Plundering the Wizard’s Laboratory with Ghoul Strider: The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Ninth Session

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

August 18, 2016

The party left Kobold Korners to go looking for the hidden sanctum of the surly ghoul’s master (we never caught the ghoul’s name, so we will call him “Ghoul Strider”), where they hoped to find a cure for Ghoul Strider’s undead state (and accompanying hankering for long pig).  Here are the highlights:

A trash pit!  And a secret door!  Finding the entrance to the sanctum turned out to be relatively easy, or else the player characters were just lucky, because they basically stumbled right into it.  Just south of Kobold Korners’ guard post, they found the local midden, a garbage pit that looked like it had been some sort of religious shrine at one point.  The arrangement of the bas-relief sculptures tipped the party off, and they opened up a secret door.  Ghoul Strider was cautiously optimistic.  Also, it was sort of a minor miracle that no player character ended up actually in the garbage pit, although it was seriously discussed.

An ancient conjuring chamber!  Filled with ooze!  After poking into a couple of relatively nondescript rooms, the player characters found an obviously wizardly conjuring chamber.  Ghoul Strider was elated (he cried “Jackpot!” for what was not to be the only time of the evening), as it bore all the marks of his old master.  The downside was that the room was also filled with aggressive oozes that immediately began sliming their way toward the party.  After fighting for a few rounds, the party decided that discretion as the better part of valor, so they shut the door and moved on.  Let me give you a little bit of foreshadowing:  oozes can definitely squeeze through closed doors.

A wrecked arcane workshop!  A lilac orb!  And a brass door with glyphs!  The party moved on to the site of an obvious magical experiment gone terribly wrong (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider): a wizard’s workshop in terrible disarray, as if it had been the site of a powerful implosion, and in the center of the room was a glowing purple orb that absorbed whatever the player characters threw into it.  Also, amongst the room’s many exits was a brass door inscribed with glyphs that piqued the player characters’ collective interest, but it was locked and they couldn’t unlock it, so they headed a different way.

Zombies!  The next room was an old barracks filled with the walking dead, wearing insignia that indicated that they once served Ghoul Strider’s master (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul strider).  They shambled hungrily at the party, and the party ran away.  The player characters locked the door behind them, but the zombies began to batter at it with a high level of undead motivation.  Let me give you a little bit of foreshadowing: eventually, zombies can break down a door.

A shrine to Math, the god of Magic!  And secret doors!  After running away from the zombies, the party found itself in a shrine dedicated to the seldomly-worshipped god of magic, named Math.  (You can tell it’s an American god because he’s not called “Maths.”  Call Neil Gaiman, I guess.)  Although Math was Ghoul Strider’s master’s deity of choice (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider), the player characters were not so much interested in the religious/cultic significance of the site as they were the possibility of a secret door.  And indeed, they found two (“Jackpot!” cried the rest of the party).

Slugs!  And death!  One secret door led to a storeroom filled with giant, aggressive slugs.  One player character (played by Mike) died by being rasped to death by a slug.  Not a pretty way to go, and death 1 out of 3 of the night.

Back to the zombies!  And the oozes!  And orcs!  The player characters wandered around the complex and, after picking their way through a dining room set with real silver (which they plundered) (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, as he recognized his old master’s silver pattern), they found themselves back in the barracks where they had originally encountered the zombies, but the door to the ruined arcane workshop was broken down and the zombies were obviously loose.  Oh, and remember those oozes?  They attacked the player characters again.  The player characters fought valiantly, and then decided to run away some more.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, a party of Open Sore Tribe orcs (the bane of the party’s existence) came lurking into the room, looking for a fight and something to plunder.  However, the payer characters were crafty, set an ambush, and killed almost all of the orcs.  A few ran away to increase the orc-player character hostility in the future.  The zombies were still on the loose though…

A bedchamber!  And a weird self-portrait…  The party then found Ghoul Strider’s master’s bedchamber, with a weird self-portrait painted on the ceiling directly over the bed (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider; “Who does that?” asked the rest of the party).  The portrait’s depiction of the wizard’s bushy eyebrows was particularly disturbing.

A library!  Full of wee skeletons!  And death!  Next, the party wandered into a magical library (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, and the rest of the party considered killing him) filled with books (duh) and very small skeletons.  The skeletons were not friendly, as evidenced by the fact that they ripped out Dathus’s throat (Mike again!).  The party stood their ground this time, and dispatched the skeletons with the aid of holy undead-turning power.

Wound-enhancing mirrors!  And more death!  Next, the player characters found a mirrored room, but these were no ordinary mirrors!  These mirrors reflected the viewer but more wounded—and their twisted pictures become real!  Ruphus the Merciful (played by Jon) found out just how real when he tried to crawl through the room on his hands and knees, not looking at the mirrors.  The mirrors were not merciful to Ruphus the Merciful  He died.  The party sent the next player character through with a bag over his head, only to find out that the room just led to the other side of the brass glyph-covered doors, that the party couldn’t get through from this side either…

Jackpot!  For real this time!  Also, zombies again.  The player characters rounded a corner and found themselves face to face with the zombies again, so they dashed through a door, into… the inner sanctum (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, and everyone groaned).  After shutting the door behind them (remember the foreshadowing?), the party found a glowing vial on a table.  Could this be.. the cure for undeath?  Ghoul Strider didn’t wait to think it through—he quaffed the whole thing greedily, and, after some rather painful-looking convulsions, TURNED BACK ALIVE!  And right about that moment, the zombies began battering in the door.

On to the next session!

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