Monday, June 22, 2015

"The Blue Imp" - Chapter 7.5 of the Dwellers of the Forbidden City

Inza the Shadow
Indigo lays it all on the line. As a result, Aline and Randalf are able to reach a compromise and move forward. Later, the team performs some reconnaissance on the wizard Horan's fortified compound.

The Group (in order of seniority):
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage (Wizard 7)
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina (Cleric 7)
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior (Monk 6/Sorcerer 1)
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian (Barbarian 7)
  • Randalf Azul, Human Abjurer (Wizard 7)
  • Sorjin, Human Adventurer, Bounty Hunter, ...Ladies Man (Fighter 5/Something Else 2)
* Elf
** Halfling
*** Half-Orc

Last week, the party learned that Indigo the blue imp was somehow connected to the Aline's crystal ball, and that the crystal ball was somehow opening a gate to hell and allowing devils to escape. Randalf had just confronted Aline with an ultimatum over Indigo, "Either he goes, you go, or I go!"

Breaking the Impasse
Indigo looked at Aline and sighed.

"Look, boss. You're not supposed to know this and I'll probably be busted back down to lemure, but you've been very good to me and I hate what my boss has in store for you so you deserve to know."

"The crystal ball is cursed."

DM Note -  DUH!. It is a crystal hypnosis ball.

"This particular crystal ball is a key that will open a gate to hell and free my bosses, the Baatezu, aka the Old Gods aka the Devils, from their imprisonment. For the past six months, you have been serving my true boss: Asmodeus, Arch-duke of the Baatezu. The gate was small at first. Only lesser baatezu could come through.  But the more you use it, the bigger the gate becomes. You've summoned a lot of baatezu, more than you know, and they've been serving as agents on this side, setting the stage for our return."

"You've also spent a lot of time doing some other leg-work for us, but you have no memory of this."

"I am SO busted for telling you this next part, so listen up! If you want to destroy the crystal ball, you've got to take it to the top of Nightflame Mountain and summon forth the lightning of Lorimes, the Lord of Ravens. If he finds your situation worthy, his lightning will melt the crystal ball, or explode it, I'm not quite sure which."

"If you just want to RID yourself of the crystal ball, just have someone cast a Remove Curse spell on you, and give the crystal ball to someone you trust."

"Since I was a gift from Asmodeus, transmitted through the crystal ball, I'm not sure what will happen to me. Either I'll no longer be your familiar, or I'll no longer be an imp, or I'll die. Who can say?"

Soon after saying that, Indigo had a seizure. "Oh shit!" he said, "Oh shit, I'm busted!"

He began painfully shape-changing through his forms: rat-spider-raven-rat-imp-raven-spider-raven

He eventually stopped at raven with blue feathers, lying on the ground with labored breath.

Indigo was now a blue raven.

"Ah..Ah..Ah.. I guess this is better than being a lemure? KAW!"

Randolf stroked his beard in thought, "Hmm.  Indigo, your kind are known for deceit," he paused to emphasize the next point, "and trickery.  So you will understand if I withhold my judgment on your trustworthiness.  However, if what you have told us has been on the up-and-up, it will be a very small first step towards a possible trust.”

"You have centuries of Baatezu history stacked against you and this…punishment”  he pointed at the Indigo Raven, "could just be another in a long line of trickery."

"We’ll go to Nightflame Mountain and summon forth the lightning of Lorimes, the Lord of Ravens and see what he says.”

With that, the impasse was broken. The rest of the night passed with no interruption.

The party spent the entirety of the next day resting and preparing and debating what to do next. Should they eliminate the remaining bullywugs? Should they change the focus of their attention towards the wizard Horan? What was Horan doing anyway? Or should they find and eliminate the nest of Yuan-Ti? After much debate, they decided to at least find out what the wizard Horan was up to.

Aline cast a spell of invisibility on herself and did an aerial fly-by of the compound, noting the two wooded enclosures in the southeast and southwest corners, the house and its porch, and the two sheds in the northeast and northwest corners.

Inza was then tasked to wait until nightfall and scout the wizard's compound.

The Soft Probe
That night, Inza watched the compound from a hiding place. The wall surrounding the compound was fifteen feet high. There were three gates, one each on the west, south, and east walls. Reptile-men patrolled the top of the wall or stood atop small turrets at each gate.

When there were no guards near the southeast corner, he darted across the street and leapt to the top of the wall in a single bound. He looked down and saw a pond in the park-like enclosure in the southeast corner. He looked around, saw no opposition in the enclosure, and decided this would be the best place for an assault. He left the compound to retrieve the rest of his team.


We didn't play last Friday so this is technically the last half of the previous week.

the Problem with Indigo

Indigo was really becoming a source of intra-party conflict between Randalf and Aline. It's natural considering Randalf is a magical exorcist and Indigo is a literal devil from hell. 

The problem was mine, not Aline, or Aline's player. Several months ago, Aline came into possession of the "Crystal Ball". That treasure was described in that adventure as a Crystal Hypnosis Ball. At that time, I only had a vague sense of what I wanted to do with such a cursed item.

As time went on, I came on the idea that every time Aline uses the crystal ball, she would summon something. I don't know how I wound up with devil, probably just opened the Monster Manual and picked. Anyway, the first thing she summoned was an Imp. I was going to start small and work up the list. 

Aline's player really liked battling the imp and asked me later if she could have an imp as a familiar. Imps are Lawful Evil and only serve Lawful Evil characters and try to corrupt those that are not, so I said sure. 

Later, when she cast "Summon Familiar", I had the imp emerge from the crystal ball. Telegraphed? Naw!

Anyway, I role-played Indigo as an annoying but very useful member of the party. He was also rebellious, and always out doing his own thing and needing to be summoned back against his will.

Randalf hated Indigo the moment he saw him. I should point out, Randalf's player LOVES Indigo. RANDALF, on the other hand, hates him, and Randalf's player is an EXCELLENT role-player!

So when we had the show-down and Randalf issued an ultimatum, for a while we all thought "Um, dude, calm down. Are you REALLY angry or just pretending?"  

It turned out he was pretending, and doing a great job of it.

Anyway, Aline really likes Indigo because despite his being evil, he's very useful. Aline's PLAYER really likes Indigo and likes how I role-play him. Randalf's player really likes Indigo and how I role-play him. Randalf, however, hates Indigo.

So I worked out a compromise that allows Indigo to stay with the party:

  1. Indigo spilled some beans and was actually honest with Randalf.
  2. As punishment, Indigo was stripped of his Impishness. He's now a blue raven. 
This way he's no longer an Imp, so Randalf is satisfied, but he gets to stay with the party, so Aline is satisfied. 

Come back next week when the party takes on Horan the Transmogrifier! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"The Ultimatum" - Chapter 7 of Dwellers of the Forbidden City

This week, the party is ambushed by a force of reptile men. Later, they meet a new ally. Then, as they camp out and figure out what to do next, Aline has a stunning revelation that leads to a super-tense confrontation within the group!

The Group:
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior (Monk 6/Sorcerer 1)
  • Randalf Azul, Human Abjurer (Wizard 7)
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina (Cleric 7)
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage (Wizard 7)
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian (Barbarian 7)
  • Sorjin, Human Adventurer, Bounty Hunter, ...Ladies Man (Fighter 6/Something Else 1)
* Elf
** Halfling
*** Half-Orc

Last week, the party defeated Anuran, the living god of the swamp, and were returning to their hide-out through the tall rushes.

Ambush of the Reptile Men
They emerged from the rushes and walked down one of the abandoned boulevards of the lost city of Sinopia. Aline and Randalf were carrying Gravy's unconscious body. Suddenly, they found their way blocked by eight reptile men, one of them mounted on a hadrosaur and carrying a long lance, and a giant crayfish monster called a chuul. They were further surprised when another eight, plus another lancer mounted on a hadrosaur, and another giant crayfish monster, emerged from the tall rushes behind them. The first lancer called out in hissing lisping common, "Where do you think yourrrrr going?"

The party paused to consider their options and to attempt to read the intentions of the reptile-men. Suddenly, the first lancer called out, "Thesssse are the invaderssss the miissstreessss told usssss about! Killllll themmmmm!!" and both forces closed in!

Aline took the unconscious Gravy, jumped on her broom, and zipped into the air, staying below the roof line of the surrounding twenty-foot-tall buildings. Inza jumped to the roof of an ancient craftsman's shop on the right. They were immediately swarmed by reptile-men warriors carrying shields made of turtle shells and embedded with shards of obsidian and wielding macuahuitl - clubs embedded with obsidian shards.

Aline drew her wand of wonder and aimed it at the reptile-men, calling out a warning to Randalf. Randalf immediately disappeared into a silvery puff, magically reappearing atop an ancient building rooftop to the right. Suddenly -  POOMPF! Aline's wand created a cloud of stinking gas that sent several of the scaly brutes into fits of retching.

Randalf called out to Aline, telling her that he had a goodberry and that he could rouse Gravy. Aline rolled her eyes, "You could have told me that about ten minutes ago!" She brought Gravy down and the priest of Thumina was brought back to consciousness.

Gravy looked around, disoriented and confused, "What's going on. Did we win?"

"Shut up and pray for us!"

The cleric blinked and immediately prayed to the goddess of the moon. The goddess strengthened and reinvigorated Aline and Randalf, both of whom were still reeling from their recent battle with Anuran.

Inza jumped down from his building and engaged the mounted reptile man to the front. Aline cast a fireball spell at the group of reptile men to the rear.

Suddenly Lodar burst from a nearby side-alley, screaming and frothing at the mouth in a barbarian rage! The diminutive savage charged into a throng of the reptile-men menacing Inza. From whence he came, none could say. He simply caught up to the group and engaged their enemies in battle! For a short moment, Inza and Lodar fought back to back against an army of evil reptile-men!

Lodar Returns!
Having killed the lancer and his mount, Inza left Lodar to fight the remaining reptile-men and their chuul. Inza climbed to the roof of the building across the street in order to protect Randalf and Aline from the clawed fiends who had scaled the walls to attack the wizards.

What followed was a frenetic roof-top chase and battle as Aline, forced out of the air by nearby giant wasps, fled from Reptile-Men, Randalf fled from the giant cray-fish monster known as a chuul, and Inza followed behind engaging the villains that plagued them.

At one point, Gravy was pushed off the roof-top! Inza reacted quickly, casting a feather fall spell on the cleric, who drifted safely to the ground. Once on the ground, Gravy had to *GASP* draw his weapon and engage the enemy! This may have been the first time this had ever happened!
Inza the Shadow

Meanwhile, Lodar, alone, personally fought off and killed no fewer the eight or nine reptile men that surrounded him!

Eventually, the reptile men were defeated, though one managed to run away and escape. No doubt to report to his evil master, Horan.

Adventurer, Bounty Hunter, ...Ladies Man
The party found their way back to their retreat, a mezzanine around a central chamber in one of the ruined buildings. As they entered their hideout, they found an armored man looking through their things!

They called out a challenge to the stranger. He spun around and held up his hands!

"Whoah! Whoah! I'm a friend!"

"Who are you?" asked Aline.
Sorjin. So Dreamy!

"My name is Sorjin. I'm an adventurer, bounty hunter, ...ladies man." Sorjin grinned and winked.

DM Note - Winner of the best line of the night award! 

Aline pressed, "What are you doing here."

"Your highness, I'm here to rescue you!"


"Are you not the Silvan Princess, daughter of the King Verdurous?"


"Dammit! I did it again! Um, have you seen her?"

The group exchanged notes, bringing Sorjin up to speed. Sorjin was WAY off base. He had mistook Aline for someone else and now his trail was cold. In the meantime, he figured he'd fall in with this group for safety in numbers.

DM Note - Trevor was unhappy with Duma, so he created Sorjin who already seems more fun to play.

Things Best Left Unknown
The group settled in to rest for the night. Aline decided to spend the time trying to interrogate Indigo again. She summoned him forth. The rebellious Imp whined, "What????"

She said, "It's time we had a talk." She put on the magical Helm of Telepathy.
Indigo the Imp

"No, boss, I told you. You don't want to do that! I'm WARNING you!"

Aline looked directly at her familiar, "Tell me who you work for!"

Indigo bared his fangs and rolled his head in frustration, then fixed a menacing stare directly at his mistress.

DM Note - I made Aline's player get up and leave the room for this part.

Aline's eyes rolled back into her head. She turned around and retrieved the crystal ball from her satchel. She held it in her hands and began chanting, reciting an evil spell.

Randalf and Inza noticed this. Inza jumped up and stunned Aline with a nerve strike to the shoulder. She fell limp, the ball rolled out of her hand.

DM Note - I called Aline's player back into the room.

Aline came awake, "What just happened?"

Inza told her. Randalf confirmed, she was casting an infernal gate spell, a magical incantation that would open a portal to the Nine Hells, domain of the fiendish Baatetzu.

Randalf shouted at Indigo, "That's it! You're done!"

Aline defended her imp, "No! He's not responsible! It's not his fault!"

Randalf strongly suggested to Aline that she relinquish the crystal ball. Aline, still shaken, concurred. She handed the ball to the elder wizard. Randalf took out a handkerchief to pick up the transparent sphere.

As soon as Randalf touched the crystal ball, he fell over. He was not breathing. His heart was not beating. Gravy jumped into action and resuscitated him.

DM Note - Zero hit points. No save. Bad mojo!

Sorjin stood up and took notice. He stared at the crystal ball. He seemed to recognize it. "It is a key. If left unchecked, it will open a gate that will free all the Baatetzu, who will storm heaven and kill the gods of the Aslak!"

He said quietly, almost whispering, "It must be destroyed." He took out his mace and struck the crystal ball with all his strength.

He fell over. Dying.

Gravy rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. "Knock it off!" and resuscitated the newcomer.

Randalf coughed and slowly stood up, glaring at the imp and bearing his teeth in anger.

Indigo jumped into Aline's arms, suddenly afraid.

Randalf confronted Aline and Indigo. "That's it. I've had it. Either he goes, you go, or I go!"

Aline and Randalf stared at each other in angry silence as the rest of the party awkwardly looked on.

Randalf confronts Aline about Indigo


DM Note - Not really. We actually role-played a bit after this and did some preliminary scouting for the next part of the adventure. We also did a lot of role-playing and discussion via e-mail. Spoiler Alert! We resolved the impasse but the players suggested I end this week's write-up here and leave it as a cliff-hanger "To boost ratings" they said.

This event really did create a tense moment in the party. One which we had to check later - was this all just role-playing or was there any player animosity going on here?  As I suspected, it was Randalf's player doing an amazing job role-playing and getting into character as always! 

Anyway, how did we resolve this conflict? Find out next time!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

There's a Lot Going On!

I recently laid out all the major plots going on in this campaign:
  • The Yuan Ti tried and failed to resurrect the ancient Naga Kings to bring back the ancient Serpent Man Empire. They also have several shape-changers in positions of power.
  • The Ice King tried and failed to merge the prime material plane with the plane of ice under the rulership of the titan Cryonax.
  • The wizard Horan is doing something sinister (possibly several things) in the lost city of Sinopia with the help of the Yuan Ti, Bullywugs, and Lizard Men.
  • The peasantry of Thither are on the verge of overthrowing the nobility in a revolution.
  • The country of Kalmath is trying to invade the Xanthus River Valley on its way south. They are being held back by Princess Murti and Valerius.
  • The gnomes of Xuris are using finance and a secret army of shape-changers to manipulate events and gain power.
  • The wizard Ezekiel is doing something with the titan Ogremoch.
  • Asmodeus is trying to free the Baatezu from their imprisonment in Hell so they can re-conquer Heaven.
  • Pirates are raiding the Xanthus River.
  • Some wizard in the north is trying to do something, probably bad.
Man, there's a lot going on!

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Showdown with Anuran" - Chapter 6 of Dwellers of the Forbidden City

The Bullywug King

The party infiltrates the stockade of the bullywugs, defeats a metric boat-load of frog-men, and captures their king! Aline has a heart-to-heart with Indigo. Finally, the party takes on Anuran, the Demon-Lord of the Crying Swamp, in an epic final battle! Bonus, 5th edition stats for Anuran!

The Group:
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior (Monk 6/Sorcerer 1)
  • Randalf Azul, Human Abjurer (Wizard 7)
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina (Cleric 7)
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage (Wizard 7)
Not Present this week:
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian (Barbarian 7)
  • Duma, bestial jungle hunter of orcine*** parentage (Ranger 7)
* Elf
** Halfling
*** Half-Orc

Last week, the party had just defeated a caravan leaving the city. The caravan was filled with gold and jewels, like they were leaving to purchase something. They also captured and interrogated Kwairno, a young female wizard and apprentice to Horan the Flesh-Warper, former instructor and evil nemesis of Aline.

The group decided that they needed to pay Horan a visit, but first they would face Anuran, the reason they came to ruins of Sinopia in the first place.

A Stealthy Approach
It was mid-morning, a few days after the spring equinox. The air of the ancient city was warm and humid. The party carefully made they way down the abandoned boulevards past crumbling buildings covered in vines, creepers, and tall grasses. 
Inza the Shadow

They arrived at the edge of an area of the city where no buildings stood. It looked like this part of the city had been blasted outwards, leaving a massive crater. All that remained was a shallow marshy lake filled with black murky water. The entire lake was surrounded by hundreds of feet of muddy marsh and covered by swamp grass, as tall as a grown man. 

A raised path entered the tall grass. The path was formed from gravel and paving stones. The party followed the path into the tall grass. They took a route that would bring them close to the hill Aline saw in her invisible scouting expedition above the city. The hill was surrounded by a stockade of sharpened bamboo. The top of the hill had a bamboo platform with a gong. Several holes were dug into the side of the hill.

The grass had been cleared for a hundred feet around the hill, leaving only mud. The group observed the hill and the bamboo tower from the cover of the tall grass for about ten minutes. They saw only a lone bullywug stretch and return to hiding. Aline cast a spell of invisibility over the entire group. The group held a length of rope to stay together and moved forward towards the stockade. They moved unseen to the edge of the bamboo stockade. 

Aline had tied the rope to her magical flying broom. Still invisible, she ferried the party over the wall one at a time, following the rope back to the next person in line. 

The bullywug on the guard tower noticed something odd. Maybe it was the movement of mud. Maybe he heard something. Or maybe someone strayed outside the effect of Aline's spell for just a second. He looked closer, squinting his bulbous eyes. He saw nothing and returned to his rest.

Once ferried across, the party moved up to the tower. Inza climbed the tower and quickly dispatched the bullywug on duty. He then cut the ropes on the gong and let it fall with a thud into the mud at the base of the tower. 

Into the Lair of the Frog-Men
The party moved to the north side of the hill. The tunnel entrance was small for a full-sized human. They had to crouch or crawl in the mud. The tunnel was dug into the loose dirt and mud and was primitively shored with nothing more than twigs and branches. 

As they come to a split in the tunnel, Inza, who is in front, is set upon by two bullywug guards who were hidden in the mud. Two more accompany two giant frogs in a chamber just to the right. They fight the guards into the chamber where they are ambushed by four more hidden bullywugs. The bullywugs and guards are soon dispatched, even one that tried to flee to warn the others. One in the chambers surrenders.

Aline and Gravy interrogate the surviving guard. Aline dons a magical Helm of Telepathy, allowing her to read the surface thoughts of a target. Gravy puts on a magical Ring of Thought Sending, which allows him to communicate with a creature telepathically without regard to language barrier, but does not grant him access to hidden thoughts. Together, Gravy would ask the question and hear the answer, but Aline would be able to verify the true thoughts of the subject being interrogated.

They asked the guard whom he served. He served great King Groak, king of the bullywugs! An image flashed of a four-armed red frog-man carrying a rune-covered spear. 

When asked where they could find King Groak, he lied saying he did not know, but his thoughts indicated a great chamber just down the tunnel to the right. When asked if he would lead them to their king, he truthfully answered that he would never betray his king!

They asked the guard about Anuran. The frog-man's eyes widened with fear and reverence at the mention of the demon lord. His thoughts flashed images of the frog-god's emergence from the lake at the equinox, attended by his four high priests. The guard was proud that he was able to witness the holy event. When asked to provide more details, the lowly guard truthfully answered that he knew little of the holy mysteries of the great and powerful Anuran. 

They tied the guard up and left him behind. 

They crawled in single file down the winding muddy passage to the right. Inza emerged into a chamber forty feet wide and sixty feet long, shaped roughly like a kidney bean. The chamber had two exits, one on the far end and one to the right. The floor was filled with a dozen six-foot deep pits. In the chamber were twenty five bullywugs who noticed too late Inza's entrance through the small opening in the wall. 

Inza immediately killed the two nearest their tunnel then melted into shadow. He emerged near the far end of the chamber. He ran to the two near the far exit and killed them.

Meanwhile, Gravy, Randalf, and Aline scrambled over each other in the cramped tunnel. Aline emerged first, casting an explosive fireball spell into the center of the room. There was a bright flash and a deafening fiery explosion. Inza, Gravy, and Randalf shielded their eyes as they were buffeted by the heat and wind of the shock-wave. 

The entire room was cleared of all but a handful of bullywugs.

Those that remained tried to escape down the rear passage or side passage, but Inza cut them down before they could make it.

The King of the Frog-Men
The far tunnel was larger than the rest of the tunnels. One could see into the chamber that connected immediately beyond. The light of the dying fires illuminated eight larger bullywugs and a strange red bullywug with four arms and a spear covered in runes that gleamed brilliantly in the dark. It was King Groak, leader of the bullywugs!

The four-armed bullywug began calling out orders to his four guardians. The guardians started beating their spears on their shields and moved into formation in front of their king. 

Aline cast another fireball spell into the far chamber. The resulting explosion took out all but four of the bullywug guards. King Groak made his escape through another tunnel at the rear of his chamber. His retreat was covered by his four remaining bodyguards who followed behind him.

Inza climbed into the tunnel after him and was soon face to face with a bullywug royal guard. He killed him but saw that the way was blocked by the other guards, one after another. He disappeared into shadow and reappeared in front of King Groak, blocking his escape! 

Meanwhile, Aline and Gravy followed Inza into the tunnel while Randalf stayed behind to guard the rear and to search the king's chamber.

Aline and Gravy fought and killed the two remaining guards while Inza wrestled the king into the mud and took him prisoner. 

Afterwards, they noticed a side chamber. The entrance to the chamber was blocked by a large mushroom with  a fibrous purple head and growths that looked like antlers. A standing stone at the entrance proclaimed this chamber, according to Inza, as the "Children of Anuran".

Not taking any chances, Aline cast a small fire-bolt spell at the over-sized fungus, which burst into flame. Suddenly, eight bat-winged creatures swarmed out of the chamber, alarmed by the fire and the smoke. Four flew towards Inza and four towards Aline and Gravy. One even managed to attach itself to Aline. All were killed before they could really hurt anyone. 

After the smoke cleared in the chamber, they could see a pool filled with large wriggling tadpoles, each the size of a cantaloupe! 

Inza asked Aline to set fire to the abominations. Aline declined to destroy the innocent beasts.

They took the bound King Groak back to his chambers and interrogated him as they did the guard earlier. They wished to learn where they could find Anuran and how they could destroy him.

They learned that Anuran lives in a cavern in the lake where he sleeps through winter. He emerges each spring equinox to breed. By ancient pact, the city of Thither provides a sacrifice to be his bride. Anuran takes his bride back to the city, mates with her, and a new generation of bullywugs are born each summer!  

DM Note: At this point, Gravy's player realized what was going on and scrunched his face up in disbelieving horror, "Really? Really? No! Nooooo! Nooooooooo!Awwwww!!!" This made me happy! I said to him, "Yep, where do you THINK bullywugs come from?"

The party tried to coerce King Groak to lead them to Anuran's secret chamber or to help them defeat the god. King Groak, although confident that the demon-lord of the toads would easily defeat the infidel intruders, he was ultimately loyal to the powerful Anuran and would not assist them!

After searching the king's chamber, they found several barrels filled with gold, silver, and jewels, as well as King Groak's magic spear.

DM Note: +2 spear.

A Talk with Indigo
After capturing King Groak, Gravy saw to the health and well being of everyone in the party. Indigo, Aline's blue-skinned imp familiar who had been hungrily chewing on charred bullywug legs, indicated that he needed help.

He stuck out his tongue and gestured to his mouth, "Mah mowpf hoords! I boned dah top ub mah mowpf!"

Gravy reached out to lay hands upon the fiendish familiar.

Indigo bit him!


"Thowwy! Thowwy! Inthinct! I wearry did bone dah top ob mah mowpf dough. Gow ah-gen!"

Gravy reached out a second time.

Indigo bit him!


This continue for several go-rounds. Gravy, you see, isn't all there and his memory isn't great, and Indigo was taking advantage of that fact.

Randalf angrily glared at the imp, "I really REALLY want to banish him! If he does that one more time, he's gone!"

Indigo fearfully reached out to Aline for protection. Aline took the frightened devil-kin into her arms and looked at Randalf, "No!"

Randalf declared, "I'm telling you, he's evil, and he's working against us. Haven't you noticed how he's always invisible until you call for him? How he always seems reluctant to return when you summon? He doesn't work for you. He's a servant of the Uuani! If you don't believe me, use the crown. Read his thoughts!"

DM Note: The Uuani are the devils of Agartha. The Uuani were the old gods who where overthrown by the Aslak and banished to the nine hells. Randalf's player didn't actually say Uuani, he said "devils", but I'm substituting the correct word here.
Aline held her imp in silence, considering the wizard's words of warning. She looked at Indigo suspiciously.

Eventually, she took Indigo aside and privately she asked, "Is this true? Are you betraying us?"

Indigo was appalled at the notion, "No! Of course not! I serve only you!"

Aline clarified, "Do not lie. I will put on the crown."

Indigo beetled his brow and replied, "DON'T- go there! You- may not- want to know what goes on in here."

Aline sighed and put on the crown.

"Who do you work for?"

Indigo's eyes got wide. He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes tight, squinting and scrunching his face in terrific effort.

"Nggggg- You. I work only for you!"

He thought of nothing but lemures, the wriggling maggot-like souls of hell. Lemures. All he could think of was lemures. Bloated, corpulent, lemures.

Aline, frustrated, took off the crown. Indigo let out his breath and nearly collapsed to the floor.

"Don't- betray us. Just don't." she said, and she got up and re-joined the party.

Indigo stared after her as she walked away.

DM Note: As long-time readers of my blog may recall, she got Indigo when she cast summon familiar. The imp appeared inside her magic crystal ball and forced his way out like a snake emerging from an egg. When she used the crown on Indigo, I gave him a wisdom saving throw vs. her spell save. He made it.

Retreat to Safety
The party took the bound King Groak out the way they came in, encountering no resistance as they left.

Upon leaving the warren, the group discussed what to do with King Groat. Aline felt uncomfortable executing the prisoner but made no effort to intervene when Inza silently got up, picked up the king's magical spear, took King Groat out into the tall grass, and came back alone.

 They retraced their steps to their hiding place in the old bath house. Unfortunately, as they approached they saw that their hideout was swarming with lizard-men. The lizard-men were searching the area, looking for them.

They took a different street and entered a two-story domed building. They found some stairs that led to a second-story mezzanine  under the dome. An oculus in the center in the dome allowed light and a few tropical birds flew away from the intruders.

They rested there for an hour to catch their breath and refocus. Afterwards, they decided it was time to take on Anuran.

They left their hiding place and returned to the lake. Looking across the lake, they could see a stone platform with four stone menhirs,  a match for the one in the guard's thoughts.

The party made their way east around the south bank of the lake until they realized the eastern cliff-face would prohibit access to the platform. They then backtracked and followed the north shore of the lake, passing the bullywug stockade.

Eventually the path ended and the route along the north shore of the lake became one of knee-deep mud and tall grass. They saw all manner of swamp beast. Massive frogs and lazy crocodiles lurked at the water's edge like floating logs. Insects buzzed everywhere. Snakes and frogs scurried away as they forced their way through the marsh.

After about an hour, they arrived at the stone platform.

Showdown with Anuran
The party approached the stone platform from the north. The platform was roughly 65 feet square with a 60 foot diameter raised round dais. Flat trapezoid-shapes radiated from the center of the dais. At each corner of the platform stood a fifteen foot stone menhir, each carved with eldritch runes of power.

At the center of the dais was a plinth, upon which was a giant obsidian frog's head with ruby eyes the size of grapefruits. The look of the stone head was evil and unwholesome.

Stairs led up the platform between each of the radiating trapezoid shapes. Aline, Gravy, and Randalf climbed the stairs and examined the platform. Inza stayed behind in the grass.

The party was immediately met by a booming croaking voice speaking to them telepathically.

"Who are you to defile my sacred fane? What brings you to my holy sanctuary?"

Randalf answered, "We are here to destroy you."
Randalf the Azure

The voice replied, "I recognize you. You are the mammal that inconvenienced me two days ago. You are a pest! You denied me my bride! You have broken the pact! The city on the river has provided me a human bride each year for hundreds of years. Such insolence. Know that after I kill you, I will destroy the city. You will be the catalyst for such death and destruction."

Randalf showed confidence in the face of the evil entity. He said defiantly, "Not if we kill you first."

The booming thought-voice laughed. The telepathic effect was like fingernails on a chalk-board.  "How will you do that, mammal?"

"Like this." Randalf pointed his staff at the stone frog's head, "SHATTER!" With an utterance of the arcane spell, the stone frog's head exploded into a thousand obsidian shards.

The telepathic voice of Anuran was replaced with a very loud, very audible scream.

At the edge of the platform appeared a humanoid, tall, armored, with clammy skin and ranine features. The humanoid figure crossed his arms and suddenly transformed into a gargantuan demon-frog!

The massive Anuran took a deep breath, inflating his ruby-read throat like a balloon, then issued a mighty croak! The croak blew across the party like a blast of steam, scalding everyone in its path, including Randalf, Gravy, and Aline. Gravy and Aline screamed in agony and fell unconscious to the ground. Randalf gritted his teeth and bore the blast.

Afterwards, Randalf ran to Gravy and poured a potion  of healing into the cleric's unconscious mouth. Gravy woke with a start. He immediately regained his senses, stood to his feet, and recited a prayer of healing. Everyone felt invigorated.

Aline immediately stood up and fired a lightning bolt at the gargantuan god. The bolt had little effect.

Meanwhile, Inza was at Anuran's flank, repeatedly stabbing him with the magical spear.

Anuran closed his eyes and summoned the beasts of the lake to his aid. Randalf attempted to counteract the spell but failed. Ten crocodiles and nine giant frogs began swimming towards the platform.

DM Note: Belated realization, I should have summoned beasts first and had them serve as interference.

Aline hopped onto her magicl broom and took to the air. She moved away from the platform but made sure to stay close to the ground to avoid the giant wasps.

Anuran opened his wide maw, revealing six writhing tongues, each ending in a bulbous tip. The tongues shot out at Gravy and Randalf. Gravy was ensnared and pulled into Anran's slimy mouth. Luckily, Gravy was soon able to break free and fell back to the platform.

The beasts, meanwhile, swarmed Randalf, Inza, and Gravy. Aline then cast a fireball spell onto the platform. Although the explosion did not affect Anuran, it destroyed all the frogs and most of the crocodiles. Gravy said another prayer of healing to provide succor to his companions.

Anuran closed his eyes again and his body became engulfed in a numbus of blue gaseous flame, threatening to burn anyone who stood too near or attacked the massive amphibian. 
Gravy the Masticated

He then took another deep breath and exhaled a second blast of scalding steam onto the platform. The blast once more incapacitated Gravy. 

Inza broke from combat and ran over to stabilize the dying cleric. 

Things were looking grim for the party. They came here to kill Anuran, but their spells and attacks were having little effect on the entity and by this time they knew that they would die before they killed the god of the swamp.

Desperate, Randalf executed the fall-back plan. He pointed his staff at Anuran and cast a spell of banishment. 

Anuran struggled against the spell. With all his might, he fought the banishment. He failed.

With an inrush of air, Anuran disappeared from our world, his screams of frustration echoing into the void.

DM Note: Anuran attempted a charisma save with advantage but failed. Charisma was his dump-stat, unfortunately. Is banished to the Overworld. 

Tired and bloody, the party retrieved the ruby eyes from the shattered idol and, with the desperately injured Gravy in tow, made their way back to the ruins.

On their way back, at the edge of the city ruins, they encountered a troop of lizard men who had observed the battle from across the lake. The leader of the lizard men calls out, "Where do you think YOU'RE going?"


Gargantuan Celestial, Neutral Evil

Armor Class 20 (natural armor)
Hit Points 318 (16d20 + 112)
Speed 20 ft (leap 40 ft)

STR 21 (+5)
DEX 17 (+3)
CON 17 (+7)
INT 20 (+5)
WIS 19 (+4)
CHA 15 (+2)

Saving Throws Dex +8, Con +12, Wis +9
Skills Perception +12
Damage Vulnerabilities cold
Damage Resistances lightning, piercing and slashing from non-magical weapons
Damage Immunities fire, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened
Senses truesight 60', passive perception 22
Languages all, telepathy 30'
Challenge 17

Amphibious. Anuran can breath air and water

Magic Resistance. Anuran has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Shapechanger. Anuran can use his action to polymorph into a Small or Medium humanoid he has seen, or back into its true form. His statistics, other than his size, are the same in each form. Any equipment he is wearing or carrying isn't transformed. He reverts to its true form if he dies.

Innate Spellcasting. Anuran's spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save 20).

At will: detect thoughts,
3/day each: dominate beast, invisibility
1/day: fire shield

Multiattack. Anuran makes six attacks with his six tongues, uses Real, and makes one attack with his bite.

Tongue. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 30 ft, up to six targets. Hit: 9 (1d6 + 5) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and the number of possible targets of the tongue attack is reduced by one.

Reel. Anuran pulls each creature grappled by him up to 30 ft straight towards him.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: If the target is grappled, automatic, otherwise +10 to hit, one target. Hit: 26 (3d12+5) piercing damage.

Deadly Croak (Recharge 5-6). Anuran exhales a scalding croak in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw, taking 52 (15d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Legendary Actions:
Anuran can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. Anuran regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.

Scaly Command. Once per day, Anuran can summon and control 6-60 (6d10) unintelligent beasts of the swamp (reptiles or fish). All creatures must be within a half-mile of Anuran to be commanded. Furthermore, no creatures of the above types will ever attack Anuran, whether controlled or not. The command power lasts 70 (2d6x10) minutes and cannot be dispelled. It has no saving throw.

Appropriate creatures include any combination of the following:

  • Constrictor Snakes
  • Crocodiles
  • Giant Frogs
  • Giant Lizards
  • Insect Swarms
  • Swarms of Poisonous Snakes
  • Swarms of Quippers
Anuran is a composite of four creatures. He was one part Pan Lung from the original Fiend Folio (the original monster in the lake), one part Dragon Turtle, one part Ggorulluzg - god of the bullywugs from White Dwarf #39, and one part Yochol - handmaiden of Lolth. He was a tough fight, and the player characters had little chance of defeating him in a straight up fight. They were hoping to honestly defeat him, and Randalf was really holding onto Banish as a last resort. When things started going south, he pulled out Banish and they were able to call it a mostly victory.
More DM Notes: I tried to get into Anuran's head during the fight. Here's what I was thinking.

The first time he banished me, it was a fluke! I was caught off guard! I rolled poorly, and forgot I had Advantage on saves.
The next time, I will have Advantage. I will roll better! I will have initiative!
Ah shit! Did he just destroy my focus?? Well, now I will have to breathe steam on his ass! 
Dammit, he’s still alive. Nobody survives my steam breath!
What? He’s not trying to banish me? He must not be prepared with that spell today! THE FOOL! Now I will have my fun! 
Ah Shit! He DOES have Banish prepared, he was just holding onto it, hoping his friends would kill me first. THE FOOL! Well, at least I have Advantage on my saves! 
(two sucky rolls, and Charisma is my dump stat) Dammit! 
Curse you Randalf the Azure! You may have banished me again, but you have not killed me! I will return! Someday I will return, and I will have my revenge!!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Upcoming Project: "The Farthest Tomorrow"

Once I'm done converting "The Blade of Takshaka" to Exiled in Eris, I will begin work on a new RPG.

The Farthest Tomorrow

The Event
 In 201X, a freak particle accelerator experiment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory created a globe roughly 20 miles in radius that instantly transported the entire towns of Oak Ridge, Farragut, and Knoxville, Tennessee, millions of years into the future. The sun is dark and cold. The seas are gone. Earth is dying.

The people within the globe saw only a flash and an hurricane-like gust of wind. When it was all over, they found themselves in a very different world.

The future Earth was a strange wilderness no longer inhabited by humans. It was a savage place filled with strange monsters. The alien landscape was dotted with ancient ruins of incredible age.

The Current Situation
That was fifty years ago. Two generations have been born to the survivors of the Event.

The descendants of the survivors have adapted to life in this new world. They have explored the ancient ruins and studied the relics and histories left by their inhabitants. They have learned the secrets of magic and sorcery from the forgotten tomes. They have discovered powerful relics and technologies.

The survivors of the event occupied one of the lost cities, known as Yd. Yd is a domed city protected by powerful force fields. Yd is governed by a city council of 9 elected officials and an advisory board of academics, a role originally held by the scientist survivors from ORNL.

Hundreds of Stargate-like portals connect Earth to a handful of terraformed planets called the World-Net. Arid Mars, humid jungle-clad Venus, the subterranean caverns of Mercury and Ceres, and the self-contained artificial habitats floating in space. Other portals connected to unknown destinations. The first explorers that entered them disappeared. It was later learned that the mystery portals connected to other solar systems, a fact that only became evident when the explorers returned decades after they left to report on an expedition that, to them, lasted only hours! True, the portals allowed one to walk from one star system to another, but the speed of light was still inviolable!

The survivors also discovered several remote enclaves of intelligent non-humans living on the various worlds of the World-Net.
  • Immortals - tall, thin, blue humanoids. Only a handful have been found, each of them ancient and frail, living alone in abandoned cities. They are silent and mysterious and are possibly the last surviving members of the human race.
  • Sasquatches - the name the survivors gave to the tall muscular hairy hominids that lived a primitive existence in the jungles of Venus.
  • Silicoids - crystalline life forms found within the subterranean caverns of Mercury.
  • Insectoids - a species of short intelligent cock-roaches that occupy the highlands of Earth.
  • Proteans - amorphous psychic blobs from Europa.

Player Characters
The player characters are the children and grandchildren of the original survivors. They are explorers whose job it is to seek out artifacts and knowledge from the multitude of ruins found across the globe. They are armed with a mixture of 21st century technology (now a hundred years old), magical items, and relics of advanced technology. After 100 years, working vehicles have become precious treasures, bullets have to be home-made and are in short supply. Swords and bows have returned. However, a few working death-ray pistols and heat-ray rifles have be found in the ruins.

XP will be awarded based on the value of knowledge gleaned and the utility of artifacts recovered.

Classes will include Soldier (a type of Mercenary from White Star), Scholar (a type of Bard), Explorer (a type of Thief or Ranger), Mage (a type of Magic User), Leader (a type of Aristocrat from White Star), and Mystic (a type of Cleric), plus some racial archetypes from the list above..

The Campaign
There will be factions within the city of Yd, each with a different vision of how to save humanity and run things in this harsh new reality. Player characters will choose an alliance with a faction and will track their favor, which will bring them benefits, or disfavor, which tracks the repercussions of their decisions and actions. There's also a criminal element and black market, of course.

Yd will serve as a home-base and site of intrigue and political machination. There will be satellite communities founded in the last 100 years. And maybe some remnant villages and small cities of those aforementioned non-human races, but other than the dying cities of the Immortals, no other advanced civilization have been found anywhere on any of the worlds.

The Rules
I'll be using Swords and Wizardry and White Star as the basis. This game will essentially be a campaign setting for these two games.