Monday, 15 June 2015

LotFP solo dungeon crawl - Part VI

Three days later, resplendent in their magnificent new panoply, the brave adventurers once again descend into the Vile Vaults.

[They pass through the area they had explored without incident. Nothing's been restocked, and all the wandering monster checks came up nil. The real narrative starts at room 18, so...]

The room [Room 18 - monster only] is odd shaped, and old tapestries -- some almost completely faded with age -- line most of the walls. The chamber appears otherwise empty. But there is movement in the darkness beyond the edge of the lamplight. And then the party are surrounded by by a gaggle of vicious, biting, hateful monstrosities disgorged from some nameless nether realm. They hop forward awkwardly, but their talons make no sound against the stone floor. They are upon the party before anyone has a chance to react.

infernal monstrosities
unintelligent AL:C
AC: d13, HD 1/2, Move: 60', bite: 1d8, ML: 10 #appearing: 2d6
silent movement (surprise on 1-5)

[Surprise round]
The beasties snap with their fearsome jaws. For the most part, they seem unable to penetrate the fine new coats of mail purchased for the expedition. The dwarf, however, finds one attached to his forearm. And whilst the mail holds true, the sheer pressure of the monstrous jaws nearly splinters his bones [4 damage drops him to 4hp].

[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
The creatures are more awkward than terrifying. Orvund, Inlina, and Mireille kill one each. Only Mireille is hit, as another takes the place of the one she killed, and its jaws slice right through the cuirbouilli she wears [3 damage drops her to 3hp].

[Round 2]
Unzukorag manages to shake the horrid thing off his arm at long last, and cuts it in half as it rushes back at him. Everyone but Brother Bromner slays another.

[Round 3]
Orvund smashes the last of the weirdly silent things flat with his warhammer.

Other than the tapestries, there is nothing at all in the room. Not even droppings or evidence of the monsters' presence. The party soon give up searching, and head out down a short passage.

The next chamber [Room 19 - Environment only] is a very large, hexagonal amphitheatre. Row upon row of theatre-style benches are carved directly into the rock, one below the next, leading down to a large open stage-in-the-round. Immense iron braziers are evenly space around both the top and bottom rows, though none of them are now lit. The room is otherwise empty [but any wandering monsters encountered here in the future will be evil cultists, like the acolytes that will be encountered in the next room; serendipity seems to lurk in most random dungeons].

Not wishing to linger in the amphitheatre where the feeling of evil hangs palpably in the very air, the party make a hasty exit out the other side. The corridor bends, then ends in a door which hangs ajar. Light comes from within, and the sound of human voices.

Upon entering the room [Room 20 - Monster & Treasure], one is immediately struck by the sombre wall-hangings, and the piles of iron and bone ritual equipment occupying an array of shelves, and taking over even the surface of some benches and low tables. Five cloaked and hooded forms [4 acolytes + 2nd lvl leader] move amongst the ritual paraphernalia. Each bears a symbol of uttermost evil. There can be no question of parley with such as these!

a c1 m  3 10 13 13  6 13  6 16 chain, dagger, detect good
b c1 f 11 12 10 14 12  8  4 16 chain, lt. mace, bless
c c1 m 10  9 10 11  8  7  4 14 leather, warhammer, command
d c1 m  6 16 10  6 13 10  7 14 leather, spear, cure light
e c2 f  8 10 12 15 16 16  6 18 plate, hand axe, sanctuary, cure light

[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
Inlina shoots her crossbow at the one she (correctly) surmises to be the leader, but the bolt is deflected by the heavy armour the woman wears beneath her robes. The rest of the party advance, to face off against the evil cultists. Orvund lays one low with a mighty blow from his hammer [8 damage drops A to -2hp]. Mireille runs the spear carrier through with her rapier [6 damage leaves D with 1hp], but the fanatic fights on.

The leader has held back for a moment, and uses the dark power of her unwholesome god to reinvigorate her bloodied compatriot; black oil fills his veins, and coagulates around the deep, piercing wound, stopping him from bleeding out his lifeblood. His eyes flash with renewed purpose, and fearsome rage [Cure Light Wounds healed him 1d6+2=5 points back up to 6hp]. Another of the cultists shrieks out a plea to the infernal powers, promising to perform unspeakable deeds in exchange for their aid [B casts Bless on herself]. The final cultist presents his symbol of wickedness to Brother Bromner, commanding him to "Begone" with all the might of the abyss [casts Command], but the staunch cleric merely laughs, as he knows his God of Light is shining down upon him, even in this despicable underworld of evil [he makes his saving throw].

[Round 2]
Inlina draws her rapier and moves forward, planting the blade firmly in the chest of the nearest cultist [C takes 8 damage, dropping to -4hp]. The man chokes as the blade pierces his heart, and he falls dead at her feet. Mireille slashes the spearman again, this time across the face, and nearly severs his jaw [D takes 8 damage, dropping him to -2hp]; he collapses from shock. The hook Sister Sinnet's polearm catches in the armour of the cult leader. She pulls it heartily and not only dislodges a pauldron, but tears through the shoulder below [polearms give +1 to hit heavy armour; E takes 5 damage, leaving her with  1hp]. The fiendish woman's black prayer is cut short by her cry of pain, and her daemon-god is not amused by this show of weakness [her spell casting is disrupted since she took damage]. Unzukorag faces off against a cultist [B], who comes at him with her mace. But her faith in her dark gods is not fervent enough; the dwarf catches every blow on his shield [even with the bonus from Bless, she missed].

[Round 3]
Inlina lunges at the leader. Her blade pierces the woman's now-unarmoured shoulder [rolls 19+2, -2 for rapier vs. plate, hits E for 2 damage dropping her to -1hp]. She falls and is still. Unzukorag makes short work of the remaining cultist, his heavy axe smashing through the man's mail shirt and the torso beneath.

Some of the fallen acolytes are still breathing. Each is put to the sword to end their malicious ways permanently. They are stripped of all valuables, possessing a good deal of jewellery between them -- stolen, no doubt [each of them has Treasure Type U; 4x jewellery is all that is present, but it's worth a fair bit: 1200sp, 800sp, 1200sp, 1500sp]. They also each wear a large silvered symbol of their unholy cult. The two clerics borrow Orvund's warhammer to smash these to pieces on the stone floor. The hangings are pulled from the walls, and  all the movable furnishings and wicked cult-objects are piled in the centre of the room. The clerics solemnly set these evil things to the torch before leaving the chamber.

The party make their way quickly back through the amphitheatre and to the odd-shaped room [Room 18], which they exit through the door they had overlooked earlier, which open immediately into a spacious square chamber.

The centre of the room [room 21 - monster & treasure] is empty, but each side wall has a low vaulted alcove, in which rests a pair of mismatched sarcophagi. The stalwart adventurers are not surprised in the least to see the lids slide back, and the undead occupants emerge. The four horrible cadavers are foul and rotten, their withered flesh dripping with a greenish oily fluid.

dripping cadavers
semi-intelligent AL:C
AC: 18, HD: 1, Move: 60', claws: 1d6+poison, ML: 12 #appearing: 1d8
poison causes shakes and nausea: 1d6 additional damage, and -2 to hit & skills for 1d6 hours
Treasure Type B

[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
The dripping cadavers shamble forth, and the adventurers are waiting with weapons bared to meet them. The horrid things are single-minded in their advance. They do not even attempt to ward off the blows rained down upon them -- nor, it would seem, do they need to. They feel no pain, and despite their shrivelled and decaying forms, emerge from under a flurry of steel almost intact, held together as they are by wicked sorcery and infernal hatred. u hits 1tOnly the dwarf's stout axe is even able to make one of the things flinch [1 damage put it at 1hp; everyone else misses].

Their oily clawed fingers are little use against iron mail, but they grab at any exposed flesh. Unzukorag takes a heavy bash atop his helm by an exceptionally strong, bony fist [3 damage leaves him with 5hp], but the oily secretion does not drip down into his face [made his saves vs. poison]. Orvund feels the claws dig into his neck [4 damage puts him at 5hp], and wound burns from the awful venom [failed save; 1 more point of damage].

[Round 2]
Orvund feels shaky and weakened as the poison courses through his veins [-2 to hit from poison]. His hammer swings fall short of their mark. Inlina nearly manages to decapitate one of the things, leaving its head to loll at a bizarre angle [6 damage leaves it with 1hp]. Unzukorag cuts his enemy to pieces with a well placed blow from his axe. It falls into a gruesome, oily puddle of flesh and bones.

[Rounds 3 & 4]
Flushed with success, the dwarf powers into another one, ending its unnatural existence. Each of the clerics is suffused with the righteous might of their deity, and dispatch the remaining two before they can inflict any more harm.

The battle ended, Brother Bromner prays that the Light God remove the hurt of His servant Orvund. Perhaps it is Orvund's own shaky faith that stands in his way; his wounds close up but are still sore to the touch, and he is yet wan and trembling from the insidious poison [Cure light wound restores 1d6+1=3hp, bring him up to 7; of course it won't help with the poison].

The dwarf dismisses Sister Sinnet's attempts to heal his wound with a curt "mind you go fuss o'er someone else," as he proceeds to rifle through the greasy interiors of the sarcophagi for loot. He is rewarded with a pair of shining gemstones [500sp each]. He tears off a strip of fabric from his cloak to wipe them clean before stowing them in his pack [I decided he needed to save vs. poison for going through the filth in which the undead had lain; being a dwarf he made the roll easily].

The door leading out of this crypt opens right into a long, ovoid chamber [Room 22 - stairs down 1 level]. The walls were once carved in low relief, but the figures thereon have been defaced by the claws of some great beast -- which last the party is relieved to find absent. A staircase descends into darkness. No sound is heard from below, and so, emboldened by their recent successes against evils both living and undead, the party proceed downward.

At the bottom of the stairs, the corridor continues straight. As the party proceed down it, they hear a sudden, sharp metallic sound, as three spears shoot out from recesses in the stairs behind them [C - spear trap, spears attack as 2nd level fighters]. One of them clatters against the ground, but Unzukorag and Brother Bromner are both hit [U 4 damage to 1hp; B 3 to 2hp]. This time, the dwarf does not protest at Sister Sinnet's ministrations [cure light wounds heals him back up to 5hp]. Listening in the darkness, they hear more mechanical noises, perhaps the trap is resetting itself and loading more spears. They proceed apace down the corridor lest they suffer more shafts out of the darkness.

The short corridor leads into an empty chamber [Room 2.3 - Trick/Trap]. Everyone scurries inside and away from the entrance; who knows how far the next spears might fly? But moments after they are inside, a stone wall slides across the entrance [D], sealing them inside. They've no choice but to press onwards.

As they approach the passage leading out of the room, they hear the sound of running water ahead. They walk towards it, and emerge into a long room, bisected by an underground river [Room 2.4 - actually from the side passages Special table]. The stone floor slopes down to the water, and becomes rougher and more like a natural cave. A few stalagmites even rise from the ground by the river's edge. They can just make out the opposite shore with the light from their lantern. A rowboat bobs in the current, tied to one of the stalagmites on the far shore.

Orvund is the strongest swimmer, despite still feeling woozy from the poison. He refuses to hear the others' protests, and they eventually concede to let him swim across to the boat. Besides, he says, the cold water might just do him a world of good [in retrospect, I should have re-rolled the 1d6 hours for the poison duration, and kept the result if it were lower than the original. Or maybe even given him a chance of a new saving throw]. Orvund strips down to his breeches, and ties a length of rope round his waist, giving the other end to the dwarf. He wades into the chilly water and begins to swim across.

[Q: Which direction does it flow? south to north
Q: Is anything lurking in the water? No.
Q: Is the current exceptionally strong? No.

Orvund needs to roll lower than his STR (at -2 for nausea) on 1d20 to swim across without incident. He succeeds.]

Orvund swims across to the boat, and is [Q: oars? Y] happy to find a pair of oars inside. The boat seems just big enough for six passengers. He rows back to the other shore and his waiting companions. "Well," he says, peering downstream into the darkness, "aren't you all interested?"

They are. Orvund puts his armour back on, and they all pile into the boat and head down river.

[Q: Does the river lead anywhere interesting? Exceptional Yes.
Q: Does it go far? No.]

They haven't gone more than a few hundred feet when they come to a landing [F] carved into the cavern wall. Beyond it, the cavern ceiling droops down further and further, and it seems unlikely they could progress further without getting the boat stuck or drowning. They moor the boat on a large iron ring set into the stone platform, open a simple iron door, and head down the corridor beyond it.

At the corridor's end stands an ornate door of iron, with indecipherable sigils incised in whorled patterns across its surface. It opens at the merest touch. The room beyond [Room 2.5 - Monster & Treasure & Environment] is very large, and lit by rows of torches set into the walls, burning with unnatural green-tinged flame. There is a fine mist pervading the chamber, which whirls and eddies in the torchlight and smells unaccountably of sandalwood. At the far end of the chamber is a great wooden coffer painted with pictures of knights fighting a losing battle against winged demons. Before it, four low stone benches or biers are set into the floor, and a naked human corpse, shrivelled and wasted as if dried in the sun, lies atop each.

[The above description of the room is merely a flight of fancy. The actual Environment I rolled is: Disease - anyone passing through the room must save vs. poison or catch a random disease. Anyone injured in combat in the room saves at -4].

As the party enter the room, the corpses animate, standing up from their biers and coming forward with grasping claws outstretched.

dessicated corpse things
semi-intelligent AL:C
AC: 14, HD: 2, Move: 90', claws: 1d6, ML: 12 #appearing: 1d8
cannot be turned, immune to fire
Treasure Type B

[Round 1 - initiative is tied; monsters act on DEX-rank 11]
The things move surprisingly swiftly, given their state. Inlina shoots her crossbow as they advance, but the bolt sails over the shoulder of her target. Mireille hurls her last vial of holy water. The glass shatters against the sternum of one of the cadavers, and the blessed liquid within burns and froths against its withered flesh like acid [4 damage leaves it with 1hp]. Sister Sinnet deals only a glancing blow with her poleaxe [1 damage puts it at 12hp]. And then the cadavers are upon them! One batters Orvund with its fists,  smashing the fighter's shield back into his own face and sending him reeling [4 damage drops him to 3hp]. Another finds a weak spot in Brother Bromner's mail. Terrible claws push aside the straining links and rend the flesh beneath. He falls to the ground, a bloody pool already spreading over the stone from underneath him [4 damage put him at -2hp]. Unzukorag tries to avenge the fallen cleric, but the cadaver swats his axe out of the way [taking 1 point of damage, leaving it with 10hp].

[Round 2]
Mireille draws her rapier [-2 to hit], and lays low the cadaver facing her, still smouldering as it was from the holy water. Orvund joins Sister Sinnet in the fray; his hammer smashes through dry ribs, causing a shower of flaking skin. Her poleaxe glances off the top of its skull -- and yet it comes for her [4+6 damage leave it with 2hp]. It rushes past the warrior to grab the warrior nun, and its brutal flailing fists land on both her shoulders with a terrible crack. She collapses at its feet [6 damage puts her at -2hp].

[Rounds 3-7]
After taking both clerics out of action, the cadavers seem to lose their unholy might. Mireille takes a painful bruise to the ribs [1 damage puts her at 5hp], but none of the others are touched. Perhaps losing a third of their number has convinced the living to fight more defensively. Whatever the case, the fight stretches on, and the living dead are vanquished in the end.

The clerics' sacrifice was not in vain (though it is unlikely they would see it this way); the painted wooden coffer is full of treasure [Treasure Type B]. Amongst ruined piles of silk garments and worm-eaten furs, there are 1000 silver coins and three good-sized gemstones [500sp, 100sp, 1000sp].

And the clerics still live, though only just, and they won't survive much longer unless a way back to the surface can be found. In fact, none of them will. The survivors have a swift conference, and decided on a plan of action.

They split the pile of silver between the clerics' packs, and bring both packs and injured clerics back to the boat. They row back to the landing where Orvund first got the boat [E], moor the boat on the stalagmite, and take the clerics ashore. They are laid out, and hidden amongst the rocky ground in the cavern [room 2.4] as best they can be. The sacks of coins are left beneath their heads like pillows. The plan is to find the way out first, and then come back for the bodies and the loot. It would be too risky to take everything with them, as the weight would slow them down considerably.

A single long passage leads away from the riverbank. The party follow it round a bend and past a worm-eaten wooden door, to a more promising looking portal at the end of the corridor. The door opens onto a balcony overlooking a flight of stairs leading down [Room 2.6 - Special: stairs down 2 levels]. The dwarf notices something odd about the far wall, and after examining the stone for a few moments finds a secret door leading into a long corridor. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief at this; a further descent is a most unpromising option!

Stepping out into the passage, they are greeted by an unusually foul odour -- even for a place such as this [F - wandering monster]. What should have alerted them to approaching danger is passed over as just another unpleasant circumstance [PCs are surprised], until a pair of rude javelins come out of the darkness towards them, hurled by a pair of foul-smelling reptile men [2 troglodytes]. one of the javelins catches Inlina in the stomach [3 damage puts her at 5hp], but thanks to her mail the shaft does not run her through.

[Round 1 - PCs win initiative; everyone saves vs. poison so no stench penalties]
Each of the reptile men holds a stone axe. They heft these weapons and approach to attack. Orvund is quicker than they expected, and before they have even come five paces he has rushed in and felled one with a vicious blow of his sturdy hammer [8 damage dropped it to -1hp].

[Round 2]
Wide as it is, fighting in the corridor is still a cramped affair. Trying to stay out of each other's way means no one gets into position next to Orvund, who must parry blow after blow from the heavy stone axe to slow the creature's advance. [all miss; the troglodyte made its morale check]

[Round 3]
As his companions are still dithering behind him, Orvund chances a look over his shoulder to see where they are. This momentary lapse allows the creature to get in through his guard, and the stone axe nearly lays the warrior out with a terrific blow to the top of his helmet [4 damage drops him to 1hp].

[Round 4]
Orvund falls back as Mireille and Unzukorag step bravely forward. The dwarf assumes a defencive attitude as the wizard lunges with her rapier, skewering the creature's side [4 damage put it at 9hp].

[Round 5]
Dwarf and wizard change tactics; The dwarf delivers a powerful blow with his axe, but seems to have only made it angrier [8 damage drops it to 1hp; it makes its morale roll and will fight to the death].

[Round 6]
The furious, ululating beast swings blindly with its axe, but woman and dwarf duck under it with ease. They catch the creature in the midsection between their weapons, and it falls to the ground in two twitching halves, spurting blood everywhere [6+8 damage reduces it to a tidy -13hp].

Assuming that the creatures have nothing of value -- or that they could never get the smell off anything valuable that they did have -- the party continue quickly down the corridor. They round a bend, and come to a 4-way intersection, from which they randomly take the left passage, thinking the cloying reptile smell is fainter in that direction. The corridor ends in a door, beyond which is only a small closet [G], filled with of old and rusting tools.

Going back to the intersection they turn left again, and find another door. Beyond it they find what once must have been a well-appointed dining room in the highest style of an ancient empire [Room 2.7 - empty]. But now all the tables and dining couches have collapsed, and the painted wall frescoes have flaked off, and the bronze tripods have long since been looted.

A single door leads out, and directly into the next room [room 2.8 Monster & Treasure], which still contains dozens of clay amphorae stacked along the walls. But in the middle is a more arresting sight: three canine-faced, meeping, half-human monstrosities are busied with some unwholesome feast. They look up suddenly as the door opens, gobbets of some poor soul's rotting innards dangling from toothy maws. They screech and leap up to attack the uninvited guests, who stand stock still with horror and disgust [3 ghouls; the PCs are surprised, but the ghouls all miss].

[Round 1]
The party come back to their senses in time to make a fighting withdrawal back into the ruined triclinium. The cannibal-things follow at a loping pace, and pace about before them, sizing them up eagerly. [PCs won the initiative; everyone's attacks on both sides missed].

[Round 2]
The blasphemous things are over eager to sample the flesh of the living, and rush forward. They dodge effortlessly past axe, sword, and hammer [PCs all miss]. Mireille's cuirbouilli armour is shredded down the front, by raking claws which leave a trail of gore from their unclean meal. Orvund's mail fails him, as terrible claws find its weak spot and pierce his stomach to latch onto his innards [3 damage drops him to -2hp]. Unzukorag tries to defend the fallen warrior, but Inlina's foe turns suddenly and grabs him from behind [4 damage puts him at 1hp; fails save vs. paralyse]. He is struck through with a mortal dread of the unliving, and his limbs no longer obey him.

[Rounds 3-4]
Seeing their companions fall before the terrible ghouls, Inlina and Mireille lose heart, and rush for the exit. They flee out door, and slam it shut. Inlina braces herself against it whilst Mireille shouts the words of her spell, fingers wildly gesticulating in mystical patterns. There is a sudden pounding on the door, as the emaciated corpse-men throw their weight against it...

[Q: Can Inlina hold the door long enough for Mireille to cast Hold Portal? Y]

... and then the outline of the door glows silver for the blink of an eye. The pounding at the door becomes more and more furious, but a praeternatural force now holds it shut. At length it ceases. The two women breathe a sigh of relief -- and try not to think of the gruesome feast to which their companions have just now been invited!

They fumble about in the darkness, eventually producing a torch and tinderbox from their packs, and making some light. Mireille takes the torch, and Inlina readies her crossbow. They say a silent prayer for the departed, and head back to the intersection.

They try the last unexplored passage, and are just about [H - wandering monster] to enter a small room [2.9] at its end when two more ghouls emerge from it, attracted by their torchlight.

[PCs win initiative]
Inlina shoots the lead ghoul. The bolt buries itself deep in the creature's chest, but it barely seems to mind [4 damage leaves it with 6hp]. Spooked by the seeming invulnerability of the things, both women turn and set off at a dead run.

[pursuit rules: everyone rolls 1d20+movement rate/10. Mireille is unencumbered, so still has 120' movement. Inlina is lightly encumbered, and so has the same 90' movement as the ghouls. The rolls:
Mireille: 19+12=31
Inlina: 2+9=11
ghoul-α: 6+9=15
ghoul-ω: 9+9=18]

Mireille rapidly leaves the others behind. Inlina is slowed by her heavy armour, and the two horrors keep pace. One reaches out with its filthy claws, and the aura of the grave overcomes Inlina. She feels her limbs stiffen as she tumbles to the floor, and the horrid creatures drag her back to their den [2.9] for a snack.

Mireille makes her cautious way back to the secret door and continues up the corridor past it. She comes into an immense chamber [Room 2.2 - trick/trap]. The wall to her left as she enters is covered in a mosaic, which someone has seemingly ornamented with an application of chintzy gold paint. At the other end of the room is a passage, before which a hole in the stone floor yawns open.

[Q: Can she avoid the chute? Yes. Needs a save vs. paralyse at +2 to get round it: rolls 15+2=17].

She skirts the ledge of the hole without difficulty, and comes into a long, wide passage beyond. Going down it, she comes upon rotten corpses strewn around on the floor [B], but despite her worst fears, they do not get up to attack her. At the end of the passage is a small room [2.1] with more corpses, at which she does not tarry.

She follows more passages, deciding seemingly [or, in fact, actually] at random which way is likely to promise freedom from this terrible place. She comes to a wide staircase leading up [to room 7 on level 1], and then almost runs through a series of empty corridors [H to G to E to D to A, with no random encounters at any of them] before finally returning to the entrance chamber. She races up the stairs and out into the green forest.

[Dénouement of sorts]
Mireille makes it back to the village safely. She has with her two 500sp gems, and 1200sp worth of jewellery. This is all worth 2200xp. Combined with her share of the combat award (101xp) and what she had earned in the previous episode (317xp), she now has a total of 2618xp, and is the officially the first survivor of an expedition into the vaults to attain 2nd level. She gets [1d4=3 +1(13 CON)] 4 more hit points, and is eligible to research a new 1st level spell for free. However, she fails a saving throw vs. poison, and so contracts a disease from the bad, misty air in room 2.5. After a day or so of feeling poorly at the inn, she intends to hire a coach to take her back to the city, and make a large donation at a temple in order to get the disease cured. Then she can learn a new spell, and set about recruiting help to return to the Vaults, so she can destroy the ghouls and recover her friends' bodies -- and their share of the treasure!


  1. You wrote . . . "serendipity seems to lurk in most random dungeons" . . . and I can heartily attest to that.

    In my most recent delve at one point there were 6 natural ones on d20s in eleven rolls . . . can you say "oil of slipperiness" . . . yeah, I thought that you could. (note that these were all on different d20s).

    -- Jeff

    1. Six ones in eleven rolls has gone from serendipity into the realm of a curse.