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Archive for November, 2010

So tonight was the night when the party methodically set off every trap in the first half of the tomb. The session started with Poppy venturing into the Cathedral of Good to close the pew and cut off the poison gas. While doing so, she noticed the slot in the wall, and discovered that it was a magically locked door with the lock as its mechanism. Above the slot was a small inscribed circle.

Ria went to replace the candlestick Sharia picked up from the altar, which was now flashing an angry red-purple, As the cheap brass clicked against the altar, it exploded in a shower of lightning and debris. The altar was completely destroyed, but left no further clues. Ria then placed her hands in the misty archway, hoping for a manicure, but instead of french nails, she was aghast to see the bitten off and broken nails she pulled out of the mist. But even that horror paled when she saw her hairy knuckles. Otherwise, flexing, there was no pickle jar she couldnt open. Feilpe dove in and came out furious, and more shapely than ever. Felippa attacked Ria in her uncontrollable rage, but after a single missed swipe, she got control of herself.

They left the chamber and returned to the Great Hall of Colored spheres. The first globe tested, the gold one, revealed another crawlspace. This one led to a small chamber with a three armed statue of a gargoyle, rather a four armed gargoyle, of which one arm lay open at its feet. All four hands were cupped, and the three attached arms had indentations in the palm as though to receive something. They noticed stone and diamond dust at its feet.

They returned to the sphere hall and tried every other sphere before moving To the misty archway at the end. Thokk and Poppy and Ria stepped through the archway. Felippa and Sharia stalled and just before stepping through, heard Thokk shouting “Noooooo!” from a great distance. The three unfortunates were teleported naked to the entrance. Thokk managed to somehow keep his armor, but lost his axe. Poppy kept her sword, and Ria her holy symbol but otherwise they were stripped of everything. This was the low point of the night.

They returned to the first misty archway, and pushing random glowing stones, they all eventually ended up in the miserable chamber of levers. Ria cast a ritual that created a platform, and thus were they saved when the floor suddenly vanished. They then managed to open the portal in the ceiling, and thus found the way to the chamber of the three chests. Eventually, testing the misty archway, they were able to get it to teleport them to the room of the 3 armed gargoyle by pressing the proper sequence of stones. A thorough search of the entire complex they have explored tuned up no new clues, and they were down to two possibilities: the three armed gargoyle statue and the slot. They tried everything, and I mean everything in both rooms, until finally Poppy sacrificed to the slot properly and with a grinding sound the door slid open.

They followed the new passageway which was stairs down than a hallway with a set of doors every 30 feet. Beyond the doors was a covered pt trap with poisoned spikes 10 feet down. After the rd one of these, they discovered a poorly concealed door leading to the south. Feluipe consulted her magic map which pointed to water to the south and great danger to the southeast. They went through the concealed door which became a crawlspace of course. This one led eventually to a new hallway. To the left was the outline of a secret door. A hallway also led south to another set of stairs. They detected great magic wards on the secret door. Ria used her arcane knowledge to determine that some spell must be used to deactivate the wards.

They turned south and Felippa saw a swirling mist at the bottom of the stairs, she sniffed it, and backed up the stairs quickly, filled with an unknown dread. They decided toreturn to where they found the concealed door in the covered pit, ad continue along the hallway pas the pit. It turned north 50 feet, 100 feet, 150 feet, and came to an iron bound wooden door, with six rusted shut locks. Beyond the door could be heard the sound of music and laughter.

They didnt hesitate but began chopping (or pounding with fists in THokks case) at the door and finally smashd the door down, before hearing a sound of a crowd rushing down the hall north and they could see the receding torches. The party rushed after them, and felt the sudden heart wrenching lurch of the floor as it tilted sharply down. At the bottom a gaping inferno of infinite flame opened up and everyone had to struggle up the steeply sloped slide. Sharia couldnt make it without Fellippas aid, and Felippa was at the last of her strength as she suffered from the intense heat of the flames licking and scorching her. Ria and THokk were the first to the top, and they cast a rope down to aid in the others escape. Everyone was blackened by the trap, some worse than others, but everyone also made it out alive.

Returning to one of three avenues of discovery left open to them, Thokk braved the mist filled hallway, felt no fear and opened the door to the south. The mist dissipated and the party headed south into a stairwell down filled with webs so thick they had to hack their way through like a jungle. There was a glow coming from the bottom of the stairs, and when they finally got to the bottom, they saw it was coming from a shining heavy mace emblazoned with the symbol of Pelor. Rising from a golden couch was an undead figure with an ornate crown. “WHO DARES DISTURB THE REST OF GAGNASDIAK? IT IS YOUR DEATH YOU HAVE FOUND.

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The new oldAnd so chapter 3 of Keep on the Borderlands begins with freshly advanced 2nd level characters. All 6 of the players in tonights game, a diverse group that is slowly growing into a stable team of hard core adventurers, each of them had made a new character. 5 out of 6 were done by hand. Interestingly, all 6 characters were the same race and class as the pre-gens they used before. So for tonights game we have Kwyn the knight, Glaurung the dwarf slayer, Berrian and Merrick, Algerion the storm cleric, and PolPot the sun cleric. Hopefully the wizard Faverel will be back next week after a two week hiatus due to illness and an orchestra concert.

Aside: The handmade character sheets were great to see. It was clear the players had gone to a great deal of work on them. There were a few problems however, with missing information being the leading cause of delay in tonights encounter. Most of the handmaids (sic) had no powers information, such as the bonus to hit and damage which caused (deja vue) all sorts of ading things up and looking things up. It actually led to a great deal of confusion and more than once the game ground to a halt while a player tried to figure out what his character could do. It got to the point where I tore off the power card pages from the pre-gens I had leveled using the new Online Character Builder, and told them to use those powers with the sheets they made. It seemed to quell the rising confusion somewhat. Special props go out to the players of Kwyn and Glaurung who were both “squared away” to use military parlance. Back to the game.

Six heroes, stood amongst the carnage of their violence. Another Dragonborn mercenary lay dead, Bobapaloosa (Bob for short), while Ronnick lay groaning and unconscious, tied up to a tree by the crazed dwarf. Benwick the friar thanks the party for coming to the rescue, then goes to check on Gordi, injured and insensible again. The party quickly makes its way back to Restwell Keep. Once there, Ronnick is turned over to the authorities, the injured are treated, and the heroes gather in Benwicks apartment for a feast. Thee priestess of Avandra brings her dumplings and the group has an evening of revelry. In the middle of it, Benwick calls fro quiet as he brings up the subject of the Serpents Eye, a famous jewel the characters recovered. After an impassioned speech about the gem and its rightful owners, Benwick asks that he be allowed to hold on to it until its fate is decided. The characters agree, and Merrick, who has been holding it, happily gives it over.

During the dinner, a messenger arrives with a scroll advising that anyone who has had dealings with Ronnick in the past will have a chance to speak up for or against him at the upcoming trial. Each character got to make an impassioned speech, either for clemency or for the strictest punishment possible. As the characters came to the stand, they started to sway the jury towards a prison sentence in the dungeons, however, Kwyn and Glaurung the dwarf went last, and they argued very persuasively for a hanging. The dwarf gruffly shouted “An eye for an eye!” and the crowd became a mob out for blood (critical success.) The judge banged a gavel and said the Lord of Restwell Keep will let the testimony guide his final decision. With that the court was adjourned and Ronnick was taken away to the dungeons in chains. As the party left the building, Benwick rushed up to them. He had important news.

A dwarf in the livery of a captain of the guards stood in an alleyway. He introduced himself as Gorn. Benwick led them back to his apartment and began describing the history of Restwell keep and how at one point it was a stronghold for a dwarven raider named Greymane. Gorn is a grandson of the bushwhacker and came to the keep years ago to search for a lost hoard. He has found it, but it is too tough for him. He got his friend killed trying to get past the guardians, and almost died himself. He will split the loot three ways if the party agrees. Benwick holds up six very large and empty backpacks, one for each of them. “For loot!” he beams. The party is quickly led to a secret door in the basement of one of the buildings, which leads downwards to a chamber beneath the keep. Here Benwick and Gorn leave the characters, warning them to be wary beyond the great double doors that stand partially ajar.

The party moves into the room. It is large and in the center is a huge dwarven statue. In one hand it holds a massive spiked flail, while in the other hand it holds an over-sized key ring with a brass key. In the alcoves along the sides of the chamber are 4 dwarven sized metal constructs with a pincer and a giant hammer for hands, and in the last alcove is a smaller construct made of stone, and with spears instead of hands. On the other side of the room stood two closed double doors and near the statue lay a crumpled body – that of Gorns unfortunate friend. Merrick headed straight for the key, and when he got 15 feet away from the statue, it began slowly rotating, swinging the flail outward as it picked up speed. The flail struck Merrick but he managed to grab a hold of the flail and began swinging around the room. He crawled up its arm and made a grab for the key, and got it on his second try.

By this time Kwyn charged the nearest hammerer construct and soon had two on him. Kwyn was a warrior through and through, and he stood toe to toe with both hammerers protected only by his plate mail and shield. The hammerers were unable to punch through his defenses, but once he was grasped in the pincers. He dug his heels in and refused to be pulled.

Meanwhile across the room Berrian proved to be a juicy target for the other two hammerers. One moved up and grabbed him about the waist, pinching him in its pincers. Berrian could feel his organs protesting, but he too managed to hold his ground and avoid being dragged off. The cleric Algerion aided the wizard, and had to heal him as he was flattened by the giant metal hammers. Glaurung didnt have far to charge, trapping one of Berrians hammerers between him and Algerion.

By this time Merrick had the key, and the moment he had it, the little stone ears on the spear-handed harrier swiveled towards the halfling. The harrier exploded into a shower of sharpened stones, injuring everyone before running after the halfling. Glaurung was hit terribly by the stone shards, as they smashed into his legs, rendering him unable to move. He spent the entire rest of the battle immobilized, even with both priests aid. Glaurung however paid no mind and threw his hammers at whichever enemy looked weakest.

Merrick used the spinning statue to give him momentum and he leapt off to fly through the air and smash against one of the hammerers threatening Kwyn. Merrick hit its back and tore a groove down it with his short sword. Unfortunately, the statue was not through with him, and it struck Merrick like a golf club strikes a ball, sending him skidding fifteen feet across the room. He slammed into the far wall and was hurt by the sharpened stone carvings of weapons which lined the walls. He was cut off and injured, and that is when he saw the harrier streaking across the room towards him. It struck out with its spear hands, but missed terribly, and the construct tumbled prone.

Sola (I mean Pol Pot) was engaged on the other side of the room, but he saw the Halflings distress – Merrick was bleeding badly, and rushed forward to aid the little fellow. Pol Pot too was struck by the statue, and smashed to the ground.

Kwyn finished off the first hammerer, and Algerion finished off the second. The crazy halfling decided to make a run for the statue either to climb back up for another flying attack, or to attempt to disable it, but we will never know. He had to risk an opportunity attack by the prone harrier. The harrier hit, stabbing into the Halflings ankle. The halfling spent his halfling luck! Yanking his ankle away at the last second, it only delayed the inevitable. The spear-hand stabbed upwards into his other ankle, shattering the bone and tearing through his leg, severing major arteries. The halfling was dead before his head hit the paving stones.

Merrick was gone, Berrian was down, and Pol Pot was on the ground. And it was 8. Algerion used his last healing to aid Berrian and together they finished off the last two hammerers with Glaurungs aid. Kwyn and Pol Pot took down the harrier, hugging the walls to avoid the still flailing statue. It was victory, but a steep cost.

Dead halfling

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Berrian page 1

Two hours was spent this evening updating Encounters Keep on the Borderlands characters to 2nd level with the new Online Character Builder on its highly anticipated release date. The speculation on its capabilities, its limitations, and its very ethical implications have been raging across the internet for many weeks. Blogs, preview videos, message boards are alight with discussions about the New Online Character Builder. I cannot lie and say that I myself wasnt worried. Certain aspects of the software seemed daunting to me, but many of the worst rumors turned out to be patently false. After a rough patch in the beginning, I flawlessly breezed through the character creation process of 6 characters for the Season of Serpents Campaign.

Berrian page 2

Technically speaking, my machine was a perfect match, I use firefox and have an active Netflix account. No software needed to be downloaded and within a few seconds of hitting Launch! the character builder was going. The menu is clean and offers a nice introduction to the character creation process. The easy essentials option was a joy to use, and with only four or five choices, a well made character popped out. I only tested this option briefly however, since I wanted to match the pre-gens.

Berrian page 3

These characters were all generated using the second option on the Online Character Builder, the custom option, and from there I chose Keep on the Borderlands campaign, which was actually pretty cool to see up there. I can imagine it changing from season to season, and really gives a feeling of continuity and connectedness to the game. For the publisher of DnD, a traditionally booksellers market, the transition to electronic media must be a painful one, and this software, like the offline version that came before, represents a step forward in the direction of online media.

Edith page 1

From the opening screen, the process is very much like the older version. The interface seems more focused, and did not seem to detract from the experience, unlike the older version. However, by choosing Keep on the Borderlands Campaign, it limited the choices, and none of the non-essential options were available. For starters this meant only essentials character classes were available, which was great. I hope that after this season ends, that button sticks around, so we are able to create essentials only characters without having to go the quick route.

Edith page 2

There were a few bugs. I had to restart more than once, and got plenty of “start over or recover?” questions, but they really did a good job of recovering up to the last point of entry. That must explain the few second pause after each input. Most of these errors occurred in the first half hour, and it may have been a particularly busy time on the webs, or some other cause. After that things evened out and for the next hour and a half, there were only one or two time-outs, all recovered successfully. I didnt get a chance to import a character, which is an area that has potential to cause trouble.

Hagen page 1

It was also disappointing not to se the Dragon Magazine playtest version of the Essentials Assassin in the new Online Character Builder. It is understandable that resources were better spent elsewhere in getting this product out the door, but plenty of other playtest character classes have graced the character builder of old, and darn it, I really wanted to make one.

Hagen page 2So, making essentials characters, even the long form version, is still fairly simple. I was allowed a few power choices, but not many, and a class act here or there. The feat tables were the most daunting section, especially since some of the pre-gens do not have their feat listed – for brevity, so they say. Luckily, by limiting the choice to Essentials from the beginning, the lists were much smaller then the 2,500 or so in the complete list.

Hagen page 3

The feats page was also one where a distinct improvement could be seen over the old version. Here the feats were better arranged, and the paired down set, especially didnt seem overly daunting to use. Feats seem to be a necessary evil of this edition of the game. There are so many cool ones, and they truly allow more customization and sculpting of a particular character view than ever before – I give you Headsmans Chop as the perfect example – but the cost is high. To wade through the feat list on a standard character is to invite boredom, worry, grief, and finally a sort of dazed acceptance of the fact that no matter what your choice, there will have always been a better option out there somewhere. Thankfully, at least on the Essentials side, this feeling of a bottomless abyss is gone, or at least behind a smoked mirror.

Merrick page 1

The rest of the character came together fairly easily, finishing up with buying and equipping items. Some of the characters in these files have magic items. These characters are from a locally played game of Essentials, played mostly by kids and teens who frequent the game store every Wednesday night. It would be ridiculous to think that they will all show up tomorrow with ready to go character sheets, and so I foresee many DMs finding themselves in similar straits – that of needing level 2 character sheets in a pinch. Besides these sheets, another worthy source are the pre-gens from Red Box Gameday, featuring my favorite character of all time, Thia the elf rogue.

Merick page 2

Once the characters were done, I printed them to Cute PDF which is a free program that is a ghost printer that makes pdfs. It is great, and saves me ink sometimes. In this case, I box selected the first page and the powers from the essentials style character sheets, and then turned them into images, an voila. I hope that I am not stepping on any copyright toes, but my intentions are sound, that of bringing freedom to the people. In my defense, as stated above, the sheets are for a personal game, the sheets are a much smaller size then the originals, and most important of all, they do not include page 2-3 of the actual character sheets, making them playable, but a player would still be missing out on a lot of the character, including descriptions of class skills and feats, as well as equipment the like.

Quinn page 1

But back to the sheets themselves. The essentials sheets look very attractive, and showing one to my wife, she was ready to give up the old look for the new at first glance. The old sheets were dark ink-hogs, and all the lines made it difficult to read sometimes. The essentials sheets contain plenty of white space, in fact the first page might go almost too far towards that Basic DnD look. Tastes may vary on the subject. The placement of skills under the attributes which they keyed off, was brilliant, and it looks like it was always meant to be there. The basic attack section is a little strange, with the to hit bonus circled like a major defense. I personally love the way the attributes take up almost a full half page, what with the skills and all. Looks good and old school.

Quinn page 2

Pages 2 and 3 on the other hand, go a new direction and it shows. There is a weird lack of synergy between the “essential” old school look of the first page, and the slick look of the following set of pages. Another issue is the fact that these character sheets are just too many pages long. It seems like pages 2 and 3 might be consolidated, but maybe not. Also, since the Encounters pre-gens were only level 2, the second page was particularly sparse, and will be filled in with more racial, class, and other fun bonuses as the characters advance in level.

Sola page 1

Finally we come to the power cards. In a way, I was hoping for a brief synopsis like on the pre-gens themselves, but I knew in my heart this would be impossible. The cards are back, and a few PCs even had a couple pages worth. I have a love hate relationship with the cards – not against the powers, just the cards themselves, but I did notice one area of improvement. The important numbers, the plusses to hit and damage, are right up at the top, not hidden down below as before. On the other hand, the character sheet itself is not able to be modified, so I couldnt hide some of the cards as I have in the past.

Sola page 2

In summary, I found the Online Character Builder to be a great piece of software still having some growing pains. It has tall shoulders to stand on, since the Old Offline Character Builder was one of the pillars of the DnD 4e Game, and widely lauded as a great piece of work. This program on the other hand, is more modern, sleek, and up to date, but there are many bugs to be ironed out, and many, many, features left out that were in the old version. So my final verdict is that I am happily enjoying the new builder, but it is a real annoyance to have these limitations from the program I am used to running. As a DM, I have many duties, and for some of my players, maintaining their characters for them is one of them And as an Encounters DM, I dont know what the organizers were thinking we would do – hope that all the prospective players show up with shiny new characters from the Online Character Builder? While many will, the idea of not being prepared for the worst is laughable… to me.

Sola page 3

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The Great Hall of Spheres

The party had just burst through yet another in a long gauntlet of difficult to navigate secret doors, only instead of an empty 10×10 chamber, this round door opens into a long wide hall similar to the entry hall. The walls are painte with scenes of humanoids holding, throwing, dribbling, batting, dunking, and sitting on various colors of spheres. The secret door through which they just entered the chamber was painted to look like a multi-limbed gargoyle clutching a large silver sphere.

Hexamelian Stabsencursen, first to poke anything, anywhere, anytime, unleashed a spear-trap that flew across the room and turned to mist as it struck the far wall, narrowly missing him. The next poke discovered an illusory sphere leading into a 5′ crawl-way, as did the third inspection. The final search revealed a narrow slot holding a scroll of Remove Affliction.

Thokk and Sharia decided to inspect one crawlspace, while Ria and Poppy checked out the other. Hex and Felipe kept watch in the great Hall, ready to help Thokk and Sharia followed a winding corridor that eventually led to a dead end. A search revealed nothing. A wild attack against the wall wedged the edge of thokks jagged axe into the concealed seam of a hidden door, and thusly, was the team able to gain entrance into the strange chapel of good. Trouble was brewing behind them, however, and Sharia insisted they return to help their comrades. It was a good thing she did. (Rule number 0.01 Never split the party.)

With Poppy in the lead, and Ria supporting, the pair crawled through their own space, and came to a room empty save three ornate chests. one was bound in gold, the next in silver, while the third was of wood and bronze. Ria waited patiently in the corner as Poppy chose between the three. As she lifted the lid of the chest she ultimately chose, a skeleton with wildly spinning scimitars burst forth and attacked. Poppy and the skeleton traded blows, but the spinning blades knocked her back, and the skeleton pushed her into the next chest, whiched sprang open, peppering her with a fusillade of magic black darts. Soon the final chest burst open when Ria was too close, and a swarm o tiny poisonous snakes began swarming up around her ankles.

Luckily Hex and Felip arrived on the scene. Hex cursed the skeleton and Felipe tried to block the darts, then took out the snakes. Poppy went down, but was healed by the cleric – then Ria wet down as the skeleton flew into a barrage of spinning blades and caught her in its attack. She went down, unconscious from the continuing poison of the snakes and the blades of the skeleton. Luckily Sharia and Thokk showed up in time for Sharia to lay her hands upon the cleric, healing her. Thokk meanwhile, charged the skeleton and with three now around the mighty skeleton, it was only a matter of time before its bones were crushed beneath the might of the Enemies of of the lich.

After they had defeated the skeleton and disabled the magic dart trap, they found a crystal ox containing a magic ring. Hex took the ring and the party decided to make camp right there in the room for the night. They also discovered a secret door in the floor of the chamber, which led back to one of the pits in the First Hall. After camping, they discovered they were low on water. At half rations, they could only camp once more before adverse affects set in.

The Chapel of Good seemed the next logical location to explore, so Thokk led them back to the entrance, and the party filed into the room, somehow unable to detect any over-riding feeling of good or evil, perhaps due to their unfamiliarity with the natural energies flowing through the world of D Erte at the end of time. Whatever the case, Ria and Sharia recognized the glowing blue altar at the front of the chamber was covered in symbols of deities of good. Later, after unleashing a charge of lightning by trying to loot the candlesticks, did Poppy notice the symbols were upside down.

By this time, Poppy and Felipe had opened the seats of the pews along each row and discovered literally thousands in gold and silver. At just this time Hex was poking his finger into an orange mist filled doorway. He pulled his finger back to find that the nail had been pruned and colored with metallic red paint, and even coated in an enamel hardener in a very professional manner. Even his finger itself seemed somehow younger, slender, more, dare I say it? – feminine than before. In other words, he could almost pass for a hand model ,should adventuring not wok out.

Thokk waited impatiently by the exit as Sharia set off a lightning trap, and Poppy and Felipe set off a gas attack by opening a pew too many, and Hex detected the evil aura of a curse in the misty doorway. They all suffered from the gas, though holding their breath may have saved a few from the debilitating gas. Each of them also got to scoop up 1d600 gold pieces from the open pew as they ran through. The party stood outside the door, watching the gas continue to spew forth from the front row of pews, filling the chapel – though not spilling into the crawlspace from which the watched and waited, wondering…

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Encounter 8 – Ronnick gets his due

We began this weeks encounter with a wrap up of the fallout of last weeks battle, which ended in a draw after the “lesser reptilians” were dealth with. Only murolax the copper wyrmling remained, and he offered a generous truce. He would give ove rhte pathetic pile of baubles Ronnick gave him as a starter hoard, if they would let him go with no further violence. The party heartily agreed, and even went so far as to try and convince the dragon to join up with them. Murolax laughed off the idea, but secretly was pleased to be loved. He did, however, tell them the location of Ronnick, who was on his way that very moment to kill Benwick the friar. Murolax motioned to as desk, which had a large paperweight holding down some documents and maps. The documents described Ronnicks attempts to turn Dragontooth hill into a stronghold for Tiamat (the god of eveil dragons) while the map showed the route to the clearing where Ronnick intended to ambush Benwick. Oh, and the paperweight was the fabled gem of Zehir, stolen by Ronnick from the temple of Zehir in Fallcrest. On one side was carved the symbol of Zehir, while on the other side was the symbol of Avandra, weirdly.

Before we started the game, we spent a few minutes talking about gaining levels. Everyone there has used the pre-gens, and the way I understand it, WotC is not releasing updated level 2 pre-gens. The players therefore are encouraged to advance the pre-gens themselves, or to create all new characters of level 2. At least three of the players used my Heroes of the Forgotten Title to create or update their characters while we played this encounter. For the new player, I leant him my Red Box “Read this first!” book so he could make a character using that. I also plan on brining updated pre-gens if I can find them online somewhere. I have a feeling next week might be kind of hectic due to this level 2 issue. By having updated pre-gens I hope to head off any uncertainty. We’ll see, stay tuned.

Back to the story. Connected to the balcony was a zip line: a rope tied off to a tree down below at an angle far enough away that they could easily slide down to ground level. It was an Athletics check with a DC of 2 and two of the party failed the roll! The first was the cleric Hagen (first time player!) who thought he would be tough and grabbed the rope with both hands and slid down. About halfway down, though, his hands were burning and he dropped, but luckily landed in a small stream and avoided damage. Then Quinn grabbed a hold of the rope, laughing so hard at Hagens trouble, that he held on with only one hand, and fell almost immediately. He lost a healing surge, and his good humor. The rest of the party decided to use a sword or other item to slide down with instead of their hands and made it safely down. Those DC 2 checks are killer tough!

Landing at the edge of the woods, the characters followed their map until they came to a clearing. They heard a cry and saw the poor friar Benwick cowering before yet another dragonborn mercenary (the fourth!) Also in the clearing was the unconscious form of Gordi, who the characters rescued in session 1 from a similar circumstance. 4 lizardmen brutes wielding great clubs and with 2 javelins each tucked into their loincloths stood around the clearing, and Ronnick, looking angry, and possibly drunk, was also there. The dragonborn called out “These are the ones who killed my brothers! Let us make them pay Ronnick!” before attacking.

Merrick was first to go, and he began by sneaking into the tree line and launching a dagger at the dragonborn. He did massive damage and bloodied the mercenary, as the dagger stabbed deep into the side of his neck. Merrick then went on to do his usual antics, and next round, he leapt onto a lizardman’s back and commenced stabbing him. I ruled that if the halfling made a DC 17 acrobatics check he could hold on and gain combat advantage against the lizardman, thus gaining sneak attack. He loves jumping on things backs, so I might as well make it worth his effort, silly halfling.

Next to go was Quinn the knight. He charged straight for Ronnik, and stood toe to toe with him the whole fight. Ronnik was out of it, but he was filled with rage, and did a side step move that put him behinf the knight, and allowed a lizardman to take his place. Quinn was now surrounded, and two more lizardmen showed up to pound on him, but he never backed down, and never fell either. Slowly and with determination he hacked away at his enemies.

Hagen went next, and he engaged the dragonborn mercenary. They traded blows, and the fourth lizardman joined the fight until he attracted a halfling onto his back. Hagen had a mace and he cast a storm cloud over it and dealt such a huge blow that he nearly slew the dragonborn, Bob.

Next up was Berrian and he did slay Bob with his arc lightning. He cast it agin next round, but finished up the battle with his daily power that allowed him to charm and control one of the lizardmen, forcing it to attack one of its lizardy allies (mr. black.)

Eldeth the dwarf waited until after Ronnick went, then charged him, granting combat advantage as they all formed a conga line of enemy-ally-enemy-ally. Its like boy-girl boy-girl seating, only with swords. And now everyone has combat advantage! Eldeth slew as usual with his mighty axe and Ronnick went down. At the last moment, Eldeth turned his axe blade to the side, knocking the thief banker out rather than decapitating him. As a minor action he trussed him up, and rolling a natural 20 for his rope use skill (heh) he managed to hog-tie him and snare him hanging from a tree.

oh, we forgot Sola, who did an awesome move. She threw javelins until she had a chance to wade right into the center of things, then she unleashed a close burst radiant attack the bloodied three of the lizardmen in one glorious explosion. The lizardmen were next to act and all three of them turned their anger, and their tails,and their great clubs on the cleric, but she was able to avoid most of the attacks, lucky her.

With crazy Ronnick and the loud-mouthed Dragonborn out of the battle, Quinn decided to intimidate in hopes of scaring them off. He rolled high, and due to the leadership dead, the lizardmen bloodied, and the fact that it was 8:03 pm, the intimidate worked exceptionally well, and the lizardmen slowly shifted back out of the clearing to escape into the woods with their hides. And so we ended chapter 2 of Keep on the Shadowfell: A season of Serpents, with Benwick saved, and Ronnick trussed up and ready to face justice.

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Waves of sound crashed without pause into the cavorting bronze bodies on the dance floor. The teeth-rattling bass thumped and the strobing lights flashed in concert. It was midnight on a Saturday night, and the beautiful people gathered in droves at the dance club. The sound was deafening, and with each boom of drums my heart skipped a beat until finally it gave in to the overwhelming sensations and began beating in tune. One by one our hearts matched beats with the DJ until the writhing hands-in-the-air mass of flesh became a single semi-sentient beast on the dance floor. A hundred hearts beat as one.

Gradually a change came over the crowd. The music was slowing down. The hard peaks and deep valleys of sound were leveling off into something light and airy. The spell broke and eyes opened, came into focus, minds clarified. People looked towards the bar along one wall, the bathrooms, or the tables where their friends sat. The music relinquished some of its power and the people reacted. Hands grasped hands, couples moved off the dance floor, some for the bar, some for the doors.

The respite was short lived: with a crash of cymbals, another driving beat burst into life. The time for autonomy ended as the beast with two hundred hands lifted them again to wave in the air, like feelers for a higher plane. Bodies smacked together, pulled apart, hot, wet, and sticky. This was life, this was what it meant to be human: to be caught up in that seething body of flesh, to lose oneself in the symbiosis of dance and music. It was a dance of revelry, a dance of thanks for life, for love. It brought us together in a semi-conscious bond. This was a tribal dance whose original source was around a campfire in a smoky cave. Replace the lycra with fur, the electronic bass with a hollowed log and I could have been dancing with my Neanderthal bride. I was a shaman, a warlock of great power and she was my witchy woman. I could see into the very souls of those around me, and they into mine. What we saw was simple: affirmation.

Little tragedies played themselves out on the dance floor. A woman slapped a man’s hand away and he knew his dance was over. But even the tragedies wove themselves into the tapestry of a dance of ecstasy and was richer for them. I looked down at my little cave-girl, spinning like a top, hands in the air, and I knew that never was I so content. To simply exist is so painfully hard. The work of my life is opening my eyes each morning, getting out of bed. But at this moment, with the love, the happiness, the music, the sweat stinging my eyes, I could accept those hours of pain each day for just one moment. Life was good.

My girl Evolet came closer and I wrapped my arms about her. She spun in my arms and I circled around her, my hands gliding over her shoulders, breasts, back, as we revolved in each other’s orbits. Her ivory skin was slick with sweat. Her eyes were open but the half-moons of her pupils told me she was far away. Her gold sparkly dress shimmered in the strobes and when a spotlight picked her out, she seemed to explode with radiance. She was my angel. I was her man. It was enough.

Bom-tiss, bom-tiss-tiss
went the beat and I touched Evolet’s cheek and motioned to the bar. Her eyes rolled down to give me a quick glance, she smiled, and twirled off into the melee. With a flick of her wrist, I was dismissed, told to go ahead and see to my earthly desires, but not to pull her back down into reality. I smiled as I walked off the dance floor, watching her sidelong as she wove between the dancers, hands in the air, face up-turned to let the light of the gods fall across her visage. Another strobe found her and the dance floor scintillated with her reflected luminescence.

More tragedy erupted as a man dashed past, bumping me. It was a good thing I did not have drinks, but the next man he careened into did, and glass shattered as it hit the floor. At almost the same time a scream, a long wailing scream assaulted my eardrums and instinctively my eyes sought my girl even as I struggled to regain my balance. Evolet danced oblivious and the scream returned with reverb, it was the hit techno “Devil in my Pants” and was full of high wailing screams and low throbbing moans. It was a good tune, but distracting.

I turned around to see the running man try to dash away, but the man who lost his drink had different ideas and snatched the back of the runner’s collar. I couldn’t hear anything over the music, but I imagine at least an apology was being wrung from the runners neck, if not a new drink.

I was just turning back to the bar when I was bumped again. This time a man backed into me with great force as if he were pushed, and I jumped backwards, back onto the black and white lighted tiles of the dance floor to avoid being crushed. In slow motion the pushed man fell backwards to land at my feet and droplets of blood like rubies thrown into the air caught the beams of the strobe lights and dazzled before falling back down into to the ever-widening pool on the dance floor. There were more screams, but the song was reaching its crescendo and even as my eyes widened in disbelief, only the few nearest people realized there was a man down.

The pusher stood over his prey in a gory tableau, a line of bloody drool hanging from his bottom lip, before he collapsed on top of the bleeding man and tore his throat out with his teeth. I stood mute watching the spectacle, unable to move. The pool of blood was like a spreading black stain on the floor and it soon covered the distance to the soles of my shoes. It was when the pusher looked up at me, when I looked into those eyes, milky blue, unfocused, dead, that I finally found the will to move. There was a coldness about him, I felt the chill of him even as waves of heat buffeted me from the dancers behind, and all the little hairs on my body stood up on end. Something was WRONG. I planned to book it right out of there. I took a step backwards and the killer raised himself into a crouch above the dead or dying man.

Just then another patron decided to act. I will never know what that guy knew, but he acted with alacrity I will forever admire, and launched himself at the killer, knocking him to the side and sending them both sprawling into a crowd gathered around a table. The table up-ended and a real commotion began. I had already turned and was scanning the crowd for my girl, but she was no where to be found. “Eeee-volet!” was useless. The strobes had gone mad, spiraling out across the crowd and flashing on and off.

The two men were still rolling around on the floor and a girl knelt next to the dying man. She touched the pool of black goo spreading beneath him and held it to her nose. Her eyes went wide as realization dawned and she reached out for his bleeding neck, his pulse. She never found it, the dead man raised his head and her stretching fingers went straight into his mouth. The scream I heard then was definitely not part of the music. She pulled her hand back three fingers less. The dead man sat up, his teeth grinding on her little fingers.

It was at this point all hell broke loose.

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1975 classic

This session begins the characters descent into the 4e remake of the seminal adventure Tomb of Horrors, penned by the creator of Dungeons and Dragons himself in the halcyon days of the mid-70’s, E. Gary Gygax. The remake (and there have been several) is based off the original tournament module from the 70’s with as little updating dones to it as possible, other than converting all the stats to 4th edition ruleset. This version is also the only completely faithful adaptation done to the adventure, since the others have attemopted to add to it, or change it, such as 2nd edition’s “Return to Tomb of Horrors” or the also-for-4th edition “Tomb of Horrors” super adventure. With that said, I have taken the liberty of changing some of the flavor and backstory of the adventure, but the meat and potatoes is staying strictly true to the original in all its deadly glory. Thanks are due to Wizards of the Coast for sending this non-for-sale “DM Reward” adventure to all the DMs out there who run Encounters Wednesday at their local game stores.

re-classified

Last session saw the heroes fighting a gremlin infused blue elemental storm dragon in the lowest pits of the treasure chambers beneath the palace of the Sorceror King of Tyr, Gagnasdiak the Tyrant. All the while the characters fought off the dragon, they were trying to unlock a magical portal to escape before the palace guards arrived. They managed to leap through the portal in the nick of time, even as countless hopping mad bunnies descended upon them. Suddenly they were flying through a wormhole, twisting and turning through a tunnel of brilliant light. As they travelled, they heard the enraged scream of Gagnasdiak “Nooooooo….” Following them along the twisting pathways through time and space. Suddenly they were no longer falling, but were standing on firm ground.

The world was dark. A sun hung motionlessly in the sky above them, though it gave out little more light than a full moon. The land was full of dust. Looking down, it became apparent it was bone dust. The world was covered in this granulated bone dust became bigger to the north, where a hill of skulls stood out against the featureless plain. The skulls were piled up against an enormous cube of granite, 500 feet on a side. On the side facing the party were three dark entrances about halfway up.

They rested from their prior ordeals and took stock of the situation. Legend told them that they were at the end of time. They also knew that they could never escape this place uless they destroyed the phylactery of Gagnasdiak. The tyrant hid a portion of his soul in this, the perfect hiding place, in a world where no life remained, there would be little risk of danger. They also knew that the tomb of Gagnasdiak was perilous and meant to trap souls within. They would not be blessed with the sweet release of death should they be caught in one of the nefarious traps or hazards of the tomb. Instead they would be sent back to the entrance, to attempt the tomb again in perpetuity.

Knowing this, the heroes mounted the hill of skulls, estimating at least a billion skulls make up the hill. They quickly determine the outer passages are a waste of time, being choked full of skulls, while the middle entrance leads to a long wide hall covered in paintings and frescoes on the walls and ceiling. The floor is made up of floor tiles, and tiles of red ceramic form a pathway winding along down the hallway. Poppy the elf has an amazing perception and she was able to creep slowly down the hallway detecting traps. She found a series of concealed pits, each covered by a trapdoor. Moving to the first on, she had her allies tie a rope around her waist while she crept out onto the trapdoor. It remained firm until she crossed the halfway mark and started to put her weight on the second door, where-upion she could tell it would spring open. On the wall before her was a chest jutting out of the painting and after a few nervous moments she found the invisible lever, which did nothing but open the pit she was standing above. The rope held her safe, and she could see spikes in the floor of the pit. Looking closer, she saw a few gems scattered between the spikes which were wet, possibly with poison. Mage hand netted them a total of six 50 gold piece value gems in ruby.

They then went and checked each pit carefully, and noticed a secret door in the bottom of one, but it could only be opened from the other side. Finally they came to the end of the hall and read a long rambling riddle, written by the arch-lich himself which purported to give clues about how to survive the tomb. The clues did not help Hex however, as he went to investigate the pair of portals at hallways end. Against the back wall of the long hall was a giant face with an impenetrable black hole for a mouth. To the right was a misty doorway with three glowing stones in the archway, a blue glowing stone on the left, a yellow stone above, and an orange stone to the right. Hex dove into the mouth and was instantly wracked by pain as he started to disintegrate. It took Thokk and Sharia each working together to pull him out before he was too far gone.

After this, the party decided to study the riddle further, and it seemed to point them to another exit from the hall. The worked their way towards the entrance, to the second pit trap which was in front of a thick plaster frescoe showing a prison door with a deom tormenting the prisoner. They could see no secret door, but decided to break away the plaster, revealing a concealed door.

Moving through the door, they were accosted by the sound of lound shrieking, and soon came to a small chamber where a four armed gargoyle had just awakened from stasis. It was angry. The room was mpty except for some chunks and debris of stone rubble over the floor. The gargoyle flew into the highest corner of the room, and prepared to dive bomb. He lashed out once with each of his claws as he made a circuit of the room to end back in the upper corner. Sharia however would stand for none of it, and she threw her skyrender axe, which has the abilty to knock flying creatures out of the sky. Her and the cleric Ria were both surprised to find the shards of rubble they were standing amongst animate and start stabbing into their ankles. The rubble looked like the crumbled remains of other gargoyles.

On the ground, the gargoyle turned his ire on his nearest foe, the brute Thokk, who took a lashing, struck by three of the gargoyles claws. Thokk went down from the massive damage which took him within inches of his life. (71 damage!) He was soon back on his feet to continue the fight, and the party eventually was able to tackle the sturdy stone monster.

There were two doors leading out of the room, each of them leading to a small 10 x 10 room empty but for some gravelly debris strewn across the floor. (Don’t stand on the gravel!) However, the challenge ahead was in the form of a gauntlet of hidden doors that took three actions to unlock. All the while, a bolt of energy would strike out at anyone who came in after the first person. This was lucky for Poppy, who could slip in, use her preternatural perception to locate the outline of the door, then get out safely, just as the little hairs on her arms stood up on end.

It was no so good for Thokk, who had to charge in next and bang on the wall where Poppy located the door in an effort to unlock it, taking a bolt of energy for his work. Once this was done, Poppy had to come back in and take a hit from the bolt while she used her thieves tools to finally unlock the door. This three part act went on through 3 or 4 small rooms, until Thokk bowed out and Hex took over the athletics. Finally, after every one’s hair was on end and smoking, they opened a door that led not to another small chamber, but to another great hall much like the first. We will end the tale here, as the party finally escapes the gauntlet of doors and looks forward to the next danger, each victory bringing them one step closer to defeating the Tomb of Horrors and thus getting their lives back (or so they think…)

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