Actual Play III: The Trial of Apollo
The Trial of Apollo
Armed with the stone, the heroes moved on to climb Mount Cyllene and find the Lyre of Apollo.
This Lyre was made from a tortoise shell by Hermes, and gifted to Apollo as an apology for stealing 50 prize cattle from the god of the golden bow. The cave was a mini-dungeon, the lair to a large and angry cyclops. This one eyed giant was not the friendly craftsmen that work at the forge of Hephaestus. He was a hungry cannibal looking to turn the heroes into lunch. Once the beast was slain, the heroes met their greatest threat so far, a giant dark pit.
I presented them with an obstacle, it was not a trap. It did not spring to swallow them up. Instead the tunnel they were walking through in the cave came to a large pit 50 feet across and descending into darkness. When they cast light on a stone and sent it down into the pit, it fell for what seemed hundreds of feet and revealed a slumbering kraken-beast down below. Some hidden trapped monster that did not seem to notice them. The heroes surmised that they needed to be careful, falling into the pit might mean being eaten or awakening the monster.
They went back to the packhorse and grabbed some rope (Echo was obsessed with this horse, she was constantly worried if the horse was hurt or if someone was threatening the horse. She loved that dang horse). Lycaneous climbed across with ease, (he had the highest athletics) and tied the rope off to a stalagmite. Everything seemingly went smoothly until Wise Saphildur rolled a 1 on his athletics test to climb across the pit. He essentially tripped and fell 2 feet from the edge. They thought Saphildur was a dead man, ready to enter the House of Hades.
But earlier, as a piece of throw away treasure I had given him a scroll of Featherfall. He asked “Hey, can I cast Featherfall?” I had completely forgotten that I gave him that! He was able to slow his fall and Mighty Lycaneous used the rope to grab hold of him and pull him back up. After spending two sessions trying to get across the pit, the heroes arrived at a cave with the Lyre of Apollo resting on a pedestal. The heroes assumed the lyre would not be left unguarded, and that perhaps there was a trap somewhere waiting for them.
It is at this point, that the student playing Dardanus decided he did not want to play in our game anymore. He was more interested in joining another campaign being run by one of my students at the other side of the room. While this was disappointing, I felt that it would have been worse to keep him against his will. So I let him leave and took his character sheet. Dardanus reached over to snatch the lyre from the pedestal and was immediately turned to stone.
Normally, I detest these sorts of DM fiat, save vs. death actions. I feel that when a Dungeon Master does this, they are acting like a brat. Looking back, I wish I had made a different choice with Dardanus, but what’s done is done. If I’m being honest, I was feeling bratty since this student decided my game was “lame.” I think that I wanted to dissuade anyone else interested in leaving.
The heroes mourned the loss of Dardanus for .005 seconds. Because the very first thought they all had was “can we loot him?” and I ruled “Yes, his flesh is stone but his gear is not.” the students began passing around his belongings. A question came up about Dardanus’s armor, he had a fine suit of scale mail armor and Nimble Creos wanted it. I pointed out that because Dardanus was still touching the Lyre, removing the suit would require an Intelligence test. Failure, might result in Creos also turning into stone. The heroes thought about the problem, and Mighty Lycaneous came up with the solution quickly. Lycaneous shoved the Dardanus statue over, smashing the body to bits, but leaving the armor in tact.
This course of action was quite insulting to Zeus, whose favorite son was now a pile of rocks. The proper course of action would have been to respectfully give the statue a burial, or place it as a monument to Zeus and Dardanus. Instead, the heroes defiled the body of the Son of Zeus, and the King of Mount Olympus sent them a punishment.
When the statue was smashed, it was revealed to be hollow inside. The body of Dardanus shattered like a clay pot, and a small snake slithered out. The snake quickly began to grow, bigger and bigger, until it was a huge sized serpent. Heat radiated from its body, and flames poured from its mouth. Swift-punching Creos moved in on the beast laying down a flurry of blows. First with his fist of flesh, then with his fist of bronze, forged by his father Hephaestus. Mighty Lycaneous bashed at it with the Stone of Ares while Elena and Saphildur called down magical spells. The fair Echo shot arrows at the creature while trying to protect the horse from danger. Kalikilla was not at board game club very often.
In the fight, the Lyre of Apollo fell from its pedestal, removing the curse protecting it, which would turn people to stone.
The Lyre of Apollo
Hermes crafted this Lyre, the first of its kind. However, when he stole a herd of Apollo’s sacred cows a feud came between the two of them. To settle the bad blood, Hermes gifted the instrument to
Apollo. It is made from a large tortoise shell and gut strings. A creature that attempts to play the instrument without being attuned to it must succeed on a DC 15 WIS saving throw or take 2d4 psychic damage.
You can use an action to play the instrument and cast 1 of its spells. Once the instrument has been used to cast a spell, it can’t be used to cast that spell again until the next dawn. The spells use your spellcasting ability and spell save DC. The Lyre of Apollow allows you to cast Beacon of Hope, Clairvoyance, and Remove Curse.
Part of what sets the campaign apart from others is the way magic items are treated as mythical elements of the divine powers of the gods. I am reminded of the scene in the original 1981 Clash of the Titans in which Perseus is showered with the items he would need for his quest. A sword, a shield, a flying horse, a mechanical owl, and a helm that can make him invisible. These items are really special and probably one of a kind. If a player has a magic item, it may very well belong to an Olympian god, they are just letting the hero borrow it.
However, never receiving treasure is not very fun. Thus, I would hand out smaller, less wondrous magic items that still were closely tied to the setting. A potion of healing was actually a jar of enchanted wine or honey. A scroll might be written on a clay tablet that shatters once the spell is cast. I did hand out coinage, even though that was probably apocryphal. Mycenaean culture was mostly barter based not money based. While I could have house ruled a barter system for accuracy, coins feel better. If you don’t want to give out coins, the Mycenaeans loved using gold to make jewelry. Instead of 100 gold coins, they could receive a handsome gold belt.