Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Festering Maze, Pt 1 (08/29/2014)

The air grew thick and foul-smelling in this chamber, yet the vaporous stink here was nothing compared to the insult to the senses elsewhere. Slime encrusted the walls in swaths of sickly brown and noxious green. A foamy sewage channel ran along a slippery walkway, the thickly shuddering skin atop the slowly churning fluid that seemed to hint that, despite its repulsive appearance and smell, something lurked in those depths. Although they bore a striking resemblance to sewers both in appearance and scent, the tunnels of the Festering Maze were not designed for that intent.

Regardless, today these chambers had all the charm of a poorly maintained septic system. The walls and waters of this maze were alive with relatively harmless but nonetheless disturbing vermin: fist-sized spiders, deformed rats, pallid foot-long centipedes, and glistening tangles of worms wriggled in the corners of all these rooms. The oppressive odor quickly soured the stomachs of the party members, but none seemed to had taken any real damage.


Two types of passageways existed in this wing of Runeforge: walkways and waterways. Each presented its own dangers. Walkways adjacent to waterways were exceptionally slippery. In some places narrow bridges spanned the waters; these bridges were only 2 feet wide and were covered with the same slippery moss that threatened to slide a careless adventurer into the water. The waterways weren't much better. The water level rose to within an inch of nearby walkways, and was generally about 10 feet deep. The green slime encrusted waterways seemed to be its own living thing. There was a slight flow to the water, but the greenish river seemed to belch and plop as if something was moving in it. Dark shapes seemed to mysteriously rise and fall in the foul greenish goo as if it were possible for something to live in the river of sewage.

There didn’t appear to be any immediate danger so the party first took a few minutes to assess the environment. Nothing could be seen to be actually swimming in the muck, but the slippery walkways were going to be a constant challenge. The current was gentle, and while swimming didn’t look to be difficult, no one wanted to risk actually falling in much less purposefully entering the greensh muck. 

The water did flow in a general south and east direction, and after careful listening the party determined the splashing heard from the northwest quadrant was likely feeding the swamp.
But how to get there? The walkways were dangerous enough, but several lengths of walkway were also missing. No one wanted risk taking a running jump over the missing passage, and while swimming was certainly an option it was Reynard who decided he could Fly and therefore port individual party members over the missing chunks of walkway. Carefully the party inched forward, and then waited for Reynard to ferry them across.
 
It was Selinor who took the first false step and with a slip he was in the water. Stike quickly reached out to make a grab at Selinor’s staff before it slipped under the water but he missed his opportunity to grab it. Reynard reached out with his staff and Selinor was able to grab it, but only just for a moment before his hand slipped off the offered staff. Kheo then jumped in and rescued the sinking Selinor and the group was able to get pull him out of the filthy water. (DM Note: I hope they kept their mouths shut ).

In the room in the northwest corner of the hall a slippery looking walkway connected four platforms that ran down the room's center to a station of some sort at the far end of the chamber. There, three large and filthy levers protruded from the dripping wall. To the north four metallic pipes protruded from the wall, ten feet above the level of the sewage - fresh foulness ran from these pipes in thick streams. Every now and then something larger and hideously more substantial than mere fluid strained through the bars blocking these pipes to drop with a turgid splash into the foulness rippling below.

Omox Demon
With his Fly ability still intact Reynard lifted himself to the middle passage and carefully moved over to inspect the three levers. The left and right levers were in the "up" position, while the middle one was in the “down” position. Reynard tried the middle lever first, but the rust encrusted lever budged only a little. With the slippery footing Reynard knew it would be difficult to get a better grip, so he flew back and ported Stike over to help. As they reached for the middle lever an Omox Demon rose from out of the foul waters to attack them, and a second Omox Demon did likewise to Kheo and Selinor.

An Omox Demon was a seven foot tall rancid-smelling mound of animated ooze that had the physical countenance of a half-melted man. They proved to be difficult to hit, appeared to have various immunities to different effects, and could also Dimension Door to adjoining pools of water. With the party temporarily separated they tried to use their best attack – grabbing their opponent and then essentially suffocating them by covering the opponent’s face with their liquid bodily form. Kheo provide to be a slippery character and was able to avoid several grab attempts but eventually the Omox Demon succeeded in smothering Kheo until Selinor was able to finish off the swampy horror. Reynard and Stike managed to avoid the gruesome attack and eventually took out the second of the two Omox Demons.
 
With the two monsters now gone Stike and Reynard resumed investigating the three levers. They discovered several plaques that had been otherwise hidden by the mossy growth on the walls. It took a few more minutes to decipher and determine what each of the three levers did:
 
Left Lever: This lever's plaque read "Access Control." Lowering this lever caused all of the gratings in the maze to retract up, granting increased mobility through the maze. Raising the lever again lowered the grates back into place. Stike and Reynard opted to leave the gates open.
 
Middle Lever: This lever's plaque read "Portal Control." Pushing this lever up closed off the portals to Undersump at the far end of the pipes. Fluid immediately ceased to flow from the four drainage pipes to the north. After some discussion they opted to leave the lever in the upright position.
 
Right Lever: This lever's plaque read "Warning: Cleaning Cycle." When the right lever was pulled down an explosion of water erupted from the ceiling above the central platform - this deluge washed down over Stike and Reynard and they barely kept their feet and avoided being swept into the surrounding waters. This blast of water carried with it a single Elder Water Elemental, which promptly ignored the party and began the task of slowly scrubbing the walls of the filthy pool. The party decided to leave the huge beast to its self-appointed duties and moved on to investigate the remainder of the chamber.
 
Elder Water Elemental
Even with the flow of incoming sewage now turned off it looked like it might be several days, or even weeks, before the remaining filth would all drain away. The flow of the remaining passage was in a southeast direction so Reynard took turns porting the heroes to an area in the southeast corner of the maze. In this area the surrounding stone had fallen away in several places into a large curved cavern. Here and there foul water cascaded into the room from intersecting tunnels, tumbling ten feet to the frothy surface of liquid below. The rest of the Maze drained into this chamber, which had stabilized at a depth of about 20 feet before the overflow sifted away through narrow fissures in the stone and eventually drained into the eternal void that surrounded Runeforge.
 
As soon as Stike and Kheo were transported over to a relatively safe landing spot two tentacled, gray monsters from the deepest crevices of the Abyss attacked. The two monsters were Chernobue Qlippoth, two vaguely tadpole-shaped monsters that had chosen this cavern as their lair, and were quick to defend it from any trespassers. They too proved tough to kill, and again it was Kheo who took the brunt of their attack, succumbing to their poison attacks. The rest of the party quickly killed off the two monsters and Selinor revived Kheo before it could get worse.
Chernobue Qlippoth
During the attack Stike had seen a Quasit flying above the waters before the small beast flew away and disappeared past a huge door to the north. Who, or what, was beyond that door? Each of these different halls investigated so far had a high level magic user that was the proprietor of their domain – what secrets lay yet in the Festering Maze?

Quasit
And we will pick it up there next time. For tonight’s effort the party earned 22,400 XP, giving them (548,875 + 22,400) 571,275 XP earned so far, with 635,000 XP required to reach Level 15.

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