Part 21: Kingdom of the Golden SkullSo if you remember last time, the party was about to Teleport from the Lost World after a successful scientific expedition. However, something to remember about Teleport spells is that they work by moving the subjects to the Astral Plane for an instant before moving back to another location in the original plane. Something else to remember is that this is the first time the party had ever used a Teleport spell, or plane-shifted at all. So what happened was that a solar angel hijacked the spell, declared the party to be the Chosen Ones, and then dumped them into the Demiplane of Dread, a.k.a. the Ravenloft setting. I had just read the 3rd edition of the Ravenloft setting book, you see, and I figured it would be a good way to shake up the players a bit.
Im afraid that I probably didnt do the setting much justice, especially considering the things Ive heard about the 3rd edition release of Ravenloft. Given that the party was only there for levels 10-15, it was really more of a vacation in a haunted house, more of a highlight reel, than a dedicated look at gothic horror. And if Im being honest, I was more influenced by Quest for Glory 4 than by the setting book. Still, we had fun, and thats what really matters (plus I at least had the decency to have the trip take place in an isolated Domain I made up myself).
So the way it starts is the party is dropped off in a small town on the southern edge of the Domain where they see some of the Dark Lords bugbears oppressing the locals. The party wont stand for this, naturally, but they get surprised when the populace instantly hails them as heroes and the Revolution gets a jump start just about immediately. Of course, they would later learn that revolts happen fairly regularly here, and it was long enough since the last one that they were itching for a scrape. It was actually the nature of the Dark Lords curse: he wanted absolute control and perfect order, but every generation would rise against him to be put down, brutally.
From that start, most of what they did in Ravenloft was build support and organize the dissatisfied rabble into a functioning army. Highlights included: a cynical elven Paladin who led the last failed rebellion (and participated in a few more before then, too), a Shield Guardian who twisted his late masters command to protect the town into unwitting cannibalism (did you eat the suspicious soup? Then roll Fortitude or be nauseous for the big fight), and a Twisted Carnival. That last one was run by a kid who made a wish that the carnival could last forever, and everyone in it needed to keep having funor else. The PCs wound up getting caught, too. I forget how they got out of that.
Still, the rebellion itself almost fails when the PCs get caught in the Mist and spat out a few months later. Ravenloft fog warps time and space, you see. Still, they showed up just in time to join one last, desperate push to the Dark Lords castle. The Dark Lord himself was, of course, undefeatableexcept for one thing. The most important item they pick up during their entire stay turned out to be a trinket of an amulet given by the Ravenloft Gypsies (I mean, they have their own name for them, but its obvious). The amulet was said to only activate once its wearer was declared dead, a plot device I blatantly stole from the game Dragonsphere. But it was okay since none of the players had played it (and its not like I did this shit for money). The Dark Lord declares the party dead idiots for challenging him, the amulet goes off and burns him up from skin to bone, and since the Dread Powers decide this is a sufficiently ironic demise, the land is released from the Demiplane of Dread and settles back to where it came from: the home planet of regular campaign. Oh, and once that was done, the angel came back and granted everyone good-spirited wishes for succeeding. So ended the Ravenloft Vacation. Now where were we?
The first half or so of this update is in fast-forward mode because the third floor of the Temple is full of little more than a bunch of what the fuck encounters where the enemy selection makes little to no logical sense; instead, they were thrown in for varietys sake. This includes a group of four will-o-the-wisps who killed themselves on Scathers blade, (by the way, since its apparently unclear, enemies must successfully hit the wielder for the AoOs to go off),
Will-o-the-wisps who are, I might add, hard as hell to hit normally,
And then there was a cavern full of hooting fungi and a lamia.
One place was full of jackals and jackalweres,
Another had a set of three umber hulks,
Who are, as it turns out, very vulnerable to Deep Slumber,
And after that was a couple of commoner prisoners who were apparently roped into following a failed expedition to the Temple.
And who can forget the giant evil zebra things?
Apparently its some kind of Ethiopian hyena-thing. What the fuck.
At this point, Big McLargeHuge, Alistor, and Josephus hit level 10, while Meleny reached level 9.
At least if we ever get to level 12, shell be ready to get Augment Summoning.
For his part, Josephus finally got level 4 spells, which is nice.
After that, I found the room full of yellow molds. Much like the green slime from before, the yellow mold is supposed to be more of a dungeon feature than a real monster, but here we are beating the lumps to a pulp anyway.
Later on, Hardboot cleared an entire room of ogres with a single Cloudkill spell. Ill have to remember that for the room full of bugbears downstairs.
Oh yes, and I really like how shadows are presented in the game. See, they dont actually stand up or anything; they are literally just the shadows on the floor, much like the ones cast by the party.
And then there was the black pudding.
Well, black pudding(s). See, the way a black pudding is supposed to work is that, if you attack it with a piercing or slashing weapon, itll split in half, and each half will have half the hit points of the original. Eventually, if the split causes the pudding to have fewer than 10 hit points, itll stop splitting and you can finish it off. That way, even if the party doesnt have anyone with bludgeoning weapons, you can still eventually smash it to bits. However, in ToEE, cutting a black pudding does nothing to its hit points, and instead spawns another fully powered black pudding. Luckily I only needed to test this once before I switched everyone to maces and fists and just punched the damn things to death.
Oh well. At least the armor- and weapon-eating acid ability didnt work, either.
Pictured: a room once full of living goblins, now murdered by a single Wand of Fireballs use. Why they got their own room this far down in the temple, Ill never know.
At least it makes sense for the hill giants to share the space. Remember when just one of these guys could have ended the party single-handedly? Those were the days.
This here was a Wailing Spirit, also known as a banshee. Its a good thing everyone succeeded their saving throws, because Im pretty sure that was her save-or-die ability just then.
She was guarding some damn good loot, though, including a set of Holy Spiked Chains for those who abuse the trip mechanics fulltime.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled session, already in progress.
I cant quite remember, but Ive got a feeling about this exit. I dont think it goes to the bottom floor. If Im wrong, we can Teleport out, but if Im right, I think weve got enough time left today to explore whats on the other side.
Lets do it, then. Cmon.
Beyond the secret passage, you find yourselves in a dark hallway with an ugly bas relief carved into the wall. Upon opening the door to your right, you spy a wary figure in dark robes who appears to be muttering to himself.
Wizard, shit! Quick, guys, lets rest for 8 hours!
Well? Is the Wizard going to bug us while were still out in the hall? Roll your little encounter dice and lets recharge our spells!
Er, crap. Yeah, he lets you rest out in the hallway. However, when you approach him
Who are you to order us so?
My name is Falrinth. Leave this place immediately, or I will summon Hedrack and the entire temple guard to kill you.
That sounds like a name we killed.
Shh! Well, actually, Hedrack himself has sent me, you fool!
Roll Bluff alright, hmm. What? I was not informed of this! Tell him I havent finished examining the orb yet. I will contact him when I have new information!
Wait, orb? Oh. Oh!
So, ah, what have you learned so far?
Well, I still dont know where Zuggtmoy is trapped yet, but I do know that the four elemental power gems that fit into the orb are located in the Elemental Nodes. I think she placed them there for safe keeping before the war.
What purpose do these gems serve?
I dont know their exact powers, but each one will grant powers related to the element to which it is attuned. And there is some mention of demon summonings among the notes I found.
Oh, hell yes.
And where are the Elemental Nodes you mentioned?
The Elemental Nodes? You can enter them from the gates in the Greater Temple. But Hendrack knows that. Wait a minute
Based on the way Lewis is hopping in his seat, I get the feeling this orb dealie has something to do with the main plot.
It does, it does! If we can get the Orb and all the gems together, we will have the power to banish the Demon Princess of Fungus back to the Abyss forever!
Ive never seen you get so excited over the plot, Lewis.
Its finally here! We finally found it! Why wouldnt I get excited?
Guys, guys. Falrinth has finally figured out you guys are imposters and is attacking you. Might I suggest rolling initiative?
Right, Falrinth goes first, and so he leads off by casting an area spell from a scroll. Roll your spellcraft alright, its a Lesser Sphere of Invulnerability. Paul, youre next.
Thats immunity from 1st-3rd level spells, correct?
Correct. Paul, your Sound Burst was centered within the Globes area of effect, so it fails completely.
Hit the dude, that means a Cleave, that hits the guys familiar, so now theyre both dead.
How efficient. Now, Suzie, get to finding that Orb!
I guess he wouldnt put it someplace obvious, would he? I search for secret doors.
You have found one, and behind it, you spy an unlocked and untrapped chest. In the chest is a pile of gold and platinum, a number of gems, two wands, nearly a dozen scrolls, and a mysterious golden skull
Scrolls! Gimmie gimmie gimmie!
Gathering the contents of the chest, Hal incidentally touches the golden skull.
Hardboot is suddenly transfixed by a vision the skull gives him
In it, he sees the throne in the main cathedral move aside, and a secret elevator move down into the depths of the Temple.
So what does that mean? Is that the way to the boss layer?
I believe so, yes. Well still need to visit the 4th level of the temple first, however. We need to stamp out the Greater Temple once and for all, plus we will need the four gems before we can use the Orb to banish the demons from here permanently.
If thats it, whats behind this other door you mentioned?
A mysterious elven woman, who attacks you. Before you can do much damage, however,
Um, youre some crazy chick who was just trying to kill us.
She doesnt seem to think thats possible. She doesnt even remember how she got where she is.
Well, dont take it out on us, lady.
She explains she is Smigmal of Celene. She was traveling with a caravan to Veluna when she was attacked and brought here.
And she was imprisoned and tortured and interrogated about Celene. When they found out she knew nothing, they brought her here and the Wizard in the other room enchanted her to attack intruders.
You sure remember an awful lot for not remembering anything.
Dear lady, you are safe now. There are but three levels of the Temple to go through, and they are quite empty
Actually, I just remembered were right next to a secret exit out of this level. The way out is just a quick jog to the west from here.
Smigmal thanks you and Teleports away.
Wait. If she could
I dont write this nonsense, folks, I just present it.
She was guarding some nice things, at least.
If thats the last of it, we should take the quick exit out.
Very well. Following the tunnel to the west, you find yourselves climbing out of the well of an old, burned-out homestead. Checking your surroundings, you realize you are just north of the Temples location. Oh, yes, and one last thing before we end tonight:
Sweet! Whatd we win?
She gives you 100 platinum pieces each. To Josephus, she gives a special token: a unicorn ring.
What does it do?
Thats not even a little helpful.
I believe it raises the reaction rate of any unicorns you meet.
Okay. Will we find any unicorns in the Temple of Elemental Evil?
I dont believe so, no.
Then what good is it?
You could sell it, maybe? It should still be worth a good sum.
Great. Lewis gets a sword that snaps the game balance over its knee, and I get a magic ring for a monster that doesnt even show up in the module. Thats just great.