Save or die.
A staple of any old school D&D or AD&D player from the late 70's and 80's. And I've commented before it was something that as a player I somehow grew to hate. I think it was because I was DESPERATE for a campaign at a time when all my players and DM's were interested in one shots. So banging out characters and having them die was nothing special.
So I slowly weeded it out of my games until it was almost never heard of.
Until recently (eon spanning - of course) that is.
Instant death poisons, turning to stone, getting your head chopped off - it's all back and as a DM, as long as it is NOT the norm and used sparingly - it still has that impact that even the most prepared and ready personages and adventuring group can fall victim to wandering cockatrices and poison mist.
Write up follows:
It took some time to raise Beren from the dead and an almost equal amount of time to work on Norris as well, the bard having been reduced to -8 at one point and now would be suffering at -4 on everything for the next 2.6667 days. Detheron spent some time bandaging up wounds and applying poultices to those suffering. Healing potions were dispensed and we spent about 20 minutes just cleaning up from the massive fight.
During this time our druid had cast a detect magic spell, showing two outside expected items of interest: the 20 gallon cauldron the fat orc was cooking in, and a 10’ section of wall to the right of his sleeping furs. The cauldron was something, but what we did not know. As for the wall, Cadassial checked it out and it was revealed that it was passwall, allowing anyone to walk through to the other side.
The space beyond was roughly 30 paces long and about 10’ wide, ending at a door on the northern wall. Some checking was done and once we assured that there was no one on the other side, we cracked it open to reveal the very 1st room of the 6th level complex. What the heck? It was concealed from the opposite side which is why we hadn’t found it. Alright – a short cut through the entire level – unfortunately we couldn’t find it until we completed most of the level the hard way.
By this time we were confident that we were going to press on, even though it was after 4 and the party was feeling weary. We gathered our belongings, picked up what treasures we could, and then made our way towards the stairs heading down. It was a long descent this time, over 70’, until we came to a square chamber. The far side had an archway of large stones – with one stone on the left, the keystone, and one on the right glowing with a random color that changed roughly every 10 seconds.
We watched for a time, divining no apparent pattern and then thought about how to get past since the arch was filled with some sort of roiling dark gray mist. No one wanted to touch it. We then spent some time thinking about how to get past and did the typical put stuff through and whatnot – getting nowhere.
At one point we touched one of the glowing stones and the sensation of energy flowed up our hands and the color…stayed while the other colors continued to change. There were ten different colors and the group decided to use some of the patterns we had copied from the halls on the 6th level to help us divine the archway. Our first choice resulted in the smoke clearing and what seemed to be a dark hall beyond. But again, no one wanted to walk through. So we went upstairs, got one of the bodies of the orcs and tossed it through into the dark area. It faded away and the smoke returned.
Right – still no answer. So we did it again, except this time we tied a rope to the 2nd orc and tossed. It went in, faded away – and we ended up with 7’ less rope. This wasn’t working. So we hacked off part of Costeval the fat, tied it to the rope and this time tried one of the earlier patterns that we had discounted; Green Blue Black.
And it went through and we SAW it land this time. A few of us dashed through and after 30 seconds the mist returned. From the other side the hall was fairly long and eventually turned to the right – and the 3 stones were already faintly glowing only Green Blue and Black. We could see the party but on the other side they could not see us. Eventually the code was reentered and in groups in 4 we cycled through to other side.
Once together we joined up and went on our way down the hall. The corridor turned to the left and there was a strange smallish chamber with drawings and pictures of what seemed to be a treasure chamber painted there. Cadassial checked it out carefully and let us know that four of the chests and boxes painted on the wall were actually set out slightly – with real hinges and latches. He gave them a look over and was sure they were not locked or trapped – should he open them? The party opted for a conditional yes.
We found old spoiled sacks and scraps of bags a few coins, but it was the last one that opened to a pit under Cadassial’s feet and only a swift jump and scramble was our thief able to avoid the dangers of the pit – which seemed to be over 50’ deep! It closed of its own accord and we made sure it was safe to walk on before wanting to continue. But it was at that moment that we heard a tapping clucking sound and a 3’ tall lizardine looking rooster with a serpentine tail came about the corner and the party all hissed to themselves and hollered for Cadassial to run back – for a cockatrice had just arrived to menace the party. It bobbed and cackled and hopped towards the group. Rahyk dared to attack it and was struck in return for his derring-doo, but made a successful save and did not get turned to stone.
We beat the cockatrice to death and one dead, shoved it in the corner and away from the group. As for where to go next, we marched on – two choices a door a short distance away, or left to a winding long corridor – we opted for the door. After making sure it wasn’t going to blow up in our faces, we looked on an oddly set up room. It was canted to the left at a 10 degree angle, ending at some sharp looking spikes set against the far wall from 4’ up to the floor. ON the right hand side were 3 torches burning on long fixed metal sconces. A few holes were on the ceiling and wall and across the 40’ expanse of the floor, the hall continued on and turned to the right.
Half the party wanted to cross the chamber, half wanted to go the other way. We got to bickering about it for a bit until we opted (half of the group with ill disguised disgust) to leave this room and go to the other corridor instead. It wove its way north until it ended a door. Cadassial checked it out and once it was declared safe but strange (the hinges on the other side were pressurized so the door would force itself closed unless propped open.) we took a look in.
Nice sized chamber but very devoid of anything – only an arch of stone to a dark corridor diagonally away from this corner led onward. Somehow Norris opted to go check it out. He took Brother Beren’s helm with the light stone lodestone and went in. The door refused to have a spike drive under it, the stone just not allowing itself to be chipped in any manner.
It was when Norris shone the light into the arch that he heard a hissing sound and something light puffed against him and he fell over – dead.
We dragged him back (thank Odin for the rope tied around him) and Brother Beren went to check him out, some sort of greenish dust was on his clothes. And the cleric was sure he had been poisoned – and then he too fell over – dead.
We washed off the two bodies and using both an anti-toxin from Norris’ bags as well as Detheron’s Neutralize Poison got both of our companions back on their feet again. Ok – this was not going to work. We were pretty much out of spells and Brother Beren and Norris had practically (and literally!!) died twice today, most of the rest of the party on vapors and duct tape themselves. Where to rest?
There were no obvious good places nearby so far – the group thinking the Ogre chamber on the 5th level was the best bet – almost 2 hours from here walking. Not a chance. We did not want to walk that far and thought there had to be someplace closer. After some discussion, the party settled on the “hidden” area between Costeval the Fat’s room and the entrance chamber to the 6th level.
We dragged our tired personages up there and began to settle in for the night. Healing was dispensed as well as salves and bandages. Gear was lowered and we broke out our rations for a decent meal. It was towards the end of our eating that something poked its head through the illusionary wall – the tendril-like feelers of a rust monster. Our fighters backed away quick and we tossed some caltrops towards them, the beetle-like denizens eating up the rusting spiked jacks. A quick flurry of spells and arrows followed and the beasts retreated. It was at this point that we talked it over and came to the conclusion that this was not a good place to rest.
Where to go? Do we go back up to the 5th level? Is there someplace down here to stay? A five count of the party opted to go and look over the 7th level again, hoping to find some sort of secret area to sleep in or an alcove we might have missed. Aghmar still had a few spells left and one of them was the ability to find secret doors.
They went carefully to the 7th level and cycled through the archway once more. On the opposite side our mage recited the arcanic words…and almost immediately found TWO secret doors on the right hand side!! It took a few minutes to figure out how to open them and we looked – the left one went into a small hall and then a door – and the right was a sloping chamber that was obviously at one point a guard post but according to Soren, hadn’t been used for weeks. It would be tight for the 17 members of the party, but certainly better than sleeping in an open hall.
We gathered up the rest of the group and bringing all our belongings, went down to the discovered guard room and shut the door to help us settle down. We noticed a few things almost immediately – the room became “cleaner” looking, lights emerged from the ceiling, and the door was transparent from this side. There were 7 levers on the wall in the “down” position but no one (including Norris) was going to touch them. We set up watches for the night and got down to sleep.
It was during Rahyk’s watch that we had our long expected appearance down here noted. The room gave a strange “ping” and then announced that a cockatrice was approaching. It pinged again and then the monster passed, another ping followed deeper sounding and then finally after long last a final one. Ok…got it.
Then the same thing happened with “orcs”…and minotaurs…and then there was LOTS of excited orcs and minotaurs going back and forth and through the one way door it was noted that at 3 minotaurs were seen and they had found the two orcs we had slain earlier and Costeval the Fat. Crap.
No one came to the guard room and after many hours the activity died down. The party finished its rest and we woke up. Norris was hit with a Nap spell to hopefully speed up his weakness of his near death experience. We ate our breakfast, paid the porters and hirelings, and talked about what our goals were and what we were going to do next.