Every two months, my two D&D groups meet for an all-day, all-group session. This brings its own set of challenges—with 10-12 players, combat turns take forever; deciding what to do can take equally long; and quiet players get even more drowned out since there are more voices to contend with. For our Halloween all-day session, I wanted to make plans to minimize these problems. The following “adventure” was built around those three pillars, then
1. Combat can be present, but it must be optional.
2. The session should have a clear goal.
3. There will be times where each player is asked to contribute.
With those in mind, here’s a session’s worth of notes that could probably be repurposed for anyone’s campaign.
One of the PCs’ mentors has been incommunicado for a bit. Whether by investigating or being flat-out told, the PCs discover that the mentor has infiltrated a group of decadent nobles who, seeking to escape the drudgery of their everyday existence, take solace in a mix of illusion magic and hallucinogenic drugs they use to create their own worlds around them. Calling themselves the Hallucinati, they hold an annual masquerade tour of their individual fantasy worlds. The masquerade is coming up, and the mentor will probably be there if he’s trying to pass himself off as one of the group.
Preparation for the masquerade should obviously involve a shopping trip for costumes. Ask the players what their characters dress as.
Here are the 10 Hallucinati present at this year’s masquerade:
1. Yzonde Carn (f): plague mask; has precognitive dreams; child of a frost giant queen; jewel-covered, vain; seeks aid of…
2. Baroness Dominique Bilious (f): feathered mask; has a peculiar fondness for injured women; translates foreign documents; high strung, middle aged, pale; is suspicious of…
3. Osrick of Hogg (m): domino mask; was once a spy for the goblins of Gaxen Kane; importer of fabrics; open, honest, friendly; worried about…
4. Enn Grath Orq (m): featureless wood; surprisingly normal; owns the land beneath the brewery; intense, passionate, green eyed; exercises undue influence over…
5. Genevieve the Cleaver (f): riveted metal; 8,000 years old but looks 14; spy for the Baron; suspicious, excitable, hot-tempered; adopted daughter of…
6. Ludwig the Shrike (m): knight helm; has a paralyzing fear of churches; important tastemaker; energetic, full of black humor; frequently employs…
7. Unwerth gon Grolsch (f): executioner’s hood; collects fingernails and engraves herself on them; commands an army of mutators; mincing, meek, clever; daughter of…
8. Sasha of the Glove (f): fox mask; worships Groan, god of despair; import administrator; white hair, speaks in whispers; is friends with but wants to destroy…
9. Vorgus Orq (m): leather mask; paints women while they sleep; minister of ratcatchers; crude, jocular, skin missing near jaw; friend of…
10. Lord Ascarious the Jeweled (m): leafy mask, actually the PCs’ mentor in disguise
(These nobles were generated using Vornheim by Zak S, which you can buy here. Feel free to generate your own to replace these.)
The masquerade kicks off at a defaced church of the forgotten moon goddess. (This makes Ludwig nervous.) It’s up to the PCs how they discover the location and how they infiltrate it—it’s a well-known event, and the Hallucinati are too confident to be too suspicious of strangers, so it wasn’t too hard in my session. Make sure to at least describe the nobles’ masks.
In each of the following exhibitions, give PCs the chance to interview the nobles and try to figure out which one is their mentor. Depending on how well they know the mentor and what they know of them, this could be easy, hard, or anything in between.
In the church, Enn Grath Org is hosting the first of three hallucinatory exhibitions of the masquerade. He serves mushrooms around a table, and once they’re eaten, the church morphs into a dark, torchlit inn with walls of living wood. Food is served out of these walls by tangled tendrils. As the torches burn down, the floor gets soggy. When the food is done, the roof of the church opens up, and the stars dance milkily for the diners.
Ask the players what their character’s favorite food is. This food is served to them along with anything else they want. It tastes perfect.
The Hallucinati are dining on a variety of things: fish eggs, living cuttlefish, human hands, and so on. They’re all willing to talk about themselves. “Lord Ascarious,” if asked, gives a made-up history of his life as a noble of a nearby city.
When everyone is done eating, the hallucination ends. The feeling of having eaten is gone—the food provides no actual sustenance.
Unwerth gon Grolsch takes everyone to the reeking pile of garbage that lays against the city wall. He pulls a cloth from a rectangular pillar to reveal a glass case containing a number of living variegated frogs. Everyone gets to pick and lick one. The garbage pile becomes a stone labyrinth of pain and pleasure devices. Everyone’s costumes morph and change as well. Below is a list of the nobles, the masks they originally wore, and what they become. PCs can easily keep an eye on a single noble to note what they become. Watching more would probably require a check of some kind.
|Noble||Original Mask||New Form|
|Yzonde Carn||plague mask||skeletal horseman|
|Baroness Dominique Bilious||feathered mask||preening bird|
|Osrick of Hogg||fabric mask||mummy|
|Enn Grath Orq||featureless wood||wooden column|
|Genevieve the Cleaver||riveted metal||steaming automaton|
|Ludwig the Shrike||knight helm||knight dripping blood|
|Unwerth gon Grolsch||executioner’s hood||beefy woman|
|Sasha of the Glove||fox mask||slavering tongue|
|Vorgus Orq||leather mask||leather daddy|
|Ascarious the Jeweled||leaves||blooming dryad|
Knowing they’re entering into a pain/pleasure dungeon, what forms do the PCs assume? (New forms give no mechanical changes.)
Everyone tours the devices. PCs are welcome to try them. As each one is used, it falls into its component parts—it’s only usable once. Roll a d10; if you get a duplicate result, move to the next one.
|1. blade-filled iron maiden||1d4 damage + cool scar|
|2. bundle of needles attached to slot machine||painful tattoo, +1 on death saves|
|3. tubes run through stone idol||blood cleaned, +1 max HP|
|4. cot surrounded by electric globes||hair falls out; resist lightning damage|
|5. shrinking chamber||lose 1” of height, -1 max HP|
|6. rainbow pool||skin changes color|
|7. exploding library||1d6 damage, learn new language|
|8. metal manicure (metalcure?) station||1d6 damage, metal fingernails, 1d6 unarmed|
|9. headquake machine||small mountains rise from head|
|10. breathable water tank||serenity, Wis save advantage in illusions|
At some point during this expedition, Vorgus Orq is killed by Sasha of the Glove. The murder is discovered when the exhibition ends—Vorgus is not there, and Enn Grath Orq finds him strapped to one of the machines. Investigation shows him to have been strangled, which is not something the machine could do. It only held him down while he was killed.
Baroness Dominique Bilious gives false communion in a fallow field at the edge of town. The wafers are obviously drugged. Behind her, the field, initially studded with rotting animal carcasses, becomes a pastoral paradise. Everyone becomes an human-sized or anthropomorphic animal. The nobles’ new forms:
|Yzonde Carn||plague mask||tapir|
|Baroness Dominique Bilious||feathered mask||ostrich|
|Osrick of Hogg||fabric mask||sheep|
|Enn Grath Orq||featureless wood||giraffe|
|Genevieve the Cleaver||riveted metal||cow|
|Ludwig the Shrike||knight helm||horse|
|Unwerth gon Grolsch||executioner’s hood||vulture|
|Sasha of the Glove||fox mask||fox|
|Ascarious the Jeweled (Jon)||leaves||lizard|
Everyone begins frolicking and making out. The Baroness, always suspicious of Osrick of Hogg, tells the PCs that he killed Vorgus Orq. She asks them to kill him, offering 1,000 gold. Her exhibition even includes a built-in distraction: a horde of goblins runs over the horizon and begins attacking the party. PCs are welcome to join the fight. The goblins aren’t much of a challenge, but the damage they deal is real enough.
If the PCs don’t join the fight (if they’re busy assassinating Osrick, for instance), the battle with the goblins becomes a passionate lovefest. As the passion climaxes, the illusion dissolves, and everyone goes to the last exhibition.
Osrick of Hogg created this exhibition, but depending on how the third exhibition goes, he might not make it. If that happens, it becomes an exhibition/memorial service led by Enn Grath Orq, still torn up about his cousin Vorgus’s death.
Regardless of who leads the exhibition, everyone is led to Osrick’s home. They go through his library and down to a cellar. There are iron tanks filled with salt water. Entering and sealing them triggers the illusion. Everyone’s spirits leave their body and head to the moon, where the spirits of the dead reside. The nobles assume their ghostly spirit forms:
|Yzonde Carn||plague mask||frost giant|
|Baroness Dominique Bilious||feathered mask||wire bundle|
|>Osrick of Hogg||fabric mask||goblin|
|Enn Grath Orq||featureless wood||green-eyed, plain|
|Genevieve the Cleaver||riveted metal||ancient|
|Ludwig the Shrike||knight helm||wavery edges|
|Unwerth gon Grolsch||executioner’s hood||all fingernails|
|Sasha of the Glove||fox mask||long white hair|
|Ascarious the Jeweled (Jon)||leaves||mentor form (see below)|
What does each PC look like as a ghost?
On the moon, ghosts arise. Each PC is confronted by a projection of a meaningful person they’ve lost. Who is it? What do they say? Is closure achieved?
In spirit form, perhaps the PCs’ mentor is revealed, or at least one more clue is given.
Once everyone’s done with their personal seances, the final exhibition is ended. The Hallucinati all go home. Did the PCs find their mentor? Did they solve their murder? Why was the mentor looking into the Hallucinati anyway?