Part I: Finding a New Entrance
Part II: Jake Sky Dives Without a Parachute!
Part III: The Secret Door
The party rested at their hidden base camp, healing and recovering spells. Trilla, who had been knocked unconscious, required more than a week of rest to bring herself back up to readiness. Note 3
During the enforced rest time David cast Invisibility and Fly on himself and kept a watch on the temple. The giants brought in more orcs, increasing their numbers from about 60 to nearly 200! Three ranks of orcs were kept on the bridge, clearly intent on preventing the party from sneaking across the bridge while invisible. More orcs were on the four corners of the roof of the temple.
David took a chance and flew in front of the entrance. While he could not see clearly into the gloomy interior he could see another phalanx of orcs across filling the entrance way. Clearly the goblinoids were on guard and sneaking in the front door while invisible wasn't going to work.
Back at the camp, Bisonbit and Gilden resolved to use Commune to question the minions of their respective deities. If there was an alternate entrance they hoped to find it and use it to surprise the giants.
Bisonbit used Commune first and was able to identify that there is a hidden entrance on the south side of the plateau the temple rests on. Gilden was able to further determine that the entrance as about half way down and that there was a trap involved. Gilden realized this would make finding the hidden doorway easier! The spell Find Traps would help locate the door! Note 4
"Let's use Invisibility again, and a Fly spell!" David crowed! "We can fly along the cliff and spot where the door is!"
During the next two days David cast Invisibility on the remaining party members, and they again suffered with not being able to see themselves and each other. Unlike adventure stories, dealing with invisibility in real life was a trial. Things like walking across rough ground proved challenging, and keeping a group of six people together proved even tougher!
Gilden said, "This is a good plan. David uses a Fly spell to carry me along the wall. Once I cast Find Traps we have 30 minutes to find the trapped door. The Commune said there's be a ledge in front of the door so that should make it easier!"
David & Gilden made an educated guess about the boundaries of the area where the hidden doorway was. Starting at the upper left boundary they prepared to fly a zig zag pattern in front of the cliff, concentrating any place they saw a ledge. "SHOOT!" David grouched as loudly as he dared! "The cliff is COVERED with ledges!!!". Sure enough, the cliff that had appeared sheer from a distance was actually a fairly easy climb for experienced climbers. Many ledges ranging from six inches to three feet wide, and anything from a few feet to dozens of feet long covered the cliff. Note 5
Just prior to the expiration of the Find Traps spell Gilden spotted a trap. The ledge was about a foot wide and probably 10' long, and up close the outline of a narrow doorway 8' wide and 18' high (well, narrow for a giant!) could be seen.
After a minute's quiet discussion they decided that David would cast Fly on Gilden and that they would get Jake before continuing. Twenty minutes later Jake was standing on the ledge as the three hunted for a mechanism to open the door.
Gilden quickly found a protruding rock about 8' above the ledge on the right side of the door. Pushing and turning the rock the door sprang open! Unfortunately for Jake it pushed him off the ledge. Note 6
IMC a character knocked to negative hp needs complete rest for 1 day per negative point in order to be combat ready. That or a Heal spell or the equivalent.
Prior to this the players had not used Commune for information. They found it quite difficult to formulate a limited number of Yes/No questions. Watching them determine a base list of questions, including follow-on questions that depended on previous answer -- this was fun for me!
I designed the cliff as a relatively easy climb, and had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when the players got so excited when the answer to the question, "Is there a ledge in front of the door?" was "yes".
Being a kind DM I asked several times what they were doing, and both players agreed that putting Jake, who had no Fly spell or other protection, on the ledge was a good idea. When the door popped open and pushed him off the ledge? The simultaneous "oh, [expletive deleted]!" look on their faces was priceless!
"Invisibility can be really handy, but it's also a real pain in the butt," thought Jake. Standing on a 1 foot wide ledge as he searched for a way to open a secret door, Gilden's whispered, "I think I found it!" came from some place above Jake's head and to the right. Gilden and David had Fly spells active so they could search above Jake's reach. Thankfully Jake had no fear of heights so standing on the precarious ledge didn't bother him.
Looking up where he thought Gilden's voice came from, Jake watched a rocky projection about 12 feet above the ledge turn and push in as if by magic, or maybe as if by an invisible hand. "SHOOT!!!" Jake yelped as the secret door popped open and nudged him off the ledge! Dropping 20 feet with a crash of metal armor on stone to the next ledge down, Jake fought to grip the stone but failed. He slid off this 6 inch wide ledge and skidded down the stone to the next ledge 50 feet down.
"ARGHEUSH!" Jake groaned. That hit was hard and he felt it in his ankles, knees, and back. Although this ledge was slightly wider he had no chance of hanging on, promptly falling off to the next ledge which was only a few feet down. After several more nasty bounces he suddenly he hit the floor of the chasm and smashed to his back in a crash of armor on stone. Red pain obscured his vision.
When his vision cleared Jake found himself lying on his back, looking up 120 feet and seeing the secret door swinging closed. He shut his eyes and took stock of his injuries. Nothing appeared broken but his bruises were going to have bruises! Jake wondered why he thought standing on a narrow ledge in front of a secret door had been a good idea. "David thought of it -- I should have known it was suicide!"
Frantic whispers from David and Gilden came from nearby. Jake thought of remaining silent just to drive them insane but only for a moment. Their situation was dangerous and if they started calling loudly for him. "Over here", he whispered, struggling to his feet. Jake's vision fogged for a moment and he was dizzy. Holding himself erect by force of will Jake waited until everything settled.
Playing blind man's bluff Gilden and David managed to find Jake without poking anyone's eye out. "Invisibility has drawbacks", Gilden commented. "How badly are you hurt?"
"Considering I fell 120 feet I'm doing pretty darned good! Except for my ankles and knees and back and everything else connected to them."
Gilden quietly invoked a healing prayer, sensing Jake's injuries and realizing they were thankfully minor. Jake gasped at the sensation of icy hot as the magic flowed over and into him, repairing damage. In less than a minute Jake felt better than he had before he fell! "Thanks be to Cieldren" Jake whispered. Although Jake followed Demeter, he wasn't devoutly religious. But he did possess the good manners to be honestly thankful when someone helped him.
At that point Jake realized his butt and legs were wet. "Something is broke in my pack. I'm going over to that level area to find out what." Carefully taking off his pack he could feel the bottom was soaked. Working by touch Jake pulled each item from the pack and carefully set them in a semi-circle in front of him. Most of his potions were broken. He put the one Healing potion remaining to him back in his pack and started checking other things. One of his dagger was snapped off, including the sheath. He breathed a sigh of relief but suddenly in a stab of fear clutched the sheath containing his magical bastard sword, the god-made weapon that slew giants with icy cold.
Drawing the sword from the sheath Jake knew instantly that it was broken. From the weight 2/3 of the blade remained in the sheath. As tears stung his eyes Jake was glad he was invisible so the others couldn't see him crying over a sword. He dried his eyes, collected himself, and started putting whole items back in the pack. He debated what to do with the sword and decided it deserved better than to sit in the bottom of this chasm. He put the remains of his sword back in the sheath and secured it on the back of his pack.
"l lost most of my potions and my sword is broken."
Gilden and David managed to sound like a dozen fools as they gabbled their concern. Jake and that sword had laid waste to a lot of giants and lesser goblinoids. When combat went well -- it was typically because Jake killed the toughest foe, and When Things Went Badly Jake carved their way to safety! They also knew how much Jake loved that sword. "Get my spare sword out of the Bag of Holding. It served me well before, it will do again." Gilden fumbled with the bag, feeling his way carefully until he located the sword by touch. He carefully passed it to Jake.
"I saw a couple of orcs look over the edge after you fell, but they're another 180 feet up. With us invisible they didn't see anything, not even the door. Let's fly back up and see what's inside", David suggested.
Gilden and David each grasped one of Jake's arm and flew up to the ledge. Jake shifted totally into David's arms and they flew back 10 feet from the ledge. Gilden turned and pushed the key to pop the door open. Landing on the ledge he pushed the door open, springing the trap! A wicked blade lashed out from the right side of the wall, slashing through Gilden's thighs! Well, it would have if he had been a giant. The trap designed to cut through a giant's thighs passed over the top of his 4-1/2 foot head! Although his Find Traps had given him an idea of what the trap was, Gilden crouched anyway and flinched as the blade slashed above his head. inside the group saw a 20x20 room, dust heavy on the floor. No one had been in here for a long time, probably centuries. Inside the door they found a plate that opened the secret door -- no question of being trapped inside.
They quickly decided to leave Jake there while David and Gilden ferried the remaining party members to the secret room.
Patrick & Eric make heavy use of invisibility to get past enemies and/or setup ambushes. It's a great tactic, but to avoid it turning into a Get Out Of Jail Free card, I use all ramifications of being invisible. Walking & climbing, especially in groups, is nigh impossible if you can't see yourself, or your friends. They carry lots of rope for just these occasions ... which helps, mostly.
When the secret door popped open and pushed Jake off the ledge, Patrick's & Eric's eyes also popped. It had not occurred to them that the door would open out, and my asking several times if they were going to plant Jake on a 1' wide ledge didn't make it through the bone.
As I'm wont to say, I don't kill PCs, I give them the opportunity for suicide. This situation is clear proof!
My players can be good thinkers - when I said Jake fell they immediately spouted reactions. "I'll cast Feather Fall on Jake!" "I'll fly down and catch him!" came out of their mouths simultaneously.
Being the jerk DM I am, I shot back, "What are you aiming at?"
"Jake is invisible. What are you aiming at?"
Being invisible has its drawbacks and I'd be remiss if I didn't give them the good and the bad. I also haven't had an enemy use invisibility against them ... saving it for a special occasion!
Gilden examined the short hallway, his dwarven stone-tell senses active. Dust was thick on the floor, clearly not disturbed for many years, possibly centuries or even eons. Seeking secret doors they quickly identified one at the opposite end of from the door through which they entered. Working as a group they quickly found the rock that, when twisted and pushed, opened the secret door -- presumably into a lower level below the temple.
A short conference produced a plan. David cast Invisibility on Gilden, who would open the door and look for threats with infravision, and Gilden cast Silence 15' Radius on a stone. Torches were extinguished, glowing magical weapons sheathed. In pitch-black darkness that was palpable the party lined up along either wall with eyes tightly shut. If there was a threat Bisonbit would cast a Light spell 20' beyond the secret door, and would hopefully blind their opponents more than them. Both David and Bisonbit stood by the exterior wall so they would be outside of the stone's influence.
Gilden twisted and pushed the rock, which was placed low for a giant but required him to stand on tip-toes to reach. The stone secret door recessed into the wall and slid aside into a hollow in the wall.
Inky blackness greeted him, although to his infravision the 20' wide hallway traveling east and west was clearly visible, and fortunately there were no heat sources, no monsters. A quick search in the hallway revealed the rock that would open the secret door from the hallway. It was well concealed ... except when one knew roughly where and what to look for.
In both directions the hallway went a short distance and turned north. Three doors were visible and this hallway was well used. There was some dust along the sides but the main part of the hall way was relatively dust free. This part of the complex was in frequent use.
Putting the rock down Gilden went back to the party and whispered what he saw. Picking the rock backup he moved according to plan, walking west and peeking around the corner. The hallway went maybe 40 feet and appeared to open into a room. The dwarven cleric moved up to the room. Revealed to his infravision was the quarters of a group of frost giants, with a group of hill giants standing motionless in guard along the walls. Passageways went north and east. Note 7
Going back up the other way he found a similar room filled with fire giants. Passageways went west, north, and east from here. Gilden's guess was that the west passage was the east passage from the frost giants' lair, with probably 20 to 40 feet in between. Time to report back ...
On the way back he checked all three doors, opening them noiselessly in the presence of the silenced rock. One was an armory of giant-sized weapons and armor, one a food store room that was unnaturally cold, and the third a general store room.
Returning to the secret hallway Gilden closed the door and placed the stone against it. Grasping his axe to produce light he moved away from the stone's influence and reported his findings to the others. A quick discussion produced the following plan:
Jake will use his Force Wand to create a Wall of Force in the western hallway to block the frost giants from coming up behind. Gilden will toss the silenced rock into the fire giants' western passage to block the sounds of combat from reaching the frost giants. Bisonbit will cast Light on the far side of the fire giants' room. Blasting will then commence! The idea is to take out as many fire giants as possible before the frost giants can join.
Leaving the others at the corner, far enough back that the giants wouldn't see them in infravision, Gilden moved up to the room and tossed the silenced stone into the western hallway. His throw was good and none of the giants noticed the momentary silence as the stone flew past them. He ran back to where Bisonbit stood. Patting him on the back Bise immediately cast Light, blindly targeting it for the far side of the room.
The room lit up and the blinded giants were surprised! Fear (from a wand), fire, lightning, and missile fire lanced into the giants. One ran in terror up a northern passage while the remainder turned to fight. Capitalizing on the surprise the second volley downed several giants in the next moments of the attack.
Jake and Bisonbit moved in for melee with the closest giants while the others continued distance weapons and spells. A few rocks flew and while no one was hit, there were a few close misses!
A frost giant appeared in the western passage, throwing a rock. He retreated as the last of the fire giants fell.
Almost immediately the hill giants shambled through the passage -- it was clear in the light that they were animated corpses. Bisonbit turned a few while the others took on the remainder in hand-to-hand.
The power of the undead giants was horrible! Expecting them to fall like regular hill giants, to the party's surprise these undead things were far harder to kill! Live enemies feel pain and react to their brethren dropping ... undead feel no pain, no fear, no doubts. Fighting through their horror of the undead, the brave adventurers finally destroyed the last zombie, but not without suffering some wounds. Note 8
David peered down the western passage and was greeted by a volley of rocks. Two clipped him, spinning him off and to the side. He considered himself fortunate -- a direct hit would have killed him!
Braving more rocks the party's remaining area effect attacks blasted the far room, including Gilden's last remaining pendant from his Necklace of Fireballs! Several frost giants dropped and the party charged them through a hail of rocks. Amazingly, or maybe with their gods' graces, all made it through the hail and fell upon the giants. The battle was brutal but thanks to the initial attacks weakening the giants it was mercifully short. Sounds of armor and weapons clanking came from the northern passages. It sounded like a strike force was assembling. Assessing their remaining spells and missile capabilities the party realized that this extended battle had drained much of their offensive capabilities. Their injuries were relatively minor but their ability to deal damage at a distance was greatly reduced. Going toe-to-toe with giants in their full strength was suicide. Even David thought retreat was best!
Gathering up what treasure they could quickly locate the party retreated to the secret passage, dropping the wall of force before they passed. They did their best to leave no trace of where the secret door lay.
It occurred to them all at this time that if forced to retreat beyond the secret hallway they would be trapped. Going up would be into the teeth of the orc forces at the top -- a few well-placed rocks would tumble them from the wall. Going down would be just as bad and leave them at the bottom of a 200' chasm, perfect targets for the giants' rocks. Even poor marksmen would get lucky eventually. It looks like the secret room could prove to be their last stand ...
I screwed up here. The hill giants are undead, animated as zombies by the frost giant cleric. I reported them as hill giants, but in retrospect should have reported them as statues. With infravision IMC they have the same basic temperature as their surroundings, so IMO they'd appear as statues as long as they were unmoving.
Zombies are 2 HD to human's 1-1 HD W so I ramped the hill giant zombies up to 14 HD. I thought of making them 19 or 20 HD, but decided 14 was sufficient. Which doesn't mean that the next batch the party encounters won't be 20 HD.
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas