I remember playing Telengard as a kid and sometimes you would find a scintillating box that would teleport you to any level of the dungeon you wanted to. This way a low level character could dip to a more dangerous area, snag some booty, and then run back to the surface. But the downfall was that you were stuck at a more difficult area without the proper tools to handle it.
Adventuring is all about risks - and there is something to be said for systematically taking out each level room by room and layer by layer - and there is also something to be said for just kicking it all to high gear and slicing through all that and steamrolling ahead.
The party had an opportunity to cut short their investigation of the 2nd level and bypass the 3rd completely. In doing so they did fail to learn certain things that would help them further below - like the 4th level where they ended up - a level that has 1 effective monster on it. And said monster killed the main fighter in the party and brought our 2nd fighter down to 2 hit points. That's 2.
So which way is correct? Both are and neither is - but you have to be able to weather the storms as such as they come and keep your group together.
Write up follows:
After leading the 2 bandits and 3 of the war dogs out of the Double Dagger Dungeon we discussed what we were to do next. Holed up in the room with the 2 ballistas we debated the merits of going after the orcs now or not, do we be aggressive or passive? Friendly or firm? The problem was that after some time we realized that almost an hour had passed and we had not made a decision on what to do. We needed more information.
Norris volunteered to go, activating his ring of shadows and then wandered down the darkened halls to see what was about. The first thing he sadly noticed was that one or two of the dead bandits were missing and there were drag trails and blood smears attesting to the fact that they went down both the corridor towards the giant toads and the other corridor as well.
On looking down towards the giant toads he did note at least 2 of them and 3 (most likely more) orcs in there, feeding their amphibian charges bits of chopped up bandits. Uncomfortable with possibly going that way, he followed the blood trails down the other corridor – eventually spotting 2 orcs guarding a “T” intersection. With this info in hand he wandered back to the party and let the group know what was what.
There was renewed talk of attacking, stinking clouds and fear spells – but the truth was we did not know how many orcs and if there were other passages they could use beyond what we’ve seen. We settled down to just resting and seeing how the next day came and went. Both ballistas were set up closer to the door and our hired thief rigged up one of them to fire should the door open. A spike was jammed under the door to wedge it closed
The group fell asleep and Cadassial took the first watch, eventually hearing orcs coming into the room, some people going upstairs, and then coming back down, and more movement. He passed this on to Gustav who took next watch and finally Soren who took the last one. We heard heavy movement outside the doorway but nothing else. Our ranger did note that someone tested the door on the other side but with the spike in the base, it did not open.
We woke up and there was some studying and praying for our spells. Breakfast was doled out and our porters and hirelings were paid. It was time to decide what to do next when Cadassial was asked to go and check on the door. It was just shy of the door that he noticed small things on the floor, wormlike ½ and inch long, and squirming. Rot Grubs. And they were obviously shoved under the door from the other side.
There were orcs out there, many of them, and they suspected we were here. Gwyn burned the rot grubs away to ash and we got into a conversation with the orcs on the other side. We fell into the idea that we were bandits of Six Pints of Blood and had been with the Maker for the last week – not knowing what was going on. Water had rushed in and we barricaded the door. Orcish speaker, named Gandlarg, was VERY pissed. Claimed that a holy item called the “Eye of Grummash” had been stolen and the young ones on the floor above had been slain. Do we have the eye? Um..what was it/what did it look like?
The orcs informed us that it was a fist sized stone glowing with the holy fury of the one eyed god. Yeah, we though – just like the continual light rock that we took from the treasure chest and put into our lantern. We denied having it and it was at this point that Brother Beren was able to hear some chanting on the other side – chanting from some shaman – chanting like someone calling on their god to help them “locate an object”. Like a continual light rock of Grummash.
Before the spell could fire, Brother Beren grabbed the lantern, ran back towards the Maker’s room, and threw it in there as far as he could, hissing for Gwyn and Thodrek to knock the metal spike holding the door open out of the way. The portal swung closed and relocked from the wizard lock spell and we heard Gandlarg talking with another orc out there convinced that the Eye of Grummash was not here.
He wanted us to come out and talk and we delayed opening the door while taking out the spike, hoping the locate spell would expire. There was talk of speaking with someone called “Costeval the Fat” and reference to someone called Stenthian Manbreaker. We opened the portal and met Gandlarg and his retinue of 11 militant armed and armored orcs. Almost 7’ in height and pushing 280, these orcs were much more of a threat that the ones that had tusseled with us before, and we decided to play it cool – after all, we were bandits and all one big happy family.
Gandlarg led us (with his retinue) to the doorway to the 3rd level where we gave our key to him and he opened the portal for us. A bent wedge was shoved under the door and we were led down some 50 feet or so to a largish chamber. In here were another 8 count of orcs clad in scalemail and sporting a mix of broadswords and throwing spears. Their easy gait and militant nature led us to believe that these foes were more than capable should things go poorly.
Gandlarg and one of the orcs (named Fongar) began talking in their native tongue (something of which only Malak our hireling and Norris could understand) about us. They spoke of the Eye of Grummash, the Maker, the dead K’Sisithak kobolds and orcs slain on the upper level and us. It was a given that we were members of the Six Pints of Blood bandits and that we wanted to have some conversation with Costeval the Fat (on the 5th level). It was here that Norris was able to hear that the being known as Stenthian Manbreaker held the bandits and the Maker in high regard and even if the orcs did not like or trust the humans, we (um..the bandits!) had a right to be here.
We chimed in that we wanted to help find the Eye of Grummash and some song and dance on our part had them to understand that our god told us that it was below. No explanation how this happened or why – just a bald face lie in order for them to open the door down. Gandlarg and his troupe went back upstairs and wished us well while Fongar said he would have to talk with Costeval the Fat to decide what to do next.
The K’Sisithak kobolds here also had some dislike of dwarves and there was talk about selling Gwyn and Thodrek to them but we let that conversation lapse. Fongar came back and said that he spoke with Costeval and that we were not welcome to search any lower. Hmm. The conversation went back and forth for a bit with insults and veiled comments slung about. Fongar stormed off to go get the keys to open the door to the 4th level and we were no longer so sure of what our plans and harsh words had netted for us.
While he was gone Norris tried to get one of the orcs to relay to him what they would be facing and we were told that there was a bear down there that had been fed a number of the Maker’s Animus potions – the same potions that made the Giant toads on the 2nd level. Great a big damned bear. Before we could get any other info Fongar came back and opened the door to the 4th level, motioning us towards it and wishing us luck on our conversation with Costeval the Fat.
Do we fight? Make a break for it? We had little time to decide and eventually our knowledge that the Sun Sphere was what we needed and was on the 7th level – so we went down. Once through the doorway we heard Fongar laughing slightly and the portal closed. Torch lit and the light stone on Cadassial’s buckler, we followed Gustav down the steps, nervous and frantic, expecting the bear to loom up before us. What we didn’t realize was the air was growing a bit warmer and there was smell in the air, the scent of loam and earth and growing things – and we were about 200’ below the ground.
The stairs ended and the corridor doublebacked to the east, the ceiling now about 15’ in height. As we walked down the long passage we found dirt gathering over the stone floor, getting thicker and denser as we walked. And then the passage ended at a very big stone door. Banded in steel and copper, the portal was 6’ wide and 9’ tall and there were a pair of metal locking bars on this side designed to keep the portal closed and protected – from something on the other side.
We checked – the door was not trapped or locked, and we couldn’t hear anything from the other side of it. Eventually we opted on opening it and checking it out. The floor was thick and lush with earth and underbrush and mushrooms, ivy, sticker bushes, etc. The walls and door on the other side showed numerous gouges and scratches as if something huge had tried to get through. We looked around and after a single turn some dozen paces away beheld what appeared to be some sort of the underground maze like complex. And in it somewhere was a big god damned bear.
There was a bowl here, stone, oval shaped, 3’ by 2’, currently empty. Soren looked around and saw that the bear’s prints were here in the recent past and near the bowl as well. The group was quiet and nervous, looking around with exaggerated care. We guessed the bowl was for food and Soren and Gwyn mixed up a mass of Digger’s food as well as 5 doses of the dwarf’s hallucinogenic mushrooms – hoping the bear would eat it and pass out.
Then we couldn’t wait any longer and readied weapons, entering the maze like environs. We decided early on that we would not follow the bear’s path, trying to stay away from it as we made our way through the dungeon. It was while we were passing a large chamber on one side and going over the choice of two possible left turns that the bear charged from behind one of the turn offs and slammed into Malak our shieldbearer – two swipes of the 12’ tall, 1000 lb ursine and our orcish warrior was holding her tower shield with numb arms and trying to keep the blood from flowing down her biceps.
A few arrows and bolts were thrown at the bear but it had turned VERY quickly and ran back the way it came, disappearing around the corner. The party was frantic with everyone yelling to get together, massing into one of the open areas. But as Gustav pointed out quickly this areas had FOUR possible entrances and we were running about without a plan – ripe for another bear attack. Someone pointed out the enclosed room on the other side and even though it was hotly debated for a few seconds on where to go, enough of the party charged across the corridor and settled into the chamber.
Healing was applied swiftly and went over and over (read: argued) about what to do next. There was no ready solution so Gustav took it on his own and stepped into the hall and started shouting and yelling for the bear.
And it came. It hit Gustav hard and the ogre shoved and pushed and worked through the wounds to hold the bear in place. Brother Beren called out to Tyr and imparted a wave of strength into the half-ogre. Norris called out a song of inspiration and Gustav literally shoved as hard as he could, pinning the bear for a few precious seconds against the wall and between his shield. Acid was hurled and arrows shot and Gwyn used his Hydraspear sticking the ursine mightily. Not everyone could attack but we tried. Bit by bit the hit points whittled from the bear but it was slow going.
We hurled oil and it splattered against the bear and Gustav. Aghmar called on a grease spell and it slathered all over the bear’s legs. Jerold was knocked out with a bad trip and smashed his head on the wall. A stonebiter arrow was shot at the bear, plugging it in the head. Norris levitated up high and used his whip to hit the bear in the head and face. And the bear didn’t stop struggling as it tried to both hit Gustav and get away.
And then it pushed free and made to run. Gwyn tackled the bear’s back leg and held on tight, stomping and kicking and flailing about in an effort to trip the beast. It fell forward and hit the floor with a heavy thud. A torch was thrown but blind luck had it land the wrong way. The bear then struck Gwyn, swiping and biting and hugging him and then lifting the dwarf up and HURLED it across the intervening space to plow into the half-ogre who they both staggered back a step. The dwarf was down to 2 hit points.
Just before the bear made to run, Soren took careful aim and called shot a stone biter arrow to the bear’s eye. Hitting it. And in doing so, caused the bear to lose all reason and rage.
No longer interested in fleeing it ran at the party now, ignoring its many wounds and bleeding hide. Fire was hurled at it and more arrows follows and Gustav bravely stood in the beast’s way, great sword hacking and slashing. But our luck had failed and the bear tore through the half-ogre’s ring mail. Its claws ravaged the fighter and its hungry blood filled mouth bit hard on our friend’s neck and face. And when it seemed that the half ogre could take no more punishment, the 12’ ursine LIFTED the half ogre off the ground and hugged him with it gigantic paws, ripping his back open and crushing his ribs and bursting his lungs and heart. Killing him.
With fury and screaming and stunned shouts we hit and hit and hit at it until it crawled forward a few paces, slumped down, and died.
The party stood there with blood on their faces and the reek of burning fur and cooking bear filling the air while Brother Beren ran to Gustav and laid his hand on the half-ogre’s neck to tell us that our unstoppable companion had died. And we looked around unsure of what to do next.