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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Demogorgon

Demogorgon in Out of the Abyss
If you've seen the cover of the upcoming adventure, Out of the Abyss, you know that it features Demogorgon on the cover. As dungeon masters, our work is never done.  What do you say we get ready for the adventure right now by studying all of the Demogorgon D&D lore so we can be properly prepared to wow our players when the Rage of Demons storyline hits?

Demogorgon appears in the 5th edition adventure Out of the Abyss. You can buy it on amazon here:

Out of the Abyss (D&D Accessory)

Demogorgon, Prince of Demons

In Dungeons & Dragons, there's quite a bit of lore when it comes to demons and devils and it can be quite daunting to new players. In my experience, at one time it was pretty common to see dungeon masters use devils and demons together.

But they are, in fact, enemies, and each has their own epic story and home. To help my players keep this stuff straight, I always tell them this:
  • Demons (Tanar'ri) are chaotic and live in the Abyss.
  • Devils (Baatezu) are lawful and they live in hell.
Today I am going to write about a demon lord who is perhaps one of the great villains in all of Dungeons & Dragons. While Orcus is a bit more iconic, Demogorgon is perhaps the most threatening of them all.

In this article, I am going to go through each edition of Dungeons & Dragons and take a look at Demogorgon and how he was presented. The hope here is to provide a resource for those of us using Demogorgon, to have all the relevant lore in one place.

The Essential Information

Here's Demogorgon in a nutshell:
  • Demogorgon is the Prince of Demons - most powerful of all the demon lords.
  • He has two heads named Aameul and Hethadriah that secretly plot against each other.
  • He rules an abyssal layer called Gaping Maw.
  • He is close allies with the aquatic demon lord, Dagon. Dagon manipulates each of Demogorgon's heads to be paranoid of the other.
Demogorgon was originally described as having a head that looks either like a baboon or a mandril. Here's a baboon head. Here is a mandrill head.

Real Life Origins

The James Jacobs article in Dragon #357 sums it up perfectly, so here is a portion of it in image form:


AD&D 1st Edition

Demogorgon is 18 feet tall and has two heads "...which bear the visages of evil baboons or perhaps mandrills with the hideous coloration of the later named beasts". His two necks "resemble snakes". Demogorgon is insanely powerful:
  • He can hypnotize up to 100 creatures with his gaze with less than 15 hit dice with no saving throw!
  • The left head has the power of a rod of beguiling.
  • The right head can cause insanity, which lasts 10-60 minutes.
  • He has a forked tail that drains l1-4 levels of the people it hits!
  • If he hits you with his arm tentacles, a limb on your body will rot off in 6 rounds, which permanently removes 35% of your hit points.
  • He's got every psionic power, 95% magic resistance and a paragraph of spell-like abilities.
I believe that his 200 hit points  makes him the most powerful creature in all of 1st edition AD&D.

Dragon Magazine #36

In this issue is a small humorous column called "Meeting Demogorgon" that is about what would happen if your party said Demogorgon's name out loud, and Demogorgon appeared. "In a loud, deep, doomsday roar he thunders, WHO CALLS UPON DEMOGORGON, PRINCE OF DEMONS, RULER OF THE ABYSSAL, THE INVINCIBLE HORROR?!?!"

There's a list of responses which includes things like:
  • Point to someone else in the party and say, “He did it!”
  • Convert to his religion immediately.
  • Try to convert him (“Hey, wanna be lawful good?”)
  • Offer up one of your companions as an involuntary sacrifice.
So yeah, that was in Dragon.

Dragon Magazine #79

This issue has an article on saints of different D&D entities. One of them is Saint Kargoth, a fallen paladin transformed into a death knight by Demogorgon.
  • He has a sword called Gorgorin the Shatterer. When he hits you with it, you make a saving throw or be disintegrated! He eventually lost it and has been searching for it ever since.
  • Kargoth travels in a glowing green chariot pulled by 6 nightmares.
  • He's got a massive pile of powers and abilities. Supposedly he is nearly as powerful as Demogorgon.
AD&D 2nd Edition

Ixixichitl
Demogorgon was presented in Monster Mythology, one of the blue-covered DM books. He is categorized as a "Lesser God".
  • He is worshiped by ixixachitl, which are a race of evil, sentient vampiric manta rays. When these creatures energy drain other creatures, some of that energy goes right to Demogorgon, empowering him further.
  • He can create avatars of himself, which are 18 feet tall but much weaker than his 1st edition form.
  • He hates Sekolah (god of the sahuagin).
The concept of an ixixichatl priest is so bizarre to me. But that's mostly what this Demogorgon entry is about.

D&D 3rd Edition

Demogorgon first appears in the Book of Vile Darkness. The art depicts him very differently.
  • Demogorgon is known as "Lord of all that Swims in Darkness".
  • Each of his heads has its own name: Aamaeul and Hethadriah. Each head secretly plots agains the other.
  • Aameul actually wants to split from the other head, out of selfishness and jealousy.
  • Demogorgon's forces are comprised of hezrous, balors, mariliths, aboleths, scrags and skum.
  • He wages war with Grazzt and Orcus.
  • The text actually says he has hyena heads.
  • His symbol is of a forked tail, wrapped around a sword or skull.
Why the Hyena Heads?

Monte Cook was asked about Demogorgon's altered 3rd edition appearance on his forum.

His response: "Demogorgon's heads is the result of a terrible error. I take full responsibility. I thought it said "baboon" or "mandril" until it came out and I saw if for myself."

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss

Demogorgon is explicitly said to have baboon heads. Troglodytes worship him as Ahmon-Ibor, the Sibilant Beast. Yuan-ti know him as Siosicash. The ixixichitl don't speak his name out loud.

We get a few pages that detail Demogorgon's Abyssal Layer, "The Gaping Maw". It is a vast, primordial jungle with an abyssal sea. Monsters living here include bar-lguras, nalfeshnees, troglodytes and demonic dinosaurs including spinosauruses with scar-riddled bodies that bear the personal seal of Demogorgon.

Abysm: This is where Demogorgon lives. Abysm is two connected towers rising out of the sea, each topped with a fanged skull. They actually extend so deep underwater that they connect to Dagon's layer, Shadowsea.

Lemoriax: This is a crumbling city dotted with ziggurats that is home to tens of thousands of savage demons. Demogorgon often climbs onto the tallest step pyramid to shout blasphemous declarations. Lemoriax is well-known for having thriving, diverse slave markets. 

Bastion of Broken Souls

The Cathezar
This is a high level adventure made for D&D 3.0. One of Demogorgon's heads, Aameul, thinks it has found a way to slay the other head without destroying itself. He thinks if he can slay a red dragon named Ashardalon, who is feeding on preincarnate souls, and absorb its soul, Demogorgon might survive the death of the other head.

To kill the dragon Ashardalon (who has a demon heart beating in his chest), Demogorgon needs the blood of one of the heroes of your group! Agents of one head are out to get the PC, agents of the other head are trying to help the party. Pretty crazy.

Aameul's main agent is The Cathezar. She is a half-demon, half-devil. She looks like a marilith with chains - so I'd assume she's a cross between a marilith and a kyton.

Hethadriah's main agent is Nurn, a death slaad (!!). He is a master of stealth who can magically alter himself to appear as a human male with blonde hair and green eyes.

Dungeon Magazine #120

The Lost Temple of Demogorgon is an adventure is for high level characters (14th level!). It involves a dungeon full of demonic apes that worship demogorgon and a death knight who wants to reverse his condition.

There's a magic anvil called the Dread Forge. It was created by Demogorgon to turn dinosaurs into thinking, reptilian humanoids. It is powered by sacrifices. Spellcasters can use it to bestow all sorts of enchantments on items. The Dread Forge can create flaming weapons, enchanted armor, rings of protection, and bracers of armor among other things. Crazy! All items are "demon-tainted", meaning that the items radiate evil and drain levels from good and lawful individuals who try to wield them.

Dragon Magazine #357

Demogorgon: Prince of Demons is is a gigantic, definitive article by the great James Jacobs. It covers everything you need to know about Demogorgon. It starts off by detailing Demogorgon's origin, which goes like this:

First there were the obyriths - hideous proto-demons led by Obox-Ob. Then the Queen of Chaos ran them off and created the tanar'ri (demons).

The very first tanar'ri was Demogorgon. She thought he was defective, more or less, and cast him aside. Other demon lords rose up that were more to her liking, including Miska the Wolf Spider, but Miska and the Queen of Chaos were chased off by the eladrin.

This means there was a power vacuum. Many onlookers assumed that either Orcus or Grazzt would duke it out and claim the mantle of Prince of Demons. But instead, Demogorgon came out of nowhere and took over.

Then we get a massive list of Demogorgon's schemes. One of them involves a demon lord I've never heard of before: Zuregurex,  Lord of the Drowned Dead. He rules the 480th layer of the Abyss, Guttlevech, a realm of endless shipwrecks, hurricanes and blood-soaked beaches. How awesome is that?

Demogorgon's allies include his "advisor", Dagon, Zuggtmoy, and Ilsidahur, the demon lord of bar-lguras.

We even get a discussion of Demogorgon's girlfriends, which includes Malcanthet, Queen of the Succubi. They have made many hideous offspring, including a beast named Arendagrost ("The Maw of the Abyss", who appears in Dungeon #150).

Verakia, a demonic dinosaur
There's piles more - details on Demogorgon's cult (including some really disturbing stuff where a demon makes you eat part of your own brain), minions, and a demonic tyrannosaurus known as a verakia.

Dungeon Magazine issues #139 - #150

The Savage Tide adventure Path is all about Demogorgon. His followers are creating these shadow pearls, which are like bombs. When they explode, they turn the surrounding land into a realm similar to Gaping Maw, weakening the boundaries between the prime material plane and the Abyss. All of the people in the bomb's radius transform into Demogorgon-worshiping monsters.

It turns out that this plot is part of a scheme by one of Demogorgon's heads to transmute and absorb the other head.

In issue #147, there is an adventure called "Into the Maw". In it, our heroes use a magic item known as a wakeportal (a crystal tear you can embed into your sailing ship) to travel to Gaping Maw. There, the heroes explore Divided's Ire, a prison. Our heroes must break their friend out!

The whole campaign culminates in "Prince of Demons", which is in Dungeon #150, the final printed issue of Dungeon Magazine. In this adventure, the adventurers lead an army on an assault on Demogorgon's layer. The heroes' army may include Orcus himself!

This adventure is pretty much as epic it gets.

D&D 4th Edition


Demogorgon actually made the cover of Monster Manual 2! (D&D Supplement) Not too shabby.
  • His followers now include kuo toa.
  • Mortal cults of Demogorgon are war bands who wander from town to town, burning and looting. They destroy all they see.
  • His stats retain most of the core concepts, though the gaze attacks are severely weakened. He gets two full turns each round, because of his two heads
  • Aameul prefers deception, Hethadriah favors destruction.
  • Originally Demogorgon had one head and one mind, but the deity Amoth nearly split him in two. I assume this was during the Dawn War, the ancient battle between gods and primordials that is the backbone of the 4e story.
  • Twins are revered by the cults, and often end up leading the cults. The cults usually destroy themselves when the twins turn on each other. What a great idea.
Demogorgon's Brother?

I usually try to stick to official D&D stuff for these guides, but in this case it involves Gary Gygax writing about Demogorgon in a Greyhawk novel. Seems worth a mention to me! Gary Gygax wrote a series of novels starring Gord the Rogue. Demogorgon appears in his "Gord the Rogue" books. In them, it is said that Demogorgon has a brother named Mandrillagon.

I don't own most of these books. Mandrillagon is described here on this fantastic Gord resource page: "This demon lord is a monstrous, blue-faced parody of a mandril. He has filthy yellow-gray fangs and speaks in roars, coughing, and barking. He controls two planes with his winged monkey demons. He is a long ally and blood kin of Demogorgon, whom he fears."

Demogorgon is a bit different in the Gord Books. His gaze attacks come out as beams from his eyes. One head shoots green beams, the others shoots maroon. He also owns an artifact known as a Venom Fountain. Seems like you might be able to do something cool with this.

Demogorgon Links

Tim Brannan has an article on his version of Demogorgon, which has some cool ideas in it. I particularly like the idea of the Blood Apes.

There is a fantastic article on Demogorgon here on the D&D site. It even covers the version of Demogorgon in the D&D basic set.

Zak S. wrote a giant article discussing Demogorgon, and he came up with a huge system of covens who read codexes to gain random mutations.

Check out this 4e Demogorgon cartoon, too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - The Wicker Giant

At last, we've gotten into the actual temple of elemental evil in our weekly Dungeons & Dragons game in the store.

The Other Tables

I report these games through the Wizards of the Coast DCI program, so I started using sign-in sheets. We have 5 full tables going each week. I've begun to try to learn more about the other groups and what they are up to.

Tonight, the group known as the "Semi-Aquatic Weasels" killed a roc and just finished some kind of hybrid spelljammer adventure. Another group broke into song in the store. The group known as "Butts" is still going through Hoard chapter 4. They promised to soon tell me the story of the severed head known as "Jamba the Great".

The Monthly D&D Surveys

Results from the monthly D&D survey are in. Honestly, I didn't even realize Wizards of the Coast were doing monthly surveys! I should probably find it and make sure I fill one out every month.

Apparently respondents are saying they like the sandbox type of adventures, which might mean that future adventures will be structured similarly to Princes of the Apocalypse.

As I've said before, I prefer a linear adventure like the Paizo Pathfinder adventure paths are structured. If the majority of people like sandboxes, I guess I'll live. But I really hope they organize the sandbox differently in future adventures. In my opinion, the Princes of the Apocalypse book is very difficult to manage. They don't even put page numbers for monster stats! The book just tells you "you'll find their stats in chapter 7".

The Party
  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck". Her character loves ghost peppers.
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad. He has a scottish accent and worships Ilmater.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Worships Helm. Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: A new player. Taking to the game very well.
The drow rogue couldn't make it this week. I have been assured he will return next week.

The Wicker Man

Last time, the adventurers had begun investigating the hazy hill which was the location of Scarlet Moon Hall - secret outpost of the fire cult. At the top of the hill was a damaged tower and a giant wicker man on fire.

The heroes went to the top of the hill and walked into what is an epic "poster map" type of fight, without a poster map. Once the heroes step foot up there, the bad guys attack. There's four guardians with armor classes of 17, two spell casting fire cultists (they can cast fireball!) and there's even two hellhounds.

When the fight begins, one priest uses an action to chant at the wicker man. Once this is done three times, the wicker man comes to life. When that happens.. a fire elemental joins the fray.

I was worried this would be way, way too hard. I prepared to have the four druids that the heroes met at the base of the hill come running, each armed with cure wounds and healing word.

But it turns out that the heroes did just fine on their own thanks to the healing of the cleric, bard and paladin, but most of all thanks to Lucky - the rogue played by the nine year old.

The Fire Elemental

A whole pile of stuff happened in this fight, which took one hour of real-life time:
  • A rogue fired an arrow into a cultist, then ran up and twisted it into the wound.
  • Lucky threw her driftglobe into a dude's face. She rolled a natural 20.
  • There was a "kick to the gooch".
  • Lucky poured water on a hellhound, dampening it.
The heroes took tons of damage and were in big trouble when the fire elemental was plopped on the map. I'd been using dungeon tiles, and one tile had a pool of water. Lucky began filling her owlbear ragdoll/bag of holding with the water. In the fire elemental's stat block, it explains that 1 gallon of water does one point of damage to it. She didn't know this, she was just thinking creatively like she always does.

Lucky spent a few rounds filling her bag. The bag can hold 64 cubic feet.

Now, keep in mind... you can poke a lot of holes into this idea. I'd established that the inside of the bag was a forest demiplane. I clarified that the interior is technically a "bag zone", so that the PCs gear can only take up 64 cubic feet of space in an invisible field/container underneath the bag opening.

I just looked it up. There are 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot. So that means if you fill it, that's over 450 gallons, or 450 points of damage to a fire elemental!

Secondly, how long would it take to fill 64 cubic feet? A round is 6 seconds. How much water could you put in the bag if you submerge it in the pool in a round? I had no idea. Apparently the bag of holding's opening is 2 feet at the mouth.

The bottom line for me was that this kid's idea was awesome, so it happened. She handed that bag to Squirrel Man, who used his red clay symbiote armor to create glider wings. He soared over the fire elemental, and unleashed a torrent of water which did 120 points of damage (I just sort of guesstimated with them how many gallons by visualizing jugs of poland spring water and how much space that takes up).

The fire elemental was destroyed. The bad guys lost. The players all applauded Lucky.

She even found a magic trinket. It was a clockwork harpy that, when wound up, would sing a magic song that would allow Lucky to communicate with someone on her "friends" list (remember, she has made ten friends in our weekly "dungeons and friends" encounters).

Red Larching It

The heroes could have explored the tower, but I sort of slyly encouraged them to skip it. The druids could handle it, right? Because I can't properly express to you how much I wanted to end all of this Haunted Keep/Cult Outpost stuff.

Returning to Red Larch, all sorts of goofy stuff happened.
  • Minsc was creating a habitrail dungeon for his hamster Boo to train in Boo will one day have a rematch with Squirrel Man, says Minsc.
  • The cleric and priest prayed, and had visions of Windvane's creator (a dark elf), and Aerisi the winged elf using Windvane to create a mysterious magic orb.
  • Bruldenthar and Bursa Steel were doing research on an ancient dwarven city called Tyar Besil...
  • I had an aaracokra the heroes had met back at Feathergale Spire show up. His name was Proudlinicus (don't hit me). Proudlinicus told the heroes his people had found air cultists closely guarding a cave entrance. Could this be an entrance to... the temple of elemental evil!??! Yes.
He led the adventurers there. Then, as thunder rumbled in the distance, Proudlinicus told them something of great importance: "Both vast treasure and certain death await, so you must gain the one while cheating the other."

That is a quote from Gary Gygax's humongous pile of flavor text in the original Temple of Elemental Evil. I may recite this quote often to my group in this campaign, until they remember it by heart.

I was going to run the ankheg encounter ("Tremors", page 44) on the way to the Sighing Valley, but we had precious little time so I skipped it.

Palace Quarter Entrance

The crevasse was guarded by three hurricanes. Our heroes utterly decimated these dudes.

Then they came upon a chasm with stairs that headed down into darkness. They followed the stairs for miles, until they came to landing. Before them was an ancient underground dwarven city!

The adventurers saw an archway with a door in it. The door swiveled - it had a central pivot. They could hear cries of pain and sorrow coming from beyond it. The heroes were very unnerved and very wary.

In fact, they were so worried that they decided to take a long rest at the front door to the whole dungeon. Normally I'd have had them be attacked by cultists right there at the edge of the chasm, but we were pressed for time. Also, I liked the idea of the bad guys beyond the door harassing them in their own weird way.

The bad guys are kenku, bird men who can mimic voices. They were mimicking the cries of air cult prisoners.

The heroes got their rest and went through the doors. They came upon a long hallway that zigged and zagged. There were many, many arrow slits in the walls, all of which had shutters that were closed.

The party was thoroughly freaked out. They made a mad dash through the hallway.  The arrow slit shutters opened and 4 kenku opened fire on our heroes.

That's where we had to stop. We were out of time!

It was a very awesome session, better than last week and the best of the campaign so far.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Great Modron March - Politics of the Beasts


Last night, we played through chapter 4 of the classic Planescape adventure The Great Modron March. We tried some really weird twizzlers - strawberry lemonade. The goo inside is a little unsettling.

We got right down to business.

The Party

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

Downtime Carousing

The City of Sigil
Theran returned from his solo adventure (Jessie couldn't make it last week). We decided that Bidam couldn't go because he had "the shits." Yes, it's that kind of game.

Bidam spent his time in the bathroom while Alamandra the githzerai talked through the door about Zerthimon. Alamandra also brought up that her githzerai superiors had told her that the march would soon travel through Limbo, home of the githzerai. She thought that the heroes might be able to make some money leading the march through the chaos of Limbo.

Theran returned to their home in the Clerk's Ward of Sigil with his new friend Xaldra Miloni. A month passed (where the PCs paid their lifestyle cost - I want to make sure I use downtime as much as possible, as I really like it). Then Xaldra decided to take a trip to the gate town of Sylvania and invited the heroes along.

What followed was a month of drinking and partying with elves, humans who worshiped Greek gods, and bariaurs (half-goat people). I had them roll on the carousing table in the DMG a few times. I'd prepared some stuff as well.

Theran at one point woke up in a strange place and found he'd been robbed of 50 gp. He then went on a drunken gambling spree and made most of it back. He met some elves from the nearby plane of Arborea and learned about an evil place there called Lolth's Grove, where there were giant spiders and banshees.

Bidam lives by the life philosophy of "hit it and quit it." He won some gambling money, and then rolled "you have made an enemy" on the carousing chart. It played out like this. Bidam started drinking with a beautiful lady in a toga (she was a worshiper of the greek gods). She thought Bidam had "the raw masculinity of the cyclops". They went back to her place and messed around. Then, a man named Titanicus exploded into the room in a jealous rage. Titanicus was her brother... and her lover! He punched Bidam, who ran away as fast as he could.

Pristine Lake

After 30 days of debauchery, the adventurers returned home. I dropped the adventure hook on them. A friend of theirs who was following the march in The Beastlands had been bitten by an aeserpent and had fallen into a coma. There was a possible cure - a nymph in The Beastlands could heal him. The heroes decided to go there to meet with the nymph.

This adventure structure might annoy some players. Basically, it goes like this. The modrons are blown off-course by a mortai (a living cloud) and are polluting a river with their oil. Dogs and druids won't let them alter their course. The heroes have to:
  1. Talk to the water nymph, who is dying from the pollution. She is unable to aid the heroes until this is done.
  2. Talk to the modrons
  3. Talk to the dogs
  4. Talk to the druids
  5. Realize that they need to go talk to a wemic (lion/centaur) tribe.
  6. Talk to the wemics, who say that the group has to get permission from the winged elves.
  7. Talk to the winged elves, who say they need to talk to the mortai who blew the modrons..
  8. The mortai says he was told to do all of this.. by the nymph. It just turns out that the modrons ended up in the river, which is the very thing she was trying to avoid. 
  9. Go right back to the start and get permission from the nymph, and then get permission from the mortai, etc.
Certain players will find this amusing. If not run carefully, some will find it annoying.

Beast Pox

The modron march goes off course
I mitigated this by running this more as an exploration of the cool stuff in the Beastlands. The Beastlands are a plane where mundane animals reign. There is a ruler of each type of animal - a dog lord, a cat lord, etc.

Shortly after the heroes arrived, I had the beast pox kick in. This is a sort of beastlands affliction that makes people become more like the animal their soul represents. This means I had to pick an animal for each of them:
  • Theran: An owl. His eyes got bigger and he could turn his head all the way around.
  • Bidam: A dog. His snout changed and his sense of smell increased.
They were a bit freaked out by this transformation. Theran immediately decided to consult his mimir, the golden lion skull he'd been given by the mayor of Heart's Faith. The mimir can give information. It explained the beast pox to them, and they continued to consult the mimir for lore throughout the adventure.

Following the Chain
Wemics
The adventurers made sure to keep their eyes closed when they met with the nymph, They'd heard looking at her could cause death. In this case, she was so messed up from the modron oil in her river that her powers weren't working.

They caught up to the modrons and were unsuccessful in convincing the dogs and the druids to let the modrons pass.

The heroes backtracked and went to find the wemics who had forced the modrons into the river. Along the way, a puma petitioner beegan to stalk them. A petitioner is a human in the prime material that had died and, in this case, been reborn as a puma in the beastlands. He did not remember his life, but he did remember some spells he used to cast.

The puma cast detect magic and saw the heroes had magic items. The puma demanded that Theran hand them over. He tried to cast a command spell on Bidam, but Bidam shook it off. The puma fled as the heroes rushed it.

The heroes met with the wemics, who directed them to Ilifar-in-the-Wing, home of the avariel (winged elves). This is quite interesting, because one of the villains in my Elemental Evil game is linked to the avariel.

Ilifar-in-the-Wind


The avariel are really pleasant and friendly. They gave the heroes an audience with their prince, after the "revels". The heroes were guests of honor and were fed, danced with, and then featured in a magic light show that featured an image of their glowing faces merging with their beast pox animals, which they found a little unnerving.

Breath of Life

Then it was on to the mortai, who is awesome and has great descriptive text. Here is an example:

"Once the PCs call out the name “Breath of Life,” the lightning stops and a face forms in the darkened cloud above them. The stern and wrath-filled face that peers from the cloud should be enough to make even the bravest hero cower. However, the being‘s anger isn’t directed at the party, and the face speaks but one word with the echoing boom of the thunder: 'Bide.'"

Once they realized they had to go back to the nymph just to get a token of her will, they were a bit annoyed. It was also a race against time, as their friend in the coma wouldn't live long, and the nymph also would die within a week (It had been two days so far).

As the heroes walked back, they came upon a zebra herd. Bidam held out some food, and with a good check he was able to befriend and ride a zebra.

Theran wasn't as lucky. He repulsed every zebra he approached. All of them fled, save for a zebra runt. Theran was able to befriend and ride this little fellow.

Now with mounts, they could get back more speedily. As they made their way to the river, the puma petitioner stalked them and pounced! It knocked Theran from his saddle. He blasted it with a fire bolt that staggered the creature.

The puma tried to use a command spell to make Bidam flee, but again Bidam resisted. It leapt up onto a tree branch. Theran blasted it with a second fire bolt, killing it.

Bidam skinned it and plans to use the puma pelt to trick out her room in the clerk's ward, maybe making a bed covering out of the pelt.

There was a montage of riding zebras and going back to each of the factions again. Breath of Life was extra-helpful, showing up to rain on the river, washing away the modron pollution but making an eye in the storm so that the heroes wouldn't get wet.

The modrons were able to resume their course. At last, the heroes could return to the nymph to get the cure for the poison.

The Nymph

The heroes returned to the nymph, covering their eyes, and the eyes of their zebras. The nymph was restored, and most pleased. She gave them a vial of pure water that would cure the poison.

I rolled randomly to see which hero she liked more (in general, nymphs are attracted to people with an 18 charisma of chaotic and good alignments). It was Theran. She cut off a lock of her hair and put it in his hand, and she told him it was magic. The heroes thanked her and left. Bidam vowed one day to return to the nymph to attempt to woo her (not the language he used).

As they made their way back to the portal, Theran asked the mimir about nymphs. I used this opportunity to dump a bunch of factoids I'd dug up about nymph stats:
  • The lock of hair could be used either to make a powerful sleep potion, or you could weave it into your clothes to get a +1 to Charisma!
  • A woman who bathes in a nymph pool gains a +2 to charisma until they bathe again.
  • A nymph's kiss causes the recipient to forget all painful and troubling memories for the rest of the day.
  • Looking at a nymph can cause blindness.
  • If she disrobes or you see her nude body, you make a saving throw or DIE.
Next time, the plan is for our heroes to ride out their beastpox, use some downtime to maybe work on a magic item, and then go through chapter five, which seems a bit similar to the chapter where the modrons were abducted.

It was a good session. I like this adventure, though the DM might need to gloss over certain parts and add in encounters where needed.

Continue on to chapter 5, where Bidam runs afoul of a crystal ball...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Nightmare

Today we're going to take a look at another classic D&D monster - the Nightmare. It's an evil, flying black horse with flaming hooves. A nightmare is the perfect mount for the main villain of your campaign.

Real Life Origin

There doesn't seem to be one main source that nightmares were taken from. There's a bunch of theories as to what might have inspired their creation:
  • A "mare" is another word for horse, so it could have been just a creative connection someone came up with.
  • The french word for a nightmare is "cauchemar", which translates as "a spirit that tramples". In 3rd edition, there's a tougher version of a nightmare known as a cauchemar.
  • The Greek god Helios had a chariot driven by "fire-darting steeds" named Pyrios, Aeos, Aethon and Phlegon. Others claim the horses to be named Abraxas, Aethiops, Eous, Bronte and Sterope. Bronte and Sterope are known as "Thunder and Lightning".
  • "Nightmare" in italian translates to "incubo", or "incubus", which leads to this next point...
  • They may also be linked to sleep paralysis, where the victim claims to have encountered a "nightmare" (a night hag). Check out this article on sleep paralysis and the incubus.
AD&D 1st Edition

This is one powerful creature. It has an AC of -4 (for newer players, in 5th edition terms that's an AC of around 24)! It has three attacks and is highly intelligent.
  • They are ridden by demons, devils and night hags. Sometimes they are also ridden by spectres (?), vampires or liches."...gaunt and skeletal with a huge head, glowing red eyes, flaming orange nostrils, and hooves which burn like embers."
  • During combat they create smoking clouds that cause a penalty to hit and damage.
  • They can fly, become ethereal and travel the astral plane.
  • Without a rider, they attack material beings out of pure hatred.
Escape from Thunder Rift

I don't have this adventure, but I was able to dig up some information. The lesser nightmare 3e stats are here. Apparently the lesser nightmare was also in the 3rd edition Planar Handbook, which I also do not own.

From what I can tell, the elesser nightmare has little in common with a true nightmare. It's actually undead and, from what I can see, can't fly. It might just be an undead horse.

AD&D 2nd Edition

In 2e, nightmares were detailed in the outer planes appendix and then updated slightly in the Planescape Monstrous compendium.
  • They communicate to each other through "empathy". They can understand commands from evil riders.
  • They don't need food or air.
  • While they will gleefully serve as a mount for any mission involving evil, nightmares will do what they want, sort of like an evil, intelligent magic item.
  • Calling on a nightmare can be done of wizards 5th level and higher. The wizard has to cast mount, then monster summoning III, and then wall of fog. Then the nightmare must be fed oat-like flakes of platinum worth at least 200 gp. Then the wizard is its master for 72 hours.
  • Once per decade in the plane of The Gray Waste (aka Hades), there's a Gloom Meet - a gathering of lower planar creatures to plan evil deeds. Nightmares have the job of spreading the word of a Gloom Meet. The nightmares "ride the planes in a terrifying charge that notifies all that the Gloom Meet has started."
  • When nightmares die of 'natural causes', they travel to the Hill of Bone in the Gray Wastes to die. There, the skulls of the dead nightmares call out to their living brethren.
Secrets of the Lamp

Steam racing Eversmoke
This is a boxed set about genies that contains an awesome adventure involving nightmares. I love this adventure (and boxed set), and it is the main reason I wrote this article. The scenario, called "In the City of Brass", is in the adventure book.

In the City of Brass in the Plane of Elemental Fire, the sultan of the efreet has an annual event known as The Sultan's Steeplechase. It is a race on a racetrack where any mount is can be ridden (no flying, though).

The race includes some really weird mounts:
  • A djinn prince riding a snow-white buraq (a "horse of heaven" with a human face).
  • A dao riding a black lamia (yes, a woman with a lion's lower half.).
  • Other genies riding giant, red-headed lizards.
The heroes end up the guests/prisoners of a genie named Miraz, who is in love with one of the party. Miraz owns an albino nightmare named Steam. "Steam is a magnificent silvery-white, albino nightmare. When the foal was born white, Miraz knew that he should give the animal to the Sultan, who prizes such animals greatly. But he couldn't bring himself to do it, despite his better judgement."

There's a whole convoluted escape scenario. Things are meant to end up where the Sultan decrees that a hero must ride Steam and race Miraz, who rides a nightmare named Eversmoke, through the City of Brass.

We are given a pile of fun race rules and situations, including obstacles to be jumped, crowded streets, and "slippery trash". Spells are allowed, so of course the jerk Miraz casts wall of fire in front of our poor PC.

I ran this way back when, modified. I actually had a PC participate in the steeplechase, and it was really great - one of the best sessions of the whole campaign.

Dragon Magazine #234: Bazaar of the Bizarre - Lich Magical Items

This article details a pile of lich magic items, including this:

Nightmare Harness: This is a magic harness that summons a nightmare in d4 rounds, who willingly serves as a mount. If the nightmare is slain while summoned in this way, the harness crumbles to dust.

The harness is studded with platinum and precious gems which burn with an inner fire. If you try to steal a gem off of the harness, you're plagued with dreams about being chased by a nightmare. Each night you lose 1 point of strength and constitution! This happens every night until you hit 0 in one of those stats and die.

D&D 3rd Edition

There's two types of Nightmares in the monster manual. There's nightmares, and there are "cauchemars".

Regular nightmares are similar to older versions. Here they now officially have flaming hooves that set "combustable materials alight".

A caushemar is bigger (huge instead of large). It has a 26 AC and +15 to hit. Wow.

Fiendish Codex II. Tyrants of the Nine Hells
In this book is a monster known as a narzugon. It's human-sized and wears spiked plate armor. If you see a narzugon's face, you see your own fears (giving you the "shaken" condition.

Narzugons are the elite cavalry of the devil army. They ride nightmares, who they captured and tamed. The narzugons have cold iron lances, which he charges with. Narzugons often go on missions to recover evil items or to destroy temples of good.


D&D 4th Edition

In the 4e cosmology, nightmares dwell in the Shadowfell. Mortals who survive a nightmare attack actually suffer from bad dreams... or nightmares.
  • They gather in packs and hunt in the Shadowfell and "lonely roads of the world". 
  • A powerful evil creature who wants a nightmare for a mount needs to defeat it in combat. 
  • Riders gain the nightmare's fire resistance.
If killed, the nightmare's flames gutter out and all that remains is a mane and a tail of ash that quickly disperses.

D&D 5th Edition

The nightmare's AC is down to a reasonable 13 now. It continues to grant fire resistance to its rider. It can take a rider and up to 3 willing creatures to the Ethereal Plane.
  • Summoning it now requires "a worthy sacrifice". 
  • This is very disturbing. Where do nightmares comes from? They are created from a pegasus! Transforming a pegasus into a nightmare involves "...the torturous removal of a pegasus's wings".
Using Nightmares in Your Campaign

How weird is it that Venger from the old D&D cartoon rode a nightmare? He has wings! What is he, lazy?

It seems like Nightmares are under-used. I dug quite a bit, but this was all the material I could find on them. Here's some ways to use nightmares in your game:

  • Rescuing a pegasus from some dirtbag who wants to turn it into a nightmare seems like a really cool session.
  • The whole concept of the Gloom Meet begs for exploration. The nightmares rampage across the planes alerting everyone of the impending meet. Maybe your heroes need to trick a nightmare herd into taking them to the meet?
  • A trip to The Gray Waste to explore where nightmares go to die seems like an awesome idea for an adventure.
  • I would highly recommend the "albino nightmare" concept. Nightmares are already special, the idea of one even more special makes it very valuable.
  • An honor-bound narzugon riding a nightmare tries to take down a church of a good deity. Perhaps the whole thing culminates in a joust.
  • I get a kick out of the idea of the PCs riding pegasi battling people riding nightmares. Maybe throw unicorns in the mix somehow?
  • Having your villain ride a nightmare seems like a good idea. This allows the bad guy to fly and look super-cool.
Hack and slash has a great article on the ecology of nightmares which is overflowing with cool ideas here. My favorite idea from this is the concept of "Daymares". Just the name alone makes me laugh out loud.

This thread on enworld provided me some information on the origins of the nightmare.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Scarlet Moon Hall

We had 5 tables going once again at the game store tonight. I encouraged some of the other tables to give themselves a group name. The group that is still in episode 4 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen christened themselves the "Butts". The group that has gone completely off-script and are now playing a Freeport adventure are known as the "Semi-Aquatic Weasels".

I cooked up some more spell-infused trinkets:
  • Owlbear Ragdoll of Holding: This Ragdoll has an opening in its belly that acts as a bag of holding. Inside the bag is a tiny forest demiplane that is home to an owlbear. The owlbear will only hand out items when fed.
  • Pewter Clasp: This clasp is charred and glows as if smoldering, but gives out no heat. Once per day the wielder can cast pyrotechnics.
  • Enchanted Flint and Steel: This flint and steel makes fire of random colors. Three times per day you can cast create bonfire with it.
  • Gauntlet of Zaaman Rul: This gauntlet bears the symbol of Zaamn Rul, The god prince of elemental fire. Once per day it can cast Aganazzar's scorcher.
My goal tonight was to get the party to Scarlet Moon Hall, which is the fire cult outpost. I hoped to get them to the set piece encounter, involving a giant burning wicker man. I was excited, as I like Scarlet Moon Hall and, once it's done, we will finally actually get in to the Temple itself!

The Party
  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck". Her character loves ghost peppers.
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad. He has a scottish accent and worships Ilmater.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler. Wants to be evil, but Adventurer's League rules restrict this. Has a dog.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Worships Helm. Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: A new player. Taking to the game very well.
The Mines
Owlbear Ragdoll
The adventurers had met the lich in the Scared Stone Monastery. They left him alone, and continued to explore the mines underneath. They entered a room where an ogre named Drool and three orogs were beating up a fire cultist. The fire cult had just attacked this place and been defeated.

An orog demanded the secret sign, and the party paladin immediately gave them the triangle symbol. He had paid attention!

The heroes decided to join in on the pummeling. They sliced the poor guy with a halberd, cut both of his achilles tendons, and then shot him in the heart. Then they put an arrow in the corpse's head. The party cleric was disgusted. He ended up casting spare the dying on the poor guy at the first chance.

The ogre had found a magic item - the owlbear ragdoll of holding. He was baffled by the weird forest demiplane inside, and the owlbear. Lucky went over and ended up climbing in. She made friends with the owlbear (I believe her friends list in D&D is up to 10 NPCs now). The ogre stuck his head in and watched. His face was gigantic in the sky. His drool fell from his mouth and created a tidal wave. Lucky climbed a tree to save herself.

The adventurers had seen enough. They attacked the orogs. A rogue fired an arrow at the owlbear ragdoll, shooting it out of the ogre's hands. Squirrel Man, the squirrel with magic miniature armor, was launched at an orog. Squirrel man tried to climb into the orog's nose.

Lucky climbed out of the owlbear ragdoll and slapped the ogre in the face, which made him mad. A rogue ran over and sliced the ogre's achilles tendon, and then the bard cast Tasha's hideous laughter on him.

Once the bad guys were dealt with, the cleric chastised the party for being so vicious. The player is Lucky's dad in real life. In the previous campaign, he played a very violent rogue. Now he is playing a super-nice character, which I like.

The heroes explored further and found 17 prisoners. They freed them. It turned out that one of the prisoners was Bruldenthar, a dwarf from the Mirabar Delegation. He told the adventurers about how the delegation had been captured by the earth cultists, and how the air cult had stolen a prisoner from them. Bruldenthar believed that the rest of the delegation was being kept in a place called... The Temple of Elemental Evil.

The Heat Wave
The adventurers left the Monastery and decided to bring the prisoners to Red Larch, where they would be safe.

A heat wave had hit. I had some hell hounds track them. The heroes heard howling and saw scorched paw prints. The hounds attacked at night when the heroes camped.

Attacking PCs when they are sleeping is always weird. Who sleeps in their armor? Is it even possible to sleep in plate mail? I generally just let them do it, because honestly they're in big trouble if they don't have their armor. The hell hounds are tough!

The hounds made awesome stealth checks and took the party completely by surprise. A tent was set on fire and heroes were mauled. Two PCs actually were dropped early on in the battle. The adventurers won out. I made sure to say that when slain, the hounds became a pile of ash, as I'd just read their entry in the monster manual prior to the game.

Poison!

A few days later, the heroes returned to Red Larch, to deposit the prisoners and regroup. There was all sorts of Red Larchery:
  • They saw a bunch of kids pretending to be the heroes from Tyranny of dragons, re-enacting the "gem floating over a lake" encounter of Xonthal's Tower.
  • Minsc and Boo met the heroes in a tavern. Minsc decided that his hamster should battle Squirrel Man to see who was tougher. As far as I know, Boo is just a normal hamster, so he was in big trouble. Squirrel Man kept rolling low, though, so basically Squirrel Man would leap at Boo, but Boo would lean over to grab a nut and Squirrel Man would fly right by. Lucky helped out by giving Boo a seed tainted by a ghost pepper. This staggered the hamster, which allowed Squirrel Man to deliver a piledriver to end the battle.
  • Really the point of this bar trip was to run the "poison ale" encounter. There's a water cult spy in Red Larch who wants revenge for the heroes destroying Rivergard Keep. When you're running an encounter like this, you can't just say 'you're in a bar and a guy buys you drinks - do you drink it?' It's too obvious in a meta-game way. You have to throw a number of details and questions at them, all benign, so that way the poison ale doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.
So I had the owner of The Swinging Sword buy them a round of (safe, normal) drinks and asked the players, "Do you drink it?" They did. Then I had people come up and talk to them, stuff like that. Then I hit them with this Justran guy, who bought them a round of (poison) drinks. Well played, I thought.

But my players were too savvy! They all immediately felt something was up and they checked their drinks. The guy got nervous, and ended up trying to run but got hit with a blindness spell. He ran into a wall.

The characters roughed him up, and he admitted he was with the water cult and that Gar Shatterkeel would destroy them all. The guy was placed in the custody of Harburk, the constable.

The heroes picking out the poison ale was, in my opinion. an example of "good play". I did my job in trying to avoid meta-game pitfalls, and they succeeded in the encounter thanks simply to being on their toes.

The Haze at Scarlet Moon Hall

The heroes had learned from the fire cultist they saved that the fire cult was up to no good at the Scarlet Moon Monastery. The next day, the heroes headed for the place.

It's a really cool location. The fire cult is disguised as druids. They are claiming they're going to do a ritual to end the heat wave, and have invited other druids and people to join in. Really, they're recruiting for the fire cult.

The place is on a hill. There's a lot of bonfires on the hill, which creates a haze over the whole place (lightly obscured). At the top of the hill is a tower and a giant wicker man, on fire.

At each bonfire are some NPCs. Some are actually good guys who think the ritual is legit. Others are cultists or bad guys that the cult is trying to recruit.

The adventurers met some druids and their elk. The druids were friendly. Lucky fed an elk a ghost pepper, which didn't go so well.

The heroes went up the hill, and met two hairy guys hanging out by a bonfire. They gave the adventurers the stink eye and told them to move along. A party rogue started arguing with them and a fight broke out. The cleric chastised the rogue.

These hairy dudes were werewolves! I was hoping a PC would get bit and get the curse of lycanthropy. I thought that might be fun. But I rolled low.

Lucky kept hugging the werewolves (remember, her player is 9 years old) and she got upset when the rogue killed one of them.

She wanted to befriend them, but they both ended up dead. There was a bit of a squabble between players over this, which sort of illustrated the slight issue in the group - some of the players just want to play grim vigilante type characters, while others want to be a bit more subtle. Everyone is generally very willing to let Lucky do her fun stuff, but sometimes things like this pop up.

It was an above average session, maybe the best one that we've had since the campaign started. Next week we will have the big wicker man battle and we should also actually get into the Temple itself!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Great Modron March - Ambushed

We went through the third chapter of The Great Modron March tonight. I had to make a tough call. Jessie couldn't make it, which means I'd be running this for one character. I decided to go ahead and do it. Growing up, one of the best campaigns I ever ran was a solo Al Qadim game. We'd have players jump in sometimes, but most of the time it was just a single rogue.

One DM and one player is a great opportunity to let your hair down and really dig in to find out more about a character.

The Party

Theran - Elf Wizard

Treasure

We left off last time in Heart's Faith, a town in the lawful good plane of Celestia. The heroes had helped stall the modron march so that the people could get out of the way.

Theran slept. The mayor, a lamassu named Lebes, returned to Heart's Faith and rewarded the heroes for their efforts. He gave them some magic items that I'd pulled from the Planewalker's Handbook:

  • Mimir: A mimir is an enchanted skull that can answer questions about the planes.
  • Bottled Breath:  A glass vial holding enchanted air that you could breathe. It is an item to help a PC who stumbles into a toxic planar environment.
  • Planar Compass: This is a little hollow globe. It can point you to planar portals if you have an item from a plane. For example, if you put a pebble from hell in it, the globe can lead you to a portal to hell.
 The Next Leg of the March

Heart's Faith had a portal hovering over the water that led to the gate town of Excelsior. The modrons had built a bridge to it and marched through. The modrons marched through that town and were making their way across the outlands to the gate town of Tradegate.

Word came through that a paladin in Excelsior was looking for help. He wanted to protect the modrons from an evil band of knights called the Tacharim. The Tacharim were snatching modrons and doing who-knows-what with them.

Theran decided to go and help. He went through the portal and met Sir Vaimish, the paladin leader. The paladin's plan was to place guards along the length of the modrons to try to stop the Tacharim raids.

Theran was paired up with an NPC rogue named Xaldra Miloni. She's an NPC that plays into a future chapter. I decided to use an awesome recent piece of Tony DiTerlizzi art to represent her:

Xaldra has a displacer beast cub - a runt that will never grow fully. The beast is afraid of everyone and everything. She keeps her pet in a satchel bag. Xaldra would travel with Theran, as every solo adventurer deserves an NPC helper.

Theran saw that modron march had attracted attention from the people of the Outlands. A lot of people (grateful dead-types) were following the march, getting drunk and partying. Or, as it says in the book: "Some see it as a pilgrimage to learn a great truth, and some see it as a big moving party."

I had cooked up some march followers for our hero to interact with. I used this as a way to introduce a few more factions.

Xaositects - Crazy people who believe in chaos. They try to make the modrons go rogue. These two were near Theran's section of the march:
  • Pack-of-One: This man thinks he's a dog
  • Bug-Eyed-Bitch: She is a scary woman who screams insults at the modrons.
Free League - This faction is of people who don't believe in any of the factions and are very wary of them. They watch each others backs, and actually have the power to resist charm magic to a degree.
  • Rodina - A thoughtful Rilmani.
  • Karris - A fancy bariaur musician.
  • Dina Valder - A very aggressive tiefling with a lot of tattoos.
  • Stewart 7-fingers - A tiefling wizard with 7 fingers on each hand. He had a new spell from the Planewalker's Handbook - know faction. He ended up teaching it to Theran.
There was also a bariaur merchant named Giscorl, who pulled a wheeled stall behind him. He sold food, blankets and alcohol to the march followers.

I cooked up a couple of incidents for Theran to deal with, so we could learn about Theran's beliefs and award him some belief points.
  • Giscorl the merchant tried to steal a ring from Pack-of-One. Giscorl figured the man thought he was a dog and thus had no need for valuables. Theran made Giscorl leave the guy alone.
  • Bug-Eyed-Bitch got into it with Dina Valder after Dina said some awful things to her, Theran saved Dina by buying Bug-Eyed-Bitch some booze.
Theran ended up talking with Stewart, trading notes on what the other knew about modrons. Theran learned that when a modron is killed, it is immediately reborn in Mechanus as a monodrone. This causes other random modrons to be promoted.

So, if a tridrone dies, it is reborn as a monodrone in Mechanus. Somewhere, a duodrone becomes a tridrone, and a monodrone becomes a duodrone.

The Tacharim Raids

That night, the Tacharim attacked. They rode horses and were accompanied by three hounds made partly of shadow. Theran killed one of the hounds, but the Tacharim were able to snatch three modrons and rode off with them.

The following day, 20 Tacharim stole a bunch of modrons and threw them in a cart. Sir Vaimish asked Theran and Xaldra to follow them. Vaimish noted to them that his sister, Greir, had infiltrated the Tacharim, so they should keep their eyes peeled.

The Rendering Works

The heroes came to the Tacharim's place. There was a watchtower, some shacks and a main building. Under cover of night, the heroes crept up the watchtower, killed the guard up there and took his tabard. The tabard bore the symbol of the Tacharim, a purple flower.

Then they crept up to a window in the main building. Inside, they saw a horrid scene. Modrons were hanging from chains as workers tore the metal parts from their bodies. They also spotted some pits with grates over them - likely prisoner holding areas.

The heroes took count of the bad guys in the room - 10 workers and 3 guards. Theran told Xaldra he wanted to blow this entire place up (which is funny because there is a way to do just that in this adventure).

The pair decided to wait near the weird shacks to see if anyone else came out of the building. They needed another Tacharim uniform. Eventually, a knight came out with a sack - he was coming to feed the hounds that were in the shack! The heroes jumped the knight and cut him down. They threw the food to the hounds to shut them up.

The heroes talked a bit and ended up deciding to go on the attack. Xaldra knocked on the front door and Theran fired a spell through the side window. There was a brief battle. The 10 workers in the room were non-combatants. They turned to run by Xaldra trained her crossbow on them. Theran quickly looked into the pits - he saw a bunch of modrons and a beautiful woman - it was Greir, Vaimish's sister! She'd been found out and thrown in a prison pit.

Theran freed them all. Greir quickly told Theran hat the Tacharim had captured the modrons in order to tear off their mechanical parts, to try to graft them onto their own bodies! Because modrons vanish when killed, they had to be kept alive, even after their parts had been torn off. Theran was sickened.

The freed modrons suddenly talked to each other in modron-speak (which, I like to say, sounds like a dial-up modem connecting to the internet). The modrons transformed, combining into one giant modron (this is a concept I took from a 4e article). The ultra-modron attacked the 10 workers, stomping around and creating quite a clamor.

Theran raced down a hall and saw some doors with warnings about flammable contents. There are, in fact, three rooms right next to each other in this place that contained explosive alchemy ingredients.

Theran and his allies quickly set up a barrel as bad guys poured down the steps of the second floor. Theran and the rogues ran  to the front door. He cast a fire bolt at the barrel, igniting it and causing a chain reaction of massive explosions. He and the rogues ran and outraced the massive fireball that resulted.

They watched as the place burned, hoping that perhaps some loot had survived. But there was something moving. Greir remembered that one of the Tacharim, a priest of Set, had a mercenary side-kick: a fire grue!

The Fire Grue

The fire grue stepped out of the inferno unscathed. He trained a magic flaming crossbow at them. He ranted and raved about how much he loved this job, and that he was going to make them pay! Theran hit him with an ice bolt, that staggered and enraged the grue. He shot Theran with a fiery bolt and then teleported into the blazing inferno.

The grue was standing in a fire to melt the ice. He screamed threats at the heroes.

Theran listened carefully (perception check) and crept near the blaze. He pin-pointed the grue's location, and fired another ray of frost at him - an he rolled a natural 20! The grue shrieked, and was vanquished. His magic crossbow clattered to the ground. Theran took it.

Theran and the two rogues made their way back to the march. Vaimish was happy to see his sister safe and thanked Theran. The rest of the march to Tradegate was Tacharim-free, and Theran was considered something of a celebrity to the paladins and the march followers.

This solo game went really well. George, Theran's player, rolled high all night and he was more than up to the challenge of taking on the Tacharim on his own.

I am really looking forward to the next chapter, as it is a really fun adventure.

Click here to go on to chapter 4, where the return of Bidam leads to "ribald" adventures in Sylvania and a pretty epic trip to The Beastlands to heal an ailing nymph.