The family reconvened for another foray in the Forbidden Jungle with new PCs they had rolled up since the previous TPK. My wife had a halfling druid (great move for the environment) while my daughter went with a dwarf fighter she had rolled up on her own one day. My son, meanwhile, took advantage of the fact that the rules for multi-classed characters using our new XP and advancement system* were finally coalescing and created an elf cleric/magic-user.
They decided to spend a day searching for hirelings as their previous trek into the jungle ended badly at the hands of goblin raiders. Being short of funds, they could only afford to hire two men at arms, an old worlder with leather, sword, and shield and a native tribesman* with scale mail, spear, and shield. I explained that the tribesman’s scale was in rough shape, and my daughter wondered if it might not be stolen. I did nothing to discourage the thought.
Rumors floating around town centered around a tower across the big river, off to the southeast. My son’s previous character, the ranger detailed here, had been to this tower but had told the boatmaster he had not been able to locate it. Despite the ranger’s story, the amount of loot he brought back out of the jungle had set the townsfolk a-talking. So the party decided to set out in search of this tower. They rented canoes and paddled across the river. The elf had trouble and was nearly washed out to sea, but after an hour of fierce effort they were all safely across and the canoes hidden.
After an afternoon of jungle trekking, they set camp for the night. Being as everyone was in good shape and the weather was good, they decided not to set a fire. All three PCs have infravision (simply good night vision in our game) and the three of them decided to take turns on watch. Shortly after the other bedded down, my daughter’s dwarf spotted a man and a mule loaded with packs and tools making their way southward. As the dwarf had surprise, he quietly watched as the man stopped and set up camp. Soon the man was snoring away. The dwarf let him sleep and waked the halfling druid for her watch.
The druid (played by my wife) cast a Speak With Animals and asked the mule what was going on. The mule complained about being awakened but informed her that they were headed toward the sea. Apparently the previous place had not worked out, though the halfling didn’t understand exactly what that meant. The halfling thanked the mule and let the strangers sleep. At the crack of dawn the man awoke, grumbled about his sore bones, and set off toward the south with his mule in tow.
The party continued on their way through the jungle, taking cover when a group of five elephants rumbled past. The old worlder man-at-arms, a newcomer to the new world, wanted to take one down for the ivory. Fortunately, both the elf and the halfling talked him out of trying. Soon they stumbled upon the tower they sought, but while they looked it over they were surprised by something in the trees.
An arrow flew into the tree next to the old-worlder’s head, and not waiting to see who was shooting at them, the party ran for the tower. A huge set of bronze double doors, one of them slightly ajar (from the ranger’s previous visit), was visible through the vines overgrowing the tower, and they fled inside. The native tribesman, slowed by his scale mail, lagged behind and was narrowly missed by another arrow. But soon they were all safe inside.
My son’s cleric/magic-user watched the door while the others checked out the inside of the tower. They spotted two sets of spiral stairs, one heading up and one heading down. They went up. The levels above showed signs of previous exploration, though when they spent a turn digging through a ruined laboratory the dwarf found a short sword in a drawer. He gave it to the native man-at-arms, who stuck it in his belt as a back-up weapon. Climbing another few levels, they encountered a clan of chattering monkeys. The druid once again made use of the Speak With Animals and brokered a truce with the monkeys. The party asked if the monkeys had ever been to the lower levels but were told they were afraid of “the scary bone monkeys” and never went down. (This refered to the undead monkey skeletons my son’s ranger ran into previously.) After some more exploration, they decided to head down the stairs that led below the surface.
They found themselves in a basement level with water pooled at one side of the room but otherwise empty. Afraid to enter the water, they searched the floor, walls, and staircase for secret door without luck. The dwarf even spent a turn trying to “disbelieve” the water without success. My son’s elf finally decided to walk into the water, which was only a few inches deep, and search the wall for secret doors. Lo and behold, he found one. A keystone trigger opened a sliding panel to reveal a 20′ corridor also flooded with a few inches of water. They went down the passage and, with some difficulty due to the swollen timbers, forced open the heavy wooden door at the far end.
They found a passageway heading left and right. Heading left, they entered a 20′ by 20′ room with a large glass mirror on the far wall and an arched doorway to the left leading out. A Detect Magic spell by the elf revealed two things: A) the mirror was not magical and B) the sword that the dwarf had found in the lab and lent to the native was. After making sure the native understood that the sword was just a loaner, they tried to check behind the mirror. They found nothing on the wall or on the back, but as one of them was a dwarf and another was a halfling, and the mirror was 6′ tall and 4′ wide, they were not able to do a very thorough job of it.
Heading through the passageway, they found themselves in another 20′ by 20′ room, this one occupied by a 5′ diameter stone pool of water. A 3′ pedestal in the middle of the pool was topped with a golden carved creepy-looking snake. The elf’s Detect Magic, just about to expire, showed that the snake and the water were both enchanted. He approached the water but when he got close found himself oddly terrified of the snake and could go no closer. He cast Protection From Evil and tried again. This time he was able to get to the edge of the pool. He tried to grab the snake but found that it was attached to the pedestal. So he took a drink of the water and apprehensively waited to see what would happen. Surprisingly, he found that he felt much stronger than he normally did and was told that he had experienced a +2 increase to his strength.
At this time I informed the players that our pre-determined time allotment was nearing its end and that any characters who had not returned to town by the end of the session would find themselves in terrible shape. Virtually no one survived out in the jungle on their own for very long. So the party decided to head back for town.
On the way, while camping after a day’s march, they were attacked by a group of pale-skinned vaguely human-looking humanoids. Four of the creatures were visible but others were heard in the trees. Unsure of what they were faced with, the druid cast an Entanglement spell and three were tangled tight. Five others were partially entangled and howled in rage, trying to fight their way through the branches and vines that kept them from their targets. The characters leaped into action, and soon all the attackers, hampered by the entanglement, were dispatched.
The rest of the trip to town was uneventful, though the river crossing once again found the dwarf’s canoe in trouble for a while. While they returned safely, they found no gold and are more destitute than before. They don’t know who was shooting at them outside the tower, and they don’t know what those nasty creatures who attacked them were. I’m also wondering if they’re going to be successful in keeping an eye on that native with the sword. We’ll see next time.
Line of the game: (After complaints about the great deal of time spent hiring men-at-arms, haggling over canoe rentals, and crossing the river) “Well, at least we’re still alive!” –by my daughter.
* I will have more information on our alternative experience/advancement system and the Jungle Minions up on the blog soon.