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.