After completing the Gear Level we found ourselves in the 6th Level of the Tomb of Annihilation. We knew from earlier that there were Hags in this place somewhere. So when we walked into a room full of green mist and a cauldron with several people in cages and creepy idol dolls…yeah it was a reasonable expectation that this would be The Hag Episode.
There’s a cage and inside it were three people. A clone of me, a clone of the Necromancer, and a clone of one of the Necromancer’s skeletons, at least how she appeared when she was a person. I will admit that I think we spent a bit too much time faffing about here. I didn’t expect to get a fully functional 2nd Rogue for the party but I think we spent at least 45 minutes in this room checking it thoroughly for traps and asking sharp questions of the six NPCs. I don’t think we found any. The Clones seemed to be non-useful. Apparently the hags are using them as spies, they dream of everything we’ve experienced. So we do not have the element of surprise and the hags aren’t at home. Shit.
The tiny idols have children’s souls in them, because hags, but this is also good foreshadowing for The Soulmonger which is in the next room. There is a very nice helpful Scarecrow which I’m attached to. Clay No-Face, a little clay person who can grow mouths and claws, and Joe-Hoe, a stuffed monkey with a unicycle for legs. Again, no harm here.
So throughout the temple we’ve been acquiring these skull key things. They’re literally skeleton skulls with a shape on top and the shapes correspond to the doors in this room. There are five doors, one with each shape. We have to go into these rooms, do something, and then we can use the keys to open the big door that leads to the soulmonger. Trying to describe it that sounds a bit insane.
Okay so each room has a trial of sorts. We elected to go from Octagon to Triangle, the reverse order we found the keys. We reasoned this would be doing things from Hardest to Easiest. It was. The Octagon Room had a big iron spider fan that turned on when I opened a secret compartment in a lectern in the room. Fortunately I was saved here. In the Hexagon room, we found a creepy Ravenloft scene, a mirror with PIGGY PIGGY PIGGY written in blood on the wall. We lit the six candles we found, a lever appeared, room solved. The Pentagon room was a breather, a paranoia inducing feast. We ought to have expected there was some shit going down. I knew right away I would be partaking of the food because I decided to take, “I Never Stint Myself The Finest Food And Drink” as my flaw. I was really surprised everyone else decided to eat the food as well. I think the reason was that the trickster gods urged two PCs to eat and the 4th PC is a druid and immune to poison so he thought he’d be fine. More on this later.
The last two rooms, Square Room and Triangle Room were pretty easy. The Square Room vexed us a bit because the necromancer got rocked with like 20 force damage as we obliterated a dust mephit. Then we were left with a gaseous lever and a pile of ash. Apparently when we made a square in the room with the ash, that unlocked the lever. The Triangle Room we solved with an unseen servant.
Then we came to The Hag Fight. It is hard hard hard to challenge level 10-12 PCs in a way that doesn’t slow combat down to a crawl. A DM needs to use their spells and their reactions and special high level monster abilities intelligently and it is a lot to keep track of. Especially when the PC strategy boils down to “Go Nuclear With The Expectation We Will Take a Long Rest.” There isn’t really a good way to counter that one, it almost feels against the spirit of D&D that the PCs come into multiple fights completely unchallenged and at full resources. I’m not saying the hags were easy, I am saying that the victory didn’t feel like it cost us anything because we immediately long rested afterwards.
The main reason we rested is because apparently the Feast was cursed and one of the items (Not the Squash Soup) removed the PCs connections with our trickster gods. I reasoned that Tando would only eat the soup because these goddamn hags took two of his teeth and he was not in condition for roast boar or alcohol and like me, Tando does not have a sweet tooth for cakes which the wizard ate all of anyways. This felt a little cheap, like the result of the challenge is that you failed, you lost your god power, just parking your ass for 24 hours in the room next to the Soul Monger has to be aggravating from a DM perspective. Fortunately we’re assuming that the lady back in Baldur’s Gate who set the party on this course is long dead so 24 hours is nothing to The Party. In the fiction of the story, we should be getting MOBBED by Flesh Golems right now.
One of the hags did get away, we traded her life for info about the dungeon. And we had good times with Mr. Thread and Needle, their cook. We ended the session walking into the chamber of the Soul Monger. This next session is it, victory or death, with our shields or on them.