The following events were a perfect, glimmering gem of what makes me love DMing, and makes others loathe it. Here's Steph again with the player's POV:
It's the next morning and guess what? We grew a new level overnight. Suddenly Spucky has another hit die (8... a nice one!) and can cast more spells. I decide on Light and Goodberry as the added default spells to renew every moonrise (plus Summon Nature's Ally, for that extra spell slot I forgot about). Look out world, we're Level 2!
And by "world", I mean "little girl's shins", because it's time for the interrogation, medieval style. Two of the gang members had their memory erased by the black moss, but the third might still yield some info. Carrock unties her, warning not to try escaping across the grassy field unless she remembers where all the bear traps the gang laid are. The little girl hesitates and then makes a break for it. But Carrock moved the traps anyway. OH, SNAP. No, literally, "SNAP!"
With a big bear trap on her leg the kid loses her composure and starts cursing and yelling about the Culler - who it turns out is the evil boss of the gang, who likes using handheld sickles to kill people with. It's a nasty gang, hmm? Then she passes out. I think Spucky was a little shocked by all this -- human-style medieval police procedures are a new thing for her!
One of the Awlstones offers Spucky and Agartha 30% of the treasure in the barrow for their help in fighting off the gang (Agartha tries to bargain for more, but it doesn't work). The first order of business is to go down and get a little money to hire people to help haul the rest of it out. Chops is lowered into the barrow too, but Carrock says she's lived this long by staying out of holes. A detect magic spell shows that there are a few magic items in the hoard and something big under the bones. Hmm. Now, I was getting a serious Cave of Wonders vibe here - there's no way you get THAT much treasure at level 2! But from an in-character perspective, Spucky wouldn't know that, so she grabbed the treasure and WHAMMO! An enormous armored figure, wearing a medallion like the one on the statue, bursts out of the bones and gives her such a look! It's time to fight!
Chris: Now, some background. What we have here is a few second level players against a level 8 Shield Guardian. It could conceivably kill one of them in a single round, and is almost impossible for them to hit. Am I insane? Am I just trying to kill them off? No. I've got a plan... as we are heading into Halloween at this point there's a themed "dungeon" planned, in which they will constantly be on the run from this unstoppable Jason Vorhees of a monster....
Agartha swings at him ... no effect. Chops bites, to no effect. Spucky summons a dire rat and it chips a tooth on the thing. Even Carrock jumps into the hole after all and can't get past the armor. This thing is tough! Then the thing smashes Agartha with one massive fist for a large chunk of damage. Ouch!
Chris - Okay, about time to pull the cork and drop them into the dungeon....
About this time I was thinking maybe we should be retreating (Spucky was going to drop the gold, and see if that stopped it from attacking) -- if Carrock, who's tougher than we are, was having trouble hitting, this thing could absolutely smoosh us! But Agartha went into her rage and went onto the offensive with a mighty strike at the creature's neck and... it works!
Chris - Wait, what? She specified that she was aiming for the neck of something that was already almost impossible to strike effectively... and she hit. And she rolled a lot of damage. Well... huh. My thinking is that it would be unfair to say the chain of the medallion isn't broken....
The medallion chain is severed, the creature stops moving, and the floor of bones begins to sink. Uh-oh! Spucky and Agartha both try to climb onto the solid platforms, but don't make it. Chops does, and Carrock makes it to the rope. Then the two junior adventures get down into the pit in a maelstrom of bones and coins....
Somewhere deep underground, they come to, alone. Except for the guardian, which now is not moving. This could be trouble for Spucky -- Chops has most of her equipment, and does most of the fighting! Plus ... Spucky didn't bother to hunt for berries before going into the hole, so she can't use Goodberry, although she is carrying a day's worth of rations.
Chris - What the hell, my whole "unstopable monster" plan is up river. Why not give them a secret "spot" check to see if they notice the medallion among all the bones. Let's say it's really hard... hell, 20 even.
However, Spucky is about to get SUPER LUCKY, because she trips over the severed medallion, and as it turns out, whoever holds the medallion controls the guardian!
Chris - She rolled a natural 20. A natural 20.
Suddenly we've got a very good bodyguard, which Spucky dubs 'Chops Jr.'... to be shortened to Junior, to prevent confusion. The party heads down the tunnel along some mine-cart tracks, on the assumption that they might lead outside. Some skeletons appear... at first, we thought this all might be part of the same complex, and whoever controlled the guardian would also control the skeletons. Are they friendly? NO. Skeletal miner attack!
It turns out we hardly have to do anything because Junior wipes them all out handily, taking multiple attacks per turn and beating the skeletons into powder. We stopped the session here as the party prepares to search for a way back to the surface.
Chris - Well, that turns the entire campaign inside out, doesn't it? The thing I planned to terrorize them with ends up being their pal through sheer chance. Sure, I could have said "No, the necklace didn't break" or "it's lost in the bone pile, no chance to find it," but is that seriously the most interesting way to go about things? I prefer knowing everything could go up on its head. In fact, I knew at the start they may have decided the treasure was most likely cursed, or they may have escaped the barrow before it collapsed under them. Likewise, they may have pressed the assault on Junior and all died. When you nestle into the little world you've made for a new session, you never know what it will look like when you leave. That's what I love about this game.