Before we get to the highlights from the seventh session of our Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure, let’s review the members of our adventuring party:
- Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer (played by Robert)
- Gaultis— a goliath warden (played by Chad)
- Boojum— a pixie wizard (played by Steve)
- Blake— a razorclaw shifter barbarian (played by Andy)
- Silas—an eladrin vampire (played by Drew)
- Lord Falkirk Bothwell is an NPC. He is an aging knight of Bahamut who wishes to see evil purged from the ruins of old Gardmore Abbey.
Our last session ended with the players in the watchtower. This towering spire at the south end of the abbey grounds allowed the knights to keep watch over the King’s Road from miles away, thanks to both its great height and magical aids to distant viewing in the topmost chamber.
|Inside the watchtower entrance (Encounter14).|
Unbeknownst to our heroes, when the Deck of Many Things was scattered throughout Gardmore Abbey, the resulting chaos seemed to concentrate in the watchtower. The interior was suffused with the energy of the Far Realm, transforming it into a bizarre projection of that alien environment. The tower interior is trapped between the Far Realm and the exact moment in time when the Deck was scattered, and it echoes features from both dimensions. Manifestations of the three cards (Idiot, Euryale, & Vizier) inside the tower guide the party through the Far Realm toward them.
By the end of last week’s session, the party had successfully dispatched the monsters (2 object mimics and a black pudding & its spawn) which they found in the watchtower entrance (Encounter 14). They then passed through the card portal at the opposite end of the room.
Encounter 15: Far Realm Sojourn
This encounter is a sequential skill challenge consisting of three stages. As an added twist, a character who fails a skill check gains 1 chaos point. As the characters traverse the Far Realm intrusion, they’re exposed to its reality-warping influence. Chaos points represent this effect on their bodies and minds. Any character who gains 3 chaos points is transformed into a Far Realm monstrosity.
Stage 1: The Rising Stair
I described this area at the very end of the last post, so I won’t repeat it here.
At this stage of the challenge, the adventurers must discover a way to ascend to the top of the tower. Bothwell failed his Athletics check as he tried to climb up the churning walls. The rest of the party watched in horror as Bothwell was absorbed into the wall and drawn upward.
Stage 2: Alien Space
The tower melted away beneath our heroes (Bothwell reappeared here), collapsing into an ocean of terrible amoeboid shapes. That’s right, you heard me… “terrible amoeboid shapes.” The everpresent black globules continued to drift up, becoming one with the sky. The unearthly shrieking finally ceased. Now from the darkness began an endless nonsensical babble. The characters floated in the void, alone but for the cold, ageless order of the distant stars.
In this stage, the adventurers must navigate a path through the weird space of the Far Realms to reach the third level of the tower. Bothwell also failed this stage, so he had 2 chaos points heading into the last stage of the skill challenge.
Stage 3: The Final Door
In this stage, the party must resist the forces of chaos and madness to reach the center of the tower, where rest the three cards.
The stars grew larger and clearer, resolving into bright rectangular shapes. Cards. Millions and millions of cards. Three, larger than the rest, were clustered at the center of the vast starscape.
In one sweeping motion, all the other cards simultaneously turned like doors on a hinge, and a cosmic wind howled through the void. Inside each dark doorway lurked some horrific, amoeboid shape… Ha, ha, ha! Just kidding! Inside each doorway lurked some horrific, tentacled thing that jabbered idiot rhymes as it reached forth. Meanwhile, the three cards at the center still glowed, doors waiting open.
The adventurers must make it to the manifestations of the three cards. First, they must resist the otherworldly wind blowing them toward the waiting beasts. A couple of our heroes failed their checks here, so they were grabbed by a monster. Bothwell failed for the third time, so he was transformed into a Far Realm monstrosity (I took away his mini and replaced it with a shardsoul slayer, which I thought looked appropriately otherworldly and monstrous). Luckily for Lord Bothwell, the party quickly accumulated enough successes to arrive safely in the armory, so when that happened, he turned back into his studly self.
Encounter 16: The Last Defenders
The three cards grew ever larger until their cold radiance seemed to fill the universe. The light suddenly grew brighter and brighter until it overwhelmed vision, then all was suddenly dark.
Slowly, a room came into view. Our heroes stood in a round chamber encircled by a short flight of stairs leading up to a landing, upon which stood three glowing doors in the shapes of cards. Four suits of armor decked in tabards of Bahamut stood at attention. For a brief moment the environment seemed stable…
Then the suits of armor ripped open as if made of paper. Twisted humanoid creatures emerged as the room shifted and morphed like a mad dream. An unearthly wail erupted from the darkness as a floating horror of eyes loomed before the party.
Having made their way to the armory, the adventurers must battle the tower’s four original defenders, who have been stranded in time and transformed into horrors of the Far Realm. A Far Realm monster, a terrifying beholder, had also appeared in the tower when the chaotic energy of the cards swept through Gardmore Abbey. Unfortunately for the beholder, the defensive magic of the watchtower prevented the chaotic energy of the Far Realm from extending outside. The building became a pocket dimension, a prison that allowed nothing to enter or leave. The beholder, hungry to enter the natural world and transform the entire plane into a warped mirror of the alien Far Realm, was desperate to escape.
- 4 Aberrant Wretches (Level 9 Minion Soldier)
- Beholder (Level 9 Solo Artillery)
This was a villian encounter (see page 22, Book 1), since the beholder had three cards from the Deck of Many Things. As soon as combat was joined, the Idiot card in its possession activated immediately. The Eurydale card activated next, but the Vizier card never came into play.
Throughout the encounter, 3 morphic zones (represented by Warped Magic tokens) marked areas of shifting reality. Each round, they would move randomly around the armory and weird stuff would happen in a burst 1 centered on each token. (Weird stuff: alien brain tissue sprouts up, a mass of paralytic jelly appears, a dimensional hole forms, a rocky spur raises the area 20 feet, etc.)
Since the four aberrant wretches were just minions, the party actually took all of them out during the first round of the encounter.
The beholder, though, was another story. It wreaked havoc each round with its Eye Rays at-will attack power (the monster used two of its eye rays each round, using each against a different target). It was especially fond of its Petrifying Ray attack… +14 vs Fortitude; the target is petrified (save ends). And with its 392 hit points, it could absorb a lot of damage.
I won’t lie to you, dear reader, the beholder was handily kicking our heroes’ butts. Not that I was enjoying that, mind you. No, no, no, of course not; I’m not that kind of DM. Well, okay, I am… kind of. A little bit.
Finally, just before the beholder would’ve been bloodied, but just after Silas had been cut down (Dagon quickly healed him and brought the eladrin vampire back into play), I had the beholder speak to the party. While warily carrying on a conversation with the monster, our heroes learned that the beholder was trapped in the tower and wanted to escape. It said it would give them the three cards in its possession if they would then liberate it from the tower. Silas, not wanting to die-die for the fourth time during the campaign, readily agreed to the beholder’s deal. The rest of the party wasn’t too sure about this “bargain,” but in the end they followed Silas’ lead.
And so it came to pass that when our heroes reunited the beholder’s three cards with the rest they had already gathered, the tower’s connection to the Far Realm was sundered. The beholder was freed from its timeless prison and it quickly made off out into the world beyond the watchtower.
The corpses of the four aberrant wretches transformed before the party’s eyes. Three of the lifeless figures were human paladins of Bahamut, while the last was a silver haired eladrin who looked like an older version of Berrian Velfarran. In fact, the eladrin was none other than Berrian and Analastra’s father, Zandrian Velfarran. During the final siege of Gardmore Abbey, Zandrian and the three paladins defended this area. When the Deck of Many Things was scattered, they were trapped in the transformed watchtower. Their long proximity to the raw energy of the Far Realm had corrupted their bodies and minds, finally turning them into aberrant monstrosities.
After searching the watchtower and finding naught but a handy haversack, the party carried Zandrian’s body to the Feygrove where they regretfully informed Berrian and Analastra of their father’s fate.
There was just a bit more that took place before we wrapped things up for the night and took our leave, but I think I’ll save those events for the beginning of the next post.
Thanks for checking out our adventure! Be sure to tune in next week to see what happens as the party continues to explore the ruins of Gardmore Abbey!