*** Potential Spoilers ***
The adventure described below is loosely based on the great sword-and-sorcery novel Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. I think what happens in the game is probably different enough from what happens in the novel that nothingâ€™s gonna get ruined, but things change in play, and I might end up using some plot point from the book that reveals a little too much. Iâ€™ll try not to let that happen, but you have been warned.
Oh, and you should also go read Throne of the Crescent Moon, because itâ€™s a fantastic book.
Last Sunday saw us return to Belys, and the matter of ghuls stealing families from their homes. When we last left our heroes, they were wandering the sewers, trying to find the source of the ghuls. They overheard a whining, sycophantic voice in one sewer byway that seemed to be making excuses to another person, trying to explain why he had failed his blessed friend.
When the group charged into the room, they found that it had changed between one breath and the next, from a narrow, dark sewer to a vast, decaying necropolis. A pile of skulls sat in front of them, a number of shattered stone sarcophagi lay off to one side, and the floor was split in a number of places with deep chasms. Amid the sarcophagi was a tall, defaced statue, and a figure in red and black robes sat at its feet, conversing with a being that looked like a disembodies shadow and called itself Mouw Awa ((I had statted up Mouw Awa, starting from a shadow demon I found in the Compendium, and tweaking his powers and abilities. He’s not the Mouw Awa from the books – different origin, and different powers – but I loved the fauning, venomous nature of his character from the book, and the wonderful, wheedling voice and speech patterns from the audiobook, so I kept those.)).
There was also a whole bunch of earth ghuls and fire ghuls. And everyone rushed to attack.
My plan was to have the fellow in red and black escape the fight, and Mouw Awa and the ghuls keep the characters busy while that happened. It started out pretty well but on the first turn, Thrun managed to make his way all the way across the battlefield and knock the boss on his butt. All of a sudden, his great defensive position was much less great. I managed to get Thrun off him ((No easy feat. Thrun is a Dwarf Fighter, and is built to stick and hold to any bad guy he gets up against.)), and he made his ignoble escape, but it was a much closer call than I might have liked.
Once he was out of the way, Mouw Awa proved to be just the kind of pain-in-the-ass nasty villain I wanted – he kept possessing whoever looked most interesting and attacking party members, all the while keeping up a running commentary on how he was going to feast on the souls of the characters for daring to threaten Mouw Awa’s blessed friend. The ghuls – a mix of minions and standard ghuls – proved to be effective in the large numbers ((Since I’ve decided to forgo the experience and advancement system, I’m worrying less about building “balanced” encounters for the game. I eyeball the encounter, think about what purpose it serves in the narrative, and then fill it with what looks cool. So far, it’s working.)) to keep the PCs from using their mobility to best effect, and I actually had the fighter to within 30 points of being dead. That’s the closest I’ve got him in many a session.
But we were approaching the hard stop time of the evening, so I had Mouw Awa declare that his blessed friend was safe, and then he fled. All the ghuls collapsed into dirt and maggots and cinders, and we called it an evening.
The purpose of this encounter was two-fold: first, to show them that they’re dealing with something of larger scope than they had first thought, and second, to make them hate Mouw Awa, because he’s one of the coolest villains I’ve read in some time. Success on both counts.
Next, they’re going to need to figure out where they are, and what’s really going on.