Saturday, June 14, 2014


This adventure was previewed solely via the word "Nisean."

The session started with the PCs standing around Plane-atary Express as the new owners of the business. They all learned that there are two other teams working for them, both of which are out on jobs in the Outlands and Lower Planes respectively.

After discussing the future of the business and advertising options, a familiar face walked into the shop: Tripicus, the ursinal expert on the Prime (Uncaged: Faces of Sigil). He was accompanied by a female baurier who introduced herself as Audrian.

Audrian is the owner of a stables in the Market Ward that specializes in the housing, rearing, and selling of exotic and planar mounts. Recently her most beloved horse, Nisean, escaped from it's stall and, frightened, ran through the Market Ward until it disappeared through a portal. Nisean is the offspring of the Nic'epona (Planescape Campaign Setting) and a Nightmare. Nisean is a young horse and only just discovered it's ability to blink, which is how it escaped it's stall and spooked itself. Audrian offered the players a mount of their choice if they could return her Nisean to her. In order to help the party, she gave the group a bag full of special apples which were Nisean's favorite food.

Tripicus informed the PCs that Audrian had come to him for help because Nisean had apparently gone through a portal to a lesser known Prime Material Plane. The known portal key is a silver horse-shoe, which apparently Nisean was shod with. Tripicus, remembering how well his last interaction with Plane-atary Express went, brought Audrian to the players so that they could help her. He was also hoping that the PCs might do a little field research on his behalf.

Having negotiated the terms of the job, the PCs headed off through the portal to the unknown Prime Material Plane. The PCs emerged from behind a wooden building in a small anthill of a town. The town sat on the shore with a small dock sticking out from it, and a dozen or so buildings nestled around it. The town was surrounded by a wooden palisade. The building the players had emerged from was labeled "The Merry Dwarf Shoppe." Nearby was a large building labeled Flying Soldier Guild House.

The PCs entered the Flying Soldier where there were a mix of obvious adventurers, both greenhorn and experienced, sitting at the bar. Sitting in the back corner were a group of merry halflings singing and dancing.

It was at this exact moment that all the players realized what I had just pulled on them. They were in the main town from our previous campaign, Dungeonship! This was New Corden.

The PCs asked around about the horse, which had apparently ran through town to the west, toward Weston. The PCs hired three adventurers to accompany them: a fighter, a thief, and a halfling. The halfling was Jim Riddlebottom, a descendant of Tom Riddlebottom, and was a champion wall climber. Tom Riddlebottom was the name of a halfling hireling from Dungeonship who died when his face was ripped off by a skeleton and is a bit of a legend in our group.

The PCs purchased a map of the surrounding region from Percy at the Merry Dwarf Shoppe.

I ran this adventure as a pointcrawl as described over at the fantastic Hill Cantons blog. This means that I outlined a few locations that the PCs could travel to or through in their search. It startled the line between sandbox and railroad, which I appreciated because I was trying to run this adventure in one night. It meant that the players had a great deal of choice in what they could do, but I was always prepared.

The PCs headed west toward Weston. Along the way the passed close to the Elven Woods and were greeted by a retinue. The conversation was mostly about how they had never seen a baurier before or where Bobby, a half-elf, was from.

After the elves, the PCs passed through a field of wildflowers with a huge barrow in the middle. After trying to pick a few flowers, a giant ogre appeared on top of the barrow and yelled at the PCs to leave his flowers alone. The ogre was a encounter from Dungeonship where one of the more well liked characters, Wavecutter, was killed.

Weston was smaller than New Corden was primarily served as a mining town. When the PCs arrived in Weston, a group of hunters were butchering a 30 foot long boar. Giant boar are known to inhabit the valley northeast of Weston. The PCs asked around about Nisean and found out it had ran past town, blinking randomly, and had headed north through the Valley of Large Creatures.

Even though it was getting late, the PCs decided to push on through the valley in order to reach the oasis on the other side. Along the way, a stamped of boar caught them by surprise. The PCs were able to avoid them but their halfling hireling, Jim Riddlebottom, was not so lucky and was impaled on a tusk.

As night fell, the party arrived at the oasis on the other side of the valley from Weston. In the dark, they spied a small camp fire near the pool of water. With Kale and Bobby staying behind, Norbys and the two hirelings approached the fire though his attempt at parlaying did not go over well. Instead, the party was made to camp in the woods and stand watch all night. Didn't help that Norbys had the head body of Jim Riddlebottom slung across his pony.

During the night, as was during Dungeonship, the party took turns keeping watch. And as was inevitable, the party was attacked in the middle of the night. This time, it was a pack of wolves which were quickly dispatched. Everyone enjoyed the nostalgia hit and realized how nice it was that we don't have to do that almost every session.

In the morning the party spoke to the other group camped at the oasis and found out that a horse matching Nisean's description had run through the woods the other day and up into the goblin mountains to the north.

The party hiked up the goblin mountain with great care, Kale using his Cloak of Elvenkind to scout ahead and make sure the party was safe. He encountered a small band of goblins walking by and chatting about Gubleschlack or something similar, but they quickly moved away and out of earshot. There were no other encounters.

The top of the goblin mountain is always covered in a huge, thick cloud. Previously, there had been a massive cloud forest there which was tended too by a druid and his magic stag and dire bear companions. In Dungeonship, the party had helped save the cloud forest by defeating a manticore with a powerful defiling artifact. However, they had been unable to destroy the artifact and buried it, hoping to one day figure out how to destroy it.

The party arrived at the top of the mountain to find a dark and twisted shadow of a forest. The trees had turned a black ashen color, devoid of leaves. There were no elements of life present. The party pressed on hoping to find Nisean, as there was evidence that the horse had run into the woods.

While walking through the woods, the PCs arrived at a small clearing when they heard the horrid whisper of a long corrupted being telling them to leave its forest or be killed. At that moment, an ancient dire bear and skeletal great stag appeared from the dead forest and stood ready to attack the party. Bobby, with masterful perception, realized that one of the trees was but an illusion and fired a couple of arrows at it. It suddenly transformed into an old, preserved man, his skin taught against his bones as if he was preserved in tar and other fixatives. It was the druid and he was wearing the horrid defiling necklace.

The druid began the combat by casting hold person on Bobby, who failed his save and was stuck there. The rest of the party took the time to attack at the stag and druid. Kale slipped his ring of free action on to Bobby's finger, which canceled the effect of the druid's spell. The party then dispatched the druid, which caused the spell animating the stag to end. Kale then communicated with the dire bear that they didn't have to kill it and that it could leave, which it promptly did.

The party then tried to figure out what to do with the amulet. Every time a PC tried picking it up, I had them make a save or it would suddenly appear in their hand and they couldn't drop it. Everyone kept failing their saves and having other party members steal it from each other or try and fail to put it in their bags. Eventually the party resorted to just burying the amulet and piling a lot of dead trees over the spot so it would be hard to get at. Kale then planted a few seeds nearby in an attempt to restore the cloud forest. The party also took a soil sample in order to see if they could find a way to defeat the necklace.

Further in the woods the party found a cage made out of gnarled branches holding Nisean. She was stamping her hooves on the ground and looking very upset. The party offered her the special apples, which she gladly ate and calmed down a lot knowing that they were friendly. Kale tried talking to her and helped her picture the exact feeling she had when she blinked out of her pen in Sigil. After a few tries Nisean was able to blink out of the cage and appear next to the party.

With Nisean in tow, the party quickly returned to New Corden and took the portal back to Sigil. Audrian was overjoyed to see Nisean and offered whatever stabling services the party could ever need in return, along with the promised mounts of course. The party also took the maps and soil sample to Tripicus. He promised to look into ways of destroying the necklace. The party also membered their friends in Mount Celestia who might also have ideas.

This was a really fun adventure in a wholly personal way. The party is made up entirely of players who had also been in the Dungeonship campaign, so it was a great trip down memory lane. Lots of opportunity to revisit aspects of the old campaign without having them become "features" of the current one. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Modron Madness Part 2

The second session of "Modron Madness" picked up exactly where the first had ended. The party was standing around modronoid Balial trying to figure out what to do with him. Do they kill him? Try and find a way to save him? The only thing for certain was that they were going to hunt down who ever did this to him and make them pay. Dearly.

Norbys was the first to come up with a solid plan. He suggested that the party put Balial out of his misery as it was clear that whatever act had been done to him had left him permanently damaged. Nearin and Kale both agreed, and so Norbys drew his misericorde and delivered the coup de grace on Balial. After that he prepared a small ceremony as befiting his god, Nerull.

After the ceremony, the party headed further away from Sylvania in the direction of the tracks. The party traveled under the cover of night until they reached a small cave opening from which light was pouring out. Two men were standing guard rather carelessly. The PCs were able to make out the Bleaker symbol on their clothing.

Unsure what was going on in the cave, the party decided to investigate around the mound to see if there was a way in. At the top of the mound was a small hole for the smoke from within to exit. When spying in, Kale was able to see that there was a group of humans sitting around eating and playing cards. There were no signs of any prisoners or modron parts.

Searching around the mound more, the PCs were able to find a hidden entrance into the cave. Sneaking in, they spied on the relaxing mercenaries. Kale, using his Cloak of Elvenkind, moved further into the cave and into another passage which led to a sleeping chamber. Content that these people were only mercenaries and not the actual culprits, the group moved on.

A little bit from the cave was the ruins of a fallen tower up against a hill. A set of stairs led up to the entrance to the refurbished base of the tower. The entrance to the dome appeared unguarded until the PCs keen senses revealed two hidden guards signaling each other with bird calls. The PCs decided to parlay and try and figure out what was going on.

The two guards were Bleakers and part of the mercenary company the group had already encountered. They were working for a man named Valran whom they didn't care much for but a job is a job. After a bit of back and forth, the PCs were able to gain entrance to Valran's home and were led straight to him in his laboratory.

The sight of Valran's lab was not for the weak of stomach. On two dissecting/operating tables sat the body of a dead human and a series of modron parts. Blood and oil stains abounded on the floor and almost every touchable surface. Valran looked up from his work and regarded the PCs with the face of madness, his smock covered in blood and oil.

The PCs began by talking to Valran to figure out what was going on. Long story short, he was a Sensate trying to figure out what it is like to be a modron. And as such, he was experimenting with combining man and machine. When his work is completed, he will fashion for himself an apparatus so that he can truly bind with the modron and feel what they feel. He also believed that nothing should interfere with his work and that Balial's death was all for the good of his work and offered the PCs a small sum of money.

Unappeased by the money, the group closed the door behind them and attacked Valran. The PCs opened with a series of brutal strikes against Valran, who's major defense was to use disabling spells like hold person and ray of enfeeblement. However, the combat seemed to much for him with out mercenary support, so he cast mistform on himself and escaped out through a chimney in his lab. This left the PCs furious.

At the same time, a loud commotion began in a nearby room. A group of modronoids, half-(demi)human half-modron, had escaped and were rampaging through the fallen tower. The few mercenaries on guard where fighting them in the hall as the players slipped out of the lab.

On the way out the PCs attempted to quickly explore the rooms they had passed on the way in before the modronoids killed the mercenaries. Most of the rooms were rather mundane, but the PCs were able to grab a small selection of sense stones.

Finally, before heading out, the PCs decided to gather all their flammables and light the tower on fire as a final act of retribution. They stood outside the door to make sure no one escaped. However, they weren't counting on their being other prisoners in the tower. The screams and pleadings of the mercenaries and prisoners, along with the insane screams of the modronoids continued for a long time until finally they all ceased. The PCs had accidentally burned a bunch of innocent people to death.

Back in Sylvania, the PCs investigated the sense stones. One of them in particular seemed to call out to all of them. It was Balial's sense stone that Valran had captured from him. All three of the present PCs placed their hands upon the stone and experienced the sensation together.

It was a memory of Balial at the previous modron march, over 1000 years ago. He was much younger then and was partying and having a wonderful time. As the memory faded, the very weak voice of Balial could be heard saying: "You were the best and I thank you for that. Plane-atary Express is now yours." At that, the sense stone fell dormant, never to work again. The PCs now owned the business!

This session was emotionally really rough. The PCs committed some seriously evil actions in their blood rage. Valran escaped and now represented a real villain for the team, which is awesome considering how organically it happened.

Apparently the burnings scarred Nearin's player so much that she spent the next week afraid of doing similar actions in her other RPG games.

All things considered, this two part adventure was amazing from a GMing perspective. Never before have things worked out so organically that the PCs would actually experience rage, heartbreak, and the discovery of a true villain. I'm not one for long running BBEG, but this has given me the opportunity to play with that. The tactic I'm taking is using Valran very rarely so that the PCs keep chomping at the bit to finally track him down and kill him.

Again, this was the adventure "Modron Madness" from The Great Modron March.