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The Architects of Betrayal (TAB) 9: When Wizards Grope

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


Is it weird if I make the doll talk?
Show us on the doll where the nasty old ghost touched you . . .

As we left our ghost-busting team they'd once again retreated for the day, ostensibly to work up their nerve. They made it back to the inn with no more encounters and only a modicum of shenaniganry. I guess they were still adjusting to the deprivations ghosts were capable of.


The next day they started out bright and early. Again, the trip across familiar land was uneventful. No unnerving ghosts of slain gnomes. No bony hands trying their damnedest to wring the life out of innocent adventurers. No possessive ghosts threatening to humiliate party members.

As each of these past hurdles failed to materialize the group's anxiety ratcheted higher and higher.


{DM's Note: Just as I planned it . . .}


As they reached the base of the final stair leading up to the head wizard's study this unease became so powerful they stopped to prepare a battle plan. It was most uncharacteristic.


In the end they stuck with the tried and true. Tanic led the way, sneaking up the stairs. And, though the stairs faced the desk of the disembodied owner, it did not notice his approach, even when he snuck directly up behind it. Of course, being Tanic, he did not realize that what he'd snuck up behind was a Splatter Man.

Due to the fact that Tanic, Quagrim, and Zornesk were the only ones with appropriately sized magic weapons (and that Zornesk was about as quiet as a church bell) Quagrim was the next in line. Despite his equally high stealth ability the Splatter Man did see him (sometimes my player's dice cooperate) and reacted by launching an immediate attack. The rest of the group (somehow sensing that stealth was no longer an option) charged up the stairs to help.

Rear Admiral Tanic did his part, stabbing from behind as usual.

Zornesk found it surprising that smite evil availed him none.

Calith channeled positive for all her worth.

Zubat summoned without much success.

Vex . . . was there.

And through this onslaught the Splatter Man was focused entirely upon Quagrim. Every spell he cast was against the fellow gnome. Every attack made in that direction. Every summon was directed to attack him. Perhaps he was motivated by an intense jealousy at the sight of a living gnome. Perhaps something else.

To make matters worse, on the killing blow his form began to dissipate only to turn into a vapor and stream across the room towards Quagrim. His upper body reformed just long enough to place a hand on the gnome's chest before finally dissipating.

Quagrim yelled out in pain, and pulled his shirt open, revealing a glowing blue hand print on his chest. Zubat and Calith attempted to spellcraft its purpose, but to know avail. Get it; know avail? Oh come on; that's funny. Ask anyone.

. . . Troglodytes, all of you . . .

Anyways, attempts to dispel the effect also failed. After some effort the group decided to push on. After they looted the place of course. As I said, opportunistic do-gooders. Do to Calith's propensities to attack first and heal after the battle, the DM had them find very powerful, clearly experimental, potions. Some would act as cure serious wounds with a caster level of 15. Some would act as Cure Serious Communal with a caster level of 18. Some acted as greater restoration.

Quagrim, normally so happy to reach the loot stage of the day, spent the entire time bitching about spectral molestations.

They also found a magnificent circular stone with a mosaic of the town on it. In its center was an arrow stylized as a chapel with writing around the edge that said: I am struck and cut, Shaped and cooled,

Then bound by rings,

To release what's stored

Okay so maybe I stole that riddle from the SG1 episode 'The Quest'. The group wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble if they had good taste in television shows . . .

Tanic realized the arrow in the center was removable and found it had strange splines on its back, as if it fit into something. Of course, no one had to give him an excuse to loot something. Into the bag it went.

Leaving the tower, they continued up the trail to where a twenty foot tunnel had been molded into the mountainside. Beyond that was about ten feet of open space leading up to the door. And directly under it . . . a welcoming party of Black Skeletons and Blast Shadows larger than any previous group. Their number, not their height.

But now they had only one target in their sights . . . Quagrim. In short order the gnome dropped to the ground under the repeated damage to his strength caused by the black skeleton's unrelenting assault. As Calith swung her mace Tanic uttered an oath, pulled one of the priceless potions they'd just found out of his bag, and willingly took several AOO's to poor it down Quagrim's strengthless gullet. This of course moved his alignment further towards good and earned him extra XP.

The rest of the battle lasted not much longer. Between the horde's single minded assault on the gnome and the damage wreaked by Zornesk as he tried to play roadblock their effectiveness was broken.

The group's euphoria at having come through such a test was a bit diminished when they discovered the door to the gnome's School of Inquiring Wizardry locked by some mechanism. In the center was a stone disk embroidered with fine metals. It had thirty one lines radiating from the center at even intervals. Only the line moving straight up had any symbol at all and that was a simple 1. In it's center was a depression with peculiar set of grooves set in it.

It took Tanic no time at all to realize that those grooves matched the splines on the metal arrow he'd taken from the splatter man's study. But once installed that still left the question of what to do with it. Obviously it was some sort of combination lock.

Quagrim, for someone who'd grown up there was of little help. He did point out that he'd never had a reason to enter the school, what with being a gunslinger and all. He also noted that the gnomish language had 31 symbols, and chalked them onto each line starting from the top line.

So it was obviously a code word, but what? Of course they tried 'friend' first. Again, their noses were rubbed in the fact that this wasn't the Lord of the Rings. Calith suggested they try the gnomish word for 'key' but the rest of the group found that to obvious. They then spent some thirty minutes trying various words from the name of the town to the names found in the splatter man's tower. Nothing. Ironically this was a case of the group overthinking the issue.

In an act of desperation Calith put the word key in . . . and earned some bonus XP for her trouble as the door opened. The rest of the group almost strangled me.


Of course, it would probably have been a bit easier for them if they'd bothered with the riddle the key had been mounted to. And if they'd had good taste in television.



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