The PCs doing the HSoT in « reverse » (from top to bottom) meant, in my mind, that the final scene would be with Zotzilaha himself. Accordingly, I wanted the last few encounters before the finale to have a more otherworldly feel. Also, the PCs had the choice to fight Zotzilaha, or not…
- Shin (level 5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
Phileas (level 4), Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
- Kalohan (level 3>>4), High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
- Flyzus (level 6), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
- Rufb (level 6), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
- Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless by the party, beside a gaping hole in the ground
I’m no botanist but I don’t think it’s a tree
In a water-filled basin stood a twisted, unnatural-looking tree. Phileas approached to read the bronze plaque at the base of the basin. This triggered a reaction from the « tree » as it threw a tendril-branch to grab the Half-Elf. Phileas cut the tendril with one deft move of his rapier and his companions jumped into action. Rufb, knee-deep into the turpid water, hacked at the tree-thing with his greataxe while the others kept their distance, trying to evade the numerous flailing tendrils. They vanquished the creature and found some valuables as they searched the basin (2).
The PCs then went to the deepest level of the hidden shrine, finally ready to enter Zotzilaha’s acrid sanctuary. Turning right, in a flooded passage, they heard cries for help. In a vast cavern (3), with the nearest two-third also flooded, a woman was seemingly drowning. Without a thought, Phileas swam frantically to get to her, albeit his companions tried to dissuade him. Surely something was amiss! He reached for the distressed, strikingly beautiful woman and she thanked him with a kiss.
Phileas started suffocating, his lungs suddenly filled with acidic water. His dismayed companions went into the water but were assaulted by a giant electric eel while the woman, who was in fact a water-spirit nereid, laughed an evil laugh (4).
The adventurers killed the eel, but they couldn’t save Phileas in time. The nereid proved an elusive foe and she almost got Flyzus too before she was slain. She dissolved into water, only her silky shawl remained.
The Lord Snail was a Pervert
After the nereid’s cave, the PCs got into another area where the ground was muddy and uneven. There were many bowls littering the place too but most unusual, in front of them stood a strange hunched old man with a large snail shell on his back. He welcomed the adventurers, first in olman and then in common language, and presented himself as Zotzilaha’s seneschal.
« The Great Zoztzilaha, after being neglected for so long, is in dire need of offerings! » he said, as several giant crabs popped out of the ground, approaching the adventurers with threathening pincers.
The PCs determined that crab meat would have to do as an offering and proceeded to massacre the crustaceans. In the heat of the battle, wand-waiving Kalohan sent a lightning bolt directly at the Lord Snail. This angered greatly the seneschal and he transformed into a Humongous Snail! The viscous creature spat a stream of acid at the levitating Elf Wizard, sending her crashing to the ground, nearly dead. A shadow arrow from Shin softened the beast as Rufb, Flyzus and Vorn got in melee to finish the job.
The snail’s body disappeared, leaving behind it’s shell. Inside was a few of the seneschal personnal items, amongst them a lot of erotic drawings of the aforementionned nereid…
As the PCs placed (5) crab meat in the offering bowls, the surrounding acrid mist coalesced into a fearsome presence: Zotzilaha! (6) Its initial shape rapidly shrinked, reflecting the fact that it was worship-starved. Notwithstanding his somewhat vulnerable, weakened state, Zotzilaha was still frightful to behold. As he spoke, voicelessly, Zotzilaha explained that he had lost control over his subordinate spirits, three of whom the PCs had defeated in battle (the Cyclops, the Nereid and Lord Snail) and the fourth had left the Hidden Shrine not that long ago. If the adventurers would so endeavor to slay the treacherous Sting of Decay, Zotziloha would be grateful and reward them accordingly. As an act of good faith, they could have one artefact for now: the Axe of the Cyclop (7).
Surprised by this turn event, the PCs accepted the offer, at least for now…
- Phileas’ player was in rather reckless mood this session.
- And a wand of lighning bolt for my power-crazed sister…
- I’ve enlarged the original room a lot.
- A nereid, played with her strengths, can be a surprisingly tough encounter, I discovered.
- Nothing forced them to do so at that point ^^
- Zotzilaha makes no appearance in the original module, is barely mentionned in fact, I thought it strange.
- The berzerk axe, an ambivalent item, powerful but cursed, fittingly I think.