Modifying Speaker in Dreams to improve cohesion

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Hi, folks! In this thread, someone is talking about how much work it takes to introduce roleplaying in the Speaker In Dreams adventure.

I agree, and figured I'd post my modifications to thie adventure in this thread.

First, it's important to figure out how the different groups in town relate to one another: the adventure's setup is pretty random. Here's the timeline I came up with:

-February (or whatever month you want): the Blessed, a sane power-hungry sorceress, discovers a ritual that gates in a demon of knowledge. She's unable to understand the ritual, however. She owns a bookstore and uses its resources to study the symbolism in the ritual. She also leads a secretive group of knowledge-seekers.
-Later February: she figures out that the ritual requires candles made from the fat of a lunatic.
-March: one of her followers succeeds in kidnapping a caravan guard, and they lock him in a closet. They torture him daily and fill the closet with slow-burning opium, to keep him in a constant hallucinatory, nightmarish stage.
-April: the man has gone so crazy that his hallucinations are starting to take on independent form. Figuring he's ready, the cultists kill him, render his fat, and make the candles.
-Later May: the Blessed performs the ritual, but it goes horribly wrong. The "knowledge demon" it summons is actually an illithid. (IMC, illithids are outsiders).
-The illithid kills a couple cultists and drives the others insane.
-WIth the illithid's help, the cultists summon several grimlocks (also outsiders) to act as shock troops. They set up shop in the southwest corner of town and begin gathering treasure to use to hire other mercenaries.
-June: the wererat gang who's headed up most of the crime in the city starts getting in more and more fights with the grimlocks.
-The grimlocks send a message to demonworshippers in a nearby town, offering great reward if they'll help take over the Speaker in Dreams town (I called it Manalapan, and forget its real name).
-The cultists, with the illithid's help, convey a rumor to the wererats that a certain merchant will be bringing something highly valuable to the grimlocks during the festival.
-During the festival, the wererats attack the merchant, keeping their human form. However, a disguised grimlock douses them with a potion that forces them into their hybrid shape. This is the scene that the PCs stumble onto.
-Meanwhile, of course, the illithid is taking over the Baron's keep.

Next: the illithid's plan

(lemme know if this is useful; I can also post the Blessed's journal, flyers written up by the evil priests, and similar aids from my game)

Daniel
 

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Clint

Journeyman Linguist
Hi Pielorinho.

Thanks for posting your modification notes. Very interesting setup. I tell similar stories in my campaign, where the PCs walk into a situation that is already developing. It's nice to hear another DM describe similar ideas. :)

I'm looking at mining Speaker in Dreams for ideas, so any other advice that you have would be really fantastic.

Thanks!
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Great to see someone's reading it, Clint, and thanks for the compliments!

Okay, here's the illithid's plan:

-It was summoned to this world by a bunch of sorcerers who got in way over their heads. The illithid comes from a world in which memories are raw power; by eating brains, it can absorb the memories of its victims. Sad thing is, in the illithid's home dimension, intelligent beings are terribly rare (other than illithids), and so new brains are very valuable.

And suddenly, it's been summoned into a city of thousands of fresh victims. Yum!

The illithid's ultimate goal is to transport the entire population of the town back to its home dimension. In order to do that, it's sent out a call to yet other cultists, via the Blessed's contacts.

These other cultists -- comprising all the evil clerics and rogues who show up in the second part of the adventure -- have the knowhow, but not the resources, to open a gate between dimensions They plan to doublecross the illithid, by opening a gate to their own evil god's dimension; however, the illithid is aware of their doublecrossing plans, and is able to subert any gate that gets made.

At any rate, here's the illithid's plan:

-Cause a ruckus at the festival, during which he sneaks into the Baron's manor and takes over the baron.
-Have the evil clerics take over the temple of Pelor in town, pretending to be Pelor clerics themselves (IIRC, the Pelor temple is the one with the gate in it -- whichever one has the hellmouth is the one they take over). To this end, I made the evil clerics have the trickery domain.
-Have bad stuff start happening in town.
-Have the charmed baron declare martial law.
-Open the dimensional gate in the Pelor temple.
-Once everything starts getting REALLY bad, have the evil clerics, pretending to be the now-outlawed clerics of Pelor, put up flyers around town announcing that the Temple of Pelor was becoming a headquarters of resistance against the scary Baron.
-Have one of the demons cloak the hellmouth with a major image.
-Construct surreptitious means to bar all doors to the temple from the outside.
-Announce a time for all the townspeople to come to the Temple to discuss these plans.
-When everyone comes to the temple, bar the doors (preventing escape) and herd the townspeople, using the barghest's fear effects, suggestions, and similar magics, through the portal and into the illithid's home dimension. Buffet for the illithids, coming right up!

Next: the Blessed's Journal (assuming i can find my copy of it)
Daniel
 

gariig

First Post
Interesting, but how did your PCs stop the Illithid, or did they get a whole bunch of snacks?? HAve a few thousand towns people in that temple would make for some very squished stomping grounds for battle, but much more interesting then how the module is written

Gariig
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Gariig, the illithid didn't get to complete the plan. The PCs discovered that the priest of Pelor was a fake, and they attacked him (and the osyluth, who I changed into a weird lemurlike demon) at the temple before the gate had been disguised. They discovered the flyers in the priest's study, freshly penned, and started to put two and two together.

In the end, the illithid attacked the PCs at another local temple (where the PCs had been taking in and caring for dozens of refugees from the violence overtaking the city). He barely managed to escape, thanks to plane shift, and the PCs don't know where he is now. He's totally done with underestimating humans, though: even with a dozen charmed city guards and four trained rogues and an ogre mage and a barghest attacking, his group managed to lose the battle.

(and I, as a DM, am incidentally done with underestimating my players. I hope.)
Daniel
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Here's the Blessed's Journal from my game. If you want to use this as a prop, change the initials for months into something appropriate for your gameworld. At the five asterisks, change the font from something that looks like normal, neat handwriting to something that looks like crazy, insane handwriting (I used two fonts I found online, one called marathon and one called Bastarda).

I used the "Black River" metaphor throughout the adventure to refer to opening a gate to the illithid's home plane. Whenever crazy cultists talked, they referred to the black river; when the illithid sent them scary, suggestion-laced dreams, the black river figured into every one.

M 8
A long day, but w fruit borne. Solved a part of the mystery. “Light of Pearly Moon” not literal, not F moon as thought. Al-Majahin in Essays on Salt and Quicksilver creates candles from “Pearl of Calf,” translated “vealfat.” Pearly moon=what? Owlfat? Fat from albino? Fat infused w quicksilver?

L still insistent on shop act. No understanding of True Art. Spoke at length – no effect.

Kabukeran merchant, Episetsi, sold ibn-Kathur’s volume III of Uses of Vegetation. Will seek vols II, IV-VII, IX-XII. Complete set invaluable. Purchased al-Teki’s On Wisdom for 350 D – did I miss wis in book?

Will research moon tomorrow.

M12
Moon is madman. Simple! Where to find? Perhaps not difficult to create.

M20
Br, al-B, F opposed to creation of madman. They lack vision! no movement, no risk, meet failure! Well then: solitary work suits me.

L again works shop. Drives off customers, but I accept: dilettantes unwelcome, and others unbothered. Disgusting habits sometimes useful.

Ibn-Rashif’s Placement of Stars sighted in Manzikert bookstore, acc. to Faredes. Order? Possibly worthwhile.

M27
L is perfect, the consummate helper. Still no understanding, but enjoys work. New moon held in closet, fed quicksilver and Fly Agaric with poppysmoke. L crouches outside door and speaks. Scares me sometime! How long till moon is full?

I suspect L enters closet, performs disgusting acts on Moon. Hastens process, I know, but still, unnerving.

Reds outside house this afternoon. Do they know? Of course not. Still, will have all windows shuttered tomorrow; no sense in giving them insight.

M29
Strange shadows in closet. Smoke moves of own accord. Visions? Effect of poppies? I believe the moon is awakening – his nightmares move beyond his head now, so that others see them. Space near closet cold; even when he sleeps, voices mutter. More than one.

A11
Shorter than I believed. Yesterday butchered, rendered moon. L nearly lost life removing moon from closet: the cloud therein has faces in it. Recognized myself in faces. Pearly moon indeed!

Candle manufacture next. Other ingredients simple, except widow’s bonnet. Will S provide? She knows nothing.

al-B sick, not at study last week. I will visit his house soon. No one can leave at this stage.

A28
Night approaches. All profess readiness. Circle scribed with Exile’s Welcome, candles placed. Moon’s head prepared for habitation. Tomorrow we light candles, call out to Servant. What mysteries we will learn! None for five hundred years have canlled such a servant. All questions answered! L will understand even.

al-B returns, reluctantly. He will be docile.

* * *

O the mystery is opened and the river flows o dear heart how we have learned more than we even hoped to learn, those of us which live still, though al-B died she lives on, preserved as the Moon was preserved! More writhes in that river than we guessed; call on a minnow and receive a leviathan and I have opened myself to the Master and He speaks to me, directing me O dear heart dear heart dear heart dear heart it is Love it is Change and All will be ready! He instructs me as I sleep, showing me all that I feared, bringing to me the cool chill of darkness with secrets beyond my ken and though we nearly drowned before the flood subsided still we survived and we shall live to see the world change He tells me and I am His chosen He tells me and calls me dear heart as my father called me and I am His



Tonight we opened the circle again as He guides us though not there He is always there and as opened He called forth and called forth upon seven times and seven great servants arose from the Exile’s breath and we gave them as instructed the cloaks full of rainbows to remind them of change though gray as fog they donned the cloaks and spoke no words and Ahriman assures me they are not to replace us but can go places we cannot go and can perform tasks we cannot perform but still I am His dear heart I am the Blessed one who shall see this parched dry earth be restored by the soothing rushing flood! All will open themselves before Him, and I will be His tool, His maiden!

During the fair He says He laughs at the fair at the sadness of those who brighten their dull earth but see it gray again as the cloaks of the Ahihudi are grayed and discarded by close presence to such Holiness – during the fair We shall move against the dead rats who fight against the Holy Servants rats who stand like saplings before fire in the path of the oncoming Flood rats who do not know what they do – but we shall use them, we shall show them to the dead guards of this town and in the Confusion He who Speaks in Dreams will move, and soon soon soon soon soon all Manalapan will be His and all souls will be bent toward breaking the dam which holds back the Flood! I am His I am His maiden I am the mouth through which He speaks in my dreams He moves and through me He directs His servants and I am His dear heart dear heart dear heart


*****************************************

Next: the illithid's nightmares!
Daniel
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Okay, this is a bit of a rules-stretch, but I think it's a reasonable one:

-Detect Thoughts requires no line of effect.
-Telepathy requires no line of effect.
-Therefore, Suggestions can be implanted without a line of effect by a creature using Telepathy.
-Also, a creature may shape a victim's dreams by using a combination of telepathy and suggestion, and may implant suggestions in dreaming victims.

In part II of the adventure, the illithid is supposed to mess with the PCs' heads by sending them weird nonsensical, "the gate will open! Bing bong bing!" dreams. This struck me as a waste of perfectly good firepower. Instead, the illithid sent each PC a dream with the implanted suggestion of "leave town now!"

Each dream had the same basic format:
-The PC was in a peaceful location -- her temple, a field of flowers, her home.
-Someone who was both beloved by the PC, and dead, was there -- an old mentor, a killed fellow adventurer, a spouse.
-The beloved person struck up a conversation with the PC, talking about how peaceful everything was. They gradually turned the conversation into a warning: "But you must go!" they'd say. "You must go, before the river overflows its banks! The Black River will soon come, and it will feed this dry dry earth, and all will drown before its flooding water! If you do not open yourself to the Black River, you will be crushed! Leave now, before you are destroyed!" etc. Implanted in this warning is a suggestion: leave town!
-The PCs got to make Will saves. If they succeeded, then the beloved figure would snarl at them, leap at them as their features dissolved; the landscape would start to melt away, and they might catch a glimpse of something terrible and roiling with sticky wet tentacles before they woke up. If they failed in their saves, then the warning seemed very valid, and they'd wake up with a very strong desire to leave town.

sadly, only one of my PCs made their will save, and the others managed to detain him until they could cast Dispel Magic on him to remove the suggestion. The next night, the illithid perched on a roof across the way and started casting random suggestions into the house: "Come out and investigate -- but don't tell anyone what you're doing!" and so forth.

It wasn't very effective, but it creeped the PCs out.

Daniel
 

StalkingBlue

First Post
Wonderful!

I keep going back to the module thinking 'I want to run this one ...', then I read through it again and realise how much work I'd have to put into it to develop its potential ... and now this. :cool:

I fully intend to steal your ideas.
Your work will free me up to change the sorcerers into wizards (something I've wanted to do since I first saw the cabal thing - yeah, more work for me, again). The Blessed's ritual will most likely open not a gate to another plane, but simply a portal to a remote part of the Underdark the illithid is just trying to escape. The illithid, who had been trying to make a portal for himself, will befuddle the cabal members' minds quickly enough to keep them from realising exactly what they've done - enter Pielorinho's "travelling mass buffet" plan. Wonderful.

Gimme more! :)
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
Glad you like it, StalkingBlue!

I'll talk a bit here about the changes in appearance that I made to the monsters in the adventure. Note that I run a world with a Byzantium-meets-Cthulhu flavor, so the monsters that don't wave tentacles are modified to look like something from the Middle- or Near East.

Grimlocks: I gave these some other, exotic sounding name, and made them look like they were made of smooth dull gray stone. They love bright colors, and had stolen several multicolored robes for themselves before the PCs arrived in town, and would choose terror victims based on the victims' bright colors -- thus, a costumed bellydancer and a fruitseller were among the victims. (This business never really came up as more than windowdressing in the adventure, but had the PCs pursued it, they might have used the robes as a clue to track the grimlocks down).

When a grimlock killed a victim, it would bend down and kiss the victim on the lips. The victim would begin to turn gray; within a day, their body would be completely colorless. At the same time, they'd begin to lose definition, almost as if their body were made of wax and were beginning to soften. WIthin two days, their body would evaporate away.

Again, this was windowdressing, but it creeped my players out.

Wererats: I left these pretty much as described, with one small change: PCs infected by wererats would, under the next full moon, transform different from normal. Instead of changing shape, a rat would crawl from their mouth and go do wereratly type stuff. It would return at dawn. While the rat was outside of the PC, the PC would be in a comatose slumber, impossible to awaken.

Big Nasty Summoned Worms: Left as described. Yay Cthulhu crawlies!

Other summoned creatures: The Blessed is just begging to be an Alienist, a PrC from Tome & Blood. Let her summon terrifying multilegged leeches with dire weasel stats, or gruesome shambling monstrosities with bear stats.

Gibbering Mouther: I forget whether I've described this above. The Gibbering Mouther was the coalesced nightmares of the lunatic in the closet. Viewing it caused a severe distortion of spatial/temporal perception, leading to the confusion effect. It appeared to be a void filled with stars, spinning, and with planet-sized heads. The heads would be impossibly distant at one moment, and then the next moment they would veer close and bite onto an opponent with sharpened teeth; had too many of the heads grabbed on at once, it would have pulled the PC swirling into the galaxy's depths. Occasionally, a comet would flash by, its light blinding the PCs.

It had all of a mouther's abilities, but looked kinda different.

(Incidentally, remember the victim that the town guard had found outside the bookshop, the one covered in tiny bite marks? Totally stupid, and I threw it out as a clue: the town guard would have to be cretins to find this body and not be suspicious as all get-out)

Gibbering Mouther in Basement: One too many gibbering mouthers. I replaced it with three vargouilles, only I made them the severed heads of previous cult victims, animated by some demon-spirit; rather than looking like bats-with-big-heads, I had them look just like flying severed heads trailing long hair.

Ogre Mage, Osyluth, Barghest: All of them were monkeydemons, come from some country to the East to help open the gate. A knowledge: Arcana check (I think) told the PCs that monkeydemons were famously magical, tricky, and difficult to wound with normal weapons.

Ogre Mage: a gorilla-demon, only he looked more like your typical Indian Angry Djinn: colorful, wide, with big fangs. Find a book of Asian-Indian mythological art for an idea of what I'm talking about. If the PCs are having too easy a time of it, remember that ogre mages can cast invisibility on their allies at will.

Barghests: I made these look like golden spider monkeys; in human form, they were beautiful men wearing expensive, flamboyant clothes. They preferred to use their emotion powers not on the PCs, but rather on the town populace; in one scene, they convinced a temple full of refugees to attack the PCs in maddened rage. Sadly, the PCs figured out what was happening and fought with subdual damage only; the barghest's plan to force the PCs to murder townsfolk and thereby alienate them from their allies fell through.

Osyluth: To understand this, you need to find a Web site about Aye-Ayes, a terrifying lemur with huge eyes and a vicious middle-finger. A couple of my players enjoy a delicious horrified obsession with aye-ayes, and so I made the Osyluth an Aye-Aye demon. It was extremely tall and thin, with huge yellow eyes suggestive of the full moon, and always wore a long robe that concealed its hands. The middle digit on each finger was much longer than the others and carried the poison that normally appears on an osyluth's tail. I replaced the Wall of Ice power with a Hold Monster power.

Finally,

Fiendish Velociraptor: I made it an alienist's velociraptor (I can't remember what that template is called) instead of fiendish, brilliant blue covered in irregular yellow spots. When it monstered out, thousands of little yellow lizards crawled out of the spots and covered its skin, jumping onto PCs and scurrying around over them.

I think that's all the monsters they encountered -- I cut some of the monsters out because we were getting tired with the adventure and wanted to wrap things up.

Next, if folks want: changes to locations! (These were pretty minor, all told)

Daniel
 


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