Big Fish is back with “The Time Giddeon Messed Up – Part 2” where Jon basically writes a character out of the game since the player quit and we come face to face (yet again) with the party’s nemesis Glacius Rex!
I’m in black and Jon (the DM) is in blue. This is Part 2, so you should probably check out Part 1.
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Also, this is Jon’s last chance to wrap up our random improv suggestions from the previous session which were, if you recall: “The time we were sliding through dimensions, in our Nemesis’ (Glacius Rex) keep, to rescue a Genasi Sorcerer who was the heir to a Kingdom and it all started with an avalanche.”
A Interlude of Socks
Not sure how much it has come up in these write ups, but my character has a pet monkey. I have spent a number of downtime actions training and improving the monkey. This monkey is not magical, nor do I have any magical abilities to speak with him or command him. Any commands I give him are based purely on my character’s Animal Handling skill. He is a mundane trained monkey.
His name is Socks.
I guess since this session was story light and combat heavy, Jon decided to kick off the session with a special narration: “Socks the Monkey and The Big Blue Hat”.
I am probably not doing Jon’s narration justice, but here it goes. (Chime in wherever you want Jono, my notes are pretty terrible).
This little narration served two purposes. First, it was an intermission in a two part game, allowing a little monkey to have an adventure. Second, it allowed me to carefully describe the room that the whole session was going to happen in in excruciating detail. The “fight” that happens after was a complex series of skill challenges mixed with a little bit of fighting to keep the tension up. We’ll go into more details about the encounter later, but Socks got a good look at everything, and that set the scene for the party.
Socks is bored.
Jim has been lying in bed for hours, his body is cold. Blue veins are spread across his entire body. He’s probably sick.
Socks wants to have some fun, the best way to do that is to wake up Jim. Remembering Jim’s training, he carefully grabs a Healing Potion and bonks Jim on the head with it. The potion doesn’t spill and Jim doesn’t wake up.
Time to make his own fun.
The little monkey scampers to a tiny chest and puts on adventuring clothes. Which, in this case, consists of a tiny fez and a little vest. Not unlike Abu in Aladdin.
Ready for adventure, he now just needs to find it. A loud sound of ice crashing in the basement of the Treehouse provides him the direction of an adventure, and so he follows.
Once he arrives at the basement, he sees the other sailor, the man Jim doesn’t like, frozen in a block of ice. The man is standing by an open door that seems to lead into a sub-basement, even deeper beneath the massive enchanted tree.
Venturing through the door and down the spiraling stairs, the brave little monkey makes his way towards the source of the sound he heard earlier. At the bottom of the stairs he finds an enormous room.
In the far corner of the room there is what looks like a library, being tended to by tiny little blue bookmen. A large suit of armor is in the far side of the room near the bookshelves.
Sitting at a massive table, behind what looks to be a Dungeon Master’s screen, the creepy ice man is rolling small little geometric shapes and giggling with glee.
In the opposite corner of the library there seems to be a lab full of bubbling potions, vials and beakers. Socks thinks about smashing those bottles too, maybe that will wake up Jim?
Also in the room is massive globe, some 20 feet high, with a little chair attached to a telescope that seems to be able to slide up and down along a connecting arm, the telescope pointed down at the globe. The little chair is manned by another small little creature.
Finally, and most disturbing to the little monkey, is the nice lady Elise trapped in a crystal.
In the middle of the room there is a large, beating heart, nestled among the massive roots of the tree. The heart is also surrounded by the familiar blue crystal of Glacius Rex’s magic.
I’m a little sad you missed Closet Monkey from Family Guy here.
Mustering up all his courage, Socks the monkey unleashes the most intimidating little monkey howl he can muster. Glacius Rex turns to face Socks, eyes wide in terror, mouth agape He screams in abject terror.
“Oh no! It’s their attack monkey! It found us! Initiate Ice Plan B!”
And there is chaos.
All of the strange little men start running around screaming.
Potions are knocked from the table, unstable magical concoctions suddenly mixing and becoming more volatile by the second.
The little man sitting in the chair and peering through the telescope down on the massive globe stumbles backwards, sending the telescope spinning wildly. A red hot laser beam shoots out from the lens of the telescope and scorches deep cut grooves across the room. An errant beam slices through the library, sending some of the books ablaze.
Elise screams, and the crystal around her seems to tighten and clench down on her.
The Ice King teleports out of existence.
The telescope spins again and the beam carves another scorch mark across the room, this time slicing one of the little goblins heads clean off. A floppy blue goblin hat is sent flying into the air and, as the room continues to descend into chaos, floats down onto the monkey’s head.
Wearing the adorably oversized cap, Socks feels pride.
He did good today.
Enter the Party
The party finally awake from their magical slumber (see: last session) rushes into the basement to see what all the ruckus is about and see the scene laid out before them.
So basically, this entire session is a massive combat. Jon, you seemed pretty proud of this one. So what was the deal? There were a number of ticking clocks that we had to mitigate. Off the top of my head it was: the spinning telescope which could a) blast us and b) teleport in sections of the planet? (I recall a jungle, a lava pit, and maybe some others). Elise getting choked out by the living crystal. The burning library (protected by a golem that activates whenever the library takes damage). The random magical effects of the damaged wizard laboratory.
Am I missing anything?
Right so there are 5 stations:
- Giant alchemical lab. Ice goblins making it all worse by mixing random potions.
- Frozen heart of the tree. The heart is caged in ice and as the tree struggles to free itself ice cave ins and rooms upstairs being damaged.
- Elise trapped in ice. She was taking damage and dying as the Ice King’s spells keeping her safe were gone.
- Library on fire. Spectral guardians being spawned, ice goblins making a mess.
- Astrolabe planar artifact. Out of control and beaming effects from other spaces and times into the room.
Each was sitting at a status which was:
- About to get worse
- Holding steady
Every round one or two of them degraded, from holding steady to about get worse. Everything that was about to get worse had two rounds before trouble. Trouble created large environmental effects, like the Astrolabe transporting magma in, the heart causing a cave in, or Elise choking to death, etc. Trouble for two rounds meant that station failed, losing you out on a potential reward.
All of it was randomly decided by a roll of a D6 at the start of each round, so I really just let the chaos flow.
Each station required a few skill checks to “solve”, but if the station was in trouble or about to get worse it needed another skill check to bring it back to holding steady. The idea was that some party members would have to deal with the combat part (which was about ½ to ⅔ of an encounter worth of combat) and the rest of the party would have to run around getting the skill checks done.
It felt like a big combat, but it was way more about the skill checks than it was about the combat. So, you tricked us!
Also, we were missing L’Eau Dur. So one of the stations was “dead” (Library iirc) and didn’t really participate. Really? Goblins kept trying to light it on fire and whenever the fire even remotely started to spread the Guardian dude stirred, I think the Guardian even got an attack off one round. I think maybe you had the heart at “holding steady” for most of the session and only lit it up towards the end actually.
The possible rewards for each of the challenges should have been obvious as well.
- Stop the lab from blowing up and now your tree fort has an alchemy lab in the basement
- Stop the heart from freezing to death and maybe the tree is alive or something? Actual DM notes right here people.
- Stop Elise from freezing to death and save the NPC
- Stop the library from burning down and now your tree fort has a library
- Stop the astrolabe from shorting out and get a huge artifact to investigate
I realize I didn’t quite explain the setup in a way that made all of the above immediately make sense to everyone, so I kind of dropped the ball there. But it did end up being a pretty successful session anyway, people scrambled around trying to put out proverbial fires and crazy shit went down.
I don’t think you failed here, as a player I was almost immediately aware that we needed to get all of this under control and since this was our home base everything that we “saved” would become an asset. As a character mind you I was like “aaahhhh what is happening!?”
I think this session, as a format, will be back at some point. This was my first stab at an action oriented full session skill challenge, and it should have made more sense at the time, but we’ll get that done the next time we run into one of these.
Having explained all that does it make a little more sense? Probably if you had stopped and taken a big picture look at the scene you would have picked it all up, which is part of the reason for the Socks intro. I wanted to ease into the huge setup, and Socks let me describe each of the stations real carefully ahead of time.
So a hilarious twist in this session is that a number of the things going wrong would be pretty easy for an arcanist to shut down. You know who wasn’t at this session? Our warlock. Anyways, we got creative.
Also the other arcanist had quit the game. I did sort of want people to lament Giddeon’s passing just a little.
Here are some highlights:
- The spinning telescope beaming in a section of jungle and with it: A t-rex.
- Brubax, wondering what to do next, saying “I think now would be a good time to ride that T-rex.”
- Brubax riding that T-rex.
- Brubax using Speak with Animals to forge a temporary allegiance with that T-Rex because guess what, Goblins are squishy and delicious.
- A section of lava being teleported into the middle of the room with a tiny little island on it. On that island? A single treasure chest.
- Jaxxo the Lizardman essentially abandoning the fight to get to that treasure chest.
- A bunch of goblins trying to knock over the bookshelves of the library to try and wake the golem.
- Jim jumping up on top of the bookshelves, nimbly running across them, planting a climbing spike into the teetering shelf, leaping off and pulling it back up right. Who says you can’t swashbuckle in a library?
- Jaxxo using the Sphere of Duodimension to turn Elise two dimensional to basically roll her up and pull her out of the crystal prison.
- Elise revealing that she is indeed, the heiress of a fallen empire. Which, I assume, will open up a bit of backstory for this central NPC.
- Tidus using some insane lightning wave to hold back tides of angry ice goblins.
Finally, with everything relatively under control, Brubax takes a mighty swing to shatter the crystal and free the heart of the tree.
Our triumph is short lived though, since the beam of the telescope sweeps across the party and transports us to…
At this point, Jono puts a pause on the game and explains that we will now agree to a setting, ANY setting for the next few sessions.
Pretty sure one of my narrative elements from the improv session was travelling through space and time, right? And the sorcerer heiress to an empire. Holy shit I did it. They all made it into the game.
He doesn’t limit us to D&D settings, but that’s kind of where our minds go. Someone (possibly me) definitely suggested “Ninja Turtles”.
I was pulling pretty hard for Gamma World but then, inspiration struck.
Prior to this my exposure to Spelljammer was talking about it in my grade 7 DnD nerd club almost 25 years ago, and reading 4 articles about the setting in the occasional edition of mid 90s Dragon Magazine I got my hands on.
- Two headed invisible fire-breathing giant space hamsters. I am not making that up here check the wiki: https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Giant_space_hamster
- Singing the song “We’re all part of the Gnomish Space Marines,” to the tune of Yellow Submarine
- The Giff: military space hippos obsessed with shooting things with guns. Official ‘new’ race for the campaign setting
If none of that sounds hilariously stupid and awesome I don’t know what I can do for you.
So guess what? Our next 4 or 5 sessions are going to have the Ne’er-do-well Cads jamming their way through phlogiston to visit strange worlds.
Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.
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