[Actual Play] Like Unto Gods Pt. III; Planeswalker

Onwards went the Six, retrieving from the fallen Simulacra and the Slaad the blades of sharpness, the enchanted longsword and shield. They interrogated the stricken Slaad, and finding it knew little of use, and babbled and gibbered all manner of enchanting nonsense, Sir giselher took the Scimitar of sharpness, and cleft off its head. They found only that the doorway to the North-West would lead into the portal to the realm of the Slaad, and they regarded it warily. They then explored all the eight portals in the octagonal sanctum of Azureax, and found two of them marked with magic writing. Thinking the writing to represent some kind of terrible trap, Vaus called up his magics, and with a wave, erased the marking and the wizardlock from the doorway to the south-west.

Down the hallway they went, arriving at the door, the slow murder of the enchantment enervating their every step. A blow from the hammer of thunderbolts broke open the doorway, and they emerged in a small sanctum, dusty from disuse, from whence emanated heavenly music. A swirling gateway, filled with radiant colors, was seen beyond. All had to concentrate lest they be transfixed with its beauty. They regarded the portal uneasily, debating whether to enter. A delicate voice sounded forth.

“At last, those whose coming was foretold have arrived. Touch me, and I shall be purged, my colors freed, your desires shall be granted.”

“I did not gain this level of ability by heeding the entreaties of strange voices,” muttered Gyges. Giselher raised his hand and detected evil, and found great malice emanating from within the portal.

“Any evil found on me is a lie, cast by the evil wizard who binds me.” spake the voice. “Free me and I will aid in his destruction.”

They wavered, and made to leave. The voice, now fading, entreated them once more.

“I grow faint. He uses a wish to stop me…Not again. Release me now…or else, oblivion!”

They left the voice without further comment. They entered two more doors, finding in the North-east a howling portal to some stormy realm, and left it where it lay, and finding the north door sealed and proof against the hammer of Brandoch Daha, they ventured on, going instead north-east, following in the footsteps of the false Azureax. The doors were herein not barred. A clear portal, surrounded by a brazen frame shaped like some lordly dragon, awaited them. They debated swiftly, for the enchantment was hewing away at their reserves, and cast themselves through the portal.

They emerged in some desolate landscape, no sign of the portal behind them. Savage crags, soaring peaks, and desolation all about them. There was in this realm no sign of structure built by man, adn There was in this far-off land no sign of the wizard. An alien sun, brighter yet more distant, bore down upon them. In the distance they perceived the soaring of two great creatures.

Espying no way back, they made for the cover of great rocks, miles hence. After some time they came across the broken body of some immense reptile, its wings scorched by terrible heat, its bones broken by ferocious strength. They paid it no heed, and halfway on their path, Lemmikainen retrieved his spyglass, and looked at the great things that soared through the heavens, miles away. They were vast and green, like dragons, but more lordly and noble then any of that species in legend or living history, and as he peered at it one turned its saucer sized eye upon the elven bard, and like some great galleon of war, turned slowly in the air, and sped towards them.

They argued then, figuring if the limited Wish could speed them to safety, only to find that this was beyond its power. The dragon had closed to half the distance, and dipped low, bearing down upon them like some titanic predatory bird. Lemmikainen looked upon the far off crags through his spyglass, timed it properly, and with a teleport spell, sped them to safety before the creature could slay them with its killing breath. They hid amid the rocks, debating what to do. At last they used the Limited Wish to invoke the Shadow-walk, and set out through the perilous plane of Shadow, in search of their own world.

On the plane of shadow, where the shadows were overlong, they marched past grey hills, distorted peaks and into the terrible gloom. Their lantern light was but a tiny pinprick. Soon they met an inhabitant of that dim realm, the Greetox, a loathsome hybrid of man and spider. It hissed and chittered and told them of its abiding hunger, and they fed what meat remained to them, and promised it more food if it could guide them through the dim realm. It agreed, and guided them through the dim and tenebrous labyrinth of the plane of shadow, so that they soon emerged at the top of The Cradle.

Venturing down once more, they searched for the cook Jasparot, and found him where they had first encountered him. Ordering him to prepare a meal, they looked on in horror as the spider-thing pounced on the cook instead, and with several quick gulps and cuts, killed and devoured him whole. It wandered off then, complaining that the atmosphere was killing it, and there were no shadows in the sanctum of Azureax. Sir Giselher contemplated the nature of the deed that had transpired, and decided not to act. Vaus Agrul nodded, and ruled that the cook was a servant of Azureax. Perhaps it was the darkness of the realm of shadows, that clouded their judgement, but no ill effects came from it. They explored the rest of the upper level, finding only well-furnished guest rooms, and a game room that held two spheres that would project images of the desires of those that held them.

On their way down the elevator, they were ambushed by 3 of the Green Slaad, sent to watch the Sanctum. This time one of them got off a terrible ball of flame, blasting the heroes. Brandoch leapt from the descending platform, and smote another Slaad dead, just heavy enough to resist the creature’s telekinetic push. The first of the creatures died from a blade in the back, as Gyges appeared once more, a ghost, hidden by the terrible power of his Ring. The third of the creatures called forth its cousin from Limbo. Magic missiles rained down on them, and the ground was turned to mud in which the monsters became mired. Their flame sorcery had barely injured the Six. One more heartbeat and the slaad were no more.

By now the Six had discovered that the application of the Anti-magic Shell would render inert even the greatest of wizard locks, and with it, they quickly found egress into the eastern passage, and were confronted by three more Slaad. One fell to the blade of Gyges, one to the fists of Vaug. Brandoch lifted up the creature and cast it into the portal. Within the Anti-magic shell, all magic weapons were powerless. The remaining creature, protected from all their weapons, now inert, clawed at Lemmikainen but struck only air. Despairingly, it cast itself into the Gate before it could be stopped. The Six did not persue.

With the anti-magic shell they breached the doorway to the west, marked with unknown writing, and coming into the sanctum, found it well furnished, unlike the other rooms. A great mirror set in an ornate frame of stone, 15′ high, carven with gargoyles, dragons and demons, reflecting not the inhabitants of the room but some fog-shrouded realm. Into this they saw Azureax, or some simulacrum of his, run as they entered the chamber. They did not pursue, instead fanning about the room, protected by the Anti-magic shell. Brandoch spied an ornate painting of Azureax in the room, and smote it with his hammer. Lemmikainen, shrouded by Anti-magic, left the room, and Brandoch raised his arm for one more blow, only to be smitten with terrible lightning inherent in the portrait. He lived yet, and they resolved to supress the painting with the shell so it could be cut out of its list and carried to the village for examination. Rolling it up, they also resolved to take the Mirror, which according to the lore of Lemmikainen must be a Mirror of Mental Prowess, a legendary artifact beholden to the most powerful of archmages. While it was too heavy to carry alone, Brandoch could indeed lift the thing, aided by giant strength. The moment he stepped outside of the anti-magic field, the rolled up painting shocked him yet again, and were it not for the healing he received at Vaus’s hands, he would surely have perished. Protected by anti-magic, they smote the painting until nothing remained. They took also 8 candles of gold wax.

Teleportation carried them away from the sanctum, bearing the great mirror. With one more spell Simeon opened the earth, and they buried it there, and with another turned the sides of the pit into lead, hoping it would not be found. They retired for the day, regarded by superstitious peasants. Azureax yet reigned, but they had taken a powerful item from him, not easily restored.

What vengeance would he wreak for the theft?

The Heroes
Brandoch Daha (Ftr 17, hp 83)
Sir Gisselher (Pal 15, hp 78)
Lemmikainen Half-elven (Bard 20, hp 54)
Gyges (Thf 20, hp 69)
Simeon the Magician (Mu 15, hp 30)
Vaus Arghul (Monk 12/Cleric (Fighting Monk kit) 14 hp 55)

The Vanquished
2 Azureax Simulacrums (one slain)
2 Fighter simulacrums
2 Grey Slaad
11 Green Slaad

DM commentary: It might be helpful to collect my experiences running this sort of thing to help people ease into the format.

First of all, this format requires a bit more preparation then your average dungeon romp but it is not THAT hard. Playing High level DnD is fun and exhilarating. Keep the following things in mind:

1. You WILL have to look things up during and after the game
2. Offload some of the complexity on your players, it is their task to know what their magic items do
3. In the beginning you will likely be blindsided by some odd combinations that you have not considered, or have to make rulings. Don’t be afraid to retcon early calls as you get used to the increased scope and scale of the game.

This module might end up becoming my recommended pick for GMs wanting to get into High level gaming because it introduces a lot of concepts that require a bit of foresight. To wit: it uses multiple creatures with spellike abilities, planar gateways (naturally it is not feasible to include descriptions of an entire plane in a 10 page adventure) and has lots of special magical effects.

With complex creatures, you are going to have to do a bit of reading beforehand so you have a general idea of their capabilities. The more well versed you are in their powers and their limits, the deadlier you will be. Say, knowing how much weight their telekinesis ability means you might be able to estimate whether or not it works on your 15th level fighter (who knew the Weight statt would suddenly be important right?).

Your players are also going to have to do a bit more work juggling various abilities and items, and the cognitive load can be high, so do not play this format with people you consider lazy or slow-witted. Making mistakes is always permissible, but try to stimulate people to make decisions quickly and keep the game moving.

You can’t expect to predict everything the players will try, considering their powers are all but limitless. Broad paths have to be anticipated. Use of divination, teleportation, flight, scrying these are obvious advantages, and considering them while designing your adventure will be neccessary. But what do you do if your players use Polymorph any object on salted water to turn it into Acid, then Rope Trick the Acid into a handkerchief, and then use an Unseen Servant to carry the handkerchief to a creature, and drop it on him, giving the command word to collapse the handkerchief back into the Jar of acid. The player will insist that 4 gallons of acid is the deadliest weapon in the universe, instantly killing any opponent without saving throw!

Figure out if the proposition is legal (in this case it is). Keep some sort of balance in mind (if the game allows the PCs to flawlessly eliminate powerful opponents at trivial expenditure of resources and time they are either very clever or far more likely, your ruling on the matter has overlooked something). How much does immersion in acid do? Are they fully immersed? It can be helpful to look at comparable effects (like a Giant Slug’s Acid breath for example). In this case, I ruled that immersion that getting dumped in a vat of acid would be a bit more deadly, and came up with a generous 8d8 points. The creature should have a chance to avoid the attack, either in the form of an attack roll, or a saving throw. In this case, some sort of attack roll against a modified AC is probably wisest, with a bonus to the attack roll if they are unaware of the threat (2e has provisions for this).

Sometimes you will get stumped. They are on another plane, but it is not an outer plane but an alternate Prime. They cannot Astral travel back. What the hell do they do? They pour over their list, and use their Scroll of Limited Wish to Shadow Walk back. You read the description and figure that this is legal. Ok. You get a description that the Shadow Plane is very dangerous, but that is about it. They are walking through the ONE PLANE that even Gygax did not touch. You sprint though your folders or books for a ruling. In this case google is your friend. An obscure dragon magazine article happens to contain some hint as to the conditions on the plane, and the inhabitants of that realm, but there is no random table. You eyeball the number of inhabitants, discord generates the appropriate dice roll, you swear internally as the result is ANOTHER monster from an obscure Dungeon Magazine article but fortunately this time it is sourced, you look it up, skim through it and all of this takes 5 minutes. Preparation is good, but you will get blindsided like this. Don’t panic. Either use the resources at your disposal, or make something up more or less.

Anti-magic shell is another spell that immediately calls for a host of rulings that you might not immediately have an answer for. You know it cannot be dispelled, that’s good. What happens if you open a wizard-locked door that falls within your anti-magic shell? The effect is suppressed and the door opens normally. Normally devastating opponents can be made to look like chumps. Can you hit a creature vulnerable to magic weapons within an anti-magic shell? In 2e High level spells and options, you figure out it does not penetrate the skin so a creature’s touch attacks or immunities are not affected. And so it goes. Make a ruling quickly, google/research afterward. A dispel magic can kill a Simulacrum, what about an anti-magic shell? Look it up! It’s been done before.

Multiple spell durations are going to be in effect during combat. Figure out some way to keep track of durations while your game is ongoing that works for you.

Besides that, most of this went smoothly. If you do want to try high level games, make sure you make a set of premades. There are a few resources for starting magic items or GP (DMG 175-176 come to mind), but you can always eyeball it. I would give each character at least one very powerful magic item, some minor ones and several consumables at minimum.


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