Saturday we met for what likely turned out to be the penultimate session of the Banewarrens campaign I’ve been running for a year. After spending many hours exploring the Banewarrens — that repository of evil located within the Spire beside the city of Ptolus and below it — the intrepid band of dwarves found themselves within the Spire, looking up into the dimly-lit reaches hundreds, if not thousands of feet above.
Having healed Magnar, the mage, of his vine-covered affliction that came courtesy of the attack by the vrock, the band equipped every member sans the mage with the ability to fly due to the lack of ways up the spire; Magnar chose to ride on the back of Goldface, the party’s thief. Ulnorn chose this time to strike a bargain with a magma elemental, adding some much-needed bulk to the party’s frontline forces.
As they ascended to roughly ninety feet from the floor, the vrock suddenly teleported directly in front of the magma elemental — nicknamed Tiki — and the battle was again on. Attempts at holding the demon failed, and as it was significantly damaged, it again teleported back to its nest, which turned out to be about a hundred feet from where the party was currently floating. Magnar spotted some movement, and they flew up to a level that was spanned by a bridge that connected walkways with special sealed doors. Several doorways were open, and they entered into a fetid nest on the southwest side of the spire, where Magnar had seen movement. The room stank of death and as the party rounded a corner into a hallway, they encountered seven identical images of the demon. Ulnorn got the jump and cast a divine spell that not only destroyed all of the illusions, but held the demon at bay long enough for it to be destroyed in a quick flurry of action.
Finding some treasure within the nest of the demon, the party continued north up the hallway, resulting in the thief triggering some traps as he crossed one room to another doorway. Fortunately, he made his saving throw at this door and avoided being petrified, and then he cast knock on the door, flinging it wide open.
Within was a box two feet wide by one foot wide and high, covered with images of pure evil: demons and worse. Deciding that it was perhaps best if they left it there — wisely, this narrator might add, as it was the Phylactery of Forsaken Souls, a vile device that conjures wraiths whenever it is opened, which would then proceed to attack whomever opened said box — they made their way back through the nest and decided to ascend higher.
The reason they did this is that they had three casts of locate object available to them — one from Avach, the eldritch warrior, and two on Ulnorn the priest — and they wanted to see if they could find the Sword of Lies, The Sealing Rod, and the final piece of The Staff of Shards. Their reasoning was simple — they had a plan to cleanse the Sword of Lies of its taint, after which they’d return it to Ptolus as the Sword of Truth. They also planned on sealing the Warrens, hence the need for the Sealing Rod, as well as the Staff of Shards; the Staff was revealed to be a Staff of Power, which, when broken, would destroy the key to the Banewarrens, forever keeping them sealed in the future once sealed.
Rising to nearly six hundred feet within the spire, they determined that the Sword was below them, around where they’d battled the vrock, but on the other side of the bridge.
Descending, they found a statue of a twelve foot tall armored man through the open doorway which began to move in a menacing fashion as they entered the chamber. Its threatening motions with the sword seemed to stop, however, as Goldface gingerly made his way through the room (or as gingerly as a dwarf can move). Two passages headed north from the room, so the party chose the northwestern one first, coming upon yet another enormous statue — this one with vicious swords for arms.
Unfortunately, unlike the previous statue, this one was much more than an mere automaton — it was, instead, an iron golem. Within a matter of rounds, Ysona, the ranger, was pureed by its sharp blades. The magma elemental was primarily engaged, as was Avach, who had picked up the hammer of Ysona as she fell, as its temporary enchantment appeared to have been raised high enough to deal damage to the golem (it had damage resistance of 50/+3, which meant the first fifty points of any damage dealt by a blow witha weapon of under +3 value was negated — this meant it was never hurt, as magic was also unusable against it). Beating a hasty retreat — with Goldface heading through a door which led to the northeast passage, and his tripping of several traps in a room lined with shields and a painting of a Lothian warrior armed with a sword and shield — the party decided that perhaps it was time to make good with the Church of Lothian, who they had offended some time back.
They needed true resurrections, you see, which had been offered before they’d fallen out with the Church. Anything less than a true resurrection would result in levels being lost, which they couldn’t afford at this point; Ysona was too valuable at tenth level to not get her back at that strength.
By way of the Quaan, which they quickly jumped to by way of a portable portal, the party returned to Ptolus by way of the known portal in the beholder, Charch-Pahn’s tower. Along the way, the group realized they could leave the five automated workers they’d found in the Banewarrens up there to collect andrecite, the ore that could be turned into gems by way of a device in Charch-Pahn’s tower. A money-making venture was hereby launched, with plans for the future.
With much eating of crow, as well as their offer to return the Sword of Truth, the rift with the Church was healed, and Ysona was brought back to life. Biting her tongue for once (Kim had her make a Wisdom roll against a DC of 15, I believe), the dwarf did not react snarkily to Sister Mara and her companions.
After Ysona’s resurrection, the party came up with a plan to destroy the iron golem. Using a combination of lightning bolt (which would slow the golem), haste and polymorph self, several characters would transform into rust monsters in hopes of dealing a devastating attack on the golem.
When the plan was put into play in the Warrens, it went off flawlessly. The golem was taken down in seconds, crumbling to rusty bits. (As GM, I was proud of them for coming up with such a great plan and so quickly; they knew that if they couldn’t take down this golem quickly, they were dead.)
In the northeastern passage, they found two doors that Goldface had attempted to open while fleeing, but only resulted in avoiding traps on. The doors didn’t appear to be openable individually, so armed with multiple scrolls/items with knock spells in them, they blew into the chamber.
Inside were eight identical floating swords, each bathed in red light and pointing upwards. Rather than risking damage, the party rested so that the priest could learn true seeing, which would allow them to bypass any traps possibly related to the swords. The next day Ulnorn cast the spell and quickly singled out the correct blade. Grabbing it, the party then hopped over to the Quaan and then home by way of a plane shift spell. Convincing the clan elders that cleansing the blade of its taint was a Good Thing for the clan, the party left it in their hands and returned to Ptolus again by means of plane shifts and the portable portal.
Once again descending (and ascending) into the Banewarrens, the party triangulated again with locate object spells, resulting in only the Sealing Rod being within range. Flying to the top of the Spire, the party found themselves on the walkway of the top level, an open door to the southwest and a twenty foot wide hole in the ceiling. Remnants of a great battle began to appear as they ventured into the opened vault area; coldness emanated all around, as though great evil was infusing the rooms. Moving inward, one shattered doorway revealed a skeleton imbedded head first into a wall. Another room sent the hackles of the party higher than ever before; across from the door lay a pile of black rags, possibly the only remnants of Eslathagos, the Dread Lord, himself.
Ysona and Goldface entered the room with trepidation and immediately felt the clutching cold work its tendrils into their very souls. Ysona fought off the assault, but Goldface was not so lucky. His life-force was sapped from him (1d4 level drain — I rolled a “1”, permanent curse of -4 on to hit, saves, and then stat drains as wel on Con and Str). Reaching the pile of rags, a cloud of wraiths was stirred up from the essence of the Dread Lord as Goldface found a rod, two rings and a spear tip among the rags. Tossing them out of the room, he took further draining damage from the wraiths, coming close to death. Fearing his death and likely conversion into a wraith, Ysona struck her comrade, hoping to release him before the wraiths could.
Alas, she struck before the wraiths and didn’t kill him, leaving him open to death or worse — undeath. Ulnorn stepped into the fray and slew him with a hammer blow spell, leaving the body intact.
And a whole bunch of angry wraiths swirling about. After several close calls — and the failure of much of Ulnorn’s divine magic in the face of evil, Magnar’s fireballs, coupled with Ysona’s stone-merging ability — the wraiths were destroyed, the Sealing Rod was in hand, along with a holy spear-tip and two rings of incredible evil. The thief was dead, and Yaeshla, the talking part of the Staff of Shards, declared that her final part was still missing. Above lay a hole in the ceiling of the spire, and a door that was unopened on this level lay before them.
What happens next will likely be the final session of the game. The party hopes to obtain the Staff of Shards, seal the Banewarrens (they will need to find help in fixing some of the generators), and then destroy the Key.
After that, they hope to wreak revenge on House Vladaam. Avach, in particular, wants a piece of them.
For a minor set of historical write-ups, you can look here, here, here, here (mini), here, here, and here. They don’t cover anywhere near enough of what’s happened in a year, but there’s a decent enough amount of flavor to them.