And here it is. The end of the tale. Note that during this series, I’ve been reposting everything verbatim, typos and all. For these last entries I’ve fixed a few errors and messed around with the formatting. I haven’t changed the events, cut any text, or altered any of the dialog. I just wanted to make the text a little more readable and combine everything so the finale wasn’t spread out over too many entries.
ACT III: It Ends Badly
Scene One:We have reached the Necropolis. We get the character’s dumbfounded reactions as Casey describes it: It’s a place of white clouds and rainbow bridges. Birds. Flowers. Butterflies.
We cut back to the table and see that Casey is sick, and out of his mind on cough medicine. (This was written before we came up with the earlier strip where Casey gets sick. Maybe this would have been too much, to have him get sick twice like this.) This setup is a nod to a classic – perhaps even legendary – Fear the Boot gaming story. FtB host Luke actually did this once, and he’s still teased about it today.
At the Necropolis Casey tries a few of the World’s Most Obvious Quest Hooks, which the players sidestep or ignore. They don’t want any sidequests. They want to head right for the Black Obelisk. Casey tries to force them, and Chuck puts his foot down.
Chuck insists that players MUST have the freedom to play the game as they see fit. They want to be free to act and deal with the consequences, without the GM helping or punishing them based on his preferences.
On hearing this, Casey becomes suddenly insidious. “Oh REALLY?” He stops trying to railroad them and lets them head north for the Obelisk.
Before leaving town, Josh buys a grapple hook and a mile of rope.
I think this would actually be a good spot to have the players remember the pigs they were carrying. Shawn and I were trying to work this joke in at various times since the attack on Calm Meadows. Casey tries to pressure them in the blackened wilderness on the way to the Obelisk, threatening them with starvation. Having never said they got rid of the pigs, but also not mentioning them for the last several game sessions, the players manage to swindle Casey and convince him they still have the pigs, which they eat.
There is another encounter with something absurd and seemingly overpowering. Josh kills it in a single round with his Rulebook-Fu.
The party reaches the Obelisk. Casey very nearly talks them to death with his breathless description of the evil of the place. Josh has some convoluted plan he’s working on with the ropes, but the players ignore him and head inside.
There is a massive spiral staircase leading up the inside of the tower. Topaz gets blasted by a magical trap as soon as she steps on the first step. They very quickly realize the there are thousands and thousands of steps going upwards, and Casey has most likely trapped them all.
Josh calls them back outside. He hands Topaz the grapple hook and rope and tells her to levitate up the side of the tower and hang the hook from the topmost window, which was the first thing readers were shown in the very first comic. (Marcus, never one to pay attention to game mechanics, didn’t even know he COULD levitate.) Casey is irritated, having just seen them route around a lot of his hard work, but he’s still being smug and cryptic. He’s planning something.
(Childish punchline panel: Topaz is flying up the tower. Lucretia looks bored, arms folded. The guys are Looking Up at their miniskirt-wearing mage levitating above them. )
The players climb the rope and pile into the topmost room, having circumvented everything below it. They find themselves in the “Throne Room” of Deuse Baaj, who has been waiting for them.
The party is now face-to-face with their vaguely defined and poorly conceived nemesis. Deuse (Casey) begins what promises to be a very long bit of exposition. It is revealed that he is not a Necromancer: He’s a LICH.
Everyone is outraged. (Except for Marcus, who doesn’t know any better.) A Lich is way, way out of their league. They protest. Casey points out that there were sidequests available which would have let them to seek out the “seven parts of the Ageless Armor” and the “Twelve Shards of the Champion”, an armor and sword which would have given them the power to defeat Deus Baaj.
It’s obvious his plan for this campaign was for them to go on a long series of fetch quests, so at the end Casey’s Super Weapon could defeat Casey’s Super Villain. Luther the Gnome had the information needed to get the armor, and the sidequests in the Necropolis would have led them to the sword.
Casey is smug. He’s obviously trying to teach them a lesson about resisting his railroad plot, and he’s decided that a Total Party Kill is the best way to drive that lesson home.
Deuse resumes his Big Speech. Josh announces a sneak attack. He runs at Deuse. It turns out Deus has some artifact that puts people under his sway if they come within thirty feet of him.
Josh: No problem. My saving throw is…
Casey (Evil grin.): This one is charisma based.
Josh: Oh crap.
Josh has been undone by his own min-maxing and falls under the sway of the Lich, who tells him to jump out the window. Out he goes.
Josh argues that he SHOULD be able to grab the rope on the way down and save himself. Casey relents, and lets Josh do so, at the cost of taking 8d6 “rope burn damage”. Josh is now at the bottom and out of the fight. (We would have established earlier that it takes a long, long time to climb the tower. There is no way for Josh to get back into the battle in time.)
Chuck reminds Casey that he still has the spear of insta-killing undead. Casey had forgotten about this. They all laugh at Casey, because this campaign is about to be undone by his super-weapon from an earlier campaign.
Ramgar THROWS the spear to avoid entering the radius where he would fall under Douchbag’s control. Chuck rolls a one. The spear goes out the window and lands point-down, right beside Josh. (This is another nod to a classic FtB gaming story.) The players go back to being screwed.
Marcus sees that things are about to end badly. Having died so many times already, he really wants to escape this one alive. He decides to run for it, climbs out the window and begins climbing down the rope.
Lich’s turn now. Casey is being vindictive. Rather than fighting one of the two remaining players, he’s more concerned with making sure that nobody escapes alive. He spends his turn going over to the window and kicking the grapple hook loose, letting Topaz fall to her death.
Marcus tries to cast levitate. Casey overrules him, saying he can’t cast while falling. This is NOT in the rulebooks, and seems to be an ad-hoc house rule. They argue, but Casey comes up with very flimsy justifications for it and moves on.
(I’m thinking that MAYBE Josh saves her in some way I haven’t devised yet, or maybe she just pancakes at the bottom. Either way, she’s out of the fight. I’ve noticed readers have been getting upset at Marcus’ bad fortune. His deaths have been viewed as “mean” instead of “absurd”, and that’s not what I was going for. I might have used the “death” of Jade to help me gauge which way I should write this.)
Only two players left. Ramgar is unarmed and Lucretia doesn’t have any magic that can hurt this guy.
It’s now Lucretia’s turn. She walks over to Douchebag and stops one step short of his magical mind-control radius. She takes out the potion of “bring anyone, ANYONE back to life, anytime” – which I hope the reader has forgotten about until now – and chucks it at the Bad Guy with a simple underhand toss. It shatters and splashes him.
Casey tries to protest. But if this potion could bring back someone chopped into paste by a trap (see Act I) then it should certainly work on this guy. The players think this should destroy him (like throwing a Pheonix Down on an undead in Final Fantasy) but Casey isn’t ready to accept defeat just yet. Instead, he announces that Deuse Baaj is now… alive again? So they’re just fighting a Wizard instead of an undead Lich? He doesn’t even know how to handle this. He consults the rulebook.
It comes around to Ramgar’s turn again. Ramgar runs and delivers a flying leap-kick to Douchebag, who, if you remember, is still standing at the window from when he sent Topaz falling. Ramgar entering his sway doesn’t cause a problem, since he’s just a very heavy projectile at this point. His boot sends Douchebag out the window. Casey tries to react:
Casey: As he falls, Deuse casts feather fall-
Everyone: YOU CAN’T CAST WHILE FALLING.
Deuse plummets to his death where he lands on the spear at the bottom.
There is a pause where Josh stares at the impaled Deuse. Then, just for good measure, he gives the guy a halfhearted and disappointed poke with his knife.
I haven’t written a denouement, so our tale ends here. I hope this helps close the tale for you. I do thank everyone for reading.
That’s how it ended. Hope you enjoyed it. Also, thanks to Shawn for getting the great re-posting project rolling. It really is nice knowing the comic has a proper home again and wasn’t lost to the bit bucket.
There’s one last bonus comic coming, and then this series will be done for good.
Best. Plot Twist. Ever.
Few people remember BioWare's Jade Empire, but it had a unique setting and a really well-executed plot twist.
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A horrible, railroading, stupid, contrived, and painfully ill-conceived roleplaying campaign. All in good fun.
Starcraft: Bot Fight
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Here is a 13 part series where I talk about programming games, programming languages, and programming problems.