The following is an account of how my player handled The Moonscar. There was a pretty fair bit of customization to suit the needs of my campaign, a long-running homebrew. I'll make notes on variations from the stock adventure as I go.
Needless to say, this is chock full of spoilers. It is also very long. But, I hope, entertaining.
NPC: Ardulia, NE human Witch 14/Shadowdancer 1/Archmage 5
NPC: Coralilu, CN vendenopterix Rogue (scout) 10/Shadowdancer 1
NPC: Quirren Umble, NG halfling Cleric 14/Inquisitor 1 (devotee of Sarenrae)
Thus, they bypassed encounters A1 through A6.
The natural hazards of the Blighted Orchard did come into play. Quirren Umble stepped on some demon nettles and took a little wisdom damage. The other three were immune due to flight (Coralilu, Ardulia) or Woodland Stride (Verdessa). After the first poisoning Verdessa wildshaped into a pony and Quirren rode the rest of the way, thus avoiding any more poison.
Ardulia and Verdessa both sampled the blightbulbs. Ardulia contracted demon fever, but has not yet manifested any symptoms as of this writing (the onset period has not yet passed in-game).
- Undetectable Alignment
- Telepathic Bond
- Blessing of the Mole
- Extended Invisibility (on Quirren)
- Greater Invisibility (duration 1 hour, via a Hunter's Cloak on Verdessa; she had to refresh that a few times)
- Coralilu and Ardulia had Hide in Plain Sight and spell tattoos of Protective Penumbra to provide shadows.
They made stealth rolls. All of them have maxed-out Stealth scores, pretty good DEX, +5 competence Stealth items, and some of them have feats or other bonuses to Stealth. The party average was 49 -- NOT counting Invisibility.
The party re-established invisibility for those that had broken it, opened the door a crack and slipped in. One of the Alu-Demons noticed the door had come open, and told a Sequestered to shut it, which he did.
None of the lovingly detailed NPCs in the Shrine were capable of spotting any of the party members even on a nat 20 Perception check. The party explored the place, dodging the NPCs casually strolling about, and discovered the buttons the triggered the force cage and the stairs to the lower level. Not finding any other leads, and after some heated telepathic debate with one another, they opted to push both buttons simultaneously and hope for the best.
When the stairs opened and the force cage sprang into place simultaneously, the Sequestered and the Shrinekeepers naturally noticed and were very puzzled as to what could have triggered them when there was obviously nobody near either button. They came to investigate, while the party slipped down the stairs.
VARIATION: since I knew in advance that the party would be going in stealthily, I opted to have the entrance to the Ring of Agony inside the Shrine, rather than on a random area outside. It would have been way too easy just to skip the Shrine entirely. Therefore, the party located a lever in Euphryxias room. Euphryxia herself had left to go upstairs, called by her Alu-Demon minions to investigate these odd happenings. The party yanked the lever and fled to the next room. Upstairs, the hot tub in the middle of the place rotated up into the air, revealing a pit below and sending several wet NPCs jumping to escape the tub. "Someone must have pulled the lever!" Euphryxia said, and so everyone came rushing down the stairs, straight past the party, who then walked upstairs and flew down into the pit.
Their altogether insufficient meal finished, the somalcygots retreated back to their burrowed hiding spots. And that's when three alu-demons came fluttering down the pit to find out what Euphryxia was screaming about. "Oh, !@wef$! Mom?? @#$@#35!" one of them gasped on noticing Euphryxia's red-stained bones littering the cave floor. The three hovered uncertainly a moment, and then one said, "I guess somebody better go tell Izmiara."
"Yes, Alekto, why don't you do that?" returned the others, and so Alekto, grumbling, used her one daily casting of Dimension Door to pop downstairs and do so.
A moment later, Izmiara herself popped into being mid-air and demanded a report. The two remaining alu-demons pointed at the mess on the cave floor. "Hmmm," Izmiara said, and landed to take a look. Whereupon the somalcygots burst out again. Izmiara was made of tougher stuff, though. She took a hit or two, but handily survived. On her turn she remarked "Wretched vermin! This is beneath me." Whereupon she teleported away and sent in the hezrous from C5 to deal with the worms. The adventure explicitly says that the inhabitants of Dominax Annuli deal with the somalcygots if they become aware of them, and Izmiara wouldn't risk her own pretty skin when she has minions to do it for her. So this seemed in character.
(I would just like to add that at this point in the narrative, the player was quite literally sitting there eating popcorn.)
The four hezrou appeared and fought the somalcygots. Two of them took a pretty fair chunk of damage in the fight, but they killed one worm and damaged the other two sufficiently to drive them off.
And then, the vermin dealt with, the hezrou retreated back to C5, and the alu-demons fluttered back up to the Shrine to wait for Izmiara to choose a replacement for Euphryxia.
Proceeding onwards, the party passed through the Library of Torment and found the feebleminded Vintari hanging by her chains in the Breaking of Heaven. Coralilu spotted the trap, and asked if she should disable it, or try to change the command word so the trap would work in their favor. The party debated whether that would give away their presence, but finally decided it was worth the risk. Cora easily passed the DC to take control of the trap, and accordingly changed the password.
The party investigated Vintari at that point, but Cora jostled the poor lillend while examining her manacles, causing her to thrash and cry out in pain. This attracted the attention of one of the hezrous from next door, who walked in and began taunting Vintari. Then, since hezrous are by nature torturers, he decided to torture the poor lillend a bit for kicks. He said the command word, stepped into the center, and promptly got whisked into the trap, which began crushing him.
The hezrou's cries of agony attracted his three remaining colleagues from next door, who came over and pointed and jeered at him. They assumed -- because it's spelled out in the adventure -- that Izmiara had changed the password without telling anyone. So they came to enjoy the show.
Meanwhile, the party slipped straight past them, skirted the Pool of Sin, and made their way into the Corridor of Pain. There Verdessa discovered the corpse of a former companion, Eldrin. The sight which disturbed her greatly. Then, in the Cages of Contemplation she found Telvin Merison, another companion from years and levels past, and also the great gold dragon Maurinaxian. And that is where we ended session 1, with Verdessa forced to choose between breaking stealth to rescure her old friend and save the possessed dragon, or continuing onward undetected.
VARIATION: I wanted a living person in this ring, rather than a dead one. So there, in the Ring of Obedience, they found a halfling wizard named Yoshii Kukyo in the midst of performing Supplications. The player knew this was the PC of a friend of hers from a different campaign, but in-character none of the party had ever met him before. Curiously, they followed him and watched as he completed all of the Supplications. He then led them to the vrocks, where he gave the password, walked to the hole and said "How am I meant to get down?"
"Jump, fool," laughed a vrock. "It is your final test of obedience!"
So he jumped, and was teleported away to a difference facility elsewhere on the moon for further training.
The party shrugged and walked straight past the vrocks, who have no way to spot people who are invisible or using Hide in Plain Sight, with stealth checks hovering just shy of 50.
Coming around the corner I made them do Perception checks to notice the Cloven Sister performing her obeisances at the Shrine of Nocticula. They easily spotted her, and Ardulia made a spectacular Knowledge (Planes) check -- I think it was 51 -- revealing that mariliths have True Seeing. The party scooted back out of sight. After a short debate, they settled on a diversion: Verdessa summoned a bulette, faced towards the central ring. The surprised creature began making noises, and opted to struggle through the corridor. The Cloven Sister naturally came to investigate this noise, exclaiming "What the @#$@??" when she found herself faced with the rear end of some unknown beast. (Mariliths have Knowledge (Engineering) and nothing else).
While she puzzled over the beast, the party walked around the other side of the inexplicable loop structure, behind her back, and down the hole to the next level.
This posed some minor difficulties for the party, as it dispelled the Telepathic Bond on Coralilu. Fortunately, as a vendenopterix she has telepathy naturally, though in a more limited range. She was relying on Hide in Plain Sight rather than Invisibility to stay hidden, and that was unaffected. And she had darkvision naturally, so losing that Blessing of the Mole wasn't an issue either. All in all, the party shrugged and continued, with a fresh Stealth check from Coralilu.
Down below, the party entered the Ring of Ecstasy. There they found Alekto, the alu-demon who had come down earlier to report Euphryxia's death to Izmiara. Alekto was sitting on the edge of the catwalk, drumming her heels on the wall below in general boredom. She could have flown her way back up top, but I decided she didn't like vrocks, so instead she was killing 24 hours while waiting for her Dimension Door ability to recharge.
Alekto was sitting right in front of the east opening, so the party went north first. They found the door. Coralilu checked it for traps, and reported that it wasn't trapped or locked as far as she could tell. Verdessa was concerned that opening it might draw Alekto's attention, so she and Ardulia stepped back around the corner, Ardulia readying a Hold Monster spell and Verdessa readying a cold iron dagger for a coup-de-grace.
Cora opened the door, saw the Symbol of Death pulsing on the wall, and screamed horribly she died in agony. Quirren, right next to her, took the remaining damage from the effect (11 hp). An extremely surprised Alekto moved to investigate. Ardulia cast her readied Hold Monster, Alekto failed the save, and Verdessa took a five-foot step and coup-de-graced Alekto. Quirren used Breath of Life on Cora, followed by a Heal spell, and the party rapidly shoved Alekto's body into the niche with the Symbol of Death, closing the door on her.
VARIATION: I replaced the three glabrezu toykeepers with succubi having 9 levels of cleric each. This is because the purpose of the toykeepers is to keep Izmiara's toys healthy. Glabrezu have no very good way to do that, lacking any kind of healing or restorative magic.
The three toykeepers, having heard a female scream in the distance, came to investigate. They failed to spot the party standing across the entry ring from them. "I wonder if Alekto opened the wrong door," one of the toykeepers speculated. So they went back to the trap. Not finding Alekto there, they closed their eyes, opened the door, and felt around until they could feel Alekto's body. With their eyes closed, they naturally couldn't see the dagger wound over Alekto's heart.
I gave them Intelligence checks to figure out that if the Symbol trap had killed Alekto, she would be on the OUTSIDE of the door. It was a DC 10. There were two natural ones and a 3 in those INT rolls. "Yup, silly @#$@ got herself killed," the toykeeper remarked, closing the door again and opening her eyes. "Well, I never liked her anyway," said one of the others. "Uppity @@#$23," agreed the third, as they headed back to their charges.
Meanwhile, of course, the party strolled past the toys and straight into ...
Now, at this point, the party had successfully walked past every encounter in the adventure. I was kind of awestruck. The tactics spelled out for Izmiara in the module assume that the party has revealed their presence, and were clearly totally unsuitable to the situation.
And so, what would the Insatiable Queen be doing on a day like this, when the worst thing that had happened was an infestation of common moon-vermin?
That's right. She was playing with her boy-toy General Irentios, and the game was not one that required armor or weapons. Or clothing, for that matter.
Sneaking into the bedchamber, the party immediately identified the mirror, deactivated as per the adventure. Verdessa was disappointed that they couldn't just pick it up and teleport back to the surface, but as the mirror was integrated into the wall and nobody had Stone Shape, that wasn't an option.
Accordingly, they flew to the very top of the ridiculously high chamber, cast a few buff spells on themselves, and planned out a surprise round:
Verdessa shot the mirror with a bow, cracking its surface and then shattering it. The prisoners within came tumbling out, some falling to the floor of the chamber.
Ardulia cast Stone to Flesh on the good General Irentios, who failed his fortitude save. Izmiara was extremely surprised to find herself suddenly lying under a four- or five-hundred pound statue, exclaiming "Gack! Oof! What the @#$!%!#^&%$#@??"
Coralilu shot Izmiara, dealing a fair bit of damage, but more importantly locking down Izmiara's ability to teleport (thanks to Cora's phase-locking bow, Izmiara wasted her first turn trying to teleport away and discovering she couldn't).
And Quirren cast Sustaining Legend.
I'll spare you the details of the fight, but the gist of it is that the party proceeded to fight and destroy basically every enemy in the dungeon in one vast sprawling battle lasting 14 or 15 rounds. I sent waves of reinforcements in as word spread via the three toykeepers, who went around ordering everyone downstairs to assist Izmiara.
Thastrakna showed up, spoiling for a fight in his shiny new gold dragon body. But the only space large enough for an adult dragon to go down there was Izmiara's chamber. So that's what he did, burning his standard action to teleport down there. He promptly got evicted from Maurinaxian's body by a dispel magic before even getting to act. Thereafter he proved singularly useless and eventually fled.
Betcezia was pretty tough, but her entire coven of vampires got annihilated in one maximized mythic flame strike (except for one lucky one who was outside the range.) In fact, that one lowly vampire did better than almost anyone else on his team. There were always bigger threats to go after, and so he managed to get off all seven fireball spells he had before finally meeting his doom.
The prisoners from the Mirror of Life-Trapping were totally useless in the fight, lacking any weapons, spell components, or arcane bond items. The one exception was Nalani, the NPC the party came to get, who was spoiling for a fight after ages trapped in that 23@#$ mirror. She spent the combat gleefully tearing apart demons.
As for Izmiara herself, well, she was in negatives at the end of round 2. She never even managed to get out from under General Irentios' statue (though perhaps she would have if I'd remembered her Ring of Freedom of Movement).
In the end, the only occupants of Dominax Annuli to survive were Thastrakna (who fled) and the alu-demons. Nobody thought they were worth alerting. So they all survived, with the exception of one named Iolanthe who popped into the middle of the fight via Dimension Door half-way through to say "Hey, did you know our moon beasts have been petrified? ... oh !!@#!" and then get turned into a fine red mist by a ravening ur-lycan.
Oh, and the party didn't take the time to locate the vampire coffins. So those are all coming back in about an hour.
They looted the bodies, fled back upstairs, sorted out the Sequestered and the Alu-Demons, the latter of whom Dimension-doored the heck away. And now the party has 37 NPCs in need of repatriation. I have a spreadsheet of their desired destinations. It may take a while.
I remain in awe at how events conspired in their favor. The shrine has no windows, except the one in Euphryxia's room, which faces the wrong way to notice the three petrified moon beasts outside. The only two enemies in that dungeon who had any real hope of noticing them were the Somalcygots -- who they avoided by flying -- and the Cloven Sister, whose true seeing doesn't help when she's looking the wrong way.
The devouring cage trap could have been a giveaway if the author hadn't specified that Izmiara sometimes changes the password without telling anyone, just to mess with her minions. Betcezia's perception was definitely high enough to notice them, except that they never went to her area, as a random dice roll to choose their direction pointed them in the one way they needed to go.
All in all, I was glad I made stat blocks for each and every prisoner in the adventure. It was a mortal lot of work, but at least I had those ready when the fight broke out and people came tumbling out of the broken mirror.
Overall, I enjoyed GM'ing this, but it was more due to the player's antics than the adventure itself.