The Citadel of Xolthog
This is the conclusion to the Prophecies of Redemption Campaign. The characters have sojourned through mountains and lowlands to reach the forest in which the entrance to the demon lord's citadel can be found.
But the Citadel is not what one could expect. Can the PCs find their way in and survive to tell the tale?
When the pc's approach the area of the citadel, they will probably be confused that it is not there. What they do not know, is that the citadel exists on another dimension that is only accessible through a rift in this area.
The rift is located at the base of a large tree with strangely grey bark and blackened leaves. They can find the location of this rift through the conjurer's tree-empathy or the seer's visions. They could also stumble upon it by pure luck. It is not visible by normal eyesight, except that they may detect instabilities, almost like ripples through water. The rift creates ripples when there is a shift between the planes of existence, i.e. when something happens on the other side of the portal. Thus anyone on the other side would see a lot of ripples when the characters investigate it and/or travel through it. Travelling through the rift takes approx. 10 seconds.
To activate the rift, they need to utter a certain phrase. This phrase Xolthog's brother Galaruz whispered to the tree when he created the rift. (The purpose of the citadel is to keep Xolthog trapped in one place (the brothers have warred for an eternity)). The phrase can be learnt in several ways. 1) If they free Celemion from the depths beneath the college of higher magic AND tell her of their quest, she will provide it. 2) If the seer attempts to discover it through visions, she will be granted a sight. In the vision she will see some ruins of a mansion nearby. In the cellars of that mansion will be a tomb, and in that tomb lies the iron-bound tome known as the Tome of Origin. She will get a sense of general direction and proximity to the ruins.
The ruins are not haunted, nor infested with monsters and abominations of any kind. Of course the ruins are old, and some natural hazards exist. For instance parts of the building might easily collapse, but the real danger is the tome itself. It is legendary and all of the elves will have heard the name. Those who succeed their history or magic lore checks will know that it is a volume of great scholarly value. Within its iron-bound pages lie many of the secrets of creation. Many of those secrets are terrifying and will shake the very sanity of the readers, while other is so marvellous that they will enthrall the reader utterly. The seer will know exactly which page to open, and indeed she will open that page at first attempt. The players should know that continued reading is of great risk.
3) The tree itself knows the phrase, but is unwilling to share it. Only if the conjurer makes a critically successful check against his persuasion skill, will he be able to play 'guess the phrase' with the tree. (He is only able to communicate empathically).
Once through the rift, the elves will arrive in a darkened room. It will be cold, uncomfortably so, and investigations will reveal that there is an iron door out of the room and an iron hatch on the floor. The iron hatch is in reality a window, and if opened, will reveal a drop which has no bottom. Indeed they can only see dark blue sky beneath them. The citadel clings to a large city-sized rock with reversed gravity, which is suspended in nothingness. The rock is filled with holes in which winged creatures nest. If anyone in any way tries to travel outside the walls of the citadel, they will be harassed by these hungry creatures.
The citadel is large but there are some distinguishing factors:
- Xolthog is obsessed with the war against his brother and underlings of Galaruz will be chained, stretched and hung in various places. If the pc's allow themselves to be detected, they will assume the pc's are agents of Galaruz.
- The interior seems strangely abandoned, but when they do meet the inhabitants, it is either a chaotic host of fiends storming through the halls, on their way to some rift to wage war on Galaruz, or it is a few individuals silently walking around on some unknown business. The situation should stress caution. (Some lonely imp as comical relief?) It should be clear that they would benefit from good tactics if they are to go to battle.
- Xolthog is situated at the '(BBottom' of the citadel. A central shaft will go directly into his quarters and stairs skirt the edges of that shaft.
- If the tallow candle extinguishes, the PC's will soon be assailed by a host of fiends. The fiends will be relentless until the candle is lit, or the PC's leave.
The upper citadel:
Xolthog may not enter the upper citadel, not unless the '(Bloneliness' in the lower citadel is freed.
- Several mosaics throughout the upper citadel provide teleportation points for spellcasters of required magnitude.
- Some portions clearly houses an army while others seem totally abandoned.
- It is so cold, that at some point they may notice frost on their clothing.
The lower citadel:
Here they may meet Xolthog's emotions. These are extensions of the arch-demon that wander the halls of random, constantly emitting his feelings. No other fiend may enter these floors.
- Xolthog's sorrow: Long before they actually encounter this entity, they will hear a slow, lamenting voice and accompanying piano music. It will be the saddest song the pc's have ever heard, and will probably move them to tears. If they get close to this entity, they will witness a strange man playing the piano while a middle aged lady sings the mournful song. They will float slowly through the air far above the characters. Any character hearing this song must check against his resistance to see whether he will be incapable of harming Xolthog. (The crystal bell will dispel this effect).
- The rage of Xolthog: This avatar is the embodiment of the hatred Xolthog feels toward his brother Galaruz. Meeting this avatar will not be pleasant. The first indication that the avatar is approaching, will be a tremendous roaring scream drawing closer and closer. Then the demons within the shadowdancers will begin to respond by dancing faster and faster as the scream grow louder. Then the air before them will suddenly become distorted, and the avatar will emerge within 10 yards in front of them.
- Xolthog's loneliness: This one embodies the loneliness of Xolthog, especially after his brother imprisoned him within this dimension. They will hear the heartbreaking crying of a child and investigations will reveal that within a neighbouring room, there is a hole in the floor. Peering through this hole will reveal a cage suspended in chains above the infinite drop. Within this cage is a child, alone and vulnerable. If they approach the cage, they will sense something dangerous about the child and the seer will scream in pain. For a moment the appearance of the child will shift to something far more frightening. If they decide to release the child, they will be granted permanent bonuses to their statistics, but Xolthog will have been released from his eternal prison. In addition, the chains holding the cage will break, and the liberator may plummet for an eternity. Xolthog will have left with demontongue before the pc's manage to reach him. This will complicate matters terribly.
- The lust of Xolthog: This phenomenon shows the demonic lust of Xolthog, and would have an irresistible effect on weak willed humans. The pc's are elves, and will probably feel revolted by the sin and lack of soul in this encounter. The characters will hear moaning and cheering, feasting and singing long before they actually get to see this phenomenon. If they do get to witness this, they will see an enormous hall, filled with naked men and women, succubi and incubi. Fat men will devour vast amounts of food and will be glistening with fat on their breasts and their faces. It will be a scene depicting all aspects of (human) lust.
When the PC's enter this room, they will not lay eyes upon some terrible arch-demon. In stead they will see a venerable old man, strangely resembling their dead King. (Or father, grandfather, etc.). He will be a charming fellow and he will try to make them feel foolish for wanting to harm him. There will be food and wine and music. There will also be ravens everywhere. On the floor, several large rectangular areas have been removed, revealing the infinite chasm below. Here they can see more ravens circle, some flying through the holes to land on some cabinet, mirror or desk. The room is filled with luxuries of every sort, including some very fine vines of elven manufacture.
Xolthog will be charming and hospitable. If they desire, they may sleep over and he will not harm them while they sleep. They will get their every desire catered for, and after a while he will try to convince them to seek out his '(Bloneliness'. He will also warn them against his '(Brage' although he would not describe them as his own.
If the PC's attack, he will still be in the form of a venerable old man, but with an angry expression of rage on his face. He will surely draw the longsword Demontongue, which is actually made of a demons tongue. It is black as sin and full of small hooks protruding from the edge. Ancient runes cover the side of the blade and noxious, black fumes steam from it. During the battle they may catch a glimpse of Xolthog's body beneath his clothing, and it is covered with chaos wounds.
The ravens will take an active part during the struggle. They will harass the spellcasters and archers and viciously attack any that close in on Xolthog.
Without the crystal bell, the defences of Xolthog will be formidable. He will appear invincible and magic will not affect him.
Xolthog will withdraw from anyone carrying a dagger fashioned from a satyr's hip bone. The carrier will get the satisfaction of witnessing panic in the eyes of Xolthog. The ravens will protect Xolthog at all costs against the carrier.
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? Responses (9)
When I GMed this scenario, the area surrounding the entrance was plagued with the curse of vampirism. So while they travelled through the forest, the PCs noticed fleet shadows slipping from tree to tree, dogging their steps to the guardian tree. In the end my players were surrounded by hungry vampires as they desperately tried to make the tree open up. They lit the tallow candle and disappeared from sight, then they entered the tree / Citadel.
Within the citadel a central shaft led through all the floors. At the top of the citadel, the opposite side of Xolthog's location, an eternal war was waged between men clad in white monk-garb (the good within Xolthog) and armies of succubuses, onyx skinned fat giants wielding curved great swords and other fiends (the bad within Xolthog).
Through the entirity of the central shaft, a constant stream of ravens were flying up and down in huge spiralling patterns, like some humongous umbilical cord connecting the Citadel.
In isolated areas I let the players find supply crates locked by strange combination locks. Within these they found temptations of every kind, as well as some scattered (very) minor relics of old.
All in all we had a fan-frickin-tastic evening.
Xolthog's different incarnations of emotion is a pretty cool idea and I love how that whole scenerio is played out.
The only unique thoughts I had while reading were about the seer. I was thinking that maybe it was a curse instead of a gift. I was sort of thinking that the seer would have many uncontrollable 'sights' that, depending on the intensity of them, might wear here down, send her unconscience, or just make her dizzy for a bit. Being a seer is a big deal and a big power and maybe this would offset that a little instead "I try to see where the book is." "Ok, you see it in a vision and it is this way."
The herbs could actually stop the visions so she can function normally so as long as she has an inventory of herbs she doesn't have to worry about them attacking her. If she stops taking the herbs, the visions start coming back. And it shouldn't be that suddenly she has a backlog of visions. She cannot predict when they happens so if they are in need of a vision or some help, they have to wait for the herbs to wear off and then wait for the visions. They work of greater need, but perhaps she also has many other visions that may or may not be related to what they are searching for. A boy falling off a cliff, a ember starting to burn down a house, a couple getting married, etc. They may be kicked off depending on the not so immediate surroundings. If they are in a town and do it she may quickly get overloaded and pass out without seeing the true vision while other times just nothing.
So now, she can be a normal character with whatever powers, but when she wants to use the vision she has to deal with the results. Makes the visions a little more important, makes them think ahead to when they want to try and use it, also gives it more oompf then just another skill the player has.
Genius... Bloody genius. That is an excellent suggestion, it cannot be done any other way. This adds a whole new dimension to the setting. Thank you!
I'd like to see the sword Demontounge described as an item.
I figured anything with 'Xolthog' and 'Citadel' in the title had to be good :) and I figured correctly! Now I'll have to read the rest, in reverse order unfortunately.
Cool - a little reorganization might help it, but quite cool. Need to explore the rest of the scenerios.
I cannot believe I never commented or voted on this. I always thought this was one of your better pieces.
Bloneliness and Brage... Whatever happened to my little baby? Sstrolenss hurtss it in the transssfer! Yessss, he did preciouss!