April 28th, 2019
Weather: Cold, rainy.
Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (259 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (254 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (462 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (250 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (332 points)
5 Skeletons (~25 points)
Heyden the Ebon Page, human knight (301 points)
We started off in town, with Gerry having purchased five new skeletons and enchanted them up as his new buddies. Heyden, meanwhile, showed up with a 200 sp tattoo of the "ebony death goddess" and a new name, as he's dubbed himself the Ebon Page and a representative of the "ebony death goddess" in the world. (Mild Bruce would show up later with a 500 sp back tattoo.)
The group gathered rumors, and left some lightstones and notes for Mild Bruce, who was expected to join the expedition once he got back from a shift at work. They sought out Orcish Bob and Raggi and others, but found none of them.
The plan was to explore past the destroyed obsidian golems. They gathered up the group and headed to the "dragon cave" and made their way in.
Nothing molested them, all the way to the giant staircase. The dungeon was surprisingly quiet and empty, and no new barricades or construction was up - although, once again, the partly torn-down blockages had been filled back up.
Once at the stairs Heyden opened them up. They headed down, a Created Servant in the lead to "detect" traps. Luckily for all, there were none.
At the bottom, the PCs found nothing waiting for them. They did hear a sucking, oozing slopping noise to the right. They headed left. As they made their way to the obsidian golems just past Phase Snake Junction. As they did, they all managed to make their HT rolls and avoid the debilitating effects of the "close air" of this level.
The group made it to the obsidian golem hallway. They sent a scout ahead - Dryst, who used a Wizard Eye and Dark Vision to ensure the golems hadn't "respawned" or been replaced. They had not. Dryst put on Acute Vision 4 and See Secrets just to be really sure. They were not there.
The door at the end was a sturdy door, but not one of the side-sliding doors. It was marked with a red handprint. Heyden decided to give it a shoulder instead of a hand, and smashed it open. It yielded, but he was zapped with . . . something for 1 HP of injury. Beyond was a hex-shaped room with an identical door on the far side, also with a hand print.
The right wall appeared to be solid, but Dryst's magically enhanced senses revealed it was not. It actually was an illusion covering a hallway that appeared to be just like all of the others.
They went right for that, forcing their way through the illusion - and passing into the hallway required a Will roll. They all made it.
The hallway past the illusionary wall wasn't like the 12' tall arched ceiling hallways of this level. It was, instead, 10 x 10 x 10, smooth sided and unsupported by arches or pillars. As far as Dryst could see with his Dark Vision, it extended for hundreds of yards.
"Finally, we're back to exploring new stuff!" exclaimed Crogar, who never seemed interested in not-killing-stuff before.
They cautiously headed down, preceded by a servant. After a couple dozen yards, they came to a wide passage extending to the right that led to an open landing at the top of a giant spiral staircase winding down around a central open shaft. Another GFS! (Giant Fantastic Staircase). The short but wide hallway to it was covered, walls and ceiling alike, with depictions of six-fingered cone-hatted masked figures, done in excellent skill and unease-inducing style ("Let me be the judge of that!" said Heyden, who roll an 8 on his Artist skill and announced this was, in fact, true.) It was all colored in the colors of evil (according to Ulf) - black, red, and purple. Many sigils and marks and symbols were intertwined and around the figures, along with swirls of color and strange patterns. Not a one chose to examine them closely.
They approached the stairs with great caution, and sent Dryst's Wizard Eye down and around to examine them. It made its way around a few loops and found a landing, and then approached another past that - and down the central shaft it went very, very deep indeed. At this point, however, a yard-wide metal sphere with two bladed arms emerging from it zipped up at the eye. Dryst willed it to flee, but in a second it was overtaken and destroyed.
They party set up and waited for the sphere to come after them. They heard clicking and whirring below, but after a while it died off.
They decided to avoid the stairs.
They continued down the corridor. As they did, though, with the servant in the lead, a pit opened up below Crogar and Heyden in the second rank! Crogar rolled a 3 on his DX roll and leaped back to safety, but Heyden fell in and the pit lids snapped shut over him.
They tried to find a way out, with the usual "Have someone with Levitate on stand over the pit and push it" and other variations of that theme. After a lot of experimentation they realized the far side of the pit was a pressure trigger, designed to catch trailers, not leaders, in the pit. With that in mind they triggered it and put in a 2 x 4' that Dryst made with Create Object. That alone took two tries - the first one Crogar dropped, causing it to disappear. The second he put in and held onto long enough for Heyden to be brought back up with Levitate.
They made it past the pit by jumping over the trigger. Almost immediately, though, the servant in the lead walked into a wall. They examined the hallway and found it was actually a cunningly done piece of art, supernaturally well done - much like the "continuation" of the GFS landing on this level.
With the other way blocked, they turned and headed back through the (illusionary) wall.
"Finally, back to finding things to kill!" exclaimed Crogar.
Heyden tried to shoulder the other door open and failed, so he tried his hand and that opened the door. He was zapped in the process both times.
Beyond the door was a hallway that turned and was blocked with a tight portcullis. Beyond it was a short hallway with a pair of alcoves, with a brass brazier in each one filled with cold coals. Just past them was another portcullis. They couldn't scout past as the portcullises were too tight to allow a Wizard Eye. So Dryst used Create Servant to create a servant past the first gate. They he created a torch for him, on the theory that lighting the coal-filled braziers would open the portcullises. It lit them, and sure enough, the portcullises smoothly slide up into the ceiling!
A moment later, though, there was a woooosh of flame and two gigantic fire elementals appeared - ones that stood hunched over in the 12' corridors and filled several yards across. The servant burned to a crisp and died. The elementals attacked.
One rushed into melee while the other hurled 4d firebolts at the group. One hit Crogar and lit his loincloth and hair on fire, burning him badly. Dryst quickly got off Resist Fire on several of the PCs, and Gerry put Great Haste on Dryst to speed it up. Crogar was the first, rendering him immune to his own burning hair. Ulf healed him right away.
The group quickly melee'd the fire elementals, and struggled to hurt them because they were diffuse. But Dryst rolled a 3 on a Water Jet and ended up with a free 6d Water Jet. It didn't take long for him to blast the two elementals to "death" with it.
Crogar griped that the fight was boring, as no one was really in any danger and it wasn't tough. He's a hard to guy to please! No one was sympathetic.
Past the elementals they found a room with a high ceiling and a pair of gigantic doors, all frosted over and ice-cold to the touch. Crogar and Heyden forced the doors open with great effort. The doors groaned and shrieked and ice crackled and popped. Beyond it was a large room with a silver shimmering gate between two ice-clad pillars.
Shivering in the cold room, they had Dryst use Scry Gate. Beyond the gate was a snowy, icy landscape. The gate was clearly on a high point, as ahead the was a valley of some sort and beyond it a range of mountains. Ulf - and now Mild Bruce, who came wandering up late - saw a glinting. It was a tower or towers, seemingly of metal - perhaps a city or a fortress.
They decided to back off and come back once they had real cold-weather gear, so they could fight yetis, abominable snowmen, and wompas. Several people argued for going right now, but depending solely on one wizard to provide all cold resistance - magical and mundane - seemed foolish, so they decided to explore elsewhere.
With Dryst around, the plan was to go and scry all of the unknown gates. First up, the "dead gate" and the water gate.
They made their way to the "dead gate" but encountered a phase snake along the way. Hayden tossed a javelin at it and it phased, and then it ended up in melee with Heyeden and Crogar. Crogar was bitten by the snake, but unharmed by the poison. (Actually, I remembered his 1-second delay for being SM+1, and never remembered to make him roll against the virulent poison. So I guess he made the roll.)
They checked the dead gate, but couldn't scry it. So Dryst used History to scan 1000 years of its history. The gate has been closed for hundreds of years, with no clue what it was before.
Next, the "water gate." They made their way down the sigil-covered hallway. Their scholars - Dryst, Gerry, and Heyden - couldn't really discern anything of interest except that it's aspected to Water magic in the area, and against Fire. Also, the hundreds of symbols were all in different sizes, designs, etc. - no duplicates. They also found notes about the blue water ahead - a mix of warnings about being delicious, making someone fly, and killing a couple of drinkers. Those were graffiti in common done in paint, scratches, or chalk.
The pool turned out to not be a gate after all. Mild Bruce drank from it - and gained 4 points of ST (temporarily - a day, it eventually turned out.) All of them save Gerry drank from it. Even Dryst drank, and get 1 point of ST, raising him to a towering 8! Gerry couldn't be bothered.
Now much stronger, the group headed out to the "earth gate." They passed the corridor that led to the nymphs and reached the gate, squeezing down the tight stairs.
Dryst's spell revealed it wasn't an "earth gate" after all, but a gate to a sub-tropical jungle clearing, with a trail leading away from it. Probably less tropical than the towering canopied rainforest that surrounds the Lost City of D'Abo, so perhaps closer to Stericksburg yet still far. It was bright day so no stars could be discerned to determine where it was.
Determined to get some loot, Dryst cast Seek Earth on gold, and located some right where the nymphs should be.
So he put Improved Magic Resistance on himself, had folks tie a rope to himself, and used Walk on Air to go into the cave. When the nymphs inevitably appeared, his improved resistance let him shrug off the magical charms of the "leader." He zapped it with Dehydrate using Wild Talent. He rolled a crit and 19 HP of injury. The nymph disappeared. The other two ducked away as he concentrated on another casting.
Having scared them off, he scanned the water with Water Vision and saw some gold and silver below. So he proceeded to cast three large Destroy Water spells to drain the pool nearly dry, leaving only a little water trickling out a draining crack below and more water trickling in from above. Heyden came in and joined him, and looted the pool while Dryst buffed him with Magic Resistance just in case.
In the pool they found an elf-sized (and therefore Heyden-sized) shirt of elven heavy mail, 600 sp, and a gold necklace worth 2000. Eventually they'd find the armor was Fortify +2, once they returned to town.
The close air of the dungeon was getting to them, though, and several PCs suffered from it (including Mild Bruce, who critically failed his HT roll and went down -2 DX and HT).
That all done, they headed to the "jester gate." They encountered another phase snake on the way, close to where the other was killed. Heyden killed it outright with a critical javelin throw, and Gerry happily Zombied it.
They smelled sulfur as they approached, as they had before. They headed to the gate.
Waiting for them were seven flame-sheathed humanoids. Flame lords! They hurled fireballs at Crogar and Mild Bruce. The PCs backed off as the flame lords pelted the visible PCs. In a few seconds, though, the PCs were mostly under Resist Fire and moved in to engage. Mild Bruce quickly slew one with a greatsword swing, proving Dryst's warning that flame lords are tough to kill wrong. In a short but nasty fight, the PCs killed all seven, but at the cost of a lot of FP on resistance spells and FP lost to Great Haste.
As soon as the last was slain, though, seven slightly larger, darker red, and more brightly flaming flame lords stepped out. These turned out to be "normal" flame lords, not the lesser ones that the PCs had destroyed.
The PCs took care of them, but it took a long slog of a fight. Heyden charged two and engaged them, slowly whittling them down to -10xHP and killing them, but not without some mishaps - including slashing himself in the leg and (luckily for him) rolling abysmal damage and narrowly avoiding cutting his own leg off with his new-found ST 26 (thanks to the pool.) Crogar and Mild Bruce held the line, fighting surrounded most of the time. Their natural DR and Resist Fire kept them from taking more than occasional 1 HP hits. Heyden wandered around the fight, killing flame lord after flame lord as he was repeatedly Great Hasted.
Even Ulf got into the act, with his ST 16 from the pool and a lucky roll on his Diving Grace to give him DX 17 for 11 seconds.
Dryst hit a couple with Lightning from his Wand of Electricity, and from his own power. His wand belted one with an 18d spell that did - seriously - only about 20 damage. He did manage to stun several of them, which Ulf and Gerry attempted to engage.
Gerry got into the act, using Deathtouch on one, which nearly incinerated his staff. Oops. Dryst was forced to cast Resist Fire on him to bail him out, warning him that true wizards don't touch things with their staves. Gerry did it again anyway.
Eventually they whittled them all down, with Crogar destroying one, Ulf another (with a kick!), and Heyden most of the rest.
The flame lords destroyed, they policed up the valuable ashes while Dryst scryed the gate.
Beyond it was a flame-licked cave with a terrace with a empty stone throne on it. There was no sign of anything else, or a clear clue of what this place was.
With that, they carefully backtracked their way out of the dungeon and headed up once more into the light.
This was a productive session. The loot wasn't what could be hoped for, but there was enough to take care of expenses, and a lot of new and interesting places were discovered.
The "earth gate" turned out to be a "jungle gate," the "water gate" turned out to be a magical pool, not a gate, they found a gate to a frosty world ("cold gate"?), and they managed to finally scry the "jester gate." Perhaps more significantly than that - and worth +1 xp to the PCs who were there at the time - they discovered another giant staircase down. How far down? At least a couple of levels.
On top of that, they had a few interesting fights - a brief encounter with some metal flying spheres, gigantic fire elementals, lesser flame lords, and regular flame lords. As usual with fire creatures, their weakness is obvious (water or cold, sometimes both) and the counter is obvious and perfectly effective. The total lack of cold attacks for the PCs meant the flame lords were a bit of a slog. The phase snakes weren't new, though, but do seem to come up right around the well-named Phase Snake Junction, causing that corridor to be named Phase Snake Way.
Heyden is basically a heretic at this point, as is Mild Bruce. We'll see how that plays out - they're worshipping a magic item.
What next? That depends on the group, but they have a number of gates to investigate and a way down to another level or two. That's guarded, clearly, but eventually they'll need to overcome the guards and proceed down.
XP was 4 xp for loot and 1 xp for exploration and 1 xp for the staircase for all except Dryst and Mild Bruce. Dryst received 0 for loot but 3 xp total for exploration, the staircase, and being MVP; Mild Bruce received 5 total for loot and exploration. He wasn't there to discover the staircase, so no bonus.