Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 58.

Summary:
Players make new characters to serve as henchmen/followers to their higher-level characters. The Army of the Light battle sapphire skeletons, crypt knights, a gemstone golem, and Gimli loses his magical warhammer when it merges with a caryatid column warrior!

Game Diary:
After three sessions away from the Barrowmaze (which took several weeks of game time) while attending a Viking Thing (Assembly), the group returned to the Barrowmaze.

The group have gotten into a rhythm of sending a group of adventurers into the Barrowmaze for 1-3 days in a row, and then take 4-8 weeks off as characters level up and they use the downtime to learn knew skills, abilities, acquire mystical companions, and begin setting themselves up for building towers and establishments when they reach 9th level. However, this also gives the necromancers living within the Barrowmaze time to recover, since the other rival adventuring companies in the area do not have the organization, resources, or skills to pose as much of a threat to them as the Army of the Light does (at least not yet…).

As a result of the sporadic delving into the Barrowmaze over a two year period, the Church of Nergal have developed a long-standing hatred of this group. The Acolytes of Orcus, which have thus far played a more minor role (the adventurers are not in their part of the dungeon yet) are also more indirectly familiar with them. It has reached a point where the adventurers are sometimes being sought out and singled-out by the necromantic factions.

This session the adventurers explored the final four rooms in the NW corner of the Barrowmaze. When they complete this, they will have explored the entire western end of the Barrowmaze, encompassing over 200 rooms and probably an equal number of sub rooms. This is quite an accomplishment, and I think the players are excited about having covered that much territory! But they know there is more to come with new sub-plots to be revealed. Additionally, along with many of the players possessing 1-3 characters in the 5th-6th level range (that much closer to 9th level when they begin building their own structures and getting henchmen and followers), the type of game I run is one where the players themselves can begin setting up characters to play those roles (instead of making the followers one-dimensional NPCs). So, for this adventure two new 1st level characters entered the group – Astrid, a CG Human Skald of Hel, and Magni, a CN Dwarven Fighter of Barundar, the dwarven god of honorable warriors.

It so happened that the the 10 adventurers that entered the Barrowmaze tonight were almost entirely non-lawful and non-good (there was one LG character, and two CG characters, the other 7 were some type of neutral, with 4 being CN). This shift away from lawful and good may have an impact later on. The Army of the Light destroyed and sealed the Pit of Chaos awhile back and that – in the long term – will have a profound effect on the area. But it was open for centuries, so you can expect the effects of the Pit of Chaos to linger for a time.

One example in this adventure were nine hooded skeletal undead that were dedicated to attacking lawful characters. When I asked my players who had a lawful alignment, only one player had one! So Cobalt, the mighty paladin was swarmed by all nine of these undead. Fortunately for him, I only hit with 1 of my 9 undead in the first round (Cobalt has a very high AC, especially vs. evil). He was lucky, for these undead had some nasty surprises if they would’ve succeeded on their attacks and if he would’ve failed a few saving throws. The group of 10 adventurers swarmed in and destroyed them after that, but Cobalt will not be able to rely on luck like that for every encounter! As I mentioned above, this adventuring party is clearing up the last portion of the west end of the dungeon, there is a much greater likelihood that when they begin to head east the organized groups in those areas will be prepared to take advantage of at least a few of the adventurers weaknesses [I should mention for those that aren’t aware, that the Barrowmaze is a horizontal dungeon as opposed to a vertical dungeon, so instead of getting more difficult as you descend levels, the (mostly) single-level Barrowmaze gets more difficult as you head east].

art from the AD&D 2nd edition Monstrous Manual

Other undead were encountered, including skeletons with gemstones embedded in their skulls. When you take them down, they simply re-assemble again unless you can destroy the gem in their skulls. This kept the adventurers busy taking down the ones that were attacking them while trying to prevent the ones they thought they destroyed from coming back together and rising again.

Crypt knights came in to attack and attempted to scatter the group with their fear aura, but the group resisted their aura of evil and destroyed them.

A golem creature made of gems attacked, and although the new 1st level characters (with no magic weapons) discovered they couldn’t do anything to it, there were several other 4-6th level characters with magic weapons that could damage it, and soon they destroyed it and acquired a load of new sparkling gem treasure.

For our old friend Gimli, the dwarven berserker of Odin who recently returned from the Viking Thing excited for his future offer to become a Viking lord, he had a minor setback when caryatid columns came to life. He had previous fought creatures like this and lost the head of a previous warhammer when it merged with the stone body of the creature. He had since acquired a new magical warhammer and was a bit superstitious about losing this new weapon to these creatures, and it was just his luck that as his warhammer struck the female stone warrrior in the head and it merged with her and turned to stone, and as a result he lost a second magical warhammer to these creatures!

The adventure ended immediately after this encounter ended. Next time we will see what they decide to do next.