Sunday, March 5, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Session # 7 [RPG]

27 Rova 4707 (continued)

The adventurers, along with Vachedi and Sabyl Sorn, begin walking back down the tunnel towards the mysterious chambers they were forced to retreat from just hours prior.  But as they reach the point where the tunnel turns from west to north, Daviren Hosk appears with a message for Vachedi.  The adventurers can't hear their conversation, but it's clearly heated and at one point the two scuffle before Felix intervenes and breaks it up.  Vachedi stalks off back towards the basement of the Glassworks, while Daviren explains that he's gone to fetch something to aid the adventurers on their mission and they should wait for his return.  The stable-master goes on to say that Mayor Deverin has asked him and Sabyl Sorn to separately scout the other two branches of the tunnel to ensure Sandpoint can't be invaded from any previously-unknown entrances to this subterranean network.  The two head off on their mission, leaving the adventurers to wait for Vachedi's return.

Sometime later, the town jailer does arrive pushing a wheeled cage.  Inside, bound to an upright wooden-frame, is a masked, heavily-muscled figured.  Vachedi scowls as he starts the laborious process of unlocking the multiple sets of restraints that keep this figure restrained.  Vachedi tells the others to watch their backs before sighing and unlocking the final restraint.  The figure steps out of the cage as Vachedi kicks over a bag of gear, and the former prisoner starts donning armor, weapons, and a strange mask from the bag.  Vachedi gives a meaningful look to Felix before heading back down the tunnel.

Nedrin, with and without mask.
In a deep, gravelly voice, the newcomer asks for a report on the nature and disposition of enemy forces.  The others provide a summary and the whole group begins marching again.  Soon, the rough-hewn tunnel reaches the point where the adventurers were first attacked by a strange monster in these catacombs.  This time, no monster lurks in the side chamber but a giggling voice taunts them from further north.  It is clearly Erylium, and she says that she's ruled this "empire" for thousands of years and that the adventurers are foolish to return, for they will surely meet their doom just as their wizard companion did.  The adventurers follow the sound down the tunnel until it turns to the right and emerges in a chamber of worked stone with three passages (north, south, and east) branching off.  In the center of this room stands a red marble statue of a beautiful, enraged woman holding a glittering metal-and-ivory ranseur in one hand and a book with a strange seven-pointed star on the cover in her other hand.  Bey's research into ancient Thassilon leads her to believe that the star symbol is called a Sihedron, and that each of the seven points represent one of the types of Sin Magic, which is how Thassilonian wizards divided schools of magic.  The statue matches the medallion previously worn by Xeveg, and clearly depicts Alaznist, the Lord of Wrath.

A Sihedron from Ancient Thassilon
The mocking voice of Erylium continues from the north.  The adventurers know they're being led into a trap, but they're determined not to let the quasit escape them again.  They soon find themselves atop a rickety wooden platform overlooking a large stone chamber with several barred cells.  When they get close to the edge of the platform, two of the monsters with three-fingered hands attack from the darkness under the platform, trying to knock the intruders to the ground!  The battle is hard-fought by both sides, but soon the adventurers emerged bloodied but victorious.  Erylium's voice echoes from the west, stating that she's sending another gift now that her "sinspawn" have properly welcomed the group.  The adventurers hear the sound of something moving towards them quickly and take up defensive positions.  Seconds later, a massive three-armed, deformed goblin charges into the fray!  But the adventurers were ready for them, and he's dropped in seconds.  The group’s new ally, who gives his name as Nedrin, quickly strips the attacker of weapons. The adventurers conduct a search of the chamber and notice that one of the cells has a secret tunnel leading to the rough-hewn passages that brought them to this underground complex.  But unbeknownst to the adventurers, the strange goblin attacker possessed the ability to heal his own wounds!  He rises to do battle again, but is again defeated and this time the group show him no mercy, stomping his skull into thin paste.

Korvus, Mutated Goblin
During the battle, Nedrin briefly removes his mask and is revealed to be a member of the militaristic and expansionist race known as hobgoblins!  His new companions pay little mind, however.

Erylium mocks the group again, but Felix discerns the tremor in her voice that makes him realize she is actually terrified and is just trying to lure them away from the cathedral.  The adventurers give chase and reach an ancient interrogation chamber full of rusty torture devices.  A small chamber to the south is filled with rubble and debris, but Bey cleverly uses a spell to determine that there is one item of note within: a black vellum scroll that is magical.

The adventurers continue to the east and see a large chamber that features large square wooden boards in a regular pattern on the stone floor, with another passageway heading south.  Strange moaning sounds can be heard from somewhere below.  Erylium makes herself visible, obviously hoping to trick the adventurers into treading on the boards, but they're too clever and avoid them when they attack.  Erylium still has some tricks up her sleeve, however, and uses powerful magic to make Bey fall asleep.  And then, the tiny demon manages to push the adventurer onto one of the wooden boards, which collapses and sends her tumbling into a deep pit containing an undead abomination!  The other adventurers frantically try to both contain Erylium and rescue Bey, but succeeding on both tasks simultaneously is difficult.  Oliver tries to fashion a make-shift lasso to grab onto Bey, but his wild swing instead entangles Felix!  Fortunately, Bey wakes up after being repeatedly smashed by her zombie attacker and manages to climb out of the pit on her own, just seconds before she would have succumbed.

Nedrin fires a powerful composite bow at Erylium and his arrows seem to have an effect.  When she flies close to the ground, Felix leaps on her and locks his grip tight.  The seconds that follow see everyone trying to stab, cut, and stomp their demonic tormentor until Erylium pleads for mercy and even telepathically offers to make Felix her "general" if he lets her go.  But when he angrily refuses, she summons all of her wiliness for one last desperate maneuver.  She slips free of his grasp just long enough to roll onto one of the wooden boards herself, fall into the pit, and then fly free!  Near death, she turns invisible and flies away frantically.  The adventurers give chase to the west but can't keep up with her.

They decide that they should seek out what she obviously cares about the most: the strange pool of orange liquid in the cathedral.  They find their way back to the shrine adjacent to the cathedral and realize that Erylium has set one of her minions to guard the chamber.  This strange creature looks like a demon's head with bat-wings, but although it unleashes a piercing shriek to paralyze its foes, the adventurers' anger and frustration give them strength and they resist the effects.  The last sentinel before the cathedral is quickly and efficiently slain.

Twice now the heroes of Sandpoint have fought Erylium, and twice now she's escaped their clutches.  The adventurers are badly hurt and low on resources, but Erylium has unleashed her "armies" on the group to no avail.  A third, and final battle, is ahead, and only one side will emerge victorious . .  .
Director's Commentary (6/03/2017)

I was quite proud of the introduction of Nedrin, the new PC being ran by the player who previous ran Xeveg.  I went full on "Hannibal Lecter" and thought it was pretty cool.  I don't know if the players care a lot, but I always try to find new and interesting ways to introduce new PCs.  Surprisingly, no one batted an eyelash (in-character or out) that the new PC was a hobgoblin, which was mildly disappointing from an RP perspective.

Erylium's ambush plan was pretty good and in-character for her, but the PCs had no difficulty with any of her minions.  Indeed, Koruvus, this three-armed mutant goblin with a terrifying picture, got curb-stomped and I don't think he even did a point of damage to the PCs.  The battle against Erylium was another long, frustrating one, and I think I was hoping for her death as much as the PCs.  Still, I had to play with as much cunning as a I could.  I made a rules mistake when it came to Bey and the zombie pit--I forgot that the first time the zombie did damage to her, she should instantly wake up.  I'm really glad she survived, because I would have felt quite guilty if my mistake had led to a PC death.

It's kind of funny that many gaming groups happen to skip the Catacombs of Wrath altogether, whereas my group spent three full sessions on it . . .

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