Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Undermountains of Madness: Part V

I have been informed by Jimbo Baggins that my recollection of the events in Undermountain are not entirely accurate, to which I respond, "this is my lie and I'll tell it how I like!" That settled, let me continue my fable.

Okay, so, where were we?  Ah, the ring.  Well, we quickly determined that the ring only worked in the environs of Undermountain.  My attempt to teleport into a brothel from 'back home' having failed, we instead returned to the landing above the magical resetting cave-in.  Specifics help in our group.  We were greeted by a 'woman' of great power.  I use the term loosely because what we really encountered was another living spell.  This one used to be one of Halaster the Mad's (a mage of great renown, for those of you unfamiliar with the Forgotten Realms campaign setting) apprentices.  She confirmed that our visions (the things that brought the original party together.  Remember those?  No?  Me neither.) were indeed of that crazy caster.  He had blown himself up and some portion of Undermountain.  Anyhoo, she was impressed by our antics thus far and wanted to give us a token of her appreciation.  She left and later came back with an intelligent sword.  We thanked her and bamfed away.

Clueless as to what to do with the blade, we decided on selling it.  No use in keeping a 50k+ gp item that no one has a use for, right?  Right.  I don't recall the exact sum we received but damn, did we get rich(er) quick!  I was decked out with a +2 mace and a +3 armour and shield before hitting level 4.

This was also about the point where Gobbler lost his character sheet between sessions.  Seeing just how ineffective his character had been, we opted to retire him to the kingdom (in case we reached sufficiently high enough levels to make him as awesome as Gobbler had planned originally), where he was one of our top 'wizards'.  Thinking long and hard, Gobbler had not been satisfied with waiting until level 20 to become an undead.  So, he picked up the Libris Mortis and made a Ghoul.  Since we had already built up a good relation with Brainburn, Paddy and I said what the Hel and rolled with it.  This would have hilarious ramifications later.

Roleplaying meeting Gobbler's new character went something like this:

Random NPC: "Sir, we have received a report from our western outpost (Squeemish the Mimic, who was constantly fed a diet of our enemies) that there has been a creature skulking about lately."

Paddy: "Let's go 'investigate' (our euphemism for kill everything we find).

Me: "Agreed.  No incursion to my territory will stand!"

*Teleports group to western outpost*

Me: "Squeemish, what have you seen?"

Squeemish: "Dead thingz hauntz the corridoorz."

Brainburn: "Like me?"

Squeemish: "More grey, less flamez."

*Searching ensues, carefully avoiding the nearby statue of whirlwindy, stabbity death*

*A wild Ghoul appears!*

Gobbler: "Don't taze me bro!  I won't eat your people.  I'll just gnaw upon your enemies."

Group: "Welcome aboard!"

The new character settled in, we teleported back to the kingdom and plotted our next move.  We decided "see what is beyond the room of rubble-rumble" was our best course of action.

'porting back, just past the stairs, we continued on our quest.  Several uneventful rooms later, we found another empty storeroom.  This time, however, Jimbo called for me to make a Spot check.  I had few skill ranks as a Cleric, but I did have high wisdom.  A natural twenty combined with a 20 Wis netted me a 25 result, just good enough to spot the door hidden in the stone.  It opened up into a hallway which descended into massive chamber 80' high.  Cobwebs were everywhere but I detected no evil.  Dwarven runes marked the room as the Hall of the Black Helm, which sadly meant nothing to either me or my character.  Ranks in Knowledge: Local were needed if I was to be a competent king.

Searching the room, we found a simple stone chair (large but not quite a throne) with a dented black helm and battered bastard sword. Seeing how the room had obtained its name (and detecting no magic in the items) we continued our search. Scrawled on the walls in several different languages were directions on how to get to a nearby merchant encampment. Despite the layers of dust and obvious passage of time elsewhere in the room, the chalk messages were recent.

Having nothing better to do, we followed the directions and headed towards the camp. Along the way, we were greeted by messages such as “the merchants are heavily armed” and “announce yourself loudly if you don't want your riches to line merchant pockets”. We laughed heartily at the last one.  Still, precaution is rarely bad in the RPG world.

Calling out obscenities (loudly!) as we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a 'dwarf' introducing himself as Barundar.  He was dressed elegantly; a special item of note was his glorious black cloak.  Something about the way he kept his beard put me off.  I got the vibe that, whatever else he might be, he certainly wasn't a dwarf.  I quietly informed the party but never outright called the merchant out on it, mostly because he was not alone.

There were three human mercenaries in the faux-dwarf's employ.  They were sparsely equipped for guards so far beneath the surface, despite what the written warnings had advised us of.  That, coupled with the odd feeling about the merchant himself, told me things were very wrong there.  I had no desire to find out how wrong.  Sadly, as in life, I rarely get what I want.

As we were discussing how exactly this merchant was trafficking goods through my kingdom without our knowledge, his cape came to life and began attacking us.  Apparently, the cloth was actually a cloaker and he was rather wroth at our mention of carving our kingdom's riches out of the cave his people once called home.

The merchant and his sellswords revealed themselves as doppelgängers and the fight was on.  That was a particularly gruelling fight, however even superior numbers could not secure victory for our shapeshifting foes and soon I had a fancy new cloak!

We looted the caravan in short order, and by that I mean we tied the wagon across my dwarf's broad shoulders and began the long trip back to the Kingdom, and by that I mean I teleported the whole group back to the predesignated "don't stand in the circle upon penalty of death" area that we had installed recently.  The loot netted us another 15,000 or so golden lions and went towards more kingdomy things.

Profiteering done for the nonce, we blinked and were back in the merchant cave.  We double checked everything, making certain we had missed nothing.  Satisfied, we backtracked our steps into Black Helm Hall.

After a bit of uninteresting travel, we came to a junction.  We had a door on our immediate right and a door down a ways on our left.  Obviously, we went left.  Upon reaching the door, we saw more chalk-messages on the wall.  They said not to attack the statues within and to stay out of the light.  Already having had bad experiences with waking statues, I considered this good advice.  Upon entering, Brainburn informed us that we had entered an area of dead magic.  I argued with Jimbo that, as a caster myself, I should have been aware of the zone.  Once he had showed me that the description specified arcane casters I grumbled about poorly written modules but otherwise shut my mouth.

The room had obviously once been magnificent but some recent disaster had befallen it.  The eastern half of the room was buried under a rockslide.  There was a circle of light in the far east, around which five armoured figures stood silent vigil.  Seeing nothing inside of said light, we decided investigating the other door was a good idea.

Said door led to a room of floating pillars.  There were four of them, each depicting a different race of immense power.  They could be spun on their axis with ease but moving them either horizontally or vertically proved impossible.  With a shrug, we moved on.  One door and two paths led out of the room.  We chose left, which happened to be the door.  We did not travel far, as the room ended in rubble.  Jimbo called for a Knowledge: Dungeoneering check and I was soon telling the other characters about how, despite looking dwarven to the untrained eye, the craftsman ship was quite inferior.

That titbit delivered, we went back to pillar room and took the next left.   This led to another massive chamber that distinguished itself by having two massive carvings of nude women in the distant south end of the room.  It was also incredibly dim, but the groups collective darkvision (Paddy's obtain via Goggles of Night) was unaffected.

We took the first left out of there and found ourselves upon a quartet of sleeping Drow.  We sent in the members of the party who could sneak easily (i.e. everyone but me) and the four dark elves were easily dispatched.  Searching them, we discovered something amiss.  They were not bedecked in the normal Drow custom.  Their clothing was rumpled and dirty and not at all spectacular.  With little in the way of loot, I teleported their remains to the western outpost, who was delighted.  Returning to the group, we continued exploring.

Various lefts later, we came across three 'dwarves', who unsettled me for different reasons but the same underlying reason as the doppelgänger had; they just didn't seem right.

Attempting to speak to them in the tongue of Delzoun yielded no results, although Jimbo told us that they seemed like they were trying really hard to understand.  We switched to common and called out our greetings.  When that failed, we switched first to terran, then to undercommon.  The last gave us results, to an extent anyway.

I pressed them for information about their clan and was rewarded with "they live to the south".  No further details were forthcoming.  They couldn't seem to remember their clan names, nor their own names for that matter.  When frustration set it, Paddy's Soulknife did the talking.

He asked them for information about what they were doing, receiving a "cleaning out the room" for his trouble.  He then switched tactics and asked them if they could provide any information.  They told us that there were creatures "like him" as they pointed first to Brainburn, then to Gobbler's Ghoul.  Warning us to steer clear of them, the 'dwarves' went back to work.  We shrugged and moved towards the direction they had indicated the undead could be found.  Why do we rarely listen to good advice?

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