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Monday, June 6, 2016

Planescape - For Duty & Deity

Tonight we played through a bunch of huge stuff! We found out what happened after one of the heroes died, and then we began an old 2e adventure - For Duty & Deity.

This recap is ridiculously long. Here's a quick rundown:
  1. Bidam confronted Raja Khan, the killer of Theran.
  2. We found out that a special thing happened when Theran died.
  3. We learned a lot of secrets of Sigil (homebrewed).
  4. All of the people linked to Bidam's special power are in one place.
  5. There's a new building in Deadbook Square.
  6. The group still really hates The Greatest Thief in Sigil.
  7. The heroes went to Grazzt's Triple Layer in the Abyss to rescue a goddess made mortal.
  8. There were a lot of sleazy hijinks and the group "rescued" a whole bunch of creatures.
  9. The group started traveling through the viper tree forest and ran into their devil rivals.
When I read For Duty & Deity, I was shocked at how little adventure content there was. Half of it is just reprinted material from Tales From the Infinite Staircase. I dug around and found a whole pile of material that I added. I used ideas from:
Iggwilv summons Grazzt
Next session, the group is going to have to sneak in to The Argent Palace (Grazzts home), rescue the goddess made mortal and maybe check out the Library of Secrets (from the Dungeon adventure).

As far as I know, James Jacobs is the only person to detail any of Grazzts 66 ivory towers. That guy is an idea machine and I am so glad he took a stab at it. His work will be the foundation of next session.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 6)

Last Time: Theran the elf wizard died in an explosion! It was a trap set by the rakshasa known as Raja Khan. He had infiltrated the party by magically disguising himself as a mute halfling.

Raja had been stabbed in the eye by Conviva Kettle, a woman who had a thing for Theran. He staggered out into Deadbook Square (a cluster of buildings that the heroes own) and howled in pain. Having heard the explosion, Bidam ran over to investigate.

Conviva was lying at the edge of the inferno, dying. From the nearby shrine came Prince Buttongleam (the unicorn/man who lives by The Unicorn Code). He magically healed Conviva and told her: "Unicorns always lend a helping hand."

Convivia saw Bidam. She pointed at the halfling and yelled: "He killed Theran!"

Bidam was shocked and enraged. The halfling assumed his true form - the rakshasa Raja Khan!

Prince Buttongleam drew his sword and closed in on the villain.

From the nearby Umbra Cathedral came Ignus. If you remember, he had been a crazy guy who was covered in flames until the group gave him the Amulet of Flowing Flame. While wearing the amulet he was a normal (if feeble) human.

Ignus looked at the wizard lab engulfed in flame. He realized that if Theran had been wearing the Amulet of Flowing Flame, it would have protected him from the fiery explosion. Ignus cast aside the amulet! He burst into flame and floated off the ground.

He hissed: "I live! Long have I slept! Dreams of flames!" He started launching rays of flame at Raja Khan.

Raja was bleeding from the eye socket. He cast fly on himself and took to the air and fled.

The square that the heroes live in is home to 99 gargoyles. Bidam had the option of having a gargoyle pick him up and chase Raja. Bidam looked around and decided that Raja would have to wait.

Ignus was now a flame-throwing machine. He set fire to another building. Bidam used mage hand to lift the Amulet of Flowing Flame and put it around the neck of Ignus. Ignus was back to normal and plopped to the ground, unconscious.

I didn't expect Bidam to let Raja go. I figured one way or another, Raja would be killed. But he's still around so I'll have to figure out his next move. No way is he coming back to Deadbook Square. The group has way too many allies for him to handle.

Theran's Fate Revealed

Meanwhile.. the last thing Theran remembered, he was caught in an explosion.

He woke up inside a dark stone coffin. He couldn't remember who he was, but he knew about Sigil, the Lady of Pain, all that stuff.

He lifted the lid and was greeted by a dabus (mysterious custodians of Sigil). This is the dabus who owns Ffazablur, the magic sword from Nemesis (I'll refer to this dabus as "Ffazablur" from now on).

Theran was... a dabus. Naked. He had no genitals at all. This fact caused my players to die laughing.

It turned out that Theran the Dabus was somehow inside the Secret City of the Dabuses.

Ffazablur taught him how to hover. Theran found that he could now understand rebuses (the symbol language of the dabuses) and he could make rebuses of his own.

The group had heard a rumor a while back that dabuses are the reborn spirits of people who die in Sigil. I decided I liked this idea and ran with it. So, Theran did die in the explosion. He has been reborn as a dabus with no memory of his former life.

Theran looked at his dabus body in the mirror. Ffazablur noticed something on his side... a strange tattoo. Back at the Dream Well, Theran had gained what the player called a "vagina" in his side - an effect etched into his soul. In this little opening/pocket was a ball of light that contained all of Theran's memories.

The group flipped out as they realized what was about to happen. Theran instinctively pulled out the light and put it in his head. He had regained all of his memories!

I told George, Theran's player, that he could now shift between his dabus form and his elf form. You might remember that Theran was originally a regular elf until the Slaad Lord Renbuu turned him into a dark elf. I gave George a choice of how he wanted Theran to look:
  • Regular Elf Theran.
  • Dark Elf Theran.
  • Dabus Elf Theran: Theran had blue skin, white hair, and horns.
No matter which form he was in, Theran could hover and make rebuses. He also had the dabus ability to repair things.

George chose the hybrid form!

The dabuses were utterly stunned. Only the dabuses and the Lady of Pain were allowed to enter the Secret City of the Dabuses!

Ffazablur showed Theran around. I made up this secret city. I know the Planescape books urge you to leave the Lady of Pain as a mystery, but every single time I use her in a campaign the players love her and want to do stuff with her, so I end up doing all sorts of wacky stuff.

A Phirblas
Theran got a tour of the secret city:
  • Hall of Regret: A room dedicated to remembering how Aoskar almost took over Sigil. The Staff of Aoskar that the heroes had recovered and given to the Lady was in here.
  • Conduits of Pain: The walls had transparent tubes full of concentrated pain. All of the tubes led to a mysterious chamber that only the Lady of Pain could enter.
  • Hall of Vigilance: Full of magic paintings that allow you to watch everyone who is trapped in one of the Lady of Pain's mazes. Theran saw Ravel Puzzlewell in a particularly big painting.
  • Hall of Repairs: This room held dabus tools. Ffazablur gave Theran a hammer and clippers. These items are normal tools to most, but in the hands of a dabus the tools can mend (like the spell).
  • Hall of Travel: Theran was stunned to see hundreds of portals to every area in Sigil. These portals are invisible and inaccessible to all but dabuses and the Lady. No key is needed to activate these portals. Theran can just fly through.
  • Portal to Inphirblau: In Planescape appendix 3, there's a race similar to the dabus called the Phirblas. They have red skin and instead of rebuses, they have written words hovering above them. They live in "one of the first demi-planes," Inphirblau. The whole plane is one big city. The Phirblas are peaceful herbivores who don't age.
Ffazablur told Theran that the Phirblas is the final step of mortal evolution. Dabuses are the second-to-last. I made this up because it seemed cool. So yeah, in my games, when you die, you are reborn as different planar creatures and when your soul has achieved true content and enlightenment, you are reborn as a Phirblas.

The Lady of Pain
The dabuses gathered around Theran. They were baffled. No non-dabus was allowed in the secret city. It should be impossible! One dabus shouted: "You must never leave this city! Our secrets must be preserved!"

Suddenly, the doors to the Lady of Pain's mysterious chamber opened. The Lady hovered towards the dabus who complained. She brushed right by him, turned invisible, and headed into a dabus portal. The dabus saw this as a rebuke. Nobody said anything like that to Theran again.

The Lady went through a dabus portal to Deadbook Square, invisible. Theran was amazed to see that even when the Lady was invisible, he could still see her. This too is a power of the dabus.

Ffazablur said: "Do as you wish, Theran. I believe that the heart Bidam gave the Lady has changed everything."

Theran headed through the secret dabus portal and appeared in Deadbook Square.

Building to the Faction War

Factol Sarin of The Harmonium
Everybody freaked out when they saw half-dabus Theran. People gathered around.

As that happened, the dabus with the decanter of endless water hosed down the wizardly lab building, putting out the fire.

The Harmonium (the Sigil police faction, basically) arrived. The sorted out the whole mess with the drow slavers. The drow didn't have a "slavery permit" and so they were arrested.

The actual Factol (leader) of the Harmonium was here. Once the drow were taken into custody, he asked to speak with Bidam. Factol Sarin had heard of Bidam's exploits and his sword of sharpness. He wanted Bidam to join the Harmonium. He told Bidam that after a trial period, he could become a Factor - one of the Factol's right hand men!

The Factol is actually a lawful good guy. He's a level 16 paladin.

Bidam was really torn. Jessie loves being a member of the Sensates, but this sounded cool, too.

The real reason I did this is that after I run Hellbound ($10 is a steal, IMO), I am running Faction War. By that time, I want both Bidam and Theran to be running their own factions and go to war with other factions for control of Sigil. So I'm getting the ball rolling now.

Bidam told Factol Sarin he'd consider the offer.

Theran's New Power

The group looked at the wizardly lab. It was burnt to a crisp. It looked like it might collapse. A dabus smiled at Theran and handed him a hammer. Theran floated forward, about to see how the mend power worked.

Suddenly.. time slowed.. just like when Bidams power kicks in. Theran was shocked to realize he had the power to reshape the building in an instant! He repaired it good as new just by looking at it!

I added in a mechanic here. He rolls an INT check. This roll determines the level of exhaustion he gets (exhaustion chart is in the back of the Player's Handbook). He rolled bad, so his hit point max was halved!

Everyone in the square was shocked. They watched as the building repaired itself in seconds.

The Next Day

Smoldering Corpse Bar interior
Ignus: Ignus apologized to the heroes. He wanted to give Theran the amulet back. Then, out of the Zactar Cathedral came Umbra! The group hadn't actually seen her in about a year. Somehow in that time she grew to an adult woman with bat wings.

She told Ignus that he was a valued member of the Zactars and she touched him, removing his curse. She handed the Amulet of Flowing Flame back to Theran and warned him that Alzrius the demon lord wanted it back.

Bidam's People: Throughout the day, all of the women that Bidam had 'infected' with metal hearts showed up. They all had some kind of weird incident with their power to cut people by looking at them. They wanted to be 'quarantined. They included:
  • Lady Thorncombe: A member of the Sensates who taught magic.
  • Yulmanda: The demon lady from the Abyssal realm of Nephrax.
  • Urethragoria: The Greek woman from the party town of Sylvania. 
  • The Reave Masseuse: She was already in the square. She's a bartender at The Smoldering Corpse.
Fall from Grace said: "It's too bad there's not another building here in Deadbook Square."

Suddenly...! Yep. Theran had the power to create an entirely new building. He grew it right out of the ground. He made it into a kind of dormitory. Once again, everyone in the square gathered around. People were amazed at what Theran could do.

Sigil Scroll: The group checked out the Sigil newspaper. Two people who had crossed Raja Khan had been murdered - Warrin Spellbinder (the clerk from Nemesis) and Thoebe (the other cat lady concubine). The group rightly assumed this was the work of Raja Khan.

Convivia Kettle: It looks like Convivia is officially Theran's girlfriend. She has a permanent scar on her shoulder from Raja Khan's claw swipe. She walked up to Theran and handed him a snack. It was a berry tart. It had sauce on it. This is because Convivia Kettle is the "Saucy Tart" on the Gary Gygax harlot table. Yep. Never a dull moment in this campaign, no sir!

The Rival Dabus: As Theran flirted with Conviva, he saw someone on the street glaring at him. It was Fell, the fallen dabus! To my surprise, Theran hovered over and talked to him in rebus-speak.

Fell was angry because the Lady chose Theran of all people for a special honor - a non-dabus! And here Fell was, doomed to walk as a shamed and "de-frocked" dabus for all eternity.

Theran tried to smooth it over, but Fell backhanded him! I rolled a 19, a mighty slap. Fell stormed off. Theran let him go.

Day Three

Fall From Grace
Promotion: Fall From Grace was promoted to Factor in the Sensates. Again this is more faction stuff. I just want to get the players thinking about the factions so that the Faction War adventure won't feel abrupt. Once I read and prepare Faction War, I'll start foreshadowing it. I'm still working on Hellbound right now.

Fall From Grace was given a Sensate Amulet, which gives her +5 Max HP, a bonus to CHA stuff and an aura of protection.

The Greatest Thief in Sigil: The cranium rats tipped off the heroes - Ash Vodiran had returned to Sigil. A while back, Ash Vodiran broke into their home and stole their stuff (twice). The group ended up handing him over to a paladin lord, who kept Ash in a jail in the Outlands.

Well, last session a beholder attacked the paladin lords citadel. The paladins freed Ash and he killed it. During the battle, the beholder blinded the paladin lord with a magic ray. Ash went on a special adventure and found a cure for the blindness! How could the paladins keep him locked up after that?

The paladin lord rode with Ash to Deadbook Square. The lord gave the group an impassioned speech, telling them that Ash was a good man and he asked them to "..let go of any animosity between you and let this rogue live his life."

Bidam's response took milliseconds: "No."

They hate Ash so much. It is amazing. I run the guy like he is a 'cool' video game character. He's got quips, he fixes his hair a lot and he wears a red jacket with no shirt underneath. He's pretty much a parody of Dante from Devil May Cry.

The heroes started arguing with Ash. They ended up trading some fairly vile insults. The group demanded that Ash leave Sigil forever. Ash said there was no way that was happening.

Somewhere in there, Ash asked where the cat-lady was. He has a thing for Theran's apprentice. She's still off studying with Iggwilv the Witch-Queen.

Ash held his breath and turned insubstantial (that's his special power). Ash left.

I have absolutely no idea what to do with Ash now. He doesn't hate the group, he's just a guy who steals stuff and tries to be cool. While I was writing this, I had some ideas.. I think I'm going to give the group an opportunity to steal from Ash and see what they do.

The Orphanage: Long story short, the creepy kids that the group rescued in The Shadowfell aren't fitting in at the Lawful Good Orphanage run by angels. The were hanging dolls in nooses and doing drawings of cats being killed.

I got to use Wesley Powderbottom, the cherub. I wanted to do a thing where Wesley instantly hates the Strahd doll. It worked big time, it was very funny. In the end, the group let the kids hold onto the hag doll and the Strahd ventriloquist dummy. Wesley Powderbottom vowed to watch the kids like a hawk.

This orphanage is the place the group saved way back in the Great Modron March.

I have no intention of having anything bad happen here with the dolls. It's just a comedy thing. Basically I wanted to do a baby voice and a Barovian accent.

Day Four

Grazzt, ruler of the Triple Layer of Azzagrat
Warning: Grazzt's realm is very "adult." I tried to use polite language, but if you don't like sexual stuff in D&D you should stop reading now!

Incubus: Selinza returned from her stay at Iggwilv's manor. It was time to go to Grazzt's layer to rescue the goddess of love! Selinza handed Theran a bottle full of vapors. He breathed it in and he was partially possessed by an incubus named Ghavish. Ghavish is going to help guide the group through Azzagrat telepathically. He lives in Iggwilv's manor, so he can keep her updated on the group's progress.

Here is their mission:
  1. Take the Infinite Staircase to Azzagrat.
  2. Search the city of Samora and find Anna Greystockings. She knows how to navigate the city of Zelatar.
  3. Pass through the Zrintor Forest to get to Zelatar.
  4. Figure out how to navigate the portal/maze that is the city of Zelatar.
  5. Break into Grazzt's Argent Palace and rescue the goddess of love.
  6. Use the cubic gate to get the heck out of there.
The heroes traversed the Infinite Staircase without incident. They got to the door to Azzagrat. On the landing was a dead guy, killed by a flaming sword. Yep, the devil agents of The Iron Shadow were here. Apparently, the devils also have a mission in Azzagrat.

The adventurers go through the door and appear in the city of Samora. Here's what Samora is like:
  • The entire first layer is gray and hazy. Everyone here has advantage on Stealth checks.
  • There's a constant sound: Muffled wailing of either anguish or ecstasy.
  • Lots of Blood War draft dodgers.
  • A large portion of the demons who dwell in Azzagrat are Grazzts kids, grandkids, etc.
Ladies Man: Azzagrat is overloaded with beautiful demon ladies! Grazzt is quite the ladies man. I made a list of the different female demon and monster types that are here: Succubi, tieflings, yochlols, mariliths, harpies, lillitu (succubi with broken wings and four tails), ferroliths (4e monsters - ancient succubi covered in metal), erodaemons (Pathfinder monsters - basically the yugoloth version of succubi. Blue skin, third eye), and lots of lamias (woman top half, lion bottom half).

Exploring Samora

Brood Swarm
The group were attacked by a brood swarm (monsters from the Fiendish Codex). I thought they were really cool - a horde of little winged demons who can make string and sew your limbs together. Theran massacred them with a fireball.

The group explored the twisted city of Samora and searched for Anna Greystockings.

Pleasure Pits: Samora is full of these places. They are "...gaudy parlors and perfumed spires." I don't like to put torture or really dark sexual stuff in my games. I wracked my brain and came up with places that were more goofy than sinister.

The very first pleasure palace the group saw had exhausted demons staggering out of the building. The heroes learned that agents of the goddess of love were also in Samora to attempt a rescue. The agents came in here the day before and interrogated the demons in a sexual way.

Some other pleasure pits:
  • Tottlers: A place for guys/demons who want to dress up like babies and have their diapers changed.
  • The Areolaopolis: This is where you go to have stuff happen to your nipples. It is the ultimate destination for everything nipple-related.
  • The Orgasmatorium: This place has a perverted fountain and glory holes. Bidam of course immediately paid 5 gold and stuck his junk in a hole. Some weird slimy tentacle vortex went to work on him.
Chastity Sermon: As the group left the Orgasmatorium, Fall From Grace scolded Bidam. I was thinking over the week that maybe, just maybe, Fall From Grace would end up having a thing for Bidam somewhere down the road. I learned this week that Fall From Grace really is a succubus virgin. She used her wits to avoid all romantic entanglements, even when trapped in Hell.

Bidam is the exact opposite. He's a "man whore," as Jessie puts it.

Fall From Grace gave him a big speech about how he was putting himself in danger and he was spreading these metal hearts that were ruining people's lives.

She told him he should get himself a "chastity codpiece." She offered to show him how to have "intellectual intercourse" (which is what she did at the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts).

Bidam expressed just how lame he thought that idea was, but I think Jessie was slightly intrigued at this development.

Anna wasn't at the Pleasure Pits, so the group checked out...
A Marilith
The Slave Plaza: Jessie loves buying slaves. Not to torture, but to be buddies with. It happens in almost every campaign we play in.

The demons had five slaves for auction. They were non-combatant joke-versions of the MissCliks: Seaborn heroes:
  • Maribel the half-minotaur
  • Algrund the dwarf
  • Bruno, the guy who plays the bongos
  • "Dark" Albert, the shady elf
  • Donabella Trumpet, the haughty lady who demanded special treatment
I was pretty sure what would happen here, and I was right. Bidam bought them all for a bit under 1,000 gold.

The group now had a crowd of NPCs traveling with them. Bidam bought them clothes.

The Stockyard: This is an encounter right out of For Duty & Deity. The group spotted a stockyard full of herd animals: Cows, sheep, rothe, giant space hamsters and.. two unicorns chained to a post. The unicorns were sickly. Being in the Abyss was killing them.

Ghavish told Theran that the unicorns would be eaten at a feast. Their horns were to be used as toothpicks.

And thus a rescue was underway. Thanks to the stealth advantage in this realm, the heroes were able to pull off some serious sneaking.

Dark Albert picked the lock of the main gate. The group riled up the herd animals and created a stampede. As the herd rampaged out into the streets of Samora, they freed the unicorns and covered them in tarps.

Things were going perfectly until the final stealth check. They were spotted. I looked at my list of demon inhabitants and rolled for a random demon race. I rolled.. a marilith! Not good!

The marilith drew six swords and advanced on the group! Bidam pulled out his horn of blasting and blew. The force wave sent a cow hurtling right into and on top of the marilith. The heroes made their escape.

I made sure to point out how Fall From Grace stayed far away from the unicorns. She is afraid that even though she is lawful good and chaste, the unicorns will reject her because she's a succubus.

Finding Anna Greystockings

A 2e Planescape Tiefling
The party was now ridiculous: 4 heroes, 5 slaves and 2 unicorns covered in blankets. The whole center of town was in chaos, animals running around everywhere.

The group needed to find Anna fast.

Festhall: Yep, they came upon a demon brothel. Three ladies were outside the front door, beckoning to the group. What a terrible time for Bidam's power to kick in! He had to make a choice. Hit It and infect one of these ladies with the Lady of Pain power, or Quit It and have someone die  (the group doesn't know it, but a Zactar will die). The ladies:
  • A sad harpy accustomed to shabby treatment
  • An abat-dolor (black skin, 6 fingers) who loves attention
  • A kinky tiefling
The players were meta-game curious, so I told them that basically if Bidam Hit It, the group would have to make a stealth check to avoid the Lady's Lancers while Bidam did his thing.

I was shocked. Bidam Quit It!

The group finally found Anna at a tavern called The Sodden Solar. Anna had one red eye and, yes, she was wearing grey stockings. Anna hated her dad (Grazzt). She was more than happy to help the heroes and her mother (Iggwilv). She also had a familiar power - she could hold her breath and turn insubstantial.

The group was intrigued. Anna had the same power as Ash Vodiran. They learned that many of the children of Grazzt and Iggwilv had this power. Ash was Grazzt's son and didn't even know it!

I have no idea what they will do with this information.

Zrintor Forest

The heroes, the unicorns, the slaves and Anna headed into the Zrintor Forest. It's full of viper trees. The group followed the River of Salt and saw plumes of smoke in the distance - the city of Zelatar.

They heard familiar German voices off to the right. The devils!

That's where we had to stop.

Good session! The players seemed happy with the Theran stuff. I love all this Azzagrat stuff and I can't wait for the group to get into the Argent palace.

Click here to read about the group's trip through the 66 ivory towers and the Hundredfold Maze of Silver.


Jason Raabis said...

Half dabus?? This is an absolutely crazy session. I hope Jessie and George appreciate what has been laid out for them in this campaign! I think the kitchen sink has been seen in Deadbook Square!

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Ha, thanks! They've been playing with me since '07 so we know each other really well. Yeah he can shift between dabus and elf/dabus hybrid. Next session they'll be creeping through Grazzt's Argent Palace. I've been reading everything I can on it, should be fun. I am trying to figure out the best way to run a mirror maze - if you have any ideas please let me know!