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Gilda
2017-03-23, 01:09 PM
So I run a D&D campaign set on Earth in mythic times, and the main (perhaps very first) lich is Immortal Koschei. As you may know from the folk tales, Koschei's soul is in an enchanted needle in an egg that exists unlaid in a female duck that's been swallowed by a hare that's locked in a chest buried under a particular oak tree on the island of Buyan. Given these constraints, what are the most interesting things to do with the phylactery?

1) The oak tree could be the only door to a dungeon populated by undead and constructs.
2) The locked chest has a bunch of wards on it (which ones?)
3) Koschei has a contingent Teleport Without Error that summons him to the next room if living flesh touches the chest, wherein he buffs and then barges in on you.
4) If you open the chest, the hare tries to eat you (stop, that's too silly!)

Geddy2112
2017-03-23, 01:23 PM
Instead of having the rabbit run away, make it the killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the actual big bad boss of the quest. The duck is just a duck, and once they have the egg Koschei is powerless.

Make the chest cold iron, totally immune to magic, but otherwise mundanely locked?

Stealth Marmot
2017-03-23, 02:14 PM
The craziest idea I ever heard was someone wanted to make a lich's phylactery a bloodline.

I can just imagine that if the lich died then it would reform as the currently closest or maybe oldest member of the bloodline shriveled up and reformed into the lich.

Edit: If I were to try to make it interesting, have the chest be in a hall of mirrors that would require the person use special levels in a puzzle to get through. The mirrors are magical, and can reform instantly if broken, so trying to crash through them is useless.

Max_Killjoy
2017-03-23, 02:21 PM
The craziest idea I ever heard was someone wanted to make a lich's phylactery a bloodline.

I can just imagine that if the lich died then it would reform as the currently closest or maybe oldest member of the bloodline shriveled up and reformed into the lich.

Edit: If I were to try to make it interesting, have the chest be in a hall of mirrors that would require the person use special levels in a puzzle to get through. The mirrors are magical, and can reform instantly if broken, so trying to crash through them is useless.


Or if the lich's body is destroyed, it just wakes up reformed from the body of a deceased relative.

And behind the scenes, the lich is secretly influencing the family to be fruitful, and encouraging an obsession with elaborate tombs instead of the local customs of burial or cremation, given the family an odd reputation.

Honest Tiefling
2017-03-23, 02:27 PM
3) Koschei has a contingent Teleport Without Error that summons him to the next room if living flesh touches the chest, wherein he buffs and then barges in on you.

NEVER do anything you can't outsource, that's the wizard way. Have it alert him, but summon something else in case someone get the idea of touching the chest over a volcano. For extra giggles, disguise the thing appearing as him, so if they do defeat it, they think they've killed the big bad.

I agree with the killer rabbit idea. Has Koschei ever vacationed in Mythic Persia? If so, make it an Al-Miraj. What, the villians can't sample genres as well as the heroes? Man probably went there to check out the selection of princesses to capture, you NEVER settle for the first one.

If I was this guy, I wouldn't even bother locking the chest. I mean, I probably don't want to touch my own Death, and if it got out I'm probably dead already. Why not toss that chest into a giant mass of molten lava? Have fun with lock picking a rock, suckers! Maybe put a lock on it if the information provided HAS to be accurate.

Also, why not put a bunch of oak trees there? Have fun guessing which one is the right one! Maybe try to shove as many mythical creatures not inclined to let people dig up trees there as possible. They don't even have to know what they are guarding, just get upset at trees getting uprooted willy-nilly.

Bucky
2017-03-23, 02:31 PM
Oak Tree -> Dryad

Also, the roots of the tree have grown around the box, so good luck digging it up without incurring the dryad's wrath.

Stealth Marmot
2017-03-23, 02:39 PM
Oak Tree -> Dryad

Also, the roots of the tree have grown around the box, so good luck digging it up without incurring the dryad's wrath.

Even better, have the dryad entirely unaware that the box is a bad man's box. Have them have to explain or prove that Koschei the lich is an actual lich AND a villain. So the players have the choice of either hurting an innocent or having to chat it out.

noob
2017-03-23, 02:40 PM
I have an hard time with stories with swords for killing liches and phylacteries and liches.
someone had the idea to put the two first into one thing.
I think that all three should be the same thing so the lich would be a sword and a phylactery.

Darth Tom
2017-03-23, 02:48 PM
I have an hard time with stories with swords for killing liches and phylacteries and liches.
someone had the idea to put the two first into one thing.
I think that all three should be the same thing so the lich would be a sword and a phylactery.

Then the lich-sword could be an item of loot that a player picks up, except of course being conscious all sorts of fun could start there.

Flickerdart
2017-03-23, 03:24 PM
Good news! It's a suppository!

noob
2017-03-23, 03:56 PM
Then the lich-sword could be an item of loot that a player picks up, except of course being conscious all sorts of fun could start there.
also it could possibly do ego checks against the wielder and cast spells to beat the adventurer team and when the sword phylactery lich risks to die it teleports away.

Segev
2017-03-23, 04:05 PM
An old and powerful lich suffered the unthinkable: a pang of conscience. Through growth as a person and coming to care about others, he genuinely had a change of (shriveled, undead) heart. And then something - perhaps shortly after he realized this change in his outlook consciously - caused him to look back on all the evil, the terrible, terrible things he'd done. Things he felt for which he could never atone, and for which he felt the only proper punishment was death. A death which, coincidentally, would let him forget his guilt, because, well, he'd be dead. Rather than having to actually try to deal with it.

But as a paranoid lich, he had hidden his phylactery so well that not even he could find it.

Nothing in his power could destroy him. So he arranged the next best thing. He had himself destroyed, and arranged for his soul to be reincarnated with no memory of who he once was. The combination of magics caused his reincarnation to be not in a young adult body, but as a genuine newborn, to loving parents.

The oracular urchin who is having visions of the terrible evil this lich will do, who has helped the party find and destroy plots and plans long growing that this lich may had forgotten over time, turns out to BE the lich. As they might discover when something kills the kid, and he doesn't die. But the mind-affecting memory-wipe starts to fail now that the soul is undead once more...

Anxe
2017-03-23, 04:12 PM
I'd be tempted to make the tree be a portal to an underground dungeon like you said, filled with chests with hares and ducks in them.

The real chest would contain a hare that they have to travel inside of to get the duck out. There's some item in the tree dungeon that shrinks them down to microscopic size and then they have to explore the hare, fighting off antibody monsters, to secure the duck or just the egg/needle.

The story is about inception, make the dungeon about that too.

Segev
2017-03-23, 04:25 PM
You could go rather Alice In Wonderland with Koschei's phylactery.

The rabbit hole is in the roots of the tree. Whether it's the White Rabbit or the March Hare should be an open question. And, of course, penetrating the chest is part of the "eat me/drink me" shrinking/growing, as at the right scale, the "chest" is a heavily fortified castle in its own right.

Pun, word-play, and dream-logic can dominate.

Each level should get more surreal. If Beneath The Tree is the bright and colorful Disney movie, Inside The Hare can be a nightmare of American McGee's Alice. An inverse and perverse take on The Ugly Duckling can involve swanmays, one of whom is really a duck. Perhaps the swanmays form the chess piece war. Winning could involve claiming one of the women as a "prize" and escorting her out, perhaps with Orphean rules, and only learning if you got the right one when you get all the way out...and escape the Hare (which is That Rabbit from That Movie).

Played right, she should be a likable character in her own right, who needs to be turned back into a duck. If you guessed wrong, she's a swan. If you guessed right, now you need to get her to lay the egg. Somehow. And can you get her back, or did you have to destroy her mind when you turned her back into a duck?

You could also borrow from Princess Tutu, which has a girl who dreams she's a duck who is a magical girl at a fairy tale dancing academy. Or maybe she's a duck who wishes she was a girl who is also a magical girl. Watch the anime. :smallwink:

It might make a good lowest level of the dungeon, when you have to find the girl and bring her out.

Kantaki
2017-03-23, 04:38 PM
More fluff than useful*, but you could have the lich's literal, still beating, heart visible (and hearable) inside the needleís eye.

*Well, unless the heart(beat) is used to deliver some kind of suggestion onto whoever discovers the needle.

Honest Tiefling
2017-03-23, 04:54 PM
Even better, have the dryad entirely unaware that the box is a bad man's box. Have them have to explain or prove that Koschei the lich is an actual lich AND a villain. So the players have the choice of either hurting an innocent or having to chat it out.

No. I disagree with this. Any moral dilemma that can possibly be solved by fire WILL be solved by fire.

Stealth Marmot
2017-03-23, 05:12 PM
No. I disagree with this. Any moral dilemma that can possibly be solved by fire WILL be solved by fire.

I'm not judging! If the players decide that their BAB outranks their diplomacy ranks, thats a solution. But at least it adds some flavor to the lich character.

icefractal
2017-03-23, 06:41 PM
Some of those layers always struck me as redundant. Like, once youíve found and opened the chest, what does the fact that itís also inside a rabbit matter? So I would make them each a different type of defense:
The oak tree is one of many, you have to find it.
The chest is invulnerable and extremely difficult to unlock, you have to solve it.
The rabbit is fierce (I like the Al-Miraj idea), you have to defeat it. And without injuring the duck in the process, because -
The duck must lay the egg naturally; if itís slain, Koscheiís soul will return to his body instead, giving him another chance to re-lich-ify. You have to wait for it.
The needle is just a needle, youíve been through enough layers already at this point. :smalltongue:

Something with a similar idea, ocean themed:
Swimming around the world, near the very bottom of the ocean, is a great fish.
Inside the fishís belly are seven quick-moving eels, which will scatter if freed. Any not caught within three days will be swallowed by another great fish.
One of the eels has a pearl inside it, which will float rapidly to the surface if released. If it reaches the surface, a bird will carry it away.
The pearl is nearly impervious, and must be immersed in the right liquid to dissolve it.
Inside the pearl is the phylactery, perhaps a tiny fish-hook.

Segev
2017-03-23, 06:45 PM
Some of those layers always struck me as redundant. Like, once youíve found and opened the chest, what does the fact that itís also inside a rabbit matter?

According to the myth, opening the chest causes the rabbit to spring forth and run. Now you have to catch it and gut it to get to the duck. Then the duck will take flight, and force you to follow it until it nests and lays the egg. Which you then have to retrieve from the nesting duck.

icefractal
2017-03-23, 06:50 PM
According to the myth, opening the chest causes the rabbit to spring forth and run. Now you have to catch it and gut it to get to the duck. Then the duck will take flight, and force you to follow it until it nests and lays the egg. Which you then have to retrieve from the nesting duck.That works too. You'd have to have some reason the PCs can't just open the chest inside a locked room though - players tend to be annoyingly practical like that. :smallwink:


Another one - the Lich's phylactery is just inside a castle, nothing funny - except that castle only exists inside a dream. Speaking the Lich's name, looking at pictures of him, reading about his deeds, all make you more likely to have the dream that night. Seeing him in person almost always guarantees it. The dream is reset to scratch each time (except maybe a few characters in it who remember your previous attempts) so you have to do it in one go, but having the information from previous tries will probably make it much easier, and without that info it'd be nearly impossible.

And I would imagine this is totally one of those "die in the dream, die in real life" kind of deals. Or at least wake up with a nasty curse that needs getting rid of.

Segev
2017-03-23, 07:29 PM
That works too. You'd have to have some reason the PCs can't just open the chest inside a locked room though - players tend to be annoyingly practical like that. :smallwink:


Another one - the Lich's phylactery is just inside a castle, nothing funny - except that castle only exists inside a dream. Speaking the Lich's name, looking at pictures of him, reading about his deeds, all make you more likely to have the dream that night. Seeing him in person almost always guarantees it. The dream is reset to scratch each time (except maybe a few characters in it who remember your previous attempts) so you have to do it in one go, but having the information from previous tries will probably make it much easier, and without that info it'd be nearly impossible.

And I would imagine this is totally one of those "die in the dream, die in real life" kind of deals. Or at least wake up with a nasty curse that needs getting rid of.

This seems counterproductive. Why would the lich want to help people find his phylactery?

It makes me suspicious. Perhaps the "phylactery" in the castle is a fake. Sure, destroy it, and you never have the dream again. But...others still do.

The phylactery is the dream itself. And the people trying desperately to destroy the phylactery in the castle are instead perpetuating it.

Possibly, the dream gives psychic access to the dreamer, too. Maybe mental spells cast on them while in the dream persist.

sktarq
2017-03-24, 12:19 AM
So you wish to travel to Buyan?

So you take a small boat, owned by a cleric of luck and fate. He offers to take you to his home port. It is a minor port away from main population centres of the island. At the foot of the large oak forest that hides behind the pine strewn highlands of the island.

He will bring you to a great wharf jutting into the sea and to a holy symbol of luck carved into one of the oaken pillars of the superstructure. The same symbol etched in the gunwale touches in gently at the moment of first contact. If you have horses or mules with you the cranes (also made of local oakwood) will span out to winch the animals up. The locals take great pride in the structure. The only pier made of oak- the rest use the highland pines- which are both valued for export but rot if left in the sea in only a couple decades.

The cleric is strange old man. He claims to have won the boat in a game of chance with an avatar of the god of luck himself. The last of a line of such clerics to have done so. And that when he won his game of chance the boat was washed up abandoned the next morning. The boat will always have fortune but the god of luck may not always protect the owner. So for that owner of the boat Peter has decked it out with many classic symbols of luck. For while the boat will never sink, never seemingly be harmed at all, and will always find its way home he wants all the blessings he can get so that he will still be on the boat when it gets there. . . talking to him you are not sure if some of his mind might not have needed a few more blessings.

If you could use powerful spells, potent drugs, or the wiles of an exotic priestess of Ishtar (he does have a weakness for their priestesses) you may hear stories of his previous passengers over a game of dice or cards. Most are normal but a few brave adventuring bands have wanted to go searching across the island for something. It is not as though there are not things to find hidden in the great valley, lost castles (at least 4 and probably a dozen) hidden towers, and fortification dug into the stone to hide from wizards spells. Their quest for hunting a great evil that is somehow threatening their homelands hundreds of league away is something the old man will never understand. But perhaps they are looking to draw the joker in a deck of cards. Only a few such groups are ever seen again. Those that are seen usually have some grand new idea of where they are going and what should be doing...rarely does is it seem to have anything to do with saving their countrymen anymore, but what would comeing here have helped those nations in the first place?

And so the boat decked out with eyes on the bow, a row of rabbit's feet hanging over the nameplate, horseshoes over the door, a lucky duck figurehead, dreamcatchers over each bunk, a freindly cat usually curled up on one said bunks, and shooting stars along the side bobs along, the bells jangling with each wave to scare away bad spirits. And as it heaves through the waves it brings your party closer to the island with so many secrets under the boughs of oak and pine. And the old man wishes them luck on their quest and blessing upon those who threatened by danger in their homeland.

and the party leaves the boat under the swaying arms of oaken cranes, they leave its figurehead which holds a secret that not even the captain knows. A small egg shaped cavity which holds a deadly secret.

SilverLeaf167
2017-03-24, 06:45 AM
Have you considered the fact that, according to Wikipedia at least, the island of Buyan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyan) itself is quite an adventure?

Extrapolating from that, it is a magical island that
Exists far from shore in an unknown location
Appears and disappears with the tides, perhaps only becoming accessible at a specific time of the month or year, maybe even literally sinking under the waves
Home to powerful wind spirits, servants of the sun god, monstrous birds and snakes and who knows what else
Houses other artifacts apart from just the phylactery
There's a lot to deal with before even reaching that oak tree. What kind of relationship the denizens have with Koschei is up to you: are they on his side, completely unaware of him or his phylactery, trying to use the party for their own goals, or simply unwilling to let the party defile their sacred land?

Segev
2017-03-24, 08:37 AM
Have you considered the fact that, according to Wikipedia at least, the island of Buyan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyan) itself is quite an adventure?

Extrapolating from that, it is a magical island that
Exists far from shore in an unknown location
Appears and disappears with the tides, perhaps only becoming accessible at a specific time of the month or year, maybe even literally sinking under the waves
Home to powerful wind spirits, servants of the sun god, monstrous birds and snakes and who knows what else
Houses other artifacts apart from just the phylactery
There's a lot to deal with before even reaching that oak tree. What kind of relationship the denizens have with Koschei is up to you: are they on his side, completely unaware of him or his phylactery, trying to use the party for their own goals, or simply unwilling to let the party defile their sacred land?

Sounds like you could build a campaign of exploration and adventure just by having the party wash up on the shores of this island. Or be on the quest for Koschei's soul and discover all the rest of this stuff as things through which they must sift.

Notably, Wikipedia's article mentions an opera that sounds like it has a Swan Princess element to it, which could tie in with the duck that needs to lay the egg.

Squiddish
2017-03-24, 11:05 AM
There are two chests. One contains a rabbit, which contains a duck, which contains an egg, which contains a needle, which has had Nystul's Magic Aura cast on it to make it seem like a phylactery someone was trying to disguise. The other chest, buried a foot below the first one, is the one you described, but the needle has also had Nystul's cast on it so it looks exactly like the first needle.

Stealth Marmot
2017-03-24, 11:23 AM
Wait wait wait, I just thought of something.

Would the duck weigh the same as the dryad?

You know, since she is made of wood?

Segev
2017-03-24, 11:25 AM
Wait wait wait, I just thought of something.

Would the duck weigh the same as the dryad?

You know, since she is made of wood?

That's a good question. Useful, too, if so, because that way we can determine if the dryad would float or not by comparing her weight to the duck's. We can't just toss her in the water; if we did, she wouldn't be a dryad anymore.