Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #59: White Plume Mountain Part One

24 SepDec 1072 -  White Plume Mountain
After resting in the Cloud Giant's Castle, the party still had a few difficult days of travelling over the mountains of Aragain to reach their destination.  Soon enough, they reached a plateau, looking across a mountain valley, the steam and fog shrouded White Plume Mountain staring back at them.  Some were worried that the same heroes in the prophetic painting were not there with them, but with the fate of the kingdom (and who knows what else) at stake, it was a chance they were willing to take.

Mellandria, a scholarly magic-user who barely escaped from the Magistocracy of Emron with her life (and an owl familiar, Horatio).
Sterling Riverbend, a huge quarter-ogre with a disposition slimier than his skin.  He had just gotten back from visiting his family in Omsjik before embarking on the quest.
Kane, a eastern mystic with elemental control of water.  He had discarded the adventuring life, but upon learning of the trouble in Elmshire, he dug out his old plate mail, gave Mohammad a hug, and was the first one ready to go.
Ozark, a crotchety old half-orc cleric on loan for the quest from the halfling village of Elmshire.
Sir Norm Dingleberry, General of the Eastern Army, scourge of the Skyforge dwarves, and secretly an ally to the resistance against the Dread Lord.
Sir Talis Makolin,  Lover and bard extraordinaire, recently rescued from the clutches of a cloud giant

Descending down into the valley, Norm surprised everyone by recognizing the valley was actually a caldera of a truly massive ancient volcano, and the peak now dominating its center was much newer and could be very active and very dangerous.

The others complimented his knowledge by noticing three manticores slinking through the fog while the dwarf rambled on.  The party surprised themselves with proper tactics, well placed hits, and a few minor scrapes in dispatching them.

After slaying a few ogres who had wandered into the caldera and eeked out an existence with the manticore and magical traps surrounding them, the party came to the fabled entrance to the mountain.  Descending into the peak via elaborate stonework, it ended into a cavern leading in three additional directions.

Taking the right passage, they encounter a trio of mummies.  They exhausted most of their fire spells in a moment of panic, only to have the wraps burn off to reveal them as stone golems!  A whole different array of attacks were needed to defeat them, making the depleted party worry about what actually lay ahead.

A few more caverns and a number easily defeated trap, and their passage opened up into a huge cliff with boiling mud bubbling up at the bottom.  another cave was on the opposite side of this crevasse. Hanging from chains over the hot mud was a series of shaky platform, covered in a slimy mud.

Talis Makolin was the only man with any degree of dexterity.  He lept onto the first platform without much difficulty.  The second was far slipperier, and with the third, he barely touched the chain, as he tumbled into the scalding mud below and disappeared under the bubbles.

The Doom of Talis
The rest of the party slumped against the cavern walls, defeated.

Realizing that they were the only hope against the Dread Lord (and Spider People, and impeding Armageddon), Norm Dingleberry stripped down to his breeches, soft boots, and chain shirt, grabbed some rope and his battleaxe, and with a nimbleness never before seen among his friends, the smelly and crude dwarf swung over across the slippery platforms to the other side.

He only bellowed "Wait there, I shall investigate inside..." and then disappeared into the darkness.

For the others, time inside a volcano had become a relative thing.  It may have only been minutes or hours, but they rested on the other side enough to allow Kane to heal up the party.  Fearing a second hero lost, the rest were prepared to give up and scrap the whole "recovering the legendary artifacts" quest, when Norm emerged from the cavern, battered and bandaged, but carrying a new satchel filled to the brim, and a wielding a new, ornate battleaxe.

Overwhelm had been obtained...

His overladen return across the pit was even more shockingly graceful than the first, as he wrangled the chains using Overwhelm and swung back to the safety of his compatriots.

It took seconds for someone to ask the obvious question, "What happened over there?"  Norm easily obliged them with an answer.

The second he stepped off the cliff face and entered the cavern, he was plunged into darkness even his dwarvish sight couldn't pierce.  He stumbled around for a while, ultimately finding furniture, tapestries, and such things in his pitch black groping.

Something came up from behind him, and nearly bit his head, but he dodged out of the way at the very last second.  Whatever was attacking him seemed to be able to see Norm, but no matter how the fighter tripped over unseen fixtures and furniture, the creature could not lay as much as as a finger on him.

Unlike his unknown assailant, Norm's wild swings in the darkness hit true... repeatedly.  Soon, the creature fell to the ground and the darkness dissipated and the dwarf stood over the regenerating body of a vampire.  He destroyed the vampire and glanced around his once majestic domicile.  Norm's clumsy wanderings and the subsequent melee had destroyed a good portion of the monster's belongings, but he did rustle together some good, two obvious potions, a scroll case, and lying inside the vampire's coffin, was Overwhelm.  

More beaten up by his blind journey than the guardian undead, he bandaged up a few wounds, drank some wine, and took a nap before crossing back over to his friends.

The rest of the heroes were in disbelief and utter awe from the dwarf's claims.

One legendary weapon down, two to go!

DM Notes:  When our rag-tag band of heroes finally entered White Plume Mountain, I did not anticipate two things.  First was the utterly tragic death of Talis Makolin.  While not a fully min-maxed rogue, the bard was capable enough to make the crossing.  The crossing, however, was completely unforgiving.  Talis' "on-screen" death definitely kept the campaign going into its dark descent in the last few sessions.  

Second was the flabbergasted response to Norm Dingleberry, failed mushroom farmer (and General of the Lansluck Armies) succeeding where Talis had failed AND single-handedly slaying Ctennmir, the vampire guardian.   Even if Overwhelm was not there, Norm's actions showed he was ready to take on the Apocalypse, anytime, anywhere.

I decided to break up the module into multiple parts for the purposes of storytelling, although the entire module was finished in one night.  Things are about to get deadly... and strange.  Very strange. 
RIP: Talis Makolin
Next:  #60 Part Two of White Plume Mountain

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