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.


  1. And again, Sleep prevents a TPK. Relative to other 1st level spells, it is really overpowered (no saving throw!), but that may be by design of course. Tackling an adventure like Keep on the Borderlands without it is mathematically improbable (to say the least). We never used the "chance to know" roll from 1st ed AD&D (except when playing Oriental Adventures), but I guess if that rule was used much in the first decade D&D was played (and I really doubt it was) M-Us who knew Sleep would be fairly rare, having "spent" their slots on spells that appear earlier in the list!

    I've nerfed it in one of my current D&D campaigns, having it affect D6 hit dice per spell level that it is cast at. E.g. a 5th level M-U could throw it as a 3rd level spell for 3D6 HD of whammie.

    1. I think it is overpowered by design. As is entangle, hold person and silence. These spells are clearly designed to give lower level PCs a chance to survive against overwhelming odds - IF they use them strategically. Of course, these same spells can be used against them, and I have used them against the party, which makes it all that much more important for them to work together as a tight team. Sleep works against low HD creatures, but they can be kicked awake easy, so you can't just ignore them once they are asleep.

      By the way, I do use the "chance to know" and the minimum/maximum known spells per level rules (customized versions of these rules are in the House Rules link above). By limiting the total number of spells per level a mage can know, this is, in my view, how you get mages specializing in certain craft, like Bigby and his hands, Otto and his music, etc. In second edition and later, they created "schools" of magic to try to encourage unique specializations, but I feel like that takes away true creativity. And the way I handle "chance to know" is that I just have the player roll for it when they reach the appropriate level. If they fail it, then that spell just eludes them. Sort of how a math major might be polynomial equations, but struggle with trigonometry. It adds depth to the character. And what's funny is, in our case, Athan the Grey Elf has a 19 intelligence and a 95% chance to learn each spell, and yet, for some reason, he has failed to learn several spells. Sarril, on the other hand, has a much lesser chance of learning, but has never failed. So Athan, who considers himself to be the superior genius, is pretty upset that Sarril is able to learn spells that he can't figure out. He justifies it by saying that his superior intellect is trying to overcomplicate the simple - in the same way that Einstein couldn't tie his shoes.

    2. Yes, it does make each caster more individualized. Do they have to roll their "chance to know" each time they find a new spell of a level for which they haven't yet reached their "maximum known", or do they get to work through a set list during down-time / research? A character with middling intelligence might accidentally fill available spots with crappy spells before getting access to Sleep, for instance.

    3. I have them roll the first time they try to memorize a new spell. One player likes to roll all of the spells ahead of time as soon as he reaches a level where he can cast, and marks them on a spreadsheet. If they fail to know the spell, the house rules contain a provision for how they can try again - which basically means they have to get tutored on that spell. Just like the math example, if you are an otherwise smart person who, for some reason, is struggling with a particular concept, some tutoring might be needed to get you over the hump.

      I've also reminded the players that the PHB and UA books are not all of the spells that exist in the world. There are spells in Dragon Magazine (which I have all digital copies of), spells in Greyhawk and other sourcebooks, spells in various modules, and spells I or the players might make up at some point. If they ever come across Iggwylv's spellbook, there will be spells in it that they've never seen before. They might want to "leave some room"

      I tell them the same thing about languages. Just because your intelligence allows you to learn up to 8 languages doesn't mean you should pick 8 languages to know. Your character might decided, at some point in his/her career, to study another language. Leave some room.

      Now, with all of that said, I am also a rule-breaker. I enforce limits by default, but I also offer ways around various limits from time to time. Artifacts, wishes, divine intervention, or other really extreme circumstance can positively, or negatively, affect the PC.