Feb 6, 2017

3rd Day of Flocktime, CY 579 (online session)

After that exciting encounter with Iuz, and the intervention by St. Cuthbert himself, the group was chomping at the bit and couldn't wait two more weeks to see what happens next. While I am generally opposed to online play because we can't always manage everyone's time equally (especially those of us with kids), I did agree to make some exceptions this time. I agreed to that the party could search the Greater Temple, open chests, etc., and I would reveal what they find. If they do anything requiring an initiative roll, however, I would stop gameplay until our next in-person session. Here is what happened online.

Hedrack had nothing of value on him due to the fact that all of his magic weapons, armor and items were destroyed (while this is a shame on one level, because he had nice stuff, it probably also saved the party as they wouldn't have been able to deal with him easily otherwise). The other enemies that had any loot were turned into monster zombies by Iuz, then turned by the cleric and they ran down the side halls. The party went down those halls to look and found portals that they decided were best not to enter right now. So that loot was gone.

But there were four nice sized chests in the hall behind the purple fungi curtain. Each chest contained multiple magical traps and wards. Dispel Magic was successful on the first chest, which contained a massive amount of platinum coins, as well as paperwork detailing debts owed to the temple by various temple members. These names would be handy to identify villagers and others in the surrounding area who are part of the temple. Sarril grabbed the paperwork and a magic wand before moving on to the next chest. Dispelling traps on the second chest was unsuccessful, but the party had Pontus open the chest anyway, as he can generally take the damage. This set off a fire trap, destroying the chest and burning all of the papers inside. The disturbance also triggered something else, and the room suddenly grew dark and cold. Sensing something was amiss, Sarril "pulled a Gandalf" and yelled "RUN! (you fools)" and all of the party except Athan ran as fast as they could down the hall.

Nalfeshnee (Type IV Demon)
Athan stayed to search through the broken chest for items of interest. Pontus, confused by the split in the party, stopped halfway out. Once the party realized that Athan wasn't with them, and that he still had the skull, they realized they need to go back for him and that they would have to force him to come along. So back they went. While the rest of the party distracted him, Jarrus attempted to knock Athan out by hitting him on the head, but fell just short of knocking him completely unconscious. An angry Athan agreed to leave with the party and they all ran away, just as a Type IV, Type II and two Type I demons gated into the room.

The Type I demons flew at the party and were about to overtake them when two dozen bugbears emerged from the side rooms and engaged the demons. The Type Is and the Type II demon were ripping apart bugbears as the half-orc seen previously with them ran toward the party also pulling her own Gandalf impression. This time, the entire party, including the half-orc, kept running and didn't stop until they were out of the temple.

On the road back to Hommlet, the party learned that the half-orc is Kella, Commander of the Greater Temple troops. She offered to reveal all of the information the party wants to know if they will escort her to see Jaroo, and so they did.

Arriving in Hommlet, a few hours past midnight, the party was challenged by some new guards who looked much better equipped than the Hommlet militia or "Burne's Badgers" they had seen before. These guards were sent from Verbobonc by the Viscount, apparently at the request of Lord's Rufus & Burne, who were called away by the Viscount. These new guards report to someone by the name of Sergeant Brogan, and they have instituted a curfew in-town. After seeing that the party checks out, they let them pass but tell them to go straight to the inn. Delvin takes Kella to the grove and the rest of the party checks into their room at the inn, which is a bit small now that Jarrus and Luapan have been added to the group.

Kella, Daughter of Jaroo
The next morning, Athan stayed in the room writing spells and Delvin came and got the rest of the party in the morning to say that Jaroo was ready to meet with them. Leaving Athan in the room, the rest of the party went to the grove to hear Kella's story. Kella removed a necklace from around her neck, transforming into a human woman, and immediately bringing tears of joy to Jaroo's eyes as he recognized his long lost daughter.

Kella described how she was sent to spy on the temple and was deep undercover. While undercover, she learned many things that needed to be shared now. The following is a transcript of the conversation:

Jaroo says "I begged Earthramus not to send you to that foul place. . ."

She interrupts him "I went willingly. You should know that."

"When I didn't hear from you, I assumed the worst"

"I am sorry, father, but I was deep undercover. I learned much, but I couldn't risk blowing my cover to get out. That is, until this party came along, and I had to make a move. The stakes are too high now."

Jaroo says, "please, for all of us, tell us what you have learned, so we may determine our next steps."

She looks at the rest of the party and and says "for everyone's benefit, I will start at the beginning, as I promised on the road that I would."  

She starts. . . "After the battle of Emridy Meadow, a smaller force of powerful warriors led by Prince Thrommel of Furyondy pushed into the temple to destroy the remaining forces and raze the building. But what they discovered inside was too strong even for them. A demoness of incredible power who had bound her essence to the temple itself, thus removing herself from the abyss and becoming a native of the prime material plane. Clerics of St. Cuthbert were summoned to assist, along with some of the most powerful archmages known. They were able to defeat her, but not destroy her essence, which was part of the temple itself."

"So they decided the best course of action would be to use the power of St. Cuthbert to lock her into her own temple, turning it into a prison from which she could not escape. You have all seen the doors. Probably some of you could not bear to look upon them. This is by design. If you had any evil in your hearts, the feeling would be far worse, and you would never be able to approach the doors. Thus helping to ensure that agents of the temple don't try to free her again" 

She pauses a minute "I apologize if this is all background you have heard before."

"So the priests of Cuthbert believed themselves victorious, though they were wise enough to know that they needed to keep an eye on those doors. Thus Canoness Y'Dey and others were sent to do just that. Keep a watch on the temple." 

"But those of us of the Old Faith," she says, looking at Jaroo and Delvin, "we knew there was more to it than just a demoness trying to enter our world to do harm. The temple is called the Temple of ELEMENTAL Evil for a reason. We druids have always understood the power of the elements. Natural, chaotic forces that blend in harmony to make the world around us. But the elements are also destructive. There is a legend that some believe, of a lost Elder Elemental God, whose cults spring up from time to time. These cults are usually small and harmless, but they believe that there are nexus points in the world, places where the fabric holding the prime material plane together is weak. And they believe that in these places, deep below the surface, the Elder Elemental God slips through into our world from the void where he is imprisoned."

"In these places, only a sliver of his essence can be reached, but it is enough power, some believe, to rival, and even destroy, a god."

"These are all rumors and myths, of course, and most sages will tell you the Elder Elemental God is not real, but we druids know one thing, and that is, god or no god, the elements are powerful forces that can be incredibly destructive, especially if turned to evil purposes. We wanted to know what was really going on in the temple, and learn what we could about the cultists that practiced there."

"As it turns out, the demoness chose that specific location for her temple for a reason."

"It didn't take long for evil beings to begin making their way back to the temple. And of course they had a secret way in. There is always a back door or secret entrance. When Prince Thrommel was kidnapped, most people assumed it was the Horned Society behind it, but others suspected it might be agents of the temple who had escaped the battle and wanted their revenge on the prince. Regardless, it had a devastating political effect, as Furyondy and Veluna did not merge, and a distraught King Belvor could no longer make good decisions. The Horned Society has definitely benefited from this. . . but I digress. We recognized that the temple was a magnet for evil, and always would be unless it could be dealt with permanently."

"So I was given the task by my order to infiltrate the temple, discover its secrets and learn the plans of those who now inhabit it. I took on the disguise of a half-orc warrior and joined the troop ranks. Through acts I am ashamed to discuss, I was able to rise in the ranks until I became the Commander of the Greater Temple troops. It was dangerous for me for many years. I had to employ multiple magic items to evade the scrutiny of Hedrack and his mages."

Jaroo says, "and what did you learn in this time, my daughter?"

She takes a deep breath and continues, "First, that elemental evil does, indeed, exist. Each of the temples was powered by an elemental entity that had been corrupted by evil in a most unnatural way. The priests who worshiped the evil received spell power like any other cleric of their rank. This power could not have come from the demoness, who was locked away."

"But the priests also believed the demoness was an aspect of their elemental god, or a conduit, or something or other, and that they needed to free her. Much of their time, when it was not spent fighting with each other, was spent figuring out how to break the seals."

"But the most eye-opening discovery I made, is that Hedrack, the leader of the Greater Temple, did not believe in the elemental god. He was a priest of Iuz, as you all now know."

(Jaroo appears shocked at this revelation)

"It took a long time for me to discover what Hedrack was doing. He encouraged the temples to fight one another for domination. He invited adventurers like yourselves in to create havoc and destruction - even going so far as to plant rumors out in the world of great treasures to be found inside. Most of the weak adventurers didn't make it very far, but some of the more powerful ones managed to destroy the elemental temples and kill the high priests from time to time, before finally falling to Hedrack, who would catch them and throw them in those portals you saw. It was a twisted game of survival of the fittest. I believed for a while, as most his followers did, that this was how he made the temple stronger. With each successive attempt, those that survive are stronger. The rest start over. And it brought in a regular supply of magic items and other goods. No matter how many times one of the temples was destroyed; it would always come back after a time. A new priest would always be found. Evil men are drawn to this place."

"But then one day I discovered the truth of it. He wasn't doing it to make the temples stronger. He was doing it to keep them weak. As long as they were fighting each other, or fending off outside invaders, they weren't freeing the demoness."

"I discovered this when I realized that every time one of the priests was close to finding a way to break the seals, he promoted them to a position in the Greater Temple and replaced them with a lesser priest. And as it turns out, breaking the seals is so much easier than you might think. No magic is going to do it, not even a Wish Spell. But the doors can be physically broken by something large and strong enough. Like a giant. Those with evil in their hearts cannot approach the doors, but everyone else has a chance."

"And just recently, the earth temple was close. . . so very close. A hill giant by the name of Scorpp managed to approach the doors without any issues. When Romag, the High Priest of the Earth Temple, discovered this, he decided to work on turning Scorpp against Hedrack, so he can then use him to break the doors. Luckily for all of us, you guys came along and killed Scorpp. I understand he briefly tried to ally himself with you. It is good you did not fall for it."

"In the Greater Temple, there is a statue of the Old One and the demoness. At first I would have thought the Old One to be allied with her, maybe even trying to free her. But it was suspicious because deep inside the Greater Temple, behind the purple curtain, is a throne similar to the one on the first level. Anyone sitting on that throne is in contact with the demoness. That is how she was giving orders to her priesthood before Hedrack came along. But after Hedrack took over, only he was allowed to use that throne. But I never actually saw him sit on it"

“That is why she wanted Hedrack dead.” Sarril said.

She looks at Sarril, "How do you know this?"

"Zuggtmoy is the one sealed. Athan was controlled by her for a bit through magical suggestion."

"How did you contact her?" She asked. "I never saw him use the throne"

"We found a crystal ball that was linked to her.  Through it, she controlled Athan.  That item is destroyed now. Also, we know how to get to her, behind the seals. . . This is all information that I need to get to my master." Sarril says.

"Hedrack knew it was the key to destroying the temple, and thus destroying Zuggtmoy. But the demoness was smart. She split the four gems and scattered them into demi-planes of her own creation, then hid the skull far away. But it looks now like Falrinth possessed the skull all along. For some reason, he never told Hedrack."

"And your party is in possession of the skull now. And it nearly got in the hands of the Old One himself. I am certain he did not want to free her with it, but I don't know what else he might have done with such a powerful artifact. Rumor is that part of his essence is tied to that skull as well."

Kella also told of a visitor named Warduke, who came to visit Hedrack and call in a favor owed to him.  He seemed to be influential in Furyondy politics and was offering assistance to the Old One in exchange for assassinating some nobles. She didn't hear the names. (Jarrus knows that Warduke is the nickname of Sir Damen Tynneman, eldest son of Duke Tynneman of the Reach. If anything were to happen to King Belvor, without an heir, Duke Tynneman would be next in line of succession).

After the meeting, Jaroo told Delvin and Kella that he needed them to investigate a strange phenomena reported in Istivin. He thought it might be related to the black shards that the party reported about when they first arrived in town. Jaroo then went on to warn the party about the evil skull artifact and encouraged them to leave it with him so he can find a way to keep it secure and learn how to destroy it. Since Athan still had the skull, the party said they would consider, then parted ways.

This was the morning of the 4th day of Flocktime, CY579. After this the party members went separate ways, with the intention of getting back together on the morning of the 4th to return to the temple in order to look for the gems needed to destroy the skull. Unfortunately, Pontus and Jarrus got into a brawl with the new guards at the inn, and ended up in the hoosegow. They are scheduled to be set free the afternoon of the 6th.


  1. Warduke ... Sweet!

    Also ... I think I might be hearing a "Forgotten Temple" riff.

    1. I like to sprinkle my adventure hooks throughout. The party will have many options in terms of directions to explore. If I think a story is important enough to the campaign and the party doesn't go in that direction, I will have them roll up new characters to play parallel adventures just for the narrative. We've actually already done this where another player is DMing the Where Chaos Reigns module, which takes place outside of this world enough to not affect it, but is tied into this world in a significant way that will become apparent to the party at some point.

      As for Warduke. . . I have the Shady Dragon Inn supplement for original D&D that has all of the "Company of the Heartstone" characters built out in it. I read online where someone had the idea for a tie-in to Greyhawk in which those characters were actually nicknames for some of the important people within Greyhawk - major and minor nobility who chose to adventure together secretly. It worked well for Jarrus' background, so I went with it. Hence, Warduke :)

  2. I really appreciate that approach because it maintains player agency. As a DM, I also like "moving the ball down the field" for those adventure leads which the PCs don't choose to follow or which they walk away from mid-way through. Sometimes I've done that with other groups of players, sometimes with other *games* (e.g. using a match of the Discworld Ankh-Morpork board game to determine which faction comes out on top in city politics or a separate wargame to decide the outcome of a war).