Table of Contents - A handy way to check out my articles by topic
Follow me on Twitter
Check out the Power Score RPG Youtube Channel here.
You can reach me at
: powerscorerpg@gmail.com

Friday, April 29, 2016

Planescape - Bechard, Demon Lord of Tempests

On Sunday I ran another homebrewed session of Planescape. Next week, we're going to start Tales From the Infinite Staircase.

This session was all about "playing with toys." I picked out NPCs and concepts that I personally enjoy and worked out a scenario with them. The topics included:
  • Bazuuma: A goofy home-made "good" nascent demon lord that I use quite a bit.
  • Bechard: A demon lord who is barely detailed in the books, mostly in the Fiendish Codex. I like his story and the players latched onto it when it was firs introduced way back when.
  • Succubus Problems: The tension between Red Shroud and her daughter, Fall From Grace
  • The Iron Shadow: I am developing the "curses" the Lady of Pain gave the heroes a few sessions ago. These curses are actually tools to defeat the Iron Shadow, the villain of the Infinite Staircase.
Occipitus
The "Good" Demon Lords: This concept kind of blossomed out of my Shackled City campaign in 2008. In The Shackled City adventure path, one PC can become the ruler of a demonic layer called Occipitus. The character gains a smoking eye and special powers. Awesome, right? Since that time, in my campaign there's been a few 'good'-aligned demon lords:
  • Lord Pip: The halfling who gained the Smoking Eye.
  • Dyakis: A demon lord that was bound in a sword. The wielder eventually merged with it and rules a layer I made up called Nephrax.
  • Bazuuma: A beautiful lady with 20 eyes who is on her way to becoming a demon lord. Originally she was going to be a demon lord of vanity, but the heroes in my Blackmoor campaign infused her with positive energy (long story). So now she's all about positivity and self esteem.
I don't know what this is building towards, but it's a long term story in my campaigns that will be good fodder for us to mess with however we like.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 4)  

Downtime

We did a big old pile of downtime stuff. I love the downtime between adventures, as you can develop the NPCs and do lots of fun little stories.

Last time, the heroes had found a building full of demon treasure (a "tanari treasure cache") with no entrance. They debated whether or not to go enlist the aid of "The Greatest Thief in Sigil," Ash Vodiran. They'd left him in a prison, in custody of paladins in the Outlands.

Ash had the ability to become insubstantial. In theory, he could easily get in and out of the cache, which was the size of a shack. But Ash had stolen from the heroes twice and they really don't like him. They decided to leave him there for now.

We did some stuff with their festhall. Basically I just wanted the heroes to get a glimpse of Aza Dowling, the "post-coitus depression councilor." The heroes don't know it, but she is a spy of Shemeshka. So far they suspect nothing.

The heroes own a bunch of buildings in an area of sigil known as Deadbook square. Because of recent developments, two groups moved out (the devils and Shemeshka's casino), leaving vacancies.

These vacancies were filled by:

The Drow: A handful of male drow from Undermountain have moved in. They are led by a drow who is possessed by the evil sword Craggis (the villain in the final adventure of the Great Modron March). The heroes had given Craggis to Paellistra, the drow priestess in Undermountain. The heroes don't know it yet, but these guys are here in Sigil to acquire slaves.

The Creepy Guy: In Curse of Strahd, there's this wizard who is making a flesh golem bride for Strahd. I decided that there's a guy in Sigil who is opening a high-end store where people can buy flesh golem husbands and wives, girlfriends, whatever. You pick a head and a body and they're all yours for a considerable investment! He tried to get the heroes to sign a contract so that he could use their bodies once they're dead, but the heroes didn't bite.

The Other Adventurers: Each session I have the NPC heroes go on an adventure. This time, Selinza, Theran's cat lady apprentice, went with them. She's trying to level up! They went on this whole quest that I spent too much time cooking up. The gist of this whole thing was that the group got split up and Selinza used Theran's Portal Beacon to get them re-united.

Hit it? Or Quit It?! Bidam's Lady of Pain curse is tied to his life philosophy of Hit it and Quit it. Last session, he learned that when he hits it, his partner gains an iron coating over their heart. Bidam's not sure what that means.

So this session, he looked at Vrischika, the blue-skinned alu-fiend who runs a magic shop. She's been an ally of the group for a very long time. Bidam suddenly had to choose whether to hit it or quit it. Jessie (Bidam's player) agonized over this choice. She was afraid something bad would happen. Bidam eventually decided to not hit it. He heard a slicing noise and a splatter sound. He doesn't know it yet, but one of the Zactars (worshipers of Umbra) is dead.

Sark Axebarrel is One Day from Retirement: There's these NPCs who deliver soul larvae to Bazuuma, the nascent demon lord. They just go through the portal and her fortress is right there on the first layer of the Abyss. They are getting rich off of this easy gig.

I had Sark tell the heroes that he's got enough money to buy a home in Heart's Faith and settle down. Basically I was recreating this scene, really fighting hard not to let myself go too over the top and make it obvious what was about to happen.

So Sark and the bariaur go through the portal, there's an explosion and they die. The heroes catch a glimpse of this as the portal closes.

The heroes run through the portal and find a bunch of Solamiths scooping up the larvae. In the distance, the heroes can see Bazuuma's fortress going haywire.

The heroes pummelled the solamiths pretty good. During the battle, Theran's spellbook glowed. His curse from the lady of pain is that his spellbook can give him valuable information, but he has to look at it in one round or it disappears forever. He looked and learned about the Iron Shadow's shadow (it's made of radiant energy) and he also learned a magic item formula. He can now make a whispering flask, which is a githzerai healing powder.

The solamiths were defeated. The group raced to the fortress.

Theran can see invisible thanks to his robe of eyes, and he saw a red-skinned succubus invisibly flying into the fortress. He didn't recognize her, though they had actually met her before.

Red Shroud
They run inside and saw Bazuuma giving birth. Gonard Flumph, my Donald Trump NPC, was here helping to deliver the baby. The heroes had wiped his memory in the River Styx and left him here with Bazuuma. Red Shroud, invisible, was poisoning the drinks on the table next to her. These drinks are meant for Bazuuma and the baby, once it's born.

Theran got weird here. He didn't attack. He didn't do anything, really. He just watched Red Shroud. She flew away. He didn't stop her. Bazuuma gave birth to an abyssal dragon (Bidam is the father, FYI).

Bazuuma reached for the drink, and only then did Theran stop her. The way it played out, she probably could have drank it if I felt like it.

The heroes did let Gonard Flumph drink it.. all of it. The heroes hate Gonard Flumph! To their dismay, he didn't die. They didn't know it, but Red Shroud had used a poison that only affected evil creatures, called Golden Ice. Neither Bazuuma nor Flumph are evil. So in the end, this poison wouldn't have worked, anyway.

My idea here is that Red Shroud had been ordered to poison Bazuuma. I figured the heroes would think Pazuzu told her to do it, as he rules the Plane of 1,000 Portals. But it was actually Red Shroud's mother, Malcanthet (Queen of the Succubi), who views Bazuuma as an abomination - a "positive" demon lord. Red Shroud did not realize that Bazuuma was actually good, and so her golden ice wouldn't work.
Pazuzu
Bazuuma gave birth to the Abyssal Dragon. The heroes retrieved the soul larvae that poor Sark Axebarrel died delivering. Bazuuma ate almost all of them and transformed into a full-fledged demon lord! She was all disoriented and knew that many demon lords would want her dead.

The heroes decided to hide her and find a new home for her. They stashed her by the River Styx in the secret area that they'd used to sail to Kaliva's Isle during Nemesis. She pulled out one of her 20 eyes and handed it to Theran. She could see through it and teleport to it once the heroes had found her new home.

The adventurers headed to the portal to Nephrax, the abyssal realm of my homebrewed demon lord from my last campaign.

The heroes shmoozed with demon NPCs in the palace of Dyakis (demon lord of "soulstones" - demonic ioun stones). Bidam ends up with another hit it or quit it - he hooks up with a fun-loving demon named Yulmanda. She now has an iron-coated heart and thus will play a part in the endgame of the Iron Shadow.

The heroes figure out that their best plan is to seek out the demon lord Bechard. Bechard is a beached whale rotting away in Yeenoghu's layer. He is also an obyrith, one of 12 ancient demons that predate almost everyone else alive. They assumed he had tremendous knowledge.

The heroes had heard about him before and felt sorry for him. They decided that they'd try to help save him if he'd tell them of an abyssal layer that Bazuuma could dwell in.

As fate would have it, the heroes have a cubic gate. That's a magic item that can take you to six different planar locations. One location is Bechard's Landing! I'd wanted the heroes to meet Bechard for a long time, so I had already established it as one of the places they could go to using the gate.

They appeared on Bechard's Landing in Yeenoghu's Realm.

Out on the water, they saw Bechard's Cyst, the pirate ship they can summon with a magic whalebone. They used this magic ship to sail through Limbo and the astral sea in separate adventures. The ship started heading toward them - skeletal Captain Ricketshanks spotted them in his trusty eyeglass.

The heroes saw Bechard not far away, laying on the beach, covered in rotting wounds. A hurricane was localized over him, pelting the poor whale with acidic rain.

Yeenoghu
He was impaled on a giant harpoon that pinned him to the ground. The harpoon was attached to a chain that connected to a huge statue of Yeenoghu looking down on him.

Basically, this was a 4e skill challenge. Bidam headed into the hurricane:
  • Wind:  Sent Bidam hurtling into a rocky outcropping.
  • Acid Rain: Failed to pierce his hide.
  • Debris: Wind blew Bechard's caustic blood into Bidam, searing him.
  • Demonic Entity: A demonic presence in the hurricane entered Bidam's body. I was originally going to have it just be a thing that gives Bidam disadvantage once in a single session, but I had another idea at the table so for now Bidam has yet to feel the effects of the entity.
Bechard telepathically reached out to Bidam and agreed to the deal. Bidam needed to deal with the chained harpoon. My intention here was for Bidam to use his sword of sharpness to cut the chain. But instead, he pulled out his horn of blasting and used it on the statue of Yeenoghu. Awesome! The statue crumbled and Bechard was free.

They fed Bechard 30 soul larvae, given to them by Bazuuma. This gave Bechard the strength to swim again. He blew blood and gore out of his blowhole, trying to clear out his system.

The heroes boarded Bechard's Cyst and followed the whale. Bechard led them to an area of the Abyssian Ocean called The Stygian Eye. This is a magic maelstrom that randomly teleports you to an abyssal layer. Bechard, being an obyrith, had long ago devised a way to use the maelstrom to teleport to a layer of his choosing.

As the heroes got close, the clouds above shifted. They formed the twin heads of Demogorgon! One mouth opened, and out came a hideous savage wyvern, which swooped down at the ship. Theran hammered away at it with lightning bolts. It hit Bidam with its stinger, doing a total of 35 points in one shot! Bidam chopped it up, and another lightning bolt killed it.

The other head in the clouds roared, and a massive tidal wave struck the ship! Bidam and Fall From Grace went overboard! Bechard opened the portal. Bidam and Fall From Grace were in danger of being stranded!

Fall From Grace made some big rolls and was able to take flight, grab Bidam, and get back on the ship. They sailed through the portal, escaping Demogorgon's wrath. As they sailed into the Maelstrom, thin bolts of energy danced over them and created sparks. Theran didn't notice it, but his cubic gate was struck with a bolt and damaged.

When I was cooking u this adventure, I looked online for abyssal lairs with no ruler. I ended up going with layer 9 - Burningwater. There's very little detail on it. I didn't like the name, but in the end it seemed like the best choice.

It's an endless sea. Inside the water are "twisted lobsters, shellfish and armored fish." I decided to tie it to another Obyrith (using an article by James Jacobs from Dragon Magazine #357) named Cabiri.

Bechard let out a whale call, and a ruined city rose up from beneath the water. This was Bazuuma's new home.

Theran held up Bazuuma's eye, and she appeared in a flash with her dozen demons. The heroes had succeeded.

As Bazuuma was still getting used to her new powers, she couldn't teleport the heroes anywhere safe. Burningwater has virtually no portals in it - that's why it's abandoned, I decided.

Bechard was out in the ocean, so the heroes had to figure out their own way home. No problem, right? They have the cubic gate!

They looked it over and decided to go to the astral sea - Hestavar, the heavenly city where angels and devils co-existed in peace.

But when Theran pressed the button, he realized too late that the cubic gate had been damaged in the maelstrom! The heroes disappeared from Burningwater and appeared... somewhere else.

That's where we stopped. It was a good session. The players really like the whole curse of the Lady of Pain storyline, so it's going quite well.

Click here to read the next chapter.

2 comments:

Rynath Wilson said...

Another well-imagined session--you really took a number of random elements and weaved them together skillfully.

By the way, have you taken a look at the offerings over on the DM's Guild site? In the latest issue of Dragon, Mike Mearls pointed out a few of his favorite products there, and one was a bestiary with several new (to 5E, that is) demons. I picked it up, and it was well done; it even has a few that date back to Planescape, I think.

Sean said...

Rynath: Thank you! My bread and butter in D&D is NPCs and "downtime" sub-adventures. A lot of times I enjoy the little stories more than the "main" adventure. I did see that demon thing. He statted out two demons I really like, the blood demon and the gnaw demon. I might buy it. The thing is, I don't really worry about stats too much. When I use a monster from a previous edition, I just reskin a similar 5e monster, translate a few powers and boom I'm done. It's so easy to do in 5e.