I wanted to play with my new MasterMaze stuff, and the PCs were about to head off to a wilderness segment. So I injected a little side plot (and some catacombs that, for once, were not recent creations) to justify a quickie dungeon crawl.
The backstory: Boniface (the priest whom Larissa consulted about the evil greatclub Skullcreeper) had been consulting with other priests about what to do about this club. Karel, an impulsive priest of Kord, decided to create a distraction in the basement of the temple of Pelor, as an excuse for drawing in the PCs. Unfortunately, his spur-of-the-moment invocation at a dragon shrine in the catacombs went very badly, and swarms of skeletons started seething up out of the catacombs. He got rescued by the priests of Pelor, but Pelor was Not Amused; Pelor denied him magical healing beyond that necessary to keep him alive.
So, a small dungeon with free healing. I had four monsters planned: a first bone swarm, a cloaker, a bone swarm that carried disease, and a bone swarm covered with green slime. (The bone swarms were built using the 'swarm' template from the Monster's Handbook on a bunch of small skeletons.)
The PCs went in like a house afire. They used web to hold one swarm in place while they went to check out the room. (So much for my plans of ambushing them from behind with the cloaker.)
The fight with the cloaker was actually pretty interesting. I managed to play it with some vaguely intelligent tactics (aside from having it attack the PCs when it had no avenue for retreat), and had semi-decent luck with its moan and engulf powers. Some special bits of that battle:
- Turok was filled with fear by the cloaker's moan and ran away for two rounds--then used Skullcreeper's dimension door ability to come back to the battle. I'd forgotten about that ability, so that was nifty.
- Larissa hit the cloaker with a magic missile while it was enfolding Kyle, and we then wondered whether it would hit Kyle. I ruled that with most attacks and normal spells, damage would be shared, but magic missiles were extremely accurate, so she could try an attack roll for a super-precise strike--and she rolled a 20.
- Boniface was trying to get behind Turok to Detect Evil on Skullcreeper, and Skullcreeper noticed and tried to get Turok to dodge out of the way... and persuaded him to charge into battle with the cloaker, avoiding the Detect Evil for a moment.
The fights with the skeleton swarms were pretty boring, though. They had a lot of trouble getting near, and didn't stay nearby long enough to do anything interesting. There was a slightly interesting effect with the green slime, and similarly with the diseased swarm--but the massive damage dealt out by fireballs, the cleric's undead-destroying powers, and Turok's massive melee damage made short work of the swarms.
I had plans for handling Turok's domination by Skullcreeper:
- I was trying to lead Turok into shouting out "Kotara-Nar!" as a battle cry... which is why I'd been giving him lots of opportunities to Cleave and to charge into battle. My plan was that when he did so, he'd start to recall Kotara-Nar again--and Skullcreeper would try very hard to distract him from that dawning memory.
However, Kevin thought things out too much for that plan to work. He was calling "Skullcreeper!" as his battle-cry. So much for that.
- My second plan was to have Boniface try to cast protection from evil on Turok. The spell mentions "prevents... any attempt to exercise mental control over the [subject]", and specifically mentions dominate person, so it seemed to make sense that it would apply to domination by items as well. I imagined a moment of excitement as Boniface tried to touch Turok to confer the protection, while Skullcreeper screamed, "Don't let him touch you! Smite him!"
But Dani, playing Boniface, asked, "Would magic circle against evil work?" And well, it says "as protection from evil for everyone in a 10'-radius". So I let it work, and it eliminated the need for the touch.
(I may reconsider how I handle this, because it's so binary. Without the use of some spell, Turok could never break free of the domination (unless a 20 is an automatic success on saves). But if this 1st-level spell breaks item domination, then it becomes trivial for the PCs to break free of any item they suspect might have a dominating effect. Perhaps it should just give a big bonus to saves or something.)
It did play out pretty nicely. Turok threw the club across the room and attacked it with Kotara-Nar--which was able to damage Skullcreeper, despite the fact that it couldn't according to the rules. And Skullcreeper's glowing red eyes went out at last...
I still wish I had provided more detail. I felt a little off my game there. I would have liked to have provided creepier descriptions of the piles of animated bones, scratching and clicking in mindless agression... similarly, I wish I had played out Skullcreeper's conversation once the protection from evil was up, with the greatclub first being demanding, then begging for mercy as it was destroyed.