(This session consisted of Edgar the human cleric, Colin the halfling paladin, Vincent the human sorcerer, Mutt the human barbarian and Galfur the dwarven inquisitor. All were 9th level and advanced to level 10 at the end).
As the heroes were now burdened with the harsh responisibility of child care they had to make sure someone would care for the abandoned infant. As they returnd to the ever silen Illmarsh they went to knock on Horace Croon’s door, carefully avoiding any suspiscious gazes from the nearby houses. Edgar took a quick look through the inventor’s window and witnessed a magnificent invention hanging for a massive hook in the middle of the lab. From what he could tell, it was the professor’s submersible research craft, only significantly bigger. Apparently, it was hoistered in chains and hooks and a long rubber-tube protruded from its top and travelled to a pile of rubber in the far corner. The professor was eagerly hammering away on the device, only interrupted by the heroes’ knocking. He nervously opened up and gladly recognised the familiar faces, letting them in instantly.
He presented them to his newest and bigger invention, the Submersible 2.0. As he had taken Galfur’s advice and deviced a large-scale model, he was quite sure that this magnificent wonder posessed the strength to journey to even the deepest parts of the ocean-floor. It even came with an airlock and several small supplies. Now, all he needed was someone brave enough to partake in its maiden-voyage.
As the heroes knew they’d be going to the base of the tern rocks in the near future, in their search of the sunken Skum-ruins, they agreed after minor hesitation. The condition, however, was that the professor would look over the child and take it into his care. He obliged to this eagerly and asked them about her name. Colin decided for ‘Jane’. (Partly because Horace Croon DOES look like the lovechild between Einstein and the father from Disney’s ”Tarzan”)
They decided not to set out this veyr night, but instead wait till the following evening, giving the professor time to prepare. Instead, they had unsettled business in the old Undiomedes-mansion.KANEDA, HELP MEEEE….
The heroes scoured the outer premises and rooms on the first floor and found little but some interesting hints. In the old storeroom they discovered clear signs of struggle, apparently someone had been grappled and dragged away from here. In the corner was an old saddle-bag containing a now empty box that likely used to house a small item. Also, a message was attached instructing the bearer to exchange the item for ’Raven’s Head’ with a G.L.
Through some knowledge, Galfur was able to identify the Raven’s Head as an ancient artifact-mace that had, supposedly, been lost in the history of Ustalav. The mace was said to house great power against the undead and in the hands of a holy warrior could unleash a terrible holy wrath. It seemed like the mace wasn’t so lost, after all.
On another room they also found the horse of the dark rider, carrying the brand of the Thrusmoor stables and now quite starved. After feeding it, they decided to head upstairs and find whether the highpriest of Dagon was still present.
They reached the top of the stairs and opened a door leading into a small lounge, though most of the chairs and comfortable facilities had rotted away through the trials of time. An old portrait of a mighty ship in a storm adorned the eastern wall as well as a rack of beautiful pibes.
Not much got to happen, however, before the southern door went up and the maniac highpriest burst in, madness tearing in his eyes and the sinister bulges swelling from his head. Something slithered beyond. ”YOU! GET OUT! You will NOT survive!” he yelled and cast a blade barrier, splitting the party in two with only Mutt on the southern side.
The barbarian plunged his halberd into the priest, who in return unleashed a cone of cold against the party for a massive blast of hit points. Vincent dimension doored him, Galfur and Edgar to Mutt’s side while Colin remained behind to fire arrows through the wall. Edgar channeled healing and Galfur charged the priest, who quickly noticed the approaching danger of a smiting full attacking paladin. He immediately threw in an obscuring mist to improve his odds, and the party kept Edgar and Vincent at range, while Colin moved close enough to take his shots with 50% miss chance. Even with 20% Mutt and Galfur got in some good rolls against the cornered priest (who was JUST about to use his Harm … ah well…) and with a gory sound his head exploded in a sinister mass of bloody tentacles. The canker shambled towards them in wild agony, tentacles flailing and grappling and the sight was too much for Mutt for felt a serious decline in his sanity. The canker’s tentacles sucked out the charismatic life force of the two melee-fighters and as they finally, after some rounds, were about to land the killing blow, it exploded with another shower; this time of slugspawns.
In the mist everyone panicked and looked around; both Mutt, Galfur and Edgar noticed them, but sadly the cleric didn’t save and a slug hurled itself into his mouth. The same counted for Colin, who was immediately blasted by a wave of cold damage from Vincent. Edgar took to self-surgery and through brutal measure cut open his entire right chin and pulled out the disgusting parasite.
Then silence settled.
(This isn’t an overly bad battle, I do think I played it wrong somehow. Again, it’s a solo encounter with little room for maneuvre. Ideally, the priest should get the fog cloud up quickly and then maybe trap himself in the far southern corner, leaving only a 5-foot wide way between the wall the the blades, forcing the heroes to split up into one long row. My players simply dealt way too much damage before he could get off his dangerous single-target spells, but I’ll easily imagine him to be quite dangerous if played better than I did.
Well, we all have off-days.)
The heroes began searching the remaining rooms on the floor and while they initially seemed empty, in an old library they were greeted by two ghostly people with high hats, coats and small briefcases. As Mutt addressed them, they asked “Are you the lord of this manor?”
“Yes!” Edgar said.
Thus a pair of specters set upon them.
(With 4 easily drained levels per round, this is your GM chance to down a hero in very few turns. I love specters. Remember their unnatural aura ability, if anyone in the party is a zoo-keeper)
The following room seemed to be a work-chamber of sorts although it had very little of value. Galfur opened a desk drawer an immediately a pollen-explosion of yellow mold flew into his face. Coughing like a maniac, the dwarf shrugged it off rather easily though and the encounter was pretty much trivial.
The progression led them into an old bedchamber which had been deserted for ages, an old wheelchair remaining next to the bed, and a set of stairs leading to the attic. A sinister, dark spot decorated the sheets on the bed, which Edgar later identified as blood. Also, an old, crude scribbling from a dagger could be seen in the woodworks. It said “The Pact ends here, Father!”
Slowly ascending up to the attic, they were surrounded by thick darkness, barely penetrated by their lanterns. Everything up here seemed to have been laid to waste and decay, old cloth, wood and metal bits spread along dust, filth and earth. But noticeable was a beautiful, black leathery book with writhing letters on its front. They stared at it for some time, Edgar could even swear it was calling his name in silent whisper. Colin eagerly tried channeling holy energy into it and setting it on fire but nothing seemed to work. Instead, Vincent took the utmost consequence and picked it up, reading it.
Dark thoughts and teachings flourished through his head. Words from beyond the stars were about to implode his mind as he eagerly shifted through the pages in rapid speed, browsing just about every detail he could find in magic, maniac approach. As he finally looked up, small starry dots flickered in his eyes. He felt his sanity dwindle away, and besides from an enlightened mind, he now felt the calling of several strange beings beyond. Of course he explained his party that he would ‘keep it for later destruction’ and hastily packed it down into his sack.
(The original book doesn’t work like this entirely, but close. It confers a solid +4 knowledge check bonus and supplies its owner with some spells. Even though it’s a spellbook for a sorcerer, it let it pass. It’s the Book of Abstruse Geomnetries and is out of this world, after all. Besides it enables him to call forth beings from beyond the veil, which I invented my own system for, a bit inspired by Warhammer. It allows the caster to fuel as much energy into the process as he so wishes, in an attempt to call forth a being from beyond. The greater the amount, the more powerful. Of course this also represents an even bigger threat to the caster, and on a certain roll the spell will backfire with very dire consequences not only for the caster but likely also his party. I’ll post the book’s power in full later. One of the possible miscast-results is the summoning of the creature that was supposed to be in the attic in the original adventure. But I had enough of encounters at this stage, knowing there were plenty of more to come.)
The heroes decided to head back home to Illmarsh and rest at Horace Croon’s before the next day’s trials. They had two resting cycles and enough time to recuperate from their ability damage and other ailments, while also preparing for the journey to come. They found the small boat Isinglass (which remarkably sounds like a really bad Eragon book. Implying there is in fact an exception to such a thing…) was to carry them and the submersible out into the open sea and drop them at the tern rocks.
The journey went fine on the following night, and the heroes brought plenty of food along with them in the descent. Horace promised he would stand vigilant at the pump and make sure the stream of air would be uninterrupted. As they were lowered, they couldn’t help notice the sudden absence of the former mad prisoner on the rocks. Instead there was only a bloody spot and a set of manacles holding the sore remnants of hands.
Edgar took the steering down and they noticed how everything got really dark outside the windows, and the few fish drowned out in the bleak abyss waiting below. There was a cramped silence in the cabin only interrupted by the groaning metal as it came under more and more pressure from the outside. It was anyone’s guess how deep they were, but it truly emphasized that never would they be able to reach such depths without the aid of the old professor.
On their journey, Mutt suddenly could swear he saw something on the outside. Movement in the darkness. Like part of the darkness was slithering away from them.
A huge part of the darkness.
(And an encounter I’m saving for their way up)
Slowly light greeted them, however. On the floor of the ocean rested a great dome of dully shining gray metal. Seams ran up the dome’s sides to its apex, sprinkled with glowing lights, whose dim blue radiance gave the entire scene an otherworldly appearance.
The heroes noticed an eerie membrane-like entrance to the north in the complex, but also discovered an alternative hidden entrance to the south, suiting their stealthily approach much better. They parked the submersible close to the inside and quickly noticed the airlock as they ascended from the water in what seemed to be a partially flooded cavern. An old path moved to the west from here and everything was eerily silent, except for a strange low humming. They exited the submersible and carefully moved into the old complex.
Shubbulupfhtagnaiaiai…. Ah, fuck this shit…
(To all my beloved hardcore readers – This was one of the times in which I had way too little time to prepare for the adventure to come, and therefore I’ve likely made some mistakes. I know I have and will point them out. If you find anymore it’s likely not me screwing with the rules, but in fact not being aware of them. This is not my usual standard of practice, but it happens.)
On the next side was a big grotto, nicely constructed, with several smaller compartments to the south and another blue door to the north and west.
A strange creature greeted them and wobbled closer from the far end. For quite some time it just stood there, doing nothing. They did nothing to it in return. It would’ve been a great staring contest, had it only carried eyes.
Then suddenly they heard its words in their minds.
“How do crustaceans propagate with barns?”
“Why are three ears better than seven?”
“What is the orbital declension of the Lilac Star when the sea snails cry beryllium tears?”
When the heroes looked sheepish it frowned and walked a bit back and forward for a bit. When they addressed it again, it attacked with a wild scream.
On the first round of combat, the cerebric fungus oracle (yeah…) used its Star-Shriek, attempting to nauseate the party. Everyone saved (DC 15 fort save is a joke against this party) Mutt chopped it for a bit and Vincent threw it into a conjured acid pit. The creature howled and sneered as acid burned through it and began climbing the distance. Edgar cast Spike Stone on the walls of the pit and suddenly the oracle was looking at one hell of a climb. To that end, Mutt and Galfur were both waiting with reach weapons for when it got up and I decided to call it a GG. (It could’ve gone up, I think. But the damage it would inflict would be moderate at best and I have very little patience for pointless waste of time like that.)
The doors to the south were empty prison cells (Lol no, in fact they contain Migos, but I just interpreted the map thinking they looked surprisingly prisonish. Not much to say here – This truly wasn’t my night.) and to the north they saw into the dark, sinister cave strewn with bones. The faint smell of wet fur in here was obvious. The heroes decided to bail and come back later.Instead they headed west, into in intersection and went south towards the humming. In a big room they found a huge statue of green and black stone depicting a nightmarish creature that was neither fish nor eel nor octopus but still had features of all three. Hundreds of inlaid shelves decorated the walls and to the south a beautiful mace rested on a stone pillar.
They heard a loud grumble from a giant, fat skum in the middle of the cavern. Along with him was his two loyal bodyguards. He loudly croaked for them to attack, and retreated to cast an augmented Summon Monster 5.
Vincent blasted the two skums to pieces and Colin’s arrows inflicted enough damage to the cleric in order to disrupt his spell. With an angry sneer he turned around and in the following round bestowed curse on the sorcerer, for 50% chance to do nothing per turn. He laughed in his death throes.
As they cleaned it up, the heroes took a closer look on the mace and to their pleasure realized that this was nothing else but the legendary Raven’s Head. The +3 undead bane heavy mace went to Edgar.
I’m a gigantic brain!
In an adjacent room the heroes found the source of the humming. A faint blue light illuminated it on and off repeatedly, and revealed the several rows of brains in jars. They were arranged by date and all carried a contraption that apparently allowed for communication. The newest one, apparently belonging to a human, was tested as they turned it on.
They heard the faint voice of a familiar person in their minds. To their horrors it was the mayor. He told them everything was fine now. That they would see too, once ‘he’ arrived. His journey was nearly complete by now and there was nothing they could do to prevent it.
Once he entered this world, he would make them all understand that which had eluded their simple minds.
“What is it we don’t understand?” Edgar boldly asked.
“Well,” the brain said “why don’t I show you?”
A series of hellish visions flickered through their mind (Think Even Horizon. I’d post the segment here, but with respect to readers with no passion for gore, it’d be better if you look it up yourself.) leaving the heroes screaming in terror as they saw madness and terror engulf their world. (I think this makes sanity loss more reasonable than the mere watching of talking brains. I mean, I’ve watched talking brains before. They’re hilarious!)
Luckily for the heroes, they shrugged off their predicament and in a rampage Mutt smashed up the entire room in blind rage. They decided to push on, moving towards their destiny in the southern room.
They passed through dark corridors and heard a strange bubbling, whispering sound not far ahead (buff time).
As they entered the metal dome they noticed all manner of incomprehensible equipment, including a pair of bloodstained metal operating tables surrounded by racks of instruments for vivisection. The chamber was illuminated by a purple glow and right in the middle a naked human was strapped on to the operating table, several tubes with vicious luquid apparently keeping him alive. His head was on the edge of bursting from apparent movement inside, and as he noticed the heroes he muffled out a loud “HELFFF MWEEE!!!”
Around it, four strange plant-like creatures hissed and turned their attention to the heroes. Another test of their sanity as they lay eyes on the fearsome creatures from beyond known as the Mi-Go.
The battle wasn’t particularly challenging for a fully buffed up party, and the Mi-Go fell like flies. It was when the last one bit the dust that the poor guy in the middle, the dark rider they’d been searching for, set in a scream and underwent a hideous mutation into a towering abomination known as the Dark Young of Shub Niggurath. The party once again had to cling to their sanity by this transformation, but everyone was saved by the good roll, including Mutt who became very happy for he rerollable will save granted by his rage power.
The dark one roared and animated the odd plants in the chamber with an entanglement spell. With its freedom of movement it galloped closer to the party and Edgar immediately blessed Galfur with another freedom of movement sending him into the fray with Mutt. The martial fighters surrounded it while the rest of the party split up and the beast, realizing it couldn’t do much to Galfur (as it’s fearsome attack depends on it to grapple) moved on to Mutt. Vincent made it through every round of his curse but made sure to blast the thing with just about every element on its immunity-list (fire, lightning, acid, poison). Galfur was also hitting it with his blunt mace, which pleased the Dark Young and the DR 15/Slashing.
On the other hand, Mutt’s slashing damage was impressive to say the least, especially with an ongoing haste. As was Colin’s who immediately smote evil on the Dark Young and rapidly tore away its hit points with his arrows. Around four rounds later, it was all over and the heroes emerged victorious.
Picking up the pieces
They had a brief pause and searched the place for some treasures. Including some plot relevant items.
They found a familiar face; the seasage effigy; now known as the Face of Dagon. The small green item that was stolen from Lepidstadt University by the Beast in ‘Trial of the Beast’. Apparently the cultist had taken it here.
Also, an old letter showed up. It read:
And so the heroes stopped their victorious session, still needing to find their way back to the surface and apparently set out for their next destination. The capital city of Caliphas, which thus begins our next chapter “Ashes at dawn”.
(I originally made a video-review for this adventure but I wasn’t really that happy about it. I will therefore just say, for now, this is somewhat where I feel the AP takes a dive. It’s not bad and certainly the best of the worst; but much of it really depends on your/your players’ knowledge of the Lovecraft Mythos. I hope to bring up a new video about it at some time, however)