Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thunderspire Labyrinth (06/13/2010)

With Rich back from DC and Brian back from Brazil the group was back to whole for the kick-off to Thunderspire Labyrinth. There were a couple of questions about DC, but mostly everybody was interested in hearing about Brian’s week in Brazil. They both make my two trips to Iowa seem so insignificant.

The first part of the evening was the players reviewing and making last minute tweaks to the character sheets of their newly minted 4th level characters. I am keeping the “official” copy of the character sheets and want to make sure everybody’s personal copy matched what I had, plus we wanted to make sure the GP/Purchases were accounted for correctly as well. I am trying to keep a running total of this via journal entries on each individuals character sheet, so it was just a case of making sure everyone is on the same page.

The players also received their update to their character background sheets. They each received specific character background information before KotS, and now that they have had two weeks back in town the new information accounted for any updates to their lives outside of the context of the party. Several players had questions or asked for clarification, but there was nothing drastic.

DM Note: KotS basically starts off with the players on the road to Winterhaven. But who are they? Where did they come from? How did they meet? What did they do with their lives before they ever go to Fallcrest? That kind of lack on background bugs me, so I put together a story line (the whole Menos as patron thing). I also provided each character with a personal background. We may be playing with these characters for awhile, so I wanted to give the characters some additional personal context as well. Not only where did they come from but where are they headed. It’s probably overkill, but I just don’t care for the concept of the characters as just numbers on a piece of paper.

With that the adventure began.

It has been about two weeks since the group defeated Kalarel in the depths of the Keep on the Shadowfell and returned to Fallcrest to report the results to Menos. Party members have since spent these last two weeks resting and recovering, and preparing for a call that was sure to come, something to do with Thunderspire Mountain. You now sat around a table with Menos seated at the head, and Menos began to provide the background for what will surely be your next assignment. Some of you either knew some of this information previously or has learned some of it recently, but this is the first time you have heard the whole story.

“Beneath the stormy peaks of the Thunderspire Mountain lies the Labyrinth, an ancient, ruined minotaur city. For over two decades now an order of wizards called the Mages of Saruun has controlled the upper levels of the Labyrinth, creating a relatively safe haven called the Seven Pillared Hall. Here, underground denizens come to trade with the mages and with a small number of surface-dwellers who are in the know. Humans, halflings, dwarves, duergar, goblins, orcs, troglodytes, and others come to the hall to barter under the watchful eyes of the Mages of Saruun and their towering minotaur constructs. The mages have one rule in the Seven Pillared Hall – maintain order. Visitors who leave the safety of the hall and venture into the lower levels of the Labyrinth do so at their own risk. For in the darkness of the Labyrinth all bets are off and the truce enforced within the Hall has no bearing.”

Menos paused for a second, and then continued on. “Hundreds of years ago minotaurs founded the city of Saruun Khel in the depths below Thunderspire Mountain. Saruun Khel soon became the center of the oppressive minotaur kingdom that subjugated neighboring lands. However about 300 years ago a battle for the throne erupted into a vicious civil war. When one faction was defeated the survivors simply took to battling another until only a few minotaurs remained in the ruins of the once great city.”

“Over the several centuries since many adventurers attempted to explore the labyrinthine ruins of Saruun Khel looking for forgotten treasure. Few of them survived. About 25 years ago three wizards – Hasifir, Niame, and Samazar – came to the mountain. Accompanied by their retainers the wizards spent long months in the ruins. One of the things they discovered was the magic to control the bronze warders, minotaur constructs built in the city’s heyday. The wizards used the bronze warders to clear the upper level of the ruins, establishing a stronghold there – the Seven Pillared Hall.”

“During these past two decades the original founders formed the Mages of Saruun and established the Seven Pillared Hall to provide them with safe access to the denizens of the Underdark. The mages cleared an ancient subterranean highway originally carved by the minotaurs, thus allowing the denizens of the deep to trade with them and select other surface dwellers in the black markets of the hall.”

“Today creatures of many stripes come to the hall to trade gems, gold, rare ores and other goods. Under the hooded eyes of the hooded mages and their bronze servitors an uneasy peace endures in the hall, while perils lurk in the dark beyond it.”

With his firm voice Menos told more of the tale. “Make no mistake – the mages enforce their laws. Severely. The bronze constructs are not to be trifled with. Rest assured if they are activated by the mages someone will soon be dead. Justice is swift and certain, and the mages have no need for prisoners.”

“Having said that, business has been good for the mages. Mind you, no respectable trading house or city would ever do business directly with the merchants in the Seven Pillared Hall, so of course they all do it through second and third party contacts. When you enter your first contact will be the customs house, and most likely an ogre named Brugg. He runs the day-to-day security operations, ensures the peace is not disturbed, and also ensures the mages get their cut of whatever business transpires. The Mages of Saruun tolerate adventurers that pass through the Hall on their way to look for riches.”

Finally Menos got to the mission. “There have been various reports about kidnapping over these past few months, but only the past few weeks have these stories been tied together with a finger of guilt pointed toward the Thunderspire Labyrinth. The mages are not particularly keen on slaving, so it is likely something that is germinating somewhat deeper in the labyrinth. I am sure you will find Krand and the Bloodreavers there. Find them, and put an end to this”

“However, please be aware that nothing is rarely as simple as it appears. If Krand and his group are kidnapping people for slavery, they are obviously selling their slaves to somebody. I suspect that Krand maybe but the skin of an onion – peel off one layer and you will find another.”

The adventurers reviewed the map of Nentir Vale and could see the Thunderspire Mountains were likely a day or so away by horseback. Menos pointed out there was a small trading post at the bottom of the Khel Vale, the valley that lead up to the Minotaur Gate and into the mountain. After some more questions for Menos the party departed to make final arrangements before leaving in the morning.

The ride to the trading post was uneventful. The proprietors serviced the farms, trappers, and woodsmen that lived up the Vale as well as the travelers who passed by on the Trade Road. They certainly knew of the City of Seven Pillars, but none had ever been there. Many of those who visited the great hall did pass through the trading post though and while they had many fanciful stories, they really didn’t provide much in the way of knowledge.

They did have an old piece of parchment with a “map” of the Labyrinth. The Seven Pillared Hall was identified, as were some of the main avenues through the labyrinth, but the identification of most of the spots on the maps had been lost to antiquity. For a small contribution the party was able to make their own copy of the map.

Item numbers for known elements of the map:

1) The Minotaur Gate
2) The Road of Lanterns
3) The Seven Pillared Hall
5) The Deep Stair
6) The Road of Shadows
7) The Shining Road
8) The Avenue of Glory

The next morning the party started up the valley until they reached a set of stairs crudely cut that ascended the mountain side. After several hours of hiking and climbing the entrance to Thunderspire greeted them.

According to the map the adventurers were on the Road of Lanterns. This was a paved passageway through the mountain that was sometimes 50 feet in width. Lanterns were placed on the wall about every twenty feet or so, illuminating the grand passageway. The map showed the passageway to be rather straight, but there were several twists and turns and up and downs. Occasionally the party would see less-than-paved passageways lead off from the main road, and sometimes crevices that were just big enough for someone to walk through intersected the main road as well. Every so often a small room could be found built next to the road, sometimes clear of debris, but sometimes completely unusable because they were filled with rock from a collapsed wall.

The party estimated it would take about 30-45 minutes to arrive in the great hall, at least if the scale on the map was correct. Along the way they came across a room that had a door on in that had been left slightly open. A scuffle could be heard inside, so Miave bravely opened the door. There stood several hobgoblins standing over someone trussed up on the floor of the room.  Both parties were rather surprised to see the other, and the hobgoblins inside the room quickly attacked.

There were four Hobgoblin Soldiers (and soon thereafter a 5th) who quickly fell in behind a Hobgoblin Subcommander, looking to take advantage of their phalanx abilities to overwhelm the party. Behind them stood a Hobgoblin Warcaster, hoping to add his ranged attacks to the fracas. The party quickly responded to the attack and got in several blows that bloodied several of the hobgoblins. However the hobgoblins defense stiffened and they got in several blows of their own and bloodied several of the party members.

Akta used his teleport ability to get behind the Hobgoblins and finish off the Warcaster and Bogar found himself mysteriously teleported out of the middle of the pack of hobgoblins to a position where he could take on the Subcommander. The hobgoblins fought intensely, but were soon overwhelmed and defeated by the party.

As the party looked around they saw a room with several tables, some beds, and several large barrels stacked up against the wall. On the ground they saw:

5 Hobgoblin Soldiers, each wearing scale armor and a wielding a heavy shield and a flail.

1 Hobgoblin Subcommander, wearing scale armor and wielding a heavy shield and a spear.

1 Hobgoblin Warcaster, wearing a robe and wielding a quarterstaff.

No magic or secrets were found, nor was any GP. Each member of the party earned 155 XP for the encounter.

That left the person who was tied up on the floor. He had been quite noisy during the battle, but in his firmly bound condition had been unable to participate, although his boasts and taunts made it clear he would have liked too. Once untied the Halfling introduced himself as Rendil Halfmoon. He was extremely grateful for the party’s timely response to his plight. He came off as rather cocky and good-natured, but also as someone who desired to repay you for the assistance.

When asked he will tell you that he lived in the Seven Pillared Hall at the Halfmoon Inn, which he braggingly identified as the only real inn this side of the Labyrinth. He had seen the Hobgoblins skulking around earlier and decided to follow them, only to have gotten caught. They had been planning to take him as a slave, a thought that sent shivers through his body.

He explained that while the party was not far from the great hall, they were in the untamed depths of the labyrinth. While there was always some danger outside the hall, inside the hall things were safer and the adventurers could easily find employment if that was what they were looking for. He also gave a warning about staying on Brugg’s good side with the explanation that he could make things difficult if he chose too.

When asked about the slave trade, Rendil pointed out that these hobgoblins were part of the Bloodreavers, a gang that had recently become notorious for their slave business. Rendil explained there were more of them but they were all located in one of the lower chambers in a place called the Chamber of Eyes.

Rendil thanked the party again, and offered to lead them the rest of the way to the hall. He also told the party to come by the inn and he would buy them a drink (or four) and he would find out what he could about the possible location for the Chamber of Eyes.

With that the party moved back onto the Road of Lanterns and into the Seven Pillared Hall.

Scoreboard: The Party found no magic items, earned 0 GP this week, and picked up an additional 155 (4500 total) XP.

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