After an uneventful night spent in the tunnel entrance [No one seems to care when they're camping next to corpses. Go figure.] they want to use their new magic item to try to figure out what the brass eyeball does but the loot they found doesn't have the right kind of gemstone.
Finy offers up one of his and they are pleasantly surprised to find out that the eyeball will allow the person who activates it to see things as they really are - including things hidden by magic - for a short period of time, taking two days to recharge from being used. They consider it to be a handy item even with those limitations. [It works the same as True Seeing for one minute, once per day, every two days.]
They also see that as the spell works the web takes on the color of the gemstone it's consuming. This is a pretty nifty effect and a credit to whoever made it. [Cough, cough. It was me.]
Given how useful that brass eyeball is is they want to keep it handy. Finy immediately offers to hold it but for some odd reason the rest of the party prefers to let Izzy be the keeper. Finy takes this in stride, as he takes so many things.
Leaving their horses secured in the tunnel entrance they make their way down the mountain to try to find that trail that L'oric pointed out. They find a lesser trail breaking off the main one and it leads to the side of the mountain. It's been used and it leads to steps and handholds hacked into the mountain side, going up. Careful checking turns up a local copper coin dropped in the dust as well. The spacing on the steps seems to be meant for human-sized creatures rather than giants or dwarves.
Before they start the climb Nihilus checks the weather and forecasts a bright sunny day. The entire party gives each other the side eye at that, given his terrible record at forecasting the weather. They can already see the clouds on the horizon that he somehow missed.
Carefully climbing up the mountain takes about an hour with no missteps or problems. They're well carved enough to provide a good route up to a hole that's been crudely cut into the mountainside. The walls are about a foot deep and the opening is just large enough to admit one person at a time - about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. There's a small ledge outside the hole so two people (or two people and a halfling) can stand outside of it.
They decide this isn't ancient work or part of the original construction. The sun is at the wrong angle to light up much of what's inside the hole and Izzy thinks she sees someone watching them from the top. L'oric looks carefully and doesn't see anything or anyone. He tries pointing that out to Izzy but she's adamant that there is someone up there even if she can't see anyone now. She shoots an arrow that doesn't hit anything, even rock, but keeps a wary eye out because of her certainty that someone is there. L'oric lets her do and think what she wants at this point.
Finy nominates himself to go into the hole and no one seems to have a problem with that. He finds himself in a chamber that's cut out of the mountain and is sized for giants. The cavern is empty as far as he can tell and there's a thick layer of dust on the floor. He finds that there's layers of footprints in the dust going into the chamber and out of sight of where he went.
Returning he relates what he saw to the group and Nihilus goes to have his own look. He determines it was three sets of tracks and they were spaced out over time. They also only go in one direction - into the chamber. Finy and Daylor have a bit of a conversation with body language and eyebrows relating their opinion of his skills.
Since there's really only one direction to go they parallel the footprints into the chamber. At the far end is an open giant-sized doorway with the remains of metal hinges still visible. On the walls are some metal torch holders in various states of disrepair where they still exist at all. There's a very old campfire by the doors that seems to have been made of suspiciously door shaped planks of wood. Poking around finds more hinges in the ashes.
The metalwork isn't bad but it isn't great. It's about what they expect from giants. Everyone is of that opinion that "good, not great" is the default state of giant work.
Finy takes the lead out of the chamber and follows the curving hallway that slopes down and then back up. During this he's checking for traps and seeing places in the dust where previous visitors have done the same thing. Daylor is also checking as he goes, which does not escape Finy's notice. They split up the search. Finy obviously moves his belt pouch to the side where Daylor isn't.
As they go L'oric believes he heard stone moving behind them in the chamber that they left. They all listen and there's nothing. They decide to continue going away from the chamber, following the trail. While they're doing this L'oric is speculating about what's in the room he's decided is at the top of the mountain based on the cuts he believes are windows. He wants to find it so he can look.
At the end of the hallway is a stone spiral staircase. The steps are sized for giants, which means they're about four feet tall per stair. Finy, who is three feet tall, hauls himself up to look at the next step. He finds he's not the only one who's done this and that it seems everyone went up and then back down.
Given L'oric's desire to see what's up there and their general loot-happiness they choose to go up the stairs rather than down. After a decent amount of very tall steps the footprints change and they find two very large feathers on the stair. And a few old human bones. At this point they can see the footprints change and one set of them is deeper in the dust before the next stair.
No one suggests going back at this point. They go up and find only one party has continued past this point, and they also came back. Two stairs later they find more, fresher bones. This is where the footprints turn around and go back. They find a word scrawled on the stair wall - Peryton.
Nihilus sees that and runs past everyone up the stairs. They're racking their memories to see if the word makes any sense. Izzy and L'oric put the pieces together to realize that a peryton is a large, nasty, magical animal that does things like eats people. Right around then they hear a screech and Nihilus shouting. Before they can decide if he needs help both sounds get fainter and further away.
[The players recognized that this was me giving the character an ambiguous 'out' to the game. They accepted it and appreciated the way it was done rather than a stupid/heroic death. This way Nihilus is still available for NPC use if I choose. The player was also pleased at this and had more questions than he should have had when I told him what happened.]
The group decides that discretion is the better part of not being eaten by a large, nasty, magical animal and go back down. They make it as far as the chamber where they started before they need to rest for the night.
Rearranging the watch order since they're down a person they set themselves for the night. During the second watch period L'oric sees writing on the wall glowing very faintly, about twenty feet up from the ground. It takes him a bit to read it - it's in common - to find that it says "Oxos sucks dwarf d....". He relays this to each subsequent watch and then to Daylor in the morning, who had first watch.
Daylor recognized the name as stone giant lineage. He doesn't know much more than that but they all get a good laugh out of the graffiti. They start to ponder how it could be done before they realize they really, really, really don't want to know.
As they move to the staircase Izzy makes the very grave and wise pronouncement that going down the stairs is going to be easy but getting back up them will be difficult. There's a moment of silence at this completely obvious bit of wisdom then they start down the stairs. There's concern that the murder bird (as they refer to the peryton) is going to come down and eat them. L'oric is particularly concerned for some reason but they're all nervous about it to a certain extent.
Half a day's travel brings them to the fate of one of the previous groups. A large block of stone has some skeletal legs sticking out from under it and the edges of crushed armor. He finds the pressure plate they triggered and notes that's a kind of trap they may find again. The bodies have been thoroughly looted so they find nothing.
There's still two sets of footprints going down the stairs.
Further down Daylor nearly falls into an already triggered spiked pit trap he didn't notice but is able to catch himself before he falls in. There's a narrow ledge around the sides and front of the trap that can be walked with care.
Looking into it they find five bodies with surprised looks on what's left of their faces. Looking more carefully they find footprints in the muck below the bodies and Finy offers to have a rummage around. He finds very little and what he does find is either tucked into corners or not worth taking. He leaves the copper pieces and regular thief's tools (after checking with Daylor on that second one). He does palm a ring he finds. There's also a ruined scroll that they decide to keep.
Given the narrowness of the ledge around the trap and the spikeyness of the trap itself they take the time to rig a rope handrail to make sure everyone can safely move down this stair. Their caution pays off and everyone gets to the next stair without a mishap. Even Izzy.
There's only one set of footprints going down the stairs now.
A few steps later Finy stops everyone as he investigates a trap trigger he found. When he can't figure out what it does he blames it on the shadows in the stairs but is cautious moving forward. Daylor has a look as he goes by and sees that Finy was very carefully examining a bit of rock sticking out of the wall. He doesn't bring this up to anyone.
As Daylor stands up he feels a very slight breeze from below and what feels like a spiderweb on the wall. L'oric takes an interest in the web and looks at it more closely. His considered answer is that it's spiderweb, it's useful for some spells, and it comes out of a spider's butt. [I love low rolls.]
Daylor notices a blocked up doorway as they're paused. It's not expert work, it's lesser work that what carved out the chamber and staircase, but it's solid. The wind from below is just a bit stronger and it's carrying some webs as well. No one wonders if they missed other blocked up doorways on the way down because they were so focused on traps and not falling down the really big stairs.
L'oric decides to try to pull out one of the rocks from the doorway. He gets a grip, pulls, his grip slips, and he ends up on his elegant sun elf butt. A pebble does fall down and hit him on the head, as convention says it must. He isn't going to let this go unchallenged. He tries again, pushing and pulling. The rocks don't move but no more pebbles fall so for him it's a win.
He's the only one who tries to get through the door. The rest had a look and realized that they didn't have the equipment or skill to break it down.
The breeze and webs from below keep getting stronger as they descend. There's web strands on the walls now. Finy and Daylor get some paper from Izzy to make tiny torches to burn away the webbing from where they want to check for traps.
Daylor finds a broken web strand that had spanned the width of the stairs. Not much further he finds an intact strand and the footprints seem to have stepped over this one. Finy is seeing that the webbing on the walls is getting thicker. Daylor looks but doesn't see anything different in the webs that he hasn't been seeing all along.
As they're looking at the webbing a number of hand-sized hairy spiders attack from all directions. This is not a good day for the spiders as they're turned into spider kabobs in very short order. They don't even get a nibble before they're slaughtered. [Damn those useless spiders.]
They continue down two more stairs until Finy finds a leg but not its owner. Being much more cautious he promptly falls into a web pit trap on the landing below. He's a twisty little halfling so is able to grab one of the hardened web spikes around the edge and pull himself out.
As they try to figure out what happened to Finy a trio of javelins come sailing into their midst. Izzy catches one with her shoulder but her armor gives her some protection from major damage. It takes a bit for everyone to catch their bearings and see the wall of webbing across the landing about thirty feet back. They also see the remains of what was most likely the last set of visitors in the center and sides of the floor.
Finy pulls out the lantern and Daylor throws it at the webs, igniting the center of them. More javelins are thrown, this time with Finy and L'oric getting nicked. They can't see what's attacking them but as the web burns they see three figures of some kind behind it.
Izzy casts a spell to cover the area with mist to prevent more targeted strikes and centers her spell on where Finy is standing. The figures run out of the burning web and at the group. They're four armed, half human-ish, half spider. And they're not pleased. They're brandishing swords now as they move forward.
Even though they have no idea what they're fighting the group makes an excellent account of themselves. It takes about the same amount of time to dispatch these creatures as it did the spiders above, although they don't make creature kabobs this time.
The final attack goes to Finy with an admirable tumble and stab to the last standing/wavering creature. Who then promptly falls down. Finy avoids being squished, kind of forgetting that could happen.
The creatures don't have anything on them but the previous visitors not only have their own equipment but what they took off the previous two parties. Being a more experienced adventuring party Izzy casts a spell to detect any magic items they may be holding. There's a decent amount of coins, a number of gemstones, spell scrolls, and several magical items as well as mundane weapons.
Using gemstones from the loot L'oric is able to use the web to identify the three magic items. Finy had put the ring from earlier into his pocket rather than his backpack so it showed up when the spell was cast. He lets them identify it as well. There's just enough gemstones to identify all four items unless they want to start using much more valuable ones.
There's both divine and arcane spell scrolls so those are quickly and easily sorted out. As they settle in for the evening in a place they feel is relatively safe they discuss the treasures they found and what is best suited for who.
The items they found are:
- A set of gloves that let the wearer climb up walls and ceilings as if they were a spider but they work for a random amount of time when they're used and can be used once a day.
- A pair of bracers that will deal out extra damage if the person wearing them makes an excellent strike and can do this twice per day.
- An anklet that will let the wearer teleport to a spot they can see up to ten feet away from their current location and do so without error, twice per day.
- A ring that makes it easier for the wearer to hide and disguise themselves which requires two days to recharge each of the abilities.
I really didn't want to have that player's character leave on a cheesy or insignificant note. Rushing up to a deadly creature seemed in keeping with his actions and would carry him away. After I told the player what was done he really did thank me for removing him without making it permanent. Then he wanted to keep the peryton as his animal companion. I had to remind him he wasn't at a level to get one. I also had to remind him that his options were limited to the list in the druid class and that the peryton is a magical animal and can't be a companion anyway. That doesn't mean they can't be tamed so he's happy with that.
I thought I had them go too deep into the mountain but math says they only went about 160 feet. So that's not the blunder I thought I made. That makes me happy.
I picked out the magic items to suit the characters and give them more advantages at times. By limiting how often things can be used it makes them less powerful as magic items but darn useful in the right situations. It makes them think about using them rather than something that's activated all the time. Things will get more interesting the more they have since they're limited on how many of each kind of item they can wear.
The gloves are obviously of spider climb. The person using them has to roll for how long the effect lasts - 4d6 minutes. That adds to the tension since they won't know until they activate them. So sometimes they may have to rush things or they fall down, go boom.
The gauntlets deal out an extra 2d6 of damage one handed, 3d6 damage two handed when the wearer makes a critical hit. Since the chances of that tend to be 10% more or less having them work twice per day isn't overpowering. They also choose when to activate them after they know they've done the critical hit so they can decide to save the effect or use it, depending on what they're doing. Again it puts the player in the driver's seat.
The anklet is a teleport without error with a distance of ten feet. I may have to reduce the number of times it can be used per day but the value isn't that great so maybe not. When I made these I was going for the lower end items. I also don't think anklets can be worn with magic boots since they're in the same body area. I'll double check that one. That would make it another limiting factor.
The ring gives a +10 to hide for 2d6 minutes and works as the Disguise Self spell for 4d6 minutes. They can be used independent of each other. But both of them take two days to recharge when used.
I'm getting into the random amount of time that a magic item effect works. I'll see how it plays out in game. My goal was to add extra tension to the situation since they can't be completely certain of how their plan is going to work if they expected the item to work for longer than it will. Or what happens when it stops working since they're not in control of it. I'll also ask them players what they think of it and adjust as needed.
Finy's player talked to me after the game to discuss how to keep magic items he wanted to hide from being seen. I didn't realize he put the ring in his bag of holding, which would have shielded it from the Detect Magic spell. I apologized and said I would think of a way. Tonight I texted him one of my famous obscure questions - "Odd or even?" - and he chose odd. The d10 also came up odd. So there's going to be an extra outside pocket on the bag of holding, on his dominant hand side, where he can put things quickly. If there's people around he needs to make a slight of hand check but that's going to be a low DC given how natural the movement is in general. Problem solved and it only works for small items.
I'm tracking combat in my Rocketbook now which is why I could be more detailed in the combat descriptions. Prior to this I was using my old method of tracking on scrap paper and then tossing it away since I only had to track initiative and turns. I still track those but now I can make more notes on what happened so there's a record. And I can make these entries slightly more interesting.
I have some time before the next game so I can plan it out. There's two ways I very much don't want them to go out of this area because they're death. Since the players don't want to go to the Underdark and both ways would lead there eventually I should be able to let them make the decision. If not then they didn't heed the clear warnings. I will make them very clear warnings.
I'm also going to have them finish the details on their backup characters so I can level them up to match the game. They're going to be the nemesis party and it started back in the last town they were at. Of course no one knows what's going on since not many GMs will put in this kind of effort or situation. Using their own backup characters is just mean but so fun.
I would have added a bard to the nemesis party so that they could have sarcastic songs following them around but The Witcher series lessens my enthusiasm for that. I did it well before the series in another game but that doesn't matter. For a while bards are going to be difficult to bring into the game without the comparisons being made. I don't want to have to add those quotes to the punishment list, especially since I haven't watched the series yet.