Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak

It was a dark and stormy night, but that mattered to our gaggle of confused adventurers about as much as violence upsets a drow warrior. Not a bit. See, the five were in real deep. We ain’t just talk’n deep in the tomb, but in trouble. Big trouble. This time trouble’s name was Acererak and he meant business, the kind of business that ends up with someone pushing up daisies or snorkeling face down in a bog without a snorkel.

Though his glad rags were now in tatters, the Acererak cat could still lay down some flash. Lightening man, lightening just like from the sky, would shoot from that cat’s boney fingers. Rosco’d Z’alden right in the noodle and connected with the big lug Felsmon on the map, knocking him on his keister. It was the scene that made the five feel like a bunch of bronze piece losers, and that ain’t much to brag about. Heck, their reputation was on the line and they were screwing it up and screwing it up meant never getting a chance to brag. Yeah, you don’t need to read between the lines to understand.

So, this doll, Tira, decided she had enough of this boney goon. She’s a smart one with a rack nice enough to write home about. Plain as an owlbear’s beak, the cat wore this lid like a crown, that seemed to glow and benefit him, kinda like milk benefits a kitten, only the kitten was one mean cat. Real mean. So instead of stick’n a shiv into her mark, she thought better of the situation and ran up to the tower of bones and tried to knock the lid off to the deck. Does an elf need a hammer? Sometimes, but normally no, and this was just like that. Acererak’s top lid just went askew, like a ship leans away from a strong wind but stays on tack. Mad cat laid down some bolts out of the blue, except it was from the darkened room. Tira and Z’alden felt the sizzle.

Now, the other busters weren’t being lazy dopes. They’d been trying to do their worst to the mean cat but mostly missing their mark. The local croaker, Z’alden, patched up the ranger boy, Erik, good enough for him to feel like a new man. But this Erik, see, he got pretty good powers of perception and had eyeballed the pretty dame trying to knock off the mean cat’s lid. So he thought he’d give it a crack instead of throwing wood. Quick as a rat through a kitchen, Erik ran up toward the mean cat Acererak with the lid and continued running part way up the wall, just like one of those circus performers that Channy Jack brings through villages every year. The room was all upsides down to Erik as he snatched the crown and landed back upright on his two dogs. That merchandise was hot, so he thought he’d better ditch it before it got too heavy. Down the hallway, away from the room, Erik unloaded it in a pit. That felt good, like unloading a bunch of broads who’d got your number and was nag’n ya all the way to the coffin.

Now Acererak wasn’t reduced to a patsy and so even without his crown he could dish out a powerful punch that’d send you back to yesterday. Still, the short man, Barrick, had an ace up his gauntlet and he would play that card. Let it rain, they say. Rain steel. All over you. The trick would wear down those numb in the head enough to get close and the boney fat cat must have been feeling pretty numb. Erik’s blades made the bloodless, boney body bleed, despite it not having any blood. No matter. Acererak could still cast out zones of obscuring darkness and the crown in the pit emanated a crazy psychic energy wave, like broads sometimes do when they aren’t paid heed and your trousers are around your ankles as you’re hopping out the doorway.

The red-headed dame’s chaotic bolts combined with the wearing and tearing from the short man and ranger boy had taken their toll. And the bell did toll for Acererak and he was fix’n to die, which ain’t no small feat for someone who’s already dead. So he died and turned to dust. You know, Acererak to ashes. Then, doing what all dungeon sleuths do, the five grabbed what scratch was around. Bunch of potions and scrolls ain’t a bad haul for what just went down. Potions to heal, a scroll to remove an afflictions and a scroll to raise the dead would surely come in handy with this bunch that got the same chances to live as a halfling jester invited to entertain Orcus on the Day of the Dead. And then they got greedy. See, the couch the bones had been resting on was made of pure gold and the dungeon punks wanted it like a umber hulk doesn’t want a bath. Yes, as the golden couch was moved the roof came crashing down. The five escaped by the skin of their teeth, with the clever Tira snatching old Acererak’s crown on the one way out. She could tell that it made one stronger in will and attack just as the wheat juice could.

But there was a mystery here. Just who was this Acererak cat? Who’d he work for? What was his business in all this mess and just what was so important that it was worth re-dying for? There were questions that needed answers and answers that needed questions.

Outside of the boney cat’s pad, the gang of five searched for clues. Things hadn’t been so simple, like the good old days of hack and slash, back when a man could give a creature The Broderick just for looking like a bad guy. The ranger boy Erik found a secret door, see, but it was locked real good, like a priestess of Bahamut on the Day of the Dragon. Stymied, the gang wandered the tomb’s halls and paid a visit back to the room of the vanishing revelers. For their troubles, all they got was more trouble: a tilting floor that pitched them toward lava, molten rock, stuff that’d melt the smile right off of a happy, half-drunk, giddy halfling. Yeah, real bad, but the flying dragonborn Felsmon and the short man saved the day, pulling the ranger boy to safety.

Now things got really strange. Does an old troll tiptoe through a patch of tulips hand-in-hand with a halfling? Back in the sanctuary room, they had this terrible feeling that something horrible was happening. So they tried to leave, but presto, everyone traded sexes. Suddenly the dame Tira wasn’t no dame any more. The cleric, Z’adlen had these enormous bazooms that could put a strain on a man’s back. Ranger boy had gams that went on forever, but the dragon born and short man were sights not to behold. So they all went berserk and started hitting on each other, but not the kind of hitting that involves compliments to the opposite sex. Finally they all snapped out of their murderous rages. Thinking they were smart, they tried exiting the chamber again through the same doorway that had provided such interesting effects.

Tira, looking like a Nancy, went first and disappeared into the inky blackness. The others called out but she was gone, just like her knockers. The men, or women, in the group tried not to think about what else was gone, so they followed Tira right into that inky blackness. They found themselves together, outside in the shrubs by the tomb’s entrance. Yet more was missing – not just body parts, but also all clothing and weapons! Dames were gents and gents were dames and all was there to see. Things were looking pretty bad, real bad, except for the ranger boy, priest and sorceress. The rest were just wrong, like a troll with lipstick. Pointed sticks would be shivs as they reentered the tomb.

A heinous crime had been committed here and the gang staggered their way through the tomb, feeling as though they had tasted the foul waters of cheap, knock-off Death’s Head moonshine produced by the backwater stills of the criminally insane cast outs from the lowest drow caste. It was bad, real bad. Back to the ugly stone face. Back to the gargoyle. Yes, no trace of their weapons nor former selves. They they wised up, see, and went to a new chamber. With naked flesh scraping against stone cold stone, they dropped down ten feet into a room that was off a long, narrow corridor. Even the tension in the air was naked. Chests of gold, silver and oak rested on the floor of the empty chamber. Erik played peeper and started the box job on the oak chest to spy for traps and it was Jake, so Felsmon opened it. Wrong choice. A twelve foot, scimitar wielding skeleton rose from the chest. It was of little solace that it was naked too, for it had no shame and their humor in the situation was impossible to make out across their bony jaw.

Erik’s pointy sticks and the other’s innate magic did their work to beat back the skeleton’s advances. Tira’s tempest surge and the dragonborn’s lightening breath set the skeleton staggering like a booze hound. The giant slayer short man played chin music on the tall skeleton and finally Z’alden’s sapphire claws of Bahamut finished it off. Yet the snag of this rumble cost the five adventurers a pretty penny and two unopened chests remained. Feeling lucky, the five tried the silver box. There were no skeletons in this box, only darts that flew out in all directions, sticking into bare keisters and worse, much worse. There was one clear thing to do to not be filled with daylight, and that was to bangtails out of Dodge, but not before snatching a little crystal box from within the silver chest.

Escaping with their lives, but not their dignity, the adventurers regrouped out in the hallway. The little crystal box had five red gems in it. What clue were they being given in this mystery? With heads as dense as chopping blocks, the five tried to find their armor, weapons and former selves. Reentering the sanctuary chamber they tried once more to transform themselves back by walking back into the inky black doorway, only to find them selves outside the tomb once again, but without even the pointy sticks. This made about as much sense as a dwarf with ballerina shoes. However, they had been thankfully switched back to their original gender. Tira’s long, flowing red hair flowed and Erik’s long, silky legs were once again strong, muscular and hairy. All this was plain to see since they were all still as naked as a beggar’s bowl. Does two plus two equal five? Sometimes, so the five reentered the tomb once again against all sensible hope.

The gang quickly returned to that cat Acererak’s pad, that was now a little worse for wear after being ransacked and having a collapsed roof. Yet there was new booty, or was it old booty? All their armor, weapons, magical items and other possessions lay in a neat pile. A little too neat? The five re-equipped and found a golden chest that had been buried under the pile. Opening it, Felsmon found the crystal chest from the skeleton room. He also found vipers that encouraged a quick exit from Acererak’s pad. The little crystal box had five red gems in it. What clue were they being given in this mystery?

Remembering the stone gargoyle with the crushing palms, the gang ankled their way back to him and placed the gems into his greedy, grasping palms. As before, the gargoyles sat with three outstretched arms ready receive gems, with a fourth arm on the floor. After placing three gems in the hands of the of the attached arms, the gargoyle spoke, “Sacrifice was not in vain. Look to the fourth to find your gain.” That’s what snoopers call a clue and the five had their noodles working right, so they put a fourth gem into the hand of the arm that lay on the floor. The hand closed. The hand opened. In the palm lay some a fine piece of ice. Its color, cut and clarity made it a treasure to behold. It’s oval shape intrigued the dragonborn who, normally just a palooka, saw its oval shape as resembling an eye.

The gang returned to the secret door, the one as tight as a fat, giant earworm in the skull of a hapless halfling. Looking through the ice, the adventurers could see the truth of the runes that told of the door being locked by a powerful magic. If magic was the disease then more disease was the cure. The sorceress and priest knew what to do – the scroll of “remove affliction” could possibly be used to make that door more chippy. So that’s just what Z’alden did to return the unlock the door. Pausing to reflect, the gang left the door closed.

Things had been going well for this wild bunch. Maybe too well. They had been hitting on all eight, turning lemons into lemonade, generally been bad-ass trouble boys and girls. But just who was the big boss? The head honcho. The top dog. The top pillow. The big kahuna. Just who was the big cheese and was he behind this door?

Comments

From the last session: Sloping hall to the elemental vent: 1000 xp, skeleton guardian: 1400 xp, solving the gargoyle puzzle: 500 xp, discovering the door: 500 xp, for a total of 3400 xp. Your total now is 40910.

Barrick, Erik, Felsmon, Tira, and Z’alden peer into the gloom. The way forward is clear. The door is clearly visible through the gem, the cursed magic glowing around the edges. Z’alden realizes that the magic can be dispelled by a great wizard, or the curse can be removed as if it were a terrible affliction.

What do you do?

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

The half-elven cleric shakes his head as though he has been away for some time, yet it has only been a second since using the diamond like a viewer as Felsmon had so wisely suggested. Z’alden turns to his comrades, “We possess two scrolls of Remove Affliction. I will use one to remove the curse on this door. It will take about the time of Barrick downing 40 ales. Please be patient.” He looks for the ritual candle the party acquired in the great hall of Mr. Goodright. He can’t remember if they found it among their things after escaping from the hold of the Black Wind. Saying a prayer to the Great Dragon Bahamut, Z’alden uses one of the scrolls of Remove Affliction. The half hour passes quickly for the cleric, but it is probably tedious for his comrades.

OOC: Z’alden’s Heal is +15. If he found the Ritual Candle, that is a extra +2.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Z’alden rummages around in his belongings for the ritual candle. At first he panics when he cannot find it, but then remembers that he buried it under his half-eaten ankheg jerky. With a flick from Barrick’s flint and tinder, Z’alden lights the candle. The flame sputters and flickers in the chill breeze blowing through the cracks in the wall. Although the candle gives off no heat, Z’alden feels a surge of healing energy flow through him.

As he begins the ritual, Felsmon yawns. Barrick fingers his axe, patiently awaiting whatever the fickle gods might throw at him. Tira practices her chaos bolt on an unsuspecting brick in the wall. Erik paces back and forth, the wild forest creature within him yearning to strike out at unseen foes.

Time passes.

Z’alden announces cheerfully, “It is done!” You all stare at the door. It appears completely unchanged. Barrick is the first to notice a difference. “The air, it’s stopped moving.” He is right. The low whistling noise of the wind through the cracks in the door has become quiet. The entire dungeon feels as if it is waiting, holding its breath, until something gives way, and it is allowed to breathe again.

What do you do now?

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Z’alden stares at the door through the diamond. Does he see how to open it?
If he doesn’t, he hands the diamond to Erik, in case the perceptive ranger can see things that ordinary folk can not.

OOC: Is is clear how to open the door?

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Z’alden holds the precious diamond up to his eye. As he looks through the diamond at the door, he can see that all traces of the arcane ward are now dissipated. It now looks like an ordinary secret door, which might require some special skill to open, but nothing magical. As Z’alden lowers the diamond from his eye, he now notices what he had missed before – the edge of the diamond is not perfectly smooth, but is faceted. In all there are a total of twelve facets. Ten of these facets sparkle with a dazzling brilliance in the torchlight.

Tira asks to see the stone. Using her expert jeweler’s eye, she can tell that those facets are glinting even more brightly than they should. The remaining two facets are still dazzling, but now appear to be what one would expect on a large, beautifully cut diamond, nothing more. “Hmmmmm” she exclaims.

Erik, meanwhile, ponders the door. With a grunt, he walks up and slides his sword blade inside the door frame, along both sides and the top. You hear a series of three clicks, and a light puff of dust from three places along the frame. Erik steps back, and beckons with an open hand to Barrick and Felsmon.

Barrick and Felsmon, glancing quickly at each other, put their shoulders against the door and push. With a maddening “scre-e-e-e-e-e-ch”, the door slides inward, and then suddenly breaking free, slams open against the wall. Barrick and Felsmon tumble forward. Luckily, Barrick’s boots prevent a nasty fall. Unluckily, Felsmon cannot stop himself, and comes crashing down on top of the dwarf. A shower of dirt falls from the ceiling onto the prone adventurers.

Erik, his sword still drawn, leaps over his fallen comrades, and stands at the ready. Z’alden whips out his mace, prepared for attack. Tira calmly glances through the door.

Beyond, you see a dark passage only a few feet wide. The air is chill and damp. The walls and ceiling are rough and unfinished. The floor is tiled in flagstones, similar in appearance to the earlier portion of the dungeon, but is stained an unhealthy-looking bluish hue. Earlier, you had felt a sense of fear and dread. Now, that feeling has grown into one of horror. As you look at each other, you all seem subtly different, as if the fear has seeped into your skin. You notice that your skin appears sallow, your eyes sunken and wild.

You feel tired.

Is there any point in going forward? Better to lay down your weapons now, and sleep.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Though the dread gloom has descended upon him, Erik knows at an intellectual level that he must put emotions aside, which he does. It is at times like this that the warrior’s resolve is strongest – to remain calm and to focus. Nothing has changed physically. Tiredness is of the mind but the hand is still strong and ready. Talent, skill, experience and motivation are unchanged. This is what Erik reminds himself.

Erik readies an action to strike twice at anyone or anything that approaches from the darkness, at least as long as the big and short men are lying prone behind him.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Felsmon and Barrick pick themselves up off the dusty floor. Following Erik’s lead, they shake off the apathy that had gripped them. It feels like a new day has begun, with new beginnings. Even though you are trapped in a tomb of unknown horrors, all hope is not lost. Although you will probably be torn limb from limb, is that any reason to surrender? Will a few scars and searing mental pain discourage you? No!

The passage lies before you. The air is chill, but nothing is blocking your way. What do you do?

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Z’alden starts moves forward, trying to also shake off the despair.
Felsmon moves past him and the others at his full speed and then charges anything he sees.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Erik shakes his head as Felsmon stomps by. Calmly Erik asks Tira what powers the crown has. Can someone make use of it?

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

As Erik turns to ask Tira, the perceptive ranger cannot help but notice that the crown is on Z’alden’s head. Seeing it there, Erik will no doubt recall that Tira had no interest in it despite its powers that boost Charisma-based attacks, but Z’alden was pleased that it boosted Wisdom-based attacks, as well as enhancing the Will defense.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
 

Felsmon charges headlong down the twisting corridor. Z’alden, suddenly alarmed at his companion’s rashness, hisses at Felsmon to slow down, but the dragonborn appears not to hear. The corridor winds to the right, then to the left, and then straight again for a few staff lengths. Z’alden tries to follow, but quickly looses sight of the large warrior as he turns around another bend and disappears from view. You hear footsteps receding in the distance, and then silence.

You're a mean one, Mr. Acererak
rplayer dredmuns

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