CERAMIC D.M. the final judgement is in! - Page 10




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  1. #91
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    Expedition to the Plane of Jars
    A D&D Adventure for 3-5 Low Level PCs

    Introduction

    Everyone in town knows Rahimas. He is respected for his piety and praised for his generosity; he has a known tendency to become absent-minded and lose the IOUs of the poor who cannot even afford his most meager, lopsided water jugs. For all this, he is shy and modest. He is also an excellent potter. If asked, the townspeople will scratch their heads and admit no, he doesn't have family here, and he's not from town originally; a lot of soldiers settle here when they retire, so it's possible he came from the King's old guard. But no one knows. Every so often he'll leave town with a wagon full of pots to sell in the big city. Everyone worries that he'll be set upon by highwaymen, but he just smiles and says Heironeous will watch over him. And, it seems, Heironeous does.

    Someone in the big city owes Rahimas a favor, though. What it is, the party never finds out. But they are sent from their big-city headquarters to this dusty little farm village, in a corner of the kingdom that doesn't even have so much as marauding orcs to provide a little distraction. Their job is to help Rahimas the potter with a vital mission for Heironeous.

    The real story:
    Rahimas is a paladin of Heironeous. He is in service to the Shield-at-Ready, a covert, elite order of knights who are sworn to protect the humble worshippers of their god from evil. Soldiers of the Shield-at-Ready live modest, humble lives. Evil, they believe, prefers to prey on the weak and undefended. By remaining hidden, these paladins know that sooner or later, evil will swagger out from under its rock, confident that none of its intended victims will be able to defend themselves. And when it does, the Shield-at-Hand will surprise and kill it.

    The plot:
    When a particularly devoted paladin of Heironeous is dying, a high-level priest may attempt to cast a spell called Preserve Holy Essence. A variation of Magic Jar, this spell requires the target's cooperation and a successful Will save. If it works, the soul of the target is preserved in the specially prepared jar. This is done because any number of evil outsiders and extraplanar beings would love to snack on the soul of one of Heironeous's deceased followers. To make sure they reach their god's home plane safely, periodically a war party of Heironeous's mightiest living servants will physically transport the jars via Plane Shift to the gates of heaven. For safety the jars are stored in a small, secure demiplane. The number of people who have rightful access to this demiplane is, for obvious reasons, limited.

    Recently the Six Points of Woe, a group of Hextor's servants, managed to get a Trojan horse into the demiplane. Instead of a pious worshipper of Heironeous, this jar contains a baatezu. (Getting the jar into the demiplane was a lot easier than getting the baatezu into the jar, if you were wondering.) The Six Points have figured out that some guy named Rahimas is one of the guardians of the demiplane. They are waiting not far from town
    to strike. Their plan: wait until Rahimas opens the planar gate to get the jar, strike him down, and then waltz in to collect all the jars. Won't Hextor be pleased!

    Rahimas, however, did not get into the Shield-at-Hand by being stupid. He received word that the PCs are coming to help, and that he should expect the Six Points of Woe to make an attack on the demiplane. His plan is to open the gate, and defend it when he is attacked. The PCs' job: get into the demiplane, find the damn jar that isn't supposed to be in there, and get out. The demiplane has one entrance, which can only be opened by a Planar Gate, and one exit that anyone in the demiplane can just walk through.

    If the PCs agree to help, that is exactly what will happen. Spend some time going on about how the townsfolk treat them with a mixture of awe, suspicion and stark terror. Rahimas will stay away from them in public. When night falls, the entire group will sneak out to a yurt that Rahimas has hidden out in the woods near the village's sheep fields. There, he will use a holy item to open the gate to the demiplane and, soon after, the Six Points of Woe will attack. Expecting a feeble old priest, the Six Points will be quite surprised to see Rahimas throw off his robes to reveal shining mail and a big, sharp, pointy longsword that resonates with the joy of smiting down evil.

    Rahimas will order the PCs into the gate. He can take the Six Points goons, but he needs the PCs to get in and get that jar. If they hesitate, he will be quick to encourage them. At swordpoint if need be.

    The Demiplane of Jars
    If the PCs were expecting Elysian fields, they will be disappointed. The demiplane looks like an enormous storage cellar, filled with rather ordinary-looking clay jars. There are a few hundred jars here, not all of them occupied. The PCs should be able to find the Trojan jar without too much trouble; Detect Evil works, as does simply examining the jars. This is tedious, but the baatezu jar is of extremely poor workmanship and stands out (a Spot check at DC 30 will find it).
    The way out of the demiplane is through the only set of doors in the entire room.

    Unfortunately for the PCs, what Rahimas didn't know is that the Six Points of Woe actually sent *two* jars into the demiplane, just to be on the safe side and all. Because they can't throw clay to save their lives, one of the jars broke in transit. The second devil, a Polymorphed erinyes, is waiting for them at the exit gate. Its goal is to pretend to be a humble priestess of Heironeous, keeping an eye on the jars from within the demiplane itself. It is bound to wait for the Six Points, but there was nothing in its orders that said it shouldn't lull the PCs into a false sense of security, then take them apart. Certainly a little mortal-crunching would help to pass the time.

    Resolving the Adventure
    With luck, the PCs will defeat the erinyes, get the baatezu jar, and get out without smashing any of the jars that are supposed to stay intact. Passing through the gate, they will reappear in the exact spot from which they vanished, to find a content Rahimas (modest robes and deceptive exterior again in place) surrounded by the corpses of several formerly overconfident worshippers of Hextor.

    He will thank the PCs for their generous aid, take the jar, and make it disappear into a fold of his robe. He will provide them with a sealed letter to return to their patron in the big city, commending them for their bravery. There should be a decent reward, but it's going to take an even more tedious journey back home to get it.

    Adjustments for your campaign:
    Any small, prosperous village within a few days of a big city will suffice for the town. Rahimas can be of whatever level you like, but from the party's perspective he should be a righteous kicker of the butt of evil. For Heironeous, substitute whatever noble, paladinly Lawful Good deity is operant in your campaign. The party can be sent to help Rahimas in whatever manner works for them: getting paid to do so, being told there is great adventure waiting for them, owing a priest of Heironeous a favor, and so on. The reward should of course be balanced, but be generous.
    Last edited by mythago; Friday, 17th January, 2003 at 08:15 AM.
    When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely. (Truman Capote)

 

  • #92
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    (Edited to put in the names of the contestants.)
    When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely. (Truman Capote)

  • #93
    Aria

    Alanador arrived in Parize under the cover of night, and thus the mercenaries hired to enforce the quarantine never saw him. Not that Alanador made it a point to sneak in, it didn’t prove anything, but like life, it was just another fun test of his skills. Soon elvish eyesight had led him to the miserable excuse for an inn where he now played his lute for an unappreciative audience.

    Audience, he chuckled dryly, looking around the inn. Three of the Man race sat at a table nursing their drinks. If they had said two words to each other all night, the elf hadn’t seen it. The bartender too seemed a bit occupied with his focused rumination, a dry rag resting beneath his hand. The serving wench, Alanador decided, must be the cook too; she hadn’t come out of the back room since he arrived.

    The last note fell quiet from his instrument. No applause. Maybe with the new day, there’d be a new audience. Sighing, he let a hand drift to his belt pouch. Though light, he could feel the handful of silver shift. Might as well pay for the room, he thought, I’m not pulling in a crowd tonight.

    He hopped down from his makeshift stage (two tables pushed together), flipped the two silvers to the innkeeper (who looked up from the counter with a start), and made his way to his room. He slipped through the doorway, making an entrance for nobody but himself, cloak fluttering from his arm with a flourish to catch the single chair. He sighed heavily, this town might as well be dead.

    “I caught your performance.” The feminine voice caught him off guard, as his vision rapidly adjusted to the dark. A cloaked figure stood next to the window, to the side, preventing herself from being silhouetted against the starlit sky.

    Alanador smiled. Finally some appreciation! He stepped forward, bowing grandly, arms sweeping out. “My lady, I don’t believe I saw you in the common room tonight, nevertheless, I am flattered by your company.”

    The woman reached into her cloak. Still bowing, Alanador watched her carefully, and rose up smoothly as she pulled out a scroll. The daggers in Alanador’s hands disappeared as quickly up his sleeves as he had flashed them out. Palmed, she wouldn’t have even noticed. “I would like for you to perform for me and some guests tomorrow,” she extended the scroll to him.

    “Invitation?” he mused, opening the scroll. (picture #4).

    “Sheet music,” she replied, “An aria. I’d like for you to perform it tomorrow night at Lord Arrin’s Castle. All of the nearby nobility are there. I’ll see you there, I know.”

    The elf dropped the scroll onto the side table next to the bed, and followed her to the door, flashing his most charming smile. “My lady, if it pleases you I have composed an ode to you. Might I delay your departure, for but one ode? All I lack is a name.”

    “Tomorrow night,” she replied firmly, and she exited through the door.

    Alanador sighed and picked up the scroll. He unrolled it, studying the music. He read the title out loud to himself, “Pestilence: An Aria”.

    Alanador aroused from his mediation to the cry of “Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!” There was something about starting a day to those words that hinted strongly of bad things to come, he was sure. Peering through the shutters, there was the wagon, filled with corpses. The corpses were strange, as though the villagers had been keeping them locked in their closets too long, and mummified.

    Soon the elf was out in the sun, making his way across the village. He noticed, with rising foreboding, the strange makeshift fence surrounding the settlement. It had been constructed hastily, and he’d not paid it too much attention when he’d arrived. He strolled easily to the one gateway leading out, and nodded to the three mercenaries blocking his way. (Picture #3).

    Finding himself turned around, he strolled casually away, stepping around the stray mysteriously mummified corpses that now lay about the street. “Going to find me a paladin first thing,” he murmured to himself. (Picture #2) As soon as he was out of sight of the three mercenaries, he slipped between two buildings and over the fence, disappearing in a field of neglected wheat.

    (Picture #1) That night, despite a very encouraging voice in his head telling him to run far away, Alanador found himself let in to Lord Arrin’s castle by the small handholds of the castle’s stone walls. From there, the kitchens allowed easy access to the festivities. The large receiving room brimmed with the lesser nobility from the Man village, aristocrats from the village who hid from the plague within the castle’s walls. Their families seemed lost in an endless holiday, with children rushing between the legs of the servant stepping nimbly through the crowd.

    Alanador struck the first note of the aria upon his lute. A score of heads fell silent and turned to face him. Whispers flew amongst the crowd, inquiring who had invited the elf. Through the crowd he spotted his patron, and nodded. She nodded back, letting her cloak slip from her shoulders.

    His nimble fingers moved on their own, for now he stared. The woman walked through the crowd, it parting easily before her. Her face was shallow, eye sunken deep into their sockets. Her blue lips cracked for a smile of teeth with gums receding, elongating them grossly. Her figure, now revealed from her cloak was that of the corpses that littered Parize.

    The crowd, he realized, did not part. They collapsed as she past, as though a strong breeze blew them over. With each step, two of the Man race fell, until she stood before him, the two of them alone in a room of mummifying corpses. His fingers quickened with the aria, moving of their own accord, sweeping the melody toward its inevitable conclusion.
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  • #94
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    ‘Listen child, for I have a story for you that my own mother has told me many times. You must hear it so that you can tell your own children, for there is a lesson to this story that serves our family well. You are a clever one, so I will let you pick out the moral for yourself, and take it to your heart. It is the tale of our family’s wealth, and a warning.

    ‘The year of the opening had come to our people, that time when the earth changed and the outsiders came. Men awoke to find newborn powers amidst them, and strange things woke in all the places of the world. In that time, no one knew about magic, portal spells, or of the undead.

    (Insert Geisha picture)

    ‘You have questioned me many times about the picture on the wall, and of that great jar that rests beneath it. I told you that the jar was my grandmother’s, and that she is the one in the painting. You in turn asked me why grandmother was dressed as a geisha woman—one who serves men with conversation, dance and singing—when our family is so rich. Although I did not then, I will now answer that question.

    ‘Hush your unspoken questions for a moment! Listen carefully, and set the words down in your mind as I have put them in mine. Listen.

    ‘Grandmother lived in a village by the sea, a place distant from the rumbles that the opening had begun in our land. She and many other geisha like her were often called upon to comfort nobles and merchants who rode through on their way up or down the coast. It was an unpromising job, with little coin to be had and conceited hearts to be dealt with. What little coin grandmother came by was needed for food and shelter.

    ‘It was late one night, under the full moon’s light—we had but one moon then, child, and hush—that the stranger came to take service from a geisha. He paid with strange coin, from a faraway land, and was given to my grandmother. He was a truly ugly man, his face a terrible mess, as if he had recently come to some great misfortune. There were terrible whispers about him, and all agreed that he dressed in clothes from far away. His hair clung lightly to his scalp, and his eyes were milky and dead.

    (Insert ‘Zombie’ Picture)

    ‘Grandmother hid her disgust for his appearance, leading him to the night gardens, where pale white flowers bloomed under the sky, empty but for the unlidded moon above. They sat one benches opposite one another, and were silent for awhile as each let the cool night air embrace them. Then the stranger began to speak.

    ‘“Do you know about greed?” he asked, in a voice hoarse and weak, but in some way compelling.

    ‘Grandmother replied that she did indeed know greed, thinking of the merchants that came through her village and called upon her to boast about their latest feats of extortion.

    ‘“I was the greediest man alive.” The stranger proclaimed. He said the words without inflection, as if stating a fact. “My parents raised were rich in power and more mundane wealth, letting me acquire whatever I might want. I lived in a city where greed was a virtue, and businessmen sailed on great ships to trade and prosper. When I was young, I dreamed of being the greatest merchant to sail the seas. The wealth of the world would be mine.”

    ‘Now the stranger hesitated for a moment, as if lost in thought. Grandmother was silent. The garden was also silent, as if all the little animals in it had fled when the stranger arrived. There was no sound until the stranger gave a little cough, then started to speak again.

    ‘“I was a very poor trader. I had my own ship as a gift from my parents, and ample opportunities to buy and sell and profit. Yet, I did not have the patience for marketing. So I turned to other methods of making money. I became a pirate, a land raider and ship thief who stole from all for my own gain. Many of like mind followed me. We were villains all.”

    (insert ‘fight’ picture)

    ‘Now that the stranger had begun his story, he seemed bent on telling it thoroughly and with great detail. He told of his first attack on another ship, as he first emptied the innocent merchant’s cargo hold and then set fire to the ship just to watch it burn. He told of a land raid against an eastern monastery, of how his men had swarmed the hills about the sacred building during the night, then attacked it at daylight with sword and fire. The monks had defended themselves well with stave and fist, and for their trouble were killed without mercy and the temple emptied of holy artifacts and gold. He told of many raids, many slaughters, and many depraved attacks against innocents for the sake of plunder and ill-earned gain. Such was his life.

    ‘Grandmother was horrified by the tales, as the stranger listed his misdeeds late into the night, each one as worse as those that came before and after. As the tales continued to mount she fought hard to control her temper, and remain a good listener despite what she heard. In her mind, she agreed vehemently with the stranger’s claim of greed.

    ‘Finally, as a glimpse of the sun's light was to be seen far off on the horizon, the stranger came to his last tale. He and his men had lain off the coast from grandmother’s village, preparing to attack the next day. They had feasted well on stolen meats, and drunk stored ale long into the night. Then the sea monster rose from the deeps and attacked the ship.

    ‘The stranger’s men had stumbled awake from their heaps on the deck, only to find the deck cracking beneath them like a thin shell between thick fingers. He himself had awaken from drunken stupor just in time to come face to face with the beast that was tearing his ship apart. A great monster it was, in the form of an octopi but much larger and much stronger. No sooner had the stranger seen it then the ship was smashed in two, and the sea rose to meet him and his crew.

    ‘All aboard died, the stranger escaped. For as he sank deep into the black depths of the ocean, his hand had clasped around a solid object that, to his wonderment, rose rather then sunk with the ship. He reached the surface to find himself holding onto a jug of some sort, imprinted with the very visage of the monster his ship had fallen prey to. Not knowing why he remained above the water, the stranger had grasped tight to the jug and floated for many days at sea. The sun shone down upon him, and the salt lashed against his skin. Still he floated, until one night he came ashore in a cove not far from the village.

    ‘Now the stranger spoke directly to my grandmother, his tale finished. “I have come to take the services of a geisha. I ask that you tell me whether what I surmise about my condition is correct. Will you do so?”

    ‘My grandmother, truly without choice, was forced to agree.

    ‘“My first question is this. From my past deeds, would you not agree that I was an evil man, filled with avarice and thoughtless ravenousness?”

    ‘Boldly, my grandmother replied that this was so. He had indeed portrayed himself as such a man.

    ‘The stranger nodded in acceptance of her judgement, then continued. “My second question is this. Would the destruction of my ship and a curse of some sort be suitable punishment for my sins?”

    ‘To this also grandmother agreed. It could very well be possible that a terrible man like the stranger could find himself cursed for following a depraved life.

    ‘The stranger nodded once more, then asked one final question “How might I remove any such curse from my person, then?”

    ‘Grandmother thought for a long moment, then replied that redemption might be possible through good deeds, and acts of mercy rather then acts of pain and desire. But why, she asked, did the stranger deem himself cursed in such a way?

    ‘This time the stranger did not nod. Instead he heaved a great sigh, and his breath was like the whisper of a wind that accompanies the setting of the sun. Without a word, he reached an arm into his weather stained and torn shirt, and produced a rusty dagger that he wasted no time in thrusting into his own flesh, where the heart is found. Before grandmother could move or even gasp in horror, he pulled the weapon back out to reveal unbroken flesh.

    ‘“When I reached the shore near your village, a voice spoke to me from the air itself, saying that I was cursed with death in life. I am to remain blighted until I follow the advice of a wise soul to my redemption. That person is you, and you have laid upon me my mandate. Now I have a task to follow until I can die in peace.”

    ‘With no more words then that, the stranger left the room, new purpose in his stride. Grandmother was left alone in the night garden. For a long time, she sat still, thinking about all she had heard and marveling at what she had seen. Then she rose, went to her quarters and put on clothes suitable for difficult travel.

    (insert Minoan ‘Jar’ picture)

    ‘She reached her destination as the sun reached the lower thresh-hold of the sky kingdom. This was the beach upon which the stranger had claimed his arrival, washed ashore by the waves, borne by a gift from the sea. Indeed, grandmother saw that jar upon the sand. In addition, it was not alone. All about it was gathered the countless coins and treasures of that strangers ship, washed ashore by the same magic that bore him to earth.

    ‘This, child, is the treasure of our family, the gift of a man who died and yet continued to live. Grandmother took the jar and the gold scattered about it, and made our fortune. If you have been listening carefully, then you know why this tale is ours to remember, and I urge you to keep any lesson you have learned always in your heart.

    ‘For somewhere, a dead man walks, hoping to bring true wealth to those in need.’

  • #95
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    It feels good to be done. What time is it? Yikes!

    I'll see you all tomorrow. If I don't get sleep soon, I'll end up looking like a certain zombie picture.

    Cheers.

  • #96
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    Ahum, Mythago. The rule is no editing!!

    Well have to step into the backroom so we can rule on this!

    Great stories both!

    the reserves are good this time round!
    So many games, so little time!

  • #97
    Woohoo!!! We're all a bunch of last minute night owls (well... some of us...).

    Good luck to the judges... tough talent in the room to choose from, glad I'm only a contestant.

  • #98
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    The only editing was that I put my name and nooneofconsequence's in the "post subject" line, and I wanted to disclose that I had done that so there would be no confusion. Nothing else was edited, as is plainly obvious from the boo-boos.

    But if this was a Bad Thing, I will accept the judges' decision.
    Last edited by mythago; Friday, 17th January, 2003 at 08:37 AM.
    When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely. (Truman Capote)

  • #99
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    Alright, I admit it. I'm too wound up to go to sleep. Writing does that to me.

    So instead, I read all the other entries submitted. I am impressed. Wow. You couldn't pay me to take a judge position, 'cause there's no way I'd want to pick and choose. Good work, everyone.

    Now, to think sleepy thoughts...

    [EDIT: Poor grammer.]
    Last edited by Speaker; Friday, 17th January, 2003 at 08:43 AM.

  • #100
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    Looks liek everyone gave their story.

    Now for the hard part: judging!

    Keep your fingers crossed!
    So many games, so little time!

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