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Monday, September 12, 2016

Planescape - The Great Dismal Delve


We played through a session of Planescape again last night. In this one, the group goes to the city of earth genies in the plane of elemental earth to get his stolen magic items back. This session was good, but I felt a little off of my game.

I've been trying to prepare less for my sessions lately. For this session, I purposely waited until about 5 hours before the players got here to prepare. I still have a problem with obsessively over-preparing. Spending 5 hours preparing for a 2 hour session should be way more than enough time, but I actually didn't get finished.

Arabian Adventures: The main reason for this is because I was trying to write down everything I could about The Great Dismal Delve. As far as I can tell, this place has virtually never been used by anyone. That is a total crime because it is so full of potential. Wolfgang Baur came up with so many incredible ideas for it in the Al Qadim Secrets of the Lamp boxed set.

I gave the whole city a big Al Qadim vibe. I ran a massive Al Qadim campaign way back when and I love rolling out all of the cool stuff from that setting. In general it seems like "Arabian Adventures" interest people, but when you only have so much time to run D&D it always ends up as people's third or fourth option that they never get around to playing. What that means is that there is an entire setting full of fantastic, first-rate material that is brand new to virtually a lot of people playing D&D. This is absolute gold for a DM looking to wow their players.

While preparing, I ended up basically making a "Guide to The Great Dismal Delve" so I'll probably polish it up and post it in a few days.


Sounds: I bought a subscription to Syrinscape, the program that has all sorts of environmental sounds. There's over 50 sets of sounds, like "Dragon Battle" and "Elemental - Earth." There are also sounds for specific Pathfinder paths! I've already been planning to run Hell's Rebels, and seeing that it has all of these soundtracks just makes me want to get started with it as soon as possible.

There are sound sets for Pathfinder Iconics, too. So for Theran, I used Ezren the Wizard, which has a billion spell sounds. Bidam used Valeros the fighter.

Us being us, everyone found the "injury" grunts to be hilariously sexual. Most of our night involved me spamming the Ezren "injury" button like a 12 year old.

I know background sounds and/or music isn't for every group, but this thing is so overwhelmingly great that I think you should give it a look.

Plans: Next session will be the final surreal battle with the Iron Shadow, villain of the Tales from the Infinite Staircase book. I plan on taking all of the cool ideas that I can find from Monte Cook's Invisible Sun game and working it in, especially the keyfall (it rains keys).

I assume Monte played a big part in giving Planescape a lot of the weird, symbolic vibes when he worked on it. It feels right to incorporate these new ideas in if I can. I've always admired Monte because the quality of his ideas is so consistent over such a long stretch of time. So much of his stuff feels inspired and a cut above most everything else out there in the world of RPGs.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Half-Dabus/Half-Elf Wizard
 
Each character has powers linked to the Lady of Pain:
  • Theran can create buildings in Sigil and he can banish people to extra-dimensional mazes.
  • Bidam can look at people and cause cuts to appear on their body and he can create portals in Sigil.
When they use one of these powers, they gain level four exhaustion. The only way to remove the exhaustion is to spend days pursuing their beliefs (belief is a big deal in Planescape).

The heroes own a cluster of buildings known as "Deadbook Square."

Last Time: The group drove The Iron Shadow out of Limbo. An earth genie almost killed Theran and stole all of his stuff.

Magical Cures

The group returned to Sigil. Each of them had gotten carried away with the altar of change:
  • Bidam: 9 feet tall, skinny, -2 Dex, a thief.
  • Theran: 9 feet tall, red skin... female.
They headed to a church to get some greater restoration spells cast on them to return to normal. I used the adventurers league guidelines for paying for spells. 450 gold per casting! The group is beyond rich so they could afford it.

Some of the castings were done at a church of the Raven Queen. They bumped into my alternate universe Dice, Camera, Action group. Evelyn is a paladin of the Raven Queen in my game. The group likes her accent.

Fall From Grace Rescue: It turned out that the entire religion that Fall from Grace is part of found out that she was in trouble, and a massive force of clerics and paladins had gone to save her. She had "died" in Limbo and was reborn by her demon amulet, which was stashed in the Abyss.

Bidam has two devil servants. One of them killed his maid and put her in a box. Bidam was baffled but just kind of let it slide.

The group used a detect thoughts spell to get a mental image of the Elemental Plane of Earth. Then Bidam used his power to make a permanent portal to it.

They rested for a full day. Then they headed through the portal to The Great Dismal Delve.

The Great Dismal Delve

This is a Dao Noble

This place is a vast network of mazes in the elemental plane of earth. It's home to 10,000 earth genies and 100,000 of their slaves!

The group met a xorn named Feta. I just wanted to work this DiTerlizzi art into my game.


Feta showed them around after they fed him 20 gold. They went to the market, met some people and bought some stuff. We got to do some haggling, which is a big part of Al Qadim.

Sha'ir: They met a sha'ir (spellcaster that can force genies to do his bidding). He traded spells with Theran. Theran learned the 5th level 2e spell "Genie Contract." It allowed him to make a magically-binding deal with a genie.

Yak-Folk: They saw a yakfolk treating slaves poorly. They were a big part of Al Qadim and they are also in Storm King's Thunder. In 2e, the yakfolk could control dao thanks to their Forgotten God tricking the Lord of Earth Elementals into a deal. This arrangement was said to last for 1,001 years. In Storm King, it says that this arrangement has expired. Yakmen do have the ability to summon earth elementals.

Potion Vendor: They bought some potions from the new magic item section in Secrets of the Lamp off of a merchant:
  • Oil of Attractiveness: This gives you +2 Charisma for 24 hours.
  • Oil of Romance - They tried to use this in this adventure but the creature made their save.
  • Potion of Dreaming: Drink it, think of something you want to know, go to sleep. You'll have a dream that will clue you in on what you want to find out.
Rav's Mansion


The heroes asked around and found out where Rav the genie lived. They headed to his mansion, which was covered with statues and paintings of himself. Dwarf slaves toiled away on the exterior of the building and a tasked genie was trying to build an apparatus of kwalish outside.

Tasked Genies are an Al Qadim genie type that spent so much time doing a certain task that they became a separate type of genie. There's all sorts of types of tasked genies: Guardians, Slayers, Administrators, etc.

Stealth Mode: Ultimately, the group decided to sneak into the mansion. They were very smart. They realized there was an alarm spell on the back door, so they used an identify spell to figure out the command word to deactivate it.

This was good, because there were two umber hulk guards that would have popped up and assaulted the group.

The Harem: Rav was not home. They learned that Rav had a harem. Rav had two wives and two husbands. I decided that the males and females hated each other and were rivals. Rav preferred the dudes and the wives were incredibly lonely. I figured this would be really fun to see what the group did with this situation.

The wives were looking at all of Theran's stolen magic items. Rav had left most of Theran's stuff here. The group were able to quietly befriend the wives and got their stuff back. One wife was a goliath and the other was an earth genie.

The group learned that Rav had the Iron Tome and was using it to un-make genies he didn't like. Doing this was healing the Iron Shadow, who had been mortally wounded by the slaads in the last session.

The heroes realized that Rav was going to use the tome to un-make the Great Khan of the Dao and take over as ruler of the Earth genies.

The Sevenfold Mazework

The Great Khan of the Dao

The group ended up meeting with the Khan, who has a throne room full of mirrors. Because of the reflections, it was impossible to tell where the Khan actually was.

The group agreed to go find and eliminate Rav.

They found him in the 3rd maze of the Sevenfold Mazework - a place where every chamber was identical to the last.

He had an army of slaves around him. Theran fired off a lightning bolt that killed a ton of slaves and hit Rav. Then Bidam used his horn of blasting, which blew up a big pile of slaves, too. I don't know what it is about this group and slaves.

Rav tried his wall of stone trick where he tried to trap a hero in a dome of stone, but Theran rolled out of the way. Then he hit Theran with a phantasmal killer spell while Bidam sliced him up with the sword of sharpness. Rav used the tome to try to un-make Bidam, but Bidam made his save.

Theran was able to drop the genie after using almost every charge in his wand of lightning bolts. When Rav died, he turned into gem dust.

The group had saved the ruler of the earth genies and thus they were handsomely rewarded. Each hero was given an estate in their own little mazework. Each estate came with 101 slaves. The adventurers were to be treated as honorary genies throughout the Great Dismal Delve.

The group got Rav's wives to agree to watch their estates for them.

They also each were allowed to select a tasked genie servant:
  • Theran decided that he wanted the tasked genie who was building the apparatus of kwalish to be his genie (this genie also built the dream diver).
  • Bidam decided that he wanted a tasked guardian genie. I haven't really read that entry yet, but the art looks really cool.
The Khan gave them one more gift:

Orrery of the Inner Planes: When put on a ship, this device enables the ship to travel to the ethereal plane and the inner planes (the elemental planes of earth, air, fire and water):
  • The vessel and everyone on board is immune to elemental damage. 
  • It can sail underwater, it can sail on lava, it can sail through rock and it can levitate. 
  • When levitating, the ship can use its sails to fly.
This is perfect for their magic pirate ship that they can summon with their scrimshaw whalebone.

High Level Play: The group is 10th level and they are about to hit 11th. We've played over 50 sessions. I want to make sure that they have cool stuff to show for it. I also want to give them some fun items just to see what they do with them.

Next session will be the big final battle with the Iron Shadow. I am planning on giving each of them a really powerful item like a staff of the magi, that kind of thing.

Right now I kind of want to explore high level play and see what it's like. When we play, it still feels like the heroes are still very weak. Theran tries to use his wand of lightning bolts almost exclusively. He has cool spells like Bigby's hand, but he's never used them.

I actually sat down and tried to come up with an encounter where Bigby's hand would be really useful, but I couldn't think of one.

Curse: Both heroes are still infected by slaads. The players forgot about this. In three months, Theran will turn into a golden slaad and Bidam will die when a slaad tadpole explodes out of his brain. They might realize it before then.

We're going to play through a series of months in the next four sessions, so I guess we'll see what happens!

2 comments:

Jason Raabis said...

Do you have Invisible Sun material? Sounds quite intense. Are you sold on the technique of less prep time now that you've used it awhile? 50 sessions! Congrats!

Sean said...

Thanks! Invisible Sun is very expensive. I can't afford it, and generally I don't like learning new rules. I am not sold on less prep time, I guess I'm just experimenting. I enjoy preparing.. it's fun to put stuff together and come up with little ways to tie things together. The only thing I notice is that a lot of times a session is better when you only spend a short time preparing.