Well, we had the second (and concluding) session of the introductory adventure in the new AD&D campaign. As a special treat, we had a visiting bedlamhouse sitting in, taking over the role of surrdave‘s cleric.
When we last saw our intrepid heroes, they had just defeated a small group of kobolds and their pet dire weasel. Out of spells, and, in the case of the druid, severely deprived of CON due to blood loss, they decided to hole up for the night and recover. The night managed to pass uneventfully, but the morning brought an unpleasant surprise….several of them had (due to failed saving throws) managed contract the sickness that had been plaguing the town. This lead to another 2 points of CON damage to several of the party, along with all the fever, fatigue, and muscle cramping that went with it. Suddenly, finding out what was causing the plague and putting a stop to it was a much more personal affair.
The party retraced their steps, heading down a winding downward passage into the heart of the mountain, the thief (a nephew to the druid) scouting ahead for traps.
Duskblade: What exactly is your profession?
Thief: Me? I’m a…..a herbalist. I find herbs for him! (points to Druid)
Duskblade: Why are you scouting ahead, then?
Thief: (anxiously) I’m, uh….looking for plants?
In truth, having the thief scout ahead was a blessing, as he discovered a pressure plate connected to a pit trap shortly before the end of the passageway, which he was able to disarm. They came to a huge open cavern which was obviously a major working part of the mine. It was also where the remaining kobolds were stationed, along with their leader, a level 2 Sorcerer named M’dok. The kobolds, being well aware of the presence of new humans in the mine and alerted to their approach, were hiding behind various stalagmites in the large cavern. Not sure if the cavern was populated, the Druid decided to send his pet wolf in to scout the area and “flush out” any creates. The wolf very nearly gave his life to this mission, as the nervous and trigger happy kobolds unleashed their full attack on the first thing they saw moving, hitting him with four crossbow bolts and a burning hands spell.
The Druid responded by using the bioluminescent moss growing in the cavern to cause an entangle spell trapping the kobolds in place. in frustration, he shouts at them in their native language (Draconic), which he just happened to speak.
Druid: Hey, man….why do you have to be so mean, man? We’re just trying to find out why everybody is sick, and everyone we meet shoots at us! We’re just trying to help. You didn’t have to set my dog on fire, man. The bad vibes in this place are really bumming me out.
M’dok: If you allow us to leave, I will tell you what we know of the plague.
A bit of discussion follows, both between the party and the kobolds, and among the party itself. Some of them were not happy about negotiating with the kobolds, but the Druid convinced them, with some help from the Cleric, that it was the best solution, rather than wasting their resources fighting. M’dok was happy to keep his end of the bargain, as his band of over fifty kobolds now numbered just 11, two of them children. Aside from the nine killed by the party earlier, the rest of the group had succumbed to the same sickness as the miners and the townspeople.
M’dok tells the party that a demon lives deep in the bowls of the cavern, and is responsible for the sickness. When asked if he’s sure it’s a demon, the kobold chief states simply “He brings the plague, and he steals our dead.” Further questioning revealed that the demon was already here when they arrived, and while they were responsible for the deaths of the remaining miners, the sickness was already rampant long before they arrived some two weeks ago. Having gotten what info they could, the party keeps their end of the bargain and lets the kobolds leave.
Following the directions the kobold chief had given them, the party ventures deeper into the mountain, eventually coming to another chamber filled with corpses. The dead bodies are a mixture of human and kobold, and cover most of the floor of a shallow bit. The room is extraordinarily hot and overwhelming, but as far as the party can see, the only life here is rats. As they begin to make their way through the room, however, they discover a surprise in wait, as eight zombies, four human and four kobold, rise up to greet their arrival.
(At some point during the following paragraph, surrdave and I broke out into a chorus of Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains”. I don’t remember when or why precisely, but it was funny, so I am noting it.)
A combat ensues, and the odds are quickly brought into the party’s favour by virtue of the cleric’s prowess against undead. Invoking his Greater Turning feat, he destroys the four kobold zombies with a flourish of his holy symbol. The fighters manage to hack another of the zombies down and seriously injure another. The following round, the cleric again makes a turn attempt and causes the three remaining to flee, though one is struck down by the thief as it passes. Knowing they have a few minutes to prepare, the thief prepares an oil trap by the far entrance to the cavern. When the zombies return, he sets it off, immolating one of the zombies and leaving just one to dispatch, which the party does with ease.
Unfortunately, this combat did precisely what it was designed to do, which was alert the final adversary, who was prepared rather than surprised in his lair. The party descended into the final chamber in the mine complex, an enourmous cavern with a ceiling some sixty feet above their head. In the centre of the chamber, a pillar stretched 20′ into the air, strange runes carved all over its face. Water spills from the top of the pillar, collecting in a 40′ wide pool at its base, and then running off in a stream to the south, where it flows beneath the wall. The cleric successfully makes a Knowledge(Religion) check and informs the party that the symbols mark this spot as a consecrated shrine to the Orcish god Gruumsh. They quickly and correctly deduce that this is the wellspring for the nearby town and the source of the plague.
The group starts to fan out into the room, alert for an attacker. The attacker is, however, alert for them too. The first person who comes within his line of sight is the thief; the “demon”, in actuality a 5th level Orc Cleric named Jakk, casts a contagion spell at the thief, who makes his saving throw and calls out a warning to the rest of the party.
The following round, Jakk makes a running leap from his hiding spot about halfway up the back side of the pillar to land in front of the party and casts darkness, counting on his blindfighting feat to give him an edge in melee. The Duskblade, who was already heading up the narrow pathway that led to his hiding spot, leaps down and manages to hit him, but the following round the orc bashed him and dropped him to the ground. He then moved towards the nearest adversary to him, the fighter, and engaged him for several rounds of neither hitting the other. The fighter wisely called out “Rally around me”, giving the wolf and the thief enough information to get within melee range of the foe, although none of them managed to successfully hit him. Sensing his tactical situation deteriorating, the orc took his next round to move and strike the party’s mage, who was standing nearby, dropping her also to below zero hit points. The fighter followed the sound and, with a fearsome cry of “Oh, no you don’t!”, struck a mighty blow, felling the evil cleric at last.
As soon as the orc was dead, the curse he was placing upon the water of the wellspring was broken, and the formerly dark and murky water began to run clear. The party, exhausted, injured, and out of magic, gathered up what valuables they could from the body of their foe and limped back to town.
It took several days for the sickness to run its course, but they finally all made their saving throws and then slowly recovered. The town of Threshold regards them as heroes, and gave them a reward of 100 gold pieces and a huge amount of reputation.
On the whole, I consider this a very successful adventure. It was a prepackaged module from the WotC website, but it had a nice mix of combat and role play opportunities, and the nature of the plague gave the players a real sense of urgency, since they didn’t have the luxury of resting a day to get their meager spells back. (The Druid spent most of the session with a CON of 1. Another day would very likely have killed him). We contemplated when the last time was we’d played characters where you looked at that magic missile spell and seriously asked yourself “Do I fire this now, or save it for later?”
The personalities of the various characters are starting to come together nicely, and I can see some nice dynamics starting to emerge. We’ll see how they progress as the campaign continues.
Before the game got started, bedlamhouse got kitanzi to take a picture of the group. He’s suggested that our gaming group be henceforth known by the fighter’s oft-repeated battle cry. So here is a picture to conclude this account of the formation of a group that will one day be known to history as “The Defensive Perimeter”:
standing L-R: surrdave, autographedcat, mrjaimie, DonC