The party gathers up at the Keep for another expedition to the Caves of Chaos (except the thief, who’s busy delivering pizzas until he gets off work). After a short detour to pick up the ever faithful Bruce, they head directly to the only remaining cave entrance.
They enter a forboding cave, veins of intertwined black and red rock infusing the walls and ceiling. A shiver goes up their spine. Clearly, this is no ordinary hive of scum and villainy!
Having the choice of going left or right, the party explores the left first. They soon come upon a door to their front, another to their right and a passage to the left sloping upwards. Checking the door to the right, they see stairs winding down, deeper into the caves. Next they check the door ahead of them, walking in on four acolytes of chaos doing acolyte-stuff. The party makes quick work of them, finding a few coins but little else.
Deciding to clear the current level before ascending (or descending), the party heads back to the right passage following it to a rubble-filled end, with another passage to their left and to their right. The dwarf guesstimates that it would take them about 100 man-hours to clear the rubble, so first they check the left passage. The elf leads the way, using his infravision to spot enemies. He spots none, so the rest of the party follows up with their torches and lanterns, just in time to spot zombies (that the elf couldn’t see with his infravision, hehe) turning to attack the elf.
Thinking quickly, the cleric turns the zombies, holding them at bay. They make a quick search of the room, finding nothing of interest, or of value. Then the elf attacks the zombies, saying “Hey, they’re only zombies.” After several nasty hits on the party, the zombies are dead (again) and the elf is a little bit wiser. They also find some strange talismans (symbols of chaos) on the zombies.
Next checking the right passage, they enter a large audience chamber. The walls are lined with about a dozen in-animate skeletons. A large throne sits upon a dias at the far end of the room, with four glistening red garnets. Spotting the obvious trap immediately, the party gathers the skeletons and piles them up in front of the throne. However, instead of doing the sensible thing (like smashing the bones to dust), they set them on fire. Then the elf sits on the throne, thinking it’ll allow him to control the flaming skeletons. Nope. But they do animate. Once again the cleric steps up, turning all the skeletons. This allows the party to collect the gemstones and beat a hasty retreat (rather than fight a dozen flaming (and hasted) skeletons).
After a bit of discussion, the party decides to try to clear the massive rubble blockage, not the least concerned about spending 100 man-hours hanging out in a dungeon. The ogre helps a lot, but it’ll still take them at least a day to clear the rubble.
The elf settles in at a turn in the passageway, keeping watch towards the direction of the exit. After an hour or so he hears a familiar voice taunting the party. It’s the Priest of Chaos! (that escaped the Keep about a week ago). The Priest momentarily steps into the extreme range of the elf’s infravision, issues some taunts and then quickly draws back, followed by the sound of many (many) shuffling feet…which the elf can’t see with his infravision (again). Tossing a torch down the passage, the elf is horrified to see dozens upon dozens of zombies slowly shuffling towards the party…and blocking the exit!
The party is dismayed, given the heavy hits they took from just a few zombies a couple of hours ago. But they rally and quickly start tossing flasks of oil down the corridor just as the first rank of zombies turns the corner. The cleric turns, immediately destroying the weak goblin and kobold zombies of the first few ranks. Then come on the orc, hob-goblin and gnoll zombies, which he can turn easily but aren’t destroyed. However, the turned zombies starting running into the ones coming up behind them, creating a kind of logjam in the passageway. This allows the party to deal with the undead horde in managable chunks, in all likelihood saving them from annihilation.
Seeing that overwhelming numbers isn’t working, the Priest orders the last dozen or so zombies to fall back around the corner to make a stand at the exit. After binding their wounds, the party moves to exit the cave, finding it blocked by the Priest. The Priest casts hold person on the cleric so he can’t turn the zombies. At this point, the thief catches up to the party, attacking from surprise outside the cave (and missing). The party manages to cut down a few of the zombies and the Priest takes a hit or two.
Seeing that all hope is lost, the Priest casts darkness from a scoll and escapes back into the caves. As the Priest flees, he taunts “It’s already too late. You can’t save them. Muhahahahaha!” The party finishes off the remaining zombies and double-times it back to the Keep, fearing the worst.
As they approach the Keep, the party’s worst fears are confirmed…the Keep is under attack! Peasants are running out the gate as the party runs in. Stopping to interrogate one peasant, they learn that zombies are boiling up from below the Keep into the courtyard. Entering, the see a large hole in the cobblestone courtyard, with zombies rushing about attacking the Keepfolk. The Curate, his acolytes and a few guards form a defensive line trying to hold back the horde.
The dwarf decides to take high ground and rain arrows down on the zombies, killing several. After several minutes of this, they thin out the zombie ranks enough to notice four Chaos adepts directing the zombies. With new purpose, the party rushes out to engage the adepts. At the same time, the gates to the inner Keep open and the Castellan sallies forth, along with a troop of armored cavalry. Between the party and the Castellan’s reinforcemetns, the adepts are quickly defeated. It seems the tide of battle has turned…but just then the party hears a familiar, beastial roar.
Turning to face the new challenge they are set upon by the minotaur they slew but a few days ago. Or rather, a zombie version of the minotaur. The minotaur charges forward and the dwarf rushes in to meet it. This time the dwarf fares much better, getting in several good hits. While the zomibe-minotaur is a nasty brute, it is no match for the combined firepower of the party. With its destruction the zomibe invasion of the Keep is over: Law 1; Chaos 0.
The party spends a couple of days at the Keep to heal up, then heads back out to the Caves. Entering the same cave again, they cautiously make their way to the stairs leading down. Having the choice of going straight or taking a passage to the left, they head left. It isn’t long before they come upon a locked metal door with a closed view slot. Opening the slot and peering in, they see the slender, attractive legs of a captive woman. She calls out to the party to release her. Naturally, most of the party members are suspicious, but the thief gallantly opens the door and enters, saying “Geesh guys, it’s just a woman. You can’t be paranoid about everthyin……,” and is then promptly turned to stone by the medusa in the cell.
The elf immediately slams the door shut. The party begins discussing whether to leave the petrified thief behind, when the medusa calls out to them: “Release me and I’ll turn your friend back to flesh.” A bit of back-and-forth ensues, with the party wanting the medusa to turn their friend back to flesh before release, and the medusa wanting to be released first. Seeing that the party had the upper hand, she agrees to restore the thief, doing so immediately using an elixir secreted on her person. The party then opens the cell door, covering their eyes so they won’t be turned to stone as the medusa passes by.
However, this being D&D, the medusa is a crazy Chaos-bitch and immediately attacks the party. Her snakey-heads bite the magic-user, injecting him with a lethal poison (he fails his save). But he’s not dead yet! He casts a magic-missle at the medusa’s feet, followed by the elf. The dwarf takes a few blind swipes with his axe and despite a -4 penalty to hit, they manage to kill the medusa pretty quickly. However, the magic-user is still slowly dying from poison and they have no means to save him. Or do they?…..
Chopping off the medusa’s head, they use it to turn the magic-user to stone, then cart his heavy ass back to the Keep. They bring the statuesque magic-user before the Curate, turning him back to flesh with the medusa’s elixir, whereupon the Curate cures the poison (technically the Curate wasn’t high enough level to neutralize poison, but I liked the player’s crazy plan so I rolled with it).
And so the evening ends. There were a couple of close calls, but no party deaths this time. I thought they’d finish the last cave in a single setting, but they still have a bit left to explore so there will be one more expedition to the Caves of Chaos.
I think I’ll use the Isle of Dread for their next adventure. It’s nearly as iconic as the Caves of Chaos, it’s levels 3-7 and it’s a good introduction to wilderness exploration play. Plus it’ll give them something constructive to spend all their money on, what with having to buy a ship, acquire equipment and provisions, hire hirelings and the like. I’m thinking they’ll find a treasure map somewhere in that last cave….
A side note, on the big zombie fight in the cave, instead of tracking individual hit points for 50 zombies, I just ruled that if the party could do 4 or more points of damage in a single hit it kills the zombie immediately. Otherwise, it keeps on coming, maybe missing an arm or with an arrow sticking out of it but otherwise just as deadly as ever. That made the battle much more managable and also gave the party a fighting chance.