Part I: Battle with Chaos
Part II: Up Through the Maze
Part III: The Transformation
The Lesser Chaos Gargoyles all took flight, coalescing into four arrow shaped groups, swirling around the huge room. Faster and faster they flew, tightening the circle with each revolution. Striking light lightning they poured over the remaining frost giants and humans in the room. The screams were shrill but brief.
The party watched in shocked silence. David snapped out of it first, commanding, "Exit stage THAT way!" pointing over his shoulder.
The party moved quickly back to where the passages to the northeast and southwest met the main tunnel.
David was still in charge. "When we sight them I will cast a Wall of Force just before the opening. This will stop them but only as long as the spell is in action. We can't cast area effect spells through the wall. What can we do?"
Bisonbit spoke, "I can use the Wand of Frost to make an Ice Storm on the other side of the wall. It should work, the spell effect just appears unlike a Fireball or Lightning Bolt which travels from the caster."
No one had a better idea so that was the plan.
As soon as the party saw movement down the corridor David cast the Wall of Force. The lesser chaos gargoyles flew up to the wall, one bouncing off it. The remainder flew around on the other side.
Bisonbit used the wand to produce the Ice Storm. Ice and sleet swirled around on the other side of the wall. The bitter cold and particles killed some or slammed them into the wall or floor. As each died it burst into a puff of powdered rock.
But more than half flew through the storm as if it wasn't there. The greater gargoyle appeared at the back of the pack. All turned to look at it, then spun back and flew at the wall at full speed. Note 33
Most hit the wall and bounced off but one flew through the wall as if it wasn't there. It chose Trilla and attacked her with razor sharp claws and teeth. She warded off its first attack, then Jake used his reforged sword for the purpose for which it had been remade - he hacked the chaos gargoyles in half in a single blow. The dust blinded everyone momentarily.
The gargoyles on the other side of the wall flew out of the range of the ice storm.
Minutes counted down until the Wall of Force expired.
The wall disappeared and a dozen chaos gargoyles flew through the corridor like arrows. They slammed into the party and raged into battle.
Ugly and vicious, these beasts of Chaos would easily butcher and shred unarmed victims, or weakened foes like the frost giant and human clerics. Against experienced soldiers their danger was lessened. The party handily slaughtered the gargoyles while taking only minor injuries.
As the last was falling Faraz turned to look down the tunnel and yelled out a warning! More were coming.
Fourteen more gargoyles arrowed out of the corridor, much bigger ones than the party had already faced, but smaller than the great one - which hand not shown itself during this battle.
Faraz cringed mentally. He had thought the other gargoyles were dangerous enough, but these new ones? Without consciously thinking about it he tagged them medium, large, and extra-large.
The two extra-large probably stood taller than Faraz, topping an easy 6-1/2 feet. These did not attack with the mindless ferocity of the small ones who went for the nearest target - these appeared to understand the level of danger and targeted David and Jake. The druid gave a mental sigh of relief that neither of these monstrosities considered him a great enough danger to warrant their attention!
Two of the mediums followed their larger brethren in attacking David & Jake. A large and two mediums slashed at Renki's wooden armor but the enchanted wood was up to the task. The remainder divided themselves amongst the remainder mortals. Faraz found himself frantically defending himself against two of the mediums. He had displayed enough courage during years of fighting the goblinoids, but these creations from Before Time were too much. He felt his control slipping into the grip of fear.
Jake found the pseudo-flesh of these monsters to be of much sterner stuff than the small ones. His blade, enchanted by a god for this very purpose, crooned as it deflected the claws and teeth of his attackers. He spun to counter the attack of a medium one, and kept rotating with the motion to take his primary attacker from the other side. The god-blade slashed through an upraised arm and through the head in one motion. The fiend exploded into an awesome dust ball!
While Jake destroyed his foes David found himself hard pressed. In their teens they had been well matched, but ten years later Jake's single-minded devotion to his bastard sword and greater strength made the difference versus David's division of attention between sword play and wizardry. "Well, Jake can't incinerate them," David thought.
His defense was good and eventually he landed telling blows and was rewarded by the extra-large gargoyle announcing his own demise in a puff of rock dust. The gargoyles were deadly, but not as deadly as the mortal group. After the two largest got powdered the remainder fell quite quickly.
As the battle wound down the great one flashed overhead, flying hard beyond the fight. "Call out the god's name and throw the sword," a voice whispered in Jake's ear. Or maybe it was inside his head. It was impossible to tell and didn't matter.
Grinning madly, Jake cocked his sword behind his right ear and threw it at fleeing gargoyle, screaming "Demeter" with all his might!
The sword flew down the corridor and bounced along the floor. Jake stared in wonder, trying to figure out what had happened. In his head he heard a sound quite similar to someone slapping himself on the forehead with an open palm. "Wrong god". Note 34
"Why did you throw your sword at it?" Bisonbit wondered.
"A voice told me to."
"A voice told you to?" Everyone stared at Jake like he was nuts. Which is exactly how he felt.
"Pick your sword up. We have to catch that thing!" David commanded.
I ruled their magic resistance would allow the chaos gargoyles to simply ignore area spells effects, such as the Wall of Force and the Ice Storm as if they did not exist. It made a great "Oh [expletive deleted]" moment the gargoyle came through the wall.
I gave Patrick 50/50 odds which god he would choose. He was enamored with the original sword, which was produced by clerics of Demeter. But Cieldren, working through Gilden, had reforged it.
This was good for a "put my head down on the table and laugh" experience.
Jake scooped up his god-blade as the party ran after the fleeing gargoyles. Running up 100 vertical feet of spiral stairway in full armor fatigued the party, forcing them to rest at the top. Referencing their map, they followed all right-hand turns to retrace their steps.
At the exit of the maze where the corridor widened to 20 feet, they found the scattered corpses of three human clerics of Tharizdun. They had encountered the gargoyles and paid the price for their allegiance to a god of Chaos. A scattering of powdered rock provided mute evidence that at least one gargoyle had been destroyed.
Racing down the hallway the party could see the secret door to the maze was not only open, it had been shattered outward. The way down was no longer a secret. Peering through the shattered door they could see down to the room where lay the stairway to the next level up. It was full of small gargoyles. The beasts spotted the party and immediately flew to the attack.
Thinking quickly David cast a Web spell. While they couldn't see through the thick webbing they could hear the mutes cries as the gargoyles single-mindedly flew into the webbing and stuck. None made it through. Note 35
Sounds of combat coming from the north attracted everyone's attention -- hordes of small gargoyles swarmed a group of frost giant and human clerics. Although they fought bravely the gargoyles outnumbered them and the scattered bodies indicate how this battle would end. The group briefly debated letting the gargoyles kills the clerics, but it was quickly decided that questionable allies are probably better the none. David deposited a Fireball amidst one group of gargoyles maneuvering for attack, blowing most of them to rock dust. Missile fire from the remainder of the party picked off gargoyles and with help in sight the beleaguered evil clerics reduced the numbers of their attackers.
As the battle wound down an extra-large gargoyle few in from the eastern entrance to the temple room, stopping to view the remains of the battle. It quickly turned and started to fly away, its mission complete. "Jake, call upon he who reforged the sword!" the voice in his head urged him.
Dropping his heavy crossbow Jake wrenched the bastard sword from its sheath, cocked it behind his right ear, and threw it while screaming, "CIELDREN!!!"
Trilla watched as the sword flew from her employer's grasp, transforming into an over-sized war hammer as it went. The hammer slammed into the thing's side with a nauseating CRUNCH, slamming it against the corridor wall with an impact that shook dust from the stone. The gargoyle struggled to stay in the air, flying limply along. The hammer spun a small arc and as it flew back to Jake's hand it shimmered and morphed back into a bastard sword.
Jake's perception was much different. As he screamed out the god's name he felt an immense presence slide into his body like a jumping fish sliding back into the water with barely a ripple. He felt the presence of the god inside him, and in that instant understood the choice Cieldren had made when he assumed godhood some 40,000 years ago.
Cieldren was the elemental dwarf, a being who believed with all his self that the protection of the group was paramount, beside which personal survival was nothing. He had chosen to be the protector of the dwarven people, and literally had no offensive ability. When combat was needed he merged with a mortal, supplying immense godly power to the combat ability of the mortal.
Jake felt himself flash across the distance with the transforming hammer, supported by Cieldren's power. when he reached the flying gargoyle it felt like he was standing on solid ground and the creature of Elemental Chaos was standing still. He struck with the hammer, hitting it with exceptional accuracy and force, slamming it against the wall. He blinked and found himself back in his body, his hand outstretched to receive the flying sword, watching as the badly wounded gargoyle limply flew down the corridor and out of sight. Note 36
The young soldier closed his eyes. He knew exactly what it felt like to be a dwarf, that sense of community and oneness that humans couldn't even fathom. It was an incredibly powerful feeling. He realized that if he asked Cieldren he could become a dwarf, just as if he had been born so. Further ... Jake realized that if he felt that sensation too many times he WOULD ask Cieldren.
This surprised me - every single small lesser gargoyle failed their magic resistance. Sometimes the party gets really lucky.
I made this up on the spot, as I wanted the effect to be something more interesting than just throwing a boomerang. Patrick thought it was cool ... and it clued him in to a drawback to that weapon. He's using it like crazy, figuring he's got less than 12 hour of use of it left before it disappears. Jake the human fighter may end up Jake the dwarven fighter before the tale is done.
Sounds of the small gargoyles struggling in the webs David created brought Jake back to himself. They were slowly but surely working their way through the webbing and would eventually make it through.
"There are a LOT of them," commented Gilden.
"Their resistance to mortal magic didn't help them this time," added David.
"I wonder if they are resistant to normal fire?" asked Bisonbit.
Looking around at the magical weapons that provided their light in dark areas David asked, "How are we going to find out?"
"Easy," quipped Gilden, gesturing for Bisonbit to pick him up. The tall human grunted as he picked up the heavy dwarf and thrust him up so he could lift a torch from its bracket on the wall, and put him down when the task was accomplished. "Everyone back," called Gilden, and when the others had backed up to the temple room he threw the torch into the webbing and ran back.
The fire spread in a flash from the point where the torch struck. The beasts of Elemental Chaos could shrug off the effects of even powerful magic, but against normal fire they had no protection. Eerie screams of pain echoed down the hallway as the webbing burned. Over half fell to the floor with dull thuds and bursts of rock dust as the webbing that held them in place burned away. The mortal group plied the beasts with showers of arrows, bolts, and sling stones. The few that survived that hail were neatly dispatched with hand weapons.
Two battles and no injuries, a nice record they hoped to repeat!
Two frost giant and three human clerics of Tharizdun were alive and on their feet, all much worse for their experience with the chaos gargoyles. They eyed their nominal enemies with undisguised hostility.
"Do you want to live?" David asked forcefully.
The clerics, huddled in two groups by race, quietly muttered things among themselves, then between the two groups.
"Don't trust them," Renki softly advised. "We learned to our woe that followers of Chaos cannot be trusted."
Bisonbit responded, "We have no intention of trusting them. But some extra bodies to take down some gargoyles, or at least distract them is good." Bisonbit was definitely a warrior cleric, his focus on winning each battle.
The frost giant spokesman for the evil clerics asked, "What do you propose?"
"There is more likelihood for our survival in greater numbers. Let's join forces until we escape the gargoyles "
As the evil clerics huddled Gilden commented, "David, our job is to destroy the big gargoyle."
"Yeah, but THEY don't need to know that. Keep facts to a minimum to avoid confusing things. Plus we don't trust 'em, better to say as little as necessary " The group all nodded their assent.
The spokesman agreed. After more negotiation it was agreed that Jake and David were front line, the human clerics behind them, the frost giants behind them. Faraz and Trilla, backed by Renki were next while Bisonbit and Gilden were the rear guard. Quickly checking the barracks area and finding nothing, the party hurried to the stairway leading up. Moving as quickly as they could up its long length they gained the next level.
Peering carefully around the corner, the hallway led north about 50 feet before opening into a room. A room filled with swirling masses of gargoyles of all sizes. Bisonbit immediately used his Wand of Cold to make an Ice Storm in the room. He could feel that power in the wand drop. "Not a lot of charges left ..." he thought. Most of the small gargoyles felt the effects of the ice and sleet, but a large mass flew down the hallway to attack.
Realizing that they needed all the help they could get, Gilden started casting a Prayer spell. "Every little bit helps!" he thought. One of the evil clerics started Prayer as well.
Missile fire lanced into the gargoyles, wounding a few. Jake's sword-turned-hammer led the way, battering an extra-large gargoyle but not stopping it. Again he felt the overpowering urge to ask Cieldren to become a dwarf. Only his faith in Demeter kept him from doing so. The sword was back in his hand just as the pack reached the party and swarmed through them.
Gilden's Prayer spell invigorated the party, giving them strength, courage, and focus.
Then the evil cleric's spell completed, sucking away that benefit. Gilden and Bisonbit realized the clerics had cast against them! Both shouted a warning to Jake and David! At that moment the human and frost giant clerics of Tharizdun did what Elemental Chaos does best -- they turned on their saviors of the previous battle and sided with the gargoyles. But this attack was expected and with the clerics' warning -- instead of being devastating it was reduced to a serious problem.
It didn't help the evil clerics' cause that the gargoyles did not recognize their allies as such. Although the battle turned instantly to bedlam, the mortal group reacted to their training. Renki, Faraz, and Trilla hit the giants from behind as the clerics tried to hit Jake and David from behind. Things could not go worse for the clerics of Tharizdun -- badly wounded by the previous fight with the gargoyles, having telegraphed their treacherous move, and being attacked by the gargoyles as well, the clerics of Tharizdun fell quickly. With the cleric's death his Prayer spell ended leaving Gilden's to bolster the party!
The evil clerics downed, Faraz slammed a gargoyle with his shield and slashed another with his scimitar. Claws scrabbled on the leather armor protecting his back, saving him from shredding. Fear was subsumed by determination -- the druid swore to Silvanus that he would kill each and every one of these unnatural abominations!
All thoughts of additional attacks upon the greater gargoyle were erased from David's mind by the need to survive the next few seconds. Just before they engaged battle he cast a Web spell upon the entrance to the room to keep reinforcements from helping the already overwhelming force attacking them. Then his free sword hacked, slashed, and stabbed the numerous gargoyles attacking him.
A small gargoyle blew to dust as Bisonbit's spear pierced its breast. Slamming another with his shield, he turned his attention to a large one. The lessons taught by his tutor in the gods' glade came to fruition in this battle. His attacks were stronger, his accuracy greater, and his ferocity up to the challenge. Note 37
Being the largest target by far, Renki drew the greater number of attackers. Her powerful blows destroyed several gargoyles, including a large one, but an extra-large caught her from the side, slamming her in the head. Stunned by the blow, she was dashed to the stone floor, her spear flying from her senseless grasp. Note 38
Filled with the power of Cieldren via the Prayer spell, Gilden whirled his axe in a figure eight, keeping his attackers off him. Those that ventured into clawing range discovered his Mithril claw more powerful than theirs. He suffered a few minor scrapes but dealt far more damage than he took, reducing their numbers at a rapid rate. Note 39
Gilden's Prayer filled Jake with strength and determination. His deadly blows dusted gargoyle after gargoyle. He saw Renki fall but could do nothing to help her, he couldn't get through the crush to stop the gargoyles already tearing at her prone form. His last gargoyle swirling away in the air of battle, Faraz saw Renki fall and a large gargoyle leap upon her to tear at her armor.
Beating down his fear of attacking an unnatural creature so much more powerful than himself Faraz slammed the beast off the fallen ogre mage while hacking it with his scimitar. To his utter surprise, Faraz didn't die, he beat down the thing and was satisfied to see it blow to dust like his previous opponents. Note 40
Trilla whirled in a circle, her quarter staff a blinding arc the kept the gargoyles off her. She made some telling blows but realized she couldn't keep the pace up for long. Eventually she'd tire and they would tear her to pieces. "Fear is the mind killer," she chanted to herself, reinforcing the lesson of her teachers in the martial arts. calming herself she struck blow after blow, lessening their numbers ... but fatigue was winning. "Just one more, just one more," she told herself. A well timed blow crushed the head of her next to last opponent but the last one clawed her from shoulder to elbow, opening an artery. Trilla fell.
Seeing that Faraz had Renki protected and with his last opponent dusted, David ran to Trilla, a savage jab killing her final attacker before it could jump on her. He immediately put pressure on the spurting wound but could see she lost too much blood already.
"Jake, she's dying. Use a Giant Healing Potion."
Jake hesitated. Those potions, designed for a giant's metabolism, worked wonders on humans and demi-humans. But the process of healing was always rough and the clerics believed there was a chance the patient/victim might not survive the potion, that it might do more harm than good. But she was dying and with battle to recommence when David's Web spell ended, they couldn't care for her. She would die anyway if they didn't do something drastic. "Do it."
David poured the potion into her mouth, choking her. She coughed and sputtered but most of it went down. what didn't was absorbed directly into her skin. Jake was freaked out watching the potion do its work on his henchwoman, as a previous potion had worked on him. The bone-deep gashes on her arm healed so fast they virtually slammed shut. Her body shuddered like she was having a fit, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she jerked out of David's arms. Rolling onto her hands and knees she was on her feet in an instant. Trilla had no comprehension of what had just happened to her but reacted instinctively by stooping to grasp her quarterstaff, ready for more fighting.
"Damnation! That's scary stuff!" Jake heard a groan and turned to see Renki clamber to her feet, then stiffly recover her spear.
Gilden, Bisonbit, and Faraz assessed everyone's wounds. Cure Wounds spells were immediately cast to relieve the worst of the damage.
Noise in the web attracted everyone's attention. Like on the lower level, the small gargoyles that flown mindlessly into the webbing and were fighting their way through. It would take them a long time to do so, but time was of the essence. They had to stop the greater gargoyle.
"Everyone ready?" David asked. At the chorus of "yes" he plucked a torch from a sconce and threw it into the webbing, igniting a small fire storm. These gargoyles could shrug off some magic but they were not proof against plain 'ole fire. Some dropped as burned husks, smashing to dust when they hit the floor, obscuring vision past them. Others flew to the attack.
Missile fire lanced into the attacking gargoyles, increasing and spreading the dust cloud. The few that made it through were dusted before doing any harm.
The greater gargoyle stood in the middle of the room. It snagged a small one from the air, hugging its struggling form to its chest. The small gargoyle glowed a sickly green glow and fought its way free of the greater one's grasp. The glow intensified and before their wondering and horrified eyes it grew rapidly to the 6 foot plus size of an extra-large gargoyle. The mystery of where the larger ones came from was unhappily solved.
"CIELDREN!!!" Jake screamed as the threw the sword. As before he had the sensation of flying with the transformed hammer and pounding the greater gargoyle square in the chest. It flew back head-over-heels and bounced across the floor. Jumping stiffly to its feet it flew off down the western corridor, out of sight. The desire to be a dwarf was strongest yet in this third use of the newly formed Sword of Cieldren. The idea of becoming a dwarf was starting to feel right.
A cloud of arrows and sling stones smashed into the newly formed extra-large gargoyle as it spun toward them. Squawking an in-human cry it led the few remaining small ones against the party. Even in their horror of the transformation the mortals held strong and dispatched the gargoyles with ease.
The chase was on.
Bisonbit's gift from Demeter and Cieldren was weapon specialization when using a spear. My version of single specialization gives Bisonbit +1 to-hit and damage, and 3/2 attacks, although he still attacks on the cleric table. In this long combat sequence his extra attacks made a difference.
We always ran 3/2 attacks as 1 attack on the first round and 2 on the second. Apparently btb it's the opposite, although I have not changed how I do it.
My plan was to reward each character with a special ability from the gods after this was done. I changed plans when the party entered the fountain for training -- it made sense to reward them then.
Bisonbit - weapon specialization with spear.
Jake - Dwarven defensive bonus against giant-class creatures.
David - The ability to shape change into a true dwarf once per week with a 4 hour duration. Up to 10% of his hp in damage is cure both when transforming into a dwarf and when transforming back. He can transform back any time within the 4 hours.
Gilden - The ability to manufacture a temporary magic item with a 24 hour duration, once per week. The abilities of the item are dependent upon what goes into it, e g., the greater the value/sacrifice, the more powerful the item.
Faraz & Trilla - Dwarven constitution bonuses.
Although the players don't know it yet, the PCs have +2 charisma when dealing fairly with good dwarvenkind. Conversely they have -2 charisma when dealing with evil dwarvenkind, and no change for neutral. In addition, all dwarvenkind of 9th level or greater (any class) will recognize that these PCs are blessed by Cieldren. I have NO idea where I'm going with this, but it seemed like a fun thing to do. Like the charisma modifier, it can have pluses and minuses.
I use a critical hit/fumble system. Renki was critical hit and the roll was stunning for 4d6 rounds.
On a natural 20 the attacker rolls again. If the second roll, including all applicable bonuses, is enough to hit then a critical hit is score. Roll on the critical hits table for effect -- 40% double damage, 20% triple damage, stunning & dropped weapons are lesser change, 00 is instant kill.
Similarly on a natural 1 the attacker rolls again, adds bonuses, and if the roll misses then a fumble has occurred. Effects include half or full damage to self or a friend, dropped weapon, or critical hit to self or friend.
Both tables are on my web site.
Individually the gargoyles are not tough. The small are only 2 HD and inflict 1d2/1d2/1d3 damage for their claw/claw/bite. This is nothing to a name level party.
Except there are so darned many of them swarming the party. Taking a tip from Predavolk, I grant a to-hit bonus based upon the number attacking a given PC and btb discount shield protection for additional attackers after the first. So the gargoyles can hit PCs who normally have sub-zero ACs. They inflict minor damage, slowly but surely. Kind of like the death of 1,000 cuts.
Higher level foes generally inflict massive damage with 1 blow; this is the opposite and is proving to be VERY effective in providing a challenge. Area effect takes out the lesser ones and slows the attackers down but the party has only so many spells and there are literally hundreds of 2HD gargoyles available to throw at them.
I was worried going into this section of the adventure that I'd have a TPK. While it's still possible, the players have done well. I have produced several "oh, [expletive deleted]" moments where the players felt a serious danger to their PCs' health and continued survival, and were thrilled to survive with no deaths. This is MY definition of success.
Faraz is Druid L4 and the extra-large gargoyles are 8 HD, although the players don't know for sure what the HD of any excepting the small ones (2HD). Eric expected Faraz to die here and was pleasantly surprised that he didn't.
Yow! The Chaos Gargoyle was beaten Sunday morning after a fight that was easier than I planned. Up to this point it had stayed just ahead of them, sending its minions to harass and beleaguer the party while it escaped. I had planned for it to escape the temple and lay waste to the countryside. Unfortunately good play got in the way of my plans and Jake, David, & Co killed the beastie first!
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas