Tuesday, March 20, 2018

OLD SKOOL CAMPAIGN DIARY - TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT 6


THE HEROES:
  • Anton Loyalar: Oeridian Paladin of Heironeous
  • Coppyr: Halfing Monk
  • Eli Pendar: Flannish Cleric of Pholtus
  • Tharn: Dwarf barbarian of the Fireforge clan

After reviving Prince Thrommel, the group plots on how to escape with the freed prisoners and settle on fighting the goblins while the prisoners exit through the umber hulk tunnel.  The plan is executed and the heroes fight and kill most of the goblins, but as the prisoners escape, Commander Feldrin enters the dungeon jail with hobgoblins, still searching for the heroes, and finds them fighting the goblins.  He and the hobgoblins engage the heroes but are promptly defeated.  The heroes escape with the prisoners through the tunnel and head back to Nulb in a wicked blizzard that sprung up out of nowhere; another freak weather phenomenon likely brought about by the temple's elemental summonings.

Once in town Prince Thrommel announces his intention to get a horse and to leave immediately so that he may return to his land and prepare an army to address the threat the temple poses.  The heroes object due to the prince's fainting spell in which he was non-responsive similar to how Coppyr was, suggesting that he may also be under the influence of the strange force, but the prince was adamant about leaving and borrowed money from the heroes in order to purchase a horse and supplies on the road back.

After the prince leaves, the heroes return to the temple via the abandoned farmhouse well they entered through before and head into the temple through the original entrance they first found, but this time it was being guarded by hobgoblins and an ogre.  The heroes take these guards out quickly and enter through the hidden door and sneak back in through the temple of the Elder Elemental Eye, and as before, Coppyr is suddenly struck by the same force that has overcome his senses and caused him to speak in a strange, unearthly voice.  This time he just goes catatonic and Tharn has to pick him up and move him along out of the temple.  The group reaches the hall leading to the Water Temple and see two of the strange armored water elementals standing guard.  The creatures do not attack them, but simply appear to be preventing anyone from entering the Water Temple, so the heroes continue onward into the black room where they encountered shadows before.  This time the room is unoccupied, so they enter and use a key found around Commander Feldrin's neck to open the vault.  Within they find many treasures piled upon the floor and three chests. 

End of session.

Friday, March 9, 2018

DM'S COMMENTARY ON THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT. 5


Okay, we are getting to the point where I'm getting a bit tired of this adventure.  I figured it would happen, as I can only maintain my interest in any given story for a finite amount of time, and we've been in the Village of Hommlett/Temple of Elemental Evil for 6 months now.  I'm ready to wrap this thing up, but the problem is the heroes are not progressing very rapidly.  Part of the problem is that they weren't very stealthy in infiltrating the temple, so the temple is on high alert and searching for them.  This means they can't find a place to take a short or long rest without someone finding them.  They also didn't make a very good impression when they were in Nulb, so leaving the temple to rest there isn't a much better option, especially since the ToEE forces are also searching for them there.  So it's been difficult for them to work through much of the dungeon. 

However, we are at a crossroads in the adventure now.  The heroes have found Prince Thrommel and will likely exit with him early in the next session.  They'll probably take him to Verbobonc next to ensure he makes it back to Veluna safely.  This is a huge break from the adventure which means the temple leadership (Hedrack) will accelerate plans and begin a massive offensive using the elementals they've already summoned.  I could have this go a couple of different ways: I could diverge from the adventure and proceed with the course these events have taken, which would start a new elemental war and the PCs would be recruited by Thrommel to take part in it.  Or I could tell the players that Thrommel is handling the situation from here on and they're services are no longer required, freeing them to pursue other adventures.

Normally this would be a no-brainer for me and I'd continue the course that this adventure has taken.  However, I started this campaign with the intention of revisiting several of the classic D&D adventures.  I only wanted to kick it off with ToEE, not have it encompass the entire campaign, which if I pursued current events, that's what will happen.  I would like to have them enjoy Against the Giants, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, etc., so I'm torn. 

I think what I'll do is give the players the option to join Prince Thrommel in taking down the ToEE, or if they'd rather take on some other quests that the Knights of the Hart now can't pursue because they're being redeployed to address the ToEE threat.  Whichever the players choose will be the way we'll go.

OLD SKOOL CAMPAIGN DIARY - THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT. 5


THE HEROES:
  • Anton Loyalar: Oeridian Paladin of Heironeous
  • Coppyr: Halfing Monk
  • Eli Pendar: Flannish Cleric of Pholtus
  • Tharn: Dwarf barbarian of the Fireforge clan

Upon defeating the ogre and hobgoblins guarding the entrance to the dungeons below the Temple of Elemental Evil, the heroes descend into the well to join their companion Coppyr, who had hidden below and taken out two hobgoblins who had tried to get reinforcements.  However, when they get to the bottom, they find Coppyr acting strangely, speaking in a monotone voice, urging them to follow him because there were others down here looking for them and that he knew another way in.  The heroes were unsure of what to make of this and after trying to snap the halfling out of it unsuccessfully, they decide to take him back up the well.  Once at the surface, Coppyr snaps out of the trance he seemed to be in with no recollection of it.  Upon descending again, Coppyr once again succumbs to this strange trance, again urging the heroes to follow him to a secret entrance.   The heroes decide to chance it, since there were sounds of others in the tunnel, and they follow the halfling down the shaft to a rough area.  The entranced Coppyr points at a rough patch of wall and, upon inspecting it, the wall crumbles to reveal another rough tunnel, clearly not dug by humans or humanoids, but by some kind of burrowing creature. 

Tharn leads the way in to the tunnel, as his kind has a better sense of direction when underground, and they proceed to follow it until they reach an end that leads up into a dark room that Tharn believes to be part of the dungeons under the Temple.  Coppyr, who has now snapped out of his trance again, looks into the room with his magical goggles and sees an enormous insect-like creature feeding on the remains of a giant spider.  The heroes throw caution to the winds and attack the creature, which Tharn identifies as the subterranean terror known as an umber hulk.  They fight the beast until it drops, but before they can rest, they hear sounds coming from an adjoining hallway.  They hide and see goblins in the hallway excitedly talking amongst themselves about the now dead umber hulk.  Luckily the goblins don't enter the room, but they instead run back to alert their companions.  The heroes take this opportunity to gather up a few things they find on the floor and to enter a door on the southern end of the room.  Within they find a jail filled with about a dozen people and a hobgoblin standing guard.  The hobgoblin was shocked to see the heroes enter and he attempts to fight them, but falls quickly to the heroes' might.

The heroes then calm the prisoners down to avoid alerting the goblins to their presence.  The goblins, now numbering nearly two dozen, filed into the umber hulk feeding chamber and start playing on its carcass.  The prisoners tell the heroes that the hobgoblins and bugbear bring new prisoners in periodically and take others out to be sacrificed at the elemental temples.  Worried that more hobgoblins could be on the way, the prisoners urge the heroes to get them out, but with the numerous goblins in the other room the heroes look to the other two exits from the jail.  One exit is the one where the hobgoblins usually enter, bringing more prisoners or taking them away, so that way did not seem very safe.  The other exit was unknown and the prisoners say the hobgoblins never go in or out that door.  So the heroes open the door and find a short hall with two more doors; one unadorned and the other bearing the symbol of the Knights of the Hart.  This intrigued Anton and he proceeded to open that door. 

The room beyond is revealed to be a lavishly tiled tomb bearing a stone sarcophagus in the center.  The sarcophagus, made of white marble, is carved with symbols of the Knights of the Hart and the Heironeous religion, including what appears to Eli's trained eye, to be some glyphs of warding of evil creatures.  The heroes decide this is as safe a place as any to hide the prisoners as they rest from their recent fights and they bring them all into the crypt. 

While resting, Tharn notices a chip from the lid of the sarcophagus, which comes from the sword that adorns the majority of its surface.  That's when they notice that the stone the sword is carved from doesn't seem to be the same as the rest of the sarcaphagus lid.  They find where the chip came from and within the hole they see the glint of metal.  They begin scraping the stone off, finding that it is a much softer material that was painted to look like the marble of the sarcophagus, and underneath the material is a real sword.  Anton carefully brings the sword out and it blazes to magical life in the knight's hand!  Anton immediately recognizes the sword as Fragarach; the famous sword wielded by the missing Prince Thrommel.

The heroes immediately decide to open the sarcophagus to see if Thrommel is within, but they find a horrific sight; a desiccated corpse lies upon the lavish velvety interior.  A wooden stake is embedded in the chest and fangs protrude from the mouth.  Anton confirms this to be Thrommel, having seen him as a youth, but somehow the noble knight has been turned into a vampire.  The once handsome, vibrant knight who always wore the bright colors of the order has now been reduced to a darkly clad undead monster. 

However, as Coppyr jumps up to get a look at what everyone else is leering at, he says that he sees a normal human inside.  That's when they all realize that an illusion has been cast upon the body and they decide to pull it out of the sarcophagus.  Once they do, the glammer breaks and they see the prince as he truly is, and they find that he lives!  The prince awakens from whatever stasis he had been placed under and is very confused, asking where he was, who these people are and many more questions.  Anton explains to the prince that he has been missing for 10 years, having been abducted from his chambers the night before his wedding, and that he was presumed dead.  The prince was shocked to hear this, but quickly accepted the facts and regained his noble composure and mantle of authority.  He tells the heroes that they must get these poor people out of this vile place and they all begin planning how to proceed.

End of session. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

DM'S COMMENTARY ON THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT 4.

I was a little surprised that the players decided to retreat out of the temple dungeons and back to the farmyard.  But given that Commander Feldrin went to get reinforcements and they had already used up many of their resources, it made sense for them to pull back now rather than try to hide deeper in the dungeon that is already alerted to their presence.

I took this opportunity to give them some back ground information in the form of a vision fed to the halfling monk Coppyr.  Since Coppry is a Ghostwise halfling from the Forgotten Realms setting, I decided that his mental ability and his other-planar origins, gave the Elder Element Eye (Tharizdun) access to him, so throughout the battle I told the halfling's player that he heard this voice speaking to him in his head.  This connection is what allows the halfling to receive the vision mentioned in my campaign diary, and is meant to give clues to the Elder Elemental Eye's true identity, but also to shine the spotlight on the Zuggtmoy/Iuz alliance and the golden skull artifact.  This will be more significant as they learn what the skull represents.

The fight at the farm was set up on the fly since I didn't know that they would be leaving the temple and returning later, so I had to set up a quick map in Roll20, which was no problem since I have tons of maps purchased and acquired from various sources on the internet.  So I threw together the map as they decided on an attack plan and that fight took us to the end of the session.


I was a little disappointed that this session did not progress them through the dungeon, but it was a necessary break.  I also made it clear to the players that they would not level up until the milestone of clearing out the temple dungeon was met.  So their choice was abandoning this mission for another one (which I gave them plenty of adventure options in a previous session), but they decided that they needed to end the threat of this cult.  Hopefully next week we'll get the dungeon completed and they'll level up to 5th before hitting the individual elemental temples and nodes. 

OLD SKOOL CAMPAIGN DIARY - THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT 4

THE HEROES:


  • Anton Loyalar: Oeridian Paladin of Heironeous
  • Coppyr: Halfing Monk
  • Eli Pendar: Flannish Cleric of Pholtus
  • Tharn: Dwarf barbarian of the Fireforge clan

In tonight's adventure, the heroes continued their fight against the bugbear squad led by the human Commander Feldrin.  The heroes were winning the fight when Feldrin escaped to get reinforcements.  The heroes used this opportunity to leave the temple and to head to the abandoned farm they found as the end of the tunnel.

Upon exiting the tunnel through the well, they decide that the barn may not be a safe place to rest since the occupants of the temple know of the hero's presence, so they decide to head back to Nulb to regroup.  En route an unnatural storm develops, with high winds and rain.  The heroes enter Nulb under the cover of this storm and enter an abandoned building and set up watches.  That evening, they notice a group of humanoids in hooded cloaks entering town from the direction of the temple and note that some are bugbear and hobgoblins.  They see Commander Feldrin as well, and the group begins entering buildings and seem to be searching for the heroes.  But with the bad storm, they soon give up and head back to the temple. 

That night, Coppyr has a strange dream:

You awaken in a strange place filled with cultists from the temple.  None seem to be aware of your presence and all seem to have their attention on two in the center of the structure you are in.  The two are an old, hunched over man and a very tall female.  Upon closer examination, the old man bears a divine mantle and you instantly know him to be Iuz the Old!  The female is not a humanoid at all, but a 12' tall demon of fungus known as Zuggtmoy!  Both are holding on to an item of power shared by both of them; a golden skull with four elemental gems affixed to it; a fire gem, a water gem, an earth gem and an air gem.  The skull seems to have some great significance…

You see the scene move in reverse time, in rapid succession, going back hundreds, if not thousands of years.  You now see the temple as it was long ago, and it is not one dedicated to the four elements as it is today, but one dedicated to the Gods of the Greyhawk Pantheon.  You see dozens of gods represented here; Pholtus, Heironeous, Hextor, Obad Hai, Nerull, and many others.  But one place in the temple stands out, as it seems that it was once dedicated to a god, but all traces of that god have been removed, as if the other gods wished to eradicate its existence from the knowledge of mortals. 

You then are sent reeling back to your own time and you see one final image flash before you before awakening, and that is the image of an ever-swirling spiral…

Coppyr awakens and tells the others of his strange vision.  The others don't know what to make of it, other than Zuggtmoy was the demon that Anton's brother helped fight at the Battle of Emridy Meadows and it took the combined might of the Knights of the Hart and the Alliance of Good's priestly and arcane casters to push back the demon into the temple and to place her in stasis within.  The wards upon the temple are as much to keep her in as it is to keep others out.  Neither Anton nor Eli knew anything about the significance of the skull or the spiral symbol.

The heroes decide on a plan to reenter the temple and head towards the abandoned farm.  They find the farmyard around the entry well, guarded by a dozen hobgoblins and an ogre.  They take the guards by surprise, attacking them with ranged weapons initially, then with melee weapons.  The hobgoblins focus on the heroes while the ogre stands guard at the well, but as the battle starts to go badly for the hobgoblins, they motion to the others to go into the well and warn the temple.  A hobgoblin goes in, but is followed by an invisible Coppyr, who takes him out.  Another hobgoblin goes in and is also stopped by the halfling.  The ogre, tired of sitting by while the hobgoblins have all the fun, enters the fray, but is beaten down by the heroes.  With the guards to the entry well defeated, the heroes prepare to re-enter the tunnel leading to the Temple of Elemental Evil.

End of session.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DM'S COMMENTARY ON THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL PT 3.

The players complained to me, again, about when this adventure will get easy, joking that we seem to still be playing Shadow of the Demon Lord.  My response to them was, "You realize that the original adventure was written by Gary Gygax, right?"  This pretty much shut down the complaint, but the gripe came from the fact that in short time they had been in the temple dungeons, they'd had fought a couple of goblins, a water elemental, 4 shadows, and evaded a search party that ended up finding them and starting another fight.  Their resources are somewhat depleted, but they hadn't adventured long enough to be able to take another long rest and get any benefit from it.  So they pressed on (mostly prompted by the pompous knight) but the fights weren't getting any easier. 

This is EXACTLY what I wanted to have happen!  I wanted them to be aware of the fact that this vast complex was alive, aware of their presence, and actively searching for them.  There would be little to no rest for them as long as they stayed in the dungeons.  I gave them an out in the last session by showing them an abandoned farmhouse not far from the temple where they could potentially retreat to, but they haven't even thought about retreating yet.  Hopefully, they will remember this before they exhaust all of their resources and get too deep into the complex to get back out.

To reiterate what I mentioned in another commentary, this isn't the same layout as the one presented in the ToEE module.  Instead, I took a map from Roll20 (made by the excellent map maker Gabriel Pickard) and took interesting rooms from the original module to populate this map.  I compressed dungeon levels 1 and 4 into one level, essentially, and separated the elemental temples into separate sections of the dungeons (also using excellent elemental temple maps by the same Gabriel Pickard).  So, to be fair to the players, there are not a lot of unoccupied places the characters can hide in and rest like there were in the original module.  I wanted to keep this adventure lean and fast-paced, so I cut out a lot of fat in the process of consolidating it.  To compensate, the heroes will find some potions that will help to refresh them somewhat, providing they defeat Commander Feldrin and his bugbears.  Feldrin has a key to the vault where the temple's treasures are stored, and inside the heroes will find potions and scrolls to help them along.  I plan to try out a Potion of Mana to aid the priest in restoring some spell slots since the heroes can't take a long rest for many hours yet.  I've never used this kind of spell slot restoring device in a 5e game, so I'm going to control it carefully to ensure it doesn't break the game.  I'm going to say that Potions of Mana are extremely rare and hoarded by casters everywhere, so they can't go buy them like they can other types of potions. We'll see how that goes.

So far I'm happy with how things have gone in my revision of the ToEE.  I'm not done populating the elemental temples yet, and had a close call when the heroes wanted to try going into the water temple, so I deterred them by having two water elemental myrmidon standing guard at the entrance, which bought me some time.  For the elemental temples I plan on stealing liberally from not only the original module, but also from the 5E Princes of the Apocalypse adventure.  In fact the temple priests and their servants are all going to be drawn from that resource.  However, I really want the heroes to finish the main dungeon before they go into the elemental dungeons because that is the milestone I have set for them to level to 5th level, but also they will meet NPCs that will give them information they need to figure out what is going on in this place and put a stop to it.  Currently the PCs just think there's a bad cult here summoning elementals for a war.  They have no idea that the banished god Tharizdun is trying to get back into this multiverse through the guise of the Elder Elemental Eye and, unless they destroy the golden orb and the demon Zuggtmoy, who has the seed to Tharizdun within her, the God will be born back into this reality and will signal the beginning of the end!


Anyway, great fun so far!  I love taking adventures like this and making them mine.

OLD SKOOL CAMPAIGN DIARY - THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, PT 3

THE HEROES:
  • Anton Loyalar: Oeridian Paladin of Heironeous
  • Coppyr: Halfing Monk
  • Eli Pendar: Flannish Cleric of Pholtus
  • Tharn: Dwarf barbarian of the Fireforge clan

Picking up where we left off, our heroes engage in battle with the water elemental that Eli inadvertently summoned.  In a surprise move, the water elemental engulfs Tharn and holds him fast for several moments.  Eli and Coppyr fight the elemental and Anton manages to pull Tharn out of the creature, only to then become engulfed with Tharn.  But the heroes disperse enough of the monster's watery mass to disrupt its hold on this plane and the elemental returns to its native plane. 

The heroes move on from that room, looking for a place to catch their breath.  The find a hall that leads to the Temple of Water, but by pass that and enter a hall that leads to a room of black stone.  With no apparent threats in this room, the heroes attempt to get some rest, but before they can get a good rest in, they are attacked by two undead creatures known as shadows, whose hatred of life and hunger for the life force of the living draws them to the heroes.  Eli manages to force back the shadows using the power of his faith, but two more shadows hiding in the room emerge and attack.  The heroes fight the creatures and destroy them and attempt to rest again when voices outside of the door they came in are heard and an apparent search is underway for the heroes.  The voice in charge orders the water temple searched and says that it's not necessary to search the Black Room for the shadows will handle anyone going in there. 

The voices go away and the heroes can now relax for a bit.  While resting, Anton attempts to force open the only other door in the room, which is a strong, iron door that is locked.  He is unable to force the door open. 

Upon finishing their rest, the heroes depart and return to the sacrificial temple, but hear two ogres outside of the entrance.  They explore the other exit of the room, but find another locked door with strange scraping sounds coming from the other side.   The group backtracks and tries to come up with a plan to lure the ogres in the room, but the dumb brutes don't fall for Coppyr's attempts at opening the door and piquing their curiosity. 

The heroes then hear the other door open and voices and footfalls heading in their direction.  They try to hide in the sacrificial temple as the bugbear search party returns, led by a human in studded leather armor.  The human, Commander Feldrin, tells the bugbears that the intruders must have gone into the Black Room and they had better not have gotten into the vault or someone named "Hedrack" would be very angry.  At that point, Anton accidentally hits the pillar he hides behind with his shield, giving away his position. Commander Feldrin orders the bugbears to attack!

Session ends in mid-combat.