Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Cloister of the Frog God write-up/review.

Posting this for Gabor Lux/Melan.  I couldn’t leave it as a comment on his blog as it’s too long, lol.

SPOILER WARNING - I give away some secrets of the adventure here.  

It’s available in English as part of the recent releases of Rappan Athuk.  I ran it by itself.  There’s literally one tunnel that leads into that mega dungeon, and I just erased it off the map and ignored it.

Highly recommended.  Tons of adventure packed into a few pages.  It took almost 9 months of weekly 2 hour sessions to finish it off.

NOTE - the rest of this is written directly to Melan, since it was meant to be a blog comment originally...

Setup was that frog cultists jacked with our home base (poisoned the local spring with a toad idol).  Also attacked a nearby village and we had to rescue some kidnapped girls who were dipped into black slime and turned into frog people.  

The local Archdruid asked us to go check on a nearby semi-ruined abbey/vineyard some of his brothers were supposed to be refurbishing and repairing.  They had cut off contact recently.

What has happened is the frog cultists have come in and killed the druids to get access to their ancient holy areas underground and to try and trick some adventurers into releasing the frog plague.  The wards on the locks of Zodmar’s tomb prevent the froggies from touching them.

During the frog cult invasion, the head Druid on site secured the horn of flies (found by them below ground) and cross of Yorah and accidentally let loose the invisible stalkers as a last ditch effort to fight off the invaders.  The frog cult turned the dead druids into zombie slaves to further excavate and find treasure.

Meanwhile the frog cult just took over the above ground restoration project and pretend to be normal monks.  That’s what it’s like when the players find them.  They can tell it’s off because of the frog decor and missing druids.  A nighttime recon mission lets them bag a Druid zombie and via “speak with dead” they find out about the whole situation and the hidden star.  

We call for backup (archdruid and followers come) and make a plan.  The party mounts a raid and end up killing most zombies and humanoid cultists above ground and capture Grosso alive.  Of course, Grosso has basically allowed this to happen.  

Through hints and false resistance, Grosso helps the party go deeper and deeper.

Finally, they do unleash the frog apocalypse, but manage to seal it in with stolen corpses, animated, then polymorphed to ogres, who then take out the pillars of the antechamber and collapse the ceiling down.  The archdruid is then called upon to use stone to mud and the reverse to make the sealing in more permanent.

However, without the archdruid’s supervision, Grosso mounts his escape.  He kills several druids, and manages to pour his Elixer of All Seeing Doom down the gullet of one of his still living victims and flees.

The party splits - the fighter and the archdruid drag the infected man down and seal him also into one of the tombs by collapsing the tunnel and sealing it off.  The rest fan out to find Grosso.  

The wizard flies over the courtyard, catching Grosso in a Plant Growth spell.

Or rather, he catches a zombie decoy dressed in Grosso’s robes, and Grosso silences the wizard, then accesses the tunnels below from the shaft in the ruins  - down below, the party failed to eradicate all the undead in the area below the inner cloister.  

Grosso quickly comes to lead a gang of skeletons, ghouls, and wights.  He tries to make a play to retrieve the Horn of Flies.  I had previously set up that the flies one can summon by attacking the horn can be fed to the demon frogs, which makes them docile and controllable by someone wielding Yorah’s cross.

I liked the idea of those artifacts being there for a reason.

Anyway, thinking to defend the horn when Grosso first escaped, the players were tricked into chasing the decoy.  However, they had the sense to Wizard Lock it in, and Grosso has to abandon it.  

Through superior knowledge of how all the underground tunnels connect, Grosso manages to escape back through the outer cloister to the surface undetected, where he robs the party’s loot wagon of the Staff of the Batrachian (which they killed the Tsathar priest for) and flees on horseback while the party was left thinking he would exit the cliff side caves where a boat had been stashed.

Stuff I modded/changed besides what’s noted above.

Minor stuff - I made the entombed vampire into Koshag, and his sword was entombed separately to keep him and his powerful artifact separated forever.  The party retrieved the sword, but didn’t touch it.  The fighter wants to seek a way to control it without becoming chaotic.

I also made the named tombs throughout the complex belong to a family of brothers who were ancient warlords, evil and corrupted.  The ruins of their fortress are the foundations of the inner cloister and the source of the dungeons below it.  

A party of good adventurers at some point in lost history were the ones who defeated and sealed them all up, including Zodmar and his infection.  They placed the basilisk there (I made it an undead basilisk) as a guardian against the frogs or Koshag the vampire escaping.

The party want to further investigate this family’s history.  So I changed Koshag Xontollan to Xyntillan, lol.  They may also choose to pursue the Abbot who is fleeing into the swamp after another magical horn, and another offspring of Tsathoggua (modding material from Echoes #4 for that).

Some memorable scenes.  

Using an army of animated dead to excavate the collapsed tunnels in the cave area.  It was neat to see new players acting in a very old-school way, using henchmen and monster allies to engage the fictional world.

Our fighter fell into the pit trap at the harpy pool.  That was a nice, tense escape scene as well.  They pulled him up while the harpies were swooping around to attack him.

The players went for Yorah’s cross knowing that the cultists had lots of undead minions.  The climbed the wall of the cloister and got at it that way while avoiding the stalkers.

They defeated the basilisk by using the thief as bait and flanked it when it made a move for him.

They defeated the vampire by using Polymorph Other and turning it into a trout which they immediately staked.  Funnily enough, this only works with certain rulesets.  Some rules limit Polymorph to LIVING creatures, but not S&W.  AD&D 1E says you can polymorph a vampire but it will just shapeshift itself the next round.  Unless it is staked immediately in the same round.

So they kept the vampire hostage for a while, but in the end, just destroyed it in its fish form by cutting off its head.  If they hadn’t, it would have returned to its grave, where it’s currently sealed in with the 666 demon frogs.  That might have made for an interesting future villain.  A vampire engorged on demon frog blood... alas, no good.

I can’t believe we had so much adventure from what is just 12 pages excluding the maps.  

One player complained it “took too long” but he missed a few sessions, and also they played it in such a way that drew it out.  They were very meticulous and strategic at trying to clear the place.  I think they wanted to use it as a base, but that’s not going to work with the whole “evil god stuck under it” vibe.  Our wizard wants to take it over and experiment there.

Player comments.

They felt it had its own personality, and felt like a real place, occupied and changed by different groups.  They liked the dimensionality of it with the ups/downs/ins/outs everywhere.  They felt like the loot was well placed and fit with the history and plot of the place.  It was also built in a way that felt like the challenges escalated the deeper they went, but were also environmental challenges because they never wanted to just rush in and attack.  Lots of planning to use the environment in play.

That’s all I can think of now, but it was an epic session.  I know they hated to let Grosso go, but he rolled lucky.  I basically had him roll randomly for his path to escape and he happened to hit one of the few avenues they weren’t sufficiently guarding and he got by them.

We were very excited that our plan worked for stopping the apocalypse we accidentally triggered.

They fought the first round of 10 frogs to come out, and killed 6.  But then 10 more hopped out and they had to flee.  They were mad because they dropped the Globe of Devious Entrapment into the tomb, but as written, you have to touch it for more than a round for it to suck you in.  It got some of the frogs, but not fast enough or the number needed to make a difference.  It was lost when they triggered the cave-in.

Thank you for the great module.  I wanted to run it after you talking about it on your old blog and I bought Rappan Athuk just for the Cloister.  Totally worth it.  Hope it gets an English release like the Hungarian version.  I actually found your map from that edition and used it instead.  We liked it better than the Rappan Athuk one.  Yours made it a lot easier to follow the twisting connections.

Kudos, sir.  

This is my Tuesday game.  My Monday guys got sent through your House of Rogat Demazian as a heist session.  And Thursday’s group just got teleported to another planet via LotFP’s Tower of the Stargazer, so I’m going to put them in Systema Tartarobasis.  Can’t wait!  

P.S. Thanks to my players Erik, Sam, Nik, Nathan, Tomo (and Ian, Will, and Ben who played some but not all).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for the detailed writeup, this has been a lot of fun to read! And I am really happy to read about this, because you made the module your own with your group in the best way possible. Admittedly, Cloister can be a bit static if you run it as written, while the transformed scenario has a strong dynamic element. (This was fairly minor in our own game, although the main playtest played more as a three-session infiltration scenario, and the others were hit-and-run convention games.)

    A lot of smart play (my players also used the undead excavation trick, since one of them was playing an evil Priestess of Set!) and putting things together in unexpected ways. But this is one of the joys of GMing - seeing the clever schemes your players can come up with.

    The map was kinda butchered for Rappan Athuk by cutting it into pieces, which is the one thing I regret about that edition. It forms an aesthetically pleasing and logical whole when you lay it out one level on top of each other, which is why the Hungarian version has a fold-out map. Since RA is still in print, though (in a new 5e edition now), I will respect my friends at Frog God Games, and this is how it shall remain for the time being.

    P.S. I just realised you were also “teh clawring crabe”, celebrated author of D02: Know No Limit! (From the precambrian times when RPGNet was still good) Whoa! For some reason, I never made that connection.