Hello again, dear readers! I have returned with further tales of adventure within the World's Largest Dungeon! When we last left off, the minotaur Kylix had made a brave sacrifice to get his companions safely through the territory of his former tribe. Unfortunately, he was separated from Fizzwidget and Hantash as soon as they stepped into the warp gate used to escape the Labyrinth. Amnesiac and confused, Kylix found himself among a strange new group of adventurers with an important mission of their own, a mission that could reveal a new threat behind an old foe!
DAYS 421-423 MYSTERY OF THE VAMPIRE CULT!
featuring The World’s Largest Adventuring Party:
Morg – Goblin Ranger
Nicholas Lightwalker – Aasimar Life Oracle
Jitters – Ratfolk Ninja
Recnac – Human Paladin of Irori
“The minotaur is under the effect of an enchantment,” Shi explained to the adventurers gathered within the halls of the Wolag. Jitters, Nicholas, Recnac and Morg had led the befuddled beastman to their base of operations after discovering him wandering near an entrance to Region F. “I can break the spell, but I don’t know how much he’ll remember from the point when you found him. He might become violent so be ready.”
The adventurers prepared themselves for a fight but were pleasantly rewarded for their charity when the minotaur turned out to be peaceful and thankful for their assistance. “My name is Kylix, and there is much I must say…” the warrior began.
Kylix went on to explain all he remembered of Mahg’og’s invasion of The Shallows, the refugee camp near the lizardfolk tribe and the state of affairs in Corocalad. Of his companions’ fate, the minotaur could say little. “The warp gate must have separated us,” Kylix sighed. “I can only hope they emerged safe at one of the other exits.”
“We’ll keep an eye out for them,” grunted Bartleby. “The guild’s coffers are a little light right now, so we could use a contribution from what they bring in. In the meantime, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with than a couple of lost members.”
The halfling’s gruff practicality was not without cause. Morg and his companions had been on the trail of a band of kidnappers with ties to a suspected vampire cult when they found Kylix and returned him to the Wolag. Evidence was beginning to point at a connection to the sudden disappearance of the Ironbelly fire giant clan from The Pyrefaust. Only a few of the giants’ azer slaves remained, and the flame-born creatures dutifully carried out their toil despite the absence of their oppressive masters.
“You’re welcome to join us until your companions return,” Recnac offered, but Kylix respectfully declined, stating he had personal business to attend to and mumbling something about finding a new job. Bidding the minotaur farewell, the adventurers returned to the mission at hand. Their next stop was a slum in Region I where local rumors placed a number of suspicious happenings in a purportedly haunted section of tunnels.
The adventurers hauled away a barricade of crates, barrels and racks to find the locals’ tales of fresh blood trickling out of an old drow rebel base were no urban legend and, upon opening the heavy iron door, an ankle-high flood of congealed crimson ichor poured out around the party’s boots. Following the stream of brackish ooze to its source, the party found a filthy chamber where a ring of small bronze nozzles shaped like inverted pyramids dripped blood from the ceiling into an overflowing basin in the center of the room. A shallow trough meant to direct the flow of the liquid toward the chamber’s south exits had spilled out onto the surrounding floor after the region’s new residents sealed the door.
“This isn’t right,” Nicholas gagged, choking on the thick, coppery smell of the sanguine sea as he noted desecrated angelic runes scrawled over with prayers to the demon lord Haagenti. “This was once a holy place. This basin should be flowing with holy water, not this foul ichor!”
The adventurers followed the trough to another heavy iron door locked against entry but, here, the blood flowed under the door through a small barred grate. It didn’t take Jitters long to pick the lock and, on the other side, the party discovered another room flooded up to their knees with slick crimson sludge. The rim of a low well peeked just above the surface of the ooze at the end of the trough in the center of the room and a pair of doors led out of the chamber to the east and west.
Recnac approached the well with an invisible Jitters close behind as Nicholas and Morg examined the doors leading out of the room. The rim of the reservoir formed a crescent and more defaced runes lined its surface. As Recnac peered into the murky morass, there was a sudden ripple followed by an eruption of sludge as a pair of large, hairy arms grasped the paladin and dragged him into the pool! At that moment, the doors on either side of the room flung open to reveal a pair of vampiric minotaurs clad in breastplates and wielding greataxes.
The monsters charged Nicholas and Morg as Jitters loosed a bolt from his crossbow into the nearest beast. Meanwhile, Recnac wrestled free of the minotaur attempting to drown him in the well of blood. The paladin clambered free of the well and called upon the wisdom of Irori to imbue his fists with mystical power. Then with a single strike, one of the undead brutes exploded into a red mist as the negative energy anchoring its tether to the world of the living disrupted and broke apart.
The silvered bolts and arrows of Morg and Jitters couldn’t destroy the monsters attacking them, but they did quickly weaken the vampires who instinctively became gaseous and attempted to flee. The minotaur from the west door managed to squeeze between some cracks in the wall, but its partner was not so lucky. Before it could escape, Nicholas plunged a divinely empowered hand into the creature’s misty form. With a blinding flash and a pop, the vampire burst in a shower of light leaving only wisps of thin smoke in its stead.
The party had no current means of chasing the fleeing minotaur vampire, but they did have a new avenue to explore. The east door led into a large, filthy barracks chamber where a veritable garden of fungal growths had overtaken the furnishings. A furrow of crushed, spongy spores became apparent to Morg who tracked at least 10 creatures across the chamber and into a small, storeroom. Small puffs of toxic mycobacteria sprayed the air as the party moved through the room to the cramped closet, but the adventurers were safeguarded by spells, equipment and raw fortitude.
A quick search of the closet revealed a warm spot on the north wall where Morg discovered a burning hot stone button. To the adventurers’ surprise, the secret door opened into a searing oven of magma and flame where small blocks of charred rock served as a path. Unwilling to risk a slip into the boiling lava, the party bolstered themselves with spells of protection and flight before attempting to make the dangerous trek through the tunnel. Recnac went first and quickly learned that even Nicholas’ spells were of little use against the improbably hot flames. The paladin turned back only 30 feet into the tunnel, barely surviving the return trip.
One by one, the adventurers attempted to explore the hall until Jitters finally had enough. “I said I’d try, and I did,” the craven ratfolk complained. “I’m sorry, but I won’t survive another attempt. I think somebody needs to report back to Melody with what we’ve found, and I volunteer for the job.” The centaur paladin had temporarily deputized the adventurers while they investigated the kidnappings.
“Things getting a little too hot for you, Jitters?” Morg chided the ninja. “Fine. Try not to murder anyone on the way back.” The ratfolk tried weakly to defend his recent treatment of suspects, but gave up and scurried away with a huff. Turning back to the problem at hand, the goblin found Recnac and Nicholas discussing how they might circumvent the conflagrating corridor.
“-vampires have no innate resistance to fire,” said Nicholas. “If they haven’t discovered some powerful spell or unless we’re dealing with a new breed of fire-immune vampire, I’ve no idea how they’re surviving the flames.” The oracle had already considered the vampires were simply becoming mist to escape the flames, but the heat would still force them to return to their coffins to heal and that seemed like time the fiends weren’t wasting on rest.
“What if they aren’t even going in?” Recnac offered. “What if this is just where they dispose of their victims? The tracks Morg found could have been from a group burning evidence of their crimes. They might not want too many spawn running around to feed?”
Morg considered his companions’ conversation and thought hard about what he knew about vampires, their tactics and their habits. He thought too about what he knew about the dungeon and, in particular, the flow of the Tanbera, the magma river coursing through Region M. Then, without a word, he walked back into the corridor of burning flames.
Recnac and Nicholas looked on in horror as the goblin sank into the magma, the fire and molten stone devouring his flesh and equipment as he stepped casually into death. Moments later, they were just as shocked to see Morg emerge not as a charred skeleton but covered in small needles.
“Lavashanlusion,” the ranger slurred groggily. “Poyshoinarts, verreal,” he mumbled fighting the urge to collapse. “Gimmeamint, Ibefine.”
Morg’s body, toughened by adventure and exploration, quickly fought off the paralytic poison coursing through his veins and, in moments, he rallied to explain his discovery. Based on his knowledge of the dungeon’s geography, the goblin had reasoned the Tanbera didn’t branch off into this section of the dungeon and that led him to consider the drow rebels who used to live in the area might have set up an illusion to hide their base from intruders. It seemed reasonable to Morg the vampires may have discovered the trick while searching for a place to set up their base of operations.
“You could have been wrong,” Nicholas counseled the goblin. “You had no way of knowing any of those things are true.”
“My tribe used to pray to rocks and now we’re convinced an old statue we found is a god,” Morg countered, instinctively raising a fist in honor of The Stoneshaper. “I’ve put faith in less with fewer truths.”
Without its intimidating illusion, the corridor proved to be nothing more than a dusty hallway and the trio advanced without their ratfolk trapfinder, avoiding a second salvo of poisoned needles thanks to Morg’s warning. Not far from the secret door, the adventurers discovered a ritual chamber built in the manner of a small stadium. The chamber’s original profane purpose had been usurped and now its stair-like seating was covered in simple coffin-like crates that smelled like earth taken from the crater mine l’Resk’afar.
“This is how we beat them,” Recnac beamed with righteousness. “If we destroy their coffins, they’ll have nowhere to flee. Nicholas, watch the door while Morg and I prepare a fire!”
The adventurers quickly set about to dumping and breaking down the crates the vampire spawn used as their coffins. The wood and earth were doused with holy water and flames reduced the pile of splintered boards to ash. After tracking the monsters through abandoned fleshroot dens, poisonous caves full of corpses and the filthiest slums The Barrows had to offer, the party felt victory was in their grasp. Only one room remained beyond the inferno within the old ritual chamber, and the adventurers readied themselves for battle.
Beams of multi-colored light and a bank of burning ash filled the hall as Recnac pulled open the door leading into the vampire lair’s final chamber, but the trio of adventurers were still warded against the worst of the flames and nimble enough to avoid the prismatic spray. Pushing through the haze of the pyroclastic cloud, the adventurers entered the chamber to find a bedroom comfortably furnished and decorated with tarnished but still impressive silks, furs and hides. A collection of silk women’s undergarments was neatly arranged and displayed upon a large, round feather-bed where a pale-skinned half-orc man sat gazing gently toward the door.
“She told us this would happen,” the half-orc spoke. “All of it. She knows the truth behind all things and she wants to share it with all of you.”
“You must be Durga,” Nicholas spoke sizing up the vampire warrior. He and his companions had learned of a half-orc warrior leading the kidnappers during their investigation. “Who is this woman you speak of? Tell us where we can find her.”
“My Queen?” Durga replied wistfully. “She is here. She sees everything. She tells me the day of her vengeance is close at hand. She will rise out of darkness and those that serve her will be rewarded with love. Love and life eternal.”
Durga turned his gaze toward the pile of lingerie at his side, caressed it gently and grinned. “She tells me I will die today,” he smiled. “I am ready.”
With supernatural speed, the half-orc was suddenly across the chamber, his fist smashing squarely into Recnac’s jaw. The paladin felt his life energy ebbing from his body as the vampire’s knuckles burned with necromantic power. It was a valiant effort, but Durga wouldn’t have another chance to attack his hunters. Morg’s arrows dug deep into the vampire’s flesh and Recnac’s fists blasted Durga’s tainted spirit from existence before he could even flee to his burning coffin.
Back at Melody’s office, the centaur listened carefully to the adventurers’ newest report. Past Durga’s chamber, they had discovered a hidden exit into The Pyrefaust and the half-orc’s words had led them to believe Grehennox, Queen of the Fire Giants, was somehow involved with the vampires’ activities.
“Rasts drain the blood of their prey if I’m not mistaken,” Recnac suggested. “Perhaps Grehennox found a way to control those beasts and use the abominations to spread some kind of vampirism disease?”
“Let us pray that is all with which we must contend,” Nicholas forebodingly replied. “At the very least, I feel a sojourn to Ironbelly Hall is long overdue.”
“I never did get to properly thank that maabet rher for her hospitality,” Morg grinned tugging at his bowstring as Jitters nervously chittered his incisors close by. “What are we waiting for?”
As expected, the immense doors to Ironbelly Hall were steadfastly locked and bolted when the adventurers came to call. Not quite so expected however, was the complete desolation on display within the cavern outside the giants’ home. Forges and smelters stoked religiously had been left cold and soot-blackened. Great, brass-gilded helms of burnished iron and heavy swords cast in etched steel lay dust-covered and dull upon grime-crusted workbenches. It was as if the giants had vanished at the peak of their toil.
“It seems no one is home,” Nicholas spoke before the great silent door. “Perhaps Jitters could pick the lock?”
“I’m not sure that’s wise just yet,” Recnac replied to the ratfolk’s audible relief. “We’re not entirely certain of the giants’ role in this conspiracy. If we break into their home and it leads to a fight, we’ll have lost our chance to question Queen Grehennox. She won’t listen to reason after we’ve violated her hall.”
“The paladin is right,” Morg asserted. Giants were chief among the goblin’s favored enemies, and he’d had more than his share of painful, personal dealings with these giants in particular. “The gaints won’t wait for us to explain why we broke into their hall. They’ll definitely want to eat the ratfolk and me, but you two might be taken alive for ransom back to The Barrows…Of course, that’s not what’s going to happen,” the goblin hinted nocking an arrow into his bow to ensure he’d made his point.
The adventurers discussed the matter a moment further before deciding to explore the adjacent caverns. If they could find positive evidence of Queen Grehennox’s complicity, Recnac pledged he would be the first to enter the fire giant hall regardless of the consequences. Perhaps it was some peculiar movement in the shadows or a mysterious thump or bump at the periphery of his senses but, as the party was set to proceed, Jitters suddenly balked at leaving the door and offered to examine its lock while his companions moved on. “A giant-barred door is a difficult thing to open,” the ninja insisted. “I should stay here to focus my fullest attention on how we’re going to remove the bolt from the opposite side.”
“No problem, Jitters,” Morg chided the reluctant rodent. “I’ll just make sure to lead the next pack of vampires we meet back here so you don’t miss out on any of the fun.”
A cloying odor of shed skin and decomposing meat filled the humid halls north of the fire giant caverns. The rotting remains of fiendish wyverns fed the multitude of hardy, scavenging vermin that called the region home, but nothing else stirred within the ancient cages as the adventurers cautiously explored the area. Before long, the group came to an immense, solid wooden gate bound by iron that stretched twenty feet across the hall. Recalling this chamber, Morg informed his companions the gate led to a chamber housing a deep, supernaturally dark, but otherwise unremarkable pit.
Among Nicholas’ arsenal of divine gifts was the ability to transform himself and his companions into windswept vapor, and it was here the oracle realized he might use this power to circumvent not only the gate but the doors of Ironbelly Hall as well. With a quick flourish and a whispered plea to the elemental spirits of the air, the trio of adventurers became as fog and slipped through the cracks of the enclosed barrier.
The crevasse within the gloomy, ruined chamber was exactly as Morg had described it, deep, foreboding and unnaturally black. As his allies surveyed the darkness, Recnac peered into the void fruitlessly a moment before diving into the chasm. Nicholas’ spell had made the adventurers mute so the paladin could only motion that he was going in, but they would have no way to hear a call for help should he be attacked. Fortunately however, the spell allowed its targets to cover vast distances in mere moments and Recnac returned from the pit seconds later unharmed.
“Bodies,” the paladin muttered once he had regained his physical form. “Easily a score of ratfolk and goblin bodies. Porters no doubt, presumed lost to the magmin or some other horror of this hellish place. Something twisted their heads off like wine corks and drained their bodies like the bottles. I think it’s time we returned to Ironbelly Hall.”
Jitters was still waiting for his companions when Morg, Recnac and Nicholas reappeared at the entrance to the fire giant hall. The skillful ninja found the azer-built lock upon the massive doors to be a worthy challenge, but he’d soon cracked it and moved onto the problem of removing the heavy bar across the other side. Of course, Jitters wasn’t entirely thrilled when he heard about Nicholas’ magical solution. The neurotic ninja expressed several concerns over how things could go wrong, but he was finally shamed into entering the hall after his companions brought up the large number of dead ratfolk they had discovered.
Once again, the adventurers became translucent wisps of air allowing them to slip beneath the mighty, iron doors into the harrowing hall of the fire giants. The corridor leading into the main hall seemed clear of danger so the party regained their physical forms on just the other side of the threshold. Recnac called out a cordial, but stern, greeting upon returning to solidity, but no voices responded from within the warm, fire-lit dwelling. Undaunted, the paladin activated an enchanted ring of invisibility and stepped toward the hall when a flash of steel and the gentle creak of well-greased gears alerted him to a scything blade arcing toward his neck!
Recnac twisted his body around the trap and leapt forward as it slashed a shallow furrow through his arm. Three more blades, each envenomed and striking with remarkable accuracy, met him as he weaved his way up the hall. The warrior-monk’s divine health protected him from the effects of the toxic chemicals coating the scythes, but he had been severely wounded by the razor sharp blades.
Jitters carefully examined the corridor seeking a means of disabling or avoiding the blades but found the azer had hidden their triggers too well. Even flying invisibly through the corridor proved useless against the lightning-quick scythes, and the ratfolk soon determined Nicholas and Morg would have to risk the gauntlet to reach Recnac.
While Jitters lingered at the hall’s doors, Nicholas and Morg braved the arcing blades to rejoin their ally, Recnac. By now, the paladin had been within the main hall long enough to see its giant residents were seemingly not at home. Recnac waited quietly as his companions caught up to him, but he could barely contain the feelings of righteous dread that came over him as he surveyed the rows of great, iron coffers lining the chamber and the drained, decapitated bodies of humans, dwarves and elves left to rot upon large tables set around a long pit of glowing embers.
Several emaciated azer slaves lay chained to the throne of the fire giant queen, but the creatures paid little attention to the adventurers as they regrouped to heal their wounds. Nor, however, did they alert the party to the danger manifesting from the dancing shadows of the dimly lit room. Before Nicholas could fully restore Recnac to health, the misty form of an armored giant stalked out of the darkness toward the paladin.
In two great strides, the wraith-like hulk became a thing of flesh and iron wielding a wicked blade of burning steel. Morg turned to fire a fistful of readied arrows into the ash-skinned brute when his gaze was drawn up into the dull black stare of a second giant.
“ISELHE DHA ARV, KETH,” the giant growled, its eyes smoldering with supernatural power. Morg instantly recognized the putrescent stink of undeath oozing from the towering warrior’s craggy pores but couldn’t force his tongue to warn his allies of their peril.
The goblin’s mind struggled against the dominating will of the vampyre* giant but slowly his defenses crumbled. Morg’s grip on his arrows slipped and the sharpened shafts clattered to the floor as the monster gave its next command. “NANS, SAV HOGEN,” the giant bellowed. The ranger’s brain screamed at his body to move, to duck under one of the huge tables or to flee, but the unliving creature’s hold on him was too strong.
As Morg’s small goblin body exploded under the tremendous force of the giant’s powerful blow, Recnac and Nicholas fought off the other monster. Recognizing the oracle’s tactical value as a healer, the bloodsucking brute turned its murderous attention from the paladin to Nicholas’. The aasimar’s enchanted plate armor cracked and split asunder under two hammering strikes by the giant leaving him exposed to the monster’s flaming blade and heavy, life-draining fists. Before the creature could resume its attack however, Nicholas reached out and placed a divinely empowered palm against its ashen-hued flesh.
To the oracle’s dismay, the life-restoring magic of his spell had no effect against the powerful vampire. The undead goliath glowered down at Nicholas and hauled back its fist to deliver a soul-crushing blow when its neck was suddenly impaled by a small, slender shaft with a rough “shunk.” The monster reeled back from the blow clutching its throat as two more silver-tipped bolts flashed through the air from the shadows and pierced its ribs. Somewhere in the darkness, Jitters quickly reloaded his crossbow for another barrage.
With the ratfolk ninja sniping from behind a veil of invisibility, the tide of the battle was turned. Recnac landed a furious flurry of blows against the ventilated vampire forcing it to flee back into its coffin as mist. The giant who had slain Morg put up a fierce struggle, flipping one of the long tables onto its side to use as cover and then pummeling the paladin and Nicholas with its life-draining fists but, soon, it too was reduced to harmless vapor. Recnac and the oracle chased the escaping undead to its iron-framed sanctuary, but found the strongbox to be far more durable than the cheap crate coffins used by Durga and the vampire spawn. Azer hands had cunningly crafted the imposing coffers, and an intricate double-lock warded each box against entry.
Recnac called for Jitters hoping the ratman would assist with opening the locked coffers, but the ninja refused. He’d already been severely wounded attempting to cross the arcing scythes filling the foyer, and he had no interest in being trapped within the hall should the other giants suddenly return home. Jitters also reasoned that the party had suffered sufficient losses with the death of Morg, the loss of Nicholas’ armor and the soul-scarring injuries to the oracle and the paladin.
“We’re no good to The Barrows dead or undead!” Jitters shouted back to his companion. “We need to get Morg fixed up if we can, and you two need to rest! We can return tomorrow better prepared to handle this!”
Nicholas and Recnac agreed the ratfolk wasn’t just speaking from fear. Both had expended much of their strength during the fight, and the necromantic power of the vampyre giants’ attacks had left them feeling drained and weak. They certainly wouldn’t survive another battle if any more of the coffers were occupied or if Queen Grehennox and her undoubtedly undead warriors returned home now. A reluctant withdrawal was the best option, but Recnac couldn’t leave before sharing some parting thoughts for his enemies.
“Hear me, you miscreant things, you servants of darkness and death,” the paladin whisper-hissed into the seams of the iron coffers. “I bring your clan the divine wisdom of the Master of Masters. Today was the first lesson. Tomorrow will be your last.”
*Get it? Because they're fire giants and you burn things on a pyre. Ha! I kill me!
"“The paladin is right,” Morg asserted. Giants were chief among the goblin’s favored enemies, and he’d had more than his share of painful, personal dealings with these giants in particular. “The gaints won’t wait for us to explain why we broke into their hall. They’ll definitely want to eat the ratfolk and me, but you two might be taken alive for ransom back to The Barrows…Of course, that’s not what’s going to happen,” the goblin hinted nocking an arrow into his bow to ensure he’d made his point."
It's more accurate to state that Gaints were Morg's favored enemies.
Greetings all! Once again, I have returned with tales of derring-do and dire
dilemmas! Before we get to that though, I owe you all an explanation for why things have taken so long to get posted.
As some of you know, when I'm not chronicling the events in the dungeon, I have a job as a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard. Back in June of 2016, I advanced to Chief Petty Officer and immediately got orders to Juneau. Running the Public Affairs Detachment in Anchorage kept me busy, but now I'm managing the PA staff for all 33,904 miles of shoreline in the 17th District. Between that and trying to have a life outside of work and gaming, I get pretty swamped.
As I mentioned last time, the Journal will continue until I've finished this campaign. These next two chapters represent the final few sessions I ran in Anchorage so, the next time I make a post, it will be with a whole new group of players. Until then, I want to thank all the brave souls who explored the Dungeon in both Anchorage and Astoria and all the Journal readers who have stuck with me over the last 8 years. There'll be a short review and epilogue to follow. Now, onto adventure!
DAYS 423 - 424 THE SIEGE OF IRONBELLY HALL
featuring The World’s Largest Adventuring Party:
Morg – Goblin(?) Ranger
Nicholas Lightwalker – Aasimar Life Oracle
Jitters – Ratfolk Ninja
Recnac – Human Paladin of Irori
Fronz – Human Undead Scourge Paladin
Armin – Human Heavens Oracle
“This vampire problem is getting out of hand,” Melody asserted to the adventurers assembled before her in The Wolag. “The Barrow Wardens uncovered another nest just yesterday and slew a pair of the creatures attempting to get into Farggalaan’s workshop. We tried to send word to him, but our scouts haven’t returned with any news.”
The goblin wizard had been gone from The Barrows for some time. Without saying where he was going or why he was leaving, Farggalaan had closed his shop and headed across the Tanbera into the Chasm.
“But I heard that goblin hates the undead,” Jitters broke in. “Why isn’t he here helping us kill them?” There was resounding agreement from the ratfolk’s fellow adventurers, some of whom suggested tracking the wizard and bringing him back to The Barrows.
“Because he is afraid…and very smart,” came a voice from the back of the room. “Farggalaan saw his own master Ezrael killed and turned by the shadow, Seraxes. Fortunately, the necromancer’s shadow couldn’t retain his magical knowledge or it’s possible none of us would be alive right now, but vampires are a far more insidious creature.”
Shi, the priest of Pharasma, and one of the few people Farggalaan trusted, stepped through the crowd toward the table as he continued his words. “Farggallan came to me before he left and warned me he had become aware of the growing undead menace in the Barrows. He believed they were after him, and he knew that his power would be theirs to control if they eventually had the numbers to ambush and defeat him. A vampire wizard of his ability, not to mention the dangerous relics he safeguarded, could threaten the entire dungeon. If the vampires gained possession of the Heart of Ter’Kaal and the ogre mage’s Ssrin amulet they would have the keys to freeing the dragon Tyrus and the leverage to force the living to surrender. For all our sakes, Melody, I hope your trackers fail. For all we know, the vampires are following them right now.”
A brief argument ensued over the right course of action before the discussion was interrupted by the return of Recnac and Nicholas, the body of Morg slung over the paladin’s shoulder. Jitters had already passed the word about the fire giant vampires in Ironbelly Hall, but the pair provided an update on what they’d discovered about the creatures’ elaborately locked iron coffins. “We need to destroy them before the other giants return,” Recnac spoke. “We plan to go back as soon as we’re rested.”
“I’m coming with you,” Shi announced much to the surprise of everyone. It had been several months since the priest had retired to the comparatively quiet life of building cabinets, presiding over funerals and occasional enchanting. “As a priest of Pharasma, sometimes it isn’t enough to convey the souls of the dead into the afterlife. Sometimes you need to make sure they stay there too.”
As Recnac and his allies rested, Shi transported Morg’s remains to Slissth, the lizardfolk druid of Four Waters. Despite the cleric’s Pharasma-granted ability to raise the dead, the ranger’s spirit expressed through necromancy that it felt more comfortable placing its resurrection in the hands of someone with a closer understanding of earth and stone. However, the goblin’s faith was shaken when he emerged from the druid-spun chrysalis of reincarnation to find The Stoneshaper had chosen to give him the form of an ancient and hated enemy of his people, a dwarf.
“Le-leave me,” Morg stammered to Shi, his melancholy gaze fixated on his thick, hairy fingers. “I-I need some time…to…figure this.”
Shi understood what Morg was going through. He had also needed some time to adjust to life as a dwarf after his own reincarnation, but the priest suspected the experience was doubly upsetting for the goblin. Afterall, hardly any of his old clothes fit him anymore.
Recnac, Nicholas and Jitters gathered with Shi the following day to plan their attack on Ironbelly Hall. Better prepared for the traps, the adventurers felt they could make short work of the vampire giants left to defend the hall. They expected the giants might make preparations for a second assault, but they hoped those preparations hadn’t included sending word to their errant clansmen.
“Why aren’t we bringing everyone?” Jitters asked as he adjusted the sights on his crossbow. “If those vampires warned their friends, they could all be waiting to ambush us. Shouldn’t there be more of us?”
“You lot missed a few of Durga’s lackeys when you broke up his kidnapping ring, and the vampires that escaped became desperate to create new spawn,” Bartleby interjected. “Melody needs your fellow dungeoncrawlers to assist The Barrow Wardens with the cleanup and she’s offered a fair purse for the help.”
“Just a moment, halfling,” Recnac began, his suspicions riled. “I’ll have no part in extorting our neighbors. Irori teaches us that we have a duty to pro-”
“Relax, pebble-snatcher,” the rogue interrupted. “We aren’t some dusters out of Korvosa shaking down old ladies for protection money. The horse lady just got some of the guilds to pony up material support for the cause; some spell components, holy water, that sort of thing. I can’t help it if a spell occasionally requires a bit of silver or a handful of diamond dust to work.”
Satisfied with Bartleby’s explanation, Recnac and his allies proceeded to Ironbelly Hall via the magic of Nicholas’ windwalking spell. There, they found the giants had taken some time to beef up their security. A pair of demonic wyverns, their scales pale and talons yellowed, perched at the door of the hall feigning sleep. The adventurers knew they could easily bypass the monsters in wind form, but they were also aware the creatures would be able to detect their presence thanks to their heightened, draconic senses. If they chose to slip between the beasts, the party would be flanked by the wyverns and whatever awaited them within the hall. Unable to speak in their airy state, the party took only a moment to motion to each other before agreeing to attack.
The fiendish wyverns were quick to react as the adventurers solidified a little over a hundred feet from the hall doors. From their perches, the monsters screeched an alarm and shook their wings creating ominous clouds of cloying, greasy black fog that enveloped the party. Shi and Jitters easily pushed through the unholy blight with only slight discomfort while Recnac suffered light wounds from the Stygian chill. Nicholas, no thanks to his celestial nature, received the worst of the wyvern’s impious attack but shrugged off its sickening vapors through sheer force of will.
The adventurers met the wyvern’s opening strike with a volley of spells and crossbow bolts as Recnac closed the gap between himself and the infernal beasts. With a spectacular leap, the paladin delivered a powerful kick to the nearest monster’s neck causing the wyvern to hiss with rage. The beast countered with a flurry of talons and teeth as its barbed tail whipped furiously at the warrior monk. At this distance, Recnac was certain the foul odor wafting from the monster’s scales was the same smell he’d detected in the pit the previous day, and the wyvern’s horrible breath stemmed from more than a diet of humanoid flesh.
“This plague has no end!” Recnac shouted to his companions over the screeching cries of the blasphemous beasts. “The damned serpents are vampires!”
Sure to keep a safe distance from the perceptive dragons, Jitters glided invisibly through the cavern strafing the beasts with silvered bolts from his crossbow as Nicholas and Shi seared the wyverns’ wings with beams of divine light and cascades of holy fire. Despite their ferocity, the monsters were soon beaten back and fled as mist toward their shrouded tomb. “Should we go after them?” Nicholas asked as the ghostly forms of the vampiric wyrms drifted into the gloom.
“It’ll be at least an hour before they’re rested enough to give us any trouble,” Shi replied. “I think we should deal with the giants while we have the chance.”
“Shi’s right,” Recnac agreed. “The giants may have set their watchdogs out here as a distraction, hoping we’d give chase so they could lead us into a trap and flank us. We should strike now.”
The adventurers took one last moment to prepare before returning to mist form and slipping through the cracks in the great iron doors. Once inside, they found their foes had indeed readied for their return. A mountain of coal within the long fire pit in the center of the room blazed with heat and filled the entirety of the chamber with thick, black smoke making it impossible to see more than a few inches into the room.
The adventurers knew the giants weren’t going to be led out of the hall. The undead fire giants had no fear of flames or suffocation and may have created the smoke cloud as a stalling tactic while reinforcements hurried to the scene. If that were true, there was no time to lose. The adventurers would have to battle the vampires here and now.
Huddling together at the entrance to the hall, the adventurers returned to solid form. It seemed to take an unsettling eternity in the billowing haze where danger could come from any direction, but there was little sense in remaining gaseous. The party would be vulnerable to attack if the giants found them before they were ready to fight. Hoping the scything blade traps lining the entry corridor to the chamber would be unable to detect their presence, Recnac and Nicholas took the lead and attempted to slip past using the smoke as cover. To their surprise and dismay however, the enchanted steel slashed unerringly through the cloud.
Despite the deadly accuracy of the poisoned scythes, the wounded heroes survived to enter the main chamber of the hall where they could just make out the glow of burning coals through the smoke. The great stone tables and benches laid out around the fire pit were flipped onto their sides to serve as a makeshift maze of barriers and, as the adventurers stumbled through the choking fog, the clatter of shifting platemail alerted them to giants in their midst.
A massive, gauntleted fist suddenly lashed out of the billowing mist, striking Recnac. The vampire giants’ supernatural senses gave them a distinct advantage in the blinding smoke, but their life-draining attacks were foiled by Shi’s necromantic wards. As Nicholas and Recnac began a deadly game of whack-a-mole, the cleric hurried to rejoin his comrades.
Jitters watched as the priest vanished into the haze, then cringed as he heard a succession of metallic scrapes and whines as Shi’s armor was battered by the gauntlet of blades. However, the wary rogue also detected an odd squishing noise, like someone stepping on spilled jelly, as the cleric hustled through the fog. Warily, the ninja took to the air and plunged into the smoke toward the sound of battle.
By the time Jitters caught up with his companions, the giants had given up on draining the life from their enemies. Discovering, Shi’s spells protected the adventurers from their necromantic touch and their powers of domination, the monsters were more than happy to shatter the heroes’ bones with 14-foot blades of fire-forged steel. The ninja quickly discovered that Shi had doused the fire burning in the center of the chamber with a blizzard-like gust of freezing cold, but smoke still spewed from the pit of snuffed embers. With no way to target his enemies, Jitters’ knew his crossbow was next to useless but the resourceful rodent had another way to contribute to the fight.
As Jitters sought out the vampires’ coffins, a shrill, rasping voice suddenly echoed through the gloom. “You adventurers are so predictable,” the enshrouded creature hissed. “You use all of your fancy spells and special abilities before breakfast and then expect the whole dungeon to nap while you take the rest of the day off. I know how it is. I used to be just like you before I was betrayed by my friends and left to rot in this hellhole.”
“How do you like the improvements I designed for the hall’s security, by the way?” the voice continued as Nicholas rained divine fire onto an attacking vampire. “I learned a whole lot about traps back when I wandered these tunnels. Here’s something I learned from a salamander!”
There was a sudden clatter of breaking clay and a whoosh of air from the entryway, followed by an explosion where Jitters had been only moments before. The entire hall was now an inferno vomiting tarry black smoke into the main hall as flames licked the ceiling. The heat in Ironbelly Hall wasn’t a problem for the adventurers who had prepared with spells or potions of fire resistance, but the choking, ebon miasma threatened to asphyxiate the party with every passing moment.
“It’s getting a little hard to breathe in here, guys!” Jitters violently coughed from somewhere within the cloud. “And all this smoke in my eyes isn’t making unlocking these coffins any easier!”
With a final, unified surge of skill, faith and righteousness, Recnac and Nicholas toppled the remaining vampire giant and turned their attention to clearing the chamber as their mysterious tormentor mocked them from the shadows. Shi quickly doused the flames within the corridor with a thick sheet of pure, frozen holy water and, as the heat of the hall began to melt the wall, the adventurers heard a yelp of pain from somewhere near the ceiling of the hall. The blessed vapor of the melting ice was searing the undead flesh of their enemy!
“Enjoy your little victory while you can!” the creature spat through its pain. “While you remain trapped here, my wyvern spawn and our servants in The Barrows are destroying your little clubhouse! Thanks to me, they know all about the traps and the secret entrance through the Halls of Flesh! Soon, your people will know the love of our queen and they will rejoice to serve her vengeance!”
Recnac and Jitters raced to the sealed doors at the entrance to the hall only to find the bar was held firm with immense locked chains. Worse, the same tar-like substance used to coat the floor of the hall had been used to seal the cracks in the door while the adventurers were busy fighting the giants. Slipping into gaseous form might protect them from the noxious smoke, but it wasn’t going to get them out unless they could remove the tar gumming up the door.
Through the fog, it was impossible to determine the identity of the vampiric mastermind behind the nefarious traps but it was clear he had intimate knowledge of The Wolag and the tactics of its members. Focusing his trained ears on the sound of the enemy, Jitters could just make out the scratching of tiny claws against the stone ceiling of the passageway. The ratfolk alerted his companions and he and Recnac quickly darted for the source of the sound while Nicholas and Shi blocked off the creature’s escape!
The small monster beat its bat-like wings attempting to flee, but it was too late! Before it could slip into the smoke, Recnac snatched it out of the air through equal parts skill and luck. The tiny creature lashed out at the paladin with a stinging tail but its attacks were futile against the superior grappler. Jitters and Recnac beat and stabbed the squirming thing severely before it could attempt to wriggle free as mist but, even then, it had nowhere to go. Charging his body with divine energy, Recnac delivered a powerful strike to the incorporeal beast that disintegrated its form with disruptive light.
The battle finally over, the adventurers hastily unlocked and unbarred the doors of Ironbelly Hall escaping to the fresh air outside. Breathing in the untainted air and allowing the smoke to clear from the hall, they realized they had a choice to make. If their foe was telling the truth, The Wolag and The Barrows were in terrible danger, but leaving now might give the resting vampire giants the time they needed to recover and escape.
“Bartleby and the others should be able to hold off some vampire spawn on their own, right?” Nicholas wondered aloud.
“We don’t know how many more there are and our forces are divided,” Recnac grimly replied. “If there truly are more of those wyverns, they may have their hands full.”
“You all go, I’ll stay,” Jitters squeaked much to everyone’s surprise. “None of you know how to help me with the locks on the coffins, and I should be able to finish off a couple of helpless vampires on my own.”
“You’re sure about this?” Recnac asked skeptically.
“No, but my people are back there and they need help now,” the ratman sniffed. As self-interested as the ninja could be, his fellow verminkin were important to him and he hoped for their survival. Shi handed Jitters a sturdy axe and enough holy water to finish the job, and then, without delay, the rest of the party hurried back to The Barrows.
A pair of pale, withered corpses laid near the entrance to The Wolag as the adventurers approached the guildhall, and the sound of battle roared from the open iron door. Within the adventurers’ barracks, the halfling rogue, Bartleby, waged a desperate struggle against a mob of vampire spawn. Fortunately, he wasn’t alone.
Armin and Fronz, specialists in dealing with undead threats, were just preparing for a hunt when the Wolag door burst open. A pair of adventurers returning from a busy day tracking spawn had been ambushed by a dozen vampires as they entered the hall. The creatures were inside before either the oracle or the paladin could act, but the heroes were rested and ready. Together, they sliced through the monsters with spell and sword, easily destroying half the beasts before the Wolag’s alarms caught their attention. A second wave of vampires had discovered the hall’s secret entrance and were moving to flank the isolated adventurers.
As Fronz and Armin held off the vampires in the barracks, a third group of the undead entered the hall to find Bartleby. The rogue had reacted to the sudden attack by fleeing to his private quarters where layers of deadly traps would protect him from harm. The vampires had been warned about traps warding the entrances to the guildhall but the halfling had always been careful to keep his own safeguards a secret, and Recnac, Nicholas and Shi arrived just in time to see an explosion of flame and acidic gas disintegrate the spawn at Bartleby’s door.
The adventurers quickly joined the battle and soon had the undead underlings on the run. With Bartleby’s help, Recnac and Nicholas corralled a quartet of fleeing fiends into a trapped chamber where a dropaway floor caused the vampires to plummet into a lava flow. A 40-foot burst of raw, radiant life energy from Shi incinerated more of the fleeing vampires, and the remaining undead were destroyed by the divine power of Armin and Fronz’s attacks. With the monsters dead, Bartleby exited his panic room to hear the adventurers’ report.
The hours after the vampire assault were filled with trepidation, but it was soon confirmed the monsters had been destroyed or routed from The Barrows. Fortunately, it seemed the plague of undead had been discovered before they could turn too many of the community’s residents. Now, the adventurers sought to reveal the motives behind the attack.
“This creature said it used to be like us,” Recnac reasoned eyeing the small pile of gray ash collected from Ironbelly Hall. “If Pharasma has granted you the power to restore its remains to life, I think we should take the chance. It may remember our enemy’s plot.”
The assembled adventurers agreed and bid Shi to use the diamonds they had been given to resurrect their mysterious nemesis. Solemnly, the priest prepared the remains and began a silent prayer to his goddess. A minute later, the party at last came to face to face with their formerly vampiric foe: none other than the dungeon-delving pseudodragon Fyrsil.
DAYS 425 – 426 THE VAMPIRE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
featuring The World’s Largest Adventuring Party:
Nicholas Lightwalker – Aasimar Life Oracle
Recnac – Human Paladin of Irori
Segod Flamstead – Human Inquisitor of Milani
Fronz – Human Undead Scourge Paladin
Jitters – Ratfolk Ninja
Armin – Human Heavens Oracle
Soon Bim – Human Commoner
Some recalled how the tiny dragon Fyrsil had courageously sacrificed his own freedom for peace with Grehennox’s fire giant clan. Visitors to Ironbelly Hall would sometimes return with reports of his confinement within a small cage near the giant queen’s throne, but his fate was unknown after Ironbelly Hall went silent. Now, fully restored to life and freed from the curse of undeath, Fyrsil mournfully recounted the tale of how he had come to serve the forces of darkness.
“My memory is cloudy,” the pseudodragon began. “That…creature you fought in Ironbelly Hall, it wasn’t me…not entirely, but I remember how it all started. It was the key sphere, the mithril orb my friends bought from the azer. Grehennox took it after our battle at the ziggurat…”
Fyrsil shuddered as he recalled how the fire giant queen became obsessed with understanding the gleaming silvery orb and how it could open the hidden chamber below the ziggurat on the shore of the Tanbera. It took the giants a few weeks to discover the locations and secrets of all the puzzle rooms designed to activate the sphere but, eventually, Grehennox succeeded and led a group of giants into the tomb below the pyramid.
“She made one of the azer carry my cage ahead of them like I was a canary in a mine,” Fyrsil growled. “She told me to keep an eye out for traps and to let her know if anything tried to sneak up on us but, by then, it was already too late. The ziggurat was the trap, and we walked right into it…”
Grehennox and her warriors were entirely unprepared for what awaited them within the tomb, Fyrsil went on. An angel, the most beautiful, terrifying creature any of them had ever seen, beckoned to them, drawing them deeper into her sepulcher.
“She said her name was Serratine, and that she’d been betrayed by The Celestial Garrison after one of their commanders, a solar called Cyrlebrai, grew jealous of her love for another,” Fyrsil continued. “Cyrlebrai used his influence to convince the other celestials that Serratine and her lover, Kator, had been corrupted by demons. Kator was cast into the deepest pit of the dungeon while she and the warriors loyal to her were bound beneath the ziggurat. She begged us to find Cyrlebrai and kill him. She said it was only way she and Kator could be free.”
The darkest horror of Serratine’s tomb was revealed when Grehennox openly laughed at the angel’s heartfelt plea and greedily demanded the treasures hidden within her tomb. Serratine’s loyal retainers emerged from the swirling dust choking the corridors and fell upon the giants with supernatural speed. The curse of their captors had robbed the angelic host of all their divinity and transformed them into vampires. Fyrsil shook as he recalled how Grehennox’s warriors were slain while she stood transfixed by the gaze of the vampire queen.
“My…memory is less clear after we were…turned,” the pseudodragon stammered.
The adventurers patiently urged Fyrsil to tell them as much as he could recall, and the dragon obliged with a troubling tale of the vampire deva’s cruel plot. Grehennox was ordered to return to Ironbelly Hall where she and her warriors would eventually turn the remaining giants. Meanwhile, Fyrsil was told to hunt the fiendish wyverns still lurking in the prison north of the giants’ home. Serratine desired the powerful monsters to serve as guardians and, as a vampire, Fyrsil’s draconic lineage gave him the power to affect the beasts with his dominating gaze.
Serratine knew feeding so many new spawn would be difficult without drawing unwanted attention but, after speaking with Fyrsil about The Barrows, she devised a plan to lure new prey into her trap. The azer were soon put to work improving the giants’ defenses while a small group of visitors from The Barrows were captured and turned. Those new spawn, led by the half-orc Durga, were sent back to The Barrows to beg, borrow, barter or steal as much mithral as they could get their hands on.
The victims of Durga’s feedings were recruited or disposed of according to the needs of the mission, but the ultimate goal was to gather enough mithral for the azer to create a working duplicate of the ziggurat’s key sphere. The original sphere would then be hidden for use by Serratine’s vampire servants while the copy would be delivered to The Wolag. Serratine desired to recruit Bartleby so she could use the rogue’s position to trick unsuspecting adventurers into investigating the pyramid where they would be dominated or turned. The strongest among the adventurers would be sent to kill Cyrlebrai while Grehennox and her warriors distracted the solar’s allies. Those deemed unfit would be sent back to The Barrows to encourage others to take up their “failed” quest.
“Once the azer had enough mithral to build the key sphere, Grehennox and her warriors were sent south to find allies against Cyrlebrai’s soldiers,” Fyrsil recalled. “I think they she called them The Children of Light.”
Recnac shot Nicholas a knowing glance. “That minotaur we found near the entrance to the labyrinth,” the paladin growled. “He mentioned a group of celestials in Corocalad.”
“The Children of the Inner Light,” the oracle nodded looking to Fyrsil for confirmation. “He said there was an army of demons and two-headed giants living down there as well. Just what Grehennox needs to distract a bunch of angels.”
“Serratine spoke to us in our heads! Fyrsil suddenly squeaked. “She’ll know I-she’ll know her servants failed here. She’ll tell Grehennox to attack the celestials as soon as she thinks she has enough followers.”
“Then we can’t afford to waste any more time,” Fronz spoke up. “We need to get into that pyramid and put an end to this once and for all!”
“No! You can’t! It’s what she wants!” Fyrsil screeched fearfully. “Serratine is too powerful! Some of my friends went into the tomb before Grehennox got the key! We didn’t know it at the time, but they fell under some kind of spell! She didn’t even have to turn them! They wanted to kill for her!”
“The dragon has a point,” Armin agreed. “A deva is nothing to mess with when they’re alive, let alone undead. We could try to prepare for her spells, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who noticed what Fyrsil said about the dozen or so formerly celestial vampires protecting her.”
“Then I don’t see how we have any other choice,” Nicholas spoke. “We have to find a way into Corocalad and stop Grehennox before she can finish raising her army.”
“How are we gonna do that?” Jitters piped. “The Garrison’s still got the Path of the Righteous on lockdown, there’s a kraken guarding the only entrance through The Shallows and the warp gates in the labyrinth are going to make it impossible for us to all get through together.”
“I think I know a way,” Fyrsil replied. “But we’re going to need the azer…”
The Tanbera roared beneath the feet of the adventurers who had gathered upon the ancient portcullis damming the flow of magma. Grehennox herself had once told of how her ancestors built the great bridge to keep a demonic foe from entering The Pyrefaust, but now, ironically, the fire giant queen had passed beyond its lava-tempered gate in search of Abyssal allies. A quartet of menacing four-faced fire giant heads sculpted of bronze and fire-forged steel glared down from the support towers of the bridge seemingly keeping watch for enemies from every direction and a pair of immense spring screws on either side of the bridge kept the control gate secure.
Fyrsil explained that, like most of the fire giants’ more elaborate devices, the bridge was an azer design and that the spoked wheels terminating the screws needed to turn simultaneously against the force of their springs to lift the gate. Ordinarily, several giants working in unison would be employed to hold and rotate the massive screws but the trap-savvy pseudodragon revealed the azer had built an emergency release into the gate in case the Tanbera ever flowed over.
“Why can’t we just windwalk through the gate and not deal with any of this?” Recnac inquired.
“We’d only get a few feet in before the updrafts from the lava flow would trap us,” Nicholas replied.
“He’s right about the heat rising from the lava fall,” Fyrsil added. “Grehennox and her warriors slipped through the gate as mist, but they were able to simply return to solid form and dive into the lava once they were on the other side. Unless you’re immune to fire and drowning, you’ll need to wait until you’re away from the bridge before you try that spell. You should have no problem flying through once the gates are open though.”
“As long as someone is here to let us back in once this is over,” Recnac replied.
Fyrsil assured the adventurers he and Shi would stay behind to ensure the adventurers had a way home or, if things went poorly, to make certain the portcullis stayed closed to anything evil coming up from the south.
As the azer got to work opening the control gate, the heroes went over their plan one last time. The adventurers would go through in two teams. Recnac, Nicholas, Fronz and Jitters would go through first while Armin led a second team with a pair of volunteers selected from the Wolag. Segod Flamstead, a fiery inquisitor of the goddess Milani, was chosen for his tactical expertise and combat ability while the self-described “adventuring consultant” Soon Bim somehow convinced the party his expert advice would be invaluable during the battle ahead. This second team would follow close enough to provide support to the first group in case they became surrounded or needed reinforcements.
“Riswan tells me he’ll try to convince the Celestial Garrison to put a couple of those maruts of theirs at the labyrinth gates and the Hall of the Righteous in case anything tries to get through from the south,” Shi informed the adventurers as they prepared to leave. “But the way those angels and their tinmen bicker, Grehennox and her army will be knocking at the doors before they decide on anything.”
“Just make sure Melody and the Barrow Wardens destroy all the coffins,” Recnac growled. “We don’t want Grehennox or any of Serratine’s spawn escaping from us this time.”
With that, Shi and Fyrsil wished their friends luck and watched as the adventurers flew down into the cavern that would lead them to Corocalad. Somewhere in that demon-haunted region, Queen Grehennox and her clan of vampyre giants schemed to march upon a band of besieged celestials and the party of heroes prayed they weren’t already too late.
Reaching Corocalad through the lava vent feeding the labyrinth’s Assassin Vine Jungle turned out to be as expedient as it was deadly. Clouds of toxic gas and furnace-like heat made flying above the boiling, roiling magma torturous for the adventurers, but seeking refuge along the river’s shores exposed them to the overgrown tangle of slick, disease-covered choking tendrils thriving in the harsh environment. The two teams of adventurers risked a moment ashore to bolster themselves with protective spells before proceeding and were lucky to avoid detection by the carnivorous flora.
As fate would have it, the adventurers didn’t have to look very long before they encountered the vanguard of Queen Grehennox’s army. Upon a craggy beach of pitted stone stretching out along the north edge of the Tanbera, the adventurers discovered an encampment of ettins and minotaurs commanded by a trio of fire giant warriors. The brutes were clearly preparing for battle and hadn’t yet spotted the party as they exited the tunnel from the labyrinth. Fully rested and prepared, the party began their assault.
The adventurers began their attack by conjuring a wall of invisible force from a scroll Jitters carried. From the air, the party surprised the enemy with ranged weapons and spells while using the impenetrable wall as cover. It took the giants a few moments to realize the boulders, javelins and crossbow bolts they returned were being deflected and, by then, their first line of ettin and minotaur soldiers was heavily wounded. As one of the giants sounded the alarm and ordered the ettins to close ranks, his remaining clansmen dove into the Tanbera seeking to undermine the wall of force while their vampiric bodies healed.
Their ruse discovered, Recnac and Fronz closed into melee, dropping invisibly amidst their enemies before unleashing a devastating flurry of divinely empowered punches, kicks and slashes. The closest of the vampiric minotaurs immediately lowered their huge crossbows and charged into battle but, to the adventurers’ surprise, the towering ettins had not yet been turned by their undead commanders.
Jitters and Nicholas continued to rain crossbow bolts and spells from behind the force wall until an eruption of magma below signaled the return of the giants who had taken refuge within the river. The giants emerged on the same side of the wall as the adventurers and immediately began to hurl flaming boulders of slag at them. Jitters was fortunate enough to be invisible when the vampires emerged from the river, but Nicholas was forced to flee toward the melee down on the shore.
A ring of fire conjured by Nicholas trapped many of the minotaur vampires who lacked the giants’ immunity to flame as they continued to spar with Fronz. Meanwhile, Recnac smashed his way through a group of ettins defending the entrance of their lair. The bi-headed beasts wielded their morningstars with brutal savagery and ferocious strength managing to score a small number of hits against the agile warrior monk, but Recnac weaved deftly through the flurry of spiked clubs to find himself face to face to face with a mountainous ettin barbarian wielding a pair of wicked, barbed flails.
Vornarok the Cunning, chieftain of the ettin tribe, roared angrily as he shoved aside two of his warriors to engage Recnac. The paladin delivered several devastating kicks to the savage ettin’s immense gut and dual chins, but the enraged monster refused to fall. Vornarok’s flails cut through the air like meteors crashing into the holy warrior’s body with the force of a charging rhinoceros as the ettin chief’s mate, Grulod, rushed to his side.
Recnac quickly found himself surrounded with his allies too heavily engaged to lend any aid when a crossbow bolt buried itself deep into Grulod’s gruesome back fat. Jitters had found his way through the ettin tunnels during his flight from the river and now flanked Vornarok and his hideous housewife. Thanks to Jitters’ stealthy sniping, Recnac toppled Vornarok, vaulting off of Grulod’s corpse to deliver a ferocious flying roundhouse to both of the ettin chieftain’s scowling jaws. It took only moments for the ninja and paladin to defeat the remaining ettins and return to their allies on the shore where a new threat had emerged.
Recnac and Jitters emerged from the ettin tunnels to find Nicholas and Fronz had soundly destroyed the giants’ minotaur spawn and one of the fire giants, but a gaunt, dark-skinned hag the size of an ogre fiercely tore at the oracle’s armor with iron-taloned fingers. “They appeared from nowhere!” Fronz warned his companions as a second, smaller hag with sallow skin and milky eyes slashed her cracked, yellowing claws at the paladin.
As Recnac and Jitters entered the fray, a third hag suddenly appeared hovering over the lava. Empowered with the ability to detect invisible creatures, the foul crone cast her evil gaze upon Jitters who shuddered with crippling dread. Before the ratfolk could recover, a deafening shriek of rage drew his attention to an eruption of lava beneath him. A pair of gigantic, ebony bats suddenly burst from the magma and plucked the staggered ratfolk from the air like a bug.
Jitters’ lithe frame broke upon the rocky shore as the remaining adventurers attempted to beat back the wicked hags, but Recnac’s wounds were beginning to take their toll on his body. The paladin fought valiantly through the pain, but the curse of the green hag’s touch quickly robbed him of his strength and made him a target for the bone shattering blows of her monstrous sister. Before Nicholas could render aid to his friend, the claws and bear trap-like teeth of the annis stripped the flesh from Recnac’s face and spun his wasted corpse to the ground.
Alone against the hags and their vampire allies, Fronz and Nicholas’ chances for survival were rapidly dwindling. However, a beam of brilliant white light suddenly blazed across the beachhead boring a hole through one of behemoth bats as a voice shouted from the western cave. “How haven’t you killed them all yet!?” Soon Bim cried from the rocks as Segod Flamstead dove into the fray.
“You should try hitting them more!” the expert adventurer advised certain his wise counsel would assure the adventurers’ victory. As Soon continued to shout obvious recommendations from a safe distance, Segod charged the green hag assaulting Fronz. Already badly wounded by Recnac, the celadon sorceress was forced to retreat with her loyal covey sisters closely guarding her withdrawal. Segod and Nicholas pursued the hags as Fronz and Soon engaged the last of the towering undead.
To his credit, Soon Bim was no simple commoner good for little more than shoveling manure or acting as a nameless, faceless victim to some evil warlord. He’d studied the great battles he’d witnessed in The Dungeon and, despite his limited skillset and almost complete lack of combat training, he felt he had learned enough to begin a new life as an adventurer. Now, as Fronz battled the two vampires upon the blackened shore, Soon leveled his trusty sharpened stick at the heart of one of the monsters and flung it with all his might.
The darting dowel dashed the giant’s breastplate with little effect, and the monster retaliated with a missile of his own. The flaming boulder nearly separated Soon’s head from his shoulders, but the commoner’s distraction took enough pressure off of Fronz for him to destroy the vampire’s sole remaining companion. Soon attempted to distance himself from his opponent, but there was no escaping the giant’s aim. A second boulder crashed into Soon’s spine as he fled to the far edge of the river. The self-proclaimed adventuring expert fell dead among the rocks, his broken body burning upon the shore.
Armin arrived just in time to finish off the last of the vampires. The oracle’s magic quickly reduced the wounded creature to ash allowing he and Fronz to rejoin their allies who had tracked down the retreating hags. The horrid crones had fled into a nearby cave where they now pled for parley with the adventurers.
“You attacked us and killed our friend!” Nicholas growled at the hags. “Why should we allow any of you to live?!”
“An oath was sworn, the bargain made as eastern seas did swell,” the green hag hissed. “We used our skills to save your kin before The Shallows fell.”
The hags explained that they were Bile, Malice and Bane, the Coven of Wóha Sweostor. The old crones were the very same trio of hags who had dwelt in The Shallows and provided magical aid and advice to adventurers traveling through the swamps. They claimed a group of adventurers from the Wolag had bought their services prior to the kraken Mahg’og’s attack on the The Shallows. The coven agreed to create a wall of terrible storms to keep the sea beast and his followers from destroying the great coral dam that protected the western shoals, but they were betrayed by the merrow who had once served them.
When Mahg’og’s forces overwhelmed the tritons at the dam, the hags fled south using their magic to conceal themselves and, in keeping with their deal to protect the people of the Shallows, any refugees they came across. The hags directed the refugees to the lizardfolk tribe in the southeastern tunnels while they escaped into Corocalad where they sought sanctuary with a coven of night hags they had become aware of thanks to another group of past adventurers.
The night hags welcomed the trio of weird sisters, but the swamp-born witches soon learned their distant cousins had been attempting to free a powerful demon from one of the cells in the region. They agreed to join the night hags in exchange for protection but secretly feared the release of the abyssal lord. Malice claimed they had only attacked the party out of fear of the night hags and their new ally, a fire giant queen from the Pyrefaust. Now that most of the vampires and ettins were dead, they just wanted to escape and they claimed they were still owed payment for their aid against Mahg’og. They wanted mercy and free passage out of Corocalad in exchange for their services.
Nicholas and Armin initially felt they owed nothing to the hags since they had no part in the original deal, but Segod contended that the bargain had been struck on behalf of the Barrows and that it would be dishonorable, and possibly dangerous, to break an agreement with the powerful covey of hags. The adventurers soon agreed to let the hags escape and, for their mercy, the weird trio offered to perform a ritual to restore their dead companions to life.
The remains of Jitters and Recnac were brought before the crones whose magic created new bodies for their souls to inhabit (Soon Bim’s corpse had, unfortunately, been lost in the rising tide of the magma river but few among the adventurers seemed to mourn the belaboring bumpkin’s passing.) As the pugilistic paladin and his ninja friend woke, the hags imparted a final bit of information to the party before leaving. The night hags had taken a contingent of ettins east and left the fire giant queen and a few of her personal entourage alone in their temple. Recnac and Jitters offered to stay back and keep an eye out for the night hags in case they returned and the rest of the party quickly raced to the temple.
A long black tapestry embroidered with silver and gold wire hung loosely from the rear of the temple, the precious metal threads forming a jagged spiral that seemed to undulate and swirl in the flickering flames of a pair of pitted iron braziers illuminating a series of faded murals depicting an army of demons led by some sort of boar-tusked, bat-winged, apish hulk. The glimmering spiral and eyes of the leering fiends commanded the adventurers’ attention and may have dragged them into madness had it not been for the immediate threat posed by the three heavily armored giants lounging near a blood-spattered altar at the end of the room.
Clad in fire-forged steel plate stood Ruw Skronor an Feusik, consort to Queen Grehennox. In The Barrows, Skronor was known to be the slayer of Exentaser Siratis Vabzir, the Mother of Scorpion Eagles, and it was widely believed he possessed the strength of a titan even before becoming a vampire. Rumors and campfire tales weren’t about to stop the brave adventurers however and, as they charged the altar, a pair of the queen’s elite guard leapt to Skronor’s side their gleaming greatswords cloaked in flames.
“Your forces are destroyed, Ruw Skronor!” Fronz shouted as his blade battered the high-tempered steel of the giant’s plackart. “Prepare to join your vile spawn in Hell!”
With Segod at his side, the slayer of the supernatural proved an onerous opponent to his Antean adversary and, as the pious protectors dueled the undead despot and his dastardly defenders, Armin and Nicholas released their righteous wrath upon the blasphemous brutes. Faith fueling their fervent frenzy, the oracles harnessed the very fabric of life and divinity to blast the vampiric villains as their war-like companions channeled the fury of the heavens into their holy blades.
“Ni kisya ‘as! Ni kisya agas pobel! A-barth Serratine ni budhogoleth!” Skronor roared but, despite the giant’s strength and imposing stature, the tales of the warrior’s power and skill quickly proved to be exaggerations. The truth was that it had taken several fire giants working together to slay the fiendish wyvern Exentaser and Skronor had simply been lucky enough to strike the killing blow. Grehennox’s consort was no greater a warrior than the giants who now fought at his side, but his devotion to the fallen angel Serratine kept him fighting long enough for the fire giant queen to arrive and spring her trap!
As Skronor’s warriors fell into mist around him, the point of a heavy spear suddenly skewered Armin’s lower back as Grehennox appeared behind him. The cunning queen and two of her bodyguards had hidden beneath the floor of the temple entrance below a trap door the adventurers had avoided due to their flight magic. She had hoped one or two of the party would fall into the trap where she would be waiting but, when moments passed and it became obvious Skronor and his men would fail her, she and her warriors slipped out as mist to join the fight.
Withdrawing her spear from Armin’s bowels with a bloody squelch, the malevolent monarch began to spin the fiery weapon in a deadly dance of intimidation. “You think you’ll stop us?!” Grehennox hissed, her blazing locks of orange and marigold flickering as she twirled. “The beastmen of the labyrinth are still plentiful enough for us to rebuild our army and the demons of this region will make up for the loss of my giants! You’ve only delayed the inevitable, you fools! Serratine will have her revenge and the blood of your people will feed her faithful when I rule from my new throne in your precious Barrows!”
Grehennox appeared to glow with an aura of supernatural wrath and power as she spoke, shaking Nicholas and Armin’s resolve. Compelled by terror, the oracles fell back into the temple entrance leaving Fronz and Segod outnumbered by the fire giant queen and her warriors. The paladin and his inquisitor ally, however, staunchly resisted Grehennox’s frightening display of skill and pressed their attacks against the weakened Skronor, mocking the accursed fire giants as they slew the queen’s consort.
“How low your tribe has fallen,” Segod snorted. “Can you really be Grehennox Ironbelly, daughter of the mighty King Snurre? The Grehennox from the tales I heard defied a half-god dragon for the freedom of her people!”
Even as Grehennox and her remaining warriors pressed their advantage, the resolute crusaders battled them with heart and steel. “Who could ever…be afraid of…a woman…” the inquisitor scoffed even as a fire giant blade cracked his breastplate cutting deep into his ribcage. “…who lets her entire clan…become subservient…b!&es…to some…forgotten celestial tart…rotting in a box under her porch!”
The inquisitor’s shaming words were lost on the cold, emotionless minds of the damned undead and blood foamed on his lips as he and his stalwart companion launched a final desperate attack on the giants, but the courage of his defiance did not go unnoticed by Armin or Nicholas. As Fronz and Segod took advantage of their size and speed to weave among the stone pillars supporting the temple ceiling, a wall of whirling blades suddenly erupted from the floor grinding Grehennox’s bodyguards into clouds of bloody fog at Armin’s command. The roguish fire giant queen, however, managed to dodge the scything swords and evaded their rending rotations entirely.
With Grehennox’s minions flayed into harmless mist and the fire giant queen separated from his companions, Nicholas rushed to Segod’s aid healing the inquisitor’s terrible wounds. “This isn’t over!” Grehennox spat through the wall of slashing steel, her form already beginning to shift into gas. “I’ll return with a larger army! There will be justice for Serr-ugh! Gak-urgh! Blarg!”
“Justice…*koff*…is served,” Fronz choked through the blood filling his lungs. Before Grehennox could escape, the paladin had thrown himself through the barrier of blades to deliver a barrage of deadly slashes to her neck and chest. The vaporous vampire managed to slip through the cracks of a hidden door behind the altar, but she would not survive to further endanger the people of The Barrows. Though Grehennox managed to reach the pool of lava behind her throne in Ironbelly Hall, she discovered her azer slaves were not there to lift the heavy, fire-forged coffin hidden beneath the boiling magma. Instead, she found the ash-strewn ruins of her once-great hall and, as her silently screaming form fell to dust, she heard the mocking, cheerful laughter of a tiny dragon who was very happy to be alive.
I miss the WLD and look forward to see what the next group(s) do. Too bad we weren't able to handle Mag'og, but we did take care of Jerkall, Thoradin and Grehennox.
And Fyrsil got the final laugh, so that rocks. Lil guy was found on our....second? Third? Session. Good to see him happy at the end(?).
Also love how Soon Bim was handled.
Greetings, dear readers! I've returned with the epilogue for Volume 2 of our grand adventure. Unfortunately, I've had to drastically scale back on photo illustrations for the campaign because I have so little time, but I'll still try to knock out a few from time to time. I'll be putting together the next block of the campaign over the next couple of weeks, and I hope to have a new group ready to play within a month. See you then!
World's Largest Dungeon: Volume 2 Epilogue
Life in The Dungeon gradually returned to normal in the weeks following Queen Grehennox’s defeat. Having wiped out the fire giant queen’s vampire army, Recnac, Fronz, Jitters, Nicholas, Armin and Segod returned to The Barrows where they were celebrated as heroes. The last of Serratine’s vampire spawn were hunted down and destroyed through the efforts of the Wolag, the Barrow Wardens and Melody and her deputies, and the mithril key sphere used to access the fallen angel’s tomb was thrown into the Tanbera by Shi. The priest prayed for the key to be destroyed by the infernal heat or, at the very least, lost forever in the flaming fissure, but he knew victories in The Dungeon are rarely certain or come without a cost.
Though the warrior Durga’s original team of vampire spawn had concentrated on turning artisans and merchants with access to precious metals, the spawn sent to attack the Wolag had preyed on the large number of poor laborers dwelling in the Halls of Flesh. The population of The Barrows was never very accurately recorded, but Melody estimated a quarter of the prisoners under her watch had been turned or killed by the vampires. Frustrated and grief-stricken over her self-perceived inability to adequately protect The Barrows, the centaur resigned her post as Peacekeeper as soon as she was convinced the remaining vampires were destroyed.
With much of their workforce depleted, many of The Barrows’ guild masters pressed the hardy ratfolk into service. The verminkin received less pay, worse quarters and more dangerous assignments than their neighbors leading nobler souls to protest their poor treatment, but most Barrowsmen regarded the ratfolk as unclean beasts, little better than goblins. Marginalized by the prisoners occupying The Barrows, many ratfolk moved into the abandoned workshops of Region I’s ettercaps where they formed a small community of tinkerers and alchemists they named Jor Belgareth.
The ratfolk weren’t the only people to suffer from the fallout of Serratine’s incursion. Heiml, the fire giant exile responsible for bringing the secret of fire-forged steel to The Barrows, was accused of spying for Queen Grehennox when it was discovered her clan was in league with the vampire queen. Few dared to challenge the large warrior alone but, as anger toward the giants increased, mobs of angry protesters began to gather outside the Barrows’ forge to test and harass Heiml’s patience until his fiery temper and pride finally got the better of him. When several flasks of alchemical liquid ice were thrown into the forge, the giant killed or wounded nearly a dozen protesters before Melody’s ratfolk deputies, Rapituk and Ripitat, could respond to disperse the crowd. The enraged fire giant resisted arrest and was slain by the minotaur warrior Kylix who was only visiting the forge on an errand when the riot began.
The goblin wizard Fargallan chose not to return to The Barrows after the vampire attacks, but an ettercap bearing a proclamation from the reclusive mage appeared at l’Resk’afar Market a few weeks after the undead were defeated. The wizard announced he was taking control of a ruined watchtower in The Chasm where he could conduct his research in peace and keep an eye out for supernatural threats from The Pyrefaust and the nearby collapsed burial mound where a group of adventurers had recently imprisoned an extraplanar devourer of souls. Fargallan made it clear he wished to be left alone, but he would continue to provide enchanted goods to The Barrows through his new ettercap servants.
Things did eventually settle down in The Barrows but, if anyone truly benefitted from the adventurers’ victory over Serratine’s forces, it was the azer of the Pyrefaust. It was certainly true that the dwarf-like outsiders had lost a number of warriors during the adventurers’ initial conflicts with Ter’Kaal, Queen Grehennox, the celestial rasts and the fire trolls of Baltazzar the Uncaring but, thanks to their unflinching patience and flexible loyalty, most of the azer had survived to become the masters of the Pyrefaust. The industrious creatures quickly seized the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Rings of the Pyrefaust for their burgeoning empire and sent an envoy to The Barrows to work out a trade and labor agreement. The azer gave control of the Second Ring to the crazed magmin and re-opened the Sixth Ring freeing the lantern archon Jacko and his growing flock of rasts to keep the Tyrus-worshipping lava goblins in check.
The Celestial Garrison of Region E was pleased to hear of Serratine’s defeat and “rewarded” The Barrows by assigning the kolyarut Presin to serve as an ambassador within the community. The inevitable’s official duties as interpreter of law and legal historian for the Garrison were rarely called upon by his superiors and Presin was excited to offer his skills to The Barrows’ guilds, but many suspected the mechanical mediator had been sent to spy on them. Despite this often-open distrust from the prisoners, Presin undeterredly wandered every corner of the community from l’Resk’afar to Jor Belgareth and soon garnered a reputation for wisdom and fair-mindedness.
With their levels of safety and comfort returning to within normal parameters for life in The Dungeon, the prisoners soon turned back to the tasks of everyday survival and escape. The kraken Mahg’og’s conquest of The Shallows had not been forgotten and the adventurers’ tales of the ettins, night hags and demons still lurking in Corocalad only presented more obstacles on the road to freedom, but reports of the isolated Children of the Inner Light had reached the ears of the Celestial Garrison and rumors of an imminent assault to assist the angels began to circulate through Four Waters and The Barrows. A new challenge would bring new adventurers to the Wolag’s doorstep and removing the demons and their allies from the Ring of Light and Fire would clear a path back into The Shallows and bring the prisoners of The Dungeon one step closer to finally breaking free.
|Lord Antagonis the Generic|
Muahahaha! I bet you all thought you'd seen the last of me! Well too bad, I'm back! I have to admit I'm a little disappointed these fools managed to defeat Queen Grehennox and her brood, but I suppose it only proves that no matter what creature you give the template, Vampires still suck. Get it? Why aren't you laughing?! It's a classic! I command you to laugh! Laugh or I'll order a beary smoothie. That's what I call throwing a sack of koalas into a blade barrier.
Anyway, I thought some of you might want to know exactly what these blunderers were up against so I had my spies put together this little dossier about Queen Grehennox:
At the time of her defeat, she was afflicted with vampirism, the unfortunate result of challenging the fallen angel Serratine.
QUEEN GREHENNOX, FIRE GIANT VAMPIRE ROGUE(THUG) 3 CR 15
LE Large undead (fire, giant)
Init +7; Senses low-light vision; darkvision 60ft, Perception +30
AC 35, touch 13, flat-footed 21 (+8 armor, +3 Dex, +14 natural, +1 dodge, –1size)
hp 244 (18d8+126)
Fort +18, Ref +15, Will +13
Defensive Abilities rock catching; channel resistance +4, DR 10/magic and silver, resistance to cold 10 and electricity 10 fast healing 5, evasion
Immune fire, undead traits
Weaknesses vulnerability to cold, Vampires cannot tolerate the strong odor of garlic and will not enter an area laced with it. Similarly, they recoil from mirrors or strongly presented holy symbols. These things don't harm the vampire—they merely keep it at bay. A recoiling vampire must stay at least 5 feet away from the mirror or holy symbol and cannot touch or make melee attacks against that creature. Holding a vampire at bay takes a standard action. After 1 round, a vampire can overcome its revulsion of the object and function normally each round it makes a DC 25 Will save.
Vampires cannot enter a private home or dwelling unless invited in by someone with the authority to do so.
Reducing a vampire's hit points to 0 or lower incapacitates it but doesn't always destroy it (see fast healing). However, certain attacks can slay vampires. Exposing any vampire to direct sunlight staggers it on the first round of exposure and destroys it utterly on the second consecutive round of exposure if it does not escape. Each round of immersion in running water inflicts damage on a vampire equal to one-third of its maximum hit points—a vampire reduced to 0 hit points in this manner is destroyed. Driving awooden stake through a helpless vampire's heart instantly slays it (this is a full-round action). However, it returns to life if the stake is removed, unless the head is also severed and anointed with holy water.
Speed 40 ft. (30 ft. in armor)
Melee +2 fireforged longspear +30/+25/+20 (2d6+23+1d6 fire,) or +2 short sword +29/+24/+19 (1d8+16+1d6fire) or +2 dagger +29/+24/+19 (1d6+16+1d6fire) or 2 slams +27 (1d8+14+1d6 fire+energy drain)
Ranged rock +15 (1d8+21 plus 1d6 fire)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks heated rock, rock throwing (120 ft.,) sneak attack +2d6
Blood Drain (Su)
A vampire can suck blood from a grappled opponent; if the vampire establishes or maintains a pin, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution damage. The vampire heals 5 hit points or gains 5 temporary hit points for 1 hour (up to a maximum number of temporary hit points equal to its full normal hit points) each round it drains blood.Children of the Night (Su)
Once per day, a vampire can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or 2d6 wolves as a standard action. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might summon other creatures of similar power.) These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.
Create Spawn (Su)
A vampire can create spawn out of those it slays with blood drain or energy drain, provided that the slain creature is of the same creature type as the vampire's base creature type. The victim rises from death as a vampire spawn in 1d4 days. This vampire is under the command of the vampire that created it, and remains enslaved until its master's destruction. A vampire may have enslaved spawn totaling no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit become free-willed undead. A vampire may free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again.
A vampire can crush a humanoid opponent's will as a standard action. Anyone the vampire targets must succeed on a Will save (DC25) or fall instantly under the vampire's influence, as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet. At the GM's discretion, some vampires might be able to affect different creature types with this power.
Energy Drain (Su)
A creature hit by a vampire's slam (or other natural weapon) gains two negative levels. This ability only triggers once per round, regardless of the number of attacks a vampire makes.
Whenever a thug successfully uses Intimidate to demoralize a creature, the duration of the shaken condition is increased by 1 round. In addition, if the target is shaken for 4 or more rounds, the thug can instead decide to make the targetfrightened for 1 round.
This ability replaces trapfinding.
Brutal Beating (Ex)
At 3rd level, whenever a thug deals sneak attack damage, she can choose to forgo 1d6 points of sneak attack damage to make the target sickened for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 her rogue level. This ability does not stack with itself—only the most recent duration applies.
This ability replaces trap sense.
Str 38, Dex 16, Con - , Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 22
Base Atk +13; CMB +28 (+30 sunder, grapple;) CMD 41 (43 vs sunder, grapple)
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Grapple, Improved Sunder, Iron Will, Martial Weapon Proficiency (greatsword), Power Attack, Weapon Focus (longspear,) Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness, Intimidating Prowess, Dazzling Display
Skills: Acrobatics +20 Bluff +35 Climb +14, Craft (weapon) +8, Disable Device +21 Diplomacy +11 Craft (weapon) +8, Intimidate +45, Perception+30 Sense Motive +20 Stealth +20 Racial Modifiers +8 Bluff, Perception, Sense Motive, and Stealth
Languages Common, Giant, Infernal, Draconic
Rogue Talents: Strong Impression
Heated Rock (Su)
Fire giants transfer the heat of their bodies to rocks as part of an attack action when they throw rocks. A heated rock deals 1d6 points of additional fire damage on a hit.
Change Shape (Su)
A vampire can use change shape to assume the form of a dire bat or wolf, as beast shape II.
Gaseous Form (Su)
As a standard action, a vampire can assume gaseous form at will (caster level 5th), but it can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.
A vampire casts no shadows and shows no reflection in a mirror.
Spider Climb (Ex)
A vampire can climb sheer surfaces as though under the effects of a spider climb spell.
Treasure: +2 limning, fireforged longspear, +2 fireforged short sword, +2 fireforged dagger, +2 fireforged agile breastplate, Ironbelly Crown (greater circlet of persuasion; +5 CHA based checks, suggestion DC14 3/day,12,500gp,) ring of invisibility, jeweled belt of giant strength +2 (+10,000gp to value,) jewelry worth 15000gp, cloak of resistance +2
While we're on the topic of dead things, it's been awhile since we tallied the number of worm hotels opened in the Dungeon since this all started.
2. Segod Flamstead
6. Nicholas Lightwalker
7. Morg = squatting in The Wolag, The Barrows
8. Kylix = pursuing missions for Arnarah and the Golden Axe tribe, The Barrows
9. Fizzwidget = MIA, last seen in the Minotaur Labyrinth
10. Balabar Fizzlewink = MIA, last seen in the Minotaur Labyrinth
11. Hantash = MIA, last seen in the Minotaur Labyrinth
12. Shi = resident cleric in the Wolag, The Barrows
13. Fyrsil (NPC) = resident mascot of The Wolag, The Barrows
14. Ron Hunter = last seen in The Chasm north of The Barrows
15. Roch = MIA, last seen in Region C
16. Aria = MIA, last seen in Region C
17. Jasper = MIA, last seen in Region C
18. Klibb = MIA, last seen in Region C
19. Cul'tharic (NPC) = MIA, last seen in Region C
20. Traxxas = MIA, last seen in Region C
21. Riswan = guarding Anguish’s cell, The Halls of Flesh
22. Ragnar = protecting the Roc nests of Black Mountain, The Chasm
23. Walker = in Hell
24. Saelin = left party, killed by wererat Mina
25. Mina = left party, became wererat, killed by Hammerfist
26. Ranoth = killed by lightning bolt
27. Poker = killed by darkmantles
28. Lockwalt = killed by darkmantles
29. Foxy Loxy (NPC pet) = killed by darkmantles
30. Air'elon = killed by lightning bolt
31. Runath = left party, killed by howlers
32. Chu = killed by lightning bolt
33. Ayla = killed by dire wolf
34. Laze = left party, joined The Trust, killed by Nardarik
35. Dorin = killed by ghoul paladins
36. Drax = killed by howlers
37. Dammi-tall = killed by bugbear
38. Dorian = killed by howlers
39. Marius = killed by bugbear
40. Annali = killed by phantasmal killer trap
41. Gofer = killed by ghoul paladins
42. Dan-Zig = killed by ghoul paladins
43. Mio = killed by ghoul paladins
44. Jin = killed by pendulum blade trap
45. Pojies = killed by ghoul paladins
46. Rayder = killed by shadows
47. Kraum aka The ½ Orc = killed by shadows
48. Jayder = killed by shadows
49. Rudeth Ravenlark = killed by shadows
50. Grimdar = killed by hellwasp swarm
51. Mark = killed by ghoul
52. Rags = petrified by medusa
53. Troy = killed by cloudkill trap
54. Chumlee the Third = killed by mimic
55. Chumlee the Seventh = killed by harpies
56. Patterson = killed by dragon bile poisoned key
57. Reg = petrified by medusa
58. Janus = killed by harpies
59. Grackle = petrified by warp gate
60. Sloth = killed by harpies
61. Felix = killed by harpies
62. Jonathon = killed by harpies
63. Durthuunicar I = petrified by warp gate
64. Ayor = energy drained to death by warp gate
65. Vyk Vulkyn = hentai'd to death by black tentacles
66. Elster "The Stir" Slocan = absorbed by the Halls of Flesh
67. Armond = eaten by The Green Death
68. Pallas = experimented on by Eletor, died
69. Nicky Holroyd = killed by belker
70. Pyewacket (NPC Familiar) = killed by drider Vala
71. T-Bone the Stingy Gorilla = killed by critical hit lingering envervation spell/leapt to death in a river of lava
72. Durthuunicar II = killed by Ghoul Fever-infected velociraptors
73. Patreus = killed by warp gates in Region F
74. Marcus = left party, killed by Savage Sid Lake
75. Hurk = left party, killed by Stone Speaker goblin wererats
76. Thorin = left party, killed by Stone Speaker goblin wererats
77. Cicero = killed by celestial trap
78. Isywyn (NPC animal companion) = killed by salamander Ksers
79. Thrix = killed by salamander Ksers
80. Hoggle = killed by salamander Ksers
81. Ajax = killed by Pyrefaust trolls
82. Aramil = killed by Pyrefaust trolls
83. Les Dwalen = killed by troll boss Fedj'ik
84. Nalia = killed by Ter'Kaal
85. Sasha = killed by Ter'Kaal
86. Vlad = killed by devourer
87. Tigerlilly = killed by confused Throg
88. Milo = killed by devourer
89. Throg = killed by cave-in in devourer barrow
90. Nero = killed by rasts
91. Fabio = killed by confused dire wolf mount
92. Fuzzy (NPC mount) = killed by fiendish wyverns
93. Otis = killed by fiendish wyverns
94. Bingles Cogglefizz = killed by Exentaser
95. Varnik Bearshirt Jarllson = killed by fire giants
96. Bird (NPC animal companion) = killed by poison trap
97. Jayden = killed by roper
98. Unam = killed by roper
99. Squiggs = killed by roper
100. Radamir = killed by roper
101. Serket (NPC familiar) = reverted to mundane scorpion, lost in the Shallows
102. Unami = killed by Thorodin
103. Grundimir = killed by Thorodin
104. Lupin = killed by Thorodin
105. Billy (NPC familiar) = reverted to mundane bat, lost in The Shallows
106. Quaanth = frozen and suffocated by celestial ice trap
107. Stragh = killed by sea trolls
108. Corporal Snips (NPC vermin companion) = dominated by aboleth, presumed dead
109. Telkar = eaten by a shark
110. Zuriel = killed by aboleth
111. Balarath = killed by animated chains
112. Amitel = dominated by aboleth, presumed dead
113. Moiran = killed by Mahg’og
114. Descartes = killed by Mahg’og
115. Kharis = killed by Mahg’og
116. Broka = driven insane, mutated and abandoned on Madowlieloren
117. Throrgin = driven insane, mutated and abandoned in Groth-Lhunaer
118. Rome = killed by lantern scorpion
119. Brynjar = destroyed by the Chains of Remorse
120. Ginx = eaten by a shark
121. Woofgang (NPC animal companion) = killed by Lord Tarnaticus
122. Hrothgar = possessed by Lord Tarnaticus, slain by party
123. Horkus = killed by a vrock
124. Soon Bim = killed by vampyre giant
Minus the pets, that puts us at 91 dead adventurers. Only nine more and I unlock a trophy!
Finding Pathfinder players in Juneau is turning out to be harder than I thought. Until I can put together a new group, I figured I could share a little more about the campaign. First off, I've made a few adjustments to character creation rules for the adventure:
2 traits (no campaign traits)
Some feat restrictions
2 campaign perks (below)
Hit Points - Player characters will receive maximum HP for level 1 + (1/2HD + 1 HP) for every level after up to level 5. Beginning at level 6, PCs receive 1/2HD + 2 HP up to level 10. From level 11, PCs receive 1/2HD + 3 HP to level 15. At level 16, PCs gain 1/2HD + 4hp up to level 20 (i.e. a fighter has 10+(6x4)=34 HP at level 5, 10+(6x4)+(7x5)=69 HP at level 10, 10+(6x4)+(7x5)+(8x5)=109HP at level 15 and 10+(6x4)+(7x5)+(8x5)+(9x5)=154hp at level 20.) Add Constitution modifiers and other bonuses as normal.
Beginning level - 14
Wealth & Equipment - The prisoners and other denizens of the dungeon have to salvage, scavenge, repair or craft many of their items from scratch since they don't have access to the outside world. Limited resources, manpower and skill translates into a spending cap on individual items and a limit to what the NPCs can create. This is both a power limiter and an incentive for players to actually win the magical items in the dungeon through exploration and combat instead of taking enchanted gear for granted.
Starting Gold – Players receive the standard starting funds based on their Wealth by Level. This amount is assumed to derive from the value of services rendered, trade goods and loot from around the dungeon since coins are still relatively scarce. At level 14, the beginning value of the PCs' wealth is 185,000gp. What isn't spent can be converted into various trade goods, small assortments of coins and gems and/or credit.
Spending limit – As mentioned, the artisans of the dungeon only have enough resources to produce certain items. Players can spend up 15% of their WBL on individual items. At level 14, this amount is 27,750gp.
Wondrous Items, Enchanted Weapons, Etc. - The craftsmen of the dungeon are limited to creating items for which they have the necessary feats and spells. I keep track of what spells, feats and skills the NPCs have so I update the list of available gear as the party gains experience. I'm not going to post the full list here because it would be too lengthy and difficult but, while limited, it is still full of useful gear like ability score-enhancing items, rods, rings and scrolls.
Barred Classes – Summoner, Gunslinger, Antipaladin, Vigilante, All Hybrid, Occult and Unchained classes.
Summoning and Teleportation magic don't function in the Dungeon so summoners would be at a huge disadvantage in the adventure.
The ability to craft and maintain firearms just doesn't exist in the dungeon as I'm running it, and I don't want to shoe-horn them into the treasure so I'm barring gunslingers.
Evil characters are highly discouraged. The Line (the border between Regions I and E) is guarded by wards that prevent evil creatures from passing into the south. An evil cleric or oracle coming into Four Waters from the main entrance, might simply be exiled into the north with a warning, but an antipaladin wouldn't be suffered to live if discovered by the Celestial Garrison.
As much as I like some of the Occult, Hybrid and Unchained classes, it would require too much time and effort to shoehorn them into the adventure at this point in the campaign and I don't want the new classes to overshadow the classic ones.
Allowed Races - This adventure is, at its heart, the tale of the prisoners of Lord Antagonis. A few natives of the dungeon may have been added to the list of available player races but their presence should never overshadow the core races. Therefore, the following rules apply to playable races in the adventure.
Races available - All core races, aasimar*, ratfolk**, azer***
The party may include 1 non-core race PC for every 2 core race PCs. Only one member of each non-core race may be represented in the party (i.e. The One Wookiee Rule.)
* base aasimar only. No variants.
** a ratfolk PC loses the Swarming racial trait and instead gains the Cornered Fury alternate racial trait. This is because only one ratfolk is allowed per party.
Cornered Fury: Ratfolk can fight viciously when cut off from friends and allies. Whenever a ratfolk with this racial trait is reduced to half or fewer of his hit points, and has no conscious ally within 30 feet, he gains a +2 racial bonus on melee attack rolls and to Armor Class. This racial trait replaces swarming.
*** azer PCs suffer a -2 experience level penalty in comparison to other races due to their advanced hit dice and special abilities (i.e. an azer begins play at level 12 instead of 14 and so on as PC levels increase.)
Azer player race - Azer NPCs within The Dungeon are strictly Lawful Neutral, an outlook that has served their race well over the millennia. Azer PCs are not restricted in their alignment choices, but Lawful and Neutral alignments should be favored in keeping with the race’s adherence to patience and dedication. Most Azer NPCs are experts, warriors or fighters. Non-spellcasting warrior classes such as samurai, cavalier and fighter would be the most common adventurer classes encountered. There are no spellcasters or alchemists among the NPC Azer and no training is available within their own society for most spellcasting classes. PC Azer should consider sorcerers or oracles with fire-related mysteries or bloodlines for spellcasting classes.
The Azer of The Dungeon have been here so long they are almost entirely unaware of the common deities of the pantheon. However, they have grown to favor dealing with followers of Abadar when conducting business. Most azer are non-religious, but many of those who served the oni Ter’Kaal still make small offerings to Zamaan Rul, Archomental Prince of Good Fire Creatures, and some very old azer still invoke Amaimon, an ancient azer sultan, as a volksgeist.
Azer PCs have the following racial traits and abilities:
• Outsider (fire, extraplanar) - Spells that restore souls to their bodies, such as raise dead, reincarnate, and resurrection, don’t work on an outsider. It takes a different magical effect, such as limited wish, wish, miracle, or true resurrection to restore it to life. Outsiders breathe, but do not need to eat or sleep (although they can do so if they wish).
• Str +2 Con +2 Cha –2
• Darkvision 60ft.
• Natural Armor +2
• Medium size – Azer base speed is 30ft.
• Energy Immunity - Fire
• Spell Resistance = 11+HD
• Energy Vulnerability - Cold
• Heat - Azer are able to channel heat through metal weapons and tools. This enables them to deal +1d6 fire damage with melee weapons or unarmed attacks.
• Proficient with all simple and martial weapons
• Proficient with Scale Mail, Light Armor and Shields (not proficient with Tower Shields.) It is rare for azer to wear non-metal armors due to the heat of their bodies, societal customs and the general lack of other materials native to The Pyrefaust.
• Bonus Hit Dice – Azer begin with 2d10 hit dice which give them 16hp, Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +3, BAB +2, 12 skill points and 1 feat before ability score and class level adjustments. Their racial class skills are Appraise, Bluff, Craft, Knowledge (engineering), Knowledge (nobility), Knowledge (planes), Perception, Sense Motive.
• Starting Gold – Azer PCs begin with WBL according to their class levels + 780gp (i.e. an azer beginning as a level 12 fighter receives 108,780gp)
• Beginning Languages – Ignan, Common. Azer with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Giant, Draconic, Infernal, Dwarf
Campaign Perks - Campaign perks are special abilities granted to PCs as they progress through the dungeon. Each character receives two campaign perks chosen from the list below. Additional perks may be gained as the campaign progresses based on GM whimsy. Certain restrictions may apply.
Rough Welcomer (core races, aasimar only) – You cut your teeth by battling Lord Antagonis’ bizarre beasts with Col. Rose’s Welcoming Party at the mouth of the dungeon. Choose two of the following Knowledge skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, Local, Nature, Religion. You gain a +2 competence bonus to identify the abilities of monsters associated with the selected skills and one of these is treated as a class skill for you. Furthermore, you gain a +2 competence bonus to CMD whenever you are in combat with a creature that has a template added to its base statistics.
Dungeon Prospector (any) – Before joining the adventuring party, you spent time on a scavenger team or salvage crew. You gain a +2 competence bonus to Appraise checks and Survival checks to find edible food and water. Spending a week in a new region of the dungeon also grants you a +2 competence bonus to Knowledge (geography,) Survival and Perception checks made to identify and recall notable areas, avoid becoming lost and discover hidden doors.
Redeemed (non-evil, non-Chaotic Neutral, non-azer only) – Though not a Charter-recognized member of the Celestial Garrison, you’re certainly on your way. Your reputation with the Celestial Garrison has earned you the privilege to barter for goods from the Garrison’s armory of rare and unique treasures. Furthermore, this perk qualifies as a success in one of the three tests needed to gain membership with the Celestial Garrison. This perk is subject to loss if the character ever loses the trust of the Celestial Garrison.
Chasm Rover (any) – Your time exploring the Chasm has inured you to some of Region M’s environmental hazards. You gain a +2 competence bonus on Fortitude saves vs. heat effects and poisonous gases including earthblood vapors and heat and gases created by magic such as Cloudkill and Stinking Cloud. Bonus: Characters with this perk and the Improved Familiar feat may adopt one of the Chasm’s shocker lizards or mephits as a familiar if they are eligible to have a familiar, characters with this perk and access to an animal companion may select a small or medium-sized shocker lizard as their animal companion and, finally, small-sized characters with this perk and access to a special mount may select a medium-sized shocker lizard as a mount.
Medium-sized Shocker Lizard adjustments: Attack – bite 1d6, shock 2d6 AC - +3 natural Ability Scores STR +4 DEX -2 CON +4
Flesh Crawler (any non-azer, non-aasimar) – By choice or circumstance, you’ve spent much of your imprisonment within the Halls of Flesh. Prolonged exposure to the region’s omnipresent neoplasm has mutated your body resulting in amazing regenerative abilities at the cost of your physical faculties. You heal +1hp for every hour of rest in addition to the standard hit points restored from resting. You also heal from nonlethal damage at a rate of 2 points per hour per level, and ability damage is healed at a rate of 1.5 points for 8 hours of daily rest or 3 points for a full day of rest. Unfortunately, the aberrant source of your accelerated healing is also the cause of deformities that hinder your coordination. Choose one group of skills from the following: Acrobatics, Climb & Fly; Escape Artist, Stealth & Swim; Disable Device, Sleight of Hand & Ride. You suffer a -3 penalty to those skills due to your deformities. The specific description of any deformities possessed by your character are up to you.
Barrow Knacker (any non-azer, non-ratfolk) – The Barrow Wardens have a mixed reputation in The Dungeon, but few know that better than you since you used to be one of them. Often overmatched and sometimes through controversial or dishonorable means, you defended wealthy Barrowmen and caravan merchants from salamanders, gricks, wyverns and vampires among other horrors. Whether you left the Barrow Wardens out of ambition, avarice or guilt, the survival skills you learned among them stayed with you and kick in when all seems lost. Whenever you are reduced to below one-fourth of your total hit points, you receive a +3 morale bonus to the following skills and combat maneuvers: Acrobatics, Bluff, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Stealth; Dirty Trick, Disarm, Steal, Reposition.
Pack Ratfolk (ratfolk only) – While many of your kind chose to stay near The Barrows after their displacement, you became a wandering peddler with one of the ratfolk caravans. Your understanding of the various communities within the dungeon grants you a +2 circumstance bonus to Knowledge (local) and Diplomacy checks to gather information within any community in which you have spent at least one week. You also receive one of the following languages as a bonus language: elf, gnome, dwarf, halfling, goblin, giant. Lastly, the need to maximize your profits has taught you how to better cram more gear into your pack. For the purpose of encumbrance and carrying capacity, you are treated as if you are a medium-sized creature instead of a small-sized creature.
Riddle of Fire-Forged Steel (azer only) – Through dedication and perseverance you have unlocked the secrets of fire-forged steel. As a swift action, you can channel your Heat through your armor if it is crafted from fire-forged steel. Creatures grappling you, striking you with natural weapons or otherwise coming into physical contact with you are dealt 1d6 fire damage. This effect lasts 1d4 rounds. You may immediately deal fire damage with melee weapons made from fire-forged steel using your Heat ability. Furthermore, this damage increases to +1d8 or +1d10 if you are also wearing fire-forged steel armor. This damage does not stack with flaming weapon effects or the damage caused by your Heat ability.
Additional Details - Character race and alignment affect your starting point in the dungeon. Evil-minded but relatively harmless characters entering the dungeon are immediately escorted to The Line and exiled to the north where they are told that they may return to the south if the wards ever choose them worthy. Evil, unrepentant criminals and deviants deemed too dangerous to roam free are given the option of a quick, painless death or imprisonment in the labyrinth of Region F where they get to take their chances with the minotaurs and the warp gates. Extremely volatile and hateful evildoers don't even make it past the Redeemer inquisitors and paladins stationed at the gate.
Neutral and Lawful Neutral creatures are welcome to live within Regions A, B and E and many do because of the calm and security provided by the Garrison. Chaotic Neutral types are tolerated as long as they don't cause any trouble, but most end up immigrating north because the sterility and calm of the south bores them.
Good creatures mainly stick to the south regions though a few noble and charitable souls make their way north to provide aid to the less fortunate or to try to quell the rampant debauchery and crime they keep hearing about from ratfolk traders. Lawful Neutral creatures sometimes head north for the same reasons.
Now that you know a little more about how the characters will be created, here's a little background on their neighbors in the Dungeon:
Four Waters – The original prisoner colony comprises all of Region A, the northwest corner of Region B and much of Region E. Four Waters is, by far, the safest community thanks to its many defensive wards, heavily armed Redeemer patrols and the Celestial Garrison outpost on its northern edge. The community is represented by a small council of elected officials who work with the Celestial Garrison to organize security patrols, mediate disputes and negotiate with outside communities. Four Water controls most of the potable water, vegetables and fruit available to the prisoners. Most trade is conducted through barter or labor vouchers (a scrip representing the gold coin value of labor conducted in service to the community.)
The Celestial Garrison – Technically part of Four Waters, the angelic and inevitable warriors of the Celestial Garrison took benevolent military control of the prisoner community after demons gained a foothold in the eastern section of Region C. In exchange for healing, food and shelter within Four Waters’ borders, the prisoners live under the strict laws and scrutiny of the garrison. Able-bodied prisoners are also highly encouraged to join the Redeemers, a militia that receives training and access to better equipment from the garrison’s armory.
The Stoneshaper Empire – A tribe of neutral-aligned goblins dwelling in Regions B and C, the Stoneshaper Empire is ruled by Goblinbane, a hobgoblin military commander-turned theologian. After dozens of goblins went missing or died serving causes outside the Empire, Goblinbane called his people home and closed his borders to outside settlers. The goblins still trade meat and furs with Four Waters and allow Redeemer patrols to pass through their territory to access the Path of the Righteous, but Goblinbane no longer allows his people to work for anyone outside the Empire. Players may not originate from Stoneshaper territory, but they do have access to the Empire’s signature weapon, the howler javelin:
A howler javelin is an exotic weapon recently developed by the hobgoblins of the Goblin Empire. These bristly javelins are made from quills harvested from captured howlers and require special training to use due to the miniscule flesh-grabbing hooks lining their surface.
An opponent hit by a howler javelin must make a Reflex save (DC 16) or have the javelin break off after lodging in his or her flesh. A lodged javelin imposes a –1 circumstance penalty on attacks, saves, and checks. Removing the javelin deals 1d6 additional points of damage. Howler javelins that hit a target cannot be recovered. Howler javelins that miss their target have a 50% chance of breaking on impact, rendering them useless. Since a howler javelin isn't crafted for melee, all characters are treated as not proficient with it and thus take a –4 penalty on their melee attack rolls.
Price 2gp Range 30ft. DMG 1d6 Crit x2 Weight 2lb. Type Piercing
The Barrows – This former drider stronghold is a chaotic frontier town compared to Four Waters. Leadership is divided among several guild leaders who control production of goods and access to commodities through the exploitation of labor and hoarding of resources. Owing to its beginnings as a satellite of Four Waters, labor vouchers are still used as currency here but coins are becoming more common since The Barrows has better access to precious metals and lost treasures outside the southern regions. The community is split between l’Resk’afar and the Silkstone Warrens of Region M and Drowtown and Jor Belgareth within the Halls of Flesh in Region I.
l’Resk’afar - The massive crater mine l’Resk’afar is the source of nearly all of the prisoners’ ore and gems. A large shanty market forms a crescent along the western, southern and eastern edge of the crater and doubles as living quarters for the skilled artisans who provide equipment, food and services to the community. The residents here effectively form the middle class of The Barrows, save for the wealthy Bolg Ged’Kampat mining company which controls metal and gem extraction. The Wolag adventurers’ guildhall is located nearby on the eastern edge of The Barrows.
The Silkstone Warrens – The former home of the Spider Kings (the destroyed drider cabal) is now the home of the wealthiest Barrowfolk. The warrens provide shelter to the Gwilbrin Bar alchemist’s guild, the Boel Gwithysi armorers and the Barrow Wardens. Led by Spishak Kilbane, the Gwilbrin Bar built its fortune cultivating Fleshroot Fungus for medicine, spell components, poisons and narcotics and taking control of the silkstone factory after Fargallan vacated The Barrows. The Boel Gwithysi control the largest forge in The Barrows and produce high quality weapons and armor for nearly every community in the explored Dungeon. Jakob Shweikart’s Barrow Wardens occupy the driders’ former prison and interrogation chambers. Since paladin Melody stepped down as Peacekeeper, Schweikart and his mercenaries now serve as the Barrows police force.
Drowtown – The poorest Barrowfolk live in Drowtown, a former barracks and command post for the driders’ slave army. Many here are unable or unwilling to work for the guilds and turn to crime or scavenging the Halls of Flesh to survive. The regenerating tissue infesting the halls provides free sustenance, but mutation and disease are rampant among anyone brave or desperate enough to eat it.
Jor Belgareth – “The Rat Maze” makes up the northwest corner of Region I and is populated almost entirely by the marginalized ratfolk. The verminkin moved into the abandoned ettercap workshops after Fargallan took control of the aberrations’ hive mind and led them into The Chasm. The ratfolk have since formed their own company of tinkers who use the tools and materials they found in the workshops to repair equipment, craft traps and design simple gadgets for trade. Being a social race, the rats offer their few unused cells to other races or visitors to their community, but the smell of the nearby garbage well and the gargantuan otyugh within deter most takers.
The Chasm – North of The Barrows lies The Chasm, a volcanic valley of ash, dust and pitted stone. Very few prisoners choose to live in The Chasm due to the deadly heat, roaming monsters and lack of water, but a few hardy pioneers, prospectors and hermits have tried to stake a claim in Region M’s hell-blasted wasteland. Ragnar’s Cave on Black Mountain, the cloud giant Norkor’s home atop The Dark Crown and Fargallan’s tower mark the only permanent dwellings in The Chasm. King Aphnitern, a fiendish elder air elemental, rules the unexplored wastes to the far north and it is believed the drow slaves freed from the Spider Kings were wiped out when they traveled there.
Ke Puhi Lima Emirate – Ke Puhi Lima Emirate is an azer community that comprises the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Rings of the Pyrefaust. Free of their fire giant and oni masters, the azer assumed control of the Pyrefaust and reestablished their old customs. Their society follows a strict hierarchy that places its people on the level of property and all property under the control of Emir Girra, their leader. The Pyrefaust provides the azer most of what they need to craft highly prized jewelry, weapons, armor and other metal or mineral goods, but they trade with The Barrows for acids, dyes and other alchemical goods they use to augment and embellish their work. Though technically part of the Emirate, Girra declared the Second and Sixth Rings of the Pyrefaust to be unorganized territories and claims no ownership of the cult of crazed magmin or rasts occupying those areas.
Finally, I cobbled together a little map to show the adventurers' progress throughout the entire campaign and the borders of the various factions in The Dungeon:
As you can see, the adventurers have "tamed" a vast swath of The Dungeon, but there still a large area left to explore. Hopefully, I'll find some players to delve into those areas soon.
Have you thought about seeing if any of your former players might be interested in playing again over the internet?
Don't really keep up with it anymore, but there are some good free software packages for doing this kind of thing now, and stuff like skype.
Might not be your cup of tea, but you could keep it rolling to the end.
I've considered it and I might look into it if I don't get anywhere with tabletop gamers. Juneau is a small place and it seems like the few players I'm finding are already involved in other games. I just got a line on a few people who are looking for a game though so things might work out.
Either way, I'm going to finish this thing no matter how long it takes or how many times I transfer. If I don't have a party together by the time I leave Juneau, I can at least use the time to plan out the campaign.
Just for the heck of it, from your first post (dated June 1st, 2009):
"Our cast of characters:
Lord Antagonis the Generic - The ultimate, all-purpose, BBEG complete with Dick Dastardly-style moustache. He started this whole mess.
Ranoth - A human cleric of Pharasma. From a family with a long tradition of hunting the undead, Ranoth was imprisoned in the dungeon for attempting to cure the village of Falcon's Hollow of a plague. Though Ranoth failed to save the village, Antagonis viewed his actions as indicative of the sort of person who might someday challenge his rule and tossed him into the dungeon.
Marcus - A displaced elven fighter raised by a human merchant, Marcus lost his foster father to the plague that struck Falcon's Hollow. His association with Ranoth's quest to cure the plague earned him the ire of Antagonis.
Mina - A human monk and former servant of Antagonis. When Mina's monastery had expended it's usefulness to the dictator, he ordered his warriors to burn the school to the ground and kill all of the remaining monks. Mina escaped the carnage, but was eventually captured and sentenced to the dungeon.
Poker - A gnome rogue and murderer with a penchant for collecting trophies from his victims. Poker was arrested and sent to the dungeon for his crimes.
Lockwalt - An elven evoker whose miscasting of a Stinking Cloud scroll ruined Antagonis' view of the sunset. That was all the reason the petty lord needed to raze the wizard's academy to the ground and have Lockwalt thrown into the dungeon while the academy headmaster lost his head.
Foxy Loxy - Ranoth's pet firefoot fennec, and the party mascot. Foxy snuck into the dungeon after Antagonis' soldiers left the group to their fate."
All long dead. Sad.
Have you noticed any classes... more death resistant than others, like Paladins or Clerics maybe?
Really think the dungeon rules handicap a good bit of the normal defensive magic stuff.
That's a good question. Here are the latest totals for Race and Class during the adventure:
Dwarf - 14
Elf - 9
Gnome - 7
Goblin - 9
Half-Elf - 5
Half-Orc - 15
Halfling - 6
Hobgoblin - 2
Human - 36
Minotaur - 1
Ratfolk - 3
Barbarian - 8
Bard - 5
Cavalier - 2
Cleric - 13.5
Druid - 4.5
Fighter - 11.5
Inquisitor - 3
Magus - 3
Monk - 3.5
Oracle - 6
Ninja - 1.5
Paladin - 9
Ranger - 9
Rogue - 9
Samurai - 0
Sorcerer - 10
Witch - 3
Wizard - 8
Based on those numbers, I'd say Minotaur Samurai have the best odds of survival. Nobody ever plays them so they're never in any danger.
But seriously, off the top of my head, I think Fighters and Clerics have had the greatest luck surviving the dungeon. Sure, more of them have died, but I think the fact that those are the two most played classes shows players seem to feel they have staying power and keep going back to them. Shi (a cleric) and Roch (a cleric/wizard/mystic theurge) were around a long time. Granted both died at least once, but their players stuck with them and they made it all the way to the end of my campaign in Oregon. Hantash (a fighter) constantly got his teeth knocked in but killed mountains of enemies before he finally went down, and Riswan (a halfling fighter of all things) bears the distinction of never once dying and famously survived three consecutive coup de' grace attempts.
The built-in handicaps of the dungeon do present challenges for some builds and entire classes, but it also weakens many of the monsters. No teleportation and no summoning means demons and devils can't spam encounters with buddies, ambush or escape the party as easily. That's going to mean a lot going into the new regions coming up for the party.
Thinking about it a little my best guess for a character built mainly to just survive would be a Paladin, Barbarian (that cookie cutter Invulnerable Rager/Beast Totem/Superstitious thing), or an Internal Alchemist with a Tumor Familiar.
I actually have the urge to roll up some kind of vaguely Germanic Alchemist now. One that loudly says all the time "I don't have a Tooommmmaaah!"
Or maybe a Geokineticist. Those things are supposed to be really sturdy.
Hey everyone. I hate to say it, but I don't think I'm going to get this campaign running again before I leave Juneau.
I've been here a year now and I'm finding that, like most of the people who live in this town, Juneau's small gaming community seems very insular and isn't very trusting of outsiders. The "group" I managed to scrape together consisted of two people from work who are unable commit to a regular game and a third guy who's flaked out every time and doesn't return emails. I'm only going to be stationed here for, maybe, another year so, at this point, I'm not sure continuing the campaign in Juneau is even worth it.
Maybe I'll look into Roll20 or another online method of running the campaign but, until then, the World's Largest Dungeon is, unfortunately, locked down and guarded by terrible monsters covered in templates.
|The Mad Comrade|
It's also a campaign that I've been running for approximately 8 years and one that is roughly 3/4 completed. I can understand some apprehension or being a little intimidated by jumping into the middle of a campaign with a Level 14 character when you don't know the GM or if you don't usually get to play in high-level games. And, I can totally relate to having real life obligations interfere with gaming. It's just a little off-putting to hear there are 10 players competing to get into a 6-player campaign on another night but then hear crickets when you mention you have a campaign with plenty of seats available.
|Lord Antagonis the Generic|
Please stick with it. It took me several months to read through all these entries and it is some great stuff...I have definitely been inspired to relook the campaign. Perhaps you could use your copious amounts of downtime to maybe add some mythic stuff? I find it adds a whole new dimension for players...
Hey everyone. I hate to say it, but I don't think I'm going to get this campaign running again before I leave Juneau.
I've been here a year now and I'm finding that, like most of the people who live in this town, Juneau's small gaming community seems very insular and isn't very trusting of outsiders. The "group" I managed to scrape together consisted of two people from work who are unable commit to a regular game and a third guy who's flaked out every time and doesn't return emails. I'm only going to be stationed here for, maybe, another year so, at this point, I'm not sure continuing the campaign in Juneau is even worth it.
Maybe I'll look into Roll20 or another online method of running the campaign but, until then, the World's Largest Dungeon is, unfortunately, locked down and guarded by terrible monsters covered in templates.
I think you should look into Roll 20 or something. Seems to me you have a ton of people who have played in this campaign, and were discontinued from it by ... life happening.
Just seems like you could easily find 6 former players who wouldn't mind getting back into the saddle, and people game online all the time these days.
Heck if you can't find former players, you could find them on this site pretty easily.
But I'm still hoping to see Walker and his assless chaps pop up again. Always got a mental image of Chuck Norriss dressed like one of the Village People wielding a whip and wearing a cowboy hat or indian headdress.