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Desert of Desolation Alternative Ending [spoilers]

DonEsteban

First Post
Hi all, I think this is my first real post here.

Massive Spoilers for the Desert of Desolation module ahead. But then again, not really. But if you're currently playing this module, you should probably stop reading right now.


So I'm currently DMing a 3.5 conversion of the I3-5 Desert of Desolation series and we are nearly finished. However, the ending is quite horrible IMHO. A very brief summary of the plot: The players have been on a loooong quest recovering five Star Gems that are said to have the power of accessing the "Sphere of Power" of the long dead wizard Martek. According to an ancient prophecy made by said Martek a thousand years ago, this is the only way to stop a noble efreeti who has been loosened a short while ago and is now threatening to destroy all the people in the Desert of Desolation. The heroes have alreaddy met (and temporarily defeated him) once. So far, so good. The heroes have finally found all the gems and entered the Lost Tomb of Martek.

Now here is the ending as planned in the original module: The heroes find Martek's resting place, place the gems in conveniently located receptacles, which revives Martek himself. "Now watch me!", Martek says and immediately sets off into the desert. Now the PCs can watch him battling the efreeti on an epic fantasy version of a giant TV screen. After finishing the efreeti, Martek returns. "Well done, my little friends. Have a cookie", he says. The end.

My problem is that this feels really anticlimactic to me. Martek had them jumping through hoops for weeks or months and now all they can do is watch him being awesome. What do you think? How would this feel to you as players? Can you think of alternative, better ending?

I have a few ideas, but I'm not going to reveal them yet.

Known facts about Martek:
He was a powerful magic user and a major mover and shaker (though probably mostly behind the scenes) in a civilization that perished a thousand years ago. For some reason he imprisoned (but didn't destroy) the efreeti a thousand years ago and made a prophecy that he would be freed again and only the heroes could defeat him by finding first the Star Gems and then Martek's "Sphere of Power" (which is a symbol for the knowledge of Martek himself, but the PCs don't know this). Martek is allegedly human, but in fact he could be any race.
Known facts about the efreeti:
Almost none, except that he is too powerful to be normally defeated by the heroes in direct combat.
 

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Savage Wombat

Adventurer
First thought - if the "Sphere" is supposed to be Martek's knowledge, have his shade possess a PC and give him the knowledge of how to defeat the efreet.

I love that series of modules too, and agree that the end is a little troublesome.
 

Celebrim

Legend
New plot:

The Efreeti Lord is too powerful to defeat directly only because his spirit reforms on this plane 24 hours after being defeated. Martek was able to defeat him repeatedly, only to have him return the next day. Martek was able to devise a ritual that would permenently banish the Efreeti from this plane when he was defeated. However, performing the ritual required his full concentration and was lengthy, and the Efreeti Lord always showed up and ruined it. He could not both defeat the Efreeti and perform the ritual at the same time; thus, Martek was forced to imprison the Efreeti Lord because 1000 years ago, he had no one of sufficient puissance to defeat the Lord while he was performing the ritual. He tried to summon the Djinn Lord to serve in that capacity, but the flighty bombastic Djinn Lord proved to be worse than useless because of his misplaced sense of fair plan and chivilry prevented him from cooperating with anyone in defeating his ancient enemy. It had to be solo or not at all, and of course neither could actually defeat the other without help. However, when Martek sealed himself in time, he arranged so that anyone able to retrieve him would also be sufficient to help him (hense all these puzzles). Thus, when the PC's wake him up, his new plan is to go to some ritual place in the desert (suitable for a boss fight) where they can perform the ritual of banishment. When they get there, Martek buffs the PC's (and himself), and starts to performs the ritual. Naturally the Efreeti Lord shows up, the PC's fight off the CR 20 Efreeti Lord and his summoned normal Efreet minions in a lengthy video game style boss fight, ultimately defeating him and saving the day. Martek gives everyone a cookie.

BONUS ALTERNATE ENDING: If the PC's confront Martek about the fact that this is all actually his fault because Martek was messing around with epic binding spells designed to bind the Efreeti lord to his service and it backfired (binding the Efreeti to this plane instead), Martek fesses up and promises everyone a second cookie if they don't blab that to everyone.
 
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DonEsteban

First Post
Nice idea, Wombat.

I currently prefer Celebrim's idea, because it also manages to stuff some of the gaping plot holes. And because the first part is actually very similar to what I came up with. Of course the ritual location must be appropriately epic. I'm thinking of something like the demiplane of ice or maybe even some kind of planar nexus where all four elements play a role.

Bonus quote: "You might be the ones who can restore balance to the elements."
 

Celebrim

Legend
Nice idea, Wombat.

I currently prefer Celebrim's idea, because it also manages to stuff some of the gaping plot holes. And because the first part is actually very similar to what I came up with. Of course the ritual location must be appropriately epic. I'm thinking of something like the demiplane of ice or maybe even some kind of planar nexus where all four elements play a role.

Bonus quote: "You might be the ones who can restore balance to the elements."

Whatever floats your boat, though it has to be somewhere that the Efreet can actually reach to show up and try to stop it. Also, if you use my flavor, it has to be on the prime material plane, otherwise you couldn't banish him from it. Casting a banishing ritual on the demi-plane of ice would probably just stop him from being able to reach the demi-plane of ice, or at least, that would be my first thought.

As far as the mechanics of the fight, Martek casts a few protection/buff spells on himself (stoneskin, something that protects from fire) and the party (mass fly, mass heroism, etc.), then erects say 5 magical barriers of plot protection that prevent him from being attacked by the Efreet. That's all he can do because he has to reserve the rest of his spell slots to perform the ritual. You can meddle with the difficulty there with some of the barriers not preventing spell attacks or fewer barriers if you think the party particularly good. Martek starts performing the ritual, and a few minutes into it (with a flourish) some part of the ritual signals that the Efreet is coming. He shows up, gives his one liner, and summons 1 regular Efreet per party member to keep the PC's busy. The Efreet isn't really worried initially about being killed, just disrupting the ritual which at this point will be completed in say 10 rounds. The PC's can't kill the Efreet before the ritual is complete, they just have to keep him busy - something Martek will warn them about either now or before the ritual begins (or both), so they have to hold their nova for later. The Efreet if left alone, has a 50% chance to bring down a barrier each round using his 'break enchantment' type ability. Bringing down a barrier provokes attacks of opportunity, so the Efreet won't attempt it if he's hard pressed. Stalling and delaying the Efreet is best at this point. If all 5 barriers come down, the Efreet begins to concentrate on Martek who must make Concentration checks as if casting a 10th level spell. If the ritual is disrupted, they have to bail or finish the fight and try again tomorrow. Martek helps as best as he can with a wand or staff. If the ritual isn't disrupted, Martek yells out, "Now", and the PC's must finish the job.
 
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Savage Wombat

Adventurer
You should be sure to foreshadow or lampshade this ending in the Time-Trapped Tower, since they would now be thematically linked. Or better still, find a way to tie the themes of all three minarets into Martek's plot
 

DonEsteban

First Post
Yeah, that would be great, but also difficult because those three locations are kind of disociated. I'll certainly use the Guardian of Time for some decent foreshadowing and plot exposition.

Another question: What kind of of creature would an efreet pasha use for buff support? I could just give him a cleric of Set, but I'm looking for something thematically more appropriate.
 

styopa

Explorer
The ending is massively disappointing. Martek ex Machina. Heck, MOST of the 3rd book (I'm using the old modules) is rather shite, compared to the rather fascinating, well-set, well-plotted first 2 modules.

The giant crystal 'here's where you go guys!' structures repeated to a truly silly frequency...and then a dumb little empty tomblet beneath why, again?
The "minarets" keys...because what, they couldn't be arsed with coming up with more than 3 winglet adventures but since we already wrote down that there were 6 towers in pen...uh, I guess we'll just say someone already did them! Sigh.

Sorry, I'm just plotting out the end of this adventure for a session tomorrow and sort of resent them making me essentially rewrite the adventure to try to come up with SOMETHING that's not a complete letdown after something like 10 weeks of play.

Good ideas in this thread, thank you!
 

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