Breath of Zehir

Breathless: Moving on
The end of one world and the beginning of another.

That was the last that anyone heard from Ghuladon. Whether the EDGE succeeded, or failed, none can say, for their fates have passed into legend. Our heroes’ exploits have become the myths of the next generation, and they have left their mark upon that world.

What’s certain is that Tiamat is dead. And yet, she and Bahamut are two halves of the same whole, cleft from the dragon god Io at the dawn of time. Perhaps a vestige of Tiamat survives, a mere shade of her former self, chained to the Nine Hells as part of an ancient pact. Tiamat’s ancient lair on the layer of Avernus could still hold a portion of her hoard, and perhaps a means of returning her to glory. To be sure, her remaining cults in the world will seek a way to free a dead god.

In the mean time, the chromatic dragons have found different gods to serve. Zehir has secured the loyalty of the black and green dragons, of course. The blue dragons now tolerate Kord, god of storms, as their new patron. Red dragons, the most vain and prideful of all, now serve no master or make arrangements of convenience. Some, including the ancient wyrms Ashardalon and Flame, are seeking their own paths to godhood. Finally, the white dragons pledged themselves to The Raven Queen, goddess of winter… but her own fate is in question. To keep the portfolio of Death out of the hands of the demon prince Orcus, she had no choice but to surrender it to another god—Vecna. But having one deity control both death and undeath could have dark consequences.

In this new world, Vayastra eternally wanders the planes, for purposes and pursuits that are hers alone to know. She has inspired a group of nomads to follow in her path, in a pilgrimage that takes them to all corners of the world. They call themselves Vistani, and draw upon the magic of Vayastra for travel and insight.

Berrian, losing control over the elemental prince raging within, has voluntarily sequestered himself in the prison plane of Carceri, to protect the mortal worlds from himself. His prison is eternally guarded by the angel Gabriella, his true and loyal friend.

Adilisia, by contrast, goes rogue as a mercenary, gaining a reputation as a lethal assassin and big-game hunter. She can be found frequenting the Styx Oarsman as a killer for hire.

Ko’Gash continues to grow his demiplane in orbit around Mount Celestia, seeking to reestablish his bloodline. Eventually he becomes patron demigod of good orcs and half-orcs. The three barbarians Lux, Zanne, and Skye all take their places as exalted and enjoy nothing more than hacking down the occasional incursion of demons. Balnar grows wiser and more patient, becoming ambassador of Kord to the blue dragons of the world.

Bamwin rejoins his family in the Feywild, taking his place in the Eladrin courts and living a full life as a noble hero. He has a particular fondness for adventurers, and is a patron to many warlocks. On a darker path, Bardryn also becomes a warlock patron. He now rules as a Duke of the Nine Hells, lord of Dis and prince among devils.

Toby Junior takes the role of orc chieftain seriously and becomes a great leader. He returns to the ruins of Erathis Watch with a unique vision: building an orc city. Bringing the discipline of Bane to the tribes is not easy, however, and he is sadly forced to kill his only remaining family member in a challenge for authority. His uncle Buran, an unrepentant shaman of Gruumsh, had inspired several clans to splinter off, driven by their own savagery back into the wasteland of Thar.

The city of New Goldrun has been devastated by Malifaxaghast and all but abandoned. The survivors do what they can to rebuild, unaware of the deep horrors lurking in the forgotten dungeons under the White Tower. In time, the Deck of Many Things will grow restless, and seek a new owner.

As for Professor Plum, well. He’s had quite enough adventuring for now; a close brush with death has left him more than a little shaken. It’s time to pack up his things and move on to the next world, and see how things have changed. There’s new characters to meet and new lands to discover, after all. Plum always knows how to make the most out of his situation, and he knows of one legendary artifact that needs an arm stump… but that’s a tale for another time.

Thank you all for playing. It’s been a true pleasure sharing these stories with you, and you will never be forgotten. We’ll see you at the wedding, and I hope you always find adventure in your own way.


Breathless: Tytherion
The climax of Breath of Zehir.

The last few adventures in this story arc are adapted from the Scales of War adventure path published in Dungeon Magazine issue 175.

Exhausted but triumphant, our heroes are at the height of their power. All have attained their epic destinies and completed all quests before them. There lies only one challenge left: defeating Ghuladonkaranamis forever.

Ghuladon is within the astral dominion of Tytherion, shared by Zehir and Tiamat. She has been groomed by the serpent god for the sole purpose of defeating the Queen of Dragons and assuming her mantle; her every action to this point has been to achieve this goal. Without her armies of dragons to defend her, the heart of Tiamat’s lair is vulnerable and Ghuladon has led the assault with her remaining exarchs. If she succeeds in attaining true godhood, the world will be forever plunged into darkness.

The exploits of the EDGE have finally caught up to them. As the party returns to Sigil after the battle of The City of Brass, allies from around the multiverse gather around them. Cultists of the Elder Elemental Eye are drawn to Berrian and Adilisia; a great host of angels comes to Gabriella; hordes of orcs pledge themselves to Ko’Gash and Toby Junior; Bamwin has the support of the high courts of the Eladrin, and even Bardryn brings legions of devils sworn to him. Vayastra has Codren alone, but that is all she needs.

At their head is a great ancient adamantine dragon: Virgiliantus, founder of the Brothers of Bahamut and redeemer of Erathis Watch. As an exalted of Bahamut he explains the state of the war. He pledges to lead the escort for the party and deliver them safely to the gates of Tiamat’s citadel, and gives them instructions for meeting Brahm the Shining, the ghost of the paladin who led them on their very first quest.

Leaving the City of Doors for the last time, the great army descends upon Tytherion. There the characters see all colors of dragons fleeing, fighting among each other, and looting their own fortress. The patchwork army wards the players long enough to come to the entrance of the Caverns of Fiery Splendor, guarded by none other than Dragotha, the First Dracolich. Once a consort of Tiamat, Dragotha hates Her with unmatched intensity, and is now Ghuladon’s exarch and general in this dominion.

Defeating Dragotha and his escorts opens the way deeper into Tiamat’s fortress. The halls and floors are rich with the mother of all dragon hordes, stained black with the blood of hundreds of slain dragons; many have been turned to zombies or skeletons, gnawing mindlessly on their kin. Eventually they meet Brahm, who guides them through the Caverns of Fiery Splendor to the Fountain Chamber, where they can see the shadows of Ghuladon and Tiamat struggling far above them. They learn Tiamat has sequestered herself on the floating platform and is now locked in mortal combat with a fully empowered Ghuladon in her terrible glory as the Breath of Zehir.

The characters quickly discover that a potent array of warding magic prevents intruders from simply flying or teleporting up to the Battle of the Dragon Queen. The ward is maintained by none other than the demilich Lady Osterneth, and—for better or for worse—her phylactery is also here with Ghuladon’s last exarch, Faluzure the Shadow Dragon. To reach Ghuladon the EDGE must overcome both demigods, simultaneously. Shattering Osterneth’s phylactery and destroying her body will annihilate her completely.

Just as the EDGE emerges from Faluzure’s cavern, there is a tremendous roar of triumph. Ghuladon throws the savaged and broken body of the goddess to the floor of the chamber, shattering her bones and leaving her lifeless. Tiamat, queen of avarice, empress of vengeance, and mother of evil dragons, is dead. They fly to the platform where a bloodied Ghuladon rests in triumph. In her final form she exchanges blows both physical and verbal with the party, supremely confident in her victory. As the EDGE strikes down the undead shell of Ephelomon, Ghuladon’s spirit is released as the Breath of Zehir, a dragon-shaped cloud of caustic, poisonous gas. She envelops the party in choking vapors that sap them of their vitality, and drifts to the cavern floor—where she fills the corpse of Tiamat. With a shudder and a groan, Ghuladon possesses the deity’s body in the same way as she did Brahm’s years ago. Ghuladonkaranamis has become the Dragon Queen.

Then, it’s a battle royale with Ghuladon: a no-holds-barred confrontation with a full-fledged deity. Ghuladonkaranamis has all the powers and regal splendor of the five-headed dragon goddess in all her glory, with the terrible transformation of undeath. At her full power, our heroes gather all their might and spare no effort in this, the last battle of their careers against their ultimate arch-nemesis, one of the most powerful beings in the multiverse.

Next week: The world is changed, and a new era is born.

Breathless: City of Brass
The party journeys to the farthest corners of the universe to put an end to Ghuladon's schemes.

The last few adventures in this story arc are adapted from the Scales of War adventure path published in Dungeon Magazine issue 174.

As the adventure opens, the characters have returned to the material plane to rest, recuperate, and mourn the fate of their homeland. The EDGE has few allies willing to act openly against Ghuladon; many still hold to the alliance of the Dawn War, when gods united against the primordials, and hesitate to enter the war. Balnar entreats the players to join him and seek out the last remaining exarch of Tiamat: Namissi the Blue. They are summoned to the ancient wyrm’s redoubt in the Elemental Chaos, where the dragon lays out the scope of Zehir’s triumphs and his dark hope to turn this near defeat into victory.

The City of Brass is Zehir’s stronghold in this plane. It is held by Ghuladon’s gray exarch Zebukiel, in arrangement with the serpentine salamanders and Ja’Far, Lord of Efreets. Tiamat’s force has the city surrounded but cannot break through its defenses. Zebukiel is attempting to energize Zehir’s legions with elemental power, shielding themselves from Tiamat’s weapons of fire, ice, and lightning. These empowered armies will be too much for Tiamat’s army to withstand and, unless they succeed here, her astral dominion will surely fall.

Namissi enlists the characters to infiltrate the City of Brass by way of a secret portal hidden deep in the Keening Delve. This legendary and deadly warren of caverns and ruined chambers is set within the basalt plate on which the City of Brass is built. After entering the city, the heroes meet with their old friend Jett, a fire genasi noble who represents factions seeking to overthrow Ja’far because of his foul alliance with Ghuladon and Zehir. Jett offers his allegiance to find and kill Ja’far—a deadly quest that requires the heroes to undertake a dangerous pilgrimage across a city under siege. Ja’far’s salamanders patrol the streets alongside Zebukiel’s medusas and basilisks.

After slaying Ja’far, the adventurers must drop the magical wards which protect the city and prevent Namissi’s forces from attacking. Then, at the Eternal Flame Pavilion, the heroes face off against the protectors of the shrine of the Fire Lord Imix, which has been corrupted by Zehir’s foul rituals so as to grant power to Ghuladon’s servants. Hundreds of loyal dragons bathe in the elemental energies, transforming into catastrophic volcanic dragons.

Then the unthinkable happens. Namissi himself, fighting Ghuladon’s gray exarch Zebukiel, is petrified and struck down in a titanic battle that shatters the great Charcoal Palace. Only the EDGE can stand against the Traitor of Dragons in the end.

Eventually the heroes triumph. The City of Brass has been devastated by the battle, but the efreets will rebuild. With both Zebukiel and Namissi gone, Jett quickly establishes consensus among the efreets for his claim to the throne under the condition that no god will ever again hold dominion over the City of Brass.

The adventurers have won the day and slain another of Ghuladon’s exarchs, but their battle against their nemesis is not over yet.

Next week: The EDGE races to catch up to Ghuladon, who has broken through into Tiamat’s fortress and now challenges the Queen of Dragons face to face.

Breathless: Malifaxaghast
Ghuladon's consort wants to rule the world, but first he must deal with the EDGE.

Malifaxaghast, an ancient green dragon, is Ghuladon’s consort in the Towers of Night, and she has ordered him to hunt down and destroy the EDGE by any means necessary. Malifax relies upon the yuan-ti and snaketongue cultists of Zehir and loyal green dragons to do his bidding and this has suited him well in the relatively low-powered mortal realm; the cult of Zehir has grown throughout the world, and their worship grants power to the deity.

Malifax intends to weaken the EDGE by wiping out their allies and laying waste to the city of Erathis Watch. The ancient dragon blitzes the city filling it with his noxious breath weapon, instantly lethal to commoners. Dozens of dragons besiege the city from the air, sparing none with mass poison gas attacks. Thousands of innocent men, women, and children are killed en masse by breath weapons. Even the gold dragon Aurius is powerless against Malifax and his army, brought down by unholy spells cast from liches riding fell wyverns.

Sole survivor of the genocide is the marut Concorde, who flees to New Goldrun to warn them of the coming doom. But the massacre was only the beginning, as Malifax has brought with him master necromancers recruited by Faluzure. Now the ten thousand slain return as monsters under his command and march on New Goldrun, to demoralize and draw out the EDGE. The undead army, immune to the poison roiling through the city streets, marches on the town.

The defenses are swarmed and quickly overrun, and the heroes of New Goldrun must retreat back to the White Tower for their final stand. The players engage this battle as companion characters of level 20, and each player runs two. If there are more characters than players, the others join battle later as their comrades are slain.

First wave: the undead of Erathis Watch attack. They are led by a Dracolich, formerly the gold dragon Auriusalemence. The battlefield is flooded with a Crimson Deathmist from the plague that transformed the people of the city, and Abyssal Ghoul Hordes: the former townsfolk of the city.

Second wave: the shadow creatures summoned from the Nocturnal Ruins. While the Edge sacked the village of Noctus the darklands there spawned powerful undead, including bodaks, a nightwalker, and a beholder ghost. Also joining them are 2 Fell Troll Wraiths, once the allied trolls Hulk and Smash, who helped the EDGE ravage Noctus.

Wave 3 includes Malifax’s generals. An elder green dragon and an elder black dragon enter battle simultaneously, as well as their armies of loyal kobolds as shock troops.

Finally, Wave 4 is led by the ancient green dragon Malifaxaghast himself. Malifax has been methodically gassing the citizens of New Goldrun, and is flanked by lich necromancers and swarms of skeletons that were, just hours ago, the same people the EDGE worked so hard to liberate. At this point most of the companion characters are probably dead or exhausted; the battle appears hopeless.

Malifax arrives as a troglodyte in a hooded cloak, billowing noxious green smoke. He is confident and at first toys with the characters, pushing them into and around the hordes of skeletons. Once the characters land a solid hit on him, he decides he has had enough games, and transforms into his true form of a gargantuan serpentine dragon. He relentlessly crushes all opposition with his poisonous breath weapon, savage claws, and coiling tail.

Right at the cusp of the battle when all seems lost, the EDGE arrives to save the day. While bloodied, Malifax becomes shaken and more desperate, wanting to flee but more terrified of Ghuladon if he should fail again. He gains +2 to all attack rolls, -2 to all defenses, and fights until destroyed. Rallying for a final push the EDGE should defeat Malifax and scatter his armies, but at a terrible cost. Their homeland and their city have been blasted into ruins overnight, and everyone that they have loved or cared for has been turned into hideous undead. Our heroes now have nothing more to lose, and there is only one path before them: vengeance on Ghuladon, and ending her threat permanently.

Next week: Two dragons down, three to go. The EDGE descends to the Plane Below to break Ghuladon’s elemental enchantments.

Breathless: Side-quests
The party engages in a few more adventures.

Part of Epic Tier included individual players each running a one-shot adventure of their choice for the rest of the party.

Graham’s adventure was to have the players called by a summoning ritual to the world of Eberron. The gleeful conjurer there explains that they have been called to save the world from the dreaded Tarrasque (see Dragon 418). While the players may prevail, the damage has been done: the Tarrasque’s rampage is cataclysmic, turning the nation of Cyre into the Mournland.

Later, without warning, Ko’gash has a seizure and falls unconscious. Investigation reveals his astral seed, a gift from Kord for his epic destiny, has been poisoned by Dragotha working on Ghuladon‘s orders. As the venom corrupts his astral seed, Andrew runs his adventure: steal an antitoxin from the Demonweb Pits. This layer of the Abyss is home to the Demon Queen of Spiders, Lolth. The players escape from the horrors of that place and restore Ko’Gash to health.

Whilst adventuring around Sigil the players encounter a shopkeeper selling “Technological curiosities of an unusual nature”. Most of the items therein are warforged components or artificer implements, but one in particular stands out: a tablet of silvered glass, with moving images as if reflected by the surface. The shopkeep (a Cyclops by the name of Aldrin) explains that he bought it along with a few other items from a “mold man”, who claimed it was looted from the ruins of a place called The Barrier Peaks. This is the last item from that inventory.

The tablet behaves much like an iPad in some indecipherable language; a character who knows Deep Speech gains a +5 on Intelligence checks to operate the device. Aldrin has fiddled with it but the only result has been the opening of a portal to some instantly lethal plane. All the gnomes he’s sent through to investigate have suffocated, incinerated, and exploded, so he hasn’t done anything with it since. It’s not for sale but he’ll activate it for the players and promise to pay a large sum for anything they might bring back from the other side of the portal.

The portal opens onto the surface of the moon. The tablet is an artifact left by an alien race when a portion of their ship crashed centuries ago in the Duchy of Geoff, on the world of Oerth. The module was ejected after an outbreak of Russet Mold, but the quarantine was unsuccessful and the rest of the ship crashed on the moon. Exposure has killed off the remainder of the crew and virus, but constructs and the security system are still active.

Spacewalking is instantly lethal for obvious reasons. Creatures who pass through the portal or start their turn exposed are deafened, take 15 radiant damage, and immediately begin to suffocate. Speech is also impossible but telepathy functions normally. The portal is on the outside hull of a starship and if they can make it to the airlock on the other side (by going around or over) and figure out how to open it, they can breathe normally in the ship’s interior, only contracting the disease Russet Mold.

The ship’s layout is that of a classic Doom level. The interior has many constructs and sentries activated to kill the mold men all the crew became; they attack non-aberrants on sight until destroyed. Among the ruins are littered various technological artifacts as listed in Dungeon Magazine, including powered armor which allows the players to spacewalk. The ‘end boss’ is a the ship’s main computer, an epic beholder named Zal the Destroyer, who engineered the fungus to crash the ship into the world and free itself. Stranded on the moon, it wants to use the players’ magic items to empower itself to leave the derelict. When bloodied, the beholder dons a Greater Iron Golem suit of powered battle armor (reminiscent of the Mother Brain battle from Super Metroid). As a reward the players get all kinds of neat goodies, including a Portal Gun.

Next week: The war gets personal.

Breathless: Bardryn
The city of Dis beckons to the heroes.

Meanwhile, in the Feywild, Lord Bamwin Vanderswell and Berrian are called to the Fey Court of the city of Astrazalian. While there they witness the kidnapping of the royal family by fiendish slavers. Chasing them to the Nine Hells, the EDGE frees the court and sends them back to the Feywild. (This was to be Julian’s adventure.)

However, the party members themselves are unable to cross through the portal. By any means they might devise, they are unable to leave the infernal plane of Ba’ator.

Interrogation by Professor Plum reveals the EDGE has been damned by the pit fiend Mephasm. The first victim of the Deck of Many Things, the mighty devil was enfeebled and destroyed by that mad artifact and swore that, should the heroes ever enter the Hells, they would be imprisoned forever. Plum determines they are forbidden from ever leaving unless they are pardoned by a greater power than even a pit fiend: one of the Lords of the Nine.

Fortunately, Plum has a contact in the city of Dis, the second layer of the Nine Hells. The walled city is built of red-hot iron, every surface scorching anyone not protected from the heat. Decrepit slums fester around decadent dens of hedonism and vice. Glamorous casinos separate the damned from their few remaining possessions, patrolling bands of devils are little more than thugs, drug pushers force addicts into depraved acts, succubi pimp their prostitutes, and damned beggars and thieves scrounge in desperate circumstances. The City of Sin is also a planar trading post in a sinister reflection of Hestavar; blackguards and warlocks trade in dark secrets, assassins openly sell deadly poisons, and slavers operate a thriving trade along the river Styx.

While the mortal city of Orspring was controlled by devils, the dwarven barbarian Bardryn was one of those enslaved and sent to the Hells; Plum volunteered to escort him as his agent. He coached Bardryn for long enough to get him out of the Fetters district and into the professional gladitorial circuit, at which point Bardryn decided he didn’t need the gnome’s help anymore and cut him out. Plum rejoined the party in the Great Bazaar of Sigil, selling goods he acquired on his journey into Hell. The party manages to locate Bardryn and Plum conspires to rig the gladiatorial tournament by entering the entire party in the games. The winner earns a single Wish Bardryn can use to pardon the party and send them home.

As the interplanar gladiator arena bracket is drawing to a close Dispater himself oversees the events. The characters enter the arena as gladiators, facing off against each other, until the champion faces Bardryn in single combat and throws the fight. Bardryn by this time has become so corrupted that he commands a measure of infernal power; with Plum’s knowledge and Bardryn’s strength, he is sure they will be successful.

As it happens, Bardryn does NOT use his Wish to free the party. Instead, he challenges Dispater to single combat for the title of Prince of Hell! In Plum’s experience with the gladiatorial arena, he knows the bylaws of the tournament are supreme and binding, even for the Dukes of Hell. If he goads Dispater into summoning allies in battle then the entire EDGE is permitted, by the rules of the arena, to come to Bardryn’s aid. The battle is won and Bardryn takes his epic destiny: Prince of Hell, Ruler of Dis, Archdevil and Lord of the Nine. He can no longer leave the plane, but can send a powerful aspect to join the party in their travels.

After the chaos subsides, Plum and Bardryn turn their attention to the administration of this layer of Hell. Among the thousands of prisoners of that infernal city, Dispater’s most prized is Gith.

In the ancient times when the Githzerai and Githyanki overthrew their illithid masters, Dispater brokered a pact between Ephelomon (now Tiamat’s red dragon exarch) and Vlaakith (now lich queen of the Githyanki). Vlaakith gained dominion over the Pactbound Red Dragons, and Tiamat gained the service of the Githyanki should she require it. Gith surrendered herself as Dispater’s prisoner, under the condition that the Githyanki always be free to choose their own destiny. If Tiamat were to subjugate the Githyanki, or if the Githyanki were to abandon the Eternal Crusade against the mind flayers, the pact would be broken; pactbound dragons and Gith herself would be freed.

As the supreme lord of the layer, Bardryn has Gith at his mercy and is free to interrogate, torture, or release her within Dis, none of which would tamper with the ancient pact because the terms of Gith’s imprisonment essentially amount to being subject to the will of the ruler of Dis. Dispater’s inclinations ran towards imprisonment but Bardryn’s are completely unpredictable. Tampering with Gith could overturn the balance of the war; the bindings of the contract would immediately change if the price of breaking them is nullified.

  • If Gith remains imprisoned, the githyanki are among the forces blockading Tytherion from approach by the Astral Sea. They allow the players to pass unmolested so long as they are not aware of Bardryn’s displacement of Dispater and continued imprisonment of Gith. If this information is not controlled (for example, if Bardryn orders a citywide festival in his honor) the githyanki may attempt to waylay the party and bring them before Vlaakith.
  • If Gith is destroyed, Tiamat would have no reason to allow the Githyanki their freedom, and would immediately enact her contingency plan to assassinate Vlaakith and replace her with her puppet, Emperor Zetch’r’r, thereby claiming the githyanki as her newest slave race. The githyanki are pressed into the war against Zehir, but hold particular and eternal hatred for Bardryn and his allies for annihilating their hero.
  • If Gith is freed by Bardryn she joins the resistance against Tiamat, attempting to start a civil war among her race and release the Githyanki from their servitude. This is a conflict of interest as the players want Tiamat’s puppet Zetch’r’r to remain in power and ally with them to defeat Osterneth’s ally Vlaakith and their mutual enemy Zehir. Successful diplomacy could gain them the loyalty of Tiamat’s red dragons in the fight against Zehir; failure means making the EDGE enemies of Gith, the newly freed Githyanki joining Zehir and focusing their attacks on the material plane.

Depending on how intricately the party wants to involve themselves in these politics, they could make powerful allies or enemies which would have a significant impact on their chances of success later in the campaign.

Next week: More adventures and side-quests before the final push.

Breathless: Gabriella
The paladin atones for her sins in Hestavar.

Human paladin Gabriella Lightsworn has served Pelor her entire life, but lately has been unfaithful. Loyalty to her companions has forced her to defy her god in His own domain and imbue Berrian with the vestige of a dead primordial. However, Pelor is merciful and acknowledges the spirit of the act, and what He sees in her heart. To earn her god’s forgiveness, Gabriella’s penance is to descend to the Abyss, and defeat the demon prince Baphomet. Success means she is strong enough to be bound to Berrian as his eternal warden. Failure, and the hosts of the gods will smite him before he can reach his full potential and threaten the gods once more.

Baphomet’s layer of the Abyss is the Endless Maze, an infinitely twisting labrynth. Savage demons roam the endless halls, while Epic Vrocks hunt the skies above. The corridors change material depending on the part of the maze you’re in; a dense fog obscures vision, making it trivially easy to become lost or disoriented. It’s fairly easy to climb up the walls, or teleport or fly to the top of the maze, but creatures that do so are at risk of being picked up, carried away, and dropped in a random location by the vrocks; or worse, risking the attention of balors on the wing.

With Vayastra’s help, the EDGE can locate a portal into the abyss (known as a demongate). Arrange a stack of Adventure System dungeon tiles with the Start Tile at the bottom. At the table, place the party on the Arcane Circle tile, then place other dungeon tiles adjacent to the open sides of that tile. As the characters move, continue placing tiles so that every tile with a hero on it has a tile adjacent to each open side. Tiles adjacent to the hero’s tile are lightly obscured (-2 to attacks), while tiles further away are heavily obscured and effectively invisible. Powers, abilities, or items that remove concealment show that the space beyond is a wall, which vanishes when approached.

When a character moves away from a tile such that it becomes “invisible” again, remove it from the board and place it back on top of the dungeon tile stack. Thus the players will be endlessly navigating the maze, unless they split up and uncover enough dungeon tiles to get to the bottom of the stack, and reveal the large stairway. That hero must then remain in place and try to guide the rest to join her. The stairs descend to the Grinding Maw.

The corridors have their dangers. Demons appear on each tile with a black arrow, quickly overwhelming isolated heroes and blocking their way. Tiles with two exits have Evistro Devastators, tiles with three exits have Hezrou, and tiles with four exits have Goristro Chattels. Heroes who scale the walls can’t see anything due to the brown smog, but meet an Epic Vrock that scoops them up and effectively removes them from play until they escape. When they escape they take appropriate falling damage and they reappear on the next tile drawn (prone and probably next to a nasty monster.)

Descending the stairs takes them to the relatively uninhabited Flesh Grinder Foundry. A nightmarish weapons factory, belching smoke and the roar of the engines mingle with the stench of carrion and the howls of the damned. Tormented souls are used as fuel in great furnaces, or churned into gore to lubricate the huge spiked chains. Thousands of Flesh Grinders are forged here to corrupt mortals in the world. Pathetic dretches flee from the heroes, while the foundry’s masters, the Sibriex, confront them. After destroying the demons, Gabriella performs a holy cleansing ritual to free the trapped souls within and cause the foundry to implode.

After the ritual is complete, Baphomet himself teleports into the collapsing forge with a pair of Balors, filled with rage and intent on destroying the heroes. An epic battle commences as the foundry spirals into the abyss. The Horned King fights with his weapons and trapping enemies within his mazes until bloodied; in that frenzy, the beast throws aside his weapons and blindly rampages with horn, hoof, tooth, and claw until destroyed.

Without the demon prince’s will to shape the chaos, all of Baphomet’s layer begins to unravel. Portals crack open from other layers of the Abyss, overflowing with warring demons rushing in to claim the spoils. In the anarchy, the party makes a mad rush to escape through a portal before they are overrun, and make their way back to safety.

Back in Hestavar, Gabriella’s performance is evaluated. Having passed the test, and shown her ability to stand and face down the most powerful forces of chaos in the multiverse, Gabriella is anointed with immortality and bestowed her epic destiny: Exalted Angel. Gabriella is also honored with Pelor’s own blade from the Dawn War, that struck down Heur-Ket in that ancient time: the Holy Avenger (+6). With these gifts, she honors her sacred charge to defend the works of the gods from those that would unmake them.

Next week: Bamwin’s fate, and the return of Bardryn.

Breathless: Adilisia
The fate of the comotose ranger is revealed.

Elven ranger Adilisia was last with the party in the Halls of Madness, where she drew The Void from the Deck of Many Things. Her body continued to function, but her mind was elsewhere; in essence she fell into a coma and is unable to be roused. With Harold’s absence from the group, the party placed a Ring of Sustenance on her finger, returned her to the Pokeball, and moved on.

Adilisia has been placed in temporal stasis by a phane, an abomination from the Dawn War. Abominations were weapons created by the gods and the primordials to destroy their enemies, and at the war’s conclusion were locked away in the astral prison plane of Carceri. Created by Pelor, the god of the sun and the calendar, a phane has a measure of power over the flow of time. This one is leaching Adilisia’s life to empower itself, and once her consciousness has been annihilated, it intends to release more abominations from Carceri.

Adilisia is slowly losing her past, being drained of her experience and regressing in her mental aging. She is at early childhood now and unless the phane is stopped she will pass the point of un-birth and be lost forever to the void. Divination magic, bringing Adilisia to Pelor, or consulting a library of astral lore would reveal the nature of her condition and direct them to consult a dreamwalker.

Further investigation leads the party to Gannayev-of-Dreams, a bishonen hagspawn spirit shaman who dwells in the astral dominion of Arvandor and whiles away his time wandering through the dreams of the exalted here. Tall and ruggedly handsome, Gann wears a sarcastic half-smile and affects an air of casual indifference. His skin has a faintly blue or violet cast, a legacy of the night hag who was his mother. Unlike other hagspawn – men born of a human father and a hag mother – Gann’s face is neither brutish nor ill-favored, but the exalted of Arvandor still treat him with a good deal of suspicion. Gann has a seductive, dry wit and enjoys sparring intellectually with men and flirting with women. He respects those who can keep him entertained and turns each insult around into a compliment. He is vain and conceited, and sees no ill in entering the dreams of sleepers since deep down "they know what they want, and I can give it to them.”

The party convinces Gann to guide them on a dreamwalk and enter Adilisia’s sleeping mind on the Plane of Dreams. (This would be Harold’s adventure, played on a Candyland game board, as she has mentally regressed to early childhood.) At the end of the adventure they force the Phane out of her subconscious and it manifests in Arvandor, where they do battle.

The Phane enters combat by summoning three alternate reality duplicates from Adilisia’s past, present, and future (Heroic, Paragon, and Epic tier respectively). Each uses her abilities and powers from those characters, and are also insubstantial taking half damage from all sources except psychic and force damage.

  • If they kill her past self, Adilisia wakes up with no memories whatsoever and takes the resurrection penalty of -5 instead of the usual -2 to all attack rolls, ability checks, and skill checks.
  • If they kill her present self, Adilisia is dead. They need to cast Raise Dead, spend the component cost for an epic-level character, and she takes the resurrection penalty of -2.
  • If they kill her future self, at some inconvenient point in the future Adilisia vanishes for a moment, then returns having simply dropped dead. If her future self is not killed, she still vanishes, but then returns a moment later, either at full health or bloodied depending on how much damage the duplicate took.
    When the Phane is defeated, these selves merge with Adilisia and she regains all the lost experience stolen by the Phane.

- – - -

Adilisia’s stated goal is to become a godslayer. To do so she can ask Morte or make a streetwise check; at a moderate DC, she learns the beings with the most lore on the destruction of gods are the Tanar’ri, known on the Prime as demons. Deities occasionally slay one of their own, but demon princes are far more capable of doing so… provided they can work together, which is extremely uncommon. Tanar’ri are not the most friendly or diplomatic of creatures, however.

With a hard Streetwise DC, or some coaxing of Morte, she learns of one being who might know the answer, and be willing to share it: Rule-of-Three. This cambion shapechanger lurks in the Styx Oarsman tavern in the Lower Ward, and meeting it is a challenge in and of itself. The bouncer only allows in fiends (devils and demons), those of fiendish blood (such as tieflings), or exceptionally depraved mortals on a case-by-case basis. Bardryn would be welcomed, and Berrian or Faustus might be able to bluff their way in, but Adilisia would need some jink to bribe the bouncer. Any good-aligned allies would certainly be banned.

If Adilisia manages to ask the favor of the enigmatic Rule-of-Three, it requires payment in the form of three eyes: one of a Cyclops, one of a Beholder, and one of an Astral Dreadnought. For the ritual to work, the eyes must be claimed by her, and her alone; allies can heal her, aid her, and otherwise distract and hinder the monsters, but only Adilisia may attack the target. (Automatic damage that does not require an attack roll, such as Divine Challenge, Razor Bracers, or Action Point effects, is exempt from this requirement.)

Cyclopses are easy to find; several can be found in the Little Bytopia district of Sigil, and are fairly standard monsters. Beholders are trickier; the players must find a portal to some region of the Underdark and look for trouble. (Vayastra’s shadow walk takes her to the Feydark by way of Deadtrees, where an Eye Tyrant holds court.) The beholder’s central eye functions as a +5 magic orb implement.

Finding an Astral Dreadnaught is an epic undertaking and requires that the party sail the Astral Sea on a vehicle (see MotP). They can purchase an Astral Skiff, or hire a well-armed Spelljammer, but most Planar Dromond pilots stay as far away from those monsters as possible. Stavros Twotalon is an accomplished captain and can assist in hiring a crew (see Mordenkainen’s).

Hunting an Astral Dreadnought means aimlessly wandering the astral sea, and that means making yourself a fat target for Githyanki pirates, slavers from the Nine Hells, psychic storms, and other wandering monsters (not to mention Zehir’s assassins). Roll on a table of random Astral Sea encounters to determine when the players encounter a Dreadnought. The random table is from 1-20, with 20 or higher being the Dreadnought, and lower rolls resulting in harder encounters. The players can make a navigation check between each encounter for a +2 or -1 to the d20 roll, or cast a Divination ritual for an automatic +5. The Astral Dreadnought appears in Manual of the Planes; adjust math as required, and include features of the Cloud Ray Elder from the Dark Sun Creature Catalogue.

Presumably the party succeeds, slaying the creatures and bringing back the eyes to Sigil. Rule-Of-Three discards the cyclops eye, accepts the beholder eye as payment, and asks the players to meet at the Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye in Sigil (the same temple where Berrian discovered his own destiny). There, it performs a ritual that channels the power of entropy into Adilisia. This font of pure destruction empowers her with the Curse of Tharizdun, the Chained God that planted the seed of ultimate evil and created the Abyss. Thus by slaying gods, ending lives, and channeling destruction, Adilisia becomes a tool of the demons that seek to annihilate the entire multiverse. She gains her epic destiny Punisher of the Gods, and the ability to amplify her Hunter’s Quarry with an Immortal Curse and bring doom to her enemies. Unlike other epic destines, this irresistible power comes with few benefits other than damage output, and no roleplaying strings attached; whether she wants to or not, simply by wreaking havoc across the planes she is serving the demons in their ultimate purpose. It is up to the party to decide whether it was wise to unleash devastation at this magnitude.

Next week: Gabriella’s epic destiny awaits.

Breathless: Behind the Scenes
The villains' secrets revealed.

Until recently the astral dominion of Tytherion existed in an uneasy truce between the two gods that shared it: Tiamat and Zehir. The god of serpents and poison intends to defeat the goddess of avarice, and bring dragonkind into his domain alongside all reptiles. To this end he elevated the green dragon Ghuladonkaranamis to the status of demigod, and promised a quick path to power for any dragons that converted. Turning away from the long, slow politics of Tiamat’s court, soon the green dragons joined the serpent god, with black dragons not far behind. The Night War is now in full swing with both gods vying for the loyalty of their followers.

In the distant astral sea float the corpses of dead gods. Upon one petrified body is built the greatest Githyanki city in any dimension: Tu’narath. Legend has it that Gith, saviour of her people from the mind flayers, made a pact with Tiamat and brokered by Dispater, to enlist the aid of the red dragons and protect her people. Tiamat’s red exarch Ephelomon is acting as the goddess’ ambassador to the lich-queen Vlaakith, now seeking the assistance of the Githyanki in her war against Zehir.

Enter Lady Osterneth. The demilich makes a counter-offer to Vlaakith and in a surprise betrayal, the ancient red dragon is murdered by his host and her ally. In a horrific ritual, Osterneth replaces the dying dragon’s heart with Ghuladon’s Blackened Heart and Ephelomon dies in agony. His scales turn a dull gray, the skin shrivels to the bone, and Ghuladonkaranamis is reborn in the exarch’s shell, more powerful than ever before.

Thus empowered, Ghuladon returns to Tytherion, the dark dominion shared by Zehir and Tiamat. In her fortress, the Towers of Night, she holds council with her own five exarchs, each promised dominion over a plane of existence.

Against all odds, the EDGE faced down Lady Osterneth in Sigil and survived the encounter. The archlich has regenerated thanks to her phylactery, held by the shadow dragon Faluzure in his fortress in the Shadowfell. Agents of Vecna have engineered an incursion by the demon prince Orcus into the Raven Queen’s domain, and her influence is significantly weakened. Sensing a lost cause and offered clemency, Tiamat’s white exarch Chillreave, has abandoned his charge and pledged himself to the Raven Queen. While the Demon Prince of the Undead and the Goddess of Winter struggle, Faluzure has quietly seized influence over vast territories and armies of the plane of shadow. At his command are armies of undead and forces of darkness, ready to join Ghuladon.

The ancient gray dragon Zebukiel, cursed for betrayal of his kind, has been given dominion over the Elemental Chaos. Negotiating with the ancient enemies of Tiamat, including catastrophic dragons and the salamanders, he has schemed and plotted his way into the highest echelons of power within the City of Brass. This city is one of the largest in the cosmos, on a par with Sigil or Hestavar, and Zebukiel plots to infuse Ghuladon’s armies with resistance to the elemental forces of fire, ice, and lightning that Tiamat’s dragons still command. Tiamat’s blue exarch, Namissi, now lays siege to the City of Brass.

With Tiamat’s most powerful exarchs slain or betrayed, the path is clear for a direct assault on the Dragon Queen’s own astral dominion. Dragotha, the first dracolich, leads the war in the astral sea, summoning metallic dragon knight-errants, legions of the undead, countless faithful of Zehir, and even mercenary bands of devils. The few remaining faithful of Tiamat desperately hold her lair of Azharul, or petition the other gods for aid.

The black dragon Gulgolossote, awarded the Feywild, is absent from the council: defeated by the EDGE, the same party of mortals that has thwarted Ghuladon’s plots. Enraged, Ghuladon demands her green dragon exarch Malifaxaghast eliminate the EDGE once and for all. Malifax’s success in elevating worship of Zehir among the mortals passes almost unnoticed, as Ghuladon’s vengeance takes top priority. Thus charged, Malifax gathers allies and prepares to strike at the EDGE in the mortal world…

Up next week: Harold’s adventure, and Adilisia’s epic destiny.

Breathless: Party Recap
Our heroes and their epic destinies.

In Breath of Zehir acts I and II, the green dragon Ghuladonkaranamis completed her foul ritual and became a vampire in the service of the god of darkness and poisons, Zehir. Gathering powerful armaments, harsh experiences, and unlikely allies, the adventuring group calling themselves the EDGE tracked the monster to her lair in the Shadowfell. In an epic battle, the party prevailed and slew Ghuladon, leaving only her dessicated heart as a powerful cursed artifact.

Ghuladon’s Blackened Heart did not remain with the party for long, however. In disguise, the demilich Lady Osterneth deceived the party into surrendering the artifact to her. With a smile and wink she vanished to parts unknown, leaving the party to dismantle Ghuladon’s empire and rebuild after her rampage.

The Eladrin huntress Vayastra finally finds a way to release her lost love, Codren, from the dark clutches of the shadowrift blade his soul was imprisoned within. Driving the blade into the defeated pit fiend Davy Jones, the blade relinquishes the fey and claims the devil’s instead. Codren, as a disembodied ghost, pledges to follow Vayastra wherever she may roam, and becomes the first of the band of nomads to follow her footsteps: the Vistani. Vayastra claims her epic destiny of Dark Wanderer, to walk the planes as a mythical figure for eternity.

Eladrin sorcerer Berrian discovers the true source of his arcane power: he is a vessel for the reincarnation of the dead primordial Heur-Ket, Prince of Storms. In a bold act of defiance, the EDGE travels to the heavenly city of Hestavar, seat of the gods of light, knowledge, and civilization, with intent to release their most powerful enemy. Evading Zehir’s assassins and angelic guardians, Berrian consumes the primordial’s vestige and achieves his epic destiny: Storm Sovereign. Fated to become an enemy of the gods and consumed by the power surging through him, Berrian is forced to choose his end: unlimited power, or self-annihilation.

Negotiating a truce between the blue dragon Balnarritorrimar and the black dragon Syzzlaxinathas, the party finds themselves on a mission to assassinate Ghuladon’s black dragon exarch: Gulgolossote. Venturing through the Feywild swamps of the distant Fenreach, braving the traps of her sunken lair, and navigating the seemingly endless rivers of acid, they confront the morbidly obese creature in her fetid dungeon. Despite most of the party being devoured by the beast, the EDGE prevails and claims her head. Syzzlaxinathas is indifferent to his aunt’s beheading, and forgives Balnar, infuriating him even further.

Half-orc rogue Ko’Gash is summoned to the Seven Heavens of Celestia, before Kord Himself. The god is pleased with Ko’Gash’s service and has decided to grant his wish for a homeland, should he prove himself worthy. The fallen deva-turned-rakshasa Ravana has despoiled Kord’s blessing and revels in battle for its own sake; Ko’Gash and his party travels to Chernoggar, the plane of endless battle, to redeem the fallen warrior. By his very nature, Ravana cannot be defeated in combat; through his own wisdom and those of his allies, both Ko’Gash and Ravana learn the differences between serving the gods of strength, war, and slaughter. Returning to Celestia, Ko’Gash is rewarded the epic destiny of Planeshaper, and a demiplane of his own to call home and make as he sees fit.

Kord also has a gift for the human barbarian clones Luxe, Zanne, and Skye, a single soul sundered by the Illithid Elder Brain of Diamond Peak. Ravana’s soul joins them as the trio receives the gift of a past life as a deva, and the epic destiny of Incarnate Champion. In time they will be joined by a third soul of their choosing, becoming a unique union of three shared souls through three bodies.

Whilst on the eternal battlefields of Chernoggar, the young half-orc warlord “Sponge” better known to the party as Tobias Junior is captured by the forces of Bane, god of war. In exchange for freedom Bane’s aspect, the Dictator, compels him to renounce his faith in Gruumsh, god of slaughter. Upon their return to the mortal world, Toby is unexpectedly reunited with his uncle Wertha, Orc Chieftan of the Thar. To the astonishment of the orcs, Toby handily defeats his uncle in a bid for chieftain, achieving his own epic destiny as Legendary Sovereign of the clans. Toby now faces his own crisis as the divine brand of Bane compels him to lead his own people against their very nature.

Next week: the villains, and their plotting behind the scenes.


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