4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 107

  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Hedris (level 3 greedy cambion warlord)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

With who they assumed was the cult leader slain (and his soul dragged off), the characters looted his laboratory and continued to explore the labyrinth, if for no other reason than to try and discover what happened to Filge.

Eventually they came across another unmarked stone door. Sumia checked it for traps, and when she didn't find any Adair opened it to find a pair of hostile, ogre-sized chickens inside. After killing one, Sumia and Adair declared that they wanted to keep the other as a pet, and after a combination of cooing, petting, high Wisdom checks, and Humal's magic they were able to calm it down enough for Adair to ride around on.

Further examination of the room revealed—in addition to several sizable mounds of chicken feces—a cage that contained a bound-and-gagged Filge. They freed him, and he explained that he had been abducted during their first encounter with the cultists, but they fled shortly after the temple began to shake.

Humal, Sumia, and Adair wanted to return to town so that they could rest, do more research and resupply, but they also wanted to keep the giant chicken. So, they had Filge animate the dead one as a skeleton and command it to race through the mines, which sufficiently distracted the miners and guards long enough for them to escape mostly undetected.

After they fled a considerable distance, they circled about and made their way back to Filge's observatory; it it was on the outskirts of Diamond Lake, and really the only place they could safely and reasonably shelter a giant chicken. There, they debated whether they should return to the mines or—what with their newfound wealth—head somewhere else.

Filge reiterated that Smenk had hired him to deal with the worms and cult problem, so he'd have to go back regardless. Humal wanted to try getting on Smenk's payroll, and eventually managed to convince Filge to go and speak with Smenk on their behalf.

Once Filge had left, Humal went about poring through his books and notes, while Adair slept and Sumia studied some of the books on animals they'd recovered from the cult leader's library. About an hour had passed, when Humal heard the sounds of scratching and wood cracking outside a window. He feared that it was Filge, or maybe one of Smenk's agents sent to spy or assassinate them, but when he went to investigate immediately realized it was much, much worse.

A monstrous creature, only slightly reminiscent of the guardian, was scaling the wall towards him. The whole thing was roughly centaur-like in shape, with the lower half a combination of wolf and raven, while the rest was that of a three-headed, four-armed man. Two arms wielded a massive sword and mace, and the body was partially covered in metal plates and mail that disappeared under its flesh.

Humal raced downstairs to warn the rest of the party, who were able to wake and prepare themselves just in time for the creature's arrival. Hedris charged into melee, but the creature pinned him underneath one of its paws and tried hacking him apart with its sword. Before it could deliver a fatal strike, Sumia and Adair drew its attention with a combination of arrows and lobbing hammers made of divine energy, allowing Hedris to free himself and continue fighting, while Humal conjured illusionary barriers to conceal their location.

Once the creature fell, its corpse and all of its possessions dissolved into a puddle of black sludge, which then quickly evaporated, leaving only a greasy stain on the floor. Filge returned soon after and relayed to them Smenk's proposal: if they went back into the temple and cleaned it out, they could keep both what they found and their hands. Otherwise, well, they could expect a visit from some of Smenk's "colleagues".

Design Notes
Back when I ran this in 3rd Edition, and even 4th Edition, the players actually went through all of the temples in a more-or-less timely manner (I think they ended up having to rest once), culminating in a fight against the Ebon Aspect while they were still down there (which I guess is what's "supposed" to happen).

This time they only killed one cultist leader before leaving, and arguably the most important one at that, so I figured that the Ebon Aspect would rouse itself in a half-formed state, and then go about absorbing the other cult leaders before hunting the characters down (which seems inline with other possible outcomes in the adventure).

At 65 hit points, 3 armor, a Strength of +5, and the ability to make multiple attacks (one of which can pin if it rolls high enough, similar to a fighter exploit), it's the toughest thing they've fought so far. But, hey, that just means there's one less thing for them to worry about when they go back. Of course, who's to say the survivors won't take what they can carry and get the hell out of there?

We'll just have to see what happens next week. Until then, here's a dire chicken stat block:

Level 2 Large Beast

Ability Scores
STR +1 DEX +2 WIS +1
CON 0 INT -4 CHA 0

Initiative +2
Speed 15 feet/40 feet
Fort 11 Ref 12 Will 11
Armor 0
Wounds 12 Vitality 12 Total 24

Beak +2 to hit; 1d8+2 damage

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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