Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday Recap: Back to the Beginning

Well, here it is. The final session of Maze of the Blue Medusa! I'm just going to get to it, and leave my thoughts for afterword.

Edit: This series was written before allegations about the authors of this module were released. To respect the players of the game, as well as the brilliant writing of Patrick Stuart, I've decided to keep these posts up. However, all links and art have been removed. Thank you for understanding.

This story is part 12 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 |

Maze of the Blue Medusa: Back to the Beginning

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Aniria Lightningblood, Firbolg Tempest Cleric, accidentally destroyed her home, now an adventurer, rushes in to danger but loves cute things
Makayla: Coria Kelvardil, Moon Druid Elf, traveling the world and cataloging all the animals she can find, cartographer and voice of reason
Jackie: Derrik Evanwood, Human Bardbarian, punch things, woo women, deal with alcoholism, collect magic swords, learn about the feelings of trees
Tom: Alan Xanthudides, Human Phoenyx Sorcerer, not-so-secretly a noble with a bad family, someday hopes to burn the maze down, actually quite good at social graces, enemy of trees

Our heroes woke up in the small island village of Elatior, which housed the temple leading down to the Maze. Derrik groggily woke up, still feeling the effects of the poison he had been subjected to the day before. Coria was outside enjoying nature, Alan was reading a book, and Aniria had found a mouse and become its friend.

Though Coria said her magic could get them home at any time, they had two things left to do in the Maze: They had to kill a dragon for the Medusa, and they had to help Chronia realize her pet, Fracture-of-the-Bone, was poisoning her. After that, they could leave with clear conscience.

They trudged out of the village, up the hill to the temple, and down the stairs leading to the Maze. The temple guardians were familiar with them now, merely nodding at their passage. The group entered the maze and traveled the well known path to the chamber of Lady Chronia.

When they arrived, they noticed three unusual things: Fracture-of-the-Bone was limping, its nest was strewn about and dotted with shining objects, and Chronia herself was absent. Alan and Aniria began to investigate Fracture's nest while the beast limped over to the group. Coria tried to discern where Chronia had gone, and Derrik cautiously approached Fracture. The creature's leg had been decayed somehow, and it was walking gingerly upon it.

The group had used healing magic to cleanse Derrik of Fracture's poison, and this time around Derrik wasn't taking any chances. As soon as the beast began to nip at him, Derrik pulled out his axe and struck it down, much to Coria's dismay. As the beast fell, Coria lamented that they had told Chronia about their concerns the previous day, meaning she would know they were the ones who killed it.

Meanwhile, Alan and Anrira had realized that the shining objects were actually fragments of amber, scrawled with Chronia's writing. There were letters dating some time ago, meaning they hadn't ever reached their intended recipient: the Medusa. The group slowly pieced together that Fracture had been preventing Chronia's letters from reaching the Medusa for some reason.

They decided to solve the most immediate problem first: they went looking for Chronia. Her trail of time-decay was easy to follow, starting in the room with a now-shattered sculpture and continuing through several rooms filled with dust and rot. They stopped briefly to inspect a magical rose and a large astrological orrery, but for the most part pressed forward until they found Chronia, collapsed and sobbing in a small chamber.

Aniria and Coria tried to comfort Chronia, but found it difficult to do without being able to touch her. Her powers, unfortunately, were too strong. Derrik played a bit on his magic lute, and that seemed to help a little.

Chronia told them that she was trying to see her sister, Charity, who was just beyond a large pit that covered the eastern section of the room. Unfortunately, with Chronia's time-dilation powers, the wooden planks crossing the pit had dissolved into dust. Without a way to cross, she had been sitting here crying most of the night.

Aniria took pity on her, and used her magic to craft a stone bridge they could cross. The group crossed one by one, entering a finely-decorated lounge area. Of course, as soon as Chronia entered, everything started to mold and decay.

Notably, there was a large ball of ribbons slowly rolling around the room. As the group inspected it, they realized each ribbon had a love poem written on it, and for some reason, faint screaming could be heard from inside the ball. Aniria decided to hug it until it calmed down, despite the ribbons decaying from Chronia's magic.

In the next room, they found a headless skeleton in fine robes propped up next to a screened door. The screen began to decay, but beyond there were further screens and veils, all obstructing the view of Charity Torn. Her voice began to resound from behind the veils, sharp and curious.

Chronia told Charity of her recent troubles, but Charity admonished her for seeking help. The group suddenly felt a bit out of place. They weren't sure if they should help Chronia, Charity, or just leave. Derrik asked if there was any way they could change the situation, to help the sisters resolve things.

Charity explained that she was here to prevent a powerful lich, the one sitting outside her room, from ever harming anyone. She was essentially a living prison. Chronia's presence was jeopardizing that goal, and Charity wasn't able to help her sister while she was guarding the lich. Charity said the only way the group could help would be if they could kill an Arch-Lich.

The group seemed positive in their response, which was fortunate. At that moment, the ball of ribbons in Aniria's hands finished unwinding, and revealed a three-eyed skull, set with a ruby, emerald, and sapphire. It flew across the room, settling on the headless skeleton. The creature rose up into the air and proclaimed, "I am Zygmunt Wombwell, Arch Lich of Revelation! Charity Torn is MINE!"

The heroes drew their weapons to attack, but found themselves held back: In Charity's presence, they had to struggle to perform a harmful act. Fortunately, they had found a hint that one of the gems might be the lich's phylactery, so all they had to do was remove it and destroy it... without hurting the lich.

Coria transformed into a Scorpion, and with her strong willpower, was able to press an attack on the lich despite Charity's power. Alan unleashed a powerful Sunburst spell, channeling radiant energy into the undead fiend, while Derrik and Ahneria worked to undo the lich's powerful but painless magical attacks.

The lich had prepared spells that worked perfectly, despite being unable to harm anyone. His red eye spewed fire that harmlessly burned away the senses, his green eye summoned swarms of insects to painlessly deliver the flesh to the afterlife, and his blue eye only flashed once, but was thankfully resisted and the group didn't find out what horrible thing it caused.

The fight carried forward, and at this point Aniria was nearly entirely devoted to restoring sight, hearing, or feeling to those around her. When she had a moment, she wrapped her arms around the lich and tried to drag him away from Charity, so they could attack freely. Fortunately, Alan's beam of magical fire finally finished off the undead monster, and he collapsed into a pile of bones and robes.

Coria scuttled over to the skull and extracted the gemstones with her claws, crushing them one by one. With the threat hopefully vanquished, Charity emerged from her veiled chamber, though she was still wearing a veil and gown to completely obscure her appearance.

The group left the Torn sisters alone to talk for a moment. After a bit of time, Chronia emerged from the room and said they had decided to go to the Medusa and set things straight together. Coria apologized for the group killing Fracture-of-the-Bone, but Chronia said it was alright. She had discovered the same truth they had: Fracture had been stopping her messages. She felt bad for being tricked for so long.

Charity emerged as well, and thanked the group for ending her guardianship of the lich. She said the effects of her power would fade shortly, and if they wanted to avoid making an enemy of the Medusa, they should go slay Lady Crucem Capilli the dragon. The heroes resolved themselves to do so, and headed back towards the center of the maze.

As they walked the corridors of the maze, sure enough, the group felt their ability to fight return. And it was fortunate, as well: as they walked through the room with the shattered sculpture, they were ambushed by a squadron of Chameleon women! Derrik and Aniria were taken by surprise as the lizard ladies revealed themselves and attacked!

Fortunately, the group had become quite adept at dealing with these creatures, and with a couple Fireballs, Thunderwaves, and a few good swings of hammer and axe, the attackers were vanquished. Coria commented on how many of the Chameleon Women they had seen in the maze - it seemed like the Neonate Empire's invasion of the place was only escalating.

The group took a quick moment to rest in Tyko Wort's room, before gearing up and heading into the chamber where they had met Lady Crucem Capilli. It was their final task, and Coria spoke up, saying she hoped they could leave as quickly as possible once they were finished.

As they entered the room, they saw Lady Capilli speaking to a group of the Chameleon Women. Coria didn't waste any time, unleashing a powerful Blight spell on the dragon in human form. The Chameleon women pointed accusing fingers at the group, shouting in Draconic. Lady Capilli smiled as she transformed. "After all this time... it's betrayal, is it?"

Unfortunately, the Blight magic seemed to have no effect on the now-towering dragon. Capilli dove into what seemed to be solid ground, but it was an area of shadow. She slipped out of another shadow behind the group and unleashed a blast of lightning breath across the party.

Alan, wanting to reduce the number of shadows in the room and keep the dragon away from the group, encircled them in a ring of fire. Meanwhile, Aniria summoned her storm cloud, Coria transformed into a huge dino-bird draped in tree-like protection, and Derrik took to the sky with his magic lute in hand.

Unfortunately, Capilli didn't stick around to deal with the Wall of Fire spell, and took to the sky after Derrik. He managed to hang on through her powerful claw attacks, but with a mighty strike of her tail, she batted him out of the sky. Coria rushed upwards with her fantastic flight speed, snatching Derrik as he fell.

Aniria summoned all the power of her healing magic to revitalize Derrik, and he flipped onto Coria's back to attack the Dragon in midair. They performed several aerial strikes, all the while dodging lighting breath and claw strikes. Alan, from the safety of his Fire, shot off a series of Fireballs to weaken the beast.

Meanwhile, Coria noticed they had an unexpected visitor: Levalliant Green, the Medusa's oddly prescient companion. He waved hello, and walked over to a blank wall, holding an hourglass. Coria decided to ignore him for now.

Crucem Capilli was tiring of these games, and finally managed to catch Coria in her claws. Coria fought valiantly, but her winged form was dispelled by the dragon's powerful attacks. Derrik and Coria fell, not only taking damage as they hit the floor but also suffering some fire damage from the Wall of Fire. Aniria rushed to heal her comrades.

Coria managed to see Levalliant Green again, this time holding his hand near the blank wall. Just as the sand in the hourglass ran out, a door appeared on the wall out of nowhere. He calmly locked it , as if he had been expecting it the whole time. He waved again, and gave a thumbs up. Coria continued to ignore him.

The Dragon turned to swoop down and deal out another breath of lightning. Alan, still hanging on from the last one, summoned all of his strength and blasted Capilli with a monstrous Fireball. She faltered, spun, and hit the ground hard.

The group cautiously waited for Lady Crucem Capilli to rise up and regain her senses, but she did not. Alan lowered the Wall of Fire, and they inspected the body. Sure enough, their foes had been slain.

Aniria rushed over to Zaccheus, a mechanical peacock they had befriended earlier in their travels. He had been staying with Capilli, and he was grateful to be unhurt after such a fierce battle. Aniria decided they would be friends forever.

Coria and Derrik confronted Levalliant Green, demanding to know what he had been up to. Levalliant smiled and told them that beyond this door, the woman that had locked them in the maze had returned with the very mercenary army they had come from in the first place. He said that this would be quite the faster way out of the maze, if that's what they wanted to do.

The sounds of pounding and shouting started to emanate from behind the locked door. The group could hear familiar voices arguing with the voice of the woman they had found in the painting. It seemed like they were planning to kill the Medusa and "save" the Torn sisters.

 Aniria and Derrik began to call out through the door, trying to reach their companions and convince them that the woman - Ashen Chanterelle - was tricking them. It took some convincing (and a drawing by Aniria, slid under the door), but they agreed and the door was unlocked.

The room they had entered in, a barren prison, was now full of people in Harmony Mercenary Company uniforms. Ashen herself was there, dressed in fine robes. And of course, the painting that had lead them in here was present, now looking out into the Harmony Company headquarters.

We're back! And the art style is back to normal fantasy art!
The group of heroes and their company met, shook hands, and seemed amicable. It was only barely that Coria noticed Ashen begin to run towards the painting, likely hoping to steal it once more. Acting quickly, Coria threw out her hands and Polymorphed her into a mouse. Her leap towards the painting turned into a tiny squeak as she smacked the wall.

Coria picked up the mouse and handed it to Levalliant. He smiled and took it gratefully.

The group gathered their things and passed back through the painting, ending up in the familiar halls of the Harmony Mercenary Company. As they left, Levalliant called out to them, asking if they knew why the medusa had kept so many stone creatures in her archives. When they responded quizzically, he informed them that it was like a prison for the worst offenders in the multiverse. He grinned and pulled the painting off the prison wall, closing the portal.

The group was glad to be back, and not to think about the maze any longer. Derrik and Aniria decided to drink as much as they could as soon as possible, with Coria and Alan joining in for a little while.

Soon afterwards, Coria used her magic to travel to her home in Jeonju, and Alan returned home to deal with his family problems. Derrik, with his sword of plant understanding, took up gardening, and Aniria collected as many animal friends as she could, with Zaccheus to help her take care of them. They all had grown during their journeys in the maze, and learned to deal with chance and conflict better.

As for what became of the Maze of the Blue Medusa and its inhabitants, well, that is a story for another time.

And that's the show! Overall, I felt the campaign was a success. Lots of fun adventures, good combat and conversation, cool NPCs, and perilous situations. I definitely want to thank Patrick Stuart for writing this, Anton Khodakovsky for doing a mind-bendingly amazing job on the layout of the PDF. I had so little prep to do!

As for the players, they said they enjoyed the game. I think they all liked exploring their characters, and the maze gave them plenty of challenges to overcome. That said, I think the Megadungeon play style was a bit to restrictive for characters like a Tempest Cleric (constantly looking for rooms to Call Lighting in) and a Druid (we ignored doorway restrictions on Allosauruses). If I do another, I think I'll try to limit those outdoorsy-types among the players.

Also, I find that NPC interactions tend to be more open-ended, and the players have more choices where to go next, than a dungeon where you have to pass through several rooms of random encounters before getting where you want to go. In a monthly game, I certainly think avoiding combat saves time and makes the game more fun. It's tough to balance the combat-nature of D&D with a group that prefers interaction and exploration. Maybe it's time to look into a different system?

Anyway, over the next few weeks, I'll be wrapping up some more campaigns, but worry not! We've got a lot of great stuff coming up, and I'm already planning my next big adventure.

Thanks for reading!

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