First of all, note that I’ve updated the background information, adding articles on goblins, kobolds, orks, and Gothtan, and adding a section in Starálfur on elf society. Most of the details are trivial, but I hope that you’ll use the articles as a place to keep notes when more important details crop up. (Yes, there WILL eventually be a longterm plot!) Second, having heard at least one player commend her, the roleplaying award this week goes to Casey. Take 50 XP. As we get more practiced (and XP is worth less), the awards will grow; over time we’ll establish connections with NPC’s and get a richer sense of the characters (if you’re interested in that sort of game), and there will be more role-play opportunities. By the way, feel free to email me about what you like or dislike about the game so that I can kick it into shape over break.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled broadcast.
Descending to the second basement of the Gothtan family tomb, the party finds themselves in a great, stone hall filled with rows of coffins. Around the edge of the room lie ten coffins containing the first ten counts of Gothtan, each bearing its owner’s likeness in stone on the lid. A pair of skeletons surprises the adventurers, but they quickly scatter their bones. Kaeleria, running with a natural 20 on a spellcraft check, mentions her fear that a powerful spellcaster might be behind these undead; to metagame for a moment, the spell Animate Dead is third level for a cleric, fourth for a wizard, and one can only control undead whose total hit die are no more than four times the caster’s. Nevertheless, all carry on. The next door seems to have no handle, but only a handprint. By placing one of the skeletons’ hands on the print, Keary opens the door.
Behind it is a narrow corridor, covered on both sides by illustrations depicting the manor above and the building of the town around it. In these pictures, it appears as though the buildings are being erected after some great disaster; as the party continues down the hall, the carvings show uncountable burials. Before they can get much farther, though, they see someone stepping toward them from the dark end of the corridor. It is a man in the livery of the Count Gothtan … and he is dead.
The zombies march down the hallway as the party dashes back to the door, fans out and readies their ranged weapons. When the first zombie steps out of the doorway, they pepper it with arrows and stones, but to no effect. The dead shamble forward and savagely lay into the party, laying out Keary on the stones, unconscious. Realizing that they’re beaten, Alatariel grabs Keary’s body and dashes out of the dungeon, the rest of the party at her heels. They slam and lock the door.
Back at the Count’s manor, the court physician attends to the party’s wounds while Kaeleria, uninjured, speaks with the Count. He tells her exactly what those zombies might be guarding: the tomb of an ancestor that he’d like to have forgotten, one who ruled long before the seven duchies or Retz itself existed. Centuries ago, he tells you, an empire of the undead covered the land from here, across the dwarves’ mountains and the elves’ forests, off across Totenwald itself, whence they came. Gothtan calls it the Lesarch Empire. He says that the empire rose during a time of plague and ruled for ages, until some force broke their hold … he believes that someone sworn to Pelor lead the way, a paladin or priest, or perhaps a number of them. It’s not an era in which he’s taken a keen interest.
After thirty-some generations with not so much as a peep from the depths of the tomb, the Count thinks it far less likely that the old lich-kings dust has somehow reconstituted itself than that someone or something else is stirring up trouble. Whether it’s his fault or an outside agitator, he doesn’t know, but he had hoped that the problem would make itself apparent before the party reached the bottom chamber. Seeing that this won’t be the case, he unwraps his arm and hands Kaeleria the bloody bandage. “When you reach the final door,” he says, “press this bandage to it.” You suppose that this is what the scroll meant by “blood of Gothtan”.
Meanwhile, down below, Thorar and the physician bring Keary around and the others heal up as well. They make ready for a second assault, now more prepared and more informed.
PS: On the subject of third and fourth level spells, here are some of the things you can look forward to casting. Every spell used in this comic is taken from the players’ handbook … although the author’s taken some license with the name of the third for the purposes of clarity. And for those of you who stick to the physical, you might find that this describes something you’ve experienced.