Monday, 16 February 2009

4ed Campaign -- Session 16 -- 15th February 2009

In which the followers of the King that Crawls show the true depths of their depravity, and the troglodyte lair gives up more than its fair share of surprises...
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 4
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 4
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 4
Finial - Half-elf Paladin 4
Jonas - Human Ranger 4
Mord - Dwarven Fighter 4
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 4

The fight with the troglodytes continues to drag the adventurers deeper into the lair as the javelin-wielding defenders retreat to their second line of defense. As the melee gradually turns against them, it becomes clear to the creatures that they've waited too long to retreat, and by the time they decide to go for help, they're already fighting off attacks left right and centre. One of the escaping trogs is held fast by Mord as he tries to flee, and although the second manages to escape around the corner and out of sight, he's soon chased down by Corrash and Elumai, who dispatch him with consumate ease. The last troglodyte doesn't last much longer.

The party pauses to recuperate, and the question as to why the combat didn't draw the attention of the rest of the lair is seemingly answered by the sounds of raucous cheering and hollering from deeper in the complex. Undercover of this distraction, the company decides to search a few nearby rooms. Close-by, they find two prison-pens. One is empty, albeit squalid and dirtied with blood and faeces, while the other holds the body of a human. The flesh of his semi-naked body is ripped and torn open; he could not have survived long with such wounds.

The search of a second antechamber yields the poorly-concealed entrance of a squat tunnel which leads a few feet through the rock before opening into a broader passageway through which a shallow stream runs to the north. The water is fetid and choked with refuse, clearly run-off from other inhabited areas of the catacomb, and the decision is made to leave the tunnel alone for now.

Exploration in a third direction turns up a dormitory of sorts, lived-in but empty. Rifling through the possessions of the stinking creatures, the party finds a few copper and several small straw fetishes in the shape of a lizard-like head with a dozen tentacles emerging from its neck. They're finely crafted and perpetually damp to the touch, and Romto, who recognises them as images of the god of the Underdark, Torog, immediately sets about making a fire with which to cleanse these aberrant totems. To his relief, the straw-like material crisps and burns as soon as it touches the flame.

Pushing on, the company comes upon another disturbing scene. It is a square antechamber, with half-a-dozen circular plinths arranged around a large statue of the same form as the straw fetishes, but much larger and more intricately detailed. The floor of the chamber is caked in a glistening carpet of blood, guts, entrails, and ripped flesh, clearly the remnants of some kind of sacrifice, and in fact a subsequent search turns up not only the discarded head of a hobgoblin, but several wooden platters and condiments, hinting that the flesh of the poor creature was consumed in some way after his death. The gruesome scene is too much for Romto, who cannot abide to enter the room, but the others, reasoning that whatever viscera they happen to get on themselves might serve to disguise their smell, busy themselves with the dirty task of bringing the statue down and defiling it.

All the while, the sounds of the cheering throng from the other end of the lair grow stronger, and the company proceeds cautiously in that direction. They pass a small cavern, one whole side of which has been fenced off. Inside, several large, razor-clawed insect-like creatures drag themselves slothfully about, seemingly barely able to stand on six legs. These are identified by the knowledgeable adventurers as kruthiks, although their languorous movements are completely at odds with their reputation as crazed carnivores. The company concludes they must be drugged or under some other kind of stupour, and moves on.

Finally they come to the source of the noise, a huge cavern deep inside the complex. A group of 25-30 people, all of different races of the Underdark including goblin, hobgoblin, troglodyte, human, half-elf, and even a couple of drow elves, are standing around a pit which has been dug into the floor of the cavern, cheering on whatever is happening inside. Above them all, a strange orb that looks for all the world like a floating green eye washes the scene in a ghostly verdant light, looking this way and that, drifting casually a few feet over the heads of the crowd. Romto wracks his brain and remembers that the god Torog has often been renowned for observing his followers through a disembodied eye that passes judgement on their actions; Elumai, meanwhile, identifies several tell-tale signs that it is some kind of scrying device, perhaps under a glamour to make it look more formidable than it actually is.

In any case, they know that at least two miners were kidnapped when the excavation in mine 6 broke through to the lair, and it seems as if someone is in trouble down there. Corrash and the two dwarves, already covered in the accumulated filth of the troglodyte lair, shove to the front of the crowd as if they belong there, and see two humans in the pit, one semi-conscious, the other fighting off two chittering, screeching kruthiks with little more than a plank of wood with nails hammered into it. He is injured, but fighting, and putting himself in mortal danger for the purpose of sparing the other man from a fatal injury. Two troglodytes oversee the blood-sport, collecting various monies from the assembled throng as bets are placed and wagers met.

Not only that, but as they get closer, the three of them recognise none other than the hobgoblin who fled the scene of their battle outside the kobold lair near Winterhaven. Both he and his friend are dressed in a uniform of sorts, little more than a few common scraps of red cloth and a bronze-buckled bandolier, but it seems that they are both members of the same organisation, whether it's the Bloodreavers, or someone else.

The company is massively outnumbered, but there is a reason why people of great destiny are called heroes, and there is nothing for it but to attempt a rescue. Corrash teleports straight into the pit, interposing himself between the gladiators and the kruthiks and offering a rope to the human still on his feet. A shocked hush descends on the crowd. All eyes turn to the lead troglodyte, a tall, muscular creature whose face is decorated with various inexpertly-inscribed tattoos. The chieftan roars in Common -- "Who dares interrupt this ceremony? The Eye of Torog must be appeased!" -- but his diatribe is interrupted by Elumai, who has snuck around the far edge of the cavern and, taking Corrash's actions as a signal, unleashes the now-traditional Freezing Cloud upon the chieftain and his retainer. As magic explodes about them, the crowd panics, and flees for various tunnels dotted around the edge of the cave.

Several fronts to the battle quickly open up. Elumai, Romto, and Berend engage the troglodytes, pushing the chieftan into the pit where he has no choice but to engage Corrash; Corrash himself focuses on rescuing the near-dead human by proferring him the rope, which the man groggily ties to his wrist, allowing Mord to heave him up the side of the pit. The dragonborn is also forced to narrowly dodge a glass grenade, thrown at him by the chieftan, which smashes harnmlessly on the pit wall behind him, disgorging orangey spores which float slowly to the floor. Elumai's efforts to snag the floating eye in a bag held by her Mage Hand come, after a brief mid-air tango, to naught, and the eye flits upwards and out of sight through a narrow chimney some two-hundred-or-so feet above their heads.

The company's attention is also piqued by a cloaked humanoid, who has lingered at the edge of the pit instead of fleeing with the rest of the onlookers. Any questions they might have had about his loyalties are quickly answered when he unleashes a hail of deadly arrows upon their enemies, very much turning the tide of the battle in their favour as they are forced to focus half their effort on the need to rescue the humans, and Mord takes the opportunity to dive, head first, onto one of the kruthiks below, doing serious harm to both it and himself in the process.

As the fight continues, only one more complication occurs... but it's a big one. The soily floor of the fighting pit cracks and erupts upward, almost in their midst, as a giant kruthik hive mistress emerges from below. Screeching a chorus with her other offspring, whose attacks become even wilder and more dangerous in her presence, she vomits a putrid, bile-like stream of acid on those who would dare to harm her offspring, sizzling onto Mord's flesh and slowly dissolving him as the fight goes on. Eventually, however, the troglodytes and kruthiks succumb to the party's attacks, and the hive mistress is forced to retreat back underground to lick her wounds.

As the company recovers from the encounter, a few introductions seem in order. The half-elf introduces himself as Finial, paladin and last survivor of a doomed expedition into the Underdark; the cloaked human seems diffident and withdrawn, but reveals his name to be Jonas. He is curious, as one would expect, as to who the party is and what they're doing down there, but in the end a careful trust is established and it is agreed by all concerned that a return to the surface is probably in order.

A search of the cavern reveals a few nearby chambers in which the various cast-off belongings of what are presumed to be previous victims of the fighting pit are found, including Finial's equipment, much to the half-elf's relief. Also of interest is a lake which fills the entire other half of the cavern, at least two hundred-feet in diameter. The water is crystal clear, and in the shallow depths near to the edge, piles of stark white bones are visible. Not only that, but run-off from the lake seems to have been deliberately coaxed into a western channel, looking for all the world like some sort of aqueduct...


Wedge said...

Well it has been way, way too long since the last session, and despite the fact that Berend's player Ben unfortunately couldn't make it this week, I felt we should play anyway just to try and get back into the swing of things. We've had two new players waiting patiently in the wings for a couple of weeks as well, and I was keen to get them into the game.

And so... 7 PC's! A record for me, no question about that. With another Defender and Striker in the mix, the party can certainly dish out the pain, and Jonas' bow was chucking out damage like a machine gun. Impressive stuff, and a little bit of an eye-opener for your humble DM. I foresee a somewhat tricky balancing act in my future given the oversized party, and the imminent removal of the only Leader as we dispense with NPC Romto. Interesting times.

Other than that this was an extremely combat- and exploration-heavy session which I hope didn't put our new guys off. :)

Phil said...

The combat-exploration-heavy session didnt put us off. I'm glad to get back into the swing of things having not roleplayed for far to long. It was a most enjoyable session.

Just as a side note, Jonas revealed that he was searching for a scar-faced Orc and that was what had brought him to the mines.

Wedge said...

Y'know after reading my notes it also occured to me that I intended the trogs to offer the humans as a reward if you guys chose to step into the ring voluntarily against a creature of their choosing.

Why I forgot all about that and just launched into combat will remain one of the great unanswered mysteries of Cradle Plain.

Phil said...

Then again, the party didnt really give you the oppotunity to offer the reward to the PC's.

Wedge said...

That's kinda true. As a great poet once said, "No troglodyte pit-fighting encounter survives first contact with the PC's."

Alec said...

Have teleport with close burst 1 damage, will use :) I thought given the nature of the situation clear and decisive heroics would seem the best in character for Corrash despite the massive numerical odds against them at the begining of combat