A few last-minute cancellations meant that it was a very small party venturing into the caves. However, the intrepid PCs decided to dispense with hirelings or any such nonsense (OK, they didn't want to share the loot or the XPs). So in the end the party that ventured into the caves this time was:
Cnut - 3rd Level Fighter
Nelson - 2nd Level Magic User
Shazzam - 1st Level Elf
They decided that the heady depths of Level 2 were probably a bit dangerous this time around, given their small numbers. The part of the caves they picked was the area around the collapsed ceiling near Ningal (the Mad Witch)'s cave. They've previously been to these caves several times, encountering spiders, Fire Beetles, Gnolls, Skeletons and Kobolds among others, as elaborated variously in Session 12, Session 13, Session 15 and Session 21; there's also a map of some of the area they have explored here: (a map for my players). However, because Galen wasn't there (because Galen's player wasn't there) the PCs didn't have an accurate map.
This time, they came down from above and explored a small amount to the east (where they discovered some kind of evil altar) before turning and heading south-west. I think around this time Shazam spotted some wandering bugs (actually a Spider Swarm) but the party just moved out of the way (they went north-west a little way, the spiders moved off to the south-east). It's been about a year real-time, and maybe 20 days game time, since they came this way last (and anyway, Nelson has never been there as last time he was Gene) so they didn't remember much about what they'd seen before, but when the monument of standing stones came into sight (the 'octolith' from Session 13), they realised where they were and turned round.
After that they headed back to the evil altar and then tended north-east for a bit, back in the general direction where Ulfang the Black had been hiding out. Negotiating the trap with the pressure plate where Cnut at least had previously thrown a dead Harpy, they went on to try to find out what 'f' meant on the map Cnut had. Turned out it meant 'fountain', carved to look like tortured, screaming faces. As Shazam was poking about in it to see where the water went, they became aware that something nearby had started to shriek loudly. Shazam (using Infravision) told them it was definitely largish and alive, so the party attacked it as it continued to shriek. None of them remembered ever having seen a Shrieker (both Cnut and Shazam have in fact run into one before, in Session 13) but they dealt with it relatively swiftly. The problem with Shriekers is that the monsters they summon (to check out the noise) don't arrive immediately...
Having dealt with the Shrieker, the party moved off, but then became aware that someone was behind them - a group of Halflings, who, like the PCs, were adventuring in the caves. After a bit of chatting, the parties overcame their mutual distrust, and the PCs went to the room where the Halflings were temporarily camped out. Meanwhile the Halflings chopped up the Shrieker and made mushroom fritters. In the room was an unusual statue, that was enchanted to talk, but could only tell lies. The party could have made more of this, but I don't think they believed it only told lies. The application of a bit of logic might have lead them to greater treasure for instance.
But perhaps it was the Hobgoblins that interrupted them (actual Wandering Monsters as opposed to scouts from a nearby room). A short fight ensued, sealing the alliance between Halflings and Big Uns, which left the Hobgoblins dead and quickly looted. However, they didn't have much treasure - a couple of small pieces of jewellery, so the party took one and the Halflings the other. One of the Halflings had been badly injured, so they went back to Rift City while the party pushed on, towards the place where they had killed Ulfang the Black in Session 21 a few months ago. Cnut in effect was leading the party here as neither Shazam nor Nelson had been to this part before (last time the party was here I think it was Cnut, Gibbet, Karensa and the late and lamented Bonjella).
Beyond the fountain, the tunnels became more regular, and started running due east. Continuing on down that tunnel brought the party to a door, which they barged open to find themselves in a large octagonal room with three more doors arranged in an off-centred cross...
|A room from one of the many generators I've used for different bits of the cave system in the Rift... |
the small squares are 5' across
They entered by the west door, then went to the south door; they examined the large hole in the centre and realised it went down a couple of levels... and realised that this was the room where, many months or days ago, they'd found the remains of a fight between Orcs and Ogres, and where later, Bruni the Dwarf had nailed some dead Orcs to planks as a warning, and made a friend of a strange wooden homunculus creature.
Knowing this, and therefore where they were, they decided to explore just a little further, down to the south-west, where they came across a room with a silver circle and a pentangle made of some glittering material etched into the floor. There was also a chest in the corner, which contained a bag of silver pieces, and a scroll. The scroll turned out to be a spell that would summon the caster back to this room - handy either for a quick getaway, or a shortcut into the complex.
Having made this discovery, the party high-tailed it out of there, having had the luckiest time imaginable with wandering monsters, and provoking no other encounters until they were very near the exit - whereupon Shazam informed the other two that two indistinct figures in the distance had seen them. The figures slowly retreated; the PCs slowly advanced towards the hole in the ceiling. As the party scrambled out, one of the figures called out 'Good luck!' to Shazam in Elvish... and that was that, the PCs scooted of back to town to count their loot (not so very much to be fair) and to ponder their useful information - not least this map, that Cnut's player had stitched together from the pieces of map from the last few sessions in this area:
|Cnut's map showing some things from this session and from Session 21|
The generator I used for the sections with the straight corridors (here) - it's the Wizards of the Coast generator that I have used for many parties over the last 5 or 6 years...
The generator I used for the caverns (here) - Donjon's AD&D random dungeon generator that has provided much of the Rift (there are loads of really good generators on the Donjon site, they've helped me loads).