The party had gone back into the Folley on what would be their 2nd day of exploring. This was still more clearing of the "vermin" level and learning some of the architecture of the place.
Everyone does dungeons differently. Some people love them, others hate them. Some try to make an ecological progression with every possible niche filled and others like to old school with poisonous traps, owlbears, otyughs, and dragons all living next to each other behind closed doors.
I take a middle road. The upper levels are the "food" sources and more natural of the levels, but as the dungeon goes deeper, it get more dangerous and in some places less logical. And let's be honest, nothing gets the blood flowing and the d20's clattering than when the party opens an iron bound doorway to see a six-count of burned mastiff looking creatures with fire dripping from their dewlaps and two duergar clad in black scale mail and sporting crossbows.
One of the things that did happen here though was I had somewhere gotten the word "scorpion" in my head about halfway through the meeting - and everywhere I was trying to describe centipedes - I mistakenly said scorpion. It got so bad that even the party was doing the same and by the end of the night, we called them scorpapedes and split the difference.
Write up follows:
Continuing where we last left off, it was Earthmonth the 22nd, sometime between 5 and 6 PM and we had just helped Karis out of an ancient dwarven pit trap. There was much talk about finding our way out of the Stronghold level (1st level) and back to the entrance hall – and eventually to the surface for some food, study, and sleep.
We followed the corridor towards the kitchen (as shown on our map and Zoltan's quick scouting) where we gave the place a once over. Collapsed ruined oven, many signs of rats, a few of the smaller vermin fleeing at our prods and pokes about the spoiled kitchen. We found some coinage (smooth faced) buried in the oven, in the ruins of an old pouch, but little else. Weary now and wanting a chance to rest up and heal properly, we left the kitchen southward and returned to the entrance hall. From there it was a jaunt up the stairs and we were finally out and free; once again on the surface.
Goloriana told us we would have a safe and well rested evening should we want to sleep and not post watch. We quickly cataloged the small treasures we had found and then went over the list of things we had learned at this time. There was some talking about spells at our disposal and eventually the group finished their dinner and went to sleep.
We awoke early the next day on the 23rd, broke our fast, prayed, and about 8 AM we went back down the steps to Dargan's Folly. While reviewing where we had been and gone in the entrance hall and noticed that we had finished up 2 of the 6 doors. Hoping to minimize the winding area of the Stronghold and to stay only with what we have seen, we went to the doorway that Detheron had opened on his own yesterday and we began exploring.
It was slow going until we arrived at our first door. A stout shoulder to the planking and we were looking in on what was once an audience chamber of some sort. A warped and old desk, some benches, and a singular simplistic 4 layer map in faded colors painted on one wall were all that was in here. The group looked around, Coruth'tae going through the trouble to copy the map AND decipher the ancient dwarven runes (using the "key" Gwyn and Zoltan had put together almost 3 months earlier).
Karis and Detheron (and Zoltan) checked out the desk which was dominated by 3 large front drawers. Karis used his sturdy dagger to pry the drawers open, the first two revealing dust and filth. The 3rd one though had a nasty surprise of small grub like worms that were disturbed from the jostling and landed on the druid and the half ogre. And began to immediately burrow through leather, cloth, and flesh. The rest of the group gave ground and Karis and Detheron ran into the hall and started to strip off their armor while the grubs crawled into the flesh and started burrowing deeper.
Zoltan snagged a torch and started to burn the druid where the worms could be seen under his skin, hurting the priest but also killing the grubs. Gwyn mimicked Zoltan and once Karis had removed his chainmail was doing the same to him. The threat over (and the two of them lightly wounded) we redonned our gear and joined the group back in the map room. According to Coruth'tae’s reading of the map and the deciphered runes, there were four layers: Stronghold, Wodenvarelse (Warren), Byfortvile (Undercity), and Catacombs (Underdark). Alright. Got it.
A thorough search of the room uncovered a section of the back corner of this room that looked like the wall could be opened. However no pressure plate was found and no amount of pushing opened the way. It was when Gwyn withdrew his pick ax that the grey elf offered his services and magicked open the locked secret door with a “knock” spell. We heard a bar slide free and this time the door opened and pivoted. Ok. We were in.
It was a 10x10 room with ANOTHER locked bar on the other side. Looking through it showed another hallway (which we noted linked BACK to the main entrance hall!). That was it? Seemed odd. Zoltan and Gwyn looked around the small room for a bit and found a section of the floor (5x6) that would swing down like a covered pit. Couldn't get it open though. Having a bright idea, they shut BOTH secret doors and replaced the 7' metal bars on each – which released the pins holding the pit trapped closed! Good job!
They went down a very dusty (lets call it a century plus of undisturbed dust) rough hall maybe 4' wide and 6-7' tall. It ran straight into the dark. They walked on about 20-30 paces where they saw two dead dwarves on the ground. Clad in chain, sporting shields, helms, and hammers. Go closer? Go away? Gwyn was torn – the dwarven fighter inching closer and closer – but Zoltan decided it for him by turning around and just walking back. Gwyn followed and the two of them laughed nervously about it.
They rejoined the group and talked about what they've seen and the party wanted to check it out. A number of spikes were applied to keep the door open AND the pit opened (and Gwyn took the 25#, 7' metal bar for himself – chuckle) and we followed Karis down – the half ogre taking up MOST of the hall with his own bulk. In fact, the tunnels were not made for someone his size and Karis was having to pick his way carefully and crouch along.
They went on to the bodies and Karis was going to loot them when one of the dwarves (note – skeletal dead dwarf) grabbed his wrist TIGHT and held on, bashing him across the helmed head with his hammer. Great. The other dwarf rose to his feet too. And then from down the hall another dwarf got up and began walking. Karis was yelling for the party to back up and help him. Gwyn threw a vial of holy water against the skeleton and the blessed water melted most of the ribs off. It still hung on and Karis, taking more scratches and blows, used one of his own vials also and was able to finally disengage himself.
The other two came on and the half ogre presented his symbol to Tyr bravely and shouted out that the undead should turn back! And a beam of bluish white came out but the skeletons were unfazed. That was it – the group retreated up the stairs and waited with weapons ready – but the skeletal dwarves stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Ooooookkkkkkkk. Now what?
Group WANTED to go down the hidden corridor so Zoltan went to the front and using his sling hurled stone after stone after stone down at the waiting skeletons who stood there and let the thief knock pieces off of them until they fell over. The way clear, Zoltan went on and the group looted the dead dwarven defenders – with Detheron and Coruth'tae wanting to collect some of the bones in a bag and pound them to dust (it's on the alchemist "needs" list).
The gypsy thief had made it to the other end of the long corridor where there was a set of stairs that went UP. A locked bar blocked the trap door into the next room and he pulled it free and looked above. It was a long abandoned barracks of some sort. He was poking around a few minutes while the group trundled finally after him and emerged from the secret tunnel. There were three ways out of here. We opted to go north (after Coruth'tae verified that one of them lead BACK to the entrance hall) from here and eventually came next (after some corridors) to what was once a kennel.
There were 5 very corroded and rusted cages here and 5 skeletal canines with lengths of long ago useless chain mixed in. Our guess was the dogs that were once here died from abandonment some 50 years ago. There was a corridor north and we pressed on.
The group did notice a marked difference in this area. There were still rats scurrying about, but they were few and far between – the majority of what we had been seeing was centipedes. Small ones as long as a finger and many more of them milling about in and out of the torch light.
We followed the halls till it ended at a ‘T’ with a door at the junction. Zoltan did his duty and discovered that there was only a small hollow under the door like a closet and upon serious searching, a 15' cleverly hidden slot in the ceiling above that crossed in front of the door. Trapped. Leave it alone.
We went left at the ‘T’ and came to a chamber. There were some 2 dozen rat skeletons on the floor in here scattered about and long dead, their flesh stripped away and some webbing covering the bones. What happened here? Party followed Zoltan's lead and worked their way through here cautiously but nothing came out and "got" us. Beyond there was another chamber that reeked of dampness. The ceiling was cracked heavily and according to the dwarf and the half-ogre, was in danger of coming down should the party screw around.
We rested up a bit and took stock of our map, talking about what we've seen and the slow pacing so far. There were two ways out of here, the left way leading back to the "barracks" we came in the hidden through, the right – somewhere else. Detheron called to Frey to help him locate any animals nearby – specifically centipedes – and beyond the "right" door some way beyond, he got a number of hits. In the hundreds.
We carefully opened the door and the corridor went straight ahead OR turned to the right and a short set of stairs went down. Straining our ears, from that direction we heard something – like a bag full of pebbles slowly grinding against itself. Karis went on and we followed (some of us), a bad feeling starting to creep up through the party.
Beyond the base of the stairs the corridor turned to the left and from there we deduced the centipedes were. It was some sort of ancient training room and it was dominated in the back HALF of the chamber with a sprawling mound of garbage and earth that had LOTS of centipedes running in and out of. There was a rat (one of the giant 15# ones) dead about 5' from the pile that had numerous grubs and insects crawling on it. There was ALSO a door out of the room on the wall opposite the mound of potentially hundreds of centipedes.
It was here that party unity had its once every three meetings breakdowns. For almost 15 minutes there was discussion back and forth of going on. Killing the centipedes. Going back. Leaving them alone. Setting it on fire. Oil. Flaming Spheres. And every other possible permutation of them. It was SORT of decided to leave it alone AND leave the room, instead have Karis come back and lets look at the other corridor that ran the other direction.
As the half ogre was coming back, he did chance upon noticing that there was a section of the wall that had a pressure plate before it and was probably a secret room. Feeling peevish after bickering with the group he stopped and started to fumble the portal open. As the group turned back to wait for him and berate him for his actions, they noticed centipedes – LOTS of centipedes coming towards him. Sonova crap.
Momentarily happy at finding a long missed dwarven armory Karis did manage to turn around in time and erect a HASTY barrier to repel vermin. It slammed into place just in time to stop the common centipedes, but the larger and giant sized ones (some 20 plus count of them) crawled right through and washed over the half ogre biting him all over.
Flasks of oil were hurled AT the wall past Karis and at an angle into the mass of centipedes. Karis dropped his torch into the oil and sent most of the swarm ablaze while Gwyn raced down the steps and plied scimitar against the many vermin – cutting Karis as well as the bugs. A 5 count moved onto the dwarf and he too was struggling to sweep them free.
Coruth'tae watched dispassionately and said simply to Detheron "Burn him." What? Drop a Flaming Sphere RIGHT on the ogre. He'll live. The bugs will die. Covered in bites and unable to get enough of the centipedes off of him, Karis yelled "Do it! Burn me!" And Detheron's benediction to Frey followed along with the appearance of a 6' flaming ball right on the half-ogre.
He was fire scarred and the centipedes were toasted. His backpack caught fire and he tried to take it off in time and throw it free but some of the gear inside was damaged or burned (including some clerical scrolls and a few potions). Meanwhile Amal and Smokey beat enough of the centipedes off of Gwyn and in a few minutes the battle was over and the flaming sphere was moved into the training room to scour it clean. Karis was healed (somewhat) and he rigged up a rucksack out of bags and rope, transferring most of his gear about. We were going through torches we felt a bit fast and Detheron started using "light" spells instead on the end of the expired torches. Gwyn was impressed until he was told the light was steady and would not set things soaked in oil on fire which made the dwarf's expression sour instantly and him to mutter, "Well, then that spell sucks then." Truer words never spoken by the fire-bug dwarf.
Many of the items in the hidden area were some 2 centuries old and dwarven made – but still in fair condition. Adorned with symbology to Thor and Odin, we found axes, hammers, spears, breastplates, and shields. There were also a couple of 5# bags of caltrops and a climbing ladder with a pair of grappling hooks affixed at one end and rolled up (most likely 70' or more in length – we didn't roll it out). There was talk of leaving the gear HERE in the hidey hole- or bringing it to the entrance room and leaving it there for us to take back up top eventually. Group was split but Karis' voice held sway and we left the gear in the entrance hall.
After that we went back to the corridor we didn't take and..er..took it. Chuckle.
It meandered a bit and went down a set of stairs to…another door. However this was unlike anything we've seen normally. Thick, banded in rusted iron, and locked. Zoltan took out his thieves tools and in a few minutes broke the lock free and we were able to enter. A ten count of cages on both sides of the room – within the broken bars and confines were dwarven skeletons long dead.
Did our boys disturb them? Damn straight they did! And the dwarves got up, all 10 of them, and began shuffling after the party who retreated fast back to and up the stairs. 10 skeletons is a bit different than 3 – and they didn't stop at the door this time. Karis called on Tyr again and this time the god of justice heard him and a beam of holy light drove 5 of the lead skelly's back into the cell room. Leaving 5. Amal and Gwyn took point and started whacking them with cudgel and war hammer. Then Karis moved in and they took out the last of the standing 5.
Wanting to check out the room – Karis went first, his presented symbol pushing the skeletons to the back wall and holding them there. The group swiftly looked over the trash in here and found nothing. We backed out and the door was closed and we left it at that.
We looked over the map and wanted to go towards the training room and the portal beyond it. Good choice! It took a few minutes to get there and once we did, walked onward carefully and looked about. More centipedes abounded but nothing right at us. There was a cross corridor to the right and another set of stairs going down or we could have continued straight eventually leading to what Detheron felt was another centipede nest (It was here that the poor DM was mistakenly and continuously referring to the insects we were encountering as scorpions – which had the group confused many a time and then making the same mistake themselves – and eventually we morphed the creatures into a dreaded scorp-apede: which I am sure appeared in some version of the Field Folio as some point).
Following Zoltan down the steps we looked upon a room with more webbing on the ceiling, dust on the floor – and the majority of the room covered in flattened piles of pottery with some sort of dwarven-like runes on them. Our bardic-thief opted to avoid the pottery and picked his way along the edge of the room until he arrived at the opposite and doorway over there. On looking in it was a 30' long corridor with a door at the other end. I believe the expression uttered at this point was, "Damn it. You know this corridor is trapped."
Karis followed the thief, picking the same way across the pottery field at the edge of the room, and the two of them walked ahead slowly carefully looking about. About halfway down, Zoltan's keen eye picked up a break in the floor from one wall to the other. What was it? Couldn't tell for sure. Karis and the trusty 10' pole came to the front and tapped along and pressed hard and he sprung a pit trap, 10' wide, 5' long, and 30' deep. Niiiiice. Zoltan broke out hammer and spike and spiked the wall so that when/if the pit closed, it wouldn't close all the way.
Once done, he leapt over the 5' gap, went to the other door, and got down on hands and knees. Shining his amulet under the chewed holes he looked into a large chamber swarming with centipedes. And they noticed the big beam of light coming from under the door. And they began swarming in his direction. Whoo hoo! The gypsy ran back, jumped over the pit, and took out some of the grease he had, slathering it on the surface of the pit cover (which was now canted at 50 degree angle and stuck open from the spike). The centipedes were massing up and some of the larger ones were menacing from the other side. Karis suggested Detheron come up and Flaming Sphere them all. The druid agreed and said "Be right there" and ran into the pottery field room with smiles and a bounce to his step.
And that's when he set off the first explosive runes that he stomped on. It burst underneath him and sent the druid flying forward. Where he landed on more pottery. Also explosive runes. And he was tossed upward again. And then a third time with more concussive blasts.
When he finally stopped the party was laughing hard, Zoltan was whistling the tune of the 1812 Overture, and Detheron had blown his cold weather boots into tatters and right off his feet as well as earning 17 total points of damage. Smoking, burned, aching, hurt, and wounded, he fixed the worst of his damage and then took out his frustrations on the scorp-apedes with a Flaming Sphere before taking out his moccasins (the only footwear he has left) and putting them on.
We ended it here with Amal, Coruth'tae, and Gwyn tossing whatever small bits of junk they had in their packs into the room and trying to upset the pottery shards and making them explode. We don't know the time but we are getting pretty hungry for lunch and want to look over the maps Coruth'tae's been writing.