In which our heroes have an improbable adventure and ultimately discover their hideout has been compromised for quite some time.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a while since we played these sessions, let’s hope my notes hold up.

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This two-part adventure serves as a kind of “Season Finale” where we have all picked an adventure pitch and the player who has yet to picked gets saddled with an adventure where their character has messed up real bad.

This happened to coincide with a player leaving the game due to time constraints. So this is the tale of the time Giddeon (The Bard) Messed Up Real Bad.

Freestyle Talespin

So the kick off of the game was basically a freestyle pitch session where each player tossed in elements until someone liked it. How nervous did this make you? Were you confident that your structure would allow a full on freestyle session?

Well, with the reveal in part 2 it sort of makes sense if the session was a total mess.  I wanted a total mess. Also I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could do it, and partly I wanted to introduce season 3 with a bang, and you guys pitched ideas that more or less exactly did what I wanted.  I win again! Just like always.

I think the first thing you asked for was a fill in the blank. “Remember the time we were…” and we came up with “sliding through dimensions”.

Then we needed a place? We opted for “Glacius Rex’s Keep

The next thing we needed was an NPC concept. This story would involve a “Genasi Sorcerer who was the Heir to a Kingdom”.

Finally, we needed a hook. “It wasn’t an avalanche, it was a tidal wave.”

Recall that Jaxxo had final say on which of the ideas were chosen.  The first thing we picked was the lead. In a sense they all came from his head.

From that, Jon spun us a tale.

A Tidal Wave of Mystery

The crew finds themselves in the mountain range to the North of Faerun for unknown reasons. A deep and foreboding rumbling alerts them of everyone’s worst fears in the mountains: an avalanche.

Except, it’s not an avalanche. It’s a tidal wave. As though an untold volume of snow suddenly melted and was rushing down the mountain, threatening to blast us like a wintery typhoon.

I was pretty proud of my quick thinking here. Everyone was figuring out a way to steel themselves against the blast of water and I was like “hey, did we get here in our magical flying carriage?” and when Jon was like “yes”, I proposed just flying the hell out of there.

This is going to be a fun one since you ran this as a freestyle session. I want to know about your thought process on the fly. Did you have ways out of this in mind or were you just hoping we’d be quick thinkers?

This might be my greatest secret for quality DMing.  If you introduce a plausible scenario without considering a solution, not only do you allow the players free reign to come up with their own solution, but you also cannot railroad them.  Plausible scenarios should have multiple reasonable paths to resolution.  That said, this one wasn’t especially plausible, but you guys are almost level 10 so you should have options.  The higher level the party is the less reasonable you need to be as a DM.

Hell no I didn’t have a solution for this one.  

A massive quantity of snow suddenly melting sounds like something our nemesis might pull off. What with his control over all things icy and wintery. And the fact that we’re near his keep.

We’re detectives.

Finding him is no trouble at all, we just following the maniacal laughter echoing through the mountains.

Our flying carriage circles his mountain-top home and his derpy White Dragon launches out to attack us.

Derp The Magic Dragon

In retrospect, it was pretty lucky that we chose “Glacius Rex’s Keep” as the location here, you already had a good idea of the location and bad guys.

We have only ever mentioned Derp (which is his name in my head-canon) briefly. Is the deal that the only real way Glacius can have a dragon pet is if that dragon has been dropped on his head a few too many times?

Not even slightly lucky.  Glacius Rex’s involvement was supposed to be the surprise twist along this story.  Also, there was supposed to be a lot more adventuring than there was, and a lot less combat.

I love Derp so much and I’m so sad you guys haven’t taken advantage of him.  He’s a super powerful super dumb dragon. People always run up to him and face tank him.  Use yer noggins.

The party has a run in with Derp and make our way into the keep for a showdown with our old enemy.

Glacius’ keep is your standard boss zone.

It’s a big open area. At the far end of the room there are two exits, to the side of the room there is a giant statue of Glacius Rex and in the center there is the Ice Throne.

Pretty standard stuff. More on that statue later.

Confronted with his nemesis, in his own lair, I decide that my character, Jim Clocks, is just going to lean hard into this setup.

He figures that this is the chance to stop Glacius once and for all, and after their encounter in Luskin he wants to put this guy down for good.

It’s important to remember that Jim’s life goal is to be a famous pirate. The kind of pirate that is quick with quips. The kind of pirate people tell stories about for years to come.

Jim takes a wild leap of logic and proclaims “You’ll never get away with this, we’re here to rescue the Princess!”

Does Jim know there is Princess? No. He’s just sort of taking a stab at saying something heroic.

And things get weird.

And Weirder

Veins of blackness crack through the chamber, pulsing and throbbing. The mad laughter of our enemy fills the room and reality seems to shatter. The laughter stops suddenly and we’re enveloped in darkness.

A split second later, reality reforms around us.

Instead of the frozen sanctuary of the mountains we’re in a lush, natural cavern. And Derp the White Dragon? He’s a Red Dragon now.

The fight thunders on.

A “version” of our patron, Elise, enters into the cavern and exclaims “you guys should do as I say and go on adventures with the Ice King.” The word version is in quotations there because it is immediately evident to all of us that this isn’t Elise.

This is Elise if she was drawn by a child.

At this point we’re relatively sure we’re in an illusion again.

Was it always the plan for whatever random pitch we concocted to be another illusory dimension? It’s a pretty good backdrop since any continuity errors are Ice King’s mistakes, not yours. Also, was it always the plan for things to get silly?

Yeah… I mean it even makes sense as to why there was a bid at the start.  Glacius Rex was picking ideas from your heads so he could run an adventure on you.  

The game was me as a DM telling a story as if I was playing one of your characters narrating a story that your character experienced years ago and in that story Glacius Rex had enchanted the party so he could run a game on them with his ice-llusion magic.  Holy shit how many levels of meta can I cram in there?  

I am a genius.

Smashing Darling, Just Smashing

Glacius agrees with the fake Elise, we should just go on adventures with him all the time. So many adventures we could go on with him.

Remember that statue we mentioned in the corner of the cave? Well, someone figures it might be the key to the illusion. That someone is me.

I am fairly convincing so we spend a few rounds busting that bad boy up into splinters. Turns out that it’s just wood. Ice King man, never spends the money on quality.

Man, why put a big statue in a room with gem eyes for no reason? Or was this just the best red herring you could come up with on the fly?

Glacius Rex isn’t the most clever storyteller.  Maybe the statue will come back in his real lair?  Is he clever enough to make things up or is he just so happy the party wanted to hang out with him.

Also the last time you were trapped in an ice-llusion there was a crystal to smash.  It rhymes yo, like poetry.

That doesn’t change facts though: something definitely does need to get smashed. We just need to find out what.

Last time it was a big old blue crystal. In fact, plenty of Glacius Rex illusions are undone by smashing big old blue crystals. They’re his Achilles heel.

The two most mobile characters (Jaxxo and Jim) try to get off the map through the exits in the far side of the cave to see if we can locate something to smash.

The rest of the party works on keeping Glacius distracted.

Distraction Action

The best way to do that?

Pretend to buy into his nonsense.

Brubax the Barbarian bellows out “Remember the time I wrestled a bear!”

And sure enough, a boxing ring materializes, with a bear in it. For him to wrestle.

The exits lead to a spiral staircase, which leads to a kind of storage area beneath where the fight is unfolding.

This was actually not at all part of the story and had to do with one of his downtime actions where he was trying to unleash his inner bear spirit.  Why he decided to challenge the Elder Bear Shaman at that time I will never know. But it really added to the WTF of the whole night.

Upstairs, Brubax rolls a series of terrible rolls and the bear more emasculates him in a two out of three pinfall situation where Brubax won no pinfalls.

To the Barbarians’ chagrin the bear proclaims that Brubax is just not ready yet.

Meanwhile, the Monk and the Rogue are rummaging through the storage area.

Lo and behold: amidst the crates there is a blue crystal. They smash it.

The Reveal

The entire party suddenly wakes up, safe and sound back in the Treehouse.

Was it all a dream? That would be pretty lame.

The Cads meet up in the central room, and quickly put it together that they all had the same experience. Likely not a dream, possible some sort of mind control.

The astute reader will note that this was the Time Giddeon Messed Up Real Bad.

Giddeon is missing.

The party scours the Treehouse and finds Giddeon.

He is standing beside a previously undiscovered open secret door in the basement of our hideout, a stairwell leading even further down into the roots of the massive tree.

He is frozen solid.

So, I’m really interested in knowing what your thought process was throughout this experience. When did various ideas come to you and how much did you actually need to freestyle?

The setup was Glacius Rex had a base in the Treehaus from the start.  When the party took it over they never found what was in the basement, and so he had an in, and a way to spy and follow you all around.  It explains how he got you guys in the first enchanted kingdom back in season 1 (his first experiment with this magic). He used detect thoughts on the party to concoct an adventure where he could hang out with you guys (which was the plan, no matter what you did he would show up) but after that I was really just going to wing it.

Of course, when you picked his base, he (and I) had to scramble with a way to turn it into an adventure which really didn’t work out and most was him whining about how fun it would be to go on adventures together.  This is probably exactly what would have happened if the Ice King pulled the same stunt so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Astute readers will note that I have fulfilled only partly the notion of “Sliding through dimensions” and not at all the “Genasi sorcerer who is heir to an ancient kingdom”.  Will I bring it all home in the next session?

What happens next? What about that heir to a lost kingdom? Tune in next time in Part 2 of “The Time Giddeon Messed Up Real Bad”.

Image References: In The Ice King’s Palace (World in Amber, Book 2)



Keith does all sorts of things here on, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Jon is a Master of Dungeons of the highest caliber. He podcasts with me over on 9to5 Entertainment System and occasionally blogs here in Jon’s Junk.