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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Great Modron March - Return to Limbo

Tonight we played through a homebrewed session of The Great Modron March, a classic Planescape adventure. Last week, the heroes had found out about a slaad lord named Renbuu who can change the colors of things.

One of the heroes in the party, Bidam, is a black-scaled dragonborn. Because black dragons are evil, Bidam has faced a lot of discrimination in this campaign. He wants to find Renbuu and convince him to change Bidam to the color of a good dragon.

When Jessie showed up tonight, she told us she had a dream where she was being interviewed for a job at a grocery store, and all of the questions were about the Lady of Pain and the little Lady of Pain doll the heroes bought from the Curiosity Shoppe a few sessions ago. It would prove to be a prophetic real-life dream for this imaginary game..

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard 

Revenge of Alzrius

Demon Spawn
Last time, the heroes had snatched three items from the fortress in the abyss. Each item was tied to a demon lord, and the adventure pointed out that the demon lords would likely seek revenge for the theft of the items.

So! Our heroes are sleeping in their office in Sigil when a demon spawn servant of Alzrius, the Flowing Flame, hucks a torch through a window and sets their office on fire. The heroes wake up, come downstairs and attack. The demon spawn demands the amulet back, but the heroes refuse and fight him as a fire engulfs the first floor of their home.

The battle spills out into the street. Suddenly, the Lady of Pain hovers into the scene. She's fifteen feet tall and blades come out of her face. She glares at the demon spawn, and cuts form all over his body. edThen the demon spawn vanishes - he's been mazed. The Lady of Pain turned and floats down the street.

The heroes met their neighbors, who tried to put out the fire. They were a retired couple, and a half-elf clerk. Two dabus show up. One has a magic sword on his belt (the sword is Ffazablur, a magic sword that will come into play if/when we play through the Chris Perkins Dungeon magazine adventure "Nemesis"). The other dabus has a decanter of endless water and puts out the fire with it. Repairs are costly and will take a month.

Players always really get a kick out of Lady of Pain appearances. I try hard to keep her rare and special, but in 2010 I ran a 4e campaign where the heroes got obsessed with her. I made up this whole story where I came up with her origin (the story: she's the spawn of a god and a primordial) which I have grown less happy with over time. I don't want to repeat the mistake of using her in a way that makes her less cool.

The Contract

Vrischika the Alu-Fiend
The next day, Vrischika of the Curiosity Shoppe wanted to have dinner with the heroes. She took them to The Green Mill, an elven restaurant that doesn't allow githzerai or bauriaurs. The elves weren't thrilled with Bidam, a black dragonborn, but Vrishika had clout in the restaurant, so they gave them a private room.

I did this partly to play up the fact that Bidam's black dragon scales are causing problems. I was able to create a bit of internal conflict in Jessie - should Bidam really change the color of his scales to appease other people? Vrishika commended him on his decision - she has the ability to shapechange, and had actually come to this restaurant appearing as an elf.

Vrishika wanted the heroes to sign a contract with her. Under the deal, she got the first chance to buy items, slaves and information off of them. As the heroes mulled the offer, she used her 2e "ESP" power (detect thoughts in 5e - which is a really well-done spell, IMO). Vrischika dug into Theran's psyche and learned of the question he wrestled with, which is: "Who decides what is good and evil"?

She also dove into Bidam's mind. The dragonborn sensed her in there, though. Vrischika thought Bidam's thoughts were amusing (Bidam's life philosophy is "Hit it and Quit it").

They ate displacer steaks - the meat of displacer beasts. The steaks were tricky to eat, because they looked like they were on one side of the plate but they were actually on the other.

The adventurers signed the contract. There was a chance in this scene for the heroes to learn Vrischika's origin, which ties into the upcoming Chris Perkins adventure "Umbra", but they didn't take the bait.

Vrischika told the heroes to do research on dragon types at a bookstore called "The Parted Veil," a location from a planescape sourcebook. Bidam got the books he needed, and decided that he wanted to become... a platinum dragonborn!


A few days of preparations in Sigil took place. The plan was to go to Limbo, create a river with Theran's chaos-shaping ability, and sail on it with the demon ship they'd gotten in the fortress of the fallen stair.

They rounded up a crew and headed to the githzerai city of Zerthadlun through a portal in a bar known as The Ubiquitous Wayfarer. The Wayfarer is a prominent location in "Dead Gods", the sequel to this adventure. I did a lot of research and campaign planning this week, so a lot of this session is being used to plant seeds for later.

The Wayfarer is a bar known to hold over 24 portals to different planes, if the person has the right portal keys.

The heroes went to Zerthadlun, looked around, and then headed out into Limbo. Using chaos-shaping, they created a river. They summoned the demon ship using the magic whalebone they'd found in the fortress last session.

The ship was Becham's Cyst, a pirate ship that once hunted Becham the demon whale. Now that Becham is beached, the undead captain pities the whale and sails near him in Yeenoghu's Realm, waiting for the day that he can help Becham rise again.

The skeleton's name was Captain Ricketshanks, a supremely brittle fellow. He had an undead parrot named Mockle, who could imitate Becham's cry - an earth-shattering, hellish whale call.

The ship was magical and had some cool items from Pathfinder and Spelljammer:
  • Lifejammer: The ship was powered by a coffin that drained souls. A person could be chucked in there to power the ship. When they died, a new person needed to be fed to it. In it currently was a gnoll from Yeenoghu's Realm.
  • Captain's Locker: A chest that was like a bag of holding. It also warped the cargo hold so that it could hold 50% more than humanly possible.
  • Harpoon Gun: Not magic, just seemed like the ship should have one.
  • Never-ending Barrel o' Demon Rum: Gives you temporary hit points and a wicked hangover.
The Crew:
  • Alamandra the Githzerai: Longtime friend of the PCs.
  • Kimaxsi Addertongue: Foul-mouthed goat-legged tiefling sensate that Bidam likes.
  • Kesai Serris: Mysterious sensate who tagged along with Kimaxsi.
  • Greir Crasad: The thief who Theran saved from The Tacharim way back when.
  • Rodina: Rilmani who was following the modron march in the beastlands.
  • Karris: Bariaur bard who was folowing the modron march in the beastlands.
  • Stewart Seven-Fingers: Tiefling wizard following the modron march in the beastlands.
A few of the crew could chaos shape, which was handy, as chaos shaping uses the concentration rules. If Theran was chaos-shaping the river and took damage in combat, the river might be disrupted and they'd all be in big trouble.

The Journey

Gray Slaads: A swarm of gray slaads attacked the ship. A gem popped out of the head of a slaad when it died. The heroes knocked the other two slaads out. Alamandra explained the deal - if you can dig the gem out of the slaad's brain without killing it, you can use the gem to control the slaad! There's some nice rules for this in the monster manual.

After some gory surgery, Theran had himself a slaad control gem, and a gray slaad under his command.

The Modron: They spotted a small earthmote nearby. A githzerai was mortally wounded, and a lone modron was standing over him. The modron had been lost in the march through Limbo months ago, and this githzerai had been taking care of it.

The heroes met with the githzerai, who was in the final stages of chaos phage. Slaad tadpoles exploded from his chest! After a gory battle, the heroes befriended the modron. I had thought it would be cool for the heroes to have a modron to follow them around. Welp, you'll see what happens a little later with this poor fellow.

Cosmic Wheel of Fortune
The Chaos Pinwheel: The heroes came upon an un-mutable object in Limbo - a Chaos Pinwheel. If you touch it, random things happen. I took this right out of Dragon Magazine #213. The bard touched it a bunch of times, and gained the ability to teleport, along with a couple of diseases. His magic lute also vanished.

Bidam couldn't resist. He touched it once.. nothing. They were about to shove off. Bidam decided to try one more time. Jessie rolled a d100 and rolled... 100. Know what a roll of 100 is on the chart? A WISH.

We looked up the 5e wish spell. In my head, I figured that Bidam would wish to be a platinum dragonborn, and our adventure would end early. But this is D&D. Jessie asked me: "Can I use this to kill the Lady of Pain?"

I was taken aback.. no, this wouldn't kill the Lady of Pain, otherwise a god or demon lord would have used a wish to do it long ago. After some discussion, we hammered out that Bidam wished for the knowledge of the Lady of Pain's weakness, a way to defeat her or take over Sigil.

I was really not expecting that. Jessie showed up to the game tonight talking about dreams of the Lady of Pain. I thought she was a fan! So basically, Bidam's mind flooded with knowledge that will take time to sort out.

I told Jessie I'd have to hammer out the details over the week, and that it would likely include involving the hag Ravel Puzzlewell. Ravel was one of the few creatures who'd come reasonably close to defeating the Lady of Pain (Ravel brought a horde of devils to Sigil, who tried to take over the city - Ravel was mazed by the Lady of Pain as punishment).

Demon Rum: As the Cyst sailed the river through Limbo to Renbuu's gallery, the crew got together and drank a lot of rum. Ricketshanks taught them a filthy sea shanty. Kesai-Serris flirted with Theran, and talked about how she doesn't have dreams. Kimaxsi and Bidam got wasted and had some, uh, drunken romance in the captain's cabin.

The gnoll in the lifejammer died. A creature needed to be chucked in there or the ship would vanish and return to The Abyss. I thought ,"No big deal, they have that gray slaad." Nope. In went the modron. The cute little modron! Those monsters!

Theran's logic was sound, though. When a modron dies, it vanishes and a modron is reborn in the energy pool in Mechanus. So, he wasn't really killing it, but rather, he was sending it home! I was impressed he remembered that modron factoid.

Limbo Hazards: The ship survived steel rain, and then navigated a field of globules of liquid thunder.

Renbuu's Gallery: Renbuu welcomed the heroes to his gallery and was quite amused that they had his painting of Lamashtu. Renbuu was served by many red and blue slaads, who hoped to win his favor and be color-changed to a higher-ranking type, like a green slaad.

I had cooked up some Renbuu art objects for the heroes to gawk at:
  • Sculpture of modrons marching in the chaos of limbo.
  • Painting of a balor demon lord with many alu-fiend slaves (Karaphon, a demon lord who appears in "Umbra").
  • Painting of a miserable hag in a maze (Ravel Puzzlewell).
  • Sculpture of a black cloud wearing a sinister white mask (a visage - a monster from "Dead Gods")
  • A sculpture of a giant marilith with red eyes and black skin (Shaktari, a marilith somewhat connected to "Nemesis")
A deal was made. Renbuu would change Bidam from black to platinum if the heroes would steal something for him. He shared with them that there were 100 slaad mutants chained up in a cave in the Spawning Stone.

These mutants were kept there by two other slaad lords, Ygorl and Ssendam, as they feared the mutants would grow into rival slaad lords (this info was pointed out to me by Bronk, a commenter of this blog - it's from the Planescape book "The Infinite Staircase").

Our heroes would have to steal a white slaad from that room.

Norsar The Many: Renbuu went with the heroes to The Spawning Stone. He saw that Theran was controlling the gray slaad with a stone, and angrily told Theran he'd better get rid of it. To control a slaad like that was greatly offensive to him.

They arrived at the Spawning Stone. Renbuu created a distraction by flying up to the many slaads at the stone and changing their colors, causing them to fight each other.

The adventurers entered the cave and found all sorts of weird slaads that I made up:
  • Orange: A hovering torso with a head, no arms or legs.
  • Translucent: Pink brain, red heart.
  • Purple: A frogtaur slaad!
  • Pink: Flowery scent, long nails.
  • Turqoise: Four arms, four eyes.
  • Yellow: Its hide is like a onesie, underneath is a black skeleton.
  • White: The target of their search. He is Norsar the Many, the slaad briefly mentioned in one of the 4e books. He can summon past and future selves.
The mutant slaads were bound by chains of law - only lawful creatures could break them (except slaad lords). Neither PC was lawful, but they'd brought their entire crew into this dangerous cave for some reason. Greir Crasad, the rogue, had a paladin lord for a brother and lived in Excelsior - she was indeed an ultra-rare lawful good thief. The chains were literally like putty in her hands. Norsar was free!

Reason With a Slaad: A red slaad juggernaut appeared in the exit. Norsar told the heroes to try to reason with it (so I could use the 4e "reason with a slaad" chart).

Theran proceeded to point out to the slaad that chaining up slaads was not a chaotic thing to do at all - in fact, it reeked of law. Great point! I rolled on the chart, just to see the result. I got "the slaad runs away" result. Perfect!

Black Slaad Entropics: The heroes made their way outside with Norsar. While Renbuu was keeping most of the slaads busy, Ygorl's black slaad entropics were on to the scheme. A horde of them floated between the heroes and their ship. Norsar summoned 100 of his selves from the past and future, and a giant battle broke out.

When the entropics die, they become a vortex that can grab and hold a person. This battle was all about the heroes trying to get to their ship. Theran actually got dropped by the entropics, but Rodina the rilmani healed him.

The heroes, Norsar, and Renbuu fled back to Renbuu's lair in an air vortex tube of Renbuu's creation.

Renbuu lived up to his word, turning Bidam into a platinum dragonborn. Then he turned to Theran, who still held the gray slaad control gem. He turned Theran into a drow! Then he did a painting of the heroes and their crew. They were all naked, in a restaurant. Each of them sat at a table opposite of an incarnation of Norsar the Many. Renbuu made a magic copy of the painting and gave it to the heroes.

The heroes returned to Zerthadlun and to Sigil.


After selling some stuff to Vrischika, they returned to Zerthadlun and told the ruler, Adlishar Ralamen, about the slaad secret - that there were many powerful mutations chained up in the stone!

Adlishar rewarded the heroes by giving them two uncommon magic item formulas (the heroes picked formulas for a tan bag of tricks and javelin of lightning). Theran planned to craft and sell these items in Vrishika's Curiosity Shoppe. Theran also agreed to sell the slaad and the control gem to Vrishika.

They were also allowed to stay in Zerthadlun for a few months and train under Belthomis, learning how to glimpse the future (gaining a permanent initiative bonus).

Future Plans

I planted a lot of seeds, and I got blindsided by a fun but challenging wish. How does one oppose the Lady of Pain? I have no idea. I guess I'll take this plot one step at a time.

What is the Lady of Pain's weakness? Love? The fact that she can't leave Sigil? The possibility that Sigil is her prison?

I've already prepared next week's session, which involves a trip to Undermountain. I guess we'll see what happens. I knew this session was going to be good, and it was.

Continue on to the next chapter, where the heroes take a trip to the legendary Forgotten Realms megadungeon known as Undermountain.


Bronk said...

Neat! Plus, this game session sounded epic.

Sean said...

Bronk: It was, in no small part thanks to you showing me that spawning stone stuff. Thanks!!

Knas said...

Reading along this campaign in prep for running the campaign, very curious though - which 4e book did you find the reason with Slaad chart? :D

Anonymous said...

"They ate displacer steaks - the meat of displacer beasts. The steaks were tricky to eat, because they looked like they were on one side of the plate but they were actually on the other."