FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 508

  • Humal (level 9 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Corzale (level 9 dwarf war cleric)
  • Sumia (level 9 elf rogue/ranger)
  • Kuhnja'bi (level 9 human w/ devil-in-the-details fighter)

Peeking through the northern door, Sumia saw that it led to a grimly furnished chamber. To her, anyway: Humal would probably want to speak to whoever decorated it.

Numerous glowing skulls were strung from the ceiling, bathing the chamber in green light. A frame cobbled from a chaotic assembly of bones stood at the eastern wall. A pale sheet was stretched across it, covered in diagrams and symbols: the necromantic energy Sumia and Humal had sensed before was pouring from it and through the western wall.

Underneath the energy stream a robed figure bowed before the sheet, as if in prayer. Sumia couldn't make out any details in the dim, flickering light, but she assumed that it was probably a monster or cultist or both. She'd hoped to sneak into the room to get a closer look, but the moment Sumia set foot inside each of the skulls twisted about to glare at her. The crouched figure stood up and removed his hood: he was a cambion, similar in appearance to Humal, but his horns were longer and more curved.

He calmly strode towards her, introducing himself as Bozal. He stated that he recognized her from the tournament and asked if she was lost. Sumia claimed to be looking for a bathroom, but when he offered to take her there she said that she found one back the other way. This prompted him to question as to why she would be looking for a bathroom when she'd already found one, which in turn prompted Sumia to start stammering out various excuses while backing away.

Bozal thrust out his arm: black energy coursed from it and poured into the ground behind Sumia. A skeletal dog covered in shadowy worms tore free of the loose dirt and leaped upon her, pinning her to the ground. By now her screams of terror and pain weren't necessary for the rest of the party to know Sumia was in trouble: they burst into the room, smashing and slicing the wormhound apart.

Seemingly unfazed by their sudden appearance, Bozal drew a massive morningstar from underneath his robe and began flailing at Sumia with it. The spikes were bad enough, but she could also feel it sapping her strength: once she managed to regain her feet, she quickly scrambled past the rest of the party and out of the room.

Corzale acted first, attempting to crush Bozal with her blessed hammer. Bozal moved far more quickly than she expected, but despite his speed she was still able to land a solid blow and stagger him. This gave Kuhnja'bi enough of an opening to inflict two deep wounds...which revealed that Bozal was apparently an amorphous mass of Kyuss worms wearing the skin of a cambion.

The Bozal-worm-mass shuffled towards the wall that the necromantic energy was flowing into. In unison the worms muttered something about doing things yourself if you want them done right, and then the entire mass escaped by wriggling through a tiny hole. Unsure what to expect, but expecting something bad to happen, the party waited. Figuring that perhaps Bozal actually fled, the party began searching the room for possible treasure and hidden passages.

Humal carefully examined the sheet, and after several minutes of study learned that it was being used to, in essence, grow a worm-like creature that, while fortunately not a Kyuss worm, could be used to constantly generate undead minions. The necromantic energy was being "fed" to the creature, and it would continue to do so until its gestation period was complete.

While it was theoretically possible to halt the process, Humal and Sumia both lacked the necessary magical knowledge to even attempt such a feat. Even if they did it would be both difficult and dangerous: if the attempt failed, and maybe even if it succeeded, a magical backlash would harm and possibly kill whoever tried.

The party considered trying to gain access to the room where the creature was; perhaps it was vulnerable and they could destroy it before it woke. Aside from the tiny hole the wall was solid, which meant they'd have to find the necessary tools to tunnel through, or try crawling through the large pipe back in the pump room they discovered earlier.

For now they continued on, and after passing through a few short halls came to another large chamber. This one was comparatively unremarkable, save for a checkered curtain that mostly obscured the southern half of the room, and a brazier burned brightly along the northern wall. Suspecting some sort of monster or trap, the rest of the party remained in the hall while Kuhnja'bi pulled the curtain aside.

He shouted and recoiled with fear as a shapeless, leathery mass slithered towards him. Bright green ooze burbled and sputtered from numerous cracks as it moved. Corzale pointed her hammer at it and unleashed a blast of holy light, scorching the creature and drawing its attention. It responded with a powerful spray of freezing wind and icy shards, severely harming everyone but Kuhnja'bi, who had backed himself in a corner, seemingly too terrified to move.

Unsure how often it could do that, Corzale dashed into and across the room, continuing to hammer it with divine might as she went, while Sumia loosed arrows dipped in holy water and Humal conjured illusions to attack from a safe distance. Fortunately, it both continued to focus entirely on Corzale and for whatever reason opted to only strike her with acidic pseudopods until it was finally destroyed.

Design Notes
Still didn't get a chance to try out armor-as-Armor-Class. Actually been thinking of a kind of DR/AC hybrid. So, leather would be DR 1, a hauberk would be DR 1/AC +1, brigandine would be DR 2/AC +1, scale armor would be DR 2/AC +2, and so on. It would allow for more armor types while keeping both values relatively small (and also prevent magical armor from further blowing the numbers out of whack), and hopefully appease both the armor-as-DR and armor-as-AC camps.

Overhauled the fighter quite a bit, further reducing talents and spacing out its attack and damage bonuses. This currently marks the fighter as the least customizable class (battlemind will probably end up looking similar), but even after reducing damage output a few times its still dishing out far more than everyone else, even when I ignore the fact that Maria is super-specialized for damage output, and without having to spend Mana or Favor to boot.

I decided to keep the alkilith (3rd Edition Fiend Folio, page 46), though I forgot about its wall of ice and cloudkill abilities. Its cone of cold was changed to a recharge effect (roll a d6 at the start of each round, if you roll a number or higher monster gets to use it again), but I kept rolling 2's and 3's. Oh well, still did better than Melissa, who kept rolling nat 1's and 2's on a d20 (which was a shame because her holy water-arrow plan would have totally worked).

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

Hot on the heels of The Blackguard, The Troll is out! The Rogue is up next: we should have an alpha draft ready soon.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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