To shed light on your travels through the underdark, the first four parts of this epic saga involving Dungeons and/or Dragons can be found below:
Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Well, after Glen's family had the temerity to move, taking along with them their son and (most importantly) our D&D party leader and main fighter, the heavy crown of leadership came to rest upon the troubled brow of Greg's cleric character Amon. Just days after Glen's U-Haul cleared outta town I was already putting Greg through his paces as the Fellowship's new CEO.
The first thing I did was strip away his entire support system. I launched into a subversive campaign to prove that Greg's squeaky-clean, goody-two-shoes, in-game personality was really just a front for a secret rebel lurking just underneath the surface. So what did I do to prove my point? I lured this straight-laced holy man into a life of crime, of course!
I managed to justify this by convincing Greg that Amon had picked up some rudimentary thieving skills while trying to survive as an orphan on the mean streets of Mayberr...er, Valos, his home town. I did this as a test just to see how he'd react. If he refused to use these newfound skills then his Lawful Righteous alignment would remain intact. If he became an overnight kleptomaniac, then I knew that I could hang him with his own rope.
And sure enough, when the party's NPC thief Demetrius proposed a little spot of B&E, Amon immediately went shopping for thieves tools and I silently started cackling like Invader Zim. In the next adventure (pretentiously titled "Ascent on Cragmore") Demetrius and the formerly straight-laced cleric scaled, broke into and then raided the tower fortress of a despotic land owner. At first, I made it look as if the two burglars got away with their heist scott-free.
But Greg soon realized that you can't avoid the all-seeing eye of your patron god. Just as Amon was strolling back into town with a sack filled with silverware, commemorative Elvis plates and candle-sticks, he was interdicted by two of his fellow priests. They told him in no uncertain terms that Zeus was hella-pissed at him for stooping to rank thievery.
"Hey!" Greg shouted. "No fair! I wouldn't have done all of that stuff if I thought Zeus was gonna be angry with me!"
"You're an effin' cleric!" I shouted back. "You're not supposed to be stealin' shit! What the hell did you think was gonna happen?"
Amon immediately hauled ass to the nearest temple to mystically Skype with the Big Z. The Father of the Gods™ told our fallen priest (in terms that were also decidedly certain) that he'd f#@*ed-up royally and needed to make amends for his pilfery ways ASAP. His punishment: find passage to Olympus, crawl penitently before the feet of the Gods and then seek and destroy the last of the Rogue Titans.
Piece o' cake, right?
Well, naturally these instructions came with a few caveats. First, Amon could only travel with people who shared his same spiritual beliefs. Since this excluded his usual cohorts Demetrius and Tyrian, Greg was forced to accept help from two previously unknown chuckle-heads. They also turned out to be fallen priests: Persidius, who ransacked his own temple to pay off a gambling debt and Croesus who denied his faith in order to avoid execution in a foreign land. The party's charter member and brainy mage Aleara, who'd recently converted to "Zeusaism", managed to sneak in as the forth member of this rag-tag group.
Naturally the Godfather didn't put the portal to Olympus next to the Cheesecake Factory just down the street. Noooooo, that sucka was waaaaaay the hell up north in the godforsaken and unimaginatively named Place of the Ice. En route, our fantastic four had to survive nasty snow squalls and life-threatening frostbite all the while tangling with barbarian hordes, frost giants, wolverines (*snikt!*) and two young prepubescent white dragons.
Y'know in retrospect there was no logical reason whatsoever for me to force Amon and company to shlep all the way up north like that. Well, except to give me a thinly-veiled excuse to trot out a series of arctic-themed monsters, which I still have a fetish for. I guess that's why I'm loving the bejesus out of Skyrim right now.
Anyhoo, the party eventually stumbles upon a gigantic ice cavern, clearly ripped off from, er...pattered after Superman's Fortress of Solitude:
At the far end of the chamber is a white/blue vortex and some glittering treasure lying next to it. As they approached the portal a huge, forty-two-foot-long polar worm emerged from the chasm:
After the resulting Pier Six brawl our heroes got sucked into the mystical Tilt-A-Whirl, and spun around weightlessly for a bit until they lost barfed up their iron rations and then lost consciousness. Here's what they saw after they woke up:
"You find yourself lying on rocks at the top of a precipice with wind-stunted trees around. All of you are feeling nauseous and disoriented. A group of warriors dressed in scale mail armor and red robes are approaching. Armed with short swords and carrying shields, the figures seem bathed in shimmering light. They motion for you stand up and you follow them up the mountain path. At the apex there's a huge temple rife with guards and archers. The occasional spectral figure drifts past you as you take in the unearthly sight.
You enter the temple and see a massive altar and throne set into the far wall. Seated at this regal station is a twenty-foot tall, powerfully built bearded male dressed in a pristine white robe. Lightning bolts crackle around him and the level of energy in the air makes your head swim. There are more figures seated around but everything is blurry and surreal, as if in a dream.
Suddenly the bearded figure speaks in a booming, all-encompassing voice:
'Seek and destroy the last of the Rogue Titans. Recompense and absolution will follow. Wisdom and sport will aid you in your quest. Go now, and I will deign to follow.'
With a gesture, you're suddenly standing in a clearing in the forest. With a rush of horror, you suddenly realize that Aleara is missing! The three of you look around but can only see a town in the distance. Amon, you instantly recognize it as Valos, the place of your birth."
As soon as the adventurers enter the town, they sense a pall of sadness hanging over the place. When asked about it, the citizens begin to describe how Thallos, the last of the invincible Rogue Titans, is threatening to destroy the city. As if that's not enough incentive, an amnesiac Aleara turn out to be a prisoner of the town and they intend to sacrifice her to the creature!
In order to find a way to kill the invulnerable Titan, Amon begins the equivalent of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. He's forced to solve a series of riddles, the answers to which reveal the name of the creature he has to confront next. Each creature he overcomes gives him a clue to the nature of this ultimate weapon.
He first battles a swamp-dwelling hydra:
Then a Frankenstinian chimera:
Next, a poor, innocent, wine-making cyclops:
And finally a maze-dwelling minotaur:
After defeating each beastie, I give Greg a none-too-subtle clue like "fetid serpents", "half snake, half goddess", and the ultimate spoiler alert: "flesh to stone, its head you must claim!" As soon as Amon uttered the name "Medusa" he instantly found himself standing at the bank of the River Styx, gateway to the Land of the Dead. Here's the ham-fisted way I originally described this transition:
"You are suddenly standing on a sandy bank and the river before you is wreathed in fog. Nearby is a withered tree and you notice a small horn hanging from a skeletal branch."
After Curious George blew the horn I read the following passage:
"A long riverboat appears, guided by a gaunt, cloaked figure standing at the stern. You hear a low hiss as the prow of the boat cuts into the sandy bank. You move to get in but the ferryman drifts to the front of the boat and raises a skeletal hand. It is Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx. He demands a gold coin from each of you before you board."
Eventually the cheap bastards coughed up the cheddar and I let them proceed:
"As you drift across the river, lightning occasionally splits the sky. Eventually you begin to see through the thick fog to the other side of the bank where an ancient temple has fallen into disuse. Half of it has collapsed and the edifice is covered with fungus and mold.
After you disembark, you climb up a set of broken steps onto a thirty foot square parapet. Immediately ahead of you is a dark, foreboding entrance between several columns of stone and a set of stairs on either side leading down into the murk.
Suddenly you hear the sound of chains dragging in the gloom ahead. It's quickly followed by an eerie sight: three sets of hellish eyes appear accompanied by a blood-curdling howl. A monstrous creature emerges from the darkness: a fifteen foot tall beast with three mastiff heads, grizzly-looking gray fur and a coiled, muscular frame."
After putting Cerberus, the three headed dog to sleep permanently, Amon and company ventured down into the crypt. Here's what they saw:
"You emerge into a large, one-hundred-and-twenty by fifty-foot room lined with columns. The area is nominally lit with torchlight. There are about thirty statues in the room, all of them appear to be adventurers. You suddenly hear a hissing noise and then a rattling sound, like the tail of a cobra."
Even after plowing through everything that had come before it, the trio really had their hands full with this boss-before-there-were-bosses chick. In addition to her Butterfacial ability to turn a bloke into stone, Medusa was also armed with a composite long bow for long-range attacks and a polearm for fighting up close. As if that wasn't enough, her acidic blood could be used to poison her arrows and also cause major Alien-like splash damage in hand-to-hand combat.
While Croesus and Persidius finally received forgiveness from Zeus by dying horribly in this encounter, Amon managed to survive the battle and claim the hag's head. With the aid of a previously domesticated Pegasus (!), Amon hastily sped back to the place of sacrifice where Aleara was already being menaced by a very punctual Thallos.
So, after a spectacular aerial battle, Amon used the gorgon's head to turn Thallos into stone. After being reunited with Aleara (*know what I mean, know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink*), our hero made amends with Zeus (they went swimming together), claimed the legendary Hammer of Hephaestus as a prize and was promptly sent packing back to his home realm. Drop curtain.
Despite being shamelessly manipulated like a dime-store marionette, Greg soon confessed that this was his favorite adventure to date.
Um, what? Excuse me, what's that you're shouting? I can't hear you...
You're saying that all you did was rip off the plot to Clash of the Titans just to teach my friend a lesson about something I tricked him into doing in the first place?
Well, d'uh. Thanks for providing a great segue into the following two incidental points:
(1) It's never too early to use the soapbox provided by a role playing game to make yourself feel superior to a friend by lecturing them about hypothetical ethics.
(2) In the pre-internet 80's, quite often your best D&D adventures turned out to be movies that your players hadn't seen yet.
'Til next time, may all of your hit rolls be crits!
EPIC Honestly, any similarity to my adventure and this film's awesome fan-made trailer are strictly co-incidental!
FAIL I fear that nowadays kids are stealing from infinitely inferior sources...