*** SPOILERS *** do not proceed if you do not want spoilers for the adventure 'Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques'
Yesterday was my birthday, and last weekend I celebrated that. On saturday with family and on sunday with a oneshot with friends. We had agreed to do a level 20 Go Nuts oneshot, because when can you ever go nuts with a level 20 character? This was the day!
After planning it I soon discovered that making an adventure for level 20 characters is complicated, and making an interesting oneshot even more so. What do you put on the proverbial other side of the playing field that is actually interesting for creatures that have near-godlike powers?
Whilst googling and getting a bit deperate I suddenly found THE adventure on Dungeon Masters Guild:
Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques (dun dun dunnnnnn)
Before I tell you about how the oneshot went I would like to brag a bit about how spoiled I got this weekend. Seriously spoiled. I got 4(!) new tabletop books, a bunch of fancy-pancy warhammer miniatures (I recently discovered they make excellent evil bosses), a slowcooker cookbook (excelent way of making meals on gameday), luxery tea and hot cocoa which was ordered in London for me (squee), a gorgeous handmade collage-card and as the jewel in the crown of my giftapalooza some flyers. Not just flyers, one of the players of my Saltmarch-turned-homebrew campaign made an awesome flyer for their party, she drew it all herself and included a great image of me as the Smiling GM.
I was speachless, and that does not happen very often.
Also, the wrapping stated that it was for the bestestest GM and they confirmed that was me, so that was a great gift too. And I have a new profile image for all my socials. I am considering putting it on a tshirt saying 'beware, smiling gm'.
After the spoiling was done and everyone had cake it was time to introduce the characters;
Bron, dwarven cleric of Lliira
Ash Emberstone, gnome wildfire druid
Nimrod Zenobia Rossi, half-elf clockwork sorceror (with a bit of cleric)
Nymmurhin Nakriin, dragonborn oath of vengeance paladin/zealot barbarian
Skossot, dwarven runic fighter
Lenork Jinseey, goblin bladesinger/battlemaster
They are level 20, they have long titles... also they have 20 levels of background but we all managed to keep that short. The characters had a villa in Waterdeep, were stupendously rich, knew and were known by all the posh and powerfull folks in the city and had nothing to fear in life. Well... they did fear one thing at this point in their life: boredom.
Because when you are a level 20 adventurer, where can you find a challenge?
And that is where the adventure started, the group was having a drink at the Yawning Portal and discussing what they wanted to do with their life from now on. The cleric was planning on building a great temple somewhere, someone suggested starting a tavern next to it and there was something else they wanted to add. I decided the real adventure should start before the brothel and casino plans would pop-up.
"While the adventurers enjoy downtime at the Yawning Portal, a sudden shriek piercing the tavern’s revelry as..." an army of hippo-folk climb out of the well in the tavern. Naturally they want to talk to the heroes, some Big Evil Wizard that the heroes had killed just a few months ago has returned (it happens...) and wants revenge for getting killed. He is at another planet where a lot of tarrasques live, so he is out of reach at this moment but he is creating a portal and it is obvious what his plans are.
It sounds like a nice non-boring challenge will delay the retirement plans! WOOT!
There was some talking to folks, some planning en then the fun began: the first tarrasque pops out of a portal in the neighbourhood where the heroes have their villa. Other tarrasques also appear and they spread through the city, keeping everyone nice and busy.
Now this is where my proudest moment starts... there is always a lot of talk online about how players do stupid things, do not use their brains and so on. But I have the smartest(est) and best players in the world. All of them are ver experienced, not only with tabletop RPG's but also with larp, and I personally think that makes the difference. Having experienced plot, roleplay and facing evil bosses in real-fantasy life does something with the way players think in solutions. Or I could be wrong and just be insanely lucky to have players like this.
When the tarrasque showed up, one of the heroes did a spell allowing the whole group to stay in telepathic contact with eachother so they could make plans on the fly. After landing a few rather unsuccesfull attacks on the tarrasque-on-the-block they came to the conclusion that killing the tarrasque would take a very long time. These monsters are immune to a lot, have a stupendous amount of hitpoints and they can do a lot of damage to heroes, even if they are level 20.
Instead of happily and brainlessly keep stomping on the dino-dragon they decided to make a run for it, avoid the tarrasques (a 2nd one had entered the map) get their behinds through the portal, take out the wizard on the other side and close the portal. Fix the problem at the core.
That worked out well, the cleric got bitten and swallowed by a tarrasque on his way, but his goddess helped him get puked out and thanks to level-20 hitpoints he survived. I was kind of disappointed that he did not get killed, because the group had clones in the basement of their villa and it would have been fun to have the character die and the come running out of the villa in his new body, still getting dressed and all.
At the other side of the portal the wizard was flying around on a winged tarrasque (I had tarrasques in all kinds of flavours!). One of the players used his magic power-hand to grab the wizard and yank him off his mount. That was very successfull and I had to quickly look up information about flying speed of tarrasques, falling-speed and come up with a plan to not make the wizard crash into the ground, Fortunately I had said that there were 2 more flying tarrasques, so he got picked up. In hindsight he could have crashed, he would have survived that and then he would have been standing at the base of the portal-tower all screaming and cursing. That would have been fun too and he would have been more approacheable. Everything is more clear in hindsight.
But he was still flying, which was great too because now the heroes got to use their flying spells and turn into epic flying creatures like a phoenix and a planetar and summon a celestial. In the mean time they also figured out that the tower could be toppled, with enough force. One of them did a 'reverse gravity' on one side while a tarrasque was climbing toward the top on the other. That did the tric (and was probably easier than convincing 3 or 4 more tarrasques to start climbing), the tower started leaning over on its way to a big crash.... and crashed! And this also destroyed the portal.
It hit a bunch of tarrasques and since the tower was magical I decided it counted as a magical weapon so there was a lot of tarrasque meat under the rubble.
Level 20 characters are truly epic, they have spells and things we almost never get to use in games.
The heroes did not declare victory yet, there was still that wizard. They hit him a few times with very impressive attacks and then the evil creep decided to portal away.
It was a bit of a sour victory, the city of Waterdeep was now safe. Well... "safe" and in ruins because it got all stomped to bits by a bunch of tarrasques. But the wizard got away and that was a bit sad.
But there was good news too! The heroes did not have to retire and found a great challenge/hobby. Apparently the wizard had a way to come back after dying, so they would travel the worlds and planes and just keep finding and killing him until he stayed dead.
I had a great time, I loved how the players kept on their mental toes, thinking things through, helping eachother and I think they enjoyed the adventure just like I did. I had printed 5 tarrasques to use on the map, it would have been great but I had filled the table with a lot of food so we just had them on the table as dice-guards because the dice fit the beak and between the back spines. I have a big tv in the gameroom, so we had a map, and with the wizard flying around at some distance the map would not have worked anyway.
It was a great Bday lvl.20 Go Nuts oneshot and I am very fortunate to have such great players.
If I have any regrets it would be that the players did not challenge more tarrasques into attacking them (I should have made the wizard fall!) because I also had a monster-puking tarrasque and I did not get to use him.
Now... about next year... perhaps these adventurers need to find that wizard again and foil his new nefarious plans...