these options, with the wind of the shaft gently whistling up Crompton’s sarong, we leave them there until next session.

 

Props: the drop-in set-piece I heavily adapted for Sezrekan’s tomb is The Infernal Crucible of Sezrekan the Mad, Harley Stroh, Chaos Rising (DCC Classics #89). I replaced the mad wizard them with an undead theme, and did away with the “one must remain behind” curse. The illustration in the adventure is extremely useful for explaining how the pentagram trap works.

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