Thursday, March 01, 2007

Our Vacation in Hell

I'm still trying to figure out my reaction to last night's World of Alidor game. There were plenty of awesome moments, like the unexpected return of the Champion of Ten Thousand Eyes, the creepy villain who is a collection of eyeballs in the shape of a man. But there was also some pretty fucked up shit going down.

Let's start with the events that led our party literally into Hell. Jon prides himself in having what my main man Settembrini calls a "strategic campaign". Alidor is one of those worlds where a bigass multi-continent map has been fleshed out. You can just wander the map, bumping into things already on the board and thereby have adventures. I know this for a fact, because me and my crew have done it. Between sessions John tries to feel us out for where we are going to go and what we plan to do, but if we change our minds he never misses a beat. For example, he had no clue we were going to crash a zeppelin into a wizard's back porch. We just found a zeppelin and pointed it in that direction until I blew a piloting roll.

So most of the time in his campaign I get the feeling that we are masters of our own fates. Another great example is the time we made a point of going to the city of the Elvish Samurai. After a few minutes of hassle from the gate guards I declared that I was not putting up with their pointy eared orientalist shit. We never even set foot inside the place and instead started hoofing it for a less annoying town.

That's how we ended up at Morgan, a dwarven town. Some small portion of last session was devoted to Jon making sure we understood that the dwarves of Morgan weren't much friendlier. They don't like humans. We smell funny. They try to keep us all in the Foreigner Quarter and are generally racist bastards, though outright pogroms seem to be rare. But we did our best to get along, despite the surly and bigoted locals. We tried not to cause any trouble. (Okay, I did murder that one dude, but he totally had it coming. And besides, he wasn't a dwarf, so how much could the locals have really cared?)

Last session ended with a massive horde of orcs and fiends heading straight towards Morgan. Anyone still reading this far probably knows me well enough to understand that one of my favorite things to do in D&D is to beat up orcs. Some day I really ought to do a blog entry about Why Orcs in particular, but today ain't the day for that. The point is that Doug and Pat had to talk me out of staying and defending a town full of dwarf racists from a huge orc/fiend invasion.

This discussion between the three of us took place mostly in e-mail. A week or so before each session the DM emails us trying to feel out what are plans are for the nest run. Sometimes he offers us specific options. This last time he offered 4 options.

A) Fight the orcs
B) Go down into the valley [where the dragons are]
C) Use a magic portal to completely vacate the region
D) An option I must not have liked, because I don't even remember it.

The player discussion was completely focused on A or B and B eventually won out. But we never made it to the valley, because after we re-killed the Champion of Ten Thousand Eyes we were suddenly in Hell.

That suddenly. With no real explanation available as to what happened. One moment we were fighting the eyeball dude just outside the dwarf town, the next we were chillin' on the first layer of the Bad Place. At this point I still do not understand what happened. All I know is that the DM had previous outlined four possible courses of actions for our PCs, none of which were a quick trip to Satan's backyard. Why even ask what we are going to do, if the plan was to zap us away like that? As a DM I start out sessions with a little railroading all the time, but I don't try to trick the players. I look the players in the eye and say "Here's the adventure I have planned. If we don't do this adventure, then I've got nothing." Arguably that's a pretty stupid way to run a campaign but unlike Jon I don't have an elaborate campaign world chock full of adventure.

So now we're in Hell, for no apparent reason. Theologically, all the PCs have done plenty of things to earn a roasting in a lake of fire but that's not really an explanation for this eyeblink transition. After almost no discussion we all agree that when one finds oneself in Hell, the most useful way to spend one's time is to look for a way out. So we proceed to do just that.

We had some really awesome moments in Hell. It turns out the first layer of Hell is a lot like the surface of Mars: dry, cold, unforgiving. We had to weather out an Infernal Duststorm in a cave, where we found the corpse of the last adventurer to venture upon the plane. Our souls were tempted by a deviless. We passed within spitting distance of Tiamat's lair. In order to get some information ('Where's the exit?') out of a giant mound of talking skulls we had to provide a sacrifice. The druid summoned a unicorn and offered it to the skull, who tore the poor beast to pieces and devoured it soul. That was trully creeptastic and the druid turned Evil as a result. Okay, we got hosed in the way we were sucked into Hell for no reason, but we got some great play out of it. And we looked to be well on our way of escaping the Netherworld.

But then the big finish for the night came like a punch to the gut. We're within sight of the giant Get Out Of Hell Free Card when the temptress devil showed back up with a kobold goon squad (yes, kobolds) demanding we sign on for the Blood Wars or fight her team. My group and I aren't really into choosing anything over fighting, so I charge the devilchick. We have a Fight-Man fight and everything goes well, but then the rest of the kobolds show up. By 'rest of the kobolds' I mean every kobold that has ever been killed in a Dungeons & Dragons game. It's a sea of kobolds out to the horizon and amongst them is Kurtulmak, chief of the kobold pantheon. I'm all for killing kobolds, but I'm not prepared to take on an apparently infinite number of them backed by even a smallish god. So we haul ass up the mountain to the gate that leads back to Kansas.

After a grueling serious of dice rolls and stupid mechanical tricks, we slog up the mountain. The Infinite Kobold Swarm is now close enough to ineffectually pepper us with arrow fire and some flying devils are winging their way towards us to boot. One by one we go through the magical doorway back home (or at least back to our home plane). Only after six members of our seven man team are through do we discover that this portal only works for six people in any 24 hour period.

Well, fuck.

It was getting very late and we were all tired and we were, you know, trying to escape Hell itself. This resulted in our withdrawal being a little less orderly than our unit normally prefers. Normally, we have well-understood priorities in situations like this. Normally, we try to make sure the spellcasters are first on the chopper out of Saigon. Normally, Doug's ranger or my barbarian would be the last man out of combat situation. As much as I like simply drawing my sword and going all berserkergang on evil's ass, this group tries to be professional. But this time we screwed up, big time.

The last man in the queue out of Hell was Pat's PC, the party wizard. I didn't orchestrate this situation, but I feel terrible for leaving Pat behind. Not just because he's the party's arcane blaster and therefore a valuable team asset, but also because I abandoned my good personal friend's PC in literally the worst possible situation. And it gets worse.

Pat's a smart cookie and he also likes playing bad guys, so once he sees he's not getting out of Hell today his wizard tries negotiating with the advancing hordes of Hell. Pat is nothing if not audacious, but I thought he actually stood a pretty good chance because his PC was a charisma based caster with something like a +28 Diplomacy check. Also, the DM had spent the night emphasizing that souls were valuable and Pat was offering up his PC's soul. Pat pulled it off. His soul was forfeit and he was now Evil, but the forces of Hell agreed to send him through the magic portal the next day. Then the DM dropped the biggest bomb of the night with what sounded like a casual, off-handed remark "Of course, the devils spend the next 24 hours sodomizing your character."

Of course. How could there not be sodomy at this point?

The game took maybe ten more minutes to wind down, but I wasn't really listening to the DM much after this point. I think I was distracted by the PC rape. Yeah, that's probably it. Or maybe I was just really tired. After all, this delightful little stroll through the underworld took a lot longer than most of our Alidor sessions.

No, I think it was the rape.

On the ride home Pat seemed to be in a decent mood, all things considering. I think he was trying to focus on all the cool feats and prestige classes now available to him thanks to his new Evil alignment. Prior to this session Evil aligments had been forbidden to our characters and so fun things like the Assassin and the Ur-Priest are now available to Jason and Pat's PCs. I'd be jealous of Pat, if not for the diabolic sodomy.

I'm not sure what's going to happen next in this game. Doug has already talked about calling it quits. Once before I talked Doug out of quitting this campaign, but I don't think I can bring myself to do it this time. I think someone needs to talk me out of quitting. The problem is that, as vile as last night became, this particular session seamlessly fits into the overall tone of Jon's campaign. At least in as much that I can find lots of awesome little high spots, but then the lows are lower than I want to go. And then there's the whole "Not Making Any Fucking Sense Except In The DM's Head" thing Jon seems to do a lot. Despite not everything always being awesome or logically coherent, in the past the players had agreed to soldier on and take the bad with the good.

That was before the rape. If a PC is killed, we can get them resurrected. No magic spell is ever going to unrape anyone.