We enjoyed a great session of some 1st Edition AD&D goodness this past Saturday.
Since our scheduled DM announced he would be unable to run our normal game, yours truly DM'ed from my Jennerak campaign material.
The four players rolled up 1st level characters which included a priestess of Bast the Cat Goddess named Aniya from the far lands of Kishtar, an elf magic user named Belarus, a gnome thief named Hoorstenfast, and a human fighter named Desmond .
The characters met in the sea town of White Whelm. Things looked a bit bad when Aniya bristled at a town guard and drew her weapon which led to her and Desmond being arrested and hauled to the dungeons for a night. Aniyas feigned insanity as a defense. They were fined and Aniya was sentenced to a lashing. However, the torturer would not actually whip her but lashed the stones instead and bid her cry out as though in pain. They were released and sought lodging at the Sinful Centaur, where Belarus was busy gathering information and Hoorstenfast was planning on thieving from some drunken dwarves.
Belarus learned that the town had become more oppressive in recent years because it was tributary to the Barony of Kor and Baron Kor had had a change of personality after fighting in the Holy Wars in the East. Kor, whose banner is a black lion, has become somewhat of a despot now, and it has trickled down to his environs and their local governments. Moreover, he has been engaged in skirmishes with the elves on the Borderlands and his men have become hostile towards any elves in his lands as possible spies of the forest Kingdom. Belarus met an elf spy named Erretas in the Sinful Centaur who warned him to beware the shields of the Black Lion.
Hoorstenfast learned of a great sea monster named Drasilisk who demanded tribute in flesh or wealth from all who crossed into his waters--the Dwarves escaped by doing obeisance to Drasilisk and feeding him orc prisoners they had aboard the vessel they had chartered.
Belarus also inquired as to the location of Shamrann, a powerful wage whom he had heard tale of in other places. Erretas told him where to find the mage.
The next morning, the party went down on the beach to a walled in cave opening which serves as the home and fortress of the wizard Shamrann. After some parleying with the bizarre Gort, the wizard's servant (an unidentifiable creature of unknown origin), they passed by the two Brass Golems guarding the cave and into the library/cave/laboratory of the preoccupied Shamrann. They told Shamrann that they sought both employment and knowledge and so learned of the wizard's fixation upon the vanished Jennerak civilization, mostly due to his assertion that they had discovered the secret of immortality and might still be in existence somewhere.
Shamrann claimed to have traveled the planes (he had once possessed the Codex of the Infinite Planes) where he met a creature called the Speaker, who claimed to possess all knowledge of all things in time and space past, present and future. On his planar travels he had also warred with a demon and freed the creature Gort. The Speaker said that the Jennerak had found immortality and that Shamrann might have it if he were to unbury their lost relics and books.
So Shamrann hired the party to travel to the Lonely Coast and enter---The Forbidden Mazes of the Jennerak. He outfitted them and provided a vessel but asked for 10% of any monetary treasure found to fund his research and any Jennerak relics or writings. They set sail the following morning. Shamrann sent some goodies with them--five potions of healing and two scrolls--Protection from Undead and Protection from Shapechangers.
Upon arriving at the Lonely Coast a day, a night and a day later and using a map provided by Shamrann, the found an old hill whose summit seemed to show artifices of human or Jennerak hands. A rampart led up to the hill which might have been an old road. Atop the hill, they could see that all of the hills in this wasteland of grasslands and gnarled trees lacked any discernible peaks except the summit they had gained. They also found a wall built into the hill with two stone doors. And they found the Guardian…the Guardian was a fat tatooed bald man wearing a diaper like loin cloth and living in a wooden tub at the dungeon entrance. He was eating when they found him, and he looked very happy to see new faces.
The Guardian informed the party that the dungeon doors could only be opened by means of a magic password that he alone knew. He would open the doors if they would play his game. His game was that they must face him as he faced them (stripped to loin cloths and with their weapons at a distance by a rock) , seated indian style and answer a riddle put to them. They got two tries--if they won, they might pass unmolested into the Mazes of the Jennerak. They asked "What if we lose?" "You end up like them behind that rock," he replied, pointing to a boulder. Upon looking behind the rock, the party found a pile of ancient and not so ancient bones of various races. When asked if anyone ever beat him, he said yes…"one fellow did a few years back. But that one never returned from the Mazes!" upon which saying he laughed with gusto. He also told them they must play the game upon exiting the dungeon as well.
The party agreed, not having much choice and guessing the strange man was far more than he seemed to be. Much to his consternation, they unraveled his riddle and were admitted. He promised them, however, that the riddle would be much harder next time.
The odd being leaned close to the wall and whispered the magic word, and true to his words, the doors opened. However, as the party passed in, they closed fast shut behind them!
Upon getting torches and a lantern glowing, they passed into a hall filled with ornate pillars and statues of beatific looking men and women they presumed to be the Jennerak. They bore inscriptions in ancient Jennerak (which some party members took as a language when creating their characters) declaring praises to an unknown but apparently good deity called "He of the Light". They were investigating the hall and its doors and archways as well as for any secret doors when Desmond the fighter set his lantern down in front of an open doorway.
A spear came hurling out of the shadows beyond and struck him, doing three points of damage. The party was suddenly beset by a chorus of howls and screeches as bestial naked humanoids covered in long hair and sporting gigantic bulbous white eyes with no pupils burst into the hall from two archways. There were six in all--three of them beset Desmond at the archway and three of them attacked the remainder of the party inside the hall. The beast men had giant misshapen ears and sharp claws but were intelligent enough to wield their spears efficiently as well.
The melee went badly for the party at first due to bad rolls but they rallied and managed to defeat the beast men, although Belarus, the elf magic user, who had only 4 hit points to begin with, got down to two and it was touch and go. The party wiped their swords on the dead aberrations but were reminded of the value of stealth and marching order--mages should stick behind other classes. The party then heard footsteps running away in the next chamber and rushed into an even larger room that had several door-less exits and some kind of channel/reservoir filled with water apparently pumped up from below. A dark figure disappeared with a splash before they could catch up with it. No one wanted to dive in after it. The most notable feature in the room was a giant statue --perhaps "He of the Light"--knocked off its pedestal and replaced with a small, crude demonic four armed and cyclopean Baboon image. Desmond quite rashly kicked the statue from its place but nothing happened.
The party retreated back to the first hall and searched an adjacent chamber where some relics were found in locked chests. Hoorstenfast picked a lock on one chest and they found an old scroll written in very corrupted Jennerak and quite younger than the other goods wherein someone had apparently detailed the demise of the locale. It could not be completely deciphered even by those who read Jennerak. It was accompanied by a map of a vast underground warren--a real "mega-dungeon". There was also some monetary and precious stone treasure as well as a long sword of old Jennerak make which seems to be magical if it's lack of aging and lightness are of any signifigance. Desmond was the only character who could wield it so he naturally fell heir to it.
And here we concluded the adventure until next time. As DM, I got to roleplay several memorable parts, my favorites being a drunken dwarf, the A.D.D. Shamrann, the Guardian, and Erettas the elf spy. The players role played well and we had a great time. My son played and took a liking to his character which was really a spur of the moment quick roll up.
I indulged my fascination with the Jennerak concept by using the actual Forbidden Mazes map from the movie of the namesake of my blog and many of my dungeons....
Thought I'd share it with you. And ask a question--what do you as a DM do when a thief fails to pick a lock but then party members smash the lock, rendering the lock picking a moot point anyway?