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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dead Gods - Circean Embers

This is chapter 2 of Dead Gods.. or, I guess, chapter 1 of  the "Out of the Darkness" section of Dead Gods. The book is broken into two intermingling adventures, if you recall.

It is always painful for me when there's a Planescape product that doesn't have DiTerlizzi art. This one fares better than most. The interior art is done by RK Post, who is good. It's also done by a guy named Josh Timbrook. He does this really awesome, slightly anime stuff. I tried to find out what else he's done, but it looks like he mostly did art for Vampire.

Then there's another guy who does these player handout art pieces, which are kind of muddy and generally it is hard to tell what's going on in them. The cover of the book is kind of weird, too. It's well done, but I'd have preferred a different look for the god.

Thief of Charms

This adventure is about a bunch of lizardmen who use an item to steal people's beauty. The adventurers must track them down across The Outlands. Basically the point of all this is to get the heroes to Crux, a town on Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Crux is where a lot of stuff happens in this adventure. Honestly, it's kind of a boring town. We'll get to that in due time.

Let me tell you about the item in this adventure: The Thief of Charms:
  • It's a rod attached to a bottle. The bottle can be detached.
  • When you touch someone with it, you teal their beauty. The beauty goes in the bottle. Beauty in a bottle is known as "Circean Embers."
  • People with lost beauty are sort of shunned by people. They just look drab and weird.
  • If you give somebody circean embers, aka someone else's beauty, that person becomes mega-attractive. Everyone who sees them must make a saving throw or have a deep desire to possess them. This effect lasts for a week.
This is a very fascinating item for characters who own a festhall.

Khaasta Raiders

Two of the employees of the heroes' bordello, known as "F***haus," showed up one night for work looking distinctly unattractive. Their beauty had been stolen by khaasta raiders, just moments ago. Bidam and Theran raced down the street to find the beauty thieves.

Along the way, there's a "githzerai crosstrader" named Drozeg Rake who tells the heroes that there's a child in need of aid inside. Theran immediately thought this was a trap. He was right. The githzerai's plan was to lead them into his den and have them fall in a pit trap. Instead, he got thrown in by our street-smart bashers.

The adventurers caught up with the lizard-men, called Khaastas. As far as I can tell, a khaasta is pretty much exactly like a lizardman. They've got a cart full of bottles of beauty that they're bringing through a portal. The khaasta toilmaster (awesome word) sicks a bunch of khaastas on the adventurers.

This is a bit tricky. The bad guys have to get through the portal for this adventure to work properly. The entire rest of the adventure is about tracking the khaasta cart. So as the heroes fight some khaastas, the portal closes. Our heroes need to obtain the portal key, which takes time and gives the bad guys a big head start.

Theran and Bidam get the key (a silver feather of an Arcadian dovetail, bought from Alluvius Ruskin). They go through the portal, which brings them to The Outlands. The bad guy tracks are visible in the mud. Our heroes are in for days of walking.

The heroes don't know it, but they are walking right on the border of two very scary realms. On one side is the home of a mind flayer god of  knowledge and philosophy named Maanzecorian. On the other side is the land of the beholder god, Gzemnid.

The Rotting Oracle

This leads to a really cool encounter. There's this building called The Rotting Oracle. It's in mud and is tilted at an angle. It's a mind flayer temple to Maanzecorian! That's a pretty alarming place for PCs to stumble on.

The mystery villain of Dead Gods has killed Maanzecorian, the mind flayer god. So the mind flayers are freaking out. Here's the flavor when our heroes get close to the building:

"As you watch, a figure emerges from the door of the structure. The skin surrounding its huge, white, pupil-less eyes is sallow brown with a hint of violet. Four small tentacles flail wildly from below where you'd expect to see its nose and mouth. The finery it wears grows filthy from the ooze it runs through as it stumbles closer, but it pays you no heed. Three-fingered hands clutch at its soft skull, and suddenly, wordlessly, the creature's face and head are drawn inward by an irresistable force - an implosion that resembles nothing so much as a giant, invisible hand crushing the skull of the creature like a grape.

It falls dead in the mud."

The adventurers decided to go in to the rotting oracle to check it out. There's a second mind flayer inside who tells the heroes "God is dead!" and then the text says "...the creature's spirit leaves its dying form..."

Basically, Maanzecorian died and his knowledge is seeping into the temple and it is making mind flayer brains implode. The heroes began picking up random pieces of knowledge from the god, really random stuff. It freaked them out, but for some reason they decided to take a short rest in there. I think they hadn't healed wounds from the fight with the khaasta.

A beholder started floating toward the rotting oracle, as obviously something was up with his neighbors. His name was Blvastin. Luckily, Theran was resting on the front steps and saw Blvastin off in the distance. The adventurers immediately fled.

I'd statted Blvastin out as a 5e version of the 4e Eye of Flame, but they wanted no part of him. The adventurers were able to sneak away and continue to pursue the khaasta caravan.


After three days of walking, Theran and Bidam came to a village called Ironridge. The khaasta had given an innkeeper and his wife some circean embers. They used them, and now there was a crowd of people fighting over them. Everyone wanted to be near them and "keep" them.

The heroes both investigated the crowd/brawl/burgeoning riot, got one look at the beautiful innkeepers... and failed their saving throws. Bidam and Theran both desperately wanted them for their own!

The adventurers pummeled some townsfolk, snatched their new friends and threw hooded cloaks over them. They fled and took the innkeepers back to their inn. There, the heroes tried to not hit on the innkeeper's wife or high five the innkeeper to death while they figured out what to do next.

Ultimately, they decided they needed to keep following the khaastas. Their precious, wonderful innkeepers would have to come with them!

So the party grew by two NPCs.

For a day they traveled past wildflower fields. As soon as I mentioned this, the players got extremely paranoid. They kept asking me if the flowers made them sleepy, or made them hallucinate, or if there were giant bees.

It was literally just one sentence in the book. Field of wildflowers. That's it. But let me tell you, the heroes wanted nothing to do with those wildflowers whatsoever.

During this time, the heroes chatted with and tried to impress their new friends. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what perverted things may or may not have taken place when they made camp for the night. All I can say is that dice rolls were involved.

Tiac Nami Ro

The next day, the heroes encountered something awesome: A walking tower. It had chicken legs. And it was controlled by a wizard named Tiac Nami Ro. He's a "...dark-skinned wizard from a remote prime-material world".

Here's his dialogue:

"Ah, hello? Yes? Please to pardon intrusion. Seen you gentles a group of... creatures with many bottles, yes? Am looking for these. Am looking to purchase more wonderful bottles, yes? Hmm?"

So is that an Indian accent? I decided to go with it and looked up some Indian swears to use for if/when the PCs made Tiac angry. There's a lot of filthy Indian sayings, it turns out.

During their journey, the khaastas accidentally shattered a bottle on some stones. Tiac found the stones, and failed his save. He is in awe of the beauty of the stones, and wants to collect more.

He invites the heroes in to his tower for a meal. He has a bunch of trained spider monkeys who set the table and serve the food.

Tiac took one look at the innkeeper and his wife and... failed his save. He asked them to come up to his bedroom for a private conversation. He was overcome by their awesomeness/beauty.

This left the heroes alone. Theran snooped around. He found the stones. He failed his save! The spider monkeys flipped out when Theran found the stones, and made a ton of noise. Tiac Nami Ro exploded out of this room, outraged that Theran was ogling his "Beauties." A fight was about to break out...

But it was really late so we had to stop there. I didn't like the khaasta or the fact that this adventure has so little to do with the overall story, but I love the thief of charms, the mind flayers and the walking tower.

Click here to read he next chapter of Dead Gods.


Peter V. Dell'Orto said...

I just wanted to say that I am enjoying these writeups. I've never read the adventure, so it's all just interesting recap to me. Please keep them coming.

Sean said...

Peter: Thanks! I like running published stuff... a lot of people know of these modules, but it seems like not so many have actually played through them.

Rynath Wilson said...

Good to see you back in action!

Sean said...

Rynath: Thanks! I'll have a bunch of posts up over the next few days.