Dirwin, Born to be Wild: Episode 2

Below is the continuation of the adventures of Dirwin, my 13th level Druid, who has been around since the end of 2014 in various guises. It has been nine months between the first half of this episode and the second half! But I am so relieved to be back to journaling Dirwin’s story. Next week or so I will work on recategorising this site so it is easier to navigate to all the different sections: Devblog, Dragonlance, different D&D character diaries, and all the other things we’ve done over the years!

Coming out of Seshall’s case, I look at the word ‘Sign’ on the scrap of a diary entry. Could it mean Sign of One? Their faction hall is rumoured to hold a gate to the Beastlands. We go to find our tout Kaiakos again to follow-up on the three names listed on that paper too.

At an intersection on the way back, we see crows pecking at a corpse on a gibbet. Then they start attacking the crowd! I try to speak with them in raven form and calm them but it fails. So instead I open my decanter of endless water and control it, splashing them to douse their wings. The people are grateful to be safe now but many are injured, and one is even dead. I offer to reincarnate him, to the tiefling crying over the body of the half-elf, but it turns out he was a petitioner visiting from Arborea, so his soul is gone forever! How frightening.

But for the other people I am able to give small amounts of healing out, and regenerate one person’s lost eye. One guy doesn’t want healing, and his suspicion seems to be related to his alignment with the Revolutionary League and not trusting authority. A little old lady panics, saying she has no way of paying her. I tell her no worries, it’s free. She is grateful then, asks my name, gives me her talisman of Thor’s Hammer, and tells me to run along in case the Harmonium don’t take too kindly to my unlicensed healing.

We flee, and take Kaiakos out to lunch with us. He helps us with two of the things listed on the paper. The Planar Trade Consortium is a huge web of capitalist transaction, and has a branch here on the planes. The Cup of Freedom is a landmark in Sigil – a free library run by the Revolutionary League. Knowledge is the key to throwing off the shackles of oppression, or so they say. Kaiakos says he’ll follow up on Parts and Pieces, as he doesn’t know this one, but his other tout friends might.

On the way to the library, we see a halfling preaching on two soapboxes, saying that it is good that people are acting on instinct. Obviously from the Transcendent Order. Not sure how I could explain to him how unnatural this whole chaos is.

Arriving at the library, the bauriur librarian, Firey Polk, greets me as comrade. The library is chaotic, and Polk, good-humoured and intense, seems to want a donation before he’ll help me. I’m happy to contribute to the cause. He remembers Seshall coming here, and what books he was reading, so he pulls me out ‘The Dark World of Dreams’, ‘Turt’s Guide to Planar Cats’, and ‘The Big Book of Evil’. Books go sliding and flying everywhere during his chaotic search.

It’s hard to understand why he wanted these books. The first does mention dreamhunters from Bast’s realm on Ysgard who chase down nightmares. And yet Bast lives on Arborea, I hear. Polk mentions to me that people are blaming the Revolutionary League for the current unrest, which makes him unhappy, since it is unfounded.

Returning to Kaiakos, he has found the info we needed about P&P. It stands for Parts and Pieces, a shop in the Great Bazaar, which is through a gate whose key was rats’ teeth. The proprietor is Seamusxanthuszenus (I really did not know what to expect with a name like that) and yes, the Parts and Pieces were what I feared – body parts.

The Great Bazaar is, as always, a treat for all the senses. I see efreet unpacking literal lava lamps at a stall; a sign above a food cart made of sparrows flying and forming the word ‘EATZ’; a beautiful feathered woman protesting against the Harmonium; ancient children; a Beholder with a judge’s wig on each eyestalk borne on a palanquin carried by the eye beams of two other beholders, the rider on which shoots tiny lasers at the feet of any who get too close; bottles of colourful smoke, and much more. 

We find the sign by the archway of the gate, and to my relief, there is already a bowl full of rat teeth by the gate. Through the portal, we enter a dimly lit and reeking corridor. An amateur sign written by an unhinged mind proclaims Seamusxanthuszenus as the purveyor of death, and lists his stock, which counts among other not-so-savoury offerings stuffed naga, a nightmare’s head, and other gore.

The proprietor turns out to be a dust mephit, which is somehow still surprising to me even after all the surprises I’ve had today. After A LOT of preamble, I slide multiple generous garnishes over to him to fish for information about Sashell and why he came here. It turns out he was interested in some of Seamus’s suppliers, specifically a group of them who carried the same triangular symbol as I have found, who wear red and green furs, and most recently brought in the tentacles of a Varth, the wings of a varguyle, and liquified farastu – all of which, I realise, hail from Carceri. Seashell had also been asking for something to protect himself from cats. Seamus tried to swindle him with the fangs of a hydra or some such, saying they were the fangs of the Lord of Cats.

I end up buying the nightmare’s head, since it is still alive (for a given value, sentient is perhaps a better way of putting it). Seamus throws in three quills and a feather, and opens the way out for us – which I suppose would not have opened had we not made a purchase! After listening to the skull berate us, and try to sell us off as “two used idiots” as soon as we returned to the Bazaar, Toledo and I made the executive decision to stick him on top of a post in the marketplace where he could become something of an annoying landmark. I guess I can’t save them all!

Seamusxanthuszenus from the pages of Uncaged: Faces of Sigil

Dirwin, Born to be Wild: Episode 1

So Dirwin’s back in Planescape now! What was that Ravenloft chapter all about? Does this have anything to do with the Great Modron March? Let’s see…

Something’s following me out of my mind. It takes the shape of a great shadowy cat. Is this the black cat I saw crossing the mill bridge, in another form?

I’m back in my case. Toledo’s standing over me, her face neutral, but her body language reading surprise. She’s been helping care for me, Marja and Word. Every animal, druid, and wereperson in Sigil has gone insane. I have no time to stop and think about my good friend. If he got out, he’s somewhere out there. If not, the current situation is more important for now anyway.

I take the time to warm up and speak to Word. He’s barely there, though he has moments of lucidity. He’s muttering kill, maim, blood, things like that. I can hear birds outside saying it, and cranium rats whispering in the walls. All of them are mad. Marja’s barely holding together. But I’ve fought my way out of my madness. I grab Toledo by the shoulder. ‘We’ve got to get to the Beastlands! That’s what Merka was hinting at.’

 

Leaving the other two to look after each other, we start out, but my stomach cramps horribly. Toledo points out that I haven’t eaten in two days, so we change direction and head for the Garden Gnome. On the way we see a taxi driven by a mezoloth, and pulled by Arcadian ponies. Even they are muttering horrible murderous words.

At the Garden Gnome things are just as I expect to see, vegan food travelling around on the little gnomish-made conveyor belt, lampshades of all kinds hanging from the ceiling, barely any walls to interrupt the indoor-outdoor flow. There’s my devil friend I play chess with, playing with a flumph now. As we wait for our orders, Toledo tells me some recent gossip. The Ciphers and the Godsmen have allied for some reason, and the Sensates are having internal problems between those who favour pure sensation and those (like myself) who err on the side of experience and understanding.

A large suit of armour with a two-headed dog leashed to it walks in. The voice from within the armour is squeaky, as he announces rewards for information about some wanted men, and announces himself as Blandermal, who can be found at the Woodsmen’s Retreat. A Mercykiller then. The wanted posters that he sticks up name Ankus the gith assassin, Picand Four-teeth the cannibal bauriur, and Hochur the Foul, a bladeling with black-dyed spikes.

After he leaves, I feel someone’s eyes on me from across the street. I meet the eyes, and he approaches. He is filthy, lank black hair and foul smelling breath. He raves at me, something about things coming out of black triangles and devouring your spirit, a slumbering lamb, the hidden journal, find it, they’re coming from the prison to get him. As he pulls out a black triangular pendant to show me, he slumps into my lap, an arrow sticking out of his back.

I can’t spot the shooter, so I pull him to cover and start healing him. Toledo steps back too, unable to see who shot. But then the man in my arms twists and grows and his black hair lightens to orange as he turns into a tiger. I wrestle him down with Toledo’s help.

We’ve barely managed this when the Harmonium show up. As they arrest the weretiger I pocket the pendant which has fallen off him. I ask if they’ll look after him, as it’s not his fault he attacked. I tell them I’m going to fix the problem with all the animals. Drethel Fortinarb is the officer, and he’s pretty jaded. He’s had to arrest quite a few animals of course. But I needn’t panic about my weretiger friend. All the druid lawyers have gone mad too, so none of the animal cases are being tried right now. Safe in the knowledge that bureaucracy will hold everything up quite nicely, Toledo and I set out to try and find our way to the Beastlands again.

Then she points out she thinks she knows the name Slumbering Lamb. It’s a place, she reckons. So we go to the nearest tout, a tiefling who is not unfamiliar to us, name of Kaiakos, who has an extra set of crab-like arms, and an eladrin spouse. After some small talk, and a garnish to seal the deal, he points us to the Slumbering Lamb. On the way there, I break up two fighting bauriur. They had no idea why they had started fighting, but I explain, and tell them to go home and rest as much as they can.

On Formean Road we find the Slumbering Lamb. A tiefling landlady opens the door. Before we can even explain why we’re here, she starts whinging about Sashell, we’re not here about Sashell are we, there have been so many people enquiring about him today and she ought to charge him more, because she reckons he’s a weretiger. Well, now we have a name. I tell her he’s been arrested and I’m here to retrieve something for him. As I haggle with her I can see she is dishonest, so for 5 gold I get her to let me his room. I pack everything up for safe keeping, knowing she’ll just throw it all out and let the room to someone else even after I paid her. In the pig sty of a room, I find two interesting things. The first is a painted tiger mask with divination magic on it.

The second is his journal, which Toledo and I have to reorder as the pages have been spread all over the room. As time goes on, it grows more and more incoherent. There are entries hinting at chasing small prey and being pursued by a giant shadowy cat. Could it be the same as what I just saw chasing me? There’s more about shapes coming out of triangles, bars becoming fangs, devouring life forces out of shining bowls. There’s also a yellow note pasted in with different handwriting. It has a list of names. Three of them are the three wanted men. Is this important?

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Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill

Last month James and I played Ravenloft II. What’s that, you ask? Well, after the success of the original Ravenloft, the writer was asked to catch lightning in a bottle again, and produced the bizarre sequel which brings Strahd von Zarovich back… or is it really him? James and I would joke about it over the years as something that sounded sort of hacky, but then we saw it was available on Drive Thru RPG as print on demand, so we bought it. James had a read and decided not only did this actually fit weirdly well with where Dirwin was going… but he really wanted to do it! So after years of us treating it like a joke, like how Doctor Who always meets the Master no matter how dead he seemed last time we saw him, we did it!

ravenloft

In the end, our findings were this. This campaign would probably only be playable in a very slim set of circumstances (which Dirwin just happened to meet). Also we got really nice Mary Shelleyesque vibes from the whole thing, and then we REALLY started shipping Dirwin and good guy Strahd as a thing. It was one of the best roleplaying experiences we’ve had because it was actually super gothy and romantic. Now I mean really, that stuff is DM-player insert stuff, but the writer of Ravenloft II has done a good job at setting up the atmosphere. We also inserted the module Howls in the Night in the middle, which also had a great atmosphere too!

Here is the playlist we listened to for the campaign. Sorry the journal is all in one big lot, but I didn’t get around to transcribing it until recently. Life has gotten a wee bit busy!

 

Prologue

 

Is it a dream? I find myself back at the chapel. You know which one. But this time Esmerelda doesn’t intervene. This time, Donavich doesn’t intercede. Euphrates is the first to die, caged in by the animated pews and lecterns. Marja is impaled, and Word too, thrown onto a fallen candelabra. Godfrey tries to hold him off, but when he dies too, there are no more resurrections.

 

I go into croc form. He catches me. Ireena is watching. She’s smiling.

 

He bites me.

 

Day One

 

Then I wake. I feel so unbearably weak. A woman’s voice: ‘Dr Irving?’

 

I open my eyes. Is that Toledo? No, it’s a human woman. Or did I manage to change to change her form already? No, this is a serving maid, says her name is Tallie. She calls me Dr Irving again.

 

Donavich walks into the room. No, not Donavich. He says his name is Dr d’Honaire, and he is my colleague. Stephen, he calls me. We are psychologists at this sanatorium by the sea.

 

I asked what happened, and he says I came in from a thunderstorm, raving, and I‘ve been unconscious for near on a week. Where did I come from, I ask. The house of my friend, Strahd von Zarovich, he says. The house on Gryphon Hill.

 

I stiffen, trying to hide my reaction. Another Donavich here, another Strahd? Then Marja’s double walks into the room. Not quite, she’s human too, and called Mary. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, berating me for galavanting in thunderstorms and getting sick. I ask her if she has a canine companion. She is surprised, but answers in the affirmative. What’s his name, I ask, holding my breath. Lex, she says. I want to laugh, or cry. What is going on?

 

She permits me a walk outside, though I am chilly and sweaty at the same time, and still horribly weak. Then I see past the ruse for a moment. Razorleaf, the city bending above me impossibly. It passes. A patient called Cyrus starts raving about the master coming. Of course he is. The name Strahd rings in my ears still. What did he mean, my friend?

 

I nearly faint, so Mary… Marja… Mary takes me back to my room and insists I rest. I ask her, did Dr d’Honaire have a son? Did he die? She confirms it. Again, I feel such dread.

 

Inside the room, my room, so they call it, in my sanatorium, I search for answers. Does Sigil really exist? Who am I? I try writing Dirwin by carving it into the underside of the wooden desk in the room. It blurs before my eyes and it reads Irving.

 

What does it all mean? Where am I? There is glass in the windows… in every window! I’ve never seen such extravagance before.

 

A letter on my desk… Irving’s desk. I recognise the writing. I read it.

 

My dear friend, Please hasten to meet me when you have recovered. I too have been ill after that night when we last met. We must discuss what happened, and try to solve the mystery of the house on Gryphon Hill! With utmost regard, Strahd von Zarovich

 

What does it all mean? How can this be happening? On my desk I find two items I’ve had my whole life, since my childhood with Grandfather Croc. Two wooden toy soldiers. But now I notice something about them that I’ve somehow never realised. They’re two opposing pawns from a game. How did I not see this before?

 

Day Two

 

I had a good sleep. Breakfast with d’Honaire. He admits he heard me raving in my week long stupor, and offers me mesmerism to try and unfold the mysteries of my memory loss. I take him up on the offer. He is surprised. Apparently before this I was dismissive of his interest in hypnotism. I apologise for that.

 

In the corridor outside, I see Ismark. No, his name is Bath Kleinen. He’s an orderly. But I can see in his eyes he knows more. I try to question him, ask him if he’s dreamed of other worlds too. He avoids my questioning.

 

I tell Mary I’m going for a constitutional, and may I borrow her dog. She permits me. Lex is a  lovely robust wolfhound, but too dull to be Word in another guise. I try to speak to him, but he just tips his head to the side. We walk around town, and I get acquainted with the harbour town of Mordentshire.

 

I see people in the town who look like people I know. I swear I see Dandy and Kazi, but they’re human-sized, and married, and running a bookstore. I buy some books there about local history, geography and peerage. I go down to the wharf, hoping not to see a familiar lobster there. By the river there’s a mill that’s not working, and a black cat and a little girl walking away. In the market, the spitting image of Nanny Ethel sells grain and calls herself Ray. She tells me she’s worried about her friend, the smith’s wife Aida. I go to visit, and she tells me the problem is her husband, who never leaves the upstairs rooms and has boarded up all the windows.

 

I go up to investigate. Lex is growling. Alwin, the smith, sits in the dark. Tells me he’s fine, tells me to leave. I try to keep him talking, but eventually he stands, takes his hammer up, and lashes out at me. ‘You are the author of all this, are you not, Doctor?’ I leave, not ready yet to cause a scene and bring my full powers to bear. Can I still bring my full powers to bear? I tell Aida to leave the house and live with other family for the time being.

 

I look for the church, just north of town according to the map in the book I have, but it is a smoldering ruin. The priest in his cottage refuses to see me. Blames me? Blames me and Strahd?

 

I return to the sanitarium to prepare for lunch, and find a letter inviting me to Heather House for lunch with Strahd and the Weathermay family. Full of trepidation, I begin the short journey south to the top of the cliffs. On the way I see squirrels in the trees. I try to speak to one. Is it stopping and talking back? It seems almost to do so, but not quite.

 

I reach the house, knowing already some of the faces to expect. I did not expect Ezmerelda, or now Mistress Ardent, now a servant in this grand house. She ushers me in to the dining room, where yes, there is Ireena, or Tatiana, or rather Virigina Weathermay. There is Lord Weathermay, with the face of the mayor of the village of Barovia. And there, now coming to embrace me, now embracing me with warm, alive arms, Strahd von Zarovich himself, smiling.

 

Genuinely, warmly smiling. This is a friend. I can feel no other feeling on seeing him now. Is it possible I have managed to call, from somewhere in the infinite planes, another version of Strahd who I can redeem to the side of good? Perhaps a Strahd who needs no redemption of mine? Or is this some folly of my brain, perhaps a last long hallucination as I die some unexpected death? I almost welcome it, the chance to rewrite one of my greatest failures.

 

We sit down to lunch. Virginia is pale. She is ill. I dread to think why. I know why. But Strahd is surely not the cause. They are engaged now. Can this Strahd be finally about to achieve his Tatiana for good? But will he, if what I suspect is making her ill is in fact true?

 

When we have some time after lunch to speak privately, I find Strahd as confused as myself as to the events of the last week. He too had a dream, he says, that he was watching some hideous version of himself ruling over a land that feared him, and he had to watch with disgust and dread this facsimile of himself consuming the life of the populace, and fighting a version of me dressed in lizard hides. I tell him I too had this dream, that I was this Dirwin. That I still think I am Dirwin, and Dr Stephen Irving is the unreal one. I ask him what he remembers, and it would seem he belongs in this world, unlike me. He recalls something more than I do of the night we both fell ill, and that is this: we fled the house on Gryphon Hill, having done something, or unlocked something, far more terrible than our minds could handle. I think it highly wise to invite him to the hypnotism tonight with Dr d’Honaire. I read the books I bought as I await the evening’s diversions.

 

Night Two

 

We arrive in the smoking room and Dr d’Honaire is there in the darkness, his pendulum at the ready. He is eager to begin.

 

He puts us both into a relaxed state, one where we should, he says, be more suggestible. “Where are you?” he asks. Before I know it, I am speaking.

 

“I am floating above the ground. Fog slowly spins me across the moors. The stars no longer burn in the sky, though somehow they should. There is a castle… or a building… its jaws open to devour me! I scream as I look down its throat filled with lightning and death! I am devoured, yet alive. I cannot see… the lightning again flashes. The room is alive with power. I see where I am…”

 

“What do you see?”

 

Strahd’s mouth opens as mine is stilled. “I stand before my own grave.”

 

“Please describe this place,” the doctor urges.

 

“Towering steel holds the world in place,” I continue. “Lightning pierces my soul and tears me in twain. I see myself twice. One, dark and terrible, the other, light and powerless. Good people mill about me, yet their ways are strange. I search for the circle whose eyes sees the truth of men’s souls…”

 

“Where is it? Where is this circle?”

 

Strahd speaks up again. “In the warm heart of love’s rest does the eye remain secure.”

 

“What is happening about you now?”

 

This time Strahd speaks for a while. “Then, from among the familiar faces of strangers comes the Great One… darkness within darkness, death beyond death. My life falls from me as he drinks it with unquenched thirst. His crimson lips stretch wide in a snarl of evil delight. His voice, the thunder of the crackling lightning…”

 

“What does he say?” d’Honaire almost shouts, his left hand white, gripping the end of the arm of the chair.

 

This time words erupt from my mouth. “Robbed! Cheated! The life which was mine by right, stolen from me by the Law Above! I spurn that law! I shall have my life back! I defy the gods!”

 

“What do you do?”

 

I continue, “I wrest myself from his grasp and seek to flee the chamber. The doors have all shifted and gone away. A book calls to me and offers me life. The lightning freezes the dark and I stumble in the darkness towards a shining book…”

 

“Where do you find this book?”

 

“Atop an altar formed of a griffin,” I reply.

 

“What does the book say?”

 

Strahd speaks, “The book tells a tragic tale of defiance in the face of divine justice. Yet something of its wisdom is incomplete and I know I must search further. I climb up a well of tangled thorns. I weaken and slow, though the top is neat. Now I see a figure in the opening above… it reaches for me…”

 

“Can you describe it? Describe the figure!”

 

I nearly scream in reply, “It is the Dark One himself! His hands seize me. My life again begins to slip from my soul.”

 

“By all that’s great!” d’Honaire exclaims, then gathers himself. “What do you do?”

 

I answer, “I run! I run without moving. My steps are mired in the soft ground and move in unreal motion. I stumble to the edge of a crevice. Friends, whose faces are filled with loathing and hate, stare up at me. A circled band hangs before me. I reach for it and the inscription burns…”

 

“Read it! What does the inscription say?”

 

Strahd replies, “Soft as the pillow of love’s rest shall my healing give hope to those forsaken.”

 

d’Honaire mops his brow, and continues, “What do you do with the Ring?”

 

“The ring blazes with brilliant light,” Strahd murmurs, “the torn book in my hands mends itself and now I can see where lies the terrible truth of this land. I cannot speak it! Yet I know where next I must go to find the truth…”

 

“Where is this Truth?”

 

“In the folds of love’s arms,” Strahd responds, “Yet I cannot reach the key! The darkness falls about me… I smother… I am dying…”

 

“What do you do with the Truth?”

 

This time I speak. “I flee down twisting halls as the light from the dying torches fails. The darkness behind me, pursuing me… devouring me! There! Ahead lies the key!”

 

“Where is this Key to the Truth?”

 

The two of us speak in concert, “Where all began… though cannot end.”

 

We are all exhausted by the experience. I want to speak more but Strahd must return to Heather House, and d’Honaire is worried, seems almost frightened of me now. So I retire to bed now, haunted and unsatisfied.

 

Day Three

 

Walking the grounds this morning, I hear a scream. I run towards it. A man, back contorted, throws off Mary. I wrestle him to the ground (I seem to still have that talent of Dirwin’s!). “Thieves!” he screams at my face. “Murderers! Where are the children?” I realise that this is no mere madness. He is really yelling at me. What did Strahd and I do?

 

As the orderlies take him away to be sedated, I ask Mary if she is all right, and then I ask her where I came from on that stormy night. She says I stumbled in from the east. Above us to the east looms Gryphon Hill. Could it have been there?

 

I ask Mary further questions. Yes, she has noticed a personality change in the orderly Bath Kleinen. In fact, she has noticed other people’s personalities that have changed, and she gives me a list of names that I might follow up on later. But for now, I must lunch at Heather House.

 

Alas! Virginia has taken a turn for the worst! She is more pale, more listless than yesterday. I speak quietly with Strahd about it being signs of the Creature we know as Vampire. We agree to look further into this later today, and go down to the market to see what is happening there with the list of names I have… and perhaps to buy some garlic if we can find it. We take Lex with us.

 

But in the market we are interrupted by the ringing of bells. The mayor calls a meeting in the market square. There has been a killing in the moors, not an unusual occurrence at night, but this time the death happened in the day. The legendary moorhounds have grown bolder! The mayor gathers all able men, a body fifty strong, and Strahd and I commit ourselves to the cause, unwilling to shirk our communal duty.

 

We march northeast out of town to find the body of a shepherd and all his flock, throats torn out. Beside the body we see a mud and straw doll of a hound, but then an ill wind kicks up and blows it to pieces.

 

I have had enough of feeling powerless against these ill omens. Part of me is saying I am not Dirwin, I don’t have the abilities I have earned over the years, but part of me insists I am, I am! So I dig deep in myself and reach out to communicate with the elemental spirit of the land around me. It works! I am connected, I am myself again. I sense the presence of undead , many down in the village, and one here in the crowd, disguised as Kidar Kleinen, Bath’s brother, a town guard. I reach out to feel the lay of the land around me and sense a large house to the southeast. Coming out of my trance, I learn it is Wescote Manor.

 

Strahd rises from examining the body of the deceased to report what he knows of Wescote Manor. Folks say that one hundred years ago there was a marriage arranged between Ann Campbell, a maiden of a rival family, and Burton Wescote, the heir of the Wescote family. He was eager for it, but she was not, so much so that she tried to run away the night before the wedding. Burton’s brother tried to stop her, and she killed him and fled into the moors. Burton gave chase with his dogs. No one knows what happened in the bog, except that Burton said he chased her until she began to sink into the bog, and she refused his help and died. The Campbells left Mordentshire, and the Wescotes began to die off one by one in mysterious circumstances. Something happened to the dogs too, but it is unclear what. All that is known is that howls and reports of moorhounds abound, and they are known to rip the entrails out of shepherds and other victims they find on the moors at night.

 

And now during the day too, it seems. We are organised by the mayor into groups to search the moors. I finagle Strahd and myself into the same group as Kidar and three other men, to keep an eye on him. We begin to walk the moors in a line, methodically. Once we are well out of earshot of the other groups of men, Lex begins to whine, and then the moorhounds attack out of nowhere!

 

They are made of mud and straw and their eyes burn with unholy fire, and their teeth… well, their teeth rip to piece our companions. Strahd, Lex and myself manage to survive. I examine Kidar, but he just seems a normal man now. How strange. I tell Strahd of my awakening into my powers as Dirwin now, and I prove it by transforming into a raven, and by talking to Lex (who is a good boy, but definitely not Word). Using another of my powers, I feel the safe path through the boggy moors to Wescote Manor, so we begin heading there.

 

Howls resound again and we begin to run, until Strahd becomes trapped in a bit of boggy mud and starts sinking. I draw all the moisture out of the ground into a muddy sphere, and Strahd is able to clamber out of the remains of the now dry mud.We hear a scream ahead, and running to the source, find an old man about to become victim to the moorhounds. We attack them, and I use the sphere of muddy water, which seems quite efficient at whirling them to pieces.

 

The man is Douglas Michaels, a servant at the manor, and he leads us there. He advises us to not panic when we meet his master, for it is Burton Wescote himself, who has never aged a day due to the curse laid on him by Ann Campbell. We find the manor house semi-ruined, certain rooms in the front given over to decay and attacks from the hounds, while the rest of the house has been defended. The grounds are still nice though. Using mending on Strahd’s part, and druidcraft on mine, we brush each other down and prepare to see the master of the house.

 

Sir Burton Wescote greets us amiably. He is still indeed a young man. His staff, however, were all aged. There is a room we aren’t allowed to enter in the ground floor, but Douglas tells us it contains the ruins of the wedding presents!

 

Over dinner, Sir Burton explains to us that after Ann killed his brother and ran off into the night, he sent his dogs and ran after her to try to stop her from running into any dangerous spots. He saw her sink and tried to save her. The dogs all died, and the kennels are in despair. I notice in the dining room there seems to be a missing portrait, and I wonder if there is a reason for that.

 

After dinner, in the guest room, Strahd and I check in with each other’s impressions. I talk to Lex, and he seems fine with Burton, so he’s not undead I suppose. I confer with nature around me, and it is confirmed. So what is going on? Strahd theorizes that the tableau of a ruined wedding downstairs suggests that a symbolic wedding may need to take place. We settle in for the night.

 

Day Four

 

At 3am, Lex whines and wakes us, followed by a knock on our door from Burton, who asks us to behold the nightly phenomenon. Outside, we see an apparition of a woman being chased by dogs! But what is chasing them? We are sent back to bed, but I tell Strahd I will learn more, and I fly out as a giant owl, and he rides on my back.

 

Below us we see the moor hounds baying around the bog where the apparition of the woman is now sinking, and we see the other person in the apparition is Sir Burton! But I fly too low, and a moorhound attacks! I manage to escape its jaws, and we fly straight back to the house. Discussing what little we saw in the safety of the house, we both admit we did not see enough to know if Wescote was telling the truth about trying to save her.

 

In the morning Wescote is nowhere to be found, and the maid Gabrielle tells us this is always the case in the morning. She also tells us that others have tried to end the curse and have failed, and all of them have been taken by the bog. I am quietly confident we won’t suffer the same fate. Asking further about Burton’s morning ritual, she says he always walks out on the bog, so once she has gone, I tell Strahd I will go and spy on our host, and leave in raven form.

 

I get a bad feeling as I fly over the bog. I see something happening in the same spot where we were attacked last night, so I move closer. There is an open grave, and a corpse just standing there. I move closer yet, and it beckons to me. It is Ann Campbell! I land and transform before her, and she seems to reconstitute, almost coming to life before me.

 

She tells me her version of events. That she didn’t kill the brother, that Wescote pursued her with ill intent and laughed as she sank into the bog. Bring him here, she asks me. She decays before me, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I believe neither of them is lying to me, but what can that mean?

 

Back at the manor, Strahd and I explore, since Burton still hasn’t shown himself. We visit boarded up rooms and basements and ballrooms and such, finding only that everything is frozen as if waiting for the wedding to happen, and the missing portrait is just a normal, completely mundane portrait of Burton. Perhaps he took it down as he didn’t want to look at his own face, never changing.

 

There is only one place in the house we have not been yet, and that is a locked study where we assume Burton must surely be. So we pick the lock and go in to find him lying on a chaise, groaning. He is ill, there is a bucket beside him for his sick. He doesn’t notice us, so wracked by some stomach illness is he. Over the fireplace is a portrait of Ann, and the words of the curse she laid on him. It all becomes clear now. “Bog take you and keep you.” The bog water keeps him alive.

 

We announce ourselves, and he is slightly angry, but too sick to care. We call him out on it: he’s been drinking bog water. Why? The curse, of course. The bog is keeping him alive, as much as it’s making him sick. I tell him that Ann told me to bring him to her, and he decides that is what we shall do, tonight.

 

When the appointed hour comes, all three of us go out together. Ann and Burton face each other after all these years, and Strahd and I try to negotiate between them. I tell them that they have both told me their events, but neither of them seems to be lying. This can only mean one thing: so much time has passed, and emotions were so high that night, that there is no real objective truth anymore. Ann was a young woman, terrified of an unwanted marriage, in the house of her enemies, and finally, dying in a most horrible fashion. Burton had just lost his brother, not knowing where the guilt truly lay. Both of them were suffering under heightened emotions, and interpreted events differently from each other. The two of them seem to accept this, and both finally seem to get some bit of peace from this.

 

And that is when the Moorhound attacks! The greatest of the beasts, it tears Burton’s throat out before we could stop it, but then we put it down for good. It is the last vestige of the curse. Ann holds Burton’s body as he dies, and both of them fade from view. We return to the house to tell the servants what has occured, and gain some much needed sleep.

 

Day Five

 

We return to Mordent with the servants, who are bringing an assemblage of furniture and goods to sell from the manor. Strahd is in high spirits. We have ended one curse, so perhaps we can end more without too much cost.

 

Tragedy! We reach Heather House to find it in full mourning. All our hopes are dashed. Virginia is dead!

 

I try to steady my friend in his grief by announcing that I have ways of revivifying the body and spirit, and I can bring her back, though her form may change. On this thin thread of hope, we send Mistress Ardent shopping for reagents and unguents I require.

 

With permission from Lord Byron I reveal on Virginia’s neck the bitemarks of the Creature. It is confirmed. The Creature himself is here. I look at my friend. I am so sure it is not him. Aren’t I?

 

The answer is in Gryphon Hill, Strahd tells me, and so we head up there. The wind fights us as we fly there, with me in giant owl form, Strahd riding, Lex in my huge talons. But we make it. We hear sounds from within the castle-like mansion, with its four corner towers pointing up into the sky. At the door, the griffins guarding it turn on us! Except they don’t. It’s an hallucination that only I can see. Why doesn’t the hallucination trap affect Strahd, and just me? Is it because he is the one renting the house?

 

As he tries to open the door, the knocker attacks him, trying to eat his hand, which dispels that notion of mine. With a wave of his free hand, he siphons the magical energy out, and his hand is released.

 

The first few rooms we go into are bare and ransacked looking. At the rear of the study, double doors open onto a brick wall. How strange. In the dining room, we find the table set! But for whom? I feel eyes following me from a painting, and pointing that out makes them run away. So, there must be a corridor behind there. We explore further the open rooms, since we do not yet know how to get through the wall.

 

There are mice in the kitchen infesting the food which seems to have been recently put out, for it is only beginning to rot. They are reluctant to talk to me, as Strahd smells like a predator to them. He asks me what they are saying, and I am careful to obscure that I fear he may be my good friend at day and the Creature at night (yet how can that be? He has been with me this whole time, including at night!). I manage to convince one to trust me, then he tells me that the secret corridor is through the fireplace, and that the house is full of people you can see but not smell – ghosts, and perhaps other undead I suppose. Then a little compatriot of his sums up the courage to speak, and says that she saw Strahd drink the blood of one of her family. I hide what she says from Strahd. Surely there must be another explanation?

 

We spend some time looking in the fireplace, where Strahd finds the catch to open the secret door. We find the secret corridor there, and it runs the length of the north wall of the house. There is a stairwell down, which we take. There is an odd slime which we test before walking through, but it seems harmless.

 

At the end of the long corridor, we open the door into an alchemy laboratory. We see signs in there that Strahd was working here, and perhaps I was too. There are diagrams, showing the workings of a massive machine. What is it supposed to do?

 

As we read, I come to a horrific realisation. I look on my forearm for the long-healed scar of bitemarks of my brother crocodile when I grew up with the crocs and wrestled them for play… and it isn’t there. What is happening? In my moment of existential confusion, I smell the well-inhabited scent of Sigil. Where am I really?

 

My delirium is broken by something falling from the ceiling and wrapping around Strahd, suffocating him. We kill it, and in the adrenaline, my confusion is gone. Strahd and I go to open the very large doors in the eastern wall.

 

We have found the room behind the bricked up doorway, for it takes up an entire quarter of the house, the whole southeastern corner, even up to the roof, where a glass dome is cracked, letting the weather in. Wire, ropes, beams hang jaggedly into an absence – something should be here. Our experiment. Where is it? What was it?

 

We find in the wreckage a rod of glowing crystal. We know we need this. Why? What is it for? The words come to our lips. The Apparatus. This rod powers it. ‘Where it all began,’ Strahd mouths. ‘Though cannot end,’ I answer.

 

Lightning strikes into the room. It would have struck the Apparatus, if it was there. The lightning enlightens the darkest recesses of my mind. I have an inkling of what happened here. Strahd and I entered the machine. Strahd, with the intent to rid himself of all evil in his soul, all the dreams that haunted him of bloodshed and bloodlust. But that evil had to go somewhere. So the Creature was born. Something more akin to the Strahd I knew before, in Barovia, the monster I ended. So is what was left behind a purely good Strahd? He seems a normal man to me, as much as I admire his good qualities too.

 

And what of me, when I stepped in the machine? But it wasn’t me. It was Dr Stephen Irving. Where did he go? How did I come here?

 

I take the two wooden pawns from my pocket. One white, one black. This is one of my oldest memories. Could it be that I was created? Created for this very purpose, to be locked in this eternal war of good against evil?

 

Coming out of my existential dread, we uncover more secrets of the room, such as the door out, which is disguised from the other side to look like the servants’ entrance to the kitchen, and a ladder up to a corridor that connects with a secret door on the first floor. Then we backtracked through the lab to find further rooms to the north. Within the next room, we find and kill a vampiress. There are two coffins however, so there is one more vampire we must find.

 

In the next room we meet a long dead corpse. As he begins to rise, I get seized by the odd urge to be friendly and help him up by the hand. He takes my hand and does not attack. As he is a mummy, communicating with him is hard and slow, but he manages to convey that he is Bath Kleinen! Taking pity on him, I change his shape to that of a cat so he can move faster and come with us. What we’ll do to help him, I don’t know… but presumably whoever is in his body right now is the mummy, and he has somehow been body-swapped with that person.

 

Searching further, we find a secret prison, in which a few other body-swapped people are trapped. One mummy attacks us and is quickly dispatched, but two other monsters are townsfolk. We take them back to the reception room, though we the shade Gaston with us, since he can move fast.

 

Upstairs, we find a man soaking wet from the rain. He introduces himself as Ali Esterbridge, and says he has been squatting here. We take pity on him and invite him down to the kitchen, but he pushes me down the stairs and attacks! He is a vampire. It occurs to me, as we wrestle with him and eventually finally end him, that all the monsters here avoid hurting Strahd. Why is that?

 

Hurt badly from the fight, we decide to return to the sanitorium for the night, bringing the body-swap victims with us. In the sky, the massive face of the Creature, formed out of cloud and lightning, tries to bite me with lightning teeth! But I manage to twist out of the way, and we make it back to the sanitorium.

 

There, Mary tells me she’ll take care of the victims, and that we must go up to Heather House, as the ingredients for the ritual have been gathered! So we go there. I am too fatigued to do the spell tonight, so we go to bed, and I pray that the staff of the house listen to what I told them as to how to treat the body of Virginia…

 

Day Six

 

I am awoken after midnight by Lex growling. I cannot move. Why can I not move?

 

Strahd is at the window, and beyond it, Virginia hovers, her mouth and front drenched in blood. She calls to Strahd to join her. He starts to open the window. I manage to flick a pebble from my pocket at the back of his head. A lucky strike! The spell is broken, and he retreats from the window in fear! Virginia leaves to join her master.

 

We flee the house as quickly as we can, heading for the safety of the sanitorium. But inside, it is a massacre. Everyone is dead, even Mary, even the shade Gaston is gone. We go to leave, but outside the whole village has gathered with torches, lead by Mistress Ardent. They blame us for the massacre and the vampirism. I turn into an owl and get us out of there as soon as I can. As we ascend, to my despair, I see the mayor is a grown-up Radovan.

 

By a circuitous route we come back to the empty Wescote Manor. We doubt the servants will be back, as it seems like the body-swapping is to near completion, so they will probably stay in the town, possessed, serving the Creature. So we make this our home base, and venture out to finish searching Gryphon Hill for whatever answers we can find. I still tell Strahd we will save Virginia. I hope he believes me. I hope I believe me.

 

Back in Gryphon Hill, the monsters we meet are all townspeople now, and we usher them to follow us and return to the relative safety of Wescote Manor – all except one, the ghost of an ancient inhabitant of this house, with a tragic backstory, who we cannot convince, and so are forced to end. Again and again, I am assaulted by visions and hallucinations and delirium, but we keep going. Within the bedroom Strahd finds his diaries and notes, and we confirm our suspicions. The notes speak of driving evil from the soul of man, specifically, his own sense of repressed evil.

 

In the closet we make an amazing discovery. An extremely expensive ruby… and we know what it is almost without having to detect the magic auras around it. It is a scrying stone. ‘Oh no,’ I say, ‘We have been discovered! Let us leave at once.’ Shutting the door to the closet, I roll my eyes, and keep searching.

 

We find more secret corridors, and the way up to the roof, with more body-swapped townspeople. Up in the north tower, we find a footlocker full of Strahd’s notes, one of which shows us a diagram of the Apparatus, and another which says it had been taken to his own grave. We remember that was in the hypnotism now, and I ask if he has a grave. He has a place reserved for him in the Weathermays’ mausoleum! So now we know where we must storm, and most likely where the Creature will be.

 

We find four gargoyles who are townspeople at the west tower, nothing in the south tower, and are attacked by a swarm of sturges in the east tower. Only the central tower remains. Inside, we feel relief. It is a holy, consecrated room. Unfortunately the floor is weak, but we manage to make it over carefully to the altar. There is a holy symbol and a book. Strahd tries to jimmy open a locked box, and he vanishes. I panic, and cast Locate Creature, but he is only down in the small graveyard behind the house. I fly him back up to the tower, and we examine the contents of the trapped box. There is a jewelled chalice and a stick of incense.

 

We’re not sure what any of this means, but we come up with a plan. Tomorrow we will return here, steal the ruby in the day when the Creature cannot move, and use it to awaken Lex into full sentience, so that he might help us avenge his mistress. The holy ground should protect us. We leave for now, taking all the bodyswap victims to Wescote Manor with us.

 

Day Seven

 

Early after the sun rises we fly to Gryphon Hill, straight into to the central tower. There, Strahd paces anxiously while I work the ritual.

 

It goes much differently from what I expect. Rather than awakening Lex, I am drawn deep within myself, into my skin, into the blood and viscera, where it loses all meaning, then becomes clear again, little planets orbiting within me, far far down. I realise that I am a part of everything, but we are all of us everything. I can feel the planes within me, and then I can sense something of the truth. This is not the shadowfell after all! There is something awry in Beastlands, there is something awry in the Beastlands in me.

 

My downwards motion slows, then stops, and I see a figure before me. ‘Um… hey,’ comes the voice of my old friend Merka. ‘So, ugh, I guess I’m your spirit guide, or something.’ He gives me three truths. One, he says to me one path leads to many paths, leads to many paths. I say that’s a tree, and he’s pleased that I understand.

 

He tells me that the disorder I can sense in the Beastlands is in me too. I have been divided. I have created this place. The idea astounds me. How can I grasp it? If I have created this place, why is everything going so wrong?

 

Finally, as I begin to fade back to reality, he tells me that I was not created for any purpose, except by myself. I’m the one who created me, through the choices I have made.

 

As I fade back, I am engulfed by the rainbow. I hear a dry and raspy sound. I instantly think of a snake. I feel terror and euphoria at once. It’s like the feeling I always expected to feel in the presence of a god. Is this rainbow my god?

 

I return to Strahd. We flee back to Wescote Manor, and I tell him everything that happened. We don’t know how to apply everything to our present situation, but we start making plans for the next day.

 

Day Eight

 

The new day dawns, but remains dark. Strahd and I feel there is no safe place to be, so we must keep on moving. To that end, I cast Wind Walk on us, which means for the next several hours we can shift into a very fast moving mist and fly out to places distant. But before leaving the Manor, I try to plane shift out of this dark place, and of course, I cannot.

 

We fly to the church, still in ruins. Zombies come shambling towards us from the graveyard. They are, of course, townspeople. We calm them and get them to wait in safety. We head towards the priest’s cottage, wanting to finally come to terms with what we did to the church. When we arrive he is actually talking to us, he’s friendly…. Nope! I realise in time that he is a body-swapper, and I restrain him with croc form. Tied up, we interrogate him by holding him next to the holy ground of the church, which makes him burn up if he dares touch it. He answers our questions. The Creature has been using the Apparatus to swap all the townspeople with the monsters of Gryphon Hill, but he’s missing part of it, otherwise he would have done it all much faster. His orders to the body swappers are to lure us in and deliver my good friend Strahd to him. The Apparatus is indeed where we know it to be, at the mausoleum, and so is the Creature, waiting for us.

 

We tie the priest up in his cottage, and search the surrounding area for more clues the hypnotism suggested to us. We manage to rig up some rudimentary communications with the body-swap victims, and find that the actual priest is one of them, so I ask him what did we do? He clarifies, he only knows instinctively that we did it, he has no proof, but on the night the Apparatus was completed, the church was struck by lightning and burned down. Makes sense.

 

We head to the church’s mausoleum first, as the priest says Strahd left something in there. We search the tomb of Normal Korval, and find the hidden cache behind his bronze nameplate. There we find a sulphur sphere, which is part of the Apparatus, and more of Strahd’s notes and diary. There we find recorded that the Creature intends to have his ‘life’ back again, by replacing Strahd in his own body, then setting the lynchmob on Strahd inside the Creature’s body.

 

Outside, the storm intensifies. We know we must go to Heather House, so we do. We see wagons outside the mausoleum of the Weathermays, which clearly brought the Apparatus here. The mausoleum is in great disrepair. We pause in the entrance to embrace, and I tell Strahd that no matter what happens, I’m glad I had this time with him, and he’ll always have a friend in me.

 

There are several large chambers before us to navigate, with noises of horror coming from deeper within. Lightning strikes the great broken glass domed roof. Statues of beings of all heavenly and hellish planes, frescoes ruined, coffins emptied, then the great room itself… walls and walls and walls of coffins of ancestors, and behold! The Apparatus! Behind it, two thrones, and on them, the Creature, the dark Strahd, and Virginia.

 

We move closer and the picture resolves into greater detail. The Creature has been staked! He sits paralyzed, trapped at the moment of death. Virginia sits smugly and awaits us. She offers to finish the deed.

 

What is it she wants, we wish to know. She wants to vampirise my good friend Strahd, and rule forever with him! She doesn’t want to renounce vampirism! She finally knows independence and power this way, rather than the powerless life as a decoration of her father’s, destined to be a decoration for her husband to possess.

 

But, I argue, the vampire is evil inherently! Even if she wishes to drink only from the blood of animals for now, she may change in time, she may corrupt with age.

 

Is the vampire inherently evil? She throws that back at me, and I am floored. Is the vampire inherently evil? Strahd looks at me for an answer. I don’t know what to say. What do I say?

 

I take him by the shoulders. ‘I want it to be true.’ A smile breaks over my face. ‘I want it to be true… and therefore, let it be true! Come, let’s fix the townspeople, then all three of us leave this place. If there’s anywhere a vampire could try to be good, it’s on the planes!’

 

Virginia is uncertain that I really mean it. ‘But how?’

 

I think hard. ‘It must be the way I came through… the Apparatus itself will take us there.’ I go to place the crystal rod in the machine, and she drives the stake all the way through the Creature, ending it, and joins us.

 

I take Strahd’s hand, and Virgina takes his other. I look at my friend once more. Will he be there on the other side, if I created this place? I don’t know. I hope so.

 

We step in. They vanish, but I feel like somewhere on the infinite planes, perhaps they still exist. If they do, I will find them.

 

But as for me, where do I return? I can feel it again in the same way my spirit vision showed me… I am leaving my mind. It was all… what, a dream? A vision? A delusion? And why? I must know… The Beastlands… It’s something to do with the Beastlands… I will solve whatever problem is happening there… because it’s what I do.

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.

Image result for rock lobster

Source unknown (Pinterest)

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.

Image result for rock lobster

Source: Tim Jeffs Art

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!

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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.

Source: Wizards

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.

Source: TSR

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.

Source: Wizards

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

Source: TSR

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

Source: TSR

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.

Source: TSR

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.

Source: Wizards

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.

Source: Wizards

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.

Source: Pathfinder

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.

Source: Wizards

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.

Source: TSR

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.

Source: Wizards

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…

Source: Planescape

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.

Source: Wizards

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?