Last Friday night was the first Post Tenebras Lux game with full attendance since the big changeover in players.
We picked up just after the battle with the stirges and the vine horror, and the group quickly found its way to the stone circle and barrow they were seeking*. What they found was a meadow about half a mile wide with a tall mound in the middle, surrounded by a ring of thirteen standing stones. Inside the ring of stones, it was winter, rather than the late summer it was outside. Not only was it winter, it was a nasty, blizzardy winter.
They walked the circumference of the circle, then tried to find a pathway leading in to the barrow. Crossing the perimeter of the stone circle inflicted cold damage on them. They had previously bought cold weather gear and potions of cold resistance, and used both at this point. I was a little surprised that they didn’t investigate the standing stones at all – I had set it up so that the stones could be manipulated (or destroyed) to turn off the killing cold. The normal cold would still have been there, but not the cold damage.
So, into the blizzard within the circle. This was the maze of ice and snow that they had been warned about back in Witchwood – I set it up as a skill challenge to find their way through the disorienting snow and ice fog, around the shifting walls of ice, and avoiding the illusionary creatures and traps within the maze. The turns were set up to be five minutes each, with one check per person per turn, and everyone also needing to make an Endurance check each turn to avoid losing a healing surge. Also, each turn inflicted 1d6+3 cold damage. The potions ameliorated some of the damage each turn**, and the cold weather gear granted a bonus to the Endurance check.
They made it to the barrow in two turns, with a couple of people losing healing surges along the way. I expected them to take another two turns or so to open the large stone doors of the barrow, which would have meant that the potions would have worn off, but the tiefling rogue pulled off an amazing Strength check to heave the slabs open.
The room inside was a trap fest. I used the elite ice sheet hazard, the elite version of the crossbow turret trap, and the whirling blades trap, all from the DMG***. The ice sheet was a frozen stream running across the battlefield, and the room was studded with timbers holding up the ceiling and, incidentally, offering cover to the crossbows.
Of course, this meant they also offered cover from the crossbows, but I hadn’t thought of that. Oh, well. Can’t complain if the characters use my own tricks against me.
The restricted mobility created by the ice sheet and the timbers slowed this encounter down a little, as did the widespread placement of the crossbow turrets in the four corners of the large room. Still, they soldiered through pretty well, though the large amount of damage dished out by the whirling blades scared them pretty badly.
Now they were in to the dungeon crawling portion of the evening. Having been very frustrated with the way dungeon crawls worked in Rescue at Rivenroar and the Age of Worms Adventure Path, I’ve been using a more abstract system of doing them. I flowchart a number of encounter areas – five in this case, of which I expect them to work through three or fourÂ – and make up description for the rest. For example, the first dungeon room had two ways out. They chose one path, which led them to the feast hall and the next encounter. But it didn’t lead them directly there; instead, I described how the path spiraled and descended, moving through warrens of work rooms and storage rooms, all full of rotted or destroyed furnishings and goods. They searched the area and rolled well, so I let them find a treasure package I had prepared: a carved ivory flute in the remains of a workroom, and a potion of healing in the ruins of an alchemical lab. The path led them on to the kitchen, where they made some good perception checks and heard the ghouls on the far side of the door.
That was the feast hall, and I’d set up what looked to be a pretty good fight****, with a large, U-shaped rotting banquet table taking up part of the room and a burning coal fire pit taking up another good chunk. But all the creatures were undead, and the party had a paladin of Pelor, a cleric of Pelor, and an avenger. Plus a sorcerer with the Lightning Breath power to set up a nasty sustained zone, and a rogue and a ranger that just usually do a lot of damage.
The fight was pretty quick, and the party was never really in any danger, despite the incredible leaps of the ghouls***** and the charges of the famine hounds.
That’s where we left it, with them about half-way through the dungeon, racing the setting of the moon, and starting to get concerned about their healing surges and daily powers. The last half of the dungeon should be an interesting challenge.
There wasn’t much in the way of NPC interaction, what with no actual NPCs showing up, but the mood and the play style from the previous session seems to be carrying over. The players seem to be having fun, and the game looks like it’s turning out to be the kind of game I like to run.
That makes me happy.Â
*Good rolls on the skill challenge.
**According to the Adventurer’s Vault, the resist potions produced effects that lasted until the end of the encounter. I wanted to put a little more of a time limit on that, so I ruled that they would last fifteen minutes – three turns of the skill challenge.
***900 xp – a level 3 encounter for 6 characters.
**** 2 ghouls and 4 famine hounds, 900 xp, another level 3 encounter for 6 characters.
*****I swapped the trained Stealth skill that the ghouls come standard with (and that I didn’t want to use in this situation) with the trained Athletics skill, giving the ghouls a +9 skill check which let them jump over most of the dangerous or inconvenient terrain. Their first turn, one of them leaped over the fire and the table to land right in the middle of the party. It made me grin.