This session of my Fallen Heroes campaign was possibly the most interesting. This session focused not so much on combat, or even overcoming challenges. This chapter really brought out character backstories, and some of their conflicting natures. Players darkest secrets were blasted in their own faces. Surprisingly, a lot of the conflict that arose centered around the secret alternate identity of one of the characters, which I did not plan or expect to be fully revealed at this point. The mechanics of this session? Almost entirely just telling a story. The challenge wasn’t dice rolling. It was presenting situations that dug deep into characters feelings. And it was awesome. I’m basically just going to tell the stories because I’m pretty happy with what happened.
A quick note, because I’m not sure I’ve fully introduced the cast. We have Henrick, a mysterious sorcerer. Galixo, a battle sorcerer seemingly obsessed with dragons, who has claimed to have a dragon lineage. Seebo, a mischevious, talkative gnome who is also a rogue. Atticus, a quiet psychic warrior. And Tessria, a reclusive ranger with much distrust.
When we last left our heroes, just after they had pulled Kehlvin, our neighborhood hero and protector of Teodar, he sent them to some… alternate realm.
They found themselves in a place akin to, say, the Construct in the Matrix movies. A world of pure white, with nothing visible.
After a few minutes of cautious exploring, a dark wall appeared and slowly moved towards them. Retreating in the opposite direction, the players ran into a twisted fiend guarding a door. This monster had no interest in fighting, but demanded payment. Not in the form of material valuables, but in the form of pain. Yes, this creature wanted players to share their deep-rooted or intense pain. Reluctant, the players tried to force their way past, but the creature was not to be attacked or bypassed. As the walls were slowly closing in on all sides, at last the players give in.
Seebo starts by revealing that he has an alternate identity that he must live by in order to fight injustice. He has seen much pain and suffering and it weighs on him. Galixo, having twice attempted to attack the creature (and suffering some intense pain from it) got away with some sarcasm about having killed a lot of people. Henrick admitted to having lost control of his powers and committed murder, though the creature interrupted him in revelry before he said who. Atticus told that he was the son of the former king of Cyrus, and his father had been murdered by his uncle. He had tried to take revenge, but failed. Lastly, Tessria admitted to be a runaway slave of a very very cruel master. At this, the creature grudgingly let the players pass.
Past the door, players found themselves in a spiraling hallway, with walls on either side. They halted a moment to discuss some of the things just revealed, but were forced to move onward, as the wall behind them started collapsing in on them. As they moved forward, their arguments were forgotten as Atticus’ father appeared on the floor, screaming in pain. Nothing he did helped. Health potions and spells only caused him more pain. Atticus desperately tried to help, but to no avail.
Just then, a Yuan-ti lizardman appeared behind Tessria, trying to grab her. She slipped away and immediately tried to kill him. He called her Sax-zuk and told her to return to him, her true master, but as the group killed the sudden apparation, it disappeared. Atticus’ father was also gone. Sax-zuk, however, was quite emotionally on the edge.
As the adventures travelled down the next length of hallway, an enormous dragon appeared, blocking the way. The dragon roared at Galixo, “You are not worthy of your blood!” Galixo replied snarkily and tried to attack, but the dragon apparition disappeared in a puff of smoke. In his place, Hakar the Wanderer – the crazy blue wizard the players had encountered in the second session.
This time around, Hakar behaved much more sanely, though he did not seem to recognize the players at first. He warned them that this was a realm between realities, a place of essential nonexistance – but a place ruled by Genies, michievious tricksters. The players would see much, he warned, some of it lies – but some of it truths, and to just be careful.
In the next hallway, a genie appeared in his true form, and offered Seebo a powerful item – the Cloak of Eternity. Something about it put off Seebo, though, and he immediately threw the cloak to the ground. Galixo picked it up and examined it, finding it to be a cloak that offered mighty protection to the wearer. He could also tell it was mildly cursed, though it did not affect the wearer. Seebo, however, frantically urged him not to take it, without being specific. Why not? I can’t reveal that at this moment. But he had his reasons. Eventually, he convinced the others not to use the powerful cloak. They left it behind and continued on.
In the next hallway, voices whispered, “Murrrrdderrrrerrr…” Galixo momentarily took credit for the murders, but Henrick quietly spoke. “I don’t think he’s the one they’re talking about.”
The players then met a wall blocking the way. This wall appeared to be the front entrance of a castle, with wanted posters. Only Tessria/Sax-zuk was able to recognize the posters’ image as Henrick, though he himself knew it was him.
Inside the castle, Henricks parents were waiting. They saw Henrick, and approached him… and then exploded into flame. Henrick freaked and tried to stop the flame or do something, but to no avail. At that moment, a shadowy demon, an infernal beast, appeared. He clapped Henrick on the shoulder jovially, enjoying the rage he could feel inside him, telling him to embrace it – it was his destiny. The demon then disappeared. Galixo offered to dispatch Henrick’s parents to end their suffering, but before he could they were burned to ash. They travelled on, but all were shaken.
In yet another stretch of hallway, another voice whispered out in slight fear – “The shadowfox? is here?” Unfortunately for the Shadowfox, Seebo had already revealed that he had an alternate secret identity, and so it was not much of a stretch for the players to figure out his alternate identity. Also unfortunate for him, people had mixed feelings about him. Galixo’s only failed mission was when the Shadowfox broke into and robbed a mansion he was guarding. Henrick’s favorite uncle had once been robbed by Shadowfox. However, Atticus had heard of shadowfox, and thought he might be a potential ally against Magnus (his evil uncle), and Tessria/Sax-zuk also had respect for Shadowfox, for his deeds attempting to help the poor. And stuff.
The characters all reacted appropriately – Galixo about to rip Seebo’s head off, Henrick questioning why, but I think the most interesting part of this was the contrasting perceptions of Seebo and Shadowfox. Shadowfox, an infamous hero or villain, was famous, well-known, hated or loved, but generally respected. Seebo was talkative, mischievious, and other characters did not have so much respect for this guy who they considered “annoying.” And short. The players reactions to this juxtaposition of character was wonderful to watch. And, despite losing this secret to the others, Seebo now felt free to use his Shadowfox Identity – and the powerful (but recognizable) items that went with it.
In the final room of this spiraling hallway, players found themselves in a room with 4 doors. A voice boomed that only 4 of them could leave, and one must be left behind. Another great moment, I watched characters offer to stay, and beg for other characters to go. And some characters wanted to go through regardless of the others. It took a few moments of discussion, but eventually the group decided to allow Seebo to remain behind, as he had volunteered.
Past the doors, players walked down the spiraling (and shrinking) hallway, until they ended at a dark portal. Stepping through…
They found themselves in a large area surrounded by walls, but still with the white floor and ceiling. Waiting for them was Seebo. Shortly after the others had left, Hakar had appeared through his own portal, offering a tunnel to escape. Seebo, however, opted to rejoin his friends and offer them help in their upcoming battle.
Standing next to Seebo, however, was another Seebo. Both claimed to be the real Seebo. Galixo, however, cast a spell on one of them that only worked on humanoids, and when the spell failed, he knew it wasn’t Seebo. The doppleganger revealed himself to be an Efreeti – a powerful and evil Genie. Who promptly turned invisible.
Players blasted around for him, but it was an incredibly lucky shot from Sax-zuk that hit the Genie square-on, while he was still invisible, revealing his location. After that, an epic battle took place, in which the players managed to epically destroy the Genie, and when they did, the realm collapsed, sucking them out into… the Wizards Tower.
Vorpan, the wizard, questioned them on what had happened, then quickly sent them back to the Fortress, to stop whatever it was that the hero was doing over there.
To be continued… next time.