Sunday, August 30, 2020

Final Part: The Experiment Was Apparently A Success!

Hoo boy. I'm honestly still trying to process what just happened with this session, and it's been a few days. Suffice it to say between all the things I sort of dropped in the party's lap for good or for ill and the various things the party themselves have done up to this point, or the things they're planning to do, things are going swimmingly. All the dominoes were set up in the best way possible. Don't worry if you don't feel prepared for the insanity to follow. I sure wasn't.

In the time it took for the party to be escorted back to the imperial palace, Bubbles spent a lot of time in his room on a secret project that his player had actually contacted me about earlier in the week. To be honest, because he was rather vague about his intentions with this secret project, this made me a little nervous, but at the same time, I'm committed to the idea of whatever ridiculous stuff happening, it goes I guess.

During the flight, the party spent some time going over their plans. Bubbles' player put it best (after apologizing for breaking the plans for my campaign by shortening it), "I don't wanna fight an entire army to get into a palace where I can fight a bunch more enemies and then fight the final boss, so if we don't have to, great!" Honestly, this is something I'm okay with, as it shortened the ending by like 2 or 3 sessions depending on how long it took them to get there, and once this campaign is over I don't have to be the DM for a while.Win-win.

Anyway, here's the plan. The party would place all their weapons in Bubbles' Bag of Holding and let the admiral have it smuggled into the throne room. Once the deed was done, he'd do what he could to help the party find the emperor and empress and keep them from being imprisoned. Admittedly the monster I picked to have the party fight made me worry that they might not survive long enough for an escape plan to be necessary, but we'll get to that.

Anyway, after the party's plans were finalized, we decided to fastforward to the landing. The party was "disarmed" and led to the throne room, where Elphina Crowe sat, waiting, with the exact smirk you can imagine, completely surrounded by guards. She bade the party welcome, even saying how much she missed Yesmae.

Yesmae, clearly not wanting any of Elphina's nonsense, demanded, "Where are my parents?"

"Oh, my dear, they're ill. But not to worry, you'll get a chance to see them soon enough. But enough," she looked at the guards. "Leave us. We have much to discuss. Go on, out with you." At her word, the guards all left, but the admiral was able to get Bubbles' attention to show where he was dropping the bag of holding.

Once the soldiers all cleared out of the room, Elphina completely dropped her facade. "Okay princess. You have a captive audience. I suppose you'll be demanding to hear my evil plan so you can swear to stop me?"

"Evil plan? You have a plan for all this?" Yesmae asked.

Bubbles continued. "You've taken over the empire and you're going to awaken the God Warrior. What else are you doing?"

"Do you know anything about the Shadowfell, or the land of Barovia?"

Bubbles folded his arms. "Ummm....what? You're making up words!"

"I thought not. After all, the Shadowfell isn't on this plane of existence, neither was Barovia until recently when a group of troublemakers destroyed the lord of that domain and restored it."

Naturally, the party's eyes glazed over with this bit of exposition that had nothing to do with them but was a mild shoutout/forced connection to our previous campaign where we ran Curse of Strahd, which ended with Strahd, the lord of Barovia, being defeated by the party and banished from that plane of existence directly into the custody of the Raven Queen, patron of edgy warlocks the world over, desiring to reclaim her lost power in the Shadowfell. Once Strahd was defeated, the land of Barovia reappeared in the the Prime Material Plane (basically the normal D&D world).

Seeing that this bit of news wasn't getting through to the party, Elphina continued, "I guess a good way to put it is real estate."

If Bubbles could furrow his eyebrow, he would. "Land?"

"Exactly." She explained exactly what I just explained regarding Barovia.

"Long story short, I plan to harness the power of the God Warrior to pull this land into the Shadowfell. What happens to you doesn't matter to me. Regardless, the ritual is almost done, so there's nothing you can do to stop me."

Yesmae raised an eyebrow. "Wait, so the Shadowfell lost Barovia, and you or your master or whatever wants this land in exchange, and that's supposed to be fair? Barovia didn't belong to the Shadowfell either!"

Savin, waiting for an opportunity, found this as his chance and cast a spell on Elphina, Dissonant Whispers. Awesome. Time for action. I wasn't sure how much longer I could have Elphina monologue before the party got sick of her crap and made their attack. So I had Elphina make her saving throw, and...naturally, for my villains, it was bad.

But not quite as bad as Karin's response to the Dissonant Whispers spell. As in, she asked me if that was "the song." To which I responded, "No, that's Careless Whisper." And the Discord call broke out in laughter. So I uploaded this gif.

So anyway, Elphina, having failed her Wisdom save, was racked by an extremely painful, dissonant rendition of Careless Whisper. Naturally, when confronted with a decent song that just sounds wrong, she panicked, and set about trying to get as far from the party as possible...

By activating and stepping into a teleportation circle beneath the throne.

"Blast. I wanted to scare her, but not like that. She's probably leading us into a trap."

Bubbles, ignoring Savin, scrambled over to the Bag of Holding and started distributing everyone's equipment. "Whelp, let's not waste any more time. She said the ritual's almost done, and I've got wings I gotta get back!"

"No stop," Savin suggested. "We're not going in without a plan."

"Oh that's easy, I've got some potions we can take. It'll be no problem"

So before jumping into the portal, the party quickly downed what potions Bubbles had been saving, which included a Potion of Storm Giant's Strength that Bubbles wasted no time downing. However, since his only weapon was his pistol, he asked if anyone had a spare melee weapon he could use. Which Yesmae happened to have in the form of her old quarterstaff.

I should also mention that he took a Potion of Invincibility, but that really ceased to matter once they got into the portal, because...

Elphina had already managed to put herself on the opposite side of the hallway the portal led to, with a group of twelve cloaked figures between her and the party. "Stall them! I only need a little more time!"

Well...about that...

Wasting no time, Bubbles grabbed the cloaked figure in front of the group and used him as a human shield to force his way in, slowly bowling over the other cloaked figures. So, Bubbles isn't even 5 feet, and I think his player said he weighs less than 50 pounds, so you can imagine this one of two ways. A hulked out crow person pushing them like a rather jacked peewee wide receiver somehow blasting open the defensive line of the New England Patriots (size comparison, I played enough football to know that no coach in his right mind would use a WR as a lineman), or the way I imagined it where he didn't hulk out, a Smart car shoving a bunch of pickups aside. Either works really. Both absurd. Both hilarious. Neither making me regret giving him that potion.

Yesmae took advantage of the sudden embarrassment of Elphina's last line of defense and dashed forward, leaping from cloaked man to cloaked man, until she finally caught up with Elphina and clocked her in the back of the head.

"I know those fools were useless in the long run. Very well, looks like I'll have to deal with you myself!" At these words, dark energy began billowing out from Elphina, blowing out all the torches in the hallway. As the light faded, the party saw Elphina take her true shape, that of a Shadow Dragon.

Her cultists had no idea that this was her true form, nor did they really understand just what her plan was, so at this revelation, they sprinted out of the hallway, leaving the party alone with their new nemesis.

For a short while she gave them a decent match until it occurred to Yesmae that Elphina specifically darkened the room because light was her weakness, so she used her shadow monk abilities (for the second time in this campaign) to stealth towards the curtains and open the windows, flooding the room with light.

All the while Savin, Grula, and Bubbles were laying the smackdown on the dragon. Once she started recoiling in pain from the sunlight, Bubbles saw his chance and decided he was going to try to grapple the dragon, wrestling her to the ground.

Considering how many pro wrestling jokes I've made in our group chat so far this was a long time coming.

Out of desperation, Elphina let out a roar of rage and ignited her breath weapon. Savin, taking the brunt of the blast to keep his friends in danger, was engulfed in shadowy flames. Well, okay, he actually made the Dex Save so he technically took half damage. Except due to a secret he'd been keeping from the party, he took half of that since it was necrotic damage, a damage type his race has resistance to. What race? It's still a secret to everyone but me. He'll probably let it out eventually.

Eventually, Elphina's HP were brought to zero, as she shouted in despair that her loss was impossible and blah blah blah standard villain stuff. Just then, the altar of the ritual began to glow as a huge white hand reached through a portal that appeared, grabbing Elphina and starting to drag her in.

Bubbles immediately realized that this was a problem, for he had pinned Elphina to the ground in the last bit of the battle, and was now being dragged to the portal with her.

I had no idea how I expected them to solve this problem, but thankfully Bubbles' player is an extremely creative person.

Filled with newfound strength, Bubbles tried to wrest Elphina from the giant arm's grasp, somehow succeeding. Armed with an extremely wounded, severely confused dragon, Bubbles mustered up all his strength, swung Elphina around, and threw her as hard as he could at the altar, smashing it completely. The portal closed, severing the arm at the elbow, as screams of pain and confusion racked Yesmae's mind.

For a brief moment, Yesmae was certain that she could hear the God Warrior's thoughts, begging for some release from the pain. Not destruction. Not awakening. Yesmae apologized, saying that someday, somehow, they'd figure out how to save it.

Elphina, collecting herself, muttered. "It doesn't matter. It's over. It'll go back to sleep soon enough. Who knows if it'll ever wake up aga-blargible."

Bubbles, who had already set about harvesting blood from the giant arm and had grown tired of Elphina's incessant talking, also realizing that he wasn't going to get the wish he convinced himself he was getting, threw a bottle straight into the dragon's maw. It exploded within her, and shortly enough, she went down, foaming at the mouth, dead. From what?

Drug overdose.

Because Bubbles' secret weapon? Opium grenades. That he intended to use to gas anyone getting in the way of his wish. However, since it was now officially out of his hands, out of spite, he used them on the dying dragon.

Shortly after this, a squad of soldiers dashed into the room, accompanied by Tylhana, who explained that they were in the dungeons searching for the emperor and empress when they heard a commotion and made their way in (but not without apprehending Elphina's cronies). Tylhana explained that they had narrowed down the location of the emperor and empress to this particular area of the castle, and one of the cultists spilled the beans on everything. After feeling around the room a bit, she found a switch, which moved the altar back, revealing the emperor and empress in glass coffin-like structures, hooked up to a strange machine, looking nearly dead and having what little life force remained sucked from them for the ritual.

The party healed the emperor and empress enough that they could extract them from the machine and turn it off, and they were rushed to a healer.

Over the next few weeks, Yesmae was retrained to take the position of regent over the land until her parents could make their recovery, though once they did they decided that the empire was better in her hands than theirs, willfully abdicating the throne and placing Yesmae in charge officially as the new empress.

Grula, saddened to see the state of the military after the last few years, enlisted to work her way through the ranks to help rebuild it from within, serving the rest of her (admittedly short) life in an important advisor role to the new empress.

Savin and Bubbles went back to the ship and their crew to continue Savin's privateer business as well as hunting down the crew that had betrayed Savin in his backstory that I totally forgot about. Bubbles' fate is a little more ambiguous. As a Kenku his lifespan is already pretty short, made worse by drug abuse and experiments, so we came to the conclusion that he probably didn't really get a happy ending. Either he would upset someone and die in a bar fight, or he would dope himself too much with his experiments and poison himself, or he would try one too many times to steal a sample of Savin's blood, which would result in him briefly learning what it feels like to fly for the precious few seconds he had before he smashed into the ground below the ship after being thrown overboard.

And thus the book closes on another one of my campaigns. I've been nervous about this one, because I often find myself making things up as we go along (hey, it's worked for Akira Toriyama for decades with Dragon Ball), and I never feel like I do endings particularly well. And here wasn't much of an exception, since most of my rolls for Elphina were pretty bad, and I don't feel like I do villains well when I'm trying to do everything else, but my party seemed to enjoy their adventure enough to stick with it, well, most of them.

I like putting up these recaps, though, so I'm going to do it with our next campaign. Stay tuned for the prologue, as we begin our next adventure in Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus.

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