Sunday, April 27, 2014

Taxing Mistakes: the Mazes

This adventure is part 1 of the "Taxing Mistakes" duet I set up for the players in the emails to the group.

The session began with the PCs in Sigil traveling around on their own visiting various establishments. Bobby went to the Grand Gymnasium and had a delicious Smootie made from the Smooth Berry from the deepest Beastlands. Nearin went to the Civic Feasthall and researched her trinket: a collar for a memorat which allows it to record more memories. Norbys stalked some alleyways and nabbed a cranium rat for himself which he would use to research the spell raise tiny dead.

The players all returned to their home to find a note stuck to the door. The note stated that there were 15 years of unpaid taxes associated with this property and the Tax Office was going to foreclose on the property. The only option for the players was to report to the Tax Offices in the Hall of Records. The Hall of Records is the faction headquarters of the Fated.

The Tax Offices in the Hall of Records were full of dejected looking people and various clerks running around. The players approached the front desk, explained the situation, and were told to report to Aram Oakwright, a major leader in the Fated (Factol's Manifesto). At the same time, Bobby went up to one of the dejected looking Cagers and asked what was wrong. The man said that the Heartless had taken his house and all his property and that now he'll have to live in the streets. This greatly upset Bobby who was strongly opposed to the "Tax People".

The players met with Aram Oakwright in his large office where he greeted them and offered them a deal. If they retrieved the sword of the legendary factol Vartus Timlin, he would forgive their debt and give them 15 years tax free. Timlin was mazed by the Lady of Pain a very long time ago and the Fated have found a way into his maze. And more importantly, they have found a way out. Should the PCs fail to obtain the sword, however, they would loose their house and all their worldly possessions. As a threatening tale, Aram tells the PCs of how the Fated became owners of the Hall of Records by foreclosing on Bigby's Magic College (Factol's Manifesto).

The PCs attempted a little bit of negotiation, with Bobby mostly asking that the dept of the man crying in the hall also be forgiven for his debts. Aram eventually agrees to a version of the players wants but forces them to be accompanied by NPC NAME a wood elf Fated thief played by a guest player sitting in on the session. She had the information on the portal, the key in and out, and was to take charge of the sword when it was acquired.

The PCs and NPC quickly moved to the gate to Timlin's maze located in the Hive behind a inn catering to fiends. Once in the maze, the players began marking the walls with chalk and moved along till they found a large statue of the Lady of Pain. The statue was the clue for finding the exit gate. The PCs then checked the place where Timlin had set up kip hoping to find his sword. They were able to track down a crude blade with the word Lightbringer crudely carved into it.

The players then kept exploring the maze, eventually realizing that it loops back upon itself. After hunting down the secret door, the players were ambushed by a group of Mercykillers guarding the way out. It turned out that the Fated were not the only group that had discovered the entrance, and exit, to Timlin's maze. The PCs were able to defeat all of the Mercykillers.

While searching through the rest of the maze for Timlin's sword, they encounter a large man who seems to not be alright in the head. He is slightly barmy and is both confused by the players but curious to see what they are doing. After a few words, he heads out to wander around the mazes more. The man was Timlin and he was carrying the Lightbringer.

A few more laps around the maze and eventually the players ran into a Harmonium guard that had also come into the Maze for Timlin's sword. A brief exchange of blows led to the players retreating. After a little bit, Timlin's wanderings brought him to the Harmonium as well. He cut them down easily and then turned to the PCs. Discarding his fool act, the vicious and calculating Timlin demanded that the PCs lead him out of his maze. He would even give them Lightbringer if they so desired.

After a little bit of deliberating, the PCs agreed to Timlin's deal. They gathered up all the food bowls, the key out, and stepped up to the portal out. Timlin following them closely, they all stepped up onto a dias. At the last moment, Norbys cast command on Timlin telling him to "stop". Timlin failed his save, and the PCs jumped through the portal as fast as they possible could.

In Sigil, the NPC grabbed the sword and placed it into her hair. Already a tight bun, the sword slid into place as a bright blonde highlight. The group then went to the Hall of Records and made sure the deal was sealed. They were forgiven for the tax debt and were no longer to pay taxes for the next 15 years. Also, the man Bobby referenced would have his property returned.

This adventure was loosely based on "Mazes" from Well of the Worlds with a lot of tweaks to the set up and interested parties. It worked out well, especially by having an NPC Fated joining the group. None of the PCs are sympathetic to the Fated's philosophies, so the interactions produced some great moments. For example, Bobby was complaining about the "tax collector people" to which the GUEST NPC replied "I am the tax people".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Archon's Mail and the Unswerving Path

This adventure was really complicated as I successfully pulled off an adventure inside an adventure. It also is rather long though it only took two sessions.

The party was sitting around Plane-atary Express talking to Balial when a beautiful trumpet archon walked in gracefully. She introduced her self as Zithere and wanted to hire Plane-atary Express to perform a series of simple deliveries for her with the utmost of speed, offering to pay them handsomely in return. Her and her friends were performing an item swap, primarily in Mount Celestia, and they needed a third party to help speed the process along.

After agreeing to perform the deliveries, Zithere produced a cracked and ancient lantern and explained that it once belonged to a legendary archon who used it to light the way up the Mountain. They party was to deliver this lantern to a man named Gandol in Excelsior, gate town to Mount Celestia. He would be found, most likely, at Pilgrim's Rest. She also pointed them in the direction to a portal to Excelsior and told them that when they return to please meet her at the Whole Note Inn in the Clerk's Ward.

The town of Excelsior shines bright with the color gold (A Player's Primer to the Outlands). The cobblestones and buildings are flecked in it, and the sun shines a bright golden hue across the entire town. Walking the streets are veritable droves of paladins, priests, aasimar, and other such good and/or lawful folk. Floating above the city are the Keeps of the Lord Protectors move back and forth with a constant vigil over the town.

The players quickly found Pilgrim's Rest after quickly asking one of the passing paladin's for directions. While most of the party was having quite a bit of trouble dealing with the various inhabitants of Excelsior, Xanros' lawful nature was providing invaluable in getting help about town.

The Pilgrim's Rest was rather quiet when the players entered with a hound archon standing behind the bar, two clerics arguing over the relative importance of law versus good, and a group of four pilgrims at a table. Approaching the bar the players asked the barkeep, Gyn, if he knew of Gandol. Replying in a hilariously nasally voice to the complete surprise of the party, he told them that it was one of the clerics they were looking for. After this there was brief verbal dispute with Xanros which ended in him being kicked out of the bar.

The rest of the party then approached Gandol, the cleric arguing the importance of good, and explained their business. Gandol happily accepted lantern and then presented the party with an old, cracked, and blackened trumpet. He explained that it belonged to a famed trumpet archon who carried it into battle with minions of the Lower Planes for millenia until he was finally struck down by a baatezu ambush. The trumpet was to be delivered to an old lammasu named Florain in Heart's Faith, the town on the other side of the gate to Mount Celestia.

Outside the bar, Xanros was met by the four pilgrims who used to be around a table in the bar earlier. They asked him about what he was doing in Excelsior, if he was preparing for a journey up the Mountain, and generally how he was doing. It was an odd encounter with Xanros confusing the pilgrims about what he worshiped and how he was doing. Great encounter.

While ascending the stair case inside the tower to the gate, the party was ambushed by the very same pilgrims from earlier. Turned out they were members of the Holy Shadow, a group of thieves and assassins who work to keep the law and goodness within Excelsior and diminish the ill effect of other forces. Obviously the non-good and non-law elements that pervaded the party has offended them to some degree. The fight was quick and each of the members of the Holy Shadow were dispatched.

Stepping through the gate, the players instantly fell into the vast Silver Sea of holy water. Carefully, they were all transported by the gentle zoveri which are large whale-like creatures and were deposited just up shore from Heart's Faith. They were on the layer of Lunia, the first layer of Mount Celestia, which is bathed in a perpetually calm night where stars twinkle above and a full moon illuminates the hills and Mountain side with a gentle glow.

The party entered Heart's Faith via the Petioner's Gate and asked the guards posted there where they could find Florain. The players learned that she lives in Citizen's Rest, just off the main path after the Archon's Gate (Planes of Law). The players also found out that she is the mother of the town's leader, Lebes, who is away on business.

Florain's house is rather modest though sized for a being of her size. Two levels, each about one and a half stories, rise up from the perfectly cobbled streets. The facade is reminiscent of the tudor-style, and the white paint between the tan wood is perfectly placed with no bit of out peeling. After knocking the door, large enough for a lammasu to pass through easily, opened for the PCs where they stepped into a large open common room with Florain lounging casually on a beautiful plush rug that was slightly worn with age. Stretching every so slightly, she politely asked the players business in her home.

The players presented Florain with the trumpet and explain they are a delivery service tasked with delivering the various packages from person to person. Florain nods with agreement, took the horn and placed it on her mantle, and grabbed for the players an old fishing net with shells, pearls and other small objects fixed in every knot. She explained to the players that this was the Twilight Net and it was to be delivered to Pethos, a dwarven blacksmith on the town of Nemmiron. Before departing, Nearin asked the lammasu if she might touch her paw. Amused at the Sensate's desire, she gladly lifted up her paw and held it up against Nearin's hand.

The journey to Nemmiron was mostly uneventful. Most of the characters had quite a bit of trouble finding their way around due their unfamiliarity with both good and law. Every short cut ended with their journey taking even longer. With Xanros' understanding of the great order of things, however, they were able to find a suitable path

Nemmiron is a small fishing town populated by humans, halflings, and dwarves. The chimney of the blacksmith shop lets off a small plume of grey-black smoke up into the twilight sky. Inside the shop the players found two dwarves working the forge with the walls of the shop covered in all manner of beautiful works, from religious symbols to dinner wear and beyond. After waiting for the dwarf to finish, he cheerfully approaches then and asks them their business. When presented with the net, his smile grows even wider and happily takes it saying that it will greatly help the town sustain itself. Whipping a grimy hand across his forehead, he scurried into the back room of the shop and delivers to the players a small black figurine of a beautiful throne archon. Saying it is stronger than they can imagine, he tossed it to them and asked them to deliver it to the Lampligher in Omyriel. Nearin commissioned from the dwarf a necklace depicting the Sensate symbol that would glow a different color with each new major emotion she felt. The dwarf agreed to this but stated it would take some time, but he would be happy to have it delivered to their home in Sigil. Mount Celestia is probably one of the few places in the Planes where such a promise would be fulfilled.

The PC's stayed the night in Nemmiron and then headed out to Omyriel. Along the way up the side of the Mountain, the players' journey was interrupted by a lantern archon bobbing up and down near their path asking them if they would follow it as one of it's superiors desires to speak to them. After a little bit of cajoling, the players eventually decide to follow the little bobbing light along a previously unseen path through the verdant hills. Bobby was frustrated with this decision as it distracted from the task at hand.

After following the lantern archon for a bit, the PCs found themselves standing before a silver terrace over looking the Sea. Standing on the terrace looking out at the coast stood a majestic sword archon clad in beautiful plate. Turning towards the players as they approached, the sword archon stated that she was Alziel and that she was hoping the players might help her save the town of Heart's Faith from the destruction Modron March. The modrons, though they represent pure law, seemed to be tainted with chaos given that they were marching out of sync. Because of this, the powers that be had requested that no archons make contact with the March. Alziel needed the players help to either divert the March or save the people of Heart's Faith from being crushed. Pointing to the shore, she indicated the path of the March and said it would reach the town in less than 10 hours. She also promised that the PCs would be rewarded 5000 gold pieces for their work if they wished.

The players deliberated for a long time and seemed to be split between helping the town or saying it wasn't their business and just keep delivering the various packages. Bobby was particularity against saving the town as it would distract them from their actual task and it made no sense to do anything else but keep going. In the end it came down to a vote and saving the town won, with Xanros being the tie breaking vote.

This ended the first session.

The next session picked up with the PCs splitting up, with half the party going to the March to see if they could divert it's path and the other half rushing to Heart's Faith to warn their townsfolk of the incoming destruction. However, Xanros' player wasn't in attendance, so both parties had a very difficult time traveling across the fields given their chaotic nature.

Eventually, the group heading to the March was able to catch up and follow along. The outer rim of the modrons was all monodrones, followed by duodrones, tridrones, and so on. Weaving their way in they were able to encounter a pentadrone who interrogates them about their business, asking all sorts of random and prying questions as to the histories and purposes of each of them. Eventually, the PCs got a turn to ask questions of the pentadrone after convincing it that they weren't completely barmy. However, all their efforts to sway the path of the pentadone were met with resistance. The pentadrone, with a strange insistence, refused to accept that the path the modrons were taking was anything but perfect. It was the agreed upon route and those must be followed exactly. Any changes to the layout of Heart's Faith was obviously an act of chaos and not in accord with the agreement regarding the modrons path. Realizing they were getting no where, the PCs decided to speed off to rejoin the group in Heart's Faith.

The other group arrived at the gates of Heart's Faith and desperately tried to hunt down whatever leader might be in place. Given that Lebes was away with his lammasu guard, the duty of town leader was bestowed temporarily on the aasimar Cauldronborn. Approaching him, the PCs were able to convince him of the incoming danger that could only be a matter of hours away. He then led them to the main entrance to Heart's Faith and gathered his troops. Under the guidance of the PCs, troops were dispatched through out the city to evacuate the populace, specifically to areas the March would avoid. They also asked that the troops might construct barricades or other structures that might slow the progression of the March. After a bit of time deliberating and planning a defense, the PCs who had gone to the March rejoined the group. The March just behind them.

Standing before the March, Cauldronborn demands that they halt. Confused by this, the monodrones and duodrones pause and await commands from above. Slowly, the sound of chatter goes back through the March and a quinton steps foward. It harshly questioned Cauldronborn as to the meaning of this interruption and questions the towns agreement with regards to the path of the March. Cauldronborn refuses to yield as the quinton raised its arms to smash him, declaring him a barrier to their progress. As none of the PCs reacted to help save him, the quinton slammed its arms down upon Cauldronborn, nearly killing him. In the confusion, the March continued on its way through Heart's Faith by breaking up into smaller bands each with it's own path.

The barriers helped slow the March and most of the populace had been evacuated, but there were still a few remaining locations that needed help: The Old Philosopher's Inn, the guards at a temple in center of town, people screaming from an apartment building in Citizen's Rest, the Library, and an Orphanage. The players decided to split up between the Inn, the apartment building, the library, and the orphanage.

At the Inn, an old man has stopped a group of modrons by saying that there is an ancient treaty which states that the Inn cannot be destroyed by the March. This confuses the modrons briefly, who relay this information back to their superior. Signaled with a wink, Nearin helped all the old men and women still inside the Inn escape and get to safety as the modrons deliberated over the existence of such a treaty. Eventually when a pentadrone stepped forward declaring such a treaty false, none of the townsfolk were there as they had all slipped away to safety.

Kale ran as fast as his goat legs would take him to the apartment building in an effort to save the people inside. As the March neared, Kale ran up the stairs and helped the people out of the now burning building. With the kids on his back, he made a few key jumps and was able to find a safe route out of the three story building just as the modrons ploughed into the side of it. As the dust settled, he sped off to see what else he could do to help.

Norbys ran to the library where a librarian was standing out front wailing to the modrons that they should avoid to the library because of how much knowledge would be lost. This was a very compelling argument for the modrons, who paused. With Norbys' help, an agreement was eventually reached and the modrons marched in neat, orderly lines through the various walk ways and between the book cases. Without destroying a single object, the modrons appeared out the other end of the library and continued on their way.

Bobby McAction Pants was in charge of the orphanage, where a number of the kids were trapped, scared, on the second floor. One of the collapsed building was leaning against the orphanage and it was threatening to collapse at any moment. Bobby, with the greatest of care, fashioned a rope ladder out one of the windows and carried some of the younger ones down and helped the older ones down some stairs by holding their hands. The entire orphanage was emptied just as Kale met up with her. Getting the kids to safety, they hurried off to the temple to see what they could do to help.

At the temple, a few guards were holding spears against the March and refused to let them trample the site of worship for one of their greatest heroes. Norbys and Nearin met with with Kale and Bobby and tried to convince the guards to stand down. After promising to rebuild the temple, the guards stepped to the side and the March continued on its way to the docks.

At the docks, the modrons proceeded to dismantle a number of ships and the docks themselves in order to build a massive bridge off into the middle of the air where it would meet with the Gate to Excelsior.

With the March's passing, the town rejoiced that there were no casualties. The town could be rebuild, but lives lost would have been a true tragedy. The PCs were lauded as heroes and told they were always welcome in Heart's Faith. Cauldronborn, barely regaining conciousness from the quiton's blows, thanked the PCs personally for their heroism and selflessness in the face of danger. At this, the sword archon appeared and thanked the PCs for their work and presented them with their rewards. She then directed them along the fastest route to Omyriel, where they had a package to deliver.

The journey to Omryiel was extremely fast, and they arrived their in the evening. They were able to quickly locate Lamplighter, a warden archon, and present him with the small, black figurine. Sighing heavily, he took the item from the PCs and took out from his stachel a small box. Opening the box, he showed the PCs a single, golden, glowing, perfect shard. A literal piece of the Positive Energy Plane. Anyone who looks into it witnesses a beautiful image of their heart's desire. The shard was to be delivered to Zithere, who had initially hired the PCs.

I had each of the PCs look into the Shard and describe their perfect moment. I can't recall what every one said, but hopefully I can have them remind me of them.

Observing that Lamplighter was sad to loose the Shard, the PCs offered to stay one night in Omyriel so he could spend one more day with it. Over joyed at this, Lamplighter showed the PCs to their lavish rooms, promising to reward their generosity.

The next morning, while handing the players the Shard, Lamplighter also presented each of the PCs with a simple trinket as a token of his happiness. He also directed them to the portal in the nearby Katsudarma that would take them back to the Clerk's Ward. I let each of the PCs decide what their trinket would do, stating that it only had to be a small but potentially useful magic item. For example, Kale chose to have his be jewelry for his horns that allowed them to change color.

The PCs made their way back to Sigil and met the archon at the Whole Note Inn to deliver her the Shard. Over joyed with their success, she gave each of the PCs a magic item which they might find useful for future jobs.

This was a really complicated adventure to run as it was truly an adventure inside of another adventure. I wrote the wrapper adventure, Archon's Mail, which seemed to work out really well. The "side-quest" was Chapter 2 of The Great Modron March titled "The Unswerving Path." The PCs seemed to really love this adventure and my fishing went over really well. Each player took a really long time deciding on their trinkets and then presented them to the rest of the group at the next session. This was also an example a group splitting the party (multiple times!) and it working out in the end. The inter-party conflict stuff over whether to help the sword archon with the modrons was very fun and provided a great opportunity for the players to really explore how their characters would react to that kind of a scenario. This would come up more and more with each subsequent adventure.

Sadly, this also represented Xanros' last adventure, declaring that "he needed to find himself." He is still remembered to this day as an extremely important member of Plane-atary Express.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope for the Hopeless

The players started the session by divvying up rooms in their new two floor, one basement home. They also spend a good deal of time purchasing decorations for their rooms: Bobby McAction Pants buys a lot of posters of "famous rangers," Kale buys a bunch of beautiful plants from the Beastlands, Xanros buys a large selection of mirrors, Norbys set up a series of lightning rods on the roof that led down into his laboratory of a room, and Nearin assembled a selection of curio cabinets where she displays the trinkets and mementos of all her journeys.

Eventually, the group returned to Plane-atary Express for their next job. Standing in the entry way, talking to Balial, was a tired looking old man named Azathel. Azathel is hiring Plane-atary Express to recover a lost instrument of his, Zorba's Calm. Zorba's Calm is a powerful magic horn which creates a zone of peace and calm around the user. A few years ago he lent it to a man named Parseless Stonethief who has since died without returning it. He promises a handsome reward if the players get it back. The only thing Azathel knows about what happened to Parseless is that his skull can be found at the Bones of the Night (see In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil). The Bones of the Night is too close to the Hive and Azathel fears too much for his own safety to go there on his own.

The Bones of the Night is an underground shop located near the Ditch between the Lower Ward and the Hive. On the way to the Bones of the Night, the players were waylaid by a small group of Hivers next to the Ditch. They were dispatched easily. The players hunted down the entrance to the shop, out of which comes the faint sound of rats chittering. As the first character slowly climbed down the ladder, the sound got fainter and fainter until it died out completely when they reached the end. The group all descend into the shop where they were greeted by walls covered in shelves of skulls and skulls, ranging from human to tiefling to baatezu. Sitting in an overstuffed plush chair near one of the shelves was Lothar the Old, the proprietor of the establishment. Lothar slowly got up and addressed the party, asking their business.

A deal was struck and the players were able to interrogate the skull of Parseless. It turned out that Parseless was little more than a petty thief who had taken the horn in order to rob the githzerai Yozari. However he was horribly unsuccessful and now resides as a skull in the Bones of the Night. He tells the PCs that Yozari lives in Hopless, the gate town to the Grey Wastes. He is also able to tell them that a bridge over the Ditch is a portal to just outside Hopeless but only tells them that the key is "a hopeless quest" with no more details.

The party departed the Bones of the Night and decided to find a place to sleep for the night before heading off to Hopeless. Luckily, the Shattered Temple is near by and Kale could most likely secure lodging for the group as long as they remain on best behavior. Coming to the Temple in darkness, the guards let the party in under Kale's watch and take them to a series of small temporary quarters. Standing in the center of the Temple, glowing with preternatural light, stood a beautiful and old tree. This site was too much for Nearin who later that night snuck out and ventured to touch it. With just a simple touch, she was blasted back from the tree as if by powerful magics and it nearly killed her. However, she can now claim to have touched the tree of the Shattered Temple!

The next day, the party spent some time thinking about Parseless' statement that the key to to the portal was a "hopeless quest." A period of wandering, asking around, and thought reveals to them that Parseless must be talking about the Post in front of the Mortuary! The Post is a zombie that stands immobile and people affix various notes with requests, rewards, and such. Many of these notes are left there until the marks on the papers have faded with rain and age. The party headed to the Post and grabbed a few of the older notes that sit buried under the mass of newer requests. Using these hopeless quests, the party was able to pass under the bridge over the Ditch and appear at the opening to Hopeless.

Hopeless is a single spiral from the screaming mouth of an entrance to the gate to the Grey Wastes, is rather simple to explore (see A Player's Primer to the Outlands). However, the populace are very dour and reluctant to talk much if at all. Also, the law of Hopeless is that anyone wearing harsh contrast or bright colors can be killed on sight for the eyes of the residents of Hopeless cannot stand their site. Because of this, Kale was forced to conceal is green coloring.

The party entered the first tavern on the spiral, the Castle of Bone. Asking around for Yozari, the players aroused the attention of a group of githyanki warriors. They menace the players a bit and demanded why they were searching for Yozari. The players were able to convince the githyanki to leave them be, which cased to them to leave the tavern in a huff. The players the split up, half of the tailing the githyanki and the other half checking the rest of the taverns.

The group that explored each of the taverns, after visiting the Defenestrated Paladin and the Open Tomb, was able to learn that Yozari could be found in the Palace of Thingol, mayor of Hopeless. They also learned that Thingol is an artist of great renown who frequently puts on public displays of flaying or various living sculptures in the center of the town.

The group following the githyanki follow them around the spiral but lost them down an alleyway near the Open Tomb. Meeting up with the rest of the group leaving the Open Tomb, the group was waylaid by the githyanki warriors. Their leader screams at them that they will be have Yozari's head and they can't stop them. The battle was rather short, and the leader's warriors were slain with ease and the leader captured and subdued. Demanding that she stand down and leave them be, the leader refused and was was slain. With her magic blade in tow, the group sped along toward Thingol's Palace. After the fight, I casually said "A Beholder floats by," causing all the players to freeze out of game. Great moment.

Approaching Thingol's Palace, the party was stopped by the two passive guards slumped in front of one of the doors who refuse to let them enter. A bit of negotiating later with an appeal to their inherent apathy, claiming to be a group hired by Thingol, and a decent bribe the group was let in. As they entered into the palace, they were greeted by the sustained sound of music echoing through the halls. They followed the sound until it led them down a hall to Yozari's room. The music had ended and the sound was the echo of her last performance. Entering into the room, Yozari sat cross-legged on the ground. The wall to her left was covered in all sorts of instruments from horns to drums to guitars. The wall to her right was covered in all manner of blades ranging from very tiny to unbelievably large. Yozari herself, dressed plainly, visibly twitched and opened her eyes revealing the madness behind them. In a wavering and nearly mad voice, she demanded to desires of the group. They cautiously negotiated for Zorba's Calm, offering the githyanki blade in return and a word of caution in regards to her supposed assassins. She deemed this acceptable and bid the party to leave.

Back in Sigil, the party met up with Azathel at the agreed upon location, the Fortune's Wheel in the Lady's Ward (see In The Cage: A Guide to Sigil). Upon returning the horn, they requested that Azathel play for them, to which he gladly agreed. Placing the horn to his lips, he let loose a clear and beautiful note, which instantly quieted the loud tavern. Minutes of pure peace followed as Azathel played for them. Afterwards, as the sound slowly faded from the room, it erupted into applause at the beautiful event. Happy with the quality of their work, the players were paid in full.

A few of the characters had really strong reactions to the despair of Hopeless. Kale, with his love of green and fancy clothing was very unhappy with having to cover up his dyed fur lest he get attacked. Norbys almost "reveled" in the despair, if a Bleaker could revel, and was able to engage a lot of the NPCs in the pointlessness of it all. Nearin enjoyed the descriptions of the "art installations" that Thingol creates at the center of Hopeless. Bobby was unhappy with the sadness and found it most unexciting. All of them were visibly afraid of what Yozari could do to them.

Unlike the previous adventures, I wrote this one myself. Hopeless was really fun to run and I took advantage of a truly dreary tone when voicing all the tavern NPCs. Letting the players have a bit more time in Sigil as part of the job was really fun, though I'm glad the focus was still a jaunt to a planar locality.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The March Begins

For the second "episode" of Plane-atary Express, the PCs experienced a slightly different kind of "job."

At the beginning of the session, because of how well their first job went Balial gave the party a mimir. Mimir are magical creations which store information and can answer questions relating to it. This mimir is full of information pertinent to the Outlands. There is an awesome Planescape supplement called Player's Primer to the Outlands which comes with a CD representing the mimir. The tracks are available for download through the WotC website though I own a physical copy which is a lot of fun. The players really enjoy using it and the recordings are really cool.

While going about their daily business and shopping in the Great Bazaar all of the characters were suddenly struck with extremely painful headaches. Each step towards Plane-atary Express was met with increasing pain. The players decided to "follow" the direction of the lessening headache. The pain led the players to an abandoned shop just outside the Great Bazaar.

The door to the shop opened easily and inside was a dusty and trashed room with papers scattered about. On top of a table sat a large, leather bound book with a black cat sitting right next to it. When asked if the cat was responsible for the headache, it quickly responded in a very deep voice, "No."

Turns out that The Book was the one who had summoned the players. Many years ago it had been borrowed by Jysson, a clerk you used to work in the very shop where they were standing. Jysson died and became a petitioner on the Beastlands and was now the cat standing next to the book. The Book wanted to returned to it's owner, Heiron Lifegiver, a magician who most likely lives in Automata, the gate town to Mechanus. In return, The Book will tell them where a stash of gold and other valuables is in the shop.

After hemming and hawing for a bit, the party agreed to take The Book back the Heiron. They weren't much excited about this (in game) because of how rigid and lawful Automata is. Luckily The Book knew of a key and gate directly there.

Instantly, things were off to a fun start. The PCs decided to now file for street passes and register with the Office of Visitors and Temporary Entrants, and decided to just fun down where ever Heiron may have gotten to. The Book, remembering where Heiron used to live, led the players to a butcher's shop, Thandol's Smoked Meats. While sampling a selection of his wares (Bebelith legs where the daily special), the players inquired as to where Heiron was. Thandol told the PCs that Heiron moved out but can occasionally be seen at The Divine Machine, a nearby tavern.

Asking around at the Divine Machine didn't turn up any answers, but when the players left the tavern they were approached by a tiefling woman asking, "How'd you get the book?" The players were able to convince the woman, Muenscaal, to talk to them. She is a friend of Heiron and was able to tell the players where he is hiding: in the Council of Order building. In their closet. If the knock three times then whistles, he will open the door to his magnificent mansion.

The half the players walked right up the Council of Order building and asked if they could go to the closet. They were then presented with a long stack of forms to fill out, each requiring the signature of a different bureaucrat. Additionally, their permits of entry were requested. Failing to produce them, they were all fined 10 gp.

Being primarily chaotically aligned, the party decided that filling out paperwork was not the best option. Instead, Norbys decided to try sneaking into the Council of Order at night. This was not easy as there are 10 guards posted around and in the building at all hours of the night. In order to help him, the rest of the party created a distraction just up the block from the Council of Order. A bunch of ruckus and a well timed ghost sound from Nearin, and enough of the guards moved away from the building long enough to Norbys to slip in through a window.

Norbys hid in the closet under some random papers until the morning. Successfully hiding when a minor bureaucrat came in to get some paper, though just barely. At the same time, the rest of the party spent the entire morning filling out paperwork until they could finally reach the closet. Norbys knocked on the wall of the closet just as the rest of the players were walking down the hall way. Heiron opened the wall and looked out from his magnificent mansion. Initially confused to be staring at a black clad gnome, he became even more confused when a bunch of other misfits opened up the door and pilled in.

While explaining their desire to return The Book to Heiron, a pack of thugs from the Council of Anarchy shoved their way past the bureaucrats at the entrance by flashing their paperwork to commit acts of anarchy (Form U40a). Turns out they had been tailing the party and were looking for Heiron already. He owes them money for his acts of chaos in Automata. What is extra fun is that the Council of Anarchy had been mentioned by the mimir.

A fight breaks out, with the players trying to prevent Heiron from locking himself back in his mansion and beating back the Council of Anarchy Thugs. After a few rounds of pure chaos in the Council of Order, a cry erupts from the entrance and outside the building. The modrons were pouring forth from the gate to Mechanus! That wasn't supposed to happen for another few hundered years!

In the confusion, the players were able to escape with Heiron in tow and drag him a few blocks as everyone just stood their gobsmacked at the cascade of modrons pouring forth from the gate.

The players returned the book to Heiron who didn't provide them with much of a reaction and no reward. The Book, however, told the players where Jysson's stash of gold can be found in the shop. The Book and Jysson also informed the players that they are welcome to keep the shop for themselves, maybe as a home!

As is probably obvious, this adventure was another pre-written module titles "The March Begins" and is Chapter 1 of The Great Modron March by Monte Cook and Colin McComb. I found the set up to this adventure really intriguing and quite fun. I love that the main NPCs the players interact with are a book and a cat. However, this module was really week once the players arrived in Automata it really fell apart. I had to make up a lot as things were going along which is fine, but the story as written was shaky and without good transitions. Luckily the players enjoyed themselves enough and the introduction of the modron was well heralded.

The successes of the night were voice acting the cat and the book, the introduction of the mimir, and the players getting their own home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Love Letter

The first job that Plane-atary Express was contracted to do was to deliver a letter on behalf of a hooded stranger.

Plane-atary Express is located just off the Great Bazaar in a small shop front in the Market Ward of Sigil. They met with the hooded stranger at the Clinking Jink tavern where he provided them with the letter and a gate key to a nearby portal. The letter was to be delivered to the being in the structure near the other end of the portal. The client also provided the players with a small gem glows brighter and brighter the closer it is to the intended recipient. While suspicious of their client, the party didn't question him further.

The party hoped through the portal and appeared, suddenly, in the Abyss. The portal had led them directly to the Plane of Infinite Portals, the first layer of the Abyss. The blasted landscape stretched out before them and the signs of battle lay before them. The bodies of both tanar'ri and baatezu litter the path before them with small skittering creatures picking over the corpses.

The party traveled forward along the path, the gem glowing brighter with each step. They approached a cross roads, the gem glowing brightest when pointed down the middle. Before them was a skull impaled on a pike which suddenly awoke and started chittering at them all barmy-like. Kale and Nearin tried to question the skull for which path was the "right" one, but it seemed to change it's mind with every sentence. The skull did tell them that one way leads to a lake and the other leads through the hills. Kale then pulled the pike out of the ground and took the skull off of it, causing the chittering skull to shutdown.

Bobby decided that he was going the way through the hills and started off on his own, his Cipher beliefs guiding his actions. The rest of the party quickly caught up and they traveled through the hills, the gem glowing more with every step.

After travelling for a while, a group of eyewings swooped down from on high and began to harass the party. Some flew low and battered the party while a few dropped their tears on them. Luckily, the entire party saved and were able to fight back against their aggressors. Kale and Norbys took a lot of damage in the fray, but with a few lucky hits from Nearin they felled the eyewings. The wizard got the most kills!

The party then approached a menacing three level tower covered in spikes. A fence surrounded the tower, gate ajar. The gem glowed with an intense brightness. Cautiously, the party approached the entrance.

The players slowly checked every room of the first level though they didn't take any of the items, even the beautiful cloaks in the entrance. Nearin kept saying, "We'll get it on the way out," which barely kept her curiosity in check. At this point, the players realized that they were in the home of a succubus. The second floor was more exciting, with rooms devoted to pain and pleasure and a library of ... exotic ... books. Both Bobby and Nearin grabbed a book or two from the library and Nearin had trouble leaving the rooms of pain and pleasure. Even with the mangled elven body chained to the wall of the room of pain.

The second and third levels of the tower were rooms circling a balcony with a large opening looking down onto the floor of the first level. On the floor was a huge mosaic of a mortal being grabbed by tanar'ri hands reaching out from the Abyss. While the players ascended the tower, they could look down and see the mosaic and with each level, the mosaic changed. On the second level, the moral was dragged into the malestrom of the Abyss and was being torn apart by the tanar'ri. On the third level, the mortal had been torn to shreds and all the remained were bits of viscera. It was really fun to describe and the players loved it.

The final level of the tower was a selection of rooms representing various fantasies: oriental, tropical, occidental, desert. A skeleton was chained to the bed of the desert chamber, biting at the air uselessly. Note: I do realized these are not PC "fantasies" to present, and they were included because they were part of the pre-written module I was running. In the final chamber, the players discovered the sleeping chamber of the succubus, Chiryn, who was sitting their waiting for them. The gem was all but exploding with how intensely it was glowing.

Chiryn accepted the letter from the players and lead them down to her writing room. She quickly penned a reply letter for them to deliver to the hooded man, Kas'rarlin. While writing, she noticed that Bobby and Nearin were holding books that belonged to her. She calmly demanded the return of her books, though there was an obvious edge to her words. After regaining her books, she sprayed the letter with her perfume and handed it to the party. Before they can say much of anything, she grabs a bauble and the party was enveloped in a series of blue rings and teleported to the exact place they had arrived at through the portal from Sigil.

The adventure concluded with the players delivering the reply letter to the hooded figure, who gladly paid them for services rendered.

This adventure was named "Love Letter" which is Chapter 3 in Well of the Worlds by Colin McComb. We ran it over two sessions, the first being character creation and then all they way till the PCs went through the portal and found themselves in the Abyss. I had never run a pre-written module before so this was a new experience for me. While aspects of the set up and certain encounter elements were changed to better suit the campaign's setup and my own desires, it was very close to as written. My idea for this campaign was to run a selection of pre-written modules and adventures I came up with, so I'm glad the first pre-written module went well.

I think it is a fantastic adventure to introduce people to Planescape because it instantly transports the players into a unique environment and situation that would be very hard to pull off in a "traditional" setting. My approach to running and writing Planescape adventures is to actively engage with the planes. This means sending first level PC to the Abyss for their first adventure. Everyone had a lot of fun and were very excited to keep coming back for more adventures.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Introduction to Plane-atary Express

Plane-atary Express is the name of my current Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition campaign. It is taking place in the Planescape setting. The players are employees of a inter-planar delivery or courier service. While this group has been playing together since fall 2012, this campaign has been running since about September of 2013.

Let's meet Plane-atary express!

Nearin Milford Tiefling, CN, Illusionist, Society of Sensation.
Xanros Primus Tiefling, LE, Cleric (Tiamat/Himself), Sign of One.
Bobby McAction Pants Half-Elf, NG, Ranger, Transcendent Order.
Kale Stoutleaf Baurier, CG, Ranger, Athar.
Norbys Greystone Gnome, TN, Cleric (Nerrul), Bleak Cabal.

The boss and owner of Plane-atary Express is named Balial. He gets deliveries and other jobs for his employees.

We are playing with using a house-ruled version of 2nd edition. The major aspects
  • stats were rolled 4d6 drop the lowest
  • group initiative, where each side rolls 1d10 and lowest goes first
  • no non-weapon proficiencies
  • damage types mostly ignored
  • all "checks" are roll d20, success if below relevant stat
In general, more rules are thrown out or ignored than added.

My goal with this blog is to tell the stories of Plane-atary Express, discuss adventure design from an episodic perspective, and RPGs in general.