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Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Part V Group Journal One




This is the fifth installment of the continuing saga of my meat space group and their forays against the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. If you are currently playing or considering playing in this adventure, you may wish to stop reading here. To continue will only spoil your enjoyment of the adventure. As always, commentary, suggestions, and constructive criticism are welcome.
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****Spoiler Space****
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After a brief respite in Hommlet, the intrepid band set off for Nulb, following up on some leads given to them through rumor mongering. The journey was largely uneventful, save an encounter with a medusa posing as a traveling gypsy-woman. Though her ruse was successful (“Certainly old woman, come and sit with us and partake of the warmth of our fire.” Geldor), her assault on the group was less such, with only one round of saving throws necessary (and everyone made it) before they put her to the sword. They’re getting too good at this.
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On arrival in Nulb, the first stop was the remains of the Waterfront Hostel, where they soon ran afoul of Wat’s ghost. This is a difficult encounter at best for even a well-prepared group of 4th-level adventurers and my team almost got their lunch handed to them. The sorceress, Talina, was caught by complete surprise and run through, very nearly slaying her outright. Sarina manages to get a thrust with her magical rapier in, but it has no effect and Albert’s attempts at turning are for naught as well. Talina, Sarina, Albert, and Silaqui quickly flee the building. For whatever stupid reason, Geldor (by now known as Geldor Not-the-Sharpest-Sword-in-the-Shop by his teammates) was determined to see what was upstairs and headed up, heedless of the fact that he was now alone in the building.
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Call me stupid, but I was nice to him and did not have Wat attack him immediately (which would have been merciful, looking back on it). Instead, Geldor made his way to the room at the end of the hall. After some effort at forcing the door, he finally manages to get it open, only to be confronted with a scene straight out of The Exorcist. Seeing this girl sitting cross-legged and babbling in the middle of a room full of flying furniture isn’t enough for common sense to kick in, so Geldor times his run and leaps for the girl, intending to knock her back and snap her back to reality.
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Needless to say, this plan is doomed to failure. He passes right through the spectre and smashes through the window. Glass rains down into the street and the rest of the party looks up to see Geldor hanging by his fingertips, dangling from the now-shattered upper window. By this point, the sensible thing to do would have been to drop to the ground, take your 1d6 damage, and go on with your life. Not Geldor. Instead, he pulls himself back up to the window and peers in again!
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Confronted with the same scene and in the manner of Wile E. Coyote (whom we are convinced is a relative), Geldor re-enters the room to try to figure out what is going on. He valiantly attacks and destroys a flying chair, only to feel a sudden chill in his torso. He looks down to see the ghostly sabre sticking out of his chest and finally decides that it’s time to leave. Ducking the furniture wildly, he flees the room, nearly falling down the stairs, and rejoins his party.
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Convinced now that the Inn is a haven for evil spirits, the group moves on, occasionally stopping to investigate a nearly-whole building. Finally they come to the old herbalist shop and meet up with Lareth the Beautiful. Lareth, deep in the throes of madness, remembers his fatal encounter with their parents and promptly confuses the PCs with their forebearers, babbling on about he recognizes them, they’ll not get him this time, etc. This was the second most entertaining encounter of the evening (see below for the first-so) from a DM standpoint.
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The players don’t recall Lareth (it was 15 years ago when they played the first adventure, after all) and are stricken with confusion. Who is this guy and how does he know them? He pointedly ignores their questions, babbling on incoherently about the temple and his divine right and all manner of other stuff (hidden in which are some clues but the PCs remain oblivious). Finally, when one of them mentions the Temple, Lareth responds, “I RULED over the Temple in the name of the Elemental Eye!”
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Geldor’s only response is, “Now you rule over a mudhole.”
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The others turn pale, certain that this guy can mop the floor with them. As it happens, I couldn’t get that lucky. Lareth gets lousy initiative and suffers 40 points of damage before he can even react. Knowing that there is no way his Concentration can overcome that, I elect to have him attack. He gets in one good blow against Geldor before they finish him off. After searching him to be sure they don’t miss out on any loot, they proceed down the street to the docks, trapsing off towards a “large building that looks pretty intact”.
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On arrival, they find that the building is only a fa├žade. The front is intact but the rest is demolished. However, they can now see the grounded ship. There is a brief discussion before they decide to return to the herb shop to rest and recover before heading to check out the ship. They seek shelter from the rain in the herb shop while Talina does some identification on some of the magical goodies Lareth had, then set out in the morning (actually, early afternoon) once the rain has stopped.
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On board the vessel, they do some exploration and soon come upon the intact cabin. The space is tight and only Geldor, Albert, and Talina can manage to squeeze inside. As they are looking about, Geldor spots one of the wraiths moving about and move to attack. It takes only the wraith passing through the ruins of a crate before Talina grabs Albert and heads for daylight. This time, Geldor follows, showing some sensibility for the first time tonight. The wraiths pursue as far as the innards of the boat, but stop when the party gets safely outside. There is some speculation as to why they, nor the ghosts in the Inn pursued further and it is finally decided that they are tied to their haunting locations (true for Wat, but the wraiths are simply afraid of daylight).
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Geldor suggests that burning down the edifices they inhabit may destroy them (and it would Wat), but the party nixes this idea, citing that the ghosts are not preventing them from investigating the ruins of the Temple and that displacing their haunts may have more dire effects. They decide that it is time to go see what’s up at the old Temple of Elemental Evil, fully suspecting that this will be the massive climax of the adventure.
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The Temple seems just as they remember it, dark and ominous, and they are ambushed as they come in the gate by javelin-tossing hobgoblins. Silaqui takes some bad hits and falters, but Albert is there to prevent her death while the others finish the buggers off. Meanwhile, at the entrance to the Temple proper, the other guards watch. One goes to warn those inside. The other three put up some resistance, but are easily vanquished.
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They do a full exploration of the inside, freeing the goblin slaves and defeating the evil hobgoblins, all the while wondering why hobgoblins are the toughest foes they are meeting. Where are the demon armies and the elemental guardians? They forge onward, eventually meeting up with the hobgoblin chief. This is the single most entertaining DM encounter of the evening. Playing the role of the hobgoblin chief was just great fun. Since his man had already warned him of the invasion and his adept was standing invisibly by his side, the chieftain treated the party with complete disdain.
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The party demanded to know what the chief knew of the rise of the Temple. Of course, he knew nothing, but refused to let this show. After a few minutes of good banter, Talina finally decides to show her face (she’s half dark elf) and put the fear of God into him. Much to her surprise, the chief is unimpressed. (Actually, he’s terrified, but makes his Bluff check.) He threatens that they will all be his slaves and that’s when Talina blasts him with magic missile and the battle is joined.
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The chief and his guards (along with the adept) prove to be pretty tough and though the party comes out on top, they are not without wounds to show for it. Albert has his hands full healing and recovering, while Talina and Geldor explore the chief’s chamber and find the remainder of the treasure. The party decides to rest for the night in the chieftain’s chamber, figuring it can be easily defended.
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But what they still can’t understand is what’s going on. They know something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on it. They know there are plenty of pages left in the module, surely this can’t be all there is? What happened to the glorious Temple of Elemental Evil? What about the cult they are so sure exists in Hommlet? They’ll pick up some more clues over the course of the first side trek, an adaptation of WG4 The Temple of Tharizdun.
John Grigsby

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