Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Monster Dispatches Me With A Sense Of Reverence...Into The Realm Of Anti Life

Cosmic Odyssey
July 1988
Mike Hellboy Mignola
Jim I drew this so I am exempt from all mortal criticism Starlin
Steve Colorists Don't Get Nearly Enough Credit The Color Here Is Off The Hook Oliff
Carlos Neither Do Inkers, Especially The Ones Who Don't Get In The Way Garzon

Such a good comic. Yeah Batman uses a gun and suddenly Daily Show Green Lantern is an idiot but, really, fuck you continuity nerd, this comic is more readable than Watchmen, Maus and Fables put together.

But, more to the point here, so eminently rip-offable for your D&D game.

Chapter One

Ok so a horde of servants of Apokolips  goblins or gnolls or Lannisters or beastmen or whatever attack Gotham City some place right outside wherever the PCs are sleeping. Upshot: they represent some larger political entity of generally and broadly bellicose intent.

Their objective: set up an interdimensional portal to Apokolips  sabotage the security situation in the city/castle/country--like they're tryna destroy a wall or gatehouse or tower or whatever like as if you're Troy and they just rolled up in their horse.

Superman and some guy named Lightray from Jack Kirby's rainy-day drawer Your PCs hopefully knock some heads and send the baddies packing.

Here's the rub: (probably) unbeknownst to the PCs one d4 of the invaders escapes the wrong way--into the city/castle/country instead of out. If you can't pull this off, a later Chapter might have just gotten easier.

Chapter Two
Days, weeks, months later people start noticing citizens disappearing. If the PCs won't care you could make them citizens who were carrying lots of stuff disappearing. This is the work of the d4 escaped villains, who have been skulking around and mugging the locals ever since the failed invasion.

Fuck these jerks, right? So either Batman the PCs track them down to their lair in the sewers (or whatever it is) or you go all Hunter/Hunted and a lone PC is the next kidnapping victim.

If the attempted-PC-kidnapping happens: 1) Don't say they weren't warned and 2)There's no guarantee that the PCs will find the monster lair, but that's not a big deal.

Important things about the lair:
-it's not that hard to find
-it's mazy
-the baddies have left one of their distinctive weapons lying around
-unless the PCs make sure otherwise for some reason, when it's all over, one of the foes' corpses will be unaccounted for. As if it just up and took off after it had been deaded.

So far, so easy. You could even ignore Chapters 1 and 2 and build the following chapters on top of stuff that's already happened in your campaign anyway.

Chapter Three

George Bush Sr Your setting's local potentate gets Superman to round up the heroes offers the party a lot of money to aid in the special world-saving thing that's going on.

To wit:

Darkseid Your awesome Archvillain that you stay up nights thinking about how Frazetta would draw rolls up. The same one responsible for the invaders in Chapter One. There's a menace bigger than us all coming on and the Archvillain or Archvillainess needs your help, you brave level 5+ PCs.

And this Menace is...

The Anti Life Equation has been discovered. Or the Formula of Invoked Devastation. Or the Hand of Vecna. Or the Alabaster Chalice of Deathfrost Mountain. Or something. Archvillain tells the tale: coveted it for ages has s/he and then s/he found it and....FUCK
--it's totally fucked beyond imagining.

Actually, the formula/artifact/object/relic is sentient and malevolent and far more badass than the Archvillain.

Now, just after looking into this abyss which then looked back, the Archvillain managed to put the horrible hellthing back to sleep but not before it managed to send four horrible demonic avatars of itself out into the unsuspecting universe setting.

Using crazy Kirbytech magic and/or spies, the Archvillain's tracked these avatars. They are bent on global annihilation. Or maybe just local annihilation. Basically: annihilation of parcels of geography the players would prefer to not see annihilated. In addition to just generally annihilating, if any two of them succeed, the Equation/Formula/Artifact/Whatever will sense the great torsional shift in the relationship between our reality and The Larger One Beyond In Which It Is Embedded As The Jelly Within The Donut and be permanently awoken and then war and death and doom will reign from the heavens and various other problems with stats.

So the Archvillain lays out the crisisbox and what is thus far known:

One demon avatar is in the players' backyard somewhere. Hidden in the homebase.

One is in the realm of an aggressive and warlike people.

One is in a highly sophisticated and civilized land.

One is in a realm of which there's some cannibals but they aren't so bad, really.


Now in the original comic these are planets, but in your game the locations can be anything you want: cities, buildings, dungeons, mountains, sailing ships, even just 4 levels of the same big dungeon. Whatever.

If you want, this is a great place to plug in four existing modules to make a sort of Voltron campaign. The four locations are fairly modular and changing them won't fuck with the program much, they just need to be:

A. Near enough to civilization that a portal to evilness there would actually matter


B. Places that can be plausibly got through within the time limit I'm about to tell you about in the next section...

Chapters Four, Five and Six
Basically, barring unforeseen circumstances, the party will address three of these four situations, then the Archvillain will act like a jerk, then if they deal with that, they can go on to handle the fourth situation.

So the next three chapters are probably going to be spent addressing the situations in three of these four locales.

All of them have one thing in common: a demon sneaking around securing ritual materials necessary to open a portal to necrodimensional space in some findable locale.  Once the portal opens everything is fucked and demons pour forth and lay waste to the vicinity, stone turns to meat, children to wild pigs, livestock to lechers, it's all bad news. This ritual will take (let's be nice) a month to finish. Though the demon does not have to be paying attention to it the whole time--like the amber python of the skyjungle eats the white peach over the course of a month and then the realities align. The PCs won't know this right off, though: it's an ASAP situation.

The actual materials for the ritual can be whatever--just make them relatively exotic, a jade thingy worth more than whatever, a man who has lived since the last war, a wheel that has never touched the ground, etc. All the portals in all the locations should use the same basic ingredients, more or less, so after the party "solves" the first location, they know what to look for thereafter.

While the portals are basically similar, the avatar demons use different tactics to defend and conceal their portals..

1-The homebase demon is a demon of shadow and has possessed the body of one of the escaped invaders from Chapter Two. The demon's made the host tougher and more spooky and is using it to sneakily acquire the needed materials. This will be mostly an investigation-type adventure until the creature and its partially-built ritual portal is actually discovered in Moosejaw Arizona tucked away in whatever corner of the PC's home base you want it to be, in which case you probably can take it from there.

2-The aggressive and warlike people place. Remember this adventure structure can be adapted to any scale, so it could be a nation of Always Chaotic Evil goatmen or a city that will be obviously hostile to the PCs, it could be a regular dungeon or just that house over there full of jerks. The key here is the demon is a demon of war and has made the locals even nastier and more xenophobic.

Like, for example if location #2 was the Caves of Chaos from the Keep on the Borderlands module then as soon as the PCs saw the first kobold, the alarums of invasion would sound throughout the caves and every single motherfucker from ogre to owlbear would rush out to find and exterminate the party.

Note that if the party plays its cards right, this effect can make the location easier to handle. And, somewhere behind all these Klingified defenders, there's the demon and portal. The demon itself is using the body of a large and powerful robot golem.

3-The highly sophisticated place has been infiltrated by a demon of madness. So everybody here is nuts and beating on everyone else. This could be really fun if you're using a module--like reimagine Vault of the Drow or Ptolus in the context of a baffling war of all against all--or just take a regular location like some castle and everyone is suddenly murderously batshit.

The demon itself is possessing the body of an eerily fast Aquafresh-colored petroleum-based ooze capable of hurling heavy objects with stone-giant strength.

4-The demon in the cannibal place has totally ignored the storytelling possibilities of both adopting a wacky new morphology and messing with a cannibalistic species (or would that be anthrovorous since they eat you not themselves?) and just gone and taken a regular human form and done its own thing.

Now just because it (and Jim Starlin) did doesn't mean you have to. By all means, make someone try to eat your PCs, that kind of behavior is fully sanctioned in the storytelling medium in which we thanklessly toil. Anyway...

The demon here in location 4 is a demon of tribulation and has:

-infected the locals with a deadly airborne pathogen so they're all pretty pathetic, as cannibals go
-taken control of the local weather and geology (lightning bolts form the sky and lava jets from the ground), and
-is smart enough to have been in communication with the other demons and has painted the anti-life bomb yellow taken steps to protect its lair against any specific tactics the players have used in any of the place. In other words, this one's smarter.

Chapter Seven
As the clock begins to tick down but before the last of the four locations (in whatever order the PCs choose) is investigated the Archivillain will attempt to enact the following scheme: s/he will secretly contact Etrigan the most mystically-attuned and/or selfish PC and try to recruit them by offering that PC something of great value.

Recruit them for what? To help perform a summoning and binding ritual on the AntiLifeMcGuffin so it does what the Archvilain commands. The argument will be "Look, guys, it's taking longer to track down these demonic avatars than we thought, right? And it's a desperate situation and all and it's probably better for everyone if, in addition to y'all doing your thing, I try to enslave this enigmatic and gigapotent primordial intellect to my will, am I right or am I right?"

If the PC resists, the Archvillain will probably just do it anyway without their help. If the PC helps, hey moral dilemma fun.

So either way the offer serves its purpose: The metagoal here is to split the PCs and put them on a time crunch where some of them have to find the last portal and some of them have to stop the Archvillain from leveling up from power-hungry to power-crazed.

The Archvillain's summon-and-bind ritual is horrible because this: if s/he does it right, then, well, megapowered bad guy. If s/he does it wrong: the Implacable Thing is unleashed in full and inimical glory on this virgin world.

So it's kinda a lose-lose. The only chance is to:

-stop the summoning before it happens (though the villain should have it all set up in advance so it doesn't take too long--unless the PCs have been vigilant and pre-sabotaged it, it's like a 30 minute ritual),

-enact a banishment ritual (right in front of the Thing) after the summoning but before the binding (banishment formula easily found in any decent eldritch library once the Archvillain's plan is known)

-bind it to a PC instead of to the Archvillain (ohhhhhh, so dangerous)

-or beat the Thing up.

...and, remember, meanwhile one of the demons is still trying to open a portal to fucked elsewhere at the same time give or take.

So there you go. Have fun with that.
(Actually it's probably more like...
except you'd have an hourglass or the moon slowly coming out from behind the clouds but seriously there's a limit to how much google image searching I'm gonna do in a day, ok.)


Anonymous said...

Gotta pull out CO again. I've read it so many times, love the pacing.

This is great D&D adventure fodder. I might look into using CO as an overlay to the "Rod of Seven Parts" boxed set adventure.

Thank you!

Peter C. said...

Eating humans is anthropophagy.

Zak, you are a brilliant creative genius.