This story comes with a heavy heart, as this marks the first death in my campaign and this happened a few days ago and felt I needed to share it.
But before I get ahead of myself. I'll tell you a bit about me. I'm a DM raised by a Gygax 1st and 2nd edition player. For that reason I tend to be a bit more of an unforgiving DM and make the players earn any victory. While I have played a number of games I've never really had a finished Campaign, whether it be due to school, work, or moving out of town.
My players are as followed; A LG human paladin previously named Hector, now Willhelm (that's a different story), a CG elven ranger named Peren, a CG Fighter goliath named Kratos, a LG aasimar named Lorse (Laursa), a CN gnome bard named Taffy, and a CN Spawn named Moussa. there was another member but they left pretty early in the game
My party has a lot of stories I'm sure I could share but this most recent one is one I needed to tell. Moussa had a lot going against him, whether it be his crummy luck such as rolling bad almost 14 times in a row due to the fact I let people pick high or low and he insists on always going high. Or whether one of his glorious "plans" worked out then promply backfire. Usually always going something like this
Moussa: "Guys don't worry, I have a plan."
Party: *Collectively Groans*
he was strange to say the least and would do the weirdest things during the games, such as watching turtles eat stuff, or talking about how to track an kill an animal with his bare hands. If I didn't know him personally I would assume he was an anime character with some of the topics.
His character was originally a tortle but had a backround that his character was trying to break free of. He was a spore of Zuggtomy, created by a evil cult who also messed with one of the members of the party in their backround. He had a goal after he found out his creation; he wanted to absorb Zuggtomy and destroy her, offically proving he wasn't just a spore. We've had some characters who had a bit of unrealistic dreams but none as much as destroying a Demon Lord by absorbing him.
The rest of the party excluding a few had…thoughts on Moussa, afterall he had a bit of a reputation being as our bard so lovingly said "a creepy mushroom man." With his talk of death and decay ever so present in certain situations and his moral grey nature. He also had a habit of complaining about certain situations and sometimes pushing his luck with certain situations. For that reason not a lot of the party liked him. Though I never had a problem myself with him. He was a different member of the party, bringing an interesting perspective to the party throughout the Campaign.
In this homebrew campaign a 200 year old Ex Pelor Paladin of Conquest named Allistair gets his revenge and declares war on the Material Plane in order to fulfill his promise to his father Orcus in order to repay his debt. In this campaign it was perma-death so if you died, no new characters you're out of the campaign. currently in the campaign they were based out of the human kingdom and living in the castle (due to one of the members of the parties being related and helping stop a threat to the kingdom.)
When they learned that Allistair has a way to return to the world if he simply dies they had to find a magical weapon that was able to destroy Allistair's soul so they don't have to worry about his return. This is where Moussa gets upset and voices his compaints to the party.
"Guys you all have magical weapons, I don't have anything like that, I'd like a weapon myself cause I'm obviously not getting my bag of tricks." While they initally ignored him, he didn't stop complaining about it and he definetly wasn't happy that they all were very cautious, afterall it was just a god weapon.
They met with many gods and heard their offers, some who insisted on winning arena battles or using their soul as the source for the weapons power. Soon they met Baccob, The God of Magic from Greyhawk (and the primary pantheon in that area) who told the party that he would show one member of the party how to make the weapon. The party was going to leave and check out a different opportunity, but Moussa was having none of it.
Moussa took the offer, to the party's disagreement, and had to succeed a wisdom save with no outside help but himself or else he would die. He would gain advantage if he could answer 3 magic questions right, he got 2 and rolled a 4. The party all asked me to ask him one harder question and if he answered it he could roll again. I agreed and everyone waited with baited breath.
Me: "Who can cast the spell "Zephyr Strike"
Moussa: "shit umm" he pauses for a bit. "I wanna say Ranger?"
Me: "Is that your final answer?"
Moussa: "yeaaaaah Yeah, it's definitely Ranger."
Me: "Roll again."
The party goes silent and he rolls. 18! the party cheers as I describe his success as him falling into a trance state and working for the next 2 days without rest creating a god-tier weapon (literally). Fast-forward a while later, I asked Peren if he would be willing to risk his character for him to be able to remake his character if they did die since I was the one who might kill them. With their agreement, I ran a side mission
I described as the party couldn't seem to find Peren at breakfast. After a bit of discussion they check his room and find that he has been kidnapped, leaving behind a message for Moussa.
"If you want to see your friend alive Moussa, come to XYZ and we'll give them back, we want to talk to you about your potential." Signed the Cult of Zuggtomy
Moussa was unsure, but after a bit of discussion they agreed to go and talk to them. The cult was mostly peaceful saying they wouldn't attack the party if Moussa went in alone. After a heated debate Moussa agreed.
Willhelm: "if you aren't back in 15 minutes, I'm going to go in there to rescue you
Moussa: "Let's hope I can get to them before that happens."
Moussa goes in and walks past all these people with fungal growths and mushrooms growing off these people, before he finally reaches a room that looks like a sacrificial altar room, with Peren's unconscious body on the altar. Sitting next to the body was the head of the cultist.
Leader: "Greetings Moussa we've been waiting for you, finally it's time to unlock your full potential."
Moussa:"Little creepy you guys, what's wrong with Peren?"
Leader:"He's undergoing a transformation, a growth in his brain is slowly eating away at his brain and burrowing in, without intervention he could die… or.
Leader: "You could simply take it from him, and use it to make yourself stronger, become the god you deserve to be."
After this Moussa and the leader talked for a while, long enough that Willhelm and Kratos decided it was too long and went busting in to wreck some ****. with the battle drawing closer the leader simply said "If they get here all of our progress all of our assistance to you will be for nothing, you must choose."
Moussa stopped for a moment before going "If there is a way to get it then I will." before picking up Peren. "But I'm not going to kill him for my own sake." before simply leaving. The cult retreated deeper into the cave and Moussa brought out Peren's body.
Moussa: "Lorse, you have a background in medicine don't you?"
Lorse: "Yeah I guess so why?"
Moussa: "There's a piece of me in his head and I need it to be stronger."
Willhelm pipes up: "Whatever that is in his head, it isn't you it's Zuggtomy, you don't need it to succeed."
Moussa: "If I don't take this piece then I won't be able to beat her, and when I go back to face her she'll simply absorb me and take my powers, I have to."
Willhelm then rolls a check in order to see if he could see if Lorse was talented enough to do open brain surgery, Nat 1. "If you feel confident Lorse, then go ahead and try." while everyone else was quietly apologizing to Peren and I was talking to them about what characters they might want. Lorse ended up acing every roll with no problems. and in the end was successfully able to pull this spore out of Peren's head. I was surprised and everyone else were giving Lorse praise. I gave her expertise in medicine for such a feat but as Peren's character woke up and I described to him that he was aware the whole time. he scolded everyone for the dangerous stunt that is open brain surgery.
After he ingested the spore and they found themselves with downtime in the castle, I made him discreetly roll a few will saves. failing 2 out of the three I describe as how he has a state of Zuggtomy's Madness and a CE alignment shift. I talked to Moussa after session and soon a game of Cult Builder was made as he soon made contact with the cult and tried to build his ranks. he even used a charity organization built in the city as a cover for his plans and convinced the entire party to donate to his cause unwittingly. We even had him shift personality, be more aggressive, forget certain codes he used to follow, and even have access to Warlock spells, and he was able to play it all off without anyone questioning it.
While doing this I had another member of the party, Willhelm become the investigator in a series of strange abductions, he was working quietly and was trying not to let the rest of the party know. and soon the game of cat and mouse began. Willhelm was finding nothing for a while, and after learning that someone was investigating him, Moussa had the organization stop abductions for a while. It seemed that Moussa would make it to the end with a cult by his side with only 3 months until the end-game war. That is until Moussa's unbelievably bad luck came back to rear its ugly head.
While investigating with the help of an accountant named Andrew. they got their hands on a ledger that contained the tax information and a massive donation from a "hero." using the help of a crime syndicate, some breaking and entering of condemned buildings, and a few Nat 20's. Moussa's named was revealed. and Willhelm lost his mind.
To explain, I said not a lot of the party liked him. Taffy didn't mind him just found him creepy. But one person always had his back and believed he wasn't too bad of a guy. That man was Willhelm, and finding this made not only his character mad, but Willhelm's player was now frustrated to the point in which I had to stop him from messaging him and blowing the reveal. Willhelm went back to the castle to investigate.
Willhelm: "Moussa what have you been doing."
Moussa: "What's going on?"
Willhelm: "I found this (showing his name in the ledger) you donated money to an organization that was with the cult of zuggtomy."
Moussa: "Alright, listen, I just donated to them I didn't actually know they did that stuff."
Willhelm OOC: I wanna roll insight
Willhelm: 23 Moussa: 7
Willhelm: "Don't lie to me, you supported something actively kidnapping people."
Moussa: "Alright fine I knew but I found out later and was just too embarrassed to say anything, I didn't want anyone to think we're working together"
Willhelm: 17 Moussa: Nat 1
Willhelm: "22 people went missing, in this city alone. if you lie to me again, I will pin you to that wall and execute you myself."
Moussa: "well here's the thing, it's actually 23."
Moussa OOC: I cast banishment on myself
Me: *Shocked* with a flash of smoke you disappear returning to the plane that you were from.
Willhelm OOC: "shit"
Willhelm shared info with the party, and the party all made an emergency mission into the Abyss to go kill Moussa.
Kratos: "he's gone too far this time, now he will pay."
Peren:"Oh I've been waiting for this."
everyone wanted to kill him. Everyone but Willhelm, he wanted to save him. and if he could, he was going to do it. in the backround I had Moussa make the next dungeon and set a timer for 20 minutes for when Zuggtomy would arrive and wreck shit.
After a bit of combat and a few players going down. They finally reached Moussa. I had everyone say what they wanted to him before the battle started if they wanted. everyone said something negative, except Willhelm.
Willhelm: "I'm not just here because you kidnapped those people and did god knows what with them. I'm here because you kidnapped my friend, and by Steel I will rip you out. Not to kill you but to watch you rot in a cell for all you done to him."
Peren pulled out her bow, and prepped a shot with a Homebrew'd Oathbow. Nat 20 on the first shot and high damage on the second, in one round of attacks, Moussa's 105 health went down without any trouble. I described as how the arrow went through Moussa's mushroom skull and out of the back popped a dark spore, returning Moussa's eyes from red to green. The party had saved their friend. There were cheers
My watch hit 20 minutes. I described as a bunch of living Fungi appeared around him, and out of the ground stood the demon lord, Zuggtomy.
Zuggtomy: "My poor child, do not worry I will stop them, I will help you find your way again." she turns to the party and smiles "And for you, allow me to formally introduce myself. I am the dutchess of rot known as Zuggtomy and you all are my dinner."
Willhelm laughs and says "I faced tougher than you."
Me: "Moussa roll a perception check."
Moussa: "Nat 20"
Me:"You notice your staff is missing."
The party collectively loses their minds as Zuggtomy is now holding a magic god's weapon. She simply pulls the energy out of the weapon and tosses it to the ground at Moussa's feet.
Zuggtomy: "With this newfound power, no one can stop me, you all will die a slow and painful death."
The party begins talking on how to save Moussa and Moussa asks me a question in my PM's
Moussa: "Can I still use the staff?"
Me: "yes but it is mostly drained."
Moussa: "If I use my soul can I cast Wish?"
Me: "If you do that, your soul will be destroyed, and there's no guarantee it will work, if you are going to do that, say your last goodbye's to the party."
Moussa clears his throat and begins to speak: "I'm sorry guys, but I don't think you guys can save me."
Willhelm: "We'll get out of this Moussa, just hold on."
Moussa: "No, I wanted to beat her, I wanted to be strong enough to take her over but in the end she took me over. I'm a threat, there's no guarantee that she won't take me over again. I can't risk it."
Moussa OOC: "I cast Wish to destroy Zuggtomy and send my friends back."
The party goes silent, I grab some percentiles and ask him "High or low."
Moussa: "I always go high."
Me: *rolls* 78 "As you hold up your staff a flash of light appears, everyone finds themselves back in the castle, everyone but Moussa, all that remains is a broken staff." The party goes silent
Peren: "oh my god"
Lorse: …"he's getting a wake."
In that moment the party all praised Moussa and I nearly cried. in the end Moussa had a death that the party collectively both thought was badass and heroic and finally one of his many plans came through for not only the party. But for himself.
"Guys don't worry, I have a plan." ~Moussa