Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Ravenous Crypts (07/11/2014)

Instead of the DM making the standard 30 minute trek to join the Friday Night group in Naperville, IL, this week the Friday Night group made the 30 minute trek to join the DM at The Fabulous Mills House™ in lovely Geneva, IL. We had a late start to accommodate those returning from the Cubs game that afternoon, but it was a great night weather-wise and we were able to sit in the kitchen with the windows open and a cool summer breeze. The Fabulous Mrs. DM™ prepared snacks and pull pork sandwiches – who could ask for more?


The night started with the heroes finishing up in the Vault of Greed. Even though the preservative nature of the Runeforge meant the inhabitants would not age or hunger, spell users still required a long rest to recover spells. The party had decided the Ravenous Crypts were the next area to explore, and as such it was likely that undead would be encountered, so proper tactics were prepared and with that they were off.

The Ravenous Crypt were exquisitely crafted. Arches were elaborately carved with stunning artistic patterns. Ceilings were ten feet high in corridors, all of which were adorned with decorative moldings inlaid with silver angels. Chambers were usually arched or domed to a height of twenty feet and covered with beautiful frescoes and mosaics depicted sleeping men and women tended by cherubim and soothed by angelic singers and musicians. The floors were covered in smooth, fitted flagstones with inlaid ceramic tiles in various decorative patterns. All doors were made of iron.

A pair of large iron door opened into the first room of the Ravenous Crypt.  The ceiling of this circular domed chamber rose to a height of thirty feet. The walls were decorated with ten grinning skulls, each gripping what appeared to be bits of flesh in their teeth. A flight of steps lead up via a corridor in the far wall.

Mummy
As the heroes moved across this elegant room six Thassilonian mummies emerged from behind secret doors. Each of the carved skulls was in fact a secret door that hid a narrow burial bier. The mummies that stood eternal guard in this room were desiccated and dried monsters clad in strips of ragged linen and silk. Their undead flesh was black and shiny, and shiny black beetles clattered over (and in places through holes in) their frames - these beetles were merely a physical manifestation of these mummies' more potent despair auras, constantly dropping off and turning to dust and being reborn in the desiccated flesh, but were themselves harmless.

The 30x30 room was quickly filed with the sounds of combat. The mummies quickly closed on the party in the enclosed space and began their slam attacks. Several party members took several hits, but the heroes were quickly able to regroup and return the mummies to their eternal rest, but not before Reynard, Stike and Kheo were afflicted with Mummy Rot. All three lost a few points of Constitution and Charisma, but once it was determined that both a Remove Curse and a healing spell would be required and that Selinor did not have those spells immediately available, the party would live with the illness for today and hopefully be able to remove/cure it before a second wave of the sickness occurred the following day.

The party then moved up the stairs and on to the next room. Here the ceiling rose to a dome thirty feet above while the floor dropped away into a dizzying pit. A cross-shaped bridge of marble stretched across this pit, allowing access to four sets of iron double doors. Four bas-relief carvings of incredible detail had been carved into the curved walls in the four corners of the room, each under a word written in spiky runes. One held aloft a sprig of grapes and a loaf of bread, one held a wedge of cheese and a huge haunch of meat, another wielded a platter heaped with candies, and the last simply stood with arms crossed, his mouth wide and grinning to display teeth that had been filed to points.

Below each carving the wall dropped away into darkness, yet along these depths dozens of burial niches containing stone sarcophagi were visible. The walls of the pit below contained the dead of nobles rich enough to be buried here - or at least, they did once upon a time. The hundreds of sarcophagi that line the walls of this 150-foot-deep shaft were all now empty, their contents long ago scavenged for necromantic supplies.

In ancient Gastash, four noble houses counted themselves as senior among the aristocracy. These four bas-reliefs symbolized those families. Each of these families had a different specialty, as indicated by their carving's adornments and pose. The names of the patriarchs were etched in Thassilonian above each carving. These names were Inib (wine makers and bakers, east), Gorryan (cheese makers and butchers, south), Aanstrin (confectioneries, west), and Xerriock (cannibals, north). Each of the noble houses embraced the sin of gluttony in their own way.

The party moved carefully into the room as they expected chaos to ensue with every step. But the quiet continued without an attack, so the party decided on their next steps. If the cannibals were to the north, they decided to first visit the hall to the east. The doors to this room opened to reveal a single sarcophagus of gold that sat atop a white marble plinth at the far end of this wide hall. The bas-relief lid depicted a handsome man that held a sprig of grapes and a bottle of wine crossed over his chest. The eyes were large star sapphires and the grapes appeared to be individual gemstones that could be worked free with the right tools. Five wide alcoves in the room were carved with dozens of narrow niches, each of which contained a different bottle of what appeared to be wine.

Clay Golem
The party stepped in to the room to investigate further only to see an armored clay golem moving their direction. The golem itself resembled a woman with the lower torso of a serpent and a Sihedron Rune for a head, identifiable as the image of Lissala, goddess of runes. Indeed, countless runes (prayers to the goddess) were etched on its red clay body. The golem was also plated in iron – it was effectively wearing full plate armor and the heroes knew they would be in for a fight.

Reynard cast a Haste and Kheo took advantage of the extra attacks and let go with a flurry of arrows while the remainder of the party prepped for the inevitable combat. Before the slow moving golem could reach the party to attack another volley of Kheo’s arrows finished off the golem (DM Note: He was rollin’ them hot). With the guardian now dead an investigation of the marble plinth revealed an engraved inscription written in Thassilonian: "Lord Anklerios Mankray Inib of the House of Inib: master vintner and beloved husband and father. An assassin's blade accomplished what hundreds of duels could not." Of course, the sarcophagus itself was empty, the body long since taken away for necromantic needs.

The sarcophagus itself was only gold plated but of greater value were the two star sapphire eyes (each worth 1,000 GP) and the dozen amethyst grapes (each worth 300 GP). The wine stored in the alcoves remained delicious to this day, preserved by Runeforge's aura. In all, there are 68 bottles in this room, each of which is worth 100 GP.

The heroes then returned to the room of the House Patriarchs to decide where to go next only to be met by a snarling beast of a man w
Xyoddin Xerriock
ith sharp pointed teeth. There was no doubt that this was a member of the cannibal Xerriock clan and he didn’t like the presence of the intruders. With unnatural speed he moved next to Stike and began to swing an evil looking dagger (DM Note: The DM’s dice picked a particularly bad time to grow cold).

The fight was intense, and no matter how much damage was done Xyoddin Xerriock always seemed to end his turn a little healthier than when the turn began. Then Selinor cast a spell and placed an enchantment on Stike’s blade and made it a Disrupting Weapon. As Stike swung his mighty blade and hit the undead fiend and it was “Utterly Destroyed” (DM Note: This seemed a bit extreme of an outcome, but after some discussion we went with it). Among the gear found on the body was a +3 Chain Shirt, +1 Human Bane Dagger, masterwork dagger, Amulet of Natural Armor +2, Cloak of Resistance +1, and 146 GP.

The heroes then moved through the doors to the north of the House Patriarchs into what appeared to have been an abattoir. The scene in this room was appalling - a half-dozen brutally savaged human bodies dressed in light blue, bloodstained robes lay sprawled about the place. Several of the bodies seem to have had limbs or organs removed. At first it was assumed the cannibal has been doing his foul business here, but further investigation revealed that the bodies had not been savaged or ripped apart, but instead had been surgically mutilated. The uniforms of the bodies gave evidence of having been abjurationists from the Abjurant Halls of Envy, the recently destroyed hall. It seemed likely that the residents of this hall had found a few new bodies on which their research could continue.

But with no resistance found here the heroes moved on to the next room. The next chamber appeared to have been some sort of laboratory. Tables made of stacked sarcophagi supported alchemical apparatuses, books, carved bones, scrolls, and various pieces of anatomy that had been dissected and preserved in dozens of ways. An alchemist's lab sat atop one table. The books there were both interesting and horrifying in their subject matter of the dead, and the collection granted a +2 circumstance bonus on a Knowledge (religion) check made about undead. The collection was worth 400 GP and weighed 100 pounds.

Through the door to the left lay Xyoddin’s now empty personal laboratory. The bookshelf-lined walls of this room contained a large collection of dog-eared tomes, manuals, and scrolls, as well as jars of fluid in which floated humanoid organs and bits of flesh. A dissected human torso sat atop the room's stone table. The various lenses and magnifying glasses built into a contraption next the examination table were worth 100 GP each - there are 10 lenses in all. The research books were worth a total of 10,000 GP. They detailed various experiments, summoning rituals, chemical concoctions, and steps that Runelord Zutha's minions followed to attain their various states of undeath. They provided a +5 circumstance bonus on all Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (religion) checks made regarding necromancy and undead creatures.

After spending a few hours looking through these books the heroes found a fairly significant section detailing Runelord Zutha's final task for the Ravenous Crypts - the development of a place and method for him to retreat from the world into stasis, should Thassilon come to a sudden end. Zutha asked his agents in Runeforge to develop a way to split his phylactery, a book entitled The Gluttonous Tome, into three pieces, which could then be hidden in the world far from Thassilon. Then, after the dust of the empire's fall had settled, these three fragments could be brought back together to call him back from the beyond. It was clear that the necromancers had accomplished this task, but nothing was said further as to the location of these pieces.

The heroes then moved across the laboratory to the door on the other side. There they found numerous five-foot-wide burial niches line the inner walls of this "U" shaped catacomb. Each niche contained a stone burial urn, large enough to contain a crouching human body within the ancient stone container.

The urns, as with all others in this crypt, were all empty, yet the hall itself was not. Another six Thassilonian mummies stood guard here and moved to attack as soon as they were disturbed. There was not much space for a fight, and unfortunately Selinor found himself taking the brunt of the mummies initial attacks. Reynard put up a Force Wall to split the attacking mummies and then with Stike’s mighty sword and Reynard Fireball’s the heroes were able to whittle down the undead guardians.

With no other doors visible in this room the heroes moved back to the House of Patriarchs to investigate the final unopened door there, and we will pick it up from there next time. I will update XP after this section is completed, but the heroes will still not be at the next level for a few sessions yet.

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