This was an interesting episode for me to plan out. I knew that the heroes had their sights set on Robotnik, but I didn’t want their journey to him to be too easy. I knew that he would have a lot of robots guarding him, but I didn’t want a repeat of the same type of mass battle that the League just went through when they attacked Bowser in Peach’s castle. I brainstormed a few ideas before realizing that there was one major element of the Mario universe I hadn’t used yet: Karts. From that nugget grew the rest of… well, this.
The players can decide where and how they want this episode to open, and can call for any number of scenes that they’d like. They’re likely to gather resources before they head to Bowser’s Castle, either in the form of power-ups or allies.
If Bowser’s Castle is where the robots are being manufactured, it’s likely that the heroes will face a great degree of opposition from robotic forces, possibly in even greater numbers than were stationed at Mushroom Castle. Some of the robots have been examined by the brightest minds that the Mushroom Kingdom has, led by Professor Fungi, an elderly mushroom person with a purple-spotted mushroom cap and a curly white handlebar mustache. His analysis has determined that the enemy robots have one major weakness in their programming: they have difficulty tracking fast-moving enemies. In addition, the League’s successful attack on Bowser in the Mushroom Castle has shown that the robots are operated remotely via a control signal—if Bowser’s Castle is protected by robots, they too would likely have a single broadcast antenna that could be destroyed to disable all of them. Remember that the control antenna in Mushroom Castle was in the highest tower, so the same would likely prove true for the antenna in Bowser’s Castle. Depending on what the heroes want to do, they may be able to requisition some Karts from the Mushroom Kingdom, or maybe even help Professor Fungi to develop a device that could block the control signal without needing to destroy the antenna.
If they want to try to recruit an ally, ask them to set up a scene (with a location) where they ask this would-be ally to join them. The different potential allies will need to be convinced to join, however. This can be done with a Psyche + Persuasion check, but a convincing enough argument that demonstrates an understanding of the character in question may be able to bring them around without a check.
Peach: She wants to help her people and recognizes that Robotnik may very well be a threat to the Mushroom Kingdom, but she’s no warrior. She fought against the Koopa Troop because she had to, but she thinks she’s more likely to be a liability to the League than an asset if she travels with them.
Yoshi: Yoshi is grateful to the League and feels a strong sense of kinship with Dante, but his people want to go back to their island to tear down the remains of Grimgrim Prison and restore their way of life.
Luigi: Luigi still hasn’t completely physically recovered from his time in the dungeon, and he feels like, if Mario went to defeat this Robotnik and wasn’t able to, there’s no way he’ll be able to do so.
Bowser: Bowser has already agreed to help the League—the trick will be convincing Peach to let him out of the dungeon. This could potentially involve convincing Peach that Bowser is a much smaller threat than Robotnik, or maybe making a case for Bowser having a change of heart.
I thought this was an interesting way of presenting an additional challenge to the players: there were allies available, sure, but they each had an issue that would need to be addressed before they would join. This had several benefits from a GM perspective, including cutting down on the number of NPCs that would be involved in the final few scenes of this arc, allowing for some creative roleplaying from the players, and helping to make these NPCs feel deeper and more realized as opposed to just useful stat blocks that the players could utilize.
Once the heroes have made whatever preparations they feel like they need to make, they can begin the trek to Bowser’s Castle. Any Mushroom Kingdom natives with them (including Vivian) can lead them through the network of Warp Pipes, starting with one pipe just outside of Mushroom Castle and progressing through disjointed, geographically random chunks of the world as they speed through the dark green highway toward their goal.
You come upon the entrance to your final Warp Pipe at the peak of a tall mountain, with clouds clinging to the slopes below you and stretching out into the distance. One by one, you jump into the dark opening and are rocketed an unknowable number of miles, heading closer and closer to Bowser’s Castle. Until, all at once, you come to a stop, a much more jarring, painful stop than you’re accustomed to with these Warp Pipes. Normally they somehow slow you down before you exit, but it feels as though you’ve hit something in the pipe.
The heroes are stuck in the close darkness of the interior of the Warp Pipe, partially piled on top of each other. Investigation will reveal that a wall of dark brown rock completely blocks their way, stretching from one side of the tunnel to the other. A close examination (and an Intuition + Perception check) reveals that there is actually no space between the rock and the metal walls of the pipe, not even the tiniest of seams—it’s as though the rock has become completely fused to the metal.
This was a small bit of foreshadowing, suggesting that something very strange was going on up ahead. It primed the characters to be on their toes and look for other similar instances of strangeness.
Fortunately, the League has any number of ways of getting through this rock barrier, which is less than a foot thick. Once through, they find that they are close to the Warp Pipe exit and can crawl the rest of the way.
You emerge out of the Pipe and into a landscape of dark, volcanic rock and glowing rivers of lava. Off in the near distance, perched on a rocky cliff, looms a towering castle, its dark stone edifice lit from beneath in the flickering orange light of molten rock. A gigantic face is carved into the front of the castle. Luna immediately recognizes the face as that of the man she saw in Bowser’s memories: a bald human man with a huge bushy mustache, a huge and manic grin stretching from one side of his face to the other. An eerie purple light shimmers from the round lenses covering his eyes.
(If Bowser is present, he snarls when he sees the face carved on the castle. “Robotnik, that spineless Wiggler! I’ll bet he didn’t even wait till I had reached Mushroom Castle before he started putting his own ugly mug on my castle!”)
But as you start making your way across this rocky expanse, you realize that something isn’t right. Something feels off about this whole place. It’s a feeling in the air, perhaps, but one that seems to channel directly into your nervous system, activating some primal part of your brain that tells you you’re being watched, that you’re not safe, that you could be attacked at any moment… and that something about this place is deeply damaged, wrong, and dangerous.
With your instincts firing off in your head, you take a second look around this area, and aspects of it start to stick out. Almost literally, as it turns out. Off to your right is what appears to be a pine tree growing out of this lifeless, rocky wasteland. As if that weren’t strange enough, it’s protruding at a 45-degree angle out of the ground, with its upper quadrant fusing completely into a nearby rocky outcropping. Not far ahead of you is what appears to be a thirty-foot long stretch of highway blacktop, complete with a dashed yellow line running down the center. At the very edge of this incongruous piece of street is what looks like the back half of a blue automobile, as though a sedan had been sheared off just behind the front seats. Looking out, you can see more and more of these strange occurrences, things which do not belong in this sort of environment—things which don’t belong in this WORLD—littering the landscape chaotically. And it’s not just objects, either—there’s an area of about a hundred square feet where you can very clearly catch the smell of freshly-cut grass, and you’re fairly certain you can hear the sound of ocean waves crashing against rocks coming from what seems to be a completely random area of air about 20 feet up.
As you try to process what you’re experiencing, there’s a sudden electric crackle from nearby. Those of you who traveled to the Mushroom Kingdom from Castle Grayskull find the sound familiar: it’s very reminiscent to the sound the DDC makes when it activates and sends you from one world to another, but this one sounds more chaotic, less controlled. As this is occurring to you, there’s suddenly a bubble of crackling white electricity that explodes outward from an otherwise unremarkable point nearby and, without warning, a stampede of African wildebeest come streaking out with remarkable speed, unintentionally heading directly toward you. What do you do?
The heroes can do as they wish to avoid getting trampled, or to help each other avoid getting trampled. A roll may be appropriate to see if they succeed—in general, a minor failure should cause 10-20 damage, while a major failure should cause 40 damage.
Continuing closer to Bowser’s Castle, the heroes will come over a ridge and see a small valley between them and the castle—a valley filled with the robotic sentries that the League will recognize from their battle at Mushroom Castle, but in much greater numbers, including at least two dozen of the titanic sentinels that Stitch and Dante fought. The robots are scattered over this valley, but they will only notice the League if they do something obvious, like make a lot of noise or come close.
How the heroes want to deal with this challenge is up to them. They could attempt to speed through the enemies, sneak past them, take them out remotely, or just fight their way through. They could also try to get to the Castle from the side via the more treacherous mountains, which are still patrolled (albeit lightly) by some of the flying robots.
This next part was intentionally left vague and open, as I had no idea what precisely the League was going to do to address this challenge. I did my best to just roll with the ideas that they came up with and tried to look for opportunities for exciting, cinematic sequences. Here are the enemy stat blocks I was working with:
Death Egg Robot Sentinel
Body Armor: In
Eye Laser: Am damage
Weak Point: The sentinel’s eye has Sh0 Body Armor, and any hits dealt to the eye inflict +40 damage to the sentinel as a whole
Aero-Chaser (egg-shaped humanoid robot with a huge triangular jetpack strapped to its back)
Laser Cannons: Rm damage
Homing Rockets: Fires two at a time, each of which deals Ex damage and can go for one or two targets. They can also create a wall of Ex fire or electricity
Buzz Bomber (large robotic bee with a blue head and a cartoony face)
Stinger Blast: Gd damage
Egg Pawn (egg-shaped humanoid robot, orange colored with cyan lights for eyes and mouth)
Egg Tank (beetle-shaped tank the size of a pony)
Cannon: Ex damage
Egg Walker (ostrich-shaped purple robot with glowing red eyes and missile launchers where their legs meet their bodies)
Missile Launcher: Ex damage
How and where the heroes encounter Robotnik will depend largely upon how they approach the castle and deal with the robots. It’s possible they may be able to go in through the front gate of the castle or possibly through one of the side windows. The interior of Bowser’s Castle has been almost completely converted into a massive robot factory, with several long assembly lines pumping out the many different models of Robotnik’s mechanical forces. Any and all paintings and statues of Bowser have been taken down and either destroyed or simply thrown into the scrap pile, and the interior of the castle itself has been reshaped as Robotnik has taken down interior walls in order to make more room for his production line. If the heroes managed to take out the command signal first, the assembly lines will be quiet, but the heroes will have to keep fighting or sneaking past even more robot foes inside the castle walls.
It should be noted that Robotnik’s Dimensional De-Buffer is located within the giant Robotnik head at the front of the castle, just behind and between the eyes (the source of the purple light).
Robotnik has set up his main command center in Bowser’s old throne room, an area with vaulted cathedral-like ceilings. Robotnik has, again, taken down anything that could have remotely suggested that Bowser once owned this place, and has put up instead an array of massive monitors showing various places in and around the castle, as well as picking up feeds from various areas throughout this world.
It’s also possible, however, that the heroes may drop in their attempt to get into the castle, in which case they will be taken to the dungeons beneath the castle. They’ll wake up to find themselves in what looks like a crazier version of Frankenstein’s lab, with towering pillars that crackle with electricity, chemicals that bubble in beakers and tanks, and robotic parts and shells scattered around. Most of the characters are held in cages hanging from the ceiling, but Stitch is strapped to an operating table in the center of the room by powerful metal bindings.
Always good to have a contingency plan in the unlikely case of TPK.
Wherever the League ultimately meets Robotnik, he will attempt to deliver some version of the following monologue.
“In my native world of Mobius, I created my robotic minions by roboticizing the native fauna species. This allowed me to use their natural bioelectricity as a fuel source, and to use their natural survival instincts as a shortcut for more advanced combat protocols. And yet when I came to this world, I found that the natives here resisted my usual roboticization procedures. Something about their physiology—it’s almost as though they’re not animals at all, but closer to fungi. I had to go about making my robotic forces the old-fashioned way, directing them via a crude command signal. Fortunately, all I had to do was wave the possibility of world domination in front of Bowser’s nose and he gave me all the resources I could ask for.
“But then, fate saw fit to provide me with two unique opportunities. The second of these was all of you—I’ve been monitoring you since Grimgrim Prison, when it became clear that none of you were from this particular world. I identified that device that the small blue one carried as some sort of dimensional transporter and targeted it when you marched on Mushroom Kingdom. I’ve been experimenting with it ever since, and I have made some truly remarkable breakthroughs with this technology… including a number of improvements, naturally.
“I noticed that your device is only capable of traveling via areas where the walls between dimensions are especially thin, which I have dubbed Eggstraction Points. But I, in my genius, have developed the Dimensional De-Buffer: a device which emits a radiation that eats away at the barrier between worlds! With this, I can create my own Eggstraction Points, meaning I can travel to wherever I wish, from wherever I wish!
“But that was the second stroke of luck that’s come upon me since my arrival. The first occurred once Bowser started his little invasion, when a plumber-turned-warrior showed up at the castle gates, looking to shut the whole operation down. My forces were able to defeat him, of course, though he did set my production line back two solid months… but when he was captured, I made the most amazing discovery. Like you, this would-be savior also did not originate from this world. In fact, his physiology was much closer to my own—perhaps even the same strain of homo sapien as myself. And because of that, I was able to, shall we say, return to my older robotic roots.”
And with that, Mecha-Mario enters the frame and we cut to credits.