Lord Foul wrote:Lord Foul wrote:I'm running the first off-world adventure for the recurring cast in my AD&D 1st Ed. campaign. It is a holy quest for the fabled Lonsdale Belt, an Asgardian artifact made by the dwarves of Nidavellir, stolen by a Type V Demoness and taken back to her stronghold on the 4th plane of Tarterus.
The party, led by a priest of Odin, have to travel across the Astral Plane to Tarterus, then find their way through the first three layers, going via portals between the levels, to the fourth plane, where the demon's fortress lies within the realm of Grolantor, god of the hill giants.
This adventure is quite a departure for the party, who are around 10th level. My rule tweaks for adventures on other planes have been quite a shock to the system, as I've changed things so that the PCs remain unchanged while everything around them changes. Basically, anything native to the outer planes has its hit dice and damage doubled. The effect is to make these powerful characters rather more nervous than they started out. Complacency is a dangerous thing in this setting!
They are currently 9 sessions in and are still on the first plane of Tarterus, having suffered an accidental petrification requiring them to do a deal with a local magical guild called The Cabal to perform a task in return for a cure. That task turned out to be dealing with a local protection racket run by a malebranche with a squad of barbed devil enforcers. They have just succeeded in defeating the devils following a climactic confrontation in the bad guys' base. I believe they have learned some valuable lessons about the scale of things in Tarterus, that should serve them well for the rest of the adventure.
Most awesome moment so far was last session, during the climax, when things were going decidedly badly for the party. The head priest let rip with his Sunray (1/day effect of a magic item) which damaged and blinded the malebranche and two of his remaining heavies (and blew up his imp familiar), but also produced enough natural sunlight to allow the party witch to cast her Laser Beam spell (only castable in natural sunlight), which did double damage on undead and fiends and in this case did 66 HP damage to the malebranche and was the turning point in the fight.
Time for an update.
We're now 14 sessions in and the party has found and passed through a portal to the second plane of Tarterus, where they have to navigate across the plains of razor grass and through the acid jungle to find the next portal.
The last couple of sessions have been particularly interesting from a role-playing perspective, sparked off by an accident brought about by one player's inattention. Travelling across the plains, the party found themselves being tracked by a flock of demonic flightless birds (diakka). Attempts to avoid a confrontation failed and the birds began moving in to encircle the party, hooting and cawing ("mine, mine!") with fairly clear intent.
As the birds closed in, the ranger cast an Entangle spell and the hobbit thief went invisible. The hobbit then moved forward to get behind some of the birds ready for backstabbing. But of course he couldn't see the Entangle until he was in it, and he promptly failed his save and got all caught up in the grass. Then the witch cast a Fireball at one of the birds, forgetting that its blast radius was big enough to cover the area where the hobbit was entangled. Oops! The hobbit failed again (no dex due to entangle) and lost his magic gossamer armour, his ring of feather falling and his Heward's handy haversack (containing all his money and all the party's food stores). He was not happy! But at least the fire burned away the grass and freed him.
The battle was well and truly joined, and the witch received almost instant karma as one of the birds scored a double damage critical hit and took her down in a single blow. She wasn't quite dead, but then the hobbit bounced in with his boots of striding and springing and gave her a coup de grace as payback.
The rest of the fight was brutal and over quite quickly, once the big hitters got going. But then it got really interesting, as the players began arguing over whether or not to raise the witch. They had the means to do so; the question was whether they should just let her die, as some mixture of punishment and prevention of future accidents. A lively debate ensued, with the hobbit (neutral) arguing strongly to let her rot, and some of the good characters arguing the other side. The most interesting part was that two of the good PCs voted to leave her dead. When they took a vote it was only the evil NPC barghest voting to save her that caused a split decision.
They still hadn't decided by the time I ended the session, and between sessions I sent round an email addressing the subject of Tarterus and how it messes with people through temptation to the dark path. I also alluded to the thorny subject of alignment as a timely reminder to the players that there are sometimes consequences for not behaving in an appropriate manner.
They clearly took the hint, as in the last session they quickly agreed a compromise whereby they would raise the witch and Quest her not to harm the party again, the hobbit agreed not to murder her in cold blood for breaking his stuff, and both of the good characters who had lapsed were conspicuously on their best behaviour. At least now they know what is at stake here, and they gave me such a perfect example to use as an illustration of the Tarterus temptation effect. I love my players!
We're finished until next year now, and I left them, having met up with a troop of Armanites (demonic centaurs), with their first view of the acid jungle and the twisted, vine-covered tower of The Apothecary of Sin, mad scientist and dealer in potions, balms and oil of acid resistance.
Time for another update.
Only two sessions have been played since the last update, during which our intrepid heroes visited The Apothecary of Sin (an insane arcanodaemon), enjoyed a grand feast much like the one in Temple of Doom, went fishing in an extradimensional pool (where they caught an extradimensional fish - larger on the inside), negotiated the purchase of a bulk supply of oil of acid resistance and a considerable number of other potions, spent a peaceful night resting and left to begin the next stage of their journey, through the acid jungle to the second portal.
Everything appears to be going perfectly...
...which of course ought to be ringing huge warning bells.
In fact, things are going just about as badly as they could. Unbeknownst to the party, their witch has been replaced with a simulacrum. The real witch, a grey elf, is currently hanging suspended from a framework in the laboratory, in temporal stasis, with tubes taking a very slow drip feed of top quality elf blood for the making of potions of longevity (one of the most valuable potions in the universe).
They had opportunities to discover and foil the plot. The hobbit thief wanted to go on a night-time sneak, but found he was being followed by the party's barghest guide, apparently at the instruction of the cleric leader of the party. Lots of trust going on in this group. Anyway, that was enough to put the thief off his escapade, which might have discovered what the Apothecary was up to. The witch herself, while in her "private audience to discuss and trade potion recipes", had one round to do something when the Apothecary began casting a spell at her. There were a few things she might have done to foil the attempt, mostly by drawing the attention of the rest of the party, but she chose not to do any of them and missed her chance. No save against temporal stasis.
Now the party is one day into the jungle, and the player of the witch is doing a fine job of playing the simulacrum, using the witch's low-level spells and items to keep up the masquerade. It is only a matter of time before they figure it out. The witch's pseudo-dragon familiar is under psionic hypnosis to believe the fake is the real witch, but the post-hypnotic suggestion has a 5% cumulative chance per day of wearing off. Also, they are only a day and a half away from the second portal, which is currently home to a rakshasa with a bunch of bar-lgura demons and giant spiders. The rakshasa's illusions will almost certainly prompt the cleric to cast true seeing... and the jig will be up.
I am so looking forward to the sheer horror when they realise they have lost the witch and now have to go back through the acid jungle to the tower of the hideously powerful wizard-demon, to attempt a rescue.
I feel so evil.