the lost caverns of tsojcanth

A Prison of Zagig resembles a brass bird cage but can trap one creature of any size.  Only 5 are known to exist, and each requires 4 command words to operate fully (activation word, trigger word, command spell, freedom word) plus the true name or detailed history of the target.  (Jeff Easley, AD&D module S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, TSR, 1982)


Hailing from S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and then the original Monster Manual II, the gorgimera… well, it’s rather chimera-like honestly.  Three heads, a lion, a dragon, and a gorgon (D&D gorgon, not Euryale gorgon), with the gorgon’s hindquarters.  I do have to give Scott Greene props for not bringing up the chimera-esque design anywhere in the text, though, and he was clearly better at resisting the temptation than I was!  Gorgimeras are a little tougher and deal a little more damage physically but what makes them stand out is that second breath weapon.  Just like a normal gorgon, they can turn you to stone.  The dragon’s breath weapon isn’t quite as nasty but with a challenge like that looming, I’m not sure you need the extra dice.  Fortunately for adventurers that might run across them, gorgimeras lack a chimera’s inborn hatred and cruelty, being more moderate in temperament, and despite their dangerous breath may be easier to train or bargain with. In at least one past edition, the gorgon head could see into nearby areas of the Astral and Ethereal Planes.  That stony breath weapon seeped into those planes, too!

Eager for adventure and appallingly rash, Prince Kazim snuck out of the city of Thutat to seek the excitement he craved.  Unfortunately, what he found was beyond his respectable skill as a swordsman.  Turned to stone by a gorgimera after being gravely burned by the sparkling lightning of the dragon’s breath, his statue stands inside the creature’s lair.  If approached politely, the gorgimera is willing to bargain but demands the return of the “sapphire” that the prince tried to steal (actually cunningly-colored glass, a difference that’s immaterial to the beast).  Unfortunately, it was turned to stone along with the thief and if the gorgimera is alive after visiting such lese majeste on the prince’s royal head, the sultan may not be quite so diplomatic whatever the prince’s offense.

Unlike the vicious chimeras that lurk at the edges of civilization, often acting as foils to the hero-kings who rule the cities of Iudros on the cleverness of their wits and the sharpness of their bronze swords, handful of gorgimeras are little more than legends from far off in the mysterious wilderness.  They prefer solitude, striking aggressively at any agglomeration of more than thirteen people that rises in the territories they claim but otherwise find people beneath their notice, even retreating after an enemy’s numbers have fallen below that number.  The curse of stone visited by the gorgon’s breath requires the blessing of a priest or the divine-blooded sorcerers to break the enchantment, leading some to claim the gorgimeras are somehow tied to the wild fey powers that rule beyond civilization’s light.

Famed for the fantastic measures they take toward security, the Elysium Bank in the floating city of Zephys recently acquired a formidable new guard beast.  Named Marzur, the gorgimera patrols the bank’s grounds, its lion head sniffing the ground and the gorgon head restlessly peering around.  One spiritualist was attacked when the lurking shade of her phantasm drew the gorgimera’s ire, both of them frozen to stone, an action that drew a platinum wergild from the enigmatic robed figure who acts as the manager.  Even more unnerving to many than the gorgon’s breath is the draconic head with her scales looking like aged parchment.  Her piercing gold-gray eyes linger thoughtfully on many items before she appraises their owner’s intentions, and her few cryptic words often hint at far more than the bestial intelligence many ascribe to such a chimeric monster.

- Tome of Horrors Complete 346

In that last seed, the dragon head in question draws heavily from the Bestiary 5’s occult dragons.

"I. Use. Stunning. Fist."

Years ago when i still played with my group of high school friends, we were running through The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and somehow managed to lure a very large, very pissed off, Blue Dragon into a field in the valley near the caves.

The dragon swoops out of the sky and lands in a clearing to engage our party of seventh level characters. (Myself an Elf Rogue, Half-Elf Wizard, two Human Monks, and an Elf Druid.

We loose a handful arrows at the dragon, our monks jump into action, and our wizard grumbles because he had taken several lightning bolts for the day and was effectively useless. After a few futile rounds of combat, one of our monks has a “brilliant” idea.

Monk (George): “I jump onto the dragon’s snout.”

DM: “Ok roll. And both monks and the rogue roll an agility save against the incoming lightning bolt”

Monk: *rolls successfully for both* “Sweeeeet”

Other monk: *Critical failure*

Me: *natural 20*

DM: “Alright, you soar through the air towards this thing. You can feel your skin tingle as the lightning bolt courses over your body, but does no damage. Rogue, you do a very fancy backhand spring out of the way of the bolt. Other monk, your hair is really frizzy now, and you take 17 points of damage. George, what are you doing?”

Monk: “I start punching the dragon.”

DM: “Alright, roll a balance check.”

Monk: *rolls sucessfully* “Alright, now I’m gonna hit it!” *proceeds to fail all his punches*

DM: *laughs* “Alright, well now the dragon is seriously pissed. It starts to flap its wings to try and take off.”

Monk: “…………Shit. I hang on to one of its horns and try and keep kicking it.” *rolls successfully to hang on*

DM: “The dragon manages to get off the ground, he’s still trying to shake you off though, but you just barely managed to cling onto its face. Whats your next course of action?”

Monk: “Umm…..OH! I use stunning fist!”

DM: *bursts out laughing hysterically* “You, -hahaha- you can’t -haha-  its a  -haha-  its a fucking dragon, George. You can’t stun a dragon!”

Monk. *slightly taken aback, and now very serious* “I. Use. Stunning. Fist.”

DM: *rolls eyes* “Fine.” *checks Monster Manual for a very long time* “Fuck…..Fine. Roll your attacks.”

Monk: *promptly fails all three attack rolls.*

DM: “Aaaand how many stunning fists do you have left today?”

Monk: “Two.”

DM: “Alright, roll again.”

Monk: *rolls and fails for the first attack.* “I’m gonna kick it for this last one.” Rolls a natural 20*

Everyone else: “YEESSSSSS!”

DM: “Goddamnit George. You SOMEHOW manage to kick this dragon in the teeth so hard, you knock it out cold. Also, you’re now 250 feet in the air, riding an unconscious dragon, that is quickly plummeting towards the earth.”

Our druid pipes up: “I turn into a bird and fly up to cast feather fall on him.”

DM: *glares, rolls a massive handful of D6’s for the dragon’s damage.* “The dragon hits the ground with a boom and I’ll assume you guys managed to steer clear of its trajectory.”

Me: “Well, since my magic talking sword is in fact a sword of Dragon killing, I’m going to assume it says ‘Let me at ‘em, LET ME AT EM! I roll to coup-de-grace the dragon.“  *I roll high enough* "So, that’s 1d8+6 (+2 bonus, +4 more vs dragons) from my sword, +4d6 on the coup-de-grace from my sneak attack, another +2 from my strength….” *rolls 37 damage*

DM: “……Its dead. You took its head clean off.” *closes DM’s guide.* "Well. That’s all I had planned for today.“

Myself & Monk fist bump over the table.

“After a journey of a sen’night your band has reached the foothills of the Yatils without incident.” – Gary Gygax, AD&D module S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, TSR, 1982.

Your SAT word of the day:  sennightse’nnight, and other variant spellings = one week, literally “seven nights”, from old English seofon nihta.  (See Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur for 15th C examples)  Sennight is now considered archaic, while fortnight (fourteen nights) has survived in common usage in some regions.

Bilbo … saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang …

–JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

This pair of stone giants has made a playground of an area where a minor rockslide once obstructed the pathway.  They have cleared the area to make a broad ground to run around on, and there they play catch with boulders.

–Gary Gygax, AD&D module S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, TSR, 1982