2007-12-15 Tsutomu’s Treason

This was going to be the last session of one of my players, and he had been playing the only evil character in this campaign, and I wanted to introduce some more backstory into the game. What better way than to ask the player whether he was willing to deliver the players into the hands of a bad guy, making a getaway with an awesome award, and “surprise” the other players?

The other players were not really all that surprised, of course, because they noticed the whispering, and they knew about the alignment, and so on. I did not mind, because suspecting a betrayal just adds more suspense. It also raised the stakes. Clearly the trap had to have an additional indirection in it in order to be interesting. Tsutomu leading the party to a bad guy was not enough…

So Kubo built a raft and the party floated down the Kako river to Kurobano. There, they arranged for a meeting with Lord Kurobano and told him about the barghest assassins that had been sent after them and how they had learnt that these must have come from the Shadow Plane mirroring their native Material Plane. A counselor mentioned that he knew something that might help: Everybody knows that there is a pilgrim’s path that weaves its way through the valley visiting all the major shrines. Not many people know that there’s also an alternative that sometimes touches upon the Shadow Plane and leads to a different monastery. A darker one. Thus, the regular pilgrimage from the Fudo shrine in Kurobano leads to the Sohei monastery on Mt. Takenaga. But the dark pilgrimage leads to the Shambhala-na Monastery on Mt. Takenaga’s shadow. And there a way to cross into Shadow north of Kurobano: In the heart of the swamp forest is a fissure called the Heart of Darkness. Descend into the fissure and walk along its floor for a day and on the second day you should reach the shadow of Mt. Takenaga on the Shadow Plane. And pilgrims on that dark pilgrimage have reported encountering a barghest right where the path enters the Shadow Plane. There’s some sort of castle to the West, and all barghest sightings happened around there.

Some sort of one-way portal was hidden in this fissure and the party decided to take it and travel north to that castle.

This is where I had agreed with Tsutomu’s player that his master had already been to the castle on his quest for Invingatorul the Staff of Vermin, also called Quarterstaff of the Dueller. Apparently Tsutomu’s master had visited whoever lived in the castle and come away empty handed. Tsutomu had read his notes and knew that the party did not have to fight the grell living in the castle. There was a secret entrance to the dungeons. Tsutomu was expecting some sort of duel to take over the Weapon of Legacy. But unfortunately, I had to improvise some changes…

I had added an encounter to challenge the party and to give Kubo a moment to shine. I had been picking on him with the barghest assassins, bringing him down to -9 for the third time, and I know he likes to kick some butt, and I knew that he had a +2 cold steel naginata – something very useful against fey. And I had seen something in my MMIV that I liked: Lunar Ravagers. CR 7, and they can use Air Walk and Invisibility. Excellent foes against a party in difficult terrain. And damage reduction that left them vulnerable to some cold steel arrows and Kubo’s naginata. The party has six people in it, many of them optimized, so I decided to up the ante and use five of them. Should be an EL 11. The party is level 8-10. Challenging but doable.

Unfortunately the fight took quite long. It was tough, and unfortunately Kubo did not devastate them. What happened? Did he just roll badly? Was it the reach the Lunar Ravagers had that prevented him from being his usual meat grinder? Either way, these bad guys air walked, the party was stuck in difficult terrain, the ravagers were able to pin-point Tsutomu hiding in his Greater Invisibility, and when Takeo tried to go for sneak attack, he fell victim to the large battleaxe and died.

In game, the party decided they would try to raise him like they promised to do. But at the table, the players agreed to let Takeo’s soul go to Limbo and be one with the turbulent Chaos. A new wizard was needed as Tsutomu was going to leave the party. Cool!

But back to Tsutomu’s good-bye scene: We were running out of time. So I decided that the bad guy did not have barghests fighting for him, and I failed to foil Tsutomu’s Haste. The net effect was that the Madrir from Denizens of Avadnu died quickly…

Now I was ready to spring the trap! Tsutomu calls forth his secret master, the Glabrezu Kaulifargh. Kaulifargh thanks Tsutomu for killing the traitor Yakomizo Hiraku and for delivering the sword Attaxa into his hands. And in recognition of his services, the demon was prepared to let Tsutomu have the staff and in addition to that, he would use a Wish on Tsutomu’s behalf. And (as agreed), Tsutomu wished for his own demiplane to rule. A gate opened showing an evil dark tower rising behind some boulders crawling with centipedes. Grinning, Tsutomu steps through the gate…

I thought it was an awesome close. Some players felt that this kind of treachery was uncalled for, that it was exactly the reason they would have killed Tsutomu right at the beginning knowing his alignment, and so on. Only when [[Marco?]] said that it looked like a plot railroad to him and that he did not mind did the discussion die down.

This discussion had caught my by surprise.

Something to take into consideration next time. I still don’t feel bad about taking advantage of Tsutomu’s evil alignment. And in-game I’m not planning of letting Tsutomu get away that easily. It is true that Glabrezu’s like to corrupt mortals with the promise of power. But that doesn’t have to mean that they keep their bargains. All Kaulifargh wanted to do was to get rid of the wizard. According to what Tsutomu said, the only thing he needed to worry about was the wielder of the sword casting Dimension Door and getting away. Then again, none of them has the ability to Shadow Walk so it wouldn’t be long before they were hopelessly lost if they tried to return to the Material Plane. He was prepared to wait…

I really liked the Madrir monster. I should use more from Denizens of Avadnu. And I will likely buy their collection of epic monsters one of these days, Legends of Avadnu.

Treasure for EL 11 + EL 9, generated by TreasureMonkey: 2700 gp; violet garnet (400 gp); silver pearl (100 gp); smoky quartz; (70 gp); freshwater pearl (13 gp); ring of protection +1. Plus tons of books about the planes, Shadow, reasearch into the demon lords Pazuzu and Obox-ob (grants +2 to Knowledge checks about these); notes of how the Vermins Staff and Attaxa came into the hands of Ueshiba and his friends. Apparently the sword was given to Ueshiba in recognition of his valor in the swamp war (Knowledge check to figure out by whom) and the staff was taken by one of Ueshiba’s loremasters from the vermin general once he was defeated (Knowledge check to figure out what happened to the loremaster); and notes on barghest contacts. Apparently Yakomizo Hiraku had made a deal with the High Wyrmlord running the Red Hand of Doom, Azarr Kul at the Fane of Tiamat. With the preparations for the entrance of Tiamat into the Material Plane, the sword Attaxa had reawakened. And with it, he knew, was the Vermin Staff. And thus he asked of Azarr Khul the Vermin Staff. In exchange he would send some barghest assassins for him to use as he pleased. And thus it was agreed.

(This also retroactively explains why Attaxa had been left behind by the hobgoblins at the Mithras temple at the beginning of the campaign where as the other weapon of legacy had been taken away. The barghests must have returned the staff to Yakomizo Hiraku.)


Five lunar ravagers (CR 7) and a Madrir (CR 9):

Current XP:

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