Storm King’s Thunder: Episode 7
The 4th edition’s Tomb of Horrors was again the setting for the side-quest involving Auberon. There were some interesting encounters sprinkled into the dungeon, and I liked the opportunity to focus on the motivations of a single character. However, it deviated a little too much from Storm King’s Thunder. Fortunately, we had a good time anyway.
Auberon — Elf Druid
Cygnus — Half-elf Warlock
Xavian — Human Rogue
Zedrick — Human Cleric
The party returned to the mines where they’d found the slain apprentice of Thiadon. Hopefully, they could go down into the mines, find Thiadon and the relic he was looking for, and get out. It was sandy and dusty as they followed the trail of blood that lead from the apprentice outside. The trail took them deeper inside, but they triggered a flame breath trap that scorched Xavian. The Disciples cult had put up some defences to keep people out. The party soon reached a long rickety ladder that descended deeper into the cold mines.
Cygnus had recast his magical familiar Tressym, and used it as a scout. The Tressym flew down and could see the blood trail lead off down one path. A rushing stream that cut through the mines. Even from above, the characters could hear the echoes of the water blasting against the rocks. After deeming it safe, they lit a torch and went down to explore. Rushing water made it difficult to hear, but Cygnus discerned the sounds of a commotion in the distance with his strong perception score. He thought best to lead them a different way, and they soon came to a busted wooden bridge that had stood over the rushing stream.
They tied some rope off and carefully made their way across the water. Auberon went first, and began investigating around . He was able to see because of his elven darkvision. He spotted an injured dwarf hiding among a pile of mining equipment. As the rest of the group caught up, the dwarf slowly came out and approached them. They discovered that he, Sungren, was one of the mercenaries that Thiadon had hired. He said they had made their way into the mines a couple of weeks ago, but had been ambushed by the Disciples. Thiadon escaped further, but the rest were captured.
The mercenaries had been the cult’s prisoners since then. A portal to Acererak’s Tomb of Horrors was nearby. Every few days it spit out dangerous, otherworldly demons that they were forced to round up. A few days ago they’d had enough. They concocted a plan to break the bridge, causing chaos and allowing them to free one of the demons (a barlgura). The excitement would allow them an opportunity to escape. The plan didn’t work great, as everyone almost died, but Sungren managed to hide away. And he figured the cult was still fighting the barlgura as they spoke.
Once they learned Thiadon had travelled through the portal to the Tomb of Horrors, the party quickly healed Sungren up and followed through.
The tomb was very different from what they would expect of a killer dungeon. Traps were half-exposed and malfunctioning. Murals had been chipped away until they were unrecognizable. Rooms now held scattered pieces of debris, only hinting at the horrors they once held. The atmosphere of the tomb was one of confusion rather than terror.
The group made their way through some easily found secret passageways, until they reached a long hall, where huddled at the end was Thiadon. The group was more than happy to grab him and turn back, but Thiadon refused. He told them that Acererak’s dungeon designer, Moghadam, had hidden some murderous traps in the old tomb. But at the end he was certain he had a magical sword containing the life force of his and Auberon’s elven hero — Silnaramnur. If they could retrieve this sword, they could unite Auberon’s tribe.
Thiadon had been trying on his own, but the room beyond held a wraith who had almost killed him. With the four characters, and Sungren joining Thiadon, they’d be tough to beat.
The party of six moved through the dungeon, stealthily slinked around the wraiths, avoided newer traps set by Moghadam, and eventually recovered some magical keys that allowed them to enter a portal to a different plane of existence. On this plane was Moghadam’s own dungeon.
The planar crossover led to some wild encounters. First up, after a long, pillared hall they found the iconic image of Acererak, the great green devil, blocking a doorway. After turning both keys into its eyes, they opened the door. At that same instant, copies of the whole group, including Thiadon, Sungren, and even the Tressym, were magically created, and a battle quickly ensued.
Some people really wanted to kill “themselves,” and Xavian sneak attacked his clone with a devastating stab in the back. The Cygnus clone was hiding off in the corner away from the action, and used some spells while the others were engaged in melee combat.
The players got creative in the battle. The characters were losing health fast, so Auberon turned into a black bear to take on the focus of the attacks. Cygnus then cast Vampiric Touch, which would allow him to steal the health points of whoever he touched. That usually meant he would have to get close to his enemy. But he’d kept his magical Tressym alive in the battle, and since he could use his animal familiar to deliver touch spells instead of him, he sent his Tressym directly to his clone. It was a touch that turned the tide of the fight. Soon the hall was littered with twisted copies. The party continued on.
The next room contained a single gargoyle, but with four arms (he was, in fact, the gargoyle from the original dungeon). Zedrick bravely walked out to confront it, and was slammed into the wall. The gravity had shifted, and the party would have to take on the gargoyle while navigating this peculiar hazard. The group tried to continue combat, but nearly every time they moved, they tumbled into a random wall. Auberon and Xavian chanced heading into the gravity room. They realized that if they only moved five feet at a time, they wouldn’t be jolted sideways. Eventually they dispatched the gargoyle, and continued through the tunnels.
Next they made it to a room with a white stone altar and a bejeweled human skull sitting atop it. There were no other exits or entrances other than the one they had come through, so the players approached cautiously. Zedrick carefully began investigating the area. Auberon cast Spider Climb on himself and started to check the ceiling. Xavian advanced on the skull, tempted by the many gems inside of it. Cygnus stayed back.
Xavian was busy prying out the gems from the skull when Zedrick rolled well on his Wisdom (Perception) check and noticed a seam between the altar and stone floor. It appeared that the altar and floor we’re being held up separately. Zedrick instinctively dove onto the altar and Xavian copied him. It was a smart move, because in the next moment, the whole floor collapsed 90 feet down and crashed into a heap of a rubble. The altar was in fact a 95-foot-high marble pillar.
Auberon had fortunately been watching this from safely above. His substantial perception aided him, as he heard a tremor coming from the ceiling he was standing on. The adventure didn’t give much time for the characters to act, so I forced Auberon to decide quickly. And he decided to investigate the ceiling a little more closely. As he peered into the edge of the ceiling and the wall, it became clear what was about to happen. The ceiling collapsed 100 feet down to the ground, and took Auberon with it.
Luckily, the rest of them didn’t fall, and the characters climbed down to take care of Auberon. They were able to quickly nurse him back to health. Instead of killing him outright from a fall that great, I had him roll on my favourite table in D&D 5th Edition — Lingering Injuries. Would he lose a hand? A foot? An eye? Auberon got lucky, and merely had to settle for some internal bleeding. He’d have to roll a Constitution saving throw before every strenuous action he took until he got three solid days of rest.
But rest would have to come later, as the team continued on and finally made it to Moghadam’s lair. There, Moghadam wielded a flaming longsword, imbued with the soul of Auberon’s elven hero, Silnaramnur.
They navigated pit traps and Moghadam’s skeleton henchmen, but with a lot of spell casting they were able to fight back against the powerful wraith. Only magical weapons could affect his incorporeal form, so Xavian threw his Javelin of Lightning, while Auberon and Cygnus hurled every spell they had at him. Then they delivered the killing blow, Xavian grabbed the magical sword, and they were spat out of this magical plane back to their world — victorious.
They rose from the ground to see that they were back in the mines. They patted themselves on the backs, before realizing they would still have to deal with the cult that had come to town. But instead of coming to the cult, the cult came to them. In fact, their leader was just outside the mine.