Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 118

Ever heard of “ant zombies”? What if the fungal-infected ants were giant-sized and had also become undead? What would you do? That is what my players faced in this game session! Also, the group encounters a basilisk, but the druid avoids its gaze by using bat echolocation to “see” it!

Llewelyn, Elf Cleric 8/Wizard 8 of Sehanine Moonbow
Rolando, Hobbit Rogue 7/Pacer 7 of Brandobaris Fleetfoot
Jasper, Dwarf Fighter 4/Cleric 4 of Dumathoin Deepdelver
Remi, Gnome Rogue 7/Illusionist 6 of Hermes
Belden, Gnome Bard 8 of Aengus
Zen, Human Monk 10 of St. Agathos
Rosaline, Half-Elf (Elf lineage) Druid 9 of The Daghda
Magni, Dwarf Fighter 6 of Barundar Battleaxe

Game Diary:
“Ant zombies”? In real life, they are ants that have been infected and manipulated by different types of fungus. But what if ant zombies were “real”? That is, what kind of life and behavior would ants altered by fungus do when animated by the forces of undeath? That is what the Army of the Light puzzled over as they began investigating narrow 5′ x 5′ earthen tunnels created by giant ants. In this case, some of the ants had been infected by fungus growth, and when they died – or were near death – the forces of undeath and Chaos within the Barrowmaze animated these ants.

The last adventure ended with a swarm of 10 of them crawling along the ceiling, walls, and floor of these narrow earthen tunnels. Spells like dark chaos and burning hands usually took care of these ants quite quickly (the majority of the ants they encountered were more like animated exoskeletons and ended up being fragile and hollow when struck). In one larger chamber, they discovered a queen ant that was trying to squeeze out new ants. However, due to the perverse mixture of living ants, fungal infected ants, and fungal infected undead ants, she was trying to birth a type of hybrid ant that the living world – and unliving world – has never seen! When fighting the queen poor Rolando was picked up in the air with her mandibles and shook about, but others charged in and sliced and pierced her until she died, at which point Rolando had to be released from her jaws which remained locked in place even in true death.

Continuing through these tunnels they eventually found more ants that had become “zombies” from a variety of fungus infections. When I showed the players pictures of what they saw (similar to what I am displaying here) and asked if they wanted to investigate the bodies the players were clearly created out by these real-life pictures, and even though several PCs had herbalism and alchemy as their profession (I allow players in my C&C games choose professions to give their characters useful backgrounds to enhance the game), they all said, “Nah, let’s burn these things”! And another burning hands was cast. I don’t think I can blame them, the pictures I showed them were quite creepy. I was trying to take things to a new level and they guessed that trying to cure or heal a fungal infection that had been enhanced by negative undead energy along energy flow from the Tablet of Chaos might challenge even their best clerics since this was something they had never encountered before or even heard of before (I love introducing new concepts into the game – or in this case taking something that was introduced in the Barrowmaze for the GM and augmenting it!).

After clearing out the ant area, the group discovered three dwarves that had been turned into wights, and in another area there were some shriekers that awakened the presence of a basilisk! The noise of the shriekers made communicating and cast V spells impossible, but Rosaline, the druid, was used bat sense echolocation to find the location of the basilisk, and the no-nonsense Llewelyn just held his staff of the pyromancer around the corner into the room and sent out a nearly full damage fireball which destroyed everything in the room. Technically, I think the shriekers should have nullified Rosaline’s echolocation as a bat (“blinding” her with sound, effectively), but I got quite excited when the player described that he was going to have Rosaline use the echolocation to “see” where the basilisk was (her eyes were fully closed). I did have the shriekers prevent conversation as well as spells that needed V components, so I did my job in that respect, but I can’t be upset, player creativity like that needs to be rewarded, and Llewelyn was probably going to throw a fireball in the chamber no matter what.

With the tunnels now fully explored, the group returned to Ironguard Motte.

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