Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gothic Greyhawk, Game 44 - The Top Hat Man's Trap

Cast of Characters:
Mordecai, a Cleric-6: Adam
Forlorn, an Elf-5 (1): Bo
Mister Moore, Magic User-6: Mike
Shy, a Fighter-6 (3):  JR
Leonidas the Paladin-4:  Nogal
Digit, the Elf Thief-5:  Z

Henchmen:
Phat Kobra, a Dwarf-5
Grumble the Smug, Halfling-5 (3)
Serge, a Fighter-4
Donavich, Cleric-4

=========================================
AD&D 1E, I6 Ravenloft
=========================================

As forewarned, this week has a two-fer on game reports.  Last Saturday's game started auspiciously; we had a new guy sit in for the night, and Adam had to miss.  Adam has missed only a few game nights in the past four years; as players rolled in, they looked with surprise at the corner of the table where Adam usually sits and shook their heads in disbelief.  Nothing to worry about, dear readers, it was only a case of being under the weather.  The rest of the group soldiered on, Adam-less.

Play resumed in the crypts where the two halves of the party reunited after the defeat of the ghost; everyone was still in shock over Mordecai's grey hair and aged features.

With the defeat of the ghost, they had cleared all the northern crypts of evil dead; the paladin's evil detection allowed them to home in on evil presences, skipping crypts that seemed empty.  They spent the next few hours looking for loot in the empty crypts, found some small monetary treasures here and there, then returned to the main corridor.

Sitting in the middle of the main passage was a sheet of parchment surrounded by a couple of guttering candles.  The candles weren't there a few hours ago when the group first entered the crypts.

Leonidas read the writing on the parchment, scrawled in blackish blood.  "If you want the child back, you will come."  A simple map was drawn on the sheet; it showed a way out of the northern crypts.

Intense discussion followed; had the vampires abducted someone from the village?  Or was it a trap? I try not to listen too much during this type of table talk; I just know we had 5 players, and when the vote was resolved, they chose to follow the map to see where it was leading them.

They found a long passage out of the crypts to the northwest; Kobra noted it was newer construction with his dwarven aptitude.  The castle itself predated the reign of Strahd, but this passage was built sometime in the past century.  The group theorized the tunnel was built under Strahd's rule, and probably led to his crypt or a personal area.  Naturally, a vampire that sought to usurp Strahd's place would move into Strahd's demesne; they had it all figured out.

Halfway down the passage, a chute opened up beneath two of the fighters, dropping Leonidas and Shy down the slide.  There was a loud splash somewhere deep below, and then the lid closed.

The topside characters spent time tying ropes together, feeding Serge a Potion of Levitation, and coming up with a reasonable plan to keep the trap lid open, when Serge triggered the trap anew and slipped down the chute himself.  Armed with the coin coated in Continual Light, he descended the 80' chute and found Shy and Leonidas in a tight spot.

They were standing in neck deep, murky water, desperately trying to keep a wooden cell door closed - they were inside the cell, and monsters were trying to push the door open from outside.  Shy's crowbar was wedged into the door jamb creating pressure; Shy has 18 strength.  Leonidas was desperately jabbing the tip of his magic spear through the barred view window to drive the monsters back; a mass of undead things were outside of the cell, throwing their weight against the door and reaching through with clawed hands to touch any stray flesh.  The air was chill, and the evil red pinpoints of light in their skull's eye sockets convinced everyone the monsters were wights - a dozen or more.  One lucky swipe meant a level drain.

Leonidas was rescued first, while Shy kept the crow bar wedged in place.  The door burst open shortly after Shy disappeared up the chute, as Serge hauled him upwards with the levitation spell (they were further aided by compatriots at the top of the chute hauling on the rope tied to Serge).  Dungeons are fun.

Lestat's cameo in Ravenloft?
After clearing the chute trap, the passage ended at a stair case down; beyond a stone slab door was a chamber lit by a flickering fire set in a huge brazier.  On each side of the chamber were large alcoves; there was the impression of giant statues standing watch from within the shadows of the alcoves.  Standing on the other side of the room was the tittering vampire they called "Top-Hat Man".  Top-Hat Man had previously attacked them when Forlorn the Elf had used the ring of invisibility in the catacombs (the ring had the unfortunate side effect of attracting and enraging nearby undead).

Top-Hat Man was holding a child, hostage-style, across the neck, tittering and laughing in his squealing, lisping speech.  The child's features were hidden by a cloak.  "You're not welcome here, you've meddled too much, someone needs to step up and take care of you, it is I who will lead the night kin now", that was the kind of drivel he spouted.  But once the last party member entered the room, the door behind them slammed shut (magically) and metal screeched to life as the pair of iron statues stepped forward from the alcoves.  Top-Hat giggled.

Top-Hat threw aside the corpse of the child (for now they could see she was already dead and drained of life) and he made for the door out; Mister Moore was having none of it, and blasted him with the wand of fireballs.  Top-Hat hissed in rage, beating the flames off his singed cape and hat before giving  a slight bow, a wicked smile, and dissipating into mist form.

The fight with the pair of Iron Golems was violent.  The party quickly learned that only their +3 weapons could hurt the golems; they were in possession of three +3 maces from earlier in Ravenloft, so these were quickly redistributed to the front rank fighters.  Fire had no effect on the golems, but the group slowed them down slightly with a Web spell on one, and Lightning Bolts to each (which also had the effect of a Slow Spell).  Prayers and Blesses were piled on the group, and the clerics did their best behind the front lines to keep the fighters on their feet with healing; Kobra and Leonidas teamed up on one golem, while Grumble, Serge and Shy battled the other.

More Protection from Evil ambiguity:  A few weeks ago, I noted how PFE changed over time to block Magic Jar and possession; similarly, editions are inconsistent whether PFE hedges out golems or not - some versions explicitly include "created" creatures like golems and animated statues (BX, Rules Cyclopedia), whereas AD&D 1E doesn't explicitly identify golems as warded.  AD&D does mention "enchanted" creatures, however, and BX identifies enchanted creatures to include golems (I couldn't find an AD&D definition for enchanted).  Ah, the 70's, when you just had to make it up as you went along.  A feature, not a bug.  It didn't actually matter here, because the party started swinging at the golems first, which neutralized any PFE hedge, but I'll need to set a ruling for next week if they test it with the Paladin's 10' radius and don't initiate hostilities.

Iron Golems are dangerous; each smash dishes out 4d10 of hurt.  Serge was dropped to -14 hit points by a crushing blow, and died instantly.  The death toll continues to climb.  The adventure text explicitly mentioned that these versions didn't have the poison breath attack, or it would have been much worse.

Deciding they had enough, Mister Moore used Knock to reopen the same door the party entered.  They carefully retreated during a round when the golems were slowed by webbing and the lightning, escaping Top-Hat's putative death trap.  But the room was intriguing; there was an hour glass chandelier that counted out a certain number of rounds for the golems to attack, and there was an alluring brass chest in the room that the group wasn't able to investigate.

We had a new person sit in on this session (Mike S) and another new guy reached out to me just this week; we may be integrating a few new folks into the weekly game.  Our empire grows.