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Monday, February 29, 2016

Dead Gods - The Deadbook of the Gods

Last night we played through the last chapter of Dead Gods. Overall, I'd say that Dead Gods is good, but I didn't like some of the early chapters.

After this, we're going to go through the other Chris Perkins Dungeon Magazine Planescape adventure, Nemesis. I've prepared most of it, and I like the first part but I'm not that into the rest. I'm probably going to edit it down.

Then we will start Curse of Strahd, which I am really pumped up about.

Quick Note: I refer to the big bad guy of this as "Orcus," but the adventure calls the reborn Orcus "Tenebrous." I don't use the name "Tenebrous" as the Orcus name has a lot of value in my game and calling him Tenebrous might make things a little confusing for my players.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard
* NPC - Fall From Grace - Succubus Paladin

Downtime in (blank) Square

Our heroes had received ownership of an entire square of buildings. I ran a few scenes to demonstrate their new status.

The whole thing started off with a question. The place needed a name. I had a list of suggestions in case the players were stumped. They quickly decided to call this place "Deadbook Square." They find Planescape slang amusing, and they like saying that they are going to "put someone in the deadbook."

I had an NPC named Lissandra the Gateseeker come and study all of the new portals in the square. She keeps a record of portals in Sigil, and charges people for portal information.

I was wondering what the heroes would do with her. These portals are a big deal. While it is illegal in Sigil to charge a "toll" for a portal, they could have done it anyway. Or they might have come up with some other wacky money-making scheme.

The heroes talked to Lissandra and tried to buy her entire portal book off of her. Lissandra was appalled at the lowball offers. She said no. The heroes just let her catalog the portals and went about their business.

The Free League

I also wanted to establish their new high rank in their factions. Theran is a member of the Free League, who are merchants that watch each other's backs. He was invited to a meeting in the gate town of Tradegate.

Deadbook Square has this huge, empty 3-story building. Everyone at the Free League gathering wanted to rent it from Theran to start a business. There was a lot of haggling. Shemeshka the Marauder expected to have it, as Shemeshka had helped the heroes out during "Umbra" adventure (the group had accidentally sent a gorgon on a rampage in the streets and ran away).

Ultimately, the heroes decided to give each floor to a different business person. This upset Shemeshka mightily and there will probably be repercussions.

The Sensates

The Gilded Hall
Bidam was invited to meet with the Sensates in The Gilded Hall in Arborea. This place is so beautiful that devils have actually died just looking at it. People come here to join the never-ending party.

Basically, the high-ups in the faction talked with Bidam, discussing theories about what happened with Orcus. They talked about the Lady of Pain, noting that since Bidam gave her the Heart of Lady of Pain she hasn't killed anyone - she just sends people to The Mazes now.

They also tried to figure out what happened to the NPC Srivlanka Flumph. The heroes never found out.

The truth is that she had found a gem in Tcian Sumere that summoned her to Orcus. Orcus killed her and her soul was in this magic cauldron in Tcian Sumere. Now that Orcus is dead, Tcian Sumere has vanished. Flumph is just gone and the heroes will never know what happened to her unless they use some divination spells.

The Thief

This adventure has some railroading in it. This whole chapter kicks off with a thief stealing the handle of the wand of orcus from the heroes and giving it to the ogre mage intent on resurrecting Orcus. Here's a quote from the text:

"Quah-Nomag hires the top-shelf thief Ash Vodiran to steal it for him. Vodiran can easily overcome any locks, barriers, guardians or magical wards put in place to protect the wand, and the PCs eventually learn that it's gone missing from wherever they left it."

Now this could be a big problem with some groups. You can get into this real hazy territory where the group might protest, saying they had set magic traps. They might have even mentioned this 5 months ago in real life and you just forgot or didn't hear it.

Not a problem with my group. They have never set traps or wards (even after I gave them warding spells!) in their home. In fact, they were attacked at home by a fire demon a while back, and even after that event no precautions were put in place. I had given them a map of their home and everything.

So yeah, Ash Vodiran just walked into their house while they were sleeping. He rifled through their stuff, took the handle of the Wand of Orcus, and pocketed 2,000 gp of their money. He left a note that said:

"Thanks for the wand and the money! -Ash Vodiran."

Boy, were they mad when they woke up. The heroes rounded up their buddy Fall From Grace and scoured the city. They found out from Kylie the Tout that Ash had headed to the Astral Plane. That lead us to the official adventure...

The Guardian of the Dead Gods

The heroes use a portal to the Astral Plane. There, this god is waiting for them. He's Anubis the Egyptian God, known here as The Guardian of the Dead Gods. He warns the heroes that things are afoot, and points in the direction of the calamity.

I was wondering if the heroes would summon their pirate ship with their magic whalebone. They didn't. In the Astral Plane, you can fly with a thought, so they just started flying toward the trouble.

Quah Nomag is on the giant, stone dead body of Orcus, which is maybe a mile across. It has this magic field, which means that the heroes can only land on Orcus' feet. The place has its own gravity, so they'd have to walk and climb to get to the head, where Quah-Nomag was.

Forest of Death

The heroes came across a "forest" of visages, all turned to stone. They could still warp perceptions, and so they gave the heroes some freaky visions of Orcus moments from my past campaigns (including when Orcus attacked The Raven Queen at the end of the 4e main adventure path). The heroes made their saves and moved on.

They climbed up Orcus' belly. At the summit, 12 skeletons burst out of the ground. These guys have 13 hit points, and they do 5 damage. My group is 8th level. These 12 skeletons really ripped up my group! Theran relies on magic missile too much, and Bidam's breath weapon just isn't powerful enough to be effective against them.

This was a bloody battle. When it was over, Fall From Grace used up her entire Lay on Hands power (she has a pool of 40 hit points to heal with).

The Everchanging Fiend

The group made their way down the belly, coming upon pools of liquid/negative energy. Even getting near them causes damage.

When describing them, I used the word "miasma." I don't know exactly what it means, I just like saying it. Jessie got really excited and she told George to steer clear of the pools. Because they contained miasma, you see.

They continued down and came upon an awesome little entity. It is this creature that changes forms every round, simulating Orcus' rise from mortal to demon lord. It goes like this:

Portly, Evil Wizard - Larvae - Manes - Barlgura - Chasme - Vrock - Hezrous - Balor - Ram-headed Balor - Orcus - Dead God Orcus - "Tenebrous" - Portly, Evil Wizard, etc.

I didn't know Orcus was once an evil, human wizard. I thought that was really cool. Guess what my group did? Avoided him completely! Son of a...

The Ritual of Revival

The group climbed to the head of Orcus. Theran actually fell while climbing, but Fall From Grace flew and caught him before he plunged to his death.

Orcus' mouth is a cavern full of bat swarms and abyssal bats (varrangoin). The group was careful not to disturb them.

They spotted Quah-Namog, chanting away. They rushed him, but this flavor text kicked in:

"You stand in the City of Doors, yet somehow you realize that you've also been catapulted into the future. The burg you once knew so well has become a charnel house. Bodies lay strewn about the streets red with blood. And in the middle of the carnage is a sight that makes your mind reel."

They see Orcus in Sigil, standing over the corpses of Zeus, Thor, Paladine, and Mystra. Also there were dead homebrew gods from my campaigns, including the goddess that Fall From Grace worships. To the shock of the heroes, Orcus is holding the severed head of The Lady of Pain.

"Sigil is dead. The Multiverse belongs to Tenebrous."

The heroes had absolutely no idea what to do. Orcus roared and rushed Bidam. Bidam had been the one who shattered the Orcusword a few sessions back and clearly Orcus wanted revenge. Orcus swiped him, with +17 to hit. He did 21 points of damage.

Now the party was really freaked out! They looked around for a recognizable portal. Theran summoned the nightmare from his wand of darkness. He wanted to use it to shift to the Ethereal Plane. But for some reason, the power didn't work.

Fall From Grace was spoiling for a fight now. Orcus had killed her god! Bidam shouted to her to use her kiss on Orcus. Fall From Grace can kill people with her kiss, but up until now she swore never to do it.

Fall From Grace charged Orcus, but Orcus snatched her up in his mighty hand and began to crush her, doing 21 points per round.

Bidam pulled out the planar compass. He knew they needed to find a portal and get the heck out of this place. To his shock, he saw the dial on the compass spinning wildly.

I dropped a slight hint here - Fall From Grace wondered aloud how they had even traveled to the future in the first place.

The heroes realized that this was some kind of visage hallucination. They disbelieved, made their saving throws, and appeared back in the Astral Plane.

The damage they took was real. This was a last-ditch effort by Orcus to stop the heroes while his servant completed the ritual.

Free, the group rushed Quah Namog, disrupted his ritual, and chucked him into Orcus' mouth, where the bats and varrangoin swarmed him.

Orcus vanished. The heroes were suddenly floating in the Astral Plane. No sign of the bad guys.

It's All Over

They made their way back to Sigil, and in the days ahead there were all sorts of rumors. Some said Orcus was truly dead, others said his body had gone somewhere for safekeeping until he could be revived.

In my campaign, Orcus is now just a vestige residing int he Amber Temple in Barovia (see Curse of Strahd for details).

During his rampage, he'd caused a lot of destruction. Orcus killed:
  • Bwimb, paraelemental prince of ooze
  • Primus, lord of the modrons. He was replaced by a secundus.
  • Maanzecorian, mind flayer god of secrets. Now Ilsensine was supreme god of mind flayers.
  • Tomeri, goddess of wisdom and love.
  • Camaxtli, god of fear.
Further Effects:
  • Nekrotheptis Skorpia, my super-cool NPC who lived in Set's Realm, was injured but not killed.
  • Kiaransalee, the drow goddess who had hid the wand of orcus was now really worried that Orcus would pop up and get revenge on her.
  • The Sigil portal to Ranais/Crux on Yggdrasil had vanished.
  • Tcian Sumere, Orcus' home on the Negative Material Plane had vanished.
  • House Tormtor was defeated in the Vault of the Drow.
And here's one I found quite amusing. The heroes skipped a huge section of the Pandemonium adventure (it involved a huge traveling carnival called The Cynosure), which I think the author of this adventure really liked. Here's this quote, one of the final passages in the whole book:

"The Cynosure continues to flourish, and the show goes on..."

I read this quote aloud to the group. My players started cracking up. I shook my fist at them in mock rage. How dare they skip The Cynosure!?

Overall, this was a really fun adventure. I waited about 20 years to run it, and I'm glad I did.

Next up is Nemesis, an adventure where our heroes go to an Abyssal Realm to claim four, count them, four magic swords from a marilith.

Click here to read how Nemesis went.


Rynath Wilson said...

Another fantastic session! This is pecisely the sort of group I wish I could play in

By the way, how did the group dispose of Quah Mohg so quickly? Wasn't he a 12th level half-ogre cleric or somesuch in the original adventure?

Sean said...

Rynath: I modified the adventure a bit so that the battle with orcus was the final battle. I ran it so that once the heroes disrupted the ritual, Quah was overcome with despair and was too crushed to fight. The heroes had the option of doing whatever they wanted with him. Thanks!

Jason R said...

Thanks very much to you and your players for this rare planar adventure extraveganza! I know the latest and greatest of new 5e stuff is calling you, but hopefully we'll see more of the planes and other mashups of older material in your future games! Cheers

Lichen Lich said...

What's what? A Monte Cook product features emphasis on a thing he's obviously super duper fond of but players might not care in the slightest, right down to making sure it's mentioned in the closeout?

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