Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Silver Gull Campaign Update: Dungeon Hopping

Silver Gull Campaign as Final Fantasy Characters
Achaieria art based on image from the 1981 Fiend Folio
Backround from Final Fantasy VI
Sprites made with Universal LPC Sprite Maker
 It has been awhile since I have updated you all on my Swords & Wizardry campaign, The Silver Gull. The campaign is now in its second year and set in my Xen campaign setting.

My players have been trying to clear any remaining entanglements left over in the city of Tarvaad before moving on to Pamuk to face the Demon Mirdon who has a lein on their souls. 

After that, the plan appears to be to try and infiltrate the Tower of Silence, the home of the greatest magi in the empire, and last bastion of Imperial culture in the now-frozen province of Umbra. There, they hope to free the imprisoned goddess Irielle.

Jan. 9th - Infestation

Faced with a lich that could wake up at any second, they PCs decided to consult with local experts. They knew that Tarvaad was once ground zero of a Jahi cult: a cult led by a person possessed by a depraved undead spirit created by obsession and desire - purging these cults was the reason for the original war that created the Empire of Xen. They wondered how the Jahi had been contained.

The local Imperial Tower - a temple that serves as the Empire's bureaucratic centers, schools, archives, and museums, they lucked into discovering a scholar who had extensive knowledge of the Jahi (I randomly generated her using the old AD&D scholar generation rules.)

This scholar charged them an arm and a leg, but the PCs had many rare books for trade. She described a spring-loaded iron and lead casket used by the Imperial Maiur cultists of the era. Suspected Jahi-possessed cult leaders were shut inside, anti-magic seals carved without, and liquid lead poured in the top to seal the prisoner.

While grim, it was just what the doctor ordered; Zeelagur spent several hours examining the ancient schematics and even a few buried in a crypt beneath the tower created a new version of the ancient prisons.

Meanwhile a new crisis exposed itself: the PCs discovered that they had not eliminated all of the deadly giant centipede eggs they had purged from the crashed airship that is now their home. After losing a crew member to a deadly bite, Finch arranged for his crew to evacuate, while Reine turned her alchemical expertise into making vermifuge bombs, and Linna led a search party of men-at-arms to find the source. They discovered one barrel so utterly infested that they merely pulled the barrel out and used it for artillery target practice.

This led to the PCs being exposed to several save-or-die bites, and angered the local Satrap, who was forced to finally demand an audience with Finch to ask that the Silver gull heave to.

Finch managed to soothe the Satrap's anxieties, and committed the party to bringing Root, a Chaotic mage-artificer (with which they secretly already had a business arrangement,) to justice.

Jan. 16th - Containment

When Zee finally finished the trap, they engaged in the delicate operation of imprisoning the Lich... an operation that could have accidentally freed him. The players spent over an hour of painstaking describing their safeguards. Even then, some things had to be left to the dice... they rolled fortunately well, and managed to entomb the lich, before burying it on hallowed ground.

During this period Finch, also discovered the book on Fleshcrafting he had decided to safeguard had disappeared (stolen in secret by Zee). Zee and Finch entered into a mix of verbal sparring and secret hide-and-seek games of stashing and seeking the tome throughout the airship.

With that task handled, the PCs then went to meet with Root and warn him about the Satraps awareness of him and intention to capture him. Root, being paranoid, decided to kill and rob the PCs, then send their undead corpses to the Satrap. The PCs, luckily, survived his initial combination of cloudkill and fireball, and managed to bring him down.

Jan. 23rd - Footpadding

With Root dead, the PCs decided to rob his laboratory; after gathering rumors, they discovered that the local temple to Agme is missing its herbalist and medicine-maker.

Suspecting this was Root's secret identity, they took the keys that they found on Root, and placed themselves around the temple grounds. Reine then slipped onto the temple grounds and headed for a shack near the herb garden. Reine came around a corner near the shack and ran directly into a temple guard. Before he could react and process what he saw, she activated the invisibility power in her magical suit of leather armor (custom made by Root, no less.)

Unable to process exactly what he saw, and never having seen a Kooet in the flesh before, the guard assumed hs saw an evil spirit and ran for reinforcements. Reine swiftly picked the shack lock and slipped in before locking after herself.

Reien began scouring the herbalist's home and workshop. Aside from a selection of poisons and valuable reagents, Reine discovered a hidden hatch to a basement in which a magical stone that emits heat to boiling a pool of water, and a jar that keeps whatever is in it supernaturally cold.

It was then that Reine heard the Temple guards in the room above. Desperate, and her invisibility wearing off, Reine scoured the basement in a hurry and found a secret door behind a storage shelf, which she managed to close just as the guards came down the hatch into the basement.

Reine waited with held breath as the guards searched the basement, but missed the secret door. Once they were gone, Reine headed deeper in to find a hidden lab with an incomplete magic item and a strange map hung on the wall.

Pulling down the map, Reine discovered another crawl-sized tunnel that came out into a crypt in a burial ground beyond the temple. This temple was guarded by a ghoul, which Reine narrowly outwitted in order to flee into the cemetary and relate what she discovered.

After studying the map, they became certain it was a map of a nearby ruin Root was known to lurk near, a dungeon they had studiously avoided.

Jan. 23rd - Into the Skipped Dungeon

Tarvaan is a modern city built near the ruins of a destroyed city: Old Tarvaan, which has several different dungeons buried beneath it including the temple and library they had already explored. The Pit of Suffering, however was the largest of them... and the one the PCs had numerous hooks pointing to, and that they had so stubbornnly refused to go anywhere near it.

I was surprised when they decided to follow the map what they believed was Root's primary laboratory in the dungeon. Partially because they had been so pointed in not going in that I had not developed the dungeon at all.

Suddenly taken by surprise, I went quickly to Donjon, grabbed a map, added a few encounters that where more level-appropriate along the path to a random room that I designated as the lab.

I wasn't totally blind, I knew that there was an artifact in there that was a magic door based on one of my old rumor tables. I put that in one chamber.

I also quickly decided that the dungeon had been a mix of actual prison dungeon, cruel place of execution, vault, and bloodsport arena for a cruel dictator, whom I gave a three line bio,

The PCs obliged me by at least following the route on their map. Aside from terrifying two manes into service, they found a horrid iron maiden on a pedestal over a pit. This was a donjon feature without much embellishment, and needed a purpose, so I put a vampire in it with a stake through her heart who had been a prisoner.

The PCs proceeded to wake the whole dungeon up retrieving the iron maiden using a potion of stone giant strength to leap the gap and hurl it back. As they were opening it up they were set upon by hobgoblins in an adjoining room, who surprised them by coming through a secret door. They took Linna hostage, which was as dumb a move as they could have managed, as she is kitted out with enough offensive magic items to rival a similarly leveled magic user in sheer output, and swiftly incinerated her attacker.

The hobgoblins fled letting the PCs free the prisoner.

My hat is off to them for avoiding metagaming when they saw the wooden stake.

One thing to note about my party, the player character Zee is obsessed with freeing the imprisoned. Having been a slave in an illegal pit fighting ring herself, she has incredible empathy for slaves and prisoners, no matter what kind of person they are. Which is why she has set the goal of freeing a chaotic goddess from an icy prison.

Just like the goddess of the Red Church who would have come some years after her, I named the Badroo. This is the original name of the princess from the story of Aladdin and his Wonderful Lanp. I'm quite fond of it; it means "symmetry."

Badroo was the concubine of a tyrant of old Tarvaan, and then his son. Incredibly beautiful, she was prized. Which is why she was turned into a vampire as an attempt to assassinate her master. Upon discovery of her transformation, she was promptly staked and placed in an iron maiden. There she has remained for about 4,000 years.

NPC reaction rulls told me she would be extremely friendly to work the player characters, who quickly adopted her after they helped her slake her thirst by wiping out the hobgoblins.

Feb 6th - Steam Cleaning

From there, the player characters passed by the planar gate artifact, and decided to leave it alone.

They managed to intuit a trap I had placed, and use the decanter of endless water they had picked up to destroy it before it could fire off poisonous gas.

What they didn't expect was a killer construct I borrowed from the Basic Fantasy Field Guide to Creatures Both Malevolent and Benign vol 2, to which I had added a steam cone breath weapon.

That one took the party by surprise, as they took it for a pile of inert parts. Badroo was scalded to death, but being a vampire, she got better. The rest of the party was knocked down to single digit hit points before they managed to take the machine down.

Beyond that, they discovered the magician's workshop, which I mostly stocked on my own, but Donjon said that there was a fiendish looking mirror in it. I decided that this was the source of roots magical knowledge. A mirror that let you commune with the denizens of hell.

A lucky combination of magical identification and lower rules allowed my players to figure out the purpose of the device, and they specifically called up the frog demon they had slain at The Oracle of Inkandus they visited and demanded it give them information on the fiend Mirdon, so that they could be prepared when they did battle with him.

They also discovered that there was a human scholar who had been trapped inside for at least 800 years and was serving as a guide to the oracle. The players vowed to return to the dungeon and free her when they could find someone who'd be willing to trade places with her. An idea that came to mind as I had been rereading the Wrath of the Immortals books.

The PCs were so busy playing with magic mirrors and pillaging the lab that they were ambushed by the eyeless mutant cannibals I had placed further into the dungeon. Liberal application of the automatic crossbow and flaming oil managed to chase those horrors off.

For now, however, they had the matter of Zeelagur's vision: Ophan, the god of machines  had instructed zee to seek out the Echthroi, the people who had been seen lurking about in masks in the desert. Consulting the red church, they got a general idea of where these people were last seen and set out on there airship two moor it close to the last sighting.

Feb 20th - Happy Sing-Along

The players decided to moor the Silver Gull low to the ground about a mile from the location where the Echthroi were last seen; an abandoned caravansari in the desert. There wasn't much left except an apparently dry well and a few crumbling stucco walls. As they scounted out the area they encountered an Echthroi Moth, a child-sized member of the nihilistic and deranged villains I call Echthroi.

In Xen, faeries have no soul: they can't make choices or have lasting impacts on the world; they can only act as their geasa and compulsions... and are tragically aware of it. When humans are nearby the power of their souls allows them to break their programming and make changes to the world. This is the reason that faeries steal humans... to let them make a desperate attempt to break the doldrums of their eternal youths.

5000 years ago a group of Sidhe bought the souls of thousands of Umbrels in return for help in their war against the encroaching Xennites. The Sidhe who claimed the souls became the first Elves, and their children were ever after born with souls. Some of the first generation of Elves were so horrified when they realized the horrors of suddenly having moral responsibility for the outcomes of their actions they went mad, and became the Echthroi. The Echthroi culture is obsessed with annihilating souls, mortification, and killing compassion.

Modern Echthroi are cyborgs, mortifying their flesh and replacing living parts with magical clockwork parts. The Moths are some of the most horrid: intentionally stunted in childhood to remain tiny. They are fitted with mechanical wings that give them flight, and much of their organic tissue is replaced with machinery that lets them produce venomous darts they can spit through holes in the horrid masks fused over their faces.

In spite of their hateful religion and vile nature, they are surprisingly cheerful creatures, and the moth endeared itself to the PCs, and invited them to meet its family. After which it led them underground to where dozens of Ecthroi waited to greet the nosey strangers.

Reine hung back and infiltrated the lair from the well, where she discovered dessicated prisoners bound by having their limbs directly sewn to their bodies, and poked her nose into a lab where an Echthroi spy was being surgically grafted into a hollowed-out human body.

The rest of the PCs on the other hand, were treated to tea, cakes, and a cheerful story time about the origin of Elves and Echthroi from the clan's faithful knight defender, who happily answered what he could of Zee's questions about Irielle.

The PCs landed an invitation to go see the head of the clan, who once knew Irielle when she was a Sidhe, and then an Elf. When they agreed, the PCs were led through the sandstone caves below the ruined sari to a magical pool that serves as a gateway to the faerie. Reine disguised herself by murdering a guard and taking his mask and robes (all low-caste Echthroi wear masks) and dove in after them.

Feb 27th - Ultraviolence

The moment the PCs surfaced from the pool the entered the dungeon I created in this post. Befioe they could even climb out of the entry pool in room 1 the Echthroi set on them: a 3 HD knight, 4 1HD Stalkers, and a 7 HD Chirurgeon. The PCs might have been overwhelmed if Reine had not had the element of surprise. being a Kooet she moves and fights in water as easily as on the surface. She managed to drag down and backstab two Stalkers before the Echthroi even noticed that she had entered the fray.

During the battle, a strength potion-enhanced Finch managed to hurl Zee at the Chirurgeon. She broke into the lower mechanical spider-body, and used her engineering knowledge to hack into the gearbox of the body and take control. After making the Chirurgeon cut its own head off, she turned it into a tiny robotic tank long enough to barricade the Southern door.

The rest of the stalkers in the dungeon rushed the PCs from the Western door. Finch, still high on potions of stone giant strength used the surviving prioner they were interrogating as a living battering ram and cudgel against them.

By the time they ploughed through the stalkers, the torturer in Room 2 freed the abomination in the iron maiden in that chamber and set it against the PCs. It lasted only 2 rounds against the party.

It was at this time that the Inquisitor (an Echthroi with the power of an 11th level Magic User) called for a truce and invited them to speak to him in room 3.

The Inquisitor, realizing how dangerous the PCs were was inclined to answer their questions rather that prolong the violence. But as he spoke, Reine and Zee silently worked together to subtly plant explosives around the room while Finch captivated the Knights, Moths, and Inquisitors present  with his own stories of their strange discoveries.

At the cry of Pineapples, they turned  most of the room into a cloud of shrapnel killing every Echthroi present except the inquisitor, and then rushed out through the door behind the pulpit.

The Inquisitor, detecting at the last moment what was about to happen used dimension door  to reach the docks at the Southern end of area 7, preparing to slay the PCs with spells. Including using telekinesis to close the door between 3 and 4.

Finch merely ripped the door off its hinges and hurled it like a discus at the Inquisitor's head.

March 6th - Medical Emergencies

For the second session in a row we began the session with an extraordinarily violent battle.

Sensing that things could be going very badly for it, the Inquisitor slowed the OCs, attempting to keep them from getting out of the collapsing room 2. When that failed, he put up a wall of ice hoping to buy time to prepare.

Finch merely hurled Zee over the wall to finish him off.

Having killed all of the monsters likely to roam the dungeon, the PCs began scouring the dungeon for treasure and knowledge. They recalled that there was a Red Priestess imprisoned in the dungeon that they had left behind. Freeing her, they scoured Room 1 for the hidden door to the library

This is where they got careless. After collecting the Book of Mithril and Narcosa, they had Reine pick to lock to the vault bud didn't check it for traps, filling the room with poison gas that would kill them on a failed save, or reduce them to half of their remaining hit points on a successful one. The PCs narrowly made it, but the recently rescued prisoner did not.

Discovering a fiendish idol in the vault, they thought hard about using it and decided against it; they had enough demonic bargains on their plate. This is when Linna had a stroke of inspiration adn revived the priestess with slow poison (which raises anyone killed by poison in the last hour from the dead... until the spell wears back off).

They escorted her back to the lab and began using their combined expertise in alchemy and poison to race to analyze it and concoct an antidote. While they managed to come up with a forumla before the spell wore off, they didn't have the ingredients... until they remembered their Jug of Alchemy, which they used to produce the antidote.

Having saved the priestess, the party split up to loot the dungeon more efficiently. 40 minutes into the pillaging I rolled random encounters for both parties.

In the library feyspiders hiding in nearby rooms decided to investigate the magical auras around the PCs and dropped suddenly from thei ceiling onto Reine and Linna.

Out by the docks Finch was cremating the body of the Inquisitor (just to be sure) when a boat appears shrouded in the mists, and a warning arrow sinks into the bollard next to him.

And that is where I left it off.

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