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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dead Gods - Crux

In this session of Dead Gods, we finished chapter two and played through chapter three. Last time, the adventurers were inside a walking tower, owned by a wizard named Tiac Nami Ro. Theran had touched his "beauties" - stones enchanted by Circean Embers. Obviously this means we need to roll for initiative.


Chapter four will introduce the main monster type of Dead Gods, the visages. I figured I'd post my 5e conversion for them, and explain what their deal is before they "debut" here in the next post.

Visage: AC 14 HP 45 2 claws +4/+4 5 (d6+2)
  • Takes half damage from non-magic weapons.
  • Undead immunities.
  • (bonus action) Lucidity Control: WIS save DC 13 or the visage controls the victim's senses, save each round.
  • When the visage kills someone, it can shapeshift into their form. During this time, the victim can't be raised or resurrected. If the visage is not slain within 24 hours, the victim's soul is obliterated.
A visage is an undead demon created by the villain of this adventure. They look like wispy, translucent spirits with white masks where their heads should be. Other demons consider these creatures to be abominations and attack them on sight.

Their lucidity control is extremely powerful. They can control their victim's senses, creating a false reality.The 2e version of these monsters also have the ability to dominate, but I chucked that. Too powerful!

You can really screw over your players with the lucidity control if you're not careful. There's a part in this adventure where the visages somehow are able to make it so that if the heroes enter their temple, the heroes just die. There's a whole paragraph on it. We'll get to that soon.

The Heroes

Bidam - Platinum-Scaled  Dragonborn Fighter
Theran - Drow Wizard

The Beauties

Tiac Nami Ro stood on a balcony, looking down at Theran who was coveting his precious stones. He pelted Theran with magic missiles and screamed obscenities in his native tongue. There was a chaotic fight, with Bidam charging up the stairs and tearing into the wizard. The heroes defeated the wizard and then the whole tower started to vanish.

This was mentioned in the module that the tower vanishes under certain conditions. Once it is gone, the heroes fall to the ground. Thinking back, I realize that the innkeepers should have fallen from a pretty great height (they were upstairs) and died.

The heroes dusted themselves off, picked up the trail and followed the khaastas to a forest of vast trees called The Norns. The forest is a magic place. There's thick growth. If you try to hack through the underbrush, you'll take damage from thorns and within d6 rounds you'll become trapped and lost. The only way to get through safely is for the PCs to find a path without causing harm to the vegetation.

Theran got one look at the norns and knew something was up. No birds were singing, no flowers bloomed. He consulted his lion skull mimir, and it told him what the deal was.


After a few hours of wandering, the trail led up to Yggdrasil, the world tree. Yggdrasil is this impossibly huge tree that reaches into many different planes. The adventurers used it in the great modron march, when they led the modrons into Limbo.

The path of the khaasta at last leads to a knot in the tree. In that knot is a portal that leads to a "half-world" called Naphraks. Half-worlds are special demiplanes accessible only from Yggdrasil, spawned from the tree like fruit. The heroes went in.

They passed through the opaque portal, and found themselves on a large flat boulder, hurtling through an endless expanse for minutes. I really should have ran some kind of combat encounter while they were hurtling through space on the rock. The boulder landed them in Naphraks, a small muddy realm 800 yards across.

Naphraks, the Half-World

There's a few buildings: A barracks, a slave pen, giant lizard stables, and a tower. Bidam and Theran sneaked about a bit, then slipped into the tower.

They stumbled right into the khaasta ruler's throne room, where he was organizing the circean embers. The room was full of plants. The heroes watched him for a few minutes while they worked out a plan.

They approached him and tried to cut a deal. The ruler, named "Haac(!)nss" (it's supposed to sound like like you're hacking a loogie, which is really gross and I refused to do). This went south immediately, so Bidam rushed him while Theran snatched two bottles. Then Theran used a spell to shatter all of the remaining bottles.

Bidam cut down the ruler and they ran. They had used warp sense (a planescape spell) to find an exit from this half-world, and they ran through it. The innkeepers were hiding there, and together they went through.

They had the bottles, but they knew the khaastas would be coming after them. They spotted a town in the tree nearby. They headed for it.

Crux is a town that features heavily in Dead Gods. I sat down with a piece of paper and made myself an outline of all the stores in town, all the major NPCs, everything I'd need. It turned out that the heroes took a look around and didn't find it of interest so none of that material ended up being used.

They were really paranoid about the khaastas. They figured the khaastas were going to attack the town. This makes sense, but unfortunately this adventure sort of demands that the heroes venture out onto the tree again.

I was able to explain it later by saying that the khaasta raid party ran into some visages. The visages were going to use them for their own needs.

The heroes heard rumors about how the ratatosks (squirrel-people) who lived near Crux were freaking out, talking about how a great evil had come to the tree. The town druid was saying the same things. The ruler of Crux, Veridis Mov, asked them to check it out.

The heroes still had the innkeepers with them, concealed in hooded robes so as not to cause a stir. They left them in Crux.


The heroes ventured out onto a branch and eventually found a ratatosk. These are one of those annoying D&D monsters that likes to tease heroes and tell them riddles and stuff. If they answer the riddles, he'll take them to his leader. Here's one of the riddles:

"River that flows when death is near
Giver of life, you arrival brings fear"

Riddles can grind a game to a halt. I usually give the players a chance, and if they tap out we just roll an INT check to see if a PC figures it out. We have stuff to do!

In the past, I've found that the best way to use a riddle is to have it be part of some side quest. The player can mull it over in his or her real life for a week or two, and usually they'll get the answer.

They find that very rewarding and I think it helps get people more invested in the game. Putting a riddle right in the session as a roadblock sometimes puts people in an uncomfortable spotlight, and it can backfire.

Our heroes go to the leader's lair - a tunnel in the bark. The interior is wet and sticky with sap, which is pretty amusing. Worse, it's mildly poisonous and can cause hallucinations.

"Colors change and even begin to peel away from the object they're associated with... a friend's speech sounds small and distant..." Awesome. They made their saves.

Glittereye, ruler of the ratatosks, is on the verge of insanity. The evil that has come to the tree is changing him. He agrees to bring the heroes to a place he calls The Warpwood.

The Warpwood
Along the way, they run into a modron who had gotten lost during the great modron march. Modrons are immune to the visages lucidity control. The ratatosks made fun of him, and the heroes let him join the group. They agreed they'd eventually help him get back to his home in Mechanus. Here's some of the warpwood flavor:

"The wood in this area is rippled in a huge circular pattern, as if something large and heavy had been dropped on the branch and the bark had reacted like water, moving outward in tiny waves... But the most disturbing thing about this strange warping is the intense blackness that makes up its center."

The deal here is that this is where the big bad guy crossed over from the astral plane to the tree. This bad guy has such a corruptive aura that he was dripping with negative energy.

This energy is too much for Glittereye. His eyes go black and he orders his ratatosks to kill the heroes. Bidam and Theran are able to subdue the squirrel-people without killing them, something that earns them the eternal friendship of the ratatosks.

Back to Crux

Having scoped out the Warpwood, the adventurers returned to Crux to find a building on fire. Marlus, the town druid, has also become corrupted by the evil tainting the tree. She was burning down her own lodge, and people were trapped inside.

Bidam and Theran burst in. Bidam battled the druid, while Theran got the people out. The smoke in here almost did him in. Each round, he had to save or begin coughing and choking. Each consecutive fail made it worse.

Marlus was defeated without being killed. The adventurers had done well so far, but Crux was not done with them just yet...

P.S. The answer to the riddle is "blood."

Click here to proceed to chapter 4.

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