Saturday, March 28, 2009

"What is it with this guy and eels?"

So a couple weeks ago I ran the second adventure for our D&D side-group. This was one of the few Dungeon magazine adventures adapted for Living Forgotten Realms play.

I had woven a few plot hooks for this adventure into the last one, so no one was too surprised when I described the scene. Though it is Midsummer, the air in Loudwater carries the chill of harvest time. Woodsmen have reported seeing strange, blue-skinned creatures and even blizzards in the deep woods. If the unnatural weather continues, the crops will die before they can be harvested, leading to famine. Some believe the cold is tied to the warlock Draigdurroch, who disappeared 30 years ago...

Spoilers for Menace of the Icy Spire!

The players were all too eager to go adventuring. In fact, I had to slow them down a bit to make sure they got all the information they needed! The town leader (who made a show of hitting on the tiefling warlord), asked that any magical tomes be brought back to her after the threat was averted. Once they were ready, the party set out for the tower they were told of... and ran right into a blizzard.

Luckily, the players had some good ideas of how to use their skills, so this skill challenge was a breeze for them. The group soon made it to the tower, a gigantic spire encased entirely in ice. The tower's stone itself was carved into the images of demons, completely encircling the building as if it were a funnel of devils ascending into the sky. Clearly, the owner was not putting out a welcome mat.

As the PCs approached the front entrance, one of the statues turned to look at them. Then, so did a few of the froglike, smaller statues lining the walkway to the front door. Needless to say, the tower's guardians were not happy with trespassers. The frog-guardians were little trouble, but the clay guardian that lept from the building proved dangerous: not only did it have some nasty attacks, but it could redirect attacks, tricking the characters into hitting their allies.

A brief rest, and the dwarf fighter hacked away some of the ice in front of the door. The main foyer was equally decorated in a demonic theme, with many evil-looking statues adorning the walls. Some of the statues had glass eyes which, upon inspection, proved to use a series of mirrors to show anyone looking in them the outside of the tower. Not only was the previous owner demented, he was apparently paranoid.

A pair of staircases led upwards, but the players elected to explore the ground level first. The first room off the left of the foyer was a simple office with some bookshelves. Everything inside is also coated in a thin layer of ice, keeping the contents perfectly preserved, if somewhat brittle. The only odd things of note in the room were an exquisite crystal statue of a demon lord and the fireplace, whose flames had frozen into an unusual blue ice.

The next room off the foyer was apparently a servant's quarters. Unfortunately, the servants had been home when the ice struck, their corpses frozen beneath the blankets as they lay on their cots. Another single fireplace, filled with blue frozen fire, sat in the corner.

Behind the foyer staircases was the kitchen. Like in the other rooms, everything was frozen, right down to the... jars of pickled eels? That threw my players for a loop. A small door in the kitchen led to the larder, which was full of freezer-burned stores... including a barrel of pickled eels. This led to my players wondering how many eel-based things they would find in this tower, and a lot of funny commentary. (Note: At some point, I'm going to start making audio recordings of these things.)

Off the right of the foyer was a large dining room. Of note, this room had two of the frozen blue fireplaces, but nothing else that seemed important.

Deciding to be cautious, the players proceeded quietly up the stairs. Our shadar-kai rogue poked his head up to peer into the next room. It appeared to be a large arcane laboratory, and had several icy elemental creatures standing about. With a signal to his comrades, the rogue burst into the room, surprising its occupants. Two of the ice creatures were large brutes with ice-mauls; one was a jagged thing with shards of ice it could throw; and the final one was off to the side, surrounded by a cloud of freezing mist and whirling ice shards.

The rogue made short work of the ice lancer, while the wizard kept the dangerous misty creature locked down in place with various spells until he could blast it to death. By now, however, several smaller ice creatures came scampering up the stairs into the room! While the other players kept fighting, the rogue quickly ran over and did a flip over the stair railing, dropping down to the first floor. Figuring the strange fireplaces were to blame, he ran into the dining hall and quickly disabled the first fireplace in it. By then, one of the maulers had come down the stairs after him, and another small ice creature emerged from the icy flames at the other end of the dining hall.

With some quick moves, the rogue dispatched the new creature and disabled the other fireplace. One swift dodge later, he avoided the mauler and ran across the foyer into the servant's quarters. He managed to disable this gateway-fireplace as well, but the mauler was now blocking the door out.

Luckily, shadar-kai can teleport short distances by making a short jaunt into the Shadowfell. He simple teleported into the nearby office room, leaving the mauler quite confused, and disabled the final fireplace.

By this point, the second floor had been cleared of enemies, and short work was made of the last mauler. Curiously, while all the ice creatures melted away, one of the mauls remained on the ground. This frost maul was claimed by the dwarf fighter, who was quite eager to put it to use. A quick inspection of the second floor made very little impact on their adventure, as most of the material was damaged by the ice. Also... there were no stairs. Instead was a small stepping disc just big enough to hold the party, which magically lifted up in the air and through an opening in the ceiling.

The room they lifted into was simply adorned with a desk & bookcase. In fact, there was no door... but there was a secret door hidden behind a badly damage tapestry. Stepping in, they discover a very luxurious bedroom & library, with a large central desk. Luckily, the wizard spots the magical ward on the desk and quickly disables it. Inside, the party discovers the journal and magical notes of the warlock Draigdurroch. It appears he was researching a new pact to forge with a being of darkness, and had upset the local fey. He scoffed at the fey's threats of retribution, which he had apparently underestimated.

Another secret door led to a small room with another lift-disc to the roof of the tower. The roof was flat and unremarkable except for some patches of ice... and a large, blue, glowing sapphire in the center. With a few insightful deductions, the party determined that this gem was the center of the icy curse, but that its power had become unstable. It would appear the unnatural cold drew the attention of icy things from the Elemental Chaos, who had tampered with the magical stone to spread their cold across the land. Being heroes, the characters couldn't let that happen. The dwarf used his maul to smash at the sapphire, putting a small crack in it.

That's when the gem flared brightly and a large, white-furred creature appeared in front of them. With a roar, the beast began attacking. The battle was furious and I would give a better description if I could remember the details anymore. ;) I do recall the wizard using a spell to knock the beast prone and keeping it pinned while the others struck it. At one point, they tried to knock it off the tower, but it didn't budge. Finally, after pounding on it long enough the party defeated the creature. As it gave out a last wail of pain, the sapphire also went dim and shattered. The curse broken, the icy shell around the tower collapsed with a thunderous roar and the clouds departed the skies.

Once the characters returned to Loudwater, they were regaled as heroes. The harvest was saved and the people were eternally grateful. Loudwater's town leaders were eager to go over Draigdurroch's journals and promised a grand celebration in the character's honor, as well as many rewards.

That takes care of Menace of the Icy Spire. Sunday, I'll be running the main group through an adventure in the Dalelands. Our small group will continue their journey in a couple weeks, where they'll venture into the Scepter Tower of Spellgard!

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