Tuesday, November 16, 2010

White Plume Mountain – The Final Chapter (Part 3)

[continued from here]
Beyond the mud cavern was another corridor ending in another door, though this one seemed a bit more intricate. Gathering themselves and readying their weapons, Farnsworth once again raised a mighty foot and kicked in the portal. Darkness. Black, impenetrable darkness. The darkness seemed to smother the light from the fighter’s sword…his flame was all that was visible. Alster pushed forward with his shield (he had previously cast continual light on the thing), giving some slight illumination to the darkened chamber. [Alster rolled for surprise…success! Finally] A pale face loomed from the darkness grinning down at the party. “Does it look like a vampire?” asked Luke/Alster. Ridiculous. “Yeah, sure, it does.” “Does it sparkle like Edward?” asked AB/Farnsworth. “No.” The party rolled for initiative, got it. Alster cast Raise Dead on the creature. The vampire made his saving throw with a 17. Kevin, Bryan, and Dampwick started pulling garlic cloves out of their backpack. Baring his fangs, Ctenmiir the vampire, guardian of Whelm, hugged the cleric to his chest drinking deep of his lifeblood and draining him to 5th level. Farnsworth with Blaarthislaarv (“you know, Blackrazor would be handy in this situation,” comments AB for the 2nd or 5th time), Sexy Kevin with Wave, and Brian with a sword +1 (*ahem*) all attacked the vampire. Dampwick and Sly Jr. hung back, wishing they owned magic weapons. Ctenmiir stared deep into Farnsworth’s eyes, “You long to serve me…I am your master.” Farnsworth passed his saving throw and clubbed the monster for minimal damage while Kevin stabbed Wave deep into the creature’s back. Rounding on the cleric, the vampire tried the same tactic…and Sexy Kevin succumbed under the vampire’s control. Meanwhile, the others continued to pound the creature as best they could. Kevin turned his trident on Alster, even as the cleric fended off the vampire’s attack. “Get the trident out of his hands!” A cleric with a 13 strength and a +3 trident is a fierce opponent, but Sly and Dampwick rushed him and somehow managed to restrain their charmed friend… […somehow being “with the B/X Companion rules for grappling”] …meanwhile, Bryan, Farnsworth, and Alster were doing their best to mangle the vampire, stabbing and smashing it repeatedly, even as it (I believe) drained the heroic halfling down to 5th level. The creature was finally struck a telling blow and the creature vaporized…vanishing into mist as if it had never been. Sexy Kevin was hog-tied and left on the floor. “Master! Master!” “How long till that wears off?” “Who knows…” Alster immediately began searching the room, looking for a coffin or sarcophagus, which he found. Pushing back the lid he was somewhat surprised to find the thing completely empty…no Whelm, no treasure, and no vampire. He began searching the interior. Brian was carefully toeing Wave into the bag of holding, re-claimed from Alster (forgot to mention: the cleric confiscated the bag when the Halfling was initially trying his rope-a-batics); meanwhile Sly and Dampwick watched the door, Sly still badly hurt from his earlier fall and bashing despite being healed by the clerics. “Ho-hum…wonder what we’re watching for,” said Sly to the diminutive Dampwick. “Me,” replied the fully healed Ctenmiir, who fell on the thief ripping his throat out. The lifeless form dropped to the floor. [I blame Kevin Siembieda and Rifts: Vampire Kingdoms for the total smack-down on the players…I never realized how VICIOUS vampires were before reading up on vamp tactics. I suppose that, as a kid, I simply didn’t play vampires…when they infrequently appeared…as “all that smart.” Truth be told, I considered the Ctenmiir encounter the weakest “guardian” of the three in White Plume Mountain…however, once the clerics were eliminated, it was pretty much all over for the party. Especially considering that the creature could fully regenerate in less than two minutes…13 ten second rounds…it really was grossly unfair] Dampwick ran around panicked (I actually don’t remember what he was doing), as the Vampire flew at Alster, reducing the cleric to a lifeless husk. Farnsworth gave a roar and laid into the vampire with his flaming sword, while Brian tried to hamstring the creature. Now that I think about it, I believe Dampwick actually had Alster’s mace +2 at this point, the cleric having give it to the halfling upon finding the Lawful Whelm. The huge hammer (along with many bags of treasure) had just been found on a shelf BENEATH the sarcophagus prior to the vampire’s reappearance. Not that he ever had a chance to swing it. The characters were once more in a fight for their lives. Ctenmiir was all over Farnsworth, the vampire draining the fighter, and then draining him again despite his tremendous armor class. I openly cackled (I couldn’t help myself…sorry) as I realized how close to toast the once-badass fighter was…however, a 3rd level fighter with 18 strength and a flaming sword is still nothing to trifle with, and the remaining party members were able to drive Ctenmiir off once again, the vampire voluntarily transforming into mist. They wasted no time: Wave and Whelm were gathered into the bag of holding and everything else…including their friends’ bodies and the still-struggling Kevin…they left behind as they fled the dungeon with all speed. Two halflings and a 3rd level fighter clambered their way across the mud chamber (we “hand-waved” the spouting geysers and Strength/Dex rolls), wondering briefly what had happened to Boner (black pudding fodder), before charging down the hallway at top speed, thankful, at least, that they had removed the one-way turnstile when they had the chance. Through the bone golem room (still no attacks), hand-waving wandering monster rolls, not worried about pursuit from the flying, regenerating vampire, most definitely in full pursuit of the party…until finally, finally arriving at the three-pronged intersection, the place of the sphinx, the tunnel out of White Plume Mountain. And finding it blocked by an invisible force field. Here’s the text of the final encounter of White Plume Mountain:
A voice speaks to them from out of the air: “Not thinking of leaving are you? You’ve been so very entertaining, I just couldn’t think of letting you go, especially with those little collector’s items of mine. And since you’ve eliminated all of their guardians, why, you’ll simply have to stay…to take their places. I’ll have to ask you to leave all of your ridiculous weapons behind and let Nix and Nox escort you to the Indoctrination Center. I’ll be most disappointed if you cause me any trouble, and Nix and Nox will have to eliminate you. Don’t worry – you’ll like it here.” The force wall disappears but coming up the south passage are Nix and Nox, two efreet [stats omitted]. If the party can get past them, they’re home free!
Matt/Bryan says: “Well, I can use Wave’s invulnerability power right?” It only works once per day and Kevin used it. “But now I’m the new owner/wielder, right? So I can use it for today?” Um… Since it was already past Midnight and we all wanted to wrap up, we decided, sure, Wave can use its sphere ability (again) the two Halflings cling to the big (3rd level) fighter, and the party “hamster-balled” past the efreet. [Besides, the module says you can skip the final encounter if you feel the party is “too badly damaged.” Personally, I don’t think there’s such a thing in D&D…but that’s my opinion. Some DMs hold off on even killing folks, and where’s the fun in that?] Half-hearted “yays” and “we wins,” were (briefly) heard around the table…yeah, right. It’s just as well we decided we’d start a new campaign with our next session, as this group was pretty well demolished. Final thoughts will be in a follow-up post.


  1. I think it's fair to say that you idealize a highly lethal game-style and that it is almost a personal failing on your part to run a session without any deaths.

    Do you have any worries that this is directly antithetical to the kind of high level and long term campaign play which you published a book for?

  2. @ Graham: I read your comment to my brother and he told me I should give you a gold star for being so astute.
    : )

    There are a couple things at work here. One thing is that this was a one-off adventure...I wasn't as concerned with the characters' long-term development. The other is that this was a module adventure...for general campaign play, I attempt to create adventures that are geared more to the specific players of the campaign. And while I COULD have "adjusted" White Plume Mountain...well, I figured the players (and characters) were up to the challenge.