Crypts of the Barrowmaze

Session Two - May 28 2017
Welcome to the Barrow Fields

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 2, May 28th 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Ryan (Mynes), Brett (Klondia the Pale), Larry (Swamp Hoss), Kai (Coran Gorechosen).

Jewelday, Week of the Salamander, MY 268

Vydar the Fighter has taken ill after his battle with the venomous zombies last session, and must remain behind at Camp Sweetwater to recuperate. However, Acanthus Rho has sent some reinforcements, a couple of hulking warriors. One goes by “Swamp Hoss”, and the other doesn’t talk much at first, although we eventually learn his name is Coran.

The party decides that rather than try to get through by the path leading to Camp #3, where the snake cult seems to be patrolling, they will take boats and follow the route of the old ruined viaduct through the swamp to the ruined waystations.

They soon find the viaduct ruins, but one of the boats runs aground on it and Coran and Mynes end up in the drink – attracting a mob of vicious mutant frogs! There are some tense moments as the frogs maul them – one frog in particular is a bloated monstrosity the size of a man, with vile teeth and claws, and it soaks up two of Klondia’s powerful black magic missiles without dying! In the end, they escape alive, and with plenty of frog carcasses.

Tired and chastened by the strange horrors of the swamp, they decide to make camp at the first ruined waystation. Enroute, Coran snacks on the raw frog carcasses, and finds a shiny treasure within the gut of the largest one.

Camping at the waystation is fairly uneventful. They make an effort to climb the stair to the top of the tower for a look around, but it turns out that giant red centipedes infest the rubble, and only quick reactions save one of the explorers from a venomous bite. “Swamp Hoss” recognizes the red centipedes, but he’s never seen one nearly this large. They decide to leave well enough alone and just camp until the next morning.

Copperday, Week of the Dove

The next day, they set out for the final waystation, the traditional campsite for those who explore the Barrowmaze. Along the way, they pass by an island in the swamp with a ring of large cypress trees around the edge of it. Mutilated bodies are lashed up in the trees – closer inspection shows that the freshest ones have had cuts of flesh neatly removed as if by a butcher. Is this the domain of some cannibalistic swamp monster? Better not to poke around and find out – they move on.

Arriving at the ruins, they discover that the tower has completely collapsed, as if thrown down by an explosion. Huge chunks of masonry lie everywhere, forming a maze of rubble. The remnants of camping equipment litter the area. Silas senses a strong Earth Node somewhere within the ruins.

As they enter the maze, monsters appear! Two huge Giant King Scorpions, mottled purple-and-yellow things nearly as large as a pony, scuttle to attack. The creatures are deadly – nearly impenetrably armored, and armed with slicing pincers and a deadly lashing stinger. The party battles desperately against these horrors, but things are not looking good – Klondia is badly wounded, and even the fearsome Coran cannot harm the creatures due to their armored shells. Fortunately, Silas calls upon the elements and begins to radiate an intolerable cold, which forces the cold-blooded creatures to slow and ultimately lose consciousness. While he deals with the scorpions, though, more monsters appear – giant frogs again, and a huge viper. Something must be calling them to the attack.

Silas saw a gold snake idol at the site where the Earth Node was located within the ruin while he was chasing down the last scorpion – maybe that’s the problem. Once they deal with the snake and frogs, they quickly move the idol off of the Earth Node, reducing its power, and then roll it into the swamp.

Completing their search of the ruin, they salvage several items left behind by other adventurers and even find a treasure chest buried in the loose earth.

That night while they camp, they see torches moving on the Barrow Field – it looks like the snake cult is active in the area and visit the Barrowmaze by night.

Tinday, Week of the Dove

The next day, they decide to explore the nearest few mounds, relying on Keelish’s recollection of his own explorations 13 years ago to guide them. The nearest mound is buried, and it looks like some effort has been made to excavate it in the past but was interrupted by some danger that slew the laborers.

Silas speculates on how the Barrowmaze can exist in the midst of the swamp without everything sinking into the mire and flooding. He thinks perhaps that some sort of barrier has been set up by altering the flow of the Dragon Lines, keeping the water spirits from entering the bounded area. Perhaps the waystation tower was destroyed when part of that ward failed? He begins to keep careful notes of all he observes, hoping to understand what was done here.

The next mound they examine has been uncovered, and some marks on the stone slab sealing it show that someone has tried to break in unsuccessfully. It would take some time with tools and make a good deal of noise to break down the seal.

Next, they visit the towering stele they saw from a distance. Rising 70’ above the Barrow Field, it is made from seamless black granite and covered in tiny, worn inscriptions. The script seems to be some variant on that used in ancient Gaxx, but it makes no sense – perhaps it is a code, or perhaps the script is merely being used to spell out some alien language. At the top of the stele, four stone heads gaze out to North, South, East, and West. Respectively, they are a human skull, a vulture, a lion, and a viper.

Klondia’s serpent circlet whispers to her about the stele, calling it “the folly of Nergal” and prophesying “the serpent shall devour his brothers and all will come to ruin.”

The party moves on to the central mound, where Keelish says an entrance to the necropolis can be found. As they approach, they see that the mound is surrounded by a circle of low stone posts with bowl-shaped depressions in the top – perhaps lamps? They prepare to enter the mound, when out of the corner of an eye they see skeletal figures pulling themselves from the earth nearby – undead warriors guard this place! After a short fight, the skeletons are defeated and they descend the stairs into the dark. Within, a pillared chamber leads to a hole in the floor and an iron tripod with block and tackle. To either side of the path, piles of scattered bones fill the room. Looking down into the dark, Klondia’s light reveals a chamber and a foul smell of rot. They also learn that the floor they stand on is a thin sheet of stone suspended on a lattice of beams.

Unnerved, and with daylight flagging, the party decides to return to camp before night falls.

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

  • 500 gp ruby
  • chainmail & shield
  • 20 arrows
  • crystal of continual light
  • 150 gp
  • 70 sp
  • 3 carnelian gems, 20 gp each
  • scroll of sleep

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 1750 XP

  • 7 Small Monster Frogs 7×15 = 105
  • 1 Large Monster Frog = 35
  • 1 Giant Viper = 400
  • 2 Giant King Scorpions = 1200
  • 1 Giant Red Centipede = 10

TREASURE: 717 XP

INTERACTION: 25 XP

CHECKPOINTS: 185 XP

  • explore Waystation Ruin #2 (partial) 15 XP
  • sighted (but did not explore) Slaughtergrove 25 XP
  • explore Waystation Ruin #3 50 XP
  • removed summoning idol from Waystation Ruin #3 25 XP
  • explored 2 mounds (exterior only) 20 XP
  • examined Stele of Nergal 25 XP
  • explored central mound 25 XP

TOTAL XP

  • 2677 XP
  • divided 5 ways = 535 XP per PC 
  • after bonus experience for ability scores: Coran, Hoss, Mynes = 562; Klondia, Silas = 589

 

SPECIAL ITEMS

COMMON SPELL (scroll): sleep (Klondia)

Spell Level 1 (Sorcerer, Gray Magic)
Range 240’
Duration 1 hour

This spell puts enemies into an enchanted slumber for 1D6 rounds. The spell affects up to 4HD of creatures, starting with the lowest first. For example four Nemons (1HD) are accompanied by a Priest (3HD). Rather than target the Nemon Priest and then take down another Nemon, the spell affects four Nemons. Player characters may Test their Luck and if Lucky completely ignore the effects of this spell.

Note this spell does not work on the undead or the demonic Others.

MAGIC ITEM: crystal of continual light (Klondia)

This transparent crystal sphere, about 2” in diameter, radiates light upon a mental command from a sorcerer. The light is as bright as daylight, but has no warmth or color. It illuminates to 120’ brightly, and up to 240’ dimly.

As a Downtime Action requiring one week and 100 gp in materials, a sorcerer can learn to control the light more finely, choosing one of the following skills for each Downtime Action:

  • focusing it into a narrow beam that provides a “spotlight” of bright illumination up to 120’ away and up to 6’ in diameter.
  • activating it as a blinding flash that dazzles all within 60’, giving them -2 To Hit for 5 minutes (PCs may Test Their Luck to avert their eyes and avoid this). Using the crystal in this way depletes its magic for the next 8 hours.
  • changing the color of the light emitted at will
  • varying the brightness of the light emitted at will, from candle-light to full intensity

 

View
Session One - April 23rd 2017
Frogs and Snakes

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 1, April 23rd 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Ryan (Mynes), Brett (Klondia the Pale), Julian (Vidar).

Tinday, Week of the Salamander, MY 268

Silas the Elementalist, Vidar the Fighter, Mynes the Thief, and Klondia the Pale, a Sorceress have responded to the invitation of Acanthus Rho to come to Castle Blackmoss in the depths of the Helmire and assist in plundering the riches of the ancient necropolis known as the Barrowmaze.

They are summoned to his salon where he explains the difficulties the project has been having with sabotage of the campsites along the only known safe route into the Barrow Fields – some local malcontents calling themselves the “Sons of the Swamp” seek to prevent Duke Rana and Acanthus Rho from laying claim to the riches of the tombs and disrupting the locals’ ability to loot would-be tomb explorers. Rho has prepared – at great expense – a dozen Warding Totems that will allow the camps (and any future ones deeper into the tomb complex) to be more secure. He wants the adventurers to secure a usable route to the Barrow Fields using these devices.

Rho warns that the “Sons of the Swamp” might have informants among the local people, so the party should be circumspect if they want to recruit hirelings in Slowbrook or Helix. A small number of the castle’s slaves can be spared as bearers and general labor, but they are not to be armed and must be returned to their work restoring the castle and the old viaduct as soon as possible.

The adventurers discuss the terms of their employment. Castle Blackmoss expects a flat monthly fee of 75 gp per person for their support services – provisioning, lodging, security of personal belongings, and so forth. Acanthus Rho expects that artifacts found within the Barrowmaze should be brought to him for examination, and that he have the option to purchase any that he finds of interest. Beyond that, anything the adventurers find in Barrowmaze they can keep – at least for now. Rho does hint that Lord Rana intends on a more organized exploitation of the tombs once the viaduct leading to them is rebuilt, so the adventurers probably only have a limited time in which to maximize their own returns. However, it does seem like a pretty good deal. Wonder what the creepy sorcerer and his boss have up their sleeves?

After examining a map of the area, the group decide that their best bet is probably to bypass the first leg of the path across Frog’s Heaven Marsh entirely, taking skiffs from the end of the viaduct directly to Camp #2 – but they want more intelligence and maybe a guide before they depart. They head into Slowbrook to have a look around.

In Slowbrook, a colorful Selling Barge from the City of Water is tied up at the docks, and vendors are hawking trinkets and exotic foods from its decks and a number of small carts they have set up on the docks. An extravagantly mustached man sits in front of the local watering hole glaring at the foreign merchants, who are doing a brisk trade. The party decide he looks worth talking to, over the objections of Silas whose taste buds are tingling at the mere possibility of food like what he got used to when he was a scribe in the Great Library of the Four Cities.

As they arrive at the establishment – apparently called “The Bristlenose” – Vidar notices a small letter “Z” daubed in red paint at the top of one of the lintel posts. Later on, they’ll note similar marks on a number of other buildings around town. Mynes thinks they indicate who’s paying protection to some local gang – maybe these “Sons of the Swamp.” The proprietor of The Bristlenose – Olak Frake – is happy to see the customers and cheerfully serves them roast meat, mudbug soup, and local wine “from the Folly Vineyards.” He tries to warn them away from the Barrowmaze with tales of other adventurers before them who disappeared into the swamp never to return, or returned maimed or mad from the horrors of the place. Other than that, he’s not too helpful – he says he doesn’t know anyone who’d be crazy enough to be their guide, though there used to be some fellows in Helix who’d do it “but I wouldn’t say I know that any of them could be trusted.”

Pressed for suggestions, Frake does remember one of those former adventurers he mentioned – a man named Mygdo Keelish. He stuck around Slowbrook and lives in a shack down by the river at the nearby bridge. Maybe he could be convinced to help the party?

They depart to seek out this Keelish fellow. He is reluctant at first, and warns them that anyone heading into the swamp risks the ire of the Sons of the Swamp – notably, his shack lacks the “Z” mark that Keelish tells them indicates the Sons’ protection. But after the party explain their plan to bypass the usual route into the swamp – and offer him gold plus a promise he will not have to go all the way to the Barrow Fields – he agrees to meet them at the end of the viaduct the next morning. He takes his advance payment and sends his son off into town with it to stay with his mother, and sets about preparing for the expedition.

The party return to Castle Blackmoss to make their own preparations.

Bronzeday, Week of the Salamander

Meeting Keelish in his canoe at the end of the viaduct along with their detachment of 8 slaves and a pair of large skiffs, the party sets out at first light across the misty waters of Frog’s Heaven Marsh, accompanied by the croaking of its eponymous inhabitants. As they pole across the marsh, it almost seems the frogs are speaking to one another in some secret language, laughing at the futility of man’s efforts to conquer the swamp. One of the slaves speaks of stories other slaves have told of seeing giant frogs – “the size of a dog!” in the marsh at night.

Before long, the ruins of the old viaduct waystation that mark the edge of the marsh loom out of the mist. A tall pair of stone pillars are all that stand, although rotted timbers below demonstrate that a superstructure once hung from the pillars here as a watch-point and toll station – many years ago, in the time of Gaxx when the necropolis was still occasionally used to inter some Gaxxian noble. Debarking their boats, the group begin the portage to Camp #2, some ¾ mile away across the swamp.

At Camp #2, they find a wooden palisade surrounding a square graveled area a little raised above the rest of the soil, with a covered well in the center. It appears the camp has been visited recently by booted men – probably locals. The well is clean and good – in fact, Silas sense that a strong Water Node lies within, and the Dragon Lines that meet here are healthy and easy to sense.

Checking the perimeter, Mynes notes some kind of gooey substance smeared on the walls and a powerful reek – he can’t identify it, but Keelish recognizes frog musk – used as bait when trapping frogs, it attracts them and excites them. Someone has deliberately placed this substance here to draw frogs at night. They do the best they can to cleanse the palisades, using lamp oil to scrub it off and then igniting it to cover the lingering scent.

They set up 8 of the Warding Totems – enough to completely enclose the camp site – with Klondia making a big show of it to ensure that the slaves will not tamper with the wards.

At night, a maddening chorus of frogs ensures restless nights for everyone – particularly Mynes, who can nearly understand what they are saying to one another and is sure it bodes no good – and the slaves are huddled together in fear all night, but no danger appears. Late at night Vidar thinks he sees signs that the camp is watched by someone in a boat, but he can’t be sure.

Ironday, Week of the Salamander

In the morning, the party resolves to continue on toward the Barrow Fields – they will inspect Camp #3 on the way, but they intend to reach the ruined chapel at the edge of the Barrow Fields and use that as their staging area. At first Keelish refuses to go any further – he feels he has done what he agreed to by getting them this far – but is eventually convinced.

The route is relatively easy going, and they are making good time. Keelish warns them of a few minor dangers which are easily avoided, but near mid-day they find tracks on the path. It seems three different sorts – a single pair of smaller bare feet, perhaps a woman’s; several sets of heavy boots (soldiers?); and others that are hard to make out, seemingly shuffling or dragging their feet. They decide to hide in the trees alongside the path and see who comes along.

Before long, footsteps are heard. A group of people come walking down the path – perhaps a patrol. A well-armed man wearing a snake-shaped circlet leads the group, followed by 3 shuffling monks in voluminous robes of sackcloth daubed with white snake symbols. Klondia recognizes the iconography as that of the Cult of the Writhing Serpent, a degenerate venom-cult once prevalent among the people of Gaxx who worship a demon-god named Set, who offers sensual ecstasy and eternal life to his debased followers. But the worship of the Writhing Serpent died out with the Lords of Gaxx, more than 3 centuries ago….

The cultists move on, not noticing the party. An ambush is prepared for when they return.

The ambush is quite successful – Vidar takes a bit of roughing up at the hands of the robed cultists, who are revealed to be some kind of venomous undead things, but it’s nothing he can’t shake off. Klondia recovers the serpent circlet from the human leader, and despite sensing its evil power puts it on her head. It whispers into her mind in the dark language of the Serpent Kings, unlocking forbidden knowledge there – but she is not yet strong enough in her magic to make use of this ability. The zombies dissolve into vile pools of poisonous goo, while the body of the leader must be decapitated before the venom in its veins works a foul resurrection on the corpse.

Several hours have been lost in the ambush, and unsure what might await at Camp #3 now that they have encountered the cultists, the party considers whether it would be best to press on, or retreat to Camp #2 for now.

[If I have exactly the same group next time, we can pick up immediately where we left off. Otherwise, we’ll pick up on Jewelday, Week of the Salamander back at Camp #2.]

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

— 12 sp, 6 gp

— longsword

— longbow, 12 arrows

— chain shirt

— 3 foul and stained cultist robes

serpent circlet (worn by Klondia)

— small vial of golden hell-venom (claimed by Silas)

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 170 XP

TREASURE: 12.6 XP

INTERACTION: 250 XP

CHECKPOINTS

— ward Camp #2 – 200 XP

— identify Cult of the Writhing Serpent 50 XP

— discover Sons of the Swamp influence in Slowbrook 25 XP

— befriend Olak Frake 15 XP

— hire Mygdo Keelish 15 XP

BONUS

EVADED ENCOUNTERS (half XP): 165 XP

TOTAL XP

— 902.6 XP

— divided 4 ways = 225 XP per PC

SPECIAL ITEMS

UNCOMMON SPELL: command undead (Klondia)

Spell Level 2 (Sorcerer, Black Magic)
Range Voice
Duration 1 day per caster level

The caster can speak to undead, and they will cease what they are currently doing and listen to him for at least 1 minute. Intelligent undead must be convinced to do what the caster asks, but they will treat the caster as friendly and be inclined to negotiate rather than attack. Unintelligent undead must obey the caster's commands, but they can only understand very simple one or two word commands and take them extremely literally.

While this spell is in effect, if the caster attempts the Banishment of Evil, any undead that would normally be turned or destroyed are instead controlled utterly (as if under a charm effect) for 1 hour. However, if any undead targeted are not affected by the Banishment, they will attack the caster in a rage, gaining +1 To Hit and +1 Damage.

 

MAGIC ITEM: serpent circlet (Klondia)

This bronze circlet is in the shape of a snake coiled around the wearer’s brow, with a fanged viper head rearing at the front. When placed on the head, any person not pledged to the service of Set or who does not have golden venom in their system is poisoned and dies immediately, rising 5 minutes later as a venomous zombie. Characters with Luck may Test Their Luck to avoid this effect – if they are Lucky, they are warned of the danger by the sibilant whispering of the circlet before they put it on. If they are not lucky, they are poisoned by the golden venom (1d6/1 Lethal). If a character who has been warned or one who is safely envenomed dons the circlet, it whispers secrets of the Writhing Serpent into their mind. If they are a sorcerer, they immediately learn the spell command undead. Sorcerers and non-sorcerers alike gain 1 Corruption on donning the circlet as it whispers blasphemy.

Once a character has put on the circlet, they desire to keep it with them at all times. Letting it out of their sight requires a Sanity test (1d3). They are not forced to wear it, but they must know where it is.

In addition to teaching the spell, the circlet has two other beneficial effects. The wearer is resistant to all poisons (+3 to tests to resist poison), and venomous zombies obey his commands.

 

SPECIAL ITEM: golden hell-venom (Silas)

This small bronze vial with a wax seal contains a few drops of golden liquid. This is golden hell-venom, harvested from the sacred vipers of Set. It is an incredibly dangerous poison (Injected, 1d6/1 Lethal), but its true value to the cult is twofold. First, those slain by the venom rise shortly thereafter as venomous zombies. Secondly, those who are initiates of the cult develop a tolerance for the venom, and repeated envenoments gradually transform them and grant them magical powers and inhuman pleasures.

 

SPECIAL ITEM: warding totems

A skull, inlaid with strange geometric patterns in copper. When it is placed and a command word given, it activates. An active Warding Totem forms a barrier with any other Warding Totem within 30+d20’, a dimly shimmering haze of magic. Nonsentient Others and various supernatural creatures are repelled by the barrier and cannot cross it at all. Sentient creatures tend to avoid it and find it unpleasant to approach – they can penetrate the barrier with a successful Sanity test, but otherwise are filled with dread and fear, refusing to approach.

All Warding Totems have a password set when they are created, which can deactivate the ward. Someone who knows the password can “key” the ward to others by having them touch it for a few seconds – this allows them to pass the barrier.

Creating a Warding Totem requires the skull of a sentient creature, a sorcerer capable of casting 3rd-level Black Magic, and 300 gp of materials. Acanthus Rho has related that skulls from those slain by the user are the most effective wards, and that more powerful creatures will have more powerful skulls.

You currently have a box of 12 – all that Acanthus Rho has been able to create thus far. Of these, 8 have been deployed to ward Camp #2.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.