Lembu, Human Fighter 7 (Two-Handed Sword +1, Flame Tongue, Plate Mail +1, Potion of Speed,
Hodar, Human Magic-User 10 (Scroll of Rope Trick,
Zinethar the Wise, Human Cleric 9 (Footman's Mace +1, Splint Mail +1,
Li Hon, Human Monk 7 (Dagger +1, +2 vs. Small,
Dicinque, Human Thief 7 (Leather +1, Potion of Invisibility,
We picked up where we left off, with the PCs having found their way up the central shaft and into an area of dense, warm mist on a rocky floor. The mist limited to vision ("to 10' or less") with ambient, but dim, light coming from all around. The group chose to head West, attempting to find a wall and look for a way out. In a few minutes of walking a winged form swooped down and them and attacked - a hierocrosphinx!
It slashed up Zinethar the Wise with one claw and one bite. Then it was on the ground and in melee. Li Hon threw a javelin and missed, and Discinque tried to hide in shadows but failed. They melee'd it for a couple of rounds and slew it, but not before it bit Lembu and injured him as well.
With the sphinx dead, they continued west and then slightly north to investigate a larger pile of rocks they caught a glimpse of. They climbed that and found the sphinx's nest - along with thousands of silver pieces, a couple thousand gp, a potion, a long sword, and a mace. Zinethar took the mace as Li Hon sipped the potion. It seemed like healing, so she quaffed it and rolled an 8 - healing up most of her injury. They were unable to see a ceiling from where they were, so they climbed back down and continued west until they found a curved wall. They marked it with incense with a big X and then made a clockwise circle around the circumference. That took the better part of an hour and found them nothing. They began to zig-zag across the room, first going East to the wall, then northwest from there, then south, then northeast, then west, then eventually trying to find the center chute. They did that, and then went south again, then back to the center. They eventually sent their songbird, now named "Finchy," up to the ceiling. It found it but couldn't tell them much. They climbed down the shaft to the padded chair room. Some of them tried the chairs, but nothing. They opened the doors and found their marks, and then returned to the room and climbed up. (In hindsight, I should not have allowed them to open those doors.)
Lembu was very frustrated, claiming this room was clearly a "fake room" and "a red herring." They gave him one of the potions they found - it turned out to be Levitation - and sent him to the ceiling to feel around. He searched around for ways out until the 8 turns they'd rolled for the potion ran out. He found nothing.
Eventually they went to the sphinx and butchered it, trying to see if it had eaten a key or something. Nope.
They climbed its lair and threw Dispel Magic after sending Discinque aside with the potions at the end of a rope to get out of the area effect. Nothing happened.
In the end they decided to tie a rope to the chute's rungs, space each person out along it, and walk it around to ensure they went in a circle and see what they spotted. They went counter-clockwise and within a few steps hit a snag. They investigated and found the rope's progress limited by an iron spiral staircase going up!
They organized their stuff and climbed up to another level, a brightly lit but hot, humid level choked with vegetation with only narrow paths around. They began to follow the paths, over the objections of Lembu who wanted to cut their own to avoid traps.
After some wandering, they found a clearing with a slender figure wearing a hooded robe, tending a rose garden and singing. Discinque quietly said it was probably a medusa, based on the hooded cloak. So they waited at the entrance and he snuck up and backstabbed her. He rolled maximum damage - 24 - and wounded the figure. She wasn't surprised and won the initiative on the next turn and turned around. None of the PCs declared they were looking away during their actions - mostly "run up and attack!" - and Lembu, Li Hon, and Disincque all failed their Saving Throws vs. Petrifaction (or Petrification, depending on where you look in the books). Li Hon and Disincque each failed by 1. The only non petrified PCs were Zinethar and Hodar. Zinethar charged with his new mace and struck the medusa, wounding her and revealing the mace was a Footman's Mace +2. Even so, she was still up. Hodar threw three darts and hit with two, doing 2 damage total. They began to avoid her gaze, taking a -4 to hit. Zinethar swung and missed, and the medusa hit him and wounded him, but he made his save vs. poison from her snakes. Hodar put Haste on Zinethar, but a moment later the medusa hit him again. Zinethar missed his saving throw vs. poison by 1. He died.
Hodar cast Cone of Cold and did 37 damage, utterly slaying the medusa who had less than 10 HP left.
Only Hoday remained. He claimed the Amulet of Return from Zinethar, along with some of his gear - but most of their potions, etc. were petrified. He searched the medusa and found nothing, and searched her garden but was pricked by thorns and fell asleep for more than 90 minutes. He eventually awoke, none the worse.
He found a small coffer in the garden and opened it, finding a bunch of gems. He took those and tried to find a way out.
Much to his frustration, he could not. He accidentally chose a path that led back into the woods, and spent an hour or so wandering around trying to find his way out. Eventually he resorted to numbering paths with an iron spike marking numbers in the dirt, then found the way out - a staircase going up.
He climbed that and reached a level with thin paths looping around in a lake of fire. Across it was a staircase, a sarcophagus, and a fire giant. He decided the best way was to get past the giant with a dash up the stairs.
So he cast Mirror Image and then used Dimension Door to step close the stairs. The giant, who had been watching him from afar, turned to attack. Hodar found to his dismay the stairs, weren't. It was just a pillar built to appear as stairs from a distance! The giant swung and chose one of the images, destroying it. It destroyed another a round later.
Hodar quickly cast Bigby's Interposing Hand and put it between himself and the giant. He then jumped into the sarcophagus as the frustrated giant slashed the hand. He found himself in a pile of coins, but not a way out. As the giant finished off the hand (it took three rounds to do so), he cast Spider Climb and headed up the wall and across the ceiling.
The giant saw three wizards crawling on the ceiling and threw a boulder at one - and the dice said it was Hodar. It did 19 damage (on 2d10), putting Hodar down to 16 HP of damage. He kept crawling, having spotted a hole in the ceiling that surely led to the next level. But on the next round, the giant randomly selected him again, threw a boulder and hit, and did 17 damage (a 10 and a 7) . . . putting Hodar to -1. He dropped from the ceiling, unconscious, and the fall finished him off.
With that, the Duke and Seer's ambition to retrieve the Soul Gem on the cheap had failed.
Fun session, but tough luck for the PCs.
The vision-limiting aspect of the mist meant the PCs basically had to enter a given square to see anything in it. As a result, after fighting the hierocrosphinx and moving slightly north off the east-west line, they were unable to spot the staircase up. That little change in course meant about 2 hours (!) of real time spent discussing and thinking and wasting of spells. And I really shouldn't have let them open the doors at the bottom room again - the tower is in a different time, so they can't really just go back. They'd been time-shifted. Oh well, good thing they just turned around.
Lembu's player was horrified that his dad's character just grabbed the coffer from the rose garden. "You can't just go around touching random chests!" We all broke down in laughter. Good advice for gaming and life. Especially life.
The rolling for the players was horrendous when it mattered. Plus, they got a little overconfident with the medusa. No one even thought to avert their eyes even though they agreed with Discinque's assessment that it was a medusa. Add in some fails on some easy saves and that was that - that one round turned it from "routine encounter" to "mission failure." Had they had a more aggressive plan to follow up on the backstab, I can't help but think they could have slain the medusa outright before she could do anything, like win the initiative and turn. Instead, it was game-ending.
Since the game ended early we chatted a bit about the next AD&D game we'd play. Perhaps we'll hit the A-series, or parts of it (A3 and A4 for sure, maybe A2 if only because I never got to run it that way.) We'll see. It's been fun to revisit AD&D periodically like this.
All in all, good fun.