- Malik - Shifter Warlord
- Fyodora - Elf Monk
- Phoenixfire - Dragonborn Sorcerer
- Luccio - Drow Rogue
- Konrad - Human Fighter
Full five players: Defender-Leader-Striker-Striker-Striker, a powerful crew. They'll need it...
Luccio finishes settling the accounts in Silver Hollow after the first three members of the party set out for the Tomb of Aheem the Shining, and buys a horse for himself and Konrad to make the journey. They head down the pass to the east, into the desert. After following the trade roads to Kurusan, capital of the Shifter Caliphate, the two leave the road headed north towards the tomb.
As they near the tomb, the wind, which has been blowing from in front of them for most of the trip, shifts to the south behind them. Konrad and Luccio detect a strong scent of...urine? They strongly suspect hyenas, which can mean only one thing - gnoll raiders. Since they can't see anyone following them, the pair deduces that they are not in immediate danger of attack and hurries on to the tomb, where they meet up with Malik, Fyodora, Phoenixfire, and their two remaining horses. Rather than try to fight off the gnolls, they make plans to head inside the tomb with the horses, risking that the confined space will be safer for their mounts than the dangerous wilds outside.
Malik's horse is affectionately known as "Fat Pony" thanks to the drawing he made on the 2" acrylic circle I gave the players to represent their horses. I had expected them to prepare defenses and fight off the gnolls, but it really made no difference one way or the other to me if they went in immediately instead.
They approach the front door of the tomb, where the following is carved in the smooth stone:
Welcome pilgrims to the tomb of Great Aheem the Shining May the supplicant receive the Light of god Pelor But thieves who plan to leave this shrine with treasures they be finding Will find that this becomes their tomb in Darkness ever more
They touch the door and it slides down easily, revealing the dark tomb beyond. They send Luccio in to scout. He finds a large room divided by a thick wall that runs partially through the center. On the floor on one side the symbol of an hourglass is carved into the stone floor and inlaid with gold; on the other side, a stylized sun similarly adorns the floor. The walls are inscribed with text; against the walls, bowls are filled with gold coins, pewter plates hold long-dried offerings of food, and small pieces of paper sit folded and sealed. Seeing no obvious danger, he invites the rest of the party in.
They lead the horses into the tomb, taking out a sunrod to provide light. Another touch to the stone door makes it rise smoothly to cover the entrance again. They continue to look around the room and find that in the back, there is a stone slab set into the floor with a carving similar to that on the entrance door:
In this desert did a Warr'ior draw his final breath Paladin of Good and Prophet of the God of Time To remember Great Aheem's brave sacrifice and death On each Summer Solstice may the Light of Pelor shine
Neither Aheem nor the crystal shard they are after seem to be here; there must be more to the tomb. A quick Dungeoneering check later reveals that the floor slab can liekly be lifted. Three adventurers attempt to help the strongest, Konrad, lift the heavy slab. Unfortunately, his fingers slip and he stumbles backwards, knocking over several bowls. Translucent forms manifest from the walls - they seem to have hooded thieves' garb with ghostly short swords. As they prepare for battle, tiny darts shoot from the walls in each room and hit party memebers and their horses at random. Roll initiative!
One of the ghostly guardians phases into Luccio's body and takes over control, dominating the rogue and causing him to run off into the other half of the room with the horses. The other two ghosts attack the remaining party memebers. The walls continue to pepper the party and mounts with darts; those on one side seem to cause radiant damage while the darts on the other cause flesh to wither with necrosis.
Two soldier-ghosts, a trap haunt, and dart traps - the party will be seeing similar throughout the session. Of course a tomb is going to be full of traps! Nick, Malik's player, caught the whole time->necrosis, sun->radiant thing; I think the others were too busy trying not to die to notice the significance.
Luccio takes some time to fight off the control of the haunt, while the rest of the party discorporates the other two ghostly guardians. Finally, the rogue's will forces the invader from his body; the adventurers gang up on this remaining enemy and take it down quickly. Thankfully, when the last enemy falls, the barrage of magical darts does as well.
They try again to shift the large stone slab in the floor, this time with success. Below, a steep narrow stair leads down. With the perceptive Luccio in the lead, they head down in single file. Luccio holds a hand up abruply mid-way down - the next few steps are not quite the same as the others have been. They suspect that these steps will trigger a trap when stepped on, so the rogue digs out his tools and manages to jam the triggers - for a time. Since each person to step on the trapped stairs may jostle the fix and set off whatever dire consequences the tomb defenses may have, they decide, despite the narrow, steep, and low space to have those able attempt to jump past. Luccio makes the jump and makes his way to the bottom of the stairs without incident; Konrad doesn't like his chances and simply walks down, trusting the rogue's skill to keep the trap from triggering. Phe jumps successfully, but stumbles on the landing and spills down the stairs, slamming into Konrad and pushing him and Luccio a bit further into the room. Malik repeats Phe's blunder and pushes the group even further into the room, where under Luccio's feet a tile makes an ominous 'click'.
The stairs rotate immediately into a smooth steep slide. Fyodora, the only one remaining on the stairs, leaps up and braces arms and legs against the sides of the narrow stair. Seconds later, an iron portcullis falls from the ceiling between the stair and the next room. The other exit is a heavy metal door with three locks; the four adventurers now stuck in this room glance around warily, ready for the worst - and to meet expectations, the side walls of the room start rumbling and moving inwards, threatening to crush them. To make matter worse, they hear a hissing, breathing sound from behind the walls and a spectral hand reachs out from one wall.
Sliding stairs, and iron portcullis trap, and a crushing walls room trap, plus three phasing monsters: a specter and two different types of wraith. Plus, the party is divided! This should be fun...
Luccio reacts quickly, dashing for the locked metal door and using his nimble fingers to immediately open two of the three locks. Phe, Malik, and Konrad attack the three spectral forms that have glided through the walls into the room. Fyodora lets go of the walls and makes an acrobatic slide down to the portcullis. With a quick look around, she finds a loose brick in the side wall; pushing on it reveals a small crank; she attempts to turn it but the cramped space makes it too hard to shift for the moment. Meanwhile, Luccio unlocks the final lock as the walls close in and flings open the door. Luccio and Malik escape into the corridor beyond, while Phe and Konrad still have an enemy between them and the exit. Pushing hard on the closing walls, they team up and manage to keep the walls from crushing them.
Phe blasts one enemy into oblivion while Konrad knocks another aside, sending it floating through the wall. Fyodora braces herself and manages to turn the difficult crank; the portcullis raises and she sprints through the room to safety on the other side. Konrad follows as the insubstantial enemies emerge from the walls into the hallway to confront the party again. Unfortunately, this leaves Phe alone with the crushing walls. The dragonman's great fortitude keeps him from being crushed and he runs from the room as the walls close behind him. The last of the spectral enemies are defeated and the party takes a quick breather.
The narrow corridor beyond branches out in two direction. With careful scouting, the adventurers identify quite a few floor tiles that are designed to collapse when stepped on; they avoid these and find that the corridors do meet up again, at a large double door inset with golden abstract designs. At a touch, the doors swing open, revealing a high-ceilinged chamber beyond. In the center of the floor is a round tile marked with the sun and hourglass of Pelor; flanking this are two large, golden, winged sphinx statues. On either side of the room, platforms sit some 10 feet up along the walls. On the end of one platform is a lever; on the other is a large crank and capstain. Leading from the crank, a chain goes to the ceiling and then down to the round tile in the floor - obviously this is designed to raise the tile. They touch the doors again and they close, revealing a staircase on either side that leads up to the platforms...and enemies, spectral cloth-draped forms as seen before near the crusher.
Luccio seizes initiative and runs foward to assault the nearest foe. As he passes between the sphinx, fire billows from their mouths catching the rogue in a great orange gout. Heavily seared, he decides to retreat rather than press on. He and Malik head up the stairs towards the lever; Konrad and Phe go up the other towards the crank. Fyodora leaps into action and crosses the room towards the enemy; it seems like once triggered, this flame traps fires at regular intervals, which she avoids. On the other side of the room, she finds a small square hole in the floor, and a matching hole in the ceiling. Malik, having checked out the top of the tomb in the day while they were waiting for Konrad and Luccio, remembers a similar hole on the top of the tomb. Along with the the second inscription, they suspect that on the summer solstice, the sun will shine down this shaft. It is several weeks from the solstice yet.
Flame trap and more specters and wraiths. Repeating monsters might seem boring for DMs - though these were slightly different than before, the party knew what to expect which made their plan of attack more clear.
The adventurers have a tough fight; the insubstantial nature of their foes and their soul-draining, weakining attacks makes it slow going. Stuck up on the platform with no enemies in reach, Konrad attempts to turn the crank; the round tile lifts very slightly but then stops solidly, as if locked. With two of the foes down and only one remaining, Fyodora climbs up and throws the lever. When Konrad tries again, the tile lifts free of the floor. A massive fluttering echoes into the chamber, followed by a stream of dark, winged shapes. These coalesce into two swarms of shadowy birds. Konrad hurredly drops the crank and the tile settles back into place.
Don't open any doors until the fight is done and you are rested! This added two swarms, Uncertainty of Ravens, from the next encounter. Well, it'll make the next fight easier anyways...
Flapping wings and scratching talons fly into the faces of Konrad and Luccio, blinding them. While the blades and arrows of the martial members of the party have trouble connecting with the swarm of shadowy feathers, Phe is in sorceror heaven. At one point, he stamps a foot to the ground and a great clap of thnuder sounds, damaging the swarm next to him (and incidently Konrad too) and sending the sorcerer flying through to air to land on top of the head of one of the sphinx, the force of his landing damaging the other swarm (I can't remember the actual name of this power, but being children of the 80's this was of course called the Gummy Bear Attack). The last of the ravens fall dead to the ground and the party, weary and powers exhausted, rests.
Thus ends session 5. Next up, the party opens the Pelor-marked tile and heads deeper into the tomb. The ravens were certainly different than all of the ghosts and specters so far - I wonder what's down there? And hey, what are all these shadow creatures doing in the tomb of a shifter paladin of good and shrine to the sun god anyways? Find out next time; same cat-time, same cat-channel!