Posted by : David Guyll September 28, 2013

Pictured: Spoilers. Kind of. It is not as big.
Cast
  • Perseus (level 6 demigod Chaladin)
  • Iola (level 6 wood elf Centered Breath monk)
  • Atticus (level 6 wood elf predator druid)
  • Nero (level 6 human evoker)
One-hundred foot diameter rock hurtling towards your face? That would be time to leg it.

Atticus and Iola were the quickest, easily making it to the relative safety of the passage; being either an elf in cat-form or an elf capable of high-velocity wind-jumps has considerable benefits when the name of the game is speed.

Nero and the heavily-armored Perseus? Not so much.


Or rather, not at all.

The impact obliterated the temple, shattering the summit and sending pillars cartwheeling down the mountainside. Iola and Atticus were tossed about as the passage buckled and collapsed, but aside from some bruises and scrapes they were miraculously unharmed. The ground began to shudder again as a violent, deafening wind erupted from the broken summit. Then the sky darkened as the air quickly became freezing and it began to snow.

Brace yourself, magical volcanic winter is coming.
After about ten minutes the wind mostly subsided and the ground was carpeted in several feet of snow. Atticus was not affected much thanks to all the fur. Iola was used to living high up in the mountains, but not that used to it and ended up having to wrap herself in a blanket to ward off some of the cold. When they were mostly sure that nothing more disastrous would occur, they crept out and made their way back to where the summit used to be, hoping against all odds to find someone. Or at least part of them.

As they started up the stairs a scabrous, clawed arm shot out of the snow. Atticus reflexively darted over and worried it, causing the bloated demonic body it was attached to to bolt upright, bellowing in pain. It was certainly dressed like Nero but--for starters--the head had a crest of twisted horns, the skin was covered in thick, dark protrusions, and while the mouth had too many rows of teeth it was still less disconcerting than the one gaping from its distended gut.

Atticus let go, and both he and Iola just stared at the corpulent obsenity in a mixture of confusion and disgust.

Then the gut-mouth vomited up Perseus.

Then the creature slowly diminished in size until all that was left was a Medium-sized, human-looking Nero. He was feeling uncomfortable for a variety of reasons: physical trauma from all the explosions, transforming into a demon and back, spitting up the son of a god he recently killed, and standing knee deep in snow wearing tattered clothing in a region of the world where snow is not a naturally occurring thing. Could this last half-hour get any worse?

Of course it could.

Perseus stood up, covered in a sheen of demi-demon saliva, standing in the freezing cold, and struck Nero. Several times, until he teetered on the verge of consciousness. Once Nero was sufficiently battered and bloodied, he drew his sword and prepared to drive it through his skull. Nero just laid there in resignation, but after several seconds Perseus's face turned from rage to horror. He slowly lowered the sword, the lightning flashing in his eyes faded. He then backed away before stumbling off to dry heave in the snow for a bit.

Nero picked himself up. His wounds were rapidly healing, and the axe shot him a mental "you're welcome". After some awkward silence the group made their way up the stairs so that they could assess the damage. The meteor was lodged within a cylinder of what looked like black ice. It was around ninety feet across and extended thousands of feet into the depths of the mountain. Cold wind was weakly billowing from it, all that remained after whatever energies it contained had been expelled into the sky.

They began climbing down. Well, not Iola and Atticus. They again had the advantage of flight and simply glided to the bottom. The walls did not afford many handholds, so despite his understandable hatred of Nero Perseus was forced to accept his assistance or risk falling. Nero tied a rope around both of them and animated a grappling hook to slowly lower them down in yet more awkward silence. Even if they had something to talk about it was pretty easy to notice as they descended that the meteor was somehow still pushing its way down, grinding away at the shaft of ice.

Perseus tried his luck some more with the lightning staff. It blew off small chunks, but they continued to hang in a slow orbit, keeping pace with the meteor's inexorable progress. It was simply too big to destroy, so they would have to think of something else. They reached the bottom a few minutes later. As soon as Perseus's feet touched the ground he could feel a malevolence emanating from beneath him, and Atticus's keen senses began to detect a very faint pulse, as if the ground were alive.

Nero opened up his arcane sight to give the area a scan. He saw that the pillar was tightly wrapped in strands of abjuration, conjuration, and evocation magic, and crackled just ever so slightly with necromantic energy. He could also see waves of evocation energy being channeled into the meteor from somewhere atop the mountain's shattered crown, which he noticed were being disrupted periodically by the gusts of wind. The air was disrupting the earth magic, which was being used to grind away a pillar of ice...uh oh.

All of a sudden Nero realized what was going on. They were standing atop a primordial that had been imprisoned directly beneath the very thrones of Olympus. The pillar that impaled it kept it inert, and was made of ice because stone probably would have not done anything and been easy for a practitioner of earth-based magic to remove once they had found it. That was where the wind came in: currents both inside and outside would have made it virtually impossible for anyone to find it. Even if they did, the wind would oppose their magic and weaken them.

But they did find it, and the last step was to apparently destroy the pillar, which would allow the primordial to recover and awaken.

So, time to plan.

Perseus considered the idea of reconstructing the pillar, but quickly dismissed it as he lacked either the power or time to found a religion and accumulate enough power to perform whatever miracle was needed in order to create it in the first place. Destroying the pillar was likewise out of the question, as they had tried that plenty of times and it would take far too long before it achieved its goal. Nero lacked the time, resources, and knowledge to cobble together a ritual to halt its progress or reassemble the pillar.

But he might be able to knock it off.

Though he did not know much in the way of abjuration, he was pretty handy with forces. With enough time he could gather enough magical energy together and release it in one focused blast to hopefully dislodge it. The downside is that he did not have enough time; the meteor would grind its way through the pillar in a matter of minutes. He would need something to supercharge the ritual, giving him a lot of energy in a short amount of time. Something that had, on several occasions, demonstrably unleashed raw, destructive power.

Were you thinking of Zeus's lightning bolt-staff thing? Because I was.

The party? Oh no, no no no: they went with Perseus's blood.

I guess in their defense they were not trying to travel through time.
While Nero went to work Iola kept channeling torrents of wind upwards, which as predicted slowed the meteors descent. Once everything was ready Nero released the ritual. There was a loud thoom followed by an echoing crack as a neat, circular hole was punched through the ice. The meteor shifted, there was some more cracking, and then it finally slid off to the side. It did some damage to the pillar on the way down, but it was nowhere near complete destruction.

Using his sight to check the damage, Nero noticed that the magic holding the pillar together was fraying. Nowhere near as fast as it would have with the meteor on top, but it still likely only had a week or so before it would start to melt away on its own. After much discussion the party concluded that the best course of action was to have Nero remain here and try to halt the decay, while everyone else tried to find some means of rebuilding it before it was too late. Not a likely plan, but they did not have, well, any options.

Something dropped from the opening above. It crashed into the pillar, utterly destroying it while throwing Nero back because why not. Once everyone was finished dodging massive fragments of ice they saw the rock guy, black sword and all, crawling out of the hole that the pillar had previously filled. He stood up, and the glow of the lava that had begun to fill the pit cast a sinister silhouette as his gaze fell upon Nero.

NEEEEERO!
As he began to stalk towards Nero, everyone one else intercepted, punching, slashing, and clawing to little avail. Without so much as a flinch, everyone was flung away by a wave of force. Well, everyone but Nero.

Again, NEEEEERO!
Figuring he had nothing to lose, Nero swung his axe, burying it solidly and surprisingly in rock-man's chest. He seemed to notice only insofar as he gripped Nero's arm to keep him from fleeing, and raised his sword for a killing blow. Perseus rushed him from behind, cleanly impaling him with his blade in a burst of lightning and divine light. To Nero's surprise and relief he did not explode, but simply crumbled apart. His relief was short-lived when the dust cleared and he realized that the lava had grown into a four-headed lava hydra.

Well, out of the frying pan and into the fire, I suppose.

Behind the Scenes
As with A Sundered World I had been making shit up as we went along, spending my time fleshing out the plot threads that they actually followed instead of investing a large amount of time on the setting and places that they would probably never see (which I would if I made this into an actual setting). In this case they ended up in a kind of race with one of the cults of Tharizdun that were seeking out Ogremoch.

I wanted to keep the game going, but my group is chomping at the bits for Numenera and this is another advantage of plan-as-you-go (for me, anyway): it is very, very easy to write in a satisfying stopping point. Sure, we might revisit this campaign down the road, but this way I can wrap things up in a much more satisfactory way so that even if we do not we can look back and feel like the story was "finished".

At some point I settled on the idea that each of the "gods" were basically high-level genasi crafted by the primordials, empowered by mortal prayer. Due to their connection they could not kill the primordials (it would just kill them), so they decided imprisoned them instead. This way mortal races would be preserved and make them even more powerful.

Honestly I was not sure what the heck they would find up on the mountain. I originally was going to have it that all the gods had died a long time ago, which was part of the reason that the world was falling into decline. "Mount Olympus" was going to be a smaller temple guarded by air and lightning spirits that Perseus would have to defeat in order to start manifesting lightning powers, as that is what Beth had wanted.

5th Edition made this hard to do, or at least do interestingly. I guess I would have probably made an at-will lightning attack and then some daily stuff. Once we shifted over to 4th Edition, though, it was pretty easy for her to just reskin her radiant attacks as lightning and call it good. If we had been playing 4th Edition from the start I could have also written up a Storm Scion theme, too.

Anyway we probably have just one more session before Epiro is wrapped up good and proper. If this is a kind of setting you would want to see fleshed out, lemme know in the comments. I am going to start posting up some Numenera stuff as I start creating my own slice of the Ninth World, so that will be something new for the site.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I actually really enjoyed following the adventurers through a Greek-inspired (if not themed) world. It's a pretty stellar idea that I wouldn't have thought of before and kudos to you for making it come to life! I think I'd rather get my hands on a full book of Sundered World as opposed to Epiro -- constructing worlds and adventures with a Greek theme is a brilliant idea but is manageable now that it's in my head -- but your worlds always seem to be really vivid so I'd be interested in seeing any other notes you had on it!

    I think there's a good balance to strike between pre-planning and complete improv. Usually I make things up as I go, working from the simplest of bases, but sometimes (especially when dungeon delving, I find) it really helps to have things sorted ahead of time. Regardless, it's all about pacing: you want to have each session end of something exciting, as opposed to a simple "this is a good place to stop for now". That's certainly one of my pitfalls as a GM -- really, pacing as a whole is my weakness.

    We started the Ravenloft campaign, by the way. Here's a link to the first session, if you're so inclined to check it out:

    http://loadingcheckpoint.blogspot.com/2013/09/ravenloft-act-one-session-one.html

    I definitely fell prey to the "let's stop here" issue at the end of the session. There were also other issues with the session but it was a good start. I'd be eager to hear any comments you might have on it!

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  2. I cannot remember why I thought of doing a Greek-themed/inspired game, but I think it was basically that I had not run it before despite D&D borrowing from it (randomly, to a point). At any rate I am glad you enjoyed it, and I'll try to throw together all my notes. Who knows, maybe we'll try and publish that, too?

    Speaking of publishing things we are still grinding away at A Sundered World. He was unable to game last week, which is when we normally talk business on shared projects like that.

    I tend to end up erring on the side of improv (but I do keep a Google doc of "cool things" to whip out when needed). It has helped a lot when the characters go off rails or do something random; if you look back at the episode of A Sundered World where they went to Moradin's Forge, that entire thing was off the top off my head.

    The added benefit of getting good at improv is that it makes it easier to leave them on cliffhangers; at some point you just kind of reflexively change things and guide events.

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    Replies
    1. I'm impressed that Moradin's Forge was improvised material; that stuff was awesome! Very very impressive! I also remember you mentioning that the puzzle early in Sundered World, where they were trapped in a room with two talking trees, was improvised as well. That always struck me as really cool as well.

      I wrote up a good portion of what I wanted to happen in the Ravenloft campaign -- as I've said before, I've worked on it for the last two years or so -- but I ended up making a lot of adjustments and changes as the first session went on. Little things, mostly, but impactful enough that it was a noticeable difference from my notes. But that's what you have to do, really. You have to adapt to the players and you can only say: "Yes", "Yes, but..." or "No, but..." Never deny, only extrapolate.

      I guess I'm still a bit rusty -- haven't ran a game in over a year -- but I realized a perfect cliffhanger vignette that I could have left the game on to keep them interested into next session. I'm thinking I'll present it in a different format during our off-week, to keep the interest alive! We have a Facebook group specifically for this game so I might post it there, or perhaps on my blog.

      Thanks for bouncing ideas and stuff, it's cool to talk to someone knowledgeable about this topic!

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