This session had a number of thrills and chills. Warning: I decided to put on my Horror Hat for today’s session. By the way, the floating cat found a couple sessions before continues to float just behind them with its hind legs hanging limply and its forelimbs pulled back against its chest similar to those ticking clock images. It has thus far not gotten involved.
The team tried to gather more information from the devil but he didn’t seem to know much else so they moved onward into a large pool room whose water was brackish and whose wood panelling was peeling off and mouldy. Rather than the usual lacedon that was meant to be a part of this encounter, I instead threw in a Ghawwas Div into the waters.
At first I warned them with signs of something under the swampy water and then as they spoke by the edge of the water I had a “large horned figure with spiky quills” burst free from the water and grabbed the devil. Archer managed to shoot and hit it (high AC) but the bullet barely scored the surface (high Damage Resistance). Lhye fired a lightning bolt at the creature which fizzled around the entity (high Spell Resistance) but electrocuted the devil. Lunjun attacked it with his gun but it fizzled on the Spell Resistance. Can’t remember what Proteus ended up doing (sorry Proteus!)
The creature then pulled the devil into the water and tore him apart, leaving floating gibbets behind. Despite his low Wisdom and the brief glimpse of the creature, Lhye’s planar knowledge ensures he is fully aware of what they face and he strongly cautions against catching the creature’s attention as he knows they’re hopelessly outmatched.
So they decided to go around the edge of the pool. Lhye and Archer (still carrying that actress) creep around to the left while Lunjun tries to use Expeditious Retreat to speed around the right. Lunjun forgets how slippery the surface is, however, and while he makes the first Acrobatics check he fails the second and only barely makes the roll to capture himself as he hangs poised over the edge.
Proteus, who has hung back from all of this, reasoning that it would be best if one person were the sacrificial figure on the opposite side from everyone else as predators go for whomever is split off from the pack – decides to intervene. He summons a pony and drops it in the middle of the water. The Ghawwas springs up from its position not far from Lunjun and vaults across the space, grabbing the pony and falling with it.
Everyone else hurries. Lhye slips into the water which has now been set to boiling. Proteus slaps him with a healing spell as he runs past. Lunjun uses a forces chain to drag Lhye out of the water and land him back on the edge.
Soon enough they are all sliding down the tunnel at the other end (some enjoying it immensely) toward the next section. Well, I say they all slid down it. Proteus simply walked down and took the time to enjoy reading his torture book.
They took the first right and ended up in a chamber that they soon identified as important. There was a floating ball of chains in the middle of the room, a mutilated body and an eerie warm glow from below. Proteus had a moment of pure awe and reverence from this unexpected find. After all, while the place would be considered quite gauche in Nidal, it was an impressive find in Cheliax.
They checked the books they’d stolen for more information on this room’s significance. Each character rolled a different Knowledge (Proteus – Religion, Lhye – Planes, Lunjun – Arcana, and Archer – Engineering) to figure out that a few of the books describe a ritual that allows for something similar to planar creation but without the high spellcaster level.
They don’t get much on the ritual though they do get that it requires a gift from Asmodeus to act as the core and that this gift functions much like a nuclear reactor (a metaphor I give the players, not the characters) which powers the place and the Mayor’s house. This location isn’t a true demi-plane and is more a mutilation of space to provide a location that bulges from the Material Plane and that’s why there’s an anti-teleport / anti-planar-shift spell in effect. This room is one node. If they break enough nodes, there will be unforeseen (yet quite clearly negative) consequences.
Proteus threw a silver dagger into the mutilated body to see if it were human. The reaction of the body to the blade indicated that the silver bypassed some sort of damage reduction. He then convinced Lhye to touch one of the chains to see how they reacted. Lhye rolled a 1 on his Wisdom check and being of thoroughly low Wisdom anyway went over to touch it and was immediately attacked and grappled. Archer shot a chain with a disabling shot that shattered it and then Lhye cast Black Tentacles on the roof to keep the chains occupied.
Proteus then summoned another pony up there to see if the chains would exchange the mutilated corpse it currently has for a different creature. In other words, to see if the body there was part of the initial ritual or part of some sort of sustenance program. If the pony was exchanged for the corpse then a sacrificial ritual was required to continue to power the room.
Rather than continue on through the next door in this room they returned to the prior corridor and went through the door at the end of that corridor into an observation room where a disembodied voice offered them therapy. Archer wasn’t too sure about the therapy rooms (labelled Pyrophobia, Hematophobia, Ophidophobia and Arachnophobia) but they could clearly see gems in each room and Proteus recommended they pass the tests to see what they could find.
Proteus chose Hematophobia first. It seemed less likely to be lethal.
He was right.
They left the actress in the Observation Chamber before entering. The dome-shaped chamber had several steps down onto the floor with a ruby red gem that seemed somewhat crimson crystalline that sat on a wooden thorny pedestal. Attached to the ceiling were wooden birdcage with groping thorns – the cages contained pretty birds that the thorns soon mutilated and killed. But worst of all was the centrepiece, a Nymph pinned to the ceiling with iron nails, her belly partly flayed.
The sight of her permanently blinded Lhye, Lunjun and Proteus (the latter of which was most impressed by the sight), leaving only Archer unscathed. The room started to fill with blood, clots of which brushed Lunjun’s legs, making him worry that something was swimming within it. Archer grasped the ruby and pulled it free from the pedestal, but it caught to his hand (Fort save to avoid taking Dexterity damage).
Lhye floated up blindly to slowly unpin the Nymph before finally she dropped. Proteus used his blindsense in fluid (this case, the blood) to use Restoration on the Nymph to remove her madness even as Lhye cured her injuries. The Nymph responded by giving Lhye a sign of her favour (piece of her hair) and the group left the Hematophobia room. The Nymph is still obviously enraged by her situation but they haven’t had much chance to talk to her yet.
Proteus ensured that the Nymph would turn of her blinding beauty ability before using Restoration charges from the wand to remove everyone’s blindness ... which had the happy side effect of repairing Lhye’s wisdom score. Oh, and Archer gave Proteus the ruby whose thorny edges have now embedded into Proteus’ hand.
This Nymph scene is a far cry from the canonical adventure’s striges encounter.