Johann Borscht, Bringer of Meat, Breaker of Snakes, Dwarf Fighter 3
Yngwie Magnusson, Dwarf Thief 2
Legolas "Baphomohawk" Jones, Elf Magic-User 2
Brunhilda von Sass, Elf Fighter 1
The PCs agreed, and the sphere shot a beam of green energy out, manifesting Meinrad's teleportation chain on the table. The PCs each grabbed hold and pulled, teleporting them to the outskirts of Ambrose's property.
Here, the first thing they saw was a 12' tall guy with grass for a beard, branches growing out of the top of his head and bark for skin swinging a club at a bunch of soldiers in yellow and blue livery who were hassling him with spears. Intervening, they quickly learned that this was the Woodsman, a forest spirit whom the wizard Ambrose had taken in and given a home and purpose to - and who was being blamed by the guardsmen for Ambrose's disappearance, on the grounds that his tower was completely covered in thorny, fire-resistant vines and who else could have caused them to grow overnight?
Unconvinced, the PCs asked the captain of the guards to take them to see the tower, which he did; here, the PCs were introduced to Aureus and Halycon, a pair of young adult Gold Dragons allied with Ambrose, currently trying and failing to claw or burn their way through the vines completely covering the northwest tower of the keep. They also met Bernard, Ambrose's apprentice and castellan, who explained that the vines even penetrated the stone in places, forbidding entrance to the tower through the interior doors as well as sealing off the outside. Some experimentation proved that Baphomohawk's X-Ray Pulse Rifle damaged the vines better than dragonfire did, and Bernard suggested using it against the interior door, where the vines were thinner, promising them magic items from the castle vaults in exchange for getting in and finding out what happened to Ambrose.
They managed to burn their way through the vines coating the interior door with the X-Ray rifle, though the vines fought back, entangling Johann, Yngwie and Baphomohawk (and nearly killing the poor goat-headed mage in the process) before being overwhelmed by Brunhilda and her bastard sword.
Entering, they found themselves in a lounge designed for entertaining guests, where Brunhilda quickly found a secret liquor cabinet and applied a moral litmus test to the rest of the party - having argued vehemently against Yngwie looting the tower in full hearing range of Bernard, she proceeded to put Ambrose's most expensive and magical liquors in her bag to see what the rest of the party would do. Their outrage at her actions convinced her that they were people she'd be willing to continue adventuring with.
Searching the rest of the floor, they found a smoking room containing a wide variety of pipes, cigars, and an eight-foot tall hookah of ivory, crystal and brass; they also found Ambrose's study. Heading to the second floor, they discovered Ambrose's bed chambers, a walk-in closet full of robes in various shades of yellow, and a bathroom with indoor plumbing. The bed was rumpled and the bed-curtains torn, suggesting a struggle took place.
|if I had been smart, I would have bought Gummy Worms for|
Going up a flight of stairs, they found themselves in Ambrose's disorderly, overflowing library, books piled in haphazard arrangements and spilling off of mismatched shelves. Also in this room, they encountered two guys in filthy ringmail armor, ragged bile-green cloaks, and their faces painted to resemble skulls. When Brunhilda demanded to know their business, they attacked, charging in with heavy maces (the heads shaped like stylized skulls), though one stumbled over a book and came sliding in towards Brunhilda.
Attempting to intimidate that one, Brunhilda tried to stomp on his arm and slam her swordblade down an inch from his neck...and instead chopped his arm completely off, killing him instantly from massive blood loss. They managed to incapacitate and bind the second one for interrogation - learning that they'd come to Ambrose's tower seeking the Gilded Skull of Malygris, all that remained of an ancient lich who'd been an adherent of their death-seeking Worm Cult. They also learned that there were four more cultists elsewhere in the tower.
Threatening the cultist with both death and immortality (a bluff by Baphomohawk), they also learned that this cult wasn't interested in death, but rather in undeath - that those who were faithful servants of the Worm God Kyuss would serve forever as undead, a fate to be envied. Having learned as much as they thought they would from him, Johann casually decapitated him.
Brunhilda dressed herself in the attire of the cultists, and Baphomohawk did her makeup to make her resemble the skull-faced weirdos, so that they could maybe bluff the remaining cultists.
Finding them two stories up in the attic, the bluff worked long enough for Yngwie to sneak around and kill two cultists with his laser pistol - exploding one cultist's head and boring a golf ball-sized hole through another's chest - before they caught on, at which point the party quickly executed the other two, having learned that their leader, a wizard named Azederac, was in the catacombs under the castle and could be accessed via trapdoor under the couch in the lounge.
Descending, they decided to try the bluff again - with Brunhilda acting as a cultist who'd caught an intruder (Johann) who appeared tightly bound, but was in fact free to act; the "Chewbacca Deception," if you will.
|Azederac, but with a headscarf instead of a fez.|
Azederac, a tall gaunt man dressed in bile-green robes and a black headscarf, was busy waterboarding Ambrose with potions of Inflict Light Wounds in which green Kyuss-worms swam, and at first seemed completely taken by the deception, and was seemingly eager to discuss the theology of Kyussism with Johann. To prove a point, he called over a thoroughly worm-infested walking corpse, its facial orifices overflowing with fat green worms. At the sight of this thing, Brunhilda and Baphomohawk panicked and retreated, while Johann dropped the captive act and swung his battle axe at the undead horror. Yngwie, meanwhile, took a potshot at Azederac with his laser pistol.
Shrugging off Azederac's Magic Missile, Johann charged, decapitating the mummy with a single swing of his axe. The corpse collapsed into dust, and so did the magical vines he'd raised around the tower.
Waking the rest of the party, Johann carried the barely-alive Ambrose upstairs, where Bernard was waiting with several healing potions, two of which Johann gratefully drank while Brunhilda pocketed a third. The rest were poured down Ambrose's throat, reviving him.
Explaining what had happened - and noting that the Kyuss-cult had been operating under bad information; he'd sold the gilded skull of Malygris some months back - Ambrose happily rewarded the PCs with 200 GP apiece as well as the magic items promised by Bernard; the PCs received a Bag of Holding, a Cloak of Elvenkind, a Chime of Opening and a Ring of Protection, +1 for their troubles, in addition to a magic staff, the Staff of Decay, and a pair of Bracers of Armor they'd taken off Azederac's remains, plus the reward of 1200 GP from Meinrad, which they received upon delivery of the book.
Tallying up the party's wealth, they quickly realized they had enough money banked for Johann to purchase the Cosmic Ray Cannon from Old Man Walter.
This was really a last-minute adventure. I wrote it yesterday in about an hour, from ideas loosely assembled Friday while at work - on a break I happened to read Chris Kutalik's blogpost Derailing Castle Amber, then pulled up the module and read it on lunch, and spent the afternoon thinking about how to incorporate more Clark Ashton Smith into D&D; the Kyuss cult was originally going to be a cult of Mordiggian, Smith's "Charnel God," and then I decided I wanted to use Sons of Kyuss out of the Fiend Folio as "muscle" for the cult, and then it turned into a Kyuss cult. The names "Azederac" and "Malygris" of course come from Smith.
Azederac here isn't a standard D&D mummy, but rather a Carcosa-style mummy, being a reanimated sorcerer with full intellect and spellcasting ability - kind of a "diet lich." He ended up being 7th level because I needed him to be a high enough level to cast Plant Growth, to account for the vines encasing the tower.
Overall the session went really well; the players were really jazzed up and wanted to keep going even, but I had to call time because it was getting late (and I knew Baphomohawk's player had work). Baphomohawk and Yngwie both hit 3rd level, while Brunhilda hit 2nd, and we'll handle leveling up and shopping at the beginning of next session.