Thursday, December 20, 2018

Terrinoth #20 - Rescue Wilgold Part 1

Gio is trapped in the room by the Ironbound

Campaign Diary

Five days after leaving Nornholt, Entana, Gio, and Percy find themselves in Greyhaven, home to the famed University, where Entana had learned the magical arts. Entana led the party through the outer city into the university grounds, only pausing for a pint at his favourite pub, before meeting up with his mentor, Professor Kroft.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Kroft's face grew grave when Entana related the party's tale and showed him the purple runebound shard which he had taken off Mondock, and he bade the party to seek the opinion of Emeritus Professor Wilfrey, who had his residence at The Tower, an ancient building located about an hour north of the city.

Percy asked if it would be customary for them to bring a gift - at this Kroft noted that Basil, Wilfrey's manservant, had not come to claim his master's stipend for more than a month. The party bought some food and beer at the local store, and made their way to The Tower.

The origins of The Tower had been lost in time, although local legends said that it was built by Timorran himself. Now it served as the official residence of the Emeritus Professor of the University, and housed the most precious of the university's collection of books and scrolls. To protect this collection, The Tower was protected by powerful magic.

It was close to sunset when the party reached the tower. Right away the heroes noticed something was not right - light shined from the windows of the tower, but the snow on the path to the front door had not been cleared for many days. Approaching the heavy double-doors, Entana made the glyph of unlocking, and pushed the doors open.

There in the foyer was the prone form of a man. Entana recognised the man as Basil, Wilfrey's manservant, from his clothing and build. Instinctively Percy rushed through the doors to aid the man, and as she passed the threshold she felt as though she had moved through an invisible curtain - right away a stench assailed her senses - Basil had been dead for many days. Percy crouched down next to the body, hoping to find out what had killed the man. As she did so the corpse reached out a bony hand and attacked her. Entana and Gio rushed to Percy's aid. Entana attempted to cast a spell of fire, and when it failed to work he recalled that a spell put on The Tower prevented the use of fire within it. Gio decapitated the undead, and Entana crushed its head with his staff, for good measure.

Entana called out to Wilfrey, but there was no answer. The trio searched the ground floor of the tower - the interior of the tower was lit with magical lights - but found no sign of the professor. Gio pocketed the coins he found in Basil's quarters - while Percy looked on with disapproval.

A search of the second floor revealed that the professor and a guest had been interrupted mid-dinner several weeks ago. A search of the professor's quarters revealed no further clues, although Percy, inspired by Gio, decided to take a detailed map of Terrinoth that she had found there.

Climbing up to the next floor, the library, the party was confronted with a terrible sight: the library was in disarray, with books and scrolls strewn across its floor. Standing almost motionless in the room were eight skeletal warriors. On the ground laid what seemed to be a full suit of plate armour, and piled around it were many more skeletons, crushed and broken, as well as many rusty weapons.

Our heroes decided to tackle the problem head on. Gio called on the power of Fortuna to conjure up an oil slick in the midst of the skeletons, and the party revealed themselves. The skeletal warriors charged towards them. A few of the undead slipped on the slick and fell, and Entana summoned a thunderous wave to throw back those who reached them. In such a fashion they prevented the skeletons' superior number from bearing down upon them all at once, and Gio's sword found the joints between their bones and one by one took them apart.

After the battle the party surveyed the room. The suit of armour turned out to be an Ironbound, a magical construct that acted as guardians. With still no sign of the professor, the heroes ascended to the next floor. Opening the locked door to the fourth floor with a key he had found in the library, the party saw a large room with glowing magical patterns upon its floor. On two corners were two pedestals, with arcane patterns carved upon them. Standing motionless at each end of the room were two Ironbounds. The room, Entana reasoned, must hold the runebound shards that powered the lights and the magic that protected the tower.

The party closed the door to the room, and made their way to the top floor of the tower, where Entana knew the observatory was located. Near the top of the staircase, Percy struck her head against an invisible barrier. A voice called out:

"Who is there?"

Entana recognised the voice - it was Professor Wilfrey.

A disheveled man appeared at the top of the staircase. The elderly wizard explained what had happened:

Some forty days ago, a former student of the University, one Markos of Nerekhall, expelled for cheating - and caught in the act by Entana no less - several years ago, appeared at his door. He had with him a runebound shard, he said, which he hoped to show the professor. When he produced a rare, purple-coloured Necromancy shard, the wizard's curiosity overcame him and he lowered the magical barrier guarding the tower and invited the former student in to join him in his dinner. However, in the middle of the dinner, skeletal warriors entered the tower and attacked his manservant. Wilfrey fled to the rooftop observatory, activating the tower's protection as he did so. In his sanctuary the wizard was safe from the undead, but he was also trapped there until the magical force field could be deactivated by an ally. There he heard the intruders ransack the precious library, and when no help from his manservant came even after they had left, he assumed the worse. For the next forty days he survived on rain and snow - for water and air could still pass through the magical barrier. Now he needed the party to enter the room in the floor below, and remove the Force runebound shard which powered the magical barrier in the tower from its pedestal and free him; the other pedestal held a Light runebound shard, which provided the tower with its light. Unfortunately for the party, the Ironbound were charged to attack anyone but Wilfrey or Basil if they entered the room; fortunately for them, he revealed, one of the Ironbound was actually just a plain suit of armour!

Knowing the power of an Ironbound, our heroes was unwilling to risk a confrontation. Climbing through a window was not an option, even though Gio was small enough to pass through one, as the magical barrier also covered the windows. Eventually they decided to use speed as their strategy: Gio and Percy would run into the room simultaneously, grab one of the crystals each, and then run out again before the Ironbound could react.

That, at least, was the plan.

So Entana unlocked the door, and Percy rushed headlong to the pedestal in the far corner, while Gio ran for the nearer one. But as Gio passed the Ironbound by the wall, it moved with surprising speed and swinged its two-handed sword at him. Gio ducked under the weapon, and continued to the pedestal... and then the whole room, and indeed the whole tower plunged into darkness - Percy had removed the Light runebound shard from its pedestal.

Entana cast a spell of light on his staff, illuminating the room. Percy ran back through the door. Entana cast spells of attack on the Ironbound, but they did not seem to affect it. Gio lifted the Force runebound shard from the pedestal, then eyed the Ironbound, hoping to duck around it and run back to the door when it moved against him.

But instead of moving towards to rouge, the Ironbound stepped in front of the doorway, and blocked his escape.

For a minute all four figures were still and silent.

Then Entana had a thought: if the Force shard had been removed from the pedestal, then the barrier across the window would have been lowered - Gio could jump through the window, and simultaneously he would cast a spell to slow his fall so he would not come to any harm.

Gio agreed. Entana cast his spell, and Gio made a running start, ducked under the Ironbound's sword once more, dived through the window... and floated safely to the ground fifty feet below.

The party returned to the now-liberated wizard - the ham that they had with them turned out to the best gift they could have brought. Even as he chewed on the first food he had for weeks, Professor Wilfrey asked to be brought to the library. After some frantic searching, his face turned grim as he declared that it was as he feared: Markos had taken the diary of the Mad Mage Kovac, who experimented on fusing dead flesh with steel to create constructs - essentially undead versions of the Ironbound, more powerful and resilient than zombies and skeletons, and proof against magic. When news of his unholy experiments leaked, the wizards attacked Kovac in his laboratory in Nerekhall and killed him. His dairies and plans were taken, and would become the basis of the Ironbound later. His laboratory was sealed, and all records of its location deleted... except for the diaries.

Wilfrey replaced the Force shard in its pedestal, and gifted Entana with the Light shard. Then, the four made their way back to the University, where Wilfrey planned to summon the Council.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based loosely on the module Rescue Wilgold by Dragon Turtle Games. The basic idea was that a wizard had been trapped in his own tower, and the PCs must rescue him.

For the layout of The Tower and the battlemats, I used Heroic Maps' The Wizard's House, adapting the adventure to the map, instead of vice versa. This required a bit of a thought, as one of the problems with any tower adventure is that the PCs can essentially just go from the ground floor to the top floor by taking the stairs, bypassing all the floors in between, or climb up or even fly to the top.

To make sure that they had to go to the two floors with the "monsters", I built in a couple of fetch quests: the force field had to be disabled by entering the runebound shard floor, and the key to the floor was located in the library, where the skeletons were.

As it turned out I did not really have to worry: after their experience in the B Team game, the party decided that the prudent way to clear a tower was to go floor-by-floor, so they would not be caught by enemies both before and below them.

I had expected the fight with the Ironbound in the runebound shard room to be the boss fight of the session - the plan was to show them how powerful an Ironbound was, so they would realise the level of threat an army of undead Ironbound posed. However, the players simply assumed that it was a formidable foe based on the lore, even before the fight began, which was always gratifying for a GM. The way they overcame the challenge was classic PC, and made all the more cool by this passage about the Ironbound from the Realms of Terrinoth book:

"The Ironbound lack initiative and drive, though, and can often be defeated through cunning and ingenuity."

The conclusion of this session sets the stage for the conclusion of the character arcs for all three of the PCs - in the interest of length I will discuss this in a subsequent post.

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