Not everything even the most prepared party of adventurer's will face can be met head on. And we are not just talking about hiding in the shadows to strike at it as it passes. Sometimes the best way to achieve the goal is not the most direct way.
The party finally had the opportunity to see this - Zoltan getting the layout of the Chasm and the bridges that cross it - the dangers, and the guards there. If the group had more bodies at their disposal maybe they could swarm the bridges. But then again, maybe not.
A good dungeon crawl will have a number of side quests and not so linear plot points to achieve what is needed - but it should also have areas where sometimes a hammer is not needed to solve the problems.
Write up follows:
We holed ourselves up back in the dwarven barracks that we had bypassed the runelocked door of in the Great Hall of Wodenvarelse, the 2nd level of the area known as Dargan’s Folly. The illusionist made the appearance of the wall being unbroken from the outside, Karis opened his bear trap and placed it inside the opening, and then the party stacked about 9 of the stone pallets that were in the room in front of that – walling us in, but giving us a place to be safe.
After that the group talked to the 3 goblin thugs we had captured and had trussed up. One of them spoke dwarvish, another spoke ogre, and the last didn't speak anything but goblin. We asked many questions and tried to get a feel for what's down here. There is a leader, Sakath Slobbertongue. He is across something called the chasm, and then make a left on the Grand Concourse till you get to the throne room. There are about 30 guards there.
Little more was learned from them and Amal was asked to dispatch the goblins (the orc doing so happily) and we spoke about what we had learned and what was to come up next. The group did not want to slog room to room and try to find the treasure vault (assuming we even could) – but the thought around the group ran strong that it is probably further in on this level. We were going to rest and then the next day – try to map out and get a feel for the dimensions and size of the Great Hall. After that, we would figure out where to go and how to get there.
Healing kits were applied and the party did their best to sleep. Amal and Gwyn both opted to take half sleeps as they were the least wounded and didn't want to leave Coruth'tae up by himself (the grey elf only requiring 4 hours of "rest" a night.). Little came by us that we noticed and the next "morning" (we have no idea what day or time it is exactly) we awoke and readied spells and prayers.
We left the barracks (after dismantling our barrier) and began walking. We went slow, pacing ourselves and allowing Coruth'tae and Zoltan to map out and ask questions of what it was we were seeing. A total of three roads jutted off from the Great Hall to the right, the area between the 2nd and 3rd having another runelocked door like we had broken our way into yesterday. Beyond that the hall continued for some distance, a couple hundred feet – and as it went, the earth was sloping downward at a gentle 5-10 degrees. It felt natural, not like the cavern was settling.
But as we had been walking on we heard voices in the gloom ahead and they were calling out. We continued on and then we heard something being "fired" and a spear launched itself into our circle of light. The lantern was doused and we froze – those with infravision and darksight trying to pierce the darkness shroud ahead (and failing – visibility for them limited to roughly 60'). More strange sounds, like something wetish padding through the stone floor. Also odd "zzzzzt" sounds and small trails of sparks.
We gathered together and waited and listened – the padding sound getting higher and higher – and then another spear was thrown into our midst. Zoltan shot off a dancing lights spell and sent the "torches" up to where the noise was – and revealed a 20' long thick bellied lizard holding onto the column with sticky "fingers", and a saddle on its back with a burly dog-like wiry furred humanoid perched there – an oversized looking crossbow pointing at the group.
The lizard leapt off and spread its leg, flaps of skin causing it to soar as it dove at the party. Karis ran forward and tried to hack it out of the sky, the dog like man fell from the saddle. Fodder and Smokey tore into the wounded lizard and the dog man attempted to flee. Sling bullets were hurled and Gwyn got a shock from the lizard but with some effort, the two foes were slain.
And then a bunch more were approaching us and the group decided it was time to run. Zoltan and Gwyn were struck and knocked down, Smokey pinned a few times. Amal grabbed the gypsy, Karis the dwarf and the party threw defenses to the wind and ran as fast as possible to get out of the area and ran back up the slope towards the "streets". A bag of caltrops hit the ground behind us. Panting and grunting we ran away and heard the sound of the pursuers slowing down as they came to the dead we left there and hitting the spikes we scattered in our wake.
Down the side road, spears were removed and we readied weapons and waited. And waited – nothing came, the pursuers had turned back. Whew….now what? The group was convinced we had to cross into that area – but the creatures (we guessed at gnolls) were too strong and numerous. The party agreed to let Zoltan go ahead, invisible from Coruth'tae's spells, and have him "map" out the area. They would wait here as long as possible.
Slipping the wolf's-head cap over his head to expand his hearing and give him some infravision, Zoltan stalked ahead silently. He eventually arrived where the party had been turned back and kept going – until he was able to see a chasm ahead. It was a good 50' wide and crossed the entire width of the Great Hall. Two bridges of arched stone, 40' wide, arced gently over the chasm to the other end. A latticework of metal struts and catwalks were under it. A pair of stern looking dwarven statues flanked each side of each bridge. The depth of the chasm was immeasurable as it went to his vision range and kept going.
A lizard mounted gnoll was patrolling on one bridge and on the other side were many others – almost 10. Zoltan went to the 2nd bridge and picked his way from metal bar to bar until he crossed to the other side. Then he trusted to his invisibility and skill at moving silently and slid past the unknowing gnolls (a couple of the lizards looked at him, but did nothing else) until he was at the "southern" wall. From here he went on, eventually coming to a wide 40' street with a 50' vaulted ceiling festooned with natural crystal growths. It went on and the sound of gnolls were very strong (this seemed to be the Grand Concourse mentioned earlier).
Taking advantage of not being noticed yet, he went on, further exploring the other side of the Great Hall past the chasm. There were no other side roads on the left, and eventually the wall began to curve around to the north – a double set of doors bearing the runelock upon them. At the end of the Hall – the floor dropped and the dressed stone became cruder and rougher. The corridor was perhaps 50' wide here, the ceiling topping out at 40'. There were up to 30 tall statues piled at the end, all of them 10'/20' tall taciturn looking dwarvish beings. It was obvious that they had been brought here at some point; their bottoms had been dragged or removed from whatever bases they once sat upon. Beyond the statuary, the hall split right and left.
Zoltan continued about, curving now up the northern wall and heading back towards the chasm – passing an opened doorway with some sort of soiled records chamber and a half dozen gnolls sitting around a smoldering fire and stoned looking. Then there was a mirror of the Grand Concourse, the sound of industry, clanging hammers, and many goblin and kobold voices. Just shy of the chasm was another doorway – this one not runelocked but a length of chain running through the double handles and a stout lock fastened. A note read something about tomb doors needing to remain closed on orders of Kashtir Bristlestone. And then the missive was signed by a Sakath Slobbertongue (the same name the goblin we had captured had said ran the place).
Zoltan snuck back to the southern bridge, picked his way underneath, and went back to the party. The entire exploration took an hour. We talked long on what he had found and the party came to the conclusion that a straight out fight would most likely be dangerous for us – even deadly. The gnolls were not like goblins or kobolds and were most likely doughty fighters. Plus, mounted as they were on the huge lizards and the advantage of superior vision – it was a recipe for slaughter.
So we thought about what we had learned on the floor above – and realized that the dwarves had designed the Stronghold in such a way that they (if they knew where to go) could pick their way through many of the chambers and wind up on the back end of an assaulting force. The same might prove true down here. That meant besides the alleyways, they could find some sort of corridor or chamber or passage that would lead the group from this area of the warrens to the other side and bypass the chasm and the gnolls there.
We opted to go down the 3rd avenue (where we were already holed up) and gave the street a long once over. Many buildings on both sides as we had noticed already – but on the left side there were a couple of doors that looked like they had been stuck fast in the frames – requiring either spell or strength to open them. Not wanting to alert any baddies down here, Detheron spell shaped the edges of the stone doors so we could push them in without noise – and we entered.
It was a rather large temple to Thor. And it looked like it had been unspoiled for a long time. Three rows of pews, a locked cabinet, altar, prayer area, lectern, podium, screens, dried font, tall statue of Thor. There were three other doors also in here – one that led back to the main street- one that we assumed led to the alleyway, and a third that was in the back of the place and sported a runelock on it.
We looked around. Found candles, some clerical prayer paraphernalia, various accoutrements. The cabinet was forced open and we uncovered some priestly belongings, 4 holy symbols to Thor (2 silver, 1 gold, 1 platinum), and a 7 count of copper and silver bells each one corresponding to a single ascending note. The group took them all. Detheron found a series of papers that were penned by Cyric Mulholland! More notes that never made it into the Dargan Folly books! He began reading.
We were talking about getting through the back wall with another use of Detheron's soften stone spell to see what was there. Was it a passage to the other side of the Chasm? Detheron's reading revealed that according to Dargan's people – there is a room with an 11' tall glowing golden hammer that also has something that was called the "runekey" in it. Any goblin who attempted (or any creature supposedly) to enter the chamber was assaulted by the soaring hammer and battered to a bloody paste. Alright then – the hammer is in some sort of either Throne Room or Thane Room. The group was feeling good – that was a clue needed to uncover some of this place.
Detheron used his spell to soften the stone wall and Karis, Gwyn, and Amal beat at the wall until we had knocked a hole next to the runelocked door. It was assumed to be the High Priest of Thor's inner sanctum. The chandelier lit and a wind swept about the room, dusting things off and opening the roll-top desk. Upon entering though, a bolt of lightning cracked out of the ceiling and struck the party – not much, but enough to cause them to leap back. Ok…room is warded. How do they get in?
Zoltan took one of the holy symbols (the silver one), put it on, gave a quick prayer to Thor asking him if it is ok, and then entered – safely! Karis, Gwyn, and Detheron each put on symbols too while the rest of the group waited outside. There was much to look at and much to see. A call to detect magic was prayed for and the party noted many items of interest glowing. Nice.
When Karis swept everything off the desk and tried to walk out of the room to hand it to Coruth'tae, a vortex of energy swarmed up, slamming into the half ogre hard, and shoved him back. Some of the party left what they had picked up and tried to walk out of the room (unmolested) and Karis fought his way back to the desk and dumped everything on it, hoping to calm the strange invisible vortex creature. It didn't work.
Coruth'tae fired off a bolt of energy from his wand and it went through the creature – slamming into Karis! Spell resistance! Damn it. The half ogre, unable to escape the room, drew Kysoth's Bludgeon and assaulted the creature – hurting it! Amal took Zoltan's amulet to Thor and entered with Elkstone drawn, and Gwyn reentered with Elfsplitter whistling overhead. Even Detheron came back in – plying healing to the wounded half ogre and trying to keep him vertical.
Sling stones and more wand use was hurled from outside and the party bent blade and bludgeon without letting up – the creature taking all their hits and hitting them back. It was touch and go with some great and daring healing by Detheron. Karis attempted to wade into the invisible windy vortex creature, mace slamming about. The creature lifted him straight up and hurled him at the ceiling. The half ogre twisted in the air and hung upside down, feet on the ceiling, twenty feet in the air. A massive concentration assaulted the fading vortex and then it disappeared with a final bursting blast. The group healed their wounds and we cleaned out the priest's chambers – taking everything with us to the main temple.
Besides obvious treasures, they found a matched pair of sapphire rings of which one of them was magical, a rod of healing (10' range) with 36 lit rune charges on it, a scroll of Raise Dead, various pages for scrolls and quills and inks, a comb that made someone's hair become clean and well groomed, and a shield with a pair of lightning bolt symbols on it.
After dividing up the treasures we talked about what to do next and where to go – and the game ended here for this night.