Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Winds of Change (Part 1)

Introduction


Winds of Change is a short series of encounters for characters who have just arrived at the epic tier. It is loosely based on the Bukidnon epic known as "Matabagka Searches for the Deity of the Wind," which can be read at Damiana Eugenio's Philippine Folk Literature: The Epics which was published by UP Press. I say loosely because there are a lot of things that have been omitted and added in the interest of making it fit as a D&D 4E game. The result is a far cry from the original epic - nevertheless, I encourage you to check it out if you can find it.


This is not a complete adventure. Winds of Change consists of three key encounters, with fluff text on background events as well as a general flow of the plot. Encounter maps are not included for now. (But I plan on adding them, I promise, even if it's just me hand-drawing them onto some graphing paper. I may not be able to bother my artists with something that I cannot and should not earn from.)


You can say that this is me dipping my finger into the epic D&D gameplay. I want to get a feel for it before I embark on something more substantial.



Background


Soon after the son and daughters of Bathala took his place as the rulers of Kalangitan, the first ponongdatu appeared. Ulap, son of the sun, gathered the other children born of the gods in their youthful trysts with mortals below. Together with his brother, Imbununga, he led these godblooded warriors in subjugating the warring barangays. Like bamboo stalks faced with the winds of the strongest typhoons, the datus bowed one by one to the supernatural might of the Sons of Kalangitan. And thus, the kingdom of a thousand islands was born.


The kingdom prospered through hundreds of harvests, but the Sons of Kalangitan were not satisfied. They envied their patrons that now ruled the skies and they longed to control the celestial bodies for themselves. They wished to march their armies to their mothers and fathers and demand that they share, nay, concede their rule to the Sons, for they are the rightful heirs. But though they could fly, their pure mortal servants could not.


Ulap and Imbununga agreed - they must build a bridge to Kalangitan. Enchanting Ulap's garments, the brothers manifested a bridge of light manifested by Ulap's rain and held aloft by Imbununga's winds. With their bridge of many colors, they assaulted the skies and waged war with the gods and their anito/angelic servants.


At first, it seemed as though the Sons of Heaven would be able to defeat their forebears. Though every anito was the equal of a Son in terms of strength, Kalangitan simply did not have the numbers to match the mortals that flooded their shores. But their victory turned to misery when the gods finally convinced Adlao, god of the sun and patron of battle, to raise his spear against his sons. With the fury of the sun, the god seared his sons' armies by the thousands, making the sky rain with the ashes that were once their bodies. Not even the other godspawn could match Adlao's fury in battle, and one by one they fell.


Imbununga was filled with horror as his friends and subjects died under his father's power. Even as he struggled for a way to stop his father, though, he saw that Ulap simply could not accept defeat. In the face of death, Ulap meant to face his father against impossible odds. That was something Imbununga could not allow. As his brother passed by him, rallying what remained of their people, Imbununga struck his own brother with his sword. He then called out to his father, declared himself the new leader of the Sons of Kalangitan, and announced their surrender.


The Sons of Kalangitan and what remained of their forces were spared by their divine parents, but their audacity still comes with a cost. Buan Maykapal, sister of Adlao, decreed that mortals can no longer be bound by a single datu. Whenever the seeds of a bright kingdom threatens to rival that of Ulap's kingdom, then they will be destroyed in the same way - by Imbununga's hand.


The Present: The Prophecy to the Ponongdatu


It has been a few years since the events that have transpired during the paragon tier, and the thousand islands of Kalupaan enjoy an unprecedented peace. Through events with which the player characters have most likely have taken part of, the petty wars of the barangays have ended and the datus honor the ponongdatu Agyo as their chief.


As of late, the ponongdatu has neglected his duty, neglecting his court and keeping to his chambers. Refusing food and drink, he sits on his bed and refuses to speak. His only commands are to leave him alone as he wails in the night. The babaylanes are baffled as he wastes away - no sickness has come to him and his tumanod (primal spirits) continue to guard him from supernatural attack.


As Agyo sinks deeper and deeper into despair, otherworldly creatures of that feed on nightmares begin to appear and terrorize the people of Nalandangan, the ponongdatu's seat of power. Undayag, the aging mother of Agyo, sends a message to the heroes. As some of Agyo's closest confidantes,  perhaps they could find the cause of his despair and end these attacks.


ENCOUNTER: DRAWN TO DESPAIR 
Level 21 (16200 xp)


Agyo currently despairs for the people under his rule, desperately wishing that an imminent disaster that could destroy all that he has built could unfold. His emotions attract the attention of a batibat, who seeks to consume the desperate hope of the datu in her continuous gluttony. She has summoned a number of creatures bound to her, including a kapatiran of nightmare tikbalangs. The hag has heard of Agyo's prowess as a warrior king, however, so she has called a powerful Type III demon from beyond the tides and offered it a substantial amount of souls to consume.


The characters encounter some of thecreatures that are bound to the batibat from the moment they enter the barangay. These monsters are fairly minor and provide no challenge to an epic party, and dispatching them is just a matter of roleplay. Notably, the warriors of the ponongdatu are also fighting the creatures. The characters can effectively rally the warriors together with a complexity 1 skill challenge.


The characters will encounter the main force of the batibat invasion just outide of the ponongdatu's balay.


Features of the Area: The public entrance to the ponongdatu's balay is also the ruler's receiving area. A short flight of bamboo stairs (10ft ascent) leads to an open, domed room adorned with a luxurious bed and silks of the finest quality. On either side of this public area is an entryway, also draped in seashells, into the other areas of the balay. The area is mostly clear, as this is where the ponongdatu usually makes public declarations in addition to receiving everyday guests.


There are a few coconut trees in the area, though it is never in a place where the public bedchambers of the ponongdatu are in direct line of sight from anyone climbing the tree. Other trees may also be included, although they are regularly pruned, keeping them short and dense enough to prevent them from being used by would-be assassins.


If the characters rallied the ponongdatu's warriors earlier on, one member of the party can spend a standard action each round to direct the warriors to attack the opponents. Area burst 1; +26 vs. AC; 3d8 + 16 damage (half on miss). This ability is disabled when the Type III demon uses Chaos Word for the first time as the attack confuses and hurts the warriors.
  • 6 Tikbalang Infernal Slaves
  • 1 Dream Hag (see the D&D 4E MONSTER MANUAL 3), refluffed into a Batibat
  • 1 Type III Demon (modified Glabrezu, see the D&D 4E MONSTER MANUAL)
Tactics: The batibat coordinates its attacks with the tikbalangs, trying to get as many opponents unconscious to make the tikbalangs' attacks more vicious. She will attempt to run away once bloodied. The tikbalangs will move each round to be as far apart from each other as possible, but they will change this pattern if directed by their batibat mistress. 

The Type III demon, on the other hand, has a different agenda. While it is intrigued by the batibat's offer of soul larvae, it has no plans on collecting the payment. The creature wants to see the vulnerable state of what it has been told is a powerful king. If true, it plans on killing the batibat and goad the datu into vile, destructive acts of desperation. As such, it will only protect the batibat for so long. Once it realizes that the hag is trying to escape, it will fly to the hag and destroy her as a standard action. (No attack roll is necessary.) It will then continue to fight the party until its physical presence in Kalupaan is destroyed; when it reaches 0hp, its form falls apart into a dozen shadow hounds that run away in different directions.

The Type III demon can uproot a coconut tree within 3 squares of it as a minor action. It may then use the tree to impale its opponents. 

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Tikbalang Infernal Slave: While the rest of tikbalangkind snort at the idea of submitting to the rule of others, the nightmare tikbalangs have embraced it by bargaining with the forces of hell. Like all creatures, however, tikbalangs find that bargaining with devils is a downward spiral. Where once they found themselves in positions of power, tikbalang infernal slaves are desperate for the infernal magic that they now depend on.




(Yeah, the above description is not that well thought out. Incidentally, I'm not even sure I need to distinguish between the two variations of the nightmare tikbalang. In my opinion, it gives the players a sense of growth when the standard monster at level 14 is now just a level 19 minion. For more information on the level 14 nightmare tikbalang, check out Tikbalang: Guardians of Kalikasan.)



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Miniature image. D&D miniatures
produced by Wizards of the Coast
Type III Demon: Make the following adjustments to the glabrezu (MONSTER MANUAL) to turn it into a Type III demon, which conforms to modern damage and defense standards:


AC 36; Fortitude 38, Reflex 35, Will 37


STANDARD ACTIONS


MBA: Pincer Claw * At-will
Attack: Melee 3 (one creature): +28 vs. AC
Hit: 3d10 + 15 damage.


M: Impale * Must be holding a coconut tree
Attack: Melee 5 (one creature): +26 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d10 + 15 damage, and the target is restrained (escape DC 30). The target also takes ongoing 15 damage while restrained.
Effect: The demon lets go of the tree.


MINOR ACTIONS


R: Abyssal Bolt * At-will
Attack: Ranged 10 (one creature): +26 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d4 + 7 damage


Bu: Blasphemous Word (psychic) * Encounter
Attack: Close Burst 5 (enemies in burst): +26 vs. Will
Hit: 3d12 + 16 psychic damage, and the target is dazed until the end of the Type III demon's next turn.


Bu: Chaos Word (psychic) * Recharge 6
Attack: Close Burst 5 (enemies in burst): +26 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 3d12 + 16 psychic damage. This damage bypasses all resistances.