TPK in the Pagoda of the Pink Plains

System: Maze Rats

Setting: Scifi/Fantasy South/Southeast Asia 

Magic: d64 Trigrams

The Setup

The world is inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, a neglected colonial world with two moons and vast plains of rose pink grass. Eons ago, the planet was colonized by East Asian adherents of Buddhism and Daoism, and south asian Hindus. The world exists now in a medieval state, the little original technology long since broken, lost, buried, or held by the religious oligarchs.   

The two players played as monks who were banished from the holy city because they each broke their vows of samaya. Heretic, played by Phil W., disrespected the holy sutras in word and thought. Bourej, played by Steven, gave in to his anger while sparring and accidentally killed his partner.

I cobbled together a character creation one-pager with hacked Maze Rats rules and some open source images. In addition to the crunch, there were a few opportunities for storytelling during character creation. I asked each player the nature of the sin that led them to banishment. I asked what discipline they were, and asked what was entailed by that study. I was using my own magic system, inspired by the I Ching divination system.

The two monks had been travelling the wilds for years, but had recently gotten word of an ancient pagoda that was said to be locked against the ages. If they could find a way in, surely the ancient artifacts would ensure that they could fix their karma with the masters, or live comfortably off the coin from selling it on the black market.

The Approach

I shared this map and described the situation. They stood at the base of a hill, amidst chest-height rose-hued grass. Miles above, in the hills, stood a tall wall stretching for miles around a towering pagoda. A winding road led down from the gatehouse. Some dust on the trail made it clear that some sort of caravan was heading their way, 14 men with a few pack horses. Rumors around say that bandits have taken to using the gatehouse as their base of operations.

The players chose to hide in the tall grass to wait for the caravan to pass, this happened without mishap and the players approached the wall in the evening light. Two moons were visible on the horizon as they approached the wall far from the gatehouse and climbed over with their grappling rope. Inside the wall was a large courtyard entirely paved in bricks forming elaborate tessellations. From the wall they could see that a significant camp was setup near the gatehouse. The sounds of drinking and laughing carried across the hard ground of the large courtyard, but no patrol approached. Also, the wall near the pagoda was destroyed by a landslide, a large boulder was half sunk into the ground and debris was scattered about the yard.

The players followed along the wall, intending to approach the pagoda. Along the way, they approached the broken wall and rubble and saw that the brick floor had caved in from the weight of the boulder. There appeared to be a cave mouth or sinkhole with a fall of about 30 feet. The monks decided to investigate, sunk the grappling hook into a fissure of the boulder and climbed down the hole into darkness


On the way down, a d6 encounter dice roll of a 1 determined that the rope would break. The two monks landed heavily, each taking 1 point of damage. They decided to use some medicine to regain full health, which used up the dR4 medicine they had. They struck a lantern and looked around to see a corpse in the distance. As the light broke the darkness, squeeks could be heard in the distance.

The contemplative monk used the spell Conjoining to mend the broken rope. The rope, which had fallen down into the hole, snaked its way back up to rejoin the fibers still attached to the grappling hook. While Heretic was doing that, Bourej moved towards the corpse. Bourej saw that the corpse wore an amulet. As he took the amulet from the body, the hand reached out to grasp his arm. He threw the body away with a successful strength test, and clubbed the side of the skull in with his deadly cudgel.

Heretic was rushed by some mole rats that seemed hungry. He quickly dumped oil in a circle circle around him and struck a spark. The flames kept the rats at bay while Bourej escaped from the risen undead. The flames peaked and both men could see through the pillars that many bodies were rising all around them. They quickly climbed the rope and inspected the amulet, which depicted the pagoda and was ringed with a prayer of opening.

The Pagoda

Suspecting that the amulet would open the pagoda, they monks approached the door directly. The amulet unsealed the door and they entered to see a battle scene long undisturbed. The skeletons of holy warriors clutching weapons lay fallen where they had died in combat. A stairway down seemed like it had been barricaded, but breached.

The monks scanned the room quickly, but without inspecting any of the dead they headed up the stairs. As the approached the second level, a fog began to form and thicken around them. They momentarily paused to confer but continued upwards. By the time the stairs leveled off on the second floor, both monks had an unbidden fear in the pit of their stomachs and the fog was thick enough to heavily obscure the area.

Sounds like a wounded animal emerged from near the base of the wall. As the two monks crouched to see through the heavy fog, a dark shape materialized behind them. They turned to see a red-eyed bear-sized humanoid creature swipe at them with heavy claws. Bourej was slain by the first blow.

Heretic had used his spell slot for the day, but risked the act of casting beyond his limit to try to Swallow the creature to enable him to flee. The day was not his, as he failed the Will save to cast and took a lethal 4 damage. Instead of casting the spell, his blood erupted from his flesh into a fine mist, and his bloodless body fell dead to the ground.

Session on 10/24/2017

Other notes

I used an instance of to track all the game information, which was pretty fun.