The coming of Mayhem, adventure hooks needed.

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I am going to avoid giving away any major details because there is a possibility that some of my players may actually read this.  -Speaking of which-  If you play in my games, leave this thread please. 


Moving on, My current game is about to enter the fourth month of play, PC's are level 6, edition is 3.5.  I'll lay out the basics and the methods.  First off, the methods.  I will not shy away from killing PC's.  People will die.  I design my game that way.  I design level appropriate challenges, sometimes +2 or +3 CR above the group, and then I try to kill them with that encounter.  So far we have had about 9 character deaths in 12 weeks.  For some groups that will not work or be enjoyable, for my group it works very well and everyone is having a good time.  I bring this up because later I will ask for help providing innovative encounter design and I don't want anyone to shy away from being horribly brutal or flat out evil. 


Secondly, the story.  The PC's have just survived a cataclysmic event known as The coming of Mayhem, its a once a century event that has been unfolding over the last thousand years.  A stray planet has swung through the solar system of Vega and been captured by the stars gravitational pull.  This planet has slowly been pulling Vega further and further out of its orbit, swinging it further out into the cold dark of space with each passing.  On the most recent passing Mayhem swung in close enough that it actually collided with Vega's large moon, fracturing the planet and sending large amounts of it raining down onto the surface of Vega.  This wandering planet is from the far realms, it happens to be the Illithid homeworld, and with each passing swing the Illithids, who are slowly starving to death, descend down to Vega for what is known as the culling.  Once there they breed (Read Lords of Madness for this) and feed.  Ultimately reducing the populations of the mortals races to about 10% of their totals.


Vega is on the brink.  The planet keeps growing colder and the surface is dieing, plants are withering and the sunlight it receives each year is diminishing.  Vega is very near swinging out of its orbit and plunging into the depths of deep space.


The PC's have been told of a man who may have a solution to this crisis.  His name is the Archivist and he lives in a library atop an enormous Spire, he was supposedly driven mad by some exposure to a dark secret or forbidden knowledge he wasn't meant to have.  The PC's are currently enroute to this Spire, what they will find there they do not know, but they have realized they are now in a race to save their world. 


Most of this I already have planned out and written, but what comes after that I have yet to write and would like some adventure ideas for that-set against the backdrop of a world that is getting ever darker, and one in which sentient beings are hunted down and eaten by starving Illithids and their thrall armies. 


The Archivists Solution includes a list of eight items-Four on Vega, and Four on Mayhem that must be collected and/or destroyed in order to be used in a place called the citadel of the forlorn watchers.  These items were cast into the far corners of these worlds after a war between the pantheons of the material plane and farrealm.  The items are as follows


Vega-

Heart of Life - Accounted For

Heart of Fire-
Heart of Earth
Heart of Water


Mayhem

-The unheart of Withering / The Plagueheart

-Heart of Darkness

-Stone of Despair

-The Dessicating Sponge


I need theme based adventures, encounters, dungeons, and ideas for the locations of each of these items.  The four items on Mayhem are likely guarded by Abberations, but I am willing to hear novel ideas.  Thank you for any help.                                   
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
For the Heart of Fire I can think of two solutions that might be thematically interesting. Option 1) The heart of a still beating Red Dragon, or any fire breathing dragon for that matter. The PCs must descend upon a dragon's layer and cut out its heart for part of this ritual to save their world. Through out the dungeon crawl be sure to play up the irony that the illithids are vying for survival by claiming the lives of sentient species and the PCs to save their own sentient races are now hunting down a sentient being to kill for their own survival. Irony, they are doing it.

Option 2.) A more straighforward approach, the PCs must bring the Archivast the core of a fire elemental. A literal 'heart of fire'. Here you can have an easier time with theme and design by having the vast majority of things have a fire based theme. Lesser fire elementals, dragons and fire bats. Just fire, fire, fire. 
Oh yes, the irony is in there alright.  I like both of these ideas but I think I'm going to go with the direction of fire, conflagration, inferno, flame, blaze, combustion, immolation, and BURNINATE.


I think this gives me a good basis for the Theme on Vega, but I need some themes for the Mayhem artifacts


Heart of Darkness

The Unheart of Withering/the Plagueheart

Stone of Despair

The Sponge of Dessication

Abberation related-thanks again, appreciated.  I have undertaken a large workload.


Creative ideas welcome
                 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
I don´t know if it aberation-themed but i do have a few ideas you can do with as you wish.

The Heart of Darkness, could be the heart of a living criminal of the worst kind, you know selling children into porn rings all that kindda nasty stuff. This item is not a fixed location item, it manifest in the worst of the worst of people and the only way to obtain it is to cut it out of the still living body of the deviant possessing it. Acquiring it might scare the the players alot as they will have to dive into the seedier places of the world and witness some utterly despicable things. There might even be a few red herrings, apperently the guy that cuts hands of children and implement surgical tools instead is nothing compared to some of the other sickos out there. In this i would portrai the world as utterly dark and depraved and have the players maybe do some bad things to get accepted into this and have a chance to find the real evil in it all.

The Plagueheart is located in ancient abandoned city, which ages ago was hit by a magical plague that threathened to wipe out civilization and the city was therefore abandoned and condemned, it is now a lost city filled with plaguewalkers(a zombievariant or whatever), ancient knowledge, plaguepriests, and who knows what. I would run it as a moldy decaying place, where the players are massively outnumbered and with a constant threat of contagion. Furthermore there might even be some kind of civilization that has grown up, a community of lepers and plaguebearers.

The Stone of Despair is the founding stone in ancient fortress that was cursed during this civilizations last crusade. the fortress is now home to all manner of scum that trade in war and death. No one dares enter the inner sanctum as it is rumored to contain the souls of those who died in the dungeons and the lords of the place still travel in ethereal form to inflict torments on any one found within.

With the Sponge of Dessication, i just simply can´t see past the word sponge and not help smiling a little bit sorry on that one i´m drawing blanks.

Hope some of this helps.
Great ideas!  I'll likely be using at least the plagueheart one. 


As for the Sponge of Dessication, its not really a sponge...that was just a name applied to it based on its apparant function.  If kept anywhere to long it will eventually absorb all fluid, creating an ever expanding desert around it.  An area utterly devoid of moisture. 


Its a dangerous object for apparant reasons, it dessicates the source of life, water.  Leaving no trace of it behind, and at a frightening pace.  Brought into a temperate zone or jungle it would turn the place into a wasteland devoid of any life sustaining capabilities in a matter of weeks.     


Now, in whatever location this object is being stored its clearly a desert, but what was it before?  and what has become of its denizens?  Those are questions to which I am looking for creative answers.  Thanks again.     
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
The artifact itself could have been a holy symbol for an aquatic god that has been corrupted by someone. It´s placement could have been in a costal citys great cathedral for said god. Some nefarious plot twisted its powers and turned it into the Sponge of Dessication turning the whole city into a dessicated hulk of its former glory, even causing the sea to withdraw several miles out because of the Sponge´s effect, so you have a vibrant trade city now devoid of life, with huge open places filled with what used to be gardens but now only are dried out hedges, maybe even some of them feel moisture and try to attack travellers passing through. You have a drained harbour filled with overturned hulks that hide all manner of grotesque monsters. As to what inhabits the place i´m going with dessicated corpse, shambling creatures that only look for moisture in any form and will go to any lengths to even get a single drop. Otherwise i would fill it with normal desert dwelling creatures and make sure they seem really out of place to the players, like a sudden shift, at one point they are walking along normal temperate plain and all off a sudden theres tumbleweed. that sort of thing. 
I see the Stone of Despair as being a very mental heavy quest to find it. By that I mean the physical danger in aquiring the stone is minimal, however there might be powerful magical traps laid around it that protect the stone and bewitch those that would try and seize it. The traps might not even hurt adventureres, but rather lock them within their own minds and leave them at the mercy of their own inner demons.

The party may have to enter into a hellish dreamscape inorder to retrieve the stone, having to brave perils that couldn't possibly exist in the real world. All the while having to deal with the question of whether or not what they are witnessing is real or not. Bonus points if you keep them alternating between worlds (the dream and reality) unexpectedly so they have to keep tabs on which world they are in inorder to avoid damage. Extra bonus points if they have to go into a dream within a dream within a dream...
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