Campaign of the Month: March 2016
Ptolus, City by the Spire
Temple of Deep Chaos
After his rescue in Session 31, Tolliver the Fast told the player characters that he heard about a “secret project” conducted by some cultists at a certain address in Oldtown. The Fellowship of Punnishers decided to explore the apartment building there for themselves.
Discarded cocoons of dark, hardened material are scattered throughout the apartment building. One often finds these used cocoons in corners, attached to the walls. Each one is about seven feet across, although they are all broken open. The “shells” of these remnants measure about ten inches thick. As a result of the Askara poison’s magical effects, after a Venom-Shaped Thrall comes out of its cocoon, the cocoon becomes a nest for some spontaneously-generated insects. These terrible, chaos-spawned creatures are red and black-patterned butterflies that carry a powerful sting.
Cocoons are like nests, but they still have a mutating thrall inside. The cocoon is made of dark, hardened material but is only one inch thick. Askara victims in mid-transformation removed from their cocoons prematurely need healing assistance to survive, though some still die.
When a new Venom-Shaped Thrall comes out of its cocoon, some disgusting purple muck spills out of the cocoon as well. This slime is a colony organism not unlike green slime. Violet slime moves extraordinarily slowly (about one foot per hour) and positions itself on the ceilings of the apartment building so it can drop down on living creatures. Every patch marked on the map was on the ceiling. The violet slime was an unpredicted side effect of the Askara process and poses a threat to PCs and NPCs alike.
A wide portico once offered an outdoor gathering area for tenants. Now it is empty. The door is not locked, but a patch of violet slime hangs immediately above it. The open room beyond the door was a common area for all residents to share. It contains simple furnishings such as tables, chairs, and a few divans. A nest lies in the northwest corner.
3. Injection Room
In this former sitting room down the hall from the building’s entrance chamber, the cultists injected their victims with Askara poison. They cleared the room of furnishings except for a large wooden table covered in a stained white cloth. Three vials of Askara were on the table, as well as a large syringe and five empty vials.
Two dretches working for the cultists were here near the far eastern end of this chamber, a very small kitchen area. They were supposed to be guarding the prisoners in Area 4, but they seemed more interested in banging pots and pans and eating garbage. They attacked immediately but fell quickly. One wears the key to Area 4 around its neck.
The door to this room was locked. The only residents still alive and untransformed waited here for the chaos cultists to do with them as they would, but were freed by the Punnishers. They were frightened and hungry, but not wounded. When freed, they hustled out of the house and into the city on their own.
5. The Hole
This room on the ground floor in the northwest corner of the building has a hole punched through the wooden floorboards from beneath. The opening reveals a shaft twenty-five feet deep, ending in the Sewers.
7. Weakened Floor
This room in the central portion of the building’s second floor looked like any other in the apartment house—which is to say, torn apart and strewn with debris. However, due to actions of the Venom-Shaped Thralls, the floor here was very weak and collapsed when more than one hundred pounds rests on it, as Thorzin Oakwood learned the hard way. There is now a big hole in the floor.
8. The Accident
Like most of the rooms here, this one in the southwest corner of the building’s second floor has been thoroughly torn apart, with furnishings tossed about, holes punched in the walls, and slime coating various surfaces. An Askara victim here had become a blob of protoplasmic goo not unlike a Gibbering Mouther.
9. Betrayer Priests
This room on the eastern side of the building’s second floor is a disheveled mess like all the rest. The party found two blood-spattered men in here, breathing heavily as they stood over a corpse they’d just murdered. These priests of the Brothers of Venom were tough opponents.
The three (eventual) corpses of the priests had some good loot. The murder victim also had an interesting note on him.
1. Shaft Up to the Apartment House
Above the sewer line here is the hole that leads up to the apartment building. A rope ladder extends down this twenty-five-foot shaft.
2. Locked Door and Alarm
Explorers can find a rather new, rust- and grime-free iron door in the wall of the sewer run here. The door was rigged with a rather simple wire-based trap that set off a ringing bell alarm on the other side. The ringing bells alerted the defenders.
3. Entry Hall
From the locked door to the south, a set of steps clearly of newer construction than the sewer leads down to a large hall. This vast, open entry chamber, also newly built, is empty and quiet. The dark stones of the walls, floor, and ceiling are laid in strange patterns that catch the eye in a distracting, even disturbing manner that one can’t quite name.
A huge traditional Palastani war banner hangs on the western wall. To hang it displays the intention of going to war, or the statement that one is at war.
Illusory Wall: An illusory wall spell covers the passage to Area 8.
Peephole: A peephole is in the middle of the east wall.
4. Gnoll Garrison
Garbage and feces litter the floor of this chamber north of the entry hall and are spread on the walls as well. Amid piles of rotting refuse dwelt a number of gnolls and their dogmole juggernaut companions.
5. Priests of the Outer Reaches
Painted in horrific combinations of color, this room is disturbing to spend time in, unless one is a chaos cultist, insane, or both. Two folding wooden screens create a partition between the main chamber and the twenty-foot-square area in its northwest corner. The main room has no furnishings, although an Everburning Torch rests in a sconce along the north wall, and a normal lantern full of oil hangs on a hook on the south wall.
The stairs in the north end of the room lead down to Area 1 of the Lower Temple.
The defenders here fought and died in the Entry Hall Battle.
6. Priests’ Living Area
Two folding wooden screens create a partition between the main chamber and the twenty-foot-square area in its northwest corner. In that area, one can find a large bed, two wardrobes, a table, two chairs and a chest of drawers.
7. Messy Bedchamber
The door into this room was locked. This bedroom is extremely untidy, with a fetid smell permeating everything. It has simple bedchamber furnishings, fairly crude and ill kept. In a secret cache below a lose stone in the floor under the bed, the party found a leather bag full of coins.
8. Serene Bedchamber
More a meditative study than a bedchamber, this mostly empty room has a straw mat in the middle of the floor surrounded by candles. On the walls hang tapestries that depict great wizards of the past. Along the south wall rest a small trunk and a wooden bookshelf.
The ceiling of an ancient passageway running just below the level of the sewer collapsed years ago. The city’s workers sealed off the collapsed area with a brick wall and built a sewer run around it. The chaos cultists placed a ladder here to use the hole as a secret exit out of their newly established temple, and then built a secret door in the brick wall.
10. Congealed Pool
Runoff from the sewers has seeped down into this chamber for centuries. Ancient muck and waste, congealed here, has generated into a living gelatinous creature similar to a gelatinous cube in every way except shape. Rather than being a cube, it is a mass of jelly that lives in the center of the pool, covered in sewage and garbage. It attacks anything that comes near, but won’t stray more than ten feet from the pool unless its life is in danger.
1. Ancient Courtyard
Stairs from Area 5 in the entrance level lead down to this large courtyard, which is part of the Buried City. It appears to be a cavern with some fairly crude (and very old) portions of masonry stone and a man-made cylindrical structure in the center, rising from uneven floor to rough ceiling. This tower (see Area 3) stands in the middle of the walled courtyard; a wall bisects the area. The tower and the wall that cuts through the middle of the “cavern” have been reinforced over time to keep them from collapse. Portions of the perimeter wall still survive as part of the surrounding cavern bounds.
The ceiling here is thirty feet high. The room is unlit.
As another sign of cultist infighting, a corpse lies on the floor here—it’s been dead only about twenty-four hours. This male half-orc has no gear but wears a tattered grey robe and has a black hand tattoo on his chest.
2. Ceiling Hole
A dwarven cleric cultist made a right nuisance of himself from a hole in the ceiling here. He eventually came down to fight… and die. We never did figure out how to get up into that hole to see what’s up there.
3. Buried Tower
An ancient tower, now buried, rises from floor to ceiling within the larger surrounding chamber. The doors are new. The tower has two levels. The bottom level is a round room with a table, a wooden bed (with a straw-filled mattress), a full-length free-standing mirror, and a chest with drawers containing clothing and little of value. A strange statue rests on the table. This green ceramic figure represents a hideous, tentacled, bloated, humanoid thing holding a large, cracked bell. On its underside is written, “And on the Night of Dissolution, we shall awaken and break free.” It is worth only about 10 gp.
This was the home of Gavele, a cultist. Gavele was a current member in good standing of the Longfingers Guild as well as the Cult of the Tolling Bell. She made sure that neither group knew of her relationship with the other, however, so that neither questioned her loyalty nor asked her to betray the other. She worked as a thief and assassin for the cult, infiltrating locales and eliminating enemies when needed, usually with her bow.
She didn’t like or trust the aranea in the tower level above her (see Area 4). Her corpse (and its separate head) is still here.
4. Tower’s Upper Level
This tall, cylindrical room directly above Area 3 is thirty feet high, although only the bottom fifteen feet are visible. The upper half of the room is obscured by webs. Bones and grisly detritus cover the floor; the top layer is fairly fresh, although underneath lies a thick layer of dust-and-grime-covered debris.
An aranea (human-sized, intelligent spellcasting spider) lived in this level of the ancient tower. It fought the Punnishers (and died) in Session 33.
5. Open Room
Loose stone, bits of wood, and even some tools lie about the area. Within the room is a very old well that they also uncovered, which now serves as a trap for intruders, although it was originally created by accident. It looks like a slight pile of discarded planks and chunks of broken masonry, but these actually disguise a deep, dank pit.
In the north end of the room, two statues flank the westernmost exit. These are life-sized figures of stone, carved to look like humans in robes. However, rather than normal heads, they have translucent, smoky grey glass spheres about nine inches in diameter atop their shoulders.
6. More Minions and Rooftop Guardians
This ancient structure, like the tower to the west (Area 3), was a portion of the old city, now buried by time. Its surroundings have been excavated and the building itself reinforced, leaving it surprisingly intact. The door into the structure is new. Although the building once had many rooms, it is now entirely open inside; remnants of the old interior walls still exist in places, forming what seem to be irregular columns or sometimes half-walls. Within, a pair of gnoll made a lair, as the place was already full of the refuse and garbage they love. The piles of trash, coupled with the remnants of the interior walls, create many hiding places and areas of cover within the building.
The top of the old building east of the open room (see Area 5) is flat and still surprisingly sturdy. From this vantage, fifteen feet off the ground, two Venom-Shaped Thralls stood watch. There is a barrel of twenty-five javelins here on the roof. Each of the guardians also had a chaositech bomb to hurl at intruders.
7. Ruined Structure
Another ancient building lies at the south end of a long tunnel from the excavated open room (Area 5). This structure from the Buried City does not appear to have been altered or reinforced. Its door is its original stone door. Part of the building has collapsed, but much of it remains, rising up to the roof of the cavern.
The tunnel leading into the cavern surrounding the ancient building is newly built.
8. Watery Pit
Water from a natural underground river to the northeast flows into this room and down into a thirty-foot-wide pit. This chamber in the northeastern portion of the temple seems to be a natural cave, but the pit is man-made, lined with masonry stone of ancient creation. The room and pit are covered in dark, slippery slime. The pit measures eighty feet deep.
This large room west of the watery pit serves as a lair for two trolls. In its northwest corner the inhabitants have made beds for themselves of old straw and strips of cloth and rags. Spread out next to them are odd collections of things: string, shiny stones, teeth, bits of fur, a copper coin, and so on.
10. Somebody’s Bedchamber
A small chamber southeast of the trolls’ room has a wooden bed, a chest of drawers, a large, locked iron box, and an open-topped wooden box. The chest of drawers and the wooden box contain clothing and personal items, most rather worthless.
11. The Sanctuary
This huge chamber on the northwest side of the temple is newly built, with masonry walls and a vaulted ceiling that reaches a height of twenty-five feet in the center and eighteen feet near the walls. Painted or chiseled chaos symbols of different types—spirals, multi-pointed arrows, black hand prints, and so on—cover the walls. A stone structure in the center of the room measures ten feet high, twenty feet long, and ten feet wide. Adorned with demonic visages and sculpture, it resembles a gothic sepulcher, although there is no obvious door. Atop the structure in the center squats a stone statue of a bloated, misshapen demon. Candles in various colors rest in sconces along the walls. Hundreds of candles are placed irregularly around the room, although they are unlit.
The structure in the center pulsed with shimmering gold power any time Yona Note entered the room. The aura lasted for as long as she was present, shifting and pulsing silently for the duration.
Characters who search this central structure (DC 20) find a seam that suggests that its entire top or “lid” is a separate piece, although one far too heavy to move (some ten to twelve tons). However, touching the sepulcher while it pulses draws the attention of the creature within.
Soon after someone touched the pulsing structure, the sepulcher’s top slid slightly to one side with a teeth-clenching scraping sound, and something truly horrific oozed out and waited… for something. But it eventually attacked. It was nasty, too.