The evil mage Zarakoth is dead, but with his death the world has gone mad. The aging characters are confronted on all sides by rot, death and decay whilst around them the world regresses rapidly to the stone age. Furthermore, Zarakoth seems to have miraculously not died - and to be more powerful than ever.
The entirety of this plot takes place over (maximum) 2-3 days of game time (as perceived by the PCs); perhaps only 1-2 days.
The PCs (probably of medium to medium/high level) are currently in Tournais, a fairly large and prosperous city (not the capital) in the large nation of Givet. The party is hired by Duke Jaelend of Tournais to seek out and kill the evil mage Zarakoth, known to be practicing dark arts in the Forest of Ludenec, nearby. They are assigned an NPC mage, Corwyn Feldrew, to help them.
The party progresses to the forest and engages Zarakoth in combat. The next bit may require some GM cheating of game mechanics. Zarakoth is mortally wounded (either by spell, arrow, whatever). With his dying breath he summons a mighty spell and hurls it at you. Corwyn leaps in front of the blast, desperately chanting a counter-spell: however, he was not quick enough. Corwyn, crumples to the ground, dead: however, it seems that his counterspell was enough to halt the magic as the faint tendrils of magic that touch the rest of the party have no effect. Zarakoth is also dead.
The main plot i.e. the interesting, non-cliche bit!
As the party leave the forest they will, at some point, stop to eat. They notice that their lunch seems to have gone off - the cheese is mouldy, the fruit rotten, etc. (No magic can be detected around any of it, should they try). Probably the party will just ignore this - at any rate, they will almost certainly continue on back to Tournais.
Down the road a little way they notice a small party of riders (around 4) in armour that bears crests similar to, but slightly different to the arms of Duke Jaelend of Tournais. As soon as the riders catch sight of the party the riders charge and attack. They will not parly. Once the riders are killed, if the party inspect the bodies they will find warrants ordering the immediate death (without capture or trial) of all of them. These warrants are signed by 'Duke Zarakoth of Tournais.' If the party doesn't find these warrants it doesn't matter. If they do, however, they should start getting very suspicious and worried.
They continue, either back to Tournais or away from Tournais. If they try to go away they will hear in a village/town that Duke Zarakoth has set a cordon 20miles around Tournais to stop them from escaping. They will also be attacked by men of the duchy again (basically, provoke the PCs in to deciding they need to go back to Tournais and kill Zarakoth again).
Much more worrying though will be the following events:
- When they enter a shop and pay for something, some of the coins will be rejected by the shop keeper. Some of their coins have changed from what they were before to bearing the head of Zarakoth. Some shop keepers will only accept the 'correct' currency, others only the new currency. As the hours pass, more and more will only accept the new currency.
- The rot and decay continues. Often they might buy a loaf of bread only to find it has gone mouldy and rotted an hour later. As time passes, this might happen even in the shop itself. Knives, swords, etc. may also rust and turn to dust.
- The world itself regresses. Over the course of the couple of days in which this plot plays itself out it should regress from the current day, through to earlier periods of history (e.g. if they started in Mediaeval in our world they would go through Anglo-Saxon (in Britain), Roman, etc.) and right back to the bronze age and ultimately the stone age. Things around them will change - the houses, the people's clothes, etc. A sword will change to - from being a steel broadsword it will turn to bronze and then to a flint knife. Things with no earlier equivalent (e.g. full plate armour in the stone age) will just rust or rot and turn to dust. (For wizards - powerful 'recently developed' spells may no longer work). All this happens gradually overall, but each item changes instantly (unless it rusts, which happens gradually (but very fast). However, throughout it all, Zarakoth is always Duke/Governor/Commander/Chieftain etc. of the city.
- The characters age (not by thousands of years, but so that they would be dead by extreme old age after 2-3 days). Apply all the normal aging penalties from the system you are using and maybe even more as they become barely able to walk, bent over, etc. The other people around them will not age like this, with one exception: Zarakoth (should they find him) will have aged with them.
- All of these things happen at an ever increasing rate as the 2-3 days progress.
Throughout it all, Zarakoth's forces hunt and pursue them. Death is real. If they just run away, then, after 2-3 days, they will die of old age (The End). They must find and kill Zarakoth. Although the regression of the world and their own aging hinders them, it also hinders him - it is probably harder to find and kill them when he is only chieftain of a stone age tribe than a Duke in a castle. If, however, they wait too long, they may be incapacitated by old age. Every time Zarakoth kills one of them (if he does), his aging is reversed a little bit.
Explanation The PCs should not know any of this until afterwards
Zarakoth's final spell did not have the effect they thought it did. Corwyn succesfully protected himself from the spell: however, the rest of them were effected (which is why, to them, he seemed to die - he actually managed to evade it). The effect of the spell was to imprison the party's minds inside the dying mind of Zarakoth, where he has recreated a pseudo-world.
Zarakoth, however, is near death - he only has seconds to live in the real world. The '2-3 days' perceived by the PCs actually takes place over around 5-15 seconds. As Zarakoth dies, his mind dies - reflected by the rot and death of the world, its regression backwards in time and the aging of the characters.
If the characters are killed in this 'Zarakoth-world' they die properly - the death of the mind means the death of the body. The same is true if they die of the greatly accelerated 'old age'. The only way to escape is if they can find and kill Zarakoth in his world: this will destroy his mind while his body is still living, allowing the PCs to escape (they will be returned to their body. All aging effects are removed). Someone in the real world killing Zarakoth's body before they escape would result in the death of the PCs (their minds are still trapped in his).
Zarakoth has not only done this for revenge, to take his killers down with him. It is also his only chance to survive. Everytime he kills (not necessarily personally) one of the PCs in his mind-world, he can absorb their strength (which is why his aging is reversed). If he kills them all, he will be strong enough to heal himself and return. This is why he is trying to kill them.
This plot was greatly inspired by the novel 'Ubik' by Philip K. Dick
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? Responses (30)
This is vastly original... from the 'kill the wizard' clichee to a race against time - one surprising twist after another...
I certainly will try to use it and give credits to you ... after all is done.
I have yet to be disappointed by anything you have posted. Nice to have you back.
I think I am going to swipe this one and apply it to a super hero game.
5/5 I *love* this plot...what a nice early Christmas present.It is one of the best plots on this site. :)
Stunning in its scope, tantalizing in its expression of the Microcosm. Well done.
Thanks! One reason I've not posted anything for ages is that 2-3 months ago I started running a campaign which Ephe is playing in, meaning I don't want to ruin surprises by posting stuff which I might use in the next week or so.
epi is not here that often anymore, so you can post to your heart's content... as long as you post things you have used or things you are not going to use. (Of course, you can then throw him off, by using things here... or then using the begining of something that you posted, but then vering off.. zigging while he expects you to zag....)
Ohhh, I think Iain still has to be careful. I have seen Ephe lurking around in the early morn a couple of times each month =)
Nice plot by the way. 4.5/5
Superb Iain! A powerful mage indeed. Of course we would expect nothing less...
Perhaps another way to defeat Zarakoth (if they realised it was a world inside his own head) would be to play on his worst fears, maybe summon a dragon to lay waste to the lands around and sap his strength...or maybe this would just accelerate the degenerative process.
I really like the metaphor for death as being a reversion to some previous state, it's counterintuitive.
Brilliant work. As for the rest of you, I'm here more than you realise! I've just posted nothing in a while...
Nicely original plot. The race against time theme is a theme I love in a good adventure. The difference of something strange happening not just to the PC's, but to the world around them is excellent. It creates a cerebral adventure, one where figuring out this madness and thinking beyond normality by pieceing together clues is the way to victory. Outstanding work, this is the kind of adventure that gives ideas for GMs to create a lot more and more interesting adventures.
very nice...great success..I like
What more should be said to this plot?
Remind me to breath next time. That was about as perfect as perfect gets. There are no words to adaquately discribe my opinion of this submission. It is just that good.
Well Done. 5/5
This is a great plot. I have no idea why I never commented or voted on this in the past. This is one I have wanted to throw my group at full force but have not found the perfect output for it. However this past weekend they ran into a possible reoccuring nemisis who could fit this plot perfectly.
I've said before how much I love this orginal and enjoyable plot.
Thinking about what Mourngrymn said at the end of his post, that might be something for an adaptation: use the campaign's villian to do this. That way there is a personal stake in it for both sides. The villian has a very good reason to imprision the heros within his mind to leech off of them, and the heros have a very good reason to try and kill the villian again. That makes it easier to push them in the right direction.
Jolly good plot.
You are an inspiration to us all Iain.
Damn fine submission if I may say so myself!
I voted for this in V.1 and then gave it 4.5. Kind of unfair really, as it in most ways is a true 5, but at the time I had just read (and GMed) a very similar plot so the awe was lost on me.
I gave the submission a Hall of Honour and a Golden Nomination. This means that this post has 3 Golden Nominations and is hereby the first ever Golden Submission on Strolen's.
Congrats on the first ever Golden Sub Iain... this speaks of fine things. I liked this plot when I first read it and I still love it.
The first Golden Submission ever! Congratulations!
*Mike pulls out his pistol and shoots in the air.
Not only is the first golden submission. It is also the majority holder of Hall of Honour votes :D
No joke. Based on the Hall of Honor nominations, I would have to say that this submission was the standard of perfection long before it became a Golden submission.
But it's so good.
I mean, It could get better with some more detail oriented touches, but it would only be turning a five into a six if it did. And there isn't a six.
Anyway, congratulations on all this great success. Don't let it go to your head
hey no one mentioned BRILLIANT! sorry, but it's all been said. One of my favorites, if not THE favorite!
YOu know. Going through all of my favorite subs. I wanted the new guys to be able to view this spectacular sub and see what we think near perfection is.
Very impressive; I can see myself using this once the party is higher level.
Ok I have been waiting over a year to use this idea and I finally was able to put it into the game. So far it worked out very well. The group was split up at the time so only one of them actually got hit by the mental blast of the villan. Someone else was there but he died, unknown to the player who is stuck in this mental world. I made it to where he woke up next to his comrade, who is actually the mental image of the villian and he will have to end up killing his friend in order to survive. We will see.
Is it possible to get any better then this? It's perfect.
Truely a work of art...
Jayed!!! You get 3 thumbs up.