OSR: Tomb of the Serpent Kings: Session 12

Last session, the party descended into uncharted depths of the dungeon, lost a hireling to an acid trap, and discovered a series of complicated portal rooms. In this session, they create the Doom Chicken, test wild theories, and get lost.

The Party
A nameless human Paladin of the Word. Very faithful, very dumb. Recently mauled by an alkalion, now wearing its skin as a lion-cloth.
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. Doesn't want to die in a dungeon.
Annie, an antling Wizard of the White Hand. Likes her new friends, does not like lasers.
Reginald, a human Animist Wizard and servant of the Baron of Bayle. Ambitious, competent, but very impulsive.

Side Note: of the five PCs only three have survived since Session 1. The Paladin is level 4. Antonia and Franklin, thanks to a shabby trick of accounting while dividing the loot, are level 6.
The Lair, karezoid
After throwing rocks at the ooze to see if it could be deterred, and scooping a sample of its clear jelly-like flesh into a vial, the party returned to the surface. The long stone stairs up the chasm were as perilous as ever, but the party ascended without difficulty. Franklin and Antonia began work on a ladder-like siege-contraption to cross the acid-filled room. Annie and Reginald went off to do wizard business - feeding the ooze sample to a chicken. The Paladin took a bath.

The chicken seemed to be a little more gelatinous than usual. On closer inspection, it seemed that the ooze had dissolved the chicken's innards and formed a sort of symbiotic relationship with its nerves and skin. It still behaved like a chicken, but Reginald swore it looked more intelligent.

The next day, as the sun was setting, the party's ladder contraption was ready. Four 10' ladders had been lashed together with a series of pulley, wheels, and cranks. Franklin and Annie carried it cautiously to the edge of the acid pit room (10) and extended it across the gap. Reginald, for reasons unknown, brought the gelatinous chicken. The ladders creaked and bent, but, with their centre resting on the lip of the raised acid pool (9), they formed a passable bridge.

The Paladin went first... and fell off almost immediately. Luckily, he was able to grab onto the edge of the acid pool. Unluckily, the gelatinous cube roaming the room spotted him, lumbered over, and gave him a hearty protoplasmic slap. He fell into the acid, but the combined herculean effort of the rest of the party hauled him out by the rope tied around his waist. They doused him in holy water.

The acid had scorched the Paladin's arm, face, and leg, but only the first few layers of skin had been harmed. Unfortunately, his lion-cloth had been eaten away, leaving him completely naked. He didn't seem to mind. The rest of the party did.

After more debate, the party very carefully crossed the ladder bridge one by one, crawled through the laser trap (11) and emerged in the first of the portal rooms (B). The now-familiar statue of a snake-man sage with its hands making an inverted triangle stood before them. The blue-white flicker of light between its hands was a still steady.

Cautiously, the party explored the other rooms (A-F). They discovered the glass wall on the south side of room E, with a glowing red ruby in the centre. On the other side of the wall they could see a floating crown-helmet-thing. It was absolutely encrusted in gems and looked very valuable. 

They also discovered the giant war-automaton in room 13. The discovery of the statue completed the puzzle in Reginald's mind.

"The light!", he said, rubbing his hands together. "The creature spits light! All we need to do is correctly align the statues and mirrors. The light will pass from one to the other until it strikes the ruby and opens the glass door! Yes, I see it now."

The party was skeptical, but Reginald tested his theory by throwing pebbles through each portal, then a rope, and finally having Franklin fire an arrow. Impressed, the party worked to align the statues. Despite his misgivings, Franklin agreed to taunt the giant snake-man war engine into firing at him as he cowered behind the statue in room 12.

And so, without further incident, the party executed their plan. The war-engine roared and spat a beam of light directly into the statue in front of it. The light passed from statue to statue, bounced off the mirror on statue E, and was carefully steered into position by the Paladin and Antonia. The moment the light struck the ruby, the glass door melted like ice.

The crown still floated serenely on its plinth. The party debated who should try it on, or if anyone should. In the end, they decided to use the gelatinous chicken.

When the crown was placed on the chicken's head (or, more accurately, its entire body), the confused fowl began to float through the air, tumbling like a seed on the wind, clucking in consternation. The party followed it into the hallway with increasing alarm.

"We should get that crown back," Antonia said. "Annie, go grab it." The antling stepped forward and reached out, but forked lightning bolts from the crown's gems shot back and scorched her fingers. She howled in pain. The chicken clucked in what could only be interpreted as triumph.

Franklin drew his bow and loosed a few arrows at the tumbling bird. Some sort of invisible shield deflected a few shots, but the final arrow pierced the chicken through the heart. It fell to the ground with a thump. The crown also fell and broke slightly. One of the gems on the side shattered. With a final cluck, the chicken dissolved into feathered jelly.

"Feh," Reginald said, examining the broken-off bits of gemstone. "I think I can put this back together." His attempt to force the shards of sapphire together was met with another blast of magical lightning. The shattered gem went dark for good. The other gems on the crown glowed invitingly.

"In for a penny..." Reginald said, and set the crown on his head. The rest of the party shouted abuse at him and backed away. Nothing seemed to happen at first, but Reginald soon found he could hover slightly with just a thought. He could also see vague after-images of spells and magical effects.

"It seems these gems contain trapped spells," the drifting wizard mused. "They are activated by the merest thought. The chicken wanted to escape; the spell of levitation was activated. It was angered; lightning bolts. How interesting."

"Great, now take off the crown please," Antonia said,

"I wonder if there's a healing spell?" 
"No!" the party shouted, but in vain. Reginald thought very hard about healing his lighting-induced wounds. He envisioned himself in perfect health. The crown, after a few moments, obliged. With a burst of magical light it transformed him into a snake-man.

"Thissss is great!" Reginald said, examining his new body.
"Are you... you know. Evil now?" Franklin said, holding his sword out. The Paladin nodded furiously in the background.

"I don't feel evil," the wizard said. "Cold, but not evil."
This seemed to satisfy everyone. 

The Paladin, who had been rooting through two chests in the room, held out a silver tunic and a silver fabric sleeve sized for a snake-man's body. The fabric, if it was fabric, was somehow made of thin metal plates, but it weighed no more than silk. The party insisted the Paladin wear it to conceal his shame.

The second chest in the room contained only a pair of silver gloves with metal plates on the palms. By striking the plates together and pulling them apart, a sword made of glass appeared in the air, as if the plates were hollow tubes somehow. The sword could be concealed again just as easily. Franklin took the gloves.

"Great," Antonia said, "now let's get out of here before any more of us are turned into snake-people or chickens or whatever."

Once again, the party crossed the acid pit. Reginald found, to his delight, that he could simply hover over the pit, buoyed up by his better-fitting crown. He could also give vague directions to the ooze by concentrating his will on it through the gems in the crown. The party wasn't willing to let him take the ooze home by building it a ramp to escape, so they left it behind and climbed the ancient stone stairs to the top of the chasm.

After a good dinner, a few hours of entertainment watching Reginald try to use his new snake-like lower half, and a solid sleep, the party reconvened in the morning for their next expedition. Lulled into complacency by the relative ease of their recent smash-and-grab trips, they waltzed through the dungeon and began descending into the chasm.

The ancient stone stairs shattered as they descended. An entire section of the chasm's wall peeled away as cracks, previously ignored by the party, widened into fissures. The party screamed, tumbled, ran from rock to rock, and stair to stair, and tried to find any solid ground. Antonia, the Paladin, and Reginald made it safely into the mouth of a large cave. Franklin made a heroic last-second leap from a falling stair block and, just as a second wave of rocks began to fall, reached back and hauled Annie to safety as well.

When the dust settled, the party had no idea how far down they'd fallen. Their lanterns didn't reach very far in the darkness, and even Reginald's improved vision couldn't see the top of the chasm. Annie, who had grown up in an underground colony, estimated they were at least 400' down. "Which isn't too bad," she said.

Reginald put on his gem-encrusted helmet and considered trying to fly out of the cave, but looking at the drop and considering the crown's damaged condition, he decided not to risk it. He'd never hovered more than 10' off a solid surface. Flight might be out of the question.

Meanwhile, Annie had explored the mouth of the cave and decided it was safe to proceed. She hadn't informed the party that the cave sloped downwards...

1. The party explored the cave entrance and squeezed through into the caves beyond.
2. The obvious exit from the cave chamber sloped downwards. The party decided to ignore it for now.

3. A hole in the ceiling allowed them to get a little higher. Annie assisted. "It's just like home," the Antling said cheerfully.
4. The passage lead to a large circular room containing dozens of silver metal flowers. No sunlight, just flowers. The party found a few strange metal bees floating through the air. Annie remembered seeing one of them in her queen's curiosity cabinet, but didn't know anything else.

The Paladin grabbed one, shook it, and was stung. He died in a shocking flesh-scouring blast, like a time-lapse film of a statue being sandblasted. His death was so violent and explosive it left an ash-shadow on the wall. The party was stunned. They agreed not to touch the bees. After looting the body and saying a few hasty prayers they retreated from the room. Antonia and Franklin were shaken; the Paladin had been their constant companion for months.

A passage down, filled with more bees, was left alone.

5. Antonia spotted a hole in the ceiling, but the party couldn't reach it with their equipment. They wandered through a segmented, spine-like cave.

6. While following the sound of water, the party found a very strange red-orange-glass creature. It smelled awful, like a tanner's workshop had fallen into a forge. It was standing in a stream of water, looking carefully at the cave walls, like a painter examining a canvas.

The party debated approaching it. They made a list of pros and cons:

+It looks like a person: two arms, two legs, a head... sort of.
+It doesn't seem to notice us.
+We can retreat a considerable distance.
+We might even be able to fight it.
+It's not magical.

-It's not a person. It's... wearing some sort of suit of armour? Or is made of metal and glass and fire?
-It smells awful. Not rotten, but poisonous.
-It might be in charge of the bees.
-It's not magical but it should be.

After more debate, the four survivors agreed to approach it, weapons readied and hearts full of fear.

The creature stared at them once they were within 20'. It had no eyes, no head even, but they could see it was thinking. It started to make noises. Hissing, wailing. Bits of music. Words.

Franklin tried talking to it. 

After a few minutes, it started to talk back. Its voice was a hiss of steam and a crackle of lightning. It spoke in fragments of Franklin's words mixed in with other voices, as if it had to assemble sentences from other sources. The party lowered their weapons.

What are you units?" it asked.
"Uh, Franklin, Antonia, Annie, and Reginald," the knight said, carefully pointing to the other members of the party. "We are lost."
"Can you help us?" Antonia asked.
"Lost from where?
"The surface," Franklin said carefully.
"Surface units are lost. Surface units will die soon."
"Uh... " Antonia said worriedly, trying to determine if the creature was threatening them or stating a fact.
"Surface units need a surface unit path. Exchange?" it burbled.
"Exchange... uh, what do you need?"
"Surface art."
"Excuse me?" Antonia said, astonished.
"Surface art of surface units or surface unit actions."

The party rummaged through their packs for anything that could pass as "surface unit art". Franklin tried to hand over a spare sword, but it was politely handed back. Since the creature was partially on fire, paper seemed out of the question. Eventually, Reginald handed over a ruby he'd looted several days earlier.

This is art?" the creature asked, holding up the gem.
"Yup," Reginald said confidently, "definitely art."
"Why twenty facets?"
"It's, uh, symbolic of the, uh, the..." the wizard stammered.
"The interplay between societal forces on the.... the..." Antonia interjected.
"Ever changing surface world," Reginald finished with a gasp.
"Yes," the strange being said, as the party slumped in relief. With as much ceremony as someone storing food in a cupboard, the creature reached into the rock face and deposited the gem inside. It began walking away, very, very slowly.

After more debate, the party followed.

7. The creature cut a path through solid rock simply by walking towards it, opening a new passage into a cave beyond. The party followed at a safe distance. 

8. The creature lead them to the base of a carved stone staircase. It spiraled up. But at the base, nearly unrecognizable after centuries of rot, were four snake-man skeletons with armour and weapons. They had died violently, possibly fleeing something. 

The metal-glass-fire creature began walking away as the party debated their next move. Would they risk the stairs? Find another path? Or would it be their fate to die in the Veins of the Earth, deep below the Tomb of the Serpent Kings.

Things Encountered:

Atomic Bees


  1. Alas! Not the nameless Paladin of the Voice ... well, I guess that's the risk of adventuring, but it's sad to see such a character buy the farm. Thanks for the play reports

  2. Farewell, sweet paladin. Strange to reach 4th level and then die in such an incautious way.

    Fuck bees.

    1. Optimistic incaution, and eating things they find in the dungeon to try and gain superpowers, are the leading causes of death in my groups.

  3. I guess in the end, Antonia and Franklin were right: he wasn't going to need that gold after all.

  4. I had missed this entry entirely (it's not on the index) - what a shocking development, I thought the paladin was going to make it! Those atomic bees are... lethal.

    I know this was a group new to gaming, how did they react to the transition from "regular" dungeoneering to veins of the earth?