No DM wants to run a bloodbath. Some older school adventures are designed that way where you come to the table with sheets of replacement PC's, but the reality of it is that the players and the DM want some continuity.
This could have been a blood bath. Hell, it could STILL be one. This group has been hit or miss regarding covering their tracks and not attracting everyone in 10 square miles to their location and during the night I was rolling honestly, no fudging, looking for that first time when the wandering guards and locals come out of the woodwork and gathered theirselves about the party for an old-school whooping.
But the gnolls were not going to attack the party tonight and they dodged the bullet so to speak, getting away with a relatively innocuous series of encounters and then a defined gathering and acquiring of their end goal.
And for that I was deliriously happy for the party.
Write up follows:
Detheron used his staff to force the gnoll he was struggling with the stay on the ground while he called out to Frey to help him summon a globe of fire into his hands. While the sparks were flaring, Fodder and Smokey tore into the gnoll on the ground, causing the figure to giggle maniacally during the struggle. Raising his ball of fire up he slammed it down into the gnoll who caught it in his box of trash, setting the contents ablaze.
Before the rest of the party could enter the other gnoll kicked Fodder in the ribs and then stepped past the wolfkin to slam the back door closed and slide the bolt lock over. Coruth’tae and Gwyn moved aside and Asgirda brought her shoulder to bear, trying to batter down the back door. The struggle in the house was getting desperate as Fodder was hit with the box of flaming trash and the other gnoll was assaulting Detheron from behind.
Flarg charged to the back door and was blubbering and roaring in an effort to burst it down, rage filling the bugbear with terrible fury. The metal hasps were straining but held. For now. The rest of the group was concerned about the level of noise and were looking up and down the nearby alleys, seeing no gnolls approaching yet. Karis forced his bulk down the alley towards the main street to look out, the illusion Coruth’tae placed on him to appear like a gnoll himself still in place.
As the druid was having a serious problem within the house he called to Frey and a 140 lb prehistoric Dire Weasel appeared with a clap of smoke and tore into the gnoll choking Detheron from behind. And then the lock burst free and Flarg fell in, taking the gnoll at the door to the ground. Some noises were upstairs and Detheron wanted to silence them, whatever they might be. In the back alleys no one was coming or paying any mind to the party but down the main thoroughfare Karis noted a single gnoll approaching with a slow and tired gait.
The druid bounded to the main room of the house and took to the stairs, his animals following behind him and Flarg behind. Gwyn (still invisible) stayed in the back alley and Fabambus hid around the corner keeping himself out of sight. Coruth’tae entered the gnollish home and looked at the carnage, Asgirda mouthing the word, “Crap,” to him.
At the top of the stairs was a younger gnollish figure, female, and surprised at seeing Detheron charging towards her. She motioned to the other two gnolls (younger than her and male) to flee and tried to run herself but the druid’s boar spear slammed into her shoulder blades and she staggered to her knees. Fodder tore past her and chased down one of the gnoll boys into a side room. Smokey lumbered further in and slammed the other boy down but a lucky kick to the nose had the bear lose his grip and the boy ran past getting to the back window and yelling for help.
In the street the guard gnoll was getting closer and Karis pulled back into the alley to avoid being seen. A young gnoll child from a nearby house was coming into the street and talking to the guard in their own language – something was afoot in the house the party was in.
Flarg help Detheron take down the teenaged girl gnoll and Smokey tore the gnollish boy’s back open killing him. Karis stepped out of the alley walked right up to the gnoll guard and taking full advantage of the fact he was illusioned, stabbed the length of his great sword into the other’s chest. The young gnoll in the street was standing there stunned but Asgirda leapt through the window of the house and tackled the young gnoll, clamping a hand over his mouth and stifling his screams. The back of the house had another inquisitive gnoll child looking around back there and Detheron dropped a ball of fire on him – and then Flarg pushed his way through the window and dropped two stories onto the gnoll – killing it. The weasel was ordered out to the street to help “kill gnolls”.
It jumped out the broken window and attacked – KARIS! The half-ogre still illusioned had no idea where the weasel came from and had to fend off its attacks, letting the guard gnoll stagger away. Asgirda broke the boy’s neck and seeing the gnoll guard getting away swung the 75 lb gnoll child around three times and let it fly – slapping the guard in the legs and tripping him up.
The illusion now dropped from Karis, the half ogre, the dire weasel and Asgirda all made short work of the guard. It took the group only a few seconds to drag every now slain gnoll back into the house and reconvene. There were LOTS of heated words with Detheron who some of the party felt was too blood thirsty and took reckless. The druid maintained that he didn’t give a crap about gnolls and neither did Frey. It got very heated but it was decided that the party would talk about it at another time.
There was a waste culvert under the house and we pulled up the grate in the kitchen. The bodies were hacked apart and dumped down the hole while the group maintained a vigil. No other gnolls came to investigate but we heard them in the city, talking, giggling, moving about. We felt really exposed and wanted to get out of the house as soon as possible and to the “last” street northward following the goblins’ directions from earlier.
We picked our way across the main road and through a series of alleys until we got to another main road. From here we crossed to the other side and went through the back ways but after some walking (past what we assumed was the back door of a tannery) we deduced that the road here was the “northern” most road we needed to find the gnoll captain Tasolde on – he who had/has the golden holy symbol to Thor from the mausoleum that Zoltan had on him when he was slain.
Plans were discussed and some thoughts were given out, but it was Fabambus and Coruth’tae who put together their resources. The grey elf read one of the gnome’s “locate object” spells and still under the effects of a Run spell, dashed into the street and picked a direction at random – deciding on west. He ran on, feet a blur, getting closer to the main thoroughfare and what gnolls were out there, when the locate spell went off with a PING in his head. THERE! Behind a door, the last door on the right, just shy of the main street.
Was it locked? What was in there? Hiding near the shadows, he cast and ESP and scanned the room’s interior, centering on where the locate spell had identified the symbol to be. There was a mind there , contented and relaxed but had a singular dog like language he couldn’t understand. He spiraled out from there encountering 5 more similar minds (one of which was rather angry) and some what he assumed were goblin minds as well, one of them in pain and terror.
Dropping the ESP he cast a knock spell this time – pushing it into the chamber so the terminus of it would hit the door he was outside but would definitely hit other locks, hasps, and snaps in the chamber as well. Some confusion noises were heard within. Then he called forth a stronger illusion, making himself look like the same duergar (dark dwarf) we had fought when escaping the Folley last time.
And then he entered.
It was a interrogation chamber and there was a goblin on a table a cage of rats over his belly open and vermin squirming everywhere, 6 gnolls in here, 4 of them wearing leather jerkins, one with a brigandine breastplate, and the last one bare chested and scarred looking. They all were scrambling to pick up belts and cloaks and hold the goblin down and gather the rats and were surprised at seeing the dark dwarf enter. Coruth’tae pointed to brigandine wearing gnoll, specifically at the gold symbol around his neck and said in dwarvish, “That! Give it to me. Now!”
The gnoll (tasolde) balked and tried to argue against it but Coruth’tae repeated his demand and made himself seem more wroth. The gnoll grudgingly took it off and complained that “he was allowed to keep it, why take it now?” Coruth’tae told him nothing.
The bare chested gnoll swore to Fenris and tried to engage Coruth’tae in some conversation/explanation but Coruth’tae played his part without deviation, turning to leave without another word. He did note though, that Zoltan’s one time portaling cloak was here – and in the ownership of the bare-chested Fenris swearing gnoll.
Once in the street he turned to the left and ran as fast as he could, dropping the illusion, back to his friends down the back alley and triumphantly handed the amulet to Karis. Elapsed time: 7 minutes.
The group was VERY impressed.
We decided at that point to get the HELL out of here after we heard what went down, assuming that the ruse wouldn’t last forever. We picked our way from alley to alley and back to the back area of the gnoll area and then up the long curving sloping corridor back to the other side of Wodenvarelse and hid ourselves in the Temple of Odin to discuss what was to happen next.
We looked over the map and decided that we needed to get to the Hammer Room, which by all accounts was in the goblin area and most likely opposite from Sakath’s chamber, over 800’ north of what the gnoll’s had taken as their throne room. There was another sloping back corridor there but it was past an owlbear’s nest. There was no chance we were going to push past the Chasm at this time so the owlbear’s nest was the decision.
We geared up and made our way across the sepulcheral halls until we came to the area in question. The stink of ursine was very strong but we stayed with care until we passed the ruined shop (with at least 2 owlbears within who growled but did not approach the party) and entered the back alleyways. There was sign that a Gelatinous Cube had been through here recently but we went past and into the long sloping corridor. There was a 3’ burned mark on the wall of a stylized wolf’s head in profile and an arrow pointing down into the darkness – testament that the Phantom Blades and Vanir’s group had been here and marked the area.
The group formed up into single file and worked down the heavy slope some 150’ feet until it opened into a wide dwarven corridor 30’ tall and lit with phosphorous fungus from above. The reek of goblin and kobold was strong and their voices echoed strangely along with the clang of industry somewhere in the gloom. We knew that we would have to traverse the entirety of the dwarven road (with homes on both sides) to get to where the Hammer Room would be so we set off.
After only a short distance Gwyn stopped the group. He looked back in the hallway at where we had last walked and cautiously looked over the floor. After a few moments he announced that a 9’x9’ section of the floor was a good inch or two lower than the rest of the place and was, in his words, the first imperfection we had run across in the dwarven city. Fabambus came over to check it out and after a couple of seconds got a glassy look in his eyes and started to walk away the way we had come, Gwyn’s Lyreth Copper Wolf’s head medallion growing warm. A Lyreth Ward!
We broke the enchantment on the gnome and the party looked around. 9’ overhead was another wolf’s headed burn mark on the wall, an arrow pointing straight down. But the wall was featureless! It took some time but the party felt the wall was too smooth, too perfect. It was real (no illusion) but Detheron and Coruth’tae figured it might have been subject to one of the stone melding spells the druid does, the “stone” coming from the floor and spread over whatever doorway the Phantom Blades had hidden behind the wall long ago!
A work gang of goblins emerged and watched the party, wondering what they were doing. Fabambus spoke to them as if the party was supposed to be here and through some decent story spinning and name dropping, diffused the goblin’s interest (especially since they had been told to be alert for an ogre and a dwarf traveling together – and Gwyn was STILL invisible). Shengdu the smith was not too far from here. And the Hammer Room was at the end of the road we were on. We asked about the wall and were told that it was the “sleeping wall” because over the last couple of years whoever spent too long over here got sleepy and went home to nap. We thanked them and told them that we’d let Sakath know they were doing a good job and sent them on their way.
The group left the area for now and went on, looking at the doors on both sides with interest. One of them was runelocked but also sported numerous symbols of Heimdall upon its surface.
At the hall end we came to the great double doors to the Hammer room. It was chained and marked to be avoided as per Sakath Slobbertongue. A knock spell took care of the lock and Karis held the Symbol of Thor in his hand aloft and entered.
The room was huge, 100’ tall domed ceiling, two massive iron chandeliers with eternal candles lit, two levels and a wide open area before a raised 4 step dais where a dwarven throne sat with something resting on the seat bottom. Scores of smeared rusty areas marred the walls and floors about the chamber. And spinning slowly 6’ off the ground bathed in the light above was an 11’ tall golden war hammer.
It did not respond to the group that gathered inside the doorway and once the door was closed behind us Karis held the symbol before him and walked in slowly. It was perhaps 4 strides in before the hammer spun faster and began to rise higher and on the 5th it flew at Karis and arced over his head as if to strike but stopped 7’ over his form quivering in the presence of the ancient dwarven holy symbol. He walked in a bit more and it followed him, always staying outside of reach but moving around him as if to test for an opening.
Feeling brazen he walked backwards towards the door, the 11’ tall hammer following, which got the rest of the group VERY worried and cried out for him to STOP! The hammer didn’t follow Karis to the door but the group told him to stop screwing around. So Karis walked forward across the chamber, the hammer following always just 7’ over his head, until he climbed the dais to the throne and took the octognal stone disk from the chair, the front of it emblazoned with a bas relief of a dwarven “D” rune (two triangles facing one another). The metal of the crest was singularly strangely oily looking metal and the entire piece weighed a disturbing 25 lbs, easily 3 or 4 times what one would expect it to weigh.
Karis walked out, the symbol still held aloft until we all arrived at the door and emerged back to the main hall, our prize in hand. But what to do with it? Where to go first? Do we go to the wall with the Lyreth Rune somehow hidden behind it? Do we even know where the treasure room is? Is there more than one?
We opted to try it out on the first door which was the Temple to Heimdall. Karis wielded the runekey over the markings and the key SLAPPED forward against the door – a crackle of energy flowed, the scent of ozone filled the air, and the doorway just DISSOLVED.
The Heimdall temple had been undisturbed for over 150 years. Three long rows of stone pews, a 15’ tall statue of a dwarven artist’s view of Heimdall, a pulpit, holy water font, sealed mahogany closet. On the inside of the door was another “D” rune which Karis placed the runekey against and the door reappears with a crackle and resealed the room. Good – no inquiring goblins or gnolls to disturb us.
A search over the entire chamber with mundane and magical means showed the holy water font was unbroken and could be reused, the items in here were old but unspoiled, and the cabinet held a rack for 6 staffs of which 5 were empty and one was filled, and a singular 9” disk with Heimdall’s emblazon on one side and the words “Seal of Heimdall” on the other. Detheron noted the staff in the rack was an exact duplicate of the Staff of Heimdall he was holding and when he tried to remove the other one a magic mouth appeared warning that removal of the staffs can only be done by a high priest for recharging or by the replacement of a spent staff. So he took out long used and well worn Staff of Heimdall and put it in one of the open slots – and the other one popped out! The original one wouldn’t budge (magic mouth reappeared) but we had a new one fully charged! Sweet.
Karis took the Seal of Heimdall and when he grasped it he found he was able to read the dwarven script with ease (something he could not do normally) and he had an keen insight on a strange jar of unguent in the cabinet (healing salve, external use only, 5 hp healed per application, 45 possible uses in the jar), the Staff of Heimdall (25 charges, heals 20, wards for 2-5 minutes, of last stand for blanket heal 15’ radius and ward). Very nice.
We were packing up what we’ve found so far and deciding on what we were to do next, breaking for lunch and ending it here.