Alright, Danielle and the girls are watching the last Twilight movie... let's smash-out this session report!
5 players, the usual gang, more or less. The party's only sorcerer, Robard the Red is back! Gath, the prisoner priest returns for his second session, and Jackal made it to 5th level.
So, this session happened the very next week after last week's session. We had been going every other week, but I won't be able to run the game for the next two weekends, so running a bonus game yesterday was the scheduling compromise.
Because of that, I knew this session had to have some kind of narrative end-point. I decided to view it like a TV show's season finale. Even though I have every intention of continuing the Crystals of Chaos campaign (and with the same PCs, no less), you just never know.
Last session, I realized that I hadn't been passing players notes. That's usually something that I do during campaigns, so picked that up again for this session. My first note was to Robard's player, letting him know what had been going on since he was zapped by the High Priest at the start of our last game. Also, if I tell the player privately (via a note), that forces him to describe his experiences to the party, rather than me. Are you feelin' the PSYCHOCOSM, yet?!?
He'd been wandering strange-angled purple corridors for what seemed like days, until finally he stumbled upon a swirling portal of energy. I had imagined it just in front of him, but the player imagined that it might be on the floor so he could just hold his nose and dive-in. That actually sounded better than what I had stated, and preferring not to ret-con (even when it's only a few seconds), I decided that sorcerers could manipulate the size, shape, angle, and location of portals, as if they were adjusting an object in cyberspace with a mouse.
In he went, appearing between the sand-speeder filled with PCs and NPCs and Jackal, who was about to slash a death-blow to some hippy elf who seemed to be following them - but then the elf fell into nothingness and disappeared.
After getting reacquainted, They all decided to enter the weird space that led to somewhere else - interrupting Glenda the tall woman NPC giving Heighten Chancery Philthrop III a lap massage (I should come up with some bonus for characters who travel with their girlfriend or any sexually active vessel). Robard felt with his sorcerous senses and realized it was like a dimensional portal, but yet unlike any he'd seen before.
They entered a pocket-universe that managed to avoid the apocalypse that occurred about a century ago. We decided to call the Cha'alt the PCs were from "Cha'alt classic" and this new world with grasslands, mountains, forests, and blue sky "new Cha'alt."
There were a bunch of people wearing togas standing around outside a futuristic city, locked-out because some A.I. decided organics couldn't be trusted. A droid army with lasers also protected the city from humanoids. Unfortunately, the only way for the PCs to get home (they left all the NPCs on Cha'alt classic to mind the store) was a matrix table inside the city. That tried and true method of guardrailing adventurers in a certain direction has been used in countless episodes of Doctor Who (and other shows).
However, the toga people informed them of three magical crystals that, when combined, would form a seriously powerful artifact. And that would assure the A.I.'s defeat, so the city could be opened and the crystal matrix used to find a way home for the PCs.
Finding a guide named Arn with a death-wish and knowledge of A.I. programming (rolled on the spot using Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise), they headed to the location of the crystals - The Lost City. Upon reflection, that's just sloppy writing having a futuristic, but unnamed, city and then the other location is called The Lost City, but I don't have a writer's room at my beck and call. However, I feel like the players are totally cool with helping me come up with spontaneous details, which just goes to show that the best kind of game, in my humble opinion, leans heavily on improv.
Anyway, the PCs tackled a mechanical scorpion. Gath went down, getting pinched nearly to death and stung (failed save led to temporary paralysis). It had damage reduction, so the warriors with magic weapons and the halfling and priest with blasters eventually took it down. Arn scavenged the cyber-scorpion's motherboard for later, since he graduated (with honors) from A.I. University - totally not made-up (their school motto was E Pluribus Anus).
Also, I just have to say something. Sorry for another interjection. A reviewer lambasted Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 for allowing priests to have nearly unlimited access to healing between battles where an hour's rest is available, because, in his words, it not only wasn't old-school but throws off the whole resource management part of the game. Which, I understand, from a certain point of view, but if critics could put their poisonous pens down for a minute, being able to recharge between difficult battles keeps the game in motion. I remember playing D&D in the 80s and early 90s where healing wasn't hand-waved. The 5-minute adventuring day, as it's sometimes known, just doesn't seem to fit with the fiction. Short stories, comic books, TV shows, and movies don't have the heroes (even anti-heroes) stopping the journey to rest for 8 hours after every medium-strength encounter, let alone hard ones. So, CDS D20 makes more narrative sense, and feels pretty damn old-school to me. Ok, rant over.
By the time the PCs managed to venture inside The Lost City, the session was about half-over. By turning the halfling thief invisible, the party managed to destroy and get past a chrome security sphere that lasered a small lizard moving around just to show what it could do.
Then, they encountered a dozen small humanoids with translucent skin, so you could see all their organs and whatnot through their flesh. Gross! The PCs, especially Jackal, really wanted to decimate these guys, but held back. The little dudes told the PCs that if they were brave enough to claim the crystals, they could go into that slimy tunnel and get them.
Believing it to be some kind of trick, the PCs got into some verbal altercation which soon led to wholesale slaughter. When they were all dead, Robard crept into the humid, moist tunnel, got about 15' in and noticed the tunnel was tapering down, getting smaller. He said that he cast shield on himself and had the equivalent of dimension door at the ready. Which is good, because that tunnel was some kind of worm creature about to crush him. Thankfully, he got out of there and the PCs moved on.
Soon, they came to a black pylon. I had planned for the PCs to search the caves for a small black pyramid that could be placed on an engraved triangle above the door to open the thing, but Crandol wanted to use his arm tentacle weapon. I let him try to manipulate the triangle opener with his tentacles because why not and also... cool! He rolled a natural 20, so open the door he did.
Inside it was a black void with a crystal matrix table, just like the one Arn described in the futuristic city. However, traveling through dimensions was no easy task. Since Robard knew his way around dimensional sorcery, I gave Arn (who'd done this before) Advantage. Boom, I rolled double-19s! Within moments, the black pylon dematerialized through folded-space to where their NPCs were back on Cha'alt classic. They told them not to worry and hang-on, they'd be back soon, right after getting that artifact which the toga people called Vetus Unus.
Back to The Lost City, the PCs encountered a cave with a nearly opaque barrier but decided to bypass it for the moment since they were on a mission and we had just under an hour left to play. Anyway, they were distracted by three pedestals further down the main path, each holding a large crystal formation... one fuchsia, one chartreuse, and the other tangerine.
The halfling thief scouted ahead, going towards the back of the cave, stepping on and over squishy, rounded "rock formations." He could see something at the cave wall, something almost discernable but not quite. So, he threw a rock at it. Turns out, the crystals were being guarded by a (minor) Great Old One.
This was the big bad. Crandol, being the most proactive or foolhardy of the bunch, decided to attack it with his usual gusto. A friend on twitter asked if I'd provide the Old One's stats, which I thought was an excellent notion, giving everyone an idea of what I think is a super tough but still winnable fight with CDS D20 characters (5 of them) at 4th level on average.
I didn't give it a name, so let me whip something up here now that I have time. How long are those Twilight movies, anyway? What about... Yezath-Rha'am, Qa'azol-Kemnakai, Hyna'aj-Quva'az?
Hit-Points: 222 AC: 10 #Attacks: 3 Attack: +7 Damage: 1d12 (exploding) Save: 3+
Special: Treat this as a minor godling. Should have been immune to non-magical weapons (high-tech is fine, though), but I forgot to mention that. Pretty much everyone at this point either had an enchanted weapon or blasters.
The sorcerer rolled a perfect 6 on his fireball table, doing 60 points of damage off the bat. Nice! Gath used his eldritch-beam, the warriors each got several hits with their magical weapons. The battle was definitely going their way, when I suddenly rolled a crit on Robard. After our group calculations to make sure we had it right, the sorcerer was down to negative 13 HP. Parts of Robard flew around the cave as the Old One's tentacles eviscerated him.
A couple more rounds of both sides taking heavy damage and Jackal (I believe) dealt the killing-blow and was doused with chartreuse ichor... zoth, but in its freshest, innocuous form... like virgin zoth. Incidentally, the idea came to me several days before the game that zoth should age like fine wine, hookers who've been around the block, and wizards who've seen some serious shit go down... increasingly potent the longer it pools and steeps in sunless places.
Heighten, Chancery Philthrop III grasped the crystals and slowly, carefully merged them together. The crystal formations altered their structure as they coalesced into the artifact known as Vetus Unus. A gravely, disembodied voice spoke to the halfling, "Choose the form of the destructor." After some input from a couple of his companions, the halfling chose a starship.
They got in, busted out of The Lost City, made a b-line to the futuristic city, disabled the A.I. and using the toga peoples' technology and parts scooped up by Arn, forged a crystalline cyborg sorcerer out of Robard... or Ro-Robard as he's now called (or until we can think of something better). Part human, part cyborg, and part crystal... Ro-Robard lives!
And that's where we ended things. It felt like a solid, satisfying conclusion, so I'm happy with it. If the next game is episode 1 of season 2, what's that going to be like? Well, we all have time to consider it and weigh-in. I'm assuming the players will want to continue the campaign with their same characters, but if they'd prefer to retire that particular story, or keep the story (who wants to know the deal of that gargantuan banana?) and start anew with different characters, I'd be down for that, too. Whatever they want, fuchsia sky's the limit!
A lot of weird, funny shit was said, so here are the highlights...
- "Load-bearing pylon."
- "The purple maze dimension."
- "He's tall... not in objective height, but culturally tall."
- "There's always a die for that."
- "As long as it's gross, fine by me."
- "As long as it's disgusting, it's all good."
- "Sorcerers can sense invisible dudes when they made them invisible."
- "I graduated from Elementary school at A.I. University."
- "Now, you're thinking with portals."
- "Cyber-scorpion is not programmed for dick-mode."
- "Your paradigm has just been shifted."
- "They should be called Translucites."
- "Mage-tentacle? Is that, like, a spell I could cast?"
Thanks for reading, feel free to comment below! BTW, I'll be running Cha'alt at Gary Con next month. If there are any seats open, grab 'em. Or just flag me down to say hi. I'll also have Cha'alt books on-hand.
p.s. Feel sad you're not in on all this Cha'alt
action? The Cha'alt trilogy
is for sale - gorgeous hardcovers (limited edition, signed and numbered) that come with the PDFs! And why not let me GM Cha'alt
for you at VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo
this July in Madison, WI.