4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 405

  • Humal (level 6 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Corzale (level 6 dwarf war cleric)
  • Sumia (level 6 elf rogue/ranger)

Sumia disappeared into the water along with several of Humal's skeletons, and to both Humal and Corzale's surprise she emerged in one piece several minutes later. She explained that a twisted underwater passage lead to a wide, dimly-lit chamber, with only a strange, irregular pillar reaching out of the water.

Since this was the only way left for them to go, they figured there must be something more to the room. When they arrived in the chamber, Humal ordered his skeletons to scale the pillar while carrying a rope, which they lowered once they reached the top, providing the rest of the party with a much easier means of ascension.

As Corzale climbed she noticed several thick pipes threading the pillar. They were all made of a single piece of metal, and connected to an oblong, metallic object that was embedded in the side of the pillar. Corzale could not ascertain the purpose the pipes or the object, which upon prolonged inspection looked disconcertingly like a heart.

At the top of the pillar was a metal lever, which was attached to a base that seemed to have been somehow...blended in with the surrounding stone. Sumia pulled the lever: the metal heart began to somehow undulate steadily, the pipes writhed, and they party could hear something popping and snapping within the pillar as it retracted. Fortunately the water receded with it, vanishing completely just before the pillar had finished lowering into the floor.

The party waited for a few minutes to see if anything else would happen, namely a bunch of monsters leaping out of the shadows to attack them. Nothing did, though Corzale was able to hear what sounded like faint, labored breathing coming from one side of the chamber. Sumia lit a torch, but the only thing they could see was an irregular hole in the ground near the edge of the torchlight.

Humal ordered a skeleton to approach the hole, and after a few moments something spoke. It sounded like multiple voices stating the same thing, just out of sync to varying degrees. It commented on a "strange mask it was wearing", and when the party said nothing a deeper set of voices followed up by asking if it needed something.

Sumia asked who was speaking, and a fleshy mass "flowed" out of the hole, quickly taking the shape of something nightmarish, vaguely octopus-like, and seemingly composed of innumerable humanoids that had somehow been fused together. Several of the faces not-quite-in-unison stated that the party did not belong there, while another cluster sounded overjoyed that it was "feeding time".

It dragged itself towards the party using numerous hands, tentacles, and hand-tentacles, knocking Humal's skeletons aside as it went, and scooping up Corzale and Sumia. They tried fighting back, but only Corzale was able to inflict any harm. The creature responded by trying to crush Corzale with its tentacles, but when her armor proved too sturdy it tried a new approach: a cluster of faces congealed into a massive beak and began tearing at her.

Humal had managed to evade the tentacles, but he didn't have enough mana to blind all of the faces, and wasn't sure if the creature could be charmed, so he directed his skeletal minions as best he could against it. The creature's grip soon slackened, which allowed Sumia to finally get her bow free and loose arrows into several of the faces: it suddenly tensed, before slowly slumping to the ground and separated into a pile of humanoid bodies covered in a strange, translucent slime.

Humal used some choice corpses to replace his minions before they returned to the lever. Sumia pulled it again, and the hole puckered and gasped as water erupted from it, again flooding the room while the pillar snapped and popped back into place. When the gruesome process was complete they could see a nearby bridge. It led to a door that appeared to be made entirely from iron, yet was oddly forged to appear as a wooden door bound in iron.

Sumia checked it for traps before opening it. Inside was a wide, long hall filled with doors: each end was capped by iron double-doors, one was on their side to the right, and four were evenly spaced on the wall across from them.

After checking the solitary door—which as far as Sumia could determine was merely a bathroom—they decided to investigate one of the sets of double doors. They weren't locked, and the room contained two tables, both of which were buried in stacks of books, scrolls, and sheets of paper, and notes were scrawled across a very detailed map of Dovin that hung on the far wall: a casual investigation of the materials revealed that the doppelgangers had infiltrated many positions of power in the city.

Sumia shoved as much as she could in her pack and bags, figuring that they could inspect them later and maybe either take out the doppelgangers themselves, or turn the information over to the authorities and let them sort it out.

Next up were the four doors. Each was locked, though nothing Sumia couldn't handle given enough time, but she was dismayed to find that each room was furnished with a pair of beds, two full-body mirrors, and trunks filled with clothing. Or rather, that they seemed to be: while investigating the fourth room Sumia heard the iron double-doors groan. She bolted to the now-pillaged espionage room, but when she found no one there deduced that there must be a hidden passage somewhere.

The party searched every inch of the floor and walls, and eventually Sumia discovered something in one of the corners. As with the rest of the complex, the wall looked to be made of a single piece of stone, but when she touched a section of it it...jiggled, as if made of some gelatinous substance. As expected, when she pushed it aside there was another room beyond...

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Design Notes
I talked about some ways I changed the adventure in this post, but that was just the start. But, I probably won't reveal more beforehand unless we end up missing out on the game again.

I don't even have a normal giant octopus mini (I realized after the fact that Reaper has one, but it wouldn't have gotten here in time/we wouldn't have been able to paint it in time), and though I considered using a roper quickly settled on Hastur from Cthulhu Wars. Not what I was looking for, but at the least more thematically appropriate than a roper.

Jacob commented that it made him think of Fullmetal Alchemist, which is a great manga/anime series (if you watch it, make sure you watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood).

I wasn't thinking of that at the time, but coincidentally while reworking and running this adventure it gave me a lot of ideas for the wizard's transmuter suite. Not sure if it will make it into the core game (wizards already have plenty of talents to choose from), but it'll certainly give them the ability to do plenty of things you couldn't do in other D&Dish games (and without having to invest feats and/or insane amounts of time, XP, and money).

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Cleric is out! Next up, The Paladin and probably The Mimic, after which we'll run another class vote.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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