2018 so far...Part 2
Because I don't like clicking between pages to scan my updates, here's a new post...
Lost in the Dark
After escaping from the ancient G'nar temple, the party found themselves washed up on the banks of an underground river, presumably deep under Moonthrone, but who can say for sure? Well, Druuk the barbararian somehow washed up after a drunken night of back alley pit-fighting, so couldn't be too far, right? We'll see.
The group decided to follow the river downstream for a few hours rather than investigate any possible branches in the gargantuan cave system. For most of the journey, the cave extended into darkness beyond the limits of darkvision or torch to the left and right, though there was some indication of possible branching passages on both sides of the river.
Eventually, explorations revealed a possible fungal forest to the right.
After investigating some scuffling sounds in the distance, the group was attacked by a pack of feral pig-things, like a cross between swine and giant star-nosed moles. Despite some close calls, everyone survived.
While most rested to bind their wounds and recover, Exayu, the assassin hired by the Cog to track the group down, went off on his own to explore the mushroom forest. He found signs of cultivation, and some indication that someone might have raised or hunted the moleswine they encountered. He also found that he was being followed, and chased down the skulker to find a dogman child. When Exayu tried to capture the kid, he found definitive proof that there was some husbandry to the moleswine, when he was captured by a pair of dogman (dogwoman?) huntresses.
The dogwomen initially wanted to just kill Exayu and forget about the assassin, rather than bring him to someone named Baelscrate, and cause more headache and hassle for themselves. But Exayu managed to convince them he might be a sign of larger trouble, so they decided to keep him alive for more questioning and turn him over to this Baelscrate character in some sort of larger settlement. But first they needed to investigate the other strangers.
With a bound and gagged Exayu dumped under a mushroom tree a short distance away, the dogwomen huntresses tried to surround and scout out the party.
Some warning shots were fired, but the party wasn't having any of it. They captured one of the dogwomen, named Zarradesh, and rather than ask her any questions, Charion quickly sacrificed her to his patron, Luza the Red, by making her invoke Luza's name [DMs note: in Charion's defense, he might not have intended to sacrifice the woman by forcing her to invoke Luza; however, Counterpoint: he was given fair warning that his patron demanded more red, usually as blood, be spread, and then there is this next point], then decapitating her as the blood began to rush out all her pores.
At this point, most everyone was caught off guard. The remaining dogwoman fled further upstream. Danison gave chase. The dashing [as in literally taking dash bonus actions] rogue warlock had no trouble keeping up, and followed her through the mushroom forest, into a clearing with what appeared to be a dogman farmstead occupied by a few dogman families.
Back at the camp with the rest of the group, things got even more messed up...
to be continued
Charion, hexblade of Luza, and Jared, dragonborn paladin and original proselyte of Azul, decided to experiment with Zarradesh's corpse.
Among his collection of severed-head trophies, Jared had a deva's head he had killed...somewhere. Charion had the bottle of ghoul-goo he scavenged from the G'narrec they fought in the ancient temple [from which he contracted...something nasty, which despite having made one saving throw, he has not quite shaken--more to come]. They decided to see if they could attach the celestial's head to the dead dogwoman with the rotted corpse-slime from an undead abomination, and then reanimate the body. What could go wrong?
But Azul and Luza were competing, diametric manifestations of the same entity; they shouldn't get along. Players were warned. Dice were rolled. High checks were made. Both warlocks invoked their patrons, calling on their mysterious benefactor(s) to find balance between each other (itself?) and restore life to the patchwork abomination they had made.
The blue drained from Jared's pamphlets. Charion's red blade-arm dissolved into a red puddle, as did the blue pseudopod-slime of the rogue Jake-rat's arm, gained from a prior invocation to and subsequent corruption by Azul. Charion's eyes, once solid blue, and then red, became normal again, if only briefly. Jared's head-flame went out. Everywhere, the colors red and blue drained away and rushed to the corpse. Blue and red dripped and drained from the cave ceiling above, and swirled from every direction. Red and blue gales howled all around; the cave walls shook and trembled. Waves and waves of blue and red filled the air, presumably from all over Moonthrone, sifted through the earth into the vessel Charion and Jared had made.
The corpse lifted, its back arched. Indistinct, bruise-colored purple wings stretched from its shoulders. The once-deva head contorted, became more bestial and canine. Still more blue and red rushed into the thing.
Everyone nearby, even those not witnessing the birth of the new god-thing directly, heard the swirling howls, inside their minds and out. Danison, near the dogman farmstead at the edge of the fungal forest, saw the dogmen drop to the ground, clutching their skulls. He wasn't far behind. Madness reigned. Everyone heard a new name in their minds: Azuluza.
Pretty much everybody failed their sanity check. Except Charion and Jared, but as they were responsible, they were arguably insane already. Both warlocks gained some new corruption. Charion sprouted purple fur all over his body, and his head became more shriveled and cadaver-ish, even slightly-so when using his hat of disguise. Jared's head-flame now burns purple instead of blue, and his tail twisted into a fifth arm. Everyone else gained at least half a week of long term madness.
Here are madness effects as best I can remember. Those who were there, feel free to correct me or clarify duration.
Adrick: Partial amnesia. Knows who he is, but doesn't recognize other people or remember anything before the madness took effect. 100 hours?
Danison: Regards his blade, the hexblade from Azul, once blue but now bruise-purple, with intense revulsion, as the antipathy effect of the antipathy/sympathy spell; he's terrified of it and must succeed a DC 15 wisdom save or be frightened of his blade when can see it or comes within 60 feet of it. Given he can dismiss it as a pact weapon, the 60 feet issue should be manageable; given that Azuluza still has a will of its own and kinda controls the blade, there could still be complications. 100 hours?
Exayu: Has become attached to his belongings, and must go through his entire pack, removing and itemizing everything to be sure nothing is missing, every 30 minutes or so, or whenever there might have been a chance it was unattended or susceptible to theft, or suffer disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. 70 hours?
Jake-rat: Lost the ability to speak. 70 hours?
Their new tortle druid friend (still haven't learned his name): Extreme paranoia. This Azuluza thing reminds him of stuff he'd like to forget, from his life millenia-ago as a servant to the G'nar and G'narrec.
The floating purple-winged body of Azuluza then dropped to the ground and seeped into the stone, deeper, and vanished.
And that's where we left it.
Adrick's amnesia was 70 hours: the assassin was 100 hours, and everyone else was averaging somewhere around 50-70 hours.
After the birth of Azuluza, the party picked themselves up from the ground. Nearby lay two more warlocks: Gaxolgon, a dwarf with a celestial patron, and Ithar of Cthulhu. Apparently other entities had noticed, and sent their own agents to investigate further.
After some regrouping, and some dubious stories to the new visitors (and Adrick, thanks to his amnesia) to explain what the hell was going on, the group investigated further upriver, hoping to find a way out of the caverns. They came to the dogman homestead, consisting of a moleswine pen, mushroom garden, and three shacks. The dogmen were in a panic, still trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. Adrick and Ithar went invisible. Jake-rat attempted stealth. Danison, disguised as a dogman with his guise of many faces, attempted to parlay, along with Charion, who, now covered in purple fur, was mistaken for some weird dogman breeding experiment.
There was a lot of confused bluffing, as no one in the group really had any idea of the dogman culture Danison was attempting to bullshit his way through.
Somewhere between 15-20 dogmen lived at the homestead, with at least 6 children, and possibly more, running about. All the adults were women. The dogwomen found it odd that Danison, a male, claimed to live alone as a hermit in the caverns, instead of training at Scratesburg to become a member of the Moonthrone city watch. Eventually it became clear that Scratesburg is a larger village of dogmen somewhere in the vast cave system. All male dogmen of a certain age must report to Scratesburg for training as soldiers or city guards, while women are allowed to train if they so decide. Scratesburg is run by Baelscrate, some sort of high-ranking Moonthrone official, and apparently also a bit of a creep; a few of the dogwomen confided that they were tempted to join the soldiery, but ultimately decided they didn't want to deal with Baelscrate, or any of his off-putting subordinates.
Danison managed to convince the dogwomen that he had come across the party as they wandered lost in the caverns, and was attempting to help them return to Moonthrone's surface. The story might have worked better, were it not for the fact that the lead dogwomen was Farra, the huntress who witnessed her companion Zarradesh get decapitated just before a storm of blue and red rushed through the caves and drove everyone temporarily insane.
Zarra had Jared, the only party member she actually saw and recognized (thanks to Charion's new purple fur), captured and bound. Jake-rat wasn't so lucky on his stealth roles, and was also found and captured. Eventually Farra decided that they would need to report to Scratesburg, despite her dislike of Baelscrate, as clearly there was some witchcraft afoot, and the area would likely need to be checked for Incursions. At Scratesburg Jared would be turned over for interrogation, and Danison would be able to help anyone who could prove they weren't involved in the recent warlockery return to the surface.
A cart was loaded up for the trip to Scratesburg. Five of the most able-bodied dogwomen, including Farra, agreed to escort the group. Adrick invisibly tried to sabatoge the cart before it left with a bomb he had received from Dokeppel Ironbones, but the explosive was found before it could be detonated. Jared and Jake-rat were thrown in the back of the cart; everyone else grabbed a spot and traveled unbound.
Despite DM fears, the party managed to NOT murder an entire community of women and children.
They ultimately killed all the dogwomen they were travelling with though. But first, during the ensuing half-day of travel, they learned that there are at least two known exits back to Moonthrone's surface, the village of Baelscrate, or a small dogman fort another day or two's travel upriver.
Adrick, hiding invisibly under the wagon, sabotaged a wheel, causing the wagon to crash and toss one dogwomen into the river. Gaxolgon jumped in to save her while the rest of the group fought and killed the rest. Ultimately, the 5 dogwomen died, and the group was still lost in the underdark beneath Moonthrone, only now with a busted wagon and the knowledge that there are at least two known exits to the surface somewhere upriver.
Oye, ya means ta tells me dem boys I's is travelling wit lied ta me? Jes' t waits untilz I remembers wat da truff is when's dis amenesia thingie wears off - dat lil smurf gonna 'ave sum 'splaynin' ta do he is!
With some party members mysteriously missing (wandered into the dark? Snatched into a pocket dimension by Azuluza? Who knows?), and others mysteriously finding themselves lost in the underdark, the group continued to follow the underground river downstream.
Were those rats following them? Nope, they were weird rat-things with tentacle faces. The rat-things retreated to a weird purplish shadow thing, which morphed into an antlered bear-thing and attacked.
Jared and Charion tried to help out the oily bear-thing, recognizing it as related to their new purple patron, Azulza. Newcomers (and probably older allies as well), were understandably put off, but the battle was won, and the party continued down stream.
They came upon a dog man village at a bridge that crossed the river, with a road that led to Scratesburg. They decided to avoid the dog men, and try their luck further downriver.
At the end of the river, where it descended deeper into the rock, and presumably an underground waterfall, they found a remote dog man outpost surrounding a mooncoral spire leading to the surface.
With some good battle planning and defensive use of spells, the group managed to take the garrison, and prevent any dog man soldiers from escaping for reinforcements. The tower presumably leads to the surface, somewhere in Moonthrone...
And to think it all started when Adrick tried to slip Charion a hand grenade while invisible, inadvertently alerting the post commander to the grenade (which he had never seen before and Charion convinced it was a special item being delivered to the hierarchy above). It wasn't Adrick's fault the commander had the intelligence of a goblin and decided to pull the pin when he got back to his office.
Back in Town
Having secured the garrison in the Underneath of Moonthrone, the group explored up the stairs that spiraled the interior of the garrison's moon coral tower/tunnel (after noting that a trap door in the floor level of the garrison spire led to more stairs descending even deeper).
After a good few hours of travel, they found a humanoid shaped doorframe similar to the one found in the roachlings' hideout, only less detailed, as if the features had smoothed out over time. The mooncoral of the doorway proved thin and brittle; it was an easy matter to break through, where they found an abandoned lizard-stable built onto the side of a spire which overlooked the Moth District from a height of about 250 feet. Apparently, the stable was once a waypoint and guard station for the City Watch, but had been abandoned long enough that the doorway to the spire had grown over (and, hopefully the remote garrison below forgotten about, but who knows?).
Jared summoned a giant lizard steed and ferried those who needed a ride back down to the city proper, where everyone got some days of downtime.
The group decided to establish the garrison in the Underneath as a base of operations for Adrick's plans for citywide revolution, with the remote stable as their access point to the city.
Outreach to The Wyrders Guild
While everyone was lost in the Underneath, Dokeppel Ironbones researched the area and worked his contacts to come up with a plan of action for Adrick's revolution. He determined they needed to build connections and infrastructure, and the Moth District seemed like a good place to start.
One of the most influential groups in the area is the Wyrder's Guild. The Wyrders are an organization of wizards and scholars with an exclusive license from the Spirelords for investigations and experiments into incursion areas and corruption effects, presumably in hopes to find a cure for the otherworldly corruption endemic to Moonthrone. Their base of operations is a strangely leaning (and even more strangely, slimy) tower that abuts the wall to the neighboring Wyrd District. They also have smaller halls, laboratories, and lodges through the city from which they sell alchemical and magical goods and services to fund their experiments.
Dok identified two promising leads to make inroads with the Wyrders.
First, there was a guild hall that had recently closed its doors to the public after a peasant supposedly took ill and died after using a potion purchased from the guild hall. Since the death, the hall hired guards to watch the entrance, and no one had been seen entering or leaving for days.
Second, a few days ago a mysterious temple adorned with eye imagery had appeared in a burned over lot overnight. The building supposedly appeared in a flash of blue light, and rumors spread that a few adventurous individuals, strangely drawn to the building, experienced visions of the future or the past associated with the place. No one actually knew any of the people who had experienced the visions, though two people had been identified as entering the temple and emerging blind. One supposedly simply no longer had eyes, while the other seems to have gone blind from sort of poison. After the blindings, the building was identified as a possible incursion, and marked for quarantine by the city, but so far the City Watch had not descended on the site with the usual contractors and materials to build a wall around the place. Rumors said the Wyrders had convinced the Watch to delay quarantine so an investigation could be completed.
The group decided to investigate the closed guildhall first.
The guild hall was in front of a small park area. Behind the hall was a pond with a laboratory built on a raised platform in the middle of the pond. Outside the hall, was a guardhouse with three hired guards on watch to turn any would be visitors away.
As usual, a fight broke out. One of the guards was ultimately convinced to leave, while two more were polymorphed into gnomes thanks to Jared's remaining gnome caps (obtained during the gnome hunt months back). In the commotion, the City Watch nearly came down on the group, but the chaos from mind-controlled guards attacking civilians (thanks Crown of Madness!), and free-ranging gnomes drew their attention away. The party split, with half going into the guild hall, and Adrick and Charion exploring the pond out back.
Inside the guild hall, a blank-eyed and sopping wet Wyrder asked the party to leave, before immolating himself with a fireball. In the kitchen pantry they found a terrified halfling cook named Stavhy, who had been hiding for a week, ever since she saw a troll-like monster rip a Wyrder to pieces out back on the bridge to the laboratory.
Outside the guild hall, Adrick and Charion were attacked and nearly killed by water elementals on the bridge to the laboratory. They escaped, and took out the elementals when the party got back together.
In the laboratory over the pond the party found six glazed-looking alchemists in Wyrder robes working at the direction of a wet woman they misidentified as a hag, as well as her troll enforcer.
Ranir, Lord of the Chase was invoked, causing a swarm of foxes to descend upon the laboratory. Before they arrived however, an entire necklace of fireballs (4 or 5 beads worth of fireballs) was chucked at the troll. The resulting explosion obliterated the troll, all the mind controlled Wyrders, and most of the laboratory. No trace of the mysterious soggy witch-woman (eventually identified as a rusalka) was found. It is assumed she escaped into the pond when the floor collapsed under her.
So no inroads with the Wyrders were made. On the bright side, no Wyrders survived to pass on descriptions of the people who exploded their guild-lab either, though there is at least one guard who could identify them. The group also recruited Stavhy the halfling to join their cause so the proposed revolution has cook so far at least.
Charion and Jared, warlocks of Azula shared a dream. They awoke on a ledge inside a mooncoral spire, rather than the burned-out barracks of the captured garrison they went to sleep in. Urged by their patron, they leapt into the void and fell through the spire, deep into the earth. Each grew purple wings which slowed their fall. The spire opened into a gigantic cavern where far below they saw a city built upon a mass of mooncoral like a gargantuan upside down ivory tree stump, from which hundreds of spires spoked out and up into the earth above. At the center of the city was a giant mooncoral dome. As they fell closer to the city, they saw figures fighting in the cyclopean streets. Eventually they could make out distinct forces; figures in purple robes and tabards fought against other figures barricaded into more fortified positions throughout the city. Upon even closer examination, it seemed most of the figures were ghouls, descended from various races, and fighting for control of the city.
Back in the Moonthrone, the group decided to investigate the mysterious eye-covered temple that appeared overnight in the Moth District. They distracted a group of Wyrders who were examining the building, and managed to get inside.
Inside, they discovered the building to be an ancient temple devoted to Sankhis, a forgotten goddess of destiny and augury. After passing some of the temple's tests, they found a ghoul priest named Nimon, who explained that Sankhis was one of many gods once worshiped in the ancient city of Xul Garoth, deep beneath the earth. Long ago, as part of Sankhis's rites, those who proved themselves worthy were granted visions, and entry into the temple's central chamber where Sankhis herself answered questions of the future. Around 1000 years ago Sankhis fell out of favor due to some sort of power shift in Xul Garoth, and the temple was shunted outside of normal time and space, destined only to return to the material plane in times of great change and possible calamity.
They also fought a few swarms of floating eyeballs, which attempted to engulf them and pull the eyeballs out of their heads. Despite some close calls, no one lost their eyes to the ocular swarms. Jared wasn't so lucky in the long run though.
In the central chamber, Jared failed to show the proper deference to Sankhis with his questions, and after a couple of failed constitution saves had one of his eyes yanked out of his head.
He got better though. Sort of. He didn't grow the eye back, but Azuluza answered Jared's call enough to grow the dragonborn a new eye on the back of his head. Not so helpful with his hood up, but otherwise useful for not getting surprised when his hood is down.
Some of the visions seen while venturing through the temple:
- Reese Kincaid on trial before the shadowy leaders of the Cog, with his hands tied behind him.
- Roachlings crashing a snazzy wedding in the City Above.
- A procession of hobgoblins, goblins, and bugbears in fancy clothes being escorted through the City Above.
- The Gnarloc meeting with an ashen, grey-skinned figure in grey robes.
- Ghouls running wild through the streets of Moonthrone's City Below, eerily similar to Jared and Charion's dream the night before.
Upon exiting the temple, the group encountered the Wyrders Guild scholars they bypassed earlier. The Wyrders explained that the temple was soon to be walled up by the city as an Incursion area, but the Wyrders would still be allowed entry behind the walls to study the temple. As the group were the only people known to have ever entered the temple and emerge with their eyes (mostly) still in their heads, the Wyrders entered into an agreement to allow the group future access to the temple, in exchange for future help with the Wyrder's investigations.
[As always, if I mis-remembered anything, or if anyone wants to add anything I missed feel free to add an update. In particular, if anyone remembers any visions I forgot, or the specific questions asked in the central chamber, let me know.]