Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Playing the Tomb of Bendan Fazier (P.2)

[continued from here; I ended my last post NOT because our session had ended, but because the post was getting loooong. Here I’ll be picking up the end of our first session, last Thursday…]

If you haven’t read the key to The Tomb of Bendan Frazier, you can find it HERE. The party exited the “Grand Hall” (as they referred to it; chamber #10) and, re-lighting their (dwindling supply) of torches, headed down the long stairway to #9, finding the statues, checking out the tapestry, noticing the river (again, no appearance by the river troll), and sticking a torch in the wall sconce. My players were grossed out by the mummification process (described in the tapestry), and horrified that the slave-workers had been murdered and dumped in the river (!), but intrigued by the images of treasure being carried into the tomb. 

While Big Jim and Sonia worked to get the tapestry off the wall (since it looked valuable...and is! I forgot to add that to the key but it's worth 400g.p. and weighs about 40#)...

[by the way, do you know how hard it is to find weights on the internet for tapestries? Even shipping weights! And modern day tapestries are generally a lot thinner and lighter than the materials used in past centuries. That was a damn extensive rabbit hole I almost fell into the other day, and the research available was completely unsatisfactory. 40# is a cheap-ass guesstimate of convenience. Bulk is probably closer to 1000 or 2000 coins weight...though, in the end (as the reader will see), this became largely irrelevant...]

*AHEM* While Jumbo and Sonia worked on getting the tapestry down, Barod discovered the necklaces hanging about the statues' necks. Tully was hoisted up (by Tiny) to remove the moon-shaped key from around the second statue, which immediately animated and attacked the dwarf; combat ensued. In the end, the party managed to destroy the caryatid column, but Tiny was slain, having interposed himself between it and Tully. At that point, we ended the session.

[as you can read, the adventure to this point had not been entirely un-fraught with peril...20% of the party had been killed, after all! Even so, when my boy declared that I "hadn't made the adventure hard enough," he was referring to the general lack of monsters in the tomb. Of course, they hadn't yet recovered much in the way of treasure either...]

Session 2 (Friday)

After some discussion on how to bury Tiny, the party eventually decided to strip his body of useful items (including his armor...he had been decapitated by the caryatid and so it was mostly intact) and then dump it in the subterranean river. Barod was anxious to press on: he presumed the bulk of the tomb's treasure must lie with the mummy of Bendan Fazier, and that said tomb was most likely behind the moon door. Sonia was a little less sure of this, but agreed to follow Barod's lead. Asked by Tully the dwarf if they should rest first, they felt there was no need: for the most part, the party was at full health, the bulk of damage from their last encounter having been inflicted on Tiny. 

Big Jim donned his fallen companion's splint mail. His bastard sword had shattered against the monster, but he still had his hand axe (Barod offered him his flail, but the big man declined).

Back up the stairs, through the sun doors, past the "grand hall," and down to the ancient preparation room with its "moon door." Now that they'd seen the tapestry (in #9) the party had a pretty good idea of what had taken place here, and my squeamish players glanced about nervously for signs of brains and internal organs that had been removed from Bendan's corpse. Sonia cast comprehend languages to decipher the writing on the door, and everyone was dutifully awed/disturbed. Barod wanted Sonia to use the moon key but she refused; so the cleric did so himself.

Instantly, bad stuff started happening: the cleric jerked spasmodically as the blood in his veins turned darker, standing out livid against his skin as his eyes rolled back in his head. Everyone took a step back as the cleric, stood up and rounded on the party: obviously he had been possessed by "dark magic!" Barod attacked! Random roll determined Big Jim was his foe! Big Jim decided to grapple his companion. Barod missed his attack roll to keep Big Jim at bay, and so the grappling was on! The usual procedure (DMG p.72-73) was followed and the fighter kicked Barod "where the sun don't shine" inflicting 12 points of damage, immediately taking him out of the fight.

While unconscious, the party cut a length from their rope (the bulk of which was dangling from the pit in chamber #10), and hog-tied the cleric. When he awoke (only 4 points of damage having been "actual"), it was obvious he was still possessed (foaming at the mouth and whatnot). After several minutes of discussion, they decided to take him back to the entrance of the dungeon to leave him with the mules. 

The party had just begun to devise a way to hoist him up the escape shaft when the spell seemed to wear off. Having taken charge of the party, Sonia the magic-user was not about to trust this apparent change of heart, even though Barod pleaded with the group to release him. They relented a bit by untying his legs, and then forced him to walk point as they crossed the threshold of the moon door (now ajar). Barod did not like this ("can't I at least have a weapon to fight with?") but was given no choice by the party. 

At the end of the passage, they found the tomb room of Bendan Fazier, including his sarcophagus, a rotted chest full of gold, and a metal box filled with platinum coins. The large sacks came out of the backpacks and the party filled them with coins. A trap door in the ceiling of the tomb was discovered and the party was happy to see a more ready exit. The sarcophagus they left alone, though they noted the need for a "star key" (which they had already seen around the neck of the statue in #9).

Deciding by this time that Barod could be trusted again (but warning him they wouldn't hesitate to put him down if he "turned" again), the cleric was finally freed from his bonds and the whole party left for the entrance hall, sacks of treasure in hand. Encountering no monsters (like river trolls) on the way out, they again rested, ate Tiny's remaining rations, and regained (or used) spells, all in preparation for opening the sarcophagus. The cleric was sure there must be good stuff inside (he specifically pointed out the magic staff and wand displayed in the wall painting in chamber #4), but both Barod and Sonia were sure there would probably be a big mummy monster to fight!

Back to the tomb (#12): with Tully and Sonia holding torches, Jumbo and Barod went to open the sarcophagus only to discover they'd forgotten about the star key! The party returned to chamber #9 where the cleric and Big Jim proceeded to brutalize the statue before removing the necklace it wore.

[this was rather clever. I allowed them to automatically hit and roll damage each segment...damage being halved as normal with respect to a caryatid column...and also gave the usual chance of breaking a weapon per the monster description. Fortunately, their luck (and their weapons!) held up]

Having reduced it to rubble, they retrieved the necklace. Asked if they were still interested in the tapestry laying on the floor (noting it had been soaked with Tiny's blood): "yeah, I fold it up and put it in my backpack." Explained, no it needs to be rolled up and it's pretty big/thick, they decided it wasn't worth the trouble....

Back to the tomb (again): same set-up as before. The key was turned, the lid was pushed off and the mummy of Bendan Fazier was revealed. When nothing jumped out at them, they heaved a sigh of relief...but they were hesitant to remove any of the goodies in the coffin. "Don't touch the death mask!" Sonia said. Barod took the staff; Sonia took the wand. "Why didn't you want me to remove the death mask?" asked Barod. "Because it's a death will kill you!" That's just what it's called. Oh.

Barod removed the death mask to reveal the Son of Kyuss beneath, which immediately sat up. Everyone was horrified. The mask was dropped. Saving throws versus fear were attempted and failed (except for Tully the dwarf) and most of the party fled in terror down the corridor back to room #11. Tully was not surprised but failed his initiative roll and was attacked and "wormed" by the creature. Bloodcurdling shrieks were heard by the party as they fought each other to clamber up the rope they'd left dangling from #10. More screams of terror and agony were heard (a second worm found a home in Tully, this one reaching his brain in a single round) as they charged from the grand hall, passed the antechamber and over the bridge, all the way back to room #5.

At this point (huddled together in the dark), I allowed the players to start making saving throws against the Son's "terror" ability. There's no real guidelines regarding how long it lasts (at least, not that I could find), but since they were now out-of-sight/earshot of the thing, I figured that if even one of them could come to their senses, she could rally the others. Which is what happened, as Sonia finally made her saving throw.

Pulling themselves together and checking what they had in the way of resources/gear, they gathered their courage and decided to go back to help Tully (if possible) or avenge their friend (if not). By this time, of course, Tully had already met "a fate worse than death" as he was now a shambling Son of Kyuss also (again, the FF description is unclear how long it takes for the transformation, only that "the process of putrefaction" sets in "without delay," but I figured it would be more terrifying (i.e. "fun") for the party to encounter the shambling corpse of their buddy wandering the halls. After all, there'd been a complaint that I hadn't added enough monsters to the dungeon...).
; )

The worms crawl in,
the worms crawl out...
They discovered Tully just as they crossed the bridge, standing beneath the threshold of the "sun doors" his rotten form not quite silhouetted against the continual light of room #10. Again, saving throws were called for and only Sonia was successful. She engaged the creature, blasting it with shocking grasp, but it punched back, scoring a glancing hit (1 damage). The projectile worm shooting from its face missed. Baron and Jumbo cowered at the bridge unable to approach closer.

Then the cleric had a brilliant idea...remove the support rods from the bridge and lure the "Tully mummy" to its destruction! Jumbo and Barod retreated over the bridge, calling for Sonia to do the same as they pulled the rods from their brackets.

Sonia turned and ran. The creature got a free attack at the mage's exposed back (with a +2 bonus) but failed to hit, as did the worm. We diced for her weight, and it turned out she was beanpole like her brother (Barod is 6'6" and 150#...Sonia is 6' and just over 100#). Even with her gear (not much) she was able to cross the bridge without collapsing it. The dwarf, on the other hand, was of average weight for his kind (156#) even without his leather it tried to shamble across the rickety bridge, the thing collapsed and he was dropped into the river below. 

The party started to cheer, but stopped when they saw it pulling itself up onto the rocky ledge of the riverbank. Knowing that the ledge would lead the undead creature back to the entry chamber (and the mules! and the treasure!) the party hustled back as fast as possible to the entry chamber #1.  From the collapsed tunnel to the south they heard sounds of a fight with undead moaning and loud growling (the river troll finally put in an appearance as I rolled to see if the dwarf would encounter the thing and the percentile dice finally rolled under 25...see area #7).  "That must be the monster whose footprints we saw!" exclaimed Barod. "We can let it kill the undead creature and then go back for the treasure!"

Jumbo said: "Um...if IT can kill the 'Tully Monster,' do we really want to fight it?"

"Good point! Let's leave!"

So they left. They took the treasure they had managed to discover (the gold and platinum, which had been left with the mules), sealed the doors of the tomb with iron spikes, and piled the largest rocks they could find in front of the door. Barod wanted to add some sort of warning message to the door, but after realizing he had no chalk, decided he didn't care enough to stick around.

The End

[that is, the end of the adventure; the characters are still alive]

So, there you have it. I found the Tomb of Bendan Fazier to be quite playable in practice. As is the usual M.O. with my players, they left a lot of money on the table (i.e. treasure in the dungeon), but they recovered some good stuff, too, including the wand and staff (which they had clutched in their hands when they fled the Son of Kyuss). The final tally of x.p. was even enough to level up the cleric...once he's had the opportunity to train, of course. Probably helped there were less characters to divide the treasure between.

Man O took so long to get this posted that I've got another Thursday D&D session coming up tomorrow. Welp, even though I haven't been blogging, I have been working on my campaign world (which I want to write about one of these days) AND prepping for our next session. Which has been tricky.

I'll explain why in my next post. Hopefully by Friday or Saturday..
: )


  1. Wait, wait, wait... did the river troll win?

    1. I didn’t bother playing it out. Doing so would have required me answering the question “how do the Kyuss worms interact with a troll’s regeneration?” and I really wasn’t ready to go there.

      [however, as an old fan of the X-Men, I clearly remember an issue where Wolverine’s healing factor was able to expel and repel a Brood egg he’d been injected with, and I’d probably go with that...after all, why would it’s regeneration NOT be effective in preventing putrefaction?]

      The troll (probably) wouldn’t eat a Son of Kyuss (ew)...I’d imagine he’d eventually get tired of boxing something that regenerates and would toss it in the river (to float it somewhere else).

    2. I remember that comic!

      I am reminded of Grom the Paunch from Warhammer; he ate some troll flesh, and his stomach acid wasn't quite enough to digest it, but nor was the troll's regeneration strong enough to survive the acid, so now Grom has permanent bloating and indigestion.

  2. Possessed by dark magic and getting "wormed"...classic.

  3. My headcannon insists the "Tully Monster" ran into the scrag while it was snacking on the fresh (if slightly incomplete) corpse the party was kind enough to donate to its watery larder earlier. They got upset at the construction workers being killed and chucked in the river, then proceed to do the same thing to poor devoted Tiny? Kids, indeed.

    FWIW, at least one D&D sourcebook insists a 10'x10' tapestry weighs in at 100 pounds, which seems suspiciously convenient but it does make it easy to calculate the weight of other sizes. Maybe the most famous real-world example is the Bayeux Tapestry (which is really embroidered linen cloth, not a proper woven tapestry) which weighs over 700 pounds - but it's also about 20" wide and over 220' long, so not typical in any way.

    1. In my children’s defense, their “ew” was that the slaves had their throats slit before being dumped in the river (i.e. they were executed after completing their task)...also, their first impulse was to remove Tiny from the tomb and bury him; his “river burial” was more a matter of expedience (promoted by Tully).

      Thanks for the tapestry info. Considering the Bayeux as a model, I feel a bit better about my 40# calculation.

  4. This sounds like a lot of fun. Nice use of less common but flavorful manual monsters.

    Inspires me to finish writing up my own play reports.

    1. @ GusL:

      I’ve always enjoyed reading the Fiend Folio, but I’ve seldom used the monsters in it, even back when I played AD&D (unless they were a part of a module I was running, like D3 or I1). I’ve long wanted to use Caryatid Columns in SOMEthing, and the Son of Kyuss was an excellent choice for a low-level mummy substitute (the 6HD version in the MM could have wiped the floor with the party).

      Would love to see some play reports.