DM Screen 14 – A Song of Ice

And here we are, at the end of the Westerosi road! The obvious centerpiece of this particular episode is the giant fight with Demon Dracula, but I wanted the real meat to be the discovery of Frostmourne, and the League’s dilemma on how to deal with it. For more on that subject, read on…

Dracula hovers above you in the sky, and with a snarl, throws his arms wide. Gigantic red, leathery wings erupt from his sides, large enough to cover a basketball court. The wings themselves begin to sprout dark, writhing shapes, almost liquid in their sinuousness. A pair of huge, muscular arms, made of twisted black sinew and topped with long claws, reach forward eagerly. Three heads, each the size of a full-grown adult, almost snakelike in appearance, emerge from these wings at the end of long, sinewy necks. Lurking in the shadows of these wings, you can see many more menacing shapes, some skeletal, some animal, all demonic in some way, and all regarding you with eager, boiling malevolence.

Roll initiative.

Demon Dracula
F: Ex
A: Ex
S: Am
E: ShZ
R: In
I: Mn
P: Am

Health: 590         Karma: 165

Flight: Rm
Claws (2 attacks per round): In damage each
Heads (3 attacks per round): Rm damage
Energy Blast (once per round): Mn damage

If you get the chance to run any sort of combat-centric RPG, you’ll quickly find that it’s easy for boss monsters to feel a lot less threatening after getting ganged up on by a group of heroes. I try to give my bosses a little something extra beyond just a boatload of Health—in the case of Demon Dracula, I wanted to make him feel like a frenzy of teeth, claws, and energy blasts, hence the six different attacks he gets every turn.

After some amount of time, have the heroes make Perception checks. Those that succeed (Green or better) notice that something has gone missing from the massive tangle of red wings and black, twisted demonflesh: Dracula himself! Looking around, they see the scarred and tattered vampire lord disappearing into the cave in the glacier from which the tuneless song of the undead calls.

The space within the cave is relatively narrow—it formed from a cleft in the surface of the ice. In this jagged, uneven passage, the song of the undead is amplified to almost deafening levels, entirely drowning out the roar of battle from outside. This, combined with the blue-white ice of the walls, floors, and ceiling, give the sensation of having stepped into an entirely different universe.

The path within the glacier splits off multiple times, zig-zagging its way through the ice. Sometimes these paths join up with other paths, sometimes they dead-end at featureless blue-white walls. The whole feeling is like stepping into some otherworldly hall of mirrors.

Eventually, the narrow paths open into a larger chamber. It is there that you see the source of the song, the source of the undead in Westeros. It is almost entirely encased in the ice of the farthest wall. It is a sword. The blade is jagged and asymmetrical, the color of ice, and is covered in runes. The crossguard is adorned with a demonic skull, the empty eye sockets of which, along with the runes on the blade of the sword, glow with the same blue light that’s been in all the eyes of the zombies you’ve encountered. The hilt is made of some unidentifiable dark metal—and is the only part of the sword that protrudes from the glacial wall, the handle sticking out invitingly.

Emerging from one of the other entrances into this chamber is Dracula. Upon seeing the sword and realizing that it’s the source of the deathly call, he immediately lunges for it. Flemeth does the same, both figures reaching with outstretched fingers toward the handle of this blade.

What do you do?

That’s all I had written in preparation for this episode. I wanted to leave the ending as wide open as possible to account for what the players decided to do with Frostmourne. On the one hand, they knew that it was an artifact of both great power and great evil, which is normally a dilemma in and of itself, but they ALSO knew that, if they themselves didn’t go after the sword, Dracula and/or Flemeth could get their hands on it, which could prove even worse. I loved this as a tough choice to throw in at the end of the arc, and hearing the players agonize over the decision was great.

Of course, Dante grabbed the sword, and everyone else fled the glacier as it collapsed… except for Stitch. I came up with the idea of having Stitch be severely hurt as a result on the fly—I wanted there to be some long-lasting consequences for their decision, and it actually fit the usual story of Frostmourne (a nearby friend of the wielder is hurt or killed when the sword is drawn). Then Nico got the Stone of Grace from Flemeth and they all retreated back to Castle Grayskull… and then I ended the session with some foreshadowing of Skeletor and Demona nastiness to come.

But we’re not done with this story yet. Onward to Nexus City!

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