This body of text must serve three purposes.
It will be a blog post
It will inhabit the PDF version of the Dream House of the Nether Prince to fulfill my promise to Allan Grohe's son.
It will be the final (entry #155) of our play notes from The Esoteric Order of the Twilight Princess Campaign, which ran from July 27th 2014 until April 26th 2021.
Where do I even begin?
One reader of my blog recently noted that I speak of the AD&D books and system with reverence.
It must be said that of ALL the activities and organizations I have ever been part of, it is Gary's game, AD&D, that has brought me 99.9% of my closest friendships. How can I not treat it with reverence?
It is a system whose quirks require level-headedness, cooperation and compromise between players and referee. That is a FEATURE because the game forces you to learn how to behave and interact when there are stakes, when stress is high, and while you are working together as a team and as friends toward a shared goal of both drama and fun.
Crucible and Nirvana. Your mileage may vary.
My group of players culminated the campaign by assailing Orcus' Iron Fortress in Pazunia, on a lonely pinnacle of blasted jet known as Caedis High, overlooking the surreal blue depths of the Gulf of Profluo.
They entered the fortress using information given them by an anti-paladin who had fallen from Orcus' grace, through a secret door at the back of the structure, hidden in a niche containing statues of Orcus' conquests.
The party's entry required watch words that included Orcus' name, thus ensuring the Prince would hear and know of their approach. Bodaks and Demons assaulted the party from the moment the fortress was entered and characters immediately started dying.
Using high magic some of these were restored to life and then Healed. Others were not so fortunate.
The route through the Dream House took them through the pool room with the gulping demons, through illusions, past the kitchens and into the forlorn dining hall, hall of mutation, and creche of the wand.
The bard took up Orcus' wand, wielding it thenceforth as a two-handed mace after managing to escape from the Lost Stairs.
They entered the Hall of Trembling and tragedy befell them again as their Silver Dragon companion, Kurum, overcome by fear, fled north to the foyer and into the waiting claws of Goristro and Malfera doormen there. She was torn to pieces.
Death of the Goristro provided leverage for a deal with the Malfera who agreed to allow the party passage in exchange for the Goristro's body and all its loot.
As the shadow dragged the corpse off, the party went east into the room containing Tiamat's egg.
It should be noted that many powerful spells were kept in constant effect: Find Traps, Strength, Air Walk, Find the Path, and so on. Find the Path provided many pass phrases but their use opened the party up to possession by Orcus later on...
As the party secured Tiamat's egg and fell under its Geas, a quasit named "Scour" arrived who "helped" the party find its way back through the parlors and up the Lost Stairs to Lolth's Iron Spider and to Prul the Buttery who swallowed the cleric whole. Thankfully, her disintegration pistol allowed her to escape.
Scour, it turned out was an anagram you see...so his "help" was suspect at best.
This was revealed in the Baptismal of Blood when gruesome rites and demonic possession led to loss of paladin-hood. By now, several party members had succumbed to abyssal mutations and were occupied by the Eyes of Orcus, which had taken root in their skulls.
The journey to deliver the Egg to Tiamat was quick but dangerous and it seemed to the players that there might have been some charade to it...some secret agreement between the prince and the queen.
With the Egg delivered, Orcus emerged from the former paladin and the party found themselves in the throne room as a captive audience to the Prince's monologue.
With a clear new objective, they left the throne room under the direction of a new Find the Path spell, whose target was the Thighs of the North.
Ascending the back stairs, however, put the party in Telum Hall, where they retreated from Lord Sescu and the Angel of Oblivion, to ascend the stairs to the Masquerade.
The party slipped through the orgy of gore and into Witch Hall where Sut, the Walking Demon approached.
Sut, presenting an ominous threat, was sealed inside a Wall of Force and the party, understanding what they must do thanks to previous intelligence gathering, quickly assailed the High Dark Seer and managed to destroy him despite a Time Stop and a successful Power Word Stun used against Mortimer, the 17th level mage.
Sena, the other mage, surmised the controls and opened the Black Doors at the terminus of the Thighs of the North and thereafter the group raced pell-mell through the hall, pursued by hordes of demonic skeletons.
Alas, Stratton, the fallen paladin, possessed by Orcus only a short time before, was crushed by the walls and his blood gushed into the final room where Illitran the bard seized on Orcus' amulet and destroyed it.
Upon destruction of the amulet, Orcus' old foe arrived to strike while the iron was hot. Demogorgon's appearance in the room was a surprise. Both princes proffered a pact, delivered in offset moments of Time Stop through monologue.
That session was done remotely over Discord and I used sock puppets to deliver Demogorgon's lines...much to the mirth of my players.
The party, except for one member, sided with Orcus. But the Lyan, the paladin of law, opted to pact with Demogorgon both as a way of punishing Orcus for his long treachery and in an effort to ensure that whichever side won, the party's goal would be achieved.
We played out the battle using slightly modified Primal Order Rules, with Flux as HP.
Because every member of the party had used the pass phrases within the fortress "Orcus enter my soul!" Orcus was able to inhabit the entire party, with each character serving as the finger of a glove. Orcus' flux was slightly enhanced thanks to the mass ritualistic suicide of his followers on the party's home world, timed to coincide with the battle and signified by a comet.
Orcus' flux, therefore, became the PC's collective hp pool and his AC and THAC0, MR, and other general immunities extended to them as well.
We settled on mutual omniscience, so that each round was declared openly with addendums and counterplans allowed.
Haste was countered by Slow and so on. The battle raged all of 3 rounds but took nearly that many hours to resolve. Rolled damage was multiplied by 10 to simulate the 10 to 1 ratio of Primal to AD&D hp as expressed in the Primal Order rules. This gave the battle an epic feel as the holy avenger dealt 200-some points of damage and Bryn, a Garath and Centien, a ranger, were able to hew for several hundred points per round.
What spells managed to overcome Demogorgon's 20% magic resistance (reduced due to Orcus' 26 level casting ability) thereby added significantly to the tally.
It should be noted that Ibram, Lyan of Law, who sided with Demogorgon, manifested that alliance by becoming a third head and third tentacle on the Prince of Demon's body. I opted to validate apocryphal lore found in Orcus' fortress that Demogorgon once had three heads, but Orcus destroyed one...
Paired with Demonic Rampage, Demogorgon's damage output was ridiculous and the fight might have gone another way but for Stone Skin.
In the end, it came down to two important rolls: Initiative and magic resistance.
Orcus declared that he would use his 1/day Time stop.
Demogorgon declared that if he won the initiative he would rampage.
Orcus won initiative and Stopped Time.
Demogorgon's 20% MR then failed.
We used Orcus' 26 HD as caster level, thus Demogorgon was frozen for 13 segments plus a roll of 6, I think. This equated to nearly two full rounds of blows, including a backstab from the bard that dealt 800 damage...though to be honest, I never checked Rich's math.
We drew the curtains. A tyrannosaur held in Demogorgon's summoning reserves sadly never landed on the board.
Ibram re-emerged from Demogorgon's corpse, whole and alive. Meanwhile, Orcus tore the other heads from the body and, accompanied by Vanth, began his chest-puffing, leaving the party to deal with the Golden Doors.
Ibram, perhaps in penance, perhaps just because he was Ibram, opted to sacrifice himself along with Charmant Bishop, the paladin from Orcus' Warrens.
By placing their hands in the depressions, the Golden Doors were opened and the Urebus was banished.
Thus ended the campaign.
We played in person, all of us vaccinated, for this final game and afterwards we crushed old fashioneds on the patio until 1 AM.
I gave each player a copy of the Dream House plus other goodies from the campaign, like a poster of the City of Brass and prints of the art I'd commissioned for our adventures.
Rich, who played the bard, went so far as melt pewter on his kitchen stove and mint commemorative medallions for each of us.
What comes next?
Four months off for me. The new campaign will be called "Ravens Fell" and we'll kick it off on July 27th (of course) after I've done a lot more work.
It's been a blast to play with Wishes, and Time Stops. It's been epic to see AD&D hold up at that very high level of play against the nay-sayer's, and witness just how lethal the game is even to characters of 17th level and up.
For her devotion (and excellent roleplaying) the cleric, Evanore, was ascended to godling status: 100 points of base, using the Primal Order rules. She will certainly become a major persona in the world.
Speaking of Evanore, Steve kept a detailed journal of the adventures beginning at the time the group departed the Prime Material in the Sepulcher of Isartes, chronicling the City of Brass and the descent to the Abyss.
It is a large body of text and a feat of player dedication in its own right. He gave me the journal at the end of the night and I will cherish it.
Just look at that meticulous handwriting:
But now, we will begin again. At level zero. On Gary's birthday. And we will see where it goes from there.
and happy gaming