Guardians of the Highest Citadel: Helicon & Barathrum

The First Guardian.
Helicon is a robed, humanoid figure no larger then a child. Dressed in robes of tattered silk, its face hidden in shadows, he skitters across the floor on a thousand hidden legs. His voice is deep and distorted, as though it were speaking from a well or tunnel. Helicon’s lair is an ancient gatehouse, built by inhuman hands, of towering immensity. Its hundred metre high gates of beaten brass and steel could stand for a thousand years against an army of any size. A single silver lock, its opening no more then half an inch across, seems the only means of entry onto the Helical Road. Helicon stands in front of it, around its slim neck a golden chain with a single, silver key.

Helicon has no special abilities. He will ask any interlopers to refrain from taking its key, for without it he dies instantly and he does not wish to die(he speaks the truth). Helicon is knowledgable on a great deal of topics, from the Old Gods to Pre-Calamity lands of Autumn and will glady discuss all he knows with anyone who asks. He knows nothing of the other protections or the current inhabitants of the Highest Citadel. He is powerless to stop anyone from taking his key.

The Third Guardian.
Barathrum takes the shape of a huge granite archway, hewn in the form of a great, fanged maw. Since the Helical road passes through it, there is no choice but to enter it. While the Helical road winds about Mount Abbarat, ever ascending, past the mouth of Barathrum it winds down, deep into the mountain. Barathrum is a living dungeon, and the adventurers must find his heart and pierce it in order to advance. Those who descend Barathrum find that it is impossible to ascend back out, and attempting to do so is futile(one simply keeps walking upward until one tires, though the spiralling nature of the stairways means one cannot see the stairway has no end).

Barathrum has the following aspects:
Appearance: Barathrum has no appearance of his own and thus borrows elements from every structure, be it dungeon or city or tomb, the adventurers have ever been to. Its architecture is a twisted, nonsensical mishmash of familiar stone, endlessly contorted and folded in upon itself.  Moebius strips, spirals and great fanged maws cast in worked stone are its only original features. As the adventurers approach its heart, the architecture takes on a molten appearance, like wax.
Structure: Barathrum is not bound by the laws of Euclid. Those who enter Barathrum descend and spiral ever downward. Barathrum is unbounded, its passageways and corridors stretch in all directions of the compass, but it folds in upon itself(if you travel south forever you will eventually reach its farthest north). Thus you need to find stairways and take them down. As you descend, the map gets smaller, but is still without boundaries, the corridors get narrower, the ceiling gets lower and the floor starts to slope increasingly downward until you arrive in but a single room. Space/time gets increasingly twisted as the players descend, causing more time dilation(e.g everything moves slower), more gravity and giving everything a stretched out, distorted appearance.
Adversaries: Barathrum’s gullet is populated with the echoes of your past foes, twisted and fused together. These chimerae have most of the abilities of your previously vanquished foes. Some of the inhabitants of Barathrum are made from nonhostile NPCs, friends, lovers, mentors. These stagger around Barathrum’s gullet, uttering gibberish or shrieking atonally as though they were offering helpful advice. As you descend both the monsters and the friendly NPCs become more twisted, meaning the chimerae are composed of more previously vanquished foes. The heart of Barathrum, contained in but a single room, is a great pulsating globe of every enemy the players have ever faced, fused together into one pulsating, shrieking amalgam. It is guarded by the composite wraiths of brave heroes that came before or will come after you are gone. The only way to escape Barathrum is to carve a way into its flesh and escape through the ascending stairway inside.
Treasure: Barathrum is old as the gods and in its twisting gullet may be found the possessions of all those brave heroes that came before. Artifacts and weapons from Old Sybarra to the epoch of the Harrow Kings, all may be found here.
Resting: Resting in Barathrum is unwise. You cannot tarry. You must descend. Every time you rest in Barathrum all players must save vs death or suffer horrendous fragmented nightmares(e.g multiple simultaneous scenes of horror as viewed through a broken mirror), preventing them from regaining health, special abilities and spells. In addition, those that fail the save lose a level. Those reduced below level 1 phase out as Barathrum incorporates them into itself.

The number of levels Barathrum has is left up to the GM and depends on the strength of the party but the author believes there should be at least 6. Barathrum’s heart should be immobile, should have at least 6 attacks, 15 HD and its abilities should depend on the type of foes the players have vanquished. Its AC should not be high, and the stairway inside it should be visible. Thus killing Barathrum is not neccesairy to escape, only inflicting enough slashing damage to cut through its skin(20 points of slashing damage will suffice).

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2 thoughts on “Guardians of the Highest Citadel: Helicon & Barathrum

  1. Is it possible to use the key while the chain is still around Helicon’s neck? It is unclear if the keyhole is too far above his head to leave the chain on his neck – and therefore the key remains in his possession.

    Barathrum sounds pretty cool. Definitely sounds like a hackfest rather than a think-your-through guardian. And if the increasing time dilation effect means the adventurers are getting less than 1 attack per round by the time they get down to the sixth level, and Barathrum hits them with 6 attacks per round, it might be extremely difficult to inflict 20 hit points of damage. This one is a little different from the others, eh? Or are my nuke-it-from-orbit American sensibilities missing the obvious solution?

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    1. Now this is the kind of commenting i’m talkin’ bout.

      [Helicon]
      Shiiiit that first solution is a good one. I would totally allow that if i was GMing it.

      [Barathrum]
      I think i might have strayed from my initial postion somewhat. Barathrum is a hackfest but figuring out what it is and what its rules are(how to get out of it as quickly as possible) is sort of a thinky challenge. A mythical hack-fest puzzle it is then. My brain thought it was appropriate and i didn’t have the heart to tell it no.

      6 attacks might be kind of harsh unless the pcs are like 15th level or something. On the other hand, it cant actually move so if you deal with its bodyguards you can always retreat and prepare your spell protections accordingly, unless i were to allow it spells or some shit. I wouldn’t allow resting near Barathrum’s heart though. If i ran it i would probably give some sort of subtle hint that the stairway to Barathrum’s heart would lead into the final confrontation just so they can prepare accordingly.

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