Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Terrinoth #33 - The Book and the Spring Part V

Campaign Diary

Opening the door, our heroes found themselves in another large hall. At the other side of the hall was a throne made of a single block of carnallite. Upon the throne sat a gaunt figure, his dry skin on his face stretched over his skull. Upon his head he wore the crown of a sorcerer-king, and in one hand he held his ibex sceptre - they have found Edu-Ellukinu.

Next to Edu-Ellikinu stood a terrifying skeletal figure, with three heads upon its shoulders and six arms, each wielding a scimitar - immediately our heroes knew that this must be the undead form of the three generals who remained loyal to Edu-Ellikinu, and followed him to his tomb.

Our heroes leapt into action. Gio called upon Fortuna's favour, and sent the skeletal general into a laughing fit. Strigoi, on a hunch, held the golden statuette he looted in his left hand instead of his shield, and charged at Edu-Ellikinu; Percy followed after him. Entana stayed at a distance, casting spells against the sorcerer-king.

(Click here for PC profiles)

But each time the heroes got close to Edu-Ellikinu, he struck the ground with his sceptre, and a thunderous wave would throw Percy and Gio back - but Strigoi stood firm, and kept up his attack on the sorcerer-king, giving Gio the chance to sneak behind him and attack.

Eventually the skeletal general threw off the spell cast upon him, and advanced on Entana, who fell under the flashing scimitars. It then turned upon Percy, who likewise was unable to withstand its attacks. But it was too late to save its king, who fell under the combined attacks of Strigoi and Gio. As Strigoi lopped off the head of the sorcerer-king, a black mist emerged from its neck, only to dissipate in the air. Edu-Ellikinu's body, along with that of his general, crumbled to dust leaving only the bronze ibex sceptre behind.

Gio and Strigoi roused Entana and Percy, and they began to discuss how to destroy the sceptre. Entana and Percy, drawing upon the story of how Timmoran destroyed the Orb, suspected that breaking the sceptre would cause a huge release of energy that would destroy everything around it, concluded that it would be foolish to try to do so in the tomb, and the party hurried back.

Arriving at the rotating door, they called out to Finaz to activate the levers to let them through. But Finaz, had other ideas - she demanded that she be allowed to keep the sceptre as her pick of the treasures they found on their quest. Our heroes refused, and for a while the two sides bargained, until at last Finaz relented and let them through; she would let them keep the sceptre, but would take the golden statuette and the head of the summoner's staff instead.

Exiting the tomb, the party found that the sun was low in the sky, and the Medjani were waiting outside for them. They recoiled at the sight of the sceptre, and would not touch it.

The party placed the sceptre against a rock, and hurled spells against it, but it would not break. No one knew how much time they had before Edu-Ellikinu would rise again if the sceptre was not destroyed, and with the sun setting, Percy made the unthinkable decision - she alone would destroy the sceptre. She could not risk an evil such as Edu-Ellikinu rising again, if she had a chance to prevent it.

The rest of the party stood a distance away, as Percy knelt down and said a final prayer to Kellos. And then, just as the sun was dipping below the horizon, she struck the sceptre against the rock with all her strength.

A loud boom echoed across the valley as a cloud of dust was thrown up. When the dust had settled, Gio, Entana and Strigoi rushed forward. They found a shallow crater where the rock was. In the crater lay the broken sceptre, and the lifeless form of Percy.

Carrying Percy's body, the party returned to their camp, where they gathered Bram and the elder Venier, and they made their way up to Eresh, the Scented House. As they took the final steps to the dome, they heard the sound of running water...

Indeed, water now flowed out of the rock, and the pool below it was filling. Entana bade his father to enter the pool, and Strigoi laid Percy's body in it too.

As the water washed over him, the elder Venier felt his strength returning to him. Slowly the water rose, covering Percy's ears, then her eyes, and finally her nose... and then she sat up, gasping and choking.

There was much bewilderment and joy on the part of the party. As they prepared to leave, Gio had the idea to carve the party's names onto the wall, and found that the form of the four of them had already been carved on a panel, standing before a flowing spring. Turning back one last time as they descended the stairs to return to camp, Percy saw a man whose eyes were glowing with light - the same man she saw in Nerekhall - who vanished as suddenly as he appeared.

When he saw the Medjani waiting outside the Eresh for them, Gio thought of a hoax that would certainly make Fortuna proud - he conjured up an illusion of Utnaprashnev crowning him, hoping to convince the Medjani that he was to be their new king. However, the Medjani, having come to know Gio as a trickster, saw it as a prank, and laughed.

That night there was a feast, as the Medjani celebrated the destruction of Edu-Ellikinu and the restoration of the sacred spring, and Percy's resurrection.

The next day the party made its way back to Al-Madena, having promised to keep the news of the restoration of the spring a secret until the Medjani could gather their people and protect Essilim against invaders.

At last returning to Al-Madena, Bram made arrangements for the voyage back to Dawnsmoor. It would be several days before they had to leave, and our heroes kept themselves busy. Entana spent more time at the Citadel of the Lamp, the arcane college. Percy, convinced that Kellos had brought her back to life to help others, volunteered at the local soup kitchen, where she became more fluent with the Al-Kalim language. Strigoi tried to learn the local fighting arts, but found the locals a distrusting lot.

Then, a day before they were due to leave, Iwan came calling. Knowing that visitors to Al-Kalim often liked to collect "souvenirs" which are oftentimes illegal to export from the land, he brought an offer from Shazar: for a little service, Shazar would ensure that the party's belongings made it through the customs intact. It would be, Iwan assured them, a simple job, within the city, that would just take the evening...

Prepping and Running the Game

This first half of this session concluded the module, while the second half, which I will describe in the next post, dealt with the "work" for Shazar.

The battle against Edu-Ellikinu and his general was something which I had to think about for a while. I based Edu-Ellikinu off a Death Knight, which made him powerful in melee, and gave him some powerful spells. I wanted to give him a ranged attack, so the PCs could not just stand at a distance and just throw spells and missiles at him, so I gave the sceptre the Dwarven Thrower ability - when thrown, the sceptre would return to Edu-Ellikinu's hand. At the same time, I also did not want him to be overwhelmed by melee, so I decided to tweak the Death Knight's Destructive Wave spell a bit, making those who fail the saving throw be hurled back such that they are 30 feet away; as getting up from Prone would cost half a move, this meant that characters who are thrown back cannot get back into melee the same turn. I 'reskinned' the spell, such that it is activated when Edu-Ellikinu struck the ground with the sceptre. This gave the effect of Thor's hammer, which was not something I had planned.

The sceptre itself was based on a real artifact, found in the Judean desert. You can see an image of it here. Once again, real world history provides inspiration.

The general was an idea based on the Tomb Guardian miniature I had. The original module had the three generals as separate NPCs, but I thought that this was my best chance to use the miniature, so I came up with the idea that the three generals had been combined into one, in a way resembling the Skull Lord. I included the general as I also wanted to insure against the fight being one-sided in case the PCs got off a spell that prevented Edu-Ellikinu from acting; as it turned our the general sat out the first three turns - but when he finally got to act, he cut down the two weaker PCs in two rounds flat.

For the destruction of the sceptre I modeled the rule after the Retributive Strike rule, which applies to the breaking of some staves in the D&D rules. I was prepared to resurrect any PC who was killed destroying the staff, but I did not want to make it a definite thing, so I decided that the destruction would cause (1d12 + 1) x 16 hp damage. This meant that there was a chance that any of the PCs would survive. However, the players knew the urgency of the matter, and did not take the chance to rest or heal up, and at only 1 hp, there was no chance Percy would have survived.

I did not manage the mood leading up to the death of Percy well, and did not allow enough time to describe the NPCs' reaction, or let the other players role-play their reaction to events. At the same time I am not very sure the players thought there was a chance that Percy's character would be permanently dead... PC death is not something I do often, and I may have to manage it better the next time.

Fortunately though, it seems the players responded well to attempts at a horror element in the second half of the session, which I will discuss in my next post,

This game also featured the debut of a new figure for Strigoi. Strigoi's player switched over to using sword-and-shield a few games back, and so I decided it was time to update his on-table look.

No comments: