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Help my players defeat the Dowager!

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  • Help my players defeat the Dowager!

    I am currently running my first 3e game and I am about 6 sessions in. While I had originally planned on just running a large sandbox with the Bull of the North as the looming antagonist, it has become clear that my players are super interested in finding the deathlord in the nos fens and defeating her. They are now leaving Halta in the south and heading towards the nos fens. My players have not actually heard of deathlords yet and they don't know anything about the nos fens, however that is their clear destination now. I am looking for good plot lines and ideas as they journey south in search of the evil "necromancer" to the south. At some point I suppose I also need to stat up the Dowager for 3e although the players are still essence 1 (almost 2) so I think I have a while until we need to have that encounter.

    New to 3e what do I need to know about deathlords?

    I have also already introduced the pcs to Shoat of the Mire without them realizing who it was. I have also used some stitched together beast men as antagonists.

  • #2
    We haven’t had any statted Deathlords yet in 3E. We know they will have distinct personal Charms ala powerful spirits, and NOT entire Solar/Abyssal Charmets this time. Deathlord-level immortality is still a thing, but the devs have said that they will make it more meaningful if warrior Exalted take down a Deathlord through conventional means (I.e. i’m guessing they will still eventually come back, but it might take far longer, so taking one down through raw violence + GET is more meaningful).

    I’d recommend, if you want the players to take her out permanently, laying clues to who she was in life and making her implementable weakness something relating to that. That always seemed the narratively cool option for me.
    Last edited by glamourweaver; 07-06-2018, 07:15 PM.


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    • #3
      I'd tweak the stats of the Nemissary to suit your game; it's actually a pretty potent adversary, though one that's still vulnerable to dogpiling. Make sure you include her soulsteel powerbow and its harpoon-arrows.

      Originally posted by RadioFreeDeath View Post
      it has become clear that my players are super interested in finding the deathlord in the nos fens and defeating her.​
      How do they know she's there in your game? Especially given...

      Originally posted by RadioFreeDeath View Post
      My players have not actually heard of deathlords yet and they don't know anything about the nos fens,
      I must admit to some confusion, here.
      Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 06-07-2018, 05:55 PM.

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      • #4
        Haha, oh dear, they heard rumours of a powerful necromancer and assumed it was someone in their league? Maybe remind them that the necromancer alluded to in The Hobbit turned out to be Sauron.

        I recall it being said that the deathlords aren't necessarily Essence 10 these days (and with Essence 5 being a big deal even for elder Exalts, that makes sense). Toning her down from 2nd Ed deathlord power levels is entirely appropriate. Maybe she's only Essence 6 or 7? That's still a bit much for baby Solars to face head-on.

        I suggest that she toys with them a bit. When she discovers their interference in her affairs and territory, she takes the opportunity to manipulate them into going on wild goose chases that further her ends. Maybe she poses as her own (made-up) mortal enemy and sends them on quests to supposedly gather the materials and support necessary to take the wicked witch down? Maybe what she sends them after really is the key to defeating her - kept safely beyond her reach by fortunate circumstance or a careful enemy who lacked the power to defeat her - but if they don't figure out the ruse in time they will inadvertently deliver it into her hands. Like glamourweaver says, something from her living days would be ideal.

        Or maybe they don't need to defeat her at all. Maybe her goals aren't opposed to their's, just ... orthogonal. In her contemplation of the Well of Udr, she has discovered an alternative way to end the suffering of the Neverborn without feeding all of Creation down Oblivion's throat. Of course, it isn't without serious complications or consequences for Creation, but would remove a number of powerful existential threats from the world (the Neverborn and the deathlords). Maybe she has found a way to allow the Neverborn to pass through Lethe and be reborn, with the catch being an Ambition 3 Void Circle necromantic working (and all the nastiness that would entail), AND having newborn primordials unleashed on an unsuspecting Creation, for better or worse (you thought young Solars were trouble?).


        "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

        Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

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        • #5
          Out of interest, do you actually want them to fight the Dowager? Or is it just something you mentioned and they've run after, and you feel you have to because it's "canon"?

          I once off-handedly mentioned to my inexperienced, 0xp players that they had to solve the beastmen invasion problem by themselves, because Nexus and Great Forks were busy with some necromancer guy called Walker in Darkness. So they decided to go defeat this Walker in Darkness guy so Nexus and Great Forks could then send armies to help them against the beastmen.

          It was not at all the campaign I'd been planning to do.

          So, if you don't actually want them to fight the Dowager (as you said, she might be too powerful), you could always say she's left to go do something else, and there's a new necromancer who's taken over the Nos Fens.


          "Wizard of Oz, you really are a wizard!"

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          • #6
            Or give them a situation where they can defeat her without direct combat against her. Maybe she’s delved into the Well, and the PCs could defeat her minions and smash and block the Creation side of the Welltrapping her wherever it leads for the foreseeable future?

            To use the aforementioned Lord of the Rings analogy, remember Frodo and Sam didn’t need the power to destroy Sauron in direct combat to defeat him.


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            • #7
              Perhaps the Dowager is working on her own demise, as it were. I have searched many tomes of black lore, scoured the witless souls of a hundred scholarly spectres, and listened to the soulsteel walls of the Tri-County area surrounding the Dowager's lair. Should the Shoat of the Mire, tormented yet perfected by the Dowager's endless cycles of cruelty and generational culling, yet show the Dowager a single action of undisputably true filial piety, or demonstrate a moment of compassion true enough to elicit a genuine tear from the Dowager's eyes, the that witch of the Farthest East shall be rendered mortal forevermore. All Deathlords work, conscously or subconsciously, towards their own inevitable destruction; perhaps the Dowager herself seeks release? You players might as well pray that it is so.

              Or maybe, if some film is to be believed, the Dowager may only be killed by falling architecture, and the crimson slippers upon her soles shall be rendered as weregild by a throng of murderously joyous moppets.

              My advice would be to seek the Shoat, regardless. Day and night, month by year by hour, the Dowager works the grinding houses of the Well and Time to perfect her instrument. Perhaps the Dowager is not safe from her own vorpal blade? Or perhaps the Shoat's absence will simply annoy her into exposing some other dread weakness.
              Seekest thou the child, and from the child's grasp, the Bane.



              Popping in from time to time.

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              • #8
                Wow! Thanks for all the tips. My players encountered some zombies in an adventure who were collecting souls to make soulsteel. For some reason this specific villain really caught everyones atttention and they decided that their main focus would be to figure out who sent these zombies. So I did some reading and discovered that the dowager is the geographically closest deathlord to my players. So far my players are about a session away from reaching essence 2 so it will be a while until they face off with the dowager. However they are headed south in search of more clues as to this "necromancer." They have fought some more of her minions and met the shoat without realizing they had met the shoat. This just happens to be the plot that clicked for my players so I am running with it. Every session so far has been them coming across a new town or city and resolving problems there.

                So far my plan is probably that the dowager has found a new use for the well to destroy creation using the well and so she is sending out a new batch of minions to collect soulsteel. I havnt figured out why she needs it yet. This means she is re-entering the game and I imagine the other deathlords will be none too happy to see her back in play. Thats about as far as I have made it.

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                • #9
                  I always imagined doing a run against the Dowager as an exalted version of The Binding Of Isaac - it would just be more of a "The Binding of the Shoat"

                  ...a young child, with strange dark powers, trying to venture into a dark dungeon of blood, bloat and unliving horrors, seeking a mother that hates and loves him/her. Will you help the Shoat?

                  ...will you stop the Shoat when you realize that its the Shoat who's the far greater threat?

                  Will you get out alive?


                  Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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                  • #10
                    Ok, Dowager.

                    This is the Deathlord who can fuck with your player's heads the hardest . I... gonna be real here, I haven't run the Dowager in a long time since a couple of my players have issues from their real lives where she could be triggering or make the game not fun.

                    Buuuuut if you're looking for thoughts on how to make a Deathlord a satisfying End Boss to beat, here's my thoughts from back in the days when I did run Dowager.

                    1. Don't give her the Idiot Ball. The Dowager is one of the smartest Deathlord, with centuries of occult study under her belt. If the OCs have a plan, and they didn't specifically take measures against scrying/astrology, she should already know about it. In fact, for bonus points have her have studied multiple alternate versions of the PC through her Well, so she not only knows they're coming (or maybe she's arranging for them to come visit-maybe she doesn't actually need soulsteel but needs a few Solars for raw ingredients), she knows their intimacies and weaknesses. The Dowager should have a plan for most contingencies the PCs can come up with. If you have to cheat to make her seem like a mad genius, do so.

                    2. Get. Personal. The other Deathlord are all about vast undead armies or fleets of black ships or mad cultists or bleak citadels and dead kingdoms. The Dowager, in contrast, doesn't care about infrastructure- she's a crazy cat lady who lives in a swamp! The reason she's scarier than the other Deathlord is that she takes a personal interest. Other Deathlords send armies to burn down your home town. The Dowager is just...in your kitchen baking a pie when you come home one day. And your kid is calling her Nana, and gets all scared and cries when you threaten her. And the pie is just a pie, or maybe it's what's left of your next door neighbor. Other Deathlords turn out to be your prior incarnation or your lover from a past life or something. The Dowager turns out to be your prior incarnation's kid, and asks if you're proud of her when you find out about her latest atrocities. She's so happy you are back! She learned necromancy from watching you! Other Deathlords reveal you've actually been working for them all along. The Dowager reveals that she's been pruning your family tree for seven hundred years because a Sidereal she tortured to death told you'd be born one day, and she's the reason your great grandpa abused your grandma who developed a drinking habit and an emotional distance from her family which led to your mother being clingy and controlling which led to you being a rebellious warrior who has trouble letting his friends in...and also your family allergy to peanuts. The Dowager planned your whole LIFE, and this showdown right here's no different.

                    3. The Dowager is patient. She's ok with just...not being at her citadel when the PCs show up. She's a shapeshifting who lived in a swamp. In the underworld! What're they gonna do, track her? Bonus points if an entirely separate group of Solars/Dragonblooded (or even better, Abyssals) show up to take her out at the same time and assume the PCs are her servants and they fight each other. She can always come back later. It's not like they can fill in the Well. It's a bottomless hole, y'know?

                    4. The Dowager turns into your mom. You wouldn't stab your mom, would you? You would? Are you sure the Dowager didn't just kidnap your mom and curse her to look like the Dowager until you showed up? Are you sure the Dowager wasn't your mom the whole time?

                    5. The Dowager is surrounded by small children who will cry and beg you not to fight her. They are very cute. They all have melee 5 with specialties in fighting grown ups. Are you willing to fight a bunch of kids with magic Stockholm syndrome?

                    6. The Dowager lets the PCs discover her secret weakness, a silver dagger she killed her children and then herself with, after dangerous questing. She fights them in a climactic battle on the rim of the Well of Udr. They suffer grievous wounds and curses that will pain them for a lifetime...but they finally strike her down with the cursed blade and send her hurtling down to Oblivion. Cut to ten years later, when they come home and their kids are gone and there is a fresh pie on the kitchen table with a slice missing and the silver dagger that they thought was"the only weapon that could kill her for good" is sitting covered in cherry filling on the table.

                    7. The Dowager calls you by your full name the way Mom did when she was mad at you. Sometimes she calls you by the names the other kids used to make fun of you when you were little.

                    8. Giant zombie crocodiles?! Why?! This doesn't fit her usual MO! Agh my legs!

                    9. The Dowager lives in a swamp and does not need to breathe. She had had over a thousand years to trap the place with workings that suck people down into the bog, or create species of mosquitoes that infect you with plagues that fill your lungs with blood. One spot in the swamp is cursed so people who pass through at night spend the rest of their lives aging backwards. One spot is cursed so anyone who eats fish or game caught there can't drink water-it literally turns to swamp slime in their mouths. And then there's the ROUSes. Just getting through the Fens alive should be nigh impossible.

                    10. When they finally beat her, make sure they end up adopting some of her kidnapped kids, so that they still have to deal with the damagi she caused long after she's out of the picture.


                    So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

                    The absence of a monument can, in its own way, be something of a monument also.
                    -Roger Zelazny

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                    • #11
                      If you feel your players aren't up to taking on the Dowager yet, throw the Dowager's signature Abyssal at them. Shoat of the Mire is a young girl who can play the helpless child when needed, but she's very dangerous when she drops her mask of innocence. In 3E, I'd assess her as an upper Essence 3 to lower 4 Abyssal, who's specced to be very combat capable. Plus she's pretty creepy to boot! Have Shoaty knock your players around a bit, while talking about how her "mother" would love to meet them. That they'd be wonderful big brother's and sister's for her to enjoy. The creepy vibe, and powerful opponent will probably dissuade your players from further contact until they're a bit stronger.
                      Last edited by TalosX; 07-07-2018, 11:40 AM.

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