View Full Version : In The Mouth(s) Of Madness: Adventure In The Far Realms

2008-12-28, 06:46 PM
Anyway, I have always been fascinated by that we-don't-really-know-what-it-is-and-we're-not-crazy-enough-to-find-out ameobic sea, the Far Realms of Insanity, and I have always wondered what it would be like to dungeon crawl "from the Outside", as it were. So here's an idea:

At paragon tier PCs catch up to the BBEG, who has been skimping on leveling as of late, and loses to them in a boss fight. He's a crafty beast though, and he uses a magic item he had created for this very occasion to send them into the Far Realm-no return ticket. Thankfully(?), a bit of normal reality came along with them, allowing them to shield their minds against some of the more insanity-inducing aspects. After learning from a friendly resident-ie, one that wants these freaky adventurers to go back home now-that there happens to be a portal in a nearby layer, they then have to navigate the many, many, hazards of the plane to go back to the good old World Axis-good thing they got some beneficial mutations, huh?

So, how would you go about this?

EDIT: And yes, I will ask the players about this OOC if it's okay with them-the mutations aren't going to be permanent either.

2008-12-28, 06:53 PM
For inspiration read H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories such as The Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadath, The White Ship, The Silver Key, etc. They're very different from his better known Cthulhu Mythos stories and are very very very weird. Or you could go even farther back and read Dunsany's stories which Lovecraft rips off a good bit.

2008-12-28, 06:59 PM
Thoon is Thoon, and Thoon is All!

*ahem* The Thoon Mind Flayers from Monster Manual V would be a good way to get the PCs hooked. After all, the main idea behind the Thoon cult is that they spent too much time in the Far Realm and ended up a little less sane than their typical cold-and-calculating Illithid kin. Their Elder Brain is totally messed up and continuously emits psychic static.

EDIT: This is a 3.5 idea. I missed the "paragon tier" in Leliel's post.

2008-12-28, 07:33 PM
I don't think that this is a good idea. It loses the mystery of the far realm if all the encounters are level appropiate and can be done on a grid. A better way to do this would be to have a group of mind flayers invade another plane (not necessarily material) and attempt to "recreate" the far realm. This makes an area that is only semi stable, enough to play effectively, but confusing enough to invoke a sence of horror.
Still a cool idea though.

P.S. Check out the depravity and corruption rules in heroes of horror.

2008-12-28, 08:04 PM
Sounds good. Also sounds like a great excuse to use random encounter tables, constantly. Make sure the players never know what's going to come at them next, or even whether it will be a threat or not.

2008-12-28, 08:29 PM
While in the Far Realm, the game suddenly shifts into entirely different game Systems and so forth.

Basically, none of the old rules apply, and any given possible rule may apply at any given moment. The Far Realm is basically limbo ramped up to 11. Limbo encompasses possibility within the set definitions of the multiverse, the Far Realm is just plain every possibility ever.

2008-12-28, 08:30 PM
While in the Far Realm, the game suddenly shifts into entirely different game Systems and so forth.

Basically, none of the old rules apply, and any given possible rule may apply at any given moment. The Far Realm is basically limbo ramped up to 11. Limbo encompasses possibility within the set definitions of the multiverse, the Far Realm is just plain every possibility ever.
On this basis, you suddenly find yourself playing Paranoia. :smallbiggrin:

2008-12-28, 08:34 PM
For some reason, Bunnies and Burrows seems even more appropriate.

2008-12-28, 08:44 PM
Well it's odd to attempt to do this accurately. If it's too coherent, than it's just another world. If it is too incoherent or confusing, than it is no fun to play and breaks all sense of being scary or deep. A myriad of puzzles are the usual way to go around this (since they eventually come to a solution). However success in puzzles is based on imposing logic to a disorganized problem which is the opposite of what we should expect. Someone very grounded in rational and material thought should be the most easily broken by the far realm. Someone stupid and unobservant would actually fair better. Instead, success should be determined by being irrational or by using "alien logic" (that is still logic, but so unconventional that it is hard to learn). Essentially, they themselves should be mad for trying to be sane and can only achieve sane results by learning to be mad. Naturally these types of puzzles are difficult to make.

Here's some ideas, ranging from the traditional puzzle to an attempt at the nontraditional type of puzzles I just described:
-Screwing with space. The dimensions are not three, not orthogonal, & not symmetric. Going "left" 15 steps and then going "right" 15 steps does not put you back in the same place. In fact, going left 47 steps puts you 12 steps up. That doesn't necessarily mean that 54 steps puts you 24 steps up or any number of steps right. While I'm not sure if these model what I just described but here are a couple of ways of doing it: a) make a teleporter maze. That is, you have choices between a finite small number of directions (up, left, right, down or you can abandon these terms altogether). And each on leads to another specific tile with a similar setup. However, which tile goes to which direction is fixed in time, and everything is described in these discrete units. You do need to have landmarks however, or they will never learn. They will learn, however. b) take a map an distort it in asymmetric ways. When they look, they see their location from the undistorted map and when they travel, they travel across the distorted map (as if it were a regular one). So if they see a lighthouse on a hill and try to get to it, than they probably will not end up going towards it. The players will either eventually figure out the pattern by trial and error or they will decide they are better off traveling blindly. If you make the options for directions that they have the regular North, West, South, East, than they will have the ability to retrace their footsteps. To make it harder, make up three to five vectors that they can use to navigate, and come up with new names for these vectors. This is different from the previous maze in that it is continuous, that similar areas might not really be similar, and that PCs can chose any direction (or combination of weird directions) c) it is impossible to navigate, and you decide what they bump into on a whim until they gets some magic navigation (if you so desire them to) d) do any of these with time if you can.
-Hypercube. One of the many ideas bandied around here. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=79135)
-Illogical response. Provide descriptions of what occurs, but whenever someone attempts to solve a problem or respond logically, than have it go badly, even if that is impossible. For example. PCs see a monster. PC tries to attack monster, they end up stabbing themselves. They attempt to stab themselves, they end up harming each other. They try to harm each other, they still end up harming each other. They try to harm each other again, they hurt the monster. They try to harm each other again, the monster transforms into something cute and innocent and they cut it's head off. They try to walk away from it, they walk towards it. They try to walk towards it they walk left. They try to walk left or right, they "uncut" the monster's head off and now it transforms into a sick hybrid of the cute creature and the monster. Only when you are entirely convinced they are being completely illogical (including being illogical enough to sometimes be logical and sometimes be repetitive and sometimes be random), have them succeed at whatever small task they were trying to do (if they cheer in victory however, return them to ground zero). Illogic, however, should also protect them in this exercise in the sense that even if one of them dies, none of them really die because they can always return in some illogical way. When they embrace this principle, that is another way you can give them a victory condition. This can be a temporary puzzle rather than the rule of the world.
-Bizarre analogy. Give them a simple, straightforward, and familiar puzzle, like a jigsaw puzzle, chinese checkers etc. After they finish the puzzle, describe to them the effects of that puzzle by making analogy to the real world. For example, for completing a peg-hopping game, tell them they killed almost all the creatures that they had encountered (by hopping over them), that they successfully took all their weaponry and pushed the blades into the ground (at each point they had landed), or that they had just finished killing each other (by ending up with fewer pegs than the number of players). Then give them another puzzle, without telling them anymore details. The effects of their puzzle should continue the story roughly where they left off and be another analogy. Pretty soon the players will play the games, by the rules, for what they think will happen as a result. From here you can either reward them for thinking up what the analogy will be, reward them only if they think of a possible analogy that you did not, or reward them if they cheat or break the rules of the game after you have told them what the rules of the game are and that they should not break them.
-Surrealness. Keep everything relatively normal, but just have really bizarre scenes, like bleeding trees, swimming clouds, or birds flying backwards. They should learn the rules, like stay away from trees that look diseased, look for rain by approaching bodies of water, or fly backwards.
-Simplicity. Or you could, you know, give them something more mundane like put a couple of mazes in, couple of monster with weird abilities, and throw up the Wild Magic planar effect if you really want to get crazy.
-Becoming Mad After a number of these puzzles, you can tell them they are mad and used to the rules and just run the plane normally (maybe with some memory lost in which they did things they didn't understand that they had done). If you really want to screw with them, give them the same type puzzles to do again when they leave the Far Realm in order to regain their sanity (and again, maybe some memory loss). Alternatively, tell them later that they had done just that, when they thought they were still in the Far Realm because they were still doing these weird puzzles.

2008-12-30, 01:04 AM
I like the idea of inspiring fear in my players without snuffing out their characters outright. I like Prometheus's idea of bleeding trees and so on -- very creepy!

I think introducing odd and unexplained rules for PCs to figure out can make the game fun. Some ideas of mine:

A realm where PCs must speak in rhyme. Failure to do so when a PC speaks in-character causes 1d4 Wisdom damage. This also applies to spells with Verbal components. Thus, non-Bards suffer this effect each time they cast a spell that requires speech.

A realm where PCs risk attack or falling into a different area if they step on a crack (DC5+ Balance check to avoid depending on how many cracks lattice an area). Introduce crazy rules for threatening areas that native creatures only are allowed to use. Show these cracks on the battle map. Continue after PCs leave the particular realm and ask them to describe their movements.

A realm where any successful Knowledge check must be matched with a Will save of equal DC, or else, you guessed it, 1d4 Wisdom damage.

A realm where colors are all washed into an indistinct gray. PCs utilizing bright colors may attract attention and may trigger effects detrimental to them such as prismatic spray of the appropriate color.

PCs utilizing magic fall prey to suggestion effects that range from inane to homicidal. Sleeping in such a place causes nightmares and con damage.

A realm where PCs feel no pain. Rough damage taken may be arrived at by a Heal check (DC: 20). The DM tracks all damage on each PC. Players are told that the blow glances off them without discernable effect.

One or more of the above realms may mitigate or reduce their effects on uninjured PCs, instead focusing the malignant effects on injured characters.