Sunday Mornings in Hell

Session 04 - The Quiet Crypts


Wilboar Lack-Kin
Redmond Allweather

After a short stint in the ancient crypt where our first party member fell, the group was joined by a new cleric and another Dwarf (I’m going to RETCON in that this dwarf was one of Snorri’s academic students). They escaped from the crypt and the new characters decided to spin the Wheel of Weal or Woe. And, once again, it only came up woe! (honest, it’s 50/50). This time both spinners were polymorphed into small normal animals. Redmond was transforemed into a Hampster. Cragstor turned into a Ferret. And so their mini story began! A fight ensued with the Hobgoblin boss who proved too much for a party of half-furries. They ran and ran all the way to the upper left quadrant… into the Quiet Crypts!

The Crypts proved to be very mysterious. Hallways fill with fog and the gentle lapping of waves are heard as a phantom funeral skiff eerily floats by. Evil-Undead debris and detritus wisked up into a whirlwind assaults and batters the players. Skeletons and Ghouls abound. One strange door had scratches on both sides – with a sekeleton inside trying to get out (but otherwise was not attacking the party). Hampsters are good at crawling under doors – but apparently still can’t turn undead.

Anyway, the fearless group got through a section of the Quiet Crypts and found themslevs at a stairwell to level 2. Not yet wanting to go down, they further explored south of the Crypts… pushing their way through a descecrated temple and mounds of semi-religious debris they were attacked by Stirges who really took their toll on the ailing party. Though both polymorphed critters had now returned to their normal forms, the group was battered. They returned to the Oracle room to sleep/rest and ask a few more questions. Apparently the Funeral Skiff is an omen – death awaits the characters. It will find them. It’s only a matter of time.

If you believe in such things.

I totally forgot to apply the penalty for Wilboar laugh-attack. But it’s passed now. And, really, the hampster and ferret stole the show.

Session 03 - Weal or Woe!

Cardiana Hawklight
Wilboar Lack-Kin

Due to a snafu in scheduling… our smallest group of the adventure. But still a great session as the group met with Snorri’s two apprentices: Barad and Dolgrin. Both young dwarves on the academic path – they are assisting Snorri with cataloging everything Dwarven in the dungeon. But Barad dreams of more – he was rather taken with the adventurers and asked them many questions. Ultimately, he stayed behind with Snorrin but you can see he has the lust for adventure in his eyes.

The group continued to explore quadrant 1A of the Dungeon. Hearing noises of mining/construction to the west they came across a room with a locked door they could not pass. Being of Dwarven make, they convinced Snorrin to find a way in – and so he did. Inside was a huge 10’ Dwarven head with sparkling gem eyes and smoke lightly coming out of its mouth (think dry-ice fog a band would have during a concert). The head answers 3 questions per day – the first set of questions was quite wasted :)

A short time later, the group stumbled upon some unfinished caverns which were carved by natural running water. A sign signaling “Da Dragon’s Den” did not dissuade the group. They found the dragon in short order – apparently the mining Kobolds can’t tell the difference between a real dragon and a Giant Gecko. Though maybe with good reason – the gecko was quite the pest – spitting acid and causing quite a bit of damage to Wilboar’s armor. Speaking of which, the Dwarf’s condition was still grave. He remains sick from the Raccoon bite – but fortunately did not get any worse. After defeating the Gecko (Bugg smash!!), the Kobold miners who showed up to watch the fight were impressed, and fearful. A bit of intimidation caused the Kobolds to spill their guts on the surrounding rooms – a bit more of the map revealed. The item of most interest was the Wheel of Weal or Woe. Each character can spin it once per day to have something good or bad happen. And for all three characters, something bad happened – ranging from lost experience, to slowness to negative modifiers for the remainder of the day. But I’m sure the group will be back in the morning for another chance to do more harm :)

After dealing with Wheel, the group entered the first ancient crypt where some of the original dead from Stonehell were buried. They came across a bone altar, a smiling skull and a secret room – good treasure was found but Wilboar has been cursed and is now laughing hysterically at, well, everything. He is drawing attention to the group – hopefully the curse will pass soon! In the crypt they found a Zombie who crawled out after the group – Cardiana tried to turn the creature and failed. Wilboar was sick and laughing. Bugg managed to fell the creature but one turn too late – and Cardiana fell to the undead who had paralyzed her with fear.

Our first casualty of Stonehell Dungeon. But it won’t be our last.

Session 02 - Into the Breach!

And so the descent into the depths begins!

Cardiana Hawklight
Wilboar Lack-Kin

Explored the western part of the Canyon – discovering a hand-carved surface mini-dungeon filled with debris from endless numbers of former adventuring parties. They also discovered one very sick and infested Raccoon. Wilboar tried to put it out of it’s misery and failed… and was bit. He is now suffering the cold sweats and is sleeping poorly.

Marrath discovered a worn and unadorned metal ring which proved to be the 2nd half of a lock-and-key teleportation system within the dungeon. So far, only one trip was taken to a private and secluded small chamber (where an old decaying spellbook was discovered).

Just prior to descending into the dungeon proper, the party got a glance at some brigands who are observing their progress. They decided to not fight them at this time – preferring instead to descend.

In the dungeon, the party found that most of the rooms were well kept. Apparently Kobolds keep the 1st level of the dungeon tidy. Some of the stonework is very shoddy in places… but some is quite good. In fact, some is clearly Dwarven in make – even in bondage and forced to dig their own prison, the Dwarves refused to do anything less than masterwork.

The party came across a Dwarven Scholar named Snorri Broadshoulders and his two student/apprentices Barad and Dolgrin. He is a friendly type but wholly consumed in discovering what Dwarven workmanship lies in the Dungeon. He has found a nice sanctuary on the first level where he studies what has been left behind by the Dwarves. He rumors that the dwarves still dwell in Stonehell – probably on some lower level. He has promised aid to the party if they will report back any Dwarven findings for his notes.

And with that… the party has holed up and slept for the night. A fitful night’s rest… well, excepting, of course, poor Wilboar who is shivering.

Session 01 - At the Gates of Hell

The intrepid and innagural group of five:

Cardiana Hawklight
Wilboar Lack-Kin
Redmond Allweather

The group has been given a charter by the magistrate of their town: Map Stonehell! It comes with immense prestige for them and their kin – and any riches brought out from the dungeon are theirs to keep. But Stonehell will not give up it’s riches easily.

Some characters also have some personal reasons to expore the ancient prision. The Cerics are looking for a long-gone member of their order who went in more than 100 years ago to try and redeem the inmates – his fate is unknown.

The Magic Users are looking for a secret magical book rumored to have been hidden deep within Stonehell by a powerful magic user many decades ago. This book is known as the Forbidden Tome.

The Fighters are just looking for fame and fortune!

In the first session the group explored the eastern part of the canyon near the enterence of Stonehell Dungeon. While the dungeon proper lay to the west, the group stayed to the east and cleared out the now run-down Gates of Hell (the gatehouse which has fallen into disrepair and taken over by some goblins). A group of Goblins have taken up residence and where suprised when this clumbsy group of adventurers “invaded” their stronghold. In the upper levels of the gatehouse, a nest of Stirges have made their home and didn’t take kindly to the party exploring. Rumors and grafitti were written on the gate walls but otherwise there wasn’t all that much in the way of revealed secrets from the Gatehouse. But it’s clear now – excepting the tortured spirits of previous adventurers who can’t seem to find their final resting place – the party avoided any additional contact with those spirits.

Numerous caves (natural or otherwise) adorn the sides of the canyon as it wedges it’s way to the west (and towards Stonehell dungeon proper). Some of the caves gave off bad vibes… while one might possibly be the home of a huge black bear named Coal who has been rumored to be good luck when spotted by adventurers.

This canyon is also rumored to be a place high in bandit activity – briggands wanting to jump adventurers either going into the dungeon or those coming back out. So far, no sign of this group.

From exploring this part of the canyon, it’s clear that many hundreds of previous adventuring parties have been in this area over the many decades since the dungeon was “liberated”. But fortunate smiled on the group this first day – Coal the Black Bear was spotted and that’s good luck. Everyone has survived the clearing of the gatehouse and after a restful sleep in the Fallen Shrine of St. Ras, they are up early to explore the western section of the canyon… and soon will reach the main enterence to Stonehell dungeon proper!

Session 00 - A Brief History of Hell

Taken from the Michael Curtis Blog (the fantastic author of Stonehell Dungeon):

The Sterling Potentate possessed many qualities, but mercy and trust were not numbered amongst them. The grandson of the man who first unified the squabbling city-states and wild tribes of the West under an iron fist, the Potentate ruled from a precarious perch above his subjects. Having neither the charisma nor fair heart which consolidated the rule of other kings, he relied on stark fear and an overzealous police force to keep the flames of rebellion from burning his realm to ashes.

His subjects soon learned to fear the knock on their doors at midnight, an event that was invariably accompanied by the Potentate’s secret police force, the Red Wyverns. Loose talk in a tavern could lead to the sudden vanishing of entire families, leaving behind only rumors as to their ultimate fates and warnings that the Wyvern’s spies were everywhere.

Before too long, the Potentate learned that, while his draconian methods kept his kingdom under control, these midnight arrests quickly filled his prisons to capacity. As the years of his rule progressed, his dungeons became overcrowded, his oubliettes filled to capacity, and his executioners weary from the strain of swinging their axes. A solution had to be found.

Luckily for the Potentate (and quite unfortunate for his subjects), amongst his advisors was a certain vizier known to dabble in such obscure arts as necromancy, demonology and – most worrisome – philosophy. Seeing his master gripped by paranoid thoughts of an open rebellion birthed from these overcrowded gaols, this vizier proposed a plan that would alleviate the Potentate’s worries as well as provide himself with a fertile laboratory to conduct his experiments into the dark hearts of men.

Detailing his scheme to the Potentate, he was pleased to find it one that his master readily embraced and he soon began the preparations needed to bring in to fruition. After a month of necessary scouting, the vizier announced that he had found a location suitable for his experiment. Soon after this, one hundred prisoners were drawn from the ranks of the Potentate’s dungeons and carted to the eastern border of the realm. There, in a small box canyon, the prisoners were forced into a small cave system and handed tools of excavation. They were then commanded to begin digging.

The vizier had long held the belief that man, although an adaptable beast, was an animal nonetheless. Concepts such as honor, kindness, and “for the common good” were merely fragile veneers supported by the needs of civilization. Strip away the supports of civilized life and man would show his true nature: baseness, cruelty, and the vicious drive to kill to retain what little he owns. This small cave system would be the crucible in which he would separate the dross of civilization from mankind’s base soul.

A prisoner who worked would be fed. A prisoner who resisted would not. Anyone who attempted to escape was killed. The guards who watched over them, many of whom had been assigned to this duty based on their own cruel natures, did nothing to maintain order within the ranks of the prisoners. As long as the work proceeded, they fed these wretches, but this was the sole concession to law and order.

There are sages and holy men who would like to believe that the prisoners soon banded together to overthrow their overseers and seek freedom from this bondage. But the sad fact was that many of these inmates conceded defeat and abandoned their dreams of escape, replacing them with the urge to make the best of their condition by any means necessary. When they did band together, it was to dominate weaker inmates and to carve out a subterranean domain of their own. The vizier had wisely chosen his seed prisoners for the experiment.

As the excavations grew and the numbers of prisoners thinned from violence and exertion, more inmates were funneled from the dungeons into this unholy project. With each new group, the established prisoners found additional numbers to increase their ranks, and the underground holdings of the various factions grew larger and deeper. The site became as if it were a great beast with an endless hunger; devouring scores of men, women and children who would never see the sun again. A visiting scholar who toured the site would write, “These doomed souls are condemned to the earth. Without the possibility of pardon or parole, they will spend the rest of their days in a vast stone hell of their own construction.” The name stuck.

The vizier, encouraged by the initial success of his inquiries into the debased nature of man, soon began to add variables to the experiment. Food rations would be halved, even stopped, without warning to see how the prisoners would respond. Fell beasts would be captured, then set free amongst the underground halls of the prison. When the Potentate’s drive to expand his empire uncovered a warren of kobolds in the north, these scaly humanoid were chained and thrown into Stonehell to see what effect these intruders would have on the prisoner population. Many of these and other “adjustments” were observed by magical means, their effects recounted to the Potentate and his court for their entertainment.

In time, even the bravest or most callous of guards ceased to patrol too deeply into Stonehell. Rumors begin to abound as to how deep the prisoners had dug into the earth and as to what they found within those inky depths. Attempts to conduct censuses of still-living prisoners were failures. Stories were passed from prisoner to prisoner about the cannibalistic petty kingdoms some of the oldest inmates had established in the deeper levels of the dungeon. Stonehell had indeed lived up to its name.

It is unknown what the ultimate fate of the prison would have been had it not been the eventual, almost inevitable, coup d’état that would oust the Potentate from power. The atrocities that he committed daily upon his people eventually grew to the point where they could no longer be ignored. When his palace was set ablaze and the Potentate forced to flee for his life (royal treasury in tow), the gates of Stonehell were throw open to release those unjustly incarcerated during his rule.

What the prisoners’ would-be rescuers discovered was beyond description.

Those who were present that day refused to speak about what they found beyond the doors of the prison. It is known that some of the prison’s total number of inmates were freed, staggering into the blazing sunlight and cool autumn air that they had not experienced in decades. Of these, many would never be able to return to polite society, their experiences in the prison and the crimes they were forced to commit for daily survival being too great for them to bear. Attempts were made to recover other prisoners who had fled deep into the depth of Stonehell, but these missions came to naught. These deeper prisoners were too far gone, or too well adapted to their subterranean nightmare world to return to life on the surface. With heavy hearts, the well-intentioned rescuers took what few prisoners still bore the spark of civilization and humanity back to the cities and left the prison and its inhabitants to their ultimate fate.

Almost two hundred years have passed since the liberation of Stonehell, but in that time the prison has not rested easily. Like a festering wound in the earth itself, Stonehell will not heal or grow quiescent. During those years, the site has served as a hideout for countless bands of robbers and bandits. It has been utilized as a laboratory for insane wizards who sought solitude to conduct their bizarre experiments. Practitioners of grim religions have sought sanctuary within its haunted halls in hopes to avoid the prying eyes of the forces of light. Roving bands of orcs, goblins and other fierce humanoids have sought shelter and respite within Stonehell’s chambers, their numbers swelling with the passage of time.

The years have done little to quell the rumors as to what lies within the crumbling prison. Tales of cannibal kingdoms, inhabited by pale-skinned ghouls who carve fortunes of jewels from hidden veins within the earth compete with yarns of obscene magical experiments gone awry that still stalk the corridors below. Bands of fearless adventurers often attempt to plumb the depths of the prison. Those who return often do so laden with riches pried from the hands of that which still malingers within. Many do not return at all. While taproom gossip and the stories of bards and wordsmiths hint at what lies beneath, only those brave enough – or foolish enough – to enter themselves will ever know the truth…



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