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Monday, December 14, 2015

Dead Gods - Masks

I don't know if I mentioned this, but if you're wondering why I run for 2 players, there's a few reasons:
  • We play at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, which most normal people can't do. But it's the only time all 3 of us can get together. We've been playing campaigns since 2007.
  • I am extremely picky about who I play with.
  • I love running for just a few players. People are much more loose and comfortable. Things go much faster. You can really get to know a character. Probably the best campaign I ever ran was a solo Al Qadim campaign back in high school.
The adventurers were in Crux, a town built on the massive World Tree. They had just checked out The Warpwood, a tainted area that was evidence that some great evil had come to Yggdrasil.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled  Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard

Murder Most Foul

They settled in for the night at one of the inns. A maid made a discovery in a nearby room. There was a dead body in a chest.

This adventure starts off as something of a murder mystery. It also introduces the visages - monsters that serve the big bad guy of Dead Gods.

Basically what happened was that a visage killed a guy and took his place. Visages have the power to assume the form of those they kill. The visages have infiltrated Crux, and it's up to our heroes to root them out.

Theran and Bidam asked around town, and it turned out that this dead guy was seen walking around town long after he had been slain. This brought them to an alley near High Point (home of the town guards), where the heroes spotted a visage leaving Crux.

The adventure wants the heroes to follow the visage. In fact, it's kind of crucial that they do. My players wanted to attack it. I was able to get them to follow without being too ham-handed. I could have just let them kill it and had another visage spotted off in the distance, I guess.

The heroes followed the visage out onto the tree, very wary of the khaastas. They'd killed the khaasta leader and were certain that the khaastas were looking for them.

Desert's Night

They followed the visage down a black, gnarled branch of the world tree and saw it pass through a portal. They followed. It brought them to Set's Realm. I'm not too keen on mixing real world mythology with D&D, but this happened quite a bit back in the AD&D days.

So the deal here is that the visage is looking for a certain plant that relates to the overall story of the campaign. The heroes are attacked by agents of Set. In the adventure, they're humanoid guards. I decided to use a manscorpion, as I think they're cool.

Way back when, a friend of mine ran a Greyhawk campaign based on Rary the Traitor and we fought many manscorpions in the Bright Desert. I really liked it. Here's my 5e version:

Manscorpion AC 15 HP 84 2 claws: +4/+4 6(d8+2), 1 tail sting: +4 7(d10+2) and DC 12 CON save or 22 poison damage (1/2 on save).
  • Blindsight 60 feet
  • Obsidian-studded clubs, bolas
The manscorpion struck Theran with its tail stinger and dropped him! Bidam was barely able to slay the manscorpion and dump a potion of healing into the wizard before he died. He was on his last death save.

Their hearts sank as they spotted more manscorpions coming from over a dune. The creatures called out to the heroes. They wished to bring them to their leader. Things were afoot. The fact that the heroes killed one of their kind had impressed rather than enraged them.

The heroes were escorted to a regal pavilion made of black material. The place was home to hundreds of manscorpions and 20 giant snakes.

Nekrotheptis Scorpios
In the adventure, the leader of these creatures is an Egyptian guy named Nekrotheptis Scorpios. I changed him. There's not enough female NPCs in this adventure. So I cooked up Nekrotheptis Scorpia, a black-skinned woman with a pet snake that rested on her shoulders. She had " skin like ashes and eyes like smoldering flames..." I was quite proud of myself. "What a badass NPC," I thought.

Of course, Jessie began to harass me about what I meant by "black-skinned" and trolled me about the snake, saying some extremely inappropriate things about the phallic nature of my creation. She tried to take me down a peg but I was having none of it, dear readers. Nekrotheptis Scorpia is a top notch NPC, no doubt about it.

So anyway, this encounter boiled down to Nekrotheptis learning about the visages, telling the PCs that she will handle it, and for the heroes to get out of Set's Realm.

The heroes were escorted out of and back to Yggdrasil. They tried to head back to Crux, but found that the tree branch seemed never-ending. A visage was lurking nearby, and altering their perceptions! It tried to split the heroes up, but they made their saving throws.

Also, the rogue modron was with them. The modron was unaffected by the visage powers, so the heroes were able to use it to help them. It could give them advantage on their saves, I ruled.

The visage was able to lure them into a khaasta ambush. The adventurers made mincemeat out of the khaastas and the visage.

Battle With the Visages

They returned to Crux and heard a pile o' rumors:
  • The town constable, Nacen Jon, was acting weird.
  • Rumor has it that Bwimb, ruler of the Paraelemental Plane of Ooze had died.
  • Another "big time god" had died, too.
Obviously the constable had been replaced by a visage. The heroes went right to High Point for the final showdown. Nacen and another guard had been killed and replaced.

The bad guys got the heroes to come upstairs to meet with them, but then used their lucidity control to make the stairs seem infinitely long and slippery. The heroes struggled to snap out of it, and engaged in a sprawling fight where the visages tried to make them think that the room had vanished, that there were pit traps, and even that they were floating in the chaotic expanse of Limbo.

The rogue modron again was of supreme use, helping the heroes cut through the perception-warping. The visages were defeated.

The adventurers had rooted out and destroyed all of the visages in Crux. While the bad guys overall plan was still a mystery, the adventurers were anxious to return home to Sigil.

This was an OK adventure. I didn't like how the heroes are kicked out of Set's Realm, and in general I wish all of this stuff had happened in Sigil rather than Crux.

Click here to proceed to the next chapter of Dead Gods.

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