ADVENTURE 9: Lair of the Rune Master: The characters arrived at the second level, and spent a few moments contemplating their path as they stood about the huge central entry room. While they heard a few skittering noises southward, they first investigated the ledge up above, and while the NPC Jeb had little trouble climbing up, the others had to take their time, some falling several times in a row. At the top they found that the ledge led to a whole new system of tunnels, going both left and right. On the opposite end, it fell again, leading to some other section of the second level, where they could hear constant buzzing. Here they could also see several strange runes, illuminating the floor with their eerie light. Jimwise, quite unwise, decided to touch one of them. Darkness poured from it, blinding all the PCs, while the distant buzzing grew louder and louder. Suddenly, three stirges attacked the PCs in the dark, sucking the blood out of the three warriors, though all of the pests were slain after Telok dispelled the darkness. Deciding not to remain, they soon headed down the eastern tunnel.
There they discovered the web-filled lair of a gigantic spider, many stirges visible in tiny cocoons all across the entryway. To get through, they tried burning the webs, but to little effect. However, the smoke from the fire kept away any more stirges while Telok rested for a few hours to regain his divine spells. Soon, they pushed their way through the webs and were headed south, into the lair of the beast. It nearly surprised them when it appeared out of nowhere, phasing in and out of reality. The strange spider assaulted the characters, wounding Jerry and almost killing Jestyn with its lethal poison before they slew it. In its lair they discovered, among numerous bodies, a whole pile of treasure. Xyun found, using Detect Magic, a robe hidden in a pile of discarded clothing. It was a powerful Robe of Eyes, a rare find indeed. Jestyn took and wore it, discoverin that it allowed him numerous miracles of sight. They also discovered a keen scimitar, taken by Jimwise Welby, and a ring of blinking, which Jerry took to wear. After a brief rest in the lair, the PCs were ready to go on with their search.
The westward path took them past a wide open side-passage. Here, everyone heard a clattering of many feet, just in time to see a strange lobsterlike entity with no claws, which was darting towards them, looking incredibly cute in its collar. Jimwise went right up to it to possibly tame the beast, and just then, Xyun recalled that this was a Rust Monster, an obnoxious little monster that had a great love for eating metal. The bard tried calling a warning, but it was too late, as the monster ate the paladins plate armor and shield both! Telok was more wise, and put his metal items down before approaching it, and Jestyn didnt fear it at all, for he carried no armor or weapon. Jerry backed off and let the others deal with this encounter. The mage was able to distract it with some silver coins, and as he hand-fed the beast, he noticed a strange blue glow in its eyes. It was then that the characters got an idea: they would capture and tame the rust monster, using it as a guard in Xyuns tavern! Jeb managed to lasso it with his rope, and with the help of the others, pulled in it and captured the thing. Jestyn fed it coins and was able to get close enough to undo its collar. Apparently, this broke some kind of enchantment, as the monster then bolted off, nearly pulling everyone else with it! Fortunately, Jimwise was able to calm it using his ability with animals. Just then, Jerry saw something coming out of the southern wall: the form of a man, indistinct, partially inside the wall itself. Whoever it was soon disappeared back to his hiding place. A few moments later, Jestyn, using his robe of eyes, saw the same man. He was a blue skinned and tight-faced fellow, with small black eyes and a face too angular to be any known race. He wore strangely colored robes, covered with the same type of runes that they had seen in the tunnel. Only Jestyn could see or speak with him. The mans name was Balcoth, and he was here as a scientist, studying this place. When he heard about their identities and goals, he offered to lead them back to his home to speak, and the characters followed, down halls and through a twisting maze covered with magical darkness.
Balcoths lair was as strange as hecovered in runes which gave off a pale glow, triangular bookshelves floated above the ground and odd sights were everywhere. The wizard became visible, and summoned some chairs for them to sit in, while offering them crescentium, a drink made from a berry only obtainable on the astral plane, which grew on the immense bodies of dead gods. Balcoth was supposedly from another plane of existence, referring to the PCs as primes, and speaking of many mysterious matters. He was here to study the Black Monolith, which was supposedly an interdimmensional portal of sorts, capable of transporting many objects or creatures. He had dealt with the priests of Orcus, but had no alliance with them , since he wasnt willing to join their cult. Still, he knew where some of them resided, and offered the PCs a deal: they would journey to the sixth level and retrieve a magical crystal for him, and he would lead them to some priests of Orcus. This would cement their trust in each other, and perhaps convince him to guide them to the Black Monolith, which interested him greatly. He also warned them about Natasha, a wicked drow enchantress who lurked on the second levelan evil and deceitful witch, so he said. Though both paladins supremely distrusted the evil Balcoth, the others thought his deal was good, and the group ended up making an agreement. Balcoth then lead them northward, down a cavern where they saw a strange monkey-thing hanging upside-down. They could feel it scanning their thoughts as they walked by, but were assured by Balcoth that it was a friendthough he could not say that for those of its kind on level 6. Down a manmade hall, through a rune-trapped door and past a secret wall, the characters soon found themselves in room filled with thousands of runes, glowing evilly on the walls, floor and ceiling, though apparently harmless. Telok stayed back for a moment, not quite trusting the rune wizard, but was soon retrieved by Jestyn. Beyond the rune-covered room was a staircase going very deep into the earth, so deep that it took them many hours to descend. While they climbed, Balcoth told them what he knew of level 6. Though most of the floor had foes that the party could beat, he warned them about Gremag, a powerful lich-druid who dwelt behind a sealed tomb. Supposedly, he was of such great power that not even the rune-mage dared to challenge him, though Balcoth didnt think that Gremag had his crystal. Thus, they prepared for their mission
DM’S COMMENTS: A fairly productive session. It was interesting that the players decided to explore the ledge first, instead of heading south, which probably would have lead them to a whole different set of encounters and mini-quests. They all learned that Stirges can be incredibly lethal, probably the toughest monsters for such a low CR. The spider encounter was fun, and could have seriously hurt them if they didnt’ remember that they could ready actions against it. In one hit, it drained the mage of 12 constitution points! When the players found the robe of eyes they were amazed. When Jestyn joked about selling it and taking the money, Telok’s player nearly killed him. Intersting idea to place such a powerful item with such a weak encounter. I ran Balcoth as more of a role-playing encounter than a battle, which is good since he would have slaughtered them. Still, his quest will be plenty dangerous, as we shall all see.