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Monday, March 28, 2016

Well of Worlds - The Mazes

Now that we've finished Nemesis, tonight I decided to run an adventure from Well of Worlds. In this adventure, the heroes go in to one of the Lady of Pain's Mazes. It is an awesome idea, but there really isn't a whole lot of material for the Maze. There's a couple rooms, a couple of factions searching the place, and that's it. I tried to find more material on the Mazes that would help me flesh it out, but I couldn't find much.

Faction War: A few days ago I bought a Planescape book that I have never read. It's Faction War, a big adventure that was meant to be the start of an epic trilogy, but the trilogy never happened because TSR went out of business.

I have been reading through it and it has 30+ pages full of new Sigil details! There's also a massive adventure and tons of info. It gave me a million ideas. I think our group is just going to keep playing Planescape. I'm already writing a guide to Curse of Strahd and writing summaries for Dice, Camera, Action, I don't feel like it is necessary to also run Curse of Strahd and write about it.

Maze Alterations: In the written adventure, the heroes break into the Maze to steal a sword. I changed this so that the heroes had to break my Donald Trump NPC out of the Maze. A bunch of factions have realized that Trump hid an item that could be used to possibly overthrow the Lady of Pain, and now it is a race to get to him (and it) first.

There's a ton of extraneous stuff in this summary. Really it's all extraneous, but this was one of the best sessions of the whole campaign. If you just want to see what the Mazes adventure is like, skip down to "Meeting with the Factol."

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 1)


The heroes had killed the marilith named Kaliva and took her four magic swords.

They did a ton of stuff:

Golden Doors: They stole Raja Khan's golden doors and had them installed at their festhall. It was quite a process getting them over the River Styx and through the Abyss.

Rescue the Alives: Fall From Grace made a bunch of trips back to Kaliva's Island, and rescued the entire tribe of Alives. She set them up in Sigil. 40 of them became Sensates, which made The Factol of the Sensates, Erin Darkflame Montgomery, very pleased with Bidam and Fall From Grace.

Cacklestorm: On the way home through the Abyss, a cacklestorm hit. Theran failed his save and began laughing, paralyzed. This is a permanent effect until you give him the cure - which the group didn't have (cure: drink 10 vials of holy water). They had summoned the nightmare with the wand of darkness, so they put Theran on its back and kept moving. He was cured in Sigil.

Fell: The heroes gave the swords to their rightful owners and fulfilled all of their obligations.When they gave Ffazablur (sword of quickness) back to the dabus, I did a thing where Fell the fallen dabus happened to be nearby. The dabuses glared at him. Fell hung his head and walked away. This is a bit of foreshadowing to set up next session.

Cubic Gate: A scummy wizard wanted his sword, Midnight, back. He has this huge backstory connected to Kaliva. Basically, Kaliva was a mortal who rejected Nalen's romantic advances, so he turned her into a low level demon and abandoned her in the Abyss. Kaliva worked her way up the demonic ranks in the Blood War and became a Marilith, and she wanted those 4 swords to get revenge on Nalen.

I figured the heroes would be appalled, but they shrugged it off. They gave him the sword, and he gave them a cubic gate in exchange. He showed them how to use it. I mapped out the places it can take them. I'm sure this will get use in future sessions.

Tiger Ladies: The adventurers had rescued Raja's two tiger lady concubines. One of them got a job working at a gambling hall owned by Shemeshka the Marauder. The other decided to become Theran's apprentice! We did a wizardly training montage, and now she's first level. Each session she survives, she will gain a level.

Undermountain: I have this NPC adventuring group using the portal to Undermountain. Each time we play, this group goes into an actual area of an Undermountain module and reports back later. These NPCs will also slowly gain levels.

Cranium Rats: A cranium rat warned Bidam that Ash Vodiran (the thief who stole 18,000 gold from them and blew it all in one night) was under their protection.

I did a bunch of reading on cranium rats. Cranium rats have exposed brains, and they all share a single hive mind. They hate mind flayers.

In Faction War, it says that there are actually four separate groups of cranium rats in Sigil, each with their own hive minds. They are known as "The Four Great Minds." They do not get along with each other. It says that they sometimes utilize mind-shackled slaves to attack or thwart the others. I immediately had ideas. I am working on names for the four great minds. Here is what I have so far. It's a work in progress:
  • Many-as-One: These are the rats the heroes have been dealing with. This is the name they were given in Planescape: Torment.
  • Vermin Supreme: Stupid, I know, but it makes me laugh.
  • The Manifold Singularity: ?
  • I'm torn between these crap ones: Merged Multitude (ugh), Unification Consensus or Integrated Lenothix. Maybe none of the above! I'm still working on it.
Blood War Brewing: I did a thing where the devils who live in Deadbook Square (which is the collection of buildings that the heroes own) are not happy that there is a portal to the Plain of 1,000 Portals in the square. They are worried about demons coming through. They are secretly considering going on a raid through there.

Shemeshka Applies Pressure: The heroes own the buildings in Deadbook Square. Shemeshka basically wants to put as many businesses as possible here, but the heroes aren't letting her. So she tried to use the organizations she either controls or has sway in to pressure them. The heroes haven't realized that this is her doing yet:
  • Mutual Trade Association: They said the heroes would need to register with them (for a hefty fee), or they would have to start doing inspections of their festhall. The heroes said no.
  • Knights of the Crosstrade: This group wanted a 1,000 gp membership fee, or else other festhalls might start to try to steal their employees. Heroes said no again.
  • Runner & Escorts Guild: Demanded that the heroes compensate their employees up to the "Sigil standard" or else they'd take them to court. The heroes paid 2,000 gp in back pay.
  • The Adventurers Guild: They wanted a 1,000 gold membership fee or else the other Adventurers in Sigil might become a problem. There's a lot of jealousy going around in the adventuring community and the feeling is that Bidam and Theran aren't sharing the wealth, so to speak.
Meeting With the Factol

Erin Darkflame Montgomery, Factol of the Sensates
With all of that out of the way, Bidam got a note from Factol Erin Montgomery Darkflame, leader of the Sensates. Bidam met with her. He learned that Gonard Flumph (my goofball Donald Trump NPC - I like working Donald Trump-isms into the game) had hidden a really powerful item somewhere before he got Mazed. This item supposedly was powerful enough to change Sigil or even threaten the Lady of Pain.

Other factions are aware of this, and they are all gearing up to get to Flumph first.

So Bidam rounds up Theran, Selinza and Fall From Grace and they go through a portal into the Maze.

The Maze

How to Run a Maze: In D&D, it is hard to run a maze or Labyrinth. Way back when, my friend created a teleporting maze. We wandered it for hours of real life time. He wanted us to figure out the right sequence of portals to use, but we never came close to solving it. Some of the players got really bored/annoyed.

This adventure gives you a few ways to handle navigation of the Maze. You can narrate every intersection and turn, or you could go abstract. Time was at a premium, so I boiled it down to a single roll. Fail meant that someone else got to Flumph first and the heroes would have to snatch him from their clutches. The heroes failed.

What Does a Maze Look Like? So the group wandered the Maze for hours. In the adventure, it suggests that wandering the Maze could take a day or more. I had a really hard time finding any description or detail on the Mazes. In Planescape: Torment, there is a Maze, but it has a lot of weird black roots so I think it was themed specifically for the prisoner, Ravel Puzzlewell.

I decided that Flumph's maze was made of good old Planescape metal encrusted with verdigris. I didn't know what verdigris was until I came across the word when I ran the Temple of Elemental Evil:

Verdigris: A bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate.

Exploring the Maze: The group wandered for hours and came upon a door. They listened and heard people talking. The Harmonium (who are sort of the town guards of Sigil) was in there, looking for Flumph.

I thought the group was going to jump in and attack. This Harmonium patrol was led by Durkayle, the demoted member of the Harmonium from the Umbra adventure. But.. the group just waited for them to leave.

In the room was a huge statue of the Lady of Pain. When damaged, it repaired itself.

The Fated: A few more hours of wandering led to their goal: Flumph's chamber. Unfortunately, The Fated got to him first. The Fated is a faction that believes in survival of the fittest. Their Factol is Rowan Darkwood, an NPC who does major stuff in Faction War.

The Fated want to take Flumph out of there, but the heroes are ready to fight. The adventurers drop the Fated easily. Selinza cast her first spells and hit both times.

Trump Time: Flumph was appalled to see the heroes again. He blamed them for the death of his daughter. I had written down a bunch of recent Trump quotes from the past month or two and worked them into the conversation, slightly modified to fit the situation:
  • "Dark Elves come to Sigil... they bring drugs, they're rapists..."
  • "I happen to think you're a lightweight."
  • "I was ready for you, but it's much easier if the Fated do it, don't you agree? And to think, I had such an easy life - what do I need this for, right?"
I can't believe I forgot to use the quote where he talks about the size of his "manhood." There's more, but you get the idea. I do a terrible Trump impression, but I love doing it. This NPC is meant to be a foil for the group, so I play him as a scoundrel.

Flumph also couldn't believe that Bidam and Theran were accompanied by such beautiful women.

The group huddled up and talked over what they wanted to do. They decided to bring him along with them and get this mysterious item. Then they were going to dunk his head in the River Styx and wipe his memory clean! And after that, they were going to dump him back in the Maze. Pretty clever, I thought.

Charming Trump: Fall From Grace used her innate succubus ability, and charmed him. He kept telling her she was almost as beautiful as his wife, Melania, and that he was "...very rich, I'm very successful. I make a lot of money!"

They got Flumph out of there and smuggled him through Sigil. They were worried that the Lady of Pain would do horrible things to them all if she found them.

The Mysterious Item

Fall From Grace as she appeared in Planescape:Torment
X Marks the Spot: They went to Tradegate in the Outlands, and headed to the site where this item is buried. It was sunny out and the tall grass swayed in the wind. Flumph said that the item was buried at the base of a cherry tree with pink leaves.

The heroes got to the spot only to find someone already there, digging! Ash Vodiran, the thief who had stolen piles of stuff on two separate occasions, was here as an agent of Shemeshka the Marauder.

He sat at the base of the tree drinking Razorvine Wine, being all casual and cool. He wasn't digging the hole. He had brought 100 cranium rats here in a bag of holding to do it for him!

Swarm of Cranium Rats: Speaking in monster stat terms, the cranium rats were one massive swarm. I statted them out to be similar to a dragon. They have a mind blast that does 22 damage and stuns you for one minute (save at the end of each round).

Ash used his power to hold his breath and become a shadow/insubstantial. He began to do a goofy dance as the massive horde of cranium rats unleashed a single mind blast.

This blast actually took Theran into negative hit points! Bidam and Fall From Grace were stunned. The only people who made their saves were Selinza and Flumph!

Flumph was still magically charmed. He searched Fall from Grace for a healing potion. We all agreed that Flumph would do the following: He slipped his hand under her chastity bodice and copped a feel! What a scumbag! Fall From Grace was stunned and thus couldn't act, but she still knew what was happening. She was overcome with rage and loathing, dark feelings she had tried for years to suppress.

Level 1 Wizard vs. a Horde: Ash told Selinza she was a total babe and should hang out with him sometime. He told the rats not to attack her. He told her she should just leave.

Selinza looked back at Tradegate, then down at Theran. She knew she was outmatched... but she decided to stay and fight!

I asked George (he plays Theran) what she did. Theran had his wand of lightning bolts in his hand. She couldn't use that wand, but she could use his wand of magic missiles! She grabbed it and unleashed a torrent of missiles on the swarm.

Bidam came to and dumped his jar of milk of healing (trust me, you don't want to know where this stuff came from) into Theran. The rats literally swarmed all over his body, eating him alive! He took a pile of damage and things were looking grim.

Vaimish Crasad
Cavalry: Riders on horses came over the hill. It was Vaimish Crasad the paladin lord, accompanied by his squad of paladins and clerics! The heroes met him wayyyy back in the Great Modron March. He and his sister had been turned into Modronoid abominations and died. The adventurers actually found a way to get them raised from the dead and back to normal. They have been eternally grateful ever since.

I deliberately set this tree here because Vaimish's fortress is close by. I knew the group would have trouble with the rat swarm so I had prepared for these guys to show up to make the save.

So the paladins crushed the rat swarm and they even had special manacles that could hold Ash (rare variants of the Harmonium shackles that prevent plane shifting). Vaimish had received holy visions from his god hinting at this battle for weeks, and thus he was very prepared.

Fall From Grace Revenge: When Fall From Grace came to, she lunged at Flumph. She was going to kiss him - her kiss means death, but it also means that she forfeits her status as a paladin. She was angry and blind with rage. The heroes held her back.

Then, once she was calm, Theran turned around and blasted Flumph with a chromatic orb spell. These lawful good paladins were shocked. They quickly healed Flumph and chastised the heroes, and especially Fall From Grace. "You are above the cold-blooded murder of a defenseless man!"

Ash ended up being taken to the jail in the paladin lord's fortress.

The Mysterious Item: The heroes finally checked out the buried item. It was in a trapped box, which they were able to get open.

In it was the Staff of Aoskar, the god of portals who nearly took Sigil over long ago. This staff had the power to alter and create portals in Sigil, and it also contained a portion of Aoskar's godly essence.

That's where we stopped. We'll do more next week.

Click here to read the next chapter.


Unknown said...

Another amazing recap Sean! I've been following these for a while and really enjoying your Planescape campaign. In fact, it's what made me decide to run a little of it for my players after they found a portal in the Underdark in the Out of the Abyss adventure. I ran Umbra, and am now doing my own adventure called "Feast of Death."

As much as I love your articles about how to run Curse of Strahd (and the other campaigns), this has been my favorite read and I'm really glad your deciding to continue with it than running CoS. I've felt this was such a great campaign, and deserved a really good finale. And Faction War may just be that (even though it's left some hardcore fans feeling very salty lol).

Thank you for the posts, and I look forward to the next one!

Sean said...

Nykademos: Thanks, I really appreciate it. How did Umbra go? I am planning on running a bunch of planescape stuff - infinite staircase, the hellbound blood war adventures, and I'll probably wrap it up with Faction War.

Unknown said...

Umbra went well for us. We were playing Out of the Abyss, but all of my players had shown no interest in wanting to have anything to do with the Underdark once they got out of it. So, when they found the portal, they stepped through to Sigil. I spent the first two sessions letting them get used to the City of Doors, sowing hints for Feast of Death and getting through the first part of the adventure.
Once they started the real meat of it, we had quite a fun time. The halfling being flung out of the Screaming Tower, almost falling for the margoyle's ruse, our druid touching the sphere of law and developing a permanent madness as her alignment was switched, causing her to believe in survival of the fittest. They even surprised me with how much damage just three 5th level characters can do when they decided to attack Emalica and destroyed her in three turns.
They loved Umbra. Watching her childlike wonder, they really bonded with her. I had Dirngrin take them to a safe house that was a hidden shrine of Graz'zt. They fought Karrilyn and him to take Umbra back, but failed when the succubus fled with her daughter. After forcing the cambion off, they were really distraught about losing her. That's when I had her reappear after using her dimension door. The entire table erupted in cheers.
When things came to a close at the Zacthar Cathedral, they were furious that Inimigle had used them. Even though Umbra was the cause for the portal vanishing, they couldn't blame her, or the revived Zachtar priests. When Durkayle arrived armed to the teeth, the players were ready to defend their friend. I had Durkayle cross paths with them a couple of times before he left, and they barely escaped him at his fortress when he returned suddenly. So they were more than ready to take him down here. The fight was hard, even more so with no active magic until they realized what was causing it. I felt the fight was wearing on, and we were running out of time for the last session, so I had Umbra awaken and end the fighting. I love how she berates her parents, and the players got a kick out of it too. They felt a little sad that there time with the One True Being was over, but promised to stop by and visit again. Umbra was happy to hear that, and promised to look into a way to send them home.
It was a fun adventure, and I plan on having Umbra appear in my Demonweb finale to help get them out of the Abyss, along with possibly some Githyanki pirates that they may find indebted to them this next session. Thank you for your articles on the Githyanki and Githzerai, they were very helpful in designing my next session, as have most of your Planescape and monster posts. Keep more of it coming!

Sean said...

Nykademos: What did your players think of Out of the Abyss? The Screaming Tower is so awesome. The druid with the survival of the fittest would fit right in with The Fated faction. Your campaign sounds really awesome. I just read in Faction War that there is a githyanki neighborhood in Sigil and a githzerai one, too. In the Guildhall Ward, there's Githariban, a githyanki community. In the Market Ward is Darkwell Court, a githzerai neighborhood. It is run by a githzerai woman named Divin Anesh. There's not a lot more details than that, unfortunately.

Unknown said...

The original idea appealed to them. They liked starting captured at Velkenvelve. Three fun-filled sessions of their exploits in the prison, from the tedious and tormenting tasks to the sneaky reconnaissance in and out of the compound. One time, after failing to find ingredients for dinner, Ilvarra forced them to cut up Stool and cook him in the stew they ate for dinner. The monk, who was playing chef, was smart and only cut around Stool's core, saving the poor myconid but reducing him in size. Once the stew was finished, he hid him in the bottom of the pot. When they ate the stew, the halfling took him out and hid him in his pack. They've been feeding him refuse to let him grow again as an apology.
They like the deadliness of the adventure. I told them Out of the Abyss was like D&D on hard mode. Low-levels, barely armed, and lost in a dark and alien place were all factors pointing to possible death. They accepted this, but didn't understand it fully until session 4. First time in the Underdark proper after breaking out of Velkenvelve, they ended up in a cavern fighting off drow scouts. While the npcs tried to flee, Topsy and Turvy were caught by the tentacles of a roper. The monk went to save them, and succeeded, but ended up getting caught instead. The roper used bite, and crit. The monk, the moral compass of the party and source of goodness and hope, died by massive damage and was eaten by a Roper. Nothing could be more symbolic of how dangerous the Underdark is.
Madness was hit or miss for some, but those that actually gained indefinite madness had fun role-playing it. The Waterdahavian Heiress believing everything existed to serve her. The elf who watched her brother get turned into a monster by derro seeing the little mad men everywhere. The goliath barbarian who fell in love with Eldeth, only to suffer a short bout of rage from connecting minds with an aberrant entity and lashing out at the nearest thing, her. When he came to, he looked down in horror at the brutal death he had given here and went mad, thinking not only was she still alive and just sleeping, but taking on dwarven personality traits and mannerisms.
They were not that thrilled by much else. Some was my fault, like the survival factor. The Underdark is something that should showcase such parts of travel, and I failed to do that. I forgot about the wild magic nature of the Faezress most of the time, only remembering once in the early Underdark journey and once in Mantol-Derith, where the book portion of the campaign ended.
I made it to where the duergar they actually saved in Sloopbludop knew how to get into the trade town. I was going to give them the option of following him to Gracklstugh or head to Blingdinstone, but taking over the Zhent enclave and manipulating all the others into open war kind of forced me to give them two options. The long stairs to the surface, or the portal. The sent messengers up the stairs to bring reinforcements to keep the city from the Drow, and decided to take the portal. It was unstable, so I rolled 1d10 for their destination. You know how that went lol.
Others were because they didn't feel a desire to really get involved and help anyone. They just wanted to find their way out. None of them cared about demon lords running rampant. In fact, the players made it quite clear that once their characters got out, they would be focusing on their own agendas, and had no desire to go back down, no matter who asked them to. That's one major flaw I felt about the adventure when I read it. Many groups may not care to continue the second half, and there's nothing really showing the Demon Lord's effect on the surface (Something I'm creating a supplement for the DM's Guild to remedy).
Honestly, had I done a better job of roleplaying certain elements and maybe left out others, they would have gotten to explore and maybe even enjoy more of the adventure. At least they're enjoying the Planescape parts now, then it's on to find what lies beyond the Mists.

Sean said...

Nykademos: They ate part of Stool! Awesome. I can definitely see a lot of groups not wanting to go back down into the underdark once they got out. Some of the chapters in Out of the Abyss felt like they would drag. Your game sounds awesome!