Photos in which the DM appears taken by "Scott Michael"
When last we left off, the group was heading back to the third level of some crypts they were systematically clearing. Once there, they encountered a great many ghouls but developed a protocol, dealing with each new wave, doing their best to keep the undead at bay and dispatch each in turn. Sadly, when you do the same thing over and over, successfully but relying in part on chance, sooner or later the fates will intervene and after dealing with a great many undead via via their fighting formula the odds caught up with the group. Thusly, they were not in full health when they discovered a secret door which they hoped would lead them to great treasure. An unlucky attempt to remove a trap on the door's locking mechanism dropped the thief to a failed poison saving throw and forced the group to retreat once more to recover their strength and raise the thief. A couple of other adventurers also needed to be carried or assisted back to town for healing and recuperation, so this group took a fair beating before stepping back to reassess the situation.
More of these have been added and / or painted since this photo
Their next assault was thwarted now by two goblin leaders who had joined forces against the party: the oil-tossing goblin veteran met on level two and the goblin shaman who had been driven from the complex further north. Apparently, the shaman had come south and linked up with the veteran to form a deadly combination. Along the route the group was taking to get back down to the third level of the crypts, the devious goblins had laid an oil trap, which was sprung to cause serious damage to the group, then the goblins made their escape blocking off pursuit with a wall of ice strategically placed to cover the stairway down. No matter. Pursuit of the goblins would have been quite risky with a fair portion of the party so injured so once again they limped back to town, frustrated but determined.
Alex keeps a journal of events for the party
After regrouping in Jalston to heal and resupply, they ventured back toward the crypt complex. They skirted the eastern edge, sticking to the road outside the moors and traveling down to a place they had used to ferry across the River Serpentine at the town of Fall Bridges. When they arrived, they discovered that some goblins had boldly crossed the river to destroy the boat they had used in the past to traverse the water. This did not please the group but rather than be dissuaded, they commandeered an alternate vessel, made the crossing, and picked up the trail of the goblin raiders. They tracked them over the moors and managed to catch up to the goblin warband before they could go to ground. The fight that ensued was decidedly one-sided. The enemy which had proved to be quite formidable in the confines of the tunnels of the crypts was caught out in the open and dispatched with great aplomb. The fire-wielding goblin was cut down with arrows as was his new-found shaman ally. The remaining goblins the two leaders had enlisted were even less of a threat and though a couple attempted to flee, they were wiped out to the last.
It's an interesting testament to the flexibility of the game system and the style of play first edition D&D engenders when used in combination with a sandbox setting. The group had an enemy leader escape earlier in the campaign only to have that enemy bolster the strength of a second enemy who might well have been easily dispatched under luckier circumstances. The combination of the two villains now working in tandem created several game sessions of more challenging encounters and, in fact, the villains were able to bring the fight to the adventurers. These weren't monsters that were going to be chased away and never seen again nor content to sit idly by in their pre-written lairs and await some adventurers to come and slay them. They adapted even as the players needed to adapt their own strategies to meet the evolving challenges faced when dealing with such villains. What could have been some underwhelming vanilla goblin fights became, in retrospect, a dynamic story arc in the lives of the player characters that could only unfold through game play. This is what I love about Old School D&D.
One more time the group ventured to the crypts with the intention of returning to the secret door and discovering what lay beyond. They were sure, based on all they had seen and divined, that this would be the big pay off. With little difficulty, they descended the three levels and dealt with a few ghouls before setting up outside the hidden portal, now revealed. They had come a long way to reach this moment, had experienced many setbacks, and had overcome great diversity. The lock was picked and the tomb beyond was as daunting as they had suspected. It was a round chamber with an alcove to the left and a single sarcophagus in the center of the domed space. There were symbols upon the lid that were similar to ones they had encountered on the first level, in a lesser tomb. The symbols had proved necessary in open a previous sarcophagus interring the remains of a follower of the goddess Nekrem. A particular phase of the moon was the only time it could be breached. Despite knowing that particular phase of the moon was several days away, they decided to proceed immediately, attempting to get in and get out before any other problems could arise. This would prove to be their undoing.
Entering the tomb had set off a number of wards and alarms, releasing a slab that then trapped several members of the party within the tomb, others caught outside desperately trying to move the slab and release their comrades. Inside, things quickly went from bad to worse with an unrelenting blood-colored ochre or ooze threatening to engulf the chamber from the dome downward at an increasingly rapid rate of speed. With two of the trapped adventurers atop the sarcophagus trying to decipher the symbols or discover a way to reverse the 'countdown,' Nydijan, the cleric of Darien, entered the alcove and found a panel which, once opened, revealed a hand-shaped depression on a half globe relief. With little hesitation, Nydijan placed his hand on the globe and proceeded to manipulate it clockwise and counter-clockwise as it pressed inward from time to time when various maneuvers seemed to make progress in this multi-part lock. The cleric worked swiftly and eventually managed to avert total disaster but not before the blood ochre had reached far enough down to infect him, the two atop the sarcophagus unharmed. When the ochre retreated, and the stone slab barrier lifted, the full party was reunited, but the lid was still unopened. Deciding now to await the proper moon phase, the adventurers moved up a level in the complex to a suitable resting place to camp for the night but by morning had an unsettling discovery. Apparently, over the course of the night, the infection to Nydijan had spread further up his arm and was in danger of completely overwhelming him in within days. So, too, his very soul seemed infected as well and he seemed to be possessed by a desire to switch from his own deity Darien to that of the evil Nekrem. Unable to convince him to return to the temple of Darien to seek help, they managed to subdue him and carry him forcibly back with all haste, arriving just in time to have the infection excised. There would be several weeks more of recovery but they had missed this phase and would need to wait for the next cycle to make another attempt on the sarcophagus anyway so they resigned themselves to remaining in Jalston and taking care of various other duties before returning to the crypts.
With the goblin threat now finally eliminated and knowledge of the crypt's primary tomb in hand (so to speak), the group returned to the crypts the following month only to discover a new and different obstacle. Their repeated retreats to town for healing and supplies from the temple of Darien had also attracted the attention of the priests in charge at the temple of Toeffer, the main religious organization in the kingdom of Jals. In the local hierarchy, the temple of Toeffer sometimes enlists the help of the smaller but more militaristic temple of Darien. The temple of Darien knows its place in this hierarchy and stays on the good side of their Toeffrun allies. However, the temple of Darien has its own irons in the fire and had been helping fund the PC adventuring party in order to gain more knowledge of the moors in hopes of one day exploiting whatever resources might be found there. While they weren't keeping any secrets from their allies, they weren't sharing everything they were discovering nor had they invited the temple of Toeffer to join in this venture. Well, it seems the temple of Toeffer decided to invite themselves to the party and when the adventurers returned this time to the hillock of the ruined tower above the crypts they found dozens of pilgrims and a handful of clerics performing a ritual on that site. When questioned, the Toefferites welcomed the party to join in the ritual but also blocked the way for the party from venturing within the crypts, for their own safety, of course. This presented a different type of dilemma for the group.
In the past, the politics of the kingdom had been something of which they were aware but never affected their plans or decisions. Now, ignoring the Toefferites or forcing their way past might jeopardize the party's standing with the temple of Darien or even cause the two religions to be at odds with one another. The temple of Darien had been increasingly supportive, providing supplies, healing, resurrections (at a price, admittedly, but discounted as well). When pulling Nydijan back from the brink of evil, he had recommitted to the temple and both Tertius and Sonoma had followed up this recent act by pledging their arms to Darien as well. The two fighters now were decked out in the regalia of the temple of Darien which afforded them certain privileges but also came with responsibilities. If the first time they rode out, as temple representatives, they sparked off a religious conflict, it might not be seen as putting their best foot forward. It should be mentioned that there was some debate within the party as to whether or not to ignore their fealty to the temple and simply try to explain things away later if necessary but cooler heads prevailed. In the end, the party moved off a bit and the druid and thief explored the possibility of entering via the previously blocked off rat tunnels. This they did and although the thief became grievously injured in the process, it did gain the group access to the tomb in time for the moon phase which allowed them, with their previously gained knowledge of the hand-lock, to open the sarcophagus and glean the treasures within. They then slipped away, leaving the Toefferites undisturbed, unaware of the fact that the party had essentially made off with any treasure to which they might hope to lay claim.
Although the group has played once more since the above events, it is definitely a new leg of the campaign so I will leave recounting it to a future missive. Much of the group is fourth or even fifth level in some cases. In the meantime, I will be bolstering up the details of the places they are now exploring, hoping to make it as fun and challenging as it has all been in the first half of 2019. Game on!