Monday, October 25, 2010

Inverted Ziggurat (P.2)

[continued from here]

“Of course there’s the little problem that everything down below is now submerged.”

Hmm…the party hadn’t thought of that. Fortunately, the wizard Keraptis had, and there was a drain in the floor leading to a gradual decline in the water level over a half hour or so. The party was fine with waiting, using the time to scale down the ledges (having tied off the rope to the door). Standing at the crack and looking at the four grinning, hungry polar bears, the party found itself a group divided.

Gustav: “I say we kill the polar bears.”

Party: “Are you kidding? They have ‘claw-claw-bite!’ They’ll kill us!”

Gustav: “I want a polar bear hat!”

This went on for awhile, but while a some abstained and most were against a straight up fight, no one had any real suggestions of how to circumvent polar bears in a non-combat fashion.

This was JB’s cue to go soft again.

“Normally, I wouldn’t suggest this,” says I, “but I know some of you haven’t played B/X for awhile, and you may have missed the Speak with Animals spell on the cleric list…um…3rd level spell, I believe.”

Well, of course, this was the perfect suggestion and the entire party over-ruled Gustav’s quest for a bear trophy. Not that he didn’t try, “Make sure you tell them we are their masters…maybe we should kill one just to show them our might for a better bargaining chip!” or “If they won’t let us pass, I’m ready with my warhammer.”

However, Alster was able to get a positive reaction roll from the bears…at least enough for them to let the party by on a “live and let live” basis. However, I did mention to Gustav that one surly mother of a bear seemed to be giving him the hairy eyeball, silently taunting him with a snaggle-toothed leer.

“I do NOT take the bait,” said Gustav.

Using a combination of the waterwalking ring and rope (duh) the party made it to the floor of the chamber, basking in the glow of the permanent Sweet T’s continual light. Tito himself needed a bit of help getting down to the chamber floor. “If I can’t actually DO anything,” asked Randy, “what’s the good of being raised from the dead?”

“You can provide moral support?”

“Um…no one has to carry your body out?”

From where they stood, they could see a vault set in a wall and a corridor leading away in the opposite direction. The vault obviously held some sort of booty…maybe even Blackrazor itself!

“Or maybe Quentin's in there,” suggested Sly. “Quentin! Are you in there?”

Terril cast detect traps on the vault. The lock glowed sinister red in color. “Oh, man…I can disarm that!” said Sly. And he did, removing a small, strange device that had no discernable purpose. With a flourish, he twisted the vault lock to reveal…a cascading pile of silver, along with a jeweled bracelet. Jackpot!

Brian wasted no time sweeping the silver coins into his bag of holding. I don’t recall who took the bracelet (probably Sly, maybe Sweet T). However, no black blade could be found.

“Hmmm…the poem said, ‘beneath the inverted ziggurat.’ I wrote that part down,” said Sly.

Maybe it’s down the drain, suggested someone.

The party pried up the drain and stared at the hole that went straight down. It looks like a tight fit, says I…maybe just wide enough for a Halfling? The party looks at Brian.

“Oh, no…I’m not going down the hole!”

Eventually the usual plan is formed, a rope is tied around the halfling’s waist and he soon crawling head first into the bowels of the volcano…

“It’s getting pretty tight, and the air is even warmer than up above, but by wriggling your body you can press forward. There’s a pretty bad smell…maybe sulfur?”


“Just a little further…there’s probably a chamber or something.”

“You crawl a little farther. The hole…I can’t really call it a tunnel…kind of ‘jukes’ to one side and then continues deeper. You can just…manage…to squirm…”


“Blackrazor’s got to be down there! Just a little further!”

“Okay, you can’t really move your arms, but by wiggling your fingers…” (I make little penguin wing motions) “…you can inch a little more. A lot of heat now…sweat pouring off your face…”

Get me out of this f***ing hole RIGHT NOW! Goddammit! YOU go down the hole!!”

The party (a little reluctantly) pulls the Halfling up with the rope. Brian is not amused. Someone suggests that they “make camp” on the floor of the chamber. As they prepare to bed down, a watch is arranged. I start rolling for wandering monsters.

I forget who had first watch, but it isn’t long before the invisible foot prints are back…circling the party, kicking up sand, splashing through the water…and then gone. Needless to say, the guy who saw it all was a little disconcerted and woke everyone up (they hadn’t been asleep that long).

Did the party question the bears? Maybe…I know they (the bears) had little useful to say (they were used to getting fed by Mr. Invisible). The party decided to go back to sleep, and Sly offered to take next watch.

When the encounter came up, I had Sly roll to see if the party was surprised. Since he rolled a “2” (and was thus surprised) I ruled he’d dozed off. I rolled randomly to see which party members were attacked by the two wights that wandered upon them unawares.

Sly and Borgnine.

Even though the party was “sleeping” a failed surprise roll just means the monsters get a free attack roll, not an “auto-hit,” so I rolled to attack. Only Sly was hit. The dwarf was startle awake by something cold caressing his cheek…the thief was awakened by soul-searing cold as his life force was wrenched from his body! Welcome to level 6.

Round two: “A corpselike figure with sunken eyes giving off an unholy glow crouches over you clutching at your body, groping at you with pale, blue-tinged hands. What do you do?” Both were attempting to kick the thing away while yelling for the rest of the party to get the hell up! The wights won initiative for the round and both were successful in their attack rolls, draining the dwarf to level 6 and the thief to level 5.

“Wait…so I’m getting worse?” asked Vince.

“Ha! You’re lower level than me now!” laughed Randy.

“That’s what you get for falling asleep on watch!” said someone else(maybe Matt…he really hadn’t liked going down the hole).

The clerics rise up pulling their holy symbols and blast the wights into oblivion.

Somehow, the party decided to get back to “sleep,” though a double watch was set, and they got little rest on the damp hard sand. No more wandering monsters troubled them.

Upon awaking, and after passing around the healing magic, the party decided to explore the only other egress available to them…the southward leading corridor.

It ended in a door.

After watching the newly diminished thief fail his “hear noise” roll, the party kicked open the door ready for anything. What they found was a bedraggled-looking Quentin Nogg.

“More tormentors come to taunt me? I will serve neither you, nor your feeble master!”

No, no…the party explains. They are here to rescue the halfling. They gaze around the room at the sumptuousness of the surroundings. “Bribes,” explains Quentin. “The wizard Keraptis killed my party and captured me. His indoctrination process failed, and so he’s kept me here for several weeks, hoping that I will agree to be his loyal slave. You’re welcome to any of his ‘treasure’ offers.” He gestures to a disorderly heap of loot that includes a suit of human-sized plate mail.

Gustav asks if he can have the plate mail, seeing as how his own is pretty toasty. “It won’t fit me,” says Quentin. Matt asks, “If this is cursed armor, I won’t know it till I’m in combat or something, right?” Right. “Eh, I’ll put it on anyway.” Okay.

Terril, feeling all this is perhaps too good to be true casts Detect Alignment on Quentin.


“What about Blackrazor?” Brian wants to know. “We were supposed to find Blackrazor down here!”

“It is here,” says the Halfling, “Keraptis said he wanted me to ‘guard’ it.” Quentin pulls a beautiful mahogany case…about the size of a sword…from beneath a large cushion, opens it, and pulls Blackrazor from the satiny lining of the case. The light within the room seems to disappear in the darkness of its length, giving back only the sparkling of constellations deep within the blade’s black metal.

“I don’t think you should be carrying Blackrazor,” says Brian pointedly.

“And why should I not?” says the Halfling with a look that says ‘come and take it from me.’

Brian decides to start scooping treasure into the bag of holding instead.

***EDIT: So sorry, folks...THAT is where we left the game! Hope you weren't waiting for more action, 'cause that's all she wrote for last Thursday. The players decided that finding Quentin and Blackrazor was enough of a feather for one evening, and everyone was anxious to get home to their families (we ran a little late)...but this is where I plan on picking up the thread three days from now. Stay tuned! ***


  1. Chello!

    Awesome journal. Nights like that happen. The fact that they survived the zigg with only one death is a good thing. Sounds to me like they had fun trying to solve the riddle of the zigg. +1.

  2. This is my favourite B/X Blackrazor post-session write up so far. It's making me want to suggest a couple of sessions with my Labyrinth Lord group rolling up mid level characters, which I've never done before as it just seemed...wrong. We only recently got back into RPGs and we don't have too much experience with "old school" approaches to D&D so I wanted to run games where everyone started at 1st level so as to get a real feel for it.

    Also, being a young scrub in my mid 20's, I know nothing of White Plume Mountain but it sounds excellent! Illogical constructions of wizardry have always intrigued me since playing Ultima Underworld 2 on the PC, with Scintillus Academy and its traps and tests for aspiring mages. No doubt heavily inspired my modules such as this one.

  3. ^ Should of course have read "many modules such as this one"

  4. Arrrrgh...braindeath. UU2 was inspired by them, I meant. Why is there no edit function on blogger?

  5. @ Andrew: I got it the first time.
    ; )

    RE: Mid-level characters...I'll be totally honest with you (and perhaps this should be the subject of its own post, but what the heck...) there are only two times I dig starting characters at 1st level:

    1) When introducing total newbie players to the game mechanics.

    2) When starting a new campaign with some TIGHT mother-f**ers who you KNOW are in it for the long haul.

    Once you've got a feel for the game, I think it's fine to let players start with mid-level characters for one-off games. Sometimes those one-offs develop into long-term campaigns, and that's fine...but if you wait for your players to actually ADVANCE their characters to 7th level (and you have the standard mid-20s flakey players I remember from my youth), you're going to be waiting a loooong time to ever play something like White Plume Mountain.

    I don't like to wait.
    ; )

  6. Level drain is possibly the lamest unfun thing in old-school D&D, especially from a wandering monster. Getting the characters restored will be a priority. Too bad BX makes that a 7th level cleric spell.

  7. @ Fumers: You're so responsible man...
    ; )

    You realize, of course, there are other more pressing concerns for the party?