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Monday, May 2, 2016

Tales from the Infinite Staircase - Landings and Doors

Here's the deal. Tonight's session got really "adult." We really didn't even get into the Infinite Staircase at all. So if this raunchy stuff isn't your cup of tea, just click away now!

I will try and use polite language to describe the proceedings.

In this session, I used some material from Curse of Strahd and then we handled some subplot storylines. We didn't get through even half of what I wanted to because things got out of hand and honestly we were laughing so much that it ate up a lot of time. To me, that's a good session.

The Party

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

The Shadowfell

Last time, there was this demon storm (The Stygian Eye) that had damaged the cubic gate (a device that lets the heroes travel to one of six planes). They used the cubic gate to try to go to a city in the astral plane, but because the gate was damaged they ended up in... Barovia.

Well, not Curse of Strahd Barovia. It's my 'alternate universe' version of Barovia, situated in The Shadowfell.

The heroes appeared in the village of Barovia and saw that the villagers were emotionless. Some of the buildings and people were transparent. They soon learned that The Iron Shadow (the weird entity that grew out of The Lady of Pain when Bidam gave her the Heart of the Lady of Pain) had come to Barovia and drained it of vitality.

When The Iron Shadow comes to a place, it drains all creativity and vibrance. In some locales, people and places actually vanish from existence.

The group busted out their planar compass, which directed them to the nearest planar portal. They followed the arrow down a dark road. They saw a cart on the side of the road. In it was Blinsky, an NPC from Curse of Strahd. He makes evil toys.

The group loved Blinsky and thoroughly enjoyed the terrible pseudo-russian accent i did for him (especially when he said "cat lady" as "kit-LAY dee"). They bought some toys off of him. Theran actually bought the ventriloquist dummy that looks like Strahd. Bidam bought a hag doll that has three child dolls in it, as if the hag ate them.

The planar compass was pointing toward the Ruins of Berez. Blinsky warned them that Berez was home to "old ladies with cats."

The Creeping Hut

The group headed to Berez and found 9 witches in the center of the ruins, stirring a cauldron. There were black cats everywhere. An animated hut that walked with roots (sort of like spider legs) was nearby - this is the Creeping Hut. The group decided to just walk up to them and say hello.

If you read my Curse of Strahd stuff you know that I love Baba Lysaga and her Creeping Hut. I decided to keep Lysaga out of this, because I don't want to waste her on a throwaway encounter.  Plus, I really like the Barovian Witches from Curse of Strahd so I thought this would be fun.

The witches were pleasant with the heroes and offered to share their meal. A witch held up two cages. In each cage was a child. The witches were about to throw the kids in the cauldron and cook them up!

The adventurers attacked. The witches fired off rays of sickness. The rays did some damage, but the group made their saves and avoided being poisoned.

Bidam decimated three of them with his horn of blasting (the hags only have 16 hit points each). Theran unleashed magic missiles, Fall From Grace charged, determined to keep the kids from harm. A witch tried to creep up behind the party, but Selinza blew her away with magic missiles.

The witches were destroyed. I played the Creeping Hut as a frightened animal. In Curse of Strahd, the hut is extremely powerful (263 hit points!). That's a long, drawn out fight and this is meant to just be a little side thing to get the group back home.

The group freed the kids and Fall From Grace promised to take them somewhere safe. The kids are Freek and Muriel. In Curse of Strahd, these kids were prisoners in Old Bonegrinder.

The compass pointed right at the Creeping Hut. There was a planar portal in there. Theran tried to calm the hut down, but rolled extremely poorly. Bidam had much better luck. He befriended the hut and it allowed them to go inside.

Theran cast Warp Sense, a planescape spell that allowed him to find out where the portal went (the gate town of Sylvania) and what activated it (a broom).

The group activated the portal and went through. The heroes were disturbed to see that this portal led right to an orphanage.

Sylvania is a big party town. The group came here a few times during the Great Modron March, and had some hijinks with a guy in a toga and his sister.

As fate would have it, there's a portal to Deadbook Square in Sylvania. So there you go, the adventurers made their way home.

The Good Church

An asura.
Back in Sigil, the heroes got wrapped up in this little storyline I have been slipping in the last few sessions. There's a worker at the festhall who thinks her goddess wants her to have a child of a chosen one.

She was upset because it has been so long and she'd looked for this chosen one everywhere. As this woman (an asura) vented to the heroes, Malweis the paladin (leader of the band of NPC adventurers that live in Deadbook Square) was nearby doing some carpentry work, hammering away. Malweis got all sweaty. He took his shirt off. Ladies nearby swooned, overwhelmed by his mighty 18 charisma. The asura again wondered aloud if she'd ever find this mystery person.

The group laughed and picked up on my "subtle" clues. Malweis is the guy. The problem is that he's in a secret romance with another woman who works at the festhall. I put a number of clues to this relationship in previous sessions, so the players really lit up when it all came together.

The adventurers brainstormed ideas. They seriously wanted to cast polymorph other on the asura so that she looked like Malweis' girlfriend...! But the asura is lawful good. She refused and was appalled.

The heroes ultimately decided to let this story sit. They will mull it over between sessions.

The group rested for the night. The next day they looked into rumors that a Zactar (worshipers of Umbra) had died. They didn't put together that it was Bidam's "Hit it or Quit it" curse that had killed her.

The Sensates

OK. A few days ago, I saw Chris Perkins jokingly mention something on Twitter about a Dragon magazine article about orgies:

I looked into it. In Dragon magazine #10, there is indeed an article called "Orgies, Inc." My mind was blown.

It turns out that this article isn't really about orgies. It's basically a first edition version of the downtime activity of carousing. The purpose was to give the adventurers something to spend money on: "Lusty indulgence in wine, women and song."

It did have this amusing comment in it: "A player can orgy continuously for as many days as he has constitution points, then must rest for as many days as he orgied."

So obviously I read this and realized that the heroes needed "to orgy." I cooked up a thing where Bidam was invited to a Sensate orgy (Bidam belongs to the Sensates, a faction that believes in experiencing everything: sights, tastes, sounds, etc).

The Sensates were thrilled that he showed up. Throughout the campaign, Bidam has created a number of sensory stones of a most adult nature and has a bit of a following.

I cooked up a pile of NPCs for Bidam to orgy with. Some of them were people they'd met before, some were Planescape: Torment NPCs, some were new. I used a number of 4e races, because it seems fun to take 4e concepts and put them in the 2e Planescape setting and see how they mix. I put in guys, women, whatever, just to see what Jessie would do with it. Here's some of the orgiers:
  • Lela Melarik: A women that the heroes rescued from Kaliva's Island during the "Nemesis" adventure.
  • Splinter: Githzerai.
  • Lady Thorncombe: A lady who teaches magic.
  • Unfulfilled Desires: A Planescape: Torment NPC who can remove desires from your mind.
  • Lloyd BonĂ©r: Satyr.
  • Barlow: Minotaur.
  • Blenda: Goliath.
  • Ivy Darksoul: Shade (A human infused with shadow energy).
  • Jillian Allurid: Alu-Fiend (succubus spawn).
  • Valna: Tiefling with a forked tongue.
  • And last but not least, A modron. The modron had an attachment where each of his hands should be. One was a phallus fitted with with a thruster. The other was basically a moist crevasse that could spin. The modron didn't really understand what the heck was going on, but he wanted to figure it out and be useful.
So the orgiers get comfortable. People start drinking wine made from Razorvine. Next thing you know, everyone starts orgying. I ran this like a 4th edition skill challenge. I'd throw out a situation, Jessie would tell me what Bidam did, then she'd roll and see what happened.

I ask Jessie who she wants Bidam to orgy on.. or with.. or whatever. She says to me: "The modron." You probably had to be there, but we couldn't stop laughing.

The modron was wandering around, offering to extract fluids or massage orifices and was getting rejected left and right.

My first task here in the skill challenge involved teabagging. I admitted this out loud and again we died laughing. Was Bidam going to put his scrotum in the modron's spinning appendage? That sounded horrible!

Jessie had a change of heart. She picked the shade, Ivy Darksoul. Bidam teabagged this nice young lady, but injured himself in the process (failed his dexterity check). He needed to rest for five minutes.

Next thing you know, the goliath lady comes over and oral stuff happens. I had this written down - while Bidam is doing the honors, the modron comes over and politely offers to do stuff. Bidam agrees and the modron extracts fluids from Bidam. Bidam nearly passed out due to lack of oxygen, but made his constitution check.
Alu Fiend
A woman nearby learned that wine and orgying don't always mix. She threw up. Bidam dodged it with a dexterity check. There was some other goofy encounters with various partners that built to two major developments.

Last session, a demonic entity from Yeenoghu's realm had entered Bidam's body. Now, the demonic entity was being orgied out of Bidam's body and into Valna the tiefling!

Bidam realized what was happening. There was a bit of maneuvering, and ultimately the demon spirit was sucked into the modron's receptacle. The demon spirit cursed Bidam and swore revenge. For now, Yeenoghu's demon agent was trapped in the modron's fluid container.

Then we got to the main part - Bidam felt his metal-coated heart beat. Everything went into slow motion. He had to choose someone to either hit or quit. He chose to "hit"... Lady Thorncombe.

So there's three people who are linked to the Lady of Pain and the Iron Shadow:
  1. The four-armed reave masseuse
  2. The demon from Nephrax
  3. Lady Thorncombe, Sensate
What was supposed to be a short, goofy little joke segment ended up being the centerpiece of the whole night.

Whispering Flask

Theran headed to Limbo and the githzerai city of Zerthadlun. He got his ingredients, he met with the ruler (Adlishar Raman) and I squeezed in some githzerai quotes like: "Endure. And in enduring, grow strong."

Bidam brought his ingredients back to his wizardly lab. I had cooked up a small chart based on the potion miscibility chart in the DMG. Theran would need to make a skill check to make the whispering flask. If he failed, there was a possibility there would be a massive explosion. He rolled high.

The whispering flask holds githzerai healing powder. You touch the spice to your skin, and it fills wounds and heal them. It also heals holes in your psyche, removing doubts. I think it is originally from Planescape: Torment.

I found it here at, which is loaded with great Planescape material. I decided it healed 2d8+4 hit points. I want the group to have access to more powerful healing potions. 2d4+2 isn't cutting it any more, and I hate rolling d4's.

Malcanthet's Scheme

Malcanthet, demon lord of Succubi
While the adventurers were off doing their thing, Fall From Grace decided to sneak into the Abyss. She wanted to go take care of Red Shroud once and for all. Red Shroud is Fall From Grace's mother. She sold Fall From Grace to devils when she was an infant. Fall from Grace had a horrific childhood, obviously. Somehow she escaped and actually became a paladin for a goddess of good.

The heroes had a run-in with Red Shroud last adventure, and Fall From Grace wants to kill her once and for all. The problem is that Red Shroud is really powerful.

Basically what happened here was that Fall From Grace was shocked to see that Red Shroud's town of Broken Reach was decimated. Malcanthet, demon lord of Succubi (and Red Shroud's mother) had sent her agents there. It turns out that it was Malcanthet who ordered Red Shroud to kill Bazuuma last session. Red Shroud failed.

Radiant Sister
So Malcanthet's agents, the Radiant Sisters (13 super-succubi with halos of various colors) descended on Broken Reach. They killed many of the denizens and imprisoned Red Shroud's friends and her consort in golden puzzle box prisons.

The radiant sisters have these vorpal whip-daggers. They whipped poor Red Shroud and told her that she needed to find Bazuuma and atone for her failure. Only then would she get her friends back.

Fall From Grace saw all of this from her hiding place and didn't know what to think. She returned to Sigil and told the heroes. The group wasn't sure what to do with this information, but they were alarmed.

I am setting up a session down the road. I want to use the Malcanthet stuff from Dragon #353 and a part of a Savage Tide adventure (in Dungeon #149, I think). I guess I'm just putting the wheels in motion.

I really love the D&D Abyss. I like the demon lords, I like the layers and I love the massive variety of demons out there. There are so many different breeds of demons spread out in different D&D products. You can just pick your favorites and do whatever you want with them.

The Staircase

So after all that stuff, we finally got to the actual adventure. As written, there's this wizard who gets in trouble due to a crazed sorceress who unleashed a demon on the staircase. The heroes are supposed to save the wizard, who is stuck on a landing with no way off. I streamlined it.

I had Vrischika (long-time ally of the heroes) take a rogue (Rubix the chaosman) into the Infinite Staircase to see if there was anything worth stealing. Vrishika got in trouble with the demon and ended up trapped on the landing. Rubix fled.

So Rubix told the heroes what happened and in they went. The heroes met a lillend, a guardian of the staircase, and she explained how the staircase worked (which I went over ad nauseam in my Guide to the Infinite Staircase).

She also made sure to emphasize that in the Infinite Staircase, anyone could seek out and find a door to their heart's desire. The catch is that once they found it, they'd never leave. Selinza pointed out that she'd want a door that brought her to Raja Khan, the rakshasa from Nemesis. Fall From Grace assumed her door would take her to Red Shroud, so she could have her revenge.

I had cooked up a bunch of landings with portals, just so the group could get a feel for the place. The landings and doors are supposed to be themed to be similar to the plane they are linked to. So for example, if the door on a landing led to the plane of fire, then maybe the landing was made of volcanic rock and the door had fire etchings on it or something.

The heroes found landings that held portals to the plane of water, the Feywild, Acheron, and Mechanus. There were also doors to weird prime worlds.

The heroes found doors to a world of giants, a world where men were at war with women, and a world where it always rained and thus the entire planet was flooded.

That's where we had to stop! We'll do the actual staircase adventure next time.

Click here for the next chapter of the Infinite Staircase.


Jason Raabis said...

I marvel at how you bring in characters, plot elements, etc from such a wide array of sources and knit them together in this campaign. I suppose with planar travel, you need to be able to do those things well. Do you use a "spider web chart" or similar tool to keep track of all the plots and relationships?

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Right after a session is over, I sit down and make quick notes for the next session, usually 5-10 separate sentences. That's the time when the best ideas come. I usually have a pile of ideas and I need to write them down right away or I forget them. The most important thing IMO when running a campaign is to build on what the heroes have done - if they insulted someone, make a note of how that person reacts and how that might affect the future. Make sure not to make it all negative! It's very easy to fall into the trap of "punishing" the players for every deed they do. When I cook up a plotline, often it's just a funny idea that I throw out there and see what the group does with it. Then you just build on it each session via cause and effect. As an example, Ash Vodiran, the "greatest thief in Sigil" was just a one sentence NPC in Dead Gods. I immediately got an idea of a fun NPC so I had him rob the heroes, just to see what the players did. We built an ongoing storyline out of it, and right now Ash is in jail. I dropped a little bait in the form of the tanari treasure cache, which few people besides Ash could break into. We'll see if they take the bait! Also, writing a summary helps because you can refer to it later. Lots of little things happen in a session that you might forget if it isn't noted somewhere.

Jason Raabis said...

Fascinating. The insight into your thought process with the planning, development, and subsequent execution of these plot elements and NPC evolution is golden. I see on another post you've committed to an entry on your note-taking. I'll be waiting for that one also!

I read a lot of RPG blogs and Powerscore is at the top of my list. Great work Sean.

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Thanks! I wrote one about note-taking, and I am working on the one about sub-plots now. It's really hard to organize my thoughts properly but I am going to give it a stab. Thanks for your help!