From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 4: Funky Sensation

Well, we finally had some time to take it easy. One of the first things I did, after a very long post-White-Plume sleep, was take Toledo shopping for a magic halberd and to fix her feet. While we were out and about, she asked me to refrain from shapechanging her again, as she did not like being something that wasn’t her. I told her I understand.

We managed to find a halberd +1 at Gax the polearm seller’s shop (he has every polearm imaginable!) and with Ceryi’s help we were able to find more special items that we were keen to purchase. For Toledo’s feet, we found some boots of springing and striding, which while not a perfect solution, at least helped her walk as fast as she used to. We also grabbed some bags of holding, winged boots and brooms of flying, cloaks of protection, a headband of intellect, a rope of climbing, a decanter of endless water, and an alchemy jug. Also we got my shield reinforced, and we got the metal orb identified. It’s something called a Driftglobe.

Also, it was time for me to join the Sensates properly. I went to the Civic Festhall, a magnificent place, in order to join. I had to be tested, and my tester was a blue dragonborn called Cyril Irefang. We had a verbal interview first about the philosophy behind the Sensates, how the details were there to be appreciated, how vicarious experience was flawed, but the arts were seen as an ideal way to share experience. Also he said that the Sensates were the most influential faction in Sigil, followed closely by the Takers, my favourite people…

Image result for sensates planescape

Then I had to take the test, which was to inject five experiences themed around the main five senses. I could tell that Cyril valued experiences that weren’t completely positive. So I decided to work him in slowly. He wasn’t overly impressed with my first sensation, which was a taste montage of Dandy’s meals – the first, cooked on a budget, in our shared home in Phlan, through the months til the final meal together, with the bittersweetness of farewell. He was slightly more impressed with the next sensation, which was a chronology of the sight of Merka, from when I first met the hulking but shy eagle-feathered half orc, to seeing him rage, to finally seeing him become a chief and grow into his full self. I decided for my third sensation to transition from the positivity of my first two sensations into what I had planned for the last two, by using the sound of Sione’s ukelele playing. First light, happy, but ending with the piece of music we once found, unfinished, haunting, leaving us all in stunned silence.

Then for my fourth, I hit him with smell. Rotting earth and wood, wet night, then the sizzle of magic in the nostrils, hideous smells issuing forth from a cauldron as I battled the three witches in the windmill. Then the smell of freshly tilled earth, freshly carpented wood, clean sheets, washed children, the light sweat of an old man, the light perfume of an old woman… and then flames, ashes, werewolves. The story of the windmill Old Bonegrinder did impress him indeed. But I wasn’t done.

For my final test I gave him touch. The feel of a man’s cheek, pudgy, pockmarked, stubbly, and tears running down it. My arm around his round shoulders, and putting a wooden stake into his calloused, broad hand. Holding him in both arms as he shook with grief. Pulling him back from danger, his weight straining against me. His arm across my chest to save me from stepping into danger. Breaking bread with him, clinking tankards together. His hand on my shoulder, the rush of healing magic pouring into me. And then ashes in my hands, the last time I ever saw my friend Donavich.

Image result for sensates planescape

As I finished my test, we both had tears in our eyes, but I was definitely in the club. Amongst my new perks was wearing the guild symbol, getting into the public sensorium for free, and access to the private sensorium, tickets to shows and lectures. I met Enali Webspinner, a baurier who runs the day to day and can supply me with anything that can help me to experience new sensations. As part of my membership dies, it is expected that I share and teach, so the first thing I did was sign up to teach interactive classes on outback creatures, with immersive illusion magic and limited uses of polymorph.

I also started attending lectures myself. I listened to an interplanar traveller, something called a kender, and she talked about all sorts of wondrous sounding things like an Infinite Staircase and winged rainbow snake ladies. Also I went to a painting class.

Finally, I went to the History of Sigil class by Heironymus the gnome wizard. Sigil and the Lady have been here as long as anyone can remember. The factions just sprang up (though I do question that… perhaps he’s not trying to get to the truth hard enough?) and there used to be 50 of them, until the Faction War. He corrected something Madame Eva had told me. The three rules include the idea that wherever you are is the centre of existence, no matter where in the planes you are. I want to explore this idea, but I think I grasp it somewhat. Also I learned that to be ‘mazed’ means to be sent by the Lady into a pocket dimension, never to return. You have to be pretty important for her to do that. Also gods are forbidden in Sigil. The last god who was here, the god of portals and travel, tried to build a temple, and she destroyed him. I find this idea fascinating and too coincidental to not examine further. The god of portals and travel, in this place? Interesting. Also as a side note I found out that the Athar will give guided tours of dead gods! I’m very keen.

Eventually when I went to the private sensorium, I met Brannamaynthax, the brass dragon librarian. He seemed to get increasingly frustrated by my requests for information, though he also seemed to be encouraging me at the same time. I’m not sure, especially since the first sensation he gave me was a bunch of people being killed by a dragon. He did hint though that if it was information I was looking for, I should seek out Lothar, a necromancer/diviner called the Master of Bones. I am only allowed three sensations a day, to avoid addiction to them, so I spend the first two examining sensations of fear and existential dread, as I search for Tenebrus. Then I finish with a lighter one so I can get through my day.

Day Forty

Today I was summoned to Cnatha’s office. There I met a glowing ball of light – a lantern archon from Mount Celestia, who said that its masters have selected me to deal with the Modron problem. Not sure why, or what it was all about, I gathered the team and followed my new friend – who I dubbed Happy – out of Sigil. To Mount Celestia..? Like… literal heaven..?

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 3: Misty Mountain Hop

Day Nine Continued

Ceryi is a member of the Planar Trade Consortium, and so it was through her organisation we were able to be ushered through a secret Consortium gateway to a gate on Bytopia, and from there to a gate to a place called Oerth where we would find White Plume Mountain. As we went, we were told about the message, a poem, from the thief of these rare weapons. The weapon known as Wave would be found near the ‘Beast in the Boiling Bubble’. The weapon Whelm, at ‘Water Spouts Double’. And something called Blackrazor underneath an inverted ziggurat. We were also told about Keraptis, a wizard who had vanished into the mountain for solitude about 1300 years ago. All this, and getting to Oerth, took about an hour.

Through the gate we arrived at a cave called Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket. Outside it was snowing and dark. We headed northwest to the mountain, with me taking the form of a giant flying lizard, and Marja pointing the way. Looking for entry, we found a small 40 foot cave from which steam emanated periodically. Exploring the cave through communing with nature and moving about inside the stone using a new spell I had recently learned to use, I found a trap door in the floor that we could go through.

Under that was a giant spiral staircase, and when we reached the bottom of that we found ourselves walking down a corridor with a foot of stagnant water throughout. It took us another hour from the gate to the end of the corridor, where we met the gynosphinx. She was in terrible condition and bored out of her mind. After trying to talk to her and figure a way to get her free of the wizard’s bond that had trapped her here, presumably for almost 1300 years, she gave us a very easy riddle about the moon. We asked her name, which was Tessa, and sat by her for a while, trying to figure out how to free her. In the end, Marja and I cast dispel magic at the same time, and she was freed. She cast Banish on herself and went back to wherever she comes from.

Behind her post was a fork, and we took the central path. Off of that path we discovered a pool of water, at the bottom of which was a valve that I imagined would drain the water… but none of us were strong enough to move it. Back on the path, we found ourselves in a room with a staircase leading up. Suddenly two naked women emerged from the water, but I could tell they were clearly something monstrous, and as none of us were fooled by them, they attacked, their bodies contorting like moving seaweed. They tried to drown Toledo and Word underwater, but that was a mistake because Toledo doesn’t breathe, so we were able to focus on freeing word and ending the monsters.

Exploring the deeper water at the centre of the room, I found a set of magical chainmail, a beautiful necklace, and some money. We decided to take a quick rest there. At this point, it was four hours into our twenty four hour ultimatum. At the end of that, we went up the stairs to find further corridors, further doors.

Through the door to the east we found a strange turning cylinder of a corridor, with oil and psychedelic patterns in the cylinder. In order to avoid getting oily and tripping, I flew through the cylinder as a raven and peeked through the next door. There was a man there, looking as if he was supposed to be guarding, but he didn’t notice me. With the help of the band of pixies I always summon – lead by Hurdygurdy and his leiutenant Butternut – we flew through the cylinder and burst through the door. Though we had the man surprised, I introduced myself and started questioning him as non-threateningly as I could.

His name as Burket, and his female friend who walked out at that point – and turned into a werewolf! – was called Snarler. After a brief fight where, despite a fear spell from Snarler which made Toledo cry because she thought she wasn’t a person, we managed to subdue the two. We said we didn’t want to hurt them and dropped a Dispel Magic spell on Snarler. It worked, and she was able to see her way past the compulsion put on her to guard this dungeon. We left her to it to dispel the spell on her mate, and continued on our way.

In a room nearby, through three heavily sealed doors, we entered a dream. Protected by a thin membrane, we were walking in a large corridor beneath a boiling lake. Walking to the centre, we found ourselves faced with a huge crab. After escaping its clutches and backing off into the corridor, we realised he didn’t want to break the membrane, so we talked to him just out of reach. We discovered this was pointless however, as he was an insane solipsist. So we polymorphed him into a tiny snail and raided the treasure chest behind him. Within we found lots of money, goggles of night, and the trident known as Wave. One down, two to go.

After six and a half hours in the bowels of the mountain, we moved into the north-east corridor of the fork that Tessa had been guarding. Down this corridor Toledo had her feet melted by a horrible green slime, so we had to fly with the help of my pixies once more. We entered a room of five flesh golems and failed to answer their riddle in time, so we had to flee, getting badly hurt in the process. But after recovering from that (for they did not chase us after that room!) we crossed a one-way turnstile into a room with a strange trap. There were discs on chains, suspended over boiling mud with geysers that erupted every few minutes. Rather than trying to be clever, we just flew past this and went into the next section of cave. There we ran into a vampire. After dispatching with him, we found he had been guarding a stash of money, potions, scrolls and the warhammer known as Whelm. It called out to me in a dwarven sounding voice as I threw it in the bag. By the time we were back in the fork, after breaking the turnstile in crocodile form, we had been in the dungeon for eight hours.

Going down the final, northwestern corridor, we found a trap with copper plates that created a hot energy field between them. This was fine for anything not metal, as I discovered when I threw a coin in. So I was able to hide our treasure in ‘druidspace’, but Toledo was all metal! So I changed her, via polymorph, into a human woman. She started crying because she had always wanted to know what it was like to be fleshy. But her joy soon ended as, once we got through the trap, we were attacked with ghouls. Once her polymorphed body expired, she was back to her normal self.

After the ghouls, we saw a room that was just… beyond description. Flying into it as a raven, trying to ignore the weird slippery floor, I found that I was suddenly flightless, on the ground, and slipping towards a pit trap. Some quich thinking from Marja, and with her vine whips she picked me up and saved me from the razorblades in the pit. So we rigged up an elaborate system where  I went first. I turned into a kangaroo, they tied the rope around my waist and let it out. I bounded, managing the slipperiness as much as I could, and found my way to the far door where the slipperiness ended. Next, with the rope held on both sides and Toledo using a chainmail shirt strung up like a harness, she slowly made her way across pulling with her hands. Next, Marja tied the rope to Word and crawled across as a caterpillar. Then we pulled Word across, but he was quick enough to make the leaps, so we didn’t have to tug him out of the pits.

After that awfulness, we were unimpressed when we saw a river of floating water with some waiting kayaks, and just moved on past that. Instead, we found ourselves in a room with an aquarium, then below that a terrarium, then below that another aquarium, and below that a pit with three flightless manticores and a door to another room. We completely ignored everything by sitting out of range for ten minutes and letting Marha’s lightning cloud strike at the manticores until they were dead. Then we flew over – via giant kookaburra – down to the door.

Within, we found a halfling called Qesnef, surrounded by luxuries. But we thought no way, something’s up. It was. He was an oni, and attacked. He didn’t last long. In the stash behind him, we found scrolls, potions, magic rings, money, and Blackrazor. It began to talk to me seductively. Straight in the bag he went.

It took a couple of hours for us to get back, but when we got to the fork where Tessa was, we were trapped! The voice of Keraptis boomed, saying we would just have to stay in here now, guarding the three weapons, and we were attacked by two efreet. We dismissed their summoned fire elementals and just hit him as hard as we could, all out of spell slots except for some minor healing. But we managed to overcome them, and fly out of the mountain back to the gate.

Well, we were done, but the Takers weren’t. Once we got back to Sigil, a good 13 or so hours after the ultimatum was issued, we found the office shut. So we went to Cnatha, desperate. I told him I was ready to join the Sensates, and that we needed his help. He led us to the Tin Puggle, the bar of the Takers. He had a word with the people in charge, and look at us, intimidated by the news that we made it through the mountain in less than half a day, they agreed to see us first thing tomorrow. As we were leaving, I spotted the Collectors, the people we ran into on the other side, last week, with the green roses. So, it was them all along. They set the Takers onto us. Well. I’m not one for revenge. Hopefully they get the message now that you cannot stop me when I put my mind to something.

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 2: A Day in the Life

Day Nine

After a week of living here, we’ve finally finished kitting out our new case on the corner of Saints Boulevard and Revel Road. Marja still isn’t happy though. No real ground, no real sun. I’ve made her a pit of earth in her room, but I’ll have to see what kind of magical sunlight I can rig up for her in there. At least burning all the old ledgers belonging to Jysson seemed to make her a bit happier.

room

Earlier today I met a half-elf called Cnatha Da’nanin, the consort of Erin Darkflame Mongomery, the Factol of the Sensates. He had heard about me and came to visit. He told me about the value of the factions and why I might want to consider joining one. He wasn’t trying to sway me towards the Sensates, but everything he told me made me consider them the closest to my personal values. I was most excited by the prospect of their library where people could record their experiences for others to experience. So that’s something I started doing today. I feel like my experiences in Barovia are worthy of recording, and Cnatha says many people will want to feel what it’s like to be an outback creature.

All this week we have been eating different foods at different places in the market district, but our favourite place where we find ourselves gravitating to every couple of days is a vegan gnome bar where the petite dishes are delivered on plates on a moving bench. The owners are a threesome of gnomes who all seem to be married to each other. The wait staff includes Sidonie, an androgynous Aasimar obsessed with fashion, Grudak, a jumpy Thri-kreen who seems to be hiding from his past, and Polynomise, a reckless nymph who charms everyone out of anger each time she drops something or trips.

The friends I have made at the bar include Toledo, a warforged who identifies as female. She stumbled into Sigil from a place called Eberron, where she was walking on a drawbridge on guard duty. She is more clueless than us despite being here longer than us. We also met Ym Grapplescrap, an ugly gnoll who is a Bleaker and a soup kitchen worker. He isn’t evil, because he’s found a new pack with the Bleakers after being kicked out of his gnoll pack. Also we are friends with a marid weapons merchant called Ceryi.

We had more visitors later in the day. The second lot were taxmen, ‘Takers’ from the hall of records, saying that we owed 50,000gp in back taxes!

While we sat and despaired and racked our brains trying to think what we should do, we received our third visitor. I coudn’t believe my eyes. It was Madame Eva, the vistani. I told her she wasn’t welcome because I blamed her for the death of Esmerelda, before I suddenly remembered – Esmerelda killed Madame Eva. And yet here she stood. She was from the past, before I had even come to Barovia, but she knew who I was and she vaguely knew the future. I didn’t think it possible that I could interfere with the past through her, so I shut up and listened to her. She said she knew she’d owe me a debt in the future, so she was here to pay it. She told me that this place works on three rules:

  1. The rule of belief. I already knew about this. The planes are only held together by what people believe, and my visit to Automata shook their beliefs so much that it moved the geography of the place.
  2. The rule of threes. Everything comes in threes.
  3. The rule of rings. Everything is cyclical.

She left me with a question that hadn’t occured to me. How did the Takers know about me? An interesting thought.

Morosely, Marja, Word and I went to the bar. But that was a lucky thing. Instead of drinking away our sorrows, as soon as we told our new friends our problem, they had the answer: Ceryi needs someone to go fetch some weapons that were stolen, and will pay us 50,000gp for the pleasure. Toledo has offered to come with us.

We’re going to some place called White Plume Mountain.

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 1: Welcome to the Jungle

It has been five years since Dirwin rejoined Barovia with the Prime Material and he, Marja and Word began their search for Tenebrus, the root of all the sorrow on that place. Lost in a world which was neither Nerath nor the Forgotten Realms, they stumbled about, helping people where they could and searching for any word of Tenebrus.

Today all that will change when Dirwin and Co find themselves in Planescape!

Day One

You think you know everything. You don’t. Five years of fruitless searching ended today in a new destination, a fresh road to travel, and all because of some old lady’s garden.

We were in a pub when her manservant sought us out. His name was Merent, and his mistress had heard tell of Marja, Word and I. She wanted help, so we went along to meet her. Her manor house was small, as many rural seats are. Lady Kindernes was gardening when we arrived. Over tea she explained to us her problem. Every night a red rose went missing, and a green rose was left behind. Green roses. Sounded like a clue for a druid if ever there was one. Examining it, I couldn’t figure out where it came from.

We spent the night out in the garden by the roses and it took less than an hours meditation for me to feel what was odd about the place. There was a great big window of the house facing the garden, and that window somehow led to another world. Or at least, that’s what my instincts were telling me, but the window didn’t yield to touch. But Word could smell it too. Something weird.

As we were investigating, five people emerged from the window. I say people, but these were like people I had never seen before. One covered in spikes and dripping… something. One that was strangely androgynous and non-descript, and smelled very strangely to Word’s senstive nose. One rat person. A small, very small person. And a snake person.

“Pike this, the coney’s got bashers!” said one.

“Hello?” I attempted.

They charged at us. The fight between us soon turned into a struggle for them to escape from our unexpected onslaught of pixie magic, Marja’s vines, Word’s jaws and my own (in crocodile form, naturally). That androgynous person – a mimic! It was the only casualty of our melee. Three others got away through the portal, stealing a red rose before they went through. We were left with the spiky man our captive.

“You burks! The music will maze you!”

This, and other strange lingo, erupted from his mouth. But after some time we managed to calm him down and speak to him about what was happening. Why was he stealing roses and leaving green ones? Where was he from? He kept calling us ‘clueless’. He said he was Zafnar, a cutter from the Collectors. A Knight of the Post. From some place called the Cage, or Sigil. After many hours of trying to figure out his strange speech, we finally managed to piece together the clues. He was from a place with many gates, and to get through the gates one needed a key. For this particular gate one needed a freshly plucked rose. It was only a temporary gate. What was the purposing of the visit? Turns out they were casing the old bird’s joint. I told him I wasn’t having any of that, and he could tell his Collector friends that Dirwin wouldn’t allow it. With that, I let him go back through the portal.

Day Two

The next day I told the old lady what had transpired and she had Merent set to boarding the gate up. She gave us a small metal ball with some kind of evocation magic within (it floats? I haven’t figured it out yet) and as an additional favour we asked that she let us go through the gate before it was boarded up.

On the other side we found ourselves in an alley, very grey and rainy, with a strange vine growing everywhere. Looking up at the sky, all we could see was more buildings…

Heading out of the alley we found ourselves in a bustling marketplace. There was a genie selling fresh dreams, ogres bearing palanquins, animal-headed men, imps carrying advertising. After nearly enraging a pit fiend who was handing out pamphlets of “non-belief”, we were saved by a sheep-horse-man called Stronghoof.

I was starting to pick up on the lingo pretty strongly by now but he was able to educate me more. He is a tout, or a guide for the people new to Sigil. A cutter is a word for a person. He explained this and many other terms. He said that the whole place was alive with gates to everywhere, and these were there only by the sufferance of the Lady of Pain. Soon after he said this, she came sweeping through the street and he made us all hide. Apparently to stand in her shadow will flay your skin off? Not something I’d like to try. I asked if Stronghoof knew anything of Tenebrus, but he didn’t. But he told us that jink – money – wasn’t the real currency here. Knowledge and secrets is what the real jink is.

More importantly he showed us to a place where a guy wanted a job done in exchange for lodgings. Readily we agreed. We went to an old clerk’s building with the name Jysson on a sigh outside. Inside was a cat and a talking book. The cat was apparently Jysson, on a mission back from the Beastlands, his afterlife of choice. He had failed to return the talking book to its maker, Heiron Life-giver, before he died, so he wanted to ask us to do that for him. Easy enough, we thought. Ha…

Heiron’s shop was in Automata, a “gate city” – a kind of middle ground between Sigil and the outer heaven of Mechanus. To get there we needed to go through a door in the clerks’ ward holding a piece of paper torn perfectly in half, each side bearing the letter E. On our way there we stumbled into an argument between Athars and Believers about whether gods existed and whether everyone could become a god. I’m afraid I tried to appease both sides and so ended up having to run away.

But we got to Automata unscathed. Definitely unscathed compared to what happened next.

First we were accosted by guards who told us to go and get our permits for being here. We wanted to just go to Heiron’s shop, but I thought we had better try to follow the law at least.

Six hours and countless forms later, we were on the way to Heiron’s shop. Looking up in the distance we could see a great circlet shape in the sky above an impossibly high spire. Jysson told us that was Sigil, in the middle of the outer planes.

As we walked, we were met by many guards who checked all of our permits and always found some error in them, but they simply warned us and let us continue. But then when we reached the shop, it was a dried meat shop, not Heiron’s store at all! So we bought some meat and at the shopkeeper’s direction went to the inn called the Divine Machine to find out about Heiron.

It was there that the second major trauma of the day happened. We met Toorlak, the halfling bartender, who asked us for our BMIs. He analysed our weight and heights and alcohol tolerance and began to calculate our dietary needs. How, I said, could a beautiful free halfling soul be trapped in a plane of pure law? He looked like he was going to cry. I told him he could leave with us. He panicked and said what about the paperwork? I managed to convince him that I could polymorph him into something small and sneak him out.

Asking around the bar, we had no clues given to us about Heiron’s whereabouts, but then Word and Jysson noticed a tiefling woman sneaking out. Jysson followed and I rode on him in the form of a flea. The woman knew where Heiron was and only revealed that to Jysson once he assured her he just wanted to return his property. She was worried that Heiron was in trouble with the wrong crowd. But at her suggestion, we waited until night so we didn’t have to fill in any more permits.

As we went to the gate to sneak the polymorphed Toorlak through, we sensed we were being followed, but could find no one. We send the halfling through without being caught.

At night we managed to sneak without much effort, timing it right behind the utterly predictable guards. We found the paperwork closet where Heiron was supposed to be hiding, but there was no-one there, and no door. So we did the five knock ritual we had been taught, and he revealed himself – out of a magically created pocket in the wall. He was not keen to see us, and when we returned his book and asked if we could help with his troubles, he disappeared again.

But just as we were about to leave, the people who had been following us showed up! Their leader cast a dispelling spell and Heiron’s pocket in the wall exploded out into the room, and then the walls exploded straight out and we were all on the street – nine thugs and us! A mad scramble started where the thugs chased after Heiron and we chased after them to save him. In order to prevent us being apprehended I summoned nearly four hundred ravens to my aid, thinking (rightly in the end, it turns out) that any guards who showed up would try and apprehend each individual raven. When the guards came, they all chased ineffectually as they waited for individual scouts to return for the permits to arrest ravens!

In the midst of this third trauma of the day, we made it to the central square where stood the mighty gate to Mechanus. It was there that three githyanki assassins landed on top of me and declared themselves for the Collectors.

As if that weren’t confusing enough, the gates of Mechanus opened, and wave upon wave of small geometric beings marched out and up the central boulevard. In the confusion we were able to dispatch two assassins and the third fled. But we lost Heiron and the three thugs pursuing him. I hope he got out alright. Also, at some point my concentration was disrupted, so the ravens vanished. Automaton guards freaked out, screaming, resigning, and having existential crises left right and centre.

We got back to Sigil and Jysson explained to us that the geometric things were Modrons, and every 280 years or so they went on their Great March across the planes. But the timing was wrong. It had only last happened a century ago. What was happening? Also as we travelled through the city, we heard rumours cried out that Automata had shifted in the planes, closer to chaos, because someone had exploded a building there and summoned four hundred ravens out of thin air.

Oh dear.

On the nice side, Jysson rewarded us with his building, run-down as it is, and his secret stash of money, before going off back to the Beastlands.

So… we’re in the nexus of worlds. What better place to start looking for Tenebrus in earnest?

Magic the Gathering: Amonkhet – first impressions, unboxing, and planeswalker decks reviewed

To watch our Amonkhet unboxing… where we find a super rare card!!… click here.

Claire and I just played best-of-three with the Amonkhet Planeswalker Decks. She used Gideon’s deck, which uses white and red mana and is based around the new Exert mechanic. I used Liliana’s deck, which is black and green and focuses on -1/-1 counters. They were a lot of fun, and they seemed quite balanced.

In each game, Claire got off to a very quick start. Creatures with Exert make very powerful attackers, and she used it at every opportunity to make her creatures more powerful, or harder for me to defend against. The drawback of Exert is that they won’t untap on the next turn, but it’s pretty easy to circumvent. Gideon, Martial Paragon in particular combos very well with the deck. Well done to Wizards of the Coast: he’s a very enjoyable and powerful card for casual Magic play, exactly what should be in an introductory deck. We also appreciated the tactical choices in this deck. Choosing when to exert, and when not to exert, makes this deck more interesting to play.

Liliana’s deck felt a little weak by comparison. It’s a bit slower, and so I was always on the back foot against Gideon’s armies. That said, once it gets going, it’s capable of doing some terrifying damage. In the first game, I was down to three life, and Claire was still on 20. Crocodile of the Crossing with a Cartouche of Ambition meant that I had a 6/5 lifelink creature attacking every turn, and it quickly turned the game around on its own. There are a number of creatures with ridiculously large stats for their costs, balanced by the fact that they give -1/-1 counters to your creatures when they enter play. The Tattered Mummy is a great target for these. This ‘survival of the fittest’ theme feels very black and green, but in a very different way to usual. I can’t comment on Liliana, Death Wielder, as I was never able to get her into play. There’s also a sub-theme of ‘landmark’ artifacts. These artifacts all have a weak activated ability, but gain a brick counter at the same time. With enough bricks, you can finish the landmark, and it becomes much more powerful. I played with one of these, but I never felt like I had the time or the resources to be able to build it.

In the end, Claire won two games to my one. In each game, Gideon’s deck did a lot of damage before Liliana came back for a counter-attack. The game play was engaging, and a good way of showing off the new mechanics in Amonkhet. Claire and I agree that these decks are much more fun than the old intro packs, and we’re keen for a rematch. They also seem more balanced than we remember from the previous Planeswalker Decks. They’d be great for a new player getting into Magic. Alternatively, a casual player who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on Magic could grab the Planeswalker Decks for each set, and have a good set of pre-made decks to use, for the price of a small board game expansion. Recommended for the casual player!

The Diary of Genora Amcathra: Storm King’s Thunder Part 24, Final Fight

Day 359) Greengrass, 1491 DR

It has been a busy time, full of celebrations and consolidation of power, so I haven’t had a moment to sit down and write about the end of our adventure. It is hard to believe that it’s been a year since I told Ninya and Aukanthi we were going to Nightstone. But let me try my best to finish the story of the biggest year of my life – two lives – so far.

After Kayalithica came to join us we had to spend some time in scrying and investigating to find Iymrith’s lair. Ultimately what led us to her were rumours about an ancient blue dragon known as the Doom of the Desert who kept a garden of living statues. Following the clues, we were able to ascertain that she was indeed that dragon, and her lair was at the northern end of the Anauroch Desert.

We set out, Zephyros taking the main party by whale to his castle which was hovering over the Whalebones. From there we flew via rocs and the castle all the way to the Anauroch desert. When we arrived to the point where the rocs would take us no further, we could see the great ruined amphitheatre that was her lair. We navigated through a barrier of dust devils carefully, and then once we reached clear ground we could see that an army of living gargoyles was awaiting us before the lair. So we charged.

Trebutchets troubled us until we were within range for me to shoot them to pieces with lightning. Moving in closer, we hit the gargoyles head on, and tried to make quick work of their stone golem leader. Ninya and Harriana took the major brunt of the force head on, as they beat everyone else there. Harshnag, Moog and Kayalithica were able to catch up soon and aid them. Zephyros summoned steam mephits to distract the gargoyles, which exploded in clouds of scalding steam when they expired. Ragmar and Aukanthi struggled to catch up, while Halani and myself approached slower, shooting lightning bolts as we approached.

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As soon as we were able to take down the stone golem, Iymrith’s pet emerged from the ground. It was a purple worm of immense size, so large that despite how far back Aukanthi and Ragmar were, they were able to fight it. Kayalithica was stabbed near-fatally by the tail of the purple worm, and seeing the danger this put us in, we all panicked and laid down our most brutal attacks and spells to destroy the worm. It went down without being able to attack us again.

Her pet dead, her gargoyles diminishing, Iymrith finally emerged. As she approached we tried to wipe out as many gargoyles as we could before she reached us. With so many people near unconscious, Harriana dropped down a spell called Aura of Life, which meant that no matter how many times they fell, they just got up again.

And so it was that with this power, and with the power of our alliance, we charged forward, ignoring as much as we could the fear in our hearts. We wore her down bit by bit, some hits landing, some not, but always getting up again. Her lair itself seemed against us, as lightning arced from the ground, and Harshnag and Zephyros both got swallowed by the ground one time each. We tried out hardest to protect Harriana from going down, but eventually Iymrith managed to knock her off of her concentration on the spell. But it was too late for Iymrith. More than half our party down, those of us still standing concentrated all fire, and then… it was done. She was down.

We raced to aid our fallen allies, and all were revived successfully. It was unbelievable how lucky we’d been. After a rest in the safety of our Instant Fortress, we investigated the ruins and found the hoard of Iymrith, with many treasures. The guards with any intelligence had fled in the interrim, so we only had the slowest of the monsters left to slay. Interesting items we found included winged boots, a staff of the Adder, a ring of mind shielding, a trident of fish command (Ninya took this), a ring of animal influence, a stone of earth elementals (I have given this to Kayalithica, and a fully functional apparatus of Kwalish.

And well, after that we went home, all of us to our various places and journeys. I understand Halani and Harriana have gone plane travelling, though they were secretive about it. I hope they’ll be okay. Aukanthi has gone to live for the time being at Citadel Felbarr to learn dwarven ways. Kayalithica has gone to relocate her people to a place not tainted by the pretend god presence. Ragmar remains court champion, but he is usually away seeking perfection in mind and body. Same with Zephyros, who remains court wizard but travels around freely. Harshnag continues to be my ambassador, which means we will only see each other occassionally, but I trust him greatly. Moog has gone back to her people, and I think her name will ring down the ages amongst the hill giants.

I don’t know where Umbero went. I don’t think I want to ask. Maybe I’ll find out where he went one day. Everyone but Ninya thinks I should just let him go. But I want him to know that it’s okay. I’m okay. I think he’s a good person who made bad choices when he was young. It’s easy to do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to say this to him.

As for Ninya, she was miserable after Iymrith’s death. I couldn’t work it out. But then she told me she was going to miss me, and I realised what it was. She thought she was going to lose me forever. She had no idea how wrong she was! Nowadays I visit Ninya everyday in Waterdeep as Genora. Giant life moves so slowly that I am able to get more done in a few hours than giants can accomplish in a day or more, so I don’t see there being any problem with my double life. When I’m with Ninya, we have fun together. Shopping, parties, catching up with friends. She’s closer to me than my sisters after all. I can’t ask her to live in the Maelstrom, but I can use my spare time and my magic to still be a part of her life. I hear it only takes a year of casting Teleportation Circle consecutively every day to make it permanent, so in a year’s time I’ll be able to teleport directly into the Amcathra mansion. Until then, I’ll just keep taking the long way every day.

That’s what friends do.

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And so we’ve reached the end of the Storm King’s Thunder campaign! Stay tuned for our next one. In the meantime there will be twitch streams and reviews coming up.