Thursday, May 19, 2011

Plaza of the Watchers - Special Encounter I

A follow-up to yesterday's bestiary article...

In a large plaza in this hex (letter i), there is a 150' diameter raised circular platform - the platform rises about 20' over the surrounding plaza.  Positioned around the edges of the platform are a series of over sized Watchers - five free standing Watchers and five dome-shaped revolving Watchers.

In the distant past, the revolving Watchers on the plaza were capable of pushing skyward on large columns of stone.  The bases were connected with interlocking 5-pointed stars that would flare to life with a red glow when the defenses were activated, and these overpowered Watchers would be able to target invaders of the city, miles away, from their vantage high above the streets.  In their current depowered state, the Watchers can only draw on their own inherent animating magic, and are no more powerful than the standard Watchers in the bestiary article.  If a  group were able to clear the debris, ice and snow off the platform, they'd be able to see the faint pentagrams still etched in the surface.

8 of the 10 Watchers are still functional, meaning that any approach towards the platform will likely result in the adventurers being targeted by 3-4 of them (a few of each style).  The base of the platform is littered with the smashed bodies (now reduced to skeletons) of previous victims - mostly Ape-Men.  The Watchers will not attack characters carrying indigo gemstones passing by the plaza.

There's a slim chance that an adventuring party could fully power up these Watchers through (unlucky) actions performed at the Electric Co (level 1 dungeons) and in Central Command (area F on the city map).

However, Xeph-Ka the Scientist is actually the most dangerous threat in this area.

Xeph-Ka the Scientist, Ghost
Xeph-Ka was a scientist-sorcerer of the ancient Greys who studied the necromantic arts, attempting to pioneer the magics necessary to attain lichdom.  Xeph-Ka's attempt to become a full-blown lich failed, but he succeeded in ripping his spirit from his body and tying it to a fetter in the mortal world, a precursor to the lich's phylactery.  The lich formula was eventually perfected by a descendant, the wizard Kar-Qo.

Xeph-Ka maintained his telepathic connection to the Grey overmind after death, and the scientist was driven insane when the Ovemind died and caused the Grey mass extinction.  But his spirit was fettered to the city, and he endured.  His laboratory was not far from the plaza of the Watchers, and though the building is tumbled, the diamond that served as his spirit's mortal world fetter still pulses with unholy light beneath the rubble.

The ghostly scientist loathes the fleshy meat bags that crawl across the corpse of his ancient city like maggots, and schemes to lure interlopers into the Plaza of the Watchers to be pounded into dust by the Watchers.  As an ethereal being, he passes safely amongst the ponderous stone guardians.  Xeph-Ka can range up to 2 hexes away in any direction from the plaza, and will often appear as a distant torchlight or flickering glow like a will-o-wisp to trick a band of Ape-Men into entering the plaza.  In recent years he's even been able to guide a party of Northmen that made it past the glacier to their deaths.  (If a careful search of the plaza were possible, it would yield trinkets and minor, incidental valuables).

In game terms, Xeph-Ka is a Ghost (Labyrinth Lord, AEC stats) with the ability to create simple auditory and visual illusions.  His undead form kept the basic telepathy once possessed by his people and he'll use this to gain an advantage over the invaders; Xeph-Ka is of genius intellect.  If a group doesn't get lured to the plaza through his trickery, he'll resort to magic jar attacks to possess a victim, and physically run one of them into the barrage of Watchers after dropping any gemstone passkeys they might be carrying.

Xeph-ka will physically manifest and use ghostly attacks (gaze and physical aging touch) if a group attempts to destroy the Watchers in the plaza, or discovers the hiding place of his spirit diamond beneath the rubble in an adjacent hex.  Smashing the diamond is the surest way of dispelling the ghost, and a higher level group might have access to commune, find the path, or some other magical way of discovering the ghost's weakness and getting at the diamond.  If Xeph-Ka manifests physically or is viewed on the ethereal plane, he appears as a gaunt, emaciated alien whose abdomen becomes transparent before drifting off into a trailing mist.

It would take a few days of labor and proper equipment (block and tackle) to move the tons of stone necessary to get into Xeph-Ka's lair without magic.  In a dim underground chamber is Xeph-Ka's pulsing spirit diamond (15,000gp), a slew of ancient potions in crystalline vials (longevity x3, human control x2), and various platinum discs with the alien dot-matrix style writing.  The metal value of the discs is only 50pp but it's likely the wizard Shafat in Trade Town would pay more for them, as the writing contains a new spell (Create Ghost) detailing how to create a ghost by tearing the soul from a mortal subject. (Eventually I'll be putting together a list of new spells for the Black City).