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Extra encounter - The queen's knight
Before we delve in the conundrum that is Tar Baphon's character in this AP and its long awaited, yet somewhat lackluster final, explosive confrontation with the party, I wish to address 2 other plot line which don't get touched in this Ap. The first one is, obviously, the consequences of Arazni's death. While this character has been quite foreshadowed in the first book well before the Pc's had any chance to meet her, after her demise we get nothing. While I'm not asking of an explanation for her ultimate destiny, the complete absence of her name from the book itself it's a missed opportunity to me. After all, from what the Pc may know, she should be somewhat alive and able to strike back again at Tar Baphon.
I therefore present the following scenario, which could happen at any point during Part 3 of book 6: a visit from an emissary from Geb. The ideal person could and should be sir Seldeg Bheldis, last survivor of the Council Libertine.
He should meet the Pc in a moment of potential break, when they are resting or returning from the battlefield. With his resources alone, the graveknight could easily reach the island of Kortos and move undetected, yet he is not alone in this travel, and thanks to this further aid, he's able to reach the Pc in an uncanny fashion.
At his arrival, however, he merely states his name and the motive of his visit before a different, distant voice start coming from his throat: the voice of Archmage Geb himself, who through necromantic rituals is currently projecting himself from his palace, able to listen and see, and to cast limited spell on his knight.
The ghost king has become aware of his "wife" passage, and after gaining all the knowledge divination magic could grant him, has decided to look for the last individuals who met her. He also demands from the Pc any relic given to them form Arazni, and especially the canopy jar containing her lungs, if its still in the Pc possession.
This encounter aims to satisfy the following objective: to give the Pc a chance to reflect on Arazni's action, to either defend her memory or condemn her choices, especially if they became aware that she is actually gone. Cause, unless I'm mistaken, they are never given this information in a clear manner in the AP, and may believe she's just kept away from the battle by her husband. This exchange allows the party to elaborate on the fact that she had somewhat planned to be nuked by Tar Baphon: a detail that Pc's may not even discover unless it's told them by Geb himself.
This is also an opportunity to have "Geb's" side of the story, which while surely a negative one, is somewhat outside the narrative: why did he resurrect Arazni in such fashion? Why did he bound her to be his queen? And most importantly, what he'll do against the one responsible for his "wife" and "queen" demise? Another prospective is that ot Bheldis, who was Arazni's greatest servant/jailer and was unable to intervene or assist in his "queen" final moments.
This encounter can have 3 potential outcomes:
- fight: the Pcs provoke the ghost king or insults Arazni's memory enough that Seldeg breaks his facade and attacks the party with murderous rage.
- compromise: the Pcs give to Seldeg any relic of Arazni in their possession and are left alone, while the Graveknight returns to Geb.
- bargain: the Pc are able to have Geb realize his wife ultimate desires, and his rage turns completely towards Tar Baphon. He still asks back the Pc relics, but this time the Ghost King grants something back: he first command Bheldis to reach the Spire of Nex, then he uses very old intelligence gained in the precedent millennia to free from the Spire a few specific outsiders, mostly psychopomps which are quickly tasked to assist the First Guard. After that, Bheldis become an npc like Gildais, wandering on the battlefield to cause mayhem against Baphon forces, while trying to wrestle away part of the army for himself.
Extra Encounter - Lastwall Knights's Last Stand
In my quest to weave together the book's narrative, I've realized that the capture of Fallowdeep allows the Pc a potential epic scenario: to receive aid from those who helped in the past. Looking at the Lost Omens World Guide, we find Lastwall's leader, Watcher-Lord Ulthun II, in Absalom the month after the siege of the city. Apparently, he "evacuated" to Absalom with the help of a goblin tribe, which suggest he travelled there by ship with a substantial army.
I don't like this: the idea of an entire army of paladin retreating from the battlefield to reach a port city in order to further retreat on an island its ... very odd. What i think could be more interesting is that Ulthun remained in Lastwall as much as he could, assisting in the evacuation and also keeping a large size of the rising armies of the new named gravelands directed towards him and his "knights of Lastwall". In the middle of doing this, he was reached by Varvatos, who informed him of the Pc's situation, the existence of Fallowdeep and - most importantly - of the teleportation circle.
If the teleportation circle is still working when the party leaves a "somewhat captured" Fallowdeep, Ulthun may be inspired to take part of his army and follow the Pcs, first in order to destroy any remaining undead in Fallowdeep, potentially taking back the still standing Hammer Rock as a fortress, and secondly to take control of the teleportation circle. Using this resource, he quickly divides his army in three section, having a part assisting the pathfinder at Gallowgarden, while another will march with him towards doom and glory in the Cairnlands.
This gives a new potential encounter for Part 3, with the modest army of Lastwall reaching the battlefield. The arrival of the Knight of Ozem will make Baphon even more enraged, and the Tyrant will order a rapid suppression of these knights, sending troops and monster against them, while leaving another section of the battlefield quite open.
The Pcs have to choose if reunite with Ulthun and fight with him against a rapid succession of reinforce/reprisal encounters, or capitalize the opening they are given with a quick succession of strike attacks against targets suddenly without backup.
Obviously, my hope to create a poetic moment in with the Pc meet Ulthun as an ally and fight with him. However, this moment is soon cut short by the reality of war: Ulthun's forces are too small to matter, but with their abilities, can defend the wounded in the back of the army and, most importantly, detect any sign of infiltration in the city of Absalom.
REWRITING THE WHISPERING TYRANT
It's now time to face the greatest challenge of the Ap: how to make Tar Baphon relevant as a "character", and how to have him interact with the Pcs.
The lack of character of the Whispering Tyrant becomes apparent in his "campaign role" described in the stats page: "The PCs cannot defeat the Whispering Tyrant for good, but by goading him into using the Radiant Fire against them, they can destroy his most powerful weapon ...". That's it. This is because Baphon's not a "character": he's an icon, whose past is widespread known and whose destiny is already set on stone. This AP it's, after all, the only one with lacks both a "continue the campaign option", and most importantly, a "what the pc's lose" scenario.
Basically, Baphon CANNOT WIN, and we shall never know what was his aim and how his potential rise to divinity would have impacted over Avistan.
On another front, Baphon's apparently completely oblivious of the Pcs existence until almost their final fight, and, even though "The Whispering Tyrant automatically knows the location of the nearest fragment of the Shattered Shield of Arnisant", he's not aware of the Obols even though he's supposed to have taken notice of the Pcs, and be personally offended by them. This is quite strange: while the party and Baphon are united by an unique destiny (they both got an artifact shard in their body/soul), by my understanding nothing is build over this parallelism in book 6, while in the other books we get hints of a "greater narrative" based upon choices and sacrifice.
In this final part of my long rewrite, I'll propose the following parts:
1) An exploration of the WT characters, by proposing alternate ways to interprete and explore his actions, while also giving a different "endgame" to his plans.
2) An overview of the potential interaction the Pcs can have with Tar Baphon before their confrontation
3) A complete, cinematic rewrite of the last fight of the Ap, which aims to reconnect Book 6 with Book 1 and also allow what i believe should be the Pcs final choice.
It might be interesting if TB actually became divine, certainly I think he has more potential than Urgathoa(Goddess of rolling in poop and eating it) Having him eventually eclipse her and ultimately killing her and taking her place as a Vecna clone is worth exploring. Urgathoa ends up right where she began, standing in line to be judged.
The Whispering Tyrant - Avistan's ultimate foe.
To properly rewrite Tar Baphon's character, we must first define his menace and endgame, to later delve in its psyche.
- MENACE -
For the better part of the Ap, Baphon's a force of utter dread, death and vengeance. He's hatred and fire, and bitterness of everything evil that has been buried in the land of Ustalav, whose ultimate aim is to strike back, relentless, to bite and chew, not for hunger, but for the pleasure of crewing and slaughtering itself. This time, the Tyrant doesn't wish to rule. He wants only death, for all and everything, and everyone it's just an instrument on a plan of utter destruction.
To proper make this, we should emphasize on the "sauronesque" aspects of Baphon: its whispers, it's corrupting presence on the environment, it's ability to "will" unlife in the world, to change things for the worse. Baphon's influence should as such be constantly perceived from the third part of book 3 to the end of book 4.
Arazni should describe him as such, or at least present Baphon as both a "personal enemy" and as "power to unravel and unmake", something that only a goddess such as her can remove from the world.
This should change at book 5, with the contact with the Kumaru's tree. By giving life back to the Veins of Creation, the Pcs should be somewhat elevated as beings, and therefore able to perceive Baphon more as a character than as a force, not only because they got more powerfull, but also because they, as characters, can now mitigate Baphon's influence or ignore the negative effects of its passage.
- Endgame -
The Whispering Tyrant is powerful. Yet, he's aware that many forces will.
The will face him, strip him of his slaves, and lastly, through trickery of brute force, outmaneuver him and overwhelm him. Arazni was the proof of it: she's not bound, and she will return, this time with proper allies, maybe even with the child goddess and the other saints of Aroden. He cannot stop them all.
But he does not need to. What he needs is to act fast: to take Absalom. To take the Starstone. To take the stairway to the heaven ... and make it crumble.
To Tar Baphon, divinity should be just another chain: to exchange the freedom of "mortality" to the "security" of a "greater status in the cosmos", an influence maybe greater, yet shackled by the rules of the gods, it's a pointless endeavor. Y
et, it's better than his allies and enemies believe as such: "The Tyrant wants to become a god". It's already happened, and nothing changed in the world when a drunk man, a secretive thief and a paladin became gods. Nothing.
But Baphon does not need that. He doesn't want that. He just needs that stone. For that stone could have ended the world, and shall do so again.
In my version, Tar Baphon intends to steal be Starstone, bring it on the isle of Terror, and study it. While he's not sure of this as of yet, his plans is to detonate it with a radiant fire blast fueled by as many shard he can.
He wishes to do so for a few reasons:
1) to strip the world from the last gift of Aroden and the symbol of his rule
2) to, potentially, weaken the gods which were elevated through it
3) to nuke the entirety of Avistan.
Indeed, the last part its potentially the one Baphon wants more. Though unsure, he believe that there could be a similarity between the Starstone powers and those of the veins of creations, and as such the starstone could be used as a catalyst to channel a radiant fire explosion with a range of hundreds of miles.
What Baphon wants its not to became a god, but to KILL EVERYTHING IN AVISTAN: all the empires, all the faiths: to erase all the history of Taldor, Cheliax, and the Island of Kortos. He wants to erase everyone, then personally slaughter any potential survivor, and at last REMAKE this continent as he wishes, taming the life granting aspects of the radiant fire to reshape nature and the world itself as something pleasing of him. Everything shall be ruins, graves and the wilderness of ravenous beasts, while a few, adept undead immortals shall reign under his rule, where all the other races are forced to be barbarians and cattle to the urger of the dead.
This is, to me, a proper endgame for someone so full of hatred and vengeance as Tar Baphon is, which makes him a "not" clone of Vecna and also a proper threat to "everyone", as he should be.
The Tyrant and the Party - Trying to build a personal antagonist
As written, Tar Baphon does not have any kind of interaction with the party before book 6, and even at that point, the Tyrant basically ignores their challenges until it's irritation gets the better of him, and he goes for the kill. However, he's also technically targeting the generals of Absalom allied forces, so this attack should not be qualified as a strike against only the Pcs, and would probably go on even if the Pcs were to suddenly retreat. Even worse, the Tyrant never recognizes the party as "worthy" foes", nor does realized the presence of the obols.
I find this deeply unfulfilling.
While, like many Bbeg, Baphon is supposed to be fought only at the last book, I've seen in different AP, ways to have the final opponent to interact with the player characters.
Let's take for example Karzoug, from Rise of the Runelords: while he's fought in book 6, his presence is felt since book 1, as his awakening is the indirect catalyst of the story. Most importantly - he "meets" with the Pcs at the end of book 4, actively antagonize them, and "fights them" once at the end of book 5.
Moreover, I find that Baphon's and the Pc are an unusual connection, rarely explored in other Aps. He's not only directly responsible for the deaths of a great part of their families, but the party has also got the obols, putting them in almost the same situation as the lich Tyrant. Yet, nothing is build upon this connection.
So, let's build on that.
Book 1 - The Pcs have been killed by Baphon, and find themselves in the Dead Roads. At this point almost nothing can be given of the Tyrant without spoiling part of the mystery behind the Obols, yet something can be said ... and a word is enough.
This word should be, somewhat, present in the Pcs mind. It should emerge as they wake up in their tombs, and every time the Pc "wake up".
That's an echo of the Tyrant's will, still embedded in the Obols, which will - at this point - just works as those pesky morgul wounds that just make you sick some days of the years. Yet, this will change soon.
If clever Pcs ask to the usher Barzahk about this voice, he should cryptically allude how they are probably hearing the words of the responsible of their condition.
Book 2 - When the Pcs meet with their zombified bodies, and the necromantic energies animating them are broken down, a surge of those forces reach them, and suddenly the hear again that voice: the echo of the Tyrant's whispers is renewed, and strengthen: "Shine! Burn, everlasting! My hatred! My radiant fire".
Book 3 and forward - When Baphon uses the Radiant fire, the Pcs should fell it in their soul! Everytime the Tyrant detonates a shard, some kind of echo should reach the Pcs soul, as they hear again and again Baphon word's, which are the "formula" of the Radiant Fire spell. This could, technically, allow a magically inclined Pcs to even "learn" the formula, thought it should only work if used by a mythic character.
Book 4 - The meeting with Arazni should have Baphon's connection with the Pc as a plot point. Arazni first believed them sleeper agent of the Lich, then amuses that, if they are connected, then Baphon may actually be gazing through them, only to reassure the Pcs they would already be carbonized if she felt something like this going on. She then uses her magic to "mold" the echoes in the pcs, so that they can use those to somewhat ignore a few effects which may otherwise weaken them while crossing Gallowgarden or the ruins of Gallowspire.
The bulk of this connection happens when the party meet the tyrant simulacrum. He should speak with them, saying how he's aware of their existence, also by calling them by name. Truth is, Baphon became aware of the Pcs when they entered in Vyrlich and has noticed the obols presence. He's, however, barely interested in them, and therefore leaves this discussion to the splinter of his self inside the simulacrum. This simulacrum muses their actions, while simply stating how "they see all" and "they know". He declare their trials as utterly pointless, yet wishes to honor them by "raising them" into undeath. Only after they Pc destroy this simulacrum the Tyrant recognize them as "somewhat a nuisance".
This changes the end of boo 4. Regardless if the Party was able to convince Lastwall leaders to back down, they should be targeted by a personal manifestation of the Tyrant's wrath. This could potentially be a (over CR) npc from book 6 or a substantial challenge which makes your players think they are at an endgame situation.
And then, after 3 rounds, they hear the Radiant Fire formula being spoken almost inside their souls. This time, it's almost like they are close to burn and explode themselves when Arazni intervenes.
- Book 5 and 6 in the next post -
The Tyrant and the Party - Part 2
Book 5 - While we've got the party active in another continent, there is no reason Baphon's presence should be lessened.
Through the connection already established, the Party should be aware of any use of the Radiant fire by his part. Also, it's possible that, after being almost exposed to a Radiant Fire detonation, the pcs start to feel, again and again, sudden bursts of hatred and raw anger which somehow ooze from the obols, due to the connection between the shards. This effect could be added to the shard powers, and be suppressed after Miraina's intervention.
However, with Istravek's demise, Baphon should immediately return in the forefront, by reacting to his minion's destruction. I can image him personally scrying over the dragon corpse through the gold, artifact like armor, and properly rage against the Pc, before announcing imminent and destructive retribution. He might/should announce his intentions to eradicate Jolizpan just to spite the group, since he realizes how they must have gotten help from them, declaring that "when this country is in ruin, he shall gain complete control over the veins of creation" or similar stuff. A stronger scene could be the Tyrant appearing to the party in some fashion (projection? sudden teleport?) only to be repelled by either the last energies of the Kumaru infused in the structure, or by a manifestation of Cihua Couatl called by Numoz through a sacrifice of its soul.
This should spur the lich to boast like.
"Wretched Snake! Your will not bar my passage forever! I'm free, and when I claim the stone form the stars, I'll make so that never give birth in this land"
Book 6 - Before the inevitable confrontation with the party, Baphon should become aware of their presence, yet ... unable to act.
Among my encounters, i've already proposed a potential confrontation between the party and a weak simulacrum of baphon. This happens because, in my rewrite, the WT is not directing leading his armies, which have been left in the hand of his general Malyas. Tar Baphon is instead occupied in "infecting" the ley lines of the Island of Kortos, in order to proper poison the land itself and make the animation of undead legions a more speedy process. To do so, he has sequestered himself on a separate demiplane with a cabal of other great spellcasters from his entourage, from which he's able to infect the material, shadow and ethereal planes at the same time. This forces him basically out of the conflict for a time - unless he acts through the simulacri, which burns them - but allows his minions to easy reanimated and mass spam spawn without incurring in those naturals limits that have, until now, stopped things like "wraith-apocalypse" from happening.
This plan requires, however, a few elements on the battlefield to work. Other than allied spellcasters, and among those a few simulacri of the WT, one of the conduit of this power are Horns of Naraga. If claimed by the Pcs and taken "outside" the battlefield (in one of the meeting places of the army, for example), the circuit will be cut of, and Tar Baphon will be unable to continue his ritual to poison the cairnlands. This become the reason that precipitates the encounter between the Tyrant and the Pc, has he have also to reclaim the Horns to re-start one of his plans.
The Tyrant's Fight - general considerations
To rewrite the Tyrant fight, i believe we should emphasize on the before and after. The fight itself needs probably to be tailored with the abilities of each party.
However, something should be said: by being mythic, Tar Baphon becomes a complex character to handle since his damage output easily outstrips that of a creature of his CR. If i'm not mistaken, he can dish a mythic meteor swarm that deals first around 45 unavoidable bludgeoning area damage, followed by around 210 fire damage that bypasses resistances (so, around 100 damage if halved). This is a standard action for him, which can be followed by a quicken spell of equally mythic power.
Moreover, he's so well equipped that he can enter the fight with many, specific defenses tailored on your party. This creates a further wall that needs to be throw down, and (bar heavy use of antimagic) would require very specific team options.
I therefore believe that, bar having the Tyrant come somewhat "unshielded" or "unprepared" towards the party, we need to grant the party some time to discern his defenses, build up their and possibly not be disintegrated in the process.
Regarding these problems, the adventure itself takes note of the by granting the party the assistance of 2 powerful npcs. It also states that, if Gildais is alive, he gets a full round of Baphon's interest before the Tyrant gazes at the pcs.
While this fine, it's also clearly a necessity created by the adventure itself: those npcs are there only to "buff" the Pc's melee options. Yet, nothing is done for the spellcasters! Have fun with that SR 42, i suppose ...
Gildais is also there to basically give the pcs a free round, which is however almost surely spent by having a friendly dwarf paladin lady to mercy touch as many pcs that were paralyzed by dread by the unbeatable "absolute terror" of Tar Baphon.
So, while it's not a bad solution, i try to propose a different one.
Moreover, the last critic of this section is that the Pcs are required to "just be there" to have the obols react against the Tyrant. This is, to me, mechanically strange.
There is not "roll to make something happen against Baphon".
It almost makes no difference if the pcs are, at the moment, polymorphed as kitted and are lazing off 3.000 ft from the epic battle between the WT and the heroes of sandpoint, riding on the dragons of Minkai. They are there when Baphon does it's thing, and that's the ending. There should be - to be - an option to "do" something more than "Somehow shield a single person from the blast".
I'm not happy with this option in particular because this amazing anti-nuke shield is never alluded in book 5, and should not work. If you shield 1 single person, that person find themselves in an area highly polluted with negative energy and, save teleportation, cannot move away before getting poisoned by the equivalent of "radiation" coming from all the other squares that were not protected.
So, I'll have to make something from it.
The Tyrant's Fight - To connect the beginning with the end
Here I propose my beginning of the Tyrant fight.
In the basic adventure, the Tyrant "ambushes" the party, arriving with a meaty minion to quickly dispose of the army's generals. The party's got barely 1 round of prep before the face the Tyrant, which'll be full buffed and - if he had time to study the party - ready against them with specific defenses. While I like the idea of an endgame boss that actually ambushes the party, I fear that this would not grant a party any chance to fight back, between 1+ rounds of unavoidable paralysis, the daemon (which can coup the grave any pc in that state) and the combos i've already mentioned.
So, here's my proposal: the Tyrant fight starts after a "cutscene".
The scene starts with the Party having recovered the Horns of Naraga, and potentially - my idea - having disrupter the Tyrant's influence over the ley lines of Korthos island. They meet with the leadership of two of the armies. This meeting happens in some kind of control camber, with shows the actual state of the armies, which is inside that pyramid, currently is under the effect of a magnificent mansion spell.
The two generals are happy to inform them how their actions have generally weakened the Tyrant's troops abilities to quickly spawn and raise the dead, and that the armies can now move on the offensive. The Pcs are given proof that their efforts have mattered, and that Baphon assault can be fought in the conventional sense. They are given some hopes ... and those hopes are immediately broken.
Suddenly, light spreads in the room they are: a section of the wall as turned to dust in an instant, in complete silence. For a moment, it's like in the book with the dust invading the room. Then, the screams starts as the roaring daemon starts destroying the defenders outside the complex. The two generals are quick to react, and go out from the smoke to assist the situation. Before the Party has time to properly react, they immediately become aware of the situation: Tar Baphon has come.
Floating in the air, dozens of feet over the Pyramid, the Tyrant acts ... and wishes for the Pc's hearts and obols in his hands. This immediately forces the party to make a DC 35 will save to resist this effect of a death cluch spell. Those who succeed are initially staggered. Those who fails ... die, or get the proper effects, but for just a few seconds.
In fact, immediately after this effect, the power of the Tyrant's shard reacts with the obols, and both the Whispering Tyrant and the Party are, suddenly, taken away from the mortal coil, and thrown in a foggy realm, dominated by the moon of Groetus: its the Dead Roads. This happens fast, and it's almost impossible for the Party - many of which should be staggered or worse - to act in time. This is not the same for the WT, who could oppose this shift, but chooses not to, since it was his plan for the start.
As the Party is readjusting to the change of scenery, Baphon descends among them, and they take the full force of his aura of terror. Likely, this paralyses the whole party - except for someone immune to fear.
The lich then acts, targeting any pc who has not been paralyzed with a binding effect. While this happens, any pc who has failed his save find himself "alive", but with they chest opened, and something visibile shining in: the obols.
Those who overcome the save, can feel and see through themselves and recognize the obols as a pulsating shard inside them. The Lich then proclaims:
"Your interference has come to an end. Your queen has failed, and has abandoned you. Has left you as broken instruments ... but I shall make good use of you!"
Ad with that, the Tyrant cast a spell. This is potentially a second mythic wish, or an unique spell of is invention, which uses the Pcs as a focus: soon, from the ether, almost dustlike motes of lights starts converging towards the Pcs, starting with those "killed" by the first wish. This dust starts coalescing around the Pcs, and also Tar Baphon, but the lich quickly dismisses it, directing hit towards any pcs still able to fight. This action forces even those Pcs into a staggered state, as those motes of dust starts entering in them, quickly adding to their obols.
By using mythic magic, the Tyrant is reawakening the abilities of the Shield of Aroden to reassemble itself, using the Pcs as focus to recreate the shards he's already consumed from the essence of the Dead Roads. The lich hope this will grant him back at least two or three of the shards he had to consume, and laughs are the party become aware that the only reason he didn't detonate their souls the second he discovered the existence of the obols was because he wanted to use them for this very purpose.
However, while this is happening, something else emerges for the fogs of this realm: the shadows of people the Pc's knew. At first, the Pcs may see approach a few familiar faces, people for Roslar's Coffer or from Virgil. They are a few dozens, and the Tyrant gives them no attention while he's busy until, from dozens they become hundreds, and from hundreds thousands. Is at this point that even Tar Baphon rises his head and stagger, seeing himself and that party surrounded by the ghosts of tens of thousands: the people of Lastwall, the people of the gravelands.
Yet, it's not clear why Baphon hesitates: did he so someone else, among this vast assembly? The Pcs are unable to see if he did actually saw a certain queen among those souls, but quickly the Tyrant's attention shifts as a raven flies up from the great crowd: the Psychopomp Usher Barzahk. The old crow admonishes the Lich, saying with a voice with almost trace of kindness that he has "lost more of what he's gained", and that by remaining has he's, he his trapping himself into a condition of willing loss and grief, unable to create, unable to exist fully. This these words, Baphon replays by spreading his arms, and allowing almost 1 millennia of hatred and rage to invade and invest the deadlands. From his shadows dozens of creatures take life, may them be the form of wraiths, the figures of sahkil or other horrors dreamed by his fantasy.
"Old fool! Blind fool! I'm master of both life and death! I'm a god without chains, ad you and this realm shall now know the clutches of my grasp" he boast.
While this happens, however, the Tyrant does not realize that Barzahk plan was barely to distract him, to give the Pcs time to realize their situation and act. For while this happens, not only the paralysis of Baphon's terror ends, but Barzahk's will helps the Party to gain control of the magic that is reforging the Shield Shards.
This allows any pcs "killed" by the partial removal of their obols to still be in the game, and also make another important decision: to allow the obols inside their souls again or to wield them as a weapon. I'll present in a later post the mechanical effects of this choice, but basically the Pcs can decide if they'll have the obols inside their souls when Baphon will detonate their shard.
This means that THE PLAYER can CHOOSE if their character will be obliterated.
Moreover, this grants each Pc a powerful focus to fight against the Tyrant without having him to "pull his punches".
This scene also allows any Pc to speak one last time to any npc from book 1 to 3 that they could have not met otherwise, and actually makes relevant the whole of book 1, which is otherwise completely unnecessary to the whole plot.
As Baphon realized how, in boasting of his power, he lost sight of his objective, he immediately reacts, but Barzahk plans strike first: both the Whispering Tyrant and the Party are returned in the material plane.
The Ushers, however, interviene again, using his domain of the dead road to slow time for the pcs, so that they get at least 3 rounds of time to prepare before they appear where they were. This time can be used for proper buff, or to talk 1 final time with someone they would otherwise never met again.
Only when both the Pc and Baphon are returned to the material, the battle can finally start.
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I notice, after 7 months, that the last post was never published.
I shall remedy.
The last thing i would like to propose, in this effort to rewrite book 6, it's a last scene of greater significance. For what i don't like from the battle is that, after TB reached a certain threshold, it just starts a cutscene, and all the freedom the players are given is to overcome a Save and possibly shield 1 npc. What I propose, is that the Pc's can actually Choose how they are going out.
Now, as we have stated, since TB is maintaining control of his armies, he cannot disengage even if the Pc's can repel him, nor is in his character to retreat. He's gonna be damage, and he's gonna fire. As i've propose, he's gonna try to detonate the Pc's shards from inside themselves, causing a more localized (few hundred meters) explosion around him. He should, therefore, have some kind of contingency to allow him to auto escape from a radiant fire blast, which is not in his stats. Wise DM should give him such.
As we know, the point of book 5 is to give the Pc's a chance to avoid this, and redirect the WW's spell on his shard's and himself. This not only overcome any contingency he might have, but creates the following situation:
When TB activates the radiant fire (a mythic spell that is a standard action to use, and that can overcome AMF), each Pc (both the living one's and any of the dead ones, whose souls are still present in the battlefield, even if they were made undead by Baphon) can react, by opposing Baphon's will.
While this happens, both parties get on the ground, from the pain and the energies of their respective shards.
This forces a clash of wills between Baphons +22 will save and the party, which can be done using the rules of an aid another action to the biggest roll made by one of the Pcs. While it's possible that the group beats Baphon outright, between Mythic points, the use of mythic wish and bad rolls, it should be clear that the Lich can actually overcome this. However, each pc has a choice that the Lich lord does not have: allow their fragments to reunite with the Tyrant's. This action destroys their bodies, but allows their soul to follow for a few moments the shard inside baphon's hand, and through this, to spread into baphon's body. This action - which could have any ramification outside of this scene - instantly gives the WW a penalty equal to that Pc Level. This means that, in the worst chase scenario, the sacrifice of 2 Pcs weakens BT so much that he goes from a +22 will to a -14 (assuming the Pcs are level 18).
This not only give each pc the chance to actually die and be utterly destroyed by striking down baphon with their own souls, but also allows a few others to actually survive this ordeal ... but not for long.
Cause as soon as Baphon explodes, that's radiant death for everybody in a 20 miles radius ... unless any surviving Pc has something to say about it.
To me, each remaining Pc should be able, at this point, to make that famous DC 30 roll to try to shield someone. However, this action should me made not to save 1 soul, but as many as possible by either containing the total kill radius of the explosion.
Let's say that the Radiant fire auto kills anyone with 20 hd or less in 1-4 miles of the explosion, then 16 hd in the 5-8 radius, then 12 in the 9 to 12, and so on until it just burns and shatter things, without the auto kill. The remaining pcs could either absorb or try to contain this explosion in a way that lesser the radius of the auto kill, and the HD of those targeted by 4 miles and 4 hd.
To do so, each remaining Pc has to "use" their shard to absorb some of the energies. This shatters the shard and probably, but not necessarely, kills them outright, and can have interesting epilogue consequences by DM's choice.
If 2 pcs are able to do such, this action actually saves a few section of the armies fighting in the cairnlands, who still get burned and blown away by the force, but not utterly disintegrated. This also saves the 2 npcs given by the book, if they are still alive.
In my opinion, this allows to have at least 1 pc that will survive these events, and to carry the memories and teaching of his companions in a brighter future. This pc will no doubt have to face the consequences of a fractured soul, destined to fade in time, but that is, to me, a story for a bittersweet epilogue.