ADVENTURE 5: ESCAPE TO THE SURFACE: After dealing with the ghoul attack, the PCs healed up and traveled back to the star room, slaying the rest of its undead occupants, and collecting some of the diverse items that were scattered about the coffins. Then they explored the level further, heading down the south side of the hallway, finding a room full of rats, a storage room, and a chamber with a magically sweeping broom, which Tyro took. While they were investigating this last room, they all heard footsteps coming down the hallway: a large ogre. All ducked into the room, closing the door behind. The ogre knocked, and after briefly talking to him, he came inside, and they tried dealing diplomatically with the large monster, who apparently knew about Karosian, whose body had been sold by goblins to the priests on the lower levels. Negotiations with the ogre failed, however, and he attacked. It was hardly a battle, as the lone ogre was quickly slain. The characters then explored another door. Opening it, they saw a room full of more ogres. Before anything else could happen, Ashrem tossed one of the vials of coughing powder into the room, quickly slamming the door. All of the ogres were disabled by it, and soon after, the characters walked into the room and slew them all with minimal effort. In the ogres room, they found another door, leading off to their bedroom: several piles of furs and rags, which the characters searched finding a few interesting items. Also, they discovered a secret passage in the main ogre room, leading off to a chamber of dirt, and two tunnels, one going up, the other going down. Deciding to leave these alone, they explored some more.
Further down the hallways, they found a curious door: made of dark wood, and ringed with odd runes in a diabolical language, the door was heavily locked. Tyro could read the alphabet, though to him the words were merely gibberish. Just north of this door they found a secret room containing a freezing sphere. First, Sithdar opened up the rune-covered door, revealing the anteroom beyond, covered with images of a warrior in his prime, doing great deeds of good, but finally bowing before a demonic master. Another door led further into the apparent tomb: Sithdar opened this one again, picking the lock but suffering from a poison needle trap. They then discovered a finely decorated room beyond. Tapestries covered the walls, along with some more evil looking symbols. In the center was a grand chair, and atop it sat a skeleton leaning upon a greatsword. As they came inside, the skeletal warrior arose and spoke. He was Saracek, one of the heroes they had been hired to reclaim. Kerit told him that they had come to redeem him, by taking his bones back and giving him a proper burial. Saracek denied that salvation was a possibility for one such as himwhose evils were beyond redemption. Kerit also suggested that perhaps they could slay him, ending his misery; though the monk backed down from a direct challenge, thereby convincing Saracek that he was merely a coward. Meanwhile, Sithdar showed his middle finger to the undead knight, further insulting him, and provoking an attack. In the short massacre that followed, Kerit was slain, decapitated by the fallen hero. Sithdar was hurt greatly as well. The others, feeling a terrible fear coming upon them, ran as far away as they could, back out of the tomb and to the entry of this level. Now, the dungeon was finally getting to them. Kerits death was greatly affecting Sithdar, who began muttering odd things to himself, while fearing for his own life. The others were very anxious as well, and the claustrophobia of the dungeon made time seem to pass at an oddly quick rate. After recovering from the shock the battle, the party headed to the northern half of the level. Sithdar sneaked up to the muscular madman they had seen before, and as the others made their way noisily down towards them, he positioned himself for a sneak attack. Karl then spoke to the madman, whose name was Marthek. Marthek said many things; telling of his masters, the priests of Orcus, and constantly describing murderous acts he wanted to commit, though at times he seemed hesitant. His eyes all the while gleamed with a strange red glow. Marthek even mentioned a captive of his: some being he called Pixie Pete, some sort of midget that he had locked up in a cell. Soon the conversation broke down, and Marthek got ready to attack. He never got off a singe hit. Sithdar stabbed him in the back, and as Marthek was getting ready to rage, the others killed him. They took his club and a key they found on him, then went the other way down the corridor, finding a locked room containing only a small halfling in full plate: a paladin named Welby Undergbough, who had been part of a previous adventuring party, the rest apparently slain by Marthek the madman. He had come here to eradicate the priests of Orcus, but was now more interested in surviving than anything else. He decided to join with the others, because in such a dungeon, there is safety only in numbers. The characters explored a little more, and soon found out that this hallway connected with the entrance to Saraceks crypt. They decided to check the ice-orb room again, and found a shocking sight: Kerit, stripped naked and covered in blood, his head in one corner, his body in the other, frozen solid. The group decided to take his body out, for proper burial. Now, two companions dead, they made the choice to leave, at least for now.
The journey up was seemingly easy. They got up to level one with no problems, nor sightings of the dung monster. But back at the mausoleum was a nasty surprise: the door was locked tight, and when Sithdar tried picking it, the floor began rising rapidly, forcing him to run back to level ones entrance. Now the way out was shut, as the floor didnt fall back down. As they were deciding what to do next, the party spotted a small group of ghouls headed their ways, which were instantly turned to ash by their new paladin friend. They waited a single night, to no availthe floor-trap not moving an inch. As they rested, and Karl watched for monsters, he had a nasty surprise. A sharp pain in his backhe was paralyzed, two green gargoyles ripping through his backpack and knocking him down. The gems had come to life! Another gargoyle ripped from Tyros pack, another from Ashrems. Sithdar, to his dismay, found three gargoyles formed from his own gems, who all attacked him, and he awoke to find himself totally immobile. Welby had no such gems, and slept through most of the battle like a baby. Here, Sithdar was slaughtered, as a gargoyle tore his throat out. The others ran back to the large rat-cavern of level one, not wishing to fight a losing battle. Now, they were desperate to find a way out. Eventually, they crossed the underground river. On the other side, they explored some more rat tunnels, finding a dead dwarf and taking his strangely decorated helmet. Then, Welby climbed up one of the rat tunnels, and was relieved to find himself on the surface; the light of the sun finally shining on his face again! He went back down to get the others, but as it turned out, only Ashrem could also fit through the rat tunnel. So they formulated a plan. Ashrem and Welby climbed to the surface. They went to get the key from the dwarf statue, to open the masoleum for the others. It didnt work. The doors wouldnt open, as the floor still blocked them. Distraught, the two who had made it spoke with the others, and for another night Tyro, Karl and Welby stayed in the dungeon, while Ashrem waited outside. That night there was another attack, when Welby failed to see the gelationous cube that wandered close to the party. Karl quickly leaped across the river and began firing arrows at the thing, while Welby leaped as well, but landed right in the river, nearly drowning. Several arrows and some spells defeated the slimy creature, and all survived the night. The next morning, Welby climbed back through the rat tunnel, and the two on the surface saw that the gargoyles had returned, probably because the floor in the tomb had receded again. The archer and cleric made their way back to the mausoleum from the inside, taking Sithdars body along the way, while Welby sneaked up to it, waiting to open it with the key. Ashrem meanwhile, shot at the gargoyles and ran, distracting them while Welby opened the door, allowing the others to escape. The party soon ran off away from the dungeon, and met twenty minutes later, beginning their long trek back to town, happy to be alive.
DM COMMENTS: Probably the best session so far! There was a real sense of fatality, desperation, and claustrophobia in this one. We played in a dingy basement from five to midnight, so we had no sense of daylight passing, just like in the dungeon. It was interesting to see what encounters they wizzed by, and which ones kicked their asses. Marthek and Ambro were surprisingly wimpy, due to the players getting the jump on them and using surprise tactics. For Marthek it was pretty funny. He was just starting to ‘hulk up’, about to go into a berserker rage. We rolled initiative and he went last. The party killed him before he could move! Saracek, meanwhile, went first. He killed the monk with a critical hit, and the others ran as far as they could. Hitting them with the regenerating gargoyles was mean on my part, but they were ready to be reborn, punishing the rogue for his greed.