Friday, July 19, 2013

The Vile Worm ~ 02.24.2013

Note: This is slated as a lvl 1 adventure for 8-12 PCs. Knowing there would only be 5-6 players attending this for demo play, I pre-generated a mix of lvl 2-3 PCs as a counter balance. The roster reflects the classes the players picked (they did not know the level of each).

Viktor Von Shibari - Wizard/3
Bjorn Bloodshield - Warrior/2
Cornelius Applebottom - Halfling/3
Seamus Longsword - Thief/3
Groot the Pious - Cleric/3

Our adventure starts in a small town, where Seamus is told that his uncle, Bior, has not been seen at the market for nearly a week. The merchants depend on the food supply from Bior's farm, so they are understandably concerned, but none have been able to get away to the outskirts of town to check on him. Seamus and his odd band of friends immediately go out to the farm and find an empty house, untended animals and fields, and a combination of large and small footprints and scraping marks that lead toward the forest. No sign of Aunt Mira or little cousin Cullen, either.

They follow the trail as best they can for an hour or so, continuing into the depths of the wooded area even when the trail is lost. About this time, they happen upon a seemingly lonely older man wearing hide armor with his "pet" wolf. The hermit offers (a little too eagerly) to help them with their search...and maybe they'd like a warm meal before going on their way? Although suspicious, the party follows him to an unusually large oak tree. The hermit, sensing their uneasiness, figures the only way to get them inside is to open the door and lead them in [thereby eliminating the secret door obstacle]. He slips toward the concealed entrance, waves Seamus in, and gives the wolf - and the lynx who'd been lying in wait - the signal to attack. Groot's warhorse (there was a LOT of randomly generated gold) is caught unawares from the side by the lynx. Groot retaliates while Cornelius and Bjorn back the wolf toward the entrance, where Seamus has cornered the old man. The thief gets in a critical hit, doing some serious kidney damage and pinning the hermit to the door. Two rounds later, he scores the same exact crit. Guy's only got two kidneys. Game over. The wolf & lynx are dispatched with a little less finesse and bloodshed.

Once inside the hollow of the oak, the party wastes no time upending the hermit's home in searching for signs of Seamus's family. The small chest "hidden" under the leaves is found quickly, as is the barely-concealed trap door, which opens onto a rough spiral staircase to a passage that ends in a barred iron door...which is surprisingly unlocked.

They now find themselves in a large underground chamber with many points of interest, but first and foremost is the cage containing Cullen and Aunt Mira. The key was one of the chest's treasures, no time wasted there. Mira is in a state of shock and not speaking. This does not stop Groot the Pious from proselytizing and trying to covert her to worship Daenthar. The boy sees his cousin Seamus and runs to him, crying that a monster took his father and pointing to the large round depression in the center of the chamber. Further inspection of the room reveals many implements of torture, but the oddest thing is the large bell. Bjorn, Viktor, and Cornelius wait for Seamus to escort his family members to the living quarters upstairs, then demand he search the area for a hidden door. Sure enough, there's a small hidey-hole with the other end of the bell's rope. They quickly stage an ambush for the monster that took Uncle Bior. Viktor ducks into the small secret room and observes through the peephole while tugging on the rope. No real sound is heard; rather, a deep vibration is sent throughout the floor, ceiling, and walls of the chamber. The tentacled tavern worm responds to its "dinner bell" and as soon as it begins to emerge from the hole in the floor, Bjorn swings mightily -- and misses. And hurts a lot as the worm smacks him a good one and slathers him with paralyzing slime. The others had been hidden behind the cages and torture tables, and now come out swinging (except for Groot, who fails in casting and thinks that maybe his god can't hear him due to being so far underground). The worm takes a few glancing blows from the party and attempts to retreat. At this point, Viktor steps out, dips a finger into the slime [to satisfy Mercurial Effect #22], and casts Levitate, effectively sealing the shaft with a 5-ft diameter platform and causing the worm to stay and fight. Bjorn shakes off the nasty paralyzation just in time and and finishes the job by cleaving the thing in half...and now the entire party is coated in the slime. Groot fails a couple of times while trying to heal his comrades, and excuses himself, heading upstairs. Between the found treasure and his leftover starting stash, he melts 100GP in the hermit's fireplace while praying to regain his deity's favor. Meanwhile, the party shuffles about, making sure Bior is not among the wreckage of the worm's body. The last remaining option weighs heavily on them.

Viktor, a rope-maker by trade, provides enough for everyone to tie off and repel down the shaft while he waits above. Groot joins the others in the descent, and they'are all understandably concerned about the translucent slime coating the walls and floors in the caverns. With Seamus taking lead, they make their way to the treasure hoard first. Nothing attacks, so aside from the terrain, they think they're pretty much in the clear - unless the worm had a mate. They think twice about yelling their updates up to Viktor.

In the silence above, Viktor notices a scuffling sound that keeps nearing the door by the stairway, then retreating. Upon investigation, he sees it's little Cullen, skipping back and forth, waiting for his father. At this point, Viktor gets bored and decides to join the others.

It's a little more difficult for Seamus & co. to maneuver into the next area, where they find four bodies in the dark, dead-end cave. Two were face-down and two were .... translucent humanoids with fangs. They were possibly even more disturbing by torch-light. Flipping the others over with care, Groot finds another set of fangs, then finally a human, whom he drags out of the corner so Seamus can verify his identity. (Not sure what he'd have done if it wasn't the person they were looking for!) At this point, the hatchlings erupt from the goblins' bodies in the corner. Viktor wastes no time in pushing aside the others and casting Flaming Hands. But they now know the risk they take with moving Seamus's uncle any further, and Groot attempts magical healing - and horribly fails again. He puts the cause on hold and scurries topside ahead of everyone, racing to melt another 100GP (this time from the treasure hoard haul) to honor Daenthar and remove another bit of deity disapproval. Between the care taken with Bior's body and his less-bloated state, the party manages to bring him up without incident, where Groot then tries again to heal him - and is rewarded with success this time. A fond family reunion is had while Viktor, Bjorn, Cornelius, and Groot discuss ways to destroy this place and all the chaos housed underneath.

But the Eldritch Oak does not wish to be destroyed. Bjorn is the first out the door, and fails to save against the tree's Charm. He spends the next few minutes trying to convince everyone else that they shouldn't leave, much less destroy anything (as table and chairs are being broken into kindling), even going so far as to block others from leaving. Cornelius and Groot realize Bjorn is no longer acting under his own will, and they use subdual force to knock him out and take him outside to tie him to his horse. Cornelius and Seamus share their mounts with the rescuees. Viktor and Groot stay behind, wanting to wait until the others were free and clear before setting loose a fire on the inside of a chaotic tree. Outside, the Oak's limbs flail uselessly until Seamus ventures beyond 10 feet of the entrance. Rather than spreading out and providing additional targets, the party stays close and they prod their horses to go as fast as possible. Inside, Viktor begins to cast Flaming Hands while Groot, astride his warhorse just outside the door, prays for Divine Intervention.
Daenthar apparently blessed the player's dice: 24, highest possible outcome.

Lightning comes crashing through the center of the Oak, reaching the caverns below and combining with the natural & magical fires to shatter the tree from within.

All PCs got a Luck roll, DC 15: Everyone on horseback succeeded (Bjorn rolled a 20). Viktor rolled a 1.

The leaves on the ends of the branches crumble to ash just as the Eldritch Oak is split into fragments, each huge slice falling outward and landing like pieces of a giant asterisk. At its center, a molten, still-fizzing core reaching a fathom's depth into the earth, with the barest stench of the rope-maker's charred hemp in the air.

And THAT was the moment the players still talk about.

"The Vile Worm", Appendix N Adventures / Brave Halfling Publishing

Post-adventure math
Bjorn Bloodshield: +8XP, +1 Luck
Cornelius Applebottom: +8XP
Seamus Longsword: +8XP
Groot the Pious: +9 XP, -1 Luck
Viktor Von Shibari: N/A ~ PC unrecoverable

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