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Monday, February 8, 2016

Dead Gods - Deepest Pandemonium

Tonight we played through what I think is the most important chapter in all of Dead Gods. This is the session in which the heroes find the Wand of Orcus.

I upped the ante a bit by changing the adventure slightly - I decided to have Orcus show up to try to stop them from destroying his wand! If Orcus can get his wand back, he will become a full-fledged demon lord again.

I was counting on a couple things going into this chapter. There's a good chance that a PC will die while destroying the wand. I placed a clue in an earlier part of the session to try to help the heroes avoid that fate.

I knew also that the heroes could break the Orcusword. Doing so staggers Orcus for 1-3 hours. He can't do anything. So, as long as they remembered that, they could survive.

In Dead Gods, Orcus is a lich-thing - a weaker version of himself. He obtained this power called The Last Word. With it, he can kill anyone, even a god, just by speaking it. I added in a detail:  Once spoken, the Last Word takes days to recharge. That's how I explained away why Orcus wouldn't just speak the word and kill the heroes instantly.

I basically used Orcus stats from Out of the Abyss. I added in the madness checks and the Orcus custom madness chart.

The Party

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

Greyhawk

The heroes had helped the drow in Erelhei-Cinlu. They returned the favor by bringing the group and the two slaves they freed to a merchant house. A drow mage used the teleport circle there to send the heroes to Greyhawk.

I used the 2e "Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess" book to flesh out the city. This book is hard to use, as every single page reference just says "see chapter 3, FFF." No page numbers!

The group appeared in a circle in the Sage's Guild, made friends with the shocked sages (who trade the drow merchants for herbs and mushrooms on occasion), and headed out into the city.

Their pifwafwis (magic drow cloaks) immediately disintegrated. Theran instantly figured it was due to the sunlight (George was really sharp tonight).

They returned the slaves to their grandfather, a locksmith, and asked around about finding a way home. They were told that a great wizard spent a lot of time at The Green Dragon Inn.

This inn was founded by Lord Robilar, one of the first real-life D&D characters. Gary Gygax's character Mordenkainen hangs out there.

Mordenkainen
Bidam and Theran entered the inn and spotted Mordenkainen sitting alone at a table studying a three-level chessboard. They had a tense discussion (Theran was heavily disguised, being an elf who looks like a drow and all...).

Mordenkainen took an interest in the Orcusword, and decided to play Theran in a game of dragonchess. Dragonchess is an actual game invented by Gary Gygax, printed in Dragon issue #100 and #400.

Dragon Chess
Theran actually almost won (we played it out with a few arcana rolls). Mordenkainen was impressed with Theran's intellect and he wanted to study the heroes' items, so he took them on his flying carpet to the Wizards Guildhall.

The Wizards Guilhall is a building shaped like a pyramid where wizards study magic. The more advanced the magic student, the higher up in the pyramid they live. The very top is said to hold a treasure vault with a pile of magic items. Mordenkainen has a laboratory on the level just below that.

Mordenkainen studied the Orcusword and told the heroes that, if shattered, it would stagger Orcus. He taught them some of his spells:
  • Bidam learned Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion
  • Theran learned Mordenkainen's Lucubration (lets you recall a spell you already cast).
In Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, Mordenkainen has a magic item: The Silver Key. It can open portals four times a day! He found it in a temple of "Dalt, God of Portals and Enclosures." How perfect is that?

Mordenkainen knew of a portal to Sigil in Greyhawk, so he brought the heroes to it and activated it with the silver key. He wished them well in their battle against Orcus.

Sigil

We blew through a bunch of side-plots real quick:
  • The magic door in their festhall is now making noises. You can hear a heartbeat coming from it if you press your ear to it.
  • Fall-From-Grace, the succubus paladin, had researched the Last Word on her own and told the heroes about it. The now knew how Orcus had been killing gods.
Bidam also finished creating his artifact - The Heart of the Lady of Pain. He had to fill three sensory stones with memories relating to the three building blocks of love:
  1. Acceptance: Giving the nascent demon lord Bazuuma love despite her 20 hideous eyes.
  2. Understanding: Learning at last that the drow Erehe had hid the Wand of Orcus in Pandemonium.
  3. Appreciation: The twin experiences of sleeping in the goblin pile in the drow city, and appreciating the aid of the great wizard Mordenkainen
I guess Bidam will give the heart to the Lady of Pain next session, which will be fun.

Fall From Grace by Sir Tiefling
Fall From Grace joined the party. I like her and I wanted the group to have a healer NPC, as things were likely to get rough in the final area of this session.

I gave her an item from Planescape Torment: The Chastity Bodice. It magically keeps itself clean and mends any tears on its own. A few times in this session, Bidam told Fall From Grace to kiss enemies. Fall from Grace's kiss kills. She refused to do it, fearing that it would lead her down a dark path.

Pandemonium

The group used a portal to enter the plane of Pandemonium. It's a plane of tunnels, filled with strong winds and the sound of both maddening laughter and screams in the distance. When traveling, the gravity works in a way where you can walk on the walls or ceiling.

The heroes start on the first layer of Pandemonium. They need to get to the 4th. The way the heroes are intended to get there involves interacting a traveling circus called the Cynosure.

The Cynosure
In this adventure, the heroes are meant to stumble on The Cynosure (which is a collective of carts and a floating fortress that wanders the plane). The group can watch a show, meet some NPCs, and learn how to get to other levels of the plane. The heroes can sit in the fortress and observe a circus show and see all sorts of stuff, including a clue as to how to safely destroy the wand. There's even an encounter where the adventurers fight an owlbear.

But this is D&D, and you never know what's going to happen. Here's what the group did: They let the Cynosure pass them by! They thought it was suspicious and decided to just leave the whole thing alone.

I thought that the group would keep wandering, slowly succumb to the madness of the plane and eventually turn back to seek out The Cynosure. But Theran remembered his planar compass, which directs you to the nearest portal. He also had the warp sense spell, which identifies portals and their keys.

So basically, the heroes found where they needed to go while skipping a huge section of the adventure.

They ended up in a tavern in a keep on another layer of Pandemonium, with a whole bunch of shady customers. The point here is for the heroes to find out about a way to get to the 4th layer - a creature called The Ingress can take them there. But there's all these bad guys here, and they don't want anyone else knowing about the Ingress. There's a cool piece of art depicting these weird bad guys.

The Ormyrr is the Jabba the Hut guy with four arms
A huge fight broke out. The heroes pummeled these guys with some creative and goofy attacks:
  • Theran stuck his wand of magic missiles in an Ormyrr's anus and opened fire.
  • Bidam farted into his mage hand and gave the leader what he calls a "cup of cheese."
  • Then Bidam finished the leader off by crushing his balls with a mage hand of his own.
The heroes then made their way to the Ingress, a big blobby monster with little helper-spawns. The creatures ate all the food the heroes had (including potions!) and then turned the heroes to liquid and brought them to the fourth layer - where the Wand of Orcus was waiting.

The Wand of Orcus

The group appeared in a dark, silent cavern. Bones and skulls littered the floor throughout the complex. An agent of Orcus was lurking here - his name was Quah-Nomag. The agent did his best to confuse and delay the group, knowing that the visages and Orcus himself were on the way.

Theran noticed that the golden circlet he'd taken from Tcian Sumere was pulsing. He knew that meant that the wand was near.

Quah-Nomag was invisible and flying, and ultimately he attacked the group with a cone of cold spell. He tried to flee, but Bidam stopped him cold with a Tasha's hideous laughter spell. The group took him out. It turned out this was Quah's astral form - his mortal body was on some prime material world.

During the battle, Theran used his wand of darkness to animate the bones on the floor into a skeletal servant.

The group wanted to take a short rest. But 5 minutes into it, visages appeared and attacked. The visages used their lucidity control to make the heroes think a huge modron march was trampling through the area.

The battle was difficult, but the heroes prevailed.

They wandered the caves, eventually coming upon the main area. The wand of Orcus was in a room protected by a wall of force. The heroes didn't know this, but the wall could only be destroyed by one of three things:
  1. A disintegrate spell.
  2. A follower of the drow goddess Kiaransalee.
  3. 50 points of damage from the bones on the floor.
Theran immediately had his skeleton attack the wall, just to test it. Since the skeleton was made up of bones from the floor, Theran was shocked to see the skeleton actually tearing through the wall!

The skeleton started to bash through, when the group heard a roar and smelled the stench of decaying flesh. Orcus had arrived!

Black mist seeped in from the tunnel they'd come from. The hideous remains of the demon lord rose up before them and roared! The group made madness checks, which they all failed. Each gained a permanent form of madness.

Initiative was rolled. Bidam won! And he immediately shattered the Orcusword! Orcus howled in pain. His wings folded around him and he fell back into the darkness. The adventurers had bought themselves some time. Orcus would be reeling for at least an hour.

The skeleton bashed through the wall of force and Theran's golden circlet pulsed stronger. The group knew from a previous casting of an identify spell that if the circlet was touched to the wand, the wand would be destroyed.

Here is where I got worried. If Theran touched the circlet to the wand, he'd die in the explosion!

Here's what it says in the text:

"But if a PC who wears (or simply possesses) the circlet grabs the wand, he suddenly feels compelled to touch the skull to the golden band. This action destroys the circlet, the skull, and the character - instantly."

It goes on to say that the only safe way to destroy the Wand of Orcus is to place the circlet on the ground (or some other surface) and then touch the skull to it. I wanted to have a circus performer demonstrate this, but the group skipped The Cynosure.

So guess what Theran did? He handed the circlet to his skeleton minion, and had it touch the circlet to the wand! The wand, circlet and skeleton were all destroyed.

They heard Orcus howl and heard a magical whooshing sound, then silence. They had visions of the stone corpse of Orcus forming in the astral plane, floating among all the other dead gods.

The heroes had succeeded! They'd have to find a way home and deal with their madness. There's still two chapters to go....

Click here for the next chapter of Dead Gods.

3 comments:

Peter V. Dell'Orto said...

Nice summary. Having magically animated servants do everything is how my group handles dangerous situations, too. Why touch evil item A to evil item B if you can summon up a remotely-controlled magical being to do it?

By the way, Mordenkainen doesn't have The Silver Key in the The Rogue's Gallery. He's got it in WG5 Modenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, though.

Rynath Wilson said...

What a great session. Thanks for the write-up!

Sean said...

Peter: Wow good catch.. I got mixed up. I'll edit it and fix it. Thank you!

Rynath: Thanks! It was a lot of fun. I was worried about Orcus, I wanted to make sure he was scary and not anti-climactic. It came off good.