(Thumbnail by Jitterbug Jive)
The Main Cast:
DM: Old friend, just like the players.
Mugobar/Myself: Half-Orc Barbarian looking to exact vengeance upon his father for selling him into slavery.
Serra: Bratty cleric of a Sun Goddess, currently on a pilgrimage to become more humble.
Lochlan: Serra’s fighter/protector and childhood friend.
Varis: Elven ranger who witnesses his entire village get pillaged by Bugbears in his childhood.
About two or three years ago, my friends and I decided to play a one-shot based on a smaller module called The Seven Weddings. That one-shot has since expanded into a far more epic game than we had ever expected, and we all see the first two sessions as the reason why.
Our characters all meet in a tavern and learn that the town is on edge because the local bachelor is getting married. For the seventh time. Every previous bride has died in horrific ways, and everyone suspects either foul play or a curse. Either way, everyone but the Half-Orc attend the wedding, as he doesn’t like anyone yet. The only thing that compells him to join is a zombie invasion causing him to forgoe his night’s sleep. After the zombies are slain, the cleric determines this is the work of the spirit of the first bride, Lillian, who died in a fire before her wedding, unlike the other brides who died after. The team decides to investigate the burnt house after convincing the Half-Orc to begrudgingly stay.
The next day, the investigation at the house reveals a basement appothecary is where the fire started thanks to a spell gone wrong. Turns out, Lillian wanted to make the “til death do us part” portion of the wedding vows very literal, attempting to enchant the wedding rings to bind the two’s souls. She had everything she needed apart from one spell component, the lack of which made the mixture explode, causing the fire and her death. The groom, Marcus, who has been with us to help, sees this as an opportunity to makes amends with the spirit: he’ll use the rings for his seventh bride, not knowing the rings are cursed. He ignores everyone else’s warnings, so Mugobar thows a javelin at him. Marcus survives, but the spirit of Lillian appears before us, quite pissed that her love has essentially been skewered. She nearly maims us before being calmed down by Serra and vanishing. The cleric then proceeds to call Mugobar out on his edgelord antics. Pissed off, Mugobar storms out of the building and the story. It’s about then that the DM calls me out on my edgelord antics and I realize that I have made a mistake. We agree this one-shot will be a two parter and I spend the next week both kicking myself and planning my next move.
Next session starts with Mugobar, still quite pissed about the whole situation: being forced to be part of an adventure that stopped him from getting his revenge, even if only for a moment. He cuts down a tree in one swipe of his battleaxe in rage, revealing a path to a long forgotten graveyard and mausoleum covered in black and white flowers. In the mausoleum, Mugobar hears crying and when he asks who is there, he hears a familiar ethereal voice.
“Go away. Leave me to my woe.”
It’s Lillian, the once very frightening banshee, now crying in her own tomb. This gets Mugobar curious, in spite of himself. What does a banshee have to cry about? He walks into into the mausoleum, slightly agitating the banshee who becomes all the more furious when she recognizes the guy who made her beloved Marcus into kebab. Mugobar pulls out his battleaxe, which makes Lillith laugh.
“You think a mere mortal can stand against me?”
“I reall don’t want to do this,” Mugobar sighs.
He drops his weapon, throwing Lillith for a loop. Mugobar explains he’s had the events of the previous session playing on loop in his head, and it pisses him off. So, he’s decided to take Serra’s advice and talk things out. Lillian, taken aback, agrees and divulges her perspective on things. She is indeed responsible for the deaths of the five brides who came after her, not wanting Marcus to forget her and move on. However, she has no plan beyond this, being stuck as a ghost and all. To make things more ironic, the missing spell component is the black and white flower which has grown in abundance around her mausoleum; the soul bloom. So, not only did she fail to enchant the wedding rings properly and die in the process, now she is always surrounded by a symbol of her own failure.
Mugobar asks if there’s a way to fix all of this, and she replies that her spirit would be at rest if both the failed spell were completed and she had the wedding she never had in life. Mugobar wants to help, but hesitates as he thinks the others back in town would never listen to him after the angsty things he’s done and said. Lillian gets right up to his face.
“You just had a lengthy conversation with a banshee who wanted to eviscerate you moments before. I think you’ll be fine.”
Somewhat intimidated, Mugobar rushes back to town with an handful of soul blooms. Back in town, Serra, Lochlan and Varis have gathered the components for Lillians spell, having come to the same conclusion in an effort to purify the cursed rings from her first attempt. Serra is the least thrilled of the group to see Mugobar return until she spots the soul bloom, which is much more vibrant than the petty soul bloom she had found in very small clusters near town. Mugobar mutters an apology, to which Serra accepts in a somewhat snooty way as Lochlan laughs. Mugobar explains the situation, escorts everyone to the mausoleum and has Lillian basically repeat everything she told him. It’s about then that a bandaged Marcus arrives, having heard what the party was up to. Serra tells him what has happened and suggests he should be the one to wed Lillian and help her spirit move on. Marcus, however, has moved on, something very evident by all the brides he has tried to wed since Lillian. He still loves her, but her death was many years ago.
It’s then that Mugobar makes a bold suggestion: he could be the groom. From our perspective, Lillian’s soul will be gone when we’re finished, so having one of us be the groom does no harm. The only thing left to do is convince Lillian. Marcus enters her tomb to properly tell her he has moved on, after which, Mugobar makes his move. With a Charisma roll of 8, he propses to Lillian. With an Insight roll of 3, she accepts.
After a few scenes of preparing the two for their wedding (cleaning/dressing up Mugobar, cleaning the mausoleum and filling it with undead guests, etc.), the ceremony begins. Mugobar is absolutely nervous, but knows this is for the good of the team. Plus, he owes everyone for his antics before. Thus, the two exchange their vows and the spell is cast on their rings once more.
Then, something unexpected happens.
Lillian rises from the altar and begins to glow. But, instead of vanishing in the the ether, her form solidifies. She has a physical body once more.
We do not know it, but she has become a Lich, using the rings as her phalactary. Mugobar is not harmed by the process, but he is stunned that the wedding has gone a little too well. With his new bride wrapped around his arm, he has a feeling that the two of them are going to be together for a long, long time.
And thus, the campaign earned the title “The Corpse Bride Campaign”.
And, that is my story. A story of how I both ruined and saved this one-shot campaign that has been going on for the past three or so years. We’re so attached to our characters and we refuse to just leave them alone. We have done so much with them; fight off the undead, battle against demons, uncover long forgotten mysteries and so much more. But, those are all stories for another day.
And yes, I have grown to love my Lich wife very much.
The thing to take away from this? It’s ok to be an edgelord, just be smart about it and maybe dial it back some times. You might get an unexpected reward from it.