So, we picked up where we had essentially left off – with the party getting ready to explore the rest of the barrow that the ogre’s had been using as a lair. They freed four other adventurers who had been captured by the ogres, a couple of fighters, a rogue, and a mage. They had been traveling to Seraph Keep as well, and agreed to travel with the party and act as guards (and potential replacements) for the party in thanks and payment for the rescue.
This brought up the other random encounter that I had rolled up using the wilderness charts – ghouls. Straight out of the Monster Manual, though I have to say that I have always seen ghouls in a more Lovecraftian manner than the “undead” vision of AD&D. But that said, I ran them pretty much straight out of the book for this vision – though I gave them a Lovecraftian description.
Now ghouls show up in numbers of 2-24 and again, I rolled up an amazingly high number – (redacted because players are reading). So I had really been trying to figure out how what the heck these ghouls were doing wandering around. I decided that the ghouls were actually associated with the ogre’s lair.
So, behind a half-sealed door the party could see stairways leading down and a flickering light, and a somewhat rank and charnel smell wafting upwards. After prying the door open they slowly worked their way down the long flight of stairs to discover a staff with a candle stuck into the floor (see the Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets Candlestaff). The party moved forward and paused at the small landing, mid-stairway, where the staff was positioned and examined it – somewhat disquieted by the animalistic sounds and shadowing sounds that came from bottom of the stairs and just beyond the light.
Based the magic item, I decided that the ghouls were averse enough to its effects that they wouldn’t willing enter its boundaries – but that once they were in it for some reason it wouldn’t deter them though it might force a morale check of some sort.
So what happened?
The gnome put out the candle.
Now, I am not an insanely killer DM, so I don’t see the whole mass of ghouls clustered at the bottom the stairs, waiting for such a thing to happen. Instead there is a group of five down there “handy” who as soon as the light goes out, come charging up the stairs towards the smell of fresh meat (not very Lovecraftian, I know, but this is AD&D not Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green – maybe they are Heretics?). I think my son was the first person to realize what they were fighting because we’d played CoC and his character had fought ghouls (and Tcho-Tcho) in the sewers of WWI Paris – so “baying dog-faced humanoids” had his eyes popped wide-open rather quickly…
Despite the light going back on quickly, despite a total of three waves of ghouls, despite about a third of the party ending up paralyzed, despite no successful turning attempts, nobody died. Again, the party managed to survive without any losses though a healthy dose of luck, a couple of Potions of Healing, and some very adroit positioning. It didn’t hurt that the were accidentally fighting the ghouls in a corridor rather than a more open area where they could have swarmed the group and it would likely have been over in a couple of rounds. Having two characters (the elves) who were immune to paralyzation didn’t hurt, and the party had put them both towards the front and they acted as a useful buffer.
After a few rounds of combat where the ghouls were slaughtered, plus a re-ignited Candlestaff, the remaining ghouls refused to enter the light and remained hiding in the darkness down at the chamber at the end of the stairs. The party retreated to the top of the stairs and regrouped, letting the paralyzed members recover. They sent the dwarf down to investigate who reported that there was a large room at the bottom with some sort of strange monolith or obelisk in the center and at least a couple of open doorways in the walls. After some further discussion the group decided that the idea of leaving a bunch of ghouls behind them was just bad on a whole host of levels.
So they’ll be picking up where they left off, but planning on buffing up a couple of the characters so that they can switch out for healing and sending the down to the bottom of the stairs and fighting it out there where the ghouls will hopefully be willing to engage with them.
I can’t wait for the party to find out what else is down there – it’s very Old School!