All five players were present for the 7th game session. After a bit of healing (clerical and magic honey) the party regroups for a 2nd raid on the tombs of King and Queen in the center of Tier 3.
Wilfer and Guia are still lvl 1, as are the NPCs Cheyenne and Souvlacus. Guruff and Abraxo are lvl2. Igollad is lvl3, as are Mengelev and Dongelev. That’s five PCs all under direct control of the players, and four NPCs on the relatively capable and thoughtful end of the spectrum.
In the last post, I did not talk about the care the players took in the central tomb complex. It’s an environment that seems much more lethal than it is. There’s the pendulum trap and a lot of atmosphere, which the module explicitly tells the DM to play up. The players spent a lot of time discussing and skirting real and imagined traps. There IS also a spot where they are deliberately bottlenecked into single file which they did not like at all. Only four rooms wound up being explored this session, but they took a long time.
The party returns to the false tomb and tries the unexplored secret door to Room 32 (Queen Zenobia’s burial chamber). Pyrsoglos, the +3 vs. undead sword, is now wielded by Guruff. Wilfer has the +1 lawful shortsword. The stone coffin has a warning inscribed on it and the room is otherwise pretty bare. The party knows perfectly well that something is going to spring out of the coffin when they pry off the heavy stone lid so they prepare accordingly.
When the stone lid is pulled back a few inches, Zenobia’s leathery claw lashes out. Wilfer and Guruff plunge down with swords while the others pour in oil and a couple missile weapons. Most of it doesn’t damage the Wight, but there’s a lot of activity. By restricting the Wight’s movements and keeping the low AC Wilfer (plate, shield and protection from evil) as the main target, they manage to kill it, collecting the second priceless crown and the scepter of paralysis. Somewhere in there, the Wight hits Souvlacus who slumps to the floor unconscious.
The higher HP members of the party then storm the King’s tomb again and snatch up his +1 plate mail before taking too much damage from the Banshee. They then withdraw to safety.
The Old God faction leaders have all returned to the underground city for one reason or another. When he awakes, Souvlacus is hysterically angry about his close brush with death and the general recklessness of the Topsiders. Despite some wild successes, the Cynidiceans just don’t really understand what the party is up to or what they’re after. As many of them see it, these Topsiders are just stirring up horrific monsters better left undisturbed. Cheyenne and Souvlacus return to their people for now.
During a brief rest period, Mengelev and Dongelev work out an agreement with the PCs, wherein they claim an equal share of treasure on raids they aid. They also bring up the sticky issue of the legal standing of the Expedition.
The players have not thought much about escape or getting back home up to this point. Mengelev points out that the Expedition into the desert was under a charter held by the Viscount. In the Viscount’s absence (and presumed death) the entire project has no legal standing. They therefore probably have no legal claims to any treasure. The issue had no immediate bearing. I just used it to bring the players back around to their overall situation and to make them think about how their characters have lives outside the ziggurat.
Suited up in some new gear, the party of seven (the PCs plus the twins) takes its first steps down to Tier 5 via a short tunnel connecting Room 44 to a main hallway [one of Philotomy’s more useful suggestions to rationalize transit between Tiers 4 and 5].
This is about the point where I veered off from the module considerably. The entirety of my first campaign had already happened. I felt like I had a good bead on Moldvay Basic so that part of my experiment was satisfactory. No longer feeling any need to run a “pure” B/X module, I rewrote much of Tier 5 to have it make much more sense as a space partially occupied and controlled by the Zardozians.
The players are told the general lay of the land of Tier 5 and are warned that Goblins and Priests roam much of it at will. The entire Tier is kind of a gauntlet that cult members have to run to get to and from the City. Wanting to gather intel about the Harvest and disappearances of citizens, the players set out to capture some Zardozians for questioning.
The center of Tier 5 is a huge vaulted chapel, through which most traffic passes. At the moment, Darius (one of the High Priests) delivers a rousing speech to nearly a hundred of his minions, partially overheard by the players:
The blade is good, the penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the world with a plague of men. But the blade sows death, and scours the world of filth. Go forth and kill.
Wishing to give the host of bloodthirsty enemies a wide berth, the PCs creep south and east to Room 53 (Priest’s Quarters). A gelatinous cube already consumed almost everything organic in the room, and it waits in the doorway. When they open the door, the cube slides towards them. They run a short way, regroup and then take care of it. In the priest’s room, they find little of note besides a number of masks, which they use to try to make themselves look less conspicuous.
They locate the secret door to the north and follow the passage to 56 (Lobby). Two Goblins stand guard outside the door. One is killed in the party’s initial charge but the other backs into the room to alert the four other goblin guards therein. They cut down three more Goblins, but one dashes through a door to the south.
With the session already running late, we pause at this cliffhanger.
A little over 5000 XP divided among them propels Guia and Wilfer to level 2 and Abraxo to level 3.
In the last session, Wilfer and Igollad had visions. Guruff would have too, but the player Dickie was absent, so he got his this session. He had failed several saves by this time, so his vision was bleaker than the others’, in proportion to his infection by the Breath of Zardoz:
As you rest in the pyramid, you sink into sleep and dream. You walk through stone passages, slickened with the effluvium of unsavory horrors. Indistinct screaming bounces off the walls. You turn a corner into a bare, cold room. Thick blood spatter coats the walls. Sand pours in from holes in the ceiling. You look to escape, but there is no exit. Sand quickly buries your legs… then torso.
As it covers your face and outstretched arms you try to scream but produce no sound. You choke as sand fills your gaping mouth. Darkness sweeps over you. Not the darkness of night, nor even of lightless caves. It is an inky darkness, annihilating all life, joy and hope.
A massive shape whose presence you feel more than see looms over you. Slick tendrils encircle you, bringing you close. Razor sharp claws pierce your flesh, and you feel it burrowing into your mind, dredging up to lay bare every fear you ever had. As it pierces your body and mind, it whispers a simple command- “Go forth and kill”.
Thanks again to my long time Car Wars opponent Earlburt for putting this campaign together and writing it up like this.