Read Your Stat Blocks Carefully!

Last night my in-person game entered the Sanctum of the Serpent God temple in an effort to disrupt whatever ritual may bring back the big bad.  The group had fought there way to the doors last week and were keen to get inside this week.  Being the telepathic beasts that they are though the interior was on high alert and aware of the parties location.

To prepare for last night I had read a fair bit of the section again over the previous day and looked over the stat blocks of various things and I had concluded that the party should be able to handle anything they met reasonably OK as they progressed into the complex.  There are some very cool beasties at this end of the six game adventure path (as there should be) and each challenged in a different way but the combinations were interesting and balanced.  I went to the game feeling things would work out well.

The party entered the first set of doors to the left.  This is
just after they cleaned up a four Serpent-folk squad

The party started with an odd tactic that they had not used before, or not brought so overtly to play as they decided that they were going to the left.  What did that mean?  Well it meant that they would find the leftmost set of doors and head into them.  they would then continue on along corridors checking out any doors to the left and always heading left along corridors.  This took me a little by surprise, and will have some effects that I am not going to reveal here for fear of giving my players information.  If you are a GM or have the Sanctum of the Serpent God on your bookshelf, turn to page 35 and from where the doors go into the temple find the left most set of doors and trace where that will lead you.  You will see my point pretty quickly.

Anyhow, mysterious GM speak aside the group fought a small squad of temple guards and their pet snakes.  They also disobeyed the rule of left long enough to find their way into a small room with arrow slits onto a larger chamber.  They killed a serpent folk in here and then moved on.  The less pious of the group eyed off the adamantium doors that they were coming across and trying to work out if they could  fit them into a portable hole for selling later on.  They decided to check that idea on the way out.  In fact at one point the group saw a bunch of chests (in a barracks) and they made the comment “Treasure later” which also caught me a bit by surprise.

Well, the group stuck (more or less) to the left rule and moved up a massive 20′ corridor resplendent with murals of the aforementioned evil god’s teachings and histories.  A couple of massive doors through and they made it to the final encounter of the night.  This was an encounter where I had glossed over the stat block included in the module and thought it would be an interesting fight, but nothing too challenging for the group.  At the end of the night I had made a mental note to go back over the stat blocks of possible encounters in this section and reread them carefully.

Making good use of the real estate on top of the gaming
table last night.  Shows the path “left” they took

My daughter was really chuffed at the start of this encounter because just before they opened the door she said “I bet you the head of the slain god is in here”.  Well, she was wrong but as they opened the door they were faced with a rather irritable huge floating snake head with a multitude of snakes dripping beneath it (like a reverse medusa hairdo) that hissed insistently and snapped at any that came close.  Along with that there were a couple of large iron statues (read golems) that animated.  The battle started and I used this guy (I will not repeat any real mission details here so as not to spoil anything) to communicate some choice details.  I also tried to encourage my players out of the “I roll 33 and do 42 damage” kind of descriptions into more “I duck low and drive the two handed bladed into the snake heads neck causing a grievous wound of 42 hit points damage.” kind of description.  Makes it much more exciting.

Well, this little (read huge!) creature had a bunch of abilities that when used as a whole spelt trouble.  In the first few rounds the Cavalier was in it’s stomach and unable to do anything but play about in the acidic stomach juices as she only has two handed weapons.  It had knocked the monk unconscious (with the aid of the iron golems who everyone was ignoring).  It had the alchemist in its mouth ready to send it into its gullet and had the sorcerer on the back foot trying to work out what they were going to do.  In fact, on several occasions I heard the monk and the sorcerer talk about teleporting away and coming back to deal with their lost friends at a different time.  I decided to allow the Cavalier’s new cohort (if you read the previous post to this campaign you will see they died) appear earlier than I had planned.  He was (yes was) a 14th level fighter who ran directly up to the beast and attempted to slow it down.

This gave the sorcerer time to power up his arcane trickster power to get two impromptu ranged sneak attacks on the go and hit.  The beast was finally brought to the ground in a combination of the sorcerer and the new cohort combined.  The alchemist after being swallowed gave the Cavalier an infusion to turn her gaseous and drank one himself, which I thought was really thinking, until the alchemsit said to her “Which end do you want to exit through?” Bloody hilarious.  Unfortunately for the Cavalier she never met her new cohort whilst he was living as one of the iron golems saw to it that he became a bowl of human porridge on the ground.  Being released they worked out that the creature was regenerating so while the alchemist tried to work out how to stop that happening before it got back up again the Cavalier dealt with the two iron golems in short order (with a tiny bit of help from the now conscious Monk.

This is just after the Cavalier and the Alchemist came out
of the creature in gaseous and probably seconds before
the new cohort got turned into porridge.

The alchemist lucked onto the type of energy that ceased the regeneration (which I’ll not add here) and the group stood back and took stock.  Another death for one of the Cavalier’s cohorts, another 12 to 15 charges of the Wand of Cure Serious Wounds used up and a good deal of spells down for the spell casters.  The Monk was all for pressing on but the Sorcerer pointed out they were nowhere near where they need to be if they came across the ritual.  They know that the battle for Ilmurea is probably going to take 2 to 3 days to be played out so they teleported back to base camp, way up in Saventh-Yhi to rest and recuperate.

This was the point we broke at.  The players got enough experience to raise them all to 17th level which was cause for much rolling of hit points and clapping on the back.  My daughter was talking about her 20th level Cavalier ability and I told her not to count her chickens and advised her that very much will be determined by the end of these modules.  I warned them all that there is a very real possibility that they could fail this end step and then the ritual may complete, bringing back the long lost evil god to terrorise the world of Golarion again.  Of course they did not listen to me… Foolish mortals!

In what may be the concluding game I will report back again next week on what is happening in the depths of Ilmurea as the Serpent’s Skull adventure path comes near to its completion.

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