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Monday, June 20, 2016

Planescape - The Argent Palace

Earlier this week I bought the Dead Gods 5e Conversion Guide off of the DMs Guild site. I wish this was out 6 months ago! It has a bunch of stuff that's useful for my campaign, especially the write-up of the warp sense spell.

It also has monster stats, including barghests and cranium rats. The cranium rats are really good. I will try to work them in to a session or two somehow. When I used them in my game, I just gave them a mind blast power that grew stronger as the swarm grew. This guide gives them spells all the way up to ninth level in extreme cases.

This conversion guide is pay what you want. The suggested price was fifty cents. This thing is fifty pages. That's one cent per page! I paid $2.00. The guy did way too much work for a measly fifty cents!

Monster Stats: Bodaks play a big part in this adventure. I found these 5e bodak stats right here and they were perfect!

Sensory Stones: I forgot something about Sensory Stones. When they are taken out of the Civic Festhall (headquarters of the Sensate faction) they don't work and are drained. That kind of messes up my story a few sessions back, where the group recovered sensory stones that held incriminating information about Shemeska the Marauder.

So tonight I explained that those stones are kept in a special box full of the ashes of a dead Sensate Factol. That preserved the magic of the sensory stones and is extremely rare and probably can never happen again. My players were amused by this backpedaling.

Level Up: The group is level 9. They leveled up prior to this session. George is thinking about multi-classing and adding a level of fighter. He might do that when the group levels next.

I purposely kept the group at level 8 for a long time. Too long! I guess I was a little worried about the heroes becoming too powerful, but I realized that was silly. They'll be heading into the Blood War soon battling demons and devils. They need to be more powerful.

I'm also really interested to see what high level 5e is like. I did it in Tyranny of Dragons, but that was a game with a lot of kids. They didn't use their big powers and spells much.

The NPCs leveled as well. Selinza is catching up. She's now level 7! She is dropping fireballs and buffing the heroes with her abjuration spells. 

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Half-Dabus/Half-Elf Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 7)

A Viper Tree
Last Time: The goddess of love walks the worlds as a mortal and Graz'zt has her in his palace for "protection." Iggwilv has recruited the heroes to break into Graz'zt's palace to free her!

We missed last week, so we got in a slightly longer-then-normal session this week. I went way overboard in preparing and had far too much material, but it was a pretty awesome session.

The group were in Graz'zt's abyssal realm, making their way toward his palace. They had bought five slaves and freed two sickly unicorns. Anna Greystockings, one of Grazzt's thousands of rebellious children, led the group through the Zrintor forest to the city of Zelatar.

Zelatar, Capital City of Azzagrat: Zelatar exists on three planes at the same time. Our heroes had to navigate the maze-like city by finding portals that linked the different layers together. They needed to go all the way to the Argent Palace, Graz'zt's home.

There's a ton of great material on Azzagrat in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits.

The group crept through the town, keeping the unicorns covered. Anna led them to the Planewalkers Guild, a home of those who wander the Infinite Staircase and explore the planes.

The group paid them off to get the slaves and the unicorns back to Sigil.

Children of Graz'zt

The heroes learned about a homebrewed thing I concocted. The children of Grazzt and Iggwilv are known as "The Witchborn." Many of them have similar powers.

There are other kids of Graz'zt and a different mother called "The Bonesunders." Back in around 2011, I ran a 4e Temple of Elemental Evil game. There was a legendary character in that campaign - Fayte Bonesunder. She was like Conan but three times more badass. She was a parody of that type of hero, but she was also extremely legit.

Fayte ended up hooking up with Grazzt (his avatar was creeping around the temple in disguise in my game). Since romantic skill challenges were a huge thing in my games at that time, Fayte snuck off with him and made some rolls. Every time she messed around with Grazzt, she rolled natural 20's. It was crazy. She eventually vacationed with him, sailing a yacht in the plane of ooze.

Since the end of that campaign, Fayte splits her time between making babies with Grazzt and riding off on her skeletal steed SkullStrider to conquer a different mortal kingdom wielding only her blade and her trusty mancatcher.

400 years have passed in my campaign universe since that mega-adventure. Fayte lengthened her life magically. There's a lot of Bonesunders out there.

The Demon Fighting Pit

Anna led the group through the streets to the first portal. They came upon a fighting pit. Long story.. basically, a popular pirate NPC from my Skull and Shackles game was here fighting demons. She was part of the effort to free the goddess of love, but her group had been separated.

Bidam ended up fighting for the NPC against Skole Bonesunder, son of Fayte! He had tattoos on his chest of skulls with skulls in their eyesockets! He was a feared Blood War soldier currently on leave.

The battle commenced. After a round or two of combat, Skole used his cambion powers to command Bidam. Skole commanded Bidam to give him the sword of sharpness. Bidam gave it to him by plunging it into Skole's mighty groin!

Jessie wanted to know exactly where the groin stab landed, so we rolled for it. The roll was low. Bidam was disappointed to find that Skole's member would have a scar on it, and the scar actually looked really cool.

Bidam made his save and activated his ioun stone (it does damage to those who strike Bidam). He pulled his sword out of Skole's junk. Skole tried to use his spiked nunchucks to pound Bidam, but the aura kicked in and dropped him to less than 0 hit points.

When Skole died, he and his steed NekroHoof vanished. Fall From Grace told the group Skole must have had a demon amulet.

That means that instead of dying, Skole reformed wherever his amulet was stashed. Fall From Grace dropped a subtle clue that she had a demon amulet, and Bidam picked up on it right away.

New Powers

Lady of Pain
In this campaign, we're doing a storyline where the heroes are gaining the powers of the Lady of Pain. Bidam can look at people and cause cuts to appear on their body. Theran can create buildings in the city of Sigil.

While making their way through the labyrinthian streets of Zelatar, the group encountered a pillar of severed fortuneteller heads. Normally, it only spoke to Grazzt and his consorts, but when it saw the heroes it turned and made cryptic comments. This shocked all of the demons in the streets into silence.

It told Theran he had mastered the Chains of Carceri (a hint about Theran's new power that debuted later in this session). It hinted at Bidam's other new power, which will debut next session.

As part of the agreement for this mission, Theran was possessed by an incubus ally of Iggwilv. It guided him to the secret tunnel entrance to the Argent Palace. The group bid Anna Greystockings farewell.

The incubus repeatedly dug into Theran's mind for information with opposed Charisma checks. He eventually got what Iggwilv wanted - information that will come into play next session.

The secret tunnel led to Iggwilv's tower.

The Argent Palace

Here's the deal with the Argent Palace. It has 66 ivory towers, all connected by "The Hundredfold Hall of Silver," mirror mazes full of bodaks (undead who have a death gaze attack).

If you die in the Argent Palace, you rise up as a bodak under Grazzt's control. So, your character is done for, basically. The incubus repeatedly warned the heroes about this.

When doing research for this, I was shocked to see that only one game designer has tried to detail any of the towers: James Jacobs in Dragon #360. I used the ones I liked and made up some of my own.

Easy Mode: I should note that Graz'zt has pulled most of his guards out of the palace prior to the arrival of the heroes. The demon lord is hoping Iggwilv will send in agents to abduct the goddess of love. The group is caught in the middle of some dysfunctional flirting between two incredibly powerful entities.

Iggwilv's Tower

The group explored Iggwilv's tower. One whole floor was Iggwilv's closet. Ghavish, the incubus possessing Theran, said that Selinza was allowed to keep one of Iggwilv's expensive robes.

In almost every single piece of official D&D art, Iggwilv wears the same dress. So now Selinza the cat lady is dressed like her friend Iggwilv, who she calls "Wilva."

The incubus told the group to put on cold weather gear. The mirror halls were extremely cold and they'd need protection.

The group found Iggwilv's key, which opened almost every door in the palace. The key also deactivated the finger of death traps on every door as well.

The heroes found lockboxes. There was one for each of Iggwilv's children. Inside were legacy items for them. The incubus told Theran that each child had the key to their box. The group spotted the box for Ash Vodiran - the greatest thief in Sigil. They hate that guy. He robbed them twice, stealing over 20,000 gold and the Wand of Orcus!

After some debate, they took his box. Next session I'm basically going to hand them Ash on a silver platter and see what they do with him.

The group found a pile of clothes and an earring. Apparently some interloper had been in this tower recently. Bidam cast identify on the earring and learned that if you wore it and said the word "gold," 33 gold appeared in your hand. Bidam kept it.

This mystery person arrived in the tower, loudly shutting the door downstairs and walking in. The group were in Iggwilv's bedroom and hid under her bed, which was funny.

The Secret of Rule-of-Three

The 'intruder' was Rule-of-Three, a major Planescape NPC who the group had bumped in to a few times before. He came upstairs and immediately smelled Selinza's perfume, the scent of which is "Achievement" by Gonard Flumph.

Selinza alone crawled out and talked to him. The rest of the group huddled under the bed, hidden among boxes full of unmentionables. Selinza made some rolls and did a fantastic job of making up a story as to why she was there, and then extracted information from him. The group learned a few of Rule-of-Three's secrets:
  • He is a son of Grazzt. He stays in Iggwilv's tower when he visits.
  • He says he's trying to end the Blood War. He wants peace between demons, devils and yugoloths.
The group didn't learn the whole truth. Rule-of-Three is trying to unite all of the fiends so they can take over the planes! Graz'zt is in on this plan. Rule-of-Three is a very evil guy.

Selinza distracted him by trying on Iggwilv's dresses and asking him his opinion. The group hilariously crept right by him, making high stealth checks. Selinza met the group at the tower exit door and together they wandered the Hundredfold Halls.

Exploring the Hundredfold Halls of Silver

A Bodak
So basically, the heroes needed to make a roll to successfully navigate the mirror maze. The group failed the check and ran into a bodak.

In combat, each hero needed to make a perception check to weed out the bodak from the reflections. Failure meant disadvantage on the attack rolls.

The bodak hit Theran with a death gaze, which did 22 points of damage. Theran and Selinza both dropped fireballs on it, incinerating the abomination.

From here, the group had to make their way through a succession of towers and the mirror mazes between each one. Here are the towers:

The Spiral of Storms: This is a James Jacobs creation. Graz'zt collects storms! As in, hurricanes, hailstorms, etc.

The group entered and a lone vrock guard looked at them, eyes wide. The room was circular and held quite a few doors. He uttered a magic word and all of the doors opened.

Vortexes tried to suck each hero into a different room. In each room - a quasi-plane with a storm in it - the individual adventurer had to snatch a key from a bodak lashed to a statue to get back into the tower.

Bidam made his save! He did not get sucked in. The rest of the group was not so fortunate. The doors closed, and Bidam destroyed the scared Vrock with his sword of sharpness.

Theran had serious trouble. He was in a thunderstorm. The bodak inside hit him with a death gaze. One more hit like that and Theran would be deep in negatives! He tried to make his way to the bodak to snatch the key and get out of there, but the storm winds were too strong.

Luckily for him, Bidam opened the door and got Theran out. The NPCs did fine in their rooms and escaped.

Throne Room: The group came to an opening that allowed them to look down into Graz'zt's throne room. This was a chance for me to use material from the 4e adventure "Court of the Dark Prince," in Dungeon Magazine #212.

I just wanted the group to catch a glimpse of the cool stuff in here to kind of put over the idea that Graz'zt was a big deal. I decided his voice was deep and evil like the bad guy in Legend. They peered in and saw a bunch of things:
  • Succubi were painfully encased in amber, singing hideous songs. 
  • "..lithe, nude dancers" danced for Graz'zt.
  • There was a hovering globe crackling with energy (It blocks teleportation).
  • Two mariliths guarded him.
  • Grazzt sat on a throne on a dais with ruby steps.
Grazzt said in Abyssal to the singing succubi: "Your suffering pleases me." The heroes got the heck out of there.

A Balor
Demon Roosts: This is an encounter from the 4e adventure, modified. The group needs to cross a walkway that is actually outside, connecting two towers high up in the air. There is a lone demon guard the group needs to bypass - a balor!

After some quiet, nervous debate, the group decided to try to sneak by him. He only has a passive perception of 13. Bidam went first and... failed his stealth check.

The balor turned and roared! Bidam decided to try using his power to cut people. It worked! But he rolled low. He 'only' did 50 points of damage to the balor (who has over 250 hit points total).

Suddenly, Theran's new power kicked in! He was shocked as energy washed over him. Theran focused on the balor and sent it to The Mazes! George loved that.

Now Theran has two Lady of Pain powers. He can create buildings in Sigil and he can Maze people.

I introduced a new rule for these powers. When the heroes use them, they suffer levels of exhaustion. The only way to remove this exhaustion is to spend a certain number of days living by their beliefs. So what that means is:
  • Theran has to isolate himself and read.
  • Bidam has to be hitting it and quitting it.
Prison Tower: I made this tower up. In here was a devil being 'tortured' by a corrupted angel. The angel was purposely organizing an encyclopedia out of order, which really bothered the lawful, orderly devil. I don't like to use 'real' torture in D&D, so I usually go goofy when possible.

On another floor, they found the other agents of the goddess of love. They'd been captured. These are more NPCs from a prior campaign. They were trapped by "unbreakable chains."

After some prodding from Fall From Grace, Bidam realized that his sword of sharpness could cut these chains like butter. The NPCs were freed and joined the group.

I set this room prior to the slaughter.
The Velvet Realm: Another James Jacobs tower! I changed this, running it before it became a slaughterhouse.

This place is where Grazzt keeps his 'harem' of the most beautiful people in the multiverse. Every single one of them has a charisma of 20 or higher.

There was a guard watching over things. He assumed Selinza and Fall From Grace were new additions to the demon lord's "collection" and went back to chatting up a lady.

The goddess of love was here, secured in a special room guarded by three magic traps.

The group talked with some of the consorts including Grazzt's first wife, Ela Zalag, Queen of the Abat Dolor. She was smoking a long pipe and looking around bitterly. I get a kick out of the idea of an angry demonic ex-wife. Unfortunately the heroes didn't approach her.

A "succubus"(actually a lillitu in disguise) pumped the group for information. The group didn't know it, but she was a spy for Malcanthet. Anything the group told her went right back to the demon queen of succubi. They spilled their guts, to the spy's delight.

Everything was going well until Bidam's 'curse' kicked in. He had to choose someone in this room and "hit it," or else he'd have to quit it (and back in Sigil, a Zactar priestess would die).

When I told Jessie the power was kicking in, I worded it in such a way as to suggest he had the option of 'hitting it' with a member of the party. I want Jessie to start thinking about Fall From Grace and see if anything comes of it.

I rattled off the list of people in The Velvet Realm. I immediately regretted putting a bugbear woman in here. In our last campaign, the group made friends with Bugsbear Bunny, the goofy NPC from the parody Castle Greyhawk adventure.

In that campaign, the group did incredibly foul things with Bugsbear Bunny. The players could sense that we'd finally found the line with the dirty stuff and they could see that it made me cringe in a comedic way. So of course, they kept pushing my buttons with Bugsbear.

Don't get me wrong, it was funny. But there was something about getting Bugs Bunny in Bugbear form to do dirty things that just really repulsed me.

The group did explode with laughter when I read "bugbear" out loud and slowly realized my mistake. Thankfully, Bidam didn't choose the bugbear.

Bidam picked a drow and the seduction rolls commenced.

Three Deadly Traps of Graz'zt

Once Bidam was done, the group was ready to brave the trapped hallway. Someone would have to brave each magic archway. Once someone set it off, the other members of the group could follow safely.

Archway 1: This was carved to look like Graz'zt's head. You had to walk through his open mouth to proceed. Bidam passed through and failed his save. He was frozen in a block of ice. Fire is cold and ice is hot in this plane, so Bidam was scalded but not taking actual damage.

Theran and the NPCs were shocked and unsure of what to do. They finally decided to just slide Icy Bidam through the second arch (with Jessie's approval).

Archway 2: This archway was full of carvings of Graz'zt embracing various consorts. A succubus spirit passed through the ice block and kissed Bidam. He failed his save! He was reduced to 0 hit points.

Theran realized that he could teleport past the arches to the door. He did so. But the other NPCs needed to get through.

Archway 3: Fall From Grace volunteered. I did not expect this! She failed her save. Her gender changed. Fall From Grace is now a man!

I think that a succubus can shift into an incubus form, but this is a special demon lord trap that locks you in to a certain form. Fall From Grace is a guy. I was very shocked, as were the players. This was meant to be a "how will the players react?" kind of thing. There are ways to get it reversed.

Theran used some spells to free Bidam. It was a little confusing. Bidam is stuck in a block of ice that is hot. Ray of frost does fire damage. Does it melt the ice? Or does scorching ray do cold damage and somehow melt the ice? Wasn't sure... didn't matter. One of those spells worked and freed Bidam.

Fall From Grace used her last three points of Lay on Hands to bring Bidam to consciousness.

So the traps are dealt with. The group goes in the room and finds the goddess of love reclining in luxury. Her agents had a way to get her back to her home plane and they use it.

Iggwilv's Rewards

Now it was the adventurers turn to leave. Their cubic gate had previously been broken by an abyssal storm, but Iggwilv partially repaired it. The group used it to teleport to Iggwilv's manor. There, they received their rewards from Iggwilv:
  • Fall From Grace got a scroll of Lover's Call. Casting it successfully summons an avatar of Graz'zt for one hour to do your bidding!
  • Selinza got a pearl of power.
  • Theran got a ring of spell storing.
  • Bidam got Fiend's Embrace, the cloak made from the skin of a pit fiend. My version is less evil than the 3e version.The pit fiend can talk to Bidam, and the cloak has a bunch of traits, including bonuses to spell attacks and saving throws as well as a +1 to intelligence.
Overall it was a great session!

The Deadbook Square Financial Report

This next graphic has some 'adult' content in the text, so don't click if it's not your thing...

I had made a "spreadsheet" or list in photoshop. It breaks down the group's monthly downtime income. They own a bunch of buildings in Deadbook Square and they collect rent.

They also own a brothel. I ranked each employee as far as who makes the most money and how much the group makes off of them. The rankings were determined mostly by charisma checks for each employee.

George is really into finance in real life, so he was all over this. The group wants to spend part of next session trying to maximize their profits. I am really interested to see what kind of real world financial tricks George uses.

I had a ton of ideas for rival brothels and ways to make more money, so it should be really fun. I want to have a session where the group is in the driver's seat.

Chris Perkins gave some advice on twitter that got me thinking. Someone asked him what the most important thing for dungeon masters to do is. He said:

"Talk less. Listen more."

I have a lot of thoughts on that, but I'll save it for another time.

Next session, I also want to squeeze in a thing I am making called Trump: The Dungeon. I'll probably write more about this in the next few days. I am guessing that we might have multiple sessions in Sigil before we get to the next chapter of The Infinite Staircase.


Jason Raabis said...

Another great session! The artwork you insert is a great addition to these posts. So is there going to be any negative consequences to wearing Fiend's Embrace?

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Thanks! I love D&D art. I was just going through 4e issues of dragon magazine and digging up all sorts of 'forgotten' art that I can use. I know a lot of people don't like 4e, but there's a ton of awesome ideas, images, maps and scenarios that nobody seems to remember or even know about.

I have no specific plan in mind for Fiend's Embrace. I am thinking that once we start Hellbound, Fiend's Embrace will be very useful when the group battles demons and might have serious problems when the group battles devils. It will definitely have a lot of Blood War knowledge to share which should lead to fun things.

I'm not really sure what will happen with it. Jessie really liked it when she heard about it, and that's really the only reason I gave it to the group. It is a really cool item and it feels like a fun thing to put in the game.

Jason Raabis said...

Looking forward to seeing how these things develop. You bring things into the campaign that my conservative nature would just not think of. I'm learning :)

I agree with what you say about 4e. I missed the edition entirely, but I do have a few 4e products and I'm quite impressed with their story and idea value. That's all I look for in products anyway as I always assume a game mechanics conversion will be necessary. If one accepts that fact on the front end, these "other version" products become gold mines!

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: The best part is that 4e books are dirt cheap right now, and many of them have ridiculously awesome poster maps by Mike Schley. I think you can get the 4e book of vile darkness for ten bucks, and it has the "well of worlds" poster map in it!

I probably stuff too much into a single session. I see Chris Perkins doing the exact opposite on Dice, Camera, Action and it works really well, but I would have a really hard time doing it. I want to get stuff done when we play!