Delightfully cinematic ending to our "Lords of Memory" session today.
Due to schedules, it's been almost two months since we got together, and in that time my half-scribbled session prep for the Shrine of Ranian they were headed for had expanded into the Moon is a Mirror adventure.
I reskinned the dogfolk as goat men, since in this campaign the shrine is on the slopes of Mount Wint, but otherwise wrote it as written.
From the start, I thought we were headed for a misfire. "Moon" has specific rooms, but their arrangement within the palace is determined as players explore. Literally the first two random rooms they rolled were the stairs up to level 2, then the room with stairs up to the dome. Woops!
But it didn't work out that way, since the second set of stairs are hidden behind a secret door, so they explored about half of the second floor.
One thing that I really liked was the way the players learned so much about the adventure ahead - they had cleverly allied themselves with the goatfolk before getting anywhere near the shrine, for one thing.
That taught them to be wary of the sage (who is actually an evil moon reflection of the real sage), but it also added a neat twist. The goatfolk were desperate for help (the moon baby's enchantments compel them to guard it and fill it with traps), and begged the PCs not to kill their friends.
This meant that encounters with the goatfolk inside the shrine, normally a sort of low-powered fight with guard monsters, had a completely different function, with the players trying to scare them and drive them off rather than fighting tooth and nail.
The moon baby's second tier of guards are the "brass soldiers", which are incredibly dangerous. They're super slow, but as strong as forklifts, so getting in close quarters with them means certain strangulation.
My son's PC triggered the encounter with the moon baby by leaping into the arms of a patrolling brass soldier (he's super impulsive). Wisely, I had written that patrolling brass soldiers only want to drag their captives up to the moon baby, rather than fighting to kill, otherwise it would have been lights out immediately.
Everyone piles after Farrin and his the brass soldier carrying him, which reveals the hidden way up to the dome.
The moon baby's goal is to find wizards and turn them into reflections just like itself, to increase its magical power. Farrin is up for anything, so by the time the rest of the party ascends to the dome, he's agreed to 'see a vision' (which lets the moon baby check him out for magical powers).
He doesn't have any, other than his spiritual sensitivity ('Commune' skill), so she lets him go, turning her sights on 'Zero', who is lighting the party's way with a flaming hand.
It's at this point I should mention that I had forgotten to think of a way to kill the moon baby. It's immune to weapons (which turn to rainwater when they strike it), and even magical attacks are iffy. It has twelve brass soldiers, and it's careful to stay encircled by them. This could easily have turned into a TPK.
Here's where the party's intel made a huge difference. They knew it was an imposter from talking to the tithing troll, and they knew to look out for a brass bracelet. So when it insisted on giving Zero 'a vision', they sprang into action. Opera grabs the bracelet, Garbageo tries to shove it into the pool, and Zero invokes her flame magic.
Those were the good moves - the party also managed to waste an arrow, a thrown knife and a favorite sword (all turned to rainwater), but after the first round they had a decisive advantage.
Zero aces her spellcasting roll and the resulting incandescent heat blast is enough to crack the hearts of the two nearest soldiers.
The attempt to pitch the moon baby into the pool doesn't go as well, and Opera gets cut up by her "opposite knife" as a bunch of them all grapple at the edge.
At this point, Ferrin pulls out the gray knife and announces he's cutting the relection of the moon. This is one of those amazing player plans that caught me totally off guard, and it took me a full minute to figure out what this would even do.
The moon pool is a reflection of the moon that the sage used for scrying; seeing her own reflection (never do that!) is what allowed the moon baby passage to earth. The grey knife, on the other hand, is an artifact used to cut the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead.
So I decided it would open a portal to the moon!
So, just like the penultimate scene in Aliens at the airlock door, all the air in the place suddenly starts blasting into the well, which is suddenly a pit into an airless void.
In goes scrolls, loose scraps, all the Sage's tools. The party all makes their saves and Opera uses the bracelet to have the soldiers grab onto the party's clothes, holding them in place.
For a few moments, the moon baby and Opera struggle for the bracelet.. and the moon baby gets it. At that instant, Berlin, who has tied a rope about his waist (the other end tied to a soldier), full-on tackles the moon baby and pitches them both into the howling pit. He gets a mighty jolt about the middle, and the moon baby spirals down into darkness.
At this point, another hilariously emergent effect takes hold: the soldiers always move to be near the wearer of the bracelet. So, one by one the soldiers step up and toss themselves into the pit.. including the one Berlin has used as his anchor.
'Agatha' cuts that in time, and the party hauls Berlin up. With the moon baby back on the moon, the portal closes with an ear-popping crunch. The party looks into the pool (now bone dry), where they see the comatose body of the real Sage of Lune.
They actually cheered!