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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 20: Poorly Executed Ambushes: One Per Campaign

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Welcome back my friends to the madness that never ends. As we left our dynamic team of bickering misfits they'd just explored two of the three branch tunnels they'd found in a cavern. That last was filled with rubble, and appeared ready to add more at a moment's movement.

Now, to any sane adventurer lacking the appropriate magic abilities that alone would suggest that they leave it the hell alone. But those sane adventurers would not be admitted into the prestigious circle of the Delicious Cupcakes. A group who firmly believed that no stone should be left unturned.

So they began shifting the rubble. Carefully, because they are stupid, not crazy. And when they made a small space, guess who was volunteered to explore? Yep, of course. Gnomes get all the shit details.

By this point Loki had stopped even arguing with it. He'd simply moved on to plotting revenge. But that was for later. Currently there was a hole needing exploring. Besides, he couldn't resist his own curiosity. (What? He was still a Gnome.)

So he crawled through into a wide, shaped hallway complete with stone pillars holding up a lofty ceiling. It only took one look for him to realize this was dwarven workmanship. On the second glance he noted he was not alone. The hall was filled with dwarves, all standing with their backs to him. All far to unnaturally still to be anything but statues. Suggesting that something was making them. And he truly doubted that that something was a dwarven sculptor sitting in the back of the hall.

Loki immediately about faced back through the hole and demanded that 'The Muscle' bring the mirrors they'd toyed with from the house down here. When pressed he informed them there was a veritable see of stone dwarves down there.

Thor and Hazel immediately jumped to the conclusion he had, that a Gorgon, or Medusa were out and about down that tunnel and agreed to his rather forceful request.

Sometimes the revenge takes care of itself.

While they were slipping and sliding their way up that interminably steep slope, Loki and Steve got into it. It seems that the Brawler wasn't entirely convinced of this stone making threat, and so grabbed Loki up by the scruff of his collar. Not that interrogation gained him much, but a few futile stabbing attempts from the illusionist. That reaction, however, was not conducive in convincing Steve to put Loki down. He had a Loki by the tail. Instead he simply kept the Gnome suspended by one hand, while holding his stabbing arm with the other.

Which is how Thor and Hazel found them, when they returned with the mirrors. Thor immediately told Steve to let Loki go, ostensibly so he could scurry back through the hole and fulfill his assignment as little scout.

Steve thought twice, then set Loki down. Instead of swiping yet again with his cute little daggers, Loki pointed out that the hole would have to be enlarged to get one of the mirrors through. He also pointed out that he could hardly wield them well. Hazel then volunteered to go scout the possible stone making operation.

Once the hole had been widened further, she passed through, holding the mirror as a makeshift shield. As she approached she noted two things:

1) The Dwarves in question were actually terracotta in construction, which ruled out their having ever been flesh. And:

2) They were moving ever so slowly. In fact, they seemed to have formed a skirmishing line since Loki's brief jaunt through the hole.

Not wishing to test the top speed of terracotta dwarves, she activated her slippers of spider climb, and proceeded down the cavern via the roof.

And found a huge Inevitable. A Knowledge check revealed only two things:

1) Like many things, the bigger versions were the more dangerous versions, and

2) Inevitables were all constructed for the sole purpose of combating chaos.

Now, being not chaotic, she could probably have conversed with said construct, but she chose to first report her findings to the group. After all, who knew how far it could sense chaos once it was woken up, right. She quickly about faced, made her way back through the hole, and explained what she'd seen.

Being that Loki was just about as Chaotic as they come, he voted on a quick about face and back the way they'd came for good. The others agreed, although there was a bit of bickering about the fact that they'd apparently retrieved the mirrors for nothing.

Loki short circuited that bickering by asking them what they wanted to do. He certainly couldn't carry the mirrors. He was short, remember? And they could leave them, but that might upset their ghostly owner. In the end they grudgingly agreed to schlep the mirrors back up the steep slope, a much more difficult endeavor. They could almost hear Loki's smirk from where he was following behind them.

While the rest started up the tunnel, Thor decided to freeclimb up to the upper hole in the cavern. You know, the one with all the angry red eyes in it? We're not sure why. Perhaps he was going to teach them some manners. Perhaps he thought there would be a way out, or some sort of mystical hammer to find.

All he managed to do was disturb a colony of bats right in the middle of their day. They swarmed out past him, leaving an empty dead ended tunnel to explore. After a quick look he turned and followed the others.

By the time the group made it back to the cellar of the mayor's house, Loki had artfully shifted the target of their ire from himself to the Nuckelavee they'd . . . winged, that morning. Should be easy enough to finish off, he reasoned. Besides, they figured they'd use the clock-field again.

Hey, it worked once right?


Before they could get off on their annual Nuckelavee house welcoming party, Hazel suggested they secure replacement parts for the clock. A rational enough idea. I mean, one arm down, one to go, right?

How were they to know their quarry had taken up knitting as a hobby?

In all it was a short trip. The town hall was practically next door. The other clock was the exact same model. Taking it apart for the necessary component was a simple task. The entire detour might have taken fifteen minutes. Which, as it turned out, was more than enough time.

It didn't take the Cupcakes long to realize their mistake. The moment the house came into view they could see something was wrong. Or, at least, missing. As in one dismembered Nuckelavee arm.

Not that that was enough to dissuade them from following through with 'the plan'. I mean, so it had it's arm back. It wasn't like it could use it in combat right? So they continued with their ambush.

What's that axiom of war? No plan survives contact with the enemy? Well that was exactly what happened here.

Not that they started off wrong. Indeed the ambush seemed appropriate. They left the front door wide open. Loki had images of each of them standing ten feet inside the threshold, an appropriate Nuckelavee reach away. Hazel was manning the clock. And, when everything was together, Thor removed another box.

It wasn't long before the sounds of the guest of honor's approach made their way to them. But, they couldn't actually see it, do to the requirement that ambushers be hidden. They were all waiting in the wings of the main room of the house, out of sight. Well, except Loki, who posted in his accustomed spot, as far away from the danger as possible. In this case that would be up in the attic, playing lookout. He was able to see the problem, but figured it was simply too late to warn them off.

Not that there was much time to do anything at that point. They were committed. And so was the Nuckelavee. The two armed Nuckelavee.

It started by charging up to the door and breathing a noxious gas into the room. Thor immediately made gagging sounds, making quite the perform check. The other's were quick to pick up the act. Loki, having seen the gas, and hearing the act, decided to have his illusions drop to the ground beneath the smoke.

After softening the perceived defenses the Nuckelavee charged straight through the door, right up to the figments, and attacked. Which put it inside the barrier.

{Player's Note: We all forgot that Hazel needed to hold action for the inevitable charge across the foyer}

The first thing the waiting ambushers noted was that it had two fully functioning arms. The second was that one of those arms had been stitched on. Which meant that either, a) the Nuckelavee was one hell of a cross stitcher, or b) (and quite possibly more terrifyingly) that it had a friend.

{Player's Note: Actually it's C, all of the above. The DM stitched the damned thing back together.}

Not that it mattered. The fact that the surprise had so expertly been reversed simply gave Thor an even greater incentive to crit the ever living hell out of the hell beasty. Within two rounds it was dead.

But, before that Loki had come downstairs to help. He stopped at the top of the stairs and pulled one of his ill gotten scrolls (recall, the scrolls lifted from one dead Gnoll leader's chest . . . before they sent him into the void) and used it.

Only to find out that this was not a normal scroll of Death Clutch. It was, in fact, an angry scroll of Death Clutch. A cursed scroll. As he began reading it, the paged turned into sharpened metal, cutting his wrists, and causing recurring bleed damage.

{Player's Note: For some reason the DM decided to be quite lenient here. I'm not sure why. What I am sure of is that, being that this was a scroll of Death Clutch (and the inherently high caster level of any scroll thereof) that any curse would have reversed the spell. Instead it caused easily fixed bleed damage. Perhaps he's afraid of my plan to play The Punisher if Loki died?}

In any case, none of the failures, either in planning or execution, turned out to be fatal. Instead they were minor annoyances at best.

Feeling smugly proud of themselves, the group decided to call it a day. That night no mist came to call in that empty port town. At dawn three things happened. The purple stone Loki had plucked from the fountain shattered, just as a deafening boom filled the air. And a bright light shot heavenward coming from the southwest.

The group decided to investigate. It took the better part of a day for them to get close to the location of the light. And when they did, they found themselves staring an encampment of their very own army in the face. The very Army that had sent them to a different abandoned town some days before, when this entire adventure in madness had begun.

What's more, the officer that came to greet them was known to them. And they to her. She greeted them by name, and bade they enter and report on their whereabouts for the past week.

Somehow, they had made it back to Golarian. There was much rejoicing.

They laid out the entire story while she and two other officers listened. When they were done the officers said something that mystified them. They said that their story explained some things. They then brought LN (the Drow held captive with Hazel and Thor for a short time; Thor doesn't like being locked up) up in shackles. LN brightened upon seeing them, rushing over to say that they would back up his story. He told them how happy he was to finally find someone with brains in this outfit.

Loki immediately told them they had never seen this Drow before. (Truth as far as he was concerned). Fortunately, the officers knew Loki, and ignored every word. Once the group had verified LN's story he was unshackled.

The officers then wanted to know about the woman in a pond the Drider spoke of. A few questions verified that this was the elf they'd assumed was a Drider. And according to LN (pronounced Ellen, but don't call him that . . .) she wanted to make a deal. Loki immediately suggested that they get paid up front. And was summarily ignored again. LN assured them that she could help, with information and loot. The latter of which perked the Cupcakes right up.

The next day LN led them to a pool with a woman who was Drow on the left side and elf on the right. She offered much information to the captain of the army, and a chest of undisclosed loot for the adventurers, in exchange for a bow they'd brought for barter.

They agreed, and she resubmerged in the pond, leaving them with the warning that no one but the Cupcakes should fiddle with said chest Steve assured her he would awake in time to guard it.

When they got back to the camp the officers laid out exactly what had been happening in their absence. Many towns in the region (and one fort) had been taken by something unknown. It was the army's intention to take them back. But they were unsure of how to proceed. Apparently there were two possible paths and much contention between the leaders as to which they should take.

They could go over land, taking back the towns on the way to the Fort, and thus giving the enemy time to prepare for them. Or they could go underground. The Cupcakes' lieutenant was very keen on this plan, stating that she had a friend along that path that would help. Others seemed less sure, as apparently this friend, and its compatriots were all Gnolls.

When asked, the Cupcakes had one question to ask. About how big were those Gnolls? Because more help was always appreciated. But when you've been pummeled by giant Gnolls once, you work to avoid the event's recurrence.

They were assured that the Gnolls were normal sized, at which point they suggested the underground route. Once those plans were in place there wasn't much left for them to do. They prepared for the coming campaign, and tried to get some sleep.

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