As there are just two players, we're running 2-4 characters each. So far, all the games have been ventures into Stonehell, using the Inheritance campaign setting (as featured in the first two issues of Oubliette). This setting allows different games away from the megadungeon now and then, at our LL's discretion. Inheritance is a post-apocalyptic world that makes a superb setting for Stonehell. The player characters live in a community known simply as 'Home'. It is essentially a hill fort whose inhabitants have fought and worked hard to establish it. 'Home' relies on trading with the dwarves for salt, weapons, armour, and other metal goods. To help fund this trade, teams are sent out to search ruins and dungeons for treasure. The characters are the team that drew the shortest straw and have been sent to explore Stonehell.
In the five sessions preceding this one, our party has covered around half of Stonehell's first level. Most sessions have seen the death of one member of the party (we play strict dead at zero HP). However, in all but one of the sessions, the party have returned home with a very good treasure haul.
So on to Session 6. The party are summoned by the Leader of the community, who gives them a briefing for their next mission: “Get back down that dungeon and don't come back without a load of treasure!”
The characters head out on the two day trip to the dungeon.
2nd Level Cleric
2nd Level Cleric
2nd Level Dwarf
2nd Level Thief
1st Level Magic-user
1st Level Fighter
1st Level Fighter
The party makes it back to the section of the dungeon they reached on the last visit. Our LL informs us that this area of the level is called The Quiet Halls. We've mostly encountered undead here, so we're anticipating more of the same. The encounters are relentless, and even with two clerics to turn undead away, we have to stop twice to recover from the fights. One confrontation presents us with 28HD of undead all at the same time. Thankfully, we turn just enough of them to balance the fight up a little. By the end of the game we've added substantially to our map of the level, and have chalked up the following kills/turns: 3 Ghouls, 25 Zombies and 18 Skeletons (we think some of the kills were probably the same ones we turned before resting).
We suffer one fatality, but not from the combat. Michael Curtis has put far more dangerous things than monsters into Stonehell to catch us out. In fact, most party fatalities so far have been at the hands of pits and traps. We have learned to be ever more cautious especially when we come across an 'interesting' new feature. The penultimate room we explore has a giant set of weighing scales in it. As usual our LL describes it, and smirks, giving nothing away. We spend a few minutes looking but not touching. Eventually, we decide it's too obvious and there is no way we're going to risk it, so we carry on to the next room. In this room there is a dais in the centre with a large stone chest on it. The room also has bursts of purple flames shooting from the floor in apparently random locations. We stick a pole into one of the flames and it comes out very cold – best not touch the flames we think. The chest proves too tempting for the thief so he makes a jump for the dais and takes a look at the lock. He rolls for traps but doesn't find any and then rolls to pick the lock. While all this is going on he is also managing to avoid the flames that spring up every round. Success! The lock clicks open. However, the trap he failed to spot goes off, and the poison gas kills him stone dead seconds later. This is pretty much the first real success the thief has had using his abilities and the pain is even more hard-felt as he was one of the original characters who started the campaign.
The party mourn the thief for a few minutes, then reluctantly, retreat for a second time to rest and heal, as none of them have enough remaining hit points to risk getting caught in the flames. They return fully healed only to find a group Zombies feasting on the thief's remains. The Zombies are turned and the party then considers how to get a look at the contents of the chest. First up for a run over to the dais is the Dwarf who opens the chest to find hundreds of gold pieces and some jewellery. He tosses the jewellery across to the others and takes a scoop of gold using his helmet. He makes it back, but gets caught by one of the flames. Next up is one of the clerics who also scoops up a pile gold. He's not so lucky though and gets caught by the flames twice leaving him on just 1 hit point by the time he's clear of them. One of the fighters takes a final scoop at the gold leaving just a few coins left in the corners.
The party then stand in the entrance looking at the thief's body, and recall that he was carrying some gold. Unfortunately, he was also carrying the party's only grappling hook. There follows a lengthy and somewhat futile discussion with the LL about possible tactics for getting the thief's corpse and/or backpack out of the room without risking the flames. The 10' pole is just a little too short to reach him and none of our arrows are barbed, so we can't shoot one with a rope tied to it into him. Ultimately, we conclude that the only way to get his stuff is to risk the flames once again. The Dwarf makes the dash and cuts the straps to his backpack and runs back with it. In Stonehell there is no dignity in death and the thief's body is left for Zombies to munch on as supper when they return. We head for home.
Shame about the thief. He was only 200XP off 3rd level. Still, at least the LL gave us the XP for the 167gp we got from his pack. The party return home with over 1,000gp in loot and a useful +1 hammer. One of the clerics levels up, and we put in an order with the dwarves for some platemail for one of the fighters.