|"Behold the sodomy I shall bringeth onto thee."|
Two things become important here. First, having not explored the Charnel Ruins, the party had no way to stop the chaos leviathan lurking in the water below them. Second, they really hadn't paid much attention to the tile mosaics depicting.. well.. everything that was about to go down. It was at this point that I honestly feared a total party wipe.
As the longship drew closer to the chaos pyramid, tentacles emerged from the water to probe the ship and its occupants. The party spent a few rounds trying to hide before the tentacles stopped the progress of the ship completely and began to probe a little more aggressively. Unsure of what to do the party was prompted to action by poor Wester the barber being hoisted into the air and pulled below the surface. That was apparently the universal signal for "everybody get the fuck out!" as surviving crew members all jumped overboard.
In all fairness this should have been a total party wipe. They had, for all intents and purposes, just chummed the water. However, two things happened; I allowed the characters to make luck rolls, which they succeeded admirably on, and two or more of the farmers had apparently been dragging various farm animals along with them. This wasn't the time to argue and I was thankful for any excuse to not murder the entire party. So, in a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park, the sacrificial animals were left bleating on the ship and torn apart by a large monster while the ragtag peasant mob swam for the banks of the temple. Fine by me.
The soggy heroes emerged at the base of a ramp leading up the side of the temple. From their viewpoint they knew something bad was happening up at the top, but were unsure of what. Luckily the beastmen herding the captive villagers up the side of the temple hadn't noticed the party yet. After a few moments of debate they ALMOST used some moldy robes to pull the old wookie prisoner trick. Instead they opted to storm Normandy and fight their way to the top of the pyramid. I should mention that this is the third or fourth time I feared a total party wipe.
The heroes gained a surprise round and a glorious melee ensued. They did indeed fight their way to the top of the pyramid, losing a good 5 or 6 of their troupe along the way, and managed to summit the pyramid in time to see the horrifying conclusion of the ritual. Emerging from the pit of fire was the avatar of a long dead chaos lord. Said chaos lord wasted no time in immediately laying the smackdown on everyone within sight. The party began to burn luck like it was cool in order to score hits on the chaos lord, managing to kill him and his entourage within a few rounds while suffering only a few more casualties in exchange.
Jebediah the corn farmer had his face melted off by the death throws of the chaos lord as he reformed into a shaky magama avatar to get in a few last licks. The rest of the party set about looting anything they could find as the cavern began to crumble and collapse around them. They wasted little time in beating feet to the longship that had thankfully reached the temple after the chaos leviathan let go of it.
The group piled into the ship, now stained with bloody feathers and fur, and set off across the cavern as it continued to collapse around them. The entire western wall of the cavern collapsed before they could reach the safety of the shoreline and the ship was sucked toward daylight streaming through the hole. It wasn't until they were close that they realized the daylight was being seen through a large rune covered portal. The longship went through the portal and emerged high atop a waterfall emptying into a ravine. The ship was dashed on the rocks below and the party scattered into the river, washing up along the banks and trying to regain their wits.
I, as well as my players, are 110% sold on Dungeon Crawl Classics. It's everything that I personally have been looking for in a fantasy game. Minimal bookkeeping, maximum ass kicking, and freeform play within reason. The game encourages creativity, laughs, and memories above hours of studying rules and number crunching. It's exactly what tabletop fantasy roleplaying should be. Easily approachable and totally memorable.
This particular adventure was one of the best openers I think I've ever seen or read. Despite a horrendous attrition rate the players had a blast and there were no hard feelings. They now feel more connected than they ever have to any level 1 characters because they've earned it.
To the creators of Dungeon Crawl Classics, thank you. You've done a wonderful job. To the writers of the supplements supporting it, thank you as well for contributing to the spirit of the game. I hope to see and play many more great modules set in this fine system. Myself and my players can't wait to continue the adventures.