Tuesday, March 15, 2016

[Pathfinder] Mummy's Mask, part 1: The Ruby Scarabs

Since I started blogging our Wrath of the Righteous sessions, I decided to blog our other relatively new Pathfinder campaign as well. We've played 8 sessions so far. I'm breaking them up into multiple posts. 

SPOILERS for the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path ahead.

Session 1


The Ruby Scarabs formed in the Osirion city of Wati, where they prepared to participate in the lottery to explore the ancient Necropolis. Koori and Sula had already met in the Mwangi Expanse near Kho Rarme Pass, and had traveled to Wati together. Azzaria and Uto were strangers to them and to each other before agreeing to join together as the Ruby Scarabs. Azzaria had grown up among a nomad tribe in the desert beyond Wati, while Uto had spent all his life within the confines of the town, learning to become a Speaker for the Dead.

Azzaria, Koori, and Sula were staying at the Tooth & Hookah prior to the beginning of the event. Uto, a local, had his own lodging. On the day before the lottery, Sula had a brief encounter with three fierce dogs that menaced her lioness companion, Nyema. The dogs turned out to belong to a group of halflings led by one known as “Mad Dog”. Mad Dog and his companions were part of an experienced adventuring group called the Dog Soldiers. The Scarabs also met several other adventuring groups who were planning to join in exploring the Necropolis: the Crypt Finders, the Daughters of the Desert, the Sand Scorpions, and the Scorched Hand.

The group also met a priest of Pharasma, Ptemenib, who answered their questions about the lottery process. Ptemenib explained that the drawing was not to decide who would be permitted to enter the Necropolis; any adventuring band that had picked up a token from the Temple of Pharasma would be allowed to explore. The drawing was to determine what area of the Necropolis each group would be permitted to search. Each group would be permitted to explore a total of three designated locations – assuming they survived. Ptemenib also told them the three cardinal rules the Church of Pharasma had set out for this event: 1) remember the origin of the Necropolis: it is a holy site and those who treat it with disrespect will be cursed; 2) do not desecrate or vandalize the tombs; and 3) honor the dead.

Following their conversation with Ptemenib, the Scarabs discussed what gear they had in their possession and what they thought they might need for their exploration effort. They planned to visit the marketplace the next morning to purchase additional equipment.

At the market on the following day, the group encountered a man named Fangrim who was part of a group called the Flickering Four. He was also shopping for supplies, but after telling the Scarabs that he thought fire was the best solution for any challenge, he decided he no longer needed his shopping list and abandoned it. Koori picked it up, and the companions decided to use it as a guideline for their purchases. They pooled their funds to buy a shovel, several potions of alchemist fire and acid, vials of antitoxin, holy water, a collapsible plank, and flasks of oil.

The next day they joined the other adventuring bands at the Grand Mausoleum, where High Priestess Sebti the Crocodile said a prayer for their endeavor. When the prayer was done, her acolytes drew tokens from a jar. The Sand Scorpions were the first team to be drawn, followed by the Ruby Scarabs. The Scarabs were assigned the tomb of Akhan-tepi as their first location to explore. The tomb had existed prior to the plague that led to the creation of the Necropolis, and lay on the far side of the walled area that enclosed the ancient burial ground. The Dog Soldiers and a group named the Four Lanterns drew locations close to the tomb. The three teams agreed to enter the Necropolis together and look out for each other until they split up to head for their assigned locations.

At dawn on the following morning the adventurers entered the Necropolis through the Gate of Dawn. As the Scarabs and their companions headed toward the opposite side of the area, they heard a hiss from above and spotted a gaunt, fanged creature that Azzaria identified as a ghast. Several of the adventurers fired arrows at it, but the creature dodged them and fled.

Shortly afterward the three groups separated and the Ruby Scarabs proceeded on to the tomb of Akhan-tepi. Its heavy stone doors were buried in sand, which they took turns shoveling away until the doors could be pushed open. While they worked they heard a distant scream, but couldn’t identify which direction it came from.

The doors opened into an empty chamber with stone masks representing Pharasma set in the four corners. Against the wall opposite the entrance stood a huge stone disk resting in a track in the floor. This disk appeared to be a doorway. Uto cast a spell to detect magical emanations and examined the room, finding nothing magical. Koori scanned for traps and also found the chamber clear. They lit torches and set them in the brackets behind the four masks, hoping that might activate the disk door, but nothing happened. Azzaria and Uto combined their strength to push the stone aside.

The stale air that issued from the next room smelled of death to Koori. In the center of the next room was a 10’ square pit, which proved to be an opening into a shaft some 75’ deep. Uto dropped a torch down the shaft so they could see the bottom. At the edge of the opening a piton had been hammered between the stones of the floor, and a length of rope was tied to the eye of the piton, the other end descending into the shaft. But on examination the group discovered that the rope had been cut about five feet from the piton.

As the team were examining the shaft chamber, they suddenly heard a hiss from the outer doorway. Everyone went out into the entry chamber to find out what it was. A scorpion the size of a small dog, its carapace translucent, had entered the tomb chamber. When Sula and Nyema approached, it rushed Nyema and grabbed the lioness with its claws. Sula struck it with her club and Azzaria struck it as well, leaving it crushed and expiring on the tomb floor. Sula identified it as a ghost scorpion. It had probably entered the tomb chamber seeking shelter during the day. After this brief incident, the Ruby Scarabs returned to the shaft room.

Koori checked the room for traps and found none. The Scarabs had brought three lengths of rope with them, each 50’ long. They decided to cut one length in half and tie the two pieces to the other two coils, creating two ropes that would be long enough to descend the shaft. They attached one rope to the existing piton and set a second piton of their own for the second rope. Because Nyema couldn’t climb down a rope, Sula had her remain on guard at the edge of the shaft opening. Then the four companions climbed down to the bottom of the shaft. Koori descended first. On arriving at the bottom the tengu saw a patch of dried blood, a corpse, and a coil of rope. The corpse was desiccated and had probably been there for a century or more. The legs lay at unnatural angles, indicating that the person’s legs had probably been broken in the fall when the rope was cut. Azzaria bemoaned that this might indicate the corpse’s compatriots had taken all of the valuable treasures from the tomb.

After searching the corpse and finding two vials of alchemist fire that had somehow survived the fall, Koori proceeded to the next door, which lay at the end of a short corridor. Despite carefully searching for traps, the tengu managed to activate one that caused darts to fire from channels in the walls. Koori and Azzaria were struck by darts. Sula quickly cast detect poison and assured them that the projectiles were not poisoned. Koori feared that this trap might be one that could reset. The group gathered their heaviest equipment in Uto’s pack, tied the length of aged rope from the corpse to it, and tried to use it to set off the dart trap again while they stood back out of range. But the pack proved too light. They then hit on a plan to use Sula’s spear to push open the next door, laying the collapsible plank they had brought across the trigger to allow them to safely step over it.

The room beyond the dart trap contained a large tapestry that appeared to depict Akhan-tepi and his family. Koori took a moment to consult with the spirits and asked them if there were any hidden doorways. She was told there were none. The tapestry chamber had two exits, one to the party’s left and the other to their right. When they opened the right-hand doorway they found a staircase descending into darkness. The left-hand exit revealed an identical scene. Concerned that they might need rope again and the old rope they’d found with the corpse was getting too frayed, Azzaria went back to the shaft to get the second length of rope they’d left. After she returned they passed through the door to their left.

They were led to a room containing statues of Anubis and Pharasma, and a large mirror. When they looked into the mirror they suddenly realized that the image showed five people, not four. The fifth person was Akhan-tepi himself. His image wore an expression of displeasure. Azzaria began trying to determine where he could be standing to create the reflection, and spoke to him, trying to reassure him that the Scarabs did not mean to desecrate his burial place. Sula stared at his image intently for several moments, and suddenly felt a pain in her forehead. At the same time, Koori realized that the word “thief” had been branded on Sula’s head in Osirion script. Uto recognized that this type of brand would fade in a week, but until then while it could be covered it could not be removed.

Session 2

As they stood in the reflecting chamber, the Ruby Scarabs heard scuttling sounds from the next room. Azzaria looked into that room, which proved to be designed for preparation of mummies, and saw two camel spiders moving toward the doorway. She and Sula moved into the doorway to meet them. Sula crushed one spider with her club, but the second spider wounded her twice with its pincers, which when combined with her injury from the brand caused her to fall unconscious.

Azzaria killed the second spider, and Uto then channeled positive energy to provide some healing to Sula. When she had recovered enough to move on the Scarabs opened another set of doors exiting from the mirror room and found a long descending staircase. The passage at the bottom of the stairs was full of sand, which Koori recognized was not natural sand. Suddenly a creature composed of sand rose up from the floor, and the group members realized it must be some type of elemental. Uto created water to drench it, which temporarily slowed it, but no one was able to communicate with it and the creature seemed unfriendly. Sula hurled a fistful of flames at it, and then the elemental struck Koori with such force that she was near death. Sula cast a healing spell to prevent Koori from dying. The elemental withdrew through a series of small holes in the walls.

The Scarabs then decided that they were overmatched and in need of more healing, and that it would be wise to withdraw until they were at full strength again. They returned to the surface and made their way back out of the Necropolis without incident.

At the Grand Mausoleum, they told the chroniclers what they had experienced thus far in the tomb in exchange for healing. Afterward they returned to the Tooth and Hookah to rest. They heard rumors that two of the other adventuring bands hadn’t returned from the Necropolis, but no one knew which groups. They also learned that the Dog Soldiers had lost two of their dogs to a gelatinous cube, and heard a heroic tale from Falto of the Crypt Keepers that both Azzaria and Sula suspected was untrue.

In addition to resting, the group also decided they needed some additional supplies to continue their investigation. They traded the two vials of alchemist fire they had found on the corpse of the tomb robber for a scroll containing a minor curative spell. They also purchased another length of rope so they could make a harness to lower Nyema down the shaft and have her accompany them when they returned to the tomb.

The next morning the Ruby Scarabs returned to the tomb of Akhan-tepi. They found that nothing appeared to have been disturbed in their absence. They lowered Nyema down the shaft with Sula accompanying her on a second rope. On the way through the first chambers, they picked up their collapsible plank which had been left over a trapped floor tile and replaced it with a door that they had removed. They then returned to the mirror room and opened a door decorated with gilded scarabs which they had seen the previous day.

The scarab door led into a large room decorated with a tapestry. Columns sculpted in the forms of warriors stood in the four corners. All of the floor tiles were painted black with the spiral symbol of Pharasma in white in the center of each tile. The doors leading out of this room also bore Pharasma’s emblem.

To the right of the party was a locked door, which Koori easily unlocked. This opened onto a descending stairway. The door at the bottom of the stairs was not locked, and when opened revealed another stairwell leading up. The door at the top of those stairs was also open. It led into a large room with a stone sarcophagus standing on a plinth in the center. Four pillars flanked the plinth, as did two statues of Anubis. Uto detected no magic within the chamber. Koori scanned it carefully and identified two trapped areas, one beneath the plinth that held the sarcophagus, and the other along one wall to the side of the platform. She saw evidence that the columns would do something. Azzaria also noticed a lever overhead. Koori then suggested that the others wait outside the room while she tried to disable the traps. Azzaria, Sula, Nyema, and Uto went outside into the stairwell.

While her companions waited, Koori tried setting her pack on a tile she had identified as a trigger. The doors, which were the only entrance to the chamber, suddenly slammed shut and locked. Electricity arced out of the statues of Anubis. Then water began to flow into the chamber, and the sarcophagus rose up and approached Koori. It slammed her to the ground, leaving her life hanging by a thread. The water covered the floor of the chamber and rose up toward the plinth. Koori crawled up onto the platform to escape, but the animated sarcophagus followed and attacked her again.

Her companions became alarmed when the doors closed and immediately began attempting to pry them open. Working together using the crowbar they had brought along, Azzaria and Sula were finally able to pry the doors open, with great effort. When the doors broke and burst open everyone but Nyema was knocked down by the sudden flood that poured out of the chamber.  Inside the room they saw no sign of Koori, only her burnt pack. Then they noticed a bit of black cloth protruding from the sarcophagus, which had returned to its original position. Sula rushed up onto the plinth to rescue Koori from the sarcophagus, which animated once again.

Azzaria attacked the sarcophagus with her crowbar, while Sula struck it with her club and Nyema clawed and bit at it. Despite being animated it was still made of stone and was very tough. But at last their attacks overcame it and the Scarabs were able to pry it open. Sadly, it was too late for Koori. After being beaten, electrocuted, drowned, and suffocated, she had not survived.

The rest of the group were too disheartened by this loss to continue exploring the tomb. After Uto healed some of their injuries they gathered up Koori’s body and carried her back to the Grand Mausoleum to be prepared by the priests of Pharasma. They told the chroniclers what they had found and what details they knew of the manner of Koori’s death. Then Azzaria, Sula, and Uto went to Bargetown to tell Koori’s relatives of her death. The matriarch of the tengu, Aruk, was not very friendly toward the Scarabs, but seemed genuinely saddened by the loss of Koori. After Uto gave Aruk the bag containing the baubles Koori had valued, the three companions returned to the Tooth and Hookah to have a few drinks together in private and mourn the loss of their friend.

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