Feb 2, 2020

First Day of Sunsebb, CY 580

Things were not looking good for our heroes. With Sir Fenius unconscious from drow poison arrows, two party members unarmed, and a Blade Barrier blocking their escape, they needed to act quickly.

Dalron used the Lolth artifact to walk on webs and ran up to the nearest drider and started to attack. But being outside of the protection of Sarril's Minor Globe of Invulnerability meant he was susceptible to spellfire, and sure enough, another drider hit him with a Ray of Enfeeblement, sapping his strength make him much less effective in battle (but since he uses dagger anyway, he was still able to fight).

Sarril's first course of action was to cast Neutralize Poison on Fen to wake him up so he could then use his holy sword to dispel the Blade Barrier. This worked the next round Fen did just that, allowing the party to escape the onslaught. They closed the doors and ran north. Dammac attempted to listen at the next door, setting off a Glyph of Warding in the process and taking some damage. The party then ran through that door and the double doors that followed, which opened into a large room.

The room was 100 ft, square with 50 ft high ceilings. Across the far end of the room was a large pyramid and flanking the room were three smaller pyramids on each side. Also in the room were about 16 zombies and half as many skeletons shuffling around. The undead turned to the party and begin to advance.

But the party had a plan. They wedged one door shut and kept the other open, then stood in formation around the door. The intent was to let one undead through at a time and kill them. It looked like it was going to work, until one of the zombies coming toward them stopped to cast a spell. It was a Flame Strike, and it got most of the party, including Dammac, who failed his save. The damage from the Flame Strike, on top of the damage previously taken by the glyph, was too much and he went unconscious.

Just as this happened, the door behind them flew open. It was the four remaining driders from previous room, and they began shooting arrows and making melee attacks. Another party member dropped from poison this time (I think it was Sarril, but don't recall). The party realized they were not prepared for what was happening and shut the door to the undead room and wedged it shut, then went after the driders. It took a couple of rounds but they were able to bring them down easily when not separated by webs. They then picked up their unconscious comrades and fled.

While the Demonweb is long and twisted and confusing, it doesn't branch, so running in one direction eventually leads someplace. In this case, retracing their steps back to the sanctuary room where priests and priestesses of a peaceful deity offered them safe rest.

The party knew not to trust these people, but with the paladin unable to effectively Detect Evil, they really had no choice but to spring whatever trap was waiting for them. And a trap it was. These eight clerics were transformed Jackweres, waiting for the party to go to sleep before attacking. Jackalweres are not particularly tough and they don't have especially harmful attacks, but they can use a special gaze to put their victims into a magical sleep from which they can perform a Coup De Grace.

I know a lot of people don't like instant-kill options in AD&D, and many DMs won't use the optional Coup De Grace rules at-all. My house-rule on this is to split the difference. Allow automatic hits against unconscious foes for normal damage and after two consecutive, uninterrupted rounds, the victim is dead regardless of remaining hit points at the end of the second round. The victim has a chance to wake up after each hit, but it is not automatic. I think this is fair in that it gives allies a chance to wake the victim or intervene to save them, and even gives the victim a chance to wake up on their own, while still allowing creatures like Jackalweres their ability to be a little frightening.

The Jackalweres weren't able to do much against the conscious party members, but they attacked on second watch when only Pontus and Tyril were awake. Pontus fought and yelled while Tyril tried to physically wake up the others. Things got difficult as the jackalweres were putting party members to sleep almost as quickly as they were waking up, and Dammac went two rounds with a jackalwere at his unconscious throat. It was Dalron who came to his aid just before his demise, but it was close. The party managed to survive another encounter and now they had an actual peaceful room to rest in, so they did.

The next day, after studying for what spells could be gained in the abyss (clerical spells of 3rd level and above were out), the party decided to go back to the pyramid room and tackle the undead again. Being at full strength, they believed they could handle things better this time around. It didn't quite work out.

They started by charging into the room, hoping to identify the spellcasters quickly and take them out. The working theory is that some drow spellcasters were using illusions to disguise themselves as undead. It was a decent theory, but one they did not get to fully test, as one of the first things that happened was black fog-like tendrils flowed down from the far pyramid and began engulfing the room in darkness. It completely snuffed out all Continual Light coins and other light sources, allowing only those with infravision to see. But since undead don't emit heat, the party was effectively blind. Worse yet, none of the undead were standing out, so either the illusion was good enough to work against infravision (which is not difficult) or this was something else.

Dalron was pretty far into the room, as was Kohvo (the new half-orc that was rescued with Pontus). Both had to use their listening skills as best they could to find the enemy before they could even attack with a -4 penalty. This made things difficult, but not impossible for these high-level fighters. Then the rest of the party heard Dalron yell "I'm held!" (the results of a Hold Person spell) from somewhere in the darkness, a few moments later a wall of fire erupted from within the room, through the doorway, engulfing several party members. Though the wall emitted no light, those with infravision could see its heat, and everyone could feel it. Some small amount of damage was taken by most party members, but the screaming coming from within the room was unmistakable. Dalron was trapped within the wall itself, still unable to move. At maximum damage, it will only be a couple of rounds until he is burned to death.

And this is where we left off. It is the 2nd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580, and this may be the party's toughest challenge to date.

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