After defeating the Drow and routing the Drider, the party continued down the tunnel eventually reaching a large open chamber, much larger than the Drow encounter chamber. The tunnel walls adjacent to the large chamber were marked with “lizard men” symbols. Upon entering the area the party encountered a couple of snake-like beings with arms and humanoid heads, but no legs and long snake-like tails. These asked why the party was in the area, and upon discovering that one of the party spoke draconic, one left to seek a superior to interact with the party. After a short wait the initial snake-man returned with two distinguished looking snake-women. One of them addressed Kugel, who spoke draconic, and discussed the party’s intentions.
Gregor did not like the evil nature his paladin powers revealed. Unable to understand the snake-like beings, he relied on Kugel’s translations, although he repeatedly urged a less diplomatic approach to the endeavor. Kugel explained to the snake-lady that the party was attempting to pass through the area and had no desire to enter into hostilities with her people. The snake lady replied that the area was home to an entire village of her people but that for a mere 1,000g she would ensure the party’s safe passage to the other side. Kugel mentioned the party’s recent experience with the Drow and the snake-lady’s response was full of hostility for the spider-worshipers. Sensing a possible advantage, Kugel mentioned that they had recovered two Drow blades which intrigued the snake-lady who asked to see them to confirm that they were actually Drow blades. Upon examining one she agreed they were likely “Drow captain” blades and modified her offer to two swords and 300 gold.
Gregor’s frustration with the situation was growing, so Kugel suggested that Gregor consult with Violet for a moment. As Gregor’s back was turned, Kugel handed the snake-lady a small bag of gold and told her to keep the swords. Gregor demanded to know what was happening, so Kugel explained that the snake lady was expressing her desire to conform to Gregor’s demand for safe passage and a desire to repent her evil ways. Suspicious, Gregor then demanded that the snake lady prove her words by leading the party on. Kugel then, in draconic, requested that their payment be accepted and safe passage be granted. She agreed and turned to lead the party through her village. Gregor was pleased with the result of his request and the party moved through the village without incident. The party continued on for hours more, eating as they walked, until they eventually came to the end of the tunnel as it opened into a vast underground cavern.
Talon ventured into the cavern far enough to listen, where he heard in the distance the faint sounds of water dripping into water. Gregor and Kinestarre then moved further into the cavern, with the light from Gregor’s shield providing dim illumination. Soon the entire party had entered the cavern. Suddenly Gregor and Kinestarre were attacked by swooping winged snake-like creatures with prominent horns. As the party reacted to the surprise attack, two large lizard-men appeared on the edge of their light.
As the battle was joined, a pit suddenly opened underneath Violet, Talon and Malf, but all three managed to avoid falling in. Just as they dodged away from the pit, a stone wall appeared between Malf, Halmod, Talon and the rest of the party. The two large lizard men moved in and attacked Gregor and Kinestarre. Malf helped Halmod and Halmod clambered over the wall, landing on the other side. One of the flying snakes dove behind Malf, attacking him and hovering over the newly formed pit. Talon and Malf then scrambled over the wall as well.
Kinestarre and Gregor faced down the giant lizard men, but Gregor suddenly found himself in the constricting coils of the larger of the two giant snakes. Halmod managed to get off a devastating fireball, but while it left the lizard men and snakes smoking and burned, did not kill any of them. Kinestarre and Kugel continued to exchange blows while Malf pulled out his bow and Talon moved into position to sneak attack.
Gregor found himself lifted off the ground and as the snake carried him off, his shining shield revealed the presence on a high rock of a large tentacled spell-casting snake. Talon delivered a brutal sneak attack on one lizard man and Malf tried to bring down the snake carrying Gregor, but was unable to stop it. Violet and Kugel healed the massive damage Kinestarre was taking from the Lizard man and Halmod triggered another fireball.
Soon the smaller flying snake was down, Gregor was fighting the large flying snake alone next to the tentacled snake and Talon, Halmod and Malf were dealing with the remaining giant lizard man. Just as it seemed the tide might be turning in the party’s favor, a barrage of spells erupted from the tentacled snake resulting in Talon being paralyzed, Kugel being dazed and Halmod being blinded.
Malf’s bow finally got the attention of one lizard man while Kinestarre continued to whittle down the other. The large snake then dropped Gregor and charged Malf, doing massive damage with his horn. Halmod found himself grappled and carried off by one lizard man but the other lizard man, badly damaged by Kinestarre and Halmod’s fireballs, finally dropped. Gregor went after the tentacled snake and using his “smite evil” power drove the snake off the rock where it healed the remaining lizard man and suddenly vanished. Halmod managed to get off a suggestion spell to cause the lizard man to drop him, and then turned invisible and moved out of danger.
The large snake delivered a deadly blow to Malf, who fell bloody and unconscious to the ground. Talon recovered from his paralysis and attacked the large snake while Gregor dove off the rock, bouncing off the invisible tentacled snake, and then rushed to heal Malf. Violet attempted to reach Malf but was tripped by the remaining lizard man’s tail. Talon bravely faced the large flying snake and his deadly short sword drove the snake into retreat. Violet finally reached Malf and once healed, Malf rose and with well-aimed arrows, slew the fleeing giant snake. The final lizard man was dispatched, and as Kugel summoned a pterodactyl, the invisible tentacled snake fled from the party. Halmod’s sight was restored.
After a short time and some necessary healing, the party scouted around and discovered two rock outcroppings with small caves. Further searching turned up a hidden entrance to a small alcove under the large rock where they discovered a chest. Talon quickly opened the chest and they discovered some bottles, some gold and a small tube with a blank piece of parchment which radiated magic. At this point we stopped for the night. The players were rewarded for their success by reaching level 9 with their characters.
The party (Halmod the sorcerer, Gregor the paladin and his hot sidechick Violet, Kugel the summoner and his dragon-like eidolon Kinestarre, Malf the bard and Talon the rogue) had returned to Elania after discovering the demonic invasion of Agnara was underway. On their way they brokered a deal between the Rovell and Caston armies to, at least temporarily, put aside their differences and join forces against the invading demonic hordes. Upon reaching Elania they had been given a quest by Lord Rovell to locate a mysterious artifact known as the “Book of Ceorl” which was reputed to have information that would potentially allow the destruction of the invading demons. The quest was to enter the underdark through the Dwarven city of Gryggsdral and locate the long-hidden “summer home” of Ceorl through it’s rumored secret underground entrance.
After agreeing to the quest, the party had an evening to “relax” in town and prepare for their underdark excursion. This was complicated somewhat by the frantic evacuation of Elania as the citizens were moved either to Gryggsdral to the north or Three Oaks to the south. Luckily a few stores were keeping their doors open to allow evacuees to purchase needed items (and make a nice profit).
As the party went from merchant to merchant to buy or barter needed goods, they were unable to trade or sell the demonic flaming spear, but a suggestion was made to the party that Rathis, the Royal Wizard to Lord Rovell, might be interested in the item since he was known to be a collector of unusual weapons and armor. So the party went back to the palace to seek an audience with Rathis.
Rathis agreed to see the party. His young female acolyte welcomed the party into the wizard’s rooms and after settling the party in the sitting room and bringing Rathis in to meet them, vanished through another door, but not before sending Malf an appraising glance. Rathis was a middle-aged man with a hooked nose resembling a predatory bird’s beak. He seemed harried, even to the point of exhaustion, but after a short discussion examined the spear and offered the party a trade for one of three comparable magic items. The party eventually chose to trade the spear for an “immovable rod”, and then returned to their rooms at the now almost vacant hotel, where they were again offered a meal at no charge.
The next morning they went back to the castle to begin their journey. The were met by Rathis and Captain Kane who blindfolded them and then teleported them to an unknown room where they were instructed to use a portal to transport, still blindfolded, to Gryggsdral. Once within Gryggsdral, still blindfolded, they were led through cold stone halls down into the depths of the city where they eventually had their blindfolds removed in a stark guardroom deep in the depths of the mountains below the city.
Kane was still with them and gave them instructions to “turn right in the main tunnel, then follow the tunnel through two large chambers until you reach a huge underground cavern which is the true underdark. Once there head to your right and search for the secret dwarven sign which should indicate the hidden entrance to Ceorl’s hidden chambers.” Kane showed them a series of symbols that he said would be insribed magically on the walls of the tunnels or caverns to indicate the predominant faction known to claim that area. The symbols included Duergar, Undead, Myconids, Lizard men, Drow and Illithids. “Good luck, the world hangs in the balance.” were Kane’s last words as the party followed a group of dour dwarves down a tight hallway into the underdark.
Once in the main underdark hallway the party headed to their right and began casting “detect magic” on a regular basis to read the magical symbols on the walls. It wasn’t long before they encountered the symbol for the Drow. After about an hour of walking they turned a corner to discover a large chamber from whence they heard strange voices. Their own light seemed to reveal their presence and soon they found themselves confronted by Drow female soldiers who demanded to know why “surface dwellers” were in the underdark. After a short discussion where the Drow attempted to gain information about the events occurring on the surface, impolitic words were exchanged and tempers flared.
The Drow soldiers were easily dispatched, but giant spiders emerged from the shadows and lobbed sticky webs at the party. Just as the spiders were engaged by Gregor, a lightning bolt emerged from the darkness and nailed Violet and Halmod, although Talon nimbly dodged the arcane attack. The spiders’s webs repeatedly missed their mark while the two most powerful Drow soldiers pressed Gregor and Kinestarre. But they were no match for the party, and after a final lightning bolt coincided with the final Drow falling to the floor, the party was rewarded with a quick view of a retreating half-spider, half-drow man (a “Drider”).
After looting the dead Drow soldiers and recovering two exquisite Drow swords, the party moved forward to discover the hallway beyond the chamber was filled with sticky webs, which they burned away, but the Drider appeared to be long gone by the time they got past the webs.
(Continued on next post)
One of the things about being a “gamer” that seems to bemuse some of my non-gamer friends and family is the whole concept of “player character downtime activities”, which is how we describe what our characters do when we aren’t playing them in an actual game.
The very concept of player characters having “lives” outside of crawling around in dungeons or otherwise engaging in epic combat or social encounters seems to confuse non-gamers. And, to be honest, it seems also to confuse some gamers too.
There is a tie-in here to the larger concept of “backstory” and “character development”, which are also somewhat befuddling to non-gamers (and, again, some gamers).
After all, these are things that are generally non-game impacting. From a pure sit-down-and-roll-dice perspective, whether a player’s rogue spent time “outside of the game” scouting out the local gambling casino or a player’s wizard spent time crafting a magic item really just boil down to some circumstance bonuses in certain skill or ability checks or adding an item and subtracting some gold from a character sheet.
But some gamers (and I admit to being one of them) actually enjoy exploring the personalities, histories, ambitions and personal growth of our characters.
For example, I have a wizard that has been in my “available character portfolio” for decades. He’s the first character I ever created and has not only an extensive backstory and personal development history, but I have laid out in detail, room, by room, his “wizard tower” and the island upon which he constructed it. That includes what is located in each room, where the local fauna lives and how he moves about the island and comes to and from it when he leaves to go “adventuring”.
So, I am now working out the details of the long-term home and possible retirement of my ninth level half elf/half dryad druid. That means I am designing her home, laying out the local forest and the major elements of that forest, including the local dryad grove, the lairs of any significant major carnivores and the paths to and from her little forest world.
There is probably some value to exploring the deep psychological needs this sort of thing reveals about me, and one of these days I may visit a mental health professional to discuss this bizarre behavior. But in the meantime, it’s actually a lot of fun doing this.
The only question I have right now is if I want to create an actual 3D world for these characters. My wizard’s island and tower is just drawings on paper right now. But with my recent foray into the realm of 3D terrain and building construction, there’s no reason not to actually build a scale replica of my character’s homes and local environs.
So, how weird is all that? (As if I really want to know…)