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The return of Bethunel the Hungry and her companions – in a new adventure exploring more ancient ruins. And once again, dealing with halflings.

Our cast (all using the core B/X D&D rules, with only one house rule – unconsciousness at up to the character’s level in negative hit points).

Bethunel the Hungry – Paladin of Greed – Level 4 Cleric
Eseron of Elder Baughs – Elven Adventurer – Level 2 Elf
Rudrick “the Scout” Hault – Church Auditor – Level 5 Thief
Moruth Mel-Arn – Demonologist – Level 4 Magic User
Coruhn Nels – Errant Crusader – Level 5 Cleric
Torvull Ragespitter – Frenzied Dervish – Level 3 Fighter

Of our party, three are directly linked to the Chaotic church of Consumption (Bethunel, Rudrick and Torvull) and Moruth is allied to the church as well as the party. Only Coruhn and Eseron are “mercenary adventurers” who have joined the party in a quest for riches and adventure (although, to be honest, riches comes up a lot higher than adventure for Eseron, who has had a streak of bad luck involving level loss to a Wraith and then a Wight).

(Although, to be honest, Eseron’s luck has been far better than the fighter’s. Torvull is, I believe, the fourth or fifth fighter for the party – I lost track. The bodies of the prior fighters are mouldering away in the ruined temple of their first adventure).

After sacking the ruined temple of a lawful (albeit quite evil) goddess of chains, our party has been hunting for a fabled treasure (or possibly just an ancient and now-undead priest – the rumours and legends aren’t very precise and are occasionally contradictory) of a prior god of greed and destruction to aid Bethunel in her quest to bring the church into widespread prominence.

The quest has lead us now to a collection of islands that were dedicated to strange gods of death and necromancy aeons past, and on one island we are now hunting through the ruins of a long abandonned and ruined city. Once again, we find that we are not alone out here, and in a strange flashback to our first adventure, find ourselves surrounded by red-skinned native halflings who have moved from another island in the area to this one because a dragon has moved into their old home village. These halflings worship a god of death, and all their adventuring menfolk paint their faces to look like skulls. Negotiations with the halflings are short and remain somewhat hostile, made worse by midnight raids by someone into our party supplies (damned halflings and their 90% invisibility in the wilderness makes them nearly impossible to catch in the act).

In the centre of the ruins, now overwhelmed by jungle, we came across the old fortress of the town hall, and have begun to explore the depths below it. Our goal is to get as deep into the dungeon as possible, seeking whatever treasures are buried in the lower levels in a quick raid or two before we return to searching the ruins of the city for the temple of greed. We would have just ignored it for now and come back later, except that we spotted halfling explorers leaving the ruins carrying the bodies of a few of their number and want to beat them to whatever goods we can find before they mount another expedition into the ruin.

The insides of the ruins are ancient rock panels, interwoven with roots and vines. Within a few minutes of entering the ruins, Rudrick heard the sounds of another party of halflings. We waited by the door they were approaching and surprised and slaughtered them (although we weren’t expecting a group of 16 of them, a nicely placed Sleep spell took out more than half of the little blighters), then stripped the corpses of some aged silver coins and a magic short sword.

The ruins proved to be a strange mess of corridors and very few chambers, most of which were empty except for vines nad roots. The stairs down to a lower level proved to only lead to a single large empty chamber with no sign of secret doors or other exits. Finally we found a spiral staircase leading far deeper into the ruins.

The lower levels were even more damp and noxious than the surface, although less root-filled. Doors down here were jammed tight from moisture, and a layer of silt and quarter inch of water on the floor made it impossible to tell if anything had been by recently. The side chambers down here were covered in relief carvings of demonic creatures, several of which proved to be gargoyles that managed to ambush us because we were relying on visible light instead of infravision (which would have shown them to be distinctly different than the walls on which they were lurking).

We also got to finally encounter a true Basic D&D creature – a wandering creature that resembled a hobgoblin, but regenerated and caused paralysis like a ghoul – the thoul. I actually jumped out of my chair in excitement when Coruhn was paralyzed by the creature – I had never faced a thoul from this side of the DM screen before.

We surprised a small group of marauding wights (which of course gave Eseron the willies – he has a thing about level-draining undead) and managed to dispatch them without harm to the party (discovering to our relief that Coruhn’s most recent level advancement allows him to turn wights automatically, however he only managed to turn two of them, leaving the other three to be fought in a more traditional fashion).

Finally, we entered a section of the catacombs that seemed cleaner and clear of the silt and debris. A large chamber with something glinting from beyond an archway exit. Of course, it turned out the chamber was clean because of the resident gelatinous cube which caught us all by surprise. It slid out of the archway and into Eseron. The elf tried to scream, but was paralysed by the touch. The rest of the party turned in time to see the cube starting to envelop the poor elf and rushed to his aid. Swords, maces and hammers swung and connected, and after two rounds the cube was destroyed. Unfortunately, not before it had digested Eseron’s head.

Mourning for our elven companion (and looting his stuff), we also found a large quantity of coins within the cube. Torvull (who is a bit of a jerk) actually revelled in the death of the elf, as it meant he had first dibs on the gauntlets of ogre power that the elf had acquired prior to Torvull joining the party.

Completely out of cure spells, but with Moruth still fully “loaded” with magic-user spells, we decided to continue for one more major encounter (or treasure find) before retreating to the surface. After finding a passage containing an underground river (fortunately bridged), our wish for carnage was met by a trio of strange hairy spiders. Rudrick heard the movement of the strange creatures in their webs through the door into the room, and the now magically-enhanced strength of Torvull allowed us to break down the door and rush them in combat immediately, winning us the initiative (although not full surprise). One of the spiders was incapacitated by Moruth’s sleep spell, but the remaining two spiders both attacked Coruhn, and managed to strike home despite his incredible AC of -2. His failed saving throw against the poison made us think that he was lost, but then we discovered the true horror of these beings as Coruhn began to spasm and dance. And the dance was contagious, as if by magic Bethunel, Rudrick (who was invisble and hadn’t attacked yet) and Torvull each began to dance also, leaving only Moruth unaffected. A dancing fighting withdrawal began, except for Rudrick who successfully managed to backstab one of the spiders, as Moruth let off another sleep spell at the spiders and Rudrick (relying on the metagame knowledge that Rudrick is level 5, and thus immune to the spell). This time the spell did the job and the remaining spiders were immobilized and then slain.

Still dancing ackwardly, the party spiked the door closed and settled in to see if the poison and dancing would pass. The dancing lasted for nearly an hour, bringing the dancers near to the edge of exhaustion (and definitely leaving bloody blisters in their armoured sabots). Fortunately no monsters came across the room during that time. So collecting the spider’s loot (copper and some platinum), the party returned to the surface and to their boat to recover.