At the Shrine of Othrys – Mud, Myrmidons, & Minerals (D&D 5th Edition Campaign Report)

Michael O. Varhola

This report follows the ongoing adventures of Myrmidon fighter Myrmex (Andrew Knorr), Human rogue Teris (Paul Knorr), Cynocephalian sorcerer Lyco (Oliver Knorr),and planetouched bard and priestess Angelia (Carter Valentine) as they continue to explore an ancient shrine at the base of ominous Mount Othrys. In this session the party encountered Mud Mephits in a cave full of tiny swarming spiders, raided the field headquarters of some evil Myrmidons, and underestimated a pair of Mineral Mephits. This adventure designed and run by Michael O. Varhola takes place in Skirmisher Publishing's bestselling Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting, a Dark Ages swords-and-sorcery version of the Aegean and the lands surrounding it. Shown above is a sketch of a Mephit by artist Bob Greyvenstein, who is illustrating this adventure. 

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On the morning of their sixth day at the Shrine of Othrys, the party awoke in the passageway to the south of the “Water Door,” had a quick breakfast, discussed their plans for the coming day, and then moved onward.

Based on the prevailing layout of the place, they presumed that the rough, narrow, natural stone passageway would eventually lead them to the “Earth Door,” and were not altogether surprised when they came to the entrance of a large, mud-filled natural cavern. Their magical light was not sufficient to fully illuminate this area but they could see that its walls and ceilings were pitted with erosion and make out dozens of tiny spiders sitting or scuttling about on them. Probing with a spear indicated the mud five feet into the cavern was about knee-deep to a Human.

Augmented by a spell from Lycos and carrying a magically-illuminated sword, rogue Teris tied a long rope around his waist, handed the other end to Myrmex, and then made a running jump and landed about 40 feet into the chamber in waist-deep mud. This revealed what appeared to be a continuing passageway to the southeast and, between him and it, a small rocky island rising a couple of feet above the level of the mud. Two mud-grimed corpses with little else apparent about them lay on the islet (which was a little more than three squares north-to-south and a bit more than two east-to-west).

As Teris clambered up onto the island, the rest of the party began to work their way across the mud-filled chamber. Before Teris could examine the bodies or the party could make it quite halfway to the island themselves, however, four bubbles formed on the surface of the mud, popped, and coalesced into creatures that might perhaps be best described as “Mud Mephits.”

Without waiting to determine their intent, the party members lashed out at the little winged monsters, which responded by vomiting gouts of sticky mud onto them. All of the characters managed to avoid becoming mired in this except for normally-nimble Teris, who might have been distracted by the thought of whatever loot he hoped to find on the corpses, and who became trapped in the goo.

At this point the tiny spiders began to scuttle down the walls of the cavern and across the mud toward the various party members. As they did so, the Mephits began to whine in broken Greek and beg the characters for money, suggesting they could call off the spiders in exchange. Restrained Teris responded by flinging 10 gold drachmas to the nearest to him and the other characters pressed their attacks. Whether because the other party members would not cooperate or because the Mephits would or could not stop the spiders, hundreds of these tiny monsters swarmed onto the Teris and the two characters leading the way across the cavern, Myrmex and Lyco.

In the battle that ensued, Lyco quickly broke up one of the swarms with his fire magic, thereby reducing the threat to him, and party members other than Teris managed to avoid becoming mired in mud until they began to slay the Mephits, which exploded in bursts of sticky mud. Angelia did telling damage to the monsters with her daggers, Myrmex did the same with his enchanted warhammer, and even restrained Teris made good use of his bow and ability to sneak attack enemies distracted by his companions. It was a close-fought thing, with the Mephits continuing to belch mud and battering the characters with their little fists and the spiders swarming over and biting them, and if more than one of the companions had been restrained by mud some or all them might very well have perished. (A number of lucky saving throws early in this fight and several critical hits by characters throughout it certainly played a significant role in what might otherwise have been a crippling or lethal encounter.)

Examination of the corpses by Teris revealed they were severely desiccated — probably as a result of having their bodily fluids drained by something like a swarm of spiders — and that based on how badly rotted their clothing and the studded leather armor of one was that they had probably been lying there about a year. Items of use included a waterproof case with a scroll of Web in it on one; a set of thieves’ tools, a rusty but usable grappling hook (but no intact rope), and one each vials of acid, alchemist’s fire, and basic poison on the other; and a total of 20 gold drachmas, 31 silver obols, and 49 copper chalkoi between the two of them.

Moving on, the party soon came to an iron-bound wooden door leading into what they were confident was the area accessed by the “Earth Door.” When they listened at the door Myrmex could hear discussion in Formian — the language of Myrmidons — and make out references to “having the honor of awakening the Key” after their “commander returned with” something he was out searching for.

Analyzing this intelligence to suggest that the Myrmidon force they had previously seen marching toward this entrance was at reduced strength, the party proceeded to formulate a detailed plan of attack. Knowing the capabilities of Myrmidons, and that these were members of a clan that was a sworn enemy of Myrmex’s own, they wanted to take no unnecessary chances. Also, despite wanting to take a short rest to replenish some of their capabilities, the party decided to forgo this out of fears that the commander and whatever forces he had with him might return while they were doing so. 

After Teris silently unlocked the door (accomplishing this with both mundane and magical assistance from Angelia), he rapidly pushed it open, revealing a number of Myrmidons behind it, including three standing by the main entrance with pikes and bucklers and an NCO sitting on the pile of rubble in the northwestern corner (sharpening his weapons and playing with one of the scorpions dwelling there). Lyco cast the Web spell from the scroll he had just obtained, immediately trapping two of the guards and compromising the other, Angelia and Myrmex rushed to the NCO and engaged him, and Teris slipped into the southwestern corner and fired arrows at targets of opportunity.

While the party was battling the four Myrmidons, two more came rushing up the stairs from the crypt to the north, a pike-armed trooper who quickly wounded Myrmex and an acolyte who bestowed a magical blessing on his party. By aggressively pressing their attack, however, the companions were able to quickly finish off the Myrmidon cultists, the dramatic turning point coming when Lyco used his scroll with Witchbolt to electrocute and instantly kill the acolyte and Teris struck one of the troopers in the throat so powerfully with an arrow that he pinned him to a wall.

In the aftermath of the battle, even as Angelia attempted to determine if any of the fallen Myrmidons were still alive, Myrmex engaged in an age-old ritual performed by his people upon their ancestral enemies that resulted in beheading and then mounting their heads upon their own pikes.

While Teris searched the bodies of the Myrmidons and the room, Lyco, Angelia, and Myrmex clambered up the glacis of rubble in the northwestern quarter of the room to the opening in the upper corner. Moving down the short passageway formed when material had washed out of it by water seeping down from above, the trio reached a 10-foot-wide crystal-lined spherical chamber that was essentially the inside of a giant geode. As Angelia and Lyco carefully moved into the room to search it for any particularly valuable crystals, and before Myrmex could join them in it, two “Mineral Mephits” broke camouflage and began to flutter in the air before them.

Despite being the most attractive monsters of this sort the party had yet seen, these creatures were just as malicious, and each managed to catch the companions in a crossfire of crystalline breath weapon attacks, inflicting significant damage on all of them. Angelia and Lyco engaged the creatures in melee in the close quarters of the room, while Myrmex, who could not get into it with them, fired bolts with his heavy crossbow. Immunity to Lyco’s fire magic and extremely hard hides that seemed to be magically augmented made these Mephits unusually hard to damage and, as each was slain, it exploded into razor-sharp shards that further injured the companions. By the time Teris was able to reach the chamber, both monsters were destroyed but the other three party members were badly bloodied. A thorough search of the chamber revealed a large, valuable amethyst that the party took with them.

In the wake of this battle, Teris wanted to quickly go to the final area in the outer sanctuary the party still needed to visit before going through the doors to the inner areas beyond, a presumed “Radiance Chapel” near the “Fire Door.” Injured and low on resources, however, Angelia, Lyco, and Myrmex wanted to camp so that they could tend to their wounds and regain spells and insisted on leaving and returning to their bivouac site in the ruined mountainside tower. And so the party departed, hoping even as they took time to strengthen their position that the cultists would not do the same and make their entry into the area of the “Fire Door” much more precarious than it otherwise would have been …

Altogether the party acquired 1,150 experience points in this session, moving them all along toward 4th level but still some distance from it, and with no expectation that they would reach it before finally going through the doors leading into the inner areas of the complex. A sketched floorplan of the mud-filled cavern where the party battled the Mud Mephits and spider swarms appears below.