01 September 2007

The Earthquake (III): Cold Ghost-On-Ghost Action!

A little while ago, I explained how the original Party members (Breygon, Gwen, Joraz and Greywind) first linked up the their new comrades-in-arms (Bjorn and Lyra) at the site of a massive landslide. At this point, they also met Ankallys, the Wizard/Rogue who was the only survivor of Oras Rathorn’s expedition to uncover the lost temple of Karg and loot it for its artefacts. Shortly thereafter, I recounted how they entered the Broken Temple of Karg, began poking around, and stirred up a great heap of trouble.

This story picks up where the last one left off. As you may recall, while the Party was investigating the crypt door marked “Ekruhalagar” that Breygon had found, Ankallys managed to slip off on business of her own.

While Bjorn and company were attempting to jimmy the door to Ekruhalagar’s Tomb (area 8, see map, below), Ankallys tip-toed roguishly over to Area 7. As Lyra had already suspected, Ankallys knew a little more than she was telling. The relics of Ekruhalagar were only part of the reason that Rathorn had been looking for the temple. The real reason – as avid readers may remember from wa-a-a-a-a-ay back here – was to recover relics of a different nature, that had, according to a scroll recovered by Rathorn, been laid to rest with Moldukar, a priest of Karg who had been Claw of the Temple shortly before its burial. Ankallys knew precisely where to find Moldukar’s tomb, and so she snuck over, Knocked on the door to the crypt, and went in to check things out.

Meanwhile, our brave adventurers had managed to force open the door to the other crypt, and Bjorn and Lyra ventured inside, the cleric sternly warning the sorceress not to touch anything (a reasonable precaution given what had happened when the party had disturbed Nambris’ tomb). The others followed. Bjorn located the Bier of Ekruhalagar in no time. He argued vehemently against disturbing the rest of so illustrious a hero of the ancient world, but his colleagues managed to convince him that it was more important to open the tomb in order to check what Ankallys was looking for. Lyra made an especially impassioned and very convincing case in favour of looting the tomb, in order to allow the hero’s relics to be used for good in the world, rather than continue mouldering away.

Bjorn saw through these feeble justifications, but he also realized that, one way or another, somebody was going to be crow-barring the lid off the sarcophagus. Better done my way, he reasoned. Ordering the rest of the Party out of the crypt, he got out his sacred hammer, and began praying for forgiveness for what he was about to do. The rest of the Party piled back up the stairs to wait. Spot checks all around. Still, nobody noticed she was missing.

What Ankallys was up to was not good news at all. Using a levitate spell, she removed the lid from Moldukar’s sarcophagus and began rummaging around inside it, ignoring his armour, shield and flail until she came up with what she sought: a gold-and-silver tube, capped at both ends, with the caps connected by a light chain: Moldukar’s Phylactery of Faithfulness. It was right about now that she heard the dark, mind-numbing babbling begin all over again…and a whole host of Allips swarmed out of the walls of the crypt, summoned by the violation of the tomb of the greatest priest the temple had ever known; and driven into an unholy frenzy by the dark forces emanating from the tube clutched tightly in Ankallys’ grasp. She screamed, fled up the stairs, and bolted for the temple entrance.
Her screams alerted the Party. They probably would have figured out that something was amiss anyway, seeing as how just as Ankallys appeared at the doorway of Moldukar’s crypt, two dozen Allips came streaming through the walls and floor of the temple, cutting off everyone’s escape towards the light.
Roll initiative!
The Allips surrounded Ankallys, and in about two rounds, had drained her wisdom down to nothing, at which point she fell, catatonic, to the floor. Breygon made use of those two rounds to get the Party together and into something of a semblance of a defensive line, backing towards the gigantic statue of Karg that stood under the temple’s dome.

Bjorn, still down in Ekruhalagar’s crypt, had other things on his mind. He had finished his fervent prayer to Esu and Karg, asking forgiveness for violating the hero’s tomb, and had lifted the lid of the sarcophagus, exposing the remains: the bones of Ekruhalagar, along with his armour, his magnificent helm, and his broken bastard sword.

Bjorn was still admiring these things when Ekruhalagar manifested and asked the cleric what he was about. Bjorn was properly respectful, explaining the situation, and Ekruhalagar, placated, charged Bjorn, as one of his spiritual descendents, with a holy task: to take his helm and holy symbol to the nearest Temple of Karg; and to have the shards of his sword reforged, re-enchanted, and put to use in the service of good. In payment for this service, Ekruhalagar offered Bjorn his armour, a magnificent, ancient suit of Masterwork Full-Plate, dwarf-forged to perfection. Bjorn was just about to try it on when Ankallys’ scream shattered the silence of the temple.

Here follows a capsule of the next few moments in the Crypt of Ekruhalagar.

Bjorn: What was that?
Ghost: Your companions have awoken the uneasy spirits that haunt this place.
Bjorn: Can you calm them again?
Ghost: They are not as I. Their tortured spirits are chained to this place because they took their own lives in the darkness, after the great fall that buried the temple. They no longer have wit or reason, but seek only to destroy all life.
Bjorn: I must fight them, then.
Ghost: That would be unwise. They are many, and powerful. You would not survive. Remain here; they will not dare to invade my sanctum.
Bjorn: I am a servant of the Allfather, as you once were. Would you have me remain here in safety while my comrades perish?
Ghost: I cannot aid you in this, for my powers are frail on your plane, and I cannot don my Crown. But perhaps there is a way…
Bjorn: What is it?
Ghost: You can wear the Crown, as I cannot. If I were to inhabit your body, only for a short while, I could bring my power to bear against these creatures. Perhaps we would prevail.
Bjorn: Bringeth it on.

And that’s what happened. The Ghost of Ekruhalagar, an Evolved Undead based on a 12th level Paladin of Karg, employed his power of Malevolence (or, I suppose, in this case, Benevolence) to occupy Bjorn’s body and take over his consciousness. Bjorn became, essentially, a passenger in his own head, and all of Ekruhalagar’s mental powers came to the fore. Bjorn/Ekruhalagar donned the Crown, exited the crypt, strode straight up to the advancing wall of Allips, and began blasting them into oblivion.

Here's how it went. For the sake of speeding up the combat, I ran a few calculations ahead of time. Ekruhalagar was a 12th level paladin with a 22 Charisma, and he/Bjorn was wearing the Crown of Ekruhalagar, a magical artifact that gives a +2 bonus to AC, a +4 bonus to Charisma, and that increases the wearer’s effective caster level by 4 for purposes of turning checks (but only if worn by a servant of the Allfather). This meant that for the purpose of turning checks (PHB Table 8-9), Bjorn/Ekruhalagar’s effective Charisma was 26, for a modifier of +8 to the d20 roll. This meant that the absolute worst possible roll (treating natural 1 as -10), would give a result of (-10+8=-2), or (Cleric’s level -4) for the most powerful undead that could be turned. Bjorn/Ekruhalagar’s effective cleric level was 9 (Paladin 12, -3); but the Crown’s effect adds 4, offsetting the -4 from Table 8-9. So even with a roll of Natural 1, Bjorn/Ekruhalagar could still turn undead up to 9 HD – more than enough for Allips at 4 HD (even though I tossed in some 6 HD ones as well). Bottom line – I basicaly didn’t even have to roll the turning check, although I did so anyway, for cosmetic purposes and to keep the dramatic tension up.

Taking the calculations a little further, I then looked at turning damage, which is equal to Cleric Level + Charisma Modifier + 2d6. As noted above, Bjorn/Ekruhalagar’s effective cleric level was 12-3+4, or 13; and his charisma modifier was +8. So every turning damage roll was at +21, and so could only give a result between 23 and 33. At 4 HD per Allip on average, this meant that Bjorn/Ekruhalagar would automatically turn between 23/4=5 and 33/4=8 Allips for every turning attempt. Moreover, given that Bjorn/Ekruhalagar’s effective cleric level was 9 and the Allips’ HD was 4, any Allip turned would be automatically destroyed. So I simply rolled 1d4+4 to determine how many Allips were destroyed per turning attempt.

Of course, I didn’t tell the party that I’d had this all worked out in advance; that would’ve killed the dramatic moment. Trust me, they looked pretty freaked at the massive wall of black, shimmering horror floating towards them.

Anyhow, that’s how the big denouement unfolded. The Party kept backing up deeper into the temple, the Allips kept advancing, and Bjorn kept blasting away at them. He tried something else for one round and got swiped, and nearly wisdom-drained, for his trouble, but then refocussed and resumed the blasting. In about five rounds it was all over.
(I briefly considered throwing the Phase Spiders from area 11 at this point, but nixed the idea, as it would have been somewhat anticlimactic after the Allip Army. So I didn't.)

Bjorn then went through something of an internal struggle. Ekruhalagar had to make a will save to release his grip on the cleric’s body (he did), and Bjorn had to make a fortitude save against passing out due to the flood of divine energy that had been channelled through his corpus (he did). Ekruhalagar bid Bjorn farewell, reminded him of his promise, and faded into insubstantiality.

The Party then spent about an hour trying to figure out what had happened to Ankallys. Lyra searched the catatonic wizard and discovered the phylactery gripped tightly in her hand (pictured below). They also gathered up Ekruhalagar’s relics. Ankallys was evacuated on a ropeline, wrapped in a blanket, and bundled up in the back of the Party’s wagon. Meanwhile, Bjorn laid a blessing on the temple, hoping that this would prevent intruders from sacking it.

With much spadework, through lashing their horses to the yoke, and with a lot of pushing, they managed to get their wagon across the landslide, and onto the Nordvej again. They rolled out in midafternoon, and reached Ganesford an hour later, just as the sun was going down. Rather than try to locate their point of contact at night, they spent the night at the Traveller’s Rest, just south of the ford where the Nordvej crossed the Sweetvale River, and climbed up into the small, muddy town square.

And for once, they had a restful night.

* * * * *


7. The Tomb of Moldukar

This sarcophagus is carved of white stone, and is decorated with the Symbol of Karg, and the words “Moldukar, High Priest of Karg, 41-101 NH". It contains a desiccated skeleton dressed in the rotted remains of clerical robes over a rusted chainshirt. The crypt also contains a rusty shield and a MW Heavy Flail. A Search DC 14 will reveal a small gold-and-silver tube, 2” in diameter and 6” long, on a silver chain. This is a Phylactery of Faithfulness, keyed to servants of the Allfather. If opened, it will be found to contain numerous pieces of parchment inscribed with phrases of praise to “Karg, Esu and Braea”. If these parchments are not replaced, the phylactery will lose its power. The phylactery also contains a small waxed cloth bundle beautifully bound in gold wire, about 1” in diameter and 5” long. The parchment is ancient and enchanted. Detect Magic reveals strong, mixed arcane magic; Detect Evil reveals strong evil.

8. The Bier of Ekruhalagar

This stone sarcophagus is placed on a 3’ high block of black granite, polished to a luster; it is engraved in common runes with the following phrase: “The Last Rest of Ekruhalagar, Champion of Karg, Slain in Battle by a Minion of the Dark in the Nine and Fortieth Year of New Hope. May All The Lady’s Enemies Perish At My Hands.”

The sarcophagus is trapped with a Glyph of Warding (Search DC 28, Disable DC 28) set to discharge a Blindness spell (Fort DC 20) against anyone who attempts to open it without first invoking the blessing of Karg, Esu, Tchudash or Jurdish.

The sarcophagus contains a desiccated skeleton in MW Full-Plate; a gold-plated sword-belt and scabbard, and the broken hilt and shards of Claíhom Om Sagart, ("The Sword of the Priest"); a large silver holy symbol of Karg worth 150 gp, clasped in hands of skeleton; and the Crown of Ekruhalagar.

If sarcophagus is disturbed, the Ghost of Ekruhalagar will manifest within 1d6 rounds. He will address the most powerful warrior present, demanding to know why his rest has been disturbed. If he doesn’t like the answer, he will attack. If he is pleasantly disposed, he will demand that his Crown and Holy Symbol be taken, along with his bones, to the nearest Temple of Karg and turned over; and that his sword be reforged and re-enchanted, and used to fight evil. In payment, he will encourage the fighter to make use of his armour. If all this is agreed to, he will Bless the party (and he will use “Sense Motive” on them to see if they are lying).

Note that he will visit each of his items once per year to ensure that his will is being observed. If it is not, he may choose to punish the transgressor. After 3 successive positive visits, he will go to his final rest.

9. The Waterfall

Here an underground spring has broken through the ceiling. Cold water patters down (about 10 gallons per minute). It is drinkable when it falls, but once it hits the floor, it becomes contaminated and will cause sickness if drunk.

Any damage to the ceiling in this area will cause a collapse of the stone (doing 6d6 damage to anyone in a 20’ radius under the hole, and increasing the flow rate to 40 gallons per minute.
10. The Effigy of Karg

The statue stands atop a double podium, each level 2’ high. Overhead, the ceiling domes to a full 80’, supported by enormous columns; each column is carved of marble and is covered with bits of gilding here and there. The Statue itself is 30’ tall, carved of marble, with the armoured portions covered with 40 pounds of gilding. In her hands, Karg holds a gargantuan MW Greatsword, 20’ long, weighing 150 pounds, worth 5000 gp. If the statue is in any way damaged or desecrated, the party will be attacked by 3d6 Allips and (25% chance) the Ghost of Ekruhalagar.

11. The Phase Spiders’ Nest

This huge nest of webs houses two adult and 12 small Phase Spiders. They have no treasure and there are no bodies in the nest, as the spiders phase in and out, and dine elsewhere. They will attack anyone or anything who comes within 30’ of their lair.

* * * * *

The Crown of Ekruhalagar

The Crown is a gilded greathelm topped with a solid silver sculpture of a crouching silver dragon; the thing weighs 25 pounds if held, but only 2 pounds if worn. It radiates strong abjuration and transmutation magic, and strong good (divine) magic. It confers the following benefits: +2 deflection bonus to AC; +4 enhancement bonus to Charisma; and, if worn by a servant of the Allfather capable of turning undead, the wearer adds +4 to his/her effective caster level on all turning checks.
The Crown is a well-known and legendary holy item of Karg; the Knowledge(Religion) DC to recognize it is 18. Servants of the Allfather are +2 on this check, and servants of Karg are +5.

* * * * *

(Human Paladin of Karg, 12th Level, Evolved Ghost, CR 15)

Stats: 6’0”, 200 lbs, 29 yrs old (at death)
Hit Dice: 12d12 (112 HP)
Initiative: +2 (Dex)
Speed: Fly 30’ (perfect)
Armor Class: 15 (+5 Deflection)
Attacks: +4 Bastard Sword, Holy Avenger +15/+10/+5 melee (incorporeal)
Damage: 1d8+7 (+4 only to corporeal targets, +2d6 against Evil targets)
Face/Reach: 5’x5’/5’
Saves: F+14, R+10, W+11
Abilities: Str – (17), Dex 14, Con --, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 22
Alignment: Lawful Good
Feats: Mounted Combat, Ride-by Attack, Spirited Charge, Power Attack, Cleave, Leadership
Languages: Common
Class skills: Detect Aura of Evil, Divine Grace, Lay on Hands, Divine Health, Aura of Courage, Smite Evil, Remove Disease (4/week), Turn Undead
Treasure: Crown of Ekruhalagar; MW Full Plate of Mobility; +4 Holy Avenger Longsword (Broken)
Skills: Diplomacy+7(13), Handle Animal+6(12), Heal+8(11), Hide+8(10), Knowledge: Religion+12(12), Listen+8(11), Ride+12(14), Search+8(8), Sense Motive +8(11), Spot+8(11),
Spells: 1:2 (Bless, Protection from Evil), 2:2 (Remove Paralysis, Shield Other), 3:2 (Magic Circle Against Evil, Remove Blindness/Deafness)
Ghost Characteristics:
Benevolence (Su): Able to possess a physical being (Will DC 22 to resist)
Manifestation(Su): Visible but incorporeal; can attack creatures on the material plane. Sword remains +4 to hit, but deals only its Holy bonus damage, and only to evil creatures (2d6+4 damage for sword bonus)
Frightful Moan(Su): 30’ range, Will save DC 22 or panic for 2d4 rounds
Corrupting Gaze(Su): 30’ range, Fort Save DC 22 or 2d10 damage and 1d4 permanent Constitution Drain
Telekinesis(Su): Once per round, free action, as Sorcerer 12 (880’ range, max 12 rounds, Will save DC 22 to resist, move 300 pounds up to 20’/round; or Hurl 300 pounds of stuff within 10’ at one creature; causes 1d6 damage if hurled against a solid surface)
Rejuvenation(Su): If destroyed, recorporates at its crypt within 2d4 days (unless crypt destroyed)
Turn Resistance: +4
Appearance: Ekruhalagar appears much as he did in life: a mighty Paladin, one of the sons of Esu and a devoted servant of Karg. He appears wearing his dwarf-forged full plate armour and the helm known as the Crown of Ekruhalagar, with its crest molded in the shape of a crouching dragon; and he wields his giant-forged Holy Sword, Claíhom om sagart, as it appeared before it was broken.
Background: Ekruhalagar lived and died more than 900 years ago. One of the first Paladins consecrated after the return of Karg to aid the Kindred, his task was to protect the early church against the ravages of Bardan’s monsters in the years shortly following the War of the Shadow. Immensely pious and gifted, he was given three tools to aid him in his task: a magnificent suit of MW Full Plate Armour, crafted by dwarves with such skill that it was only as cumbersome as a breastplate alone; Claíhom om sagart, (“The Sword of the Priest”), a +4 Holy Avenger sword forged by giants; and a mighty magical helmet that later came to be known as the Crown of Ekruhalagar.
After a decade of loyal service, the mighty Paladin was finally slain in battle with Kaalbolg, one of the Minions of Dark – a fell demon of the Underdearth who summoned by a Priest of Morga. Although he slew the demon, Ekruhalagar’s sword was broken, and he was mortally wounded. He was laid to rest in the Temple of Karg near Ganesford, and his tomb became a place of worship and pilgrimage – at least until the temple was buried in a landslide a hundred years after his death. Since then, his ghost has returned to haunt his resting place. He is determined to see that his arms are recovered, his sword reforged, and that all end up in the hands of worthy servants of the Allfather, to be used to battle evil wherever it may arise.

* * * * *