On the shores of a vast, volcanic crater lake, the party constructs a crude raft from palm tree logs. The vessel is seaworthy enough to get them to the temple in the center of the lake.
Entering the temple, they find it has been carved into the face of a cliff, complete with stairs leading up out of the water, bones, shrunken heads, grand pillars and a mosaic on the back wall of the temple foyer. A single passageway grants entrance into the temple. They quickly find that it has been partially filled by rubble, making it so only one person can pass through at a time. And when they enter, they soon find out why: several head-hunter guards stand watch on the other side.
Since only one party-member could get through at time, this was a hard fight. The halfling had to push his way through to make room for the rest of the party to join the fight. They dispatched the level 1 guards rather quickly, but a level 5 fighter gave the halfling a good thrashing. So tough, in fact, that they felt it necessary to retreat to recover for the day.
Back out on the landing they noticed that there was a kind of stone ‘lip’ carved into the cliff face above the temple foyer. The thief climbed up and secured a rope so the others could follow him up. They resolved to spend the night on the lip, but were concerned that they might be attacked from the cliff top above them. So, the thief climbed up the cliff to reconnoiter the top area. He noticed several human children climbing out of an opening and fleeing. Upon inspection, he determined that the opening actually lead down into the main temple area, a kind of skylight.
Again the thief lowered a rope so the rest of the party could rest at the top of the cliff, rather than the narrow, and somewhat vulnerable, lip. They kept a strong watch out that night and good thing, for the thief heard furtive sounds from the direction of the skylight opening. A band of about a dozen head-hunters had climbed up the opening and were organizing themselves for an attack. However, the party struck first. The magic-user cast sleep right out of the gate, putting most of them to sleep immediately (a few fell dramatically back through the skylight). This battle was over almost before it had begun; the PCs slew the sleeping attackers and tossed their bodies back down the opening as a warning to the rest.
Next morning, rest and healed they again descended down the cliff face and entered from the front. This time the party was ambushed with poisoned arrow fire, from the narrow entrace hall and from a hidden observation spot in the corner of the foyer’s ceiling. The party eliminated the archers and quickly rushed into the temple before others could take their place.
Inside they confronted the tribe’s chief, their witch doctor and a few more archers firing from cover in doorways. The chief rushed in to attack while the witch doctor cast hold person on the cleric, who fortunately made her save. In turn, the cleric cast hold person on the witch doctor, who was not as fortunate. The cleric did take a poison arrow from the archers, eventually becoming violently ill for several hours. And while the chief was a right tough bastard, without the witch doctor to back him up he was soon defeated by the party. The remaining head-hunters were cut down as they tried to flee past the party.
Searching the area they found a nice haul of gems and furs in the chief’s chambers. They also determined that the chief had been wielding a magic sword (+2…a really nice find for them). An open secret door lead to a concealed observation area that overlooked the landing, where archers had sniped at the party. They discovered some ropes, stone levels and a bronze speaking tube…apparently an ancient apparatus designed to impress the natives by impersonating a deity of some sort. Speaking into the tube, the thief came into contact with yellow mold, but was lucky enough to avoid inhaling the toxic spores.
Resting the night, the next day the party made a thorough search of the temple area, discovering another secret door to a hidden priest’s chamber. The chamber was obviously long forgotten, but again they discovered an apparatus to impress gullible natives. The main temple room had a large stone face in the wall; controls from this room would shoot a gout of flame out the mouth of the face. However, in the party’s case it caused a backblast into the room, singing the halfling’s eyebrows. They also discovered a wooden trap door leading down to the next level of the temple.
The trap door opened to a 30′ by 30′ room dominated by several stone statues, covered in moisture. Naturally paranoid, they spent a great deal of time searching the statues for traps (and treasure, naturally). Finding none, they proceeded out the room’s only doorway, only then to trigger a pressure plate dropping a rusted iron portcullis, blocking their path. Attempts to lift it proved fruitless, but their nifty new magic sword proved quite adept at chopping away the corroded bars so that they could squeeze through.
The long corridor turned a corner, abruptly ending at a door. Before the door is a 10′ wide hole in the ground, intense heat omniously eminating out of it. They negotiate the hole easily enough, opening the door to another passageway. To their left are stairs heading down. To their right is another iron portcullis and, just beyond that, another closed door. Once again they employ their new magic sword to cut through the bars, which eventually succeeds with some effort. At this point the party gave the sword a name, something like ‘Gatesmasher’ or ‘Gatebreaker’ (I can’t recall exactly what is was now). Opening the door, they release a torrent of water that crushes them against the remains of the portcullis. In the room beyond, they see a stone lever protruding from the wall and, in their rush to pull the lever, end up triggering another trap which doses the cleric in a special oil; oil that ignites when in contact with water. The cleric is slightly singed, but the party quickly smothers the fire. At this point the session ended.
So, the party picked up two new magic items: another spear +1 (from the 5th level fighter) and a sword +2 (from the chief), both great finds. They managed to bypass most of the temple’s second level. By the end of the next session they should have the ‘pearl of the gods,’ but there is still plenty left to do on the Isle of Dread. It’ll be up to the party whether they want to keep exploring the island, or head back to civilization with their gains. I’ve decided to take a break DMing once they’ve done with the island; there are other games I’d like to try running eventually, and some of the guys have mentioned ideas for games they’d like to run as well.
Cheers, and have a happy New Years!