Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 87

Summary:
My players broke the game and all hell broke loose! Cleverly using a spell, a player bypassed two crypts of monsters and directly grabbed the prized items. The guardian elementals (11 8HD and 2 16 HD), and 15 undead (3 wraiths, 6 mummies, 6 rot grub zombies) smashed through the walls to destroy the group! But the priest managed to command ALL the elementals to fall under his command and destroy the undead!

PC’s:
Gnoosh, Gnome Rogue 7/Illusionist 6 of Baravar Cloakshadow
Elfgiva, Elf Archer 3/Cleric 3/Wizard 3 of Sehanine Moonbow
Ria, Human Pacer 5 of Loki
Zen, Human Monk 7 of St. Agathos
Arthur, Human Oathsworn 6 of Celestian
Oswyn, Human Cleric 4 of St. Jasper
Gorgat, Half-Orc Barbarian 7 of Haephestus
Tiberius, Human Cleric 5/Paladin 2 of St. Ingrid
Kyron, Human Cleric 7 of Zuul
Balthazar, Elf Wizard 7 of Arcanus

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

Game Diary:
When session 86 ended the Army of the Light had cleared out all of the Chaos Sepulcher of Elemental Earth except for the final chamber, where they needed to fight the final earth elemental guardians and grab the skull key needed for the final chamber (they need skull keys for earth, fire, air, and water, to enter and take on the final challenge, and they so far just had the fire key).

Fully rested up from the previous adventure they returned and entered the final earth elemental chamber. Stalagmites and stalactites were everywhere with an altar 80 feet away at the far end. Knowing there were going to be obstacles in the way from having completed the fire chamber (where Roulf used his boots of striding and springing to leap to the altar, grab the skull key, and put the fire elemental guardians on a goose chase him around the room). This time it was Ria who used her winged helmet and swiftly flew through the chamber and grabbed the earth skull. Earth elementals emerged from the walls and floor and Ria darted through the air keeping out of reach.

Meanwhile, the stalagmites and stalactites came to life and the characters learned they were piercers and ropers! The ropers struck Elfgiva, Kyron, Gorgat, and Tiberius, and the poisonous sludge-coated strands drained all of them of half their Strength and pulled them towards its mouth. Although the piercers missed their marks, the battle with the ropers was tough and once they finally destroyed them in their weakened conditions they had to help Ria out with the Earth elementals. Fortunately, there were four clerics in the group and they neutralized the poison from the ropers and restored everyone’s strength. Kyron then cast walk through earth, a special ability his new god Zuul provided him as his specialty priest. He lowered himself into the ground and two earth elementals pursued him. The earth elementals proved challenging and when they struck the characters they hit hard. But they were eventually defeated and people were healed by the four clerics. Spells had been used up in the battle and the group thought it good to leave, rest, and recover, before returning for the next two sepulchers (air and water).

Roper art from the D&D 5E Monster Manual

Then Kyron had an idea. Instead of laboriously going through the Chaos Sepulchers of Elemental Air and Water, why not just use his walk through earth spell (it lasted an hour), head over to the two chambers of Air and Water, move unseen up through the stone altar, grab the skull keys, and head back to the group, bypassing all the undead and monsters that lie in-between!! The group agreed with uncertainty of what to expect. They waited for him as he head off on his own through the earth floor. He proceeded to enter each of the final chambers in these sepulchers, grab the two skull keys, and met the rest of the group back at the main entrance to the Chaos Sepulcher stairway which led out into the Barrowmaze.

It was then that they heard a whistling sound and splashing. Kyron had awakened all the elemental guardians and undead in those two areas with his theft and the group could see from the entrance to the Sepulcher of Air that air elementals were battering down the bricked-up wall that separated them from the group. Likewise, the water elementals were battering at their bricked-up wall and water was beginning to pour through the washed away mortar. Then Gnoosh, with his robe of eyes saw that three wraiths were moving directly through the stone walls toward them (and thus would reach them first).

The clerics prepared their undead attacks and assaulted them as they arrived. Then the air elementals (4 8 HD and 1 16 HD) broke through and they all saw five tornadic columns shoot toward them at super-human speed. Kyron stepped forward and made a Wisdom check to impose his will on them as the first new cleric of the forgotten Chaos God of the Elements – Zuul – in centuries. With his dice roll, modifiers, and level he got 30! I made the challenge level 16 to match the highest hit die elemental – and he succeeded! They stopped and awaited his command. One needs to remember that these Chaos Sepulchers of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water were the resting place of perhaps the last of Zuul’s priesthood. Although these priests and followers had since been corrupted by the Chaos Tablet and the church of Nergal and turned into undead, Kyron now represented the first living priest of this faith in a very long time.

At this point, mighty waves of water descended down the corridor towards the group to “wash” them away into oblivion. Kyron stepped forward and tried to command them to stop as he did to the air elementals – he got another modified result of 30 and they also stopped and awaited his command!!

We had been in slight shock when Kyron use his spell to circumvent the tombs and directly grab the skull keys, but I thought that a solution had been found and now they were going to pay for their ingenuity (or “cheating,” take your pick!), but now with two successful, nearly impossible dice rolls, he now had all the elementals at his command!

Still, although the wraiths were gone, I still had 6 barrow mummies, 6 rot grub zombies, and an amphisbaena. Well, I thought I did. The clerics “turned” undead and as the undead retreated Kyron commanded the elementals to destroy them all. I am afraid that 96 hit dice worth of elementals can take care of some zombies and fleeing barrow mummies!

The session was now at its end, but all the players were high on their successes and decided to game longer and nonchalantly go through the Air and Water sepulcher chambers and collect all the loot. They went to the air elemental area first. It was indeed easy as they saw that the air elementals had “blown” the doors off their hinges and any traps had been triggered and were no longer an issue. They picked up the loot and entered the main chamber where there were still guardians of the air remaining – giant eagles (they had been too large to leave the chamber into the narrower halls, so they had to remain). Kyron was overflowing with success and commanded them to have them join his retinue of elemental followers, but this time he rolled a 1! Ah, but the group had a card from the Deck of Dirty Tricks that allowed a re-roll. He rolled again and…got another 1! Now the giant eagles were pissed off! It was there that I ended the session on a cliffhanger for next week.

We spoke animatedly about this for quite a while afterward as everyone packed up and put on their shoes and coats to leave. This was clearly one of the adventures that will stand out as a highlight of the campaign. They are already speaking about next week and with all the elementals under Kyron’s command of entering the fifth and final chamber and take on the former high priest of Zuul who is now a very powerful undead (Zuul wants him destroyed, for although this elemental priest was once his prized high priest, he is not pleased that he has been corrupted into an undead).

Will the group defeat the giant eagles? Probably. But can they defeat the former high priest of Zuul now that he is a powerful, corrupted, undead with other powerful undead support?

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