We met at the designated time and place. Well, most of us did. Our Druid bailed at the last minute. Druids are a mysterious lot.
Our Minister of Justice was up for dinner. Fresh out of trial, he worked a miracle and showed up with a pair of giant lasagnes. And bread. And Salad? I don’t remember exactly, except that there was a lot of food and all were well satiated. Thanks to his wife, and thanks to him. Redemption. There was a box of wine. Some dove for the bottom of the pool.
We (I) decided to take a bit of a break from Hoard of the Dragon Queen and inject a bit of new life into things with a one-nighter. After much reading and reconsidering, I settled on The One Who Watches From Below by Goodman Games. I bought the module some time ago and had been eager to run it for some many months. Too many months.
And, I’d be running it in 5E. Everyone had made great characters and most had emailed out their inspired ideas. Kudos! That was great. We had two barbarians, two rogues, a wizard, a fighter, and a cleric (of a sort).
Without delay, we got off to a strong start.
We began outside the gaping maw of the Cave of Secrets, the “Enter” sign beating in the wind. Some looked around to examine the environment; plants, signs of entry, other entrances, etc… Finally, tentatively, our heroes stepped inside.
At the first whiff of smoldering, intoxicating root, everyone ran back outside. On re-entering, this time with dampened rags tied around faces, the Obelisk Eye unnerved the wizard as it abruptly took notice of his spell casting presence.
Swimming in the bottom of his cups, one barbarian took little encouraging to try and gouge one of the green gems from the demon-face door. Everyone else ran from the room barely in time to hear him hit the floor. Said barbarian particularly enjoyed the eye mask for a while (and his enjoyment of it wore thin on some others)…but then he grew discouraged at his perceived limitations. Once he discovered his greater scouting capacity, and then discovered his ability to control lesser beings, he grew to like the effect.
Our wandering fighter-as-eyes scouted the path highlighted in green.
With first level 5E characters, our group moved through the challenges without too much trouble. The giant eye-stalk room was the first room to draw real blood, but our group was careful to face marauding mutant-halflings and the eye stalks themselves from a safe distance. They took care of things pretty handily. “Eyes” barbarian managed to take control of one of the mutant halflings, but the thrashing stalks crushed it to death. Afterwards, the group sought to recharge spells and a few lost hit points with a short rest. During that rest, the eyes went scouting.
Soon, the eyes came fleeing back pursued by an eye-slime – which was also fairly quickly dispatched. A big glop of the acidic goo was captured in a large urn with hopes of using it cleverly later. The resting and exploration continued – only to be interrupted by the unique double call of the double-cockatrice-cockerel. Still reveling in his new found liberty, eyes barbarian tried to control the double headed cockatrice, but his eyes got petrified. As his eyes returned to his comatose corpse, his destroyed eyes burned and bled – but he could still see. He was separated from the party by some distance. Without much pause, he went for a gem again and soon returned to the party in eye-form.
After an inspired use of the hanging tapestry to achieve a double-cockatrice blanket party, the group continued to tolerate the eye-presence and pushed forward. In the animal room, our eye-fighter took control of one of the six-legged-eye-dogs. The other was killed, and the rest of the creatures were ignored. It was growing a bit late.
Our heroes were cautious enough not to get beaten up by the animated books. They slammed the door on that insanity and pushed downwards into the darkness. It grew later.
A few lucky turns in the passages beneath the temple and they found their way to the sleeping gorilla. Our other rogue made a sneaking stalk on the sleeping beast and dispatched it. There was a brief, painful, pointless skirmish with the giant burrowing worms, which was soon abandoned. Our ape executor went deeper into the passages and found a chamber of mushrooms with eyes – but it was too scary and he fled back to the group – who then decided to push ahead and deeper into the caverns.
In a quiet, deep chamber, the group was ambushed by the guardian at the entrance and several mutant-halfling minions. Party muscle hacked down the exploding eye-stalked entrance guardian, a spell from the wizard wiped out several of the short snufflers. It was all over in seconds. Tracks led down a single long tunnel – within a distant chamber, the glow of uncountable gold and treasure.
One rogue went for the alter, the other for the wand at the edge of the great pit. Our cleric (of a sort) went for the sword – with his wheelbarrow. Now, this half-orc cleric had been saved by the light, but didn’t use any healing spells. Ever.
As soon as they touched the treasure, all hell broke loose. The beast in the pit nailed the wand-seeking rogue with a horror ray, draining away much of his intelligence and half controlling his mind with a powerful suggestion to stay near. The wizard was polymorphed into a mouse and sought refuge in the pocket of the altar rogue. Our cleric loaded his wheelbarrow.
The ceiling started to collapse.
Non-eyes barbarian made a run for the door. Our cleric with a wheelbarrow of loot came steaming up from the pit. He cast Sanctuary on himself – which was brilliant. Everyone else was hit by rays from the eyes on the walls or by falling debris. The insanity ray was sucking minds and leaving characters dumber and dumber. Even the mouse was crushed by a falling stone. The wizard was back in human form – but hit by a freezing eye ray and fell unconscious. The wand-seeking rogue couldn’t escape the pit, so he threw the wand in an hail-Mary to one of the barbarians – who was then dropped by a falling stone. The six-legged-eye-dog was crushed beneath a falling stone and the eyes went sliding off toward freedom.
Finally, the Cleric dumped his wheelbarrow of treasure, loaded two unconscious comrades inside, and ran for it. They were the last to flee the chamber as the ceiling finally gave way and all collapsed in darkness.
By a miracle, everyone survived. They made it out with a few dozen gold pieces, a magic sword of vampire slaying and a wand of force. Totally worth it.
Even though it grew very late at the end, everyone was motivated by the climactic finale. The 5E conversion worked well. A lot of little attacks by the enemy doing small amounts of damage, tied with modest but stacking spell effects made for nail-biting action at the end.