March 31, 2011

The Death of a God


Months ago, my D&D campaign headed in the direction of going through the WotC 4E Tomb of Horrors. They puzzled over the traps and obstacles set before them, started thinking laterally (at least a little) and were having a good time. The culmination of the Garden of Graves, the end encounter, loomed before them. They were ready to tackle this and, in fact, very eager. They had just spent the last few sessions perplexed by the mysteries of the adventure, but at the same time had their eye on the map of the complex provided so early on in the Garden. They knew the end was coming, and they were dying to know just what the hell had been going on. Despite this adventure being a cut above the rest of WotC's stuff, I knew that I needed to crank it up to deliver the kind of awesome experience they were looking for.

I had to kill a god.

Tomb of Horrors Spoilers Below!

A Little Background
Part of the whole backstory to this new Tomb of Horrors was the death of the gods. Acererak has a grandiose scheme to channel divine energy away from the gods and into himself, becoming the One True God. The death of polytheism, if you will. I've added in something I call The Divine Plague, a vaguely described disease that weakens immortal beings and has left The Pantheon vulnerable to Acererak's plans. It helps link the story in with Part 2: The City of Moil and creates a little more plausible of a reason why the gods' powers could be taken.
 By the way, here's some unpleasant consequences of travelling in Moil.
To foreshadow this and enrich the story, I wanted the PCs to encounter and interact with the gods, to show them how this was affecting The Pantheon, rather than simply telling them. One character, Yusht, provided me an excellent opportunity. The player had created a short backstory, describing his character as a wild, untamed barbarian living on the fringes of society. Yusht had a mentor of sorts, an old hermit named Vorner. If you start warming to the character, stop yourself right now. Yusht died.  Fast forward to the current place in the campaign, the bustling city of New Iovanthor, and the party finds a diseased and mange-covered mountain lion, prowling through the trash-covered back alleys of the metropolis. Wierd, right?  
Gross. Be kind to animals. Get your pets spayed and neutered.
Long story short, this mountain lion is the shapechanging Vorner, revealing himself to be the God of Nature and Wilderness. But he  is sick, terribly ill, with a malady that none in the Pantheon can deduce. [Ioun (God of Knowledge) probably could, but he's completely missing, as related to another character's background. However, I digress.] I didn't really the details of The Divine Plague just yet, but I figured that it would manifest itself in familiar ways when the gods manifest themselves in familiar forms. Fast forward a little more, and the dying Vorner lies prostrate upon the vine-covered floor while a ruby-eyed green monstrosity channels his escaping Divine Power off to Acererak.
Enter the PCs
For the last encounter, I added in the following Terrain Power; Dying Vorner. It helps add excitement, unpredictability, and tension to the scene by forcing the heroes to have to choose to either take on the N+3 encounter full-on, or try and save Vorner through aiding his saving throws (as per the Heal rules). Also, I sometimes get really stingy with the potions and consumable in my game, and this was a way to help make up for it a bit.
Anyone familiar with Gamma World should be able to pick up where I got the idea for the polymorphing effects of Vorner's presence. The players really liked this, and went out of their way, purposefully making tactical mistakes just to see what they could get out of the random rolls. When I ran this, months and months ago, I natuarlly assumed that these mutation would only last for the encounter. If I were to do it all over again, however, I would make the effects permanent, scaling with level, more beneficial, and with a built-in detriment or curse.
Dying Vorner                    Terrain Power
Vorner, once thought of as merely a strange hermit living in the forests of Nentir Isle, has been revealed to be an avatar of the god of the natural world. Here in his home of the Feywild, someone or something has trapped him with a god-killing machine. Vorner’s essence of being, his ability to exist in the universe, is being channeled off –world to some unknown end.
Property: At the start of each round, Vorner must make a death saving throw. When he has failed three death saving throws, the god of nature and wilderness dies. If Vorner rolls a 20 or higher on his saving throw, he stabilizes.
Change and Growth (divine) + At-Will 1/round
Requirement: You must be adjacent to Vorner.
Minor Action                                     Personal
Effect: You lose a Healing Surge and gain one random magical boon from Vorner, as determined from the chart below. Each boon lasts until the end of the encounter, and each granted attack is usable once.
Random Magical Boon Chart (d12)                          
1              Gain 25 HP and make a saving throw.
2              You grow wings (polymorph).
3              You grow poisonous barbs (polymorph).
4              You grow to gigantic size (polymorph).
5              You grow sharpened quills (polymorph).
6              You grow a hardened carapace (polymorph).
7              You grow an extra arm (polymorph).
8              You grow a thick pelt (polymorph).

9              You grow stink glands (polymorph).
10           You grow mandibles (polymorph).
11           Gain a Tiger NPC Ally.
12           Gain a Griffon mount.
Wings                                                                          .
You have wings.
Benefit: You grow wings. You gain a fly speed of 8, but you must land at the end of your turn, or crash.
Poisonous Barbs (poison)                                         .
You have developed a growth of poisonous spines along the ridge of your spine which can be violently detached.
Standard Action                               Ranged 10
Target: One creature
Attack: +15 vs. AC
Hit: 2d10 + 20 poison damage, and ongoing 10 poison damage (save ends)
Gigantism                                                                        .
You have grown abnormally large.
Benefit: You are Large-sized. You occupy 4 squares, gain a +4 power bonus to Fortitude and to Strength ability checks, and your melee reach increases by 1.
Sharpened Quills                                                          .
You sprout hundreds of needle-sharp quills.
Immediate Reaction                      Melee 1
Trigger: An enemy targets you with a melee attack
Target: The triggering enemy
Attack: +15 vs AC
Hit: 1d12 + 10 + Strength modifier damage, and the target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).
Effect: You can use this power twice during this encounter.
Hardened Carapace                                                   .
Your skin hardens into a thick, tough carapace.
Benefit: You gain a +2 power bonus to AC and take a -1 penalty to speed
Extra Arm                                                                       .
"Guess how many fingers I'm holding behind my back.  No, twelve!"
Benefit: You grow an additional arm.
You can use it to carry a shield, help wield a two-handed weapon, carry an extra one-handed weapon, and so on.  If you carry an extra weapon, you can make a basic attack with that weapon once per round as a minor action.
Thick Pelt                                                                       .
A thick, yeti-like pelt of hair covers your body.
Benefit: You gain resist 1 all from your new pelt.
Stink Glands (poison)                                               .
You develop glands that give off some powerful funk.
Benefit: Whenever another living creature starts its turn within 2 squares of you, you push it 1 square.  In addition, until the start of its next turn, it's slowed and takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls.
Mandibles                                                                    .
You manifest large mandibles and take an enormous bite out of your enemy.

Standard Action                               Melee 1
Target: One creature
Attack: +12 + Strength modifier vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 10 + Strength modifier damage. In addition, while you remain adjacent to the target, it is immobilized and takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends both).

Saber-Toothed Tiger              NPC ALLY (Level 11)
HP 1; a missed attack never damages the tiger.
Armor Class 25; Fortitude 24, Reflex 25, Will 23
Guarded By Heroes + At-Will        Immediate Interrupt
Trigger: The tiger is hit by an attack and you are adjacent to it.
Effect: You are hit by the attack instead.
Hustle It! + At-Will                                  Minor Action
You command the tiger to take a move action (Speed 6, Speed 8 while charging).
M Bite + At-Will               Standard/Opportunity Action
+18 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage.
Bloodlust + At-Will                                            Intrinsic Action
Trigger: A PC ends their turn, and the tiger is not adjacent to an enemy.
Effect: The tiger must charge the nearest target.


  1. This is fucking phenominal, I can't wait to insert this into my ToH game once my players escape (or die trying) ravenloft right around level 10.

  2. Wow, thank you for such kind words! I hope it proves useful to you and that your players enjoy it.