WotBS New Game Plus in the Fire Forest

I have mentioned elsewhere that my group needed me to fill in for a few weeks while our main campaign went on hiatus for the GM to plan his wedding. I filled that hiatus with a campaign I knew I could run with no prep: War of the Burning Sky.

I knew my group was in the mood for something light, though, so I made it clear I was not planning to go for 'serious epic fantasy'. Plus, one of my players had actually been in the original campaign that inspired me to write WotBS (he played Guthwulf). So I said it was cool for them to make weird characters, so long as they had a reason to oppose the Ragesians.

That is how we got:

Amardil - An elf genie-pact warlock whose day job is toll collector for the gates and bridges of Gate Pass. Less a hero than a walking Excel spreadsheet whose main role in the party is tracking all the supplies and writing down all the clues they get.

Slick - A plasmoid (ooze race) wild magic barbarian who awoke under the city, Swamp Thing-style, from a mix of strange magics poured into the sewers by the wizards of Gabal's academy. He works as a rat-catcher for the Mausers guild.

Elias - An assassin rogue who treats the whole "war that is endangering thousands of lives" as a sort of playground where he can try to one-up his kid brother, Guthwulf. If Guthwulf is working for the Ragesians, Elias figures he needs to defeat the Empire. No big deal, though. He's sly, charming, and manipulative, but puts on the face of a brave hero.

Potamus - sigh A giff (space hippo) oath of conquest paladin, who was on a mission for his dark master Palpatine to investigate a disturbance in the Force, but when he approached the planet that was his destination, hyperspace was full of fire, which caused him to crash. He ejected, but discovered that local Jawas (gnomes) had already scavenged his ship and sold it to the Ragesians. Potamus followed a call in the Force and found himself in Gate Pass on the eve of invasion. He decided he would crush this impostor Empire for the glory of the true Empire. Potamus wields a musket and a greatsword.

(Did you know that Giff has a racial ability so their attacks deal bonus Force damage? Yes, he is a Sith Giff. Hyuk hyuk hyuk!)

---

A bunch of silliness has occurred, but last night's climax to adventure 2 felt like a pretty unique outcome for the Fire Forest.

The party is broadly disinterested in being good guys. Like, they found the agonized Durval near the entrance to the forest, and Potamus made a reference to how for some people, being burned alive is just he start of their career. They gave the guy a helmet they'd looted from a Ragesian knight in Gate Pass, and told him that they would end his suffering if he would fight by their side. (Which in practice meant walking in front, getting killed first, and then reanimating after combat ended.)

Kazyk proposed they work together to snub his summoner, and when Elias learned that his kid brother had summoned the bearded devil, he was super on board with the idea.

And when they met Tiljann and she told them they might save her people, that didn't appeal to them. But she does say that there's a way to deal with Indomitability that could cause the forest fire to end -- which would then get Kazyk to leave them alone, and let them escape. The party is on board with that.

But they're in a rush, and kinda shooting from the hip.

So when they reach the Seela village, they tell Tiljann to just bring the two leaders out so they can get all the talking over at once. Papuvin and Vuhl walk up, and make the case alternately for "we have to stay here and keep this monster trapped, even if it means our endless torment" and "we need to end the song and let the monster go, even if it means we die."

Elias counters with, "Nah, we're going to let the monster go, and you will all live. We found this shrine upstream to a lady with a magic sword, and we read the museum exhibits, and we're pretty sure we just need to have one of us bond with the sword, and then we can let the monster go. It'll leave, the fire will go out, but the sword will keep you all alive."

Papuvin warns that that's reckless. Even if they can bond with the sword, which he's not sure they can, when Indomitability gets free it will surely want revenge and will kill them all anyway.

Elias says, "Nah, don't worry. We're heroes. We'll talk to the angry fire elk thing and make it leave. Honestly it's kind of embarrassing none of you tried this before."

Papuvin explains that they have tried it, but none of them could bond with the Living Blade. He warns them to be patient.

The party makes some Insight checks, and Potamus realizes that Papuvin thinks the PCs are going to get them all killed, so he's sizing them up, wondering if his warriors can beat them in a fight. So Potamus's player says he 'gives Elias a nod.' Elias, who is on the same wavelength as Potamus, immediately attacks Papuvin, critically sneak attacks with a poisoned rapier, then wins initiative, and critically sneak attacks again. Papuvin falls to the ground clutching his gashed open windpipe, then falls limp.

Potamus levels his musket at the crowd of shocked Seela and tells Vuhl to get the situation under control.

Vuhl (aka Deception, who is thrilled by this turn of events) explains to his people that these outsiders had learned of a way to free them but Papuvin was going to refuse and keep them trapped. They should all give the outsiders a chance, and within a day-

Potamus interrupts, "No, right now."

-and within a few minutes, all of the Seela will be safe.

The crowd being sufficiently cowed, Potamus looks at the lake and says he'll go in there, because, y'know, hippo. He's got a swim speed. Amardil goes along as backup, and they make short work of the merrow.

And then it comes time to try to get the Living Blade.

Now, as written in the adventure, you need to first get Timbre's approval in order to bond with the sword, and to get her approval you likely need to go to the hag Gwenvere and get the relic of Anyariel's hair, and then persuade Timbre that you'll save the forest. I figured it would be a, well, darkly amusing ending to the campaign if the PCs who have basically been doing a renegade run like in Mass Effect finally realized that their lack of heroism was a mistake. They rushed instead of investigating, killed instead of talked, and now it would be their undoing.

I intended for Indomitability to break free, and for them to watch as all the Seelae died because they could not bond with the forest to keep them alive. They might survive, but it would be a downer.

Buuuuuut, well, I've been yes-and'ing this whole game so far, and I like letting wild PC ideas work.

So when Potamus said, "I'm going to take my greatsword, and I'm going to simultaneously pull out the sword in the elk, and put mine back in so it says pinned" (cue all of us making Raiders of the Lost Ark jokes), I figured, what the hell, I'll give him a shot. Strength check to pull out the sword, attack roll to try to pin Indomitability before he can get free. And hey, Giff get advantage on Strength checks. And oath of conquest paladins can channel divinity to get a +10 bonus to a single attack. So . . . yeah, he pulls it off.

What does this mean? Well, without the sword in him, Indomitability is no longer connected to the forest, so the fires are burning out of control and will soon kill all the trees, which will kill the Seelae. He's still trapped for now, but when the Seelae die, the song of forms will end, and he'll be free . . . and will be pissed at the PCs. If Potamus had actually put in the time to understand the parameters of the magic at work, it should have been clear his plan was a bad idea. I decide to clarify how he has f***ed up.

He's deep underwater, in a murky, almost cave-like environment. And so in that 'cave,' he has a Force vision.

He sees Timbre in her glade, agonized and furious that an unworthy intruder has stolen the blade of the woman she loved and has doomed her and her forest.

But Potamus gives her the Dark Side pitch. Give in to your anger, embrace your pain. Let your hate flow through you . . . and into me. All the suffering you have endured, I shall deliver it back upon the world. I shall find the ones who set you ablaze and burn them in retribution.

And maaaan, with a pitch like that, I had to let it work.

Potamus emerges from the lake, flaming sword held over his head, but no Indomitability running loose (which meant there was not enough mayhem to disrupt the song, which meant Deception did not feel safe provoking a fight). Around them, the forest fire sputtered and died, leaving the burning Living Blade the only source of light in a vast darkness.

And so we ended with the Dark Side triumphant, Indomitability trapped eternally, with a contingent of Seelae staying to sing his imprisonment while others agreed to join Potamus on his crusade to destroy the Ragesians.
 

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