Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:08 pm  
ToEE: A Lone Thief Botched Two Wishes & Saved Thrommel

A short tale from a Temple of Elemental Evil session last month (SPOILERS). Probably the most heroic nonsense I've ever seen in thirty years of DMing. Got a good response on a FB group so I'm sharing here too. Includes some development on the Temple's MIA Lolth faction and Paul Stormberg's Hommlet area map. 2e core rules.

One technical note: I moved the stairway at area 227a to connect with 322 instead of 328a. A gigantic public thoroughfare should lead to the trophy room and feast hall, not the secret prisoner and Lord Mage's laboratory!

Part 1 of 2

After months of cautious exploration, the PC's cleared level 1, the Water Temple, and slew Romagg, Belsnorig, and Falrinth. The Temple guards collapsed the secret tunnel to level 3 after traps and ambushes failed to stop repeated PC incursions. With the Orb no longer hidden by Lolth's servant Falrinth, Iuz and Zuggtmoy were finally aware of its whereabouts and new owners, as explained in the module. Iuz told Hedrack, who prepared a force to retrieve the Orb.

The druid spy Kella sent a messenger to Jaroo warning of the impending attack, giving the players a few hours to fortify the village. That night, newly recruited ogres and bugbears (accumulated in the weeks the party spent exploring level 1, per p43) attacked the town and distracted the players. Hill giants threw boulders at the tower while Senshock flew overhead and fireballed the Badgers and scorpions. Senshock then cast invisibility and entered the roof access while trolls charged the hill and scaled the walls, cued by the fireball. Gremag assassinated Terjon. Feldrin and his men, staying at the inn disguised as merchants, attacked Elmo and Jaroo in the Grove.

The heroes bested the humanoids, half the giants, and killed the leader of the Temple Troops, Barkinar. Alas, they foolishly hid the Orb in the basement of Burne's tower where it was lost to Senshock. In addition to Terjon, Elmo and Burne were slain. Zuggtmoy was soon freed by Senshock.

The party began to guess at the folly of losing the Orb when earthquakes were felt and food stores in Hommlet's mill and granaries became infested with mold that winter. Phycomids killed a farmer. Players burnt down the barn.

So the heroes went back to the Temple with a clear mission: to retrieve the Orb at all costs!

And... they were immediately distracted with a distant scream on level 2. They started opening random doors. Arguing. Then bugbears. Then they made too much noise in prolonged battle. *sigh*

The Temple was ready this time. Zuggtmoy's return and the loss of the Lesser Temple had finally galvanized the chaotic factions.

A planned ambush was initiated: as the party fought through a tight corridor of bugbears, Kelno cast Sanctuary, Protection from Good, and fled east down the Hall of Triumphant Evil. Most of the party took the bait and were led down to #322. There Kelno ordered the sixteen shadows to attack, then fled to seek safety with the ettin in 306.

Meanwhile Feldrin and Brunk's temple guards and remaining bugbears stealthily trailed the pursing PC's across the Hall of Triumphant Evil and down the stairs, to close off the party's retreat and gain higher-ground rear attacks and backstabs. Arlem had also been alerted and was supposed to assist with the Fire Temple, but bided his time so Kelno and Feldrin could absorb the casualties.

Kelno almost escaped. Alas, Tittlesworth, the dwarven thief, blasted past the shadows with a Potion of Speed and caught up to the desperate cleric pounding on the iron door to 306. With a jumping, tumbling backstab from the top of the stairs, he dropped the Prefect in one blow. He started to admire Kelno's fancy robe and inquire if the backstab puncture could be mended and laundered when the grinning ettin jailer yanked open the door.

Things were not going well for the other heroes. They split up. The seven who gave chase were struggling to contain the shadows. Meanwhile three stragglers were still back on level two, looting Kelno's room. By the time they decided to go find their comrades, they encountered Feldrin's force sneaking down the Hall. Half the bandits were fireballed. The explosion echoed ominously.

A strange sound was then heard, like wet saddlebags smacking on field stones... it was accelerating. Two ascomids rolled up the wide northern stairs from level 3. Zuggtmoy had sent up some of her pets. This was my little hint that they needed to run, now! An ascomid proceeded to bulldoze the party elf and kill him with spores. The mage and halfling took the hint and departed rapidly. Feldrin and the remaining bandits considered chase, but the mage was so scrawny and the halfling so puny they decided to stick to the plan and trap the bulk of the party on level three.

Back in 306, Tittlesworth killed the jailer, but in doing so summoned two more ettins with an unfortunate wandering monster check. One of them, in turn, summoned all four trolls from 301. Even with haste and an ultra-low AC (-5 with his dwarf-vs-giant-class bonus), Tittlesworth knew the jig was up. Fleeing back to the perceived safety of his party, he found them beset by a dozen shadows, a dozen bandits, two high-level rogues, and now four trolls and two ettins on the dwarf's heels! Making matters worse, Arlem finally appeared at the entrance of the trophy room with his underlings and 5th-level champion.

The party was doomed. Seeing the exit stairs up were choked with Arlem's forces, Tittlesworth used an invisibility spell from Smigmal's ring and fled back to 306 to take his chances in unknown territory.

Arlem ordered the surviving PC's taken alive. With the other three elemental leaders dead, he could triumphantly march the prisoners down to Hedrack and sacrifice them into the Fire Node, reclaiming his rightful place as leader of the Lesser Temple!
To be continued...