We took a break due to various reasons – weddings, Christmas (and related parties) for about a month. When we came back the party was still in Sigil and decided to pursue a lead about a legendary magic item known as the Belt of the Storm Giant. The party took the bait and decided to do the Dustmen factol a favour in return for information on where the belt could be located. Hilarity ensued. I used a slightly modified version of the Planescape adventure Hard Time from Well of Worlds. And though I had prepared some monsters the whole session passed without combat and everyone had fun. An unusual combination in my experience which goes to show the storytelling power of the Planescape setting. Some extra info for other DMs wishing to run a 5e Carceri based adventure. I enforced the following restrictions while on the plane to mimic 2e rules around planeswalking an there effects.
- Any kind of planar travel spell, magic item or ability fails.
- Any kind of teleport ability fails (or shoots the character off in a random direction) on a failed DC 15 Wisdom ability check.
- Flight is possible on Colothys but the plane itself doesn’t seem to like it. The same rules for bridge-crossing applies to airborne creatures (see below).
- Healing spells are halved in effectiveness.
- Necrotic spells gain +1 damage per die.
- Any spell or affect that can be considered selfish is maximised, anything that can be considered selfless is halved in effectiveness.
- All Prime Material magic items lose their “plusses” and become non-magical though they still retain their other special abilities (if any).
The Crimson Lotus Gang:
- Charisma, a “human” -mutant- sorceress whose power source is Gamma Radiation which she was exposed to as a child. As a child of the Atom her hair goes green in the presence of radiation and she progressively gets greener the more powerful spells she casts (and as she gets angry). She has no love for the Technic League.
- Sylvanus, a dark elf monk who escaped the clutches of mind flayer slavemasters in the area of the Scar of the Spider after a daring raid by surface dwelling heroes freed her.
- Brokthor, a human fighter who was raised by dwarfs and thinks he IS a dwarf.
- Tufast, a human cleric who serves Thor – power of thunder and lightning. Much like his barbarian family he hates technology and has a particular spite for robots. He sees the cleansing power of lightning as the perfect antidote to the curse of the robot infestation of Nimmeria.
- Rikku, an elven rogue who was adopted by Khonnir Baine when he found her wandering the wasteland near Torch more than a decade ago. She claims to be a blood elf from a far-away land. Her history is tied up with a nearby ruin.
- Heidt, and his sidekick DEATHTRAP, is a ranger who has traded an affinity for nature for an affinity for machines. This android has mastered cybertheurgy as well as the lasgun. Has chosen the mechromancer archetype. Seeking to learn more about his history he has become an archaeological expert on all things related to the Rain of Stars.
- Casandalee, one time prophet of Unity, now a disillusioned enemy of the machine god (NPC).
Tales from the Infinite Staircase
Tale 5: Hard Time from Well of Worlds
By Rikku Yuffina Autumnsinge
We go to the Dwarven Halls to get information from an expert on portals whose name is Zerucuk. If we get that info and give it to some dealer, he will give us information about where a certain belt is located. We go through a portal and appear in a dwarven fortress. There are lots of dwarves walking around, and most of them look drunk. Brocktha asks around if anybody knows of a dwarf called Zerucuk. Most of them don’t know but some tell us to go to Soot Hall where records of all the dwarves who die are kept. Brocktha asks for directions to Soot Hall and a friendly dwarf tells us some complicated directions to go by, but we follow them. We soon find we are lost. We ask around again, and we get another batch of confusing directions. We try to stay on track, but we get lost one more. Sylvanus says we should ask for a guide, when a female dwarf walks up to us. She introduces herself as Emera Stoutforge and says she shows people around the place. For fifteen gold she will gladly take us to Soot Hall. We agree and she starts leading us. Every ten minutes we pass a bar, and every time Emera says we should go in for a drink, and she challenges us to a drinking competition. Every time we refuse, she seems disappointed. Eventually we get to Soot Hall, and Emera shows us to an ancient dwarf who is trying to put a big book on a shelf just a little too high for him. His name is /. Emera leaves us and we try to help him, but he refuses our help. Charisma uses telekinesis to push the book onto the shelf, and Pyrus Chertchip turns to us. We ask if any dwarf by the name of Zerucuk came here about a week ago. Pyrus takes the book down he just put away with a grumble and flicks through the pages. He closes the book and says he can’t find anything. But, a week ago a cross-trading human with an eye patch came through here when he should have gone to Carceri the prison plane. The dwarves chucked him out, but Pyrus says that it was possible for Zerucuk and the human to get mixed up with the portals (“It happens”), and so Zerucuk is now probably in Carceri. Pyrus takes us to the gate from Soot Hall to Colothys the first layer of Carceri. As we walk through Pysrus reminds us that gates are one-way to Carceri and that we will need to find our own way back. We step through.
We are on a giant mountain. It ‘s windy, and a rickety bridge spans a bottomless crevasse leading to a small village (Gaola, Area A on the map). As soon as they see us, the villagers are all watching and pointing. Brocktha, Sylvanus, and I all cross the bridge. I hear the villagers betting on who will make it across and who will fall. Tufast hops on his magic broom and tries to fly across. He gets halfway when the wind starts picking up. Tufast almost gets blown off, but he makes it. Charisma jumps the whole length of the bridge. Hiedt goes across on Deathtrap. All the villagers look disappointed. We ask if a dwarf came by recently. The villagers say a dwarf did come by asking for the way to the temple of Crius. He left through the only exit to out of the village. We ask who Crius is, and find out that he’s a titan, almost as powerful as a god. We thank them and exit the village. We find another rickety bridge waiting for us. Standing at the entrance to the bridge is a cloaked woman holding a machete. She says she’s The Watcher (capitalization included!), who warns the village if there are any hill giants around. We don’t want to cross a bridge again, so all of us except Charisma and I get into the bag of holding. I turn into an ant and crawl onto Charisma. She leaps across the bridge, but unfortunately the ledge on the other side is tiny. She slips and is starting to fall. She quickly grabs her broom and flies towards the ledge. The wind is starting to pick up just as Charisma manages to land on the ledge. The others get out and I transform back. We walk along the ledge in single file. Sitting in the middle of the path is a female hill giant (Area B on the map).
DM’s Aside: The rules here for crossing the bridges are:
If the party is unroped – each needs to make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw each time they cross a bridge. On a failure the character has slipped and fallen. A follow-up DC 20 Dexterity check is made to see if they can catch themselves before they fall. If they fail this they have one more chance to stop their fall by grabbing onto a branch or similar some 10d10 feet down. This last ability check is also DC 20 Dexterity but with disadvantage.
If the party is roped only 1 character need make the check DC 15 Dexterity check – either the first or last – and if the character falls the next character in the line can make a DC 15 Strength check, if they fall the next character in the line can make a DC 15 Strength check with disadvantage and so on down the line increasing the DC by 1 until someone makes the check (and saving everyone else) or all fail and fall.
I decided that if the party tried to get across some other way – like teleport, leaping or flying they would need to make a similar check as an unroped character to see if the winds knock them off their mounts/magic items or they slipped if they teleported/leaped to the nearest edge. This did two things – kept the higher level powers in check since this was actually a 1st level adventure and two reflected the capricious nature of the plane building paranoia as they went.
As soon as we approach, she drops her club and says she doesn’t want a fight. We don’t attack her, and she says she is lost. Her name is Taanaka and she just suddenly appeared here. She wants us to help her get to a hill giant steading. She doesn’t want to fight, so we agree. She advises that we tie rope around our waists, and we think she might eat us. Sylvanus is sure Tanakaa is telling the truth when she says she doesn’t want to eat them so we all rope ourselves together. Taanaka also says that the strongest person should be at the back, so if we fall she will catch us. Brocktha doesn’t think Taanaka is stronger than him so he challenges her to an arm wrestle. Taanaka wins (DM’s Note: First they both roll a 15 then Taanaka rolls a natural 20 vs. Broktha’s reroll of 15), and so she goes to the back – with a big smile on her face. We continue on, and we come to an intersection. We all agree to go left, and we come to another bridge, but we cross it a lot easier. We see another intersection. From the left we can hear weeping, howling, muttering, and cursing, and it sounds like it’s coming from one creature (The Lonely Cave, Area C on the map). The others stay at the intersection while I scout towards the noise. The path soon widens out and there’s a big cave. Bones are scattered at the entrance, and all the noise is coming from inside. It looks like the cave turns, so I can’t see any further in. I go back and tell the others. We decide to avoid the cave and go right. We find a third intersection, and both ways have bridges. We cross the left bridge, and we find another one, ending at a village (Staifling, Area E on the map). We hear the sound of a horn, and there’s a lot of commotion on the other side. Everyone is armed with pitchforks and knives, and they’re all looking at us. We hear them say we can come across if we leave Taanaka, Deathtrap, Casandalee, and our weapons behind. We can have them back when we pass through. Since Charisma doesn’t use weapons, she jumps across. The villagers say that it’s a small village made of lost petitioners working together just to survive. A dwarf came through a couple of days back asking for the temple of Crius. We are welcome to stay and eat here if we yield to their conditions. Charisma tries to convince the villagers to let us keep our weapons, but the people won’t let us. Charisma comes back and tells us, and Hiedt leaves his weapons with Deathtrap. They both rest in the village. The rest of us sleep outside.
DM’s Note: The level 16 party had a conundrum. They didn’t want to leave their valuable and hard-earned weapons in a bin outside the town and they knew full well they could force the issue if they wanted by wiping out the village. In the end the party split with those sleeping outside not getting a good nights rest and gaining one level of exhaustion in the process.
Before leaving the next morning, Charisma asks if the villagers know where the hill giant base is. They say it’s the last right-hand path we didn’t go to (Steading of the Hill Giants, Area D on the map). Charisma and Hiedt come back, and we go back the way we came to help Taanaka home. As we travel along it, the wind is stronger here, almost pushing us off the path. At the end the wind stops, and we find a huge barracks kind of place, obviously made to fit hill giants. Taanaka goes up to the door and then comes back. She says the hill giants haven’t seen any dwarf, and she hopes we find him. After thanking us and wishing us luck she jogs back to the steading and goes through the giant doors. The wind gets strong again, and then the hill giant camp disappears. We go back the way we came.
We walk for a little, and then we come to a beautiful white marble temple surrounded by a garden. We climb the six-foot steps to the slightly ajar bronze doors and Brocktha knocks. A guard answers the door and we ask if Zerucuk had come in here. The guard says a dwarf walked in here not too long ago, and was put in Crius’s birdcage. We assume the cage is some kind of trap, and we ask why he was put there. The guard says it was because he didn’t knock, he just walked in. The guard lets us inside, but warns us to stick to the Great Hall. We are in a huge room, and the roof is at least 60 feet high. There is a titanic throne in the middle of the room, and a human-sized table in one corner. We wait for ten minutes and eventually a black robed man with a shaved head comes in. He’s probably a priest. He asks us what we’re doing and why we’re inside. We tell him the guard let us in and that we request an audience with Crius. He tells us to wait, and a few minutes later an older version of the priest comes in. He declares himself to be Anithoplplus the High Priest of Crius and says that we can’t just come in here and demand to see Crius. He asks us why we want to see Crius. We tell him we want to ask to free Zerucuk. The old priest says we need gifts for one thing as gifts before they can see Crius. We find some gifts like Sylvanus’s calligraphy and my glass plate. The priest comes back and says that Crius will see us. He warns us to be respectful. We go to his anti-chamber. We see him sitting by a desk. He is gigantic, at least 60 feet tall. We present him our gifts and ask him if he could free Zerucuk. Crius seems pleased with the gifts and says if we can answer his riddle, he will set Zerucuk free. He says,
“I pull you down, I let you soar.
I diminish in water, yet remain the same.
I constantly hold you in my grip.
Some say I’m interminable.
What am I?”
We think for a few seconds, and then Brocktha says he thinks it’s gravity. The answer is correct and Crius says we have five minutes to find Zerucuk, otherwise we are his. We all walk out and dash off to different directions. I walk inside a room and see a dwarf. He quickly shouts that’s a one way door, and now we’re trapped. The others think I’m taking too long, so they try to find me. Eventually they do, and we warn them about the door. We get out and Zerucuk says we need two pieces of chipped marble to activate the portal back to Sigil. Brocktha gets some from the walls and the portal opens. On our way out, Brocktha spits on the temple’s floor in disgust (DM’s Note: I actually had a timer running, they had less than a minute before Crius came for them).
We find we are back in Sigil, and we take Zerucuk to the Dustman factol who started this whole thing. They have a talk and eventually the Factol tells us we can find the belt in Crius’s temple (There is a group groan at this). All of us don’t want to go back in there, since Brocktha probably angered him a lot. We come to the conclusion that I’ll sneak into the treasure room, and take the belt. If I don’t come back in 24 hours, the others will come looking for me. I get a piece of marble first. When it’s night in Colothys, I get to the temple. The doors are closed, but I turn into a lizard and crawl through the gap under the door. I climb to the roof and get into the treasure room. No one is inside. I look for the belt, and as quietly as I can, put it into my bag. An alarm goes off, and I quickly turn into a wasp and fly out into the corridor. I hear heavy footsteps as I get to the portal. Down the corridor I see Crius enter the treasure room. I open the portal, and as I’m stepping out I hear Crius shout, “Thief!”. I get back to the rest of the party, and Brocktha gives me 20,000 gp for the belt. We travel back to Pangaea via a direct two-way gate that is a day’s ride from Chesed.
We pick up the tank in Torch and head to Chesed. We get to the house Tufast bought, and there are town guards everywhere. We ask some guards and they say a day ago there was a lot of noise from here. There are no Azers or Gleeman. There isn’t any furniture either. The only thing we find is a note that says, ‘You steal from me, I steal from you.’ Its signed ‘C’. We decide we can’t leave Gleeman and the Azers with Crius, but none of us wants to face him. We make our way back to Sigil, and we talk to a Priest of Zeus and an Olympian temple. He points out all the things we shouldn’t have done, and he tells us we should give Crius something worth as much as the belt. Otherwise, offering service to Crius for a limited should satisfy his titanic pride. Brocktha goes back to Crius’s temple while the rest of us wait. He knocks, and the same guard answers. He says Crius is expecting Brocktha, and opens the door. Crius is sitting on his throne. Brocktha says he will work for Crius for a limited time, but he wants to be killing monsters. Crius says he will set the Azers and Gleeman free if Brocktha will work for him for a year and a day, slaughtering hill giants and yugololths who pester Crisus’ realm no end. He also says he understands we need to kill UNITY first, so he will let Brocktha go until UNITY is defeated. But when she dies, Brocktha will have to come back and work. Brocktha agrees and comes back to us.