Fifth Session (15 page pdf) – “Sex, Death, Gods, and Demons” – [WARNING: NSFW] The PCs race to kill the last Keeper before the horror from the Dark Tapestry destroys Riddleport. But that’s not the greatest foe they face, as it turns out sex is the deadliest weapon of all.
About Adult Content, or, Love Riddleport style
No, seriously, this session is NC-17 rated (that’s X-rated for you old folks), so don’t read further if you’re easily offended. Also, there are spoilers for Richard Pett’s adventure Carrion Hill. Below, I give you a look into the planning that went into all this. Some people think RPGs should be bowdlerized like comics were under the old Comics Code. Well, I disagree; even most classic literature revolves around “adult” real world concepts about sex, infidelity, temptation, et cetera. I believe RPGs are a serious art form and don’t have to be just escapist power fantasy – if you disagree, you’re welcome to your own game, but to me it’s like Hamlet vs. Donald Duck comics – you can enjoy the latter, but if you claim they’re the acme of literature like the former, then real people will look down on you like the punk you are.
To telegraph the inclusion of sexual content in this session to the group, I added some sexual tension with Iesha at the Gold Goblin (always do a little foreshadowing) and then because of the nature of the Tommy scene especially I just plain told all the players (and our groupie Georgina who was spectating) that this scene would be sexually explicit and they could take a powder if they were uncomfortable, but they were all down. I felt that they all (Tommy mainly in this scene, Sindawe later on, and the others in their turn) did a great job of roleplaying through all these heavy topics. Good work guys!
About The Graphic Sex Scene with Tommy, Lil, and Seyanna
One of Tommy the halfling’s long term goals is to become a respected and feared pirate/crime lord with a hot human mistress. He’s recently taken a level of assassin and is notable for his enthusiastic torture of the captured assassin Jesswin, and the trapped tiefling prostitute Lavender Lil has been #1 on the future-mistress list. Well, recently I got Paizo’s Lords of Chaos, Book of the Damned Volume 2 and the idea of the demonic boons and whatnot were interesting, so I thought I’d see if Tommy could be tempted. Turns out he could! You may remember Seyanna the succubus from the Riddleport Light back in Season One – she was a slave of the old sorcerer who used to keep it, Gebediah Crix. Sindawe ended up gifting her to a helpful imp. Fortunately for her, the tsunami hit the city immediately thereafter and in the chaos she managed to get the golden key that controls her away from the imp, tore him into devil bits, and went on her way. But a good GM never tosses away an NPC! Upon reading Lords of Chaos, I realized there was a perfect fit here. Nocticula (she’s on the cover) is the demon queen of succubi, assassins, whores, and related shenanigans. An aspiring assassin not afraid of getting his hands dirty and who has a soft spot for the demon booty – well that’s something that’s going to show up on her radar. So Seyanna (who can read minds, so knows all about Tommy, and reckons he’s a good Nocticula prospect) headed over to the House of the Silken Veil to get a job. It took some doing to fool the cunning head priestess of Calistria, Shorafa Pamodae, but that’s where succubi are Vikings. In fact, last time Tommy visited she was in the waiting room for her job interview – I gave him a Perception check to recognize the clothes she was wearing from their encounter in the lighthouse (she had changed form of course, but not clothing) but alas he failed it. So in short order she sexually enslaved Lil and laid out a high quality temptation for Tommy. In the end he accepted her dark gift. This entire scene was the most graphically sexual of the campaign, and it had to be, to reinforce the nature of these demons – sexual, perverse, violent – and make it clear what he’s getting into. Like any good ensnarement, there was an element of threat and an element of cupidity, it works on marks every day in real life and it worked on Tommy. It’s not clear what he plans to do now – go along with it? Turn against Lil? Try to get the succubus somehow? And what are her plans? Help him? Hurt him? Corrupt his precious bodily fluids? We’ll see, this has provided enough plot hooks to sustain a campaign into infinity.
About the Asylum
This was the climax to Carrion Hill – what is essentially a Spawn of Yog-Sothoth from Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” is loose in Riddleport and they are trying to get rid of it, starting with killing its summoners so it can’t kill them itself and take their power. The last Keeper runs an asylum, of course. You should have seen the dismayed looks on the faces of the players, they knew it was going to be Real Messed Up ™. Richard Pett did a good job on this adventure adding all kinds of cool setpieces and Lovecraftian horror tropes.
In the end the PCs couldn’t quite kill the Keeper before he ran away and loosed the resident chaos beast – and then as they slew him, the Spawn showed up. I was liberally adding Will saves to prevent Wisdom damage as a stand-in for Sanity mechanics. The best part of this was when everyone managed to get clear (well, Wogan just about didn’t, but Sindawe helped him out) and ran off as the chaos beast and the Spawn met. Everyone, that is, except the curious Serpent, who stayed behind, peering at the meeting out of curiosity. Would they fight? Is one the other’s baby or something? Would they mate? Well, he’ll never know, because he rolled a natural 1 on his Will save and went completely insane – temporarily (mostly), but his mind blanked out and he came shrieking and gibbering out of the asylum behind the others.
I let them get away with just “blowing up the gas lines” in classic Call of Cthulhu fashion instead of fighting the spawn. They were all beat to hell and were clever slash lucky enough to get the spawn and the chaos beast to meet (that was a pretty low percentage play). And then they were like “Oh, the gas lines! All that leaking dwarven gas line stuff during the flood was foreshadowing!” And I was like “Uhhh… Yes! Yes it was!” So they gleefully wandered away from a burning asylum as many insane people burned to death screaming. Shadow Riddleport will be quite lively if anyone visits again! And the spawn might be dead. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a big ass chaos beast. Or maybe it’s napping. No hints from me!
About the Guns
We changed our gun rules for this game – we had been using these rules I put together, but Paizo has their new gun rules from the upcoming Ultimate Combat out for playtest so we thought we’d use them. We like using period-appropriate guns especially in a pirate game of this sort, so slow to load black powder wheellock pistols and muskets are in the hands of some of the local guards, and our cleric of Gozreh, Wogan, has a soft spot for them. They’re expensive, but he’s managed to get a small collection.
We had mixed results on the rules. These new guns perform a touch attack at short range, which was a nice boost and let him actually hit things. But damage was just too small (1d12 musket/1d8 pistol). Since you have to reload for a long time, you can’t get in a lot of attacks and certainly can’t get the rapid shot/multishot/iterative attack kinds of things every bowman has. So someone with a bow can pop off 2 or more arrows a round for 1d8 + STR damage each even at low level, but with a pistol you can fire once every other round for 1d8, not easily enhanceable. I’m going to boost damage significantly (2d6 for pistols, 3d6 for muskets) – guns are expensive and require a special feat and are slow, so there needs to be compensation.
About Sindawe and Hatshepsut
I hadn’t been planning on doing this in the same session as the succubus thing, but that’s how it ended up happening. Anyway, you may remember that back in Season One, Sindawe ended up making love to an avatar or something of voodoo goddess Mama Watanna, after which she blessed him but warned him he had to be faithful to her and keep it secret. I basically ripped off RL African deity Mami Wata for this bit. To quote the relevant bit from Wikipedia, “Mami Wata’s association with sex and lust is somewhat paradoxically linked to one with fidelity. According to a Nigerian tradition, male followers may encounter the spirit in the guise of a beautiful, sexually promiscuous woman, such as a prostitute. In Nigerian popular stories, Mami Wata may seduce a favoured male devotee and then show herself to him following coitus. She then demands his complete sexual faithfulness and secrecy about the matter. Acceptance means wealth and fortune; rejection spells the ruin of his family, finances, and job.” And that’s what happened. Anyway, Sindawe got a CHA boost out of the gig and has been faithful so far.
Well, he’d developed this friendship with Hatshepsut, monk and priestess of a lost civilization they thawed out back in Viperwall. At first, it was just “let’s not murder her” when Serpent wanted to just murder her… But then he stepped in to help since she doesn’t speak Common and sometimes axe kicks people who violate her weird ancient customs. And Sindawe wanted to learn Aklo from her to have a secret party language. As they are both monks they ended up fighting together a lot, and saving each others’ lives from time to time – Sindawe has even spent his precious Infamy Points to help her out.
I wondered how he’d respond to a spark; I just needed the right time. Hatshepsut got hit by the chaos beast’s attack during the run on the asylum and nearly got mutated. She puts up a stern front but the whole “guess what it’s hundreds of years later and your gods and people are all dead and you’re a hobo now” thing is tough on her, and the chaos thing really shook her. Buty she has her pride. So in Red Sonja fashion, she challenged Sindawe to spar, and when he won, she offered herself to him. And he decided, “OK, let’s do this.” I knew some random hottie wouldn’t be tempting to him, but a reliable comrade, that’s a different thing.
So what will happen with an irate water goddess? I guess we’ll see! One PC uses sex to get into bed with a higher power, and one uses it to get out. Interesting times.
Was it sex-drenched? Yes. And that’s how you do it! As a result we have personal investment and drama! Roleplaying isn’t dead yet. Stay tuned for next time, when we kick the second major campaign plot arc into high gear.
I don’t know, it’s a succubus, so what happens seems quite fitting to me. I don’t know if it’s something I’d run, but it’s certainly not beyond the pale.
When I ran Carrion Hill, it became apparent that the map was all wrong; Crove’s office is only six squares or so in size, so it’s impossible to have a confrontation in there as written. Similarly, the spawn of Yog-Sothoth is too large to get into the basement of the asylum. Do you just ignore the published maps, or did you come up with a more clever solution?
My players killed the spawn without much trouble. One of them got a little bit of blood drain, but otherwise, while it took a lot of damage to put down, it just didn’t seem dangerous enough and just sort of writhed ineffectually.
Well, he had all the doors open so you can treat the whole area as one big zone, you don’t have to be constrained to that room specifically – his summoned spiders were on the ceiling ready to entangle, his summoned dretch burst in through the east door, and he was already standing in the doorway of the west door. He glitterdusted into the office and then was backing into the western room, they closed and started hitting him hard (he had a really bad AC) so once he was down to like 15 hp he teleported straight 90′ south halfway down the tunnel to the chaos beast using his conjurer ability. Tommy saw him and managed to crit him from more than 100 feet away, taking him to 1 hp!
The spawn had been squeezing through small tunnels in the original destroyed house too; I just figured with being amorphous and secreting black slime goo it could “squeeze” down there. Note how the first thing they saw was a whole pool of black motor oil like goo spilling down into the “green mile” from the north stairway. It had to move slow while it was doing it, but that was for the best. Besides, everyone knows you can’t stop a Lovecraftian creature with something as banal as a 5′ wide tunnel!
On the fighting front, they hadn’t rested through all of Carrion Hill and the Stink, so no spells, Hatshepsut was discorporating from the chaos beast’s attack (and the chaos beast was pursuing them). Plus, I don’t know – something about my style, creatures tend to be more effective than their stats, and that thing has four tentacles with CMBs even our monks would have trouble with… One tagged Wogan and CON drained the crap out of him in one round. And reach plus combat reflexes… I have no doubt I could have killed them all, even with the negative levels. Besides, I like PCs feeling like it’s OK to run from overwhelming foes – “we all hit each other till someone dies” syndrome is one of the hardest bad habits to break a group of.
Well Crove had nowhere to go when I ran it. The players bundled into his office, so every time he tried to get out of there with a spell or a dodge, they smacked him.
The blobby thing had been established as being able to squeeze through narrow gaps — and I liked the detail of the goop running down the stairs; I’ll use that next time — but it seemed like there was nowhere for it to go while in the asylum. I fudged it and ignored the map in the end, but if I were to run it again, I might have the final battle occur on the roof of the asylum.
Smacking shouldn’t be the end of the world – he has a high Spellcraft (concentration) and the conjurer teleport-as-much-as-you-like power should be an autoescape.
And I think the point of the setup was that Crove was specifically luring the beast down there so it wouldn’t have room to maneuver, get it into the invisibility purge, then debuff it and cast binding, then keep it there feeding it crazies and demanding the secrets of the universe. So I thinkt hat part was working as specifically intended ( by author and by villain).
Fair points, I think. It may simply have been a case of bad luck on my part.
Oh, also, this was Tommy’s first real assassination! Man that derro rolled awful on his Perception so I just ruled he was so intent on his autopsy he didn’t notice them come in. The crazy inmates saw them and freaked but they freak out all the time and he just yelled at them. Then Tommy studied him and whacked him! That was surprising to the rest of the PCs; I discourage rules table talk and inspecting each others’ character sheets; none of them knew he was an honest-to-God assassin now till that.