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Forgotten Realms mini incarnum campaign - Lost Souls

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
My usual game - Family Matters is on a brief hiatus as one of my players is busy during the summer. So I shall be running a short Magic of Incarnum campaign during that time. Still set in Waterdeep, everyone has either picked a pre-made character I did for a con, or made their own. 6th level, 32 point buy, incarnum-based or incarnum influenced character concepts.



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Each of you are members of the Pentifex Order, a secretive organization dedicated to policing the spread and use of incarnum across the face of Toril. Because when incarnum is twisted and corrupted, the consequences of that can be dire indeed. Even for a group so free-spirited as yours, there are things no being who loves life can countenance.

One of those things are the lost. Wisps of free-floating incarnum can become attached to a living soul and amplify a powerful negative emotion until that person becomes consumed by it, living for nothing else. Despair, misery, hatred, or wrath are all common amongst the lost. Once lost, only death can free their souls.

There has been rumor that lost have been seen in the dark reaches of Undermountain, below the great city-state of Waterdeep. Not only to the lost themselves need to be cleansed, but the source of incarnum must be found, as well as anyone trying to take advantage of it. If some of the dark powers that are said to inhabit those shadowed, blood-soaked halls get ahold of a raw font of incarnum, they could turn it to horrific ends.

You’ve been asked (as you were the closest and most experienced of the Order) to travel to Waterdeep, find and dispatch the lost, and hold the incarnum font until a Pentifax Monolith can be brought to cap the well and be certain it cannot be corrupted. It looks like it’s going to be difficult, dangerous, and involving delving into things best left untouched.

Just your kind of party.

The Pentifax Order has sent with their message some supplies for you – waterskins of healing potion as well as money for travel, supplies, and any bribes you might need to find the way to the lost.

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Below is the Incarnum primer on terms, as well as a brief description of our party.


Primer On Incarnum

Incarnum is the soul power of the universe, everyone who has died or has yet to be born. It is an energy that can be manipulated in a physical fashion, either infusing people with its raw power, or being formed into soulmelds that have specific effects. Manipulating incarnum does not harm any soul.

Terms you'll see a lot:

Essentia - Essentia is spiritual energy and strength; it's basically how one uses incarnum. One can use essentia to enhance soulmelds or to improve the effects of certain feats, class features, or other abilities. Characters that use essentia have something called an essentia pool, which is just a count of how much essentia you have at any given time. That number is fairly constant, unless something rips essentia away from you or gives you temporary essentia. Essentia is not "used up" like psoinic power points!

Putting your essentia towards soulmelds, feats, etc, is called investing essentia. Unless a feat, etc. says otherwise, you can reallocate your essentia from one soulmeld/class feature to another as a free action on your turn.

For example - Let's say you have one soulmeld that lets you move faster the more you put essentia into it, and another that gives you better AC with more essentia. You might have more essentia in the speedy soulmeld to get into battle, and then shift your essentia to your AC once you're in melee.

Essentia, like energy, is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed (or transferred).

Everyone has a limit on how much essentia they can put into any soulmeld/feat, etc. that's determined by their character level and is consistent for all characters. As with most D&D rules, certain classes and feats can help you bend or break those limits and let you invest more essentia than the norm.

Soulmelds - Soulmelds are incarnum that are shaped into something like magic items or spells in physical form. You have to have the meldshaping class features (or the Shape Soulmeld feat) in order to shape a soulmeld. Different soulmelds can do different things, from improve certain skills to create weapons to bettering class features to increasing one's armor class. The more essentia you put in a soulmeld, the stronger its effect. If you're a strong enough meldshaper, you can also bind soulmelds. This provides an additional effect, depending on what chakra you bind it to.

Chakras - These are where soulmelds are placed (crown, shoulders, feet, hands, etc.). They are very similar to the chakras that limit how many magic items one can wear (like how you can only wear one pair of magical boots). One can have both a soulmeld and a magic item occupying the same chakra. The exception to this is if the soulmeld is bound, then you no longer can have a magic item in the same place. (For example, you could have both a magical hat and a soulmeld on your crown chakra, but if you bound the soulmeld to your crown, you could no longer wear the hat.)

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Primer on Incarnum Races

There are four races that are associated with incarnum

Azurins - Azurins are children born to human parents that have been infused with incarnum. They look almost normal, except their eyes, white, irises and all, have a sky blue sheen. They tend to mature faster than normal humans, and have a natural talent for incarnum. They tend to adopt a cause and passionately defend it or further it. They tend towards the extreme alignments (LG, CG, CE, or LE) and have no patience for the mundane, as they know their lives are short.

Dusklings - These are fey infused with incarnum, their skin dark blue-gray, with vulpine faces and bushy dark hair. They tend to use incarnum to become in tune with the world around them, and hence their favored class is the totemist (who draw their strength from the spirits of magical beasts). They can use incarnum to increase their speed, and tend to pepper their speech with transliterated idiomatic expressions from Sylvan. "Let's cut these chains" (let's get moving, let's get out of here), "I turned it blue." (I changed my mind), "You smelted him" (you hurt him badly, you mortally wounded him).

Rilkan - The rilkan are one of two races that used to be one progenitor race, the mishtai. The mishtai believed in trying to attain a "perfection of form." After a great deal of time in that pursuit, those that became the rilkan become convinced that it was never going to happen, so instead devoted their energy to living life to the fullest. They're outgoing, gregarious people with a love of spontaneity. They mostly look human, but with reptillian scales on their forearms and necks, solid for the male, multicolored for the females.

Skarn - Skarn are the other half of the long-gone mishtai race. Skarn are still dedicated to perfecting themselves, and somewhat resent the rilkan for their flightiness that led to the failure of the mishtai. Skarn tend to be upright and lawful, focused and dedicated, attempting to be perfect in all their endeavors. Strong and tough, they have reptilian spines on their forearms, backs of their calves, and their backs (though they can fold them flat if necessary). [There are no skarn characters in this campaign]

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Incarnum Characters

Challa the Thunderer - CG female azurin soulborn. She's quite strong and tough, with a tendency to charge into situations that demand swift resolution and bring that resolution at the end of her warhammer. [DM NPC]

Amaranth Klane - CN female rilkcan chaos incarnate. Though physically weak, Karazele's grace is second to none, and her chosen soulmelds give her ranged weapons that make people rue the day they crossed her sight when she felt the need to inject a little "interest" into the day's proceedings. She's often accompanied by her soulspark familiar, a mote of intelligent incarnum that can act as guide, shield, or combat companion. [Played by Charissa's player]

Avandar Heloshartha - NG male duskling totemist. Though not the sharpest spear on the rack, Avandar has both tenacity and speed on his side. Distaining most crafted armor and weaponry, Avandar uses his soulmelds to meet his every need in combat, much to the dismay of anyone who's been on the wrong side of his sphinx claws. [Played by William's player]

Zook Cloak - NG male gnome wizard. Zook has dedicated his craft to combining the power of incarnum with the power of magic, with often spectacular results. His spells are often used to befuddle and separate foes from friends, while his collection of wands lets him empower his allies and smite his enemies. His weasel familiar, Scrabble, will often scout for him so he can prepare accordingly. [Played by Garden's player]

Mort Wotte – CN male rilkan rouge (w/ racial substitution levels). Mort is a clever, fast-talking man whose nimble fingers are only matched by his silver tongue. A dabbler in incarnum, he uses his theft gloves soulmeld to increase his already impressive skills in removing all obstacles from between him and whatever he wants. He’s never without a pocket full of random things to spice up any given moment with something unusual. [Played by Steven's player]
 

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Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 1

The group enters Waterdeep in the early morning, and being the unnaturally energetic people that they are, immediately accost the first guardsman they see with questions about Undermountain and the lost (described as “zombie-like, too fast, crazy, twitching, blue eyed things.”) The guard didn’t know about the lost, but if they sought to test themselves against Undermountain, they’d best hie thee hence to The Yawning Portal inn, which had one of the only reliable entrances that didn’t immediately end in horrific death. Usually.

The group carried on across town, Mort lifting this and that from various passersby (he liked collecting things. What things? Any things. Literally. Anything. Potions, coins, breadcrumbs, handpuppets, paper airplanes, anything). In due time, with much amusement, the group ended up at the Yawning Portal. It may not have been a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but it was certainly as colorful as those who could claim that racier title. The place was bustling even at the early hour, full of adventurers of all types and sorts. Trophies (ranging from odd weapons to various taxidermied monster body parts) lined the walls, and several notice boards were cluttered with flyers. One board held essentially a request list from wizard colleges, alchemists, and private citizens seeking this or that from Undermountain (chuul blood, green slime, rust monster antennae, etc.).

That was where Avandar went immediately, seeking out the notes people had placed on that board, looking for any mention of magical beasts (his specialty). Challa got drinks for the party, Zook found a table, Mort went looking for information and rumor about the lost in a subtle fashion of eavesdropping and bribery, while as soon as Amaranth heard anyone talking about the lost, climbed up onto his table (the person in question was probably at least half-troll – BIG fellow) and asked point-blank what he knew.

She also had a pamphlet describing the lost. Subtlety was not Amaranth’s strong point.

In Mort’s wandering, he found one gnome who claimed to have seen something like the lost. The gnome in question had a most prodigious nose, even for a gnome, a great amount of curly hair confined by combs carved with bees and flowers, and wore a bandolier covered with blue glass bottles. He introduced himself as Bellicose Bluebottle Begonia Bee. He said he’d been along with a small adventuring group as a magical consultant. They had been exploring a lesser-known area of Undermountain, which had been proved to be viciously trapped. Deep into the area, they had encountered a blue mist, which had “infected” many members of the party and driven them mad.

Over at the half-troll’s table, Thok (for that was his name) was rather amused by Amaranth’s method of introduction. After she bought him a mug of ale, he was willing to answer questions. He said he had been with an adventuring group in a trapped, obscure area of Undermountain, when they had encountered a blue mist that had decimated the party. He had been strong enough to resist its effects, but their thief, Ko, had not been so lucky. He pointed across the way at a table set behind a beaded curtain, which contained several people who might not have been totally alive. Certainly Ko, a thin elf, was decidedly transparent. Thok also said there had been another survivor, their magical consultant Belli. With that, he pointed at a fluffy-haired gnome talking to Mort.

Amaranth decided to talk to Ko first, being as he was on the receiving end, such as it were, of the lost and somehow managed to bring half of himself up. She soon realized that the beaded curtain must have been enchanted to keep the stink away, because beyond it the stench of grave rot from the three other sentient undead at the table was powerful. Holding her breath, she talked to Ko, who said he’d “left half of himself behind,” down there, and if they found it, he’d be much obliged to them for bringing it up again. He’d been able to resist the despair that had descended with the blue mist, but there had been someone there amidst it. Someone who might have set the mist on them. No, he did not get a good look, as his mortal form and soul were being ripped asunder right then.

Awkwardly apologizing, Amaranth went back to the Pentafax’s table. Mort had convinced Bellicose Bluebottle Begonia Bee to come sit with them and relate what he knew about the lost. Belli made one comment that some found curious, that “his nature” had protected him from being infected by the blue mist. Knowing that the only thing could have prevented the raw incarnum from attempting to infect him – not having a soul – the answer was most curious indeed.

Also, his complexion was rather waxy. Odd.

Belli said he too had seen the figure in the mist while Ko was being attacked and their group infected, but he did not get too close a look. He’d been focusing on the fact that the person seemed to be drawing part of Ko’s essence into a blue glass bottle (not like his little vials, some fancier vessel). If that could be found, Ko might be able to be restored. Belli would be greatly appreciative if they could find it, as well as the source of the mist, for it had driven Thok’s group insane. He would, with Ko’s help (as Ko could no longer draw) make a map of where they’d been and the traps they had found or bypassed, so the group could at least dispense with some surprises.

Knowing that, the group decided to use some of their Pentafax-supplied funds to get some further supplies, including antitoxin (sold at a markup at the bar). Zook decided to get some pitons (for disarming traps) at a place nearby. It was run, perhaps not surprisingly, by another gnome, and they had a spirited bargaining session before he claimed his prize.

Thusly armed with information and supplies (and ale!) the group went to the back of the inn, where the descent into Undermoutain began. It was a single-person pulley system going down a long shaft into darkness, run by the inn’s employees (some former adventurers). Going down, or coming up, takes a fee of one gold. If you do not have the fare, you cannot travel, and magic and might can be employed to both protect the inn from any monsters who might press their luck and ward off any flying freebooters.

Not wanting to get the day started off wrong, the group paid their fee and went underground. Breaking out torches, they marched on their way, soon encountering a small group of youngsters who looked terrified, and by their overheard comments were down here for a bet. Mort stole one of their packs as the groups exchanged greetings, and was gleeful to discover that not only did he acquire a folding ten-foot pole, he had also managed to swipe their fare for the trip up.

The curses of the stranded tourists could be heard behind the group as they penetrated deeper into Undermountain. (They looked prosperous enough; someone would eventually hand over enough jewelry to get them out.) Cries and faint weird sounds echoed through the corridors, though it was quiet where they were traveling. They eventually found the door, marked with quarter moons and bats as promised, and began to wend their way through the twisting corridors. Mort paid attention to the map and avoided several traps, though one caught him, rather literally.

There was a great eye painted on the wall, and a pressure plate several feet away. In attempting to spike it, Mort inadvertently triggered it. The ceiling and floor opened in front of him, and a large pit trap filled with water. Which… odd, because what trouble could a pit full of water cause? Mort and the group found out very soon, as Mort became suddenly and inexplicably convinced that he had had a water breathing spell cast upon him and that a swim at the bottom of the pit sounded quite nice indeed.

What followed was a comical interlude of Mort trying to get naked and dive into the pit to swim at the bottom (until he drowned, because in fact he was not under the effects of a water breathing spell, but rather suggestion), while Amaranth and Challa kept tackling him and tying a rope to his waist, letting him swim until he went limp, then hauling him out again once the compulsion passed but before he drowned his fool self.

After about four tries of this, he managed to disarm the trap, and group proceeded on.

They eventually arrived at a large chamber swathed with webs. And in each of these webs was a horror, a spider the size of a horse, bearing a worg’s head with many faceted eyes, who howled and chittered and screeched at the sight of fresh blood. And one of those terrible wolf-spiders had glowing blue eyes and moved unnatural fast. A lost!

The group swung into action, Challa charging devastatingly, her thunderstep boots making her feet ring with power as she nearly bashed one wolf spider nearly to death. The others moved against the rest, Amaranth using her acidic spittle to fling acid at the horrors, while Avandar and Mort moved to flank one and pierce it to bits. Zook flung out his incarnum arc, a pole of blue soul energy that crackled terrible power between him and it, catching all in its path.

The wolf spiders were tenacious and poisonous, weakening Avandar with a terrible bite and inflicting more damage on both Mort and Challa as they snapped their jaws. The lost wolf spider opened its mouth and spewed acidic bile upon the party, which scorched Amaranth. No one escape hurt entire as the party sliced, diced, and magicked until the wolf spiders were terribly, terribly dead.

In the aftermath, Mort found a few desiccated corpses amidst the spiders’ webs, and the group looked some potions and weapons found amongst the unlucky dead. Entirely not by accident, Mort also set the webs on fire, clearing the room and revealing a crack in the back wall, the next stage on their journey deeper into Undermountain…

(For those DMs playing at home, the water pit with the suggestion spell is The Tomb of the Perpetual Guardians trap from Traps and Treachery I.)
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 2

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were below Waterdeep, in the dreaded Undermountain dungeons, in an obscure, trap-laden area apparently oft-ignored by most of the would-be adventurers that ventured into its lethal depths. Having successfully avoided Mort drowning himself to death, the group pressed on. Wending through several more traps, successfully bypassed or disabled, they found in their path a round room. Mort looked inside and then waved the others in. As the last person entered, stone slabs covered both the entrance and the exit and the ceiling began to descend!

[Despite several subtle and not-so-subtle inquiries from the DM, Mort’s player did not Search for traps.]

Mort frantically tried to stop it, even finding the mechanism, but wasn’t fast enough to disable it before the lowering ceiling covered it from view. Everyone started to panic, thinking they were about to be crushed into paste, when suddenly the ceiling stopped just two feet above the floor. Most of the group was on their bellies, with the gnome wizard Zook crouched on his knees. Two small holes opened up in the remaining space, and out of one flowed an orange-tinted ooze with many crystals suspended in its amorphous body. It began to flow right for Challa. Zook recognized it as a dissolution ooze – it “ate” incarnum, unshaping soulmelds or draining the spirit from those who didn’t have them. Its touch was acidic and deadly, and the group couldn’t run. Everyone was at an advantage, being prone, and there was nowhere to hide. Everyone got ready to defend themselves as best they were able.

Zook gestured languidly and his magic seized the ooze, slowing it as if it were molasses on a Midwinter’s midnight. Scarcely able to move now, the ooze still tried to squirm towards them. The rest of the group inchwormed forward and attacked with great caution – with hammer and sword, bow and spell. With the ooze slowed, it was only able to get in few attacks on Challa, who was able to resist its attempt to feed on her soulmelds, before the group attacked it to death.

In the watery remains of its body, the found several crystals and a few minor ioun stones left behind. The trap reset itself and Mort was able to figure out the mechanism. Actually, the partially set trap with the doors shut made a good place to rest, so the group camped there for the night, and went on their way the next day.

Carrying on, the corridors became colder and damper, smelling faintly of corruption with the taint of evil. Their path led them to a large doorway leading to a much bigger room, the whole of the entryway filled with a glowing blue mist. Mistrusting it, Amaranth sent Bob (her soulspark familiar, so called because he bobs along) through to scout. Bob came racing back moments later, hysterically blinking in their Morse-code-esque language. It talked about “things in there,” three small, one large, that had their “natures switched.” He couldn’t be consoled, and the group readied themselves to check it out. Amaranth suggested Challa go through first. Challa, never needing a reason to hold back, charged through, briefly glowing blue around her shoulders and feet before breaking through. (Everyone knew Challa had soulmelds shaped on her shoulders and feet.)

As the blue mist didn’t seem to fell her, the rest of the group hurried through one by one, their soulmelds or invested essential seeming to protect them from being corrupted by the incarnum mist and becoming a lost. Challa was swearing oaths of disgust as the others broke through, and they could soon see why. This vast room had three huge vines along the ceiling and walls, with long tendrils and thick leaves, but horribly what should have been a plant was instead rendered in flesh and bone and cartilage. Past that stood a huge, three-armed giant, an athach, seemingly made of thorny brambles. Along the floor were many bodies, presumably of other adventurers, ripped asunder and the bits scattered everywhere.

Challa had charged right at the thorny athach, but missed her usually devastating thundering charge. The athach pulled a huge thorn from its body, holding it like a dagger, and unwound a whip of brambles from around its waist. Zook took one look at that and again gestured languidly, slowing the horrible thing so it would do less harm. Avandar, Mort, and Amaranth laid into the flesh-vines with claws, rapier, and acidic spittle respectively, while Zook flung magic missiles at them. The vines picked up the body parts and began to hurl them at the group while the athach picked up Challa and slammed her against its thorny body.

The fight was furiously joined, with Mort and Avandar joining Challa in cutting the athach down to size, while Zook and Amaranth burned the vines apart with magic and acid. The athach would not go quietly, continuing to try to crush Challa against his body, and the vines healed almost like a flesh creature as they kept up their assault of flung body parts. Curiously, whenever one of the vines died, part of a blue glass bottle slipped from their corpses. Beginning to realize something extra odd was going on, they watched closely when they athach finally fell to their combined assault. While the vines had each yielded one-third of a bottle, the athach yielded a whole one.

The group realized that Bob’s words about “switched natures” was literal, as some had switched the soul of the thorny vine with the fleshy athach, which accounted for their odd behavior in battle. (Vines tend to constrict, not throw things. Giants like the athach throw things, not crush people to them.) The group wrapped up the bottles separately and then began to search for clues as to who could have done this horrible thing and where they were getting that power…
 

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