Apr 8, 2018

15th Day of Goodmonth, CY 580 - In Search of the Falcon's Lair

After the feast with Dame Gold, Jarrus and Sarril decided they would like to head to Greyhawk to scout things out and take care of some business before they make their trip to Verbobonc and and the Kingdom of Furyondy. Cadwin, Pontus and Cassius stayed behind, and we played over online chat for a couple of weeks.

During this time, Jarrus and Sarril were able to confirm what Cassius had told them about the state of the city. It was overrun with refugees from a war between the Horned Society and the Shield Lands. Many merchants and nobility have already fled the city, and the good-aligned temples sent the bulk of the clerics and paladins to assist the battle, leaving a gap in the city's defenses and placing an extra strain on the city watch. This was causing an uptick in crime and an increase in the number of evil cults operating. Jarrus' former squire, Tonya, was still serving the Temple of Tritherion, and had gained some experience over the last year and a half, including spending some time on the front-lines of the battlefield. To help out the city, she formed a party and, together, they rooted out a cult of Iuz several weeks prior, and earned the favor of Derider Fanshen, the City Constable.

Sarril was able to meet with his now former master, Otto, who was working with Warnes Starcoat, the Chief Magical Councilor to Duke Karll of Urnst, to figure out a solution to the problem of Duke Szefrin of the Great Kingdom who now occupied Otto's home of Chathold in the Prelacy of Almor. Warnes believed he could convince Duke Karll to send assistance Almor, but only if and when the war between the Horned Society and the Shield Lands ended, since the Dutchy of Urnst is on the southern border of the Nyr Dyv and the Horned Society posed a much bigger threat than the Great Kingdom, which wa not on its borders (the Kingdom of Nyrond is between the Dutchy of Urnst and Almor, but Nyrond was pre-occupied with issues along its northern border). Otto declared Sarril a mage in his own right and no longer an apprentice, and returned to him all of the belongings that were stored in his house - minus one very important magical item. The Daern's Instant Fortress. Otto asked Sarril if he would give up that item for the greater good - which, in this case, meant that Otto and Warnes, along with some mages borrowed from the academy, could drop the Instant (and indestructible) Fortress, full of magic users with various wands, into the middle of the army that currently had Admunfort under siege. The overwhelming force would break the siege, and turn the war around to the favor of the Knights of Holy Shielding and the Shield Land armies. But Otto warned that exposing such a powerful magical item in such a high-profile way would draw the attention of powerful enemies - possibly Iuz himself, who is thought to be the original owner. Once Otto and Warnes completed their mission, the Daern's Instant Fortress would be turned over to the Guild of Wizardry in Greyhawk, to be locked away in their impenetrable vaults. Sarril not only agreed to this, he also donated a Wand of Fire to the cause.


While Sarril was taking care of wizarding business, Jarrus discovered that the cult of Iuz that was supposedly defeated, wasn't. Some of its members got away, and not only that, they managed to complete a ritual spell that freed their imprisoned leader - a dangerous cleric named the Falcon, who started the cult over 60 years ago, until she was magically imprisoned by mages and clerics of St. Cuthbert. Jarrus met Talasek Thraydin, a paladin of St. Cuthbert whose grandfather was part of the original party that imprisoned the Falcon. By reading his grandfather's journal, Talasek learned of a mage named Mizaab who was responsible for the magic of the imprisonment, and who had discovered a secret lair in the Cairn Hills that the Falcon had used to plot her attacks on the city. This prompted Sarril and Jarrus to research Mizaab in the hopes of finding him, or something he may have left behind.

The pair discovered that Mizaab was a mage obsessed with dragons and with magic related to flying. He is a member of the Wizard's Guild, but hasn't been seen in 20 years. After putting some other clues together, such as the fact that Mizaab was known to have drawn pictures of dragons so accurate that he must have been close to them, and that he was prone to disappearing for long periods at a time. This led Jarrus to theorize that Mizaab himself was probably a dragon, which, if true, might mean he is still alive - but also going to be that much more difficult to find.

Talasek's grandfather's journal also talked about Elliman, the cleric of the original party, who was a good friend of Mizaab. Elliman became the high-priest of the temple and fostered Eritai, the current high-priestess, when she was a young girl. Jarrus and Sarril decided to question Eritai, to see if she can provide any clues. Although she wasn't able to provide much information, she did have a way to contact Mizaab, if he was still alive and available, through the guild. She also said she would search through the temple vaults to see if Elliman had a copy of the map locked away. Two days later, Eritai sent a message to Jarrus and Sarril to come to the temple as she had found something important. On the morning of the 15th day of Goodmonth, the pair headed to the Temple of St. Cuthbert in Greyhawk, and thus began our bi-weekly game session. . .


Over the last week, Sarril had taken care of a lot of business with the Wizard's Guild and with Otto. One of those things was to have his newly acquired Staff of Power recharged - an expensive process that took several days, and to have Otto place a 6th level spell, Stone to Flesh, in his Ring of Spell Storing. Sarril then took care of both of these things on his way to the temple on the morning of the 15th - both picking up the staff, and using the Stone to Flesh spell to restore Luapan back to life. Jarrus, Sarril and Luapan were now a party of three (exactly the number of players we had this week). All three headed to the Temple of St. Cuthbert to meet with Eritai.

When they arrived, Eritai explained that she had her clerics combing the volumes of their library and searching their vaults for any clues to the map that Mizaab made. They turned up a scroll tube with a map inside that looked like what they needed. After making a copy for the records, the temple is turning over the map to the party so they may seek the Falcon's lair.

Mizaab's Map
After purchasing supplies for the trip, the group headed out. After calculating whether or not they could just use a Flight spell to get there quickly, they decided the best course would be to take up the river, then follow the path on the map by foot, using Flight at the end of the journey to get their bearings and try to find the lair. They started by hiring a Rhenee barge to take them north, which kept them safe from dealing with any wandering monster encounters. Once they exited the barge at the northern end of the tributary, things did become more dangerous.

DMs Note: For the most part, I rarely roll for wandering monsters. First of all, the player characters have expressed a dislike for slogging through terrain and just want to get to their destinations to start the dungeon exploration, or whatever it is they need to do. I get it, since we only play for a few hours every other week, random encounters really slow the game down, and often aren't very interesting. Additionally, most random encounters are low-level creatures - bandits, kobolds, etc., and just more of a nuisance more than anything. So I generally take the approach that most random creatures would see the armor and weapons the party carries and realize that it wouldn't be wise to bother them. But today was different. The search for the Falcon's Lair in the Cairn Hills is all about wandering monsters - and the things here could actually present challenges, especially due to the terrain. Thus, most of the adventure today was trekking through the hills fighting random monsters, and it paid some serious dividends.

The first random encounter was four trolls that attacked in the swampy land at the end of the river, which weren't much of a challenge. The second encounter was a manticore in the hills. While not normally a challenge, the terrain here gave predatory monsters a distinct advantage. As the party was winding their way between steep hills, the manticore was hiding in a cave about 60 ft. up, unreachable by the party. Since it was only watching them, the party decided to walk past it to see if it continued to ignore them. It did not. As soon as the last party member, Jarrus, passed underneath the cave, it struck from behind, throwing 4 of its tail darts at Jarrus, 3 of which simply bounced off of his armor. In response, Sarril cast Fly on Jarrus, who flew right up to the cave and eviscerated the creature.

This is where things got interesting. The 1st edition Monster Manual provides a treasure type (E, in this case) and tables to roll on to see a percentage chance for each type of treasure in the creature's lair. For the first time ever, we rolled on these tables, and just so happened to roll some crazy random numbers, giving the party 8,000 gold pieces and three random magic items. We rolled on the magic item tables and came up with a Ring of Truth, a +4 Staff/Spear and a +5 Defender Sword. That's right, a +5 Defender Sword. This is one of most sought after magical weapons in the entire game. High-level NPCs with massive wealth (retired adventurers and nobility) would pay dearly for such a weapon, and some spend their entire lives seeking one and never find it. It is one of the prizes available at the end of the infamous Tomb of Horrors - possibly the deadliest dungeon ever designed. The combination of die rolls required to obtain this randomly makes the chance exceptionally rare, so I couldn't, in good conscience, ignore it. The fact remains that even the highest-level, best equipped  hero can still fall victim to a deadly trap and lose their stuff. The last owner of this fantastic weapon must have had a truly tragic tale.

So I decided this sword will, indeed, be a +5 Defender, and the only thing left to do is to roll to see what type of sword it would be (short sword, long sword, broad sword, etc.). Jarrus, due to his double-specialization, can only effectively use longswords. Pontus was proficient in two-handed and broad swords, but preferred a two-handed weapon. The chance that anyone in the party would actually be able to use the weapon was slim, and this item was more than likely going to be traded for a castle somewhere. We rolled the dice again, and landed on longsword - just what Jarrus happens to be double-specialized in. Let's do the numbers for a minute on Jarrus:
  • Strength of 18/76 : +2 / +4
  • Double Specialization: +3 / +3
  • Defender Longword: +5 / +5
  • Total +10 To Hit / +12 Damage
  • Attacks twice per round for 13 to 20 damage per hit, and has an effective ThAC0 of 3!
When Sarril identified the +5 Defender sword, Jarrus decided the party should go treasure hunting in the Cairn Hills more often. The excitement over the +5 Defender sword was so big that it diminished the awe that would have saved for the +4 staff/spear (another extremely rare item that probably has a name and came from a well-known hero). Luapan took the staff/spear to replace his gnomish selecto-staff, which was a mechanical version of the same weapon, and much less powerful. Things were looking good for both Jarrus and Luapan.

Near the end of the day, the party found the first landmark from the map - a gorge with a dwarven bridge spanning it. The bridge was actually a trap by Galeb Dur who lived in the gorge. When an unsuspecting party tries to cross, they Transmute Rock to Mud on the bridge and everyone falls to their death. The party determined the bridge was suspicious, and Sarril cast fly so everyone can just fly across, thus avoiding the trap.


After crossing the bridge, the party camped for the night, safely inside of a Leomund's Tiny Hut.

The next day was less eventful from a wandering monster perspective. The trail eventually led through a gorge with fierce winds blowing through it. While it slowed the party's movement, the wind also kept wandering monsters out of the gorge. Near the end of the day, they came upon the faces of two giants carved into the cliff walls on either side. One of the faces had a Magic Mouth spell on it, which triggered when Jarrus passed through. The face said:

“Mizaab sends you who have traveled long and  hard a message. All the animals of the woods and streams, of the forests and hills know this  advice: Never follow a snake into her lair, for only she knows the twists and turns that it takes; and only she knows where a trap may be laid and sprung. travel safely and wisely, my friend, and heed this advice on your journey to conquer evil.”

After passing through the stone faces, the party decided to camp while still inside the gorge, using the Leomund's Tiny Hut to shelter them from the wind. In the morning, they set out again, coming soon to a fast moving stream, and crossing the path of some gnomes returning home from a mining trip. The gnomes didn't know anything about the Falcon's Lair, but they were able to provide a warning about water beetles in the stream - a minor threat easily avoided using a Quall's Feather Token that transformed into a small boat to ferry the party safely across.

Later that afternoon, the party came into a steep, mountainous area that they knew to be the area where the Falcon's Lair should be. Unfortunately, finding the entrance was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Sarril's familiar was flying overhead, but could not spot the entrance, leaving the party to climb around as best they could in the steep, rocky terrain. This opened them up for attack from a trio of Hill Giants, who began hurling rocks at the party below. Sarril cast Spider Climb on Jarrus, who began making his way up to the giants, dodging rocks along the way. Luapan used Levitation to get to the giants and, between Jarrus and Luapan, they made quick work of the Hill Giants, whose slow, lumbering movements just couldn't land a blow. Once again, we rolled for random treasure in the giant's lair, and the party got some gold and gems out of it.

There's a lair entrance somewhere among these rocks
DMs Note: This was an encounter that should have been far more challenging than it was. Part of the issue was that it was a wandering monster roll, rather than a planned encounter, so I didn't think it through. But also, the players and I both wanted to finish the lair and get the party back to Greyhawk before the day ended, so that we can have all of the party together for the next session. We were starting to run out of time for the day, and that was distracting me a bit as well. The first mistake I made was that while Jarrus was climbing, I not only allowed him his full AC (including shield), I allowed him to use the Defender Sword for defense as well, bringing his total AC to -6. First of all, the Defender Sword AC bonus should only be against melee attacks (that's my rule, even if it isn't printed in the books), but also, Jarrus should not have had either shield or sword in hand while climbing. He should have had his sword sheathed, and his shield strapped to his back while he climbed, making him vulnerable to the thrown rocks. And if a rock struck him, there would be a chance, even with the Spider Climb, that he would be knocked down, sustaining damage and having to start over. The Spider Climb allowed him to climb with full speed, but when he reached the top, he should have spent one round getting his shield and sword readied. That would make him vulnerable to melee attacks for that time. The party would still come out victorious, but Jarrus may have taken more damage and/or Sarril would have been forced to expend some spells on ranged attacks. But this is why I consider this to be practice for me as a DM. I can learn these lessons and get better.

After looting the giant's lair, the party went back to searching among the rocks. Slipping and falling was the biggest risk, and both Luapan and Jarrus took a couple of tumbles. Jarrus took the largest fall, tumbling a full 70 ft. on jagged rocks, mangling his body on a rock shelf. As he was lying there, waiting for the clerics to come help him, he spotted a small crevice low to the ground, covered by overgrown weeds. It was large enough to crawl into, and he suspected that it must be the entrance they have been looking for. As soon as the clerics healed him, the party went inside.

After crawling through a narrow winding tunnel for quite some time, the party finally emerged in a large cavern more than 100 ft. across, filled with mud. The walls of the cavern, like the tunnel walls on the way in, were covered in small holes only large enough for a rat to climb through. The party squelched through the mud to the center of the cavern, where their light revealed tunnels to the left and right. As they headed for the right tunnel, two Otyughs emerged from the left tunnel and attacked. The Otyughs were no match for the superior armor of the heroes, and were quickly dispatched. They decided to change direction and move to the left tunnel where the creatures came from. The Find Traps spell that Sarril had cast earlier alerted them on the ceiling overhead, which they were able to get around by staying close to the walls. This exposed the party the things that were inside the holes waiting for them. Tiny imp-like creatures with blow-guns and small spears started

shooting and poking at the party. Although they had trouble hitting, and and could do much damage, the sheer numbers of them that could attack while the party moved so slow in the mud made them dangerous. Sarril decided that a Cloudkill spell directed into the holes and the tiny tunnel structures behind should do the trick to fumigate these pests. It was incredibly effective, and the party could now move freely without being bothered by the creatures.

Unfortunately, we could not finish the lair in this session as time was now up. We pause here at the start of the dungeon. It is the evening of the 17th Day of Goodmonth, CY 580, somewhere in the Cairn Hills north of the City of Greyhawk.




2 comments:

  1. Jarrus got to the giants via Flight, while the clerics utilized Spider Climb.

    As an aside, I was looking at the Weapon Proficiency rules in Unearthed Arcana and finally found the table on page 26 that shows who gets what. Barbarians only have a -1 non-proficiency penalty and start with 6 proficiencies! Pontus was getting screwed a bit against the Slavelords, but he should have looked it up.

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    1. I guess I mis-remembered. Flying Jarrus is pretty unstoppable. The mechanics worked, then, because Luapan was spider climbing, but the giants would not have thrown boulders at him while Jarrus was in melee. I just remember thinking later "that should have been a lot harder than it was."

      You are correct about Pontus. As a DM, I never declared what he did or didn't have, I only ever ask the question "are you proficient and, if not, apply your non-proficiency penalty." It makes sense that barbarians only get -1, because all weapons are basically just clubs to them.

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