Tactical retreat from Lance Rock
Or how to nearly wipe out your own party
So, in this session we see a nearly total party kill (TPK), a rarity in my games. The best bit? It wasn’t even from damage dished out by my monsters…..
The session started with the party recovering from the rockfall trap, spending time getting Myrtle Bullroarer up and about whilst guarding the only way into their area. While they expected trouble, none came and they were able to spend time helping the concussed halfling to her feet. Mobile and armed, the party decided a tactical retreat may be in order and discussed plans to retreat but Myrtle pointed out that she had a crossbow and wanted to stick it to the filthy human Lord of Lance rock as soon as possible!
Cautiously advancing back to the star-shaped cavern, the party came across ‘the Bear’ and the dancer, now armed and stood blocking their escape. The party carefully filed in, taking care not to trigger any reprisals from the two figures preventing their withdrawal but in the darkness of another passage behind them, Erik Deville detected the presence of two more zombie figures, seemingly with polearms of some kind. Caught between two potential assailants the party decided to break out and went for the Zombie performers at full pelt.
Combat was furious and bloody with Zydrunas leading the charge on the Bear costumed Zombie, defending himself from it’s fearsome looking claws. Unfortunately the dancer (now sporting a pair of lithe fencing swords) used the opening Zy gave her to bury her blades into the half-orc’s midriff, almost causing him to collapse in pain from the wounds but his barbarian rage mounted, exploding forth unbidden for the first time and renewing Zy with the energy to fight.
Erik, seeing Zy in danger, used a Fire spell on the Bear costumed zombie, hoping to allow Zy to focus on the dancer but Zy stepped into the way at the last moment and took the full brunt of the Sorcerer’s spell! Zy’s vision clouded, his mind almost lost to the inky blackness of unconsciousness but the red rage of the barbarian burned even hotter from the incompetence of the attack and he resolved to carry on now and collapse later, hopefully with his hands around the Sorcerer’s scrawny elf neck!
Despite the near disaster of dropping their own big hitter by accident, the party continued the fight. Seeing their instructed target, the two zombies in the dark passage stepped out into the cavern and tried to us some kind of blunted bident tools on long poles to ensnare the Sorcerer and prevent him from casting spells. Fighting one off, Erik got pinned by the other and while he could cast spells, he could no longer move freely as the unholy strength of the Zombie who had pinned his neck was difficult to resist.
With Lerissa trying to distract the dancer from attacking Zy and Myrtle moving into the cave to get a clear shot at the bear, an exit was cleared quickly by the trio. With Zy about to lose consciousness and Myrtle still heavily injured a withdrawal was in order. Looking around as they made to leave, the party looks back to find that Erik was now pinned in place by both zombies, who were trying to drag him away.
Hesitating for a moment, Zy raised his axe high and ran at the Zombie pinning Erik’s neck. Erik dropped to the floor to make it harder for the Zombies to move him and to let Zy catch a better view of his chosen target. Lerissa moved in swiftly to stab the second Zombie Magecatcher, stabbing it successive times before the Zombie could eact and Myrtle, feeling the need for fresh air and restful sleep, let fly at Lerissa’s target with her crossbow. Unfortunately, Myrtle was still woozy from her concussion and her aim wasn’t good, burying her bolt in Lerissa’s back rather than the Zombie’s chest as was intended.
With three of the party severely injured and escape now a priority to avoid the whole group becoming fodder for the Lord of Lance rock’s now empty corpse larder, the party redoubled their attacks taking risks to end the fight as quickly as they could. Erik crawled away, shooting spells from the ground as best he could as he tried to regain his feet while the other’s covered him. Zy’s rage was enormous and the Zombies were no match for the adrenaline of the fearful party.
Assailants all dropped and all party members surviving (for now), the party made a swift getaway, leaving Lance Rock to make camp nearby where they could watch the comings and goings from the cave. Once in camp, most of the group collapsed from exertion, leaving Erik alone to tend wounds and see to the first watch.
Overnight the party saw no activity in the cave but a giant feathered flyer of some sort flew over the camp, leaving a feather behind as it wheeled about. None of the paty could see it but as the party had thought to dull their fire, chances were they, too, had not been seen. What was overhead? Zy thought it a Roc, the size of the wingbeats seeming so large, Lerissa though otherwise, telling the others the waxy feather feels like it belongs to something more beastly live a Hippogriff, Chimera or Manticore. Erik inspected the feather and after finding traces of elemental air magic upon it he decided to store it for later use.
In the morning, the party set up for a return raid on Lance rock’s caverns. Feeling refreshed, if a bit battered from yesterday’s trials, they pushed on, cautiously looking for traps and guards put in place overnight. They weren’t to be disappointed.
The body the part left in the first cave was missing, dragged away deeper into the cave for some unknown reason. They put their guard up, and advanced deeper towards the domed room. Here they stopped, suspecting more zombies awaiting them on the shelf above but while they debated action they heard odd breathing, coming from inside the room. Suspecting something was hiding behind the stone platform, the party threw in some magical light then advanced cautiously to flank whatever may be hiding. Zy was so eager to attack he struck his axe on the shelf above by accident, distracting Lerissa with the sudden noise who then, in turn, took a fall over the broken remains of the rock-box from their earlier foray through this area.
On her face and vulnerable, Lerissa didn’t like what came next. A zombie dog padded out from behind the stone platform with a scroll between it’s teeth bearing the same markings that triggered the magic mouth they had found in the rockfall room. Expecting attack, the party readied themselves until he dog just calmly sat down, offering the scroll to any brave enough to take it.
Puzzled by this turn of events (surely this guardian was here to prevent them coming back?) the party stopped, unsure of what to do next, until Lerissa got to her feet as the dog approached her. Seeing no reason to not satiate her curiosity about the scroll, she gingerly took it from the dead, dog’s mouth, triggering the magic mouth spell on the scroll in the process.
The scroll’s mouth boomed a warning from the Lord of Lance rock, telling them to leave lest he use his foul magics to make them serve him! The dog took up an aggressive stance, calming somewhat when Lerissa retreated and the party looked to be leaving. Tired of inaction, Zy and Myrtle let rip on the dog, who seemed most interested in biting Erik. Zy used the dog’s chosen target against it, ensuring that as the dog leapt at the Sorcerer, Zy’s axe could bite before it did. Dog jumped, axe came down, dog was practically split in two. That’s what you get for ignoring Zy’s axe. Erik, and the party, were safe it seemed.
With the dog’s internal cavity now on display thanks to Zy’s mighty axe swing, the party saw a scroll buried in dog where internal organs should have been. Using magic hands to extract the scroll, untie it and read it, Erik kept the scroll at a distance from the party. After all, this could be a trap. Erik’s caution was rewarded when the scroll boomed another pompous warning from the Lord of lance rock then exploded in a shower of acid! Most of the party escaped unsplashed but Zy had gotten a little too close and took a few splashes of weak acid to his arms. Other than Zy, the only other thing to take the acid trap was the stone platform itself……and this dissolved the remaining bloodstain, revealing the symbol beneath at long last!
The symbol seemed to be that of an eye in a stepped platform with four runic symbols arranged beneath it. None of the group recognised what the symbols meant but they had seen one of the four symbols before on the travelling book taken from the Monk at the Inn! Something odd was going on here. After sketching the symbols out onto the parchment the dog has been carrying in it’s mouth the party moved on to the star shaped cavern.
No costumed zombies greeted them this time. instead, arranged around the cavern and lying face down and stripped naked, were the bodies of all the zombies they had thus far slain. A grotesque reminder of what they had to do to get this far already. Sensing something was up, the party advanced cautiously and were again surprised when the bodies didn’t come to life, explode or otherwise attack. Getting close enough to see properly (but not close enough to be grabbed), Zy inspected the nearby bodies – they were definitely the zombies they’d already (re)killed as you could see the wounds inflicted on them clearly. All the zombies seemed to have 1 extra injury, however – they all had their left arms separated at the elbow but arranged in place as to appear to be attached. Myrtle climbed the walls, sensing a trick. Zy let the others into a nearby branch of the cave with Lerissa walking backwards, keeping an eve on the bodies.
Zy led the group down a dead end. Before they could about-face the party’ felt something was off – it felt like a trap. In the near dark, Lerissa almost missed it but when Erik said to her, “did those hands move?” they realised that the hands were crawling across the floor towards them, without the bodies they were originally attached to! Trapped at the back of the dead-end, Zy hung his now useless axe and prepared for “Hand-to-Hand combat” (geddit?! Hand to hand?! :) ) but it was Lerissa and Erik that took the brunt of the crawling hand’s attack.
The fight was messy. Unable to use their larger weapons, hampered as they were by the narrow branch of the cave, Lerissa and Erik resorted to knives as hand leapt up at their throats and crawled up their clothes. Seemingly out of immediate danger (hanging off the walls of the cave) Myrtle was saddened to realise that these hands could climb, two of them electing to follow her route up the limestone walls. Unable to effectively defend herself while climbing, Myrtle chose to jump, turning with her staff in mid-air to swat the hands off the wall as they gave chase. Her aim was true, and the hands were batted away into the sidewalls of the cavern, curling up like drowned spiders as they landed.
Lerissa and Erik dispatched their assailants with swift knife work and as they looked for more targets they moved into the cave to give Zy some room to move. One hand remained, and it leapt at Lerissa’s throat as she was on the way into the main cavern. Zy, boxed in throughout the brief fight and ready to hit something, saw the hand jump. Lerissa ducked. The hand missed. Zy started running at it. Having calculated the hand’s trajectory perfectly, Zy got to it before it hit the floor, volleying the hand with a mighty kick that send it flying down another branch of the cavern, never to be seen again. Who knew half-orcs could play soccer?
With Lerissa injured slightly but the party all still capable and looking for vengeance, the gang regroup and start selecting another cavern branch to go down. One way or another, the Lord of Lance rock is going to pay for messing with them!