(This session consisted of Edgar the human cleric, Mutt the human barbarian, Colin the halfling paladin, Vincen the human sorcerer and Galfur the dwarven inquisitor. They were all 9th level.)
The heroes went ashore in which they rendezvoused with Mutt and Vincent, who had miraculously recovered from their wounds and followed in their companion’s heels.
With hushed joy of reunion they headed back to the inn under the cover of night and brought the two newly arrived up to date.
They agreed that they would have to track down Lucas and the whereabouts of the dark rider, who had apparently never arrived in Illmarsh, despite heading there. And from the ramblings of the mad man at the tern cliffs, the temple of Umberlee would be a good place to start.
The heroes snug into Lucas’ old room with a knock spell and realized it hadn’t been used for a long time. The subtle cold wind flew in through the cracks in the wall and an eerie silence rested there, between an old table, an empty chest and a bed that hadn’t been slept on for a long time. Lucas had apparently been absent for a while.
On the following day, Edgar noticed a lot of people gathering outside the tavern ‘The Walleyed Kraken’. When they arrived, they learned that the proprietor, Laurel Sills, had gone missing in the night, leaving no trace behind. Thus another soul had been claimed by the unknown forces in Illmarsh. Sheriff Anders admitted having no clue and annoyed he told the heroes to get out of town and leave him to his job. Instead they went to visit the Temple of Umberlee, at long last.
The temple was an impressive sight against the otherwise sore state of the small fishing town. Solidly build, it was a dark shape against the grey sky, looming and looking down on the small band approaching its doors. Outside they noticed several statues and mosaics of fish-creatures and stormy waters, which were both intimidating and yet aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
As they knocked on the gate, three priests opened and politely told them that disbelievers weren’t allowed in the sanctuary. The heroes inquired about joining the church but they had to wait till the highpriest returned. This would take some days, unfortunately.
This didn’t sit well with them, needless to say.
Storming the temple
They returned that very night and stealthily made their way to the gate, which Vincent unlocked with a knock spell. They entered a small hall in the front with three doors, two of them contained the faint sound of chanting from the inside. They made their way to the third and entered a small chamber with a green stone altar and various portrayals of fish-people on the wall. Galfur recognized these creatures as Skum. Strange frog-like humanoid beings, usually playing no part in the Umberlee religion?
Behind the next door they heard the sound of a scolding voice from someone apparently in authority. They decided that they might as well strike now, and Mutt kicked in the door.
On the other side was a room containing an acolyte and an aggressive looking vicar who immediately drew arms and shouted out to his companions.
Edgar instantly conjured up a stone wall against the other two doors and Mutt and Galfur charged into the room. Caleb the Vicar cast Greater Command knocking Mutt and Vincent out cold while the acolyte moved into flanking position. Soon after four additional acolytes joined the fray from the door to the north, spreading some sneak attack-love.
Suddenly, out of the blue, a fierce roar emerged from the front hall and a sinister being blasted through the entrance. It looked like a chuul imbued with divine energy and it fiercely utilized smite good on Colin and began bashing away at him.
Galfur tore a grievous wound in the vicar, who retreated and hurled an ice storm at the clumped up party for a solid amount of damage. Edgar fled from the chuul and into the acolyte room to get better channel results and healed the majority of the group. Vincent broke out of his command and turned invisible while Mutt did the same but was now surrounded by sneak attacking acolytes. The chuul tore Colin up, bringing him to 3 hit points, before the paladin escaped and healed himself on the way back to the acolyte room. Things were getting crowded.
The vicar unleashed an unholy smite inflicting more damage to the heroes, but then Vincent managed to toss him into a conjured acid pit along with an acolyte. As the vicar had little chance of getting himself up from there, he slowly succumbed through the rest of the fight (he likely could’ve bought himself a couple of more rounds with the little healing he had, but still, no need for nitpicking).
While Galfur took down the remaining acolytes with his bane weapon Mutt hurled himself at the chuul. The party focused fire on it, leaving the dwarf to mop up the minor clergy and a couple of rounds later everyone was triumphant. They encountered an additional three acolytes who were all slain swiftly.
A grim discovery
In the main hall the heroes encountered a twisted and corrupt statue of a mermaid holding a bunch of tentacles in her hand. It was slightly unsettling. In one room in particular was especially impressing with rich furniture and decorations and contained an old chest along with several empty potion bottles on the floor. On closer inspection they concluded them to be potions of cure wounds.
What was more interesting was the series of secret doors the heroes found. One in the northern room, one in the southern and a series of them in the eastern wall in the grand hall. Behind the northern one, they found a small chamber with a pool of dark water against the northern wall and a bunch of neatly arranged corpses on the floor, all missing their heads.
On closer inspection, Edgar concluded something had burst through them from the inside. They also noticed one of them carrying rich merchant clothes and a small wooden egg with a symbol of the Whispering Way inside. Apparently they had found Lucas. At the bottom of his pocket was an old note, bearing resemblance to the torn page from the Thrushmoor ledger, saying:
“Rider on the way with Seasage Efficy. Meet at Old House outside town for exchange”.
When thinking about it, the only house Galfur could think of would be the old House of Undiomede, which he always thought had been destroyed ages ago.
At this time they heard the faint sound of scuttling outside the room. Like something small had tipped over something. The heroes all set out, except for Galfur who immediately cast Expeditious Retreat to storm ahead. As soon as he reached the main hall, a strange green slug at the size of a small cat hurled itself at his face and borrowed its head into his mouth.
Wild panic erupted, the party tried tearing it out with their bare hands with no effect, the slug was too slippery. It only dug deeper and deeper into his mouth and Edgar tore out a dagger and tried carving up the right half of the inquisitor’s mouth. Sadly, due to crappy heal-checks, he failed and in the end the creature manifested itself well and tight into his brain. Along the way, additional slugs tried creeping up on Mutt, who noticed this well and stomped them to death.
Rummaging through the temple’s library the heroes learned of these beings as ‘Slug Spawns’. Larval stages of a strange, aberrant creature known as a seed of the Outer God Shub-Niggurath. They could be removed initially by cold damage or would otherwise have to be carved out within three rounds. From there, only a remove disease would save their host. Within 2 and 12 days, the larva would go into the next stage of evolution…
(The Slugspawns follow a mechanic resembling more like a trap than a creature, which will likely confuse some players. You can’t attack them as such, instead you’re supposed to first notice them in order to get a save at all. Then do a reflex save. Otherwise they leech on to your face. There is very little information as to what happens if you save and whether you can perform actions while they’re penetrating you, but I think a good rule is to allow any actions that don’t require speech and say that anyone who make their save will immediately stomp them to death. Also remember that any kind of damage reduction makes you immune to the slugs. This sat well with our barbarian.)
In the middle room awaited a dire sight. Resting against the far wall stood a sinister looking, blood splattered altar surrounded by coagulated red spots. In the northern part was another dark pool of water. On closer inspection, the heroes realized that this was a site of worship to the demon lord Dagon, the Prince of the Depths. Above it was a large picture of a staring octopus-eye along with several paintings of strange sea-creatures having intercourse with humanoid women.
The heroes decided to leave well alone and send Mutt to investigate the final room, which was disappointingly ascetic. Besides from another pool of dark water and a bench, only a few stacks of sacks and clothes were laying around in piles. Mutt did notice, however, that someone was hiding beneath the stack in the far corner and immediately attacked it, killing whoever was inside instantly. He realized it was two villagers and discretely hid them again before heading out to the rest of the group.
(The couple is another bread crump for the Undiomede House and offer a small quest, although nothing significant was lost by him slaying them.)
An even grimmer discovery
The heroes were really curious about the watery tunnels and decided to check them out. They looked deep, and luckily Edgar had brought along plenty of Waterbreathing for the party, so they decided to make a tour of it. Sinking into the depths with a light spell active, the heroes began their long trek underwater.
It took them a couple of hours before they reached an intersection in which they concluded one way would lead them back out into the bay and the other to places unknown. They set out for the unknown location and an hour later emerged in a strange, sinister looking cavern. The dripping sound was faint and the darkness illuminated by odd, brightly shining fungi in purple and blue colors. Everything was too quiet…except for the chilling song from a women, not too far away down the corridor.
Slowly they advanced and reached a large room with a foul stench. Piles of dead women and children were scattered along the walls and in a pit in the center sat a starved woman clutching baby in her arms. She gently and nervously sang to it in a catatonic state.
As they addressed her, they learned that she had been there for some time and had no clue about ‘the world outside’. She mentioned ‘the men’ and how they weren’t really there anymore. But that was okay, she still had her priced little baby. At this moment she unveiled the child, revealing a long dead baby with long tentacles erupting from its face (I spiced that one up a bit) in a grim visage. The party recoiled and lost a couple of sanity points to this hideous encounter.
(Wake of the Watcher operates with a Sanity score, reflected by the character’s level modified by their wisdom modifier, which has the potential to wreck the mental stability of people on the low end of the will-save scale. Read; those mustering less than a +5 around here are in quite serious trouble. In my case it’s no biggie, really. With a Sorcerer, cleric, inquisitor and a paladin whose lowest save is +15 we’re well off. The barbarian…well… he will be missed.
A thing you should know about this system is that the DC 15 is relatively low for 9th level adventurers, but on the other hand a botched check can dissolve between 1d10 and 2d6 points of Sanity. Assuming that the average SAN at this point would be 11-12 and there are around five checks in total in WotW; you can see where this is going.
In combat this presents the demented character with a DC 20 will save in order not to get auto Confused for the rest of the encounter, and they will start hallucinating and the like which presents you with interesting opportunities as a GM. I personally hope at least one of my players will snap.
This system is optional, remember. If you think it’s too much hassle, don’t use it. )
As they got to their senses, the heroes learned that there were still a couple of ‘the men’ left in a different part of the cave, and that the ‘leader of them seemed so very angry’. When they asked about this anger, she told them that they perhaps felt it too, but that they shouldn’t worry. Everything would be alright, once ‘the color down the hall found them…’
At this point, they heard a faint humming and saw an eerie green hue emanating from a distant corridor at the side of the cave. And the barbarian (whose player reads Lovecraft) began screaming.
And what terror awaits them there shall be revealed this Wednesday.