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Monday, November 7, 2016

Planescape - Planar Breach

Grazz't and Iggwilv

We just finished up another session of Planescape and, as always, it was fun. Planescape is ridiculously deep. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of the setting. You could easily run an entire campaign in the city of Sigil and not even use the Outlands or the other planes at all. I'd actually like to do that someday.

Marvel Movies & D&D: I have been sick this past week and I watched a lot of movies. I saw Captain America: Civil War and it really exemplified what I think is one of the most important things when it comes to telling a story that people care about. There's a scene where the heroes fight each other. It's not to the death. They pull their punches. But there are still high stakes and concrete consequences. A lot of reviewers said that was the best scene in the movie.

Not Always to the Death: I think it is important to always keep in mind that not every battle should be to the death. When you vary the stakes, it adds a lot of realism and communicates the feeling that your world is alive.

I decided to put in an encounter like this tonight since it was on my brain. At the end of this one, the group has to try to take a tapestry from a greedy ally who is probably too powerful for them to kill, and killing this person would be "political suicide."

The Party

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

Last Time: The group is friends with a "good" demon lord named Bazuuma who rules an abyssal lair called Burningwater. She has cut a deal with Grazzt, a demon lord who rules three abyssal layers. She is going to marry him and together they will rule all four layers.

The problem here is that Bazuuma is secretly married to Bidam and that she's going to try to steal Grazzt's three realms from him!


Seoni, who is probably doomed

We started off with a bunch of little stuff that follows up from the events of last session. This always goes over really well. I want to make sure that the players feel like their choices from last time mattered.

The group tidied up their new abyssal domains:

Skyshrine: Theran's earthmote and former home to air genies:
  • Living Spellbook: Theran's assistant offered to let Theran tattoo spells on her. I wonder what a 'living scroll' would be like?
  • Old Feller: Theran interacted with this old air genie who's been sitting in a sauna in Skyshrine for 3 years. He's just a comedy character and an excuse for me to do an old man voice.
  • Iggwilv Getting Grabby: Iggwilv wants to use this place as one of her lairs. Theran was quite annoyed at this. Each session, Iggwilv is getting more demanding and sinister.
Allagash: Bidam's "demon sex farm":
  • The Orcusword: Bidam reached out to Tenebrous (aka undead Orcus). Bidam was sent another vision telling him he needed to repair the Orcusword for the Rot Harbingers to follow his orders.
  • Meatballs: Three sad sack demon males showed up to sign up for the breeding program. Bidam realized it will be easier to recruit males rather than females.
Secret Plans: Bazuuma had a secret meeting with the group. She wants them to go check out the plane of positive energy. She's a demon lord of positive energy and thinks she might need a place to flee to if things go badly.

Next session the group will go there. I'm excited, because there is a lot of really cool material for that place.

The group did some stuff in Sigil and then it was time for the main adventure.

Nalen Blackstar

Spell from the Codex of the Infinite Planes adventure

Planar Breach is a 7th level spell. It is going be cast by Nalen Blackstar, a wizard from "Nemesis." Nalen has some cool items from that adventure:
  • Shaktari's Necklace: In 2e terms, it lets you cast spells as if you were a wizard 5 levels higher.
  • Wizardbane: A mind flayer's soul is trapped in this sword. It grants the wielder magic resistance and the ability to cast levitate, detect thoughts and plane shift once per day.
I played up that Nalen is self-conscious about his hairpiece, as that factors in to the final encounter.

The group took Nalen and some agents of Grazzt on a tour of Bazuuma's layer. A few things happened:
  • Tension: The group noticed that Grazzt's marilith guard hates Nalen. Nalen did some really awful things to a marilith in "Nemesis."
  • Secret Demon: There was a hooded, dark demon with Nalen. The group didn't pay him much mind. This is Ztefano, a demon lord. I was wondering if the group would learn his secret, but they didn't pay him much mind.
  • Cabiri: Nalen got a look at the shrine of Cabiri, the obyrith who used to rule this layer. I want to play up Cabiri because he factors in to an upcoming Blood War adventure.
The Bay of Choking Bile

Chaos Ship flying in the Abyss

Then the group went to the Bay of Choking Bile in Grazzt's realm. The 4e Demonomicon says that Grazzt keeps his ships here, so I detailed a few.
  • Grazzt's Chaos Ship: I am planning on using this in the Blood War. Back in 4e, my group got the chaos ship of Orcus and it was pretty awesome.
  • A manta ray ship: This is a smalljammer, a "shuttle" that is linked to the actual Spelljammer vessel.
  • The Ebony Queen: A ship made of obsidian (taken from Secrets of the Lamp) with an incubus captain known as "the dark-eyed stranger." I saw that phrase and thought it was funny, so I worked it in. Whenever I described him, I went into dramatic detail about his black eyes and mysterious pirate nature.
Grazzt Woos Bazuuma: I had an avatar of Grazzt skulking around. Grazzt really wants to marry Bazuuma so I had him try to woo her. It was very interesting. Bidam got jealous. Bidam lives by the philosophy of "hit it and quit it" but it seems like he is changing.

I want to put the pressure on a bit as far as this goes. She is not going to want to marry Grazzt, so that means the betrayal and coup attempt will need to happen soon.

Merging of the Planes

The rest of the session involved the planar breach. The adventurers set themselves up on "Accomplishment Island," where Bazuuma's "Spire of Encouragement" is. Connecting two abyssal realms causes all sorts of chaos as the elements of each plane merge with the other:
  • Merging: The River of Salt poured in and formed a new island that will be the home of Grazzt's temple and his city of Zelatar.
  • What Does Alkaline Do? It started to rain alkaline. I have no idea what alkaline does so I had the group save vs wetness. Fall From Grace failed her save and was covered in alkaline and suffered alkaline-related conditions.
  • Thrusting Winds: Winds kicked up and blew demons people through the air. The group made their saves but some demon unicorns didn't and the group took some horn stabs in the chaos.
  • Blue Sun Appears: A blue sun appeared, half-submerged in the ocean. This sun is like the one in Grazzt's realm. It let out solar flares that destroyed buildings on Accomplishment Island. The heroes ended up buried in a collapsed building due to bad die rolls. Fall From Grace dug them out.
  • Rain of Blue Fire: It started raining blue fire and now the storm was raging.
  • Evil Crustaceans! A tornado kicked up. Burningwater is full of "demon crustaceans." Our heroes had to battle a tornado full of crustaceans - a Crustnado!
Bidam was horrified to see that his baby dragon son, Pyranicus, was sucked in. Bidam dove in to the watery tornado, swam up and saved his kid.

The Crustnado sucked Theran in and he actually went down. Bidam swam down with his kid and pulled Theran out. Theran failed two death saves and barely got healed in time.

He then backed up and busted out a spell I didn't know he had: Disintegrate! He destroyed the Crustnado.

Trump in Danger: The heroes spotted my Donal Trump NPC in the fight of his life against a demon crustacean. This monster was slightly larger than a real life crab, which the group found very amusing. I put this here just to see if the adventurers would help him or not. I was intent on rolling out that fight and seeing what happened.

Bidam decided to help. He sliced the crustacean in half with a single swipe of his sword of sharpness.
Cabiri, the Watching Master

The storm began to subside, but the breach had disturbed the realm. A sunken tower of Cabiri suddenly rose up. The group saw the Ebony Queen in the ocean - It had traveled through the planar breach. The spell was a success!

The Ebony Queen changed course and headed for the tower. The demon pirates and Nalen were going to loot that place!

The heroes jumped in their pirate ship piloted by a skeleton. It is fitted with an orrery of the planes, meaning it can pass through stone and other elements.

Inside the tower of Cabiri was a tapestry of demon skin that held some of Cabiri's findings:
  • Cabiri wrote about Sibriex flesh crafters - they create demons. Cabiri wondered if the Sibriex were slain, if demons would go extinct.
  • Cabiri wrote about the Maeldur - a singular entity that was apparently the source of demonic abilities (immunities, resistances, spell-like powers). Cabiri posited the theory that if the Maeldur was killed, demons would lose all resistances and powers.
The Maeldur is the focus of the third adventure in the Hellbound boxed set, and I want to start setting it up now.

The Ebony Queen pulled up and Nalen came into Cabiris placed with the dark-eyed stranger. Nalen came in and wanted the tapestry. The group objected, so Nalen cast time stop and started rolling up the tapestry. When the spell ended, the group had one round to stop Nalen before he planeshifted away with the tapestry of demon flesh.

Bidam tried to just pull the tapestry away from him with an opposed strength check. Bidam has a high strength, Nalen has a -1. Nalen rolled really high and won!

At the last moment, the group had an idea. They decided to mage hand his hairpiece. Nalen freaked out, embarrassed. He begged the group not to tell anyone about it and pointed out that the hairpiece was an item he had specially crafted.

I did not expect what happened next. The group made friends with him. Nalen gave them the tapestry. The group invited him to come visit them in Deadbook Square.

I fully intended for this guy to be a jerk and be hated, but it just worked out differently.

The Plot Against Grazz't

In the next few sessions, we're going to play out this scheme. Next session I am going to have the players give me their plan. There are a ton of possibilities when it comes to trying to overthrow Grazzt and steal his three realms:
  • Lifepearls: The group could get one or more lifepearls from the plane of positive energy and do wacky things with them.
  • Truthers: The heroes could recruit those weird creatures in the plane of positive energy who want to commit genocide on all liars. Grazzt and his demons are definitely liars.
  • Earth Genies: The heroes might be able to recruit the earth genies in some kind of deal with the earth genie ruler.
  • Air Genies: he group might be able to recruit air genies, who surely aren't happy with how Grazzt's right hand man killed so many of their kind at Skyshrine.
  • Obyrith: The group is friends with Bechard, a very powerful obyrith. With the planar connection, he can swim to the Bay of Choking Bile and cause great havoc.
  • Devils: The group could enlist the devils! They are friends with Drokkarn the pit fiend, who is about to be given his own army for the blood war.
There's two other factors:

Another Planar Breach: Bazuuma might want to create a planar breach, connecting her lair to the plane of positive energy. I imagine this would be quite an "infection" on the abyss which would leak into Azzagrat. Grazzt's land would be poisoned and he'd have to cut ties.

Iggwilv the Witch-Queen: Iggwilv does not want Grazzt marrying Bazuuma. I run Grazzt and Iggwilv as a dysfunctional couple. They want to be together but they are really petty and always playing games. They spend decades scheming against each other.

I think one way for all of this to end is for Grazzt and Iggwilv to get together. This might placate Grazzt enough to let the group and Bazuuma off the hook. I don't think it is possible for the group to steal these three layers, that just seems unlikely. If they have a great idea, then fine. But even if they get them, how can they control them?

There's also Verin, another demon, to deal with. And the thousands of demons already in Azzagrat that aren't exactly going to be thrilled with Bazuuma.

Next session, We'll play through the positive energy realm and then I'm going to lay out their options. The players will need to tell me their plan for Grazzt's realm.


Jeff Robert said...

Alkaline materials are basic (high pH) and will burn you. Think of bleach, lye, hydrogen peroxide, etc. You could probably use acid or poison damage to simulate the effects.

Jason R said...

I've been bracing myself for something aweful to happen with this plot to screw over Graazt; I was sure his charisma was going to get the better of Bazuuma, who would then roll on the PC's. One double-cross deserves another lol.

Breashios said...

Fascinating story

Sean said...

Jeff Robert: Aha, cool. I had a hard time finding that info. Thank you, that will come in handy soon.

Jason Raabis: Welp.... if it is happening (wink wink), it will happen next week 11/20

Michael English: Thanks!