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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Great Modron March - Camp Followers

We are rocketing towards the end of this adventure, which is a 2nd edition book that I am converting to 5e. I'm eyeballing what comes next and I'm torn. I'd like to run the Chris Perkins Planescape adventure from dungeon magazine called "Umbra," as it has gotten good reviews. I'd also like to run the sequel to this adventure - Dead Gods, also by Monte Cook. Dead Gods explains what exactly happened with the modrons.

But in September, Out of the Abyss comes out. I'd really like to run that. Not sure what to do.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard 

Sigil

The heroes returned from their adventure in the gate town of Bedlam, having helped a rogue modron try to rejoin the march.

The adventurers spent a few weeks in the city of Sigil healing drained stats. Bidam and Theran asked around about the Lady of Pain doll they had bought. This is an item from Planescape Torment. If the heroes worship it, they will end up being sucked into a maze. I had prepared a mini-adventure based on stuff from the game, where the heroes are mazed and meet the hag Ravel Puzzlewell.

They ended up more or less figuring out what the doll did, and decided to put it in a lockbox and hide it in their office int he Clerk's Ward.

The heroes were invited back to Heart's Faith in Celestia, to cut the ribbon on a rebuilt building (the adventurers had helped the city survive when the modrons marched through in the second adventure of this campaign).

The Spell Crystal

Then I hit them with the railroad. I made the "choo choo" noise, which the players get a kick out of. This adventure is very railroady. The heroes are summoned by a summon monster spell, and they must serve an arrogant wizard and follow her every command.

They can make a save at a -2 penalty to free themselves, but it only lasts d6 rounds. I'd imagine many players would hate this, but mine were fine with it (partly because I had warned them about it ahead of time).

So there's this cool flavor where a spell crystal flies down the street, sucks the heroes into a giant crystal, which flies them through the planes to the first layer of the Abyss: The Plain of Infinite Portals.

Plain of Infinite Portals

Dretch
This layer has a red sun, earthmotes, and dusty badlands. It is full of sinkholes that lead to different layers of the Abyss, and the landscape is dotted with iron fortresses that demons and demon lords fight for control of.

The heroes had been summoned by a tiefling named Taraere Illsmiser. She considered Bidam to be a monster, as he was a black dragonborn. Taraere treated Bidam poorly throughout the adventure, pointing out that Bidam was a chromatic creature and thus was not to be trusted.

Taraere was kind to Theran, though, and treated him more like a pupil. Both of the heroes barely hid their resentment of her, and plotted revenge.

This summoning spell had gone haywire because of the chaotic nature of the Abyss. Taraere believed that the heroes would be her servants for one week, then they'd vanish and return to Heart's Faith. The heroes instinctively knew that this chaos-altered spell would actually only last 24 hours.

The trio headed across the plain seeking an iron fortress, where Taraere wanted to claim a book called the Mors Mysterium Nominum. This giant book would give her truenames of demons that she could summon and control.

Journey Across the Abyss

Maurezhi
The journey has a bunch of encounters that were a bit vague in the book. I changed them a bit and de-powered them so they were appropriate for my 4th level PCs.
  • Bidam was ahead of the group a bit as a scout. He avoided a sinkhole which led to another layer of the Abyss. He contemplated jumping in to escape servitude, but thought better of it.
  • They met some drow who had come to the Abyss to mate with a vrock to give birth to a draegloth. I added this in because I just wrote a guide to the drow and I knew they'd get a kick out of the whole demon intercourse thing.
  • I used a monster I'd never heard of before this adventure - a  maurezhi. They are like ghouls, except that they absorb the memories of those they devour, and they can shapechange into that person! How cool is that?! I decided that the drow were killed by demons after the heroes left, and that a maurezhi shapechanged into a drow and caught up with the heroes and asked to join them. Bidam quickly thought something was strange, as the drow had the scent of death on it (which is a trait of the maurezhi).
  • A pair of dretches attacked. The maurezhi chose this time to surprise the heroes, too. The adventurers killed them, and observed that the demons died a true death on their home plane.
  • They observed some very cool flavor as they neared the fortress:

Fortress of the Fallen Stair

Their destination was known as the Fortress of the Fallen Stair. In the entrance hall, the heroes had to overcome some door traps. Behind one door adorned with the face of a child with wizened eyes, they found some armanites (demon centaurs). The armanites were wounded badly - they'd fought in the arena below the fortress and fared poorly. The heroes were friendly to them and let them go.

Another door was magically trapped. The heroes were cautious and were able to detect the trap. They determined that if the door was touched, a lightning charge would strike them. They headed outside and spotted some Varrangoin (demon bats) flying around. They caught one and threw it into the door, setting off the trap and killing it. Tarraere was amused by this.

In the room beyond was a "chapel" full of torture devices. A door in there led to a special room with items pertaining to demon lords.

Lords' Chapel
Lamashtu
The adventure explains that this room has a few items that are trophies of demon lords who used this fortress to ascend to power.

"Each piece of art shows shows the lord in its moment of triumph, which're without exception scenes of phenomenal cruelty."

It goes on to say "...a berk foolish enough to tamper with an effigy draws the wrath of that particular Abyssal Lord; the DM's encouraged to design an appropriate punishment for the offender."

On the one hand, this is awesome. On the other hand, I had to figure out the demon lords myself. Also, I know my players are going to loot this stuff, so I had to choose carefully.

I went through the demon lord list on wikipedia and I chose ones with some detail but not too much. I wanted ones with cool concepts but were spare enough that it left room for me to put my own spin on them.

In the end, I changed this a bit. Basically I gave the heroes magic items linked to demon lords. Here's the items:

Amulet of Flowing Flame: This amulet is made by Alzrius, Lord of Flowing Glame, ruler of the 601st layer - Conflagratum. His armies carry a piece of him as a torch. I figured that this amulet carried a piece of him in it.

Rune Scrimshaw Whalebone: This item relates to Bechard, the Rotting Husk. He's a demon whale who lies on a beach, rotting under the sun. He ran afoul of the gnoll demon lord Yeenoghu, and is slowly dying. This item has the power to summon a pirate ship from his realm. In my head, I had the idea that maybe the heroes would want to help Bechard. It turns out that is what they want to do.

Painting of Lamashtu: Lamashtu is a Pathfinder demon lord. I think she's awesome. She's the "Mother of Monsters," a pregnant women with a three-eyed jackal head and raven wings. I decided that this painting was by Renbuu, the slaad lord who is an artist that can change the color of things.

As I suspected, my heroes looted all of this stuff. Which means they've earned the enmity of three demon lords.

Further, Bidam had the idea that he wanted to go find Renbuu to convince the slaad lord to transform  into a different color! In this adventure, Taraere repeatedly berated Bidam because he was a black chromatic dragonborn.

The heroes talked about Renbuu. They've decided they want to meet him and have him change Bidam's color to a metallic dragon color so people will stop bothering him.

So it sounds like next time we play, the heroes are going to go to Limbo, chaos shape a river, and sail on their demon ship from Bechard's realm and seek out Renbuu,. It should be awesome.

The Arena

In this trophy room is a tunnel that goes straight down. It has weird gravity. If you jump down the middle of it, you plummet. But if you stay near a wall, you have altered gravity and can travel safely. The heroes learned this by dropping a torch down and watched, astonished, as their torch touched a vertical wall and laid on it, ceasing to fall.

Going straight down the tunnel was easy. The adventurers and their "master," Tarraere, searched the catacombs underneath the fortress for the book.

They came upon a door with runes on it. They determined that the runes kept a demon trapped inside, and they decided to leave it alone.

They backtracked and found the arena, a vast underground area. There was a massive crowd of dretches, manes, shadow demons, tieflings, elves and humans watching a battle. A marilith was fighting two vrocks (see the picture at the top of this article).

This is an odd encounter. The adventurers had to cross the arena floor to continue on their path. The crowd and the combatants pay no mind. The heroes only have to worry about some quicksand - which they detected and avoided. This felt like a missed opportunity for something more.

Disputed Ground

Manes
They traveled on and came to a room with an endless battle between dretches, manes and cambions battling in the name of their lords for control of the fortress. The heroes needed to cross the room without getting trampled.

Poor Bidam was trampled twice. Theran saved him with an earthshock spell and a chromatic bolt.

Then they had to cross a chaos river, which was made up of chaos stuff similar to the matter of limbo. I changed this a bit, and added opportunities to roll on the 5e wild surge chart. Theran failed his roll to chaos shape the river, so he triggered a wild surge and ended up levitating. He was able to cross over the river by levitating and using the ceiling to pull himself across.

Bidam decided just to dive in the chaos river and wild surge/swim across. First he got sucked into the astral plane for a round. Then he returned 6 seconds later, and rolled a 100 on the wild surge table. I let him pick the result due to the special roll. He chose a "random" lightning bolt that struck Tamaere and injured her!

The Arcanaloth

Then they came to their destination - a library. In it was a giant fox-headed demon reading a book that was the size of a human. This was the Mors Mysterium Nominum. The creature was an arcanaloth - a mercenary demon who did research for demons and devils in the Blood War.

Taraere angrily demanded that the arcanaloth hand the book over. The heroes could sense that the spell of control over them was about to end. They decided to attack Taraere!

She was completely surprised. She had more hit points then they anticipated. Once they had their shots, she angrily ordered them to strike themselves. Charisma saves were rolled at a -2 penalty.

Theran failed, and began bashing himself with his staff. Bidam resisted, which meant he was free for d6 rounds. He rolled a 5! He hit Tarraere again while the arcanaloth watched on, amused. Tarraere angrily cast a cone of cold spell, including both Bidam and the arcanaloth in the blast. Bidam made his save and took half damage. He had only a single hit point left!

The arcanoloth summoned three mezzoloths who attacked Taraere. Theran tried again to break the compulsion like Bidam had, and this time he made his save. As the spell crystal faded into view, he struck Taraere in the head with his staff, knocking her unconscious.

The heroes were sucked into the spell crystal and were sent hurtling back to Heart's Faith. They had left Taraere at the arcanoloth's mercy.

The adventurers appeared back in Heart's Faith and rested.

Return to Limbo

I asked them what their plan was for next week, and they confirmed that they wanted to find Renbuu and convince him to change Bidam's color. I asked them what they planned to offer him to convince him to do this. They thought maybe handing over his painting of Lamashtu might work.

They headed back to Sigil and brought the painting to the Art Curio Galleria (another locale from Planescape:Torment) and they learned that it was worth 50,000 gold! They were torn on whether or not to sell it.

So next time, all three demon lords will exact some sort of revenge on the heroes as they seek out Renbuu, the Slaad Lord in Limbo. They'll likely be guests of the githzerai, in a very happy meeting of all my research work over the past few weeks.

Continue on to check out the return to Limbo, which was pretty awesome.

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