Author Topic: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?  (Read 529 times)

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Offline Druss_the_Legend

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In my campaign a PC has been sent to The Void via a magical trap. How would you handle his rescue?

Some ideas ive come up with so far are...
1) They make a deal with some powerful entity, perhaps one also trapped in the Void (eg. Demon or God or an evil wizard who has been banished and needs help from the PC in return)
2) Allow the party to recruit a magician and have them try to convince them to undertake a dangerous solo mission into the Void to tray and find them and bring them back. There is a magician currently in the party, around lvl 7. Thats a bit low level for such a solo quest but perhaps there is a way to boost their power via an artifact/magic item which the party must locate first.
3) As number '2' above except the party must recruit a high level magician and persuade them its worthwhile undertaking such a task... probably in exchange for a dept/favour/quest decided by the mage.

Not so fast!
As an added complication, the party have a tight window for any type of side quest. About two hours to come up with something before they must leave their current location and travel to a far off city via a magic portal. If the trapped PC isnt saved by then, they will be left sidelined until the main quest is completed... could be another 3 sessions before they are in a position to devote time for a rescue.

How would you handle such a complication?
Sidelining the PC for more sessions isnt the end of the world... he can play as one of the 4 NPCs in the party if needed...
My current thinking is let the party come up with something and roll with that. In theory ANY idea could work... there just isnt much time to execute an elaborate plan... I threw them the curveball, now its on them to find a solution right?

Offline MisterK

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2024, 03:43:36 AM »
I threw them the curveball, now its on them to find a solution right?
Not really. They can try and fail to come up with a solution, and then it's up to *you* to deal with a player who can't play their character for a length of time (or, potentially, permanently - this is the Void we are talking about, honestly, when I read the first line of your post, my first thought was "OK, the PC is dead and unresurrectable, what are we going to talk about ?").

I think of your situation exactly as a lethal trap: as a GM you designed it, so you knew there was a chance for one or more PCs to fall in it and die. That's not the players' fault if they fail their RRs or perception rolls.

Let's get back to your options. I think what they lack mostly is bite - something meaningful. Maybe it's only the way you present them, but I am under the impression that this is only an occasion for an additional side quest, but that the PCs will be essentially the same (and potentially a bit more powerful) after the rescue and the favour. I am also under the impression that you consider that saving the trapped PC is an automatic choice.
And I think it does the situation a disservice and reduces their agency even more than having a PC essentially out because of bad luck at dice.

In light of that, I would refrain from your options 2 and 3.
- option 2 because it reeks of McGuffin deus ex machina and your players were not the one to come up with the idea. Additionally, you will have to find a way to dispose of the artifact after the deed, and unless you are quite creative, your players will be in their right to ask such questions as "OK, now we know it is possible to create actifacts to boost one's power, why don't we acquire a few of those - and about that, how come most powerful NPCs do not have some already - including some that they don't use anymore becaus they have out-powered them ?". Suspension of disbelief is more difficult to maintain the more McGuffins you add to a campaign (my personal upper limit is either zero or one).
- option 3 is a problem because, why would the powerful NPC wizard do them a favour that they could not repay in kind ? If they require a mage much more powerful than they are, the mage would likely ask for a favour that requires a power higher than *his/her own* in exchange. The deal is only fair if they are approximately the same level (and then it's not a question of power but a question of specialisation).
A more interesting alternative would be to have the mage require a bit more than a favour - retainer service for a length of time. "I will do what you want, but I want your complete obedience for the next five years - you will do as I say, no questions asked and no wiggling out of the deal". And then the mage sends them away to do the things s/he wants done but does not have the time or patience to do him/herself, or because s/he wants deniable assets, times and again. It makes an interesting source of future adventures but the thing is, they must feel the sting of being essentially owned for a time. No time out for family or personal matters, no refusing something because of personal beliefs or ideals - they do the deed and take the blame when appropriate.
Option 1 is essentially a nasty form of the revised option 3, but I don't like it either in the form you suggest. Once again, we are talking about a very powerful and alien entity. The entity will demand a price a bit higher than anything the PCs would accept. It will ask for obedience. It will ask for subservience, for continuing service. It can sweeten the pot a bit to push them, but basically, a demon or a god wants either minions, souls, or both - and preferably both, and will try to trick them for it (and likely succeed if they are desperate for help). If it requires only temporary service, be sure to include such a service as they would likely *not* undertake on their own free will. Furthermore, the entity is not dumb, so it will ensure that the PCs cannot weasel out of the service afterwards - it would likely require them to fulfil the service *first*, and when the service is to release a demonic entity, ancient undead spirit of a powerful magical tyrant, or god of strife, do you really want to do that *before* it has helped you, or even at all ?

The key idea is to offer them a choice with a cost: you can save your friend, but you will hate what you have to do to save them. Or you can choose not to save them, but you will always hate yourself for not doing it. In other words, do you value your integrity more than friendship ?

And *that* is an interesting quandary. True character, as the saying goes, is what you are in the dark. Regardless of their choice, they will have the scars to prove it. The consequences are more than just another adventure. We are talking about loss, about growth through adversity.

But I hope for you that you forewarned your players about the risk of arbitrary loss of character during a campaign (because of bad luck). If the social contract is agreed by all parties involved, then it's fair. If it was not the shared agreement, then you are in trouble. I know that my campaigns are not based on such a contract.

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2024, 04:59:20 AM »
I threw them the curveball, now its on them to find a solution right?
Not really. They can try and fail to come up with a solution, and then it's up to *you* to deal with a player who can't play their character for a length of time (or, potentially, permanently - this is the Void we are talking about, honestly, when I read the first line of your post, my first thought was "OK, the PC is dead and unresurrectable, what are we going to talk about ?").

I think of your situation exactly as a lethal trap: as a GM you designed it, so you knew there was a chance for one or more PCs to fall in it and die. That's not the players' fault if they fail their RRs or perception rolls.

Let's get back to your options. I think what they lack mostly is bite - something meaningful. Maybe it's only the way you present them, but I am under the impression that this is only an occasion for an additional side quest, but that the PCs will be essentially the same (and potentially a bit more powerful) after the rescue and the favour. I am also under the impression that you consider that saving the trapped PC is an automatic choice.
And I think it does the situation a disservice and reduces their agency even more than having a PC essentially out because of bad luck at dice.

In light of that, I would refrain from your options 2 and 3.
- option 2 because it reeks of McGuffin deus ex machina and your players were not the one to come up with the idea. Additionally, you will have to find a way to dispose of the artifact after the deed, and unless you are quite creative, your players will be in their right to ask such questions as "OK, now we know it is possible to create actifacts to boost one's power, why don't we acquire a few of those - and about that, how come most powerful NPCs do not have some already - including some that they don't use anymore becaus they have out-powered them ?". Suspension of disbelief is more difficult to maintain the more McGuffins you add to a campaign (my personal upper limit is either zero or one).
- option 3 is a problem because, why would the powerful NPC wizard do them a favour that they could not repay in kind ? If they require a mage much more powerful than they are, the mage would likely ask for a favour that requires a power higher than *his/her own* in exchange. The deal is only fair if they are approximately the same level (and then it's not a question of power but a question of specialisation).
A more interesting alternative would be to have the mage require a bit more than a favour - retainer service for a length of time. "I will do what you want, but I want your complete obedience for the next five years - you will do as I say, no questions asked and no wiggling out of the deal". And then the mage sends them away to do the things s/he wants done but does not have the time or patience to do him/herself, or because s/he wants deniable assets, times and again. It makes an interesting source of future adventures but the thing is, they must feel the sting of being essentially owned for a time. No time out for family or personal matters, no refusing something because of personal beliefs or ideals - they do the deed and take the blame when appropriate.
Option 1 is essentially a nasty form of the revised option 3, but I don't like it either in the form you suggest. Once again, we are talking about a very powerful and alien entity. The entity will demand a price a bit higher than anything the PCs would accept. It will ask for obedience. It will ask for subservience, for continuing service. It can sweeten the pot a bit to push them, but basically, a demon or a god wants either minions, souls, or both - and preferably both, and will try to trick them for it (and likely succeed if they are desperate for help). If it requires only temporary service, be sure to include such a service as they would likely *not* undertake on their own free will. Furthermore, the entity is not dumb, so it will ensure that the PCs cannot weasel out of the service afterwards - it would likely require them to fulfil the service *first*, and when the service is to release a demonic entity, ancient undead spirit of a powerful magical tyrant, or god of strife, do you really want to do that *before* it has helped you, or even at all ?

The key idea is to offer them a choice with a cost: you can save your friend, but you will hate what you have to do to save them. Or you can choose not to save them, but you will always hate yourself for not doing it. In other words, do you value your integrity more than friendship ?

And *that* is an interesting quandary. True character, as the saying goes, is what you are in the dark. Regardless of their choice, they will have the scars to prove it. The consequences are more than just another adventure. We are talking about loss, about growth through adversity.

But I hope for you that you forewarned your players about the risk of arbitrary loss of character during a campaign (because of bad luck). If the social contract is agreed by all parties involved, then it's fair. If it was not the shared agreement, then you are in trouble. I know that my campaigns are not based on such a contract.

Appreciate the input. Lots of food for thought here.
Servatitude to a powerful wizard would work. They are already allied with a faction of magicians, albeit lawful ones. Could be a mage in the guild who dabbles in darker magic or one that would undertake the task for a price.
Social contract checks out. Its a deadly campaign and PC death although rare is always a possibility. The game world is brutal and realistic. Not quite grimdark but there are powerful enemies afoot and the threat of death is always near when you have dangerous enemies.
A McGuffin of sorts already exists as part of the lore of the world. There are 5 Soul Stones, artefacts created by an ancient order of magicians and these were used to entrap and banish a cabal of Vampire Lords. There were Lesser Soul Stones, early versions of the Soul Stones and these were tested on dangerous individuals in liege with the vampire lords. I think the party could find a Lesser Soul Stone and use it to open a pathway into the Void. They have an NPC magician in the party and her powers could be boosted by such an item although I'd expect it to be a risky spell as it might allow any entity already in the Void to escape. This might be unknown to the party and they might unintentionally aid the enemy.
Perhaps the Void is in reality a Soul Stone prison. This was my initial intention with the trap. This plot line gives the party a new quandary... Find the stone which is in the dungeon they are exploring and puzzle out how to free the PC from their prison. Doing so could also add the complication of freeing an enemy... probably a magician and most likely an evil one... but a fun twist might be its an ally and they are in dept to the party for freeing them...

Offline MisterK

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2024, 01:16:16 AM »
Social contract checks out. Its a deadly campaign and PC death although rare is always a possibility. The game world is brutal and realistic. Not quite grimdark but there are powerful enemies afoot and the threat of death is always near when you have dangerous enemies.
Fair enough. I don't like PC death as a consequence, because death is not a consequence for the character (because they're dead, duh) - it is a consequence for the player. And I'm not here to make my players suffer and have to throw away a character they like.
So, consequences should affect the characters - which means they have to be alive to feel the weight of what they've done. Which means no dying unless people are monumentally stupid or willingly sacrifice themselves.

Quote
This might be unknown to the party and they might unintentionally aid the enemy.
"unintentionally" is in my opinion not something you want to use for major issues. If they release a major threat on the world, better for them to know it beforehand, or at least suspect it enough to consider it a significant risk. Having to choose between condemning their friend to an eternity of suffering or releasing a major demon or alien entity or evil god makes the choice *matter*. If they are unaware until after the deed, it's just you being petty :)
It's OK for minor things, just a reminder for players to check their six before doing something. But a major consequence ? I think it's much better if they know and choose to do it.

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2024, 01:36:27 AM »
This is extremely valuable feedback. Thanks for the moral compass support. Its very valuable having a sounding board thats not in my game and someone who has experience creating engaging, meaningful encounters.
I like the dilemma quandary, thats a hard choice to make when you know whats at stake. If the character willingly sacrifices themselves for the good of the party, thats the sort of heroic deed I want to have in my game.

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2024, 01:48:47 PM »
Here is a peek into the interaction between an unknown NPC entity and the character in the Void.
Fleck is the PC that is trapped in the Void.

EVENT

Fleck hears a voice from the Void! The voice is soft and commanding, weaving through the air like tendrils of mist, carrying with it an irresistible allure.

Voice from the Void "Ah, lost soul, ensnared in the intricate web of fate's folly, you've stumbled into the abyss with such exquisite timing! Tell me, do you revel in the chaos, or tremble at its touch? Fear not, for in this void, where reality dances on the edge of oblivion, there are secrets untold, power unchained. Embrace the madness, dear traveler, for here, even the laws of magic bend to the will of the unpredictable. Let us weave our destinies together amidst the chaos, for in the void, there are infinite possibilities waiting to be unraveled."

GM: What is your reply?

Fleck: " Greetings whispering voice, I maybe ensnared in this prison of yours .. " " I may also have danced on the edge of Chaos for the past year or so also ... " "Most of that being due to the desires of evil elements that seek ultimate power to rule all." "Currently the world is a blaze of war and destruction ... to what end ... we can only guess!" "This magic you speck of seems unlike any that I have been taught. I have been taught extensively by talented Mages, Seers, Mentalists, and Elementalist's." "All magic has a source ... so I posse to you dear voice of the void, 1. What pray tell is the source of this magical conundrum other than chaos." "2. What are the costs of this weaving of our destinies?" "3. What control if any may I impose on the magics that will be unleashed?" 

Voice from the Void

Ah, a student of magic! This is a wonderful stroke of luck! I see that Chaos has touched you even before arriving here in this prison. A tortured soul. We have this in common. I also was an apprentice like yourself, in the beginning. War and destruction you say. So not much has changed since I last walked the Known World. Although I do not know how long ago that was. Time passes here unmeasured. Your questions reveal much about you. I will answer them honestly.

1. What pray tell is the source of this magical conundrum other than chaos? "The High Council of Azehur".

2. What are the costs of this weaving of our destinies? "We will become Soulbound. If one life is lost, both of us will perish".

3. What control if any may I impose on the magics that will be unleashed? "That is an intriguing question. Magics unleashed? I will be unleashed of course and I will seek revenge on those who imprisoned me, if they still live, and my wrath will be glorious to behold!".

Suddenly you are struck by a bolt of eldritch energy. The air around you seems to shimmer and distort, charged with arcane magic. The Voice from the Void takes on an otherworldly tone, commanding and authoritative. The sensation is unsettling, as if your mind is being pulled in different directions at once as you struggle to remain in control and try to make sense of the chaos within your own mind.

Voice from the Void
"Listen closely, my new apprentice, for chaos bends to my will. I offer power beyond your wildest dreams, but know this: defiance invites chaos's cruel embrace. Serve me, and thrive in its chaotic dance. Cross me, and drown in its merciless tide."

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: Any experience with adventures involving planar travel to The Void?
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2024, 01:57:24 PM »
Sets up some interesting options moving forward.

The mysterious NPC is a mage who was corrupted by power and banished to the Void. They plan to force the PC to orchestrate their escape... perhaps sending them back from the Void to pathe the way granting them freedom in return for their help to escape.

Meanwhile the party back in the prime plane will have an opportunity to save the PC using a relic located in the dungeon they are exploring. This method will allow them to communicate with the trapped PC who is in a battle of wills with the banished mage. The intention is to set up a situation which requires the trapped PC to make a difficult choice. Work with the mage and help him escape in return for his own freedom, or sacrifice themselves to prevent their escape.
The banished mage is obviously dangerous. Freeing him will create some large problems for the party in the future.

Thoughts? We go live in a few days and this scenario will play out. Any input is welcomed.