So, this is the first time in our current B/X campaign that I’ve run an adventure of my own design. It’s a fairly simple dungeon using a neat map I found on a blog somewhere (edit: Thanks to Jesse Rodriguez I can now post a link to the blog where I found the map: here). As a theme, I populated it primarily with the odd-ball monsters from 1E AD&D version of the Fiend Folio. I’ll post the adventure later, for anyone who may be interested. I don’t promise that it’s any good, though my group had fun running through it.
So, the party’s been hanging out in Spectaculariamoplis making scrolls and potions and what not, when a monk shows up at their ship one day. It seems the party comes highly recommended by powerful, monied interests in the city. The monk is a member of the Order of Eternal Knowledge, a brotherhood dedicated to the preservation of old texts and famous as specialists in dead languages. It seems they have a bit of a monster problem in the lower catacombs of their mountain-top monastery/temple. The Order is poor, so the PCs agree to take whatever they find in the lower catacombs as payment, as well as let the magic-user take a peek at their library for spellbooks and such. Helping the Order should also improve their reputation in the city, hopefully leading to even better opportunities for murder and looting…er, I mean ‘adventuring.’
The party arrives at the temple three days later and is greeted by the Order’s master, an old guy who looks something like Pei Mei (but possessing none of Pei Mei’s badassitude, or else the monks wouldn’t need the PCs). After a brief tour of the temple, he shows the party down a manually operated elevator to the upper levels of the catacombs. The first room is sealed with a stout wooden door, braced with several beams of wood. The master explains that at least one monk will be on duty in this room at all times to let the party back into the temple. With that, the party descends into the catacombs.
The catacombs are obviously hand-carved and short, barely tall enough for a normal-sized human to stand without stooping. The passages between chambers are narrow and claustrophobic. They explore the upper levels of the catacombs, finding a granary (2), a library (3), ossuary (5) and a tomb (6). They also notice several cat-sized holes bored into the stone at floor level. They soon discovered that large six-legged rodent creatures (osquips) have taken up residence in the catacombs, and have the habit of popping out of their holes to take a bite from an adventurer’s foot or leg while the party traverses the passageways between chambers.
In the ossuary they discover two walled-off passages that have recently been broken down, from the outside. Exploring the left-most passage (SOP for the party), they enter a chamber occupied by five large, hook-handed humanoid creatures (hook horrors) all peering down another passage on the opposite side of the room (room 9). Hearing the PCs approach, they turn to face them and immediately attack. The battle is short-lived, but the hook horrors do get in a few nasty hits. Exploring the room they find some silver and the remains of a rather large crab-like creature.
Moving on, the next chamber contains a band of crab-like men sitting around a spring-fed pool of water (room 10). Before the pacific creatures can do anything, the magic-user blasts them to smithereens with a fireball. They recover a holy icon of St. Edwards, made of electrum.
Returning to the ossuary, they take the next passage down entering a large chamber filled with all kinds of trophies taken during the Order’s more adventurous ass-kicking days in the far past (room 8). Everything is covered in dust and cobwebs, and much of it is un-salvageable. As the party rummaged through the piles, a mummy-like creature lunges out, attacking one of the clerics. The mummy as all-kinds of debris and knickknacks attached to it (it’s an adherer). The clerics attempt to turn the creature, to no avail. As the adventurers strike it, they find their weapons stick to it, becoming unusable. Suddenly, another adherer lurches out to attack the party. They resort to using whatever cudgels they can find in the room to hit the creatures with, interspersed with the occasional arrow/crossbow shot, until the creatures fall dead. Eventually the resin degrades and the party can retrieve their weapons, also finding a valuable necklace stuck to the back of one of the creatures.
Heading down to the left again, they enter another chamber, this one almost 10′ high. It is filled with all manner statues (room 12). When the party enters, they are attacked from above by red, rubbery spherical creatures (gorbels). The gorbels latch onto their necks and automatically hit every combat round. The clerics find, much to their dismay, that blunt weapons have no effect on these fiendish creatures. When slain with edged or piercing weapons they explode, inflicting additional damage. Eventually one of the clerics throws a batch of sticks up into the statues and casts sticks to snakes, which allows the party to turn the tide on the rubbery demons. After the fight, a quick inspection reveals one of the statues is made of marble and probably worth thousands of gold back in the city. They just need to figure out how to get it there.
Again, moving down and to the left, they come upon a heavy, wooden locked door (room 19). Checking for traps, the thief finds a poison needle in the lock mechanism. The thief jams a stick into the lock, which causes the needle trap to spring. Unfortunately, he failed to pick the lock, so the party has to hack away at the door for some time. Beyond, they find a large chamber dominated by a massive snail. The snail has six heads, each shaped like a club (flail snail). Attacks on the snail’s body are largely ineffective, but the individual heads are easily dispatched, though in the process a significant amount of damage is inflicted on the party. Fortunately for the party (and much to my disappointment), they didn’t cast any spells at the snail, for the shell has special anti-magic properties that could have reflected hostile spells back at the caster! The shell is worth at least 5,000 GP to the right party, though again it is quite large and heavy and will require a feat of logistics to remove from the catacombs.
Going back up to the statue-room, they next head down to the right, entering a chamber packed full of old furniture, barrels and crates (room 16). Searching through the piles of junk, they find a few valuable trinkets. However, they also disturb a trio of flying eel-like creatures (volts). The volts fly at the PCs, trying to latch on to their heads, and mostly miss. One does manage, however, to latch onto the magic-user, sucking his blood and delivering a nasty electrical shock with the tip of its tail. For the most part, though, the volts go down like chumps (again, to my disappointment…I expected a better showing from the volts).
Breaking with SOP, this time the party takes the right-most passage downwards. They discover a large, well-lit chamber filled with salvaged furniture, workbenches and tables, all covered with various texts (room 18). Occupying the room is a man in robes and a strange, fire-colored humanoid (a phantom stalker). The man blurts out “Who are you? Who sent you here?” and before I can complete any grey-boxing or monologuing, a cleric casts hold person on them. The man fails to save against the spell, but the stalker succeeds and immediately moves to attack. However, the party is quick on the draw, nearly killing it in a single round. Realizing death is imminent, the creature channels its life force into a fireball centered amidst the party. One cleric is killed outright, and the cleric who cast hold person is reduced to exactly 0 hit points (unconscious in my game), thus releasing the man from the grip of the spell. The man casts dimension door and quickly escapes.
At this point the clerics are of sufficient level to cast raise dead, so the party retreats back to the temple area so that they can heal the unconscious cleric who then in turn can raise the dead cleric. This also gives the party 2 weeks of down time while the raised cleric recovers, so they send for a wagon and a gang of dwarvish day-laborers to help them retrieve the statue and giant snail-shell.
Returning to the catacombs a couple of weeks later, they take the right path down from the trophy room, finding themselves in a library-like room, filled with bookshelves that are laden down with crumbling scrolls and tomes (room 11). While inspecting one of the bookshelves, a long tentacle whips out and grabs the thief. While everyone is distracted, a second tentacle grabs the magic-user. The thief is injected with saliva, which begins to dissolve his internal organs, while the magic-user is slowly constricted. One of the two clerics casts slay living on the tentacle grabbing the thief, killing it instantly, and the party hacks down the other tentacle. Further inspection reveals a central body stem of a tentamort which, now defenseless, the party kills easily. To their dismay, they discover that neutralize poison has no effect on the digestive saliva that’s still eating away at the thief. Only the timely use of a potion of cure disease manages to save the thief from a horrible and squishy death. There is no treasure in the room, but the PCs will receive a nice XP bonus for returning the scrolls to the Order.
Moving down to the left, they enter a small chamber filled with massive clay tablets (room 13). The tablets are covered in some ancient hieroglyphics, which the thief is able to read. They carry a doomsday prophecy about three ruinous powers that will rise from the oceans and destroy the world. As with all prophecies, it is short on specific details, but does warn against tampering with the pearl of the gods…
Moving on, they enter a chamber filled with various casks (# 14). Rummaging amongst the casks is a large, violet lobster-like creature (a garbug). Upon entering, the creature immediately turns on the party and advances. Backing up a bit, the magic-user unleashes a lightning bolt, which passes through the creature, rebounds off a stone wall and passes through it a second time, stopping just short of the party. It’s internal organs instantly boiled to vapor, the creature simply explodes in a shower of hot lobster-gore. A quick search turns up a cask of rare and valuable alcohol.
Next, the party takes the passage back up, entering a chamber filled with all manner of dust-covered junk (room 7). They notice three gold frogs statues sitting on the ground; curiously the frogs are not covered in dust. As the party approaches, the frogs open their eyes, emitting blinding lights (blindheims). Fortunately, only one of the clerics is temporarily blinded and despite the disadvantage of not being able to look at the frogs directly, the party manages to dispatch them rather quickly. One of the frogs was sitting on a gem encrusted gold platter.
Going back the other way, the enter a small chamber filled with smashed pottery (room 15). Growing amidst the shards is a large, vine-like plant with bright yellow blooms (yellow musk creeper). One of the clerics moves in to examine the plant, only to be blasted in the face with pollen by one of the blooms. Fortunately she makes her saving throw and, now convinced she is immune, continues to search the room. More pollen puffs shoot out, but none hit her in the face. Eventually the party does the smart thing and burns the plant with oil and fire. Hidden beneath the shriveled vines is a box containing an oni-mask. The cleric dons the mask, only to find it cannot be removed.
With only one passage left to explore, the party returns to area 16 and passes down to the left (room 19). The passage opens into a small chamber containing only one ornate box. Perched atop the box is a house cat (actually, a guardian familiar). The cat just stares at the party and attempts to chase it off the box prove fruitless. Finally, the party decide to just kill it and attacks, prompting the creature to leap off the box and charge the party. One of the clerics casts slay living, instantly killing it….until it reappears a moment later, a bit larger than before. The thief’s player quickly deduces that the ‘cat’ will have 9 lives, and he is correct. Each time they kill the animal, it comes back a moment later, a little bit bigger and tougher.
Now the party is burning through resources like crazy, especially healing magic. It doesn’t help that the familiar has magic resistance and three attacks per round. In its ‘eighth’ life, the cat manages to kill one cleric and reduce the thief to 0 hit points; the other cleric and the magic-user are close to death as well. Deciding discretion is the better part of valor, they scoop up their fallen comrades and return to the temple. Raise dead is again cast, but instead of waiting for 2 weeks, the remaining three members of the party heal up and return to the cat chamber the very next day, fearing that waiting too long would ‘re-set’ the creature. Upon their return, they find the creature is still in its eighth incarnation, though fully healed.
Through a brief, intense fight, and some lucky rolls, they manage to kill the eighth and ninth incarnations of the familiar, though the other cleric falls in the process. In B/X, raise dead gives a base of 4 days to raise a dead character. Also, a character that is recovering after being raised cannot cast spells (so the other cleric couldn’t raise her). However, the city is only three days away, so they scoop up the box and the fallen cleric, rush to their waiting wagon and speed off for the city, hoping to find someone to raise the cleric in time (and they will; it’ll just cost them a lot of gold).
Left unresolved is the fate of the mysterious mage who, unbeknownst to the party, very much wants that box back. Which also brings to mind the vampire they failed to kill in White Plume Mountain. Hrm, maybe the two of them should team up for some revenge?
As an aside, one of the players proposed a mini-game where they would try to guess the obscure monsters. I agreed to give them an XP bonus for each one they guessed correctly and by my count they got 3 of them right.