Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 67

Summary:
1. Our first face-to-face game in over a year!
2. The Army of the Light discovers a Barrow Mound dedicated to Anubis (and the afterlife) with a glowing skull and a room full of mirrors with lurking invisible stalkers phasing in and out of reality, and acquire an artifact!

PC’s:
Llewelyn, Elf Cleric 6/Wizard 5 of Sehanine Moonbow
Elgiva, Elf Cleric 1/Wizard 1/Archer 1 of Sehanine Moonbow
Kyra, Elf Cleric 6 of Sehanine Moonbow
Remi, Gnome Harlequin (Rogue 5/Illusionist 2) of Hermes
Gorgat, Half-Orc Barbarian 5 of Haephestus
Roulf, Half-Orc Dragonslayer 5 of Crom
Edward, Human Bard 2 of St. Cecilia
Rosaline, Half Elf (Elfin Heritage) Druid 6 of The Daghda
Zen, Human Monk 5 of St. Agathos
Balthazar, Elf (Mongrelman) Wizard 6 of Arcanus
Wright Dawnbreaker, Human Paladin 1 of St. Luther

NPC:
Inaros, Human Cleric of Osiris
Dhekeon “the Disgraced,” fallen skeletal paladin of St. Justus (seeking redemption)

Game Diary:
First of all, this game session was the first at my home gaming table since early March 2020 when the pandemic hit. It was fantastic to have the old gamers back, as well as a couple of new players that joined while we were online but were now visiting my house for the first time (I somehow forgot to take a picture when we were all together; perhaps next time). One player still had to join us via Discord, and that worked okay. You can imagine they felt a little left out sometimes considering this was our first face-to-face game in over a year and they could see five other players socializing with me around my table.

Since this was our first face-to-face game and the group was about to embark on a new adventure after the previous adventure lasted three sessions, the group spent nearly 1.5 hours catching up and doing character housekeeping.

Eventually, we got the session started. Several characters leveled up after the last adventure, and along with having 7 undead encounters which drained some of their Wisdom, the characters took 7 weeks off in-game to recover and train for new abilities. We time jumped from June to early August and this allowed some other characters that had been training to cycle themselves back in.

The players looked through the map fragments they had collected from the Barrowmaze (and since we were all around a real table again they could look at the actual printouts I had made on parchment paper and which they folded and taped together). They elected to explore new territory and delve even further into the chaotic halls of the Barrowmaze.

Upon entering a new corridor, they managed to bypass a dangerous trap. They found the dead bodies of adventurers that had been sliced by a scythe trap that swung out from the wall, cutting them, and then pushed them forward onto a 20 foot pit trap!

They managed to explore a couple more rooms, but when they discovered a new stairway leading up (presumably to a Barrow Mound and a new possible entrance/exit to the Barrowmaze), they felt compelled to investigate (little did we know that this Barrow Mound would take up the next 2 1/2 hours of game play!).

Ascending to the top of the stairs they discovered they were behind a mirror. They could look through the mirror and see that there was an octagonal room where all the walls were mirrors (except for a portion of the south wall which had a narrow passage that led further up at a slight angle). Each mirror-wall was 10 feet by 10 feet. Llewelyn had an idea. He threw out a card from his Deck of Illusions and a medusa appeared as the card flittered to the ground in the center of the chamber! The medusa looked around and her image was reflected by all the mirrors from numerous angles. But nothing seemed to happen!? Luckily, until someone moved the card, the illusionary medusa would remain for any other creatures that might see her.

Wright Dawnbreaker had just joined the Army of the Light. Although young and inexperienced (1st level), he was a brave paladin of St. Luther. He decided they needed to act. He pushed out the heavy wall-mirror just as he would push open a large, heavy door and entered the room (with a few others following behind). He headed for the narrow (5 foot wide) southern ramp that headed up. Getting near the top of the ramp he thought he saw some kind of glowing skull (which he was viewing from below). He went up higher and realized he was somehow seeing it in his mind’s eye through a solid surface, for the ceiling above him was actually the bottom of a sarcophagus and the skull was located on top of the sarcophagus! He bashed through the bottom of the sarcophagus and a mummified body fell on top of him. Fortunately it was just a mummified body and not undead! He ascended into the sarcophagus and emerged into a room with bas reliefs depicting skeletons walking down stairs into the Underworld. So he was in effect doing the opposite, by progressing upward into the room from the Underworld! He grabbed the glowing skull covered with black runes and symbols. He couldn’t make heads or tails of them. He returned his attention to the skull. He detected evil, but could not get a consistent reading. He decided to address the skull – it replied as a voice inside his head! He got some answers from it, but the novice adventurer felt he needed more insights, so headed back down to the mirror room where most of the group was on the stairway behind a mirror.

Skull artist: Billy Bogiatzoglou

Others tried to speak to the skull, but with minimal progress. However, there was an NPC with them named Inaros, a cleric of Osiris. He motioned for them to hand it over, and speaking Egyptian (none of these particular members of the Army of the Light were worshipers of Egyptian gods) as well as using a particular alignment tongue, he learned more about this skull. It appeared to be a guardian or oracle of some kind for the Egyptian god Anubis (who in my world is lawful neutral and deals with good and evil people, thus the uncertain reading from detect evil). The other characters wondered what the room of mirrors were and the most they learned from the skull was that there were some potential tests available…if they were up for it.

Balthazar now stepped forward. While Wright had earlier been messing with the sarcophagus and the skull for several minutes, the other members of the group had been casting detect magic and detect illusions on the mirrors and had noticed that there was fluctuating magic coming from them. Most puzzling, was that for however long the wizards and illusionist looked at a mirror with those spells active, it seemed to possess magic for half the time. That is, if you gazed at a mirror for 1 minute, it had some magical presence in it for half of that, and if you looked at it for two minutes, it had magic for half of that period. The magic seemed to come and go. The group puzzled over this for quite a while. Were these doorways to some mirror realm? What does this fluctuating magical timing mean?

At this point Balthazar decided to take action. He stepped forward and bashed a mirror with his staff. However, being a wizard, he tried to time it for when it was not glowing with magic. I had him make an Intelligence check (adding his Wizard level) vs. a particular challenge level which he was unaware of, if he made his check then he had properly analyzed the magical shift and timed it properly, but if he failed, then he hit the mirror while it was magical. His first few checks were successful, but it was only a matter of time before he missed, and when he did…nothing seemed to happen!? I described how the mirror fragments fell to the ground reflecting the light of their torches and the glowing skull, but nothing else. He shrugged and went to the next mirror, it was then that he was attacked from behind by some invisible assailant. It tried to push him into the next mirror before he was ready to smash it with his staff! He made his Dexterity save to avoid this, but he was slammed for damage. He may be a moderate level wizard, but that still meant he had low hit points and this creature could hit hard! Rosaline had the clever idea of casting faerie fire and the druid successfully highlighted the invisible creature (which had some kind of undefined air elemental shape). Now others in the room could move in to attack. It had a good armor class and health, but their blows finally took it down.

Now Remi stepped forward to break a mirror. He used his Dexterity check to time it (relying on his rogue reflexes). With just one mirror left, he failed and another invisible stalker attacked him. Fortunately, Rosaline cast another faerie fire and once it was made visible the group could move in to attack and destroy it.

This encounter could’ve gone so many ways, for in the beginning some players were tempted to cast shatter or sound burst to destroy all the mirrors at once, and there was a certain percentage chance that invisible stalkers would emerge when they were broken. However, they managed through their ingenuity and collaboration as a group to only fight two of these creatures separately.

Upon breaking the last mirror and destroying the two invisible guardians the mirror fragments on the ground all moved together at strange angles and this created a mirror-type pit where there treasure could be found. I had the players roll dice as I consulted the treasure table. There was gold and gems, but then a player rolled two magic items. Further rolling revealed that one was a magical halberd (they will have to identify it later for more information), and the other was an artifact (00 on percentile dice)! This had happened once before when a Saint’s Mace was rolled and Cobalt became its owner (and ever since he has been smiting undead left and right!). This time they got The Fail-Not Bow of Tristan (they will have to cast identify to learn all of its abilities). Since Elfgiva is an Archer, she seems the obvious choice to receive this weapon.

The session ended there, but next week they plan to continue their adventure. It is so great to have everyone back around the table again!