Sunday, April 29, 2012

Carrion Crown: Wake of the Watcher pt. 4

(This session consisted of Edgar the human cleric, Colin the halfling paladin, Vincent the human sorcerer, Mutt the human barbarian and Galfur the dwarven inquisitor. All were 9th level and advanced to level 10 at the end).

As the heroes were now burdened with the harsh responisibility of child care they had to make sure someone would care for the abandoned infant. As they returnd to the ever silen Illmarsh they went to knock on Horace Croon's door, carefully avoiding any suspiscious gazes from the nearby houses. Edgar took a quick look through the inventor's window and witnessed a magnificent invention hanging for a massive hook in the middle of the lab. From what he could tell, it was the professor's submersible research craft, only significantly bigger. Apparently, it was hoistered in chains and hooks and a long rubber-tube protruded from its top and travelled to a pile of rubber in the far corner. The professor was eagerly hammering away on the device, only interrupted by the heroes' knocking. He nervously opened up and gladly recognised the familiar faces, letting them in instantly. 

He presented them to his newest and bigger invention, the Submersible 2.0. As he had taken Galfur's advice and deviced a large-scale model, he was quite sure that this magnificent wonder posessed the strength to journey to even the deepest parts of the ocean-floor. It even came with an airlock and several small supplies. Now, all he needed was someone brave enough to partake in its maiden-voyage.

As the heroes knew they'd be going to the base of the tern rocks in the near future, in their search of the sunken Skum-ruins, they agreed after minor hesitation. The condition, however, was that the professor would look over the child and take it into his care. He obliged to this eagerly and asked them about her name. Colin decided for 'Jane'. (Partly because Horace Croon DOES look like the lovechild between Einstein and the father from Disney's ”Tarzan”)

They decided not to set out this veyr night, but instead wait till the following evening, giving the professor time to prepare. Instead, they had unsettled business in the old Undiomedes-mansion.

The heroes scoured the outer premises and rooms on the first floor and found little but some interesting hints. In the old storeroom they discovered clear signs of struggle, apparently someone had been grappled and dragged away from here. In the corner was an old saddle-bag containing a now empty box that likely used to house a small item. Also, a message was attached instructing the bearer to exchange the item for 'Raven's Head' with a G.L. 

Through some knowledge, Galfur was able to identify the Raven's Head as an ancient artifact-mace that had, supposedly, been lost in the history of Ustalav. The mace was said to house great power against the undead and in the hands of a holy warrior could unleash a terrible holy wrath. It seemed like the mace wasn't so lost, after all.
On another room they also found the horse of the dark rider, carrying the brand of the Thrusmoor stables and now quite starved. After feeding it, they decided to head upstairs and find whether the highpriest of Dagon was still present.

They reached the top of the stairs and opened a door leading into a small lounge, though most of the chairs and comfortable facilities had rotted away through the trials of time. An old portrait of a mighty ship in a storm adorned the eastern wall as well as a rack of beautiful pibes.
Not much got to happen, however, before the southern door went up and the maniac highpriest burst in, madness tearing in his eyes and the sinister bulges swelling from his head. Something slithered beyond. ”YOU! GET OUT! You will NOT survive!” he yelled and cast a blade barrier, splitting the party in two with only Mutt on the southern side. 

The barbarian plunged his halberd into the priest, who in return unleashed a cone of cold against the party for a massive blast of hit points. Vincent dimension doored him, Galfur and Edgar to Mutt's side while Colin remained behind to fire arrows through the wall. Edgar channeled healing and Galfur charged the priest, who quickly noticed the approaching danger of a smiting full attacking paladin. He immediately threw in an obscuring mist to improve his odds, and the party kept Edgar and Vincent at range, while Colin moved close enough to take his shots with 50% miss chance. Even with 20% Mutt and Galfur got in some good rolls against the cornered priest (who was JUST about to use his Harm ... ah well...) and with a gory sound his head exploded in a sinister mass of bloody tentacles. The canker shambled towards them in wild agony, tentacles flailing and grappling and the sight was too much for Mutt for felt a serious decline in his sanity. The canker's tentacles sucked out the charismatic life force of the two melee-fighters and as they finally, after some rounds, were about to land the killing blow, it exploded with another shower; this time of slugspawns. 

In the mist everyone panicked and looked around; both Mutt, Galfur and Edgar noticed them, but sadly the cleric didn't save and a slug hurled itself into his mouth. The same counted for Colin, who was immediately blasted by a wave of cold damage from Vincent. Edgar took to self-surgery and through brutal measure cut open his entire right chin and pulled out the disgusting parasite.

Then silence settled.

(This isn't an overly bad battle, I do think I played it wrong somehow. Again, it's a solo encounter with little room for maneuvre. Ideally, the priest should get the fog cloud up quickly and then maybe trap himself in the far southern corner, leaving only a 5-foot wide way between the wall the the blades, forcing the heroes to split up into one long row. My players simply dealt way too much damage before he could get off his dangerous single-target spells, but I'll easily imagine him to be quite dangerous if played better than I did.
Well, we all have off-days.)

Bible Black

The heroes began searching the remaining rooms on the floor and while they initially seemed empty, in an old library they were greeted by two ghostly people with high hats, coats and small briefcases. As Mutt addressed them, they asked “Are you the lord of this manor?”
“Yes!” Edgar said.
“Then die!”
Thus a pair of specters set upon them.
(With 4 easily drained levels per round, this is your GM chance to down a hero in very few turns. I love specters. Remember their unnatural aura ability, if anyone in the party is a zoo-keeper)

The following room seemed to be a work-chamber of sorts although it had very little of value. Galfur opened a desk drawer an immediately a pollen-explosion of yellow mold flew into his face. Coughing like a maniac, the dwarf shrugged it off rather easily though and the encounter was pretty much trivial.
The progression led them into an old bedchamber which had been deserted for ages, an old wheelchair remaining next to the bed, and a set of stairs leading to the attic. A sinister, dark spot decorated the sheets on the bed, which Edgar later identified as blood. Also, an old, crude scribbling from a dagger could be seen in the woodworks. It said “The Pact ends here, Father!”

Slowly ascending up to the attic, they were surrounded by thick darkness, barely penetrated by their lanterns. Everything up here seemed to have been laid to waste and decay, old cloth, wood and metal bits spread along dust, filth and earth. But noticeable was a beautiful, black leathery book with writhing letters on its front. They stared at it for some time, Edgar could even swear it was calling his name in silent whisper. Colin eagerly tried channeling holy energy into it and setting it on fire but nothing seemed to work. Instead, Vincent took the utmost consequence and picked it up, reading it.

Dark thoughts and teachings flourished through his head. Words from beyond the stars were about to implode his mind as he eagerly shifted through the pages in rapid speed, browsing just about every detail he could find in magic, maniac approach. As he finally looked up, small starry dots flickered in his eyes. He felt his sanity dwindle away, and besides from an enlightened mind, he now felt the calling of several strange beings beyond. Of course he explained his party that he would ‘keep it for later destruction’ and hastily packed it down into his sack.
(The original book doesn’t work like this entirely, but close. It confers a solid +4 knowledge check bonus and supplies its owner with some spells. Even though it’s a spellbook for a sorcerer, it let it pass. It’s the Book of Abstruse Geomnetries and is out of this world, after all. Besides it enables him to call forth beings from beyond the veil, which I invented my own system for, a bit inspired by Warhammer. It allows the caster to fuel as much energy into the process as he so wishes, in an attempt to call forth a being from beyond. The greater the amount, the more powerful. Of course this also represents an even bigger threat to the caster, and on a certain roll the spell will backfire with very dire consequences not only for the caster but likely also his party. I’ll post the book’s power in full later. One of the possible miscast-results is the summoning of the creature that was supposed to be in the attic in the original adventure. But I had enough of encounters at this stage, knowing there were plenty of more to come.)

The heroes decided to head back home to Illmarsh and rest at Horace Croon’s before the next day’s trials. They had two resting cycles and enough time to recuperate from their ability damage and other ailments, while also preparing for the journey to come. They found the small boat Isinglass (which remarkably sounds like a really bad Eragon book. Implying there is in fact an exception to such a thing…) was to carry them and the submersible out into the open sea and drop them at the tern rocks.

The journey went fine on the following night, and the heroes brought plenty of food along with them in the descent. Horace promised he would stand vigilant at the pump and make sure the stream of air would be uninterrupted. As they were lowered, they couldn’t help notice the sudden absence of the former mad prisoner on the rocks. Instead there was only a bloody spot and a set of manacles holding the sore remnants of hands.
Edgar took the steering down and they noticed how everything got really dark outside the windows, and the few fish drowned out in the bleak abyss waiting below. There was a cramped silence in the cabin only interrupted by the groaning metal as it came under more and more pressure from the outside. It was anyone’s guess how deep they were, but it truly emphasized that never would they be able to reach such depths without the aid of the old professor.

On their journey, Mutt suddenly could swear he saw something on the outside. Movement in the darkness. Like part of the darkness was slithering away from them.
A huge part of the darkness.

(And an encounter I’m saving for their way up)

Slowly light greeted them, however. On the floor of the ocean rested a great dome of dully shining gray metal. Seams ran up the dome’s sides to its apex, sprinkled with glowing lights, whose dim blue radiance gave the entire scene an otherworldly appearance.
The heroes noticed an eerie membrane-like entrance to the north in the complex, but also discovered an alternative hidden entrance to the south, suiting their stealthily approach much better. They parked the submersible close to the inside and quickly noticed the airlock as they ascended from the water in what seemed to be a partially flooded cavern. An old path moved to the west from here and everything was eerily silent, except for a strange low humming. They exited the submersible and carefully moved into the old complex.

Shubbulupfhtagnaiaiai…. Ah, fuck this shit…
(To all my beloved hardcore readers – This was one of the times in which I had way too little time to prepare for the adventure to come, and therefore I’ve likely made some mistakes. I know I have and will point them out. If you find anymore it’s likely not me screwing with the rules, but in fact not being aware of them. This is not my usual standard of practice, but it happens.)

On the next side was a big grotto, nicely constructed, with several smaller compartments to the south and another blue door to the north and west.
A strange creature greeted them and wobbled closer from the far end. For quite some time it just stood there, doing nothing. They did nothing to it in return. It would’ve been a great staring contest, had it only carried eyes.
Then suddenly they heard its words in their minds.
“How do crustaceans propagate with barns?”
“Why are three ears better than seven?”
“What is the orbital declension of the Lilac Star when the sea snails cry beryllium tears?”
When the heroes looked sheepish it frowned and walked a bit back and forward for a bit. When they addressed it again, it attacked with a wild scream.
On the first round of combat, the cerebric fungus oracle (yeah…) used its Star-Shriek, attempting to nauseate the party. Everyone saved (DC 15 fort save is a joke against this party) Mutt chopped it for a bit and Vincent threw it into a conjured acid pit. The creature howled and sneered as acid burned through it and began climbing the distance. Edgar cast Spike Stone on the walls of the pit and suddenly the oracle was looking at one hell of a climb. To that end, Mutt and Galfur were both waiting with reach weapons for when it got up and I decided to call it a GG. (It could’ve gone up, I think. But the damage it would inflict would be moderate at best and I have very little patience for pointless waste of time like that.)

The doors to the south were empty prison cells (Lol no, in fact they contain Migos, but I just interpreted the map thinking they looked surprisingly prisonish. Not much to say here –  This truly wasn’t my night.) and to the north they saw into the dark, sinister cave strewn with bones. The faint smell of wet fur in here was obvious. The heroes decided to bail and come back later.

 Instead they headed west, into in intersection and went south towards the humming. In a big room they found a huge statue of green and black stone depicting a nightmarish creature that was neither fish nor eel nor octopus but still had features of all three. Hundreds of inlaid shelves decorated the walls and to the south a beautiful mace rested on a stone pillar.

They heard a loud grumble from a giant, fat skum in the middle of the cavern. Along with him was his two loyal bodyguards. He loudly croaked for them to attack, and retreated to cast an augmented Summon Monster 5

Vincent blasted the two skums to pieces and Colin’s arrows inflicted enough damage to the cleric in order to disrupt his spell. With an angry sneer he turned around and in the following round bestowed curse on the sorcerer, for 50% chance to do nothing per turn. He laughed in his death throes.
As they cleaned it up, the heroes took a closer look on the mace and to their pleasure realized that this was nothing else but the legendary Raven’s Head. The +3 undead bane heavy mace went to Edgar.

I’m a gigantic brain!
In an adjacent room the heroes found the source of the humming. A faint blue light illuminated it on and off repeatedly, and revealed the several rows of brains in jars. They were arranged by date and all carried a contraption that apparently allowed for communication. The newest one, apparently belonging to a human, was tested as they turned it on.
They heard the faint voice of a familiar person in their minds. To their horrors it was the mayor. He told them everything was fine now. That they would see too, once ‘he’ arrived. His journey was nearly complete by now and there was nothing they could do to prevent it.
Once he entered this world, he would make them all understand that which had eluded their simple minds.
“What is it we don’t understand?” Edgar boldly asked.
“Well,” the brain said “why don’t I show you?”

A series of hellish visions flickered through their mind (Think Even Horizon. I’d post the segment here, but with respect to readers with no passion for gore, it’d be better if you look it up yourself.) leaving the heroes screaming in terror as they saw madness and terror engulf their world. (I think this makes sanity loss more reasonable than the mere watching of talking brains. I mean, I’ve watched talking brains before. They’re hilarious!)

Luckily for the heroes, they shrugged off their predicament and in a rampage Mutt smashed up the entire room in blind rage. They decided to push on, moving towards their destiny in the southern room.
They passed through dark corridors and heard a strange bubbling, whispering sound not far ahead (buff time)

As they entered the metal dome they noticed all manner of incomprehensible equipment, including a pair of bloodstained metal operating tables surrounded by racks of instruments for vivisection. The chamber was illuminated by a purple glow and right in the middle a naked human was strapped on to the operating table, several tubes with vicious luquid apparently keeping him alive. His head was on the edge of bursting from apparent movement inside, and as he noticed the heroes he muffled out a loud “HELFFF MWEEE!!!”

Around it, four strange plant-like creatures hissed and turned their attention to the heroes. Another test of their sanity as they lay eyes on the fearsome creatures from beyond known as the Mi-Go.

The battle wasn’t particularly challenging for a fully buffed up party, and the Mi-Go fell like flies. It was when the last one bit the dust that the poor guy in the middle, the dark rider they’d been searching for, set in a scream and underwent a hideous mutation into a towering abomination known as the Dark Young of Shub Niggurath.  The party once again had to cling to their sanity by this transformation, but everyone was saved by the good roll, including Mutt who became very happy for he rerollable will save granted by his rage power.
The dark one roared and animated the odd plants in the chamber with an entanglement spell. With its freedom of movement it galloped closer to the party and Edgar immediately blessed Galfur with another freedom of movement sending him into the fray with Mutt. The martial fighters surrounded it while the rest of the party split up and the beast, realizing it couldn’t do much to Galfur (as it’s fearsome attack depends on it to grapple) moved on to Mutt. Vincent made it through every round of his curse but made sure to blast the thing with just about every element on its immunity-list (fire, lightning, acid, poison).  Galfur was also hitting it with his blunt mace, which pleased the Dark Young and the DR 15/Slashing.

On the other hand, Mutt’s slashing damage was impressive to say the least, especially with an ongoing haste. As was Colin’s who immediately smote evil on the Dark Young and rapidly tore away its hit points with his arrows. Around four rounds later, it was all over and the heroes emerged victorious.
Picking up the pieces
They had a brief pause and searched the place for some treasures. Including some plot relevant items.
They found a familiar face; the seasage effigy; now known as the Face of Dagon. The small green item that was stolen from Lepidstadt University by the Beast in ‘Trial of the Beast’. Apparently the cultist had taken it here.
Also, an old letter showed up. It read:

And so the heroes stopped their victorious session, still needing to find their way back to the surface and apparently set out for their next destination. The capital city of Caliphas, which thus begins our next chapter “Ashes at dawn”.

Stay tuned.

(Instead of writing a huge review of this adventure, I plan on updating it eventually in commentary video, which makes it quite easier. Check in for this later, as I will begin with Haunting of Harrowstone.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carrion Crown: Wake of the Watcher pt. 3

(This session involved Edgar the human cleric, Galfur the dwarven inquisitor, Colin the halfling paladin, Vincent the human sorcerer and Mutt the human barbarian. All were 9th level)

It took the heroes a couple of minutes before they decided to look closer at the mysterious color resting down the hallway. They agreed to approach the situation with great caution, although they weren’t exactly sure why. It somehow rested between the lines that great danger was involved.
They decided to send down a scout in advance, and asked Colin the paladin to stealth forward, hopefully without detection. Sadly, the color sensed his presence and as he waded into its 300 feet aura, Colin was immediately enslaved by its beauty, and suddenly didn’t feel like leaving. Ever.

Thus he stood around for several minutes, before his companions decided to set out after him.
Galfur found him in the middle of the tunnel and suddenly heard the soothing voice of the color in his mind. It told him to surrender and embrace the beauty it had to show him. The dwarf, however, was resolute in his quest and shook it off as he tried dragging away Colin. The halfling paladin resisted at first, and later turned to violence to repel his ambusher. At first he punched, then he began shooting arrows which forced Galfur to retreat.

The party thought long and hard about it and decided to skip out on the color, so once again sent an invisible Galfur into the fray, who grappled Colin and ended up dragging him back into the main cavern in which he regained consciousness. From thereon, they never spoke of the color again.
(It all depends whether they intend to return later on, otherwise they’ll likely end up skipping it entirely. It’s sad since it’s a nice encounter).

The heroes explored some of the other nearby areas and found an underground lake surrounded by debris and trash. It carried a foul smell and thick vegetation on the floor so they decided to cross it quickly. They were sadly jumped by an enormous shambling mound that hungrily threw itself at them. With fury, both Galfur and Mutt hacked away at it, unleashing foul clouds of spores on the entire party. Coughing and wheezing the constitution damage rained down upon them, every man to himself getting the hell away from the carnage. The mound kept pounding at them and quickly brought the constitution damaged Edgar to his knees. Galfur knelt and utilized his dimension jump-domain-trait to lift the cleric out of the danger zone and a couple of rounds later the shambler was dead.
As they recuperated, the heroes searched the cavern and found a helmet of underwater action.

Heading onwards to the northeast, the heroes eventually found themselves in a small grotto, dimly illuminated by a faint light emanating from a large tank in the northern portion of the room. It appeared to contain an elderly person preserved in alcohol. After a few seconds, Edgar recognized him as the old head of House Undiomedes, who was supposed to have withered away several years ago. Not far from the tank they also found an old book bound in sharkskin. It detailed the count's voyages and acquaintances with the neighbors below and how he eventually realized that sacrifices were necessary in order to retain the prosperity of Baytown.

A small tunnel with a set of stairs let to the northeast whereas a tunnel lead to the south. Colin began sneaking his way down there, as the heroes could barely hear the sound of someone talking and later shouting. As he arrived, he saw a strange sight. Covering in fear was a bunch of Skum in the far end of the cavern, and in from of them resided a huge tower of a chieftain, bellowing commands and scolding at his troops. Several of his words were pure gibberish and the party eventually had to give up understanding any of it. So as Colin decided to head back, he unfortunately stepped on a natural-1 stone and alerted the cave. Another fight erupted.

This one was more of a breeze, as Vincent fireballed the majority of the skum into oblivion and Mutt faced the chieftain valiantly. He did get bull rushed from time to time, but eventually the giant skum succumbed to his wounds and even in his death throes spat out words of insanity. Having looted the room, the heroes realized that now they only had the color left to deal with and decided to bail up the stairs. There they found an old portal that led them, in a blinding flash, into a grand room which apparently was inside of a manor of sorts. Around them were several stones, reminiscing a druidic circle of a long forgotten age, but what really stole the picture was the massive marsh giant eyeing them gloomily. 

It immediately hurled a confusion at them, hitting both Colin and Mutt (I still wonder how a paladin with so massive saves can fail so many rolls?) who were then left to bash at each other for the rest of the fight. Galfur charged into the giant and it immediately cast fog cloud to cut them off from the caster and instead relied on its blind fight ability. There was a whole lot of smashing up, meaning Galfur retreated from the fog and with a savage blow burned her below 50 hit points a couple of turns later. Gasping the giant ran for the swamp, throughout the door, but was abruptly stopped as soon as she entered the first step on the main stair. She didn't get to see freedom, as her head was blown off by a searing light.

Casing the Joint

The heroes investigated the druidic room and quickly realized that this was in fact an old druidic shrine to the outer god Shub-Niggurath. Likely, this place of worship had been dormant for a very long time. A thorough search revealed an imprint on the middle stone of a talisman, and a hidden compartment in which a strange pod-like seed rested. Colin identified this a seed of Shub-Niggurath, likely a larval stage of some kind. They ended up burning it, just for good measure.

They took a quick glare at the outskirts of the mansion, upon which evening had fallen so they decided to retreat back inside. In the south-eastern part of the house they found two old bedrooms along with some old paintings and what had likely once been a living room, now only housing an old couch and some debris from the fallen ceiling. They decided to spread out and search for any clues, but as Vincent turned over one of the pillows a vicious swarm sprung out, right into his face.

 Panic broke out.

Well, frankly not bees but the reaction was pretty much the same. Blood mites, as they were, tore directly into the poor sorcerer's flesh and ripped and devoured his precious life force for every second. Screaming he ran away and everyone split up throughout the room, doing their best to dodge the swarm as it approached. Mutt, however, realized he didn't have any elemental weapons or alchemist fires, and decided to sit down in the corner and do nothing.
Then he got eaten.

(Blood mites are a truly nasty swarm. Not only do they eat you for 4D6 damage and force you to test versus nauseation, one of the truly annoying conditions, they also blood drain you for constitution and to add insult to injury they cling on to you for 4D6 damage every turn, unless you pass a full round DC 20 reflex save. In the end there was a lot of damage going around on the party, as almost everyone had it ticking and didn't want to spend an entire turn putting it out. Suppose Channel Healing really proved its worth there. Don't forget the disease either, btw.)

Shambling and coughing up blood, the heroes marched in best Home-Alone-Style to the north, through the dining room and a corridor before they heard the sound of a baby crying on the other side of a door. Someone was apparently shushing as well. This didn't sit well with Mutt, who hadn't exactly experienced the most brilliant night and therefore kicked in the door with a savage roar. Immediately three priests of Dagon sprang to their feet, the vicar holding a dagger to the crying baby's throat.
”Not one more step!” he sneered ”or the child dies!”

For some moments both parts were eyeing each other, then Edgar slowly approached the vicar asking about their purpose in this house. While originally hostile, the party calmly presented the priests about their arrival at the house and the now desolate tunnels beneath the house. This especially seemed to upset the priests who accused them of lying. After all, they had arrived here to establish contact with the neighbors and beg for help. The grand vizier was upstairs already, making preparations. But seeing as they had likely slain their pet marsh giant, the priests didn't gather the heroes were there with good intentions.

Through more persuasion, they convinced the priests that the Skum beneath the house had indeed been annihilated and that they were merely waiting here in vain. The vicar trembled slightly and nervously eyed the heroes before saying ”I don't want any part of this madness anymore. Things are falling apart. If the neighbors are surely lost there is little meaning in carrying this child. I shall offer you a deal. Let us go and the child is yours to keep. Otherwise she dies! Mark you my words!”

It didn't sit well with Colin but the heroes agreed to the bargain and were handed the crying baby. Immediately the order fled through the door, never to be seen again. Now the only thing that remained was to confront the vizier upstairs. But first there was a crying infant to take care of. She did lighten up, however, as she saw the dwarf and with a giggle began pulling his beard.
Despite the cuteness and lack of name, they decided to find a good place for her first and headed back to town. Hopefully they were able to find a foster home for her or perhaps even her real parents? (Although Mutt did seem to recognize her facial features from the peasant-couple he slaughtered in the temple...)

For now the primary plan was to deliver her to Professor Horace Croon and then set out to confront the vizier at the mansion.
And how that goes is a tale for the coming wednesday.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Carrion Crown: Wake of the Watcher pt. 2

(This session consisted of Edgar the human cleric, Mutt the human barbarian, Colin the halfling paladin, Vincen the human sorcerer and Galfur the dwarven inquisitor. They were all 9th level.)

The heroes went ashore in which they rendezvoused with Mutt and Vincent, who had miraculously recovered from their wounds and followed in their companion’s heels.
With hushed joy of reunion they headed back to the inn under the cover of night and brought the two newly arrived up to date. 

They agreed that they would have to track down Lucas and the whereabouts of the dark rider, who had apparently never arrived in Illmarsh, despite heading there. And from the ramblings of the mad man at the tern cliffs, the temple of Umberlee would be a good place to start.
The heroes snug into Lucas’ old room with a knock spell and realized it hadn’t been used for a long time. The subtle cold wind flew in through the cracks in the wall and an eerie silence rested there, between an old table, an empty chest and a bed that hadn’t been slept on for a long time. Lucas had apparently been absent for a while.

On the following day, Edgar noticed a lot of people gathering outside the tavern ‘The Walleyed Kraken’. When they arrived, they learned that the proprietor, Laurel Sills, had gone missing in the night, leaving no trace behind. Thus another soul had been claimed by the unknown forces in Illmarsh. Sheriff Anders admitted having no clue and annoyed he told the heroes to get out of town and leave him to his job.  Instead they went to visit the Temple of Umberlee, at long last.

The temple was an impressive sight against the otherwise sore state of the small fishing town. Solidly build, it was a dark shape against the grey sky, looming and looking down on the small band approaching its doors. Outside they noticed several statues and mosaics of fish-creatures and stormy waters, which were both intimidating and yet aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

As they knocked on the gate, three priests opened and politely told them that disbelievers weren’t allowed in the sanctuary. The heroes inquired about joining the church but they had to wait till the highpriest returned.  This would take some days, unfortunately.

This didn’t sit well with them, needless to say.

Storming the temple
They returned that very night and stealthily made their way to the gate, which Vincent unlocked with a knock spell. They entered a small hall in the front with three doors, two of them contained the faint sound of chanting from the inside. They made their way to the third and entered a small chamber with a green stone altar and various portrayals of fish-people on the wall. Galfur recognized these creatures as Skum. Strange frog-like humanoid beings, usually playing no part in the Umberlee religion?

Behind the next door they heard the sound of a scolding voice from someone apparently in authority. They decided that they might as well strike now, and Mutt kicked in the door.
On the other side was a room containing an acolyte and an aggressive looking vicar who immediately drew arms and shouted out to his companions.

 Edgar instantly conjured up a stone wall against the other two doors and Mutt and Galfur charged into the room.  Caleb the Vicar cast Greater Command knocking Mutt and Vincent out cold while the acolyte moved into flanking position. Soon after four additional acolytes joined the fray from the door to the north, spreading some sneak attack-love.
Suddenly, out of the blue, a fierce roar emerged from the front hall and a sinister being blasted through the entrance. It looked like a chuul imbued with divine energy and it fiercely utilized smite good on Colin and began bashing away at him.

Galfur tore a grievous wound in the vicar, who retreated and hurled an ice storm at the clumped up party for a solid amount of damage.  Edgar fled from the chuul and into the acolyte room to get better channel results and healed the majority of the group. Vincent broke out of his command and turned invisible while Mutt did the same but was now surrounded by sneak attacking acolytes. The chuul tore Colin up, bringing him to 3 hit points, before the paladin escaped and healed himself on the way back to the acolyte room. Things were getting crowded.

The vicar unleashed an unholy smite inflicting more damage to the heroes, but then Vincent managed to toss him into a conjured acid pit along with an acolyte. As the vicar had little chance of getting himself up from there, he slowly succumbed through the rest of the fight (he likely could’ve bought himself a couple of more rounds with the little healing he had, but still, no need for nitpicking).
While Galfur took down the remaining acolytes with his bane weapon Mutt hurled himself at the chuul. The party focused fire on it, leaving the dwarf to mop up the minor clergy and a couple of rounds later everyone was triumphant. They encountered an additional three acolytes who were all slain swiftly.

A grim discovery
In the main hall the heroes encountered a twisted and corrupt statue of a mermaid holding a bunch of tentacles in her hand. It was slightly unsettling. In one room in particular was especially impressing with rich furniture and decorations and contained an old chest along with several empty potion bottles on the floor. On closer inspection they concluded them to be potions of cure wounds.

What was more interesting was the series of secret doors the heroes found. One in the northern room, one in the southern and a series of them in the eastern wall in the grand hall. Behind the northern one, they found a small chamber with a pool of dark water against the northern wall and a bunch of neatly arranged corpses on the floor, all missing their heads. 
On closer inspection, Edgar concluded something had burst through them from the inside. They also noticed one of them carrying rich merchant clothes and a small wooden egg with a symbol of the Whispering Way inside. Apparently they had found Lucas. At the bottom of his pocket was an old note, bearing resemblance to the torn page from the Thrushmoor ledger, saying: 

“Rider on the way with Seasage Efficy. Meet at Old House outside town for exchange”.
When thinking about it, the only house Galfur could think of would be the old House of Undiomede, which he always thought had been destroyed ages ago.

At this time they heard the faint sound of scuttling outside the room. Like something small had tipped over something. The heroes all set out, except for Galfur who immediately cast Expeditious Retreat to storm ahead. As soon as he reached the main hall, a strange green slug at the size of a small cat hurled itself at his face and borrowed its head into his mouth.

Wild panic erupted, the party tried tearing it out with their bare hands with no effect, the slug was too slippery. It only dug deeper and deeper into his mouth and Edgar tore out a dagger and tried carving up the right half of the inquisitor’s mouth. Sadly, due to crappy heal-checks, he failed and in the end the creature manifested itself well and tight into his brain. Along the way, additional slugs tried creeping up on Mutt, who noticed this well and stomped them to death.

Rummaging through the temple’s library the heroes learned of these beings as ‘Slug Spawns’. Larval stages of a strange, aberrant creature known as a seed of the Outer God Shub-Niggurath. They could be removed initially by cold damage or would otherwise have to be carved out within three rounds. From there, only a remove disease would save their host. Within 2 and 12 days, the larva would go into the next stage of evolution…

 (The Slugspawns follow a mechanic resembling more like a trap than a creature, which will likely confuse some players. You can’t attack them as such, instead you’re supposed to first notice them in order to get a save at all. Then do a reflex save. Otherwise they leech on to your face. There is very little information as to what happens if you save and whether you can perform actions while they’re penetrating you, but I think a good rule is to allow any actions that don’t require speech and say that anyone who make their save will immediately stomp them to death. Also remember that any kind of damage reduction makes you immune to the slugs. This sat well with our barbarian.)

In the middle room awaited a dire sight. Resting against the far wall stood a sinister looking, blood splattered altar surrounded by coagulated red spots. In the northern part was another dark pool of water. On closer inspection, the heroes realized that this was a site of worship to the demon lord Dagon, the Prince of the Depths. Above it was a large picture of a staring octopus-eye along with several paintings of strange sea-creatures having intercourse with humanoid women.

The heroes decided to leave well alone and send Mutt to investigate the final room, which was disappointingly ascetic. Besides from another pool of dark water and a bench, only a few stacks of sacks and clothes were laying around in piles. Mutt did notice, however, that someone was hiding beneath the stack in the far corner and immediately attacked it, killing whoever was inside instantly. He realized it was two villagers and discretely hid them again before heading out to the rest of the group.

(The couple is another bread crump for the Undiomede House and offer a small quest, although nothing significant was lost by him slaying them.)

An even grimmer discovery
The heroes were really curious about the watery tunnels and decided to check them out. They looked deep, and luckily Edgar had brought along plenty of Waterbreathing for the party, so they decided to make a tour of it. Sinking into the depths with a light spell active, the heroes began their long trek underwater.

It took them a couple of hours before they reached an intersection in which they concluded one way would lead them back out into the bay and the other to places unknown. They set out for the unknown location and an hour later emerged in a strange, sinister looking cavern. The dripping sound was faint and the darkness illuminated by odd, brightly shining fungi in purple and blue colors. Everything was too quiet…except for the chilling song from a women, not too far away down the corridor.

Slowly they advanced and reached a large room with a foul stench. Piles of dead women and children were scattered along the walls and in a pit in the center sat a starved woman clutching baby in her arms. She gently and nervously sang to it in a catatonic state.

As they addressed her, they learned that she had been there for some time and had no clue about ‘the world outside’. She mentioned ‘the men’ and how they weren’t really there anymore. But that was okay, she still had her priced little baby. At this moment she unveiled the child, revealing a long dead baby with long tentacles erupting from its face (I spiced that one up a bit) in a grim visage. The party recoiled and lost a couple of sanity points to this hideous encounter.

(Wake of the Watcher operates with a Sanity score, reflected by the character’s level modified by their wisdom modifier, which has the potential to wreck the mental stability of people on the low end of the will-save scale. Read; those mustering less than a +5 around here are in quite serious trouble. In my case it’s no biggie, really. With a Sorcerer, cleric, inquisitor and a paladin whose lowest save is +15 we’re well off. The barbarian…well… he will be missed.
A thing you should know about this system is that the DC 15 is relatively low for 9th level adventurers, but on the other hand a botched check can dissolve between 1d10 and 2d6 points of Sanity. Assuming that the average SAN at this point would be 11-12 and there are around five checks in total in WotW; you can see where this is going.
In combat this presents the demented character with a DC 20 will save in order not to get auto Confused for the rest of the encounter, and they will start hallucinating and the like which presents you with interesting opportunities as a GM. I personally hope at least one of my players will snap.
This system is optional, remember. If you think it’s too much hassle, don’t use it. )

As they got to their senses, the heroes learned that there were still a couple of ‘the men’ left in a different part of the cave, and that the ‘leader of them seemed so very angry’. When they asked about this anger, she told them that they perhaps felt it too, but that they shouldn’t worry. Everything would be alright, once ‘the color down the hall found them…’

At this point, they heard a faint humming and saw an eerie green hue emanating from a distant corridor at the side of the cave. And the barbarian (whose player reads Lovecraft) began screaming.
And what terror awaits them there shall be revealed this Wednesday.