Last week, our Dead in Thay campaign reached a new threshold: three tables and DMs! Josh, one of our players from Day 1, stepped up as DM and did a great job!
Josh’s table went into the Master’s Domain, which is an excellent place to muck around, poking at very dangerous intelligent creatures.
Mike’s table continued their pursuit of danger in the Ooze caverns, eventually finding and conning a dangerous wizardess into handing over her special black glyph key– a key that is attuned to one of the Temples of Extraction!
My table continued their exploration of the Golem Laboratories, mainly darting around in the Hall of Teleportation, where multiple golems and constructs bashed on them repeatedly before being dismantled by the heroes.
For Week 7: Spoilers ahead!
This week, however… things did not go as well for Team Hero. Accessing the Temples of Extraction is truly a game-changer, and everything was just a little harder this week as a result!
Both Josh and Mike took their teams into the Temples of Extraction to confront and hopefully free the imprisoned Chosen avatars of the gods there. Mike’s team put on a good showing, with the wizard blasting away with fireballs and the bard taking a fairly severe blight spell to the face. In freeing one of the Chosen, they discovered that the Chosen’s life energies were being channeled through the black gates into the Phylactery Vault! Perhaps, if the teams can disrupt enough of those gates, they can access the vault themselves and destroy Sazzak Tam once and for all!
Josh’s table also went into the Temples, but suffered severe setbacks in the Temple of Plague (their starting point, really), where the Chosen of Yurtrus, an orcish god, overtook the bard, leading her to certain death. The table ended the night in an all-but-certain TPK.
My table had Gregor the human cleric (a returning PC who debuted at the Neverwinter campaign), a dwarf crossbow fighter, a halfling rogue (the pre-gen), and KitKat the gnome druid (also a pre-gen). Everyone has played through this season. The dwarf is played by Peter, whose “Lord Mr. P” paladin was killed the last time they faced the lich. Peter was originally a DM for this season, so I’m glad I’ve changed the encounter to surprise him.
My table…. decided that, upon conferring with the heroes heading into the Temple, they would cause a severe distraction within the rest of the Doomvault…. by returning to face the lich Tarul Var.
I shuffled papers, looked nervous, and then regrouped, taking a few minutes to decide what the lich might have done in the half hour or so since he last saw the party. Although this party has had a full rest in the Sanctuary Vault, time outside the vault did not pass significantly, so Tarul Var has really only had about thirty minutes to regroup and plan his revenge.
They sneaked back towards his room. Just as they opened the door, the party was hit with a cloudkill spell, choking them tremendously, from a figure hiding within the trapped hallway across the way. They stumbled into the room as the cloudkill rolled slowly forward with them. They faced two dread warriors within, both of whom stuck to weapons. One of the dread warriors channeled Tarul Var long enough to make the PCs focus fire on him, but it was not Tarul Var. The gnome druid tried to entangle this warrior, but only succeeded in making the area difficult to tread.
The other warrior was turned by the cleric, Gregor of Neverwinter. As he fled towards the far corner of the room, Gregor’s player looked at me and said “What the hell? He should be running for the door!” I nodded as the dread warrior reached the corner, slammed open a secret door, and continued into the hallway.
Note: The secret door wasn’t in the original encounter design. This encounter as written is a monster-in-a-box encounter with nothing interesting in the room aside from some limited visibility. The secret door leads to a room with an elemental rift– something that is WAY more exciting to fight around!
Meanwhile, the cloudkill had completely filled the infamous “Room 10” (the lich’s bedroom). It’s at this point that the dread warrior in the hallway, the one who had cast the cloudkill, shut the door and the party heard it being barred from outside.
Peter: “Please tell me it’s being barred with a javelin!”
Me: “Well, you’re not in the hallway, but yes. It’s a javelin.”
After demolishing the second warrior, the party dithered for a few moments about where to go next. Down the secret passageway, or try to break down the door? They head for the passageway.
At this point, I’d like to mention the Entangle spell from earlier? 20 foot radius, starting from right next to the secret door.
The passageway was dark. The rogue headed in first. As he begins to be covered in an oily toxin, he starts coughing. “Hey, *cough*! There’s kind of a trap here! *cough* Don’t touch the walls.”
The cleric, needing all the mobility and actions he had available, charged into the passageway. At this point, he remembers that it’s dark, he’s taken double movement to get into the passage, and he used his swift action to cast a healing spell, so he doesn’t have any actions left to, say, cast light.
He runs straight into the wall at the end of the passageway. (I’m giggling at this point. Never trust a giggling DM!)
The dwarf comes into the passageway, shrugging off most of the poison damage. Easily spotting the door at the end of the hall, he moves up to direct the cleric in opening it.
The druid slides into the passageway and closes the secret door behind her.
The party pushes open the door at the end of the hall. The cleric actually does this, feeling something holding it back until the force of his Turn Undead can repel the dread warrior on the other side of the door.
They spill out into the Elemental Rift room. This is an enormous room with a gigantic floor-to-ceiling dimensional tear into the elemental planes, and about 15 pillars that draw elemental energy to them. Elemental energy lashes out from the rift, causing 5 points of typed damage every round to anyone inside it.
The dread warriors and the lich are immune to one of the types of damage (cold), but are otherwise also taking damage each round they stay here. However, having a dangerous place to confront the PCs is good. And the lich is dealing with some loose demons in his part of the dungeon, so he’s been a bit distracted.
So, the party stumbles out of the secret passageway and sees three dread warriors almost on top of them, another off to the right, and two more, mainly indistinct figures, across the room on the opposite side of the rift.
The cleric moves up to engage the three dread warriors (actually just one, using mirror image). The rogue, dwarf, and gnome move in towards the right. One of the dread warriors casts the last cloudkill on the party. Things are going okay. Then the rogue moves up to try to get behind the warriors who are on the other side of the rift. He’s sneaking along the wall and comes up to the first pillar on the other side of the rift.
The lich Tarul Var is standing behind it, smiling, his legendary actions ready to go. He smiles evilly and touches the halfling, attempting to paralyze his new victim. The halfling, meanwhile, is backpedalling furiously, trying to run away from Tarul Var– he doesn’t have that many hit points!
Tarul Var is a bit lazy and uses his staff to channel a low-level cantrip, Ray of Frost.
Being a lich, Tarul Var is like an 18th level spellcaster. Tarul Var’s Ray of Frost cantrip is worth 4d8 hp in cold damage. My players point this out to me, and I comment “oh, that makes this fight a lot shorter!” Chuckling all along.
Sorry– normally, I do not like to play like this. I’m not that DM. But they’re 7th level, and they’re facing a lich. Liches are an 18th-level monster. There’s only one thing you do with a lich at this level– run or die. Usually both.
I roll to hit the halfling (ray of frost uses a to-hit, so no saving throw). The ray of frost hits the halfling. The halfling goes down. It is at this point that someone with a heart might walk past the halfling and start in on the rest of the party.
Not Tarul Var. He walks to the halfling and contemptuously kicks him into the dimensional rift.
If the players don’t hate this guy by now, I don’t know why. I mean, I’ve played this lich like the world’s biggest, most arrogant jerk in the dungeon– and he’s not even the boss!
At some point in the fight, the druid hit Tarul Var with a wall of fire spell, but he saved. “Aww! I didn’t see your die roll! I’m just sayin…”
I looked at her, smirking. “Okay. I’m going to pull the curtain back for a second. The number I rolled on the die was not a successful saving throw. He burns some of his own resources to shrug it off anyway.” (Meta-knowledge: the lich can choose to succeed on a failed saving throw, three times per day. He had already used one, and he chooses to use another right now. He will have 1 of these auto-saves left the next time they face him, if they ever do.)
The druid’s player is satisfied. “Okay– as long as it cost him something.” That’s fair. I think it’s fair to want your big level 5 spell to at least make the bad guys pay a price for not being affected by it.
Tarul Var takes out the gnome next with a ray of frost, then the cleric. The dwarf is the last to fall, by a ray of frost, the same cantrip that took out Peter’s paladin.
I take a moment to talk to the players about what to do next. Either they can have their PCs’ bodies end up on an elemental plane (I let them pick which one), in which case they will make new characters for next week. Or they can stay in the Doomvault and be restored as undead PCs (this is an option in this adventure).
The cleric is considering this option. The druid is coming back– she doesn’t want to lose the knowledge that her character has gained (I love this!)
We finish the session with the following dungeon notes:
- Tarul Var is down to one each of level 1 and 2 spells, and cantrips. He is lightly wounded.
- Issem has tasted the blood of one of the PCs.
- All the demons in the Abyssal Prisons have been released, causing problems for Tarul Var.
- The Masters’ Domain has been breached, but not cleared.
- The Predator Pools have been breached, but not cleared.
- The Golem Laboratories have been breached, but not cleared.
- The Far Realm Cysts have been cleared, and one table has been offered to the “things beyond” in payment for their help.
- The Forests of Slaughter have been cleared.
- The Ooze Grottos have been breached, and the party obtained the black glyph key from Sarkalla.
- Two groups have entered the Temples of Extraction. One group has been defeated. The other has freed a Chosen and learned how to disrupt the temples and the black gates.
- Mennek has been freed in the Temples of Extraction and can be questioned.
- The party now knows that overloading and disrupting enough black gates will make it possible to enter the Phylactery Vault.
(Full article contains spoilers!) I bought the D&D Stranger Things Starter Set, and I was all kinds of excited to run it. I read through it a few times, thought “hmmm…” about some of the choices, but overall it reads like a fairly straightforward adventure.
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