One of the players who wasn’t available last week was here this time, so he and another absent player’s character showed up in Stull to find it burning and overrun by zombies. Needless to say, the other players still in the dungeon were all “Oh, sh….”
The Goblin and Orc fought some zombies with the help of a couple townsfolk to save the mayor. One townsperson became a level 1 something or other, after surviving the battle with a handful of zombies in case any players lost their characters in the dungeon. The mayor told the where the party was. I ruled that he’d arrive at the encounter under-way in 4 rounds.
The turned and fleeing zombies attracted the attention of the big-bads of the dungeon, Thaen (MU) and Behiric (CL) and Thaen’s Wight friend.
I molly-coddle the party a bit more than I’d told myself I would, if only because a party, however big, of level 1-3 characters were out of their depth against two 6th level magic users and an aethereal undead. Rather than hold personing everyone, the cleric only held-person a couple (ultimately one, the cleric who failed his saving throw). The evil cleric relied more on his +2 warhammer than his spells, though everyone did get scared when he healed himself to full. The goblin/thief found out that his +1 mace was actually cursed and evil, when the cleric laughed after being hit for max damage with a weapon blessed by and dedicated to his own evil god.
The Magic User put the hurt on some folks with magic missiles, and downed the fighter. Again, I didn’t want to be mean and have him use his lightning bolt straight off for a TPK. The monk (my OSR monk) used a poison dagger on Thaen and sent him running.
The wight bumbled around a lot, completely unable to connect to anyone, which was good, I guess, since level drain is really mean. Of course, a lot of characters didn’t have +1 weapons, so there was a lot of really great acrobatic roleplay of characters grabbing magic weapons from fallen characters. The goblin/thief needed a different weapon, so someone tossed the held cleric’s mace at him, but he caught it with his face. The goblin/thief nearly got KO’d after the evil cleric picked him up and threw him against a wall. The Elf also had an “oh, no!” moment when sleep didn’t work on Behiric.
The Elf chased after Thaen, and shot him in the shoulder, so Thaen KO’d the Elf pretty hard with a lighting-bolt before wizard locking himself in his room.
The wight eventually got killed, and Behiric, almost dead, yielded. As he yielded, the goblin/thief bashed his skull in.
The party couldn’t open Thaen’s wizard-locked door, so they decided to cover his door in oil, set it on fire and smoke him out. The dungeon got filled pretty bad with smoke, and the party hid out sifting through Behiric’s dirty clothes waiting the fire out and killing the turned zombies who were hiding in his room.
I decided that wizard lock does not stop wooden doors from burning, so they returned, kicked in the remains, found Thaen dead from smoke inhalation, and the rest of the turned zombies cowering in his room with him. Thaen had destroyed his spellbook as one of his last living acts. After searching the room, the party dispatched the turned undead and dragged themselves back to the village, which was more or less burned to the ground.
Of course before they got out of the dungeon, they had been messing with the lever in Thaen’s room, and the cleric fell in the pit trap (the goblin/thief was not heavy enough to set it off and declared it ‘disarmed’). They turned the zombie in the pit just for the hell of it, so it was turned and stuck on spikes at the bottom of a 30 ft pit.
They spent two days recovering, during which time, Garrett arrived in town, delivering the Elfstones(Orbs of Necromantic Power) to the clerics and told them what he knew of Thaen, Behiric and the cult of Caelden. The students had been promised to learn many great arcane secrets, but had been unaware that it entailed their destruction of the city and raising an undead army. The level 1 MU didn’t stand much chance of leaving or stopping Thaen & Behiric, but with them dead, he was able to murder his companions and deliver the artifacts to the clergymen.
The party returned to the tomb the next day, fought the two other wights in the tomb (who also managed to not hit anyone) then found the giant pile of dead bodies where the orbs had been kept. They debated forever over what to do with the corpses, where to move them, how to bury them, etc. etc. The goblin/thief wanted to mutilate their bodies, the cleric wouldn’t let them. They ended up spending the better part of the day dumping the bodies into the pit with the zombie. “The 30′ pit is now a 15′ pit, and there is a turned zombie under the bodies who is very unhappy about the situation.” The party took the last of the loot out of the student’s room and then went to the treasure room, the last room they hadn’t explored.
The goblin/thief made a b-line for the treasure-chest and got squished by living statues. A heroic effort was made to drag him out, and the party opted to seal the statues in the room rather than go after the treasure.
All in all, Necromancers of Stull was a fun module to run. The only problem I had with it was the cramped nature of some of the rooms meant that the opening tunnel, rooms 3, 9, 10 and 11 all constituted one big encounter. And really it wasn’t so much of a problem as it was a balance issue. While the zombies are not an issue, especially with clerics in the party, fighting two lvl 6 spellcasting characters with that much interference being run for them is really tough. If I’d played to win it as the bad-guys, I’d’ve had Behiric hold everyone. Thaen then could’ve killed the still-level 1 elf with magic missiles, and anyone who wasn’t held could be killed off with missiles and lightning bolts. Even if Behiric hadn’t managed to hold anyone, Thaen has enough damage going on with his Lighting Bolt, he could’ve easily killed half the party with a single spell. Still, even going easy on the party, it was a pretty exciting encounter, and having the goblin/halfling and orc show up on round 4 added to that excitement, very much in a “Yay, we’re saved!” sort of way, especially when the party got down to the light-healer, the thief and the elf as active combatants.
For a party as big as the one I’m playing with, I’d say this would be good for a level 2-4 party (thieves at the high end, elves at the low end) or level 3-4 for a smaller party. Otherwise an encounter with 8 zombies, a wight, an MU-6 and a CL-6 is going to be brutal.
At least I think that most of the party has finally leveled,
Night of the Necromancer is a free mini-module in the AA1-Adventure Anthology One, available for download at the BRFPG site.