Monday, October 10, 2016

TridentCon: Murder in Stonehell Dungeon

Cleric Tibbers
Fighter Frank the Enforcer
Monk Rex Ruthor
Paladin Unknown
Wizard Unknown
Barbarian Gorge
Rogue Sir Bacon

My Stonehell session at TridentCon this weekend was wild and a great deal of fun to CK. I ran Stonehell, using Castles & Crusades, for a table of seven, very fun, active players. Little did I know that this would be the most unusual session of Stonehell I have ever run. While it started as a standard dungeon delve, it took a turn for the dark and became a tale of madness under the earth. Madness and murder.

The party began by heading north from the staircase room. As they approached the intersection where the “Da’ Dragon” sign traditionally stands, they saw a severed red dragon head on a stake in the middle of the hallway. A trail of blood led from the head into the natural caverns to the west. They decided to explore to the east and encountered the endless battle between the ghosts of Aeorn, the dwarf, and the cobra that killed him. The paladin decided to search the pile of rubble on which they fought, and drew the ire of both ghosts. The party quickly dispatched them, but found nothing of interest in the trash.

The sign is the most commonly altered item in the Stonehell games I run. The dragon head was not placed there by player characters. The dwarf was the first character to die in one of my Stonehell games.

They decided to head back to the natural caverns to see if any of the dragon’s treasure remained to be plundered. As they made their way through the natural caverns they came across a well with wind whistling through it. They investigated, and while their torches could not reveal what lay at the bottom of the well, they did hear laughter and what sounded like bells rising from below.

They lowered the Gorge, the barbarian, into the well on a rope. Once he had descended 50’, he could see that the well opened into the ceiling of a hallway below. On the floor below, was a child’s rocking horse. Gorge lowered himself to the floor and the rest of the party followed in short order. The rocking horse was finely crafted, but garishly painted. The laughing and the bell sounds were clearly coming from the corridor to the west.

Deciding to investigate the sound, the party headed west. As they drew nearer to the sounds, they could tell that the bells were ringing the tune, “Pop Goes the Weasel”. They entered a room with garishly clad corpses on the floor; the music and laughter was clearly coming from a door in the far wall. After kicking down the door, they found a young boy huddled over a jack-in-a-box, turning the crank. The Frank, the fighter, and Rex, the monk, sprung into action and took swings at the boy, but both missed. The paladin rushed in and ran the boy through with his sword. Shortly after dispatching this threat, the paladin decided to detect evil. The box showed as evil, but the boy did not. The party smashed the box and found several thousand gold pieces inside. They briefly reflected on the fact that they had murdered a child and decided to continue looking for more treasure.

The dead bodies were from a previous expedition by my regular group. They also smashed the jack-in-a-box, but the jack-in-a-box cannot be destroyed permanently.

The group moved north and managed to avoid a spear trap triggered by a plate in the floor. Looping around to the east, they discovered a hobby horse on the ground at the intersection of two corridors. After some experimentation, Frank was able to determine that the hobby horse was capable of a limited form of levitation. They continued to the east and discovered a room with the corpse of a naked elf in a hot tub. When Frank pulled the body out of the hot tub, the water flashed to a boil and burned him. They discovered a bag with 700 silver pieces in the tub and pulled it out with a sword.

Who is leaving these children’s toys all over this level? Who keeps putting this naked elf back in the tub with treasure?

The party continued east and, after an amusing incident involving Gorge and a spider web, discovered stairs going down behind a secret door. After some debate, the party decided to risk exploring the third level in hopes of finding greater treasure and headed down the stairs. The stairs landed in an empty storeroom. Frustrated that there was no treasure, Gorge kicked an empty barrel around the room. Sir Bacon, the thief, knelt by the only door to listen and could hear a voice on the other side, “Do you hear any more noise?” someone was asking. Sir Bacon relayed this information to the rest of the party and Gorge kicked the door open into a NPC thief crouched outside.

After tense few pause, both parties decided that the other was not a threat and they began talking. The NPC party had been exploring the dungeon and was cut off from their route back after an encounter with “giant white monkeys”. The PCs offered to lead them back to the exit. As they headed back up the stairs, the paladin and Rex hung back, whispering furtively.

The group made its way back to the bottom of the well and Rex, Frank, and themage climbed the rope up to the first level. The paladin, Gorge, Tibbers and Sir Bacon waited below while the NPC party began climbing the rope. As the lead NPC fighter pulled himself out of the well, the NPC mage, cleric, and thief were climbing the rope while a second NPC fighter waited at the bottom to begin his ascent. Rex helped the NPC fighter out of the well and showed him a ruby, “Look at these rubies we found here. They could be worth a lot.” As the fighter leaned in, Rex reached around and cut the rope and tried to push the fighter into the well.

The NPC thief hit the ground first, landing on top of the second fighter. Shortly afterwards, the cleric, in full plate, crashed down on top of them. Both the fighter and the thief were killed by the impact, the cleric was badly injured and was further wounded when the mage fell almost 100 feet to land on top of him. The mage was killed instantly.

At the top of the well, the struggle was going poorly for Rex. He was unable to push the stronger NPC fighter into the well. The PC mage, shocked at his companion’s actions, cast sleep hoping to end the madness. The spell affected only Rex, leaving the NPC fighter standing. Frank, who was not in the area of effect for the sleep spell, ran towards the fight hoping to break it up. The NPC fighter backhanded the protesting mage, knocking him senseless. Seeing his friend attacked, Frank took a swing at the fighter, but missed. The fighter ran him through and left him for dead. Outraged at the betrayal, the fighter cried out and beheaded the Rex. He then fled the dungeon.

Frank, still conscious, but gravely wounded pulled himself over to check on the mage and found him still breathing. He could hear someone calling up from below, but unsure who was killing who, decided not to respond. At the bottom of the well, the Tibber cast Cure Light Wounds on the NPC cleric. The paladin attempted to use Lay on Hands, but his power failed him. The party promised the NPC cleric that they would give her friends proper burials and she told them to take what equipment they needed in order to make it out of the dungeon together.  

After about 20 minutes had passed, Frank began responding to the calls from below. He told the others that the NPC fighter had gone crazy, cut the rope, and attacked. The NPC cleric was shocked, unable to believe that her long-time friend had turned to murder. Frank and the mage did not have enough rope between them to reach the bottom of the well, so Frank threw down his levitating hobby horse. Gorge used it to get to the top of the well with enough rope for the others to climb up to the first floor.

When the NPC cleric got to the top, Frank confided in him that it had actually been the Rex who murdered the others and that no one else had been involved. The cleric told them that she never wanted to see any of them again and made her own way out of the dungeon. As the party returned to town, the paladin came to the realization that he had been cut off from his god.   

This was the largest XP haul I have ever seen in a Stonehell con game. The NPC party had a decent amount of magical gear, as they were 5th level.