Borderlands Session 37

And here it ends. The finale. The conclusion.

This session took place a month-and-change back, but it was too soon to really write about it. I needed the separation of time and another campaign. (Plus summer vacation and spending time with my li’l dude has really eaten into my drawing, D&D, and writing time.)

In the final minutes of the previous session, I had the dying Baba Yaga explode, releasing a wave of chaos energy. Mostly purely narrative reasons, to justify the release of the crazy elder aboleth squatting in the Red Mage’s Hat that had been around since pretty much the beginning of the campaign. The final boss conflict, effectively turning the single Baba Yaga battle into a two-phase boss fight. 

Which is fun as all the characters burned the majority of their powers in a witch-splattering nova. 

Background from the Background

The Red Made took the “inheritor” background from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. This gave him a minor magical item that he was supposed to guard. And he chose the hat as it was neat and part of the mini. Plus it matched the tone of the character, which was drawing inspiration from the red mages of Final Fantasy lore that could use offensive/ blasty black magic in addition to curative white magic. 

I made-up the hat as a custom magic item. It trapped the soul of the previous wearers, allowing the current wearer to employ the skills or knowledge of those souls inside. But the semi-trapped souls were being used as a spiritual buffer to contain a powerful aboleth that couldn’t be slain, sacrificing themselves to seal it away for all eternity. Like you do.  

The hat, as a magic item and as a MacGuffin, existed solely because the player chose that background. 

And now, at the end of the campaign, the elder aboleth has been freed. He’s the end boss. The final big bad. Whether he lives or dies will impact the Feywild and my campaign setting. And probably the party as they’ll either beat him or die trying.

Fallout

When Baba Yaga looked like she was going to explode, the party spread out. The Swashbuckler dashed away at ludicrous speed, while the Aasimar Bard and Grippli Rogue teleported to a distant hilltop. The Red Mage was left alone, and is now effectively solo-ing the aboleth.

Meanwhile, the previous battle took place at the heart of an army of fomorians and cyclopes. A small empty area cleared for Baba Yaga to perform a ritual. The forces were a few rounds away, but after the combat and defeat of Baba Yaga they should be relatively close. And there’s also Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut, which saw its master defeated and might be a little pissed. The Chicken Hut was largely static in the last fight as I wasn’t expecting to have the Baba Yaga boss battle so soon, and hadn’t finished its stat block. I found the time since then, so it will also engage.

There’s a lot going on right now.

So I’m expanding the battlefield and throwing down as many fomorian and giant minis as feels appropriate, along with the Chicken Hut. 

Meanwhile, the player of the Dragonborn Paladin was out the last couple sessions due to work. As a teacher, he lost his social life and free time for much of June and July in the frenzy of marking diploma exams. But he’ll be here for the finale, so his character needs to come in during a dramatically appropriate moment when things look grim.

So… like round two.

There might be too much going on…

Post-Game Report

It was a long but epic fight. The fomorians and cyclopes closed in as the Swashbuckler rushed back to the Red Mage, only to be savaged by the Hut for killing Baba Yaga. The Aasimar Bard (played by the Sharpshooter’s player, who opted to retire that character as their story arc felt complete) teleported herself and the Grippli Rogue back into the mix for further shenanigans. The Red Mage quickly pulled out the Instant Fortress and used that as a battering ram and hideaway, fleeing from the aboleth. But he quickly realized the Fortress wouldn’t keep out the Hut for long, because as a magical siege monster it would tear through the structure in a few rounds.

After a tense exchange of blows, the Dragonborn Paladin teleported in with reinforcements. As the dragonborn had previously starred in a shadowfell one-shot adventure, I had explained his absence in the past couple sessions with his negotiating with the shadow fey for their becoming involved with the war efforts, and now the shadar-kai forces had arrived. And because it was the final session and the pally needed a big damn hero moment, I also had him riding on the back of a shadow dragon. However, he appeared on the far side of the battle, and contented himself with holding off the fomorians for a few rounds, while the rest of the weakened party faced a pissed off birdhouse and an elder psychic squid. 

The party fled into the hut (against its wishes) prompting me to yank out a rando poster map for a quick interiour. While they were inside, the aboleth wasted no time putting the mind whammy on a few fomorians, convincing them it was Baba Yaga (only polymorphed) and tasking them with sending cyclopes into the Hut after the PCs (while also getting one fomorian to wear it as a hat, as squid-fish don’t walk very well). Things looked interesting for me. Would the campaign end with the evil aboleth being defacto leader of the fomorians and under-fae? 

The Dragonborn and dragon engaged the dagon-wannabee and eventually most of the party charged out of the Hut to help. The bard stayed behind looking for the “control room” of the Hut so she could take command and turn the Hut against the giants. 

It was crazy and swingy and things changed dramatically every round as every player dived deep into their utility belts for tricks and surprises. Just as an example, the dragon was hit by the fomorian’s deforming curse, but the paladin used Lay on Hands, removing the curse and allowing the dragon to smack around the aboleth. 

The pièce de résistance was the climactic penultimate round. At the end of his side story, the dragonborn paladin was given a special token by his friends in another adventuring party (comprised of pregens). In a scene flagrantly stolen from the end of Labyrinth, he was told that should he require their aid, he could break the talisman to signal them. It was more a flavour idea that would call them, telling them he needed help, and hadn’t been planned as a teleportation device. But the paladin declared he was going to use it to bring them in to finish the aboleth at the climax of the battle, and the idea seemed ridiculously awesome… so it became a teleportation device. Suddenly, every player had two PCs (except the paladin, who in fairness was also controlling a dragon) and all managed to take a turn. They all attacked and somehow each character managed to do one cool thing. The blood hunter missed with their attack, but still managed to turn a fallen fomorian into a blood puppet while the bard and tactician buffed the hell out of the dragonborn who smote the crap out of the aboleth. It was a crazy, ridiculous end to a battle and a campaign. 

From there the characters had their epilogues and said their goodbyes. The paladin, who had pretty much become the MVP of this fight, returned a few magic items that had been stolen along the way (with payment) and paid a few other victims of the party’s random thefts. The poor limbless potion merchant the party had burgled was handsomely compensated for their wares, which had helped saved the world. The players all mused about what they would be doing next and separated, some continuing to adventure and some seeking a life of peace. 

This left me a tad emotional. Endings are always bittersweet. And at 42 or 43 sessions, this was potentially my longest running campaign as a Dungeon Master. 

Although, it really did feel more like a season finale. The group had splintered before and they’re only level 13-15, so there’s room for another few levels of adventure (I’d kinda like to throw them against the tarrasque), to say nothing of many dangling plot threads and potential threats. It’d be neat to revisit the campaign in a number of years.

Maybe. 

We’re in a golen age of RPGs. There’s no shortage of amazing game systems I want to play, and I have no shortage of campaign ideas. 

What’s Next?

The player of the Swashbuckler took over as Dungeon Master for the foreseeable future, leaving me as a lowly player. With that occupying the immediate  future I’m trying not to think *too* hard of what comes next, or I’ll spend weeks and weeks prepping only to be pulled away by a new shiny like a living distracted boyfriend meme. 

There’s too many good ideas and too few weekends where I can game. I’d been jonesing for more horror, so the Pathfinder 1e Adventure Path Carrion Crown is calling to me. Likely moved into Ravenloft. And it’d be neat to do a longer campaign using Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire/ Age of Rebellion rules for Star Wars. More homebrew in the same campaign setting but with lower level characters could also be fun and be an opportunity to show how the previous campaign altered the world (which is half the fun of having a homebrew world, as it means the effects of PCs have consequences that don’t end with that campaign). And Cam Banks just reminded me of the Age of Mortals campaign for Dragonlance, which looks like hella fun (and would be interesting to tweak to reflect my table’s Heroes of the Lance).

But that’s assuming I don’t fall in love with a new game system or idea in the next twelve-plus months. 

There’s never enough time for all the games I want to run.

Shameless Plugs

If you liked this blog, you can support me and encourage future blogs.

I have a number of PDF products on the DMs Guild website, including a bundle of my Ravenloft books. Others include my first level 1 to 20 class, the TacticianRod of Seven Parts, TrapsDiseasesLegendary Monsters, a book of Variant Rules.

I play in a Star Trek Adventures game every other Saturday at 3:15 EST, streamed on Twitch and archived on YouTube. I  also regularly post STA content on Continuing Mission.

Additionally, the revision of my book, Jester David’s How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding is on DriveThurRPG, available for purchase as a PDF or Print on Demand! (Now in colour!) The book is a compilation of my worldbuilding blog series, but all the entries have been updated, edited, and expanded to almost two-hundred pages of advice on making your own fantasy world.

Plus, I have T-shirts available for sale over on TeePublic!