Friday, November 01, 2019

Terrinoth #42 - Laboratory of the Forsaken

Campaign Diary

A voice called out from the other side of the door.

"My lord, is everything all right? I heard a noise - had there been another accident?"

Assuming the dead count's voice, Therion replied that there had indeed been a mishap, and warned the man from entering.

"Very well. The carriage is ready," the man replied and left.

The party began to plot their exit, but before they could arrive at a plan, a ghostly female form appeared over the pool in the cavern.

The ghost declared herself to be Lady Mirabel, the count's late wife. Holzel, (for that was the count's name) she explained, would periodically marry a noble woman and then murder her. He would at the same time kidnap a male infant and, announcing that his wife had died in labour, present the infant as his child and heir. When the child came of age, he would in turn murder him, announce his own death, and assume the child's identity - by this means he had managed to hold his title and demesne over many centuries. Regular change of the servants and guards at the castle helped to keep the secret.

Holzel, the ghost continued, had for years been labouring on some alchemical experiment in his mansion in the forest, and had for centuries sacrificed his many wives and "children" to it - she herself was the latest victim, and now Kolthar, the teenage "son" of the count the party had seen, was to be sacrificed too. Her soul, she said, could not rest as part of her life essence had been trapped inside Holzel's experiment, and she could only manifest at the pool at the bottom of the castle well, which was once the place she went to for solace. She did not know what the exact nature of the experiment was, but she knew it must be evil, and she begged the heroes to travel to the mansion to save Kolthar and end the experiment.

Tom, Giso, and Whisper were willing to take on the mission, but Therion asked for a reward (click here for PC profiles); Lady Mirabel promised to reveal where Holzel kept his treasures if they would save the child and release her soul.

Just then the voice at the door returned, announcing once more that the carriage was ready to take the count to the mansion, but that the bodyguards Lazar was supposed to send had yet to arrive.

Assuming Holzel's voice again, Therion declared that they had arrived earlier and were indeed with him in the cavern. They stripped Holzel of his clothes and hid his body in a sarcophagus. Therion called up some minor enchantment to mend the clothes, and then donning them, he pulled the hood on the cloak over his head, and the party strode out.

A small party of guards were awaiting their arrival at the courtyard, but in the darkness and with his face partially hidden, no one realised that Therion was not in fact the count. Arriving at the carriage, Tom dismissed the guard sitting beside the driver, and the party entered the carriage. The driver drove the carriage to the waiting barge, which carried it to the north bank of the river.

For two hours the carriage passed through the forest, which gave our heroes time to rest and recover. As they neared the mansion, they began to notice signs of death: trees stood withered, and streams were fouled with the stench of dead fish.

When they at last arrived at the mansion, they saw that it was a two-storeyed wooden building, surrounded by a tall wall. Therion dismissed the driver, ordering him to return the next evening, and then the party entered the foyer.

Inside, they found the place sparsely furnished, but clean. While they wondered where to go next, they heard the sound of an organ coming from a room from across the foyer.

Standing at the doorway Therion saw a man dressed in the clothes of a noble seated at a pipe organ. The man began to speak with Therion, mistaking him for Holzel, and thanked him for inviting him to the final ritual, which will bring to fruition the plans they have been making for three hundred years, and which would allow them to challenge the power of Waiqar.

Before long, however, the man began to grow suspicious, and when he moved to throw back Therion's hood, the party attacked him with the bog oak weapons they have prepared, and quickly took him down. As the man's body laid on the floor, the party saw a few skeletal figures approach the room from the foyer - but these skeletons did not carry weapons, but brooms and mops!

Two of the skeletons picked up the dead body, and began to move back into the foyer, while a third began mopping the floor, cleaning up the mess that the fight had caused. The party followed the two skeletons into the kitchen, where several other skeletons were standing, as if they were waiting for their turns to go to work. The skeletons brought the body into the cellar, and then into chamber where several carcasses of animals were hung, and hooked it to one of the meat hooks, and then they returned to the kitchen.

There were no signs of any living person or creature in the mansion - who or what were the carcasses meant to feed?

Venturing deeper into the cellar, our heroes found a passage that led to a maze. Giso called upon Kellos to bless his shield with a glowing light, and the party entered the maze. The passages branched and turned, making it impossible for our heroes to keep their bearings, and after a while they found themselves ending back at the entrance to the maze. They decided to venture into the maze again, this time using a barrel of wine they found in the cellar to leave a trail on the floor, and Whipser marking the way they went with chalk, but once more they found themselves back at the entrance - the wine trail and chalk marks had strangely disappeared!

On their third venture into the maze, they at last found themselves in a part they had not seen earlier. Here, they notice two skeletal figures approaching them from two ends of the corridor, seemingly floating just a few inches off the ground, and their limbs motionless.

Giso and Tom decided to try to rush past one of the skeletons... and found themselves running into a wall of cold, transparent slime! Belatedly, our heroes realised that the skeletons were actually enveloped in some form of living slime, which no doubt had been cleaning up the wine trail and chalk marks they had made.

Giso and Tom felt their lives being suffocated out of them, and it was with great difficulty that they managed to extricate themselves. Hemmed in by on both ends, our heroes struggled to fight off their silent attackers: Whisper's sword and fists seemed impotent against the things, but at last Therion and Giso came upon the idea of using their powers to alternately freeze and then burn the things, which eventually destroyed them.

The party continued onward, deeper into the maze, and at last came before a door guarded by a strange humanoid figure, whose body seemed to be stitched together from several different bodies.

Therion strode forward, once more pretending to be Holzel, and the creature unlocked the door with a key, and handed him a flask of yellow liquid, "for his protection".

Therion dismissed the creature, and the party entered the room behind the door. It was a large hall with its roof supported by several tall pillars. At the far end was a round pool, inside which bubbled a viscous, yellow fluid. Standing by the pool was Lazar, and beside him was Kolthar, who appeared groggy and unsteady on his feet.

Lazar recognised our heroes at a glance, and immediately surmised that they must have defeated his master and taken his clothes and sword. Announcing that he would nevertheless help his master complete the ritual and complete his work, he began to drag Kolthar closer to the edge of the pool.

But before he could push the helpless boy in, Tom leapt forward and cast his throwing knife at Lazar. The blade spun in the air, burst into fire, and buried itself in Lazar's chest. The loyal servant's eyes widened in shock, and then he fell into the pool.

The bubbling of the yellow liquid increased. Therion hurled the flask of yellow liquid into the pool, but that did nothing to quell its stirring. Soon some of the viscous liquid began to extrude from the pool, like so many tentacles. The tentacles began to strike at Tom, burning his skin with acid where they landed. Whisper ran forward and pulled Kolthar to safety, hiding him behind a pillar.

The viscous fluid now formed into a large blob, and with the aid of its tentacles crawled out of the pool and began to move towards the party. Our heroes made for the door, but the creature outside had by now realised that he had been duped by Therion - he locked the door, trapping the party inside the hall.

The blob seemed proof against the heroes' weapons and spells, and for a while things looked grim. Then Therion threw Holzels rapier at the blob - it lodged inside it, but did not seem to do any harm... until Therion started playing his hurdy gurdy; the music caused the rapier to vibrate rapidly, and soon it began to glow with heat. Bubbles began to form inside the blob, and after a while the bubbles rose to the surface of the blob, and steam emerged.

The blob started to move back towards to pool, but our heroes would not allow it. They surrounded it, and set upon it with all their might; bits of the blob were hacked off, and as they fell to the floor they lost their firmness and dissolved into liquid, until at last the blob ceased its movement, lost its form, and became a puddle on the ground. Therion recovered the rapier, and returned it to its sheath.

Our heroes peered into the pool - the water was now still and black, and smelled foul. Therion used the enchantment from his ring to move the water out of the pool, hoping to see how deep it went; but as the water level began to fall, the ground began to shake. Soon the columns started shifting - and the roof slabs began to shift - the hall was collapsing!

Our heroes grabbed Kolthar and rushed to the door, and Giso began to hack at it with his hammer; but Whisper was quicker with her lockpicks, and unlocked the door in a flash, catching the guardian creature by surprise. Giso struck the creature down, and with his glowing shield lighting the way, lead the party through the maze back to the cellar, and from thence out of the mansion. Moments afterwards, the mansion collapsed.

Prepping and Running the Game

The B Team arc was supposed to have ended with the previous session in September, but a few days before that I learned about the module "Weekend at Strahd's", and thought it would make an interest "Halloween Special" finale instead. I ended the session on a cliffhanger, and hoped that the module, which was then yet unreleased, would give me enough material to run a comedic session where the PCs have to go around with the body of the dead count making it look like he was still alive.

Except the module didn't do that.

Still, I liked the idea of the PCs having to do the "Weekend at Bernie's" thing, so I looked for a reason to why they would have to do so. The obvious answer is that they are discovered, and need to hide the fact that they had killed the count. Then I needed to make sure they couldn't just walk out of the castle once they are out of the cavern, so I decided that the carriage was waiting and would be taking them somewhere else. But that still didn't prevent them from jumping out of the carriage, or just running off once they reached their destination...

The breakthrough came when I found the module Laboratory of the Forsaken by Fantasy Craft. The setting of a mansion was of course fitting, as was the idea of a laboratory where a mad scientist had been performing 'unholy' experiments, and the final key was the ghost of the wife of the mad scientist begging the PCs to help her soul rest.

Unfortunately, my players did not go whole hog with the Weekend thing, and only disguised one of themselves as the count. Still, that provided some role-playing opportunities.

The module also gave me a chance to use oozes, something which is an iconic part of D&D, but which I have struggled to fit into Terrinoth. This module allowed me to introduce oozes as a reasonable encounter, and also make them a 'limited edition' monster which have no reason to be found in other locales.

The combat with the two gelatinous cubes was played with slightly modified rules. I picked the maze map on my Big Book of Maps, and placed the PCs in a spot where their exits are blocked by the cubes. The cubes would move one space per turn, while the PCs could move two. This made combat almost like that game where you had to shift blocks of stones around while being pursued by a mummy.

The yellow ooze in the final fight was statted as a Black Pudding, but was given a yellow colour because that was the colour of the model we had. The vial of yellow liquid was supposed to allow one character to be immune to the digestive juices of the ooze, but Therion's player, to everyone's dismay, chose to hurl it into the ooze instead. Fortunately, he did manage to save the day by using the rapier and the Heat Metal spell to defeat the ooze.

All in all we had a fun session, but towards the end I realised that I had committed another error: by allowing them to save the count's heir, they now have a young and potentially impressionable noble who is in their debt. I have no doubt the players will leverage on this.

Once again, the B Team had acquired a strategic asset despite being, well, the B Team in our group. They now have a hidden keep in a swamp which commands a hidden causeway which can be used as a smuggling route, potentially a priory to 'inherit', and the favours of a young noble.

It may be many months before we return to B Team again, but I am keen to complete their involvement with Weiss, the other vampire drug-dealer in this saga. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

David Pulver said...

Very pleased to hear you got some use out of Laboratory of the Forsaken.