Temple of Elemental Evil – Part IV

Recounted by: Jameson Sheehan

Where we conclude the tale of our adventure through the Temple of Elemental Evil and face the breaking of the seventh and final seal chaining Zugtumoy to her prison…

After clearing the fourth and final level of the Temple, we journeyed back to the tower outside to weigh our options. Zugtumoy had not yet been released, though we knew the final seal would break in only a few days, so our time was short. The only problem? We had no idea where she was or how to defeat her. So, we did the only thing we could: we searched through all four levels of the Temple for anything we missed.

With the inhabitants cleared, we were able to search all four levels without trouble, and on the third level we found a secret door that we had previously missed. Inside we found a room that had many papers and books strewn about the place. It appeared to be a wizard’s study, now abandoned. Looking through the documents in the room we found a tale of a golden skull, an object tied to Zugtumoy that should be in the Temple… well, somewhere.

Searching the stonework of the room, we found a secret door on the opposite wall from the entrance. Directly in front of us was a panicked and angry wizard leveling a wand at us. A fireball came streaking down the passageway from the tip of the wizard’s wand and exploded amongst us. Smoldering and slightly singed, we gave chase to the wizard as he fled around the corner. We were met by yet another fireball to the face as we rounded the corner and caught a glimpse of the wizard diving for a blue shimmering portal with a bundle of cloth under his arm. Just as he jumped into the liquid surface of the portal, we managed to disarm the bundle out from under his arm. The portal closed after the wizard disappeared inside. We opened up the bundle and found a golden skull with four holes in its head. The paladin, Sneazy, decided to detect evil on it to see if it was in fact the skull mentioned in the documents and he promptly collapsed onto the floor, unconscious and overwhelmed by its forceful aura.

We carried him, various documents, and the skull out of the Temple to the tower to determine out what to do next.

From the documents, we found out that the skull was the key to the entrance to Zugtumoy’s prison. If one would be to insert the four elemental gems into the four slots in the golden skull and subject the skull to each of the 4 elements in quick succession, then the prison door would be revealed to us. We devised a crazy plan: we would play baseball. (Well… sort of.) Our paladin would hit the skull with his sword enchanted with lightning after the bard coated it in dirt from the ground. The skull would fly towards a wall of fire created by the druid, which would then be coated in water summoned by the cleric.

Happily our paladin could bat in the major leagues because, on his first strike, he hit a home run, driving the skull through the wall of fire and towards the cleric to be doused in water. The skull lit up and a stairway descending underneath the Temple in the entrance hall appeared where none was previously found.

We rested from our labors and awoke to the sky lit in a firmament of lighting and thunder as rain fell down from the heavens. The ground shook with a violent earthquake. We knew that the final day had come, for the seventh and final seal had finally been broken. We collected our armor, weapons, and other gear we might need for the final battle, and descended the newly revealed stairway to face off with Zugtumoy against all hope.

We climbed far down below to emerge into a vast cavernous chamber. The chamber was expansive in size, about half a mile across and around 100 feet in height from the floor to the ceiling. Descending the stairs, we found a beleaguered army that had been sealed inside to defend against Zugtumoy and her greatest minions locked in with her. They were tired and exhausted from years of this endless fight, attempting to hold her power back, but they had been failing as each successive seal was broken. The only hope to succeed against Zugtumoy was to take the fight to her before her power waxed to its fullest height where none but the gods could stop her. The army would breach a whole in Zugtumoy’s defenses to allow our party to get through to Zugtumoy to have a chance and defeating her.

The mechanic that our GM came up with for simulating large combat has to be one of my favorite moments in tabletop gaming. The GM arrayed the armies on our table with all of the many minions of Zugtumoy coming to attack us in waves. If they reached our battle lines, we would lose as their vast numbers would overrun our positions quickly. Our job was to control the siege equipment in our army: the ballistas and catapults. We would throw d20s or pencils at the minis on the table in initiative order based on which siege engine we were operating. The thing is we had to throw them starting at around 10 feet from the table. For every modifier point our characters had for intelligence, we got to move closer to the table 1 foot per point. IF we had a negative intelligence modifier, well we get to move further away. If we hit our own army lines, we had botched and fired into our own troops and had to move another foot away from the table. We had to survive for around 10 rounds of continuous waves before we would make a hole in the enemy lines through which our party could escape to Zugtumoy. We managed to survive, barely, and breached a gap in the opposing forces and fought our way to the lair of Zugtumoy and the final battle.

We emerged into a large rectangular cavern at the center of which was a circular pit of lava. On the other side of the pit stood Zugtumoy clad in her demonic majesty, ready for battle. She summoned a stone giant to fight beside her as we charged and now had to fight against two foes: the demon lord herself and a stone giant swinging a club. Our druid was quickly cut down. We fought long and hard around the pit of lava, suffering many wounds as we killed the giant and began to drain Zugtumoy’s power.

Eum fell in that bloody battle, a victim to the giant’s wrath. Frenzy was beheaded when Zugtumoy struck him with a strong kick. His body slumped to the ground as his head sailed through the air into the pool of lava. Only three of us remained: the cleric, the fighter, and the paladin. We surrounded her and struck at her with our last bit of strength to deliver the fatal blow. Zugtumoy fell before us and faded into the wind, destroyed and removed from the world at last.

The three of us stumbled from the ruins of the Temple with the rest of our army and took stock of what remained. Over the next few weeks, we would discover that the world of Golarion as a whole had suffered greatly. One whole third of the entire world population had been destroyed and devastated by the plagues and devastation that had been wrought by the breaking of the seven seals. Iuz was unaccounted for and still at large, though his ally and army had been defeated and destroyed. Most tragically and giving the longest term effect, the entire world was cut off from all good divine magic.

Next week, we will continue our story with Act II of our campaign: The Tomb of Horrors.

Until next time, this has been Tales from the GM.

Temple of Elemental Evil – Part III

Recounted by: Jameson Sheehan

Where we journey into the depths of level 4, the lair of the commanders and high priests of the Temple…

After clearing the level above and escaping from the cold grasp of death (well, most of us escaped), we climbed down a long flight of stairs and emerged into a hall. Many passages went off to each side as the stairs continued further down until they opened into a hall below. Not wanting to be attacked from behind, we checked the side passages. Down one on the left we met a trio of of giants that were fighting, 2 ganging up on one of them. Our party decided to come to the aid of the one, which to our surprise turned out to be a female elven druid in disguise. She had infiltrated the Temple to find the groves she was sworn to protect. She joined up with our party, rounding us out to a paladin, fighter, bard, cleric, sorcerer/barbarian, and druid. We then descended the wide stairs into the hall below to find what foes awaited us there. Little did we know, our greatest foe yet was prepared for our arrival.

We descended the steps into an octagonal room, well lit by torches on the walls. On the opposite side of the room, there was a raised dais that had steps ascending on all three sides. The back  of the dais had a curtain that moved slowly, as if pushed by a breeze where none existed. Staring directly in front of us, on top of the dais, in his full menacing glory, was the demi-god Iuz, prepared to slay us all.

We charged him, though there was little hope we would succeed.

Fireballs exploded across the room, black orbs of necrotic energy bounded off of the walls, and swords flashed in the air. We fought hard, but it was in vain, as we eventually fell one by one to his wrathful fury. It was at this moment that Turjeon (the former cleric of Hommlet, now the herald of his deity and a powerful force of good ) appeared out of thin air to our rescue. . He crashed into Iuz and cast a plane shift spell, transporting them to the outer planes to do battle out in the wilds of the universe and removing Iuz from the mortal plane for a time. Turjeon made a great sacrifice as he was greatly outclassed by Iuz – he a mere herald  and Iuz a full fledge demi-god.

At the end, in the void where they once stood, 4 fingers lay on the ground, all that would remain of Turjeon.

We climbed back out of the Temple, beaten and bruised, to lick our wounds in the tower outside. Upon our awakening, the ramifications of the second to last seal being broken became evident. Our cleric found himself cut off from his god with no connection to his divine power. Little did we know the seal was actually the death of Turjeon at the hands of Iuz, the result of which was the severance of all good divine magic from the outer planes to the mortal plane. All followers of good deities lost their powers: paladins, clerics, oracles, and the ordinary man’s attempts at prayer were severed. Our cleric, in possession of Turjeon’s remaining 4 fingers, found out that Turjeon had placed a vessel of his power inside of each of his fingers and left them, providing us with only four days of hope and power to our cleric’s magical abilities.

ng back into the Temple, we returned to the octagonal room and proceeded deeper within the temple. As we approached the curtain, it became active and started lashing out at us, revealing an aberration. We defeated that foe and found our greatest challenge yet: a 5 foot gap over a chasm of lava.

Aside: A word to GMs – never underestimate the danger of a simple skill check.

Our druid companion failed to jump the gap with a fumble, we burned 2 hero points to attempt to save her. Then two more of us failed the check, again with fumbles. The gods of luck were not in our favor.

And yet, we survived the vile 5-foot gap of lava, at the end of which lay four different passages with one of four gems inset into the stone of each: red for fire, blue for water, green for earth, and white for air. Upon pressing the stones, we were transported to small demi-planes nested within each of the four elemental planes associated with the stones.

Inside the plane of air we fought swirling elementals and genies who wished to make a deal. Defeating them, we were transported back to the passageway to find the white gem upon the floor and free for our taking. We then subsequently delved into the 3 other planes, battling burning heat, striking deals with a gargantuan turtle, and evading collapsing tunnels as the earth shifted around us.

Now in possession of the four elemental gems we returned to our tower not knowing what to do. Where was Zugtumoy? Would we be able to defeat her if we found her? What horrors awaited us when the final seal would break releasing her on the world?

Find out the answers to these questions next week where we will conclude the Temple of Elemental Evil and finish up Act I of our story.

Until next time, this has been Tales from the GM.

Temple of Elemental Evil – Part II

Recounted by: Jameson Sheehan

As we continue the tale of our venture through Gary Gygax’s Temple of Elemental Evil, we find ourselves at the 3rd level of the Temple as our adventurers journey deeper within. But, before we start, we should first address the players and their respective characters, the first three of which are members of our podcast series. Randall played Toki, a Cleric once devoted to Sarenrae, but now devoted to Asmodeus, due to a misfortunate magic fumble that resulted in a change of his alignment. Gabe played McClain, a resilient fighter dedicated to the DieHard feat chain. Mike played Eum (pronounced A-oom), an eccentric barbarian sorcerer who deftly wielded a trident to fend off his foes. He possessed a unique magical item: a tattered hat inside of which housed the spirits of Mike’s previous two characters, Depsto and Kerus, an inquistor and ranger, respectively. These spirits could be called upon once per day to offer guidance for Eum. The fourth player was Jack, who played Sneezy the First, a noble paladin with his stalwart steed. (Jack continued to name his characters Sneezy throughout the campaign). It was this group of noble adventurers that became my rescuers when I joined the party.

My introduction to the campaign was rather interesting and memorable. The party had cleared about one fourth of the 3rd level by the time they found me. They were sneaking through a few corridors when they turned a corner and found a basilisk facing their direction, menacing and deadly.

Aside: For those of you not familiar with this creature, a basilisk is an eight-legged reptilian monster whose gaze turns those that lock eyes with it to stone in the same manner as a medusa.

Upon careful consideration and study of their foe, they realized that it was rather quite still and actually only an illusion. It was then the party heard the sounds of torture and yelps of pain from the nearby door. Inside was my character, Chase, a fighter rogue who had been captured by the denizens of the Temple and was presently being tortured by a female warrior who relished torturing and humiliating her captives. I was tied up to a rack, my limbs stretched as far as they were able, as the party burst through the door and attacked my captor. The party handily defeated her together and turned to free me from my bindings… with a big surprise. Oh, did I forget to mention? I was clothed only in a pink, frilly thong, much to the shock (and disgust) of my rescuers. After grabbing my gear from the far side of the room, and regaining some dignity, I joined the party in their exploration of the Temple.

Journeying deeper within the 3rd level, we eventually came upon an armory adorned with well-crafted swords, spears, shields, and suits of armor along each of the rooms walls. We began our inspection of the room and, distracted by the treasure within, failed to notice the unnatural movement of shadows around the room. We were ambushed by a group of six to ten shadows, vile undead creatures that hale form the Plane of Shadow.

Aside: Shadows are exceptionally dangerous creatures individually or in pairs, and are outright murderous when in large groups. The greatest threat of shadows besides the difficulty of hitting them due to their incorporeal ghostly nature is the fact that they don’t deal hit point damage, but instead deal strength damage with a special caveat: you die if your strength reaches zero and arise moments later as another shadow.

Having been ambushed and unprepared, the shadows set upon us with violent intent and brought us down. Sneezy, the paladin, was struck down first, having drawn the evil creatures like a beacon in the dark. Next was McClain, who valiantly attempted to fight them off. The rest of us began a hasty retreat from the Temple to the broken tower outside, once an outpost of evil but now the party’s base of operations. This is a tactic would later be known as Plan A within our group because of how frequently we had to implement it. When all else fails… RUN! As we retreated, Chase was struck down, his time with the party having just now begun and now rapidly over. The last to fall was Toki, the stalwart cleric of Asmodeus who had been around since the party first attempted to delve into the Temple. Only Eum survived, alone and forsaken in the dark dreary expanse that surrounded the Temple with little hope remaining.

If you recall from last week, I mentioned that there were a series of seven seals that were being broken in succession by the forces of evil at the Temple that would eventually lead to the destruction of the region and possibly the world were they all to be broken. At this point, only 2 remained to be unbroken and only a week remained in game until they would be so destroyed. The party was running out of time. A heavy fate rested upon Eum’s shoulders. He could face the villainy within the Temple alone, but he would have no hope to survive for long. Hommlet, the nearest refuge of good, was too far away to return in time with additional aid on his quest to defeat the machinations of Iuz and Zugtumoy. Lost and bereft of hope, Eum turned to prayer. He cast a desperate call for aid and prayed to the goddess Desna, the patron of travelers, the butterfly of the dawn and twilight, and as fate would have it the mistress of luck. Tonight, luck was a lady. And this is why we love Desna.

Let’s set the stage: Mike tossed his percentile dice, the fate of the campaign literally resting on this dice roll. They tumbled and rolled to reveal a 100. We all cheered with excitement!

At this moment, Desna was enjoying a game of craps among the plains of Elysium with her followers and the master of revelry and drinking, the god Cayden Cailean. Hearing Eum’s prayer resound within her ears, calling to her of his desperate situation, she knew this was not a plea for help she could ignore. Eum felt a sense of calm and hope grow within his heart: his prayer had been answered! A torrential portal of magical energy opened in the ceiling of the tower next to Eum, out of which fell four warriors and magicians – pulled from the flock of souls that reside of in Elysium and returned to life to aid Eum in his valiant quest. All five of them were further granted a powerful potion that only could be crafted by the gods: a brewed concoction that held the powers of a true resurrection, the ability to return one who has succumbed to death regardless of the means restoring them to whole. Reinvigorated by the affirmation of his faith, Eum and his four new compatriots return to the Temple to defeat the evil within. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished.

Upon journeying back into the Temple, we came upon a hexagonal room with doors leading off in five directions and another leading back the way we came. We stacked up on each door in sequence opening them up and clearing the room or corridor that lay beyond. Things were going well, until my new character a sorcerer cast a spell and fumbled. Another magic fumble arose to wreck havoc upon our party in the form of a tear in the fabric in reality, summoning several creatures hostile to all of those around them: a giant megalodon whale like creature, a pair Tyrannosaurus Rexes, and a frightening bone devil. “PLAN A!” we shouted. We began our hasty retreat back to the tower, most of us surviving. Gabe’s new character, Bhir, was bit in half and swallowed whole by one of the T-Rexes. The potion of resurrection on his chest did him no good as it resurrected him inside the stomach of the vile creature, causing him to suffer another vile death from the acid inside of the dinosaur’s stomach.

The remainder of the party managed to escape unscathed through to the tower… well, except for Frenzy. Frenzy was Randall’s new character, a gnome bard who loved to inspire is friends with his graceful dancing and charm his foes with his wit. Frenzy was set upon by the bone devil, filled with murderous intent. The bone devil slew Frenzy near to the exit from the Temple. As luck would have it, the bottle of true resurrection strapped to his chest shattered as he fell dead, its magic seeping into his body, bringing him back to life as he struck the stone floor. The only problem? The bone devil was still standing next to him. Randall rolled a bluff check, and luck finally having returned to our party, crit on his check to play dead. The bone devil then proceeded to slowly remove the skin from Frenzy’s back, as Frenzy did the greatest impersonation of death for the remainder of the time that the devil remained summoned to this world. The devil eventually winked out from existence, allowing Frenzy to wearily rejoin the rest of our party, in pain and damaged, but still alive, if only just so.

Gross, right?

We eventually managed to clear out the remainder of the 3rd level of the Temple after many hardships, trials, and deaths of four more characters (including Sneezy the Second, Jack’s newest character). We managed to find the stairway that descended deeper into the Temple to the lowest level where the commanders of the Temple resided below. Tired from our endeavors of the previous days, we trudged down the steps, hopeful that the end of our quest was in sight, come what may.

Next week we will continue the story with the discussion of level 4 of the Temple and the four elemental nodes of power, from which the Temple gains its name.

Until next time, this has been Tales from the GM.

Temple of Elemental Evil – Part 1

Recounted by: Jameson Sheehan

Our long campaign began with the adventure module, The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax. I didn’t join the campaign until Level 3 of the temple, around two-thirds through the whole module. Because of that, I won’t be able to go into a detailed overview of the campaign before then, but I have obtained a few anecdotes from the other players of that time.

The campaign started off in a small town called Hommlet. There the players encountered a cleric by the name of Turgeon, a righteous servant at the local temple. I’m not sure which god he was devoted to, but he was a strong agent of good who would later protect the town and the party against some of the horrors to come. After arriving to the town, the party heard about the Moathouse, an outpost for the Temple of Elemental Evil where bandits and other unsavory folk could be found.

At this time the party was made up of only 3 players, so they were definitely in over their heads as the module is quite difficult for even a full party of 4 – which they quickly learned the hard way. Two of the players were Mike and Gabe, who are regulars of our podcast series.

At the Moathouse, they fought through a bloody mess of undead and cult members dedicated to the evil demoness Zugtumoy and the demi-god Iuz. These two great powers were the leaders of the Temple. The party managed to corner the head priest at the Moathouse and learned more about the villainy brewing at the Temple.

Aside: I don’t know whether the party figured this out here or later, but in the background of what was occurring here was the machinations of Iuz. He was attempting to unleash horrors upon the world that would lead to its destruction. There were seven seals that he was attempting to break, each one leading to a greater evil being unleashed upon the world. One of the seals unleashed flying demons who would have destroyed Hommlet had Turgeon not created an aura of protection around the town. Another seal unleashed a colossal monster that rampaged across the world leaving great swathes of destruction. The final seal would release the imprisoned Zugtumoy to claim the weakened world above.

After leaving the Moathouse, the party decided to investigate the Temple to find out what evil was brewing there. On their way, they there they ran into a wizard who decided to join up with their cause. Arriving at the Temple, they found a lone, partially-wrecked tower outside the greater structure of the temple. Deciding to inspect the tower first, they carefully approached and began to make a plan on how to enter the tower in case there were cultists or other enemies inside. Should they open the door and have the wizard blast inside? Try to sneak inside? Fire a volley of arrows? Nope. The barbarian just opened the door and charged. Into a large group of cultists. All three original party members quickly fell to their foes, the first deaths of the campaign. The wizard fled to Hommlet. This became the first near TPK of many. The player of the barbarian left the group at this point.

Good riddance.

Upon returning to Hommlet, the escaped wizard found three new friends (shocking!): Toki – a cleric of Sarenrae, Sneazy – paladin, and a heavily armored fighter. Turgeon, angered at the wizard’s act of leaving his friends behind (although it was all that saved him), cursed him so that he would be unable to run away from his allies if he was within 10 feet of the Temple.

The gods can be fickle from time to time.

The party then returned to the Temple, cleared out the tower and journeyed in to the first and second floors of the Temple. I don’t have any details of that endeavor, but for 2 encounters, both involving fumbles…

The first involved a regular fumble resulting from a d20 roll of a 1 on an attack roll. (For context, when an attack roll results in a fumble or a crit, or magic fumble occurs our gaming group rolls a percentile die and compares it to a chart to see what crazy result happens.) Well, on the list of attack fumbles, a result of 84 and 85 summon a black dragon that is aggressive to all those around where it is summoned. The dragon can range from the smallest little youngling all the way to the greatest meanest great wyrm. Suffice to say, we feared 84s and 85s on this chart. When the party was in the first levels of the Temple, one such roll occurred and a large extremely old Black Dragon was summoned who unleashed fury upon the party and their foes. The dragon, though, got quite bored with fighting the party and decided to just summon something to take care of us. Poof! Hundreds of carnivorous butterflies appeared to attack everyone in sight…

The resulted in another death of the party.

The second incident occurred during the fight with the butterflies. Travelling with the party was a mercenary by the name of Stile. While fighting the butterflies a magic fumble occurred, and Stile suddenly DISAPPEARED! After the fight, the party began searching for Stile to see where he went. They eventually came upon a trail of blood that lead into a man shaped tunnel going into a wall that seemed to continue on forever. The party peered deeper into the tunnel and it appeared to shrink down gradually further and further until they couldn’t go any further into the continued depth of the tunnel. And thus the horror of what occurred was realized: Stile had been magically cursed by wild magics gone awry to be impacted into the wall and submitted to the fate of being ground down slowly cell by cell, layer by layer of his body until all that remained of him was a goo of flesh and blood.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the magic sustained his life until the very end. The Temple of Elemental Evil was surely living up to its name.

Next week we will continue the story with the discussion of level 3 of the Temple, and a commentary on character introduction and the powers of prayer.

Until next time, this has been Tales from the GM.

The End of Times: An Overview

This week begins the long term tale of our five-year long campaign. This campaign took place in the Pathfinder setting of Golarion, many years in the future from the present time of the world. The over arcing story was the tale of various cataclysms that had the chance to destroy the world as we knew it, but the adventuring party were the focal point that could change the course of destruction. Our campaign had five main acts:

  • Act I began with the classic Gary Gygax module, The Temple of Elemental Evil. Our party had to face off against the evil demoness Zugtumoy to stop the coming cataclysm.
  • Act II took place 30 years after the first and was focused around another creation by Gary Gygax, the slaughterhouse module Tomb of Horrors. Our party had to right our mistakes in the last act and attempt to delve into the depths of Acereraks’ tomb for an artifact of great power: his skull. The rest of the campaign was no longer based on modules, but were instead the complete creation of our GM, Will Meadows, and one of the players in our first few podcast episodes.
  • Act III, another 10 years later, took us into the very depths of hell. The world has indeed started to go mad as we delved into a Dante’s Inferno inspired hellscape to stop the release of the imprisoned deity of destruction: Rovagug.
  • Act IV, 2 years later, would lead us to our greatest challenge yet: the Test of the Starstone. A brave – yet some would say foolish – attempt to gain much needed power of godhood to be able to defeat an oncoming Darkness that would soon envelope the world.
  • Act V, the final, climactic act of our campaign, followed our party, now empowered by the mantle of godhood, facing off against the now arrived Darkness rallying the last hope for life on Golarion.

Over the next several months our blog will share this campaign in detail, during which we shall discuss house rules of note, interesting characters that arose from the campaign, and various other tips and tricks we developed over the course of our adventure. As mentioned, the first two acts are the Gary Gygax modules: The Temple of Elemental Evil and The Tomb of Horrors, so there will be extensive spoilers for each module in the months ahead, though they will be kept to a minimum as much as possible.

Next week we will start the tale of Act I: The Temple of Elemental Evil by delving into the first dungeon of the Moathouse, and the dynamics of our first party.

Until next time, this has been Tales from the GM.