Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jungles of Chult Session 3

our intrepid adventurers:
Nugiri (lizardman monk)
Takashi (human magic-user)
Nebin (halfling barbarian)
Qinsela (human druid)
Iedos (tiefling paladin)
Nsi Losi (human fighting-man)
Thrice-Orphaned (goliath fighter)
with River Mist and Flask of Wine (cat-man fighter and thief) as guides
and hired slingers Olol and Benge
and hired porters Adoun and Biango

The last session ended with half the party that had originally set out dead, and the other half plus newcomer Qinsela, safely returned to Port Nyanzaru a little bit richer. Nebin and Takashi immediately blew their gains on booze and possibly hookers, and ended up in debt to merchant princes Jessamine (Nebin, for 100 gold) and Jobal (Takashi, for 400 gold). Takashi was also beaten and robbed while drunk, and had to begin this session without clothes and with a few hit points fewer.

Bumming around town for a couple days, the adventurers were able to gather a few rumors:

Firstly, while carousing, Nebin and Takashi learned of the new tavern-brothel the House of Flowers and Fruit, wherein beautiful men and women with brightly colored skin and floral petals rather than hair work as courtesans. These creatures, who call themselves the Flowers of Puljra, only appeared out of the jungle recently. Nobody has ever seen anything quite like them--they seem dryad-like, and there is a weird tree now growing in the courtyard of the House with weird fruits that almost look like fetal-position-men ...

Secondly, within the last few weeks, giant saltwater crocodiles have begun to attack the supply-ships that shuttle supplies to and from Fort Beluarian to the north east. The commander of the Fort, one Liara Portyr, has publicly offered a bounty of 100 gold for the head of each such crocodile brought to her, and a lesser bounty of 10 gold for any regularly-sized crocodile. Given their encounters with crocodiles last session, the players quickly turned their noses up at this offer--"Needs to be a lot higher bounty for us to do that!"

Thirdly, they heard of a priestess of Torm seeking passage down the Soshenstar River to Camp Vengeance, forward outpost of the Order of the Gauntlet (a militant clerical order bent on eradicating the undead menace in the jungles ... and not doing a very good job of it). When the party approached this Undril Silvertusks, half-orc priestess, they learned that she had a packet of letters and orders for Commander Niles of Camp Vengeance, but that she didn't have any money to pay for an escort--she was looking to add her skills to any expedition headed down the Soshenstar. Hearing this lack of coin, the party quickly and politely said, "Maybe next time, good luck!" and elected to seek money elsewhere.

Lastly, the adventurers were approached by a messenger from merchant-prince Wakanga (cue Black Panther jokes at the table), the only magic-user from among that illustrious number. The messenger indicated that his master would like an audience with the adventurers who traveled up the Tiryki River and returned, as he had a business offer regarding a site further up that river. Seeking him out, the party learned from him that he had heard from another expedition of a tomb dug out in the hills southeast of the swamp with the Sailback Shrine--a tomb of the Yuan-Ti, the serpent men that once filled the jungles of Chult, but which now linger only in deep places and old stories. This tomb, presumably of the Serpent-Kings, Wakanga believes to contain magical artefacts from of old, and he would dearly love to get his hands on such--if the adventurers were willing to delve into its depths and return especially with books of spells or magical manuals, Wakanga would be more than grateful and shower them with thousands of gold.

So the party elected to outfit themselves for a second expedition up the River Tiryki. I reminded them that they could hire NPC mercenaries and porters, just like our regular B/X games, and they hired two slingers and two porters, as well as retaining the services of River Mist and Flask of Wine, Tabaxi jungle-guides. They also bought a second river boat, these hirings and purchasings leaving them broke again ... and set out southeast along the river's length.

And on the first day out from Nyanzaru, rowing south for the Tiryki's estuary, someone spotted dark shapes moving under the water toward their boats. Fearing crocodiles, they began rowing furiously for shore--the boat with Thrice-Orphaned the goliath made the beach, but the second boat was still on the water when snake-like heads emerged from the water, grinning with glinting teeth. Takashi was in the second boat; he cast a sleep spell at the monsters ... and because sleep affects lowest hit point creatures first, he only managed to lay the rest of his boat under an enchanted slumber. The snake-necked water monsters took advantage of their suddenly sleeping prey and grabbed (rolling randomly) Biango the porter and Iedos the paladin into the water and away to be eaten elsewhere at their leisure.

An auspicious start for the expedition! After that, we settled into the routine of overland travel, mostly rolling no encounters for the day. Because River Mist and Flask of Wine are familiar with the Tiryki, I allowed that they don't have to make navigation rolls along its length.

Day 4 -- evening -- A party of four humans approaches the camp and asks to share shelter. They are led by Abiol. He claims that he and his comrades were out hunting, but found no quarry. When he hears the party are making for the tombs of the serpent-men, he tells them that the tombs are cursed. Come morning, Abiol and his company continue northwest for Nyanzaru while the party continues south.

Day 6 -- morning -- The party is ambushed by a large number of lizardmen. But Nugiri parlays; he learns that these are the Hsaathi Tribe, distantly related to the Hsa Hsi lizardmen near Nyanzaru (and with a random roll, Nugiri is of the Hsa Hsi himself). The leader of this group is Isaath, and he says to Nugiri, "Give us your tail, and we will give you ours. What tribute do you offer to pass through our territory?"
"I will cook for you," Nugiri offers, and the lizardmen find it acceptable when Nugiri cooks up two weeks of rations for them as a feast. Then Isaath gives Nugiri a javelin as a token of friendship, and he and his company allow the party to continue unmolested.

Day 7 -- night -- During the watch of Takashi and Nugiri, the pair notice a party of about a dozen humans attempting to sneak up on their camp. They quietly begin to awaken their comrades, starting with Nebin and Thrice-Orphaned (I think?). In the midst of shuffling around, they alert their would-be ambushers that they're awake and a battle ensues as the humans rush into the camp whooping and hollering and brandishing javelins.
It's a stiff fight, but only because the jungle-dwellers roll a couple critical hits. Otherwise they're not well enough armed to carry the battle, and so the last three left standing after a couple rounds surrender. Nebin and Qinsela interrogate the survivors, who are clearly cannibals; one is named Angim, and all of the jungle-men have teeth filed to points, and an inverted blue triangle tattooed on their foreheads. This is the mark of Ras Nsi, whom they serve, Angim explains. "Will you let us go now? You mighty warriors have defeated us, and we will trouble you no more."

But the party wasn't buying it, and they put their attackers to death. Among the bodies they find a scrollcase with a scroll of grease inside, and also a xalam, a kind of lute.

Day 8 -- mid-day -- Sprained ankle rolled on my non-monster encounter chart. Cured with a cure light spell, no trouble after that.

Day 9 -- morning -- River Mist, who is guiding the party through the jungle, reports back that she has spied an ambush of grungs ahead. "They are good to eat if well-cooked," she adds at the end, and Nugiri and Takashi both get a hungry gleam in their eyes.
The party wishes to counter-ambush the frog-men, and so they send Thrice-Orphaned and Nebin ahead as bait while the rest sneak around to flank the grungs. This plan works out perfectly, and six of the seven grung are quickly killed while the last is subdued and tied up. The party never learn his name; what they do get out of him is that he knows where "treasure" is, and he will lead them there, and says, "Then you will release me, because we will be friends, because I have shown you treasure."
"Lead on," the party responds, and so he leads them down the river a ways to the submerged altar and the idol of the hermaphroditic god/dess Olokuna that the party found in the river last expedition.
The grung indicates the altar; the party searches it and finds only a collection of arrow- and spear-heads. Much disappointed, they kill their prisoner; Nugiri hangs the corpse on the erect stone phallus of the idol, much to the disgust of Nsi Losi, who is of Good alignment.

The party then chooses to cross the river at this point--on the other bank they will head due south through the jungle and ultimately end up to the southeast of the Sailback Shrine and swamp, which is where they want to be.
Alas! in crossing the river, they manage to disturb a giant snapping turtle that was resting like a giant rock in the shallows. Fortunately, only the last two of the party disturbed it; unfortunately, that included Nsi Losi, the second character of the player who had already lost Iedos.
Rolling randomly, the turtle attacked Nugiri first, but its snapping jaws closed on air as the lizardman monk nimbly dodged away and fled to the river bank. Next, the turtle won initiative, and as Nsi Losi was the only character nearby, it snapped at him, and Nsi Losi collapsed in the water in a bleeding heap that began to dead-man's float downriver ...

The party shot missile weapons at the turtle, only serving to enrage it so that it continued out of the river toward them on the bank ... until Qinsela remembered that he can cast charm animal. So he cast it, and calmed the turtle and told it to just go back to resting, while the party fled up the bank and continued into the jungle (and while a new character was being rolled up ...)

Day 10 -- evening -- The half-Elf Vilnus arrives in camp, following a group of shiny beetles. (She?) joins the party, as the jungle is not a safe place, and perhaps they can help her in her quest to collect the myriad beetles of the jungle ...

Day 11 -- mid-day -- A roll of "no progress" on my non-monster encounter chart. At this point, I also required the party to roll for navigation to avoid getting lost, as they're moving through actual jungle rather than following the path of the river. They get back on track the following day.

Day 13 -- morning -- Just after the party breaks camp, the jungle is suddenly shaken with sound like of thunder, with the crashing of trees, and with the ground itself tremoring. The party quickly scatters--"It sounds like something's coming that you don't want to be in the way of!" Sure enough, a huge beast with an incredibly long snake-neck, elephantine legs and body, and a long whip-like tail crashes past, heading toward the river. The party wonders at its passing, and then continue on their way.

Day 14 -- mid-day -- River Mist admits that she's lost; fortunately, Nugiri has been paying attention to where they are, and thinks that they're in the general vicinity of the ridgeline with the tomb, their goal. After a fair amount of time exploring, the party is able to discover a worked entrance cut into the northwest face of the ridgeline. A stone slap used to cover the entrance, but a tree growing by the door ultimately cracked the stone and sent it tumbling away sometime in the past, allowing the cave inside to issue foetid airs.

Leaving their two slingers, their porter, and their two boats concealed in a copse of trees, the party entered the Tomb of the Serpent-Kings. (I've scattered a number of dungeons throughout the wilderness of Chult, including Skerples' tutorial dungeon from the Coins and Scrolls blog. I've been curious about it for a long time; Chult with its Yuan-Ti seemed like a perfect place to drop it in. For those of you playing--don't cheat! But even if you do, I'll probably have changed things anyway ...)

Entering the musty tunnel, the party found themselves in a corridor with four branches and one large door at the end. Each of the branches ended in a small chamber with a clay sarcophagus in the shape of a serpent-man in repose. Breaking open the first of these, the goliath Thrice-Orphaned took some damage from breathing in a gas that escaped from within. Otherwise, the party discovered a skeleton of mixed human- and serpent-bones, as well as a gold amulet formed like a serpent twisting back on itself.

Each of the other three chambers held similar sarcophagi; they dealt with the others by standing well back when they broke the seals, allowing the gas to escape without anyone being close enough to breathe it in. All in all, they found six golden amulets within the sarcophagi, as well as a silver snake-ring inside one of them.

Turning their attention to the door, the party found a huge door barred on their side with a heavy bar of stone on iron hooks set into the door. They quickly identified it as a trap, that when the stone was lifted, the hooks would rise, and a hammer would fall from the ceiling to strike anyone at the door in the back ("We need to lure the big monster inside here and set off the trap," one of them immediately quipped). To prevent the hooks rising, they tied them off with ropes set into the floor with iron spikes, and then as a further safety measure they lifted the bar up from either side, rather than from in front of the door. The ropes held and the hammer didn't fall; and opening the doors, the party found a larger room with three more sarcophagi and another chamber offset and containing the horrid statue of some grotesque serpent-man god.

These sarcophagi they approached the same way as before--but lo! they contained restless skeletons rather than poison gas! Skeletons that were quickly quashed by the party's attacks. At this point it was getting late, and one of our members had already fallen asleep briefly at the table, so we decided to wrap it up for the night with their discovery of a once-secret tunnel that was now revealed beneath the grotesque idol by the slow action of water over the ages.

What secrets does the tomb hold within its depths? Find out in approximately three weeks, the next time I'll be able to run Tomb of Annihilation ...


Remembrance for the Dead
Nsi Losi (human fighting-man 1), Biango (NPC porter), Iedos (tiefling paladin 1), Tehran Atzi (human cleric of Ubtao 1), Sound of Distant Rain (cat-man rogue 1), Chiratidzo (human druid 1)

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