Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Landing Chamber

The party is steadily lowered, about 10 inches a second, down to the platform one hundred feet below.  Naturally, I would expect the party to keep their lights flashing in every direction, looking to ensure their safety.  You see nothing, as you come down safely.  The cage settles on a round circle of paved blocks, much like was described in the descending chamber above.

I'll forego making a map of the room you're in; it is very like the descending chamber, a circle with a single tunnel leading from it.  This tunnel, however, is not rough-hewn.  The walls and ceiling, like the floor, are made of paved blocks.  It is about 7 feet high and nearly six feet wide, with no door.

At the door of the tunnel are four carved stones, resting on pedestals of moderately different heights ~ 34, 38, 43 and 46 inches tall.  The stones are, as I said, oval figurines; each is of an animal, but as the carving is not deep into the stone, the animals are more representations than realistic carvings.  The first, on the highest pedestal, has the body of a bear but a head that might be a stag or a ram.  A second is of a large, upright, two-legged beast with a dog's head.  The third is a multi-coiled snake that might, looked at the right way, have a dragon's head.  The last, on the lowest pedestal, is clearly a frog.

Engelhart's beast forms enables him to identify the first: it appears to be something related to an owlbear, but it is long extinct.  The two-legged beast is a humanoid and outside his ken.  He feels sure that it is a dragon, and guessing from the shape of the "head" it seems to be from a benevolent form.  Finally, the frog is undoubtedly more than just a frog: he is sure it is an ice toad.

The stones are all at least a thousand years old and each weighs about 80 lbs.  Though the carving is not of the highest order, it is probable their uniqueness would make them each valuable.


Pandred said...

The only question worth asking here then is if we feel putting them on the elevator to be unpacked by our allies before they pile in is worthwhile, or if we don't want to tamper with them.

I vote to put them in and ship them up.

On another note, I'd also like to creep up towards the tunnel entrance, but not inside it. I'll ask for a light from my comrades. What can I see?

Alexis Smolensk said...

If you step off the cage (and I assume you must, or else I cannot answer your question), then you will see this hall extends about twenty feet, then seems to open into a chamber; the bullseye lantern does not show much in a portal twenty feet away, but the floor of the chamber is similarly paved and extends further out than the lantern conveys.

Pandred said...


I'll wait for my comrades to step out of the cage and examine the stones if they wish, watching the chamber passage for trouble.

Good news at least is that nothing seemed disturbed by our lights.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

What is the stone carvings' disposition in relation to the tunnel entry? Two to a side?

I ask that a lantern be shone down into the waters, try to tell what is down there in greater detail.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, two to a side. That seems appropriate.

The water is more or less as I described before: shallow, very clear (and very cold, you can test that now), but without creatures in it.

[I was very tempted to have the players beset upon by something the moment you came to the bottom, but that was never my plan from the beginning]

Engelhart Askjellson said...

What say you, friends, shall we venture further inward?

I set about prying the dog-man carving from its place. See if that summons a gnoll...

Embla Strand said...

While we are poking around here, I shine the lantern through the small gap in the wall by the pool.

How heavy do these statues appear?

Alexis Smolensk said...

The dog man statue, not carving, stands freely upon the pedestal. It needs not to be pried loose. It is heavy, however, as I said.

They appear to be as heavy as stone, Embla.

The small gap in the wall, where the water escapes from the cavern, appears just to be an outlet gap in the stone, which the water has cracked open over the last hundred thousand years or so. It is far, far too small to crawl through.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Right, I was being rash anyway, piling loot can wait and disturbing the scene before checking out the environs is unadvisable.

I'll ask for light and check out the first twenty feet of the tunnel then, just to the edge of the next chamber. Carefully noting any irregularities on the flooring, as I do not wish to trigger a trap.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The floor seems distinctly solid. The tunnel is somewhat dusty, more so as you move forward, disturbing a layer that is perhaps a millimeter/25th of an inch thick.

Unless I miss my guess, you're now standing at the edge of the next chamber, in a position to cast your light around the space. Am I correct?

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Not quite, Alexis.

I am standing at the edge, yes, but I asked for someone to illuminate my path as I'm not in possession of a lamp myself (Shield & Sling are what I'm holding), as such, I have no light of mine to cast as yet.

Pandred said...

We probably should have made it more clear who was holding a light and who wasn't, as a group.

Just to reiterate, I've got the crossbow in hand, one round from loaded. I'm waiting for our decision to enter the new space to fully load it.

Embla Strand said...

I have the lantern and a javelin and am providing the necessary light. As we are gathered in the corridor near the next room, I shine the lantern into it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ah, Engelhart. When you asked for light, I presumed this meant you asked for the lantern to be given to you. But I did feel there was something odd, thus the request for confirmation.

Luckily, there is no huge monstrous claw to reach out of the darkness and grab you; but with the light behind you, you're quite evident to anything in the room while the room is only half visible to you. But you experience no attack.

The chamber is deathly quiet. It is dry, parched, smelling of dust.

You can see a dim path about ten feet wide into the room, and get a general sense of the size of the chamber. It is about thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep; you are in the middle of one of the long walls. You can see the corner edges of two stone statues, which are about four feet high and much longer than they are tall. You would guess, as your eyes adjust to the light, that these are narrow frogs, positioned on all fours. There is one to the left of you and one to the right, facing each other.

Between the frogs seems to be a black shape, much like a block. The light does not reflect from it, so you guess it must be made of dark stone or some other non-reflective material.

There are four ghostly shapes, two to the left, two to the right, forming the corners of a square. The shapes are indistinct, about five feet high, a foot in diameter and gently lifting and lowering about four inches or so, in place. They are the color of white wax, being translucent and reflecting more light than anything else in the room. The shapes are very eerie, but their movement seems to have nothing to do with you.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

I slowly retreat and communicate to the party that we should make ready for combat. Four ghostly shapes and a possible gelatinous cube, which I would definitely not advise we engage simultaneously.

I can ready my Light spell and have us engage from a distance.

We should also draw these beings into the passageway or we'll face grief if we engage flyers in a high-ceilinged room.

Lothar Svensson said...

I guess I've got the other lantern, then.

So four ghostly floating things, a big dark block, and some frog statues. When we finally make some money we need to buy a couple of prisoners or something to send into these kinds of rooms before we go in.

The dry, parched descriptor feels like a hint (it may not be, but it feels like one).

So do we send in one person or rush in all together? I've a feeling they are another set of constructs left by the builders to guard something, and I think the block is likely some kind of altar to the heathen gods or whatnot.

Pandred said...

I'll go in first, just make sure a light is close behind.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

What's all that about going in? We should all let loose a volley of missiles before, at the very least.

I'll position myself at the front by the threshold at Pandred's side, sling spinning.

Lothar Svensson said...

Should we? We should instantly declare ourselves hostile to whatever may or may not be living in the room without attempting to engage non-aggressively first? I'll need a better sales pitch before I bite on that one.

It's not that I'm opposed to fighting, but if we don't have to, I'd rather save my HP (and another couple of day's rations) for a conflict that has to happen instead of throwing rocks at something that may not actually default to "kill anyone who enters this room" programming.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

That's most reasonable, although it is an assumption that flies a bit in the face of every other encounter we've had at this location.

But sure enough, I'll hold my fire until we've had a chance to parley or at least until Alexis paints us a clearer picture of what we see.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, a clearer picture. But that comes with more light.

I do need to express the size of the stone block: it is about the size of very large chest.

Lothar Svensson said...

I take up position behind Pandred, shining the lantern over her shoulder.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Pandred's statement was "I'll go" ~ "I will go," future tense. Therefore Lothar is in a position behind Pandred, but she is still in the hallway.

Embla Strand said...

I concur with Lothar. Also, if they are hostile ghosts, how effective will our weapons be against them?

I stand behind Lothar, shining my lantern into the room as well.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Very well, I cast Light into the rough center of the room and enter. Keeps us from all this hemming and awing.

Embla: your doubts are well founded. But wouldn't that mean that it is better to find out if our weapons are ineffective from a distance?

But here's a thought: ready some torches... they may be our only hope of hurting these things.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Boom. Light.

What first? The potential threat of the figures hanging the room? Or their description. The latter I think.

These appear to be frog-like humanoids, about five feet tall, with distinctly humanoid arms and legs, frog-like skin and distorted frog-like heads. They have two inch talons for claws and horns on their heads, three inches long and tapering to a point.

They also appear to be dead, with death masks on their faces. There's no sense that they are aware of anything, much less the party. They are a waxy grey-white in color and the translucence that was shown by the part light is augmented by the ability to see "through" the figures, as though they were composed of milky glass.

They are floating about two feet above the floor and slowly bobbing in place.

The statues are stylized narrow shapes, a foot deep, four feet high and about eight feet long. The block between them appears to be a chest, with a stone lid.

There is one double-door in the room, made of heavy wood, opposite you. It is very large, nearly nine feet high and eleven feet wide. It has an immense wooden bar that has been placed into carved stone brackets. It would probably take three of you, with Pandred, to lift it. There are chains across the door that you can see, to give it strength.

[now don't overthink this, gentlemen. The figures are indistinct and seem to have no substance. Testing this will demonstrate that objects will pass through their bodies without causing any change. Everything else in the room is what it appears to be. None of it is an illusion, there are no secret panels. The only openings are the apparent lid of the block and the described door)

Embla Strand said...

Well, then, I take a closer look at the chest.

Lothar Svensson said...

A great big heavy door with chains and a bar across it? Sounds like someone didn't want whatever is in that room to get out...

Engelhart Askjellson said...

It follows that I take a closer look at the door.

Oh, and the death-masks, are they ethereal as well? (They could be loot...)

Alexis Smolensk said...

My mistake. "Death mask" is also a way of describing a once-living face after it has become contorted following the departure of life. The creatures are not wearing masks.

The door defenses are arranged so that pins can be pulled and the chains dropped or removed, letting the door open. The door is solid, but it has a little give to it. Without removing the bar or the chains, you press the doors and they move about half an inch, in and out. The chains shift a little. Plainly, the door could be opened.

The chest is well-masoned. By fitting a blade between the lid and the main block, you prove to yourself that the lid can be lifted (though of course, I have not said you do so).

By this time, the cage has made its round trip up and down, and Bergthora steps off.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Seems pretty linear to infer that door should follow after chest, at least to me.

Here's my bold suggestion:

1) We insert leverage into the chest lid in preparation for a simple one-motion lifting effort (how heavy can we reckon the lid to be, Alexis?).

2) We also leave the door right at the point of opening: bar lifted, maybe also pins pulled & chains removed.

3) We leave at least one or even both lanterns laying on the chamber, duly pointed at the door's portal, since this chamber proper is already illuminated by my spell.

4) Yours truly casts Sanctuary (6 rounds, now) and proceed to open both the chest and, if nothing relevant happens in the interim, pull the pins and open the door wide.

5) You fellows hold back outside the Light spell's radius and, given that the lanterns be pointed the opposite direction, this means you'll all be shrouded in darkness, missiles at the ready.

6) If anything goes awry, we retreat to the cage and make good our escape (maybe we'll need Bergthora already topside to lighten the load and have another set of hands manning the winch?).

What do you say? Is this a good plan?

Embla Strand said...

Sanctuary is a good choice, but it does not protect you from another Fire Trap. We can use one of my javelins as a lever to open the chest - hopefully [if the chest is trapped], you'll be out of the line of fire.

Other than that, I support the plan.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

On the contrary, Embla, rereading Sanctuary recently it jumped at me that the caster is entitled to a +4 Save as part of the spell's effect, great against traps!

Alexis Smolensk said...

You'd reckon the lid would be about 130 lbs.

There's no room for more than two persons to operate the winch at any one time, and even at that it is pretty cramped. So a third person up there wouldn't be useful.

Your javelin has no metal tip, Embla. It isn't a spear. It is charcoal-hardened wood and will simply break.

Pandred said...

Maybe if we opened the lid from the back? So that any fire trap exploded in the opposite direction? I'm not certain if that's how it would, in practice, operate.

Either way I'd rather let Engelhart handle it and save my strength for the door.

Since nothing was waiting for us, I'm going to unwinch the crossbow and set it in the elevator. I'm almost disappointed that I didn't get to see that monstrous damage it can dish out. Oh well, another time.

Pandred said...

Oh, another thing.

Are the ghost frogs the same as the statue? Ice Toads?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Engelhart will assure you that no, they're not. The floating figures are humanoids; the statues are plainly toad shapes. The ice toads have beards, which give the statues away as not ordinary toads. Engelhart's beast skill tells him these things.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Well then, I'll just wait on Lothar for his input on the situation and for someone to volunteer a leverage device (maybe a pick or shovel from Bergthora?).

You can keep that crossbow handy, Pandred, and Lothar can also send for his bow, if you position yourselves as I'm suggesting you'll get plenty of chance to use them still.

Lothar Svensson said...

Would my quarterstaff be stout enough to lever the top off?

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Since everyone seems in agreement, I set about lifting the bar, with help from you.

Alexis: the pins, are they rusted stuck that they'd need a hammering?

Lothar Svensson said...

I thought we were opening the chest first?

Engelhart Askjellson said...

It's all in what I posted above: I'm gunning for opening both, under the cover of Sanctuary, chest first, door second.

The thing is, to work with the spell's very limited duration, we have to leave both things right on the cusp of being opened, so that I can open both and still have some time left to ascertain consequences (like traps or even the frogmen animating) while still under the spell's cover.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The end of the quarterstaff would be too thick to fit into the slot between lid and chest.

There is rust on the pins, but the room is quite dry. A knock or two would likely free the pins, making them loose enough to pull.

At this point, Engelhart, no one knows you exist. You cast sanctuary: that effects the party as well as anything else. You can't give the directions you've been giving.

Moreover, six rounds is only 72 seconds. In the discussion about what can be used to open the lid, the sanctuary will have quickly run out.

Alexis Smolensk said...

So I guess that Engelhart, you can't have assured Pandred about the frogs: unless you did that when you were first exploring the room (I can be flexible about that).

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hm. Damn this way of speaking you have. You wrote, "Yours truly casts Sanctuary (6 rounds, now)" ~ which I took as, "I am casting the spell now."

But I think you meant, with 2nd level the spell now lasts 6 rounds.

I'll take that second meaning and presume that you haven't cast the spell. But damn, please be more precise.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Sorry, Alexis.

I've been, as per your request, quite more stringent about saying that I cast things since our little falling-out. I was merely pointing out the newly extended effect for the spell, and it was, as context proves, all a plan formulation.

Guess I should have used the future tense, I'll endeavour more care in the future.

Now, about Bergthora's Pick or Shovel, will that do?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, the pick will do.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Well then, we've the means and the method. Anything anyone wishes to add or let's do this?

Lothar Svensson said...

I put down my backpack and quarterstaff, strap on my shield, and draw my longsword. I stand in the hallway, 10 feet from the doorway into the room.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

I ask Bergthora that she insert her pickaxe into the gap in the stone chest, facing the barred door, that it'll take me less movement to reach the bolts after opening it.

I loosen the bolts to the point of near completion with my hammer and unbar the door with the party's help.

Embla Strand said...

After assisting Engelhart with the door, I keep my eyes upon it, javelin at the ready.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

I advise that you stand well back, Embla, away from the Light's radius, it is the safest.

I'll ask for the lanterns to be positioned on the floor of the chamber, facing the barred door, as per my previous post.

Only Pandred to go.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Bergthora rolls her morale and fails the check.

"What are we doing?" she asks. "We don't know what's behind that door. We don't know what these creepy floating things are, or what they might do. We don't even know what's in the box. Do I need to remind you four that lighting a lamp opened a door in this place? What will opening a box do?"

Embla Strand said...

[does she fail her morale check even with my bonus?]

"Bergthora, it's all right. Why don't you wait behind us? Could I borrow your pick for this task?"

Engelhart, let's just do the chest for now - if all goes well, we'll try the door, but I'd rather not bite off more than we can chew.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

[does she fail the morale roll even with Bless's bonus?]

Sure, let's just do the chest.

But I won't let slide that I'm feeling more and more led by the nose by the "retainers" with every passing room. Food for thought.

Lothar Svensson said...

For the record, I'm pretty nervous about opening the door and the chest all at once as well. And Bergthora's reaction seems pretty reasonable for someone in a very strange environment that has been known to kill people, especially since she doesn't get to roll up a new character if things go banana-shaped.

I don't feel like in-character speech accompanying a failed check is out of line by any means. Having a non-player opinion around (especially considering out relative newness in Alexis' world) is to my mind a good thing, and helpful, not any attempt to domineer our path. This is a dangerous game, and sloppy play will get a character killed, as we've seen. I'd prefer to have my lack pointed out to me before it gets out of control.

After all, we are/were proposing opening a mysterious stone chest surrounded by some form of ghost, and immediately after opening a BIG, barred, chained door. Out of the frying pan and into the fire is one thing, but if you pour all the grease from the pan onto the fire as well...

Long story short, perhaps we send Bergthora up in the cage and get it lowered again before we open up two cans of purple worms, eh? Escape routes might be a critical utility here.

Alexis Smolensk said...

She missed morale by 1. But it is a 15 in 36 chance that she would fail morale.

[Okay, about the retainers. If I give descriptions of the room, the dungeon, the wilderness, the city and the residents in it, all with the understanding that it is okay to be misleading in my description of those things, because I am a DM, why am I suddenly not permitted to be either honest or misleading with a real live person who is in your company?

Note that she does not say don't do it. She doesn't threaten you, or try to force you. If you feel doubtful because she's said something that could potentially make sense, GOOD. If she puts you off your game, GOOD. If the creepy things hanging in the room put you off your game, if the statues put you off your game, if the chest puts you off your game, what's the difference?

Welcome to the reality of the setting. Bergthora is part of that setting. If you think that she's a special DM plant in the game, then you're missing the point. The very stones you're walking on are DM plants, the air you're breathing is a DM plant, the hammer in your hand is a DM plant. This is my universe, Engelhart. NOTHING is exempt from my manipulation.

Are you being manipulated? Yes. Yes you are. Are you being led by the nose by the construction of the dungeon and the placement of the treasure? Yes. Absolutely.

You've got to stop trying to play the DM and start trying to play the game. Bergthora is either a friend or an enemy. If an enemy, kill her. If a friend, learn to trust her. It is up to you. She isn't leading you by the nose. Your prejudices about OTHER DMs is what's leading you by the nose, because you're feeling that, like most, I'm out to fuck you somehow.

Get over that feeling. I don't play that way]

Alexis Smolensk said...


On the other hand, if someone gets mauled and chewed to pieces in the first couple of rounds, the cage won't need to make two trips . . .

Pandred said...

Talk is cheap, and treasure is how we pay for it.

Let's crack it open already. Bergthora can sit in the elevator with my crossbow if she's afraid.

I'll be hanging a few yards off to the side with my shield and throwing axe unless Engelhart specifically requests my help opening the chest, in which case I will offer my shield to someone else, and keep my battleaxe in easy reach.

If anyone suggests we do the door first, Pandred will be a mule about the chest being first. We've barely made enough from this expedition to pay for trying to make this expedition.

Engelhart Askjellson said...

Lothar: I get where you're coming from. I don't at all mind opening just the chest. I was willing to risk a bit in an effort to get more mileage out of our setup, you're not 100%, that's more than fair, let's not do it.

In fact, I declare action: I help you re-bar the door and hammer the pins back into place.

[Alexis, understand that I'm not bedgrudging you, just venting my feelings.
I mean, it's not even the way you portray a retainer's hesitation, which is on all counts pretty realistic and not at all out of place. No, what irks is more the fact that, they unavoidably being a DM-mouthpiece, means that even casual kvetching by one who fails a morale check is always to be taken by party mates as prophetic wisdom.

I'll tell you what, your being pretty open and honest about them being "manipulation" (along with everything else, granted) is pretty much all the point I wanted to make, and I attach to that no moral or value judgments at all. Let's move on with the game].

Alexis Smolensk said...

[I won't let slide that your venting seems directed less at the situation and more at how you view my motives, Engelhart. I'm getting tired of going around and around with you]

I have put up a new post.