I ran my first Epic session last Sunday


As the title says, I ran my first Epic session last Sunday.

It commenced with the PCs having just finished an encounter. They were (and still are) in Phaervorul (from P2 Demon Queen's Enclave). I have eliminated a lot of the cruft, trying to reduce it to a few interesting elements - the Mindflayers (I pluralised them), the slightly mad drow wizard, the two drow factions (soldiers; temple folk) and the demons and Orcus cultists. Given the PCs entered the outpost at 20th level, I've also upped the level of everything a suitable amount.

After crossing the bridge (which involved dealing with vrocks and haures demons as well as some spiders and wight minions) they found and dealt with the mindflayers (giving the dwarf the chance to raise his concordance with Whelm by beating up on the troll) and then met and treated with the wizard before going to the soldiers' barracks to recruit them as allies.

With their allies in tow, they started exploring the ruined areas on the left side of the map ("behind" the barracks), trying to get the lie of the land and also looking for clues to help with shutting down the Abyssal breaches. (I pluralised them too.)

In fairly short order they ended up in the ruined house with the blood pool and Orcus statue that anchors the breaches. The wizard/invoker started trying to shut that down (as a skill challenge), while the other PCs dealt with a sudden assault of enemy forces - a Husk spider from behind and waves of ghouls and mezzodemons, plus a flying nycademon and arctide runespiral demon attacking from across the bridge to the next ruined building. The previous session ended with the wizard/invoker succeeding, and the other PCs beating up on all the Abyssal forces. (And they had done all of the above on a single pool of daily resources, so were pretty depleted in surges and powers, except for the two defenders.)

In the break between sessions I was looking through my copy of E1 Death's Reach and found nice stats for a ghould horde, plus a Portal Thing consisting of coagulated blood necrotically transformed into an ooze. I decided that these looked like fun, and so started the Epic session (the players had been told to turn up with their 21st level sheets - a midencounter transformation!) with the blood in which the invoker was standing coagulating around him and lashing out with its tendrils, while the other PCs got swarmed by a final rush of ghouls up the sides of the cliff they were standing next to: a 21st level and 22nd level elite, against PCs low on daily resources and who had only the encounter resources that they hadn't spent in the prior 22nd level encounter.

In their depleted state the PCs felt the pressure early - the invoker/wizard dropped, but the paladin revived him by laying on hands (I think he spent 4 of his 5 LoH over the course of the session). The boost in damage was noticeable for both strikers - the sorcerer having a net +7 gain from +3 overall stat gain, +1 from his Focus feat and +3 from his Epic Destiny; and the ranger doubling his Twin Strike dice plus getting 3 dice of Hunter's Quarry plus testing out his new 19-20 crit range. They did get to benefit from their drow allies, however, with the party's dwarven warleader calling in archery support as a minor action (+23 vs AC area burst 2 in 15 for 4d6 damage, +10 for being an area attack against a swarm).

One bit of the session that I enjoyed, though, didn't have a lot to do with crossing the mechincal threshold to Epic, although relevant story elements were in play.

In the previous session the players had mostly managed to keep their PCs unbloodied so as not to trigger the nearby Abyssal breach, but in this fight there was a lot of bloodying going on. The Abyssal breach only attack bloodied targets but can attack through blocking terrain (I was still granting -5 to hit for total concealment), and on a hit removes the target from play (they get temporarily sucked into the Abyss!).

The first PC to end up in the Abyss was the drow chaos sorcerer/Demonskin Adept who reveres Corellon but is also a Primordial Adept of Chan (the elemental queen of good aeiral creatures). When he arrived in the Abyss he had about 12 hp left, and had been planning to second wind on his turn. The player enquiring whether there was anything he might do while temporarily trapped on the Abyss, I asked whether in his thoughts he would reach out for connections to chaotic forces. I didn't really need to ask - the answer way "yes." I told him he felt a caressing breeze, and he rolled an Arcana check and hit a medium but not hard DC. So I told him he could not be sure what it's source was. Being a chance-taking drow he decided to "embrace" it nevertheless - at which point I let him have his second wind, and also informed him that the breeze came from Yan-C-Bin, elemental prince of evil aerial creatures. (Had he rolled less than a medium DC he would have been decieved into thinking it came fro Chan; on a hard DC he would have discerned the truth.) So now the drow has internalised a bit of his elemental patron's nemesis, which should be interesting in the future.

The next PC to end up in the breach was the invoker/wizard. As he got sucked in he made a skill check to try to understand its structure (so that he could destroy it in the futre) and - now being a Sage of Ages with +34 or so to Religion checks, and +29 to Arcana checks - he succeeded spectacularly, and thus commenced the process of closing the breach from the inside. This produced some colourful narration plus some more excellent rolling from the player, who decided that the PC would stay inside the breach and try and close it rather than let it spit him back out. The breach then hit the paladin, who ended up inside it with the invoker/wizard and contributed one success to the skill challenge by lighting it up with his radiant weapon - when the challenge was concluded by the wizard/invoker on his next turn both PCs fell from the sky where the breach was the 50' back to earth, which knocked the paladin unconscious (but he was revived with a potion).

The player of the invoker/wizard has become very proactive with his skill challenges, and his use of powers to augment his skills (eg he burned the use of his Circlet of Continuity to help him make effective skill checks while trapped inside the breach; in the eariler session he used Thunderwave and Rebuke Undead to help destroy the form and power of the Orcus statue). He has the Expert Ritualist feat and is fairly liberal in his intepreation of what counts as using a skill in a ritual (ie he does not confine himself to rituals in the technical sense), and on that I've been happy to follow his lead: he was applying the bonus in his checks for the challenge both against the Orcus statue and agasint the Abyssal breach.

In any event, after the two PCs tumbled back to earth from the closed breach, the others finished off the ghouls and the party reunited. Feeling very weary, they returned with their drow allies to the barracks to spend the "night".

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First Post
Sweet. I like how everything is tied to the PC so there's no irrelevant parts. And epic level PCs that fall from the sky? Perfect.

My game is just nudging into Paragon.



First Post
I love to read play reports, especially in the tier I'm running.

I definitely appreciate the immense skill modifiers PCs have by this point, and I've actually ended up loosely implementing an Impossible check, around +10 more than a Hard check. I only pull it out for, say, wards on a god's inner sanctum or when the party wants to go back in time without rousing Yog-Sothoth. That said, I'm trying to embrace the "fail forward" philosophy a little more, so all of these checks really only ever inform the gradation of achieving their goal and how many, and what kind, of complications might be added.

Would you be adverse if I posted my play reports here as well, kind of an Epic repository? We just turned level 25 this Tuesday and have begun a heavily-modified Fane of the Heresiarch (less save or suck, stylized as the sanctum of a renegade ex-death god). I think a thread Epic DMs can go to as a resource might be worth it.


Would you be adverse if I posted my play reports here as well, kind of an Epic repository?
Not at all! Go for it - from your posts I think in some ways at least you're pushing the system harder than me and my group, and I'd love to hear about what you're doing and how it's working out.

Sweet. I like how everything is tied to the PC so there's no irrelevant parts.
Thanks. Keeping that focus on the PCs is a big deal for me. And semi-related to that: I see a lot of posts that contrast combat and RP. I hope my post showed how RP - who the PCs are, what the players care about in their PCs and in the broader situation - is very much a part of the combat/conflicts that I'm running.


Great writeup [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] ! Looking forward to others sharing their epic tier 4e play reports. I have never been exposed to epic tier in 4e, so it's eye-opening.


If you don't mind kibitzing I might make use of this thread, too. My seven player/character party will be entering Epic soon, and I'm soliciting intentions for Epic Destinies so that I can start planning/priming for the "Destiny Quests". Death's Reach has one or two nice ideas, but naturally no player has selected a "vanilla" ED so far!

When I first read about them, Destiny Quests seemed quite daunting - to make them suitably epic without being cheesey - but actually I'm finding that ideas flow and strong character play feeds into that, reinforcing the themes that come out of the backstory and the Epic Destinies themselves. Reading about others' experiences, choices and issues will be very useful, though, I think.


It's not entirely clear to me what the designers intended for Destiny Quests - are they a prelude to Epic, or are they the subject matter of Epic? I'll be going the second route, I think.

So far the only PC whose transition to Epic has been overtly narrated in game is the invoker/wizard who is a Sage of Ages - the character is a deva, and in the pre-Epic session he used his Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes during his attempt to destroy the Orcus idol and rolled a maximum result, which I narrated in a suitably vivid way (and I've often used MoaTL as a device to introduce other interesting backstory stuff around the relevant memory). In the Epic session, I drew on that previous maximum result and said that, for the first time, the PC had full and constant access to all his memories - explaining the +6 from Sage of Ages, and also providing an ingame excuse for making high knowledge checks without any ingame souce or research being required to explain where exactly the info is coming from.


It's not entirely clear to me what the designers intended for Destiny Quests - are they a prelude to Epic, or are they the subject matter of Epic? I'll be going the second route, I think.
Yeah, it was very unclear, but I kind-of got the impression it might even be after/at the end of the Epic tier. The Epic modules (I know you have Death's Reach, at least) give some more clues as to intent - the "Hooks" sections have minor quests that can link in Epic characters with different destinies, some of which are fairly cool (I like the Demigod one, in particular, even if the exposition suggestion is a bit funky).

I think I'll be using them basically this way - as a set of "prerequisites" to be met for the character's final "retirement" as a greater being.


It's not entirely clear to me what the designers intended for Destiny Quests - are they a prelude to Epic, or are they the subject matter of Epic? I'll be going the second route, I think.

I would say it could be either or both. In our epic campaign for example one of the characters has been in contact to various degrees with Asmodeus throughout paragon which has built to the point at which he chose the prince of hell epic destiny upon reaching 21st. The decision was left up until the end when he choose to take up the 'offer' of immortality. Since that point, two of the first epic adventures have revolved around this story. I would imagine many more throughout the epic tier will follow as the character establishes himself within the ranks of the Hells.

In a similar vein our rogue turned cleric has become a Chosen of Gond and out first epic adventure revolved around that progression. I'm sure Gond has many more quests for his would be Chosen before he can sit by the side of his God in relative peace. This Gond tie in has also been building for many levels without it being known that the player would choose that particular destiny. He could have gone a different direction completely

However my character has chosen a destiny that has so far been low on back story. I should get my first adventure of relevance at 23rd level (ish) when I get my next class feature. Effectively he is not following his own destiny yet but for the time being assisting the others with theirs. You could say the character does not yet know what his destiny actually is or if he even has one

All in all I imagine the majority of the early adventures will revolve around this discovery aspect of the epic destiny, however something much bigger (already vaguely hinted) awaits later to cap off the tier and immortality/retirement in a suitable fashion


First Post
Tuesday night my players reached level 25.

I’m running a modified Fane of the Heresiarch mixed with the final chapter of Tomb of Horrors and my own content to create an Epic dungeon-adventure called “The Purgatory Siege”. While I appreciate the fourthcore philosophy (I use the nightmare damage chart instead of the MM3 math, for instance), I’ve opted to remove all save vs. death effects and instead work with something called necropotence (the module itself calls it blight).

Necropotence: The Siege is full of corrupting influences that wither the flesh and defile the spirit. To that end, many monster attacks, traps, and other hazards will inflict one or more points of necropotence. You can sustain a number of points of necropotence equal to 6 + your Wisdom or Charisma modifier, whichever is greater. If your necropotence total reaches or exceeds this limit, you die, melting away into bubbling black ichor. The Remove Affliction ritual can be used to cleanse 5 points of necropotence from an affected character.

Combined with forced death saves, healing surge drain, massive damage, severing of all long distance communication and teleportation, and a shortage of time, I’ve achieved a satisfying mood/tone/pace. I’m not against extended rests, but there will be consequences for taking them, likely an increased difficulty for the remainder of the dungeon (both to represent the delay and to make up for the party’s resources replenishing).

The Purgatory Siege is a glorified dam set on top of the River of Souls, preventing any who die from reaching their appropriate eternity. This lack of fresh soulstuff in turn threatens to extinguish the sun due to setting-specific cosmology. If that happens, it’s game over.

The Siege also provides a PC the opportunity to achieve her game-long ambition. She is a fallen angel of death (refluffed Deva Bladesinger with a fly speed and necrotic resistance) that once attempted to overthrow her death god for suspected aberrant corruption and failed miserably. She has spent time over late Paragon and early Epic doing solo and small-group side-games meeting objectives related to this goal, things like regaining the respect of those angels she took with her in the fall, commissioning a siege-worthy force (a machine army not unlike 40k Necron), and in the main game acquiring worthy allies (the party) to make a second go.

After a jaunt in the City of Brass, she also managed to acquire the death god’s divine spark. She technically could be considered the new goddess of death, still slowly coming into her power. I liken her predicament to being a displaced queen without a crown, throne, or country. The ex-god still holds all the territory, minions, and effects of godhood, including his most prized possession: The Gate, which all judged souls must pass before entering Heaven or Hell.

Given an aberrant invasion menacing the campaign in the next few months, there is no time to just ‘wait it out’ until her apotheosis is complete. Similarly, there is no time to lay siege to the battlements for what could be years. They need to muster their armies as a grand distraction, then use the rituals, items, and alien technology available to them (that’s a whole different thread post) to infiltrate the fortress.

Play Report
We began by drawing rumor cards, customized for the Siege. Players were a mix of confused and unsettled. The rumors are all cryptic and do not allow for additional lore checks, and my group is not used to playing a game with so many puzzles, traps, keys, clues, and dungoneering. They took it in stride, and began to appreciate the rumors the deeper we went.

After the party launched their armies, we moved to a skill challenge for infiltrating the Siege. I’ve tried to keep the “fail forward” philosophy in mind when it comes to skill challenges, having enjoyed the momentum of Trail of Cthulhu and 13th Age. Given these are Epic characters and they had enough to deal with on the inside, I decided determine the conditions in which the party would arrive by marking them on a range from total success (completely undetected), partial success, partial failure, and total failure (a waiting party of enemies). Despite two Impossible DCs thrown in (+10 from Hard checks), the party managed to slide in with a total success. They entered via a combination of varied rituals and the deft manipulation of the alien ship our PC psion controls.

Once in the watchtower, the party spent time discerning portals, sigils, faint magics, and a strange central device called the Standing Stone which mapped a solar system and constellations unfamiliar to the party. Some thievery and discussion discerned six planet-sized spheres were required to unlock a portal to the Gate.

Through prolonged speculation, tinkering, and lore checks, they also managed to discern that the stone depicted their solar system prior to the Old Gods which were, by all modern doctrine, the first and only creators. However, the PC ardent had begun suspecting that the phenomenon of life was almost generational, and that the coming of the aberrations marked the death of a current pantheon and all the worlds and civilizations tied to it. There was a balance to this, for other stars existed elsewhere with new gods, worlds, races, and civilizations. They, in turn, spawned new stars and Life continued on. Unfortunately, back in mid-Paragon the stars began blinking out as their last light reached the worlds, and by Epic there wasn’t a single star left in the night sky. From everything the PCs have gathered, their solar system is the last occurrence of life in the universe. When it is gone, the Void is all-encompassing forever more.

Faced with either taking stairs down into the bowels of the Siege, or using a sparking tile suffused with teleportation magics, the party chose the more mundane of the two. A natural 20 on trap detecting avoided what could have been several bad spills. They eventually reached the bottom of the stair and the PC witch cast a ritual from Goodman Games' Book of Rituals, the one that allowed you to summon forth yourself one hour in the future. I love the challenge that places on the DM, balancing what to tell and not tell. Keeping in mind the future is a mess of branching paths, I gave them a few clues as to what might lurk in the next chamber, and warned the PC druid he would die if he entered the confessional. That was enough to set the tone moving ahead.

Within the Bleak Seminary, the party began questioning the demonic undertones of the Siege, things like stretched-flesh archways and pits of boiling blood. The statue of Anat, Orcus’ lover and sister, a mosaic of a succubus being ravaged by three, beastly mariliths, as well as the imps tending the books only added to their demonic suspicions. They managed to solve a multistep puzzle and unlock six ritual books that would enable them to summon two planetary spheres upon the Altar of the Seven World Trees somewhere in the complex.

They also found the dreaded confessional, with an undead confessor waiting in the box and beckoning for one to confess their sins. In the Fane, an improper confession amounts to instant death in one of those boiling blood pits. I was going to dish out some necropotence, however I gave special consideration when the PC swordmage stepped in. He’s currently in the midst of transforming into a demon prince through his own Epic storyline and it didn’t quite fit to treat him like the rest. The confessor, an acolyte of Orcus, asked him what he was sorry for. The PC started with something a good man might seek forgiveness for, but ultimately realized that he wasn’t being genuine, and that his true regret was not being able to shed these weaklings (PCs) and take revenge on his enemies as a true demonic lord. That earned him the confessor’s favor and a token of Orcus’ sympathy (a rerolling magic item). He would also answer one question, however the PC had gotten so involved with his confession he forgot some of the more pertinent questions that probably should have been asked and asked something trivial instead. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the PC ardent pissed off the imps when she began carelessly flinging books in search of more clues, and in their little rages grabbed at a very unusual book off an elevated lectern. Magic missiles ensured the imps dropped their cargo, and they darted off into other corners of the dungeon (truthfully to go get some muscle, though the PCs haven’t felt the brunt of that yet).

The PC assassin, PC fallen angel, and PC psion examined the book, only to discover it was original copy of The Necronomicon Ex Mortis. The PC assassin, also a Darklord (the Ravenloft kind), saw potential, but the psion, and most especially the fallen angel (who despises necromancy and all perversions of the natural order of death and life) saw things differently. Before either could act, the assassin used some superior smoke-and-mirrors and a menacing stealth check to slip into the seminary shadows. He learned the secret of unlocking the book before returning to the group feigning disinterest (and yet keeping it on his person). The fallen angel decided to deal with it later, kind of in the middle of sieging and all. The psion, the assassin’s love interest, ultimately decided to trust him with it.

The party then spent the next hour pouring over the ritual tomes looking to piece together the ceremony for summoning the two planets on the altar, while the others looked through the seminary books and earned a new rumor each. They also learned a little about the gods that existed in the old solar system, prior to their “Old Gods”. They were called the Merciless, and it seemed people worshipped them to placate their pettiness and wrath. I decided to use the Fourthcore gods Kishar, Kotaresh, Lyth, Asur-Segt, Naia, Marduk, Teurama, and Euryale for this because they really are so savage and cool. I’ve also devised a little twist involving their defeat which I’ll reveal in future sessions (and which leads to an even greater potential asset).

The angel and the swordmage learned the same reliable rumor stating that the suspect tile back at the watchtower may in fact be a second way to the Gate. They were willing to try it once the party was ready.

And let us not forget our assassin, who used the time to slip away and read some of the Necronomicon- which is never, ever good. I plan to tally up his readings and openings of the book, though I’m not sure for what. There is a lot going on in the Siege, various factions they’ve only begun to discover. I think the book could play a major role.

Next Game
The imps return with reinforcements, marking the first fight of the Siege. I want to build some confidence, so it won’t be terribly hard, a few gruesome-looking, low hp, low defense monsters with strong attack modifiers and considerable damage. Then the imps will attempt a second escape, and hopefully the PCs decide to intercept them this time.

From there I expect the party, ritual for summoning the spheres in hand, will try and use the tile in the watchtower as a short cut. Despite being a reliable rumor, the information is false. It will take them to the observatory, and provide the opportunity to earn treasure and learn about several hidden sites for future adventures, such as the location of other alien ships.

The session was fun. The pace was slower than our normal games, but I liked the tone and tension. Many were afraid of touching things unnecessarily, especially odd statues or suspect murals, when they’re usually poking and prodding every little thing. That’s partially what I was hoping for. When push came to shove, however, players made choices. They were never paralyzed, just wary.

So far, they’ve avoided the pitfalls and learned lore and information pertinent to the immediate game, the wider game, and just the setting as a whole. All of this has also given me ideas on how to progress the game and the dungeon. I’ve already made some changes.
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[MENTION=59411]Pour[/MENTION], thanks for the writeup. I like your backstory, and your intraparty dynamics.

How were you awarding XP for the various events/activities that you describe?


First Post
@pemerton , Up until about level 22, I was keeping close track of XP and leveling the party accordingly. However, now that we're in mid-Epic and the end is in sight (I've set an end date for late August), I've forgone experience points. I've decided to base leveling on achievement, and level 26 awaits those survivors who overcome the Siege (if there are any).

Loosely mapping it out, the party has determined there are, roughly, about five major objectives left to see Creation endure. Despite a few twists, kinks, and betrayals I plan to throw in, it'll work out nicely to level 30. Truth be told, I've crammed enough into the Siege that if I did tally it all out I bet they would properly level by the end.

I think my only challenge will be actually wrapping it all up by the end of summer. I tend to elaborate and work off of what players do, and inject all kinds of additional material, strange diversions, and extended politics, and if I'm actually going to conclude the campaign in a satisfying and well-paced way, I'll have curb some of that.


First Post
[I should preface that my party and I play online, a combination of Maptool and mIRC for roleplaying. It is very helpful, especially in combats, tracking conditions, damage, and even just the names of NPCs and enemies. I can have more fun, especially with naming and characterizing monsters, which would otherwise be nondescript tokens on a tabletop.]

The party continued their trials in the Purgatory Siege...

While the party continued researching both the sphere-summoning ritual and information on the brutal pantheon and cowed worlds of the preceding Creation, the seminary imps returned with a vengeance. They came with fourteen unnerving, completely soundless beings of dense shadowstuff standing around ten feet, wearing over-sized and decomposing ram's heads like full-helms, with names such as 'Without Eyes', "Anti-Librarian', 'Slaughterer of the Learned', and 'Mindlock'. They had a modified phasing ability, able to move freely through the walls of the Siege (but not through PCs or their summoned/created obstructions). They also each had a unique mechanic that, should they be the last abomination standing, a battlefield-wide effect would result. For instance, had Anti-Librarian been the last standing, all the party's ritual books would be destroyed. If Without Eyes was the last, all the party would be permanently blinded until a proper Remove Affliction could be cast. Slaughterer of the Learned would have forced every PC to roll a save for each Intelligence modifier or incur 1 point of necropotence. And so on...

The party identified these beings as undead demons of Orcus converted to the cause of the Exgod. Previously in the campaign, undeath had been a fate reserved for mortals, but now it seemed angels, devils, and demons were also susceptible. Furthermore, the Exgod had cured his creations of all radiant vulnerability, so the light edge many of the PC's considered themselves having in future fights vanished. This also implied that Orcus, previously suspected to be an ally of the Exgod, may in fact be an enemy of their enemy.

I used a portion of 0one's Citadel map for the seminary with a few modifications to represent the statue of Orcus' sister-lover Anat, the lectern which had held the Necronomicon, etc. I absolutely love their maps, and some of the players mentioned getting an old school vibe they inspire (we'd previously used realistic maps such as LordZseze, but there simply aren't enough out there to represent the places my party treads, nor do I have the patience to make new ones in Photoshop like I once did). The map provided a main seminary level (if you recall with a floor of chipped glass several dozen feet thick, below which was a lake of boiling blood and tormented souls). There was also the balcony level which held the lectern and, beyond, hallways and chambers beyond sight which the imps originally fled down last session. There were also several ancillary chambers, like the one with the succubus/marilith mural and a separate room with the confessional (once housing the mysterious and not altogether unfriendly Confessor of Orcus).

The combat was dynamic, and I say that because objectives kind of evolved between rounds and everyone was busy and thinking throughout. Initially, the party was all about combating the abominations [re-skinned Forsaken Slaughterers, standard level 28 brutes with extremely reduced hp to prevent grind]. They had auras which halved healing, a bloodied trigger which inflicted a healing surge worth of damage, and their attacks did enough on their own [6d8+18] to concern the party if cornered. PCs were able to shine using forced movement, smart positioning, healing, and big damage.

On the second round, the fight started to lean the party's way, thanks in part to a house rule we've had a LOT of fun with, called collision damage. Basically, if a PC has a power that pushes, pulls, or slides an enemy into something without give (a wall for instance) and they have squares remaining in the push, they can convert them to d10's in damage, not unlike a fall. In this way, controllers get some beef in the damage department, and it's just fun. Despite being potent, it's never spoiled anything in my games, rather its empowered our PC movers. And if I feel adequate damage has been dealt, the obstruction might break.

We also use something similar when we decide where enemies end up if they're pushed into each other. If there are any remaining squares of a forced movement, you can spend 1 on each enemy in contact, then whatever's left over to move them. For instance, if a power was used with Push 5, and the PC spent 2 moving one enemy into another, he could spend 2 more to target them both, then his remaining 1 square to push them both 1. It's worked out nicely in the past tiers, and continues to in Epic.

Some of the PCs shifted focus to chasing down the four imps going separate directions so they couldn't inform anything or anyone else. I also introduced the Lord of Ignorance, a huge-sized ram's head abomination that startled the nearest PCs. Our warlock immediately reacted, dropping Web of something or other which kept it rooted and dealt a solid 112 psychic damage. It was enough to trigger the Lord's bloodied effect, and if not for the Archdruid's sacred earth zone (part of a homebrew story-based prestige class element I designed for my game called a 'mantle') everyone on the battlefield (I define this in my game as on the map), instead of only 2, would have suffered losing a fourth of their hp.

I experimented here with a mini-boss whose triggers and attacks could potentially effect the entire battlefield, and its auras stretched to within line of effect. In my estimation, the Lord of Ignorance was a complete success. I'd gotten the controllers' attentions, and they used what they had to great effect mitigating what the Lord might have done. It upped the ante, added another facet to the combat, threatening but not so big a bomb all their previous work was undone, or they were so outmatched they simply had to flee. It worked particularly well as a second round introduction, too.

On the third round, Tomeburn was the last abomination standing, triggering an effect which basically dropped a huge fireball down in the main seminary chamber. It injured a few PCs, nothing very serious, but the real price paid was in the seminary library, which was utterly destroyed in moments. Whatever treasures, lore, and rumors that might have been gained were now lost. The party, after learning some of the other effects of the other abominations, were grateful, but mostly in their ignorance (irony) of what they didn't realize they lost.

Later in the round, the Lord of Ignorance was blinded and slowed, and the druid was preparing to stake it to the wall with a well-placed oak skewer. He'd also... healed. The party feared regeneration, but the secret to his renewal (and the opportunity to trigger multiple healing surge damages across the battlefield) wasn't so arbitrary. Though the party never discerned it, whenever one of the smaller abominations died, it evaporated and fed the mini-boss. There were further clues, also, when one of them died by massive ice damage and became trapped and didn't heal the big guy. Neither here nor there, but I thought it was cool that there was an explanation and a synergy.

The party's angel tried to recognize with a self-initiated History check (which I thought clever) the identity of the Lord of Ignorance. Given her vast lifetime, it seemed a fair approach. She'd no doubt use the information to play at a weakness of ego or physiology. But instead she recognized there were several souls trapped within the amalgam, two angels she once knew, two demons, and a mortal soul- the late father and former vampire king of the party warlock. Appealing in a very, very creative way to each of them (and their times together, be it battles, arguments, or shared vision) she freed the angels and demons as the Lord receded behind a wall, ultimately reducing the Lord to his remaining soul out of sight.

Things were just about coming to a close, when the NPC companion of the druid, seeking to put out all the fires and save some scraps by expanding his aura with a Nature check, crit. In my games, natural 20s are sometimes more scary than natural 1's, only because I play a natural 20 as something being overly successful, and depending on the nature of the task delving too deep or pushing too far. The NPC extinguished everything with a blast of cold, but I wasn't so rat bastard that I had it damage the party, rather it soothed burns and created a gentle snowfall. Given that the room was, moments ago, super-heated and ablaze, the glass floor developed a crack from the drastic temperature change. The crack veined and expanded rapidly, releasing super-heated air from below. That lake of boiling blood would soon open wide to welcome the party, which in and of itself wasn't so frightening to a group that could almost all fly, but which promised unknown complications involving heat and anything lurking down there (forsaken souls) they did not want to face unnecessarily.

Things fell apart, the party fled back the way they came, and in a very Last Crusades moment, the warlock looked back to see her father with the last remaining imp dead in his hands waving back to her with a look of utmost pride, appreciate, and of course sadness. She vowed to free him and continued up with the rest of the group.

I could go on much longer about how the party psion discovered the Siege was in fact a new breed of alien ship subverted by the Exgod, how it was tied to the Abyss and, unlike the psion's own alien ship which was mindless and obedient, seemed alive, wounded, angry, and hateful. When she tried to interface with it, the vessel tried to kill the group by clamping shut the stairwell back up to the watchtower, which they just barely survived. There is a strong theme throughout the campaign involving alien technology from all kinds of civilizations and star systems with only one thing in common- all were destroyed by the Yth (aberrations) whose lords are pretty much the Lovecraftian Old Ones.

Anyway, when the psion tried to appeal to the Siege a second time, she was struck by a blood red beam. I felt I had every right to lay massive damage, maybe even kill her. She'd repeatedly poked the sleeping bull knowing the potential consequences. However, I'd decided no save vs death. And I'm glad I did... Again, background on the character, her mantle as psionic Oversoul, and her aura/efforts to bring about hope and unity in opposition to her psion father (The Overmind) who inspires progress and conquest would be helpful here. Suffice to say, the Siege's intentions were to eradicate her, open a portal to the Abyss, and flood the chamber with high-level demons. INSTEAD, the psion's powerful aura of hope and psionic will seemed to balance the attack, and she ended up with a slow-spiraling portal of bloody red, fringed with black, about the size of a dinner plate in her chest. Investigation and shock ensued, especially from her love interest, the assassin. In the end, they decided to wrap it in gauze and hope for the best. Hope, the party ardent suspected, would be the only medicine. So long as she maintained her field of inspiration and psychic power, she was safe. Should the character ever truly despair and lose heart, it would consume her utterly. This poses a very interesting element for the psion going into the final stretches of the game where she'll be facing no less than four Ythlords (Old Ones) and potentially the destruction of several planets. It also proves a fun allegory for her character in relation to the setting.

As if things couldn't get worse, waiting in the watchtower was the Confessor of Orcus with an invitation to treat with his lord and master. The angel refused and truly could not be swayed (and there were attempts by nearly every party member). It was no secret Orcus wanted the death spark in the angel's possession and the Gate in the Exgod's possession to become the god of death and undeath. Discussion exploded, lines were drawn, and the confessor didn't have to say very much, only affirm (and Insight proved he believed what he said) that the party would need the demon prince's help if they were to succeed. Worse, if the party refused, they invited a second powerful enemy to oppose them who already had a presence in the Siege. If there was one glimmer of promise in all this, it was that Orcus "was detained" by the Exgod, meaning the demon prince was not able to simply manifest and attack them, or the Exgod. Perhaps that is why he summoned the party in the first place.

It's often said, "Never split the party". They split the party. Initially, the confessor wanted all of the party or none of them, but when it became apparent nothing on heaven or earth would budge the angel into treating, he opened a portal and welcomed any who wished to join him. The warlock, assassin, and swordmage (remember a budding demon lord himself) followed. The druid, ardent, psion, and of course angelic bladesinger remained. And that's where we ended.

I must say, I admire my players for playing true to their characters. Obviously, none of the players wanted to split, but they knew they simply had to. I think that's awesome. I'm not going to punish them for that, but...
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[MENTION=59411]Pour[/MENTION], cool writeup, thanks. I've duly taken notes of your abominations of ignorance, given that one of the lead PCs in my game is an Invoker/Wizard/Divine Philosopher/Sage of Ages who serves (among others) Erathis, Ioun and Vecna.


First Post
Last we left, the party split.

Our warlock, swordmage, and assassin followed the Confessor of Orcus through a portal and to a different part of the Siege. While I've locked down all teleportation and communication outside of the fortress, I've tried to sustain the value of many of their rituals within the Siege interior. It would make sense the other factions within the Siege would also utilize this limited utility (local teleports, Sendings, etc).

After a quick pep talk, they warily met 'detained' Orcus. There had to be a reason the prince had bothered to treat with mortals at all, why he didn't just kill their angel, steal her death spark, and take the fight directly to the Exgod himself. They found the answer quickly enough:

Crucified upon an 'X' of empyreal (heavenly steel), which constantly flashes against the sizzling Prince of Undeath, Tammuz Orcus looms half-flayed. Without lips, naked jaw exposed, he's clearly been tortured. Extensively. His whole torso is peeled of flesh and left raw and bleeding amidst disjointed ribs and severed muscles. A little over two storeys, the blasphemous sultan of demons emanates the power of supreme menace. You reel to think how many civilizations those hooves have crushed, how much blood has flowed into that jagged mouth, or how many angels have hung lifeless upon those mighty horns. Violent and unexpected visions assail your thoughts of those very travesties.

Necrotic flames spills from his person in green, virulent hues, which play against the caryatids and horrified friezes adorning the durance. Even the deepest shadows squirm and seek shelter behind the great sarcophagi and narrow pillars chiseled like human spinal cords. The soulless confessor cannot look directly upon him, and you find it extremely difficult. Those milky, dead eyes hold a mortifying unlife to them and could melt iron in their fierceness. To look into those eyes is to burn an image that will rule your nightmares for the remainder of your life. Those eyes will haunt your bloodline for generations.

I modified Orcus some, giving him an aura 6 that inflicts 30 necrotic damage, so the PCs were forced to keep at a distance. I also have a running thread throughout the game that the very utterance of Abyssal is painful to hear, and usually causes some sort of bleeding through tear ducts or pores. This was magnified with the big guy here.

Negotiations were relatively straightforward. There was really only the demon's offer of alliance on the table, and the party was lucky to get him to divulge one or two of his intentions before growing tired of their prying and demanding an answer. They would retrieve Orcus's prized skull (they don't know its purpose quite yet, but it obviously holds power for the prince) in return for two planetary spheres and Orcus's aid in the battle against the Exgod. The three took council in an antechamber, deciding to accept the offer rather than risk facing the demon lord undermanned and in unfamiliar surrounds.

They also caught a glimpse of Orcus's genitals when they reentered the durance to find him free of his bonds, crouching by the doorway and washing them all in necrotic energy in his eagerness for an answer. Yikes. I'd post the description, but it breaks board policies.

I try to do every demon in a bombastic way, but Orcus is one of the very baddest princes in the Abyss. Throughout the campaign, I've followed a thematic thread of having demons' presences cause bad things to happen. For a relatively minor vrock earlier in the game, things would slowly decay in its line of effect, mundane items, scrolls, clothing, metal. For a more powerful demon later in the game, bugs would surface in unexpected places and food would perish. For Orcus, I took out the stops and had all kinds of unhygienic stuff automatically occur to the PCs, including tasting maggots in the back of their throats, developing legions on their lips, losing clumps of their hair, having their teeth and fingernails loosen, and ultimately feeling VERY uncomfortable sensations and added weight in their undergarments (giant tape worms). These usually occurred when Orcus emoted, for instance the maggots happened when the demon lord licked his own lips. Suffice to say, when those three returned to the watchtower, each of them stripped and thanked all the gods for the Fastidiousness ritual.

Meanwhile, the archdruid, bladesinger, ardent, psion, and companion druid pressed on. The angel's Analyze Portal ritual determined the trident-etched tile led to a place called the Starcellar, a sort of cthonic observatory. What a cool ritual to allow me to give some background via the portal creator and the last creature through. The Exgod had, of course, built this tile, though shaped might have been a more apt word (remember, the Siege itself was really an alien ship that keyed off of the subliminal paradigms of its helmsman and joined them with its demonic nature). The last one to use the tile was the resurrected vestige of one of the fallen gods of an older Creation (perhaps one of the previously-mentioned Merciless, or something older still) into an exarch. Though the Exgod's loss of true divinity had weakened this creature, underestimating it would just be stupid in this place. So they didn't, rather prepared themselves for an attack just as soon as they passed.

I have to interject that creating this dungeon complex around the dead, including the gods, demons, and angels from across the universe's infinite extinguished stars and swallowed worlds, has allowed a lot of room for creativity and spontaneity to blossom. I'm glad I opted this route. I could conceivably introduce just about anything within the context of this place and have it still fit within the grander scheme of my setting, without breaking the campaign. I've already introduced fourthcore gods. I have a mind to stretch even further...

They were not attacked straight away in the Starceller, though they were taken aback by the place, an hemispheric observatory of alien architecture and design, with dull black-gray vaults inundated with circuitry and a loom-like ceiling of cyberoptics. Most of these circuits were burned out, save one blue knot and adjoining tributaries and glowing offshoots. They came to realize it represented their solar system, while the ceiling represented the known universe.

However, the element which really drew their attention was the telescope, or perhaps cannon, what we ended up calling simply "the device" or "the machine". A giant, pallid corpse of some alien creature with an elephantine snout and huge, octopus hands strewed fused to the chair and console (okay, okay, I'd watched Prometheus the night before, sue me). There was a doorway leading out, but glistening strands of circuitry stretched across the opening.

Considerable investigation, speculation, and trial-and-error commenced. Also, the Orcus party rejoined the others around this time. I think I'll leave it here for now and continue tomorrow with the conclusion.


[MENTION=59411]Pour[/MENTION], I'm enjoying your writeups. And am getting a sci-fantasy-horror vibe from them.

When the party split, how did you handle it at the table? Several sessions ago now I had a split party, and tried round-robinning across each of the the three groups to keep everyone engaged, but it didn't work especially well - in part because I didn't feel I was achieving meaningful mechanical connections across each group.


First Post
[MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] , That's the beauty of running the game online via chatrooms. All of my players are writers at heart, and that takes a long enough delay between the typing, sending, and responding to allow a dedicated DM to juggle two or more rooms at the same time (plus private messaging with questions and secret information). Now the thinner you stretch yourself, the lower your quality, believe me, so I try to max out at 2, though 3 rooms isn't uncommon.

Strangely, I've never minded this pacing compared to my tabletop games. I have noticed that playing online has allowed me to take part in more mature, horrific, cerebral, and generally more serious campaigns, while my tabletop stuff tends to be more spontaneous, humorous, and fast paced. I love both approaches, really, for their differences. I guess going into an online chat game, everyone's expectations are different right from the get go. Also, we read each other's chatrooms and to hell with the meta (though one or two players do refrain, not trusting themselves hehe). That provides additional entertainment. And we also keep an OOC room for general chat about anything and everything.

There have been times when the game has felt slow, though long combat is more tolerable in this venue (though I do everything in my power to keep it from being grindy). I usually change things up, then, but I'd say one of the great strengths of chatrooms is the ability to quickly and easily split the party, even down to seven simultaneous solo missions if I really wanted to.

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