This marks the first post to the new version of Renegade Octopus! Herein you’ll find my worldbuilding, explanations of what I’m doing with it, as well as why I’m doing it. Visitors here will get just this material, while my Patrons will get an additional article for every article here specific to projects I’m working on and a monthly piece of fiction.
Today, after a discussion with my wife on our way home from the city, I will be presenting a bit of information for the Land of Storms, about the village of Westhaven, last stop on the road west before the Dragon’s Teeth mountain range. It’s also, coincidentally, the closest thing to Fire Mountain that most folks would recognize as a village.
So a few days ago I learned how storm petrels used to be used as lamps – they’re a bird so oily that they can be caught, dried, and essentially turned into a lamp. With the two of us being such phenomenal dorks, however, we promptly turned to thinking about how one of these would play out if included in a tabletop game like Pathfinder or D&D. The result is “The Fall of the Flaming Petrels, and the Rise of Pazuzu the Ever Burning – or, How Petrel-Bob Became a Demon God.”*
Last night, after close to three years, my Pathfinder campaign wrapped up; it did so a few levels and Mythic tiers ahead of schedule due to the compounding of life events among the group, but it was a satisfying finish. With that, I’m going to take today to go over what might have been and what was for the campaign finish.
As originally designed, the campaign still had another five levels and a couple Mythic tiers to go before reaching the end. The players were slated to defeat the army of the Order of the Pure at their citadel and discover that it was simply a gateway to the planes outside the mundane sphere around the prime material. From there, they were intended to lead their army across the planes, interfering with extraplanar conflicts and swelling their ranks with creatures from across the multiverse to go wage war.
The planned destination was the Isle of Mara, the Children’s Table, where the mother-goddess of the Next World was imprisoned as the island itself; she had tried to walk back across time to see the birth of the current world, and in doing so became corrupted by the Outer Darkness. They and their army would have fought across the island, up the narrow spire of stone to the Children’s Table, to face an empowered and mutated dwarven necromancer-king and a gnomish fiend-worshiper, both in thrall to Mara herself, and then Mara herself, a goddess on her home plane, bolstered by the deaths of all her children into a near-kaiju.
Instead, with life interfering repeatedly over the last year and one player now only intermittently available, the campaign wrapped up at the citadel itself; the planar rift was replaced by a summoning of Mara to the moral world, and the battle to and through the citadel modified. Old acquaintances and allies arrived to join the fight, and the battles planned to reach the citadel itself were removed in favor of a straight storming of the structure.
I gave the players a chance to invest some of their Mythic uses ahead of time to gain benefits during the final session; they spent a total of 19, giving them a few bonuses to AC, weakening the opposition, and – during the final battle – granting them a bonus to hit once the timer hit a certain critical value.
The majority of the first floor existed to determine how hard the final battle would be; each enemy killed would be eaten by the ritual to invoke Mara, raising her hit points and saving throws, as well as giving her extra attacks. The first enemies were meant to show that they could potentially bypass them, as they were already terrified of the events going on; I put it as even odds as to whether or not the players would kill them, incapacitate them, or terrify them into fleeing. The squads following them didn’t count for the purpose of empowering Mara; none of them were spending the time to finish off fallen foes.
As it was, the oracle had deathwatch goggles that let her see the souls of the fallen being drawn off, and so they took pains to stabilize fallen enemies and to avoid killing them if possible. Mara benefited from only a few deaths, not enough to really power her up. They hit the first stage of actual foes at the stairs leading up to the tower, having loaded everyone onto the cavalier’s horse and gone storming through the building hooves-first. The first actual foes were hound-like abominations born of Mara’s “blessing” upon the beasts of the Order; they died quickly, but did a bit of damage before they fell.
The second level of the tower had a more powerful abomination, capable of regenerating and resistant to everything save the orichalcum weapons they’d forged just before setting out on this final mission. It and the half-dozen Hounds accompanying it died quickly, but forced the players to expend spells, healing, and a few mythic uses to take them down quickly. The larger abomination regenerated some, forcing the cavalier to put it down a second time, continuing to hack until it fell apart and turned to dust.
Making it to the top of the tower brought them face to face with four dangerous-looking orbs, as well as eight cultists of Mara and their leader, with the violet comet containing the goddess herself directly overhead; the cultists all had fairly potent wands, while the cult leader wielded beams of life-sapping black energy. The orbs themselves had a high level of resistance to damage, aside from the mythic-bypassing orichalcum blades (as the evoker quickly discovered as his fire spells scarcely harmed the orb he used it on, while his rapier punched holes through it.
Each orb had an area of effect that went off during the orb’s initiative each round, dealing either physical or mental damage to any non-Maran in the area of effect; they continued going offing, causing havoc for everyone, while the cultists were burned to death or bull rushed off the edge of the tower. Once everything was defeated, one of their old enemies – turned ally through their actions – made it to the top of the tower to tell them that they had a choice: either fight Mara in her full and terrible glory, or she could sacrifice herself with the aid of the four Shining Hounds that accompanied her and bind Mara into her body, freeing her soul to the afterlife while forcing the goddess to fight on mortal terms.
The group, heroes to the last, refused to sacrifice anyone to make their mission easier, and so the Hounds shattered the comet and brought Mara down to the world at her full strength. The fight was brutal – Mara had around 1000 HP and an AC of 35 on top of her damage resistance and regeneration – but the three threw themselves into the fight with their orichalcum weaponry, relying on their ally and prepared contingencies to keep them alive long enough to finish the fight.
The mythic investment paid off, enabling them to strike Mara’s absurd AC, and a confirmed double critical left her half-blind when the oracle drove her orichalcum dagger through the goddess’s face. The final blow also went to the oracle, who dove in and pierced Mara’s core, causing the goddess to collapse and dissolve into smoke and thin, dark liquid. As the sky cleared and the world shuddered as Mara ceased to have ever existed, taking all of her spawn with her, the three heroes heard the assembled army cheering and chanting their names.
Followed by a delicate metallic cough behind them, as Rava, the Goddess of Fate, turned up to congratulate them and enlighten them; she had been behind their struggle, using events to guide and shape them into weapons, as she had each of the previous 43 iterations of the world before resetting it all when the prior attempts had failed. She had kept the knowledge of Mara out of her domain’s etchings, letting the dark goddess think her ignorant of events rather than their architect.
The three would, when they eventually passed from the mortal coil, ascend to divinity in their own right: Ceor, the Lord of Portals, fully taking on the mantle of the old god they’d eventually rescured; Talisien the Firewalker, patron god of evokers and travelers; and Reeshka the Glorious, patron of Scalykind and healers.
Left behind, their now-legendary orichalcum weapons: Queensfang, Reeshka’s dagger, only able to be wielded by an heir of Reeshka’s bloodline; Talisien’s Barb, the rapier of the evoker, only able to be used by the world’s true archmage; and Destiny, the cavalier’s sword, which could only be wielded by someone who wished to do heroic things without wishing for the fame or glory of being a hero.
And thus ends the saga of the Blades of Light, Midgard’s most unlikely heroes. I’ll come back to them later, now that the campaign is finished, to talk about the things that I feel went right, those that needed work, and some of the things that went wrong (thankfully few).