Ascension (3.5e Quest)
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Intended for four level 21+ adventurers.
To integrate this villain into an existing story/game, don't just have him jump out at the players. Instead, have him just be seen in the background of events, every now and then. The players should see him every now and then, but not know that he is manipulating all of their other enemies. Each time they see him in a different city or setting, he might look completely different with only one thing similar, such as a necklace, or the color of his robe. By doing this, the players should come to think that it is a group of people who are behind the scenes, instead of just one single powerful enemy. This is meant to be played as a final boss after many smaller quests.
- Prep Time 3+ hours
- Play Time several gaming sessions of 3+ hours
The type of quest whether urban, dungeon, or even tropical all depends on where the players have chosen to go (what the DM has chosen to create.) This quest is meant for dungeon masters who have a little bit more experience with world creation and like the idea of giving their players a lot of freedom around the world that they make, and for an experienced group of 3-4 players. Normally, this quest is not found in a dungeon but would be found in a place with people after the players leave the dungeon. The villain could sometimes be seen among the enemy leaders, but only for a moment and then he should disappear as if by teleportation. The dungeon master can introduce this quest by letting the players see the villain several times, but never catch him.
The world is not a peaceful place. There have been wars and chaos in many lands for the better part of a century. With only a few nations around the world that are not controlled by mad kings or tyrannical dictators, the world has become an increasingly hard place to live in, and very few do not know how to fight. This quest can be based in any world that has lots of war and that the Dungeon Master knows well. I based it in the Forgotten Realms in the area around Baldur's Gate.
The villain says things like "YOU WILL NEVER STOP THE ASCENSION" or like "CHAOS WILL COME" before disappearing with an evil smile. The players should realize that the villain is trying to use them or the npc's that they sometimes work with. They should try to seek out information about a symbol on the villain; such as on a necklace or a patch sewn onto his robe. This symbol should be a flaming heart churched in a draconic hand. Also, the villain intends to hurt people, so have an npc that the players like get hurt because of the minions of the villain. This might make the players more involved by having them dislike the villain and wanting to take revenge on the bad guy. Quote from a 20 year DM "The only thing more dangerous than a magician with no limits, is a bored magician with no limits."
The quest is built around the villain. It needs to be in a world where there is a lot of conflict or wars. The villains name is Mendigo, and he is a mad Jinn sorcerer. He believes he can transform into a godlike beast if he can absorb enough chaotic energy from the world; therefor he is going out to start wars, manipulate kings and cause chaos. Though he called a mad Jinn, he is very intelligent and often does not reveal himself in his true form. He will use his magic to shapeshift into other species to better control what is going on around him and to teleport out when danger approaches.
The main NPC of this quest is Mendigo, a mad Jinn sorcerer with a powerful affinity for manipulating people to do whatever he wants. He is a level equal to the players level + 4, which is why a group of players are recommended. He is the only NPC in this quest that is very important. The DM can have any other npcs that want, but a fun twist might be for the DM to make a spy or two for the villain, that act as a normal person, who the players repeatedly come into contact with. This will make hunting down the bad guy a very PERSONAL deal by making friends turn out to be enemies.
Mendigo himself starts off as a level 5 Sorcerer with a Dire Tiger as his advanced familiar. Being a generic sorcerer, he uses a variety of spells. However, he is particularly fond of Transmutation and Evocation magic, with lots of summoning magic as support, but is not limited to just those schools, as he is also strong in enchantment and illusion for controlling other people.
Mendigo often gives a small gem to the people he manipulates. The gem is enchanted to make the holder more prone to anger, more impulsive, and inflict them with confusion and insanity. The gem will often be in the form of a ring, necklace or brooch, but it is an item Mendigo always leaves behind. It would look like a beautiful ruby, but with a small black speck in side or it. The size of the ruby is never larger than a marble, so a player would have to roll a DC 25 search check or a DC 30 spot check to find it after Mendigo has vanished. Once it is in a players possession, it takes an easy DC save of 15 or higher to stop it from inflicting a player with confusion. This save needs to be rolled once a day for as long as the ruby is in their possession, and every day the save DC increases by 3. The gem is considered a cursed item and must be destroyed for the confusion to be dispelled. After it has been in the possession of a player for three or more days it then inflicts them with insanity with a will save of 30, increasing by 2 in difficulty each day until it is destroyed. If the DC role increases to the point were it is not possible for a will save to succeed then confusion and insanity become permanent and can only be removed by a wish or miracle spell. Aside from that, Mendigo has a large void pocket that he stores his treasures and rare artifacts in.
Stage One: Recognition
The first stage or the quest is rather slow and can be done while the players are doing other smaller quests. This is the stage where the players realize that there is an antagonist (a bad guy/villain) to their story. The players need to discover him without knowing his true identity and try to learn who he really is. Players can obtain clues in Knowledge History checks of 30 or higher that would reveal that the villain is part of an ancient cult that worships primordial chaos. However the check should not reveal the villains name or details about him because the villain is so secretive; there are no records about the villain. The players should find a ruby that Mendigo leaves behind after fighting someone that he manipulated into causing chaos or a war. The first trick is getting the ruby which should be claimed after a level 21 encounter with a group of enemies. Make it something like a prominent member in a city or a noble in a city starts to cause chaos or tries to cause a fight with another for apparently no reason. It may be one large battle or several small battles that happen in a row but it all should only take about an hour at most for game play from the time they think something is wrong to the moment where they finish their battle with the noble. This part takes some experience on the DM's part in being able to set up a battle/battles that would take up about that amount of time. It is important also to understand what the players can and can't handle so that they don't die through this step. After the battle/battles and they are standing in front of the noble or prominent member of the city they should also see a hooded figure standing behind the person in question. This figure should disappear shortly after the players get a look him without seeing his face. At that point the noble should attack the players with some magic, preferably evocation magic, with the intention of killing them (however it is ok if this person is not that strong because this point is just the start of the quest.) As a matter of fact the DM could make it so that local records show that this noble never had any history of being able to use magic thus making his actions all the more suspicious if the players decide to look into it. The hooded figure that disappeared should fall under suspicion at this point. After the player defeat the noble they should find some jewelry on his body and clutched in the nobles hand should be the ruby that the hooded figure gave the noble. This ruby should put off a weak yet foul energy as if it has had the touch of a demon in order to create it, but it should not have enough energy to be used again.
Stage Two: The Minions
Minions are an important part in any story for the villain to be successful in making the adventure fun for the players. Mendigo has a group of followers that he uses sometimes to do his dirty work and that will hinder the players when they get too close to the main bad guy. Have at least 5 strong npcs that are sometimes seen following around Mendigo and working for him. These can be anything from an elf rogue of dark elf assassin. Keep in mind that the minions are bad guys too so try not to make one of them a paladin of light because it is contradicting to the story. And if the minions are strong enough themselves then make sure that they have some underlings of their own. This is a level 21 setting after all, don't make it easy, but make it possible. After The players got the ruby in step one then they will need to investigate it to find out how it relates to Mendigo. During the investigation, preferably the next day so that the players have had a chance for their characters to rest if they are running low on health or spells, you should have one of the 5 main minions show up to cause trouble with their underlings. This should get the players excited about the story and really get things moving in the adventure. The enemy should make it clear that they intend to take back the ruby before the players can discover more about it and they should also be trying to stop the players from interfering in their master's plan by eliminating them. If the players had started to learn about the ruby the DM could say that it would take a full day for a magic user to study the ruby in order to learn its secrets. This will give the needed time lapse for the new encounter to take place. Even if the player left the area, you can make it so that the bad guys show up and say that it is easy for them to track the ruby. This will make it so that the players cannot evade the coming fight. There should be just enough enemies in the encounter for the players to be kept bust for about 10 rounds and to cause them to focus on their own individual enemies for a couple minutes. This could leave their magic user who should has the ruby in a vulnerable state. Have the main minion that is leading their underlings in this fight, focus on the parties magic user and make an attempt to grapple with them so that the magic user will not be able to cast spells properly. It would be good to make the bad guy a strong rouge so that at this point they can make a slight of hand check so that they can try to steal the ruby back. If this fails it should alert the players to the intention of the bad guys so that they can make changes in strategy which should lead the players to slowly defeating the underlings at which time the bad guy should break free of the grapple and flee. If the steal of the ruby succeeds, then the bad guy should let go of the grapple and try to flee. The bad guy should SHOUT something like this to their underlings that are engaging the players "I GOT THE RUBY. KEEP THEM BUSY TILL I AM OUT OF HERE THEN RETREAT." This should make the players become desperate to get the ruby back because they now realize it is more important than they thought. However the bad guy does not use magic so they should be easy to chase if the players get the chance. Since the players are around epic levels they should be able to break at least one of the group off to chase the bad guy down. The bad guy should realize that they can't escape so they should turn and fight the one chasing them. It should be a relatively even fight with any one of the players so make sure that the players is aware that this is a dangerous opponent to be fighting alone and that they can die if they are not careful. Upon the defeat of the enemy the players should have a day or two to rest and discover the information that the ruby's origin can be tracked. This should lead the group to a hideout away from any city, in the countryside, where they meet two more of the main minions of the villain and catch a glimpse of the villain himself again.
The players may have to scry to find the villain or the DM may leave clues, but eventually the players should find the villain´s fortress, which should be a maze of traps and guardians, leading to a climax wherein the players meet the villain just as the Ascension is occuring! Possibilities for what the Ascension include opening a gate to the lower planes (the villain may have been promised godhood or something if he does so), the ritual to become a lich, an actual ascension to godhood, or anything else the DM may think up. The villain should have some henchmen on hand to prevent the PCs from meddling, and the Ascension should actually be allowed to occur to increase the tension and make the climax more epic (hmmm... maybe the villain was a prophet, he did say the PCs would not stop it). If the villain is actually ascending, then the DM may allow him to escape, allowing the adventure to continue to ¨Superepic¨ Levels (aka ¨god levels¨).
The ruby may have any purpose that the DM thinks fits, and, if necessary, the villain may figure out a way to recover it. One possibility that would really, really, really irritate players (and who doesn't want to see that?) Would be for it to be a red herring!