This is my play report of Nicolas Logue’s Ascension of the Drow prequel Mega-Adventure. It was a free-for all, storytelling-intensive D&D 3.5 game featuring 126 players (21 tables of 6) and more than 33 GMs. Everyone was sharing the same game at the same time!
It was held at Gen Con and ran from 7h00 PM to the wee hours of the morning. It was insanely fun and had me use all 25 years of my experience as a GM.
The setup was relatively simple. Almost all players were members of one of the Drow Noble Houses of Golarion’s (Paizo’s Campaign World) Drow Capital, Zinarkaynin.
The 12 major houses had been ruling the city without a Monarch for countless centuries, but this was no longer an option if the Drow were to survive. All players had 24 hours in game time to nominate a new Monarch or the whole city would be destroyed and all souls in it would be eternally damned in the deepest pits of the Abyss.
The following is a retelling of the game seen from the perspective of a Chelaxian Vampire Pathfinder spy who was posing as a Slave.
I’ve seen my share of atrocities in my 200 years as a Child of the Night in the service of our Dread Lord Asmodeus but none as vile, horrendous and so throughly fascinating as what I witnessed a few nights ago in the Drow City-Vault of Zinarkaynin.
As originally planned, I was taken by the slavers of Drow Noble House Rasiverin, The House of Dire Masters. This major Noble House, one of the 12 ruling Houses of the vault, was renowned for its near limitless slave pens, the gladitorial arena and the shrine of the Crimsom Spire. Said shrine devoted to Zura, Demon lord of Cannibalism and Vampires, patron of the House of Dire Masters, was the central point of the House’s vampiric leadership.
I was based in the family’s estate in Deraktinus, the Vault’s Upper Neighborhood. My status as a Vampire allowed me to rapidly climb the echelons of the house slaves hierarchy. I was soon assigned as a body servant to this House’s de-facto leader: Miyana Rasivrein, Vampire priestess of Zura.
The night before I escaped this forsaken but oh so beautiful city, all 12 ruling heads of the Noble Houses were summoned by their respective patron demon lords and were horribly slain for having failed to put a ruler on the Soulwrought throne for so many centuries.
Mistress Rasivrein, the heir apparent of her now leaderless House, told me that this throne held (and controlled) thousands of souls captured from the enemies of the Drow over countless centuries. Without a firm ruler to keep them in check, the souls had started to become restless and threatened the existence of Zinarkaynin.
Upon slaying all House leaders, the Demon Lords required that a new ruler be named within 24 hours before the Throne surrendered its last shred of control over the souls within them, liberating them all and leveling the city mere moments after their release.
What then followed was a cavalcade of confusion, alliances, betrayal, double, triple and even quadruple dealings.
Alliances with various Houses were established, chiefly with House Vonnarc (The Archmages), Misraria (Messengers and Assassins) and Sardavic (Artisans and Entertainers). While the House of Dire Masters took a wait-and-see approach to the conflict initially, major members of the House were all over the place, dealing, fighting and negociating.
An avatar of Demon Lord Zara itself materialized and heavily influenced the course of decisions that House Rasivrein took.
Armies marched in and out of the city, hordes of slaves, groups of elemental and legendary dragons were summoned and released on the hapless city. Water conduits were poisoned and plague rats swarmed Noble Households. Citizens and slave alike were butchered for the greater glory of this fraticidal succession war…
Yet, of the 120 nobles and associate members, only one died in the first twelve hours of the conflict, which goes to show that, true to what we have come to expect of the Drow, the ruling Noble Houses had always been more concerned about their own safety than the good of their city.
Shortly before the 12 hour mark, the Rasivrein household and some close allies were holding council in the garden of the family’s main estate when they were brutally attacked by Tsu’kirith, a Legendary Demonic Roper.
The monster was able to rapidly drain several opponents, who were invariably restored by Miyana, the House’s leader. The timely intervention of Felize Rasivrein (Miyana’s Bodyguard) and Render (the Arena’s 1/2 Dragon Troll Champion) promptly killed the fiendish beast which exploded in a torrent of unholy energies.
No one was killed in that assault. While it had obviously been engineered by a rival House, it was never established whom did.
Shortly after that, all Demon Lords congregated over the vault and shared their anger at the fact that with less than 12 hours to go, almost all nobles were still alive. They threatened that if more than 1/2 of their blue blooded followers still stood in the next few hours, they’d take matters in their own hands…
… that they did, helping one of the Houses to poison the whole city with a vile green gas, Leaving all but the strongest alive!
While House Rasivrein recovered and consolidated its alliances, it sacrificed one of it’s own major family members as well as two captured nobles from other houses to summon the Tarrasque, convinced by Zura (thier Demon Lord) that it would follow Miyana’s orders and allow House Rasivrein to walk to the Throne room of the Upper city, recover the crown and take ruleship!
That didn’t happen, as the Tarrasque promptly destroyed the family’s estate, slew one of the braver gladiators (Tybalt Mornblade, the Minotaur fighter) and tried to kill Miyana. All members of the House fled the premises to make a desperate run after the throne, leaving the Tarrasque to continue it’s mad rampage.
Having barely survived the assault of this nightmarish beast, I elected to leave this madness and initiate my return to the surface to report to my leaders of the Pathfinder Society.
During my journey back, I was informed by a fellow traveler fleeing the city faster than I was that House Rasivrein failed to take the throne and that a Sardavic matriarch, cloaked in the protection of her Vonnarc allies, did.
It’s my professional opinion that we should not have to worry too much about the Drow in the upcoming years. They will need to recuperate in this most bloody of short civil wars I had ever read about, much less witnessed.
I remain, dear Para-Countess, your most devout servant.
Viscount Ereg Galduvian IV
Chatty’s DM analysis of the event:
This was by far the craziest, most incredible Role Playing event I have ever been part of. Never before have I had to think faster, improvise more and work so damn hard to keep up with a game.
Overall the event was a resounding success. Nick Logue is truly a Role Playing mastermind genius with a strong retinue of loyal fans ready to help him pull the craziest of stunts.
However, I can’t help myself but to share a few points of constructive criticism.
- The names were unpronounceable to both English and French palates.
- Players were confused, very confused and needed to be prompted by the table and Demon Lord GMs…
- So much so that GMs stopped being referees and became players, they tended to influence players to a point I became uncomfortable with (I later learned that a lot of GMs were White Wolf Storytellers and it showed!)
- The crunch behind the PCs were overly complex, with useless multiclassing that never actually came into play, most of the players never fought! I’d have done 12 templates and fluffed them to fit all 126 character, saving the writers a ton of time!
- Speaking of Writers, let me name the two who did the most work: Steven Helt and Shane Cottom! With hardly any money, or time, they wrote over 30 pages of fluff and created all ‘named’ monsters and all 126 PCs!!!!! These guys deserve a ton of credit along Logue and his pals.
- Killing most players with a Poison Cloud was a cheap shot that caused a lot of players to get mad/disappointed.
- In order to truly create PC to PC conflicts, Combat and Demon Lord GM’s should have been less generous with players using vague resources like ‘slaves’ and ‘were rat infantry’ that only created ‘news item’ that no one listened to and force players to commit themselves to the various schemes that they wanted to hatch.
Still overall, this was an incredible event and It gave me an idea for a future such event that I pitched to the writers of that event for next year. I hope they give it serious consideration.
Hopefully I’ll get to play in it… if it’s not on the same night as the Ennies