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[IRON DM] Spring 2004 Contest Thread FINAL JUDGMENT POSTED, CHAMPION ANNOUNCED!


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Zappo

Explorer
Zappo's entry

Protected Forum: the center of Lesenia’s government. It being a “forum” (i.e., a place of public speech) is important because speech is the transmission method of the disease. It is “protected” because it’s the city’s shelter against the hivemind’s soldiers and the PCs’ base of operations.
Clever Troll: the troll which was captured by the Danatrians. He’s “clever” because the hivemind made him smart enough to present a complicated dialogue to the PCs, but also because his trick sets up the heroes for a nasty ambush.
Sticky Thread: the weapon of the mutated orcs and ogres, and the gruesome decoration of the dungeon. It is key to the troll’s ambush, and it makes the whole prison section a lot more horrific.
Hivemind: the alien disease which threatens to join all of Lesenia in a single entity, whether it wants it or not. It is the main element.
Game Day: the old tradition of Danatr, and the day when the hivemind strikes. “Game”, naturally, in the hunting sense. It is important because the knights being away is a substantial advantage for the hivemind, and it gives the PCs another task to accomplish.
Ongoing Campaign: the long struggle against the orcs, which is about to enter a whole new phase (with the PCs at its middle). It’s the adventure’s premise.
______________________________________________________________

THE MANY SINGS TO US

A D&D adventure for 10th-12th level characters.

Several decades ago, the Democracy of Danatr initiated a military campaign to rid its northern territories of the humanoid hordes. The orcs and goblins proved a lot tougher and more numerous than expected, and after almost fifty years the end of the war is nowhere in sight. In the recent days, something is changing, and not for good.

For ongoing campaigns, the DM may substitute the Democracy with any other free state which is struggling against some kind of evil horde of humanoids, and the city of Lesenia with any city of this state. This adventure may be the start of a longer campaign against the hivemind.

Hooks:

  • The PCs may simply have arrived in Lesenia for any reason, and start noticing something strange with the guards and the town’s inhabitants after one or two days. Maybe the friend they’ve come to visit gets infected too…
  • The PCs may be summoned by the mayor Jorard to provide extra protection for the town during the Game Day which is to take place.
  • The PCs may work for the Danatrian government or army, and simply get assigned to Lesenia.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?

While the heroes travel to get to Lesenia, they may hear the following rumors along the road:

The Democracy has suffered two defeats in the northeast, at the hands of an orc leader. In the first battle, the chaotic humanoid troops proved to be as disciplined and organized as those of Danatr. In the second one, they were better. Bewildered at this sudden change, the Democracy general leading the campaign in the northeast ordered the capture of as many enemies as possible, to be sent to the prison of the province capital Lesenia, for interrogation and divination.

The truth, which noone suspects, is that orcish shamans, desperate to find a way to win the war, have summoned something from the Far Realm during a clumsy attempt to get extraplanar help. Something that doesn’t have a body, something that is taking over the horde, and something which the Danatrian soldiers are now bringing into Lesenia.

The hivemind is a sort of mental parasite or disease. It spreads through a few minutes of conversation with an infected creature, as well as through any kind of telepathic contact. It isn’t even needed for the character to take part in the communication: hearing and understanding it is enough. The disease is unaffected by the immune system, therefore there is no initial saving throw (paladins and similar characters are still immune, though). Once infected, a character might slow it down through force of will, but it takes a cure disease spell to restore him to normality, provided that no physical change has occurred yet (see below).

The incubation period is one day, after which the character must make a Will save every day, DC 15 +1 for each day of infection. If failed, roll 2d4: this number represents how much the disease has spread in the character’s mind. Once the total reaches half his Intelligence score, the character has an empathic link with all other infected creatures that have reached the same state. Once the total reaches his Intelligence score, the character’s individuality is destroyed; he joins the communal mind of all the infected creatures that have reached the same state. He maintains his mental stats for the purposes of skills and spellcasting, but he no longer has a real personality. These links have a range of about ten kilometers. The hivemind isn’t terribly smart, isn’t a good bluffer, and it is a bit prone to use violence even when subtlety would work better. It tends to feel safer and more calm when it has many members, though. Maybe it acquired these traits from the orcs.

Mind-influencing spells can still work, but the character has a +10 bonus and if he fails, the effect doesn’t extend to the entire hivemind. Detect magic cast on a victim can reveal the infection as an enchantment aura, but only if he is speaking and/or has already failed at least a saving throw. Protection from Evil and similar spells and effects can prevent the initial infection, but have no effect on contaminated characters. A hivemind may decide to trigger an irreversible physical mutation in any of its components that have been part of it for at least a week. The creature slowly mutates over the course of three days to a monstrous form; the exact limits of this ability are unknown.

The hivemind does have a huge, crucial weakness built in the way it works: it is hierarchical. Killing or curing one of its members instantly releases everyone that was infected by him, unless he was physically changed.

SILENCE THE DISCORD

The PCs reach Lesenia just in time to see a spectacular military parade enter town. At least a thousand soldiers are bringing in the town cages and carts carrying monstrous prisoners. The soldiers are accompanied by the knights: the descendants of Danatr’s nobility, they no longer take part of the nation’s government but they are still highly honored and the military’s elite mounted troops.

The prisoners include about 50 orcs, a half dozen ogres and a massive troll. The orcs use the dumber but more powerful creatures as shock troops. As they frantically turn and growl inside their cages, trying to dodge the peasants flinging rotten vegetables, they don’t look too much of a threat. In truth, they are panicking because they are away from the main hivemind.
The prisoners are led to Lesenia’s prisons: a dungeon designed to hold Large-sized creatures as well as normal inmates, and one of the most secure jails of northeastern Danatr (especially with the massive surveillance provided by the troops that just arrived). After the prisoners are secured, the knights leave to their houses to recover from the last battle and rest for Game Day, which will take place in just three days.

Here is the sequence of events for the first few days, unless the PCs do something to alter it. Remember that the prison personnel that is doing the questionings is also keeping detailed notes of their conversations and of anything they notice in the prisoners.

Day 1. In the prison, the interrogations start as soon as the first orcs arrive, quickly spreading the infection throughout the guards and other inmates. With the massive number of soldiers protecting it, the town’s attitude is optimistic. The only weird thing that is noticed before nightfall, and which isn’t widely known outside the prison, is that the prisoners occasionally seem to somehow know what their comrades are doing – even from three cells away.

Day 2. The captured prisoners slowly become surprisingly quiet and controlled, even the troll. They are more willing to cooperate and many guards shake their heads when they find themselves feeling some empathy towards the orcs. Some soldiers are feeling especially worried about the war. Many are having passionate arguments about the prisoners’ conditions. As the evening approaches, civilians are exhibiting the same behaviors as well. Only a few have entirely fallen to the hivemind, though, and they are the kind of person that is considered a village idiot anyway.

Day 3

WE ARE, WE ARE, WE ARE, WE ARE…

At sunrise on the third day, the knights leave for Game Day. This traditional hunt is a leftover from the monarchic days of Danatr. All the nobles leave town together to hunt for one day in the surrounding area. The game is collected and shared in a big feast in the woods lasting all night, symbolizing the union of nobility under the king. The Democracy hasn’t had a king for centuries, but respect of these traditions help keeping the ex-nobility happy with their much-honored position of elite military.

The knights aren’t much affected by the disease yet. Many of them have stayed quite secluded in the last couple of days, and all of them are relatively high level and have decent saving throws. A few are paladins, and thus immune. Only some have been assimilated in the hivemind and they are going to stay in town with some excuse.

Some hours later, as the city wakes up, it becomes evident that something is wrong. More than half of the guards and soldiers have been assimilated by the hivemind, as well as one third of the Lesenia’s population. Now the hivemind is calm again in its numbers: these people are now without a personality, they behave like automatons, nothing causes them to display any emotion, and patrols are marching with inhuman perfection. The PCs will notice this, as will the town leaders. The prison – first suspicious place – is almost impregnable because of the troops (including spellcasters) that are guarding it right now… and most of these troops are of the hivemind. The guards will be unfazed by whatever the heroes say, and suggest them to go looking for the mayor if they want access.

Jorard is actually looking for the PCs, if they have any good reputation. He and the rest of the council have noticed the weirdness as well, and they want help. Some of them are behaving strangely, too. As the characters try to make sense of the situation, suddenly all hell breaks loose.

The gate guards close the city’s doors, blocking everyone inside. All members of the hivemind, like one man, attack everyone who is still free of contagion, attempting to subdue those who are infected but not controlled yet. With their perfect coordination placed against the surprise and confusion of the defenders, they quickly gain the upper hand. Chaos and panic roam the street. The PCs get attacked as well, by one of the knights (Ftr9) and his escort (4 x War4), no less!

If the PCs win, they rapidly realize that most “sane” people are fleeing towards the town’s Forum – Lesenia’s town hall and council chamber. Still-loyal soldiers who have managed to pull together have gathered there and are protecting the building. The Forum is a huge building made in stone and marble, and has thick walls and only one entrance. It is a government building as much as a symbol of democracy and freedom of speech; everyone can listen to the council’s meetings in its huge main hall, or give a speech of his own in one of the lesser chambers. Ironically, this place was probably the main spreading center of the disease. When the PCs arrive, the guards shout at them to help defending the doors while the people come in. The attackers are mostly Warriors 1st or 2nd.

YOU DO NOT HIDE FOREVER

After some combat, the heavy doors are closed and barred, and everyone draws breath (if the PCs for some reason don’t get into the Forum, they’ll have it harder but not impossible). Archers are placed at every window and the soldiers start organizing shifts and watches. But lots of the people inside – almost two thousand people, and still only a fraction of Lesenia’s folk – are clearly showing signs of the mysterious disease. Some say that they have a feeling of unity, calmness, peace… just inches from their conscience.

Luckily, most of the town clerics seem to be still in control of themselves. Unless the PCs have already figured this out, they tell them that they have discovered that this affliction is a disease and can be cured by magical means. They still don’t know how it spreads, making containment impossible. But there are far, far too many people to be cured in too little time, even if the spread could be stopped entirely.

Jorard is going to make a speech in the Forum to soothe the panic, and since he is infected as well this would be a problem. If the PCs have figured out the transmission method of the disease, they should make sure that it doesn’t happen. Finding a way to make everyone shut up is going to make the task of healing the townsfolk easier as well, but it’s not a solution while the Forum is under siege.

After some talk and planning, Jorard and the remains of the council can’t quite decide whether they should first of all warn the knights outside the city or try to attack the prison, where it all started. The knights, once warned, can rely on their paladins to cleanse themselves and could prevent people from escaping the town and spreading the infection. On the other hand, the prison contains the notes collected during the questionings and may hold the key to victory. Every hour, more people progress in their infection than the clerics can heal! Both tasks are extremely urgent, there’s no time for talking about it!

The PCs will have to decide what to do. The clerics think that, at this rate, they may hold the Forum for no more than 24 hours before the people inside start going insane as well. At that point, the siege will be over.

HURRY! RUN!

If they decide to warn the knights, the best option by far is magical communication. If that’s not immediately available, they have to get out of a Forum under siege, sneak through the city, cross the city walls, reach the encampment, and then come back. Luckily, that shouldn’t be a problem for heroes of the PCs’ level. Teleport is perfect; invisibility and possibly flying would also be of great help. Fighting their way through the town is right out, the soldiers are simply too many and they will converge on the heroes as soon as they are seen.

The knights have seen some of their own behaving strangely, and they have no trouble believing the PCs. Several paladins remove the influence from everyone else, and the knights quickly organize themselves to stop anyone from leaving Lesenia. They warn the PCs, though, that they will never be able to hold a full attack from the city’s garrison.

YOUR SONG IS NOT OURS

If the PCs try the prison first, they are lucky; though they don’t know it yet, it’s the best choice. Killing the orcs, the ogres and the troll is going to bring things back to normality regardless of what the knights are doing. But killing them all here and now isn’t going to be easy, or even possible: a bunch of the orcs have already fled and are currently in town, in their monstrous shapes.

The prison is still guarded by two knights (Ftr8) and several soldiers (War2). As soon as the PCs are seen, a vast number of troops will converge on the prison from the nearby areas. In game terms, use a wandering monster table while the PCs are in the prison; until they kill most of the monsters, they may meet new soldiers at any time. When they get inside, the most horrifying sights await them. Something monstrous has set his lair in this dungeon. Splotches of mucus and blood abound on the floor, walls and ceiling. And while the heroes are watching, several mutated orcs (War2) attack them. They are taller and stronger than normal orcs, covered in horrible scabs and cancerous growths, they have a gleam of madness in their eyes, and they salivate something disgusting. In game terms, they have extra HD and they are templated to gain darkvision, a climb speed, a claw attack and bonuses to STR, CON, DEX and natural armor. They aren’t using any equipment.

Their nastiest surprise is the sticky gooey thread they can spit from their mouths, which can stick to a hero and prevent him from moving effectively. Treat this as an attack with a net, but the range is tripled. After the combat, the PCs see that these sticky webbings are everywhere in the dungeon, and as they get deeper they see some mangled corpses hanging from them. Coagulated fluids cover the walls of the lower level. As the PCs explore the prisons, they can find the notes detailing the questionings, which should provide enough information to put together the entire puzzle. The inquisitors were also suspicious enough to record their own strange feelings as they fall under the influence of the hivemind as a sort of diary. They’re quite disturbing. “Tonight I had a dream. Lots of people were with me… we were singing in perfect harmony. It was beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up and be alone again”.

The central room is also the largest one of the dungeon. Situated at the lowest level, it has a fairly tall ceiling. Here, in darkness, the PCs are confronted by a massive humanoid, halfway through mutation and still recognizable as a troll. As soon as it sees them, the troll lifts its hands and speaks in a guttural but clear Common. “Wait. We wish you no harm. There was a … misunderstanding. We wish to put a stop to this madness, to this discord, if only you will help us”. This troll is the same beast that was brought into town of course, but it acts smart because it is part of the hivemind, which is using it to address the heroes.

It will try to convince the heroes to go away. It will speak of joyous unity, freedom from all the uncertainty of existence, eternal peace. It will offer the end of all wars and of all suffering, everywhere. “Look at me. I was a savage beast, and now I know peace and communion”.

Unless the PCs attack immediately, after some rounds another knight (Ftr7) will enter the room from another door, and immediately start confirming what the troll is saying. He was alone and cold, but now they are one. The PCs can be one, too, if they want. It is wonderful.

Neither the knight nor the troll are going to attack first, no matter what. This is part of their strategy, of course. First of all, the hivemind knows that champions of good tend to be reluctant to attack first an enemy which is trying to parlay. Secondly, while the PCs talk with the troll, the ogres crawl out of their cells and hide in the darkness, far enough from the PCs that they can’t be seen (outside the room, if need be). The more they talk, the more ogres will arrive, until all six of them are there.

Hopefully, the PCs will not believe the troll, and will eventually try to attack. The ogres are mutated in a similar way as the orcs, while the troll has somewhat lower bonuses and no extra special abilities. The ogres have an incredible range with their gooey thread: their range is ten times that of a net, which makes them capable of striking the PCs from the darkness. If the ogres can place themselves so that they can see the PCs without being seen, they’ll ready actions to spit their threads as soon as a PC attacks, foiling them and making them easy targets for the troll. Remember that the ogres and the trolls are acting smart – the troll will flee to regenerate for some rounds if it can, and they are going to use flanking and their sticky thread attack as effectively as possible.

If the PCs win this combat, most of the city is going to be instantly freed. By the time they finish clearing the dungeon, the situation will have calmed down, the Forum will be free, and the number of infected will be down to a size that the clerics can manage.

WE SEEK, WE SEEK!

Further developments: the threat in Lesenia isn’t yet completely eradicated. A dozen mutated orcs weren’t in the prison, and they may be hiding anywhere in town. And then, now that the terrible secret has been revealed, someone must infiltrate the orc territory and find where this whole thing started. And put an end to it.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Zappo said:
Guess one of my favorite videogames. ;)

Robotron?

And holy shiznit! That's a long entry!

EDIT: Whoa! It is actually shorter than my entry in the first round by about 1000 words!
 
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Enkhidu

Explorer
I'm not so sure I like this one, but the round has the bad timing (for me) of being a night that my 1 year old is running a 102. At least I had multiple reasons to be awake.

Here goes:




Spring 2004 Iron DM Tourney

R2 – M2: Semi-final Round

Zappo vs. Enkhidu

The Ingredients:

Protected Forum
Clever Troll
Sticky Thread
Hivemind
Game Day
Ongoing Campaign




The Adventure:

Noah-where to Run


Adventure Notes:

Noah-where to Run is a sidetrek style adventure meant for mid to high level PCs. While this adventure works best in campaigns that use psionics, such use is not strictly necessary.


Summary

While at a huge olympic-style event, the PCs encounter competitors who are much more than what they seem, and get caught up in the possible “rebirth” of a dead mindflayer.


Background

When the mindflayer Q’Rill’q died ten years ago (at the hands of the sons of Gith), he left three legacies: the Amulet of T’Krik, the Black Brigade, and countless newly freed thralls. Most of these body-and-mind slaves died within weeks, but a few – including those more “affected” by the mindflayer’s psychic depredations - managed to survive the predators of the underdark caverns of their former master.

These few were damaged in mind and body, and worse, even in death their mindflayer master still held some power over them. The thralls found themselves linked, able to read one another’s feelings and even thoughts as their master had done before. The link drove some away, only to find that they could not escape the thoughts of the others no matter how far they ran, and it drove others mad. Those that lived and kept their minds set out for the surface, and eventually escaped the underdark.

Yet even escape to the relative safety of the surface world did not completely erase their psychic scars, nor the danger posed by those who still sought to break the link that bound them all together.

Now, on the day of the Great Games, some of those survivors come together to meet and speak face to face, while another waits for his opportunity to destroy them and silence the voices in his head once and for all.


The Great Games

The Great Games are a sexennial one day event that brings together brave and capable souls for a series of competitions that test problem solving skills, bravery, teamwork, and other “heroic” qualities. They are an invitation only affair, and are known to be highly selective.

For the purpose of this adventure, most of the events in the Games are left undeveloped, as they bear little impact on the adventure’s progression. While one challenge of the day is loosely outlined below, DM’s are encouraged to include as many other events as they wish. Examples of suitable events can be found in the Alabaster Cup (described in the Complete Warrior) or the Challenge of Champions events from Dungeon magazine, as well as several 3rd party d20 publisher’s products. However, the contestants of the final event of the day (the “main event” as it is billed) will only be for the winners of the day’s earlier events.

Throughout the Games, Rus (see below) will preside over all of the major events. This will provide another clue to the strange goings on later.

-The “Web”
One event that should be use for this adventure is the “Web” an obstacle course that is one giant artificial spiderweb. It consists of a deep shaft sunk into the earth and a series of tunnels and antechambers below. Across the shafts lie a number of sticky threads that simulate webs. They in all respects are identical to permanent webs (as the spell of the same name), save that they are not flammable. The contest should be a three man team race to recover three objects hidden in the antechambers below. Fastest time wins the event. Ideally, PCs will compete in this event.

One of the underground antechambers has been “sealed off” with an illusory wall and is in actuality being prepared for use by the Hivemind for later in the day. PCs with a high enough spot might notice this if they compete.


Adventure Hooks

Obviously, if PCs can become involved in this adventure by simply being at the Great Games. Ideally, this will be because they are competing in them.


NPCs

The Hivemind
This collection of individuals are those that remain of Q’Rill’q’s thralls, and they all share the link. This link is limitless in range, as fast as thought, and completely involuntary. Its members are now of “one mind” and act as a perfect unit in all they do. However, this group disbanded when they reached the surface (in order to both find out about the world they just rejoined and find a way to end their link), and have not met face to face in years. During this time, the Hivers found that they had a gift for orderly thinking (and in fact their alignment as a whole shifted toward LN) and ended up in governmental positions as clerks and secretaries. And for a long while, they secretly influenced decisions in a dozen duchies and kingdoms.

They might have never come together again; however, two events have prompted them to meet face to face: one, the Hive has “lost” several members (both to death, which is particularly painful for the rest of the Hive, and to some other force that simply separated their members from the Hivemind), and two, one of the “separated” brethren (a Gnome named Maldur) has found a Hive member and called them all together to explain how they can free themselves from the link that binds them together. As such, they decided to meet at the Great Games, as one of their number (a Gnome named Rus) is an organizer of the Games.

The Hivemind includes persons of both genders, many races (mostly native to the surface) and all professions. Most of the Hivemind’s individuals are NPC classes (experts, commoners, warriors), but it also has a number of standard classed individuals: Crothian (Halfling Sor), Angcuru (Elven Ftr), Ao (Human Rog), Tallok (Dwarven Clr), and Dungannon (Human Wiz) are some of these. The exact makeup of the Hivemind is up to the DM, but the total ECL of the group should be 2 levels higher than that of the PCs (of course, because the Hivemind contains so many low level members, their actual numbers will be quite large – it is conceivable that the Hivemind could be 50 or 60 strong).

The Hivemind provides certain game effects: its spellcasting members can cast spells through one another in a manner identical to that of familiars, the every member of the hivemind uses the Will save of the member with the highest save, and all Knowledge based skills (and several INT and WIS based skills) are shared among the members.

”Morrisey”: Freed-thrall Troll (Sorc)
One of Q’Rill’q’s thrilled body guards, the troll known as “Morrisey” is not your standard troll. While, in his natural form, he is a bit of a runt (both smaller and weaker than an average troll), he is also quite smart and charismatic for a troll, and has no small skill as a natural spellcaster (Sorcerer levels). He is also quite mad, having been driven so by the bombardment of voices in his head.

“Morrisey” long ago forgot his original name; his master owned him body and soul (and in ways still does – see below). While still a thrall, he was a bodyguard to the mindflayer, and was sometimes used as a “suit” for the illithid (with the mindflayer basically possessing the troll in order to use its superior strength to kill and torture as he pleased). When Q’Rill’q died, Morrisey was as lost as all the other thralls: however the rest of what would eventually become the Hivemind shunned him, as they were most often the victims of the mindflayer while he “wore” the troll’s body.

Since reaching the surface, Morrisey has become something of a novelty - he has disguised himself as a tall, rangy human, using magic/psionic items to change his appearance (alter selfwands and the like), and has developed a name for himself as an adventurer of some skill, coming back from certain death that his companions succumb to. Unknown to those who think him heroic, he also earns his living as a particularly brutal assassin (something that PCs with the right sort of skills may know). During his “adventures”, he has discovered the value of subtlety and subterfuge, and has become a very clever troll: his preferred MO is now to befriend his target, buff himself with spells and magic items (if necessary), and attack while the target’s guard is down (or while already in a fight). The troll bears all the hallmarks of a sociopath.

Strangely enough, Morrisey – while he has never been able to completely shield himself from the barrage of thoughts he is subjected to on a daily basis from the Hivemind – has managed to turn them into “whispers” that do not adversely affect him. Likewise, the Hivemind is not truly connected to the troll, and cannot sense him the way they do their other members. However, if he comes in contact (within 20’) of four or more of the Hivemind’s members, this shielding will fail and he will be subjected to the full horror (for him) of the Hive.

Morrisey still remembers the faces of the thralls that make up the Hivemind, and has accepted his invitation to the Great Games because the messenger that delivered the summons was one of their number.

Morrisey should have a total ECL of 1 or 2 levels above the PCs.

Q’Rill’q: Disembodied Mindflayer
Q’Rill’q was an illithid who knew how to plan, and long before his death found a way to ensure his eventual rebirth. Upon his death, his mind passed into the network of minds he had created, binding them and creating what would eventually become the Hivemind: since then, he has been on an ongoing campaign to reassemble his former power and eventually reincorporate fully. For a time, he only existed in fleeting impulses, and was not able to manifest his persona in any meaningful way, but recently he has begun exercising his growing power, manifesting himself in the bodies of several of his thralls and controlling them like puppets. This caused havoc on his thralls’ bodies, consuming them utterly, and he abandoned this practice for a while. However, he has finally managed to “wear” one of the thralls – one that the others call Maldur.

Currently, Q’Rill’q has totally subsumed Maldur, and is using him to bring the other Hivers together. If he succeeds, he will reestablish his control over his thralls and eventually use their essence to fuel his rebirth.




Events on Game Day

The Hivemind

Individual members of the Hivemind will compete in the games in order to keep up appearances (in fact, any time an event requires teamwork, it is extremely likely that they will win hands down). However, most of the Hive’s members will serve in more menial ways. In any event, the Hive will see nearly everything that goes on Game Day, and if one of them sees it, they all will.

The Hive is planning on meeting the evening of Game Day, during the “main event”, in a secluded and guarded area set up as one of the event courses (the Web, above). In order to scare off intruders, once the meeting begins Dungannon will set a persistent image of a number of large spiders in the Web. If a fight in the Web occurs, he and Crothian will summon fiendish dire spiders to guard the shaft and tunnels while the Hive either retreats (through yet another illusory wall and into a passage that comes up in Rus’ encampment) or fights.

In this protected forum they will meet Maldur and discuss. Of course, unbeknownst to the Hive, they will also be ripe for the mindflayer that rides Maldur.


Morrisey

Morrisey, as a hero of repute, has been invited to the Great Games. He will compete in several of the smaller competitions, and will do well in everything he enters. He will win at least one competition, which will qualify him for the main event late in the day. Morrisey should end up competing against the PCs in at least one event if they compete at all - if this happens, then the troll will make every attempt to “befriend” the PCs, seeing them both as means to get more information about the organizers of the event and as possible targets later on. He will go as far as to offer to join their team if they’re a member short for a certain event (the Web is a perfect event for this). If he can, he will pump them for info about how they got their invites and who delivered them, who they’ve seen, etc. His overriding concern is to find more information about the Games.

In any event, Morrisey will discover both the time and the place of the Hive’s meeting, and will be on hand to break up the party minutes after it starts.



The Main Event
During the final event of the day (which begins at dusk and is full of fanfare – exactly what form the event takes is unimportant to the adventure save that it should draw the largest crowd of the day), Rus will be conspicuously absent, as will Morrisey. Inquiries will reveal that the latter was seen climbing down into the Web at the beginning of the main event.

If the PC’s do not interfere, then the Hivemind will meet, only to find that Maldur has been re-thralled by the old master. When this is revealed, Q’Rill’q qill attempt to assert his dominance on the freed thralls, only to find that while his power has grown it has not grown enough. He will manage to re-enslave many of the Hive, but not the most powerful among them (basically any Hive member with PC class levels). No later than two rounds after this happens, Morrisey will enter the antechamber and begin killing everything in site. In the end, it is likely that Q’Rill’q will simply decide to abandon the other thralls and “wear” Morrisey again, which will probably mean doom for the rest of the Hive.

If the PCs do interfere (getting by the Webs and the spiders, both illusory and summoned and encountering the ongoing melee), then much depends on a number of factors – if they arrive while Morrisey is still in human form but before Q’Rill’q has re-enthralled him, then he may attempt to get the PCs to fight alongside him, claiming that the others are possessed (which is true, but not in the way he claims). If he has reverted to his true form but has not yet been enthralled, then he will attack them, because they must not escape to tell the rest of the world what he is. If, however, the mindflayer has enthralled him, it will use all of his memories to cook up a suitable story for his form (for, while Morrisey is cunning and clever, Q’Rill’q is a super genius). In any case, once Morrisey comes the Hivemind will attempt to flee if possible, and fight if cornered.


Aftermath

While this adventure should be very quick to play through, the PCs should have their hands full dealing with any surviving NPCs. If for example, they fight against Morrisey and he escapes, they will have an enemy skilled in deception and murder. Even if fight alongside Morrisey, it is only a matter of time before he betrays them at a time when they trust him most. Survivors of the Hivemind, whether friend or foe by the end, could end up wielding a great deal of political power and using it for the PCs or against them. And if Q’Rill’q survives and manages to re-incorporate (his mind, if not his body), then they will have an illithid that walks freely on the surface world. Loose ends galore!



Quick Recap:


Protected Forum: the “Web” event locale and the location of the Hive’s meeting with Maldur
Clever Troll: Morrisey, a troll skilled in deception and betrayal
Sticky Thread: the false spiderwebs in the Web
Hivemind: former mindflayer thralls still linked telepathically
Game Day: The day of the Great Games, when all the action takes place
Ongoing Campaign: Q’Rill’q’s master plan to gather his thralls together and use them to allow his rebirth
 

Zappo

Explorer
nemmerle said:
Robotron?
Nope. All the titles in my entry are quotes from the infested humans in System Shock 2. Wonderful game.

And yeah, my entry is longish, but you are the last person who should point this out. :p :D
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Well. Enkhidu seems to feel he’s stumbled this time. Let’s see if I agree.

First off, I appreciate big E’s enthusiastic embrace of the ingredient theme. Puns and inside references abound, though I have to admit I didn’t get the title of his work until I had set it aside a while. For sheer fun and flavor, E’s entry did not disappoint.

But there are some overall very weak ingredient uses, here. I was disappointed to see the Sticky Thread relegated to the obvious use of a web, a use which is all the more disappointing because this event, central to the adventure if you are going to have relevant ingredient use, simply isn’t discussed in any detail. This use would have been stronger had E. given a bit more detail on this particular event.

In a similar fashion, the Game Day-as-Olympics also failed to surprise me. Still, it’s probably one of the more central ingredients to the adventure. Contrast with Zappo’s Game Day, a yearly “hunt” for “game”: it’s a more clever wordplay of the ingredient, but it’s hardly central to the adventure. It’s simply a plot device to pull the knights away from Danatr.

Both entrants used the Ongoing Campaign in roughly the same way, merely as a descriptor of background motivations. Coupled with big E.’s very interesting Hivemind, the ongoing campaign of Q’Rill’q is more interesting than Zappo’s Ongoing Campaign against the orcs. I disagree with Zappo that the ongoing campaign against the orcs is the adventure’s central premise—it’s not. Why? Because it’s not, up to this point, ongoing in any way measurable to the PCs. Granted, neither is E’s use of this ingredient. What Zappo has in his favor is the possibility of an Ongoing Campaign against his own Hivemind disease, and he makes note of this at the tail end of his entry.

Both entrants did a workmanlike job with the Clever Troll. I’m a bit disappointed that neither entrant used the unique properties of the troll that would make this ingredient indispensable as opposed to, say, a Clever Ogre. Regeneration, boys! Where’s the regeneration? It would have taken big E only a moment to figure out some way to tie Morrisey’s regeneration ability into his own unique experience with the Hivemind. Why’s he different? Well, every time Q’Rill’q rearranged his brain, it rearranged itself right back. Over and over. Who knows? All I know is, neither entrant even mentioned regeneration, which I think is a pretty big mistake.

Clearly, big E has the better use of an ingredient, here, as Morrisey comes complete as an NPC with his own desires and motives. He’s not here as simply a speed bump in the path of the PCs goals.

But let’s talk about that for a moment. What ARE the PCs goals in Enkhidu’s entry? Here we have the big flaw in E’s entry. Once again, it’s all background. It seems to me the entire adventure is crafted for one of his NPCs, Morrisey himself. Morrisey is the one with all the action, all the motivation. What are the PCs supposed to DO in this adventure? Get lucky as they wander through the Web and stumble across the Hivemind in their forum, just as Morrisey comes crashing in? The background and the events are constructed in such a way that, not only is it irrelevant whether the PCs get involved, it seems difficult for them to do so.

I am not a railroading DM. And I will argue for verisimilitude till the end of my days. But for all that it’s important to present a real, thriving world that moves along without the PCs, this is first and foremost a game. But the worst thing is a DM for whom the game is an ego trip, who views his own players as nothing more than an audience to the depth and cleverness of his game.

I’m not accusing Enkhidu of this. But, it is absolutely vital that the DM make an effort to involve the players. No matter how many times I read big E’s adventure, I couldn’t get the PCs to really fit in. They might discover the forum, they might interfere. In terms of action and spectacle—“What do the PCs DO?”—this entry was a big disappointment. I read big E’s entry and immediately felt that the match was Zappo’s to lose.

But there is so much that feels RIGHT about Zappo’s entry.

I love his Hivemind disease. (It’s language-dependent and mind-affecting, as Zappo should have mentioned for those of you who’d like a little more crunch with your fluff.)

There is something so very “The Thing” about this entry. And that’s a very good Thing.

Zappo’s Sticky Thread could have been made quite a bit better if he’d taken the time to really outline the course of the disease. The “Body Snatchers” aspect of the original indoctrination into the Hivemind is great; it’s a simple matter to take it a step further, forging in the gooey mutations and the sticky thread. As the disease progresses, and the mutations increase, the hivemind begins to build a gooey nest (a la Aliens—why not borrow from all the greats) and thus, the sticky threads.

I also have to mention the Protected Forum here. This ingredient use is head and shoulders above Enkhidu’s, because it is such a fantastic spectacle. The town, unsure what is going wrong, gather up into the town hall for a last defense. A Protected Forum. What makes this ingredient shine is the fact that, due to the way the disease spreads, the Forum places them in even more danger! They are going to get together and talk—and thus they’re doomed. I don’t know how the PCs will keep the townsfolk from talking—the most innocent frightened whisper can spread the disease—I just find it a nearly perfect, indispensable use of an ingredient. Just such an awesome spectacle as a silence falls over the town and every noise becomes sinister.

Ultimately, I agree with Enkhidu, and I’m sorry if his child’s sickness made this a hard round for him to complete. This was not his best entry, and there’s so much promise in Zappo’s entry that this is one of the easier decisions I have made in this tourney. Yes, there are some weak ingredients, on both sides, but nothing so weak in Zappo’s entry that I could, in good conscience, award this round otherwise. No spoiler tag really necessary here, but for the sake of those who like to skip to the end and just highlight the spoiler, here we go:

I award this round to
Zappo,
who will move on to face Nemmerle for the championship.

Gentlemen, please post your availability in the other thread.

Wulf
 
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