Part One: The Dragonfiend Pact
Session Two • "Back to the Fountain"
As the group awakens the next morning, Malchor takes his adoptive son, Ragnuth, aside and strongly urges him to set aside this dangerous task, reminding him that he has duties this day and should not shirk them. Ragnuth insists that he has a calling, and that exploring these previously unknown caverns and solving the secret behind the thievery is the first step on his life's path. Malchor agrees to give them a divine boon to help them along, but does not take their offer to accompany them in their delve.
Soon enough, they have borrowed a rope ladder to aid their descent into the town well. The ladder however is ten feet shorter than the depth needed to reach the hidden door into the caverns, and despite nearly loosing Ragnuth into the drink when lowering the ladder to make up the difference, everyone manages to slip into the opening in turn without trouble.
Retracing their steps, they return to the portcullis to find it down. Clearly, someone or something is active down here still. Failing to bend the bars or lift the gate, they rig a rope over the top cross bar and use it to raise the lever on the far side of the barrier. In the hall beyond they find three trip-wires without much trouble and successfully avoid setting off the poisoned arrow, the swinging axe, and successfully not-avoiding the pit trap, which claims Ragnuth and nearly claims Auric.
After being surprised by a dire badger and discovering a pouch of silver sling stones in the so-called 'glittering' cave, the group wends it's way further along the tunnels. Having made plenty of noise in these endeavors, their oppenent in the next room is ready for them to arrive...
Entering Tarn's lair, they are immediately on guard, seeing the fire pit, the large 'nesting' area, and catching a glimpse of the chest on the far side of the cavern. The two stealthier members of the party make their way to the right, while the two orcish members begin exploring to the left. With superior stealth and perception, Auric spies Tarn lurking with bow at the ready behind a far rock formation, seemingly keeping an eye on Thud, waiting for a opportune shot.
After Tarn turns back to peer around the other side of the formation he's using for cover, Roy creates a distraction by chucking a stone at the far wall, and runs up to that same formation, keeping to the opposite side from Tarn. Without knowing what is the source of the noise, Thud and Ragnuth move forward, ready to hack at what they might find. Auric nocks an arrow and braces himself for Tarn to spring out.
Tarn has heard Roy dashing up to close range, and whips around the pillar to pierce Roy with a point blank shot. Roy in turn tries to knock Tarn out, but fails. Thud and Ragnuth are close enough to charge into melee, and do so, spoiling Auric's chance at a clean shot.
Tarn morphs into his hybrid form and whistles an eerie tune. Suddenly dozens of rats swarm from out of several small tunnels in the walls and cluster around Tarn and his melee assailants. The skirmish continues, with Thud and Ragnuth focussed more on the rats at their feet and Roy focused on Tarn. Ragnuth douses the rats with oil and sets the writhing mass ablaze. Avoiding the fire, Tarn steps into range of Auric's missile, and Auric gets off a choice shot that knocks Tarn down, and he begins bleeding out... The lycanthrope ruefully bemoans his fate in choking gasps as he passes, and lying at Roy's feet as he is, Roy picks up that Tarn has been made promises that his curse would be lifted...
With Tarn dead and the rats routed, more investigation of this chamber begins.
Finding the map, they are much puzzled as to whether it depicts territory they have already covered, or shows locations elsewhere.
Finding the scroll case, there is worry that it is trapped and initially plan to leave opening it until again on the surface. A small rack with vials and wooden sides protecting those vials is taken as something to analyze above ground as well. [Why at this point no one wanted to at least remove one vial and have a look, I've no idea. There is also some general frustration that almost all of the treasure discovered is someone else's property. Many jokes get made along the course of the adventure about items not actually being recovered, or forgetting to be reported. However, I think by the end, the characters will honestly turn over what they have found, and the players will be happy with the outcome.]
Examining the rat harnesses is evidently the 'missing link' that begins the party's slotting together what they've discovered with how all these robberies must have occurred. They can see how Tarn, in badger/hybrid form, could've entered the town and robbed the homes, fastened the loot to the rats, and had the rats covey the loot into the cavern lair with being undetected for an extended time. And they know from Tarn's mutterings that he's being coerced into this criminal scheme by having a cure for his affliction dangled before him. But who is behind all of it?
Feeling a bit more urgency once they've put the pieces together, they decide to press on rather than return to the surface. Auric fiddles for several minutes with the complex latch of the scroll tube to get it open, finding only sheets of parchment with arcane writing that none of them can read. Meanwhile, Thud checks the vials again, to find them marked with the word 'REDUCE'. They now know how they can journey up the rat-sized tunnels to find what lays beyond...
Auric the halfling opts to not drink from a vial, but keeps one on his person should the need arise. The other three drink from one vial each and watch the room expand around them. The four pick a tunnel and start down it. As best they can, they track the foot prints of the rats in the dust, which leads them to the lair of another badger. For the diminished trio, the thing is the size of an elephant. They do their best to sneak past it as it slumbers, but it's keen senses are better than they, and it lunges out at Auric. The creature is dispatched without much trouble by the party.
Auric however has noticed a strangely-regular line of shadow as he maneuvered around the room, and investigates, finding a hidden cache of loot from the town above.
They continue following the rat tracks, and after a very long haul, find the underground river dividing a room in two. Ragnuth pulls off his armor, anticipating a swim, and finds it grows back to full size. Auric with the armor on his back, leaps over the river, trailing a rope. The three reduced fellows grab onto the rough surface of the (to them) massive rope and Auric begins to pull them across. As fast as he can pull the rope across the seven-foot span of water, the cave trout lurking therein is just a bit faster and chomps down on Ragnuth, pulling him from the rope and deeper into the water.
Ragnuth bashes at the trout as best he can, scoring a critical hit upon it's snout and getting it to let him go. Auric, not knowing Ragnuth's situation (drowning? bitten in half?) jumps into the water to find him, does find the diminished orc, both return to the surface.
Licking their wounds, the party now is certain of what is shown on the map they found in Tarn's lair, and feels confident that their mission is nearing an end...
[The module as written suggests Tarn flee when injured and thus lure the players into using the potions, shrinking, and getting into the tunnels to pursue him. I'd've had Tarn escape, but not until certain plot points were established, and doing that required his demise, as things turned out. As it was, I think the map was a big help in getting them interested in what was beyond, and given the four-to-one aspect of the fight (not counting the rat swarm), it was going to be difficult to get Tarn out of there without either some incredible luck on my part or bungling on the part of the players, or too much of a stretch of "you can do nothing that stops his escape"/DM-fiat. Fortunately, it all came together just fine.]
Gnome Boy (a.k.a. "Jon") • DCC play-tester @ DDC 35, Feb 2011. • Beta DL 2111, 7:00 AM PT, 8 June 11.
Playing RPGs since 1977 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters - Holds the power to play gnomes at will!
Pbp Secret of Bone Hill characters:
Flavia, WAR, Beekeeper, L, Str 10, Agi 10, Stm 7, Per 10, Int 12, Lck 7, AC 10 hp 5, staff, jar of honey, 10-ft pole, 1 pc chalk, 50' rope, 2 torches (1 lit)
Hector, DWARF Apothecarist, L, Str 5, Agi 11, Stm 12, Per 10, Int 6, Lck 10, AC 10, hp 11, sword, shield, cudgel, steel vial, chest, flint & steel, empty flask, lg sack
Chendris, WIZ, Alchemist, N, Str 11, Agi 9, Stm 12, Per 15, Int 13, Lck 15, AC 10, hp 3, staff, empty flask, 50' rope, 2 candles, lg sack, oil (1 flsk), 1 torch, snakeskin tome; speaks gnoll
Darrow, CLR, Hunter, N, Str 11, Agi 12, Stm 8, Per 16, Int 7, Lck 12, AC 10 hp 5, short bow, 6 arrow, 10-ft pole, deer pelt, torch (lit)