Recap: California Jones and the Temple of Boom!

Temple of Spirits

NPC who leads the group to the temple: Coughlan, an elf perhaps 9.99 out of 10 years old, yet obsessed with the variety of ways by which he could die (other than the obvious).

Outer Inscription: “May the spirits of our dead protect us from the wasteland”

Interior: a magical gate transports the PCs into the temple, and when they arrive their souls are occupying new bodies. Over the course of traversing a number of rooms, most of them died. They determined that so long as one PC made it through the room, the rest would re-join them in the next room, their souls occupying new bodies (sometimes including the original bodies of other members of their group).

Rooms:

  • Elementals: “The elements power our quest to resist the wasteland”
  • Downtrodden: “The wasteland has trodden us down over our hundred years journey”
  • Killed: “Who will avenge our deaths, one by one, as we succumb to this wasted land?”
  • Evil: “We ask what evil wrought this waste, though we’re told it was created to fight evil”
  • Wronged by PCs: “How many innocents have we wronged, innocents whose only crime was to be shrouded”

Final Room: “See now, the knowledge we have collected here. Pray it will keep us safe.”
Holds an alter containing the Tome of Samedhi, and a place for something the size of a wand or flute, but presently empty (see Magistrate Nikolai Zed in Steven’s scenario).

Highlights:

  • With the help of the spirits, the Dodge and Sixth Sense feats were recovered
  • The PCs were so paranoid from their time in the Wasteland that at one point Thaddeus cast Sleep on Brother Sue, Poppy attempted to cast Sterilize on Brother Sue, Alaimir tried to stop Poppy from casting on Brother Sue, and “Team Shut The F*** Up And Let Me Sleep” attempted to stop Alaimir. These were all PCs, mind you.
  • One of the PCs actually opened the Tome of Samedhi, instantly converting her from a Cleric of Aru to the High Priestess of Samedhi.
  • This was the run where the GM killed 15 out of 7 players, including 5 at a time with a Mass Finger of Death from a Lich in the “Evil” room.

Temple of Thieves

NPC who leads the group to the temple: Klyptin, a hobbit who holds his cards close to his chest and seems constantly worried that “competitors” will get to the temple first. The PCs twice detected Locate prayers targeting him, and noticed that there seemed to be more and more zombies on the scene the closer they got to the temple. While at first it seemed like Klyptin’s paranoia was justified, the group ultimately became suspicious of him, especially when he cheerfully abandoned them mere hours from arriving at the temple. They were, however, able to locate the entrance without him, and headed into the temple moments before the mass of zombies reached it.

Outer Inscription: “May the treasures of our peoples attract a guardian to protect us from the wasteland”

Interior: Full of traps. After passing each trap, a magic item with the appropriate defense was found in the next room. (Leading the players to ask what would have happened if they traversed the temple in reverse…)

Rooms:

  • Spear trap triggered by breaking a beam of light: “The wasteland stabs our hearts, leaving us cold”
  • Pit trap spanned by a Hallucination of a rope bridge: “Our lives are but a drop in the bucket of the wasteland”
  • Poisoned darts triggered by pressure panels in the floor: “Once the wasteland is in our veins, it burns us from inside”
  • Size Change (x16) trap in a narrow corridor: “The evil in this world grows, until we can no longer bear it. What will cleanse us?”
  • Water-filling room trap: “The shroud washed over this land. Perhaps it could wash us clean.”

Final Room: “See now, the treasures we have collected here. Come now, accept them, and keep us safe.”
Holds an altar containing the Tome of Sitriph, a magical book detailing the rulers of Sitriph from the founding to the present moment. It shows the Baylis dynasty ruling from the founding without change until about 250 years ago, whereupon the names change to be more Hobbit-like and no longer maintain any connection to House Baylis (the PCs would later discover part of the justification for the Army of Salvation ruling Sitriph was that they claimed to be an obscure branch of House Baylis).

Highlights:

  • The Sleight of Hand skill was recovered
  • Early on, one of the PCs was overheard saying “Always kill the guide.” Later they were heard to regret not taking this advice.
  • The PCs discovered Klyptin’s drowned body partway through, and took the small book he was always consulting and scribbling in. Upon discovering it had deeply religious overtones, the Aru cleric (a different one this time) opened it and instantly converted to become the High Priest of Ratri. However, after the way the rest of the run played out (particularly regarding disposition of magic items), the players agreed not to release Ratri to the rest of the host.

Temple of Fighters

NPC who leads the group to the temple: Sharpe, a dwarf who does things like practice flying by jumping out of trees in plate armor and attempt to grow a bigger beard by eating everyone else’s rations. (In other words, completely nuts.)

Outer Inscription: “May centering our souls purify us against this shrouded land”

The temple itself, once they get past the fact that Sharpe can’t read his own writing to find the way back to it, proves to be largely ruined. Of four original buildings, only one survives, and that one is the Hall of Heroes.

Interior: A different heroic tests awaits in each room. Each room has a sparring ring in which four heroes materialize and attack the PCs, and can only be defeated in some way particular to that room.

Rooms:

  • Quickdraw: “When the weapon at hand does not pierce our enemy, we find one that does” (the adversaries discard their weapons at the end of every round, and cannot be wounded by the same weapon twice)
  • Blind Fighting: “We strike even though we cannot perceive our enemy” (the room is in a clerical darkness)
  • Toughness: “Though we are constantly within the grip of our enemy, we must press on” (everyone in the room takes two points of damage each round until the adversaries are defeated)
  • Critical Hit: “We must strike at the heart of our enemy” (the adversaries are only killed by a Critical Hit, Called Shot, or Sneak Attack)
  • Multistrike: “We must not just strike our enemy, but those who support him” (the adversaries pair up and attack the clerics and mages, and are only killed if you do enough damage to a pair to kill them both)
  • Dodge: “We must avoid our enemy long enough to prepare a great counterstrike” (each adversary is defeated if he goes 5 rounds without harming a PC)

Final Room: A cavernous room with an alter holding the Tome of Heroes, describing a time whereupon a mighty and evil empire swept aside all resistance, and a brave group of unlikely heroes joined forces to cast a great magic to purify the land.

Highlights:

  • The Multistrike and Deadly Attack feats were recovered
  • By the end there were three different PCs at negative Hit Points (including the only Cleric). One of the other PCs managed to stabilize every one of them on her first try, despite having a Heal skill bonus of at best, two.
  • The final Dodge room was looking to be pretty grim for the remaining PCs, until the not-very-clever adversaries got stuck fighting the two PCs who were both Immune to Normal Weapons.

Background on the Temples

Many hundreds of years ago, a large group left Sitriph, setting out for “Idyllican, the Legendary Fortress of the East.” However, instead of pressing on through the wasteland until they reached it, they decided to stop and build their own haven to fend off the wasteland. Ultimately, it did not succeed, and they pressed on, only to repeat and attempt another haven, and so on. The temples in my scenario are the remains of their havens, and each represented a different way they attempted to resist the wasteland — first (to them) purifying themselves through devotion to specific arts, then hoarding treasure to attract a guardian to protect them, then using the power of spirits to shelter them. These were referred to in the quotes at the entrance to each temple. All of these approaches were “a little” successful, but not enough for them to stay there indefinitely (e.g. the spirits protected them within the temple, but there was no way to grow food inside, and the spirits did not protect them while hunting/farming/etc.).

York’s scenario shared some of the same background involving these travellers.

For what it’s worth, a very small group of them (including Azazel) did finally reach the Idyllican Valley, but they were too mutated by that point and were turned away at the Wall by the Watch (referenced in the fourth teaser).

The quotes on the rooms along the way described their journey, and the origins of the Shroud that caused the wasteland that was slowly mutating them and driving them mad.

City and Fortress of Sitriph

My final run took place as the host of refugees approached Sitriph, and needed to get through the City of Sitriph to the Fortress of Sitriph and set up their various mechanisms to protect the Fortress against the oncoming Shroud. The City of Sitriph is what we’d today call San Francisco (with the PCs approaching from the south), while the Fortress of Sitriph is on Alcatraz.

The first problem was getting the refugees into the city. Past a heavily corrupted swamp, there was a large cleared area patrolled extensively by the Army of Salvation, just outside a massive Dwarf-build wall protecting the city. The refugees had some contact with a “resistance” group inside the city, which was opposing the Army of Salvation and the way they treated the rest of the citizens of Sitriph. The PCs were told to contact the King of the Wolf Yards, just inside the wall. They had the book showing that the supposed legitimacy of the Army of Salvation was all a sham, and from Steven’s scenario they also had the last surviving heir to House Bayliss (the original ruling dynasty).

Some creative Gaia clerics and followers managed to establish that it wasn’t safe to fly over the wall, and found a wolf in the swamp who had come out through the wall. Her name was Soft Fur, and she offered to show them a way back in through the wall (she reported that, being dwarf-made, it was riddled with secret doors and passages). This was all on the condition that they set her up on a date with Long Tooth, one of the wolves inside. To their dismay, the PCs learned the hard way that the Army of Salvation had some sort of detect/locate on shrouded beings, and only narrowly made it to/through the wall at all. Soft Fur did not survive.

The PCs were able to contact the resistance, and while there was some repulsion at the sight of their shroud effects (and more so, at the hobbit among them), they came to agreement. Or at least, they came through with suitable bribes. (The “King” of the Wolf Yard seeming to be basically a criminal overlord who was willing to help if it seemed like the new regime would leave him with more influence than the old one.) He would sneak the PCs into the Great Marketplace, whereupon they could address a huge number of citizens of Sitriph, and with some help from various plants in the crowd, hopefully stir up serious opposition to the Army of Salvation.

About this time the PCs received magical messages from another group of PCs, saying “Attacking the Fortress at dawn. Arrange your operations accordingly.”

They proceeded to present their case in the marketplace that afternoon (as well as a large part of the surrounding neighborhood via some timely magical enhancement), and while it was well-received, it wasn’t quite enough to tip the scales. Until the Army of Salvation showed up in giant Clay Golems crying “Mutants! Mutants herein!” and indiscriminately blowing the crowd to shreds. The end result was city-wide rioting against the Army of Salvation, only a half-day ahead of schedule.

At the following dawn, the PCs proceeded to a tunnel dug most of the way to the Fortress of Sitriph by the resistance. With the help of some summoned Earth Elementals, they completed the tunnel and invaded the fortress. They were met with stiff resistance from the Clay Golems, though they managed to turn the tables by Possessing one of the pilots, thereby turning one of the golems to their side. They occasionally noticed other PCs invading the fortress, via fighting and explosions off in the distance, the entire fortress shaking when certain supplies were destroyed, and etc.

Looking for a way to avoid fighting an unceasing series of golems, they PCs hatched a plan to send the possessed golem to the General of the Army of Salvation and (using a special-purpose magic item) kill him. This might have worked, but at that exact moment another group of PCs disabled the power source for the golems and they all collapsed into immobility (accompanied by hobbit-sounding calls of “Oh, SH*T!” from inside the golems).

Instead, the group used more Earth Elementals to tunnel through the fortress to the command center, where they found the Lieutenant General of the army huddling miserably in the corner. He nearly had them convinced that the General was out of their reach, until they Possessed him and discovered that the General was simply hiding behind a secret door, hoping to wait out the whole assault.

With the command of the Army of Salvation in their “possession,” that pretty much spelled an end to the army’s resistance in the city and fortress.

Meanwhile, other scenarios managed to transport the refugees to the swamp just south of the city, to provide sufficient food and supplies, and to install a number of shroud protections around the fortress.  (Plus, as mentioned before, disabling the power source for the Clay Golems, allowing the refugees to actually reach the city wall.)

All together, this enabled the refugees to get through the City of Sitriph, enter the Fortress of Sitriph, and huddle safely for the forty days and nights it took for the Shroud to pass.

On a final note, the Gaia cleric on this run ended up using a magic item that granted a single Wish to raise Soft Fur from the dead, reuniting her with Long Tooth, and bringing them both into the Fortress of Sitriph. (They needed no convincing to commence repopulating their species…)

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