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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Planescape - The Blood War XIX. The Iron Flask

Last night, we continued going through an old Chris Perkins adventure from Dungeon Magazine called Bzallin's Blacksphere. I honestly think that this is an adventure everyone should know about. There is so much to pull out of it to use, especially the 12 apprentices. Each and every apprentice is unique and has an interesting story. Many of them make for great villains for any campaign.

The one problem I have with this adventure is that it is incredibly dense. It's a very intimidating wall of text that I have a lot of trouble wading into and making sense of. I think that's more a problem local to my brain than most of you.

I decided to get a pixel art gif of Bidam and Theran. Here's Bidam so far:

This adventure is loaded with treasure! Dozens of magic items and over 100,000 gp in gold, gems, and lewt. I converted a lot of old, obscure items like:
  • Ohm's Black Box: You can trap someone in this box. Inside, a custom, luxurious realm is created. There is no escape except for a wish spell. Once 5 days have passed, the prisoner is magically released.
  • Magemask: This is a half-mask with a crystal eye lens that gives you the ability to see invisible, spot hidden glyphs, etc.
  • Ioun Stones: This thing is loaded with ioun stones. My favorite is one that can absorb 5th to 8th level spells. That is very handy for this group.
The heroes had defeated the lich named Bzallin. They'd taken his talisman of the sphere, which is the source of the growing sphere of annihilation in their friend's abyssal realm.

Handing Out Treasure: I had made index cards for the magic items, so I could just hand them over instead of wasting time at the table telling the players what they did and them writing it down and inevitably asking question about it.

One of Bzallin's items is a black robe of the archmagi. In all the time I've played D&D, I don't think I've ever seen this item used. I didn't even know what it did! They come in different colors. A black robe can only be attuned to by evil creatures. A white one is only for good creatures. The robe gives a +2 to your spell attack bonus and some other stuff.

He also got a staff of the magi, which can absorb spells and can cast 50 levels worth of spells. It's an amazing item.

The Summoning Room


The heroes listened at a door and opened it a crack to peer in. Stealth check... natural 20! They saw a vrock guarding a spellcaster who had summon a 10 foot tall hunchbacked fiend with two 12 foot (?!) long tentacle arms and two arms that end in pincers. It's a hordeling, another monster I have never used outside of an old campaign where each session, the D&D heroes went to another RPG - Marvel, Shadowrun, etc. It might sound dumb, but that campaign really clicked.

Theran dropped a fireball in here, with the intent of melting the gold paint that comprised the boundary of the summoning circle. The hordeling immediately lashed out, grabbing a vrock and throttling it (I rolled a natural 20). I rolled a lot of 20's tonight. I had forgotten my dice, so I was using Jessie's white dice and that white d20 is like a critical hit factory.

The caster woman fled to another room to get reinforcements. The reinforcements:
  • A githzerai caster wearing a girdle. She had been shunned by her people for her evil nature.
  • A male caster who had an accident with a polymorph spell that warped half of his body into the form of a nabassu (demonic gargoyle).
  • 6 zombie assistants.
The heroes dropped that fireball in there, shut the door, and hid.

The zombies opened the door. Fall From Grace turned them. The group was hit with a chain lightning spell that did a pile of damage.

The hordeling killed the vrock, and the other two casters killed the hordeling.

Bidam and Fall From Grace charged into the room and killed the main caster I gave the apprentices the stats of an evoker from Volo's. They only have 66 hit points but they have incredibly powerful spells (up to 6th level!).

Theran's spells got counterspelled and Bidam and Fall From Grace chopped up the half-gargoyle. The githzerai pleaded with the group to let her leave.. I dropped a whole bunch of githzerai-talk like "There cannot be two skies" and saying "know" a lot. She was able to flee the scene as the heroes killed the gargoyle guy.

Treasures: They grabbed a massive pile of loot, including four ioun stones. The spellcaster's spellbook included a ritual that could summon hordelings. Theran had been trained in summoning when he was an apprentice of Iggwilv, so I'm interested to see what he does with this. Every hordeling is completely different. I should read up on them some more.

Yugoloths: I should note that this adventure has a lot of yugoloths in it. I have never liked yugoloths and I replace them with demons or devils whenever I can. If you're not familiar, it goes like this:
  • Devils are lawful evil
  • Demons are chaotic evil
  • Yugoloths (also known as "daemons") are neutral evil
When I was younger, I found this to be very confusing. There were too many fiends to wrap my head around. I've always felt that it is simpler to focus on demons and devils.

The Prisoner: The next room contained a prison. There were two prisoners: A troll with 6 arms and two heads, and Narkel, an apprentice who tried to steal a magic staff from Bzallin.

In the adventure, it says that Narkel will betray the group if they let her out. She's chaotic evil. The way things played out, Fall From Grace decided to try to teach her how to be good. I used some ability checks to see if Fall From Grace was convincing.

In the beginning, Narkel was not buying it. As the session wore on, Narkel warmed up to them. The heroes were extremely accommodating and nice to her, and she weirdly fit in well. Theran likes the idea of making her one of his apprentices, although she's just about as powerful as he is, at least in terms of what spells they can cast.

Narkel knows the layout of this place. She excitedly told the heroes that they should loot the treasury! This treasury is LOADED with stuff.

The players were extremely fired up about this idea. They really like this adventure and are getting a big kick out of looting piles and piles of magic items.

No Collapse: In the adventure, this lair is supposed to fall apart very shortly after Bzallin dies. This place is a small dimension in the shape of a cube. I figured my players might want to "keep" it so I didn't have it disintegrate. They started talking about claiming it as their home, so it looks like we are headed in that direction.

The group looted a lab and scored formulas for making potions: invisibility, frost giant strength, etc.

The group busted in on an apprentice named Pentriss, who was talking in a magic mirror with a demon, trying to convince it to join the cause of Bzallin and the demon lord J'zzalshrak in the Blood War.

Narkel hates this woman and busted into the room, cursing her out, which amused the group greatly. Poor Pentriss didn't know what hit her. Her little dretch minions were reduced to stink clouds by Theran's magic missiles.

Theran was really interested in the mirror. It is magic item that allows you to contact anyone on any plane, more or less. I'll rule it needs to be someone the user has met. Still... a very fun magic item. It's really big and really fragile. The group was afraid to move it, and they became more certain that this place was going to be theirs.

The group went into a bedroom (the two hag cooks sleep here). It was unoccupied. The secret entrance to the treasury is here. Narkel had never been in the treasury and didn't know what traps or monsters might be in there.

The Treasury: After much cautious prodding and peeking, the group cracked open the secret door and saw... a room that was empty save for a massive ball of prismatic light. It's a prismatic sphere, an old spell thing that lashes out and does all sorts of bad stuff to you.

The deal here is that the sphere must be destroyed. When that happens, the treasure appears in the room.

The group had obtained a scroll of antilife shell. Theran decided to try to cast it. It's high level, so he had to make a roll. He succeeded, but just barely.

The shell was centered on him. All of his magic items became mundane and no spells could be cast. He walked into the room and to his relief, the sphere vanished and the items appeared!
The heroes got to looting. Here's the highlights:
  • The Libram of Silver Magic: A five foot tall book. In old editions, when you read it, you gain XP. I changed it so that you gain 2 points of intelligence.
  • The Dread Wand of Orcus: Seriously! This is a replica/facsimile of the wand. It can animate and control undead. It can also cast finger of death. This plays right into Bidam's story. He has a dark pact with Orcus, and is expected to claim Orcus's former abyssal realm for his own.
  • Iron Flask: This item can trap one creature. When you release the prisoner, they are friendly to you and obey your commands for one hour.
  • Cubic Gate: Yup, the group now has two cubic gates.
The cubic gate can take you to 6 locations:
  • The Material Plane: Bzallin's home world - Tal'Dorei, the Critical Role setting.
  • The Abyss: J'zzlshrak's Realm
  • The Nine Hells
  • Limbo
  • Elysium
  • The Elemental Plane of Water
The group can go to Tal'Dorei, where Bzallin's home and phylactery is! The players say that they plan on doing this. I like the idea of them going to each plane to learn of Bzallin's schemes and connections. He's on the side of demons, yet he can go to the Nine Hells. Why? What is he doing there?

The group shook the flask. They felt a soft thunking noise from inside. Someone was in it! The group excitedly opened it.

The Mysterious Iliara: Out of the flask came a 5 foot tall asian woman with prismatic-colored hair, black eyes, and a huge sword that left a trail of necrotic energy. Her name was Iliara and she was from the Elemental Chaos.

Fall From Grace did not sense evil from her. Iliara excitedly started talking and then suddenly recognized the group. She glared at Theran and said, "Renbuu changed you! You imprisoned a slaad!"

This is a reference to an event that happened a long time ago when the group went into the plane of limbo. Theran busted open the head of a slaad, pulled out the gem inside and used that gem to control the slaad. Slaads are beings of pure chaos, and being controlled in this manner enrages them.

Shortly after that, the heroes met a slaad lord named Renbuu, a guy who goes around changing black dragons into gold dragons and stuff like that. Renbuu was deeply offended that Theran had come before him with a slaad slave and demanded Theran release the slaad. Theran refused!

Renbuu flipped out and changed Theran from a regular elf to a drow. In a later session, he turned Theran's skin red and slipped him a golden ball, a "prank" that will come into play soon.

Iliara was perturbed - she was now under the control of Bidam and Theran and she was not thrilled about it. The power of the flask made her friendly and obedient.

The group got really curious about her and kept asking her what she was and how she knew Theran. Iliara was evasive and crazy and revealed that she'd seen Theran driving his modron machine through Limbo way, wayyy back in the great modron march.

This made the heroes even more curious. I was doing a stupid voice for her and the group really got a kick out of her. I realized that this NPC was really clicking. The group was fascinated with her and really wanted to figure her out.

In the adventure, she's supposed to turn against the group. In my campaign, even the bad guys are kind of nice and I think in the case of both Narkel and Iliara, it's more interesting to just play it out and not commit to them being traitors. Let's let the group's treatment of them determine their reaction.

That's where we had to stop.

So here's the deal. Iliara is a death slaad. In the adventure, it says that the death slaad takes the form of Iliara to deceive the group.

I made up her physical appearance based on Jessie's love of korean pop culture. She really likes this guy "G. Dragon" and a group whose name translates to "Bulletproof Boy Scouts", which I find extremely amusing. You can pay to go to their concert and give them a "high touch", which is not a sensual caress but rather a great new name for a high five.

In older editions, there are only a 4-6 death slaads in existence. They are the most powerful slaads aside from the slaad lords.


Judging by what I am seeing from my old guide to slaads, it looks like most death slaads directly serve Ygorl, lord of entropy, the most prominent slaad lord. Ygorl is the "Bringer of Endings" and he rides a brass dragon infused with chaos energy.

Here are the "official" death slaads in D&D lore that I know of:
  • Sorel (Dragon Magazine #221): Sorel is being groomed by Ygorl to become a new slaad lord.
  • Thurupl the Kicker (Planes of Chaos): Thurupl leads a gang of blue slaads called The Quick Tongue. They hang out at the spawning stone in Limbo.
  • Skirnex, Voice of Ygorl (Plane Below): Skirnex is a three-armed death slaad, a pseudo-priest touched by the Far Realm. Skirnex speaks for Ygorl.
  • Vinakr Abudn (Plane Below): A black slaad who meditates near the Great Red Tempest of Limbo. Vinakr is trying to find a way to tear down the walls of creation.
  • Iliara (Dungeon Magazine #64): It just says that she's afraid of Bzallin, not sure what her full story is.
Next time, the group will clear out Bzallin's lair, then probably rest in Sigil, an then go hunting for Bzallin's phylactery. Methinks that phylactery article in Dragon Plus will be extremely useful.


jburgos said...

'Chris Perkins adventure from Dungeon Magazine called Bzallin's Blacksphere. I honestly think that this is an adventure everyone should know about".

Care to cite which Dungeon magazine issue?

Sean said...

jburgos: Dungeon Magazine #64