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Monday, March 7, 2016

Nemesis - In the Hive

A marilith
Tonight we started "Nemesis", a Planescape adventure by Chris Perkins from Dungeon Magazine #60. The plan is to finish this and then start Curse of Strahd, which is also by Chris Perkins.

We didn't get nearly as far as I wanted to. I had cooked up what turned out to be too much side stuff prior to the start of the adventure. I had some ideas that I was excited about and it came off very well, so no big deal.

One thing I have noticed about Planescape is that despite the setting being all about adventuring in the planes, the best parts of every adventure take place in the city of Sigil. Maybe that's just because I love running city adventures.

If you just want to read about the actual "Nemesis" adventure, skip down to the "Four Missing Swords" section.

The Party

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


I wanted to do a bunch of stuff to demonstrate the ramifications of allowing Lissandra the Gateseeker to learn the keys to their portals. The heroes now own a square in the city of Sigil, which contains ten buildings and ten portals to other planes. So here are some of the hijinks:

Other Adventurers: A group of NPC heroes went into the portal to Undermountain, did some rooms from the 3.5 adventure, then came back injured and told the heroes about it.

Dustman Vacation: A Dustman named Pox and the cadaver collector (a corpse-collecting golem the heroes helped create in the first sessions of this campaign) had a week off, so they decided to go through the portal to Sylvania, the party town. They came back a week later. Pox had a magic STD and the cadaver collector's hollow interior was half full of booze.

Creeper: The group dealt with a patron of their festhall who had fallen in love with one of the women who worked there. Bidam took him down with a nerve hold that Xena the Warrior Princess uses.

Bearded Devils
Devil Patrol: The devils who the heroes allowed to take up one floor of the three-story building last time are now patrolling the square. They stopped and harassed Fall From Grace. She's a succubus paladin. The devils suspected she was a Blood War spy of some kind. The heroes told them to get lost.

Then came the main event. If you remember last time, a thief named Ash Vodiran stole the handle to the wand of orcus and gave it to Quah-Nomag, who almost brought Orcus back to life.

Remember how I mentioned that the heroes had never fortified or protected their home in any way? No magic spells. No special locks. Nothing. And they have tons of magic items. Even after Ash robbed them, they never did anything about it.

So, the heroes wake up one morning, and there's a note on their bag of holding. It said: "Made another withdrawal. Thanks!" - Ash Vodiran

He stole 18,000 gold. The heroes were now penniless! Theran and Bidam were really mad. They hit the streets and asked around, trying to find this guy. They ended up basically retracing his steps the night before:
  1. Ash bought Kesai-Serris (a beautiful woman who works at the Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts) a diamond necklace worth 5,000 gold.
  2. Ash bought 1,000 gold worth of cheese and gave it to The Us (the rats with exposed brains who have a hive mind). The Us explained to the heroes that they'd once saved Ash from a mind flayer that he had stolen from, and the cheese was his way of saying thank you.
  3. Ash spent 6,000 gold on a magic tattoo from Fell (the "Fallen" dabus that most people shun). The tattoo allows Ash to open one lock per day just by touching it.
  4. Ash went to The Flame Pits, a magic bath house. He got a massage, manicure, pedicure, and facial treatment with the finest planar magic for a cool 1,000 gold.
  5. Ash ended his night at Fortune's Wheel, the casino owned by Shemeshka the Marauder. He blew the rest of their money there.
All of their gold was spent! The heroes found out which room Ash was in. They bashed the door in.

I made Ash to be like Dante from Devil-May-Cry, a ridiculous anti-hero dude. He's a half elf with white hair. His room was trashed, and Kylie the Tout was sound asleep next to him.

He woke up and was all cool and calm. The heroes yelled at him. He told them that he assumed 18,000 gold was just a drop in the bucket to people like them.

We rolled initiative and Ash won. He appears to be half-tiefling, half-elf (the group eventually learns he is the child of some major entities in D&D lore). He has the power to turn incorporeal, his "shadow form," for as long as he can hold his breath.

The heroes tried various things to harm him while Kylie told them to knock it off.


Then Shemeshka showed up. Shemeshka paid Ash's debt, plus 2,000 gold. In exchange, she wanted certain rights in Deadbook Square (the city section that the heroes own).

In the Shemeshka article in Dungeon Magazine, it has a lot of little tidbits. One of them is the possibility that Kylie is the daughter of Shemeshka. Another is that Shemeshka wants someone to break into The Tower of Ravaastas on another plane.

So Shemeshka is going to have Ash "work off the debt" Shemeshka paid by sending him on a mission to bust into the Tower of Ravaastas.

And Shemeshka also tried to leverage the payoff to expand her business interests further in Deadbook Square.

On top of that, Shemeshka might also have been looking out for Kylie.

Theran and Bidam left Ash with Shemeshka, but they still really wanted revenge on Ash. They did research on hAsh. They learned about his powers, they learned where he came from (he bounced from plane to plane, getting drunk, stealing stuff and getting chased out of town before settling in Sigil). They even heard the rumors about Kylie and Shemeshka.

They tried to figure out how they could kill him. If the guy could turn into a shadow just by holding his breath, in theory he could escape almost any physical threat.

Bidam finally decided the best way to do this was to get a woman to seduce him and kill him in his sleep.

The heroes put this on hold. We hadn't even started Nemesis yet and it was getting late! George and Jessie are going to mull their revenge scheme over the course of this week.

Four Missing Swords

This adventure starts off with a waitress named Salja Slitterknife hiring the heroes to find her brother, Llisian. The note she sent to the heroes is amusingly Planescape-y:

"If you cutters want a job, meet me in the alley behind the Sail at the end of my shift. I'll be waiting with the jink - No peelers. -S."

The adventurers met with the waitress. She offered the heroes a magic ring if they could find her brother, Llisian. She told them:
  • Llisian had stolen a magic sword.
  • Llisin and Salja have amulets that let them see into the others' amulet if they're on the same plane.
  • Salja looked into the amulet, saw a tiger's face and a flash of light. Since then - nothing. She thinks Llisian might be dead.
  • Llisian was last seen heading to a statue in the Hive.
Warrin Spellbinder

The heroes took the job and went to the statue, which depicted a giant bariaur. In a nearby alley, a man was calling for help. The heroes peered in and saw a rakshasa holding a magic sword, about to kill a guy.

The heroes rushed in to help. The rakshasa had a bunch of mooks ready, who jumped out of nearby windows. The mooks (members of the Xaositect faction) fought the heroes while the rakshasa escaped through a portal. The heroes killed the mooks, no problem. The rakshasa got away.

The guy on the ground was not Llisian. He was Warrin Spellbinder, a clerk who worked in the Hall of Records. The rakshasa had tricked him into stealing a magic sword from a vault in the Hall. The rakshasa was just about to dispose of him when the heroes showed up.

So! That's two separate thefts of two different magic swords.

Puzzle Party

Then, as they left the alley, three dabus (goat-men who maintain the city) approached the heroes. They talk in magic symbols (called rebuses) that hover in the air above them.

In this adventure, you actually print out the symbols and hand them to the players to translate. Here's one:

There's no translation! I had to sit down and figure them out myself!

Here's what this pictured one says: "There is a missing sword which we are seeking for beyond the gate. Will you try to bring it back to the cage? We would be happy and grateful." (Thanks to Bronk for the translation assist)

The players got a kick out of this. I like the idea that dabuses in Sigil have to stand there while people squint and slowly puzzle out what they're saying.

One of the dabuses had a magic sword. It was stolen! That's three separate swords, all stolen. They gave the group a map of Vudra, an Abyssal Realm full of poison and mariliths (four armed demons with the lower body of a snake). They told the group to seek out Rule of Three (a major NPC in Sigil) at a bar called The Slaughterhouse.

The Slaughterhouse

Rule of Three was at a table with Turia, the crabby tiefling that the heroes met in the "Umbra" adventure. She glowered at the heroes. She too was looking for a stolen magic sword, to give to her faction - The Doomguard (weaponmakers).

Rule of Three told them what was going on. There's a marilith named Kaliva that, for whatever reason, has decided she wants four magic swords. Her agents have stolen these swords from Sigil.

He gave the group directions on how to get to the marilith's island, which is in the Abyssal realm of Vudra. As payment for this information, he wanted a piece of treasure from the marilith's horde in return - a magic necklace. The heroes agreed.

Then Bidam turned to Turia and asked if she wanted to come. I was not prepared for this. The group already had Fall From Grace. I didn't want to run a second NPC.

Jessie found this funny, as I sat there stammering at the table. In the module, it does say Turia wants to join the group. The heroes wanted her to come along because they felt like this was going to be a challenge (and it is - the marilith is super-deadly).

So next thing we know, I'm roleplaying conversations between NPC party members and Jessie is laughing. She realized this was what I was trying to avoid.

It is so awkward having two NPCs converse. You have to switch voices and everything. I think I did it fine, but you run out of breath.

Back to the Plain of 1,000 Portals

So to get to the Abyssal Realm of Vudra, the group had to go through the Plain of 1,000 Portals. They stopped to visit the wanna-be demon lord Bazuuma (the lady with 20 eyes). Bidam discovered that Bazuuma would be giving birth to his child.

A seer had a vision of what the child would be. It would be a demon dragon that would grow to be so powerful, that Bazuuma could challenge the demon lord Pazuzu for control of the Plain of 1,000  Portals.

I definitely want to play this out in the future, as I've never been a big fan of Pazuzu and would like to run an adventure where heroes and a demon dragon take him down.

The group left Bazuuma and headed for a bridge of skulls, where there was an armanite guard on each end. They followed Rule of Three's instructions - don't talk to the guard on the right.

The left guard brought the heroes to a door hidden by an illusion. The door was covered in dwarven runes and writing.

Theran cast comprehend languages. It said: "The River of Doom. Ten platinum coins. Only fools may enter."

The River Styx 

The stairs led down to a cavern with an underground river. It was, in fact, the River Styx. One drop of that water could erase the heroes memories forever!

A skiff came ashore, driven by a hooded, skeletal boatman. The heroes got in the skiff, paid the toll, and told him they needed to go to Vudra. The floor of the skiff was full of writhing snakes, but they did not harm the heroes.

The skiff set off down the river.

That's where we had to stop. It was a really fun session, and it sort of bums me out that we'll be stopping the campaign in a week or two.

We could always come back to it. I'd like to run Tales From The Infinite Staircase. We'll do Curse of Strahd, and see what the next adventure is. If the next 5e adventure isn't my bag, we'll probably come back to Planescape.

Click here for the rest of Nemesis.


Bronk said...

Oh man, those side story bits were awesome! I've been having a great time reading these recaps, and I'm bummed to see that the campaign is ending soon! I guess I thought they'd keep the same characters through the next few adventures you've mentioned. I hope you guys come back to it!

I think the symbol you were missing is a yawn, then the message would read as 'beyond the gate'. As it is, it just looks like a guy shouting, so they should have put a little hand covering his mouth in there. Maybe that particular Dabus had an accent?

Sean said...

Bronk: I'm glad you like them, I can't tell if I am being too wordy or not sometimes. I might do one extra session, as there is a cool adventure in well of worlds where the heroes actually break into one of the lady of pain's mazes.

You're right about the rebus! I am going to update the post. Thanks, I appreciate it!

Rynath Wilson said...

It's hilarious that your players still didn't learn their lesson regarding keeping their possessions guarded. If that thief succeeds in robbing them a third time, it'll be even funnier.

So, are you running Curse of Strahd for these players, or are you returning to the game store? Are the troublesome players who drove you to quit the store campaign still around?

Sean said...

Rynath Wilson: I couldn't believe they didn't take any special precautions to protect their home. Now, the players are hellbent on finding Ash Vodiran. I think they want to kill him. I have some ideas and we'll just kind of see what happens.

I am running Curse of Strahd for George and Jessie. I have no plans on going back to the game store. I really loved most of the players that I met in the store, especially the kids in my last group, but I just can't handle those problem players that show up anymore.

I actually haven't been to that game store since I left, so I don't know what is going on in there. I really would love to have Jessie get to play with the 9 year old girl (Dark the Dragon Sorceress) but I don't think it will ever happen.

Lefteris said...

Bronk is right about the rebus, the solution was actually added to the next issue on the letters section. Thanks for the post, it wook me 15 years back! (snif)

Sean said...

Lefteris: Ahh, I see. The rebuses are really fun. Nemesis was very good. Whenever he rites about things happening inside of Sigil, Chris Perkins comes up with really cool stuff.