Part I: Back into the Breach
Part II: The Ogre Berserker Company
Part III: Aftermath
Part IV: A New Beginning
Part V: Looking for Playmates
Part VI: Orcanus
Part VII: A Strange Tale
Part VIII: Deadly Walls
Part IX: Dragonfire
Part X: Serious Cash
Part XI: Zombie Rumble
Part XII: The Final Showdown
Part XIII: City Full of Ticked Off Giants
Renki carried Jake's inert body for more than two hours before he revived. She carried the human without complaint but was silent and sullen. After Jake woke up he was groggy, but able to walk slowly. Renki picked him up again and they continued to camp.
Her sullen mood continued for a few hours until David managed to worm from her the fact that she was still upset over Bisonbit's use of the Holy Word. She had a headache for most of the trip back to the camp as a result. Possibly because they were both wizards David seemed to get along best with her and alleviate her periodic moods. Using a mixture of humor and logic he convinced her that having a headache worked only when one had a head, and if Bisonbit hadn't stunned them she might not have hers. He got a gravelly chuckle from her and she seemed fine.
Jake was functional but not really fine until sleeping for a day. He tried to explain what happened but had no idea how to accurately convey the reality of channeling a god's power. One thing that he could convey was the danger of being a conduit of a major god's power - his body suffered from the strain and the power, if he used it much, would kill him.
They rested another four days before making the next assault.
The first two assaults on the Hall were made before dawn. Following a brief discussion of tactics it was decided to make a dusk raid, when the giants and goblinoids would not be expecting it. David and Renki cast Invisibility on everyone and then rested to regain spells. Per usual the party dealt with being invisible for several days, moving cautiously and not bumping into each other too badly.
Two hours before dusk they roped themselves together and set out for the Hall. The climb up during daylight hours was far easier than in the dark. Reaching the top just before dusk they un-roped themselves and traveled single file, each person with a hand on the shoulder of the one in front. Renki growled and David apologized when he reached for a shoulder and got something else instead. She firmly placed his hand on her belt.
Two dozen gnolls were arrayed in front of the entrance. They may have been alert when first posted, but now they were clumped, having had nothing of interest to keep them alert. A few rolled dice while others talked quietly, but none were alert.
Bisonbit softly suggested using his Wand of Frost to create an ice storm, and then they'd kill the survivors with missile fire. After painfully and quietly arranging themselves in a line so no one was between Bisonbit and the gnolls, the cleric spoke the command word that enveloped the goblinoids in swirling snow and stinging ice. As the storm faded the party unleashed arrows and sling bullets into the survivors, sending them on into the next world after their frozen brethren.
Angry, or maybe frightened, ogre voices came from the slightly open double doors. David warned everyone back and flung a Fireball through the crack, detonating it just inside the door. Red flames billowed out through the crack and screams of agony and horror indicated goblinoids inside the door. Jake and Bisonbit pulled the doorway wide enough that Renki would be able to pass easily, and looked inside. Behind the doors lay the burned bodies of more than half a dozen ogres, but nothing moved. Silently in the aftermath of the screams the party entered the long hallway.
The tapestry that disguised the guard post burned, then collapsed in flames, disclosing another charred body. Movement at the end of the entrance corridor caught Gilden and Trilla's attention – shambling down the long entrance hall came an even dozen frost giants. "ZOMBIES!!!" screamed Gilden as he recognized the shambling gate, stiff torsos, and vacant stairs of animated corpses.
Trilla braced for a fight as Gilden screamed again. "Gilden is afraid?" she wondered, as flights of arrows and sling bullets, punctuated by the Hammer of Cieldren and a Lightning Bolt from Renki, slammed into the undead. The Hammer slammed the lead zombie to a halt and the lightning attack slowed down several others.
Gilden screamed again and charged the undead giants. Trilla realized that his scream wasn't fear, it was glee! The magical axe he carried was destructive to all undead and he was itching to use it for its intended purpose.
Gilden stopped short as the first zombie tried to pound him into the floor. The massive fist hit the stone with a THUD that shook the hall, and the dwarf immediately hewed the giant's shoulder with the axe. The weapon struck true and Gilden was rewarded with a bright flash that blinded and burned the zombies. He swung again and buried the head in the zombie's ribs, screaming in delight as another flash lit the hallway. Note 12
Over his head flashed another flight of arrows and bullets, and the Hammer of Cieldren struck another giant with crushing force. As the party closed with the undead, Gilden realized for the first time that Jake's roar sounded dwarven-like.
Less than a minute later Bisonbit surveyed the damage. The zombies were all destroyed and the party had suffered no serious damage. A few were winded but nothing they would not recover from shortly. Gilden grinned like a half-wit, wiping the zombie bits from his axe on a fallen one's shirt. His ability in battle was less than the others, but in a fight against undead he more than made up for it. When his axe struck true it emitted a flash that burned undead within its sphere and could stun intelligent undead.
The group formed ranks and peered into the Great Hall. Nothing, not a sound. All that battle noise and literally nothing was in evidence. David checked the north-west corridor, still nothing. No sounds, total quiet.
They looked at each other. The situation was so bizarre it defied logic. "This must be a trap," Renki commented softly.
"But what?" David riposted. The others shook their heads. "Watch for everything!" he warned. "Faraz, keep an eye behind us. This is really wrong." From the corners of his eyes David could see the others nodding agreement, although everyone was watching around instead of focusing on each other.
The mage had a thought and said, "Wait." He closed his eyes and then shimmered, his form shrinking slightly, his shoulders broadening and thin waist narrowing to dwarven stature. Note 13
Peering in all directions the party slowly made their way towards the throne. Half way across the Great Hall Trilla shouted a warning, she heard *something* but had no idea what it was or where it came from, but her instincts screamed "danger!".
Thumps echoed across the hall as dozens of heavy shapes, masked by invisibility, dropped around them. Ogres became visible as they attacked. The next seconds were chaos as the party struggled as individuals to avoid death in those first seconds of battle. All order of battle disintegrated into separate efforts to survive the onslaught.
Gilden's battle axe is deadly against undead. When he rolls a natural 5 over his to-hit number the axe emits a flash of light that is bright but not blinding to mortal creatures. It burns undead for 1d4 points of damage per plus of the weapon, and intelligent undead must save or be stunned for 1d4 rounds. This is a Weapon of Change, a clerical made weapon that draws its power partially from the wielder. This particular weapon is +1 to all who wield it, but good dwarves get an addition +1 to-hit and damage for each full 4 levels above 1st, e.g.,
Gilden is currently 9th level. In this battle Patrick rolled extremely well for Gilden. He typically rolls well for Jake, not that Jake needs much to hit most armor classes, but the dice don't seem to like the dwarf as much. This time he got lucky and while the axe doesn't do tremendous damage to the undead, it burns all within 15' of it, and after a lightning bolt and missile fire, two good hits in a row did bad things to the zombies.
David was gifted by Cieldren with the ability to shape change into dwarven form, gaining all dwarven abilities while retaining his ability to cast spells. This lasts 4 hours and can be done once per day. He heals up to 10% of his hit points in damage when transforming.
Everyone took at least minor hits in the unequal battle. The party was badly outnumbered – the only saving grace was that the ogres were too big so only a few could attack each person instead of just overwhelming the party. Several ogres dropped but others moved in to take their place.
Faraz was not a afraid of ogres, but these were wrong. Instead of the normal rage filled yet dull visages these ogres displayed intelligence, focus, and purpose. This was nothing he had seen in ten years of border fighting.
Jake killed two ogres in the first few seconds of recovery. Renki, David, and Bisonbit each killed another. Gilden, Faraz, and Trilla took more hits but dealt damage in return. This barely made a dent in the numbers.
The fighting was fierce and these ogres were far more skilled than the usual ogre. David realize their armor was better than the typical hodge-podge of furs and leather and armor pieces most ogres used for protection. These ogres wore real chain mail and all had a stylized rampant ogre sigil on their left breast.
The fight dragged on for several minutes, the incensed grunting of the ogres as they swung and hacked eclipsed only by the clang of swords on armor and shields, and by moans of pain. Ogres went down or back out of the fight when wounded, but there was no escape for humans. They were holding their own but were tiring. The overwhelming numbers of the ogres would decide the day.
Jake felt himself tiring. He knew that if he was tiring, the others were worse. In a brief moment of respite after dropping an ogre, he glanced at the other others. Gilden's face was drawn and grim, he had several wounds that bled freely, and sweat washed runnels of blood from his face. Most of it probably wasn't his, but what was his was more than enough. Faraz also fought grimly, the determination that saw him through ten years of border fighting keeping him on his feet. Renki snarled and cursed, but the usual fear of most goblinoids towards ogre magi wasn't there. Her opponents were fierce and determined to bring her down.
Then Trilla took a slash that opened her right arm to the bone. Grasping her opened flesh with her left hand to stop the spurting blood, she used her pain and fear and anger to fuel a front kick – in reply an ogre's knee bent in a direction no humanoid knee is supposed to bend. He dropped on his face, bending the wounded leg completely backwards.
Shrugging of blows with his armor, Jake plowed into the nearest ogres, hacking another two down. The survivors, all bigger and stronger than typical ogres, backed away from him. The Champion of Cieldren in full battle mode was a terrifying foe to face, even for these ogres!
Trilla managed another kick and then fell and stayed down, her form still as blood pooled around her. Faraz pulled her to the middle of the circle the others formed, trading blows with the ogres. David, Bisonbit, and Renki each killed another while Gilden and Faraz blooded their nearest opponents. Jake cleared the ogres nearest the entrance and the party slowly backed towards freedom.
Ogres fell but more took their place. Their ranks looked endless and nothing would stop them except death. Renki glanced at the others. All were wounded, all were beyond exhaustion. Even Jake was streaming blood from a dozen minor wounds. They would never reach safety. She made a decision, a dangerous one that could harm as easily as save them. Sliding back into the interior of the circle she began casting.
A Stinking Cloud materialized just behind the first rank of ogres. Coughing and hacking the two groups split, the humans toward the entrance and the ogres away from them. Thankfully none of the humans breathed too deeply of the fumes before escaping the cloud, and even while trying to not breathe Bisonbit managed to pick up Trilla's still form. Note 14
Some of the ogres were not as lucky, they knelt in the cloud, coughing and puking. The remainder stood on the other side of the cloud, sides and chest heaving with exertion, eyeing the human party.
"Get out!" Bisonbit commanded.
As the others moved towards the entrance David yelled back, "Not yet!" He began the intricate passes and uttered incomprehensible words, and a red pea flashed from his angry fingers to explode amidst the ogres. Red billowing flame enveloped them, leaving charred corpses in its wake.
"I wasn't leaving them behind us!" he snarled as he turned towards the entrance. "THEY are not going to fight us again."
Outside the sun was just peaking over the trees. Less than thirty minutes had passed since they entered between those doors. They were all sorely wounded, except Trilla who had bled out from a sundered artery. Jake carried her limp body, tears streaming down his face. Renki invoked the magic that obscured all traces of their passage as they made their way cautiously and painfully back to camp. Note 15
The players were feeling their oats, getting over confident, so I changed gears for this assault and put them up against the Ogre Berserker Company, a group of specially trained and armored ogres. The party was not expected to beat them - they should have run. I nearly had a TPK as the party didn't feel they could run, which I blame on poor description of the situation on my part.
Note: My players are not adverse to running. When the odds suck for them they employ the Nike Defense and beat feet.
Renki's Stinking Cloud was a desperate attempt on my part to avoid a TPK, but one that certainly had its dangers. Fortunately all party members made their saving throw, except Trilla who was already dead (I rolled just for the heckuvit). David's vindictive Fireball killed the last of the ogres, ensuring that this squad would not be back, as he intended. David said he was NOT going to fight THOSE ogres again. And he was right! :-)
Ogre Berserkers, HD 6+3, AC 3, # Att 2, Dam/Att 1d10+6, 1d10+6, SA Attack as 8+4 HD monster.
I really over did this encounter, poor DMing on my part, which is partially why Renki used the Stinking Cloud. The other part of the reason is that I run NPCs according to their intelligence.
We talked about it afterwards - Eric and Patrick now have new tactics to use, including ALWAYS looking at the ceiling. They would have seen ropes strung along the ceiling if they had looked up. Yes, invisible ogres hanging on the ceiling is horribly unfair. But quite effective. Both players have a better sense of their characters' mortality, so in the final result was good even if my tactics could use improvement.
Renki was intended to be a short term NPC. I introduced her in the Giant Temple of Tharizdun primarily to see what the players would do with a captive ogre mage. When they took her into the party I decided to explore the ogre magi in more depth.
As I run them the ogre magi, "oni" in their tongue (I use Japanese terms for obvious reasons), are extremely lawful. They actually have a great deal in common with dwarves. They live in tight knit clans, the safety of the clan is of paramount importance, trumping personal safety and survival. This doesn't mean they don't intrigue against each other, just that none will risk the safety and long term well being of the clan. Dwarves exile those that risk the clan while oni kill them, reflecting their lawful evil nature in contrast to the dwarven lawful good.
Extremely honorable, Renki owed the party a debt of honor for freeing her and helping her survive. She bonded with the party and to her chagrin eventually realized that she considers them clan. She has strong ethical differences with the group but can work with them well when they have a common goal. She has concerns about how she can deal with them in normal life, given their ethical differences.
Renki is a noble, youngest child of a clan chief. She is with the party now due to her own machinations, she wanted to see through the destruction of the clerics of Tharizdun and has a personal concern for the safety of her friends. Her father is of mixed feelings. While his distaste for humans and demi-humans is strong, he understands all the goblinoid nations of Shahrivar are in danger, although his concern is for his own people, not the other races. The wars drained their strength and the in-fighting that occurred without the strong hand of Tharizdun's clerics keeping control drained them more. Although individually deadly the oni are not a numerous people and he sees the need for strong allies. While oni will never be friends with humans and demi-humans, he is exploring the idea of being allies. If they stay away from either other except when cooperating in mutual defense, he believes his people can better survive the coming decades.
Back at the camp the party fortified themselves, binding wounds and cleaning themselves. Everyone was dejected, at being trounced by a bunch of ogres, and at losing Trilla for the second time.
Bisonbit meditated and prepared himself. He knew how to cast a Raise Dead spell but had never actually done it. His first time and it was going to be on a friend. He prayed to Demeter that the spell would be successful. Jake looked so wretched, having the spell fail would be even worse.
The cleric reflected on the jumbled mess that had been their lives the past three years since rescuing the young woman from the norkers in that first Temple of Tharizdun. The party took ship with a race of seafaring good giants, traveling from continent to continent along with diverse other passengers. At their first stop a young woman was captured by norkers, and the party immediately moved to rescue her. The encountered their first temple to Tharizdun, a god so ancient that his imprisonment was mere legend at the time when Cieldren, the eldest known god, was young.
Since parting ways with the sea faring giants the party had fought hill giants on numerous occasions, assaulted an orc outpost in an ancient lost dwarven city, assaulted two different frost giant fortresses, and completely destroyed a giant temple to Tharizdun. Along the way they had escorted a dwarven and elven embassy from the Western Kingdoms to the Eastern Kingdoms, and caused tremendous damage to the forces of Tharizdun.
Funny how it all started with the rescue of that young woman, when Gilden was turned to ash in the secret sub-crypt of that temple. Gilden was restored by Cieldren and tasked with the mission to save the dwarven people of this land. His companions of some months enthusiastically joined him in his mission. Now Jake was the human champion of the chief dwarven god. Only Demeter knew why she lent a powerful follower to a foreign god. Bisonbit wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer.
Meditation was not clearing his mind as he hoped, just bringing up powerful, unsettling memories and ideas. Best to do the needful. At least his body was clean, even if his mind was not as clear as he'd like. Bisonbit put on his traveling formal robes and shined his holy symbol. Time to restore Trilla to life if he could.
Returning to where Trilla's body lay on the ground on a blanket, Bisonbit knelt and began the spell by calling up Demeter's power and grace. He slipped into a sort of trance, invoking the magic via a complicated ceremony which healed the damage to her body to provide the potential to restore her to life, and called her soul back from its destination to resume its tenancy in the body. The cleric was aware that the dwarf knelt beside him, praying along with him to his foreign god, the gentle but strong power of the dwarven god in the background, supporting the effort. Note 16
Demeter was accounted a strong god, one of the most powerful of the Pyung pantheon, and stronger than maybe all but the most powerful of the Anaxios gods. The demi-human and goblinoid gods were generally considered weaker for a number of reasons, but events of the past couple of months caused Bisonbit to question this belief. Cieldren's powers were different from the human gods, but not inferior.
The cleric pushed the unsettling thoughts from his mind and re-focused himself on the task at hand, and stopped questioning the supporting power of his friend the dwarven cleric.
At last the long process was nearing its conclusion. The magics to heal the body of its fatal damage completed their task, the call to her spirit had been successful and her presence could be felt, ready to rejoin the body. The powers came to a head and Bisonbit released them.
He nearly fell over, the spell was powerful and the long ceremony drained him of energy. Gilden supported him so he did not fall.
He looked down at Trilla. She lay on the blanket, a young pretty woman with surprising strength and grace and courage. But her face remained ashen and dead. Tears filled his eyes at the failure of the spell, he wanted to curse all the gods and the universe.
A faint sound entered his consciousness and he opened his eyes in time to see a bright flush redden her face and she gasped, her eyes opening as if in surprise. Trilla coughed and Jake swooped in, crushing her to his chest.
While it's common in fantasy, there is no provision in D&D for spell casters to work together, to combine abilities to be stronger, more effective, etc. I added this for effect.
A week later Trilla was as good as new. The process of restoring her to life took a great deal from her, although certainly not as much as death did. A week of rest and nourishment, with gentle exercises beginning on the third day, did her wonders. They rested yet another five days to ensure that she was fully ready to return.
"Are you sure you want to assault the Hall again?" Jake asked for probably the tenth time. Having seen her killed twice within a short span left the soldier feeling guilty regarding the young woman. Jake did not think of himself as a leader and struggled with the role. The fact that the others would follow him wherever he led scared the heck out of him. He usually tried to not think about it. Note 17
But his repeated concern for her welfare became offensive. Trilla was young and proud, and a willing follower of the man considered one of the greatest heroes of the land. She took his concern for her well being to be an insult to her courage and willingness to do the job she signed on for, and it showed on her face. Jake, unfortunately, was oblivious to such things.
Renki stepped in, forcibly turning Jake to face her. "Yes, she wants to go. Your questioning of her courage and resolve is offensive to all that hear it."
Jake was too shocked to be anything but confused. He sputtered unintelligibly but the ogre mage cut him off before he could find his voice. "Let her do her duty or discharge her from your service. If you do not want her *I* will take her into MY service." Jake's eyes widened at that and he shut up.
Jake apologized to Trilla for whatever it was he did, although he wasn't really sure why he was apologizing. Jake was completely clueless in personal interactions beyond basic things. Trilla seemed satisfied so he counted it a plus.
With that settled preparations for the next assault continued. They compared their maps with measurements of the outside of the Keep. "We can use Passwall to enter the king's hidden compartments," David insisted. "If it doesn't work we haven't lost anything."
Jake shook his head. "I don't think the measurements are accurate enough to be sure." Shaking his head again, "but we don't want to go in the front entrance again." Communing with extra-planar forces before the first foray had revealed that the main entrance was the only entrance they could use. The questioning indicated there was another entrance but it was from Darkworld.
Jake, David, and Bisonbit had spent more than a year in Darkworld in their home land, Trivana, and were not eager to repeat the experience, even if this land did not have black elves. No doubt there were other, equally deadly creatures filling that niche. One enemy at a time was sufficient. Besides, they had no idea how to access Darkworld from here and then would have to find the right path into the giants' fortress.
No one thought David's idea would work, but no one had a better one. David and Renki made everyone invisible and they decided this raid would be at dawn again. Roped together they made the trek up the outcrop for the fourth time.
Patrick was 7 when he rolled Jake. The fighter's personality was created by a young child and as a result Jake is a rather caring individual who is capable of fighting hard when required. Jake is a hero in the mold of John Carter of Mars, he will do the right thing regardless of consequences, often without thinking about other possible choices until after the event is passed. Yes, this has produced some interesting scenarios.
After 7 years of playing Jake, Patrick has kept Jake's personality the same. Patrick runs other characters differently, but Jake is Jake. I have endeavored to portray Jake as accurately as possible and Patrick is satisfied with the presentation.
No, there is no romantic spark between Jake and Trilla. Rolls for loyalty have been consistently high and I have worked to depict that. Some folks role play romantic scenarios in their game, but I find that a bit creepy and unsettling.
If my wife ever expressed an interest in playing I might change my mind, but others might find THAT unsettling. :-)
Reaching the top of the outcrop the party circled to the left of the building instead of the right. Trilla cautiously moved ahead and peered around the front. There were no guards at the front doors, which were wide open. She made her way back to the group and quietly reported her findings. They agreed to continue with David's plan – no one wanted to try the front doors a fourth time.
David made his best guess of where the wall was thinnest and invoked a Passwall spell, followed by a second. In the pre-dawn gloom they could not see if the spells had opened a temporary passage into the Hall, or it was a dead end. Since no light from the king's chambers was visible it was likely a dead end.
David uncapped a Continual Light rod and pointed it into the passage. The light showed that the passage went twenty feet and opened into an unlit space. Cautiously they entered the temporary passage. Note 18
They were in the king's chambers, as David had calculated. "You did it!" Jake told David with admiration. The mage was not sure if Jake was picking on him or not. Smart as he was, David was infamous for miscalculating things and making what seemed like good decisions that turned out badly. Shrugging it off either way, the mage led the way into the king's chambers.
Puzzled, everyone looked around. The room was bare of anything of value. Torn, worn clothing was scattered across the floor. A broken chair lay on its side in a corner. A badly faded tapestry huddled in a heap against a wall. All evidence indicated a rapid but organized removal of all items of value. Although they could not see each other, each face bore a similar look of bewilderment. The room had a sense of nothingness, an utter lack of movement and life.
"Where are they?" Bisonbit verbalized the question in everyone's mind. Ideas were tossed around, including a revolt against the giant king or an attack by the clerics of Tharizdun. But the walls and floors and trash mutely held their silence.
The door to the hallway was open yet dark. David capped the Continual Light rod. The darkness was absolute. There were no light sources any where down the hall.
"What do we do, what do we use for light?" Jake asked. "Do we use Continual Light rods?"
"Let's use the Potion of Infravision," Bisonbit suggested. "A light source held by an invisible person attracts attention and makes an obvious target."
Everyone assented and Bisonbit pulled the potion from his pouch. He took a small sip and then by groping he found each human in turn and each took a sip, returning the bottle to Bisonbit. "Two portions left." With that he capped the bottle and replaced it in his pouch.
Now able to see in the infrared spectrum, they opened the secret door to the king's treasure trove. While they were prepared for just about anything, the stench that rolled like a wave out of the passage nearly knocked them down! Everyone scattered away from the reek, coughing and sputtering, but no one lost their breakfast.
Holding cloths over their faces to shield them as much as possible from the odor, they made their way rapidly through the tunnel, finding the badly decomposed corpse of the hydra still in the spot where they killed it. What was left of the body was the obvious source of the nauseating stench. The fleetest of the group, Trilla jumped it and ran down to the treasure chamber and was back in less than a minute.
"Empty. Totally cleaned out," she gasped. With that news the party rapidly retreated back to the king's chambers and closed the door, blocking the stench.
Slowly and carefully they checked all the areas where they had been previously. They discovered only broken or worn items, nothing of value, all evidence indicated an orderly exodus. Near the kitchen they opened the door to a storeroom - the miasma that rolled from the room had everyone bent over, coughing and retching. This was far worse than the hydra cave. Stacked in the room was the naked bodies of the ogres and frost giant zombies, all rotting. Renki slammed the door and they all staggered away.
After wiping his tearing eyes and his rinsing his mouth Bisonbit commented, "I'd like to NOT experience again that real soon!" They moved away from the scene and took a few minutes to recover. No one had any intentions of searching the storeroom.
The stairway down to the first underground level was found and marked. After everything else had been searched they came back to this point and ventured downward. The sense of stillness and lifelessness was just as strong here. Having no idea what the layout was, they turned left and started turning left at each intersection.
Again, they found nothing that wasn't broken or worn, just evidence of a retreat. Everyone was even more keyed up, wondering what drove the giants out.
Eventually they came to a cell block, a line of doors with small grills set at six and ten foot heights in the sixteen foot tall doors. All doors were open except one, and the open rooms displayed nothing more than old, moldered bones.
A higher pitched voice emanated from behind the closed and barred door. "Who's there?" The voice was plaintive. "Please let me out, please give me water, I'm dying!"
Glancing through the grill showed nothing, no heat sources. The cell appeared empty. Bisonbit pulled the cap from a Continual Light rod - it illuminated most of the cell through the lower grill, but nothing was visible.
"What are you? Where are you? Show yourself!"
A small figure, less than 4' tall, moved back away from the door which had hidden it from sight.
"I'm a halfling. My name is Orcanus Sunfoot."
A common item developed in my early campaigns is the "Continual Light Rod". We had different versions but they were basically similar – a copper piece had a hole driven through it, Continual Light was cast upon the coin, and the coin was nailed to the end of a stick. A cap of some sort was placed over the stick to block the light, and the cap could be partially or completely removed. We created flashlights, bull's eye lanterns, etc.
Usually everyone in the party carried one, in case a hostile Dispel Magic effect hit them. Hopefully at least one would survive. It was common for PCs to carry several Continual Light coins in special belt pouches that hid the light - we would throw them to illuminate areas, etc. For parties that can cast Continual Light this proved to be a sure fire cure against a lot of darkness related problems. Not perfect, but pretty darned good most of the time.
Some folks treat Continual Light as unblockable, e.g., it illuminates its full area of effect regardless of what is in between. I don't - it's just a very bright permanent light. We made flashlights, lanterns, etc. Bisonbit was originally an NPC when Eric and Patrick started playing. Bisonbit was Jake and David's tutor, and he taught them how to do many things. Suggestions for using Continual Light was on the list .... Eric and Patrick took the ball and ran with it.
"What is it?" Renki asked in her gravelly voice.
At the sound of her obviously non-human voice the halfling backed hurriedly against the back wall, his face apprehensive.
"He's a halfling, or says he is. You don't know what a halfling is?" David asked.
"This is the first I've seen one or even heard of them. What are they?"
It occurred to David that there was no mention of halflings or gnomes in this land. "In Trivana, our homeland, the halflings are a peaceful people, deceptively hardy."
Jake spoke up, "Are we going to release him?"
"Please let me out. I'm so thirsty!" The small figure sounded pitiful.
"How long have you been in there?" David asked.
"A month, I think. It's hard to tell since I haven't seen the sun. I think the goblinoids have been gone for more than a week. Please, I need water!"
"Where did the goblinoids go?"
"They left. I don't know where to. Some monsters called the Reavers killed a bunch of ogres and they all got scared and left."
"Why did they leave you behind?"
"They were afraid I was a Reaver."
"Who are the Reavers?" David asked.
"We are," Renki said with gravity.
After a moment of stunned silence, all the others spoke across each other, a babble of sound. Orcanus crushed himself into a corner, his fear overcoming his thirst. After everyone trailed off and silence resumed Jake asked, "Why do they call us the Reavers?"
"For three years a group of four humans and a dwarf crushed every stronghold they attacked. When it was just hill giants the frost and fire giants were not concerned. They believed the reports false, although there was puzzlement that the hill giants didn't save face by claiming losses to an overwhelmingly large force. Then the frost giants lost half their force in their north-west stronghold, and the next spring their southern stronghold was badly mauled. Always it was four humans and a dwarf destroying overwhelming forces."
The ogre mage paused and the others digested her words in stunned silence. "After the complete destruction of the southern temple of the Sleeping One, word spread. The fire giants saw us destroy the Chaos Gargoyle and later witnessed the total destruction of the temple."
"But the clerics used an Earthquake to destroy the temple!" Gilden protested.
"You know that. I know that. My people know that." She chuckled. "The goblinoids don't. All they know is that our small group crumbled the temple to dust."
After a pregnant pause she continued, "Now the Reavers include two more humans and a creature that resembles an ogre mage, although my people deny involvement." She obviously found the situation amusing. "We attacked here three times, destroying important forces each time. If the ogres we fought last were the Ogre Berserker Company, we indeed put the fear of the Abyss into all the goblinoids. The Ogre Berserker Company was the toughest goblinoid force in existence, accepting only the best of the best, trained and tough. Thirty ogres who routed five times their numbers in giants on several occasions."
Turning to look at the barred door she continued, "But why didn't they take the little one if they took their other prisoners?"
After hearing Renki's story Orcanus relaxed. "They didn't know what I was. They were afraid that I was a Reaver, so they didn't torture me. They left me to die." The halfling sounded so plaintive.
"What do we do?" Jake asked. "Take him at face value?"
"I think we can," offered David. "Halflings are unknown here so it's not a trick they would know to use." The others assented, so Jake and David fumbled to lift the bar – coordinating actions when invisible was difficult.
Peering out the opened doorway, Orcanus saw a point of bright light in the air, but nothing else. "Where are you?"
"We are invisible," spoke a dwarven voice. "Hold your hand out."
Orcanus cautiously complied and felt a weight on his palm. Slowly a small water bag became visible, its strap across his palm. He quickly uncapped it and took a huge swallow. Unseen hands grabbed the bag and pulled it away from his mouth, splashing water across his face. "What,"
"Slowly," the dwarven voice commanded. "You have been more than a week without drink or food. If you put too much in too fast you will throw it up." The bag floated through the air and back into his hand. "Give it a minute, then start taking small sips." Note 19
An unseen force turned his left hand palm up and a small weight filled his hand. Slowly a travel biscuit, hard baked flour with vegetables and dried meat in it, appeared in his hand. Using the lesson of the water bag he bit off a small piece and chewed, washing it down with a sip of water.
As he ate and drank he looked around at nothing. "Thank you." Looking at the point of light suspended in the air, he chuckled at his own vain attempt to see that which was not seen. "How many are you?"
"Seven. I'm Gilden, a dwarf, cleric of Cieldren." He introduced the others. Orcanus didn't recognize Cieldren's name but seemed comforted to be in the company of a cleric of Demeter.
Finally Renki introduced herself, her gravelly voice, coming from a point clearly higher than the others, made him blanch. "You are familiar with my people?" she asked. He nodded, looking at his feet. "Then you know my people are not forgiving of betrayal by those beholden to us." The menace in her voice would have been more palpable than herself had she had been visible.
"Renki," David protested. "He,"
The ogre mage cut him off. "You are far too trusting. If we set immediate expectations no one is unhappily surprised." She chuckled again, an unpleasant sound. "The little one now knows what to expect if he betrays us in any way. The Reavers earned their reputation, and so did the Oni."
Jake asked, "Oni?"
"My people's name for ourselves."
David changed the subject, questioning the halfling. "You are a wizard?"
His face shocked, Orcanus blurted, "How do you know?"
"Your clothing. Only a spell caster would have as many hidden pockets as you do. You're not a cleric so you must be a wizard, although I've not heard of halfling wizards before. Not in Trivana, and obviously not here in Shahrivar." He paused. "How do you come to be in this land where halfling are unknown? Where are you from?"
"I'm from Greyhawk."
Normally when a creature is made invisible its gear is made invisible as well. However, if the gear is separated from the person it becomes visible. My exact rules for this are a bit hazy, I'm not consistent about it but remain generally in the same ballpark. To be honest, the topic of equipment separated from the character doesn't come up often.
Bisonbit replied, "I've heard of Greyhawk. It's relatively well known across the multiverse."
"What is 'Greyhawk'? I assume we're not talking about a bird."
Bisonbit laughed, "No, Jake, it is a different world, in the terminology of planar travelers, an Alternate Prime Material Plane."
The halfling frowned. "That explains why my Teleport failed." Orcanus chewed more biscuit and took another swallow of water. "I am a retired adventurer, enjoying a life of magical research. A ring came into my possession, a magical ring I could not decipher. I was examining it yet again when everything around me flashed and whirled. When the air cleared I was on the plain below this citadel. I had few tools with me as I was not expecting to go any place, so I immediately tried to teleport home." Chewing and swallowing a bit more he repeated, "That explains why the spell failed."
Trilla spoke for the first time, "Why?"
Orcanus started at the woman's voice. He had assumed all males excepting the ogre mage, and he wasn't sure she counted. Ogre magi enjoyed the fierce reputation the female had mentioned. "This is a different world. Teleport doesn't work between worlds."
"Yes it does," Trilla frowned.
Bisonbit, Gilden, and David interjected – explaining that "worlds" as Trilla understood the term meant huge continents. "Worlds" in the context of Orcanus' home meant something totally different, round planets that were much smaller, requiring travel through the Ethereal and possibly the Astral Plane. Note 20
Eventually the conversation got back to the halfling's story. "I was captured by gnolls and ogres, and brought here. The giants were afraid of me as they had never seen anything like me. Some wanted to kill me or torture me, but the king said no. So they locked me in here for maybe three weeks."
"What happened to the ring?"
"I had it in my hand when I got here, but the ogres took everything they could find."
"How can you speak the language here?"
"I suspect the magic of the ring. I know this is not my native tongue nor the Greyhawk common tongue. Things are translated in my head so I think in my language and it comes out in your language."
David laughed. "This is not our tongue, it's the goblinoid trade language. The ring must have given you knowledge of the most common local tongue." He spoke several languages including dwarven, elven, Tahmourean, and then Kerrean and Sathean.
"I recognize the dwarven and elvish, but the others are like nothing I've heard." He paused to chew a bit more. "After you destroyed the Ogre Berserkers the goblinoids went crazy. They decided to flee, packed up anything of value, and were gone within a few hours." Note 21
"They left me to die, too afraid to take me with them." He laughed a small laugh. "I was terrified I would die here alone, but maybe things are not so bad." He glanced around at the empty air.
They all laughed as well but David broke the light mood. "Or maybe things are worse."
Orcanus' slim smile instantly became anxious, not understanding the words but fearing the worst. He was in the midst of powerful beings, ones he couldn't even see. He had no weapons and no spell components. He felt helpless.
"We are dangerous people to be around, every goblinoid within one thousand miles would love to kill us. Traveling with people who attack giant strongholds may not be the safest thing for you to do."
"What choice do I have?"
Bisonbit replied, "Not a lot. In the human city of Tahmouress, a month's travel south through goblinoid territory, there is a library which contains information about how to travel the planes to Greyhawk. Once our mission here is completed, if we survive, I will transport you home." The others, excepting Renki, quickly agreed.
"Why would you take a stranger across the planes? I have nothing to pay you with."
They all laughed and David answered, "We have never been to Greyhawk."
Orcanus understood. The thrill of adventure was a powerful motivation, and although he was retired he followed the exploits of others avidly. If not for the memory of the many friends who died during such exploits, he might take it up again himself. "I need to travel with you then. Without provisions and weapons I won't survive the trip south." In a small voice he continued, "and if I do survive I have nothing to pay for transportation home."
"You can travel with us, although as the visible one amongst a bunch of invisibles, that isn't safe. Stay one hundred feet behind us, you can be our rear guard. Call out of anything comes up behind us."
"Hold your hand out," Jake commanded. He did so and felt the pommel of a heavy dagger slap into his palm. It quickly became visible, a human's fighting dagger. He drew it from its sheath and it glowed with bright light. After a moment he restored it to the sheath.
"I don't want you unarmed." Orcanus felt his left wrist seized and another pommel slapped into that palm. "This one isn't magical, but it's well balanced for throwing."
Renki sighed. Jake was generous to a fault, thinking nothing of material wealth beyond his short term needs. Lending a weapon to an unknown creature, much less a magical weapon, was astounding. She rolled her eyes, unseen by any. That was Jake. "Chochenani would scorn the little human as weak," she thought. Note 22
"That would be a mistake."
The planar structure of my campaign world diverges from the AD&D model, borrowing heavily from Larry Niven and Roger Zelazny.
In the dim past an advanced race whose technology was so advanced it appeared as magic created a "ring world", a ring of adamantium 180 million miles in diameter and 1 million miles wide, and set it spinning about a young sun. They filled the interior with rocks and soil and water, and transplanted to it the species of several worlds, including their own, whose sun was dying. Shortly after the completion of the project a civil war took place, devastating the race, leaving only a handful of survivors. Stories of the Builders crop up from time to time, so it's likely that some remnants of this race survive.
In two locations within the ring exist fantastically huge oceans. One is dotted with a grid work of thousands of continents, and the second (on the other side of the ring) has 9 groupings arranged in a 3x3 grid that should be familiar to AD&D players.
Location 1 has more than 20,000 continents ranging in size from 1,000 to 5,000 miles across, each separated by 12,000 to 15,000 miles of open ocean. Each is self contained and travel between them is extremely difficult but not impossible. Trivana and Shahrivar are two continents in the "south east" section of the continents. The form and inhabitants of the continents vary dramatically – in some magic functions, in some technology functions, and in others both work to varying degrees.
Location 2? It's the Outer Planes on the Prime Material Plane (PMP). In the northwest region is the land of LG, a series of huge continents. LN is just south of there, one huge land mass. Conversely CE is in the south east area, a grouping of 666 continents and large islands of varying sizes. Distances between these masses are huge, making normal travel between them nearly impossible. Teleport works if (and only if) the being has a clear visualization of where they are going.
What prevents a demon from making its way to Trivana or Shahrivar and gating in its entire extended family? An idea I borrowed from Roger Zelazny.
Powerful beings draw their power from something. In the case of Outer Planar beings, it's a Place of Power. At their Place of Power each being is its strongest. The farther away from that place, the weaker the being becomes. Conversely major beings can be permanently slain only at or very near their place of power, making it a double-edged sword.
Side Note: Jxtl, the most powerful demon lord of my campaign, survived death several times as he built his stronghold just far enough away from his place of power that he would not be permanently slain. He used trickery and guile instead of raw power to build his empire. However ... the last time he rebuilt his stronghold he got a bit arrogant and was permanently slain by Gendin, a former Champion of Cieldren.
Surrounding the Prime Material Plane is the Ethereal and Astral Planes, existing concurrently but separately. The Ethereal Plane connects the PMP with the Inner planes, and is local to this PMP. It is not connected to the Ethereal surrounding Greyhawk or any other Alternate PMP (APMP).
The Astral Plane? It extends into other realities and is the highway to travel to APMPs. Through the Astral Plane beings may travel to Greyhawk, or to different "versions" of my PMP, or through time, or wherever a mentally twisted DM can think of.
Why did I choose this? It seemed like a good idea at the time and I haven't found any reason to go with a "standard" view of the multiverse, although I admit I intentionally set things up to interact with any other campaign world as needed via the Astral Plane. My solution intentionally does not invalidate any other solution.
The demi-human languages are identical everywhere in my campaign. This is a strength of the demi-humans, but also indicates a weakness. They are losing ground, slowly but surely, to the more numerous and faster reproducing humans and goblinoids, partially because none of the demi-humans change easily or well.
I could go more into the politics of the gods of my campaign, but I don't want to clue my players in on too much ...
As noted previously, I use Japanese words and terms for the ogre magi, including bastardizing words into something that works for me.
Oni refer to each other by title more often than names. Some terms I use are:
Chochenani - eldest brother
Onee-Chan - older sister
Imouto - younger sister
Otouto - younger brother
Eldest brother's name: Junichi – he will appear in later adventures, regardless of whether Renki survives or not.
The group located a downward sloping tunnel and marked it as the way down to the next level. Orcanus had seen nothing except during the brief trip from the outside to his cell, but heard his jailers talking about a lower level, that it was far too hot for frost giants, and that the clerics of the Sleeping One resided there. They searched the remainder of the level, finding no living beings, nothing other than refuse and detritus left behind by the fleeing goblinoids. They moved as quickly as they dared but it was about noon when they finished, so they stopped to rest and eat.
Afterwards they traveled down a corridor towards the tunnel down to the next level. As they passed a wall David stopped and looked at it oddly. Motioning the others back he warily poked it with his sword. Tentacles materialized from the wall and flailed at him. Ready for something to happen, he threw himself backwards and rolled out of the range of the tentacles. "If I hadn't expected something bad to happen they would have got me," he commented.
"Should we leave this behind us?" Jake asked. All agreed that having nothing between them and retreat was good. Jake became visible as he threw his sword. "CIELDREN!" The Hammer of Cieldren slammed into the center of the wall, spraying ichor twenty feet in all directions.
David looked at around disgustedly. "If no one knew we were here, THAT has been fixed." The mage thought a minute and continued, "even though you can't see it I'm wearing my 'Jake you're an idiot' face."
Jake hated being called an idiot. Especially by David. He scowled towards David's voice, "There is nothing on this level and my voice won't carry to the next one."
They started arguing about it when Bisonbit intervened. "How about we kill monsters rather than each other?" In reply Jake spun and threw the sword at the wall again, producing another spray of black ichor.
David shrugged and joined the others in sending a hail of sling bullets and arrows into the living wall. After several volleys the wall collapsed upon itself, leaving a ten feet wide opening in the wall.
Investigating, the party stepped over the thing, whatever it was, and discovered several chambers that were unique in that they had not be stripped of valuables. But they were empty of life.
Several connecting chambers were the living quarters of clerics of the Evil One. It appeared that the chambers had initially been well appointed, the furnishing of high quality. But nothing was well maintained. Costly tapestries depicting obscene rituals were smeared with unidentifiable substances; even if a buyer could be found for such scenes the tapestries were rendered valueless. Food and unidentifiable substances smeared the floor and furniture, which had been badly used.
The typical session of searching for valuable was short. David looked at the others - all had a look of disgust on their faces and Faraz looked nauseous. "I have the urge to Fireball this place," David commented. "Maybe on the way out."
The others looked at him and nodded. There was something about this place that put everyone off, even Renki. Tharizdun contaminated anything its presence touched. David's speech, the first in this place, signaled that it was time to leave and find the clerics who produced this mess.
Bisonbit was last out. He turned, his stomach in his throat. This presence was an abomination. He felt good about stamping it out and keeping it from spreading.
Now that everyone was visible Orcanus moved in the middle of the party. His borrowed daggers were belted at his waist and he had spell components borrowed from David tucked into secret pockets. He lacked all of his "normal" adventuring equipment but felt the best he had since that accursed ring dragged him from his home to this hostile world.
The oni scared the heck out of him. She distrusted him, and her people's reputation for cruelty and willingness to kill made him keep his distance from her, as much as he could. The entire situation was amazing – the oni were enemies with virtually every other race, especially the dwarves. Yet the body language of them all, including the oni, showed that they trusted each other implicitly. The idea of an ogre mage being friends and allies with humans and dwarves was astonishing. Who were these people who would take an oni into their midst and earn her trust?
The tunnel leading down sloped sharply, and while the floor was relatively smooth, the walls were not. All had to watch their footing, a fall would be painful given the roughness and slope. At least it was spacious, being roughly twenty feet high and wide. Only giants would find it claustrophobic.
Orcanus could not estimate the distance they went with any accuracy, but it felt like they traveled at least five hundred linear feet and descended at least one hundred feet. They were deep beneath the surface, at least by halfling standards. Eventually the tunnel opened into a rough cave that had multiple openings.
This was near-virgin cave, little shaped by intelligent hands. The floor had been smoothed in spots but was rough and far from even. Running would be difficult and prone to injury. While the ceiling ranged 15 to 20 feet above his head, the halfling felt the weight of the stone above him. He shivered.
Something occurred to Orcanus. "How do you humans see in the dark?" Dwarves, halflings, and ogre magi had infravision, the ability to see heat sources in the darkness. Humans lacked this ability.
"Potion of Infravision," Bisonbit replied. "Each flask has 7 portions and each portion is good for a full day."
David and Renki had two Invisibility spells left, and they volunteered to go invisible and scout the tunnels. While the others were not fond of dividing their forces, it made sense to scout out dangers instead of blundering into them.
The pair chose the left-most tunnel and moved cautiously down the tunnel, holding a length of rope to keep them together. The entire group had used invisibility enough that it wasn't as painful a process as it would be for the uninitiated. They moved quietly and cautiously, watching everything for heat sources. Given the deadly encounter with the Ogre Berserkers both kept an eye on the ceilings as well.
After what seemed like an eternity they came upon a cavern that stretched primarily north and south. Sticking with the plan of going left first, they turned south; around a protrusion spotted a handful of large beetle, probably 2' long each. They were easy to spot in the darkness as a large spot on their tail glowed with semi-bright light. Renki leaned down to David's height, found his shoulder, and whispered gently in his ear, "Fire beetles, no danger."
David nodded, then feeling foolish since she couldn't see him, whispered back, "Yes, let's go north."
Making their way back to the entrance tunnel they headed north in the cavern. The cavern was bean shaped at this point, curving towards the east. On top of a large flat rock the pair spotted a pair of large reptilian shapes, apparently sleeping. Both froze in place – they wanted no combat with dragons, not without the remainder of the party ready for action. As quietly as they could they reversed course and returned to the party. Along the way they realized that the several tunnels seemed to go primarily north. These tunnels shows some evidence of goblinoid traffic, evidence lacking in the tunnel leading to the dragons.
Finding the party again they huddled for a quick conference. David was excited and started outlining how they would slay the dragons. The party had fought dragons before and had acquitted themselves well.
Renki flatly vetoed the thought. "They are sleeping in a side cavern away from the tunnels we need to follow. There is no need for us to waste our resources and risk our lives."
David argued, "We don't leave dangers behind us!"
"Maybe so, but they are the lesser danger compared to the clerics of the Sleeping One!" The others backed Renki, so David grumblingly went along. He knew they could slay the dragons, but wasn't going to try it alone.
Scouting again, Renki and David found that the northward leading tunnels opened into a huge cavern. Several tunnels exited the cavern, including a large one to the north-east. A Light spell of some sort had been cast on a point in the middle of the ceiling, dimly illuminating the center of the cavern. Lying on a huge pile of coins, armor, and the like was a red dragon that dwarfed the other two dragons – in comparison they were tiny! Fortunately it was also sleeping so the pair retreated.
Rejoining the others all agreed that they could not leave this dragon untouched. They would have to pass it going north, and hopefully on their return assuming they survived. Dragons slept so lightly that it was unlikely that they would pass it once, much less twice.
So they prepared. A scroll of Protection from Breath Weapons had been found in the frost giant king's treasure trove. David suggested that Jake read it just before the attack. He could move away from the others and encourage it to breathe on him. His armor and strong constitution would protect him from physical attacks while he distracted the dragon from breathing on the others. With their attacks all hitting the dragon at once they would slay it quickly.
Jake was dubious but quickly got into the spirit of going toe-to-toe with a dragon. Without its breath weapon he felt it likely he would prevail. Orcanus blinked as the human agreed to go one-on-one with a dragon. Trilla looked upon her employer with pride and admiration. Bisonbit pinched his forehead and squinted at the sudden headache Jake's enthusiasm gave him ...
Moving quietly Jake got within 60' of the still sleeping dragon and cocked his sword back behind his right ear. He could hear the others invoking spells behind him, counting off the seconds as he had been instructed. He wondered that if dragons are so sensitive, why couldn't the dragon hear the spell casting?
At the end of the count Jake roared, "CIELDREN!!!!" and threw the sword. His spirit flying with the transformed Hammer of Cieldren, Jake took aim and bashed it in the ribs. The head sank easily into the beast's flesh before it hit something solid. Then his vision was obscured by the closely spaced arrival of an Ice Storm, two Cones of Cold, and a hail of missile fire. He blinked and was back in his body, his hand held out to catch the returning hammer. As it touched his palm it flashed from huge war hammer into the familiar hand-and-a-half bastard sword.
As the swirling ice and sleet dissipated Jake realized the dragon still lay there, untouched, sleeping through the entire attack. He heard Bisonbit say, "Wait a minute," and start a spell. At the conclusion of the short spell the dragon wavered and disappeared like an illusion. Exactly like an illusion.
The pile of treasure was real, now frosted in snow and ice. But in place of the dragon was a bull-shaped creature, frozen in place, its final agonies frozen in time along with its body. Note 23
Jake walked up to the pile and looked it over. He kicked it and it seemed quite solid. As he circled on the east side of the pile he heard several gasps from the group and turned to look at what startled them, and in seeing them all staring in fear behind HIM, he turned back just in time to see flames hot enough to instantly melt steel burst from three impossibly huge dragons' mouths, bathing him in blazing death!
Because of the illusion all physical attacks were at -4 to-hit. Even with this minus the gorgon was dead several times over. I exercised a LOT of self control in not putting my head down on the table and laughing. That poor gorgon never knew what hit it!!
It took Jake a moment to realize he wasn't dead. "The scroll worked!" he thought jubilantly! As the flames faded he saw blue flames surround the dragons, clearly lighting their forms in the gloom. In the poor light it looked like the dragons were constantly swapping places, making any one dragon hard to keep track of. Simultaneously he heard a dozen dwarven soldiers chanting a battle cry while a chorus of shield maidens sang a harmonic song of victory. His blood quickened and he felt the power of two gods in his veins, along with the certain knowledge of victory over the stupid beast. Note 24
The dragons blinked in surprise at Jake's uncharred form as two sets of Magic Missiles struck them. Unfortunately their innate resistance to magic shrugged off these attacks and the many missiles hissed into nothingness. Note 25
Jake cocked his sword behind his ear and threw at the center dragon as the dragons breathed on him again. The Hammer of Cieldren struck it squarely on the breast just as the flames enveloped the human soldier. The shock of the strike sent all three dragons reeling back so their fiery breaths painted an arc from Jake up to the ceiling. As the flames ended a mass of arrows and sling bullets struck all three dragons about the head, neck, and chest.
Two of the dragons winked into nothingness, leaving a single truly pissed off dragon roaring loud enough to shake the walls.
Always liking combat up close and personal, Jake caught his sword, charged the short distance, and slid into a lunge. The point of his sword shattered scales the size of Jake's head, piercing its chest. Jake ducked as a huge claw swept through where his chest had been, leaving him in no doubt that Death was waiting for him to make a mistake.
More missiles struck the dragon as Jake went wild with the sword. He slapped away claw strikes and cut a jowl as the dragon snapped at him. Enraged beyond human understanding the dragon went equally wild - snapping at, clawing, tail lashing, and wing drumming the frail human. Jake lasted through it all, dodging and weaving while the songs of the dwarves and shield maidens gave him greater courage and fortitude than normal. Throughout the battle the dragon ignored or didn't feel the arrows and sling bullets that struck it, enraged beyond mortal conception at the pitiful human that defied it. The dragon absorbed a Lightning Bolt from David with little obvious effect other than to make it roar louder!
The battle continued for another thirty seconds and even with the encouragement granted by the clerical spells it was clear that Jake was losing. The others continued to fire at the dragon, in some cases narrowly missing the doughty fighter in his bright silver armor and even brighter glowing sword. Trilla prepared to throw herself into the fray to help her employer.
Then an arrow buried itself in the dragon's left eye, inflicting horrible agony and giving Jake the chance he needed. The dragon snapped at a non-existent attacker on its left, and Jake lashed out with the Sword of Cieldren, slashing its throat, bathing him in a bucketsful of its boiling hot blood. In its death agonies the dragon did what it could not do intentionally - a tail lash knocked the small human down and bounced him across the floor. As he climbed wearily to his feet and the others rushed up, he watched the creature writhing across the floor and was glad he wasn't experiencing more of its death throes up close. Note 26
I was thinking recently about how Prayer works and what the characters experience, and this is my description of simultaneous spells from Gilden and Bisonbit. Describing how Mirror Image works was easier.
I give dragons magic resistance, typically 5% per hit die, sometimes 10% for the largest ones. Dragons should be VERY hard to kill IMO.
This was a brutal battle and the dragon's magic resistance made most of the spells tried ineffective. Still, assisted by missile fire Jake was a match for the dragon, having an excellent AC and 2 attacks per round that inflict serious damage due to strength and magic. This reinforces my thought that AD&D dragons need some beefing.
I’m thinking of going to d12's for HD, in addition to giving them extra attacks based upon an article from Dragon Magazine in the 80's. All my dragons are spell using, and that needs beefing up a bit, the spell counts listed in the MM are ok at lower levels but ....
Besides, when the party gangs up on one monster, the monster loses. When the monster has mooks to keep the party busy, things are dramatically altered. I ran this encounter more-or-less as written. I don't generally let a poor dragon face that nasty 'ole party by himself ...
Jake beheaded the dragon to ensure it wasn't faking. He didn't think it was, but better safe than sorry. Or clawed, or bit, or burned, or ...
Bisonbit and Gilden checked Jake. He had some relatively minor cuts, a lot of bruises, cracked ribs, and had torqued his left knee during the dragon's death throes. He could stand but struggled with a heavy limp. Prayers to their respective deities left Jake feeling MUCH better. He flexed his left leg and said his thanks to both Demeter and Cieldren.
Jake was normally clueless about personal interactions but he realized there was competition between Bisonbit and Gilden with respect to himself. Others saw conflict with his roles as a devout follower of Demeter and as the second champion of Cieldren. The master swordsman didn't understand that at all. The two gods had things worked out to their satisfaction, there was never any issue about what he should do, so in his mind there was no problem.
Bisonbit had been Jake and David's tutor since they were 8 years old. Five years older than them, he had known early what he wanted to do with his life - to be a soldier cleric of Demeter. Part of being a good soldier was being a good scholar, and teaching is the best way to improve knowledge; hence he had been assigned as tutor to the pair of unruly children. Jake privately thought that the pedantic Bisonbit irritated Galafid, the high priest of Demeter in Kerr, and assigned him to teach Jake and David as punishment.
When Jake and David started adventuring at age 17, immediately after the death of Jake's grandparents Marissa and Trajan, Bisonbit had left the temple to travel with them. Jake didn't understand Bisonbit's reasons for doing so, it seemed to be the opposite of what he had talked about all the time. His goals had been healing and scholarship and defending the temple. Grubbing after treasure didn't fit.
In any case, Bisonbit felt personal responsibility for Jake AND it was known that Cieldren had made attempts to poach Jake into becoming a follower of the dwarven god. In addition to personal concerns the cleric was looking out for Demeter's interests ... but that wasn't a problem either way, not from Jake's point of view.
Gilden? Most of the time the dwarf seemed human, but once in a while he said or did something that made it crystal clear that he wasn't. While they had built a strong friendship, since the dwarf had reforged Jake's Sword of Giant Killing into the second Sword of Cieldren his overriding motive was obvious, he was tending to Cieldren's interests. But sometimes Gilden looked at Jake with an intensity and, well, devotion - that scared Jake.
Cieldren? The dwarven god made Jake uncomfortable. It was obvious that dwarves enjoyed a tighter personal relationship with their gods, while most human gods were aloof. Jake had certainly had more conversations with Cieldren than Demeter ... although the fact that either god had spoken with him was actually quite amazing! Jake was so used to having amazing things happen that he stopped thinking about, until he started thinking about it. Characteristically Jake shrugged everything off and turned his attention to the treasure.
Trilla, Faraz, and Orcanus were set as guards while the others examined the treasure pile. Fortunately the dragon had not breathed on the treasure in its efforts to kill Jake, and the cold-based attacks used on the gorgon had done no obvious damage.
The treasure was impressive to see. Mounds of coins of all types, with gold and platinum strongly represented. Damaged armor had formed part of the dragon's bed, while undamaged armor and shields stood against the far wall, along with a multitude of weapons of all types, and a few large chests. David invoked a Detect Magic spell and quickly scanned everything. None of the coins glowed in his sight, nor did any of the armor. A long sword glowed dimly as did a few rings and a chest. A quick check found nearly a dozen potions well-padded in the chest.
"What do you think the take is?" Gilden asked in general.
Jake, David, and Bisonbit looked at each other and shrugged. David answered, "The coins are too mixed to make more than a vague guess. Maybe 10 or 15 thousand." Jake and Bisonbit both wrinkled their foreheads and nodded in agreement.
The group unfolded a Portable Hole and Gilden cast Silence 15' Radius on a copper piece. In the silence of the spell they shoveled mounds of coins into the Hole, placing the long sword and potions on top. Folding up the Hole they agreed that the northeast tunnel showed the most traffic and seemed to be the best choice of direction. Note 27
Orcanus was surprised at the group's efficiency. Everyone seemed to know their job and they worked quickly. He realized that without the silence spell the noise of the coins pouring into the Hole would have been deafening. It occurred to him that getting the coins out of the hole was going to be back breaking!
Reforming ranks they started up the northeast tunnel.
Historically I've given every party a Portable Hole and at least one Bag of Holding. This party has 2 Portable Holes ... because I forgot I they had one and gave them a second.
I make it easy to get normal things like coins out of a dungeon, reserving creativity for non-standard things. I get bored with repetitive things like figuring out how to get coins out, I'm more interested in how they're going to move a twenty feet marble statue.
Of course, I enforce item saving throws when a creature fails theirs ... so all this cool magic can and will be destroyed, eventually. Portable Holes and Bags of Holding are a trade off, ease of use vs. loss of items when someone blows a saving throw. I've never run an adventure of the party scouring the Astral Plane looking for an important item lost when a Portable Hole went kaput. Next time the party loses one of their Holes sounds like the right time ...
Moving again without light, the party moved slowly and carefully up the north east tunnel, which arced back toward the west. After a hundred feet smaller side tunnels appeared to the southwest and northeast. David gestured to the south and when no one disagreed, started cautiously down the tunnel. This tunnel was a lot smaller, maybe 12' wide and high. Giants would find it tight, but even Renki's 8' height found it comfortable. Note 28
Jake and David moved ahead of the others. After forty feet the tunnel opened up into a cave. On the far side of the cave, their bodies the same temperature as the stone, stood frost giant zombies. They were nearly invisible until they moved, lumbering forward to attack.
Keyed up for anything, the two soldiers unlimbered their crossbow and bow, respectively, snapped off a shot and retreated.
Each used a special missile they had got off the bodies of the Chaos Apes during the trip to the frost giant hall. David's choice burst into a Fireball that lit the room like the noon sun, and Jake's bolt invoked a Lightning bolt on impact. None of the zombies dropped, and being zombies they didn't pound out the flames on their clothing and hair, but the double impact rocked them back and gave the humans time to reload and start retreating.
As they retreated back the way they came, each fired additional normal missiles at the leading zombies. Their attention caught by the double flash of fire and lightning, the remaining party members moved forward and their hail of arrows and sling bullets arched over Jake and David's heads into the zombies.
Gilden pushed between Jake and David to charge the zombies, brandishing his axe. In his haste his first swing missed, bringing him dangerously close to the marauding fists of a second giant. Jake, David, and Bisonbit hit the first one in line as it turned to follow Gilden. Their weapons pierced undead flesh and blasted the thing into the oblivion from which it sprang.
Unable to fight with hand weapons in the tight tunnel, Renki, Trilla, and Faraz fired arrows into the much taller giant zombies, while Orcanus ensured nothing struck them unaware from behind. All he had to throw was his daggers and he wasn't about to throw away his only weapons. He considered spells but the others had things in control. He shivered with the thought that these people thought nothing of going toe-to-toe with undead giants.
Narrowly dodging blows, Gilden was unable to get a solid hit on the second zombie. The deadly flashing light of his axe did not appear, and his frustration was apparent in his wild swings. He narrowly dodged a clubbing from the third zombie as he tried to maneuver behind the second. Fortunately the narrow-to-giants tunnel kept them single file.
Missile fire and hand attacks quickly finished the second undead, while Gilden futilely dance with the third. He could not get a solid hit to save his life ... which it definitely would.
The remaining four zombies dropped one after another. Gilden couldn't get a good hit on any of them so the magical light of his axe eluded him. The burns the zombies had received from the magical arrow and bolt were severe, leaving them vulnerable to the party's weapons. Gilden was completely put out by his inability to get a solid hit. Everyone knew his bad mood wouldn't last, but while it did he wasn't worth talking to. Note 29
Orcanus breathed a sigh of relief as the last zombie went down. The others retrieved undamaged arrows and sling bullets and prepared to move on.
The MM lists ogre magi as 10'+ in height. I run them as a bit bigger than regular ogres. Their abilities make them scarier, not their size.
When rolling attacks for Gilden, Patrick generally has a hard time hitting, and when he does hit it's always low damage. His other characters hit fine (especially Jake) but Gilden doesn't often get a break in combat. The earlier combat against zombies was unusual in that he got three great hits in a row. It was fun to experience!
I run a halfling cleric/thief (Philo) in Eric's campaign. Philo hits great on backstabs but then I'll miss 10 swings in a row in regular combat. Sometimes the dice ARE against us!
With the last zombie down each checked the others for injury. No one had been hit although Gilden bruised his shoulder against a wall while evading a wild swing. A quick check of this cave turned up nothing of interest. Without discussion everyone turned to resume their exploration.
The northern passage was a similar narrow tunnel ending in a similar cave. The only real difference was the lack of undead, which no one minded.
The large tunnel continued its arc until it ran towards the southwest. Having a dwarf in the party helped as Gilden could often determine depth and direction by means unfathomable to the humans. In dwarf form David could, as well, but he found himself unable to explain how in words humans could make sense of.
The tunnel ran another hundred feet or so and opened up into a brightly lit area. From their vantage point it appeared that the large cave opened to the northwest. The bright red light was unusual, none had seen anything like it. The air was warmer here, the typical cave dampness missing. This had been so for a while but none had consciously realized it.
Per usual, David suggested that he and Renki go invisible and scout. No one had a better idea so the pair cast their spells. As they walked quietly to the entrance the air grew quickly warmer to make a summer day feel cool. They found a huge cavern dominated by a stream of lava that flowed from northeast to southwest, bisecting the cavern. An arching stone bridge allowed access to the other side. From the forges and tools scattered around the near area, this was the forge of the fire giants who originally built the keep. It was well over one hundred degrees F in the room so there was little chance of encountering frost giants.
Scattered around the area were a number of humans in chain mail and splinted mail armor, carrying mostly long swords and bows. They milled around and spoke together, although the words could not be distinguished. Figures moved on the other side of the lava but were hard to see clearly through the hyper-heated air above the lava. The pair quickly agreed via whispers to report back.
"We need to know what's on the other side of the lava," Bisonbit stated. Others nodded in agreement, and agreed to David's suggestion that he and Renki use Spider Climb to run along the ceiling and investigate the far side of the bridge.
Holding a piece of rope to keep them together, David and Renki re-entered the cavern and walked up a wall and across the ceiling. The heat along the ceiling was fierce, easily 120 degrees, but they persevered and ran above the lava.
About five minutes after David and Renki left, a shout was heard down the tunnel. Several figures appeared at the tunnel entrance with bows drawn. Arrows flashed at the party but the heroes must have been difficult to see in the gloom so the arrows all missed. Bisonbit whipped out his favored Wand of Cold and invoked an Ice Storm in the entrance, stopping all missile fire. The party charged to the edge of the ice storm to wait for it to end. Note 30
On the other side of the bridge David and Renki could see creatures like the ones Jake fought in the throne room. Several resembled humanoid octopi, with tentacles for arms and legs and a horror for a head, a cross between a human head and an octopus' body, having two luminous eyes, no visible mouth, but a fringe of small tentacles on the chin. One, deferred to by the others, held a stone chalice of a sickening green hue which pulsed with internal light in an arrhythmic pattern that made both of the mortals nauseous. David felt his gorge rising and managed to keep his lunch down by will of force. From the strangled grunt Renki made he understood she was in similar straits.
The leader octopus thing held the chalice out to a hybrid, a former human whose head and torso were mostly human but appeared wrong at that distance, with tentacles for arms and legs. It deftly took the chalice with its arm tentacles and drank from it. It handed the chalice back and went into convulsions, emitting a strangled groan that echoed weirdly across the cavern as the others around it chanted in a language that was long dead before the earliest dwarf saw the light of day.
As David and Renki watched in horror, the poor creature's head and torso pulsed and writhed like something was struggling to get out of a sack, and its groan became more strangled. The hair fell out explosively and the head expanded to become a octopus-body shape, exactly like that of the chalice holder. The skin of the body changed to a black rubbery substance identical to the tentacles and head, and it's shape became a hideous parody of a human torso. Later neither David nor Renki would ever find words to explain the utter wrongness of this scene.
The leader handed the chalice to a normal human standing nearby.
Before he could drink David managed to sputter, "Kill them!" and invoked a Fireball.
Renki quickly followed suit and in quick succession a pair of Fireballs exploded among the creatures. The normal humans spun away from the flames, hair and clothing on fire. Several of the hybrids screamed in agony, while other hybrids and the pure octopus horrors stood unharmed, lifting their gaze to their attackers. Note 31
Other nearby humans drew bows and rained arrows into the pair. Dodging arrows made spell casting impossible so both drew their bows and returned fire. They were badly outnumbered and their aim was good, but not good enough. They could not get a good hit on any of their attackers. The chief monster passed the chalice among its followers, creating more and more tentacled horrors.
After several flights of arrows Renki sensed the building of magic and screamed, "RUN!"
She and David went in different directions as a clerical Flamestrike formed below them and slammed upward into the ceiling with a roar! Both were caught by the edge of it. David pounded out flames on his robe, more scared than hurt. Renki looked about the same. The rain of arrows ceased with the Flamestrike so David took the opportunity to yell, "Retreat!". The young mage turned and ran back towards the entrance with the oni right on his heels. Note 32
Several arrows chipped the ceiling around their feet as they ran above the lava, lending speed to their flight.
David saw that their friends were beleaguered, forming a half circle across the tunnel entrance to limit the numbers that could attack them. Some of the human servants of the Sleeping God were frozen from the ice storm in parodies of anguish, while bloodied bodies littered the stone floor. But more servants were eager to join battle, the death of their brethren not reducing their urges in the least, not one little bit.
As the ice storm ended Bisonbit called out, "Form a line, don't let them through!" The cleric took his place in the middle with Trilla on his right, Orcanus, Jake, and Faraz on his left. The battle chant of a dozen dwarven soldiers filled his mind and calmed him – trust Gilden to prep things in their favor. Faraz did his part as well - purple flames outlined the nearest charging human warriors as bolts of magical blue fire sprang from Orcanus' finger tips to strike the nearest attackers.
Then all thoughts stopped as battled ensued. The battle cleric caught an overhand strike on his shield as his spear licked out, puncturing his attacker's armor on his left breast. His attacker fell back and another took his place.
Orcanus knew there was no time for further spells. He yanked both daggers from their sheaths and was nearly driven to his knees as he caught an overhead strike with crossed daggers. The halfling was only slightly larger than half his attacker's height, but halflings were surprisingly hardy and strong for their size. He blocked the strike and thrust upward with his daggers, clearing his way to counter attack.
Being short has advantages as his over confident attacker discovered to his chagrin. As the human drew his weapon back for another strike, the halfling recovered his footing, and lashed out in a swift one-two against his opponent's relatively unarmored knees. The non-magical dagger notched on the hard steel, but the magical one punctured the armor and drew a line of blood. It wasn't a deep or debilitating wound, but it stopped the next blow. Fast as a striking snake Orcanus repeated the strikes on the other knee as the human vainly protected the wounded one. He went down hard. The halfling wanted to finish the downed man but the next one was stepping forward, so he contented himself with stomping on his face. The human wasn't dead but he wasn't getting up soon, either, especially with his successor standing on his chest in his eagerness to get at the halfling. Orcanus was far from being a cruel being, but he wanted to die from old age.
As her first attacker charged, his sword raised high, Trilla lashed out with a front kick to his belly. Her leg was far longer than his arm so her swift strike hit him before he could hit her, stopping him as surely as if he ran into a log. The force of the strike bent him over as his sword went flying over her head. She pulled her hip back, leaned away from him and spun around, and struck with a spinning back kick. He flew backwards into the two behind him, knocking them all down. Trilla prepared for the one that stepped over their prone bodies.
Faraz caught a blow on his shield and struck back immediately as his opponent withdrew his weapon for another strike. The blow caught the top of his opponent's shield, hacking off a piece, the point of the scimitar spanning the distance and cutting a line across his chin. They traded several blows until the druid abruptly shifted his high attacks and crunched through the armor on the human's hip. He went to his left in agony as Faraz kicked him backwards, down and out of the fight.
His spell cast Gilden joined the line, catching the first blow on his shield, deftly turning it aside and swinging his axe in a horizontal arc that scored the chainmail on the human's belly. Gilden's blows came from every possible angle, never the same twice. His opponent's attacks were not sufficient to get through, but neither was his defense bad enough that the dwarf could get in a telling hit. After trading blows for an eternity, maybe ten seconds, the magically sharp axe slashed through the chain on the attacker's right side, a reverse blow that caught him as he was twisting back from dodging the previous swing. He fell like a rock from a height, swiftly and abruptly. Gilden's immediate slash at the next human opponent caused him to stop.
Jake's first attacker emulated his brethren, charging with sword held high for a powerful downward slash. His bastard sword longer than the attacker's long sword, he simply drove the point through the chainmail of his chest and out his back. Kicking the body off his sword Jake caught the next one's slash and deflected it into the ground with a spray of sparks. He kick this one in the knee, and spinning brought the sword down on the joint between neck and shoulder, biting deeply and fatally.
Wrenching the sword from the corpse the human sword master stepped forward over the bodies, out of line, deflected his third opponent's slash and spun, lashing his sword across a fourth attacker's belly. The armor held, barely, against his magically sharp blade but the force of the blow knocked him back three steps, crashing him into the next man behind him. The third one was quick, he recovered and drove his point into Jake's chest.
Deftly Jake side stepped the thrust and cut the armor on the right arm, drawing blood. The man was nearly as a fast as the Champion of Cieldren but the slight wound slowed him just slightly and in the third clash of swords missed his block and died vainly.
Jake stepped back in line, ready to take on his next opponent. He wasn't breathing hard but he could see everyone else was. The others were all good soldiers, but none except David trained for stamina the way the short human did.
As Renki and David crossed above the lava they could see their friends all bore wounds, none obviously serious, but all were tiring and still badly outnumbered. From the ceiling the pair cast spells, Renki dropping a Stinking Cloud on the right side while David invoked a flight of Magic Missiles to cut down several of the wounded who prepared to rejoin the fight. Renki hit the milling followers of Tharizdun with a Fireball and David repeated his success with another flight of Magic Missiles. Hearing shouts behind them they ran down the wall and then hit their friends' attackers from behind, cutting down several and making a passage through the line.
The strike from behind evened the odds considerably. Everyone bore wounds but none were serious and the sudden attack cause a pause in battle, wherein the party watched their enemies and caught their breath.
A cry from the top of the bridge dragged all eyes to it. There stood the leader thing holding the chalice, surrounded by a large number of identical octopus things.
"This is going to suck," David commented as battle resumed.
"CIELDREN!!!!" Jake screamed and the Hammer of Cieldren struck a charging octopus thing, bowling it over and blowing it back twenty feet. The others hacked at the much closer human attackers.
Jake caught the hammer and prepared for another throw.
"JAKE!!!!" David yelled. "HIT THE CHALICE!!!"
The human soldier shifted his aim and threw, his battle cry echoing off the walls and shaking the massive stone walls of the cavern. As his spirit flew with the transformed hammer Jake felt the dwarven god join with him, lending him strength and power beyond mortal comprehension. Jake-the-spirit flashed to a stop in front of the chief octopus thing, measured the distance, and hit the chalice with all the power he could muster.
At the point of impact.
After a short eternity time inched forward.
The Carnith Chalice exploded away from the point of impact in a spray of green fragments. Each tiny piece went straight through anything in its path like a sword through water. Jake watched the shards punch straight through all the nearby monstrosities without slowing, even plunging through stone. As each shard struck anything it fragmented further, transitioning from shards into a fine mist.
A shield of translucent white light flared between the shards and Jake. Then something detonated in the space where the chalice had been, an explosion of green chaotic energy. The shield was buffeted by energy beyond Jake's worst nightmare, but the shield held.
He blink and was back in his body as the Sword of Cieldren flew into his hand. His friends had been dashed to the ground by the explosion and were groggily picking themselves up as rock dust rained down upon them. The human followers of Tharizdun around them were all dead. Nothing remained of the bridge or anything that had been on it, although farther downstream a slab of rock lay across the lava, forming a new bridge. The survivors all coughed from the rock dust that filled the air.
As the rock dust thinned Jake realized it was quite bright in the cavern, brighter than the lava. It took his befuddled mind a few moments to process the fact that the deep cavern they fought in was exposed to sunlight. The entire roof of the cavern, hundreds of feet of solid rock, had been completely blown away. The far walls had been gouged away to form a crude ramp up to the surface. Looking around, he realized this entire section of the bluff had been completely blown away. He could see huge blocks of stone raining down in the distance.
Cieldren had exerted his might to protect them. Maybe Demeter, too. Without divine intervention there would be nothing left of the bluff or the mighty giant-built keep that stood atop it.
Everyone was on their feet, somewhat worse for the wear. All were coated in rock dust, blood, and general filth. Trilla commented abstractly, "I'm going to need three baths to feel right again." She hawked and spit a gob of rock dust. "Maybe five."
Faraz mimicked her action and replied, "Just be glad that you can feel anything." He hacked up more rock dust and spit a gross colored gob. "What happened?" he asked of no one in particular.
Jake realized they were all stunned, but were quickly coming around. "I broke the chalice." Drawing a breath Jake continued, "It exploded when I hit it. Cieldren put a shield between us and the explosion." Looking around at where thousands of tons of rock used to be he said, "That is why this," pointing to the rock behind them, "doesn't look like that," gesturing to the nothingness. Everyone, including Renki, audibly expressed their thanks to Cieldren. Note 33
Everyone checked everyone else for injuries. Outside of scrapes, bruises, and minor cuts, the worst injury was exhaustion. The clerics and Faraz invoked their gods to heal and restore themselves and their friends. Renki realized that she accepted the healing spells from the clerics as matter of course, no longer the freezing when a dwarf invoked magic upon her, as Gilden did now. She smiled her thanks at the little dwarf, a true oni smile, and he did not blanch as he formerly did at the display of her teeth.
David looked down the tunnel and saw that it was collapsed a ways in. "Guess we're not going out the way we came in." Looking at Renki he said, "You were right, there was no need to deal with the other dragons." Everyone roared with laughter.
Gilden stated the obvious, "Guess we climb up that new slope," gesturing up the incline. Fortunately the slope was shallow and the vertical distance only about fifty feet.
Note to self: Put less charges on wands in the future ...
I tend to give a lot of higher level monsters some magic resistance. Higher level magic users tend to roast/fry/freeze large groups of monsters, while light magic resistance increases the challenge. Typically enough survive to make things interesting, although the dice are fickle. Encounters with high magic resistance monsters have gone the party's way because the monsters all blew their MR roll, and battles with mooks have gone against the party because the monsters rolled well.
Yes, a Flamestrike onto the ceiling instead of the ground. [shrug] It made sense at the time. :-)
In a multi-theistic society it's not unusual to honor other gods for their help, real or imagined. In the case of D&D the help may often be very real.
The group helped each other up the slope. While the healing magic had closed wounds and restored vigor, the letdown of the last hour had taken its toll upon them. All were tired down to their bones, eager for a good rest. As they reached the edge of the slope onto the ground level that was formerly below the rocky outcrop the hall of the frost giant clerics had stood on, two things caught their attention.
The forest was flattened in an arc over a mile out and possibly eight miles across at the far edge, easily one-third of a huge disk. In the first half mile of the area everything was completely gone, scoured by flying rock. After that? Bouncing boulders had done a decreasingly sharp clean sweep of the forest. Trees and boulders were piled up in the distance, and in front the wrack stood some shredded stumps of trees.
More immediately, goblinoids filled the devastated area. A milling mass containing thousands of kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, norkers, and gnolls. Spotted in that mass were clumps of bugbears and ogres, and more sparsely but easily numbering in the hundreds were giants - hill, stone, frost, fire, and even a few cloud giants. A veritable army faced the party, some only a hundred feet away. They stood in total silence looking at the small mob that clambered out of what must have been hell.
"This is going to suck," David commented.
Renki straightened to her full height and stepped forward, arrogantly facing the rabble. Behind her the others forgot their bone weariness and snapped to full attention.
"WE ARE THE REAVERS!!!" Her voice echoed across the cleared area. The nearest goblinoids took a step back, pressing against the ones behind them. She scanned the army from right to left and back again.
"WE KILLED ALL THE CLERICS OF THE SLEEPING ONE!!!" Quietly she said, "Jake, draw the sword and come up beside me." As he reached her side, "Can you transform the sword into the hammer without throwing it?"
"I think so. It won't happen as fast."
"Good. We need to make an impression on them or they're going to stomp us into the ground."
"WE ARE LEAVING!!! GET OUT OF OUR WAY OR THE DEFENSELESS ONE'S CHAMPION WILL KILL YOU ALL!!!"
Behind her David said, "Crap. This is going to be interesting."
Understanding the cue Jake held up the Sword of Cieldren and willed it to transform into the Hammer. Slowly it shimmered and morphed from a three foot blade into a massive hammer, not like a normal war hammer. It was huge, too huge to be properly wielded yet the human soldier held it casually as if it weighed nothing.
Bisonbit commanded, "Form an arc. No one in the middle. Draw weapons slowly and look like you're going to kill them all if they don't get out of the way." Everyone quickly moved into position, drawing weapons. Even in the sunlight the magic weapons carried by every member of the party stood out, a terrifying sight to behold. Orcanus felt insignificant as he drew his daggers, but he glared death at the nearest goblinoids, a half dozen gnolls who gobbled at him in obvious terror.
Jake started walking towards the northwest where their camp lay. Directly in his path was a fire giant, and the human looked him directly in the eyes. While the party understood the goblinoid common language, none were truly fluent with it so Renki continued issuing commands. Besides, her voice carried better and it was more fearsome that the remainder of the group looked silently deadly.
"GO HOME!!!" she commanded, looking at the same giant. "GO!!! OR YOUR CITY WILL LOOK LIKE THIS!!!" she half turned, gesturing at the gaping wound in the ground behind her.
The orcs and gnolls in front of the giant melted to both sides and Jake got to see what a frightened giant looked like. "Not all that different from a person." The giant hesitated a moment and moved quickly back towards the city, his massive legs plowing aside and bowling over the lesser goblinoids in his haste.
The giant was the key. Slowing at first, gaining second-by-second momentum, the goblinoids turned and fled back to their city. Within five minutes none were in sight. Jake reverted his weapon to the sword form and sheathed it. The others sheathed their weapons as well and they moved at a trot towards their hidden camp. Weariness from the terrible battle fell aside in the face of the need to be gone.
At the camp supplies were hidden, nothing looked much like a camp. They dug out trail rations and fresh water to refresh themselves, collected their belongings, and immediately moved south. No point in being around if an entire city of goblinoids got over its collective fright and decided they COULD kill a mere 5 humans, a dwarf, an ogre mage, and a tiny unknown creature. They walked until dusk and setup camp. They took turns bathing in the nearby stream and cleaning the worst mud and blood off their clothing and armor. With eight people they set four watches and settled for the night.
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas