Empire of the Ghouls Session 31 – Test of the Withered Hand

This weekend we continued with Empire of the Ghouls, Chapter 5: Into the Fuligin Realm, as the adventurers continued to explore the caves of the Cult of the Withered Hand, searching for the “hidden prizes” they needed for an audience with Orda, the cult’s leader.

As we were playing in person, I got out my trusty Tact-Tiles and drew a map of the complex for the session.

Map of a cave complex drawn on gridded tiles with whiteboard markers
Caves of the Withered Hand

Here’s the write up which contains spoilers for the campaign. 

Read past episodes


11th Deep Winter, 92 FY (contd.)

With the first of Orda’s prizes found (+1 shield), the characters head towards the next pool to see if there is something on the bottom. Bubbles spots a sword sticking out of the muck and The Gears casts mage hand to retrieve it. Before the kobold can do so, Bubbles hears a pair of bickering derro approaching. She casts spike growth but the derro spot the spikes and shoot at her with their crossbows to break her concentration. 

Meanwhile, Cyrila, the “derro captive” the group have rescued, pulls out a concealed dagger and stabs Penumbra before running away, revealing her true form as a doppelganger. The Gears blasts her with guiding bolt, then Penumbra reduces her to a shrivelled husk with blight. Bubbles, Louthin and Zygmunt go into melee with the two derro, only for the shadowseeker to drop Bubbles with his sneak attack. Penumbra casts blight again, slaying the shadowseeker, then The Gears heals Bubbles, and the ranger takes down the antipaladin. After a short rest and some healing, The Gears and Zygmunt work together to retrieve a sword of life stealing from the pool with their mage hands.

Fighting the Derro Witch Queens

Next, the group heads northeast towards another cavern with another pool and more patches of large mushrooms. As they are about to enter, an invisible derro witch queen, standing upside down on the ceiling, casts web to trap the characters in the entrance. Bubbles, Louthin and Zygmunt escape the web and move into the cave, then Bubbles casts silence while the others attack with missile weapons. The Gears casts heat metal on Herr Biegen, allowing his servant to burn a path out of the web. The witch queen walks across the ceiling to the edge of the silence spell and casts lightning bolt. She’s joined by her invisible sister who casts blight on Zygmunt. The pair taunt the characters with threats of punishment from ”Auntie” but are soon quieted permanently by the party’s deadly spells and attacks. 

With the two sisters defeated, the adventurers turn their attention to the pool where they can see a stone staff at the bottom. Louthin casts misty step, grabs the staff, then casts misty step again to get back out as quickly as possible. As he shows the staff to Zygmunt and Penumbra, two aquatic black puddings swim up to the surface and attack the party with their acidic pseudopods. When Bubbles stabs one, she gets splashed with acid, and disengages. As the characters start to step back, Penumbra shoves one away with her repelling blast. 

The puddings emerge from the water and advance on the party, but there is more trouble on its way. Herr Biegen spots a group of derro moving towards the characters from the south.

Penumbra casts sickening radiance which kills three derro, but the antipaladin and the derro fetal savant are able to exit the area of effect unharmed. Meanwhile, Zygmunt has hit one of the black puddings with his glaive, splitting it into two smaller oozes. He switches to burning hands and starts roasting black puddings as the others battle the derro. 

Once the puddings and the antipaladin have been defeated, the characters turn their attentions to the derro fetal savant. Its bearer is dead but Penumbra’s eldritch blast and Zygmunt’s firebolt bounce off its magical cage. Then, the fetal savant exchanges its soul with Zygmunt, taking control of the paladin’s body. Fortunately, before it can attack, Louthin shoots the savant with his longbow, killing it, and Zygmunt falls to the ground, unconscious. 

With all their enemies defeated, the characters take a much needed long rest and examine the magic items they’ve found. The stone staff is identified as a staff of striking.

Blue skinned derro witch sitting on a mushroom throne
Orda
12th Deep Winter

The adventurers approach the entrance to Orda’s audience chamber but can’t make sense of the sign at the bottom of the steps. They all head up the stairs, with Louthin leading the way, and trigger a nasty boiling acid trap. 

Beyond the door is Orda, leader of the Cult of the Withered Hand, seated on her mushroom throne. She cackles manically as she greets the characters, congratulating them for finding her three hidden prizes. 

Orda tells the party that the “King of the Underworld” (Narosain) can be found a day’s travel to the north. She shares a complicated set of directions to his location and gives The Gears the King’s signet ring which bears the symbol of a cockroach. When Louthin asks one too many questions about fungus identification, Orda starts to lose her patience and the party beats a hasty retreat….


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Main image by Craig J Spearing

Published by richgreen01

D&D gamer | Freelance game designer | Writer & publisher – Parsantium: City at the Crossroads

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