orcusLast night was Session #13 – Bearded in Orcus’s Lair of my D&D 4E Carnus campaign. I used to write session logs after each game night, but fell out of practice due to time pressure. However, the benefits of logging are too great, so it’s time to get back into the habit. Roleplaying Tips readers have responded positively to my brief session summaries in the past, so as an experiment, I’m going to try logging about sessions on this web, er, log.

Spoiler alert: if you are a player in my campaign, please stop reading. Secrets are about to be revealed. Orcus will know if you’ve cheated. He’s a tricky one. He also knows your IP.

Bearded in the Temple of Orcus

In Session #12 the characters were dismayed to learn Orcus had a public and open temple in Carnus. A friend had been kidnapped and the first clue was a holy symbol of Orcus painted in blood at the scene of the disappearance (hey, who said Orcus was subtle?). The second clue was a feint trail in the rain that lead the ranger to the Temple District, though the tracks became washed out before they could take the ranger to a specific temple door. After brief inquiry, the group learned Orcus has a temple for followers nestled between two other holy buildings. Outraged, the PCs gathered up their gear and headed to the undead lord’s unholy site.

Further surprises lay in wait, however, as the temple turned out to be a quaint house that smelled slightly like apple pie. While half the party circled around the back, the others entered through the front door to be greeted by friendly and comely young ladies. One played a harp in the greeting room, one was cooking in the kitchen, and the greeter was warmly welcoming them and asking if they’d like some refreshments.

Bewildered, the PCs demanded to know the location of Douven Stahl, their kidnapped friend. The heroes around the back debated whether to storm into the kitchen or wait for a signal. The priestess of Orcus knew of Douven and said he was in the basement. The PCs were welcome to go down into the cellar to investigate. Barging through the house now from both directions, the PCs meet at the cellar door and cautiously descend.

Fast forward to Session #13. The PCs descend the stairs but realize they’ve been tricked. They’ve passed through some sort of invisible portal, because the stairs no longer lead back up to the house, but just to a stone wall. The steps end at the entrance of a horrific chamber with dozens of sarcophagi lining the walls and a dark altar at the far end. Burning braziers in the centre of the cavern cast an orange glow throughout. Standing at the altar appears to be Orcus himself! The characters believe him to be Orcus, though the creature is actually just an aspect of undead lord.

Orcus’s Aspect conducts a quick trial, finds the PCs guilty, and declares they’ve wasted their time because Douven is already dead (just to rub it in). Then he apparently vanishes, leaving the PCs to explore their new prison. (He actually just turns invisible, waiting with impatient glee at what is about to happen.)

As the PCs enter the chamber, the lids on the sarcophagi slam open and creatures from beyond the grave pour out like pus from a flesh golem’s ingrown toenail. A massive brawl breaks out and the PCs are nearly overwhelmed. The PCs also soon learn the braziers explode when approached, and certain floor tiles are pressure traps that release poison gas. The heroes fight courageously on.

Just as the battle tips to the party’s favour, the Aspect of Orcus reappears and lays down the smack on the party’s priest. After the cleric goes down beneath an onslaught of skull mace blows, the demon casts his gaze around the battle, gives a great belly laugh, and the disappears into one of the sarcophagi. The sharp-eyed ranger and two other PCs catch a glimpse of a struggling Douven Stahl also in the sarcophagus, renewing the group’s hope. The beast lied about their friend’s death!

Treasure Type J

Despite horrendous odds, the party wins the battle and takes a rest. Then they search for treasure. As expected, the search comes up Treasure type J. Several sessions ago, one player coined this term to indicated “treasure type Johnn” – no coins, magic items, valuables, or anything to add to the credits column on the party’s balance sheet. Hey, I figure coming out alive with a few lessons learned is reward enough. Go figure. :)

Guard ambush

The PCs investigate the sarcophagus where Orcus and Douven disappeared into, and discover a hidden door. Passing through they emerge into a dark, rainy day. A road takes them to the top of a hill where they spot a swamp and hamlet below. The hamlet is surrounded by a primitive wall and the PCs troop toward it. Guards at the hamlet’s gate challenge the party and the PCs manage to convince them to open the gate. Night is falling and the group needs dry shelter – even the stables would do. As the characters pass through, the gate slams shut behind them and the guards attack. No shabby peasants these guards, the battle is a tough one.

Victorious again, the heroes speculate why such skilled warriors guard this shabby hamlet, and why they attacked without provocation. At this point, the session is called and we wrap things up. Next session the PCs will begin module Master Dungeons M2: Curse of the Kingspire by Goodman Games, of which the guard encounter was the start.

Session reflection

GM notes

My monsters suffered at a few points because of my lack of rules knowledge. I have too many things to read for work and projects though, so I’m continuing with my plan to learn-by-GMing.

There was still a lot of confusion tracking damage to numerous, identical minis. I think next session I go back to marking figs with coloured chips to help distinguish them.

I could do a better job with critter ability use. I remembered a couple of missed opportunities after the session with unused monster powers. I might resume creating encounter tactics checklists.

It was a combat-heavy session, but there was good roleplaying with the guards in encounter Guard Ambush.

I might have to break down and grant a couple of treasure parcels soon lest the unwashed masses rebel.

To dos triggered from this session

  • Treasure from the guards
  • Update the party wiki with XPs and NPC portraits
  • Craft monster tactics checklists for upcoming encounters
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