Rappan Athuk Week – Part Three

Max and Joey rolled up new PCs, and this time they were not all human Wizards. Max created Melchior of the Seven Eyes, a Dwarven Hero, with a magic shield and high Dexterity (for AC 0), a magic sword (+1), and the rapid strike feat (two melee attacks/round). Joey created Yurik the Elven Wizard/Thief (levels 3/4), who successfully rolled for an item of incredible power – the fabled Staff of Commanding, which combines the powers of plant, animal, and human control (could control a dozen or more of each per charge)! Gardy hired a new fighter, Raimund, at some cost of silver. Another jug of healing was commissioned. The local wizard was given 100 sp to look at the ruby dagger, but could provide no helpful information. Melchior had heard a new rumor: “The main mausoleum is horribly trapped, but there is a secret exit”, which was interpreted as merely a way to escape the trap back to the outside, and hence only a further distraction. So arrayed, the group returned to Rappun Athuk.

The PCs went to the mausoleum to retrieve the magical candelabras. As they did, the dwarf Melchior took note of the grave with Frederick’s name on it, now creepily filled in with dirt. Frederick had been wearing magical boots of elvenkind found in the dungeon, and Melchior brought a shovel to start digging him up. As he did so, a stone gargoyles on top of the mausoleum spread its massive bat-wings, took flight, and assaulted Melchior, working alone in the dirt above the tomb! Others would take several rounds to run to his location and help – but fortunately, the dwarf could strike true with his magic blade, and the thing fell in stony rubble. Two dead black eye-spheres rolled out – Melchior secured them in his bag and took the sobriquet “Melchior of the Nine Eyes”. i

Here we deal with climbing the Well again. The party brought lots of rope, like, I think, at least 4 lengths of 100’ rope each. At this point the started spiking two ropes at a time – a main climbing rope and a backup/belay rope, so even if the climber slipped (usually 1-in-6 depending on Dexterity and encumbrance load), people at the top got another roll to catch them, which seemed very wise. The last person down was Yurik, with his thieving climbing expertise, who had no chance of failing with a rope in hand. The rope did not break (recall: 1-in-20 chance). Light diminished and fear checks were made.

PCs made their way to the claw-shaped cave. Were the piercers back? They listened. To their surprise, not piercers but a group of stirges that had taken up the cleared cave flew down to the attack – with blades drawn they cut them to ribbons, Melchior leading the way.

The secret door was passed again, down the wormy corkscrew, into the rat-cave. Traces of the web spell at the entrance could be found, but not the killer zombie or the magic axe. Melchior spent the daily locate objects power from his magic sword, but could detect nothing. ii

Now the cliff needed scaling, down to the beach and iron door far below. For this, in the face of perilous climbing, the PCs had a well-developed plan. Gardy cast levitate, rose to the ceiling, hand-crawled across to where the pool should end, then down. Landing lightly on the beach, she carried a candelabra for light, and one end of a long rope. She tied the rope to the handle of the solid iron door. Then other PCs could rope themselves into a rappel seat and slide down, with another safety rope held/spiked at the top. This seemed eminently wise, safe, and as DM I was suitably impressed.

So here’s where the terrible thing happened. All the party but one slid down to the door, and Iparaguire cast knock to unlock it. Again taking the safety position, Yurik the wizard/thief slid down last. He could not fail the climb, but the ropes needed checking for failure under my once-per-encounter rule. Joey rolled the d20: a “1” came up and the rappel seat broke away. Of course, the spiked backup rope would merely swing him against the cliff as long as that didn’t fail. Joey rolled the blue d20 again: and by all that’s holy, it came up “1” again. So the backup rope snapped, sending Yurik plunging 40’ or so downward. iii

Even this wasn’t too bad, because the pool mostly cushioned Yurik’s fall, and he only took a few points of damage. Of course, now he’s in water in chainmail and other gear, and I ask for a d6 Strength check (2-in-6 like opening a door) to swim and not sink; he rolls a “5” which indicates success. I ask, “Do you want to pull yourself out, or investigate under the water?” Joey says, “As long as I’m here, I’ll investigate.” There is in fact a very large pile of stripped-clean bones stacked up under the water. At this point (2 rounds after falling in pool, per the text) a huge dark blob slides out from its hiding place under a rock protrusion, Yurik fails the next swim check, and it grabs onto his leg – for 15 points of damage, dissolving all his skin off immediately. A horrible thrashing takes place in the pool, and blood and bits of liquefied flesh and gear boil up to the top. Yurik is gone in an instant. The mighty Staff of Commanding is disintegrated, never used. iv

The party beat a hasty retreat away from the horrible ooze, through the iron door to the west. Beyond it, the candelabra light expanded again, and the PCs felt like they could breathe a bit easier; fear effects seemed to fade away. The PCs entered a series of 10’ wide, engineered tunnels of long gray-slate corridors. Three giant rats were encountered; two slain and one ran off. v After a few hundred feet of long corridors, it was decided to return to town. The evening was late and another player had to be picked up from the train station around midnight. I officially hand-waved the return back to town. Some of us watched a few episodes of Portlandia.

i Consider the prior note about the gargoyles on the mausoleum.

ii Had it been carried to the lair of the juju zombies, under water far to the west? Or to the wizard’s detection-proof sanctum? As it turns out, neither of these.

iii Now, after the players having lodged numerous and understandable complaints about the rope-climbing difficulty being “not fun”, at this point Paul said, “Okay, well, that actually just got totally hilarious.”

iv That’s a Black Pudding in the pool. Personal reflection: Traditionally I completely can’t stand horror movies or the like. In fact, I get totally freaked out by them. I’ve got more than one story as a kid trying to go to a Halloween party and coming away blubbering, unable to deal with it. Now I’ve got more than one friend/family member who knows this, and then points out, “But the games that you run are usually way more horrible than any horror movie”. That’s not something that I can totally explain. Max’s theory is the problem being that most horror movies are from the perspective of the victim; maybe if one was from the perspective of the evil destructive spirit that would be a suitable entertainment?

v Actually wererats in disguise.