Part I: Getting Into the Temple ...
Part II: The First Battle
Part III: The Battle on the Steps
The temple strongly resembles the first temple the party razed (Module WG4, The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun), except in scale. The first temple was sized for humans, this one is clearly sized for giants! The entrance staircase if 40' size and the entrance way is 25' high! Note 1
Similar to the first temple this one was constructed on top of a rocky plateau surrounded by a chasm 200' deep, over 100' wide. The only way onto this plateau is across a 30' wide stone bridge guarded around the clock by four orcs on each end of the bridge. Another four orcs are posted on top of the temple watching over the other groups. Sneaking up on the temple appears impossible.
The party considered numerous plans, including using invisibility to climb down into the chasm and up the other side. This and other plans were discarded as too risky.
Finally the party settled on breaking into two groups. At their base camp several miles away David repeatedly memorized Invisibility and cast it upon the entire party. Yes, it proved Very Trying to have a bunch of invisible people banging around the camp, but the tactical advantage it game them was worth the pain. Roping themselves together the party made their way to the bridge.
At the bridge the divided into two groups -- Gilden cast Silence 15' Radius upon Jake and then he, Gilden, and Trilla carefully made their way across the bridge, avoiding the orc guards. They climbed exterior steps onto the flat roof of the temple, intending to wipe out the orc there and then rain missile fire upon the orcs guarding the temple side of the bridge. In the confusion David, Bisonbit, and Faraz would take out the orcs on the other side of the bridge -- then charge the temple.
Upon climbing to the roof Jake realized they missed something important! "@^*%!!! There's at least 50 orcs camped on the back side of the temple!!!" Jake thought. "Even David isn't stupid enough to pick this fight!" Grabbing hold of Gilden and Trilla, Jake maneuvered them to head back across the bridge before the Silence spell ran out. Again successfully dodging the orc guards, the group played Blind Man's Bluff and managed to find their cohorts and indicate they should move back out of audible range of the orcs.
The Silence wore off shortly thereafter, and Jake was able to relay what they had seen, and why they had backed off on the original plan. "@^*%! What are we going to do?", groused David. "Yeah, I know attacking would have been stupid, but we have to do something. No plan is going to be perfect." Bisonbit sighed wearily as everyone else, including his new henchman, eyed David as if he'd grown another head.
Jake pondered the situation, realizing that for once he had a better idea than David!!! "Let's do the same thing -- we'll wait until early morning. Gilden can recover his Silence spell and we can do the same thing, but we'll enter the temple invisible and silent as a single group. We know there's giants and ogres in there. We'll hit them from surprise and take them out as quickly as possible."
Rubbing his chin Gilden asked, "What about the horde of orcs?"
"Well ... if we hit the giants hard the orcs will take time to assemble. We've watched, they're all in fear of the giants, they won't rush in without having some idea of what they're rushing into. They'll mob at the bottom of the stairway up into the temple and David can hit them with a Fireball. If we need to run this will clear the path."
No one could come up with a better plan, and given the pitched battle fought in the main floor of the first temple they assaulted, this plan seemed most likely to avoid a repeat of that fiasco! Gilden pondered for a few minutes. "Instead of casting on you", he said, pointing to Jake, "Why don't I cast on this stone? You can carry the stone and throw it at whoever we think needs silencing."
"GREAT IDEA!" exclaimed Jake. "We'll enter the temple and slaughter whatever is on that main level. The orcs may not hear the battle, and if they do?? They still have to charge 25' up a staircase. It will be a slaughter!"
In his usual calm manner, Bisonbit commented, "Slaughter?? Yes, that sounds about right. So we're going to be trapped between whatever is on the main level and the orcs outside?"
"Or we can sit here doing nothing. Let's kill some giants!" David exclaimed.
Trilla and Faraz exchanged glances, obviously wondering if this idea was as great as Jake and David thought, or if it was suicide ...
The top level and 1st level down are based roughly on the map of WG4. To make them different enough I drew from memory and did not look at the module. The idea was to keep a common theme without exactly duplicating the original map. The initial action will also resemble that module, but after the initial battle the details differ dramatically.
The following morning the heroic party again roped themselves together and advanced on the bridge. Out of hearing range of the orcs, Gilden cast Silence 15' Radius on a rock and they quickly moved across the bridge -- well, as fast as an invisible, roped-together group could move. Thankfully they didn't have to worry about noise!
Mounting the wide steps, the party entered the dreaded Temple of Tharizdun!
This temple was of a scale FAR more massive than the previous temple! The ceiling was 35' high and it was easily 100' across and deep! "YAHHH! FIREBALL COUNTRY!", David thought gleefully!
Looking around the party could see a pair of staircases going downward at the back of the temple, basically openings in the floor. The entrance was flanked with walls that made cubbies in the corners, places where the defenders could hit attackers from behind. Half a dozen large pillars supported the ceiling. In the room were 7 groups of monsters:
Tasked to make the first offensive move, Jake tossed the Silenced rock at the human in plate mail. Although he heard nothing, the human saw the rock appear out of thin air and land at his feet. Not thinking he looked at the rock in surprise and didn't react until Jake plunked a crossbow bolt into his chest! While the bolt didn't penetrate the armor its force rocked him back a step and partially spun him.
While none of the enemy forces heard the rock, they all heard the THUNK when Jake fired his crossbow, immediately dispelling his invisibility! Even these battle hardened veterans froze in shock as an enemy appeared in their midst! Note 2
The human in robes to the party's left reacted quickly and started casting a spell. Reacting even more quickly, Jake dropped his crossbow, ripped his bastard sword from its sheath, charged across the intervening space, and hacked the wizard to the ground in one staggering blow!
All enemy eyes focused on the lone human fighter, giving the remaining party members clear attacks on their foes.
Praying with all his might that it wasn't magical, Gilden cast Sticks to Snakes on the plate mail wearing human's weapon. The ugly weapon's head crashed to the floor as the haft transformed into a poisonous snake that turned like lightning and snapped at the human, barely missing him! Totally unarmed the armored human backed up, batting at the snake with his fists.
Realizing that his snake had the armored human well in hand (or coils as the case may be), Gilden saw the three resting ogres stare at him in shock as he appeared out of thin air. Charging he did his best to hack the closest one into the next world. Dodging with more ability than ogres usually displayed, the ogre made a lame attempt to spear the dwarf. Battle was on!
Faraz was a battle hardened veteran of the goblinoids war, but this was chaos! Reacting blindly to his battle training he followed Gilden as the dwarf was the only friendly in his sight. Appearing suddenly his hacking scimitar struck a second ogre a telling blow, but didn't take it out of the fight.
Trilla took advantage of the confusion, charging and slamming the other robed human with her staff. Between her sudden appearance and the force of the blow he simply put up his arms to protect his head, giving Trilla a clear target so she slammed him again in the ribs. He staggered and managed to successfully cast a spell, spraying fire across her chest. Screaming in pain she slammed him again with her staff, knocking him back 2 steps and leaving her off balance. He immediately cast again, blasting her with four bolts of magical force, and she collapsed to the stone floor. Badly hurt, he cast Mirror Image and had two duplicates of himself.
Bisonbit had already decided the hill giant was the greatest threat. In a flash he spun toward the giant and drove his spear into the giant's belly. Sadly the heavy skins the giant wore as armor caught the point and kept it from penetrating, but it caught the giant off guard and started this battle on a better footing for the human cleric. Bise and the giant trade blows, Bise catching the blows on his shield which he artfully angled to shunt the force. "Demeter preserve me! He's going to bust my arm then my head", thought Bisonbit. An expert at giant fighting, Bisonbit timed his stab and drove his spear point into the giant's right bicep, causing it to drop the club. In rough Shahrivaran (common human tongue) the giant begged, "Surrender! Surrender! No kill!"
The five ogres to the party's left rear reacted quicker than anything else in the temple, dropping their game and grabbing spears. Realizing that force could overwhelm the party, David gleefully cast a Fireball behind the ogres, catching them in the flames. The three rearmost ogres crashed to the stone floor, flames lighting their way into death. The remaining two, badly burned, charged their nemesis and tried to shish-kabob him with their stone tipped spears. Yanking his long sword from its sheath, David parried both spears. Expertly trading jabs with the ogres he speared one through the throat in a spray of blood.
Taking advantage of the human fighter's momentary distraction the sole remaining ogre ran for the left staircase down, realizing that the battle was lost and the leaders needed to know. He wasn't fleeing cowardly from battle, he was making sure his superiors had good information! That was his story and he would stick to it to the death.
Having dispatched the human in robes with one mighty blow, Jake turned and saw the orcs gathering their courage. Saving them the trouble he barreled into them, hacking two into death with a pair of mighty blows! The remaining six fought with the desperation of those facing certain death and managed to stave off death briefly. But only briefly as two more orcs fell to potent blows from Jake's sword of death!
The remaining four orcs broke, running for the left staircase down. Turning to follow them, Jake spun farther upon hearing an anguished scream of pain that cut off abruptly! He watched as Trilla was blasted to the ground by magical force, her scream of pain cut off by death. The enemy wizard cast again, gaining two false images of himself to confuse his foes and gain escape.
Jake's saving grace is that he always does what he thinks is right, regardless of consequences. Seeing his henchwoman fall he ignored the fleeing orcs, raced across the distance, dropping his sword and cradling her body. Tears streamed down his face, he felt her frame shudder as she drew a ragged breath. Realizing she wasn't dead he checked her wounds - burns from flame and magical force. Pulling a small jar from a belt pouch he quickly smeared her wounds with a cream that would deaden the pain and sooth the burns. He had no idea what else he could do for her.
Forgotten in the midst of battle the armored human continued his desperate battle with the snake. His armor protected him from several strikes and in his panic he continued to bat at the snake with his unarmored hands. After an eternity that lasted less than a minute the snake latched onto his hand and pumped him full of deadly venom. Shrieking out a strangled scream, the human stiffened like a board, and foaming at the mouth crashed to the ground on a quick journey to death.
Gilden finally got a good strike on his ogre, slashing him across the ribs with his axe. The remaining two ogres, both wounded, seeing the failed battle across the room and hearing the giant beg to surrender, did likewise. Dropping their spears the backed up with hands high, begging "No kill! No kill!".
At that point the surviving human wizard made a mad dash for the left stairway. Realizing he had no chance to catch him, Gilden turned to his spear-turned-deadly-venomous-snake and rasped, "Kill him!"
Striking with astounding speed the snake bit the fleeing wizard in the calf, coils of snake wrapping the leg as the snake pumped its venom into his body. Exactly like the armored human this wizard screamed in mortal agony, a scream cut off as foam gushed from his mouth and he collided with the floor, not feeling the pain of his head striking stone.
The silence that followed the mage's death scream was deafening.
I rolled surprise for each group and rolled a 1 or 2 for 4 of the 7 groups! At this point I realized the battle was NOT going to go anything like what I envisioned!
This battle went NOTHING like I envisioned! I wrote up a likely string of events, with plans for when reinforcements would arrive, and some possible conditions that might alter things. Yes, a detailed plan, but not one I expected to fully utilize. The idea was to think of the obvious ahead of time so I didn't have to on-the-fly during the game.
That plan brutally crashed in flames when Eric and Patrick devised the plan to sneak into the temple!
Ahhh! Extemporaneous DMing is such a critical skill -- glad I learned this lesson many moons ago!
The party stared around at each other numbly. Gilden moved first, crossing quickly to where Trilla lay. Assessing her injuries he quickly cast a powerful healing spell.
Healing spells could do amazing things - Jake watched as Trilla's burns scabbed, the scabs hardened, and then flaked off. The blackened flesh where the force bolts had struck her lightened and turned white, and the holes in her flesh closed. Scar tissue formed as he watched and then faded. She coughed weakly and opened her eyes, awake but not really aware.
Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, Jake turned his attention to their immediate situation. The clanking of metal armor and weapons came from both stairways, and the excited voices of orcs could be heard from outside. David and Bisonbit were already tying the hands and feet of the surrendered ogres. The ogres had enough good sense to comply, not even protesting.
Facing the giant Jake asked, "Do you want to live?". The giant nodded cautiously. "Ok, you will go tell the orcs that spies attacked, they've all been killed, and they should be vigilant so that no more spies get in. I speak orcish and if you fail to do what I told you, you WILL die."
The giant moved gingerly to the entrance, the pain of his wounds hobbling him. Bisonbit was a tough fighter and had dealt horrible damage to a being much larger and stronger than himself. The giant spoke haltingly in orcish, doing as he was instructed. The orcs quickly dispersed, muttering about not being blamed for the spies getting in.
"Good. We're going to bind you, but you will not be harmed. You have my word as a follower of Demeter that this is so." Nodding mutely the giant permitted Jake to bind his hands and feet with stout rope.
"We've got company! Both stairways!" David hissed. Jangling up the left stairway charged eight ogres, fresh for battle. Before they reach the top he started casting, finishing as they surged out of the stairwell, only to be met by burst of freezing air filled with ice and sleet. The unsuspecting ogres literally froze to a halt, most of them dying without knowing what happened. The last two in line were sheltered by the leaders and managed to survive the onslaught. Turning they both stumbled back down the stairs. The rattle of iron on stone gave evidence that at least one fell on the landing.
Without missing a beat David again started casting a spell. Some seconds later the left stairway was filled with sticky webs, as if a giant spider had diarrhea of the spinnerets! "That will slow them down!" he wheeze, exhausted by casting two powerful spells in succession.
More clanking and shouted voices came from the right stairway. As the standing party members clustered around the left stairway a clatter arose as hobnailed boots clacked on the stone. Up charged two ranks of ogres backed by pair of hill giants. Meeting them at the top of the stairway the five remaining party members took the fight to the first rank of ogres!
In the first seconds of combat three of the four ogres were injured and the fourth died on his feet without striking a blow. Another climbed his corpse to get into battle, but also quickly died regretting his impetuous climb! The three injured ogres all died less than 20 seconds later.
The three remaining ogres looked in horror, but at a shouted command from the giants charged up the steps over the bodies of their compatriots. Their fear of the giants was greater than their fear of dying. Right behind them came the two giants, massive specimens bearing huge clubs.
Gilden's flashing axe made short work of one of the ogres. David swung at another but his exhaustion cause him to miss, although Faraz and Bisonbit didn't! The surviving ogre stumbled back down the steps, falling onto the landing. Scrambling to his feet he half-fell down the remaining steps.
Jake and Bisonbit took on the giants, nimbly side stepping and ducking their clubs. Jake's relief at his henchwoman's survival and anger with the giants gave greater energy to his powerful blows. Four cuts ended the giant's life, the first two to the ribs, a third severing his right hand, and the fourth hacking down on his collar bone. Bonelessly the giant toppled down the steps.
Bisonbit fought as he always fought, as he always did everything - with thought and deliberation. He fought defensively, blocking and evading the giants clubs, his spear stabbing in after each attack just half a beat behind. Each savage thrust was undefended, drawing blood and sapping the giant's strength. By the time the giant realized he was going to lose, he had already lost. The spear of Demeter plunged into his heart.
Jake jumped the bodies onto the landing, looking right to see where the stairs went. Forty feet down the stairs ended in what appeared to be a hallway that extended to the right. As Bisonbit joined him they heart a meaty thunk and the last ogre's head flashed through the air, making twin thuds as it struck the wall and then the floor. Shouted voices seemed to indicate that the punishment for fleeing combat was death!
Jake ran down the steps and halted, peering carefully around the corner. He jerked his head back just in time as a huge sword shattered the stone of the corner. "GACKKK!!!" was his reply to the attack. Stumbling backwards he slithered up the steps on his butt. "GIANTS!!! LOTS of giants!" he yelped! "Run!!!!"
As they cleared the top of the steps Bisonbit yelled, "Your wand, use your wand!"
Beneath the first temple of Tharizdun they had entered Jake had acquired a Wand of Force, a wand that hand many capabilities, one of which was the ability to produce a Wall of Force. Yanking the wand from the case at his belt, Jake barked the command word that produced the wall, covering the stairway and preventing pursuit.
Jake turned and stripped the robe of the nearest wizard. "Quick, get the other one, too!" Putting on the robe he picked up Trilla, who was still too woozy to do more than stumble. David put on the other robe and they led the party towards the exit.
Speaking in orcish, Jake told the few assembled orcs that the giants had betrayed them and the orcs should fight for their lives. Then rushing through the astonished and disorganized orcs the party stumbled across the bridge. No signs of pursuit was apparent. After a while they crossed rocky ground that hid their traces and made it back to their base camp unmolested.
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas