The Let's Play Archive

Temple of Elemental Evil

by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 14: Fun Starts at Fifth

“So that Monk character I mentioned last time. About the time I DM’ed—“

“Oh, come on, Hal, you’re the only one who’s talked about your sessions. Why don’t we let someone else talk for a while? Bob, you must be full of stories.”

Yeah, but most of you were there for most of them.

“I haven’t heard any of them. You never really talk about your past.”

I just think it’s too boring. But if you insist. Let me start by saying that, for all its faults, 3rd edition D&D saw my first campaign through from high school into college and beyond, and from first level to twenty sixth. Initially, I was the DM because I owned the only set of books and so I was the most familiar with the rules. I still remember having to explain “feats” to my friend who had only played 2nd edition before then. Hal and Lewis here were there from the very start, and William joined in after we graduated from high school.

“Tell ‘em about ‘Twelve Inches Says It All.’”

Oh, god, yeah, I remember that. So in the early days, the player lineup was pretty well in flux from one session to the next. On this particular Saturday, one of the regulars had invited a couple of rowdy guys he knew from school. Imagine your stereotypical frat boys before they go to college. They did a pretty good job of keeping up a ruckus and preventing us from doing much of anything RPG-wise, but if I’m being honest, there wasn’t much to do in the first place, at least partly because we were always getting sidetracked.

So the Rowdy Boy playing the Druid (if I’m remembering right) insists that, since height and weight are character options, he should be able to give his character a twelve-inch penis. I was still a pretty new DM at that point, so even though I knew his wang size wouldn’t even come up, I insisted that, since the rules don’t discuss dicks, he shouldn’t defy them so. He responded by writing down “Twelve Inches Says It All” on his character sheet as a nickname. God, we were such kids.

As for the session itself, it was a pretty simplistic “find cave, kill all the orcs in the cave” along with an ogre at the end, I think with a character level or two. It was supposed to be a challenge. It wasn’t. For one thing, this was back in third edition, as in “pre-3.5 fixes,” and in third edition, the Druid’s Animal Companion was only limited to “twice the Druid’s hit dice.” So Rowdy Boy Druid picked a tiger for his 3rd level character. If you check the rather restrictive charts in 3.5, you’ll see that you now need to be 7th level to get that kind of support. Even then I thought this was wonky, but it was legal, so I let it go. I think you see where this is going.

To be fair, though, the tiger wasn’t the only one absolutely demolishing the opposition. Hal’s Barbarian was also doing a pretty decent job of it with a +2 spear I foolishly gave them in the first dungeon. I believe that ogre went down after two attacks: first the Barbarian charged and got a critical hit, then the tiger pounced and shredded what was left. Thus, I quite heartily approved when I saw the new lists for Animal Companions when 3.5 came out.

“Say, that’s right. Have we even picked an Animal Companion for the Druid NPC?”

We didn’t, did we? I’ll let you guys pick. Here’s the list; you can see the usual stuff like a wolf, a giant lizard, black bear…

Did you put a chicken on the list? Where did you even find the stat block for that?
It now has to be a chicken. Make it so.

Alright, sure, it’s not like it’s that important. What’ll you name it?


Done. Anything else?

Well, if we’re getting the Druid’s Animal Companion, I think the Wizard should get his Familiar, too.
Shit, you’re right, I forgot all about that! Hang on, lemmie look up the Familiar bonuses…ah, I’ll get a +2 to Reflex saves if I get a Weasel. That’ll give me +4 to all saves across the board.
What will you name it?

Wee Willie Wompus the Weasel.
What is that a reference to?
I forget. I just like the sound of it, really.

If that’s all done, and you finished shopping last time, then I guess it’s time for…

“shattered wall. The leprous gray Temple, however, stands intact, its arched buttresses somehow obscene with their growth of climbing vegetation.”

So, made detective yet?
Pff, no. Detective is for saps who want “cases” and “responsibility.” Me, I just want a cushy desk job someplace where I just answer phones and tell people “no” all day.

Goddamn, he’s really going all out on these descriptions.
Seems kind of mean-spirited.
People act like it’s the end of the world if they get a ticket, but shit could be worse. Shit could be a lot worse. Besides, everything’s online these days, it’s their own fault if they wind up calling me.
Hey, I think he’s winding up.

Do you think it’s gotten back to the Temple that we killed their contacts in Nulb? We should probably check that ruined tower they mentioned.

Just north of the Temple’s main entrance you find a partly collapsed tower. Just in front of it stands a sentinel who demands to know your identity. Who do you say sent you?
Let’s say… “Wat sent us.”
“Wat, eh? So he finally got some recruits for the Fire Temple. Alrrem will be most pleased. OK, I’ll take you down. But I must blindfold you for the security of the temple.”
What, wander past all the XP? Not on your life.
“Then I can’t take you down. It’s one or the other.”
Feh, screw it. We were just going to kill everyone we find down there, weren’t we?
It’s likely, yes.
We’ll just start with this little tower over here, then. So we go inside—

Just a sec. Before you do, I would like to really suggest you cast all your buff spells ahead of time.

That bad? Ah. Well, guys, let’s start marking these off. I’m casting Protection from Missiles myself, because I am damn sick of being sniped when I’m casting spells.

When you finally enter…

Isn’t that rather sudden?

They recognize you as the adventurers who cleared out the Moathouse.

How would they even get word? I thought we killed everyone when we were there.

Remember that one door guard William intimidated? The one who chose to run instead of die?

Ah. Shit.

Roll initiative.

Jesus, Bob. How many of them are there?
Eighteen, all told. Suzie, you’re going first.
I move to attack the nearest enemy…that’s 16 damage with Sneak Attack damage.
The bandit footmen move to attack…miss…miss…and the enemy Wizard casts Shield. Paul?
How closely are they bunched?

Perfect, so much for them helping out.
The bandit archer readies his action…Lewis?
Sound Burst has the same radius, correct?

Not quite as effective, unfortunately. Hal, you go after Lewis.

Hey, guys, you know what’s got a bigger radius than Sound Burst? Fireball.
Jesus, this is gonna take a while. Just keep on rolling those damage dice while I roll saving throws.

Damn. How many people just went down?
Six. Hal just killed a third of the attacking force single-handed. The next bandit readies his action…oh, it’s Zelda’s turn.

Hopefully she’ll keep someone busy for a while.

…And now the two witches go. The first one casts Silence.

This right here is basically the turning point of this combat: who goes first, Hardboot or the witches? Getting that first Fireball off is a real game changer, as you just saw.

Looks like Meleny and Alistor can ignore the Silence effect, but the rest of you will have to leave the spell radius if you want to cast spells again. The bandit leader moves to attack Alistor…miss…alright, it’s Meleny’s turn.

Meleny summons a lamia.
Wait, what?
I’m fairly certain lamias don’t appear anywhere on the Summon Nature’s Ally charts.
Oh, did I forget to mention? Meleny found a Figurine of Wondrous Power in Imeryds Run. I thought since, you know, you guys were using her as a summon bot anyway…
It’s fine that she has it, but you should probably tell us before she starts summoning bulettes straight out of her ass.

…Ouch, the bandit leader really took the lamia down on that one. And she failed the Concentration roll, so she miscasts anyway.

I can’t attack twice anyhow with this crossbow, so I Haste everyone else. This party is just getting started.

That knocks the bandit leader to -10. It’s good you got him, too. He’s the single most dangerous fighter on their side.

Meleny’s turn, and she uses the Fungus Figurine to summon a…“Ustilagor.”
The fuck is that.
I’ll have to look it up in the module. Just keep taking your turns until I figure this out. Suzie?

Stupid Mirror Images.
On the plus side, the odds of hitting him go up for every failure.

…And so the zombie menace ends. Witches shouldn’t use force multiplication when I’ve got force division powers handy.

44 damage.
That poor asshole. I think you set a new record. Again.

What the heck was that?
Crushing Despair, which gives a -2 to attack rolls, damage, saving throws, and ability and skill checks. Looks like the Ustilagor’s role is just to sit there and keep the spell running. Unfortunately, it looks like you and a couple guys upstairs were the only ones who failed your rolls.
Dang it, I was having enough trouble with this Wizard already.

…Now what?!
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter.
Someone get over here and finish this asshole off!

One round later…

There, that should do it.
And it does. Only two enemies left, so this shouldn’t take much longer.

Two rounds of misses later…

Well, that was entirely embarrassing.
Just one archer on the next floor up to go.
Guess I’ll get my bow out, then.

Zelda takes him down to Disabled. No one else can reach him before his turn, so he takes a 5-foot step back, fires his bow at the chicken…deals 1 damage…and the exertion kills him.
He should have known better: never mess with the chicken. So what’d we get?

Plenty of coins from all the bodies, plus a couple powerful healing potions and a potion of Haste out of the brigand leader’s chest. You also receive 30 +1 bolts, a +1 longsword, and a +2 steel shield.

So we’re basically selling everything, then.

Basically. We should call it a night now, though, that combat lasted a really long time. Honestly, I’m surprised you got out as well as you did; that was by far the hardest fight you guys have been through yet.

And still worse to come. At least the first level shouldn’t be quite so hard.

Oh, yeah, that reminds me. You guys can probably explore inside the ground floor of the Temple tonight.

Are you really sure that’s a good idea?

I just mean the interior of the cathedral itself. All you find there are a set of locked chests Suzie can open easily.

What’s inside?

Four sets of robes, enough for everyone. Each set corresponds to one of the four Elemental Temples.

So we can sneak up and stab people in the back. Good plan.

That’s not really the “plan.” It’s mostly for taking the Evil path where you help one Temple or another to win over its fellows and summon their demonic patron.

Or we run a false flag offensive and kill them all on our terms.

…Or I guess you could do that, fine.

One last thing: you find a ragged parchment next to a throne where an altar would normally be. Does anyone want to read it?

I’ll take it. Hmm…Well, the short version is that there’s a “key,” a golden orb that needs four stones to fully activate and free the demoness. However, since that summons her fully to the material plane, it’s also the only means to kill her utterly. Of course, it also needs to be destroyed afterwards so no one else can use it to terrorize the countryside.
So we need to find a golden orb, fit it with stones, kill a Demon Princess, then break the orb when we’re done? Cool. Good to know we finally have a real goal aside from “murder everything that moves.”