Sometimes the only way to get past an area is to fight. That is it. Yes it is railroading, but if the party WANTS to pursue a certain direction - then that means they have to stay on the rails. The Mausoleum was supposed to be one of those places - a fight, and against undead.
Now I don't go back and rework an area because things have changed in the party. Such as - the party's only undead turning priest temporarily missing the use of his priestly powers because he pissed off his god - ie, Karis. So they were going into a fight with what would have been 50 Skeletons without anyway to turn or dispel them (not counting the 2 burning bones or the wraith). Ok, not too much of a problem for 5th-6th level party.
The room would also lock and remain locked for 5 rounds, after which time the doors could be opened. Not my fault the party never rechecked the door after round 3.
There was an escape path through here - but when it was made by the long ago dwarves, it was made for THEM and their height - not my fault that the party has a half-ogre, a grizzly bear, and an orcish fighter with them - all too large to fit down and out of that area.
And lastly, it is not my fault that one of the party members unleashed a Blessed Bolt (which always do 40 points of damage (half if save), 5' path, and are always 100' long) in a room too small to contain it. Which meant it hit the wall at some point and swung back - hitting the party.
It might not be my fault, but it sure made for an interesting night of adventuring!
Write up follows:
Karis gave the sarcophagus a hard shove…and the lid slid over with the heavy grating of stone on stone. Foul dust and vapors arose, and he waited a moment for it to clear, revealing at long last a dried and desiccated dwarven body. Moldering robes were draped over its form, and a chain hauberk rusting away was worn over that. On its breast on a chain of silvered gold, was a jeweled symbol to Thor.
A strange "thrum" seemed to run through the room and the party looked about, worried. Nothing happened. Do they take the amulet? Would the dead arise? What was the "thrum"? Much conversation followed, and the party was concerned on many issues.
It was decided that Zoltan would at least go into the area behind some of the interred bodies and get the crossbow bolts and other gear the dwarves had hidden there in the past. It would involve him crawling through one of the niches and over a dead body interred there to get to the hidey hole – which he did gingerly. The remains were disturbed – but nothing untoward happened. He grabbed the 4 bolts (one was a blessed bolt to Thor, one was heavily runed, and the other two were lightly runed), as well as the poor condition windlass cranked crossbow from there, and passed it back. He looked around – the hidey area was 5'x8'x5' and there was a narrow sloping curving corridor maybe 20 inches wide that ran off from here and to the north. He noted it and then rejoined the party, his "haste" potion still in effect.
A few plans were hatched and discarded, but eventually the party decided that they would have Coruth'tae and Detheron open the door, Zoltan would snatch the amulet off the dead dwarf's neck (I believe the terms – “not being gentle about it” – was bandied about), and Karis, Gwyn, and Amal would race out of the room and engage the gnolls most likely on the other side hopefully with some element of surprise.
With the clock ticking and time passing, the party nodded to themselves and the doors were yanked open.
And as had been laughed about earlier, our plans usually only last about 3 seconds.
The "thrum" in the room grew very strong and the two doors slammed closed. Zoltan grabbed the amulet and with his ensorcelled speed burning through his limbs, pulled the holy symbol free scant inches ahead of the slamming closed sarcophagus cover. Prize in hand, he leapt off the dais and joined the party as Karis was trying to force the doors opened. And then over a dozen dwarven bodies rolled off their niches and stood before walking lock-step and lurchingly towards the group.
Zoltan swung his cloak about his form and winked out –trying to "port" out of the room to open the door from the other side, while Karis was having serious difficulty and was unable to pull the door open. Those skeletons closest to Smokey and Fodder were assaulted, but the animals were not having much luck in taking the fleshless foes down. Gwyn had taken the windlass crossbow and bolts from Zoltan earlier but slung it across his back and drew his new battleaxe "Blaze". Credit to its name, both bits bust into fire and the dwarf attacked the undead – taking it down swiftly.
Amal drew his cudgel and raced over, swinging his own weapon as he beat another lumbering skeleton to death. The group was feeling pretty good about it even as the undead strode across the chamber towards them. And then another fourteen or so dead dwarves rose to their feet and joined the others already approaching the group. Also, the coffin of Iodin began to give forth a greenish hue that seeped out from the bottom of the stone box.
Zoltan appeared – but not outside as he suspected – instead still within the chamber! Apparently the "thrumming" or whatever was warding the place was preventing him from portalling out. There were a few undead near him so he lay about him with his weighted chain clobbering the skeletons on the head while attempting to get back to the group. Karis bent his back to the door, failing to make any more headway against it even though the portal shook in its frame. Detheron called on Frey to grant Karis a charm of Strength hoping that would help in the matter. Amal beat his cudgel against a few more skeletons but not wanting to get cut off, broke away (getting whacked once for his efforts) and ran to help Karis on the door. Gwyn held his own, plying about him with the magical battleaxe, taking down the skeletons that were surrounding him. Coruth'tae used his shadow wand and tore one of the skeletons to shreds.
But more of the walking undead drew close and hammers, axes, and swords fell – and the party's fighters began taking wounds. Lots of wounds.
As the party was fighting, the green glow on the coffin grew brighter – and then a reddish glow began to come from the next two coffins in the dais. With the press of undead now too great for us to ignore, Karis whirled back about and drew the mace Kysoth's Bludgeon, attempting to clear a path to Gwyn who was now surrounded by dwarven skeletons. And another 14 skeletons rolled off their biers and added to the fray.
It was becoming impossible to maneuver about the room and the group was doing what they could to stay together. Smokey and Fodder were warding the left flank, Amal and Gwyn on the right, Karis was on the center with Zoltan and in the middle with spells and wands flashing were Coruth'tae and Detheron. Gwyn was getting beaten pretty badly and opted to switch out of his battle axe and to his scimitar and shield in order to better defend himself. The glowing sarcophagi were getting brighter and the group was having a hard time avoiding being hit.
Zoltan took a look at the situation and (as had been assumed) was going to try and open the door from the outside – but not by portalling out the way we came in (which failed), but by going back to the hidey hole behind the niche and chancing the passage there. He swung the cloak about himself and disappeared.
More skeletons were dispatched but the party was still surrounded and in dire straits. Detheron withdrew the scroll of Mass Cure Moderate Wounds he had found and intoned it off – giving everyone in the party a quick burst of much needed hit points. Gwyn was getting hit less (thanks to his shield), but his scimitar although wonderful against fleshy creatures, was ill-equipped to hurt and harm the skeletons and he had to work twice as hard to take down the undead. Karis continued to lay about him but the horde of undead was unrelenting in its press.
And then another 10 skeleton rolled off the niches and the party groaned in weariness. The two "red glowing" sarcophagi fired the light into two of the skeletons closest to the dais and those two burst into flames. They also moved with surety and skill, not with the same lurching motion the other skeletons were displaying. Zoltan appeared right by the hidey hole and dove through, avoiding the skeleton that was there by a hand's breadth. The single dwarven skeleton dropped to its hands and knees and followed.
With the count of undead reaching 50 now (not accounting for the dozen or more so we had already killed), we redoubled our efforts, keeping a weather eye on the two pacing flaming skeletons who were walking not towards the group, but for the green glowing sarcophagus. Gwyn decided to accept more hits and went back to his battleaxe, Blaze flaring to life once more. We struck and fired and swung and bashed and did all we could to take down as many of the undead as fast as possible, but there were too many and they didn't stop.
Zoltan hit the hidey-room, turned left, and threw himself into the narrow cleft, sliding down and racing away in order to make distance from the pursuing skeleton but to also see if he could make it to the main hall and open the door.
The two flaming skeletons raised their weapons and brought them down on the green coffin – and a burst of light flowed out and the room grew cold as a wraith-like apparition in flowing black and wielding a weapon of negative energy emerged and scanned the chamber as if searching for something. Not seeing what it wanted, it instead focused itself on Karis and assaulted the half-ogre templar. Karis dodged and evaded, the spectral touch of the creature never fully landing on him but its presence causing his armor and mace to become rimed with frost.
The party was very afraid – skeletons they could do their best to weather against, but a wraith was a different matter. In his pack, Karis had a vial of holy water but would be unable to get it out. Coruth'tae dug around his backpack during the fight until his hands closed about the precious vial and he drew it free with a cheer. We battered skeletons to dust and tried to turn the tide of the fight as best as possible.
Opening the stopper, the elven illusionist tossed the holy water over Karis' head at the wraith – but there was a green blast of light and the wraith had moved! Transposed places with a skeleton fighter 15' away! The holy water rained on the skeleton but the wraith was unharmed – and the heat sucking creature moved now closer to Gwyn, attacking the dwarven fighter. Things were getting desperate.
And Gwyn decided enough was enough. Dropping back a few feet he took a few short hits from hammers and axes, drew his battered crossbow, slapped a Blessed Bolt of Odin within and fired it at point blank range at the wraith. The rising crescendo of building power swarmed down the dwarf's arm, into the crossbow and a blast of black tinged sonic energy like the shrill squeal of a thousand ravens tore the weapon apart and ripped into and through the undead terror. It crushed another 5 skeletons that were in the area, bones exploding to dust and shards.
The wave of energy hit the wall of the mausoleum and then rebounded back towards the party! Gwyn was unable to dodge out of the way and neither was Detheron, both the dwarf and the druid slain by the sonic blast. Karis was able to avoid some of it as the bolt ran dry but he was now badly wounded. The dwarf was very dead, his body battered and crushed, the druid was gurgling on his own blood and hit the ground with a hollow thud and crack. Smokey and Fodder went wild, the two animals going berserk at the "death" of their master and friend. And the two flaming skeletons stepped right up to Karis. The party's situation had just gone from difficult to poor.
The walls shook around Zoltan and the sonic boom was deafening in the confined space. He ran on, emerging over the side of the chasm, 40' down from the "lip". There was once a metal ladder here, but it had long ago rusted away, leaving only stubs sticking out of the wall. Feeling the last dregs of the "haste" potion working its way out of his blood stream, he withdrew a vial of holy water and ran back down the narrow corridor to throw it at the approaching undead skeleton, causing it to break apart.
The party hovered around their fallen members, Karis slamming the full force of his attacks at one of the flaming skeletons, getting burned just from being in the vicinity of the monster. The creature responded as best as possible, its hammer battering at the half-ogre's chest. Then Coruth'tae's shadow wand spat out and a blast of magic tore the burning undead to pieces. Smokey and Fodder tore into as many of the massed undead around the fallen Detheron as possible, bones and fur and blood flying.
Zoltan went back to the chasm and noting the many handholds, decided to scale the wall parallel to the bottom, but back to the other side, the original side we had come from, as there were many many many excited gnoll voices in the hall on this side.
Amal shouldered another skeleton down, beating the creature's head and chest to splinters before engaging the next one. The orcish fighter was wearying, Smokey was taking punishing damage, and Karis was wrestling with the other flaming skeleton, his mighty form dripping sweat and blood. The elven illusionist upended one of his own potions of healing into Detheron (who was at -6) and brought him back up just to the right side of the number zero. The druid gasped and tried to rise, fumbling to even roll over.
And then a dwarven hammer wielding skeleton slipped past Fodder and bashed the druid about the face and neck – killing him again!
Zoltan was tired, the haste no longer in effect, his body worn and older and weary. He worked his way with labored breathing up the side of the chasm and rolled into the dark corner, watching the dim gnoll shapes on the other side and their yells and frantic calls. The name "Sakath" was said often and goblin voices were mixed in with the deeper gnoll sounds.
Before Coruth'tae used another healing potion to bring Detheron back from the dead once more, the illusionist remembered the cruelty that the druid treated him with when he first came to the party – so he lifted his foot up high and brought his hard soled boots down once on Detheron's face – busting his nose. And then he used a healing potion to heal him and wake him up. Amal, Smokey, Fodder, and Karis assaulted the shrinking pile of skeletons with a sense of optimism as they took down one after the other.
And then Smokey, the mighty bear, slumped over from the beating he had been taking and the two closest dwarven skeletons tore into the great ursine and killed it; his chest falling weakly and his 450 lb form striking the floor (-8). Amal jumped over Gwyn's unconscious form and took up the flanking position from Karis, allowing the half-ogre to get closer to the other side where Smokey had fallen.
Coruth'tae withdrew his last potion of healing and deciding swiftly, poured it down Smokey's lolling mouth, stemming the blood loss and stabilizing the druid's companion. The total hit points were dripping lower and lower into the teens or less for those still standing, the elf himself taking a couple of strikes from the last handful of skeletons.
Fodder's skull was whacked with an axe and the warwolf hit the stones with a wail and a howl, knocked unconscious (-1). But with the last of their strength, Karis and Amal each assaulted the last two skeletons and then the battle was done. It was a mess. Over 50 skeletons were scattered about the mausoleum, Gwyn was dead, Zoltan missing, Detheron barely breathing and unable to stand without aid, Smokey and Fodder knocked out and barely alive, Amal, Coruth'tae and Karis all bleeding and terribly wounded. But it was over, and a victory of sorts.
Detheron used Heimdall's Bulwark to stop most of the terrible wounds the party was suffering, but he was too weak to trust reading the scroll of "raise dead" that we had been carrying so Gwyn would have to wait. We decided that we would NOT be attempting to open the door and would just hole up here and hope the gnolls wouldn't enter (if the door could even BE opened! Lol) and that Zoltan would show up. We didn't know if he was alive, dead, missing, or what. We knew he tried to portal out twice with his cloak, and we suspect he used the secret area behind the niche but in the heat of the battle, no one really knew for sure.
As for Zoltan, he watched the area for some time. He heard the gnolls become deferential to another one who came, identified as Sakath. He could not see them, but their voices were plain. He heard some yelling, and Thor’s name uttered a few times, and then the rattling of chains and the finality sounds of clicking locks. Then some shaman raised its voice in supplication and the gnolls eventually relaxed and were going back to their normal activity – which meant patrolling.
The gypsy turned around and staying in the corner, worked his way back up the great hall, and when he got to the first turn off, he took it until his wandering and weary feet brought him back to the Temple of Odin the party had been in some time earlier. There had been talk that if the crap hit the fan, they should use this area as a meet up spot. He spiked the door closed and took stock of himself and his situation.
But most importantly, he took out the jeweled symbol to Thor that the party had worked real hard to get. This symbol was supposedly the only thing that would allow anyone to get past the 11' tall golden glowing hammer in what was called the "thane room" in order to get the runekey. The same runekey that would open every "D" rune locked doors in Wodenvarelse – of which one of them was going to be the treasure vault.
He waited – almost 30 minutes, before tucking the symbol into his pouch, tightened his boot laces, and walked out of the temple to test his chances and try to get the Runekey on his own.
As for the rest of the group, they stayed in the Mausoleum. They used what potions they had, what magics were available, and they waited. Gwyn was brought back to life but the dwarf was weaker for the experience. The party took stock of their position and noted grimly at what lay ahead of them. Knowing that Smokey and Detheron would be unable to travel or fight effectively for the next 2 days. And that would mean a drain on their already weak oil supplies, foods, and most importantly – time. Where was Zoltan? What would they do? What happens next?