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Unfathomable! Session 17

Ye Dogs of Destiny decide the very fate of the Universe!

The Campaign: Operation Unfathomable! and Odious Uplands!, both by Jason Sholtis

The Ruleset: 5e

Ye Dogs of Destiny:

  • Brother Ded, a monk/political shit-stirrer. 
  • Mort, a fugitive from Imperial justice.
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich. 
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler. (Accompanied by his Uncle Henrik's soul in a magic ring)
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist. (Currently haunted by Mother Futility)
  • Toljin, a magical boy raised by pirates. 
  • Doloth, an unwilling-Citizen Lich.

The Story So Far

At long last, ye Dogs of Destiny have found the fabulous Nul Rod!

Session 17

Psaltir 18 (6th day in the Underworld), 4th Bell

The Party stood in a small tunnel, between the mysterious ice caverns and the Oracle of the Pit, considering their find: the Nul Rod! 

There was a lot of debate about what to do with the Nul Rod, and whether or not to trust Thontorius's claims that the return of the Nul Rod would set into motion a chain of cause and effect that would lead to a Robot Uprising and the death of all organic life in the Universe.

Zinee was avoiding touching the artifact directly, letting it dangle from the mooring lines the tiny inhabitants of the ice city had used to erect it in their city center. Nevertheless, they all felt its effect washing over them. Their magical abilities were diminished, their spells felt uncertain, and Ulfer could barely hear his Uncle Henrik's soul from inside the Ring of Soul Storage. Then Zinee felt a powerful voice communicate with her from the rod: "SMASH CHAOS!" it commanded. She tossed the rod away, which was picked up by Doloth.

Inside Zinee's brain, Mother Futility was exultant! She had "the boy," Toljin, whom she considered to be a prophesied messiah for Nul, and now she had the Nul Rod! This relic figured heavily in the Nul cult’s scriptures and was prophesied to have a great influence over world events. The Cult had sought it for generations. According to lore, this was a component of Nul’s titanic sidearm, empowered by its creator with a virus-like matrix of Primal Order, dampening and remaking chaos in its own image. With this, Mother Futility knew she could destroy the Cult as it was, rebuild it to her liking, conquer the Underworld, and then the Surface World!

Meanwhile, Brother Ded had lingered back in the ice city and was threatening to eat its inhabitants if they didn't had over any loot they had pulled from Prince Eryean's body. After some desperate pleading and wanton destruction, the city dwellers started hauling out some jewels, which Brother Ded wasn;t much interested in. Then several hundred of them hauled out a greatsword. "Now that's more like it!" said Ded, snatched up the sword, and trotted down the tunnel to join the others.

Bother Ded returned to the crew only to take damage from the Nul Rod's aura as it began to ossify his flesh. Oddly, it had not had this effect on anyone else.

By now, Doloth and Toljin were tussling over the Rod. Doloth wanted the Nul Rod to end his lichdom and return him to life. Toljin could feel that the Rod was some sort of bridge, or, at least, a foundation on which he could establish a bridge to whatever divine being he was connect to. Both were being psychically commanded to "SMASH CHAOS!" by the Rod.

Toljin realized that if he permanently sacrificed one of his highest-level spell slots, he could form the bridge. He did so, and a swirling black portal opened. Doloth, however, wrenched the Rod out of his hands, and the portal disappeared. 

The Party talked through the situation a bit, and eventually Doloth handed the Rod back to Toljin, with an apology. Toljin was able to re-open the portal. The Party stepped through and found themselves transported to deep space and an amphitheater made of delicate silver filigree. Far above them loomed two figures, one male and one female, who sometimes appeared to be one hermaphroditic figure. A star floated down into the amphitheater and turned into a girl in a silver dress who announced that she was there to speak for Erebos and Nyx, gods of the Void Above, who once were one, and then were split, and came back together in great love.

The Party also noticed that there were three additional figures with them. Mother Futility, who had been haunting Zinee's brain, stood among them in physical form, as did Ulfer's Uncle Henrik, who was supposed to be a disembodied soul in a ring. Most surprising was Turtleback Sally, Greta's apprentice from her pre-lich days as a hag. Apparently, Greta had kept her soul in a gem as a momento/emergency snack.

The star, Ancilla, explained that the Universe was at a crossroads. If the Nul Rod was returned, it would sap the magic out of the Universe, leading to the Age of Science, and, eventually, the destruction and replacement of Life with Automation. If it was destroyed, the Age of Magic would never end, power would continue to accumulate in the hands of liches, leading to stultification and the replacement of Life with Undeath. Either way, Nul would be triumphant as agency and growth were replaced with mindless activity. The Gods themselves could not agree which path was better. But it has long been the privilege and provenance of mortals to surprise the Gods. It was up to ye Dogs of Destiny to decide.

The Party had some questions for Ancilla. They learned that magic was borne from Chaos, and that the deeper one delved, the more Chaos energy and the more magical things were. Below the Surface was the Underworld, below the Underworld was Hell, then the Abyss, and then Primal Chaos. They learned that Ancient Beetle civilization mastered both Magic and Science, and they used the Nul Rod and other techniques to attempt to control the flow of Law and Chaos in their technologies, and eventually this destroyed them.

A long discussion followed, but Zinee hit on what proved to be the winning solution pretty early on: what if we left the Nul Rod here, with these Gods? No one was too sure what would happen, but it seeing the Erebos and Nyx are primordial beings that precede polarities like Good and Evil or Law and Chaos, they might be able to counter the binary apocalypse.

Mother Futility, whose cynicism had crumbled in the presence of actual Gods, asked to stay with them and serve as Steward of the Rod. Turtleback Sally was in no way eager to return to her gem prison, and also asked to stay. (Greta was delightful when confronted with Turtleback Sally. "I've learned a lot from Doloth about apologies, and I want to say that I appreciate you for your sacrifice." "You killed me and put my soul in a stone!" "And I appreciate that.")

Ancilla thanked the mortals and gave them a silver stellate artifact as a mark of Divine Favor. And then they were returned to the Underworld!


This session relied on the players being able to entertain themselves by debating among themselves about things that their characters would never live to see.  I've used some rules for gamifying debates before, adapted from the game Tiny Taverns. But I hadn't prepped them, because I hadn't actually expected the party to get here so quickly. Fortunately, this group was more than up to the task of free-styling an argument. Have I mentioned that I play with a bunch of academics? 

This end-of-the-Universe debate was my invention, but building off implications that are well-rooted in Operation: Unfathomable! I'm hopeful that Jason Sholtis would approve.

The stellate artifact is basically a single-use Wish spell. Many of the player characters have a long term goal that the Wish spell could solve, so it'll be interesting to see how they decide to use it. 

The greatsword the ice inhabitants gave to Brother Ded is Defender, a legendary magic sword. Bother Ded isn't proficient in it, hasn't attuned to it, and has no interest in handing it over to someone who could make better use of it. They were about to pull a bunch more stuff out, too, but Ded ran off before they had a chance!


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