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Monday, October 31, 2016

Planescape - Lord Stillborn

Last night we played some more Planescape. The group is 11th level and I am planning on having them hit level 12 in about 4 sessions.

Weak: It always feels like almost any monster can take the characters down. I have loaded them up with magic items to try to give them a boost, but they still feel weak for some reason.

Don't get me wrong, they aren't pushovers. Bidam gets three attacks per round and thanks to the sword of sharpness, he does max damage on every hit. So that's something like 57 points of damage per round right there.

To prepare for tonight, I read up on demon summoning:
Summoning: Lost Caverns has a fantastic description of the different summoning circles you can make and how it all works. It is very handy. The summoned creature loses one point of INT per day when they are trapped, so after a week or two, the creature is useless as far as being someone worth interrogating. That's pretty clever, IMO.

The group is helping their demon ally merge her abyssal realm with  Graz'zt's Triple Realm of Azzagrat. I had no idea how this could be done, so I did some reading. From older editions, there is a spell called "planar breach" that literally creates such a connection between two planes.

So the tentative plan here goes like this:
  • Tonight: The heroes check out their little kingdoms in Azzagrat.
  • Next Week: Planar breach is cast and the merging is very tumultuous. It will be like a disaster movie sort of adventure.
  • The Week After: Graz'zt tries to connect his city, Zelatar, to the new plane. I'm not sure how this will go yet.
  • Ultimately, the group betrays Grazzt. Not sure how that will go, either. Graz'zt is insanely powerful!
The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Half-Dabus/Half-Elf Wizard
* NPCs: Fall-from-Grace (level 11 Succubus Paladin)

Last Time: The group and their demon lord friend, Bazuuma, cut a deal with Graz'zt. She's going to marry him and merge her abyssal layer with his.

As part of the deal, the adventurers were each granted rulership of a ruined area of Azzagrat:
  • Theran: Skyshrine, an earthmote where air genies once traded with the demons.
  • Bidam: Allagash, a demon breeding ground that was over-run by demons of Orcus.
Return to Sigil


The group headed back to Sigil and went on a mission. They needed Amulets of Proof against Detection and Location. With the amulets, they wouldn't have to worry about enemy agents scrying on them and learning about their secret plan to betray Graz'zt.

They did a quick little tour through Sigil, buying amulets at A'kin the Friendly Fiend's, Tivvum's Antiquities and the Great Bazaar.

Theran also bought rings of joining for the secret wedding between Bidam and Bazuuma. Rings of joining were a 2e magic item where each person who wore one could see and hear what the other person was doing.

Bidam had a vision of the Orcusword, which shattered during the Dead Gods adventure. A few sessions back, Bidam made a dark pact with Tenebrous (the undead remains of Orcus) and now every session it urges him to do stuff. Bidam had a vision of the Orcusword being repaired by the golem known as Coaxmetal who lives in Undersigil.

Theran helped Seoni out with her dreams. It turns out that Seoni is being contacted by the Codex of the Infinite Planes. It is eating her soul, slowly. Theran figured this out really quickly. He's not sure what he can do about it, though.

This Seoni stuff is just to kind of set the stage for the Codex of Infinite Planes adventure that I'll run in around 15-20 sessions from now.

The Secret Wedding

The next day, it was back to the abyssal realm of Burningwater, where Bidam married the demon lord of positivity, Bazuuma. My Donald Trump NPC conducted this wedding. The group hated him, and dumped him in the river styx many sessions ago. He has no memory of who he is, but he's still very Trumpy.

This wedding was an excuse to use real life Donald Trump quotes and work them into D&D for jokes:
  • "We're joining with Azzagrat. Azagrat is a complete catastrophe beyond imagination. Demons are leaving, monsters are quitting, merchants are fleeing, torturers hours are being cut, part time jobs are all over the place and deductibles are through the roof. You don't get to use it. If we don't get rid of Azzagrat, the Abyss will be gone forever."
  • "Bidam is rich, he's famous. He sees beautiful women and he just starts kissing them. He grabs them by the pussy and he gets away with it because he's famous!"
They put on their rings of joining and had a honeymoon skill challenge that Bidam barely survived through a series of constitution saving throws. He used indomitable, which helped him reroll a bad roll.

Iggwilv's Reward

Theran is an apprentice to Iggwilv, the Witch Queen. He had found out some demon truenames in the Whispering Library. She was greatly pleased.

Iggwilv rewarded him by allowing him to study a book called "Thesis on the Planes of Antimatter" by Leomund of Leomund's secret chest fame. This book has a magic item formula for a cubic gate. The group has a cubic gate, but it got damaged in an abyssal storm. Three of the six buttons don't work. Theran can use this to repair the gate and choose 3 new planar locations that it can take the group to.

Iggwilv is working on taking control of a demon lord named Codricuhn, who is from 4th edition. He has a really cool story:
  • He was an elemental lord of the sea's fury
  • He was transformed into a "bloated bag of blood and filth" by the Chained God. He is hundreds of feet tall.
  • His mind did not change - all he really wants is to go back to the way he was. His body operates on its own.
  • One day he will finish his ascent and emerge from the blood rift. At that time, he will destroy the prime material plane, the feywild, and the shadowfell. The Abyss will spread everywhere.
  • There are 6 semi-demon lords who have floating islands that orbit him as he climbs.
Using her truename, Iggwilv summoned The Lady of Sorrows into a pentagram. She began aggressively interrogating her. Theran's job was to hit her with spells to get her to talk.

Moral Dilemma: I was wondering if he would feel conflicted by this. Iggwilv is evil, but so is the Lady. The Lady is kind of sad, though. She collects Codricuhn's tears and yearns for "perfect mortal love."

Theran had no problem with this at all. He did have a problem figuring out what spells to use. Iggwilv got really mad at him when he started launching lightning bolts at the Lady. The Lady of Sorrows is a marilith, so she has resistance to lightning.

Spell Selection: Theran really struggled here trying to figure out what spells to use. Iggwilv started flipping out on him. I run her like she's calm when things go her way, but she gets extremely dark and vicious when you fail her.

Theran eventually settled on using chromatic orb spells that do acid damage. The Lady spilled all of the above information and more. Once Iggwilv had enough for the day, she left the room.

The Lady reached out to Theran, begging him to free her. I thought it would be fun to dance around the idea that Theran could be her "perfect mortal love." I should note that her realm is dotted with lakes that have other "perfect loves" floating in them.

He showed no sympathy at all! He didn't buy in and didn't feel bad in the least. I thought he'd be conflicted about what he was being forced to do. I'd be conflicted! But he wasn't. It was interesting.


The next day, the adventurers returned to Azzagrat to inspect and clean up their little domains. They decided to explore Theran's realm of Skyshrine first. He was given two underlings:
  • Lynxia: A tattooed succubus he'd befriended way back when the group first adventured in Azzagrat.  
  • A Vrock: He was also given a vrock (vulture demon) as a personal guard.
I built Skyshrine using Cloud Giant's Bargain. As they explored, the heroes were hunted by a Pathfinder villain who goes by the name of LORD STILLBORN.

His story goes like this:
  • The air genies lived in Skyshrine and traded with the demons.
  • The queen of the air genies seduced Graz'zt.
  • She got in Graz'zt's ear and told him to let her replace his sidekick, Verin.
  • Verin, a demon lord in his own right, found out. He went to Skyshrine and killed the queen.
  • Verin told her air genie subjects to leave and never to return. They did. Six months later, they were all dead.
  • The Queen was pregnant. Her unborn baby became undead and is now the monstrosity known as LORD STILLBORN.
Edgelords: My group gets amused at the forced "edginess" of some Pathfinder products. For me, I'd rather that Pathfinder didn't use phrases like "maiden of miscarriage," or openly declare that rapers worship Nocticula. I just don't want those ideas in my game at all in any way. I'm not thrilled with suicide demons, either.

I mean, I can always reskin or modify them, and I do. It's just a little too 'real' for me and I'd be concerned to use them at a table where someone might have had a miscarriage or been raped. We're playing this game to get away from that stuff, not having it waggled in our face.

An undead genie fetus is pretty borderline, but I felt it was ridiculous enough to go ahead and give it a try.

Stalking the Heroes: I did a thing with Lord Stillborn that I always wanted to do more of. I had him stalk the group as they explored.

First, when the adventurers were in the library, I had Lord Stillborn use a sort of telekinetic wind power to try to send Theran flying out a window and hurtling to the ground 150 feet below.

Falling in D&D: When preparing something like this, I always debate with myself. Should the hero get an extra save to grab onto something to prevent their fall? I feel like I always make the wrong choice in these sccenarios, no matter what it is. I want the fight to be dramatic, but it often comes off as too easy or too brutal.

Theran failed his first save and went hurtling through the window. He made his dex save, grabbing onto the huge chain that connected the earthmote to the ground. Fall from Grace flew over and saved him.

Stillborn turned invisible and fled.

The heroes went into a temple and learned about the history of Skyshrine from a gargoyle.

Then they came upon a gallery. Again, Lord Stillborn sent Theran flying, but he made his first save. Theran's robe of eyes allows him to see invisible, so he fired off a spell. Lord Stillborn was able to get away.

The final showdown came in the throne room. I put a trap in front of the throne, where a lever could be pulled that would open a trap door and send the group plummeting to their doom. All of them made their saves!

Bidam hated Lord Stillborn and took great delight in killing him with a natural 20. Skyshrine was theirs.

Rot Harbinger

Allagash was a demon breeding ground where they were trying to create new types of demons. The D&D demon wiki was a fantastic resource for this. I put in a whole bunch of perverted stuff that you probably don't want to hear about.

Bidam also got two underlings:
  • Areelu Vorlesh: A repurposed Pathfinder NPC. In my game, she is a daughter of Graz'zt.
  • A Vrock.
This place was overrun with Rot Harbingers - servants of Orcus from the 4e monster manual. They were originally angels who attacked Orcus. He turned them into undead abominations that can rot things with a touch.

The rot harbingers were going to attack the adventurers, but they sensed Bidam's connection to their master and backed off. Bidam can't order them around until he reassembles the Orcusword.

The heroes explored the ruins and I presented them with all sorts of gross devices and experiments.

They found a partially-ruined scroll that listed some of the experiments. They saw that the demons had somehow merged a beholder and a mind flayer into something called a "Mindwitness."

This is a monster from Volo's Guide to Monsters (it is one of the previews on this page). I figured I'd try it out. Looking at the encounter building rules, one of them is easy, two is considered "deadly."

So I had one show up to attack and I planned on having a second one show up if things were too easy.

Boy, were they easy. The group rolls high on initiative all the time. I don't know why. They won initiative and killed the first one before it got to go! It had 75 hit points.

The second one at least got to fire off its eye rays, but the group made their saves. The battle was short. Bidam did get hit once for 27 psychic, but I really wanted more peril. I mean.. it's a mind flayer/beholder hybrid! It should be tough!

I think part of the problem was that I had them calmly approach the group and wait for them to be ready to roll initiative. I could have had the mindwitness be high in the air or far away. I could have tried to give the bad guys surprise. But I was afraid it would be too hard, so I erred on the side of caution. It was still cool to introduce them, but I feel the need to try to use them again so I can give them the respect they deserve.

It was a very good session! We've been on a roll for a long time and we are on another upswing right now. The Iron Shadow stuff ended up being a bit of a drag in parts and now that it's over, things feel simple, loose and fun again.


Jason R said...

Another awesome session report! With regards to the issues surrounding the difficulty level of encounters versus party strength, do you think that part of the equation is that there are only two PC's? You scratch build a lot of encounters mind you, but a lot of published stuff assumes a party of four let's say. Just curious if you found it hard to control the swings from deadly to easy because of it. Adding in NPC's could address some of it I suppose; do you use NPC's as full fledged combatants or use them more in support rolls so they don't steal the PC's thunder?

Thanks for continuing with the effort to post these entries!

Unknown said...

Agreed. Both another wonderful recap and the difficulty level issue. In my Planescape game I ended Out of the Abyss with, the PCs where 7th level, and three of them had no issue taking down a erinyes, which is a challenge 12!
When I have run two player games, I make sure to give them two or more NPCs depending on the scenario. Site-based, multiple combat? One or two. Full dungeon delve? Two or three. Roleplay heavy scene or infiltration mission? None, unless there is no rogue type.
I also just wanted to say how much I love the fact you use all that Pathfinder stuff. I know I'm not the only one who does so, but it's nice to see others actually talking about their resource gathering. And Lord Stillborn is just an awesome NPC not to use.

Loving your campaign more and more!

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: I use kobold fight club and it takes the two PCs into account. The NPCs are more for support. They fight, but they don't do a lot of damage. Fall From Grace has an aura that gives +5 to saving throws, which the group should probably exploit more. The group fails a lot of saving throws!

Nykademos: Wow! An erinyes.. that's good. I think my players are very casual and they don't put a lot of thought into statistics or tactics. I like that. But it's just weird how weak they seem. Pathfinder is awesome! I get a little worried that with 5e getting so big, pathfinder might fade. I don't want to go away. IMO they create really great stuff, I just prefer the 5e rules. I think Pathfinder content is much more "badass" than a lot of 5e stuff. The monsters look cooler, they are new twists on old concepts, and everything is very polished. Thank you!