2017/10/05

OSR: Tomb of the Serpent Kings: Session 11

Continued from here. In which the party is tricked, goblins are exterminated, lasers are dodged, and more rooms are explored.
There are also illustrations.



The Party

A nameless human Paladin of the Voice. Very faithful, very dumb. Recently mauled by an alkalion, still sad about it.
Franklin, the Iron Frog. A frogling knight and master of the feudal hierarchy.
Antonia Barracuda, a fishling thief, illegal wizard, and creator of sensible plans.
Annie, an antling Wizard of the White Hand. Likes her new friends, doesn't want to die alone.


They buried Fergus at dawn. Their newly recruited priest, Alan, said a few words over the pile of stones and reverently placed the late goatling's straw hat on top of the heap. The party shrugged and sat down to breakfast. Fergus hadn't been popular, and his demise had been particularly idiotic.

While they were finishing their meal, a rider from Baron Bayle approached the gates of their little fortress. He carried a large banner and clearly looked important. The party hid any illegal loot and spellbooks and tried to look presentable. 
The Baron's herald (named Harold) had no sense of humour at all. He pointed out that the party had promised the Baron wagon-loads of treasure. One wagon-load had arrived, true, but in the weeks since the shipments of gold had been non-existent. The Baron was concerned. 


The party explained that th
e dungeon was very dangerous. They'd lost three soldiers to tragic, completely unforeseeable accidents. But both of the Baron's very expensive and valuable wizards were safe. The party nodded in agreement. Yes. Completely safe. Fergus had just... run off into the woods in terror. He might return.


After a few more lies, Harold agreed to depart, but he insisted on leaving a representative behind. Reginald was one of the Baron - or, more accurately, the Baron's son's - closest advisors. The thin, greasy, and disreputable looking human joined the party and insisted on shaking everyone's hands. He was polite, even courteous, but there was something dark and suspicious about him. The party, Antonia especially, was not eager to have "the Baron's spy" looking over their shoulders.

As their new friend Reginald was too valuable to risk, the party insisted he stay above ground, under heavy guard and constant watch. He listened with interest to the ill-timed, "Lament for the Fallen Fergus" composed by the group's minstrel, who had not been briefed on all the lies he was required to maintain. The party's first target was the goblins. They considered a few approaches, checked their maps, and decided to have the Paladin solve the problem using divine intervention.



Naked except for his new lion-skin loincloth, the Paladin bravely faced the wall of the Basilisk Hall and commanded it to "OPEN". By divine decree the rock parted... but only wide enough to fit a human arm. The party could clearly smell the goblin filth-pits on the other side, but they couldn't see in or attack.

"Bah, mediocre!" Antonia said, and fired off a dissolve spell. Her green beams of focused acid slowly wore away at the wall, scorching any goblins who approached, until a massive passage was fully open. Annie was impressed and slightly envious.

When the acid stopped sizzling, the Paladin commanded the group's partially tamed Basilisk (named Rocky), to "EAT ALL GOBLINS". Rocky had been recently fed an entire haunch of beef but could not disobey the divine command. He blundered into the room, scattering goblins left and right, snapping up any he could catch and sending the rest fleeing. The party dispatched any stragglers. When Rocky finished, he was so round his middle two pairs of legs didn't touch the ground, and waggled helplessly in the air. The very satiated basilisk crawled into a corner and fell asleep.

A thorough search of the goblin mire revealed a shining magic crown made of diamonds and gold, 8gp in loose change, and a ruby the size of a walnut. The party decided to give both the ruby and the gold to Reginald, hoping he'd take them and leave. They buried the crown for later. The Paladin used the last of his holy reserves to seal the stone passageway between the warrens and the goblin spawning pit, and then rubbed dead goblin fluids on himself in a fit of primal joy. No one was entirely sure why he felt the need to do this.

Reginald, on the surface, was please to take the gold and the ruby, but later returned both to Franklin... in exchange for a promise to take him through the rest of the dungeon. Franklin reluctantly agreed.

The party decided to clear a room they'd previously ignored. In the upper portion of the dungeon, near rancid pool of mummy water, one of the tomb chambers had collapsed. Franklin remembered hearing something thumping on the other side, and the party decided to investigate. They clear a small portion of the rubble, spotted a lurching mummy in a gold mask on the other side, debated for a bit, threw holy water at it, and then filled the room with torches and oil and burnt the thing. Reginald was impressed with the party's resourcefulness; the party was disappointed at the lack of loot.

The Paladin vaguely remembered that mummy flesh was sold in apothecary shops as a powerful medicine. He'd been itching ever since he'd rubbed goblin juice into his flesh, and he was starting to break out in small white hives.While the rest of the party was occupied, he ate one of the burnt mummy's fingers. Horrible painful lesions opened all over his body. Silently miserably, he was hauled to the surface in Annie's wheelbarrow and doused in holy water. Annie then tried out the extract venom spell and extracted a cluster of gibbering goblin-remnant-things into a flask. The Paladin seemed less itchy. Nobody knew what to do with the flask, but they kept the burnt mummy remains for later use.

They decided to venture into the chasm again... but in the morning. The Paladin and Reginald borrowed leather armour from two of the soldiers. The rest of the group reloaded their spells, sharpened their weapons, and loaded their packs.



The next morning, with Reginald and two soldiers, the group crept down the narrow stone stairs in the chasm. They passed the den of the lion-creature (now called the "dandy-lion" by the group) and found a second door lower down. (7)

This unlocked door lead to a set of beautifully tiled obsidian stairs. The black volcanic glass was just a facade; underneath, the stairs were simple stone, but the effect was still impressive. The party descended cautiously. At the bottom of the stairs they discovered a very strange room, unlike anything they'd seen in the upper tomb.

The room contained a large pool of bubbling green liquid, held in a raised tank or pond. Above the liquid, floating free and without visible supports, was a glass sphere. Inside the sphere, gems and a stone obelisk.

After some negotiation regarding danger pay, two of the soldiers (Joel and Jacques) made a cautious circut of the room. They found a barred iron door on the other side, but the entire room seemed to be safe, if a little eerie. Franklin and Antonia entered next.

The combined weight of four people triggered a mechanism in the floor. The floor began to sink, revealing holes in the side of the bubbling green pool. The corrosive liquid spread rapidly across the sinking floor. Antonia and Franklin scrabbled up to the doorway. Joel ran and was hauled up in time, but poor Jacques was slightly too far away. The moment the liquid hit his boots he began to dissolve, screaming in terror
as his legs melted out from under him and sent him toppling forward.


The floor slowly rose to its original height over the next twenty minutes, and the acid retreated back into the pool. Only Jacques' bones remained. Everything else, from his sword to his boots, had melted away.

Annie volunteered to scout the room again. She strung a rope from the doorway to the edge of the pool, hammered in an iron spike, and then spiked the rope a second time on the opposite wall. If the floor started to sink, anyone trapped in the room could grab the rope and hang on for dear life... provided the iron spikes held. It was better than nothing.

The barred door (10) on the other side of the room was too heavy for Annie to open alone, so Antonia, against her better judgement, crossed the room to assist. Together they hauled up the bar and tossed it to one side. They ran as mechanisms clicked, gears whirled, and the doors swung automatically open. 


While Antonia stood on the other side of the room and shouted advice, Annie approached the long obsidian-lined hallway (11). She noticed several silver grooves in the walls and a mysterious humming noise that increased in intensity as she walked briskly forward. Suddenly, red beams of light shot from the walls. Annie screamed and ran, but several beams hit her, scorching her carapace and sending her tumbling to the floor. She half ran, half-crawled towards Antonia. 

The party bandaged their antling friend and left her in her wheelbarrow, with Joel to keep her company. They discussed their next move. Annie pointed out that the beams seemed to start at knee-height; if the party crawled "like a snake-man on his belly", they could probably cross safely.

The Paladin volunteered to go first. He crawled through safely, without setting off the laser trap, and discovered an octagonal room (B) on the far side. There was a strange statue of a snake-man sage or wizard, making the sign of the Adversary (a triangle, point down). A blue-white glow shone from inside the triangle formed by the snake-man's hands. After Antonia, Franklin, and their new fried Reginald crept through, the party examined the statue carefully. The base didn't seem to be fully attached to the ground.


Before they could examine it further, Reginald shrugged, cackled, and transformed into a hideous blob-creature with a body like a worm made of boiling tar and his own grinning face. The party prepared to attack him, but Reginald politely pointed out that he was a wizard, and this was perfectly normal wizard behavior. Shrugging, the party accepted it... but howled in rage as Reginald dove head-first into the glowing blue light, vanishing instantly.

Side note: Reginald is an Animist Wizard. He is also someone the party really wants to keep alive. As a personal adviser to their boss, Reginald has a lot of influence. Everyone's mad, but in a sort of admiring way - I've manage to get the one risk-taking player to roll up a character who the other players really can't afford to lose. Taxes. They're handy.

Reginald passed through the portal unharmed and landed in an identical octagonal room. (F) He looked around, shouted, then popped through the portal again. He didn't end up in the original room, but in an entirely separate area. (C) He immediately tried again, found himself in yet another octagonal room, and heard something squelching down the corridor behind him. It looked like shimmering air in a heat haze. He dove into the portal again and emerged... somewhere else. (12)

A giant stone snake-man, 50' high, loomed over the terrified wizard. It moved like a landslide, slowly peering down at the cowering wizard, and then belching a blue-white beam of light directly at him. The beam sizzled as it hit the floor, leaving a thin scorch mark. Reginald dived through the portal again, but the gigantic animated statue seemed to follow him with the beam, sending it through the portal and scorching the room on the other side (A). Reginald's howls for help brought the party running; he was just down a corridor from them. The dodged around the beam, checked on their companion , and paused.

Something was squelching down the corridor ahead of them. It looked like a wall of heat-haze, a clear transparent ripple in the air. Suddenly it boiled into the room, chasing after them. Franklin shouted "Ooze!" and ran.

The ooze pursued at speed. The PCs were forced to crawl through the laser-trap again, and then wait to move across the sinking acid-pit. They made it just in time. The ooze came barreling down the hallway after them, failed to activate the laser trap, and plopped into the room. Its' additional bulk set off the pressure trap, and the room began to sink once again. The party watched from the safety of the stairs (8) as the ooze bumbled around, searching for them. It was completely unharmed by the acid.

What else would the party find in the lower levels of the Chasm of the Serpent Kings? What is a laser anyway? And is Reginald really a wizard?


The Puzzle

Discussion below.
The puzzle in Rooms 8 - 13 hasn't been fully explored yet, but here's the basic layout.

The snake-men used this area as a ritual trial for their new initiates. It's supposed to test some virtues the snake-men thought were important.


The acid pool room (9) is a multi-layered trap. Two normal humans (or one fat snake-man) can walk across without any penalties. If the snake-man initiate tried to bring a friend, or tools, or anything heavy, the trap would go off and boil them in acid.

The glass sphere full of gems represents temptation. Snake-men love gems on a primal level - they remind them of perfect eggs. Obviously, smashing the glass drops the gems into the acid, so even a simpleton wouldn't bother. But a cunning initiate might think that the magic could hold them up, or that they could get a ladder and open the top of the glass sphere and get to the gems that way.

The gems and obelisk are a dormant IOUN hydra. If the sphere is broken, the hydra activates and murders everyone in the room. The snake-men really didn't want their initiates getting clever and breaking the fixtures.


The barred door (10) is a basic test of strength. The laser hallway (11) is a test of humility; the signs are obvious to a snake-man initiate. Less so to the party.

The 6 chambers beyond (A-F) all have statues of various snake-men mystics. All are facing south. All but room E contain portals. Room E's statue holds a mirror instead. The portals are linked in the order shown by the yellow arrows.

The magic glass wall in the lower half of room E cannot be broken by force or most spells, but the blue-white laser fired by the giant (retired) war golem in room 13 can. All a snake-man initiate needs to do is rotate the statues like so:
A -> 90 degrees to face right
B: -> 90 degrees to face left

F: -> 90 degrees to face left
E -> 45 degrees to reflect the laser into the glass
Or another equivalent solution, and the glass melts and opens. Hooray! Snake-man robes and shiny hats for everyone.

There's just one problem; there are 2 gelatinous cubes in the maze.

If an initiate runs, an ooze will pursue, set off the trap in room (9), and end that particular initiate's career. The oozes are immune to the laser, but they do distort and block it. They need to be wrangled or lured out of position so the laser path is clear. The ooze starting positions are marked on the map.

For PCs, there are lots of ways to solve this puzzle. They can fiddle with the mirrors and portals all day, kill the oozes, lure them into the IOUN golem, etc. It's not a pure logic puzzle. Lateral thinking, hand mirrors, and laser-like spells might work.

The lasers only deal 1d6 damage (or Save vs Death on a critical hit, as they hit your jugular or your brainstem or something), so they aren't hideously punitive if the players insist on whipping them around and doing silly things.


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