Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelords adventure path.
Session 6: Return to the Catacombs of Wrath
This adventure was played on January 6th, 2010, and featured:
• Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
• Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar,
• Arug, the Alaghi pitfighter (the replacement character for the player of the now deceased Vardinil the elf)
• Kobb’s henchman, Kurzek Irontusk, a half-orc fighter/thief, and
• Toran’s henchman, Vicoren Shieldheart, a cleric of Desna.
Summary: Fearful that Nualia might emerge from the caverns below Sandpoint and seeking vengeance for the death of their fallen comrade, Vardinil the elf, the party re-enters to Catacombs of Wrath.
I. Introducing the new henchmen. During the party’s recovery in The Rusty Dragon following their last ill-fated adventure into the catacombs, the party is met by an old friend and mentor of Toran, Vicoren, who has come to Sandpoint to find the young lad and try to keep him out of trouble. Kobb is also accosted by Kurzek who is the brother of the half-orc that was slain by the party a couple of sessions ago. Kobb defeats Kurzek in battle but spares his life in return for Kurzek's service. DM Note: After the previous session we discussed having backup characters ready in the event of more character deaths. I use the house rule that replacement characters begin with 50% of the dead character's XP. I offered that the backup characters could be henchmen for the current characters and actually earn the 50% but the trade off is that the entire XP pool would have to be divided between more characters. A couple of players decided to go that route.
II. Sheriff Hemlock. As the party begins their preparations to return to the vile cathedral under the Old Light, they meet Sheriff Hemlock on the street. He is worried that Shalelu, the elven ranger, has not returned from scouting the lair of the goblins thought to have led the assault on Sandpoint. He also inquires if the party has asked Father Zantus about the Cleric of Nethys (god of magic) described in the ledgers recovered from the hideout of the Green Daggers. Finally, he warns the party to try to stay clear of Justice Ironbriar who views them as unlawful vigilantes. DM Note: I am trying to drive home the vigilante justice thing and may prove interesting later :)
III. Introducing the new PC and another hook. The party then proceeds to the Cathedral where they ask Father Zantus and Naffer Vosk about the cleric of Nethys. It turns out Naffer was accosted about a month ago by an assailant that matches the description. The ruffian demanded Naffer’s vestments, holy symbol and robes. Being a former pirate, Naffer fought the assailant off and managed to pull a stone pendant of red marble from around the neck of the would-be thief. Vicoren identifies the pendant as a “cairn charm”, a stone often hung inside ancient tombs found in the Fogscar Mountains. The party is also introduced to Arug, a hairy Alaghi, a race of shy and peaceful forest-dwellers. DM Note: This is from the Complete Humanoids Handbook. I was originally hesitant to allow the PC race but decided to focus on the "say yes" style.
IV. Other preparations. The group completes other preparations before entering the catacombs such as buying a vial containing an antitoxin and whatever silver weapons are available in Sandpoint. Toran also begins investigating Sandpoint’s marriage customs. DM Notes & a Spoiler: Man am I looking forward to how this plays out especially with the beginning of the next adventure in the path, The Skinsaw Murders.
V. Into the Catacombs. The party enters the catacombs and investigates a previously unexplored stairway where they are attacked by a hideous flying head with dark wings and crowned and bearded with writhing tentacles. Proving his worth to his new companions, Arug circles around the flying abomination and quickly slays it with a mighty strike with his polearm.
Exploring another passageway, the party enters a room occupied by a twisted, monsterous goblin wielding a sword, a handaxe and a dagger with its multiple twisted malformed limbs. The room contained eleven deep pits covered with rickety, fragile wooden covers and each containing shuffling undead. After a fierce battle, the twisted goblin was slain by Kobb. DM Note: My big regret from this session was that I didn't make the mutant goblin try to push someone into a pit. I focused too much on using the creatures "mutant" abilities to make him seem weird when pushing a PC into a pit would have made the encounter more tactically interesting and frightening.
VI. The Queen of the Catacombs. The party entered a strange spherical chamber with metal walls that rippled with silent black electricity that seemed to form incomprehensible runes and words. Levitating in the room were a number of objects and the Imp that had slain Vardinil the elf. A fierce battle ensued. Arug was poisoned by the Imp’s stinger tail but was saved by Vicoren and many other party members were grievously wounded. After all of the silver arrows were spent and the party was considering a full retreat, the Imp was final slain. DM Note: I thought I was taking it easy on the PCs by not using her "at will" Invisibility every round but I recently read in the 2E DMG that you can't use it and attack in the same round (pg 64) so I feel better now. I am still trying to get up to speed with some of the 2E rules.
Body Count: A vargouille, 11 zombies, a mutated goblin and a tough Imp.
Treasure: The party recovered:
• a longsword, handaxe and silver dagger from the twisted goblin,
• a scroll from an ancient study, and
• a bottle of wine, a scroll, a book, an iron wand, a magical dagger, a miniature tiara, and an obsidian unholy symbol of Lamashtu from the room where they fought the Imp.
The battle with the Imp was a tough one as it was last time as well. For the Imp I started with the standard Imp from the MM but made it tougher and I also gave it the ability to cast Monster Summoning I as a cleric of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters. Given that the Imp had an AC of 2 and could only be hit by silver and magical weapons and the fact that the combat took place is a room affected by a permanent Levitate spell, the party had difficulty hitting.
Other creatures encountered were a vargouille, zombies and a mutated goblin.
For the vargouille, I didn't have a 2E version so I just used a 1E version.
The zombies were straight from the 2E MM but they were down in pits and quickly dispatched with oil and fire during which I rolled zero wandering monsters even with all of the smoke and stench of burning zombies.
The mutated goblin was a 2 HD bodyguard with 3 attacks (lots of arms wielding a longsword, a handaxe and a dagger) and an acid breath weapon that caused 2d4 damage (save for half) that was usable three times.
The player of Arug, the Alaghi, did a great job roleplaying the character's fear of magic and unnatural things. With his ability to grapple and possibly pin the Imp he could have made the combat a rather quick affair but the character was too afraid to enter the obviously magical room and greatly limited his combat effectiveness.
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