During the previous session, the party covered a surprising amount of ground in just a few hours play. Hungry for more, and after a short refreshment break, we headed straight back in. The mammoth haul from last time had also helped the rest of the party to escape the knife-edged existence that is first level. The line-up's now:
3rd Level Cleric
3rd Level Cleric
2nd Level Dwarf
2nd Level Magic-user
2nd Level Fighter
2nd Level Fighter
A party like this should have no problems tackling the remaining portions of Stonehell's first level. At least, that's what we thought. We decided that as this would be a fairly short session, to take us up to dinner-time, we'd revisit selected locations, rather than starting a whole new section of the dungeon. We first made our way back to the highly tempting, but dangerous looking sealed stone cover in an area where we've previously met and despatched lots of undead. We chickened out of opening it last time and, after yet more discussion and no little scheming, we lose our nerve and move on. Instead, we content ourselves with checking the surrounding area and find two groups of zombies. With a couple of 3rd level clerics on hand, they are no threat and are turned easily, allowing us to help ourselves to some valuable looking gems and a scroll.
With seemingly nothing else to find in the undead quadrant of level one, we make for the portion of the dungeon that surrounds the stairs we use to enter Stonehell. We've spent several previous sessions exploring this area, and decide to take a fresh look at a glyph we found, and also give the Wheel of Fortune another spin.
The party gets to a room with a portcullis blocking the exit. The Wheel of Fortune is in a room on the other side of it. Unfortunately, we fail to lift it and decide to take a different route to bypass it. Big mistake! We head into a small group of caves that used to be home to some kobolds and their pet “Dragon”. Just as we are making our way through a cave with a well in it, we hear scrabbling sounds. Four giant crab spiders jump out of the well and attack.
Neither the party nor the spiders are surprised. The LL actually misses the rule that lets the spiders surprise opponents on a roll of 1-4 (I think we rolled a 3) but even though he spots this a minute later, he lets it go as we've fail to get initiative anyway. We use miniatures when we play, so the spiders go for the closest characters based on the positions of the figures. One goes for the Dwarf, another attacks the nearest fighter, and the two remaining spiders take a jump at the Cleric. All three characters are wearing plate armour, and this saves both the Dwarf and the Fighter. The Cleric, however, is AC3 rather than 2, due to his low dexterity. Two hits! Shock registers all round the table. He can take the damage but he's now got to make two saving throws or it's curtains. His save versus Poison is 10, so with a couple of rolls to make, that's just a 25% chance. A 5 and a 7. He's soon going to be an ex-Cleric.
The PCs take their turn, one of the spider gets hacked down, and the Magic-user sleeps the other three. The Cleric instantly starts to feel the effects of the venom, and the LL tells us he's only got a few turns at best. We have a desperate discussion about the options for saving him, including giving him a combo of five healing potions and all our cure light wounds spells. I can see the LL almost wants to go for it but ultimately, we all know he's dead according to the way we play the game. The party continues on to the wheel of fortune anyway – surely we deserve a break. The Dwarf gives it a spin and suffers a strange effect that leaves him feeling sluggish and slow. Then my dying Cleric spins. He gains an additional point of strength which takes him to 18. That would have made him a tank, had he lived to use it in combat. Last up, one of the Fighters spins, and just when we thought things were looking up, fate cuts us down to size. He loses a level, taking him all the way back to first level with zero experience points. We call it a day and head home. The LL is somewhat surprised that the dying Cleric didn't continue spinning the Wheel of Fortune to see what other outcomes there might be. He's got a point. I think we were still in shock at the imminent fatality and the loss of a level and by that stage just wanted out.
The treasure haul for such a short session is still impressive, with nearly 2,000gp in gems and coins. The scroll turns out to be cursed, but our leaders still seem happy to accept it.
Just before dinner I roll up a replacement character and settle on another Cleric. The dice aren't very kind and he's no match for his dead predecessor. In our game, we rule that replacement characters can join the party at the same level as the lowest level existing member. It suddenly dawns on me that, thanks to the level-drain the Fighter suffered, my new Cleric has to start at first level. Arghh!
The party will start the next session in a substantially weaker state. All except the Dwarf that is, he's the only original member of the party left, and has now made it to 3rd level and an impressive 23 hit points.