The Withered Fortress

Session 3

Into the Necropolis

NOTE: This session was played on a new digital gaming table! It uses a projector to display maps for our campaign. Here is a page that shows the table: Digital table page

Update: Tim has provided a digital version of the map he recorded during play. An excellent tool for players to review from last session! View it here: Tim’s map of the Necropolis so far

At the start of session 3, the party was looking over the corpse of the carrion crawler and discussing their next move. Mephyrion soon pointed out excitedly that there was an immobilized individual nearby! This turned out to be Valen, a druid who had penetrated quite far into the ruins before being overcome by the carrion crawler. The party bestowed some healing on Valen, and he joined them.

The group decided not to head back to the unexplored areas they had passed, but to head directly into the necropolis. Mephyrion took some time to review their goals so far: they should continue their mission to explore the keep of The Withered Fortress by finding a suspected secret way in through, or perhaps underneath, the Necropolis. Mephyrion also indicated that his plans would not take him personally inside, but that he would try to meet up with them near the windows of the Necropolis’ tower.

The party entered the Necropolis, which they found to be dark and silent. The first chamber they came to held skeletal remains and three doors. The party listened carefully at these doors, and discovered tracks leading to two, but not to the third. The tracks looked odd—as though their maker had been dragging its feet.

Falyn searched, then opened the door with no tracks leading to it. Inside he found a small closet-like room, which contained a collection of mundane items: boots, sacks, and spades. The group took some of these items.

Settling on the north door, the party moved ahead. They found themselves in a narrow branching hallway with more doors. They soon heard faint noises of movement or moaning. They arranged themselves tactically, preparing to ambush what might be near. The majority of the group retreated to the entry room whilst the gnome sorcerer went further down the hallway. Sure enough, an attack was sprung—3 zombies appeared from the end of the hall and from a nearby door. The sorcerer managed to escape and draw the zombies back to the group. While some of the party slashed with weapons, Edvar brought bone-breaking strength to bear, popping the zombies like ripe boils. Meanwhile, another zombie appeared in the entry room behind the group, from the unopened door. It posed little difficulty for the group, though.

After defeating the zombies, the group resumed exploring the hallway. Falyn entered another closet-like room while most of the party continued down the hall. Falyn discovered a secret door, which he passed through. His fellow gnome partner in crime, the sorcerer, accompanied him. The rest of the party had paused to consider a locked door.

Falyn and Wendyl found themselves in a room of excavated graves. It was not immediately clear what had transpired with the graves, but piles of debris were evident in the room. Falyn moved into the room whilst the sorcerer stayed back a bit. The rest of the group continued to work at the locked door, which now seemed that it opened into the grave room as well.

As Falyn come close to the graves, two ghouls leapt out, surrounding and flanking him. Falyn was quickly overwhelmed and badly wounded. Meanwhile Wendyl prepared to confront the two ghouls as the party finally penetrated the locked door. It was close, but the group managed to defeat the ghouls in time to save Falyn. Edvar crunched some more gooey undead, with the rest of the group all pitching in.

Falyn was revived, with much effort. There was a short search of the graves, and then the party decided to rest and recuperate.

During their camp and on Edvar’s watch, the sounds of odd foosteps could be heard. Edvar woke the group, and they moved to confront the possible threat. Morrykin slipped through the secret door while everyone else prepared themselves at the previously locked door.

A skeleton soon came into view, which the party surrounded and crushed rather easily. Falyn volunteered to serve another watch so the group could complete their rest. This passed uneventfully.

Afterward, the group pressed on through a door in the grave room. On the other side they entered a vast chamber filled with bones and piles of bone fragments. There were short steps that led down into the main area of the chamber. A handful of skeletons roamed at the top of these steps, and after defeating them, the party moved down. As they spread through the bone piles and searched, a strange creature reared up from behind one pile. It resembled a giant skeletal snake, but bore a fanged humanoid skull atop its neck. It began to sway in a strange dance, causing some members of the party to become dazed. By averting their eyes, the group was able to advance on the creature and engage it.

Edvar reached it and grabbed hold, but was bitten. To his horror, his muscles stopped responding and he collapsed. This condition remained for the remainder of the fight. Soon after, more skeletons appeared from behind bone piles and assailed the party’s flank. The sorcerer had to position himself carefully to stay out of bowshot of the new threat.

The group pulled together and, now free of the creature’s strange dance, wore down and defeated the nasty bone-thingy. The skeletons perished soon after.

After the dust settled, Edvar was revived. The party found that the north end of the big bone chamber held an iron gate set into a stone archway. The party chose to head back to an unexplored area before continuing further through this gate, however. In particular, they had glimpsed some stairs upware that they wanted to explore. They thought perhaps Mephyrion might be waiting to meet them there.

They headed back to a small room with a tattered red carpet. Morrykin carefully inspected this, finding a trapdoor underneath. Also, three members of the party searched a ruined desk but found nothing.

Under the trapdoor was a shallow recess. It held some fine whiskey bottles, which the party distributed amongst themselves. Falyn also found a secret door in the corner, which he explored.

Inside was a chest, which Falyn noticed was trapped. He attempted to disarm the trap, and believing himself successful, called Edvar over to open the chest. Upon opening the chest Edvar was pricked by a needle, but seemed to suffer no ill effects. Inside were some pieces of silver and a book of names. The party retained these items.

The group then explored the large spiraling staircase. Its structure was somewhat unsound, so they proceeded carefully. At the top of the stairs they seemed to be in the tower, which they suspected might be the case. The tower was filled with old furniture, brooms, crates, and other such items. In the center of the room, a large pentagram was scrawled on the floor, with a solid chest sitting in the center.

This was obviously a trap of some sort, everyone agreed. Morrykin and Falyn thus began circling around the walls of the tower, avoiding the center. After some time they encountered two creatures, hidden behind furniture. The creatures attacked, and though Edvar grasped one in his mighty trunk-like arms, it still managed to invoke a magical power. Several members of the party felt their minds overwhelmed, and fled in terror. Valen’s wolf sprinted far away during this time.

The remaining party members dispatched the creatures, and all returned to the tower except the wolf… Also, Mephyrion was nowhere to be found. Nobody seemed especially concerned by his fate.

The chest, which did not seem trapped, was opened. Inside were some rather sinister items—a black wand, a black gem-like stone, and two scrolls: desecrate and charm person.

Later back down the stairs, Valen’s wolf reappeared, quite relieved.

The group now resumed their progress through the gate, which opened onto a broad downward slope. Partway down this slope, a strange mass began to move toward them. The masss turned out to be hundreds, or thousands, of beetles. This swarm resisted attempts to harm it directly, save from magic. As the party struggled with how to fight the swarm, they flung spells and whiskey bottles at it. They killed a fair number of the beetles this way, and had a bit of a scare when the swarm briefly crawled over their gnome sorcerer. They chewed him up in a nasty way, but he was able to outrun them afterward. Morrykin lit a torch and leapt in to do battle with the swarm, and Wendyl let loose a color spray spell. This downed the swarm. The party then engaged in an orgy of foot-stomping, and smashed the now helpless beetles into a puddle of crunchy goo.

They party continued down, emerging at the bottom of a large, wide, set of stairs into a room lit eerily green. The light came from four braziers, burning with magical green flames. The room’s floor and walls were peppered with holes, causing the party to be suspicious. There were also three stone doors visible.

Avoiding the holes, the two rogues teamed up and began searching together. They found, around behind the stairs, two levers guarded by skeletons in old robes. The party easily defeated the guards and pulled the levers, timing their actions to occur in unison. The lights from the braziers went out, and faint mechanical sounds were heard. One half of the party was in the dark, but they met up and decided to check out the door to the East, continuing to avoid the holes in the floor. Through this door was a long hall. Falyn again found a secret door (that’s secret door #3 for him). Inside this was a room stuffed with crates of cloaks. The cloaks resembled those the skeletons wore. Also, there was a cloak seperate from the others which deteced as magical. This was given to Valen, though he did not put it on.

Proceeding down the rest of the hallway, the party came to a door protected by strange bars of light or energy. Morrykin tested them out with a sheet of paper he had been carrying, and found that it was torn from his hand upon contact with a bar.

NOTE: The DM forgot to share a detail here. Nearby, on the wall, there was a plaque with a message in Draconic (which I believe the sorcerer at least can read). The plaque reads, “To the Underways.” Just forgot to consult my notes properly at this point. I do that sometimes. Oops.

The party returned to the large room at the bottom of the stairs, and experimented with the levers. They found the levers did not seem to affect the bars, so they returned the levers to their “off” position and decided to try crossing the holes. Wendyl stepped onto a floor plate with holes and heard a resounding “click.” Much to everyone’s disappointment, he was not riddled with crossbow bolts or floor spikes.

Crossing the floor, the party opened two stone doors and revealed an anteroom. Blocking the way across was a pit, some 20 feet deep. Instead of leaping across this pit, the rogues investigated and found that a thin silk thread ran across the width of the small anteroom. After considering this briefly, Morrykin decided to burn through the thread. The rest of the party hastily moved away as the thread was destroyed. The floor immediately dropped out from beneath Morrykin, but his quick reflexes allowed him to leap back from the edge in time. The party then climbed down, and back up out of the pit.

The party proceeded through stone double-doors into a hallway. They could see doors, a turn in the hallway, and a section of floor that was black marble. The party ignored the area of black marble. They chose the door.

Inside the door was a small chamber, slightly less dusty than the hallway. The chamber held two stone coffins set in the floor. Eager to loot graves, the party opened the coffins. Edvar was conscripted to heave off the lids, which he did with a resounding “boom.” Inside the party found a mummified skeleton, and a pouch and flask. The flask detected as magical, or perhaps the contents of the flask…

Returning to the hallway, the party rounded a corner and made their way into a small chapel-like area. There was an altar with an unpleasant visage on it, upon which sat a golden goblet and a golden short sword. Each rogue took one of these items, and began muttering strange, confusing hints about some kind of curse. The group moved on.

Leaving the area of black marble unexplored, they next went through another door into a chamber with another stone coffin. As before, Edvar removed the lid and began to set it aside. Valen remained outside the chamber.

As the lid was sliding back, a hideous ghast jumped out and assailed the sorcerer, nearby. The poor gnome was afflicted with an overpowering stench, rending claws dripping with disease, and a paralyzing bite. Though Edvar quickly pinned and crushed the ghast, Wendyl was left feeling feverish from the ordeal.

Another door opened into a bloody hallway. There appeared to be bloody tracks in the hall as well, and bloody smears on the reverse side of the door.

As the party considered their next action, we ended the session, rather late.

Comments

Sweet table! Did it add a lot to the gaming session? I’m always too lazy to actually create maps, and instead just use my tact-tiles and free-hand it on the fly. They end up sparse but usable.

Session 3
 

Thanks :) The table made a tremendous difference. I was able to immerse the players into the dungeon even more, and being able to switch rooms on and off with software saved a lot of time as well. The session went late because nobody wanted to go home ;)

Though gameplay was more smooth, I will admit that using the table increased the time I had to devote to preparation as a DM beforehand. I suppose that could be considered a drawback.

Session 3
 

I have the character “Falyn” in this campaign and I think the table adds a great deal to the game play. First and foremost is speeds up the game play substantially. It is amazing how much time is spent in a typical session laying out tiles, picking up tiles, erasing tiles, redrawing tiles, etc. Having the tiles all pre-created so that all you have to do is remove some masks and refresh the screen takes what might be two or three minutes of map manipulation (which tends to allow some members of the group to decide to wander around) the time spent on the pre-drawn maps is usually just a few seconds. Over the course of a long and complex campaign this saves an enormous amount of time.

But it also allows for a much more immersive experience because the maps are far more detailed, far more consistent and much easier to follow. There’s a lot less of the “what’s that blue blob thingy again?” sorts of comments and instead you get “is that a pair of shoes?” instead. Yes there is a bit more up front DM preparation that has to be done, but the payback is enormous. I’m working on my own table right now.

Session 3
Backpack

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