The 20-Sided Theatre, Episode 16: Enter the Crimson Magus
Chip Dipson, Action Town Crier of Paldas the Bright – Blake
The Vengeful Ghost of Adanska Rothgeld – Rud
The Wi<3z, a magical harlequin – Cian
Hera “Pally” Laris, a disapproving paladin – Ceridwen
Pinky the Problematic Pixie, a Half-Pixie, Half-Dragon – Natalie
Engar Flamehand, an elderly fire mage and mad scientist – Gabe
The DM – Rud
The Electric Slide – Cian
Imperial Wizard – Rud
Emperor Nashtif – Cian
Sam Sonar – Ceridwen
Formian – Gabe
Rhomande - Rud
Thrimlach - Cian
Issa - Ceridwen
Imenand - Blake
Stiev - Natalie
Vragul - Rud
Scene 0: Show Opening & Theme Music
Vragul: **From “offstage”** QUIET!! TIME FOR START SHOW! VRAGUL DEFEAT AUDIENCE!!
SFX: (2d20 rolls)
DM: Your Move Silently and Hide checks are successful.
SFX: (pause)(51136_rutgermuller_Cough (short))
Rhomande: Good evening Lords and Ladies. You have chosen your entertainment quite wisely. You are about to experience the most wondrous spectacle in the Great, Venerable, and Multiplanar Empire of Voladros. I am your Host-Proprietor, Rhomande Sorfinde, and I welcome you… to The 20-Sided Theatre!
The Wiz: **From “offstage”** Dancing lights! SFX: (121558_sbarncar_whistleandreport.aif x 5 (bunched in time with opening of Theme Music)
Theme Music: (VCMG – Victory Flower Fields – 20-Sided Theatre Edit)
Music Bed: (Sylvius Leopold Weiss – Courante in F Major.mp3)
Scene 1: Recap and Story Thus Far
Rhomande: While my Insufferable Basterds spend the next few months traversing the open seas, with very little to break the monotony, I shall guide your attention toward a new group of heroes from the far off land of Rhios. Funny story, actually! Despite being on the same world as Imenand gabharan’s place of origin, the planet upon which Rhios sits is not part of the Holy and Venerable Empire of Voladros and the Uiadhenns. In any case, it is my pride and joy to reintroduce you to Chip Dipson’s Action Town Criers! What’s the news, Chip?
Chip: Thank you, Rhomande! Tonight’s top story involves the invasion, corruption, and cleansing of the oasis at Trur Dros. Two human females, claiming to be from a cult worshipping The Many, had driven away the townspeople so they could meet with us in private. Here’s The Wiz with more.
The Wiz: Those crazy broads wanted to kill me! Back to you, Chip!
Chip: Although no harm came to The Wiz, the two perpetrators are still at large. Here’s the Action Town Criers’ own Hera Laris with what the authorities are advising.
Hera: Thank you, Chip. One of these women dresses in blackened half plate with evil runes etched all over, and the other woman has a scar running in a line diagonally across her nose. If you see either of these women, do not approach them. Run to, yell for, scry at, or otherwise contact your municipal guard immediately. These women are to be considered dangerous, even when unarmed. I heard the following from an eyewitness at the scene, one Engar Flamehand.
Engar: I’ve seen a lot of things in my 82 years of life, but I ain’t never seen a woman punch a ghost so hard that she broke his nose. Not until yesterday, that is.
Hera: Again, if anybody has information on Peldra Kassin, Grestin Deepfathom, or the religious organization known as The Sisters of The Many, please contact the authorities immediately. Back to you, Chip.
Chip: Thank you, Hera. We have breaking reports of a group of adventurers now exploring Trur Dros in hopes of finding survivors of the event. Here’s Pinky the Problematic Pixie with more.
Pinky: I don’t get it. Why are you guys doing this? Who is this performance for? Adanska, what are you doing with that crystal? How are you even touching it? You’re a ghost.
Adanska: I don’t know either, but they give me seven gold sovereigns a week to psychically produce copyable scry crystals that I think they send off to other towns and cities. Just play along until they figure out what kind of correspondent you ought to be.
Pinky: Uh… okay. Is this conversation going to be part of the show?
Adanska: I dunno. Probably. But we really need to get back to looking for survivors, so the sooner we wrap this up, the better it’ll be for the survivors. Just play along, Pinky.
Pinky: Okay! (pause) Uh… Back to you, Chip!
Chip: More on this breaking story, after a word from our sponsor!
Rhomande: Hello. I’m Rhomande Sorfinde, and I am here to convince you to by Flamehand’s Aging Solution! Are you tired of your mortality? Master Engar Flamehand has developed what he calls “a thaumachronal acceleration loop”, in the hopes of avoiding death. You see, on his 80th birthday, Master Flamehand developed a solution that would halt his aging. Or so he thought. It turns out that the potion makes him age far more quickly than other beings, but after he turns 89, the magic takes effect and his body reverts to its physical state on his 80th birthday. So, if you’re afraid of death and you don’t mind eternally looping your life from 80 to 89 years old a few times a week, then you should try Flamehand’s Aging Solution today! I am Rhomande Sorfinde, and I swear I meant every part of everything I just said.
((Sfx: d20 roll for a Bluff Check))
Rhomande: Lords and Ladies of my beloved audience, please do recline upon your gilded seats, quaff your libations, and adjust your listening devices to receive the full stereophonic, scryocastic selection of sounds, that you may thoroughly enjoy your evening at The 20-Sided Theatre!
Scene 2 The Summons of the Crimson Magus:
DM: As you wrap up your report, something starts moaning behind you. Give me some Spot Checks.
((Sfx: d20 roll x5))
Engar: Oh, my! Something blurry this way comes! Perhaps I can whip up a Potion of Focus, so we can figure out what it is and whether it’s friendly.
Pinky: I think your glasses slipped down again, Engar. That thing is clearly a legless skeleton wearing a tattered, off-black sheet.
Adanska: Yeah, but it’s got some sort of ectoplasm making a fleshy shell around it, too, so that’s probably why the robe has that triangular, masculine shape to it.
Chip: Oh, my. I believe our news cast took long enough to set up, record, and tear down that the wraiths were able to overcome their fear of the Divine Mercy of Paldas the Bright.
Hera: Ahem! Some of those wraiths were fleeing the overawing power of the Triple Goddess, Chip. Paldas is kind and merciful, but benevolent sexism is still sexism. Please remember to properly credit all involved beings equally, regardless of sex, gender, or cultural origin.
DM: While you guys stand around discussing inclusiveness and equity, the wraith has drawn close enough to attack the party. It stretches out a clawed, bony hand, as two other spirits float into the clearing around the oasis.
Adanska: Chip, look out!
((Sfx: d20 roll x2, con drain))
Chip: Gah! By the power of — (cries of pain)
DM: The wraith reaches into Chip’s chest, squeezing his tiny, halfling heart in its cold, bony clutch. The Cleric of Paldas the Bright takes five points of permanent Constitution damage.
Hera: Back, foul beast! Away from my good-hearted and well-meaning companion! Get ’im, Solstafir!
((Sfx: d20 roll x2, wark/chirp, beak hit))
DM: Hera swings her engraved scythe over Chip’s head, forcing the wraith to dodge backward, directly into her golden, celestial riding bird’s onrushing beak. The phantom hisses in pain, spinning to face Solstafir.
((Sfx: ghost hissing; solstafir sound))
Adanska: Oh, no you don’t! You don’t get to hurt my friend and walk away… er… Float away, I guess, since you have no legs.
((Sfx: d20 roll x2))
DM: The vengeful psychic ghost of Adanska Rothgeld bounds across the battlefield. His psi-blade flares to life as he tackles the wicked spirit. Adanska rolls with his enemy, landing in a crouch with the wraith in a headlock, driving his ghostly armor’s spikes deep into the wraith’s ectoplasmic shell.
The Wiz: You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’, Engar?
Engar: Probably not. I’m searching for the Flask of Tangibility I whipped up while we were resting. Ah, here it is! Now, just let me read the label one more time… “Step 1: Speak Keyword.” Oh… What was that activation phrase, again?
The Wiz: Maybe it was MIRROR IMAGES!
((Sfx: Mirror image, multi-voiced Wiz))
Engar: No, it had something to do with celerity. Because I’m so lightning-witted, and therefore I wouldn’t forget the phrase.
The Wiz: Then howsabout a QUICKENED COLOR SPRAY!
Secondary The Wiz: (in the other Wiz chorus) Or a DANCING LIGHTS!
((Sfx: Color Spray, d20 roll x3))
DM: The six Wizzes stretch out their twelve hands, spraying out 60 fanning bands of magical energy, plus some dancing lights. Only seven of those rays are real, though. The others are all just illusions.
The Wiz: Hunh. Hey, Pally, do you think it’s a problem if my mirror images who’re supposed to be beams of light and magic are starting to develop personalities and agency of their own, all of a sudden?
Hera: That’s a very intriguing question, The Wiz. We’ll have to run some Holy Tests on you when we return to civilization, to be sure you don’t need an exorcism.
Adanksa: Hey! I’m not even anywhere near The Wiz!
Hera: Exactly. If you’re not possessing her, Adanska, then whoever is possessing her needs to get out here and face the wrath of the Mother.
DM: One of the approaching phantoms stops dead in its tracks, stunned by the beauty of The Wiz’ weaving of magical lights and sounds. Meanwhile, Engar makes a Memory Check.
((Sfx: d20 roll))
Engar: Ah, yes, of course! All of my potion flasks are enchanted with a double-casting of Contingency. Whenever I speak the activation phrase, it casts True Strike on me and Fragility on the bottle, to counterbalance my own poor eyesight and low muscle mass.
The Wiz: So, what’s the phrase, Engie?
Engar: Why, naturally it’s, “QUICK! DUCK!”
((Sfx: d20 roll, True Strike, cracking glass (Fragility), shattering potion bottle))
DM: Engar’s potion of Tangibility sails through the air with extreme precision, colliding squarely with the solar plexus of the third wraith. The phantom is now anchored on the Prime Material Plane. Since this spirit also has no legs, gravity takes over and quickly halts the enemy’s progress.
((Sfx: Tangibility/whatever the opposite of Etherealness is, squishy thud))
Pinky: And now he’s prone! That means that all I need is to flit over here and give him the old Coop duh Gracie!
((Sfx: d20 roll, claw hit, clattering bones, phantom hiss))
Hera: Pinky, it’s pronounced coup de grace. I think it’s Gnomish or something.
Chip: It most certainly is not Gnomish. It must be Elvish or one of those regional Orc languages. Oof. My chest still hurts. But that doesn’t stop me from calling upon the radiance of Paldas the Bright to Turn these Undead!
((Sfx: d20 roll, turning))
DM: The two remaining phantoms react in immediate pain and fear – one still marveling at the Wiz’ light show, and the other trapped in Adanska’s head lock. Neither stays in those positions for long, though, as the godly power of the Merciful Healer bathes over the wraiths, destroying them utterly.
Adanska: (frustrated) Hey! I was using that! Now how am I supposed to take out my aggression? Beating up demons, villains, and ghosts is usually how I’m able to keep cool and focused.
The Wiz: (still multiple) You’re dead, Danskie. You should have had plenty of time to meditate your anger issues away.
Adanska: When was that supposed to happen? You’ve been with me the entire five weeks that I’ve been dead. I mean, I’ve got anger issues about being kicked out of my hometown for my anger issues. Where do I even start unraveling that?
Chip: The Wiz, stop antagonizing Adanska. You’ve got some questions to answer.
The Wiz: (still multiple) Like what? (what? what? what? what? what? what?)
Engar: Such as what is The End that Hungers, of which those evil women spoke?
Pinky: And who is The Hateful One?
Hera: And why do all of these people or whatever they are want you dead?
The Wiz: (Still multiple) I dunno, ask that one!
DM: All seven copies of The Wiz stand in a row, and each of them points with her right index finger, straight down the line.
Engar: Hrm. I’m still not sure which of you is the real one.
Hera: We can always start with the one at the end, and work our way up.
Chip: Or wait for the spell to wear off.
Pinky: Or we could have Adanska possess her and find out what she knows.
Adanska: Not much chance of that, really. The Wiz has a pretty strong will. Her psychic defenses are almost as difficult to overcome as that Cleric of The Many’s.
DM: Your debate is interrupted by a ball of deep, red light igniting beneath the surface of the oasis. Within seconds, it rises from the depths of the pool, up to a typical human’s head-height. The sphere of magical energies sheds its warm, calming light over you as it settles in the air at the water’s edge.
Pinky: That ball thing looks like it’s full of jellied fruits. Someone should poke it with a stick! Does anybody have a stick?
DM: Pinky, your stick-searching is cut off when the orb begins to emit some sort of talk. You do not recognize the language of whoever is speaking, but the orb must have some sort of magical property that allows your minds to grasp the meaning of the whole speech, if not the individual words and grammar. The orb focuses its light in a bullseye, illuminating The Wiz’ suddenly anxious face.
Imperial Wizard: Hello? (tongue clicking) Is this thing on? You have the honor of being contacted by his Excellence Emperor Nashtif the Twenty-Seventh, First Speaker of the Tribe of the Uiadhenns and King of the Peoples of Voladros. The Sworn Shield whose bulwarks defend us all from The Hungering End. Ruler of the Grand and Holy Empire of the Allied Survivors.
Emperor Nashtif: Crimson Magus, wake to your purpose. The Empire has sought you for years, since the Lord High Seer Dawius Gwaven foretold your role in the grand drama of our coming history. We call you into service, not of the Peoples of Voladros and the Uiadhenns, but of all peoples across all realities. The fate of every world rests on your shoulders, and the shoulders of the other Foreseen Champions. And thus, do we Compel you to find the Portal of Pa’vos, within the Walled Desert. Beware the Sisters of the Many and their master, Kasalan the Hateful. Go forth, Crimson Magus, and join the Empire in our defense against the Hungering End.
((Sfx: orb, imperial compulsion; pause in dialogue as the magic orb fades and the gravity of the situation settles in))
The Wiz: I don’t wanna! You can’t make me! I told them I was done with all of that garbage when I left the orphanage! I don’t even know why I was in that orphanage in the first place! My mom lived like ten minutes down the lane from there, and I saw her twice a month!
Engar: That was a boarding school, young lady. Not an orphanage. It was a rather expensive boarding school, too, if I remember rightly.
DM: The orb of magic has fully disappeared, by this point, leaving you illuminated by nothing more than starlight.
Chip: I can fix that. One of Paldas the Bright’s domain spells helps bring his LIGHT to the world. Now, then. This sounds more pressing, and maybe even a little bigger than our investigation of the Blood Gate. If I remember correctly, the Walled Desert is only a week’s journey south from here.
The Wiz: Oh, right. It was a school. Either way, I don’t wanna be compelled to find that portal. No how, no way. I’m gonna go north. Even though my feet seem to be turning south. I’m just taking the long way around to get to the north. But I ain’t gonna go do nothing but look for keys on the way, ’cause I don’t want nothin’ to do with no Crimson Magus prophesy. Pally, do you think there’ll be a key to open this Gate thingy? I gotta have the keys, Pally! I just gotta!
Pinky: Whoa, whoa! Slow down, The Wiz!
Chip: Or at least stop walking away from the town, until we’ve had a chance to look for survivors.
The Wiz: (grumpy) Alright, fine. But I want to get outta this place as soon as I can. I hate being told what to do and how my grown-up life is all written out and foretold by someone I’ve never met. And whatta you looking at, Ghostie?
Adanska: Are you some sort of … wizard princess, The Wiz?
The Wiz: No! I’m not a wizard princess! Just shut up about it, okay?
Pinky: Exactly what a wizard princess would say! Ooh! Maybe there’s a reward for her!
The Wiz: Everybody just shut up about it! I ain’t never heard something so silly in my whole life! There ain’t no such thing as wizard princesses. There’s princess wizards, but the other way around just don’t make any sense.
Hera: Wait. Back up a moment. Did that disembodied voice just say that The Wiz is our last hope for defending the multiverse? I believe we’re in far worse trouble than we originally thought.
DM: No, I didn’t say anything about that.
Engar: Not you, Master Disembodied Voice. The other disembodied voice that just spoke.
Pinky: But the first voice just introduced the emperor’s voice! That first guy didn’t say anything helpful.
Hera: May the goddess discipline you out of your foolishness! I was speaking of the Emperor’s voice!
DM: Well, he’s not disembodied. Neither is the wizard who announced him. And even if they didn’t have regular, old bodies made out of meat and stuff, their voices wouldn’t be considered “disembodied” anyway, since they came out of a ball of light. That ball should have counted enough for their voices to be “embodied”.
The Wiz: Are you done?
DM: Yeah, sorry. I just get upset when people think that all voices coming from places you can’t see are disembodied.
The Wiz: Then let’s head the long way north, by heading south! ’Cause my feet can’t seem to turn north right now.
Chip: The Wiz, come — Oh, forget it. Adanska. Pinky. I want you two to fan out and search all of these houses for survivors. I’ll cast Message so we can stay in contact in case anybody finds something. I’ll slow The Wiz down as best I can, and I’ll meet you on the southern edge of town. Engar. Hera. You’re with me on The Wiz Detail.
Adanska: On it, boss.
Pinky: Yes, sir, Mr. Dipson, sir!
Hera: Come, Solstafir. If you block the streets, it’ll slow The Wiz down.
Engar: If you need her to stop, Chip, I’m pretty sure I have a Flask of Inescapable Goo somewhere in my robes. Just say the word!
((Sfx: potion bottle clinking))
Scene 3: The Walled Desert
DM: You spend the evening completing your sweep of Trur Dros, revealing no survivors. However, Pinky and Adanska have found a few bits and baubles in Lost & Found boxes or rubbish bins on the street, worth a total of almost 300 gold sovereigns. Meanwhile, the rest of the party has convinced The Wiz to stop and camp for the rest of the night. Nothing bothers your rest, and by mid-morning the next day, you find yourselves in a familiar pattern of conversation.
The Wiz: Whassamatter, Pally? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost. But Danskie’s back in the wagon bed, trying to scare that axe.
Hera: (coming out of deep thought) What? Oh, sorry, The Wiz. I was just in shock because I heard that YOU’RE our only hope to SAVE THE MULTIVERSE.
The Wiz: I didn’t do it. Whatever they told you, I didn’t do it, and nobody can make me confess.
Engar: Ahem. You’ve made an omission, Mistress Laris. The Emperor said that the fate of all rests not only on the shoulders of my pupil, here, but also upon “the shouldews of the othew Foweseen Champions”.
Pinky: Ooh! Maybe that’s us!
Chip: I doubt it, Pinky. The Emperor addressed The Wiz, but didn’t seem to recognize any of the rest of us, so it stands to reason that these other Foreseen Champions must have been contacted elsewhere.
The Wiz: Yeah, so it’s not just my responsibility to save everyone and everything! You gotta start finding those other guys, Pally. It’s your duty, you know.
Adanska: Hey, Chip? Can you please Inflict me a little bit? My nose still hurts from when that monk punched me.
Hera: Don’t do it, Master Dipson! He’s already asked me, and I told him the pain is a suitable penance for killing that woman!
Adanska: I didn’t kill her, though! I just gave her a psychic lobotomy and a massive burn scar across her face. And the whole reason why I did that was because she broke my nose!
Chip: Don’t be such a baby, Adanksa. I’ve already done everything I can to heal your broken nose. I’m pretty sure it’s just your ego and your sense of personal safety that need time to heal, now. If you’d like some counseling, I can climb into the back of the cart with you.
Adanska: Actually, that sounds like a good idea. I still can’t seem to get any sort of reaction from this axe, no matter how loudly or forcefully I say, “Boo!” to it.
Pinky: Have you tried making noises more like this…?
DM: Give me a “Perform Ghost Sounds” Check, before you start, Pinky.
((Sfx: d20 roll))
Pinky: (monkey noises)
The Wiz: Well, that’s not a very good human ghost noise, but for all I know that’s exactly what the ghost of a lobster makes.
Pinky: I’m not a lobster! I’m green and scaly!
The Wiz: Exactly my point! Plus, you’ve got the claws and the big teeth and the wings, just like every other lobster I’ve ever seen. Plus, you can spit jets of acid from your mouth. Now how is that not unlike a lobster? I bet you also have some big ol’e talons and your retirement plan is to sit around on piles of gold all day, after you kick some dwarves out of their house. Just like a typical lobster.
Pinky: You are confused, madame.
The Wiz: I think you’re the one who’s confused, Lobstie. I’ve been adventuring for a verrrrrry long time. In fact, in all of my adventures, I’ve built quite the collection of Rhomande Sorfinde merchandise and memorabilia. One of my lifelong dreams is to have a recurring segment on his Loveday Night Variety Show.
((Sfx: % roll))
DM: Jeez. Again? Alright. Since the great celestial dice don’t seem to want anything to bother you guys, let’s skip ahead. After four days of travel, you find yourselves no longer in the Golas Desert!
DM: Instead, you have crossed the southern border into the Firesand Desert. From here you can turn east along the bordersands, until you arrive at The Wall.
Adanska: (flatly) Oh. Excellent. A whole new, all-different desert.
The Wiz: This new desert sounds way worse. And more hot.
DM: Luckily, it’ll only take you about a day to reach the Crack from here.
Pinky: What’s the Crack? Man, there are a lot of “the” things around, since I met you guys.
Chip: It’s the easiest passage into the Walled Desert. You see, a ring of precipitous mountains separates the Walled Desert from the Firesand to the south and the Golas to the north. If we take the Crack, we’ll only have to climb 2000 Units upward at a 35% grade, rather than 9000 Units upward at a 62% grade. But once we’re up there, we’ve still got about 16000 Units of flat travel through a 15-Unit wide fissure in the mountains.
DM: And in that day of travel…
DM: Hunh… SO weird. Nothing happens again. Okay, this is just odd. I wonder if something scared off all the wildlife. There should be roving packs of jackals and the occasional roper out there. I wonder what happened to all of those bandits, too. There were like a hundred and fifty of them camped about a day and a half south of Trur Dros. Anyway, you reach the Crack without any significant incident.
The Wiz: Holy moly! That’s a weird way for mountains to grow.
Hera: Indeed. It appears that some typically hot-headed and inarticulate god decided to smite the ring of mountains with his enormous axe.
Adanska: Please don’t talk about axes. It’s a trigger word for me, ever since I was killed by one.
Chip: Nobody knows how the Crack formed in the Wall, but the Portal of Pa’vos lies somewhere out there, and it’s our duty to find it! We need to climb that terrifyingly narrow switchback, up to the Pass at the base of the Crack.
Pinky: I’d better make myself invisible. This place looks perfect for an ambush. I’ll take point and scout ahead, since I can fly faster than most of you can walk.
Adanska: Good plan, Pinky! I’ll phase downward and see if I can hear anything coming through the tremors in the ground.
((Sfx: ghost passing into a wall))
Engar: Hrm. Invisibility and the element of surprise, eh? I think I’ve brewed up something like that. Ah! Here it is. Lady Hera, would you care to be the first sapient test subject for Flamehand’s Lotion of Hiding? It was supposed to conceal wrinkles and other blemishes, but it seems the batch of distilled magic I used was a little too concentrated.
((Sfx: clinking bottles))
Hera: Not even if I was the last clear-headed sapient being on the planet, and you were the last mad scientist. Solstafir and I will meet any challenges head-on.
Chip: I’ll hang back with the wagon, since I’m vertically challenged. But Paldas the Bright shall keep us safe with a Blessing of the Owl’s Awareness!
((Sfx: Owl’s Wisdom))
DM: You travel for half a day, climbing slowly toward the floor of the Crack. Your wagon skids a few times, as you climb the precipitous cliffside, but you manage to avoid breaking a wheel or an axle. Pinky and Adanska, since you’re the scouts, give me some Spot Check.
((Sfx: d20 rollx2))
Adanska: What is that over there? That bit of rocks looks different from the rest.
Pinky: Yeah, and the thermal patterns suggest that there might be some sort of cave entrance. Yep. Definitely a cave, but cunningly hidden by stonecraft. You can’t really see it, unless you’re looking from the right angle. Or if you have infravision.
Adanska: We’d better tell everybody else.
Chip: Tell everybody else what, Adanska?
Adanska: Oh, for crying out— How is it useful for us to scout ahead, if you guys are just following forty Units and ninety seconds behind us?
The Wiz: So, Pinky. You’re trying to tell me that you gots the infravision, and you ain’t a lobster? Typical, greedy, lying lobsters.
Pinky: DRAGON! The Wiz, I’m a DRAGON!
The Wiz: Like I said—Liar. You ain’t got that exoskeleton or the eight fingery legs or the big pincers or nothin. You ain’t no dragon I’ve ever seen. And you can’t convince me you are one unless someone boils you alive and cracks you open and serves you up with garlic and butter.
Chip: Let’s get to investigating our latest scoop: The Fissure in the Crack in the Wall around the Walled Desert… Hrm. We really need to figure out a better headline for that one. Preferably something with a verb in it. Luckily we’ve got time to brainstorm and to do rewrites. Adanska! Pinky! You guys are our location scouts. How about you see if there’s a good spot to record our next newscast.
Adanska: On it, Chip.
Pinky: Yes, sir, Mr. Dipson, sir! Just let me put on the old Pixie invisibility, again!
DM: Once the ghost and the invisible pixie have ventured twenty paces into the fissure, a shallow rumbling erupts from deep within the cave. Within seconds, four enormous, ant-like creatures burst forth from the fissure, each brandishing a crude spear in its hand-like forelegs. They look backward and wiggle their antennae as if signaling to someone behind them.
((Sfx: rumble, ant sounds))
Adanska: Gah! Get back you fiends! Go find a giant having a picnic, if you want to bother somebody! Pinky, why aren’t you helping me?
Pinky: (stage whisper) Because I’m trying to stay hidden, Mr. I-Glow-Blue-In-Dark-Caves. Besides, can’t you possess one of them or something?
Adanska: No, I cannot. I am only able to possess beings that are of a similar size and physiology to myself. So, unless you have some highly advanced gorilla people hiding in your invisible satchel, I can only possess our friends, today.
DM: Okay, two things. One: these ant-people are people, so there’s a good chance at least one of them speaks common. Adanksa, you may not want to give away the fact that one of you guys is invisible. Two: since you just made some noise while hiding, Pinky, you should make a Talk Quietly Check.
((Sfx: d20 roll))
Formian: Ghozzzt! You have trezz-pazzed on the Colony of the Szzand-realm Formiczzzz. Leave now, or our clericzz zzhall dezztroy you!
Adanska: Pinky! Pinky, where did you go? I really don’t like the way that one giant ant person’s antennae are glowing and twitching. Chip, I am coming out! Please protect me from their oncoming exorcism!
Hera: Oh, Precious Persephone’s Pomegranate Picnic! As a paladin, I fear nothing; however, I often find myself quite – how did you put it, The Wiz? I find myself quite “squicked out” by insects! Detect Evil!
((Sfx: Detect Evil))
The Wiz: Whadda ya see, Pally?
Hera: Hrm. Interesting. None of these ant-people seem to be wicked or purely sinful. Perhaps a diplomatic approach is appropriate?
DM: Diplomacy may not be a bad idea. Anybody want to give it a throw?
((Sfx: d20 roll))
Chip: O Great and Many-Legged People of the Crack in the Wall! I am Chip Dipson, and these are my Action Town Criers. We humbly seek your forgiveness for our trespassing, and we entreat you for directions to the Portal of Pa’vos! In return, we can trade news of the outside world and some limited supplies. We will also avail you of our investigative services, if you have need of them. Please, put up your weapons and let us pass!
Formian: The Queen hazz declared that none zzhall pazz thizz threzzsh-hold, while the zzervantzz of Kazzalan tranzzact their buzzinezz! Szzhe izz the queen, and zzo we obey! All who enter our domainzz unbidden szzhall periszzh!
((Sfx: d20 roll, spear hit))
Chip: (pained sound)
DM: The lead Formic hoists its spear aloft and hurls it from the mouth of the cave, straight into Chip’s left thigh. The trustworthy halfling collapses to the ground, with his quadriceps rent wide open.
((Sfx: small body hitting the ground))
Engar: Oh, dear. It sounds like these ant people have made an alliance with the servants of the Many. Ahem. We do not wish to fight you, my good Formic. But if you insist on combat, then from the depths of my scholar’s robes shall I produce a flask of Engar’s Excellent Pest Repellent! Oh, dear. If I can find it, that is. I really need to label these bottles with a larger font. And perhaps line my robes with some bioluminescent moss.
((Sfx: clinking bottles))
Pinky: Well, Engar, using gas on these guys sounds like a pretty good idea. I’ll get the process started for you, since I’m already at the mouth of this cave.
Engar: But, Pinky, how do you propose to create a toxic mist, when you’re all the way back there and my alchemy kit is all the way back in the cart?
Pinky: Easy! With my LOBSTER BREATH! Bleaagh! (pause) Wait… what did I just say?
((Sfx: dragon acid gas breath))
The Wiz: You finally admitted that you’re not some sort of overgrown sea insect that people boil alive, crack open, make into a bisque with some tomatoes, and serve up at fancy dinners! Like I’ve been saying all along, Pinky. You’re a lobster!
DM: The Half-Dragon Pixie’s acidic mist quickly floods the mouth of the cave, driving all but three of the Formics into the depths of their hive. Pinky then retreats invisibly to the safety of her friends.
The Wiz: Excuse me, Voice. It’s a colony. These guys are ants. It’s only a hive if they’re wasp people or bee people.
Formian: Actzzually, we do conzzider zzuch dwellingzz azz we conzztruct to be ‘hivezz’. Your dizzembodied voiczze did not mizz-zzpeak.
The Wiz: Well. You learn something new every day! And you’re about to learn why The Wiz is a colony unto herself! Because she can cast MIRROR IMAGES!
((Sfx: mirror image multi-wiz))
Formian: The Wizzzzz, you zzay? The alliezz of our Queen have declared your dezztructzzionon! Azz our Queen commandzz, szzhall we obey! Yah!
((Sfx: d20 roll; hitting an illusion))
DM: The lead Formic soldier closes in on one of the five Wizes, snapping its mighty mandibles straight through her illusory neck.
The Wiz: Sorry, Antie! Auntie? Aphid? Whatever the diminutive version of the word for your species is, you missed! I ain’t dying today, and you’re going on a trip. The best way to deal with ants is to blow them away out of sight. So look out or you’ll get picked up by this quickened WIND WALL!
((Sfx: Wind Wall))
DM: The four remaining Wizes take their positions in a 20-ILDM line, weaving their hands in complicated patterns, until they each conjure three small balls of swirling dust. They juggle the dust devils in complicated, ever-changing patterns for a while, before passing the ever-growing orbs of wind back and forth, up and down the line. Then, all at once, they snatch the globes of wind from the air and slam them into the ground. A great, whooshing barrier of winds blows upward, knocking two of the Formics back and blowing lead soldier up into the air, to land somewhere far away. Give me some Spot Checks.
((Sfx: d20 roll x5))
The Wiz: There! Out of sight, out of mind!
Chip: Anybody see where he landed? I lost him in the sun.
The Wiz: Out. Of. Sight. Out. Of. Mind, Chip.
Engar: Oh dear. I think he landed near the cliffside where we left the cart. I hope the Portable Alchemy Station is alright.
Hera: Well, everything should be safe, with Ox and his Axe guarding the wagon. And the camel can help guard it as well, I suppose. It certainly spits far enough to keep Solstafir and me away.
((Sfx: solstafir sound))
Adanska: Oh, no! I hope my body is okay. I know Ox will take very good care of it, but I’ll never trust that backstabbing Axe of his. It’ll probably try to cut off another finger or something in the middle of the fight, because it knows it can get away with hurting my corpse in the confusion of battle.
Chip: Adanska, can you get to the other side of the Wind Wall?
Adanska: Absolutely, Chip! And I may even be able to disable another of our enemies if I get into position, first.
DM: Adanska sinks shin-deep into the ground, then moves to the sheer wall of the cliffside. He plunges his forearms and skull into the rock, and his body begins to glow with a deep, purple light. You look toward your foes, and one of them is wreathed in the same purple aura.
Adanska: I am attuned to your space, Formic. And now we DIMENSION SWAP!
((Sfx: Dimension Swap))
Formian: Xxalixx! Nooooo!
DM: Adanska and the ant-like soldier swap places, leaving the insectoid fused with the side of the cliff, at the molecular level. Its body and limbs spasm wildly for a few minutes, from the sudden shock of being disconnected from its central nervous system, but with its … I guess let’s say “hands” and “feet” stuck in the stone cliffside, its flailing is easily avoidable and very contained. Within a few moments, its thrashing ceases as the Formic’s central nervous system shuts down, leaving it in a deep coma.
Hera: We still have one enemy remaining. Anybody have any plans?
Engar: Aha! I’ve finally found my flask of Flamehand’s Formic Fungal Fertilizer! If you could get this to the other side, Dame Laris, then we could test it out. It’s supposed to spread, then accelerate the growth of a particular breed of mushroom spore which is uniquely lethal to ants, aphids, wasps, honey bees, and sawflies. It should be perfectly harmless to all other species.
((Sfx: bottle clink))
Hera: Hrm. The combined weight of Solstafir and my plate armor should be enough to get me through the Wind Wall. I’ll throw your bottle at the prone ant-like soldier person thing, but I don’t like the way you said “should”. As a Paladin, I am immune to disease; however, I am uncertain as to whether a fungal infection counts as a disease, per se, or as a poisoning.
Chip: Fear not, Lady Hera! For Paldas the Bright shall fortify you with the Endurance of the Mighty Bear and a quickened Ward Against Poisoning!
((Sfx: Bear’s Endurance, Ward v. Poison))
Hera: (pleased) If you two weren’t men, I’d swear that we were working together as seamlessly as the three aspects of the Triple Goddess! Come, Solstafir! Let us ride toward our enemy, girded by the might of cooperation and friendship!
((Sfx: solstafir sound, ostrich galloping through a wind wall while carrying a woman in plate))
DM: Hera puts the spurs to her golden war bird and charges Solstafir headlong into the Wind Wall. She gently cradles Engar’s flask of insecticide in her steel-backed, leather gauntlets, protecting it from the wild whippings of uprising air. She bursts forth from the far side of the wall, rearing her mount up high, his mighty beak gleaming sharply in the sun’s fading light. The paladin then hurls the phial of chemicals onto the belly of the prone ant warrior. It shatters, engulfing the whole area between the cave entrance and the wind wall in a sickly, lavender cloud.
((Sfx: shattering glass, big puff of poison, Solstafir sound))
The Wiz: Oh no! Pally! You’ve killed her, Engar! How can I ever forgive you! Unless you go over there and grab all of her keys for me…
Engar: No, no, my dear! This effect was quite expected. It seems to be going off without a hitch! Not bad, for the third iteration of the formula! Now, if Dame Laris is still conscious, she should be getting back, right about… Now! (pause) Hunh. Perhaps my calculations were off. Maybe it’s… Now! …Drat.
Chip: How toxic is that stuff supposed to be, Engar? Because Pinky and I are small enough that we’ll be swept up in the air currents, and you and The Wiz aren’t exactly the most hardy members of the Criers. The Wiz, how long is that wall supposed to last?
((Sfx: The Wiz un-multi-ing))
The Wiz: Uhhh… I think we got about another fifty seconds on that, give or take ten.
Chip: We’ve got no time to lose, then. If Hera is unconscious and breathing in toxic fumes, then every second counts!
DM: Your stirring speech is violently interrupted by Solstafir crashing through the wind wall. Hera is still mounted atop him, seemingly unharmed and breathing normally. She rears up, presenting her holy mount’s left wing to the party.
Hera: Sorry about being late, darlings. I ran into a friend, and had to have a word with him before I could pick him up. And I reminded him that were I not a paladin, such up-picking would not have been possible.
DM: Hera turns her celestial riding bird around, revealing the easily frustrated ghost of Adanska Rothgeld, with the scruff of his jerkin held tightly in her gauntleted fist.
Adanska: Okay, Lady Hera. I’m sorry I tried to Possess you while you couldn’t see me. It was wrong, and it violated Action Town Crier Rule #14: When interacting with fellow Criers, never possess anybody, peer into their dreams, scry on them, or miniaturize yourself to explore their living bodies, without express permission first. Can you please let me down, now? The holy power of your Triple Goddess is singing the hairs from the back of my neck.
Chip: Hera! Adanska! Thank the combined might of alchemical science and two-to-four gods –depending on how you count the Triple Goddess– that you two are safe! Now, we should get back to the wagon, see if Ox and the camel are safe, and rest up. Because tomorrow, we’re heading into that cave to investigate, find this Portal of Pa’vos, report to the Emperor and…
Chip: Pinky: Hera: Engar: The Wiz: Adanska: SPREAD THE NEWS!
Scene 4: Credit where Credit is Due
Rhomande: Visit The 20-Sided Theatre online at twentysidedtheatre.com. You can also follow us on Twitter through scryomagical links that Imenand and Thrimlach have established. You can follow the Twenty Sided Theatre @20SidedTheatre, the Insuperable Rhomande Sorfinde @IllustriousRho, Master Tmenand Shenouda @ShenoudaNecroCo, Thrimlach ceatharan @Thrimlach, Issa Featherfoot @LadyFeatherfoot, and Spirit of the Swift Wind @SpiritOTSW.
Thrimlach: The 20-Sided Theatre is a joint production of Bear Industries and the Shenouda Necromancy Corporation. This Episode stars Gabriel Abinante, Natalie Abinante, Blake Parker, Ceridwen Quattrin, Cian Quattrin, and Rudraigh Quattrin.
Issa: Original Adventure and Story by Blake Parker. Script adaptation by Rudraigh Quattrin. Edited by Blake Parker.
Imenand: Music by …
Imenand: For a complete list of and links to all the music and sound effects you heard on tonight's episode visit the show notes at 20sidedtheatre.com. While you’re there, consider donating to the upkeep and production of the Twenty Sided Theatre. If you don’t…
Stiev: Join ussss nexxxxt time at The 20-Sssssided Theatre!
Scene 5: The Tag
Imenand: Greetings, mortals. Are you in dire need of protection? Have you ever been tired of figuring out what to make for supper? Do you fear death? Then you should scry The Shenou—
((Sfx: radio tuning))
Electric Slide: HAIL Henchmen and Potential Henchmen from across the airwaves! This is Professor E. Slide again –Founder, Owner, Primary Beneficiary, and Chief Experimental Officer of SlidingTech Industries™ and its Subsidiaries– coming to you with an exciting announcement! Wait. Where’s my copy. I could swear I left that clipboard right around here somewhere. Sonar! Get in here!
((Sfx: shuffling papers))
Sam Sonar: Sir, you installed all of those Smart Surface Omni-Monitors last month. You said to get rid of anything made from paper or wood pulp. Which is why we have neither your clipboard nor the cheap flat-pack furniture in the Henchmen’s Lounge any more.
Electric Slide: Oh, right. Those lazy henchmen don’t deserve to sit down until they’ve mined enough plastic for my next series of experiments! BACK TO THE PLASTIC MINES, YOU HENCHMEN! Now, what was I doing… Oh, right. If every surface is a computer screen now, then I should be able to just jab at this wall for a few seconds, and… There! The whole script is scrawled across the entire surface of the north wall!
((Sfx: computer bloopy sounds))
Electric Slide: Let’s see here… “Hail Henchmen, blah blah blah…” Here it is! Ahem. No massive shadowy corporate conglomerate just appears out of thin air; they are ESTABLISHED and GROWN over the course of YEARS, and SlidingTech Industries is no different in its innocuous mom’n’pop roots. When I inherited a dilapidated, old warehouse and a failing potato farm from my Great Uncle Cuthbert, I took those potatoes and did something both wonderful and profitable.
Sam Sonar: You added some water & sugar and made potato-ade, sir?
Electric Slide: Incorrect, Sam Sonar! Well, actually it was correct. I DID make potato-ade, but it SOLD HORRIBLY! So I returned to the laborator— eh.. ahem… to the ““kitchen”” and I started working out new recipes and potato-based theories! In short, I did SCIENCE!
Electric Slide: We at SlidingTech Industries are pleased to announce the latest iteration of the current fashion in Reboots and Rebranding. I bring you Edwin’s Friendly, Non-Harmful Science-Based Potato Company - Now Legally Classified as Foodstuffs! We are expanding our markets, and with that, we are EXPANDING OUR WORKFORCE! Many bottom-paying jobs and hench-positions are opening at the many SlidingTech campuses across this, our great nation! Sonar! Remember to edit in whatever country these messages are going out to! And make sure you label the files this time! We don’t want another ““problem”” like last time, in the Faroe Islands!
Sam Sonar: Sir, I keep telling you. You gotta actually record yourself saying all those countries if you want me to edit them in.
Electric Slide: Oh, drat! I knew I was forgetting to do something. Sonar, you take a quick break while I make a LIST OF COUNTRIES!
Sam Sonar: Way ahead of you, Sir. Hrm. Kinda hungry. I guess I can try one of these potato energy bars. I kinda like the little picture on the wrapper. Who doesn’t love a lightbulb sticking out of a potato on an energy bar?
((Sfx: unwrapping a candy bar; chewing))
Sam Sonar: (spitting food out) Ugh. Sir, what the hell is up with this food? It’s all crispy and hard corners at first, and then slippery and grainy, but it still leaves your mouth dry. How the hell can something be dry and slippery? Plus, it tastes like a week-old sports bra.
Electric Slide: Our legal team reminds you that our potatoes and potato-based products are for SCIENTIFIC purposes only! Ingestion may cause FrictionBowel – either High Syndrome or Low, depending on the way you fry them up. Our legal team also reminds you that Frictionbowel is a PATENTED AFFLICTION of QueasyCo International, a subsidiary of SlidingTech Industries. They didn't go through all those patents and lawsuits just for you to get a Patented Disease free of charge! Anyway, if you need a job that pays slightly worse than MINIMUM WAGE, offers MEDIOCRE HEALTH BENEFITS, has NO RETIREMENT PLAN, and provides GENEROUS LIFE INSURANCE PAYOUTS to your next-of-kin, then submit your résumé today! Undead and robots need not apply. Undead Robots need not apply TWICE!
((Sfx: Radio Tuning))
Imenand: WHO WAS THAT? And how did he interrupt my scryocastic advertisement for undead enhancements?
((Sfx: Magical intercom))
Imenand: Mauline, you must immediately scry Master Lenanien and Father Maldreth. We must see if we can triangulate this “Professor Slide’s” signal.