Dec 4, 2016

2nd Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (Morning)

The party spent to rest of the afternoon of the first day of Flocktime searching the rest of the Fire Temple, including Prefect Allrem's personal quarters. Some minor treasure was looted, including a book about the Elemental Plane of Fire, which was open to a page describing an Elemental Grue known as a Harginn. There was also a partially written letter addressed to Kelno, high priest of the Air Temple, which read: "Your rewards will be great if you bend your knee to Fire. Bring all of your forces here to me now, and swear fealty. If you fail to heed this advice... "

That evening, the party decided to stay inside Prefect Allrem's quarters to rest, since they could lock the door. During the night, a noise was heard outside the door, and the next morning, when the door was opened, a letter was found addressed to the party from Kelno, the Air Temple Priest, thanking the party for defeating Allrem, praising their worthiness and power, and asking them to parlay with him in the northwest corridor. The party took a round-about way to get there in the morning, defeating a minotaur along the way, mapping out some more of level 2 of the ToEE, but otherwise moving quickly (i.e. not searching) in order to maximize the use of the strength spells that were put on Pontus and Jarrus. The party eventually came in contact with Kelno and what appeared to be the remainder of his temple forces (more bugbears). Kelno asked the party to destroy the Earth Temple on the level above and offered a vial of poison with instructions to place the poison inside the altar to destroy it. If the party did as he asked, he promised to provide them with the information needed to destroy the Fire Temple.

Just as the party was finalizing the deal, Athan brandished the Golden Skull and demanded that all bow before him (losing a point of charisma in the process). The bugbears cowered in fear, but Kelno was unaffected. Jarrus then lept at Kelno, striking a critical hit with his new frostbrand sword (max damage, doubled with a 20, insane strength bonuses, etc.). Kelno exploded into millions of shards of ice, with only one or two magical items surviving the hit. The bugbear leader, witnessing this, immediately turned to Jarrus and said something to the effect of "you boss now."

The party then directed the bugbears to go up to the first level and kill everyone they see. The party then searched through what was left of Kelno before heading upstairs to follow the bugbear trail of death. The first thing they came across were a bunch of jail cells. Luckily, the only inhabitants were zombies, which the bugbears took care of. Following the sounds of fighting, the party eventually catches-up with the bugbears, who had led them in the direction of the Earth Temple. The Earth Temple was a large room with a dirt floor (go figure) and a pyramid in the middle. As the bugbears entered the room, they caused the earth elemental guardians to rise up out of the floor. Four of these 16 HD creatures appeared in total, which would have likely been more than the party could handle had they not had the bugbears to basically take the hits for them while Sarril drained charges from his wand of lightning. (There were several ways in which the party could have defeated or avoided the elementals, and using the bugbears as fodder in order to fight them head-on was creative, even if that wasn't their original intent). After the elementals were killed, Athan poured the vial of poison into an offering box on the altar and closed the lid. After some dramatic earthquakes, the pyramid crumbled and the floor cracked. The party took the opportunity to run back downstairs.

The rest of the day was spent going back over territory previously visited, searching for treasure/secret doors, etc. At one point, Jarrus found a piece of his father's armor (a magical breastplate), and otherwise, minor treasure, rations, spell components, etc. were all able to be replenished. The party did a little more exploration of Level 2 and came across a Su-monster, which is an ape-like creature with psionic abilities. The creature hit Luapan with a psychic crush attack, incapacitating him for a time, but the rest of the party was able to finish the beast off and Luapan eventually recovered. The party decided to it was best to take another rest, thus ending the session on the afternoon of second day of Flocktime.

Nov 20, 2016

1st Day of Flocktime, CY 579

Starting the morning of 1st Day of Flocktime, the party began by searching the water temple clerics' room and picking up some small treasures, including some clerical scrolls. Once done searching, Jarrus, Pontus and Delvin donned water temple robes, strength spells were cast on Jarrus and Pontus, and the party set out to explore the temple, deciding not to spend time searching for traps or secret doors along the hallways in order to maximize the time during which the strength spells were in effect.

The group went back up through the curtain into the altar room with the hideous aquatic statue and offering basin they ignored earlier. Athan started to reach into the basin to collect the coins and gems that were there, but Pontus stopped him, noticing that there were track marks on the floor heading from the statue to the altar, indicating this thing moves. The statue also emanated magic, so the party began investigating what was going on. Sarril decided to "pull an Athan" and toss a coin into the basin atop the altar, which triggered the statue, which was actually a Juggernaut, to come to life. Juggernauts are mythical constructs ("mythical" in the sense that they are rumored to exist but no one has ever seen one) that roll over their victims, crushing them to a pulp. The good news is that they aren't very maneuverable and they take a couple of rounds to pick up speed, so the party was able to stay away from its crushing attack for the first couple of rounds. At the same time the juggernaut came to life, the four gargoyles in the corners of the room awoke and moved in to attack. Jarrus went after one of the gargoyles and did enough damage to reveal that it was actually a zombie wearing a gargoyle cloak. Sarril then turned the zombies, allowing the party to focus on killing the juggernaut, which wasn't too much of a problem given that Luapan had gained a Rod of Smiting from Prefect Belsornig, which automatically does triple damage to constructs. He managed to deliver a killing blow one round before the thing would have crushed Jarrus.

The group finished off the zombies and headed east through the double bronze doors, across a long wide hallway and through another set of double bronze doors into what was obviously the fire temple worship area. This large room contained a diamond shaped pit in the floor in front of a wall full of jeering skulls. The pit was full of burning hot coals and Pontus detected some magic buried under the hot coals. Knowing this was the fire temple, Delvin had cast Protection from normal fire on Pontus and Jarrus and, since the hot coals were considered normal fire, the two of them were able to enter the hot coals and retrieve a buried iron box, inside of which were discovered a Frostbrand longsword, ring of fire resistance and a potion. Jarrus reached into the box to pull out the longsword and had his left hand removed by a scythe trap that was spring loaded to go off when the sword was lifted from the bottom. He screamed in pain until Sarril cast cure light wounds to close the stump and stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, the noise alerted a guard captain and a few bugbears who came through a concealed door to the north to investigate. When the guard captain saw the water temple robes on Jarrus, Pontus and Delvin, he yelled loudly for Allrem, proclaiming that the water temple was attacking.

This small group was easily dealt with, but they summoned 5 more bugbears and a half-orc cleric, followed by Prefect Allrem, chief cleric of the fire temple, and another lesser cleric. The party easily dealt with the bugbears and half-orc (while Athan pickpocketed the guard captain, who happened to be held at the time), before Sarril used his Staff of the Serpent to crush the life out of the captain. The party attempted to briefly parlay with Prefect Allrem, claiming that a new order was in place from the greater temple and that he is to submit. Allrem argued that such an act was unprecedented, and wanted to know why Hedrack was favoring the water temple, which would be a betrayal. Some additional attempts were made to convince him, but when he saw the frostbrand sword that Jarrus was carrying, he got angry and attacked. Of course that was his mistake. Some back and forth Hold Person spells were cast by multiple clerics on both sides, ending in the party's victory over the second elemental temple (that's two down).

At this point, the party started to slow down and search rooms, collecting small treasures, scrolls and magic items and heading north until they came to a long hallways that wrapped around the outer perimeter of the temple. Not wanting to go too far without having thoroughly explored the areas where they had been, the party decided to go back to the main fire temple and search the altar room. Around the room were bowls of hot oil with continual light cast on them. Each bowl has copper ladles by them. This time Jarrus decided to "pull an Athan" and started playing around with the hot oil. Someone (I don't recall if it was Jarrus or Sarril) poured some of the oil into the coal pit, which triggered the start of a sacrificial ceremony. One of the skulls on the altar began speaking to the party, telling them to place a sacrifice into the pit. Four small salamanders (creatures from the elemental plane of fire) appeared in the coal pit , and started growing in size. Pontus ran back into the other room and grabbed the dead bodies of Allrem and another cleric and came running back. While he was doing this, the rest of the party was getting fire resistance spells cast on them. At round four, the salamanders had grown to full size and multiplied into 16 salamanders. Pontus threw the dead bodies into the pit where they began to burn, but this was not the correct sacrifice (though not a bad idea), and the salamanders attacked.

This was the only real difficult battle the party had, and Jarrus' new frostbrand sword proved to be a really effective weapon against the salamanders. As a matter of fact, Jarrus was starting to show his real capabilities, as he is double-specialized in the longsword and this Frostbrand just happened to be a longsword. The party didn't miss Gareth quite so much anymore (and jokingly referred to Jarrus as Gareth 2.0). The fire protection everyone but Pontus now had on them probably saved them as every attack the salamanders made carried additional fire damage. It turns out there were only four salamanders, each with three mirror images. This kept Jarrus from completely owning them for several rounds, giving them the opportunity to do some damage. Athan got caught by one of the salamander's tails and started getting crushed to death, taking damage every round. He was knocked unconscious (below zero HP), but Sarril, Delvin and Luapan all kept hitting him with heal spells every round until someone was able to kill the salamander holding him. That was probably the only close call the party had. Once the salamanders were killed, the party thought it would be best to rest and recover spells before continuing, so they spent the rest of the afternoon and the evening locked inside the fire priest's bedroom.

Nov 6, 2016

27th Day of Planting, CY 579

Starting at about mid-morning of the 27th Day of Planting, Year CY 579, the reunited party has discovered that Athan just inadvertently summoned a demon, the result of a trap placed on one of the scrolls in the alcove he was searching. The clever demon used its gaze attack to weaken the fighters and, due to its innate magic resistance, was not succumbing to any of the cleric or magic-user spells thrown at it. The party quickly came to the conclusion that they were outmatched, and running away was not going to be an option without casualties. Thus, Athan, after trying to pick Pontus’s pocket for some reason, decided to read the most powerful magic scroll in his possession, Limited Wish, to wish the demon to immediately return to its home plane. Given how high of a level the scroll was, there was a decent chance of failure, but a risk he felt he needed to take. The gamble paid off, and the party was now minus one demon and minus one 7th level spell scroll – and very much alive to explore the rest of the dungeon.

At some point during all of this, Athan apologized to Sarril for being the one to steal and hide his magic mirror - the act that sent the party into the dungeon to begin with. That was a pretty big reveal, and the party was a bit too busy to process what all of that meant – perhaps to Athan’s benefit. He did say he thought it was the right thing to do at the time, but admitted to making bad decisions. He also asked Sarril to touch the golden skull, which he reluctantly agreed to do. After doing so, Sarril was visibly shaken, saying that something powerful and evil is aware of who he is and where he is right now.

After exploring a few more alchemical labs and storage areas, the party came into the last unexplored room in the northeast corner of the dungeon map. Here they encountered a total of 16 shadows, which were easily dealt with once the clerics turned them. Jarrus took a liking to some gold dinnerware, and filled a large sack with heavy gold plates, serving dishes and the like, effectively becoming a loud walking wind chime.

The party proceeded to move up to the second level of the dungeon and found their way into a large octagonal room with a pit and some braziers, as well as a slab with a sacrificial crystal dagger and bowl on it. Pontus picked up the dagger, setting off a trap (which did some damage to him) and an alarm, which summoned a kind of wraith guardian into the room, which, like most opponents that have not been demons, was easily dispatched. The octagonal room had four large bronze doors, heavily barred and chained going in each direction, with the northern door being warded with the same magical symbols that warded the outside entrance of the temple. The party was able to find a secret door leading out, thus not having to break any of the bronze door locks.

After some brief exploring and finding another set of bronze doors with magical wards at the bottom of a staircase, the party headed southwest and found what appears to be the Water Temple. There they met the high-priest Belsornig and two of the lesser priests. After some brief introductions, slaughter began. Once again, the party proved to be too much for these lowly temple dwellers, and one of the lesser priests retreated into a room with a pool of clear water and prayed aloud to the water (or something in it) to save him, then jumped into the pool which turned out to not be water at all, but highly corrosive acid. Jarrus ran to the edge of the pool to see if he could pull the priest out and then, for some reason, decided to jump into the pool of acid himself. Delvin saw this and ran over to the pool to help, then he decided the acid looked nice and jumped right in.

Sarril yelled to the rest of the party for help (Pontus and Athan had stayed behind to guard Luapan, who was still under the effects of a Hold Person spell). Pontus and Athan came running into the room and Pontus, ever the hero, jumped into the pool of acid, grabbed Jarrus and Delvin both around the waist, and pulled them out. It became quickly apparent that the pool, or something in it, was using some kind of suggestion spell to make people jump into it. Anyone failing their save was jumping into the acid, taking 2d10 damage per round and losing their equipment (although everyone’s magical equipment made its saves for the one round they were exposed, the creature did have the ability to destroy magical items and absorb their properties to use them against the party). Seeing what was going on, the party ran from the pool room and took refuge in the high priest’s chambers where they healed as much as possible before thoroughly looting the place like a good adventuring party should.

During this looting, the group discovered some clerical scrolls which included Part Water and Purify Food and Drink. Delvin, being a druid with knowledge of the elements, recognized these spells and theorized that the creature in the pool may be a type of elemental from the elemental plane of water, which has been corrupted by evil - hence the acid. These spells may have been a backup plan for Belsornig to destroy the thing if it turned against him. If so, he also theorized that a Purify Water spell would have the most direct effect against it.

With this information, the party hatched a plan. After resting overnight, they tied a rope around Delvin, which Pontus held onto so he didn’t try to jump in the pool. After buffing him with Athan’s ring of protection and a Bless and Chant from Luapan, Delvin stood in the doorway and cast Purify Water at the pool. The spell did 10d6 damage, which is quite a bit, but not enough to kill it. It tried, unsuccessfully, to make Delvin stop with a suggestion. Delvin hit it again for another 10d6, making it angry, but not killing it. It then ordered Pontus, using a suggestion, to kill Delvin. Pontus resisted. After Delvin hit it again, it still wasn’t dead, and it tried and failed to make Athan do something – after which it telepathically stated that it was obvious that “you already serve her.” The creature then began, through telepathic communication, to tell the party that Belsornig was weak and that they are worthy to lead the Water Temple. It also offered them anything they desire, which would have been in the form of a Wish if Sarril hadn’t then blasted the thing with a Purify Food & Drink scroll, killing it.

The destruction of the creature created a massive explosion that caused the lapis lazuli basin containing it, as well as the crystal dome over it, to shatter into millions of pieces. No one was in the room to take damage, so all ended well. Of course Athan began sifting through the rubble, a process that took several hours, during which he found a half dozen valuable (but large and heavy) pieces of lapis lazuli that Jarrus gladly took and placed into a sack to replace the gold dinnerware that was destroyed went he went swimming in the acid. Athan also found a scroll case, and inside was a piece of parchment with the following written:

On three, in six, lies nine - but none shall ever see
Vile Good cloaked by fair Evil for eternity.
Will you answer, Answerer? Where is your power, pray?
With the whelp of Mitrik and there until doomsday.

(Note: Mitrik is the capital of Veluna, and this poem was a clue about Prince Thrommel, whom the party had already rescued)

The remainder of the day was spent sorting through rubble and the party sealed the doors and spent the night in the comfortable bedrooms of the priests of the water temple.

Oct 23, 2016

Meet the Player Characters: Jarrus

Jarrus Sunleaf - Half-Elf Fighter

Like just about every other character in the party, Jarrus is a complicated man. The son of Correal Sunleaf, an elven cavalier in the order of the Knights of Luna, and a human noblewoman, the identity of whom he has not yet revealed. Both of his parents were once part of an adventuring crew that went by the name "The Company of the Heartstone," which signified the artifact they quested for. Many of the members of that party were children of nobles who used nicknames to hide their true identities. When Jarrus' mother became pregnant, she and his father left the adventuring party, a few years before they achieved their quest - which was probably a good thing, and the Heartstone proved to have some disastrous effects on several of the party members.

Two major events would shape Jarrus' life in the coming years. The first was that when Jarrus was very young, his mother's older brother died suddenly, leaving his mother as the heir to the family holdings in Furyondy. Due to political turmoil at the time, she deemed it necessary to go take her place, and she knew that having a child out of wedlock, especially a half-elven child, would be an impediment to effective rule. While she did not want to leave those she loved behind, her sense of duty required it. The second event came after the Battle of Emridy Meadow, in which Jarrus' father fought with the Knights of Luna. Queen Yolande forbid the knights from joining in the fight against the temple forces, but Prince Brightflame, who leads the independent order of knighthood, ignored her orders and took the knights into battle anyway, where their presence helped turn the tide. As punishment, the angry Queen Yolande banished the knights from Celene permanently. While some of the knights stayed together and moved into the Urnst states, others dispersed throughout the world. Correal Sunleaf, having spent his whole life training to be, or acting as a knight, knew of no other way to live. And so, with young Jarrus as his squire, Correal wandered the countryside of Verbobonc, between Celene and Furyondy, helping those in need. Though no longer a member of any order, Correal adhered to the strict tenets of knighthood, insisting he would teach his son the importance of virtue.

And so Jarrus followed his father, Correal Sunleaf, former Knight of Luna, across the countryside, from village to village, taking care of the people. Correal kept only enough money to feed himself and Jarrus, always giving excess to charity, and partaking of the charity of others only when absolutely needed. For the most part, Correal dealt with humanoids harassing farmers, as the humanoid population was larger than normal in this area due to the previous activities of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Such humanoids were never a challenge for a veteran knight like Correal, who hoped to teach his son to be a knight like him one day, spending every morning practicing with the sword until Jarrus was a very capable fighter.

But while Jarrus learned many martial skills from his father, he never quite accepted the tenets of knighthood. He rejected the noble duties that were so important as to take his mother away from him. He saw the lack of appreciation his father received at the hands of the queen he served. In the end, Jarrus grew-up to be a conflicted and bitter young man. But his respect for his father never faded, and he stayed with him, assisting in his quest to help the peasants of Verbobonc. And in this capacity, the pair gained some amount of notoriety from the still active temple. They may not have realized it, but they were slowing down the temple's ability to grow by preventing the humanoid agents from raiding for equipment, supplies and slaves. Realizing it needed to stop, the leaders of the temple sent out one of its trusted mages with a group of bugbears to ambush and capture Correal and Jarrus. 

The plan worked, and the two have been imprisoned for the last couple of months, until the party found Jarrus and freed him. Jarrus agreed to join the party in order to look for his father, who was imprisoned in another part of the temple.

26th Day of Planting, CY 579

Continuing to explore the third level of the temple, the party came across what looked like an arena with two Umber Hulks within. One of the Umber Hulks completely eviscerated Gareth, ripping him in half. And so, the party suffered its first death (though he was a non-player character, so sad, but not devastating to any of the players). The rest of the party finished off the umber hulks and found some good treasure amongst the junk piles.

The temple levels are pretty large, and nearly every room on the third level had something interesting to deal with, so I won't elaborate on every detail, but the party was quickly gaining experience and treasure as they carefully cleared the place out. There didn't appear to be any organized clerics or temple troops on this level, so the party didn't have to worry too much about alarms being rung and so forth. The most significant things that happened were the following:

The party rescued a half-elf named Jarrus, who claimed to be captured along with his father while in the surrounding countryside. Jarrus was concerned about his father's well-being and asked the party to help find him and they agreed, so Jarrus joined the party for the time-being.

They also came across the body of an assassinated drow woman. Though the blood was not fresh, the body had not yet decayed, so it didn't happen that long ago. She still had the assassin's dagger in her back. She must has been paranoid about being assassinated, as she was carrying a Periapt of Proof Against Poison. The party had to deal with a banshee in the room (most likely the spirit of the dead dark elf) before searching, but when they did, they found the following letter:

Mistress Eclavdra,

I have determined it necessary to contact you using more conventional means, as I am certain this former temple is being watched by both arcane and divine powers. I can confirm that the temple was indeed sealed, and the demoness must be trapped somewhere – her power bound, but not destroyed. The priests who inhabit this place now are either unaware of her presence, or don’t seem to care, as no overt attempts to free her have been made. Perhaps that is for the best.

Hedrack has accepted me as his guest, at least for the time being. He is a worshiper of Iuz, and he makes no secret of this, even to the other elemental priests. The others fear him, and he seems to channel real power, so it seems we may soon have another upstart demon to deal with. He is obsessed with finding a human named Gareth from Verbobonc and a gnome named Lysander.from the Kron Hills. He is expending most of his resources searching the countryside for them, so the temple has been relatively quiet lately. I believe the gnome may have discovered the location of another nexus near some place called the “Perrenland.”  If Hedrack wants this information, then he knows more about this place than we first thought.

The wizard named Falrinth has become quite suspicious of my motivations. I am always on the lookout for the assassin that hangs out with him, and I am now cautious about poisons. If you do not receive another report from me, you should know that I died keeping our secret safe.

---  Aunrae of House Eilserve

But the most significant thing the party did came next, when, due to a very fortunate roll of the die, combined with the decision to search the most unlikely of places, the party found a difficult to find secret door leading to a small chapel inside the temple. Inside the chapel, again due to some spectacularly unlikely rolls of the dice, the party discovered another secret door, leading to a room with a coffin and sleeping vampire inside. Pontus decided it would be prudent to detect magic around the vampire before doing anything, and he was successful in his check, sensing magic emanating from the coffin. But while he could sense the magic, he couldn't find anything obvious. After a time, he decided to use another of his unique barbarian skills - detect illusion. Though the chances of success were slim, he managed to make his roll, and saw through the illusion that was in place. This was no vampire. This was a human knight, wearing the coat of arms of Furyondy.

The party picked up the knight and carried him out of the room, whereupon the illusion and the stasis spells were broken, and the man woke up, groggy and incoherent. He did not know who he was or how he got there. The rest of the party continued to search the room for clues, eventually discovering that the cross on the top of the coffin was actually a sword - a very nice one by the looks of it. Luapan handed the sword back to the knight and as soon as he touched it, all of his memories came flooding back. He proclaimed that he was Thrommel II, Crown Prince of Furyondy, and that he was on his way to Veluna to marry his beloved Jolene when his party was attacked. His signet ring, coat of arms and the fact that this was no illusion seemed to confirm that he really was who he said he was. Though he could barely walk, he insisted he needed to leave this place immediately so he can get to his wedding. It was Sarril who broke the devastating news to him that it was the year 579, and six years have passed since his disappearance. The prince fell to the floor upon hearing this, at which point the party recognized they needed to give him some time.

Prince Thrommel II
After some rest, the prince was ready to resume, thanking the party for his rescue and insisting it was time for him to head home. Athan insisted that a Paladin Lord with such a nice sword would really help them to kill Hedrack, which should be the goal at this point. Prince Thrommel stated that he would gladly return with a host of knights to clear this temple once and for all, but right now, the most important thing to do is to get back to his kingdom and set things in order. While the rest of the party agreed, Athan felt the prince was being selfish and should see his own way out. The rest of the party would have none of that, and they escorted Prince Thrommel out through the tunnel. Since they knew the tower was unsafe, they decided to try the other branch of the tunnel that sloped up, to see where that went, and it led to a burnt out farmhouse in a field some way away from the temple. Athan did not follow. Luapan went back to look for him in the tower, and found that the fires had collapsed the remainder of the roof, making the tower impassable, but there was no sign of Athan. Sarril provided Prince Thrommel with an Ebony Fly that he had found in Falrinth's chamber, saying "its no horse, but its the best I can do right now." The prince wished the party the best of luck with the temple, gave Sarril and Jarrus a ring and a medallion, and told them he would return as soon as possible.

Athan, in the meantime, following his orders not to take the skull out of the temple, stayed behind when the party entered the tunnel. Not sure how long it would take the group to return, he decided to go exploring. He found a Lurker that immediately engulfed his face, attempting to suffocate him in five rounds. Athan barely managed to survive, and realized after that close call that he should wait for the party, so he went back to the small chapel where they found Prince Thrommel, closed the door and waited, using his listening skill to determine when the party was back.

When the party finally reunited, they checked out a nearby magical laboratory, where Athan and Sarril were able to stock-up on spell components and other items. Pontus started searching for a stronger container to put his black pudding into, and encountered a Roper which, because the DM didn't read the Monster Manual description correctly, ended up being much easier than it should have been (it won't be next time, I promise). In an alcove, Athan started searching through scrolls, setting off a trap that summoned a babau demon. And thus ended the session for the day (on a nice cliffhanger).

Sep 18, 2016

What Really Happened Outside the Tower That Night

The terrible secret that would be kept from the rest of the players for the next several months, was as follows.

There was no "thief" who snuck into the tower and stole the mirror and crystal ball. The very thing that drove the characters on a chase into the Temple of Elemental Evil was a lie, perpetuated by Athan. It seems that Athan's curiosity always has a way of getting the better of him. In this case, during his watch overnight, he decided that he wanted to experiment with the Golden Skull and the Crystal Ball to find out what they were and how to use them. Being a supra-genius, he was certain he could handle these items without risk to himself or the party. But what Athan and Sarril didn't know (and didn't have the means to find out), is that the crystal ball was actually a Crystal Hypnosis Ball, and it was attuned to the powerful demoness, Zuggtmoy, goddess of fungi, who was trapped and bound within the temple. This magic item is one of the few methods of communication she has to reach the outside world, and she was intent on using it to its fullest.

According to the Dungeon Master's Guide:

Crystal Hypnosis Ball: This cursed item type is indistinguishable from a normal crystal ball, and it radiates magic, but not evil, if detected for. Any magic-user attempting to use it will become hypnotized, and a telepathic suggestion will be implanted in his or her mind. The user of the device will believe that the desired object was viewed, but actually he or she became partially under the influence of a powerful magic-user, lich, or even some power/being from another plane. Each further use will bring the crystal ball gazer more under the influence of the creature, either as a servant, tool, or possession object.

This was not good for the unfortunate Athan, who immediately became a thrall of Zuggtmoy. To make matters worse, he did not even attempt to resist her when he discovered who she was. He was curious, and thought that by continued engagement with her, he could find out useful information to help the party. And so, every night, starting around the 18th Day of Planting and continuing to the 24th, Athan used his time on watch to sneak outside and communicate with his mistress. By the second or third time, when he began to realize this probably wasn't a good idea, he was so completely enthralled by her suggestions that he could not refuse her requests.

The thing about suggestion spells is that intelligent beings are generally aware they are under the spell, and can find ways around the suggestions - loopholes in wording of the orders they are given. But a powerful being with the intelligence of a goddess also knows this, and Athan spent enough time with her that she was able to make her suggestions air-tight. The most sinister of all being that he was not allowed to let anyone become aware, through any means of communication whatsoever, that he used the crystal, spoke to Zuggtmoy, knows who she is, or is under her spell. Layers upon layers of suggestions were placed so deep that even Athan's supra-genius brain could not unravel them. Then, only after her control over him was absolute, did she begin to make her real demands, which were:

1. To get rid of the crystal ball and the Mirror of Mental Prowess so that the party cannot get them. Athan fulfilled this request by burying both items on the temple grounds, then intentionally creating tracks down the trapdoor up to the secret temple entrance. Knowing there was a ranger in the party that could track, this would lead the party into the temple and closer to achieving the goal #4 below.

2. To collect some special spores, which Zuggtmoy's limited powers were able to create on the grounds, and place them at the entrance to the tower. These spores grew into Black Pudding, which prevented the party from leaving, driving them back into the temple.

3. Athan is never to allow the skull to leave the temple

4. Athan must encourage the party to kill Hedrack before

5. Taking the throne from the ground level of the temple to the secret room on the third level where Zuggtmoy resides, and turn the skull over to her

Over the next several sessions, Athan executed the will of Zuggtmoy faithfully, despite the internal conflict it created. And thus the story of Athan would become a tragedy. . .

24th Day of Planting, CY 579

It was approximately 4:00 am in morning and Athan was on watch when he woke up the party to inform them that he was outside making his rounds when he heard a noise and came back in to find the trap door open and the mirror missing. The party immediately sprang into action, with Gareth using his tracking ability to find out where the thieves came from and where they went, while the rest of the group secured the remainder of their belongings into the locked chests. While securing items, they also discovered the crystal ball was missing, but nothing else.

Despite rolling really well on his tracking check, Gareth had a hard time differentiating the thieves tracks from the parties tracks. It appears the thief was an elf, based on the size and type of soft boots worn, weight and (because he rolled so well) the pattern of his walk. But since Athan, also an elf, was on watch at the same time, the tracks were all mixed together. It did appear that a set of fresh tracks came out of the trap door and another set went into the trap door, suggesting that’s where the thief came from and went back to. The party was able to track up to a secret door in the hallway outside Falrinth’s room, just past where they had fought the illusory Basilisk.

The party went through the secret door and followed a tunnel several hundred feet to a ladder with a trap door above. The party went through the door to come to a dusty, trash filled room full of old cobwebs. A broom in the corner appears to have been used to cover the secret door as well as any tracks. Gareth was unable to track anything successfully after this point, but the party went forward in the hopes of running into a sign of the thief somewhere. Exploration of this dungeon level quickly revealed that they were on Level 3 of the Temple of Elemental Evil, as verified by a map they took from Falrinth’s quarters. The party went north through a door and came to a triangular room with four doors and stairs going up.

This was known as the “Chamber of Eyes” by the depictions of the symbol of the burning eye of fire (as seen previously on Lareth’s robes and others) and paintings of eyes, human, humanoid, and monstrous, all over the walls. Luapan was able to inform the party that the eye of fire (depicted either as a yellow flaming eye, or as a triangle with a Y inside it) are holy symbols associated with a mythological Elder Elemental God.      

The party began searching rooms, and in the first room came across two bugbear leaders who were easily dispatched. In the next room they found 6 bugbears, also easily dispatched (everyone except Delvin has a really good AC at this point, and are subsequently very hard to hit by monsters of less than 10 hit dice).

The fight with the second set of bugbears generated enough noise to draw the attention of Scorpp, the Hill Giant in charge of these bugbears. Scorpp came out of his room with his pet warg, and carrying two large boulders ready to smash someone with, but otherwise seemed willing to talk. Athan engaged in conversation with Scorpp for a while, and was able to say a few things that tricked the giant (who was smarter than the usual Hill Giant, but not by much) into thinking he served the “Temple Mistress.” Through this deception, he was able to gain some valuable information, primarily that the levels above are the “lower temples” and the level below is the “Greater Temple” run by someone by the name of Hedrack, whom Scorpp seems to detest. Although Scorpp seemed very trusting of Athan while speaking to him, he was very leery of Pontus, Gareth and Luapan (Delvin and Sarril were invisible at the time). This eventually resulted in a breakdown of communication and a fight ensued, with Scorpp summoning four ogres from a nearby room to join the fray.

It was a difficult fight, but the party eventually prevailed, albeit extremely wounded and completely exhausted of spells. Because of this, the party made the difficult decision to break-off pursuit of the thief and return to the tower to recuperate. Before returning, Pontus and Gareth dragged the bodies around to make it look like the giant, bugbears and ogres had fought each other. The party also stripped the bodies of their loot, searched each of the rooms and took what few magic items they found, and removed the black cloaks with the Elder Elemental God symbols on them from the bugbears. Sarril identified a potion recovered from Scorpp’s room as a Potion of Red Dragon Control. The party then returned to the tower, using the broom in the trapdoor room to cover their tracks.

Upon returning to the tower, they found the front entrance to be covered in a thick black ooze, which Sarril was able to identify as Black Pudding. This particularly vicious substance is the worst of all of the jellies and oozes one can find. Only fire can affect it, and being a 10 hit dice monster, it takes a LOT of fire to get rid of it all. There was enough of the substance covering the entire entryway to make the party believe this was likely more than one such creature, all running together into one massive blob. The party quickly hatched a plan to ignite several bonfires to contain and destroy it, using Delvin’s “Affect Normal Fires” spell to accomplish this. The plan was successful in containing, but not completely destroying, all of the pudding as the fires had to be put out before causing the tower’s wooden support beams to collapse. The party then decided that the tower location has been compromised, and decided to move their headquarters to Falrinth’s chambers below, wherein Sarril was able to place a Wizard Lock on chamber doors to add further protection. While the rest of the party was resting, healing and recovering spells, Pontus decided to go back upstairs and collect some of the Black Pudding in a glass vial, figuring it may come into later use. The rest of the party warned him about how dangerous it would be to have a glass vial of such a corrosive substance carried on his person, but Pontus was confident that it is worth the risk to have something so useful.

It actually did prove useful the next day when the party explored a secret door they had found in the bugbear room that lead to a cell containing a troll and a very large iron key hanging from a massive iron chain affixed to a block of stone. Presumably because the party was wearing the temple robes, the troll did not attack, but did demand to be fed. The party fed the troll with the bodies of some of the bugbears while Pontus used a drop of the pudding to dissolve the chain holding the key. The party then discovered there were four of these troll/key rooms and repeated this process four times, coming into the possession of four large iron keys while simultaneously getting rid of all of the dead bodies from two days before.

At this point, the party decided to backtrack and head south from the original passage where they had entered the dungeon. This led to an interesting room full of statues of various monsters in a circle. Each statue seemed to be guarding a magic item of some type. Also in this room, providing an eerie light source, were four Wil-O-Wisps, which attacked the party once Athan begin investigating the magic items. With an AC of -8 and near complete magic immunity, the wisps proved to be too much for the party to fight. The good news is that they move very slow, so the party was able to run away into an adjoining room where the wisps did not follow.

This room was a virtual forest of fungus, with glowing mushrooms of all kinds. The voice of a woman called out to the party to be still, as some of the fungi in this room are incredibly toxic and will cause insanity. A beautiful woman glad in armor and carrying a short sword began winding her way in a pattern through the fungal forest toward the party. She attempted, and failed, to charm Pontus as she called out to Delvin to help her check the rest of the party for signs of infection. She then attacked Gareth. It was a quick and easy fight and as soon as the party defeated the warrior, the illusion she had placed on herself dropped, and they discovered she was actually a Lamia – a type of magical beast that has a woman’s torso, with the body of a horse and hind legs of a lion. Thanks to Gareth’s superior armor class, he was able to avoid her touch attack, which would have permanently drained him of his wisdom.

As we had already run an hour over our planned session time, we had to end it here, mid-dungeon. It is the morning of the 26th Day of Planting.

Sep 10, 2016

18th Day of Planting, CY 579

The Temple of Elemental Evil
The party headed out in the morning in the direction of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Using his barbarian survival skills, Pontus skinned one of the giant ravens and made it into a cloak that he felt would make for a good disguise. The rest of party told him to walk downwind from them.

As they got closer, the party could see that the vegetation was dead, the air was foul, and sky seemed to be permanently cloud-covered. Sunlight must not have penetrated this area in a very long time. As they approached the temple walls, they could see the eeries faces of gargoyles and demonic statues everywhere. Despite the lack of sunlight, shadows seemed to move against the walls, further adding to the creepy vibe. The group remembered what Otis said about the ravens roosting in the tower, and decided to go around the outside and approach from the rear so Athan can sneak up and determine if they were still there.

The party made their way around back and could see the tower from a distance. Athan approached carefully and climbed to the top. The upper levels of the tower were collapsed to rubble and some kind of illusion was in place to make everything look
Broken Tower
smaller. Athan was able to see that everything was clear and make his way down to look around the front. On his way down, he looked through the window slits and noticed that there were people inside. They had covered the openings with black cloth to make it look dark inside, but Athan's infravision was able to penetrate. He went back and warned the party, and they made a plan to storm the front door, denying the occupants an opportunity for surprise.

The soldiers inside had setup a line of footmen with shields to block the entryway, while men with bows and crossbows, as well as a spellcaster, worked from further inside the tower. It would have been a TPK (Total Party Kill) if Athan wasn't ready with his sleep spell to drop all of the footmen, while Pontus lept over the now sleeping phalanx to cut down the magic user, and Gareth worked on the remaining melee fighters. Sarril jumped in with some spellcasting of his own and soon the bowmen were brought down as well. The soldier who appeared to be the leader had tried to spring a trap over the front entryway, but didn't get to it before everyone was clear. Recognizing he was in a losing situation, he tried to escape into one of the tower rooms, but Sarril cast Hold Person to stop him in his tracks. The party tried briefly to question the leader, but when he proved uncooperative, they killed him for good measure.

The party realized two things. First, that this tower is fairly secure, with two rooms, food, water and other supplies, as well as comfortable beds, so they could stay here for some time, and second, that dead bodies on the grounds of an evil temple are never a good idea. So, turning the dining room tables into a makeshift sled, Pontus, Luapan and Gareth went about gathering the bodies and hauling them miles away to be buried. This took them well into the evening. While they did this, Athan and Sarril explored the temple grounds, including the front door, to make sure it was still sealed. As Athan approached the front door, he felt a strong sense of aversion. He couldn't bear to look at the door, or even to be near it, and ran back to the tower for safety. Sarril was able to overcome the aversion and inspect what there. The door appeared to be solid and all of the magical runes were intact. If anyone was still inside the temple, they weren't coming in or out this way.

After re-securing the tower and spending the night, the next morning the party searched the rooms of the tower thoroughly, finding several blank pieces of parchment, as well as some minor treasure and items of interest. They also found a secret trapdoor that led to a tunnel below. At the bottom of the ladder leading down to the tunnel was a bag on a hook with some rations, potions and a money - an escape package for the leader of the tower which he never managed to get to. The party decided to explore and see how far the tunnel went. It seemed to go on for a long time, but eventually branched northward up a slope. Athan found a secret door leading south, however, and the party decided to follow that route, where they eventually entered a room where oil in a tract along the ceiling suddenly lit into flame - clearly an alert to the party's presence. Just beyond, the party ran into a basilisk. Though the basilisk turned out to be illusory, it held the party's attention long enough for an assassin in an adjoining room to sneak out and attempt to assassinate Pontus. Perhaps due to his unique back protection, or just a bad roll of the dice, the assassination attempt failed, and the assassin was exposed, leading the party to turn on her. While engaged with the assassin, a magic user came out of the opposite adjoining room and began to attack the party with spells. Sarril tried to silence the magic user, but the spell could not penetrate the Minor Globe of Invulnerability he had up. This magic user was clearly pretty advanced, and he responded by casting Hold Person. Everyone targeted made their save, except Luapan and Gareth, who were now effectively taken out of the fight. The rest of party turned on the mage and pressed an attack. He defensively cast Mirror Image on himself to buy time enough to cast more devastating offense spells. As Sarril pressed into him, the mage unleashed lightning bolt, which Sarril was able to avoid most of, but the damage was still very severe. As Pontus and Athan popped the remaining mirror images.

The mage's familiar, a quasit, joined the fight when things got desperate, and the party managed to kill it, severely crippling the mage, which Sarril finished off using a Staff of the Serpent he had picked up from one of the clerics they had killed previously. After killing the mage, the party was free to search all of the rooms, and found quite the store of wondrous magic items and supplies. Though they set off a trap, ruining some of the find, the best stuff was still intact behind another secret door. The mage, whose name they discovered was Falrinth, had a full laboratory / library full of spell components, scrolls, books, and the like. But the most exciting discoveries are what turned out to be a Mirror of Mental Prowess, an artifact of Boccob that Sarril treasured greatly, a Crystal Ball, and, inside an iron box, a Golden Skull that radiated the most extreme evil that Luapan could not bear to look at it. Athan quickly pocketed the skull for safe keeping while the party looted the rest of the room. The party then headed back up the tower to rest and heal, and spend the next few days identifying the items they had found, and reading through notes and ledgers to find clues about the operations of the temple.

Aug 14, 2016

Meet the Player Characters: Luapan

Luapan (no known family name) - Human Cleric of Celestian

What is there to say about Luapan, other than like most cleric's of Celestian, he seems preoccupied with the stars and prophecy - always looking at the larger universal picture. The followers of Celestian are mysterious indeed, often exhibiting supernatural abilities that cannot be explained by the power of prayer. Luapan uses these abilities, as well as his divine powers, to help those in need while he serves the greater purpose set forth by his god.

It is known that Celestian often serves the will of Istus, for it was surely fate that drew Luapan toward the temple and on a path to join the rest of the party in their shared purpose. It was a comet that appeared overhead in the sky near where the Battle of Emridy Meadow was fought 9 years ago. A sign such as this could not be ignored, for it was a clear calling from Celestian himself telling Luapan where he must go. He travelled on foot for weeks until he was close to his destination, but before he could travel the last few miles, he was captured and imprisoned, where he stayed until rescued by Pontus, Sarril, Athan, Delvin and Gareth. Upon learning that they were on their way to Nulb near the former Temple of Elemental Evil, Luapan knew that their fates were intertwined. While the comet in the sky was now gone, Luapan knew it had served its purpose to bring him together with the party.

17th Day of Planting, CY 579

The party finished up in the caves where they killed the evil priest and decided not to explore the place further. On their way out, they remembered that they never opened the other prison cell door. After much debate, they decided to go back and open it. Inside the other cell were some orcs, a goblin, a human merchant and a human cleric of Celestian named Luapan. Luapan explained that he was following a comet that appeared in the sky, a sign of importance from Celestian. It was taking him in the direction of Nulb, which is where the party was going anyway, so the party agreed to allow him to come along.

Waterside Hostel
They arrived at the Waterside Hostel for a late lunch/early dinner. Pontus ate two meals.The proprietor is a man named Dick Rentsch (Pontus chuckled at his name). They were served by a wench named Pearl, to whom Athan immediately began asking questions about Otis. After paying her plenty in coin, he learned that Otis may have been seen in Nulb, but disappeared, and that he should go see the proprietor of Boatmen's Tavern, where pirates and other nasty folk like to hang out. If anyone would know about his disappearance (or be responsible for it), it would be someone there. Pearl suggested openly that she does other things for money (wink, wink), so Pontus told the rest of the party to go on without him.

Pontus had the most amazing experience of his life. And it wasn't just physical. Pearl really seemed to understand him. She was everything Pontus has ever dreamed of in a woman. He wanted her to leave Nulb with him so they could run off and be together forever. He told her he would protect her and take care of her for the rest of his life. He had been waiting his entire life for Pearl. She was the ONE. No doubt about it.

And Pearl wanted to go with Pontus, too. But she needed money to take care of her affairs so she could be free to be with him. Pontus gave her everything he had.

In the meantime, the rest of the party went to explore the seedy town known as Nulb. A nasty place, it was. Built on the swampy shore of Imeryd's Run, it was little more than resting place for river pirates to drink and otherwise get up to no good in-between smuggling runs. It was a well-known haven for thieves, assassins and worse. Half of the ramshackle buildings made of rotting wood were uninhabitable, and those in use looked like they could fall over any minute.

In the middle of the town was a man dressed in a simple robe that looked like little more than rags. Tattooed on his forehead was the shining symbol of Pholtus. The man was preaching heavy doom and gloom prophecy and shouting at everyone to repent their sins or face judgement. He claimed the gods have turned their backs on men because men have turned their backs on the gods. Sarril pointed out that this man was dressed similarly to some men that he saw in an alley in Greyhawk beating someone with clubs while shouting similar epithets. Being from Rel Mord in Nyrond, Sarril is all too familiar with the overzealous righteousness of the followers of Pholtus in the Theocracy of the Pale, but this man was different. Those from the Theocracy, and in other major cities where Pholtus has temples, may be unwavering zealots, but they don't preach doom and gloom and they usually, hypocritically, dress lavishly in fine cloth and with silver and platinum jewelry. This man was dirty, and had nothing on him his robe - not even a club to be seen.

The party ignored the crazy man and began walking across the town when Kara, Athan's familiar, came rushing in to tell him that she was just attacked by giant crows. She only got away because two vicious owls flew in and chased off the crows. The party realized something was amiss, and likely spies of the temple already knew they were here. Then they realized that Athan spoke to wench about Otis, and Pontus was with her now - probably in danger. They ran back to Waterside Hostel right away.
The Town of Nulb
As he was leaving the room, the happiest man on Oerth, Pontus runs into Athan, who insists he needs to speak with Pearl alone. Pontus wasn't too excited about another man wanting to be alone with the woman he loves. Athan then started accusing Pearl of sorcery! Imagine that. Accusing the woman he loves of sorcery!? Well, Pontus would have none of that. He was going to defend his lady's honor. That's when one of the barkeeps, who happens to also be an assassin for some reason, came into the room and things took a dark turn. Some other commotion was going on in the hall and more people were coming up the stairs. This was turning into a serious fight. Weapons were drawn.

And then Pontus was kicked awake, trapped inside some sticky webbing that seemed to cover the entire room. Unsure exactly what just went down. He broke free of the webbing and saw that Dick, the proprietor, was also in the room with him. He was surrounded by the rest of the party, had just dropped a sword, and was attempting to negotiate. He warned the party that there were about two dozen pirates on their way here from the docks, heavily armed, and looking for the party.

The party made a quick plan to make a stand at the Inn, figuring Athan and Gareth could shoot through the windows, and the rest of the party could make a defense on the stairwell. When the pirates arrived, Sarril was about to talk to them when Athan started shooting. This forced the pirates to spread out and encircle the building from the back. Realizing they couldn't easily storm the place, they tried to smoke out the party by lighting torches and throwing them through the windows. Being a building made of very old, dry and rotting wood, the place went up fast. Pontus' only concern was for his dear love, Pearl, and he started asking what happened to her. Athan informed him that the pirate leader killed her (in truth, she had suffocated inside the web that Athan had cast to subdue her).

The pirate leader, Tolub, and his two lieutenants were at the front of the tavern waiting to kill anyone who runs out. He might have done so as well, if he and both of his men didn't utterly fail their saving throw against the Hold Person spell Sarril cast. An enraged Pontus rushed out of the burning building and slew all three, prompting the remaining pirates to run away. Unfortunately, Pontus remained really distraught over Pearl's death. Killing Tolub didn't bring her back.

As the party watched the tavern burn to the ground, other villagers began to gather, including the Blacksmith and an old lady. The Blacksmith approached the party and warned them that they have made a mess of this town, and it won't be safe for them. More will come, and in greater numbers.
Sarril asked what he knows of these pirates and he was told to come to his shop as he won't speak openly around the other townsfolk.

Mother Screng and Hudra
So the party headed over to the blacksmith shop, after relieving everyone of some magic items, some of which Pontus would be destroying (with the help of the Blacksmith forge and anvil). He greeted the party and told them to wait inside. Inside, the old lady was there, with another woman. She introduced herself as Mother Screng, and her daughter Hudra. Athan was able to tell that Hudra was actually an elf in disguise. The blacksmith came in and everyone had some uncomfortable conversations as no one quite trusted each other and no one was willing to say what needed to be said. Eventually, however, everyone was able to figure out that everyone in the room were good guys and some trust began to develop. Based on this trust, the party decided to share with the blacksmith the letter for Otis that Elmo had given, to prove they are telling the truth. The blacksmith then revealed that he is actually Otis in disguise, Mother Screng was actually Canoness Y'Dey and her "daughter" is really an elf named Murfles (Pontus chuckled at the name).

Y'Dey confirmed that the Temple of Elemental Evil was never destroyed, only sealed. Otis, Y'Dey and Murfles had been sent by their respective masters to check out the temple and ensure the seals were still intact, as there have been rumors of temple activity. The seals are still in place, but agents of the temple are appearing all over the area. The pirates were agents, as was the proprietor of the inn that was just burned down. And then there was Lareth the Beautiful, and the other cleric of his kind in  the nearby caves. Otis explained there are four factions within the Temple, each representing one of the four main elements. All of the agents within Nulb belong to one of these four factions, which represent water, earth, fire and air.

Otis and Y'Dey believe that agents are getting in and out of the temple somehow, and so were acting under cover to learn what they could. Thanks to the party's reckless actions, their cover is now blown, and temple agents are going to be swarming this place, possibly within hours. So they are both hitting the self-destruct button on their secret operations and getting out of dodge.

Y'Dey had a flock of carrier pidgeons she used for talking to the Archcleric of St Cuthbert in Veluna (whom she reports to) and she released all of the pigeons, packed up, and left. Otis said he had to heed the call of the Viscount to look into the emergency in Verbobonc (as referenced in the letter from the Viscount), so he is leaving immediately. Murfles is going with him. That leaves the party alone in Nulb, with big targets on their heads. Otis warned that there are at least 1 dozen, possibly more, giant ravens roosting in the tower on the temple grounds. The ravens have been spying and that's how everyone knew the party was coming. He said they would need to take the ravens out in order to approach the temple safely. Two were already dead. 

The group decided that with a barbarian, a druid and a ranger in the party, they should be able to easily camp in the woods and be hidden, and so they did. Despite their best efforts, 8 ravens found them and attacked. They managed to kill them all. One almost got away, but Delvin surprised himself when he cast an insect swarm and it worked better than expected. The insects took down the last fleeing raven. And so the party was able to camp in peace, discussing their next move. They eventually decided that they needed to investigate the temple in place of Otis and Y'Dey, even though they didn't feel they were capable of taking on such a challenge. But if they didn't do it, who would?

Jul 16, 2016

16th Day of Planting, CY 579

Athan, Sarril, Pontus and Delvin decided to go to Nulb to look for Otis. They decided that, instead of taking the high road (the main road), they would take a lesser known "unused road" marked on the map Elmo gave them. This unused road was active when the temple was in operation many years ago, but is now overgrown and little more than a path. And instead of sticking to this path, the party further decided to cut through an unknown forest (they have a Druid with them, after all) and then up over some hills, in the hopes of eventually reconnecting with the road.

During the trek, the magic user's aerial familiars were acting as scouts and found gnolls guarding some caves. They figured this may be where some of the humanoid attacks were coming from, and it would be to dispatch the gnolls and then explore the caves just to be sure. And thus a new side-adventure was started, and it went something like this. . .

The party dispatched 6 gnolls with ease and prevented them from sounding any alarms. They then went into the first of many caves and discovered a sleeping Owlbear, tried to kill it in its sleep, but woke it up instead. It nearly eviscerated Sarril, but Sarril seems tougher than he used to be and took it like a man (or half man, half elf). After dispatching the owlbear, they discovered at the other end of the cave what they figured out to be Gray Ooze. Gray Oozes look like wet stone, so they couldn't be sure, but Pontus wisely threw the dead gnoll bodies into the area and three oozes came up out of a pool of water and down from the ceiling to start eating the gnolls, at which point the party were able to easily kill them without risk to themselves (some bonus exp was distributed for that maneuver).

They then headed into the bugbear cave where they pretty easily dispatched several bugbears, before finding the chieftains room and killing him and his wife. They then moved on to find a common room with a couple of male bugbears and several females and children. After killing the males, they debated for a long time whether they should kill the females and children "for the greater good" or not. They finally decided to free them in exchange for information on their master (because there is a always a "master" required to keep chaotic creatures working together). The master was described as a typical evil cleric, and the bugbears pointed out which cave he was in and then ran off.

After much further debate, the party decided to open one of the two prison cells they previously came across. Inside were some humanoids, including a bugbear, and a wild man. The wild man turned out to be Gareth, the tortured prisoner mentioned in the lieutenant’s journal. After healing him and feeding him, he returned to his senses and explained how he was tortured by Lareth the Beautiful, without ever having been asked questions, before being sent here, where he was locked up, still without ever having been interrogated. Gareth joined the party and agreed to help fight against the master.

Skipping the remaining caves, the party headed straight for the master. Inside his cave it looked like an evil temple, with smooth black and red stone, etc. The party encountered zombies wearing necklaces of Protection from Good, which made them harder to turn, several 1st level clerics in red robes with black hoods, several 2nd level clerics in black robes with red hoods. None of them were carrying obvious holy symbols, but they were definitely clerics.

The party then found a secret door leading to the back entrance of the master's bedroom - allowing them to skip all of the stuff they may have had to encounter on the way. The Master and his zombie guards in plate mail were tough. The Master, a 7th level cleric, was a short bald man in black robes with red underneath. His mouth and chin and upper neck were horribly disfigured, as if burned in a similar way as Lareth. Sarril cast silence on him and Delvin cast heat metal on his plate armor
Pontus kept swinging at the cleric and missing. Gareth, who is a ranger specialized in a long sword, managed to get a long sword off the first zombie killed, which helped turn the tide of the battle for the party. Eventually Pontus even got a hit in. Sarril cast hold person on the master and he failed his save, making him an easy target to finish off.

Note: At this point in the game, we were treating Hold Person as a paralyzation affect, which we later realized was not an appropriate interpretation for such a low-level spell - we have since adjusted and now treat Hold Person as a "root in place" effect.

Gareth, after fighting the cleric, relayed to the party that he has seen men with disfigured faces before. He was in the Gnarley Forest, near Oakvein, when he saw seven men whom he thought at first were Druids, but they wore black cloaks. They were all kneeling in a semi-circle and chanting in a language he did not understand. One man pulled out a box containing a small opaque black gem and placed the gem on the ground. As they chanted, the area around the gem started turning black. And the blackness began to grow and take over everything. One of the men turned and saw him, and that's when he saw the disfigured mouth and neck. He says he was overcome with fear and ran for his life, something he is ashamed of.

May 29, 2016

15th Day of Planting, CY 579

It's early evening on the 15th day of Planting. Farmers are back to tending their fields, but the air is different around Hommlet. Many of those same farmers are carrying swords openly, and wearing armor when walking around. Burne's Badgers (that's the name they go by) are patrolling the streets and archers are always in view atop some building. But people are in good spirits nonetheless, pleased that a great evil has been driven from its hideout nearby.

Pontus and Sarril are in the main room of the inn having dinner. Elmo has joined them, and is sharing what he knows of the Temple:


For many years, a cult of chaotic evil flourished in a hidden location somewhere on the border of the Viscounty of Verbobonc. Such a gathering of evil was unprecedented in the Flanaess and, after a time, all of the forces of good, and those who wished to preserve balance, gathered under the leadership St. Cuthbert and fought a series of battles to destroy or drive away the forces of evil and attempted to raze the temple. It is now known that attempts to completely destroy the temple failed, and so the doors were sealed with the most powerful wards the mages and priests could muster, to trap the evil inside and prevent anyone else from entering. Who or what was behind the temple was unknown, as the cultists seemed to worship more than one evil deity, but the following information has been pieced together by those charged with watching the temple.

The cult was based on the premise that the elemental forces of the universe are chaotic and opposed to mankind, and are thus (from a human centric viewpoint) evil. The temple of the cult sought to destroy all works of good and to disrupt order. Its members were thieves, assassins, brigands, and the like.

Fire was regarded as the first elemental evil, and its penchant for chaos fitted the premise of the cult. Water was likewise worshipped as an even more powerful force of chaotic evil, in the form of floods, storms, and raging seas beating upon the land and ocean vessels. The epitome of chaotic evil, however, was regarded as a combination of air and earth, represented by blackness and corresponding with the demonic Abyss. This combination was regarded as a complete negation of matter.

The cult grew powerful and rich, attracting followers of the worst sort and offering them safety within the walls of the Temple stronghold. From this fortress would the followers ride to rob, pillage, and lay waste the lands about, tithing the cult from the spoils of the carnage. Captives from those raids were brought back to the temple to serve as human sacrifices (children to the fire, men to the water, and women to the blackest evil) or to slave their lives away in bondage. Besides the extensive upper works of the temple, a deep labyrinth beneath the place was constructed, but virtually nothing is known about these dungeons except that they were inhabited by a plethora of creatures serving chaos and evil.

It is rumored that a demon took up abode in the deepest level, to better receive the sacrifices to it. Some believe that something even more sinister lurks below. After all, what power could bring together and hold all of the forces of evil, and resist destruction from the mightiest priests and mages in all of the Flanaess?


A messenger comes into the Inn. He holds up a rolled up parchment with the seal of the Viscount of Verbobonc on it and declares "I have a message for Elmo. Can someone direct me to him?"

Elmo stands up and says "I am Elmo" and takes the message. He breaks the seal and reads it to himself. Then he sits back down to finish his dinner.

"It seems I have been summoned. I won't be able to accompany you to Nulb after all. I will not fault you if you choose not to go, but if you do, please send word back to my father if you discover the fate of Otis."

As he says those words, the doors to the Inn open again, and in walks Athan. He is thin (thinner than normal), disheveled and dirty from head to toe. He looks like absolute shit.

Elmo provides the party with a map:


The quiet village of Hommlet is not so quiet anymore. Regular militia are seen about and patrolling the streets, but everyone is in good spirits and smile and say hello as the party passes. The Trader's shop is boarded up with a guard posted out front to deter looters, but all other businesses are doing well (The Inn, the Moneychanger, The Brewmeister, The Wainwright, The Smith, and others). The Temple of St. Cuthbert seems busy as of late. Many of the older folks in the village practice the Old Faith (as is evidenced by acorns over their doors), but the younger folks here are reinvigorating their faith in St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel, which is no surprise given that a party of brave adventurers just recently confirmed the Temple of Elemental Evil is active again.

The party heads to Jaroo's grove, where they find tools laid out and ready, as if he knew they were coming. The bear sees Pontus and turns and walks away. Jaroo comes out of his house and sees Athan and says "I am glad to see you have recovered. I wasn't entirely sure you would make it."

"Word of your deeds has already made its way to the Viscount, as well as to the Druids of the Gnarley Forest. I hear the gnomes in the Kron Hills are aware as well, and one particular gnome may be setting up shop in Hommlet soon."

"You will be safe here in Hommlet, but beware when and if you depart this place. Agents of the temple have spies everywhere and they won't take too kindly to the slaying of one of their own."

"Rannos has not yet been found, and I suspect he has told his masters about you by now."

He then says, "Now if you will excuse me, I have a meeting to attend with my brethren." He then takes a couple of steps into the woods and disappears completely.

Pontus then picks up the tools and begins the process of the repairing the damaged root cellar.

May 28, 2016

8th Day of Planting, CY 579

Pontus, Sarril, Athan and Delvin return to the moathouse, determined to find Lareth the Beautiful and bring down his operation. They manage to smartly and carefully clear out everything on the lower level, saving Lareth for last. All that was left were some zombies, ghouls, a giant crayfish, and some green slime on a staircase that the party had previously avoided. They realized that with a druid in the party, they could use the Affect Normal Fires spell to light-up the staircase and get rid of the slime and use spears they found in a storage room to keep their distance and kill the crayfish. The zombies were no problem, and neither were the ghouls so long as they worked as a team (Pontus got paralyzed, but it wasn't permanent).

After fighting the ghouls, Athan discovered a tunnel dug out of the side of the wall that led to a nest of bones. Probably where the ghouls took their victims. The nest had dirt tunnels going in every direction, small enough that a skinny elf could barely crawl through. Athan knew such tunnels must lead to treasure eventually, and decided to crawl through. After a few hours of crawling, he became hopelessly lost. The rest of the party decided he must have suffocated, and moved on to deal with Lareth on their own.

The party came up with a plan, which involved using the new found Scroll of Stinking Cloud to disable Lareth's men. It worked pretty well, and the party was able to quickly dispatch everyone but Lareth, who ran into his personal room to get away from the cloud. But Sarril was ready. As soon as the cloud cleared, he charged into the room with a Silence 15' Radius that he cast directly at Lareth, disabling his spellpower. While he was unable to cast, Pontus engaged him in melee combat and overwhelmed him. When all was said and done, the party looked down on the one called Lareth the Beautiful, priest of Lolth. The term "beautiful" must have been a sarcastic insult, because Lareth's face was horribly disfigured. The skin over his entire mouth, lips, chin and throat were terribly burned, as if by fire or acid.

Inside Lareth's office were ledgers, journals, letters, scrolls and other documents that needed to be sorted through. The party then found another exit down a long tunnel from Lareth's den that opened up on the side of a nearby hill. This is how they were operating and getting supplies in and out without going through the moathouse above. The party decided to go back to town and make a deal with the village that they would get a share of all treasure if they could arrange to bring it all back. Soon, several of the town militia had secured the moathouse and started packing.

Sarril informed Jaroo of the unfortunate fate of Athan. Jaroo said he would help look for him in the tunnels and let them know if he finds anything. The party then rested for several days while sorting through all of the paperwork from Lareth, seeing what they could find out about his operation. Here is what they found out.

Lareth the Beautiful was one of several clerics establishing outposts for spying, recruiting and collecting supplies for a growing cult of Temple followers
Rannos Davil was part of the spy ring, and was helping to supply the cult, through Lareth.
Lareth kept a lot of records, but not much in the way of personal notes.
There is one journal uncovered which seemed to belong to his Lieutenant. Most of the pages were illegible, but the following stood out.
"Lubash informs me that the gnome doesn’t know anything about Lysander or his whereabouts. I have no reason to believe he is lying as not all gnomes know each other. But Lubash does so enjoy his work, so I am letting him keep his new pets. That should keep him satiated for a while.

But I do not trust Lubash with Gareth. The information he holds is too important to risk death at the hands of that brute. I gave Gareth to the master himself, and I shudder to think about what cruel and hideous things he was subjected to during his interrogations. While I never saw a mark on him, the screams I heard coming from the master’s room were enough to make some of my men soil their pants. I’d rather face the ghouls in the crypts than hear another night of that.

But this man is impressive. Even the master’s unique methods could not break him. I am told he is being sent to the tower, where they have some “special” ways of making people talk. I’m just glad to be rid of the screaming."

7th Day of Planting, CY 579

Today the party decided to stay in Hommlet and rest. Going to the moathouse is dangerous work that seems to result in injuries. The party decided they would return to the moathouse the following day, and in the meantime, do some things around town.

Athan met Elmo in the Inn. Elmo hangs out at the Inn a lot, and seems to like to drink. But he was a nice enough man, and seemed to be a well-equipped fighter. Indeed, Elmo explained he was a member of the village militia, though his services haven't been needed much lately. His brother, Otis, is a well-known fighter who serves the Viscount. Otis went to the Town of Nulb on a mission from the Viscount a few months ago, but hasn't come back, which has Elmo concerned, given that Nulb is a well-known den of evil pirates, thieves and assassins. He also believes that Canoness Y'Dey must have suffered the same fate as his brother, since the two of them left together and neither has been seen or heard from since.

Athan and Sarril decided to visit Canon Terjon to see if he knew anything about the "yellow eye of fire" symbol. As they were on their way to the Temple of St. Cuthbert, they were ambushed by an assassin, who was none other than Gremag, business partner of Rannos Davl who runs the trade shop. They managed to adequately defend themselves and kill Gremag. Searching his body, they found, in addition to his poisoned dagger, the same "Yellow Eye of Fire" symbol, and a letter. The letter enumerated specific items that needed to be supplied to the Temple of Elemental Evil. It was signed by Lareth the Beautiful, with the symbol of Lolth.

The party took this information to Jack, the Village Elder, who immediately called a town meeting to discuss the matter. During the meeting, the party was able to get confirmation that the Yellow Eye of Fire is a symbol that was once associated with the nearby Temple of Elemental Evil. They are told how the temple was never completely destroyed, and how former agents of the temple continue to operate, always trying to recruit and rebuild. Several people, including local lords Rufus and Burne, and other agents of the Viscount, like Elmo's brother Otis, are constantly watching. Jack is quite disturbed that two of the temple's agents were able to operate in Hommlet, undetected, for so long. He reports that as soon as they found out about Gremag, Rufus sent his men to trade shop to arrest Rannos, but Rannos Davl had already fled. The shop was now boarded up and under guard while the village decides what to do. It was also reported that, in going through Rannos' journals, he was supplying weapons and goods to Lareth who works out of the moathouse. The bugbears and the men the party encountered there must work for Lareth. Rannos apparently had a sinister scheme working where he put out rumors that he knew of dungeon full of wondrous magic and treasure, and had the only map known to exist. Adventuring parties, hearing about the rumor, would come to his shop and pay him handsomely for the map. If the party looked like an easy target and had good gear or treasure on them, he would have them ambushed outside of town and their stuff taken from them. Jack showed the group a stack of scrolls with the same map copied on every one. They matched the map the party found on the dead group outside the village before they got here.

Apr 24, 2016

6th Day of Planting, CY 579

Before returning to the moathouse the next day, the party went back to the Temple of St. Cuthbert to check on the human prisoners they had left there to recover. The humans explained that they were merchants from Verbobonc who had hired a ranger named Gareth to escort them south. They were attacked on the road and all three were taken prisoner. The merchants were questioned at length about Gareth, and when they didn't have any useful information to provide, they were turned over to the ogre, who seemed to enjoy torturing them.

Returning to the moathouse later that morning, with Turuko and Kobort, the part was attacked by uniformed men with crossbows waiting behind the moathouse walls, shooting through the arrow slits. Luckily, they were terrible shots, and the party was able to rush inside and finish them off. Each of the men were wearing black cloaks with a "Yellow Eye of Fire" on it. Athan cut out the symbol to try to identify it later.

Inside the moathouse, the group descended to the lower level and began to explore the place. It was clear that this place was being used by more than just bandits and the men they just encountered wanted their presence to remain secret. In a large room, the party was attacked by several well organized bugbears. The party barely survived the fight, but the hired help, Turuko and Kobort were not so lucky (which is probably not a bad thing, since they were going to turn on the party anyway). During the fight, nine gnolls came to check out the noise. They did not join the battle, preferring instead to watch the party take out the bugbears. Athan was able to speak with the gnolls and determine that they did not like the bugbears and considered the party as having done them a favor. He was then able to bribe the gnolls by promising to pay them 20 gold now, and 100 more when they return, if the gnolls would look the other way when the party comes back (because of course they needed to return to Hommlet and rest, because they are low level characters and that's what they do after every fight). The party also convinced the gnolls to point out the location of their master, and to lie to their master, saying that Turuko and Kobort killed the bugbears and that the gnolls, in turn, killed Turuko and Kobort. The gnolls were more than happy to accept the party's money and to earn favor from their master by taking credit for killing the intruders. It was a good day for the gnolls.

The party then returned to Hommlet to rest.

The peaceful village of Hommlet

3rd Day of Planting, CY 579

The moathouse
After resting for a couple of nights in Hommlet, the party returned to the moathouse, better prepared. Pontus would take on the rats while Athan kept his distance with a bow. Sarril and Delvin backed up Pontus while being prepared to heal if necessary. The plan worked, and the group was able to move room by room and clear out the inhabitants, which included a giant lizard (who was befriended by Delvin), a snake and a giant tick (really, a giant tick?). They saved the barred door for last. It took a little time for Pontus to beat down the door, which gave the bandits inside plenty of time to prepare an ambush. As the party rushed in, they found the bandits carefully positioned behind cover, shooting with their crossbows. At the far end of the room was a large sword-bearing man who was obviously the leader. Delvin immediately cast a spell to entangle the leader in roots, keeping him from rushing forward while Pontus closed into him for the attack. With Pontus distracted, Athan cast a sleep spell, which took out most of the remaining bandits despite their cover. After that, the fight was a piece of cake.

After looting the bandits, and discovering a nice chest full of silver, the party decided this was a good place to rest for the evening and recover. They had a door that could be barred, and bedrolls already laid out from the bandits, they just had to dump the bodies in the moat first. The party also realized why the door was barred and there were no footprints or other signs going in or out. Part of the wall of this room was collapsed, opening it to the outside, which must have been how the bandits were coming and going. So of course they didn't have to deal with the rats and other things.

Lubash, the Ogre
While on watch, Athan discovered a secret door that led down a flight of steps to narrow hallway. At either end of the small hallway was a door. Athan opened one of the doors to discover an ogre who rushed toward him. Athan quickly slammed the door closed, realizing the ogre was too large to fit through, then he ran back up the stairs. When the rest of the party was awake, Athan described the ogre he saw, and the party came up with a plan of attack. Given that the ogre could not fit through the door, the party would toss as much flaming oil into the room as possible, light it on fire and shut the door. You know what they say about the best laid plans. . . it is possible it would have worked better if any of party members could actually aim well. So while the room was now full of oil and broken glass, the ogre didn't have any on him, and was now charging the hapless party. But then a miracle happened. The ogre inexplicably turned his back on the party and ran to the corner of the room, swinging wildly at the air. The confused party quickly took advantage of the situation to take another shot at tossing the oil, this time landing several hits. The party then lit the oil, engulfing the entire room, including the ogre, in flames, and shut the door, ran upstairs and waited.

Some time later, the group went back downstairs to check on the aftermath. There was a dead, burnt ogre, along with the ashes of debris from the room. Furs and other valuable items were completely destroyed, though Athan was able to find an Elven Cloak that managed to survive, buried and protected under a mountain of debris. There was also a chest in the opposite corner that managed to avoid most of the damage. While the chest was mostly junk (ogres have a strange sense of what is valuable), there were some coins and a few other items of interest. While searching the room, the party heard muffled voices coming from behind a heavy, barred door. The bar was enormous, and required two party members to lift it off. Behind the door were a gnome and two human prisoners. The humans were severely injured and unable to effectively communicate. The gnome introduced himself and explained that he is a merchant from the Kron Hills who is the last remaining of his party. The ogre, Lubash, was torturing him daily for information about a gnome named Lysander - as if all gnomes automatically know each other. The party escorted the prisoners back to Hommlet and turned them over to Canon Terjon at the Church of St. Cuthbert for healing and care. The gnome gave the party a ring to signify friendship, telling them that anyone from his clan should recognize the ring and treat them favorably.

Recognizing they might be in over their heads, the party spoke to Turuko and Kobort, who accepted an offer of 1/6th of any treasure found for joining them in returning to the moathouse the next day. That night, Athan snuck out of the room and poked around the Inn. He discovered a secret stash of weapons in the basement - enough to arm the entire town, and tunnel from the weapon room that led to a secret door inside the Village Hall. Clearly this quiet village is prepared for the worst.