Phantasmal Force saves the day

In the face of death, cleverness is the key to survival.

3 comments, 37 points

This was easily the most intense session I’ve ever played in D&D, but was so worth it.

To set the scene, the campaign is in a post-apocalypse world where all the water has formed a massive ocean in the sky due a supernatural event called The Rising, and most settlements exist around Columns of water falling from the sky ocean. The party consists of Scrap Jaw, a lizardfolk artificer; Killian, a half-elf warlock; Homer, a centaur bard; and Ulysse, a high elf wizard and the only one in the party born before The Rising.

The party had been clearing spiders out of an ancient Yuan-Ti ruins so they could rest there safely, with Ulysse burning the webs to make lives easier. However, this got the attention of a goblin stronghold nearby and they had come to check out the fire/deal with the party. They fended off the first wave, but were pretty much tapped and needed a long rest. The rest of the goblins, however, weren’t going to let that happen, and hounded the group for a few hours.

While Ulysse managed to get her four hour trance in, but the others weren’t so fortunate.

It was at that point that everyone turned to the strange altar in the middle of the ruins. It had remained untouched by the centuries, and was clearly for sacrificial offerings, but no one knew what for. As the options were to try, and likely fail, to get some rest before the next wave, or throw a couple of goblin bodies from the first wave onto the altar and hope for the best, everyone elected for option 2.

A thin spike pierced the bodies once they were thrown into the centre and it drained them of blood. After three bodies had been thrown on, the altar began to move and turned into a spiral staircase going into the ground.

Ulysse, being the only one who had rested, volunteered to go and investigate. As she was about to descend, Homer offered to go with her and to do his best to protect her despite his tiredness. While reluctant, she allowed him to follow her and summoned her familiar to act as communication with Scrap Jaw and Killian, who were staying put.

Underground, Homer and Ulysse found a large hall. A quick investigation showed sleeping quarters to the left and right and an ominous dark passage leading forwards. Homer could hear breathing somewhere in the area but could not pin it down, while Ulysse struggled to hear it at all.

Topside, Ulysse’s familiar wrote in the dirt that the initial area was safe, but that something else was down there. After quick consideration, the two gentlemen decided to stay where they were. Killian had adopted a baby kraken he called Blue, likely connected to his patron in some way and with whom he had a psychic connection to, and Blue couldn’t fit down the staircase. Scrap Jaw had his off-road truck, which he had built himself and was our only method of travelling quickly, and there was no way that was getting down either.

Both men weren’t leaving their most treasured possession behind.

Moments later, the staircase returned to its original position, leaving the two parties trapped. 

With little else to do, Ulysse and Homer continued to explore. They found a mural of a strange creature, which Ulysse knew as a minotaur but Homer had never heard of as they had disappeared after The Rising. After a quick lesson from Ulysse, they made their way carefully into what they now both suspected to be a labyrinth, using ancient bones as a trail to show them the way back.

They made it around three corners before a huge hulk came lumbering out from another path. Before them was the minotaur, stationed in the labyrinth centuries and centuries ago. It was long since dead but its skeleton still roamed the passages, seeking out intruders.

Roll initiative.

Homer could instantly see that this was not a foe the pair of them wanted to take on and grabbed Ulysse and ran back the way they had come. Ulysse went willingly, only shifting so she could throw a spell at the undead monstrosity if it pursued them. A low leveled cone of fire erupted from her hands as she cast Burning Hands as the minotaur followed them and made a swing at Homer. The centaur was already hurt from the goblin fight earlier and having a greataxe smash into his side, breaking away some of the passageway wall with the force of the swing, was too much and he went down and started rolling death saves.

At this point, time slowed for Ulysse. Seconds turned to minutes as she desperately struggled to figure out how to get away with her life and possibly save Homer in the process. Thankfully, she had the right spell from her book prepared: Phantasmal Force. She desperately cast it on the undead minotaur, making it look like the wall it had broken was fixing itself, blocking the path between it and them, and was slowly moving towards it, crushing it.

It swung at the phantom but there was nothing to hit and the greataxe collided with the walls, sailing past Ulysse and the downed Homer.

With the threat distracted, Ulysse turned to stabilise her ally and begin to pull him back to the labyrinth entrance. Every second was agony as she struggled to move Homer more than five feet at a time and prayed that the beast didn’t realise that it was fighting against a hallucination. 

Check failed. Damage rolled low. Drag Homer away.

Check failed. Damage rolled low. Drag Homer away.

Rinse and repeat. Over and over.

Roughly fifty seconds into the minute long spell, it succeeded against the intelligence check. Unprepared to die like this, Ulysse used her secret weapon: her portents from being a divination wizard. Turning the success into a failure, she recast the spell as its time ran out and kept the minotaur trapped where it was.

Check failed. Damage rolled low. Drag Homer away.

For nearly another minute, she continued to pull Homer out of the labyrinth and back into the central chamber, just in time to hear the outraged roar of the minotaur as it broke free of the spell for a second time and charged after them. She could hear cloven hooves clattering against stone as it came into view and stopped at the entrance.

Undead eyes stared at living ones for a long moment before the minotaur looked away and walked back into the dark passages of the labyrinth.

Shaking from terror and the exertion of dragging a 600lbs centaur fifty feet to safety, she collapsed against her ally in relief.

End of session. Level up to level 5, and inspiration to Ulysse.

I don’t think I can properly express the tension and adrenaline that I felt as our DM rolled each intelligence check, the agony of my dice consistently rolling low on the psychic damage, and the sheer sense of relief and triumph I felt once I got us both out of danger. Everyone was certain that Ulysse and Homer were going to die, and Killian and Scrap Jaw would have no way of knowing unless they managed to get down there later.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Phantasmal Force saved the day.


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  1. I kinda like the idea of an ocean in the sky. What made it raise? How do people grow crop and even see with no sun light? How did you connect it to the main quest and how did the party find out about it?

    1. We don’t know what caused the sea to rise. We’re still fairly early in, so we’re not anywhere near understanding it. It happened 300 years before the campaign, of which only my character, Ulysse, knows about the world beforehand as she is almost 600 years old. She was there when The Rising happened. She’s the only one who has any idea what might have caused it and she wants to figure it out and set the world right.
      There are columns of water that pour down onto the land below, and that’s where major towns and cities are, along with the little farming that can be done. The sky ocean covers the whole sky, so it’s thinner than the oceans on the ground were, which allows the light to come through.

  2. Let’s start with the assessment that the radius of a star and the structure of its atmospheric layers are not different from our planet. For the sake of simplicity let’s assume that as described in the post the water remains in a liquid state. In addition, we assume that being “in the air” requires being below the Kármán line (the line from which by legal definitions we are still in the star and above the space stations), i.e. up to 100km from ground level.
    The volume of the Earth’s oceans is approximately 1.3522E21 liters (Source: Garrison, Tom S. Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science. Thompson Brooks / Cole, 2005: 4.) The water will be found lowest at an altitude of 97.452km above ground level, so that the water depth is 2.5478km.

    Light is absorbed in water in a way that beyond the 200 m decomposition does not allow photosynthesis of any kind (source:…/deeplight/deeplight.html)
    If the volume of the oceans in that world is indeed the same as the volume of the oceans here and the depth does not exceed 200m then the minimum altitude above the surface where the water is 46,390,066.4m, far outside the exosphere.
    Assuming we do want to stay “in the air” of the star (below the Kármán line) and allow photosynthesis we must imagine a world where the volume of the oceans is at most 0.0004644% of the volume of our oceans.

    We observed that water that falls from such a high altitude will be particularly destructive where it falls so no city will be adjacent to their waterfalls but tens of miles away to avoid destruction and that water will be pumped in cities by wells or through which rivers will flow.

    Sorry if anyone read everything.

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