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Monday, September 19, 2016

Planescape - The Castle at the Edge of Time

Last night we wrapped up the Tales from the Infinite Staircase adventure, and it went really well. While I heavily modified a lot of that book, there were a lot of fun and useful ideas in it.

When planning this "final boss" battle, I sat down and tried to organize my thoughts. In Planescape, there are three core philosophies:
  • The Rule of Three: Everything comes in threes.
  • Unity of Rings: Everything is circular. Often, you will end up back where you started.
  • Center of All: There is a center of the multiverse and it might be right where you are.
Weirdly, in Planescape, there are NPCs with the same name as the three core philosophies. Two of them are given big entries in Uncaged: Faces of Sigil. Whether they are an embodiment of these concepts is sort of left up to the DM.

The group already met Rule of Three a few times. He's the son of Graz'zt, and he's trying to unite the demons and devils. Unity of Rings is a deva who goes around giving people advice. I'm not sure who Center of All is. I think I read a mention that it's a rilmani - one of the neutral creatures who live by the central spire in the outlands.

I decided to change it so that Center of All is The Nameless One from Planescape Torment. I'm about to give spoilers, so flee if you must...

The Nameless One keeps dying and getting reborn. He loses his memory every time this happens. Ravel Puzzlewell is in love with him and only he can answer her riddle: "What can change the nature of a man?"

In Torment, the actual answer of the riddle is whatever The Nameless One really thinks it is. She just wants to know his answer.

I decided I'd make it so that there is one "correct" answer to this riddle. I saw a poll on this site where people voted on the true answer to the riddle. The result is very interesting: regret.

That's going to be the "true" answer to this riddle in my campaign.

In Torment, some of the Nameless One's incarnations are evil and some are good. I decided that the one they encountered tonight was evil.

I had been thinking about the ultimate ending for this campaign. I liked the idea of one or both of the characters becoming the ruler of Sigil by being in charge of the most powerful faction (The Sensates, probably).

Now I am thinking that the group is actually going to inherit and embody the philosophical concepts.
  • Bidam will become Rule of Three.
  • Theran will become Unity of Rings.
  • They will get to choose who becomes Center of All. Whatever NPC they like.
This will put them at odds with the current Rule of Three, Unity of Rings and Center of All. I am planning on having the group battle and defeat both Rule of Three and Unity of Rings during the Hellbound adventures.

The Nameless One will probably be dealt with later and I think I can do a lot of fun things with him. Ravel Puzzlewell is extremely powerful. The group will probably have to kill her, too.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Half-Dabus/Half-Elf Wizard
* NPCs: Nin the heresy devil, Pyranicus the baby abyssal dragon. 

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

Last Time: The heroes killed an earth genie and were given estates in the Great Dismal Delve. Now they are ready to take on the entity known as The Iron Shadow, who is unmaking planes.
Rule of Three
The heroes found out that they'd lost their weird powers. They could no longer create portals or buildings. They couldn't Maze people or slice them up with their minds. Apparently, the Lady of Pain or whoever had granted them those powers had taken them away.

The group rested for the night. The next morning, Theran's book glowed. There were weird, new pages inside. The book explained the concepts of Rule of Three, Unity of Rings and Center of All.

A whole bunch of clues pointed them toward the NPCs of the same name. The group found Rule of Three at the Black Sail tavern. Bidam had stolen his magic earring back in Graz'zt's palace. When you say the word "gold," 33 gold appears in your hand. Rule of Three demanded it back.

Then he reluctantly handed them a book he'd been reading about the theoretical center of the planes.

The group found Unity of Rings at A'kin the Friendly Fiend's new shop. Unity of Rings stared a hole through Theran. Unity subconsciously sensed that Theran was poised to take his place. They are destined to have a huge battle. The group nabbed a scroll that had information about dreams.

The quest for Center of All led the group to Fell, the fallen dabus. He makes magic tattoos. He has slices of people's skin with tattoos on them that he hangs for display. One tattoo caught their eye - it was grey skin with the tattoo of the symbol of torment.

Fell hates the adventurers, but they were able to persuade him to hand over the tattoo to save the multiverse.

The Deep Ethereal

What this boiled down to was that the group needed to pull memories of the planes from the plane of dreams. Theran could take those memories and put them into "dream pearls," which could be placed in the exact center of a plane. This would allow the plane to "remember" its original form and undo the damage the Iron Shadow had done to it.

They needed Bidam's five ladies to carry the pearls. Each lady was connected to one of the damaged planes.

Once all that was figured out, Theran's book lit up and created a portal to the Deep Ethereal.

They went through and they brought a horde of NPCs with them: The 5 ladies, Nin the heresy devil and Pyranicus the baby abyssal dragon/son of Bidam.


The Deep Ethereal is full of fog (visibility: 30 feet) and has no gravity. The adventurers saw the Iron Shadow hovering above a giant stone symbol of torment. On the symbol were five doors.

The Iron Shadow had been sliced up by the slaads a few sessions back. They saw that her wounds were slowly healing.

Beyond the symbol was The Castle at the Edge of Time, a location from the Guide to the Ethereal Plane. I was thinking that the group would deal with the shadow first and then go to the castle, but they flipped it on me.

The group went into the castle and found Center of All beating up Feurina, the warder devil. Feurina was linked to the Iron Shadow, but had become friends with Bidam.

The group jumped in and we had a pretty epic battle. Center of All had lich stats. I had heard that liches were weak in 5e, but one glance at the spell list was beyond alarming. Here's two spells I used:
  • Disintegrate: Did 72 points of damage. If it kills you, you are literally dust.
  • Finger of Death: Did about 60 points. If it kills you, you are a zombie under the caster's command!
When preparing, I decided not to even give the lich Power Word: Kill. I figured that spell would wipe out my group.

Bidam took a ton of damage, but smartly used healing after the disintegrate. What was really crazy was that Feurina jumped in, made two attacks, and rolled a 20 on each attack!

Center of All had just one hit point left. Theran finished him off with a lightning bolt.

I had Center of All lying there, conscious, slowly turning to dust. I had planted clues that he had the answer to Ravel's riddle (she asked the heroes "What can change the nature of a man?" way back when they broke into her maze). They didn't pick up on the clue, though. They did see that the tattoo fit right on his shoulder and they put it on him.

The group found a pile of treasure. 10,000 gold worth of rubies and these:
  • Staff of Power: (which has a million spells in it)
  • Armor of Invulnerability: Take half damage from nonmagic attacks.
The group feels very weak to me, so I wanted to beef them up before we start the Hellbound adventures.

Repairing The Planes

Then the group dealt with the Iron Shadow. Basically, they had to open a door, go into each plane and place the dream pearl in the center of the plane (marked by the symbol of torment). They had three rounds to do each one, otherwise Bidam's lady would be unmade.

This ended up very chaotic, as the group frantically went from door to door. They were able to successfully save each plane:
Infinite Staircase: The shadow had wiped this place out. All that was left was a single platform. I put agents of Vecna there, as I am planning on running the Vecna adventures at the end of this campaign (I want to see if I can fix Die, Vecna, Die).

Long story. The Infinite Staircase in the books is linked to a forgotten realms goddess. I've decided that when it is remade, it will now be linked to Vecna, allowing his agents to spread all throughout the multiverse.

Bidam's lady was killed by The Eye, an agent of Vecna.

Elemental Plane of Earth: The center of this plane i actually located in the head of Grumbar, the Living Mountain, lord of earth elementals. Bidam was able to move a boulder and place the pearl while an earth elemental tried to beat him up.

Limbo: I decided that the center of this plane is located inside of Ssendam, Lord of the Insane. He's one of the slaad lords and I really like him.

I did this thing where the modrons were bringing their big clockwork planet from Mechanus into Limbo (in the 5e monster manual there is a mention that the modrons are trying to make Limbo lawful). Ssendam was fighting them off. Theran used mage hand to put the dream pearl inside of Sendam's goo.

Ssendam hit him with a pseudopod for 30 damage and Theran went down. Bidam's lady, Yulmanda, healed Bidam but was sucked into Ssendam and utterly destroyed. Theran escaped.

Barovia: I used a room from the Amber Temple in Curse of Strahd. The center of the plane is in the mural down in the room with the vestige of Tenebrous. Tenebrous, of course, was defeated by these heroes at the end of the Dead Gods adventure.

There were three flameskulls hovering between Bidam and the symbol, so he hilariously side-rolled under them.

The vestige in the block of amber pulsed and offered Bidam great power. Bidam said "OK" and touched it..

In the Curse of Strahd book, there are a lot of qualifications to receive this dark gift. If you qualify, Tenebrous gives you the ability to make a soul phylactery and a potion that can turn you into a lich. You gain a flaw: You are obsessed with treasure. Also, once you become a lich, your character is an evil NPC under the DM's control.

I changed it. I'll make it so that if Bidam wants to become a lich, he can, but he's going to need to fight off the evil influence of Tenebrous. Maybe I'll adapt the 2nd edition "Dark Powers" checks or something.

George did point out to Jessie that if Bidam becomes undead, he's going to have a hard time scoring with the ladies.
Astral Plane: Both heroes converged here. This door opened to an area deep inside Tu'Narath, the city of the githyanki (as detailed in the Chris Perkins adventure "The Lich Queen's Beloved" from Dungeon Magazine 100).

I set up a thing where there's a pit that the two-headed red dragon is sleeping in. Next to it is a room that is an "emotion node." This is where the center of the plane is. When you go into the emotion node, you have to make a saving throw or be overcome with sorrow (and wake up the dragon).

Theran made Bidam invisible, and Bidam rolled really high the whole way through! Bidam got in and out without a hitch. They never found out what was in the pit.


The group had fixed all of the damage that the Iron Shadow had caused. The Iron Shadow proceeded to flake and fall apart. In a moment, all that was left of her was a little ball of light slowly floating down to the symbol of torment.

I decided to break a rule for this. I really don't like it when DMs "steal" ideas from players. But for this, I decided that whatever the players believed would happen with this ball of light would be true.

They were certain it was going to cause an explosion! So.. the whole symbol broke apart and became a vortex of swirling stone.

The iron tome became a portal back to Sigil. The heroes realized that Nin, Pyranicus and Feurina were all in the castle and would have to fly through the vortex to get to the portal.

All three of them were killed! I rolled real low for them.

The two devils appeared back in hell. Pyranicus might be dead. I need to read up on what happens to demons when slain outside of the Abyss. That will be really sad.. he's a baby dragon. I'll figure something out.

The group were back in Sigil! They had saved a number of planes and now were poised for some time to relax and enjoy Sigil. The next few sessions will be dealing with:
  • Their festhall
  • Raja Khan, their rakshasa enemy
  • The return of Shemeshka the Marauder, their arcanaloth enemy
  • Their estates in The Great Dismal Delve
Then we'll start the blood war adventures, which should be awesome.


Jason R said...

I'd love to see some photos of your table during play in these posts!

Sean said...

Maybe some day. I am thinking some time next year I'll start up an online game. Jessie might be in it, George might no be able to fit it in as his schedule is insane.