Rolling on the River: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 2

77 days to go, continued

As we started to leave the city, Undril told us that the former Order of the Gauntlet camp, Camp Righteous, had been destroyed by undead. When I then mentioned our religious order, she left us in a rage.

Leaving town, more rumours from our guides. There is a ghost village above the Aldani Basin. Also we have to watch out for a blue mist in the jungle whick causes Mad Monkey fever. Also there were nature spirits to look out for, but they would be unlikely to attack unless we did.

We had to row from the port to the mouth of the Riven Shoshenstar before stopping. It was hours of exhausting rowing in stinking rain. We made it by night, and set up camp. I cast the spell Syndra had been disapproving of in the temple of Jergal. Find Familiar. A monkey with wings hurtled my way and is now pulling my hair. I see why she was not keen on that spell. I have named him Oz.

76 days to go

Last night we were woken by two big water lizards with long necks fighting and screaming in the river. But we managed to mostly sleep through. On the river, Hugo put out the fishing line and caught a few. Flask spotted the blue mist at one point. We had to get out of the river and wait a couple of hours for it to pass. He mentioned that there is a beetle which is said to cure the fever of the mist. Later, we had to go up a few portage paths to get around waterfalls. Right now as we camp, there are 9 flying lizards circling above our heads. Pterosaurs, our guides call them. They don’t seem interested in us.

75 days to go

Awful rain held us up for a while, and when we finally got going it was slow because someone had to always be bailing. Only interesting thing today was a flock of flying snakes, but they didn’t attack us. River and Flask have a fiddle and flute out. The music is strange and I think I hate it.

74 days to go

The rain eased up. We saw old ruins of Ubtao across the river. We had three waterfall portages today. At one, Flask spotted a frozen tree. Must have been a wizard. Thinking about it later, the guides seemed interested, but not surprised to see it, weirdly.

73 days to go

Today on the river a giant snake attacked me and pulled me into the river. I boiled it alive a moment later, but not before breathing in throat leeches. Short of breath, lots of coughing. Also our fishing line got eaten by quippers. Going to sleep now, hopefully Hugo can get a restoring spell from Jergal overnight.

72 days to go

Woke up feeling much better. Reached Camp Righteous to find burning buildings, two rowboats, and a huge shrine. 80 foot statue of a man carrying a crocodile. We hid our supplies and boats under a rotting tent. Freed a baby axebeak that was trapped in some of the camp wreckage. River remembered a story about the man carrying the crocodile. It was a folk tale about how a crocodile carried a man across a river, and now the man has to carry a crocodile across the land.

It was really big inside so I had Oz fly ahead and spy out. We had to climb levels that were 7 feet high, though there were cracks in the levels so it was easy. Then we had to skirt around traps in the floor. Flask fell into one, even after spotting it. Then he and Hugo got swiped by blades out of the wall.

We saw 16 floor panels at one point, and Oz could see that 16 panels on the door ahead of us matched them, but one was glowing. So we stepped on the counterpart on the floor, and nothing bad happened to us. The glow on the door changed, so we stepped to the one matching that, and so on, until we were across the floor. Then we had to touch those same door panels, so River on Flask’s shoulders touched the top two and Flask touched the bottom two, in the order that we crossed the floor on. The door opened.

Inside was a pile of bones and webs everywhere, and a pillar with stairs, at the top of which was a ceramic jug. Beginning to climb, we got struck by lightning. But then we thought, what if the thing we did before – putting River on Flask’s shoulders – was the point? What if all the motifs on the wall of the man carrying the crocodile were the answer. So they climbed up like that and no traps went off. They got the jug and brought it down. Nothing happened. I checked, and it seemed to be magical and different stoppers corked up different liquids, like oil and water.

We went out, Hugo carrying me on his shoulders, and the guides still like that, and none of the traps triggered. Outside we were attacked by goblins, but we held them off. Their leader ran away. We ate lunch in the doorway of the temple. When we came out the two rowboats had their bottoms knocked out. Must have been the goblin leader. But he hadn’t found our actual boats. After one further portage, we camped for the night.

71 days to go

Slept in later today because we were attacked last night by three sea hags. We were lucky to be able to scare them off with our desperate defence and moved inland. But then things got even more unlucky.

After sundown we passed Camp Vengeance. From the river, I hailed them and asked if Undril had made it to them yet. They told us to stop, but we kept going. They chased and caught us. Apparently the commander thinks she can commission any passerby!

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Welcome to the Jungle (but a different jungle this time!): Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 1

Last night James and I decided to take a break from Dirwin and try out the exciting new release Tomb of Annihilation. 

Our starting cast is my main character Priscilla, and her colleague and friend Hugo. Priscilla was an orphan, found by Syndra, High Priestess of the ‘Cult of the Useful Dead’, a Jergal-worshipping cult. This is a cult invented by us, where they are good/neutral aligned necromancers and death clerics who believe in helping the dead achieve their unfinished business even if they are too poor to afford Raise Dead, by using Animate Dead instead.

Syndra made Priscilla’s dead parents into her zombie nannies, and so Priscilla is a quiet and socially awkward devotee of the cult, married to her job. I am going to try and reflect this in my blogging of her story by being more terse, in comparison with the gregarious Dirwin and Genora.

Hugo is the idiot son of a farmer who is clumsy, yet has a fanatical love for the gods and a sort of idiot-savant way of floating through life on instinct (high wisdom). The Cult of the Useful Dead is the first place he has really belonged.

The opening conceit of ToA is that everyone who was ever raised from the dead is now slowly dying, one hit point per day. And so, I am counting down each day towards Syndra’s demise… unless I can stop it in time!

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A great big empty player map…

79 days to go

Find myself in a strange land. It’s hot and smelly. I better start at the beginning.
High Priestess Syndra has been getting sicker and sicker for the last three weeks. She finally figured out what it was. She’s dying. Everyone who was ever raised from the dead is dying. Healing magic is weaker. Resurrection magic is dead. She has learned through divination that the answer can be found on Chult. Something called the Soulmonger. Without warning, she casts teleportation and she, Hugo and I are there.

Later I learned we are in Port Nyanzura. At the time though all I can see is sea, bright buildings and street markets, and the lizards bigger than any I have ever heard of. We set off to find the house of Syndra’s friend, a merchant prince. On the way, I was accosted by a cat-person (?) who said their name was Brightwhiskers and asked for a gold piece. Hugo seemed to think the person was a good person, so I gave them a gold piece and they scampered off. Said they’d pay me back.

We reached the great house of one of seven merchant princes, Wakanga O’tamu. He offered to take Syndra in, and gave us advice. He flirted with me, I think. It was unpleasant. I know I am not a beauty, so I am suspicious of any who accuse me of being so. Hugo was careful around everything in the house, mindful of his clumsiness.

His advice was to buy magic items from him that we could only get from him here, to get a guide registered by his friend Jobal, and to take plenty of supplies into the jungle with us. Not to share our very unfinished map that Syndra had given us. Make money betting on dinosaur races (not likely). He also told us a rumour of a lost heir to Chult held prisoner in a birdfolk monastery on the Olung River. He also gave us a battered journal belonging to a wizard who explored the jungle 15 years ago. He asked us to try and find that wizard’s golem guardian lost in the jungle and bring it back to him.

Left Syndra with him. A little way down the street Hugo and I were nearly taken out by a falling water barrel. We were okay, but Hugo left it late to say to me that he saw someone up on the roof.

Found a suitable inn in the Redmarket, so named for the stained bloody cracks between the paving stones. Outside Kaya’s House of Repose we saw a board of guides, and looked over it, then went in to pay for room and board. Two cat people in the bar had seen us looking at the board and told us not to bother with Jobal’s guides. Their names were River Mist and Flask of Wine and they offered to split the treasure with us rather than get paid up front. Hugo seemed to approve of them. I told them about the curse that seemed to be afflicting the raised, and they seemed a little concerned.

They told us a few rumours they’d heard about things in the jungle. There’s maybe a witch who knows things about making sentient zombies near Mbala, not far south of us. There’s a frog-person village and a prominence called Firefinger not far to the south east. Would have to watch out about going north east though as some stupid bunch of people called the Flaming Fist are mounting expeditions there and beat you up if you don’t have a licence. Also there are some ruins out there of temples for some old god called Ubtao.
They recommended we spend tomorrow buying up supplies while they went and talked to some of their contacts around town.

Have updated map. Now will read some of the lost wizard’s journal.

78 days to go

In the market, was attacked by madman. Raved about The Ancient One beneath an Ancient City, and that the snake men knew about it. We couldn’t find out about snake men when we asked people about it.

After all the shopping and nearly running out of money, a lady called K’halu asked Hugo and me to help her collect a debt. We failed. The guy was called Taban. After he let me carry away K’halu and Hugo, both unconscious, K’halu wrote off the debt. Before she left our rooms, she told us that the ruins of Mezro are only an illusion. Wrote that on the map. Also she said she had heard that whispered by a pale man to a lizard man who smelled of honeysuckle. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Later when River and Flask returned they commiserated with us over our defeat. Taban apparently is some underground ring fighter. They had been busy talking to people and had a friend called Rokah who wanted an escort up to Fort Beluarian to spy on the Flaming Fist. A little digging and they told us their friend – and many of their friends – were Zhentarrim.

We aren’t going to have time to go northeast when the obvious clues are leading us south. They heard about another person who needed an escort, a half-orc called Undril Silvertusk, who wanted to get to Camp Vengeance, an Order of the Gauntlet fort. That was more in our direction so we agreed to escort her. I convinced her to go find medium armour before tomorrow unless she wanted to die of thirst, exhaustion or drowning.
Brightwhiskers found me at the inn and repaid me ten times over. Pleasant surprise to see anything back at all.

Updated map, and will read more of the old journal tonight. In a panic. Guides reckon trip could take almost three weeks. We don’t have that kind of time. Hopefully boating makes the trip faster, or we find what we need soon.

77 days to go

On the way to meet Undril to leave Port Nyanzura, was accosted by a priest of Savras, a divining god. He raved at me to speak to the wise guardian of Orolunga, west of Mbala, she can direct you to that which you seek. We helped the priest up and made sure he was all right, but he didn’t remember his raving.

We met up with Undril and started to leave town. She told us she had heard that east of Mbala was the Aldani Basin, where in olden times Ubtao had turned all the people there into monsters for eating all the lobsters. Marked that on the map.

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Yep, I know, it’s Liliana, but still… it’s one idea of what Priscilla might look like.

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 7: Rock Lobster

We headed into the Lady’s Ward early to open up the store, Water’s Garden Shop. Ceryi had acquired it off a debtor, and all of the employees had been killed when the previous employer tried to use summoning magic. On our way to the shop we were shaken down by a gang of Harmonium guards, but a bribe saw them on their way.

We got to the shop to find a range of exotic plants and sea creatures, as well as garden furniture. We were greeted by Buddy, an ex-wizard’s familiar rock lobster. With his help we were able to get through the day, feeding the animals and plants, cleaning and restocking. Also he turned out to be a pretty sound political debater. It only took me about an hour or so of his company for me to pay for his freedom.

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We had many visitors. A delivery man showed up a few times with new stock. A little half-elf boy came in to buy Buddy, but I had to explain to him that Buddy was no longer for sale and that if he wanted to be Buddy’s friend he should talk to him. That didn’t interest him. Word had to wrangle a few frogs who tried to escape. I discovered a dead fish and thankfully with Buddy’s help managed to analyse the disease in the tank and pour in a potion of greater healing before the disease killed anymore fish. Marja swept the floor, restocked, and argued her political revolution with Buddy.

I discovered a talking newt who claimed to be a princess, but when I took her outside and released her from the polymorph spell, she was actually a hag called Agnes Fishlips. I let her scamper off. Then a little old lady came and bought a few different plants for her new tavern. Word went off to deliver her plants. The little boy came in again but still wasn’t interested in getting to know Buddy really. Two men came in acting suspicious. Marja watched them. But eventually I figured out, by the way they kept looking out the front window, that they were hiding from someone, so I showed them through the back door.

I made toys out of rocks and flax for the fishes, and we received a new delivery of fish, Elysian fantail specifically. Then we had the big client come in, the one that Ceryi had told us to look out for. Her name was Lady Shilandra Mossfeather. I told her to ask whenever she wanted help, but as we set up new tanks and helped the little old lady, who came back to change her order, she started to look bored. So I turned into a seahorse and had some of the fish do some impressive choreography to get her attention. It was a little too much perhaps, because even though she placed an order with us for a very impressive tank with glow in the dark fish, it seemed that I was the thing she really wanted to purchase. She even stipulated that it be me coming to do the installation personally in her chambers.

While Wolf was walking with her to deliver setup pieces, Marja went out to commission glassblowers and carpenters, so Buddy and I were alone in the shop for the next few visitors. A necromancer came in and demanded that a certain crystal ball was his, and I could hardly stop him before he left. Oh well, at least the loss wasn’t too great to the shop. The little half-elf kid returned with henchmen and more money, but I still turned him away, so he threatened to return with his parents. Four teens came to buy goldfish, but when I tried to sell them tanks I realised they had no intention to keep the fish alive, so I sent them away. After lunch, we got a visit from Shimeshka the Marauder’s ‘fire service’. I took the wiser path (for now) and paid their stiff 300 gold fee. An elegant woman came in trying to buy 28 goldfish as spell components. I sent her away with an earful about using spell foci to avoid animal cruelty.

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Then, once Word had returned, a crazy homeless druid called Old Gameth came in and grew murderously angry because apparently I had ‘sold his friend’ (presumably one of the plants?). He cast a thunder spell and shattered four of the tanks. Thankfully I had just been learning how to control water! I managed to hold the tank water in the air, turn into a croc and escort him outside where Word pinned him down until he calmed down. Once he was more reasonable, Word bashed the workroom door open and I was able to guide the water flow into tanks in there. We sat him down, gave him some food, and tried to figure out his deal. In the end Buddy suggested taking him to the Bleak Cabal’s asylum, where he would be cared for, so Word escorted him there, with a new baby plant for him to raise as a gift from me.

Finally able to look around, I noticed a plant from one of the shattered tanks crawling off. It was lucky the tank did explode, otherwise I may never have seen this plant! It was a carnivorous red lily. I put it in its own tank and put an expensive price tag on it. Then who should walk through but the half-elf kid and his parents! So I polymorphed Buddy into a human so make them see that he was a sentient being on his own and his son could not own him. So instead they bought the lily. Kid might lose a finger or two. No skin off my nose!

Ceryi finally returned, and considering what a day we’d had and how much money we’d actually made, she wasn’t all that grateful. Oh well. She seemed disappointed in me for buying Buddy. I offered to awaken a frog to replace him as the shop mascot, but only on the condition that it be considered an employee and not a saleable item. She wasn’t keen on that, so I guess we won’t be having anything to do with Water’s Garden Shop anymore. Which is great, because I am exhausted from just one day of retail!

But there did come some good out of it. Buddy is going to come see the planes with us! We’ve even bought him a spellbook and he’s trying to see if any of his long dead master’s magic still lingers in him. Who knows? All I know is, I don’t see any other adventuring party around with a rock lobster in it!

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 6: Weird Science

After cleaning up Heart’s Faith for some time, we heard that on the Outer Planes a paladin was looking for people to defend the modrons from evil. So we met Sir Vaimish Crasad in the town of Excelsior. He was a part of the Knight Militant, enemies of the evil Tacharim knights, who were conducting skirmishes against the modrons. We were to help the modroms get to the gate at Tradegate, and then we would be done. We were given a magical silver bugle and told to blow it if our spot ran into trouble.

Days into our escort of the march, taking time on and off, we finally had the chance to stop an attack. Four tacharim brought their yeth hounds and attacked. Something that shouldn’t have been possible happened… the yeth hounds’ fear effect affected the modrons…? Four modrons broke ranks and we captured, and we rode after the knights to resuce them. With the help of Sir Vaimish, we were successful. At one point I had fun dropping from flying form straight onto a knight in crocodile form.

Over the next little while I got the chance to know Sir Vaimish better. He is a good and humble man. His sister Greir was also a good woman, and was captured and most likely killed when she was spying in the enemy base and sending back information.  He was sad, but the way he paid tribute to her was by holding the line.

After a few more days passing, we heard horns caling up and down the line. Realising we were encountering some sort of trick, we flew up to the top of the dome of the march, and looked around. Some knights were already successful in capturing a large chunk of the march, and were riding off. Vaimish was unaware, so we sent Tessa to warn him, and we rode off, shadowing the knights. They led us to their outpost, where it looked as if there was some kind of factory where the large band of knights was dropping the modrons off. We rested a while and spied at them from atop a cliff, where we could see the band of knights riding off again. Vaimish sent us a message magically, and we were told to begin the rescue attempt. Word and Marja scouted for an hour, and then we flew in through a broken window – me as a raven, the other three as aphids on my back, and my pixies invisible by my side.

Inside we saw a terror too horrible to describe, so I will be brief. The modrons were being experimented on, and some were still alive during this process. There were pits with more modrons in, and a captive woman. I sent Hurdygurdy down, and he found out it was Greir!

So we mounted our rescue as such: I dropped Toledo and Word off as aphids at the inner door out of the factory room, and Marja and I hovered with the pixies on the ceiling. All at one moment, two pixies cast Fly on me and Marja, Toledo and Word reverted back to their natural forms, Marja cast entangle on the main doors, and the remaining pixies dropped Polymorph spells on the two guard knights in the room. They were tortoises from that point on, so we focussed on dispatching with the awful factory workers and their nasty experimental implements. Marja and Word had a particularly effective move where she whipped one up into the air, Word bashed into it, and then it landed on a table of experimental spikes.

After we’d freed Greir and the modrons, the pixies secured the room and we put the tortoises into the pits. Questioning them and learning what Greir knew, we could patch together this scenario: the Tacharim’s experiments are being lead by four people. One is a Mulhorandi priest of Set, Sethatis, and he had a bodyguard with a flaming body. The other two were a baariur couple, called Yissa and Denrac, and they seemed to be scientists. They were vivisecting modrons in order to improve Tacharim by creating hybrids, somehow. While we considered this awful plan, Marja performed mercy killings around the room where needed. Greir urged me to go now and kill the four leaders.

We burst into the upstairs rooms, sneaking past surgeons with failed operations (the modron parts have disintegrated when we performed our mercy killings) and happened to see the male baariur driven insane by his missing parts. We ignored him, moved on, and discovered Yissa in her study. We fought off her bodyguards and apprehended her, but got attacked by the fire elemental bodyguard of the priest. He fought by teleporting his way around, but after getting caught on the wrong foot, he teleported away. So we checked out the rooms in the relative peace, ignoring Yissa’s complaints. The priest must have gotten away, for there was no sign of him. We took personal effects of his in case we needed to scry or track him.

As soon as we tried to leave the corridor we were attacked again by the elemental. In the chaos we lost Yissa and she started blink-teleporting away, but we took the elemental out with ice storms, collapsing the balcony he was on, and with a flaming croc jump. More knights started to spill out, so we got outside and flew into the air. While Word and I scanned the horizon to see where Yissa got away to, Marja summoned a lightning storm to destroy the watchtower and the fortress. We couldn’t find Yissa, so we helped Marja set fire to the fort and started heading back towards the Modrons.

On our way there, we ran into Tessa, who spat Yissa out of her mouth! She had been flying to find us and had intercepted Yissa. So we took her prisoner and went back to Sir Vaimish. He was overjoyed to see his sister again, and took Yissa prisoner. Her sentence is to be imprisoned on Bytopia, where even the most evil of souls are daily assulted by the positivity of the plane until they are good people. What a wonderful idea. Also, Toledo left us to join Vaimish’s crusade. We’ll miss her, but it is a good cause.

Meanwhile, Marja, Word and I headed back to Sigil. Later, at the Garden Gnome Bar, we ran into Ceryi. She asked us for a favour. Tomorrow we’re going to be shopkeepers… at an aquarium!

From Outback to Outer Planes – Dirwin the Druid in Planescape! Episode 5: Spirit in the Sky

Day Forty Continued

In order to get to Mount Celestia we were allowed access to the Sensates’ secret chamber of portals. The strangest thing about this chamber was that in the middle of the floor, instead of the usual Sensate guild symbol, it was a symbol of the Lady of Pain. I was sworn to secrecy on this, but still… how interesting…

We found ourselves at a distance from Mount Celestia, on a heavenly plain. The sky was bright and yet there were still stars, and the air whispered sweetly with a calm breeze. Happy led us to the sword archon Alziel, who outlined the situation for us and answered any questions we could think of. The Modrons were about to arrive at a town called Heart’s Faith. It was a gate town leading back to the outer planes and unfortunately buildings had popped up on the roads the Modrons would take because there had been an influx of orphans from a world at war. The archons needed me to deal with it because they were worried about getting the taint of chaos on them, which you have to admit is kind of bizarre seeing as the Modrons are supposed to be the most lawful beings…

We headed over to talk to the marching modrons. They were observed by crowd of lantern archons as they marched not in a line, but in a hemisphere. As we got ready to head in, we ran into Tessa, the gynosphinx we freed in White Plume Mountain! She had followed the modrons from Arcadia, as her god there had told her to find out what was going on. She joined us and told us what she knew, including more information about their formation, their heirarchical structure, and that no one even knew why it was that they had to march.

We tried to fly in with Toledo on Tessa’s back and Marja and Word on my back as a Quetzalcoatlus, but Tessa and Toledo were nearly trampled underfoot, so we rolled them out. Instead, I tried flying in, in raven form. I was stopped further in and questioned, so I turned human again to speak. The questions were long and boring, and when I said I was an orphan they told me that was ‘unlawful’, so I lied. But then the next one I got to asked if I had a permit to speak to him, and when I lied, he somehow knew and said I had ‘failed the test’. Bizarre. How does it even know how to catch a lie? Something is certainly rotten in the state of Modron.

So with that being a failure we raced to get to Heart’s Faith. At the gate we heard that the usual lamassu guards were away at a conference, so there were only humanoids. From them we also learned that the mayor was out of town, and we had to find the acting mayor. So we ran through the streets, trying to cry out to as many people as possible to warn them to get off the roads. We met with Cauldronborn, the acting mayor, and he was very unsure of himself, so we tried our best to take charge.

With the help of my pixies using dancing lights in the sky, we tried to get as many people as possible to a far corner of the walled city. But by the time that most of them were there, the Modrons had already arrived. I stayed at the corner and ordered pixies and people to rush down the streets calling out to everyone to get out and run to safety. Marja and Tessa meanwhile flew to the gate and Marja tried to blow them back with a wall of wind… but all that resulted in was the Modrons started trampling over each other and got in eventually. Tessa meanwhile cast a divination and received back the rhyme ‘What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry’.

So we all tried our hardest, warning everyone we could, rescuing the young, old and infirm where we could, before the destructive tide of Modrons. I rescued Cauldronborn from being crushed and tried to argue logically with the modrons to back down. At one point the march came to a halt and I found the cause of it to be a bunch of old men at a tavern. One clever old man had thought to fib and say to them that there existed a treaty which they were breaking right now. But it only took three minutes or so before they realised he was fibbing and the march started anew.

Whilst I desperately moved to save children, Marja cast a spell of entanglement and that worked to slow them down some more. Through that, we were able to gain some time to save more lives. But soon the Modrons were at the harbour, and in order to get to the gate in the air, they dismantled ships to make a bridge.

It was during this long hold up in their march that I spotted the lead Modron and flew down to argue with him. I couldn’t reach him, but his inferior spoke to me. It was an infuriatingly frustrating conversation. The Modrons have no individuality, so no appeal to them on an individual level would work. The only progress I made at all was figuring out how to utterly break one’s logic: get it to state the date of the last march, and get it to state today’s date. In that way, I accidentally made one self-destruct. But another took his place immediately.

Eventually they were all gone, and we were left with the cleanup. Despite the real mess I made of things, the people were grateful for all that we tried.

But most important: I managed to get the rest of the locations of the march from the modron I spoke with. So we can going to follow them, Tessa too. And we’re going to try and fix the madness in the Modrons.

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…

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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.