Castles & Crusades: Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 40

Summary:
The Army of Light shuts the Pit of Chaos, but 3 of the 14 adventurers are overwhelmed by the forces of chaos and experience (i) immediate level up, (ii) alignment change, and (iii) transformation into a mongrel creature! A major milestone of the Barrowmaze is now complete!

The Pit of Chaos (art from Barrowmaze Complete, by Greg Gillespie)

Game Diary:
We left off on a cliffhanger last Tuesday – the group had entered the Grand Temple of Nergal (God of the Dead) and there in front of them was a 20 foot diameter pit surrounded by pillars with images of tortured souls, and a green haze rose from the pit. The air was filled with the smell of rot, decay, and death. Beyond the pit were two black alters, a 20 foot tall statue of Nergal sat behind it, and off to the side was a beholder-type creature.

Cobalt, our paladin, possessed the Fount of Law, an artifact of Law that needed to be thrown into the Pit of Chaos to shut it. The previous session ended with him succeeding in throwing it in, and then everyone in the room was thrown to the ground from the immense explosion that followed.

This session began with the group – 7 players controlling 14 characters plus the NPC fallen paladin Dhekeon “the Disgraced” – trying to peer through the green haze to find what remained from the explosion. They could hear the cackling sound of a hag. Over a dozen skeletons and zombies staggered through the mist toward the Army of the Light. A booming voice filled the room and bellowed out that the paladin must be destroyed. At that point two 15 foot tall statues made their way to the paladin from the back wall, and the beholder-kin’s central eye fired out a beam of white piercing light that projected through the haze enveloping the paladin and two other characters, rendering them blind. Characters charged forward to support Cobalt while less sturdy characters stayed back and fired ranged weaponry at the skeletons and zombies.

The hag summoned a cloud of fog enshrouding some of the zombies and skeletons – and herself – to prevent being hit. The beholder-kin aimed two more of its eyes at characters, holding them in place. One of the party spellcasters responded by casting fog cloud on the beholder-kin, blocking its eye rays. Over a series of agonizing rounds the skeletons and zombies were taken down and after the hag emerged from the fog to attack, she was ganged up on by the melee combatants.

Sensing the tide turning in favor of the Army of the Light, the booming voice shouted “must I do everything myself?” and the heroes could hear the sound of the 20 foot tall Nergal statue rise up from its sitting position, its head just appearing above the low-hanging fog. It marched forward and from under its cloak it was revealed that it had not two, but a total of four arms, all of which swung to attack Cobalt.

Spells were cast at the Nergal giant and simply brushed off it with no effect. When it came to the hag, the melee attacks finally did their work and the hag collapsed from her wounds and fell into the depression in the temple floor that was the sealed Pit of Chaos. The ranged attacks also took down the last of the zombies and skeletons. The beholder-kin emerged from the cloud of fog and used its eyes to hold more characters and bite at others. However, it was eventually struck the fatal blow and the 5 foot diameter ball of eyes fell to the ground, bounced briefly, and then collapsed like a deflated bean bag on the stone floor. When this happened that adventurers saw that the moving 15 foot tall statues disappeared (they were elaborate illusions created from a couple of the beholder-kins eyes).

The Nergal giant swung its four mighty arm blows at the paladin and finally hit its mark when one blow disarmed his Saint’s Mace causing it to clatter many feet away, and a series of other powerful blows hurled him into the Pit of Chaos. Only powerful magical items could effect the Nergal giant, but fortunately for the adventurers, a few of them managed to acquire a few items over +3, and the mighty bone statue eventually buckled from their blows and fell into the pit – on top of Cobalt!

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Chaos within the Barrowmaze (art from Barrowmaze Complete, by Greg Gillespie)

Falling into the Pit of Chaos can result in a random number of things that I – or the players – can roll on variety of tables. All characters that entered it had to roll dice for me to see what might happen. In the case of Cobalt, he fell into a portable hole! (thus preventing him from dying when the Nergal statue fell on top of where he was).

With all their foes vanquished, it was time to explore. A couple of the gnomes rushed toward the throne, the two alters, and the mighty bowl that once sat in Nergal’s lap. They discovered rings, scrolls, and a magical shield. Others who were much more adventurous chose to enter and search the depression that was the remains of the Pit of Chaos. I had them roll dice as they entered and consulted the charts. One elven cleric entered the pit and was overwhelmed by the thoughts and glimpses of past lives and experiences of the corpses that were lying within the pit and its folds of stoney-flesh. She shuddered from the years of experiences flooding into her mind, but when it was over, she had moved up a level from her new insights! The dwarven berserker entered and found a two-handed berserking sword. One of the barbarians in the group entered, and the remnants of chaos that lingered in the pit took hold of the barbarian and altered his mind and personality, shifting him from Neutral to Chaotic Neutral. Finally, one of the wizards was bent on exploring the pit as well, and the fading chaotic presence in the pit entered into his body, and altered his biology. The poor human acquired the upper torso of a gorilla, and the head of a komodo dragon. He will have a lot of work ahead of him to discover out how to use his gorilla hands to write and the create the somatic parts of his spell casting, as well as how to communicate and vocalize his spells (and how will the towns of Helix and Ironguard Motte react to a mogrelman entering their gates?).

This was a major Barrowmaze milestone, but there is still a lot to do. The Church of Nergal still exists (even with their Grand Temple is ruined). There is also the very active Cult of Orcus. And the group heard of some dragon called Ossithrax. One challenge down, many more to come!

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