Hello everyone! Well, it finally happened, my party completed The Sunless Citadel, strap in for the exciting conclusion of this six session adventure.
When my last session ended, my party had just a few more rooms to go, before reaching Belak the Outcast, and the vile Gulthias tree. The party, rejoined by Milbee (who was absent our last session), ventured through a ruined library. Amidst the jumble of broken bookshelves, moldy paper, and debris Starfall found a magical scroll, protected in a scroll case made of human bone. Milbee quickly identified this as a scroll of Animate Dead.
More interestingly Starfall found a dark, leather bound tome, embossed with a silver skull on the front.
The mysterious book was locked shut, with no apparent keyholes. After taking a little time to examine it, Milbee and Noble found the correct words of power. Uttering the magical words, the skull’s mouth creaked open with a hiss. In a croaking, deep, voice it uttered, “Give tribute, the liquid of life, a few drops will do, then I shall reveal my secrets.” The skull’s mouth then remained open.
This was a riddle I tried to make myself, not terribly tough to solve, but hey riddles aren’t a talent of mine :).
Before anyone could stop him, Noble sliced his finger, dribbling several drops of blood into the mouth. With a loud click the book popped open, and Milbee flipped through. The Front of the book was labeled “The Spellbook of Amansur.”
After a quick knowledge history check, Noble remembered Amansur was a powerful necromancer with the Death’s Head Cult. When the cult lost power Amansur disappeared, and his spellbook was lost.
The party proceeded to joke that perhaps Milbee was this lost wizard, and asked how old he was :).
Realizing it would take weeks to pour over the extensive volume, Milbee suggested the party moved on.
Cautiously creeping down a flight of steps, the party ventured deeper into the citadel, following a hallway to two side by side doors. One door was locked, while the other Aldo discovered had rustling on the other side.
Worried that creatures would come out of one door, while dealing with the other, half the party held back watching one door, while Aldo and Milbee opened a door. Inside the room were 4 goblin gardeners, which reacted surprisingly fast, 2 attacking Aldo, dealing him a brutal cut. The other two grabbed crossbows and began to fire shots. While I did get some good hits in, the party was far to powerful for 4 mere goblins, and slew them relatively quickly.
The second room turned out to be a study, with some shelves and a desk with various books scattered on it. The other room, the one the goblins had been in, had a collapsed wall which trailed into a cavern filled with scraggly trees growing off the unnatural violet light of the carpet of mushrooms growing on the ceiling.
Aldo, having taken a bit of damage from the goblins, requested the party take a short rest in the study. The party agreed, and while resting Starfall and Noble investigated the room’s contents. Starfall saw a red volume labeled “The Tome of Ultimate Power,” apparently excited by finding the spellbook before Starfall immediately reached for the book.
Noble’s desperate shouts of, “Wait, what, NOOOO” were not fast enough. The book was trapped and exploded in a ball of fire.
Both Noble and Starfall were caught in the fiery explosion, failing their Dexterity saves. The fire knocked out Noble and left Starfall barely standing. It may have been the other way, i’m not certain, I was a little too busy taking sadistic glee that such a simple and obvious trap had worked!
The wooden desk was completely reduced to cinders, while the neighboring bookshelves were scorched, but saved by the party. Much of Belak’s work and research was lost; however, Milbee found one complete volume which looked promising and took it for future study.
Rather beaten up, the party had to rest a further hour; however, Aldo used a song of rest (actually playing a tune on his phone) which added 6 to their hitpoints regained.
Now fully healed, the party moved into the natural cavern known as the Twilight Grove. In the distance they could see the ruins of vine covered castle walls, and a massive, pale, skeletal tree, shaped roughly like a hand, the Gulthias Tree.
They quickly came under attack by a few twig blights, and then a whole horde of 10. While I did manage to do minor damage here and there, overall the party shrugged off their blows.
Aldo, in the confusion of the combat, cast Invisibility on himself, and ventured up ahead of the party. He spotted a human knight, dressed in a breastplate, as well as the escaped cultist, a robed female, 3 twig blights, and the fabled Belak who was wielding a pale, bone like quarterstaff. Both the knight and the female had odd bark-like skin.
Hearing the combat with the party, the group of villains, minus Belak charged off towards the party. Belak meanwhile put his hand on the gross tree and began muttering.
At about this point things got a little crazy.
My party were getting a little worried, as they suspected the humans charging them would be rather powerful. Meanwhile, Aldo’s player declared, I think I am going to regret this and invisibly charged Belak, casting Thunderwave. The blast blew back the evil Druid; however, the bizarre tree shuttered, as if effected by the blow, “oh shit,” muttered Aldo’s player, “guys I think I am dead.”
While it took a few rounds the party handled the evil humans and twig blights pretty easily, they were level 1 NPCs. During the combat Noble discovered the knight’s and the female’s eyes were glazed over, like they were being mind controlled.
Aldo, now visible, noticed a giant tree frog, Belak’s pet, lurking behind him. The frog bit him, wrapping him in his tongue; however, the slippery bard fired off another Thunderwave, forcing the frog to release him, throwing it backwards, and damaging the tree further. He then attempted to flee running 20′ back to the party (they were roughly 200′ away). Unluckily for him, the Gulthias tree had more weapons then just it’s branches. Needles sprouted out of the reaching branches and shot at Aldo, missing him. The frog jumped up attacking again, and yet again Aldo escaped with a Thunderwave, fleeing further; however, the tree fired another volley of needles knocking the bard out.
Aldo’s player attempted to hand me his character; however, I asked he keep it, so he could roll versus death.
Both Milbee and Aman by this point were rushing towards the tree, hoping to save their valiant friend. After a round of running, the pair drew within range of the tree’s needles. Milbee, ducked behind a tree;however, Aman took massive damage as I critically hit him while disadvantaged, yup back to back natural 20s, for a massive 20 some damage!
Milbee jumping forward to a different tree, cast invisibility on Aman, and hoped his own cover would be enough.
Rushing forward, invisible;le and out of harm’s way, Aman saw Aldo’s body cut in several places, draped on the tree’s trunk, his blood disappearing into the bark. As he watched, the halfling’s body began to be pulled into the trunk. The blood and life force of the halfling appeared to be closing the tree’s wounds.
Meanwhile, Milbee shot bursts of fire at the tree, while heroically ducking back into cover, avoiding multiple volleys of needles. At this time the party discovered that fire was particularly effective against the tree. (Milbee was shot at at least 6 times, over the course of a few rounds, and never hit!)
Having finished off the rest of the enemies, Starfall and Noble also began the several round sprint to join the fight against the tree.
Aman, invisible, rushed up to Belak, delivering two brutal hits, slaying the druid instantaneously.
The Gulthias tree walloped the Mul in return, nearly knocking him out. Milbee continued to chip away at the tree with Fiery Blast (I think that is the spell’s name). Starfall and Noble were nearly close enough to help. The giant frog attempted to hurt Aman, but his martial skill and armor protected him.
The defiant Mul got one last chance to strike the tree, before it clubbed him again, knocking him out and also beginning to drag him into it’s depths.
Finally in range to help, Starfall wielding a Flame Sword, swiped into the Gulthias tree, hitting and dealing double fire damage for an amazing 6D6 fire damage + 1d8+ 3 slaying the foul tree. Defeated, the pale tree burst apart in a shower of blood, coating everyone but Milbee.
Despite Aldo being knocked out for at least 6 rounds, he had only rolled 1 failed save vs. death, and Aman also stubbornly held onto life. Both of them were saved by the rest of the party. (Oh some where someone killed the poor tree frog)
At this point, the party realized that while everything was drenched in blood, Belak was completely clean, with a small bloodless circle formed around his staff. Starfall, ever reckless, picked up the weapon. She gained an understanding of it, it’s name was “Thirster,” created from the Gulthias tree, it fed off blood and the life force of opponents, healing half the damage dealt back to the wielder. While clearly unnatural, no traces of evil or sentience could be found on it. Starfall, who frequently wielded a staff, naturally took the weapon. The party gathered the mystical healing fruit out of the remains of the tree, they were forced to use 1/3 of the servings to revive the very damaged Aldo, who was beyond the aid of normal healing. Left with 2 more servings of the mystical fruit the party packed it away.
Relieved no one had died, the party decided to back track to the room they had ignored in their first session, entering it, overcoming another riddle, and finding a sarcophagus. They opened it, and were attacked by the mummy contained within. Taking massive damage the party did over come the monster, looting its corpse.
After resting yet again, the party then returned to Oakhurst. There they had a cagey conversation with the mayor, Erky Timbers, the gnome they had freed, burst in and vouched for the party. Convinced of their loyalty, the party and the mayor openly discussed the village’s cultist. It turns out several members of the village had fled town, after stealing weapons, supplies, and horses from various people around town. It was largely presumed after investigating their homes that something shady was going on with them. A hunter spotted them heading North toward the Village of Hommlet, a village close to the infamous Temple of Elemental Evil, which in my world is rumored to be where the Death’s Head Cult first rose. The mayor requested the party hunted down the fleeing cultists, bring them to justice, and seek out any gathering of cultists in those old ruins.
As a reward he has offered the party a writ of honor, essentially a fancy letter where he vouches for the honor and skill of the party. The party, stating they weren’t done with those cultists, agreed to pursue them, but stated they would spend a few days in Oakhurst to deal with some purchases and recuperation.
I will post a indepth review with my thoughts on the Sunless Citadel adventure, most likely later this week.
Some thoughts on this session. Overall I had a blast. I really liked personalizing both the magical items I rewarded the party with, I thought they were much more interesting then a basic spell book or a 1+ staff. This is something I hope to continue to do in my game.
In the original adventure module the Gulthias tree never came alive to attack the party, nor was it healed by wounded enemies. I think both these things really made this an exciting conclusion to the adventure, and emphasized the most interesting thing the in the adventure, the Gulthias tree, rather then making the climax Belak. To create the Gulthias tree, I basically took the stats of an ogre, gave it two attacks, no movement, and let it heal when a unconscious enemy was failing saves versus death on it. This is a process known as reskinning, which I may also discuss further in the future. In the meantime anyone interested a great indepth discussion of reskinning should check out the podcast the RPGAcademy, table topics #84 and #85.
Hopefully you have enjoyed my log of this adventure. I would love to hear peoples’ thoughts on how the climax was. I plan to continue this log into our next adventure The Temple of Elemental Evil (very excited for this one!)