Barrowmaze

Session One

Humble Beginnings

Cast of characters thus far:
  • Skiven, a dwarven thief
  • Graina, a warrior women with a frighteningly sharp-looking poleaxe
  • Bhishma, a dwarven cleric of Vulcan.

The moors and an ancient collection of burial mounds, cairns and standing stones infamously known as the Barrowmaze lay half a day’s march south of Lychgate, a trading town along the great eastern road. Lured by tales of plunder, our heroes arrived in town and formed a confederation to see for themselves what riches could be gained. Bhishma hired a young man named Pelric to tend his pack mule and, if necessary, carry torches or equipment into any complex they found.

The party found the moors without difficulty and considered the collection of barrows and stones. Skiven had heard rumors that the central mound held an entrance to a labyrinthine network of underground tunnels. He suggested that a less “picked over” ingress would be preferable and the others agreed. So the adventurers started to search some of the smaller, less central mounds. B could feel that there was an evil air to the place, but the sun was high and they had not come this far just to turn back because the barrows weren’t cheerful.

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The first mound they came to was covered in turf, but Skiven found the outlines of a buried lintel. Some scraping away revealed a stone slab as a door, but no handle or mechanism was apparent. The group decided to check some of the other mounds before exerting the effort to open this one.

The next mound was similar, except for a broken standing stone lying nearby. As Skiven searched the perimeter of the hill, the ground under a nearby cairn boiled and tattered skeletons crawled forth!

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Bhishma tried to turn them, but his holy power seemed weakened in this evil place, and the undead advanced.

The party fought bravely and, with relatively little trouble, managed to destroy the foul things. A brief search around the cairn revealed nothing else threatening. It appeared to be a pauper’s mass grave.

Returning to the barrow, they eventually decided to break in by smashing the stone slab with spike and sledge. It took several minutes, but eventually it cracked and the door fell with a crash. Inside, Skiven could see a small landing and carved steps going down. As the dwarf inspected the entrance for traps, a half-dozen foot-long centipedes dropped from the ceiling onto him. His friends rushed to his aid, but he was bitten and the venom wracked his bowels with pain before the invertebrates were slain or driven off.

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Bhishma set up a simple brush screen in the doorway, hoping that anything passing the branches, etc. would disturb them and thus leave signs of passing. Graine and B then slung Skiven on the mule and took him back to town to recover.

Bhishma had taken some of the dead centipede bodies and went to an apothecary to try and sell them as ingredients. The alchemist offered to discount the cost of a centipede anti-venom in exchange. B took the deal but it was decided that Skiven could let this poisoning run its course and the potion would be saved for another time.

A week later, the crew was back at Barrowmaze. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed in their absence, so the group decided to explore the stairs going down. This time Skiven was particularly cautious. After checking the steps, he descended and saw a round chamber ahead with four stone sarcophagi. His infravision also detected movement on the ceiling: more centipedes. Retreating to the surface, the party decided to smoke the creatures out.

They cut three fagots’ worth of brush and sticks, then doused them with oil. Skiven lit them one by one and tossed them down the steps into the chamber. Then the three stepped back and watch the door as smoked seeped out. A few minutes later, a couple centipedes came running out onto the mound, but the party’s missile attacks missed them and they disappeared into the grass.

Once the smoke died down, the trio re-entered the tomb. The chamber did not seem to connect to any other passages, but there were the four sarcophagi to investigate. Each had an effigy carved on the lid and they appeared to belong to a family (parents and offspring). Skiven checked each one by one and pried the lids off. The first two contained ancient bones, tattered clothes and a few trinkets of jewelry. The third corpse leapt up when released and attacked!

Once again, Bhishma’s turning attempt failed and the creature managed to inflict a few small wounds with its bony claws before it was felled. However, as the party looked back into the coffin, the beast jumped up again!

This time, Graina’s magical halberd scored deep wound in the thing and dropped it again. Skiven beheaded it and it seemed to stay dead. They found some jewelry on it as well. B removed it quickly, afraid that one of the trinkets might contain magical properties that allowed the thing to rise after being slain.

The last sarcophagus contained nothing surprising, but the body did hold a dagger with an nicely carved bone hilt. Altogether, Skiven estimated they had found a couple hundred gold pieces worth of jewelry. Hardly a king’s ransom, but certainly better than working in a shop!

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Session 2
Onwards and Downwards

As evening approached, the party retreated from the moors back toward the road in order to make camp. The night passed without incident and they returned to the barrows early the next morning.

Continuing their circuit around the periphery of the moor, the group explored several more mounds. Breaking into some, leaving others that appeared too much effort to excavate. They found more treasures, including ancient pottery, as well as antique coins and jewelry. There were missed chances at treasure too as an amphora was broken and several bottles of perfume were shattered by rough handling. Some of the dead they encountered were quiet in their repose, others were… restless.

A limping coffer corpse tried to ambush them as they inspected a mound, but proved no match for the party. Likewise a zombie that tried to clutch at them from a sarcophagus as Grania opened the lid.

As they tried to shatter the stone slab blocking their way into a mound, the noise attracted several rough-looking men carrying weapons and digging tools. Tomb robbers worried that someone was getting to the loot before them. The PCs and the looters eyed each other warily, but no blows were exchanged, evidently the party looked too tough for the thieves. Bhishma brokered an agreement to split the territory between the east and west sides of the moor, and the robbers moved off. A bit later Grania Pelric the porter reported hearing shouts from toward the standing stones in the center of the moor, but nothing else came of it.

The last mound investigated revealed an oval chamber with an altar-like slab in the middle. On it rested a gleaming broadsword of archaic design. Six skeletons in rusted armor stood in alcoves around it. As Skiven attempted to pull the sword out of the chamber with a grappling line, the skeletons (unsurprisingly) animated and attacked.

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The battle was fierce, but the undead were eventually vanquished. Skiven found a hollow area in the back of an alcove and smashed through it, revealing a narrow set of stone steps winding down. It seemed that the party had found a previously undiscovered way into the dreaded Barrowmaze.

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Session 3
A new face

As the party inspected the stairs inside the mound and debated their next move, they heard a call from outside. Hurrying outside to see, they spied a lone man leaning on a staff several yards away. He was Lannek, a mage who had come to the Barrowmaze in order to learn its secrets (and possible profit by it). His robes were somewhat faded and in travel-stained, but he was equipped for adventuring. After some nervous parley, they all agreed they might try working together.

It was late enough in the day that the group decided the stairs could wait until morning. They took a few minutes to disguise the entrance and to mark it so they could see if anyone went through during the night. Then they withdrew to their old campsite near the road. The original trio kept an eye on their new companion, but he seemed quite unoffended by their suspicion.

The next morning, the group returned to the moor. As they worked their way back to the mound with the stairs, a group of zombies staggered toward them. As they got closer, they could see they were the animated corpses of the tomb robbers they’d met the day before! The fight was short and the zombies were put down.

Back at the stairs, Skiven carefully checked for traps on the steps as he slowly proceeded down ahead, forgoing a torch and relying on infravision. At the bottom, he found an interaction of corridors. Rather than exploring too far, he brought the rest of the group down. The hireling Pelric was instructed to wait with the mule topside until two hours before sunset, then –if they had not returned– retreat to the campsite near the road (beyond the moors) and await them there.

Down below, the hallways branched and ran off in different directions, the party elected to try the nearest door first. It was somewhat warped with damp, but through main strength, Grania was able to wrench it aside, though the noise was startlingly loud in this dark place.

Inside the walls were damp from moisture seeping in from the moor. Dozens of ossuarial niches lined the walls. Several skeletons that had been stood against the walls were now covered in a layer of limestone. They broke free and moved to attack the party. foss_skel.jpg Their stony carapaces made them harder to hurt than normal skeletons, but the party managed to put them down without sustaining too much hurt.

After some debate as to whether to take the time, the party searched all the niches. Among the bones, they found some coin and some jewelry.

Moving on, they debated which direction to try first, ultimately choose to head west down a long corridor with some doors visible from their vantage point. They found several strange things, including a barred room with a tapestry or curtain hung on the far wall, but they chose not to enter there for the moment. The two doors they found each revealed a small crypt, one with a shrouded skeleton on a stone bier with an offertory bowl at its head. A faded fresco depicting Orcus and Set’s battle with Nergal was on one wall. The bowl contained many coins and the party took those. Bhishma defaced the demons’ faces in the mural by hitting them with his hammer. The sounds of metal on stone echoing through the halls.

The second room had a pile of shattered tablets on the floor, they looked as if they may have once held magical writing, but they were now illegible. Underneath the stones they found a war hammer with silver filigree on its head. SilverWarhammer.png

The next area they investigated was an open room with a faded mural in front of a blood stained altar that looked as if it had been used within the last few weeks. The mural was too faint to make out any entails, though. A side door revealed the dead body of a strangely twisted human (odd bestial features mixed with normal ones). He had been apparently stabbed to death. His arms clutched a rusty cauldron like a pillow. Inside the pot were hundreds of rotted human teeth. The dead creature also wore some fine jewelry (doubtless looted from some crypt).

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Beyond the altar room were halls that led to a row of small rooms, each shut with its own door. There was also more of the corridor they had originally come down, not to mention the other passages they hadn’t taken. As time pushed on, the party pondered its next move.

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Session 4
A matter of lever-age

(Sorry this took so long. I’ll try to get session 5 up too. I’m afraid I may be hazy on a few details here, so please let me know if you spot anything, or go ahead and edit it yourself if so inclined!)

The party decided to explore the hallway of small crypts. The first door had graffiti scrawled next to it in chalk on the wall. It read “Up, then down.” Inside revealed a dark room and an undead skeleton wielding a longsword, wearing black-enameled chainmail. Bhishma and Grainia defeated it handily. The room contained a circle on the floor painted with magical looking symbols. Lennek proclaimed it appeared to be part of an enchantment but not the whole formula. The party left it well alone and –after taking the skeleton’s gear– moved on.

Approaching the next door, our heroes saw a patch of wet slime leading to (or from) the door and ending a few yards away in the hall. Inside the crypt was empty except for a stain of the slime on the floor.

The next door revealed nothing but a small pile of bones on a plain altar. The one after that had writing on the inside of the door which read “Don’t go this way.” and an arrow. which would point west if the door was closed. The following door was sealed so tightly that opening it produces a strong rush of air that would have extinguished a torch or candle. As it was, Skiven’s lantern was shielded from the wind.

The next door revealed a relatively recent corpse (Bhishma estimated less than a month old). The stench was terrible, but the party managed to keep their iron rations down long enough to hook the bodies pack off it. Inside was a small wizard’s spellbook. The group took that for Lannek to translate later.

Lannek and Bhisha moved closer to the end of the hall. There was a door on the left as well as one more on the right. Suddenly movement was seen on the floor near the right doorway. Three long snakes slithered out, with hoods flaring. Cobras! Bhishma pulled out an oil flask and smashed it to the floor in front of the serpents, planning to ignite it as a barrier. As the snakes reared, two of them spat streams of venom at Bhishma. The vile liquid struck his eyes with uncanny accuracy and he found himself blinded!

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Backpedaling furiously, Bhishma fumbled away from the snakes. Lannek produced a lit lantern from someplace and hurled it at the oil. It broke open and flames covered the floor. The wizard helped the dwarf retreat toward the others, but Grainia and Skiven were having troubles of their own.

While they were checking back down the hall, Grainia heard the flapping of leathery wings and two batlike shapes came out of the darkness at her. Stirges! The bloodsuckers whirled about her trying to latch on, but her armor was too thick. She and Skiven managed to cut the foul things down.

From back down the hall where they had come from, the group then heard a gibbering laugh and hurried footfalls. Preparing for an attack they saw three cadaverous humans loping towards them: Ghouls!

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Despite his impairment, Bhishma was able to present his holy symbol and turn the creatures, causing them to flee. The party debated pursuit, but they still had three vipers behind them to deal with.

Skiven could see the cobras near the edge of the burning oil, which had nearly gone out. He fired an arrow or two at them and wounded one. The snakes were quite unwilling to pursue the fight and slid back into the doorway from which they’d emerged. The thief hurried up to it and spiked the door shut.

Bhishma’s eyes were not improving, so the group opted for the better part of valor and retreated to the surface. Pelric was there and obviously relieved at their return (the young porter obviously did not relish the idea of traveling back across the moor alone). As it was nearly sunset, the party decided they wouldn’t have time to get back to Lychgate and returned instead to their previous campsite near the road.

The next morning, Bhishma used a spell to temporarily abate the venom’s effects on his eyes so he could read his scroll of Neutralize Poison, thus curing his affliction permanently.

Once the group was ready, they went back to the mound with the stairway and descended again to the maze. Retracing their steps they found the “snake door” still tightly closed. The door on the opposite wall opened into a room with two steel doors, several burial alcoves, and a set of three levers. While investigating these, a familiar sound was heard: the ghouls had found them again!

Bottlenecking them in the door, The foul undead things could not reach the whole party and were hacked down by Grainia’s whirling pole axe as their venomous claws scratched futilely at hers and Bhishma’s mail. Once the ghouls were dead, the party returned their attention to the room. A search of the alcoves revealed some platinum coins and ancient jewelry, which raised the party’s spirits a bit. They next decided to ponder the levers on the wall.

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Session 5
Rats! A trap!

After some experimentation, the levers opened the door on the west wall. Beyond it lay a corridor lined with doors, more crypts apparently. The party moved cautiously forward. Some of the doors revealed empty rooms, others held surprises. The first of which was a pair of giant crab spiders that made their webs on the ceiling. Fortunately for our heroes, Bhishma’s and Grania’s armoring was too tough for the venomous fangs, and the creatures were slain.

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As they searched the room, they found a long dead halfling under some webs. He held little of value other than a sturdy, well-made dagger.

They also found two runic tablets. When Skiven looked at the first one’s writing, a magical trap was triggered blasting him with arcane fire. The thief was singed but not cooked. Bhishma wrapped the other tablet up i a cloth without allowing anyone to look at it.

Before they moved on however, a clanking sound was heard from back down the hall. The steel door had swung shut! Apparently the levers had re-set. There was no sign of a latch or lever on this side. While Skiven felt sure the door could be broken open, given time, he preferred that the group press on and see what the rest of the hallway held or led to. The others concurred.

One room contained an odd pair of murals: one depicting the gods of law, the other the chaos pantheon. Bhishma defaced the chaos gods’ likenesses.

Farther along, Grania heard muttering sounds. The party stopped to listen, but the sounds shifted to angry cries and a pair of ghouls came scrabbling out of a doorway. The pair of raveners was no match for the group and were quickly put down. Inside the room was a partially dismembered and gnawed corpse. Skiven and Bhishma took the poor soul’s helmet (removing the severed head) and one boot (removing the leg and foot).

The room across the hall was odd. The torchlight danced oddly in the room. The reason became clear as three shadows came away from the wall and attacked!

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The foul things were not undead, but being of negative energy. Normal weapons and fire did no good. Lannek considered his silver dagger, but realized that it too was no good. Graina and Bhishma both felt the icy touch of the shades and were weakened by the attacks, but the creatures were slain.

The hallway ended here with no sign of other exits. After a fruitless search for hidden doorways, they returned to the steel door. Several minutes of diligent prying at hinges managed to wrench the portal open, though.

As the group re-entered the room with the levers (again), a gang of skeletons with glowing blue gems in their foreheads charged them!

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After smashing one of the skeleton and see it reform unharmed a few moments later, the party began smashing the gems as they downed the creatures. Skiven was able to gather a few of the larger gem fragments, but it was a patch on what the whole jewels would have been worth.

With the latest batch of monsters defeated, the party took stock of their situation and pondered their next move. While they rested, Bhishma and Grania both felt the fatigue from the shadows’ touch fade away. Apparently the effects were not permanent.

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Session 6
I yank the string off the chicken's leg and roll into the bush.

BOOt -T-REASsURE

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