- Marich, Level 2 Magic-User [played by David]
- Anil, Level 2 Cleric of Manpac [played by Patrick]
- Manjeet, Level 1 Fighter [played by Nathan]
- Retainers: Nagendra I, Nagendra II, Lokendra, Sinba
The session had ended last week with the adventurers hiding out with two Quaggoth sisters while invisible hounds roamed outside. After the hounds had gone they spent some time discussing the layout of Sangmenzhang with these sisters, but Manjeet managed to annoy them and a fight ensued: they were both killed. The players then ransacked the room and discovered a silver belt, studded with aquamarines.
Anil, however, had disobeyed and angered his god, Manpac, by going against his command to ally himself with the Quaggoths. Manpac commanded him to clear Sangmenzhang of the undead dwarfs which infested it, to appease his anger.
What followed was an extended exploration of the flooded area of the first level of the citadel, as a way to work around and find dwarven ghosts. This was largely unsuccessful, but a larger portion of Sangmenzhang was now mapped, a shaft down to another level discovered, and some more of its history made known - the group found what seemed to be an old chapel, with grooves worn into the floor from generations of dwarfs praying before the altars to the Yak and Scorpion gods. They also hit upon the good idea of scooping up some of the luminous jellyfish in the flooded area in a wine bottle and using them as an alternative light source, which came in handy tied to a rope and lowered into holes.
They also encountered giant exploding snails, another giant cave locust, and more flesh-eating maggots. Eventually they came across a barricade, which they dismantled, and discovered another adventuring party hiding in a room. Three of these four were dead, and one dying. They were emaciated, pale, and with blood and mucous pouring from their noses and mouths: suspecting disease or gas, the PCs and their retainers covered their faces as they explored the room. They found some treasure in chests - over 700 gold pieces - that these adventurers had apparently recovered. The one man still alive, apparently a magic-user, was barely able to communicate, but he managed to utter dire warnings about strange demonic hounds roaming Sangmenzhang and breathing poison gas.
The group decided to leave, taking the treasure and the dying man with them. Some efforts were made to heal him, but failed, yet he managed to cling to life [DM's note: he kept rolling 20s on his saving throws versus poison]. They decided to take him to the Walung monastery - the headquarters of the strange holy order who practice self-mummification - to see if they would heal him.
They carried him on a platter into the mountains, following what they hoped was the way to the monastery, along a hill path through thick cedar and bamboo forest. The path eventually forked, leading NW and SW; they went NW and the next day came across a strange, walled garden set away from the path. This was overgrown, and the gate long locked and rusted, but still contained chrysanthemum and rhodedendron bushes, and a strange, purple-breasted peacock and some peahens. The PCs elected to spend the night here, and push on the next day.
But the next morning they asked the dying man - whose name, they found out, was Madhav - if he knew where the Walung monastery was, and he told them that, actually, it was to the SW. [DM's note: tee hee] On a whim, Anil decided that "rather than having wasted a day coming all this way" it was worth investigating the garden further. Famous last words. On entry to the garden, the peacock revealed itself to be something else entirely - with its tail, it hypnotized and paralyzed all except Manjeet and Nagendra I, who charged it and found themselves pecked and slowly petrified to stone. Things could have gone terribly, but the hypnotized ones managed to escape the garden after a time and set up a shooting gallery on top of the garden wall, correctly surmising that the peacock could not get up at them. They gradually shot it to death with slings and arrows, taking turns climbing onto the wall top to fire, and helping each other get down when petrified by the thing's tail.
They were now faced with the conundrum of what to do with the petrified Manjeet (and Nagendra I). He would be too heavy and awkward to move, but they hoped that the Walung order might be able to save him. They decided to go back on themselves and head SW as quickly as possible.
This they did, and the next day came across a clearing in the forest, containing a grassy mound covered in flowers. This was inhabited by an (apparently) friendly witch called Omrita, who told them that the peacock thing was actually a peacockatrice, owned by an ancient wizard called Chokgyur who had died centuries ago. Anil immediately - and quite logically - jumped to the conclusion that this was an undead wizard, in which he was entirely correct. The witch told him that Chokgyur was probably dormant at the moment, if the garden was overgrown, but one could never be sure when he would wake. She also said that the Walung might help them, but would probably demand a geas in return.
In return for helping gather hallucinogenic mushrooms, she also agreed to read the slate book written in Late Sangmenzhang Dwarfish that they had discovered in the secret chamber in the citadel. She told them that it was a journal, and an account of the latter days of the citadel. The dwarfs had apparently divided into two hostile groups, one worshipping the Yak god, the other the Scorpion god, and they had fought a bitter civil war, committing horrible acts of torture against each other and summoning demons to fight alongside them in battle inside the mountain. The dwarf who had written the journal had left "the secret way", but did not detail how - this explained how the chamber the journal had been discovered in had been locked from the inside, with no apparent way out.
The witch Omrita also told the group about a temple to the Scorpion god high in the mountains, where the necklace of the dwarf king Tenzin II could be found - though she heavily implied this would be very dangerous. She speculated that the Scorpion god and the Yak god were not really deities, but ancient spirits of the mountains which had been there even before the dwarfs had arrived.
She allowed the group to try her hallucinogenic mushrooms. Marich and Sinba partook. David, Marich's player, rolled the reaction dice and got a mischievous/crazy face, which he interpreted as a bizarre trip showing visions of himself riding a raptor around the mountaintops. Sinba got a happy face, which Patrick interpreted as involving her father sitting her on a ledge above the valley and explaining to her that all of creation belonged to her. Marich would be able to cast Charm Person as a one-off, for one day only, the next day. Sinba would be able to cast Faerie Fire.
Thoughts: A mixed session. There was a little bit of friction at the beginning, because - for some entirely unknown and unjustified reason, Nathan got the bizarre impression that I was trying to kill all of the PCs. Amazing, I know. At one stage there were also allegations of fixing dice rolls, from a number of parties. It was generally good natured, but still...tensions rose. The second half of the session went much better - though Nathan was again unfortunate to have a character removed from the action, not by death this time but by being turned to stone.
There were some good creative episodes. Using the luminous jellyfish as a light was a great idea, as was correctly concluding that the peacock was in a walled garden for a reason - it couldn't get up on the wall, and hence the worst it could do to somebody on the wall-top would be to hypnotize them with its tail for a brief period. Eventually it would die from missile fire. I was also pleased with having Patrick and David narrate hallucinogenic visions for Sinba and Marich after eating the mushrooms.
I am going to have to think of a way to punish Anil, Patrick's PC, for failing to obey Manpac. He should have been forced into a difficult dilemma - to do what Manpac wanted and banish undead dwarfs, or leave Sangmenzhang for the Walung monastery to help Madhav, and risk further wrath from his god. Instead that got forgotten about in the heat of the peacockatrice fight and its aftermath. I owe the peacockatrice idea to Melan, regular poster at rpg.net and therpgsite.com, finest gamer in Hungary and author of the infamous "Tyranny of Fun" posts (see e.g. here and here; for some reason I can't find the original enworld post).