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Masquerade

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Author: [The Award Winning ;)]Jacob DriscollEmail: , the Masquerade. Coming right at the end of Mortis, the month of the Dustmen, the Masquerade began long ago as a Sensate party that served as an antidote to the somber atmosphere of the past month. Originally, it made fun of the Dustmen, dressing up as Undead and getting completely sloshed. Over the years, however, it lost its satirical edge, and became more an excuse to party for most of Sigil, Sensate or not. Dressing up as Undead remains popular, and eventually the party theme merged with a religious belief of many faiths that, on one day of the year, the souls that were not mourned would come up to wreak havoc on the multiverse. The month of Mortis seemed to be the perfect time to have this event, although once it started to blend with the Sensate parties, it became less of a seriously frightening time and more of a joke, with little kids dressing up as the forgotten souls and running from house to house threatening to haunt it if they are not appeased with candies and toys.

The festival became less somber and more celebratory as time passed. The Dustmen, being apathetic as always, really didn’t care if a festival that started as a joke at their expense was celebrated by most of the city. Of course, they didn’t celebrate. Revelry is foolish when you’re dead.

But this year, something has gone wrong...

1) The Setup:The PC's are somehow invited to a Masquerade party in Sigil. Sigilian PCs may see it as a good time to unwind after their latest planehopping escapade, or a Sigilian contact may invite them to the bash. Perhaps, for some service rendered (or yet to be rendered), they are even invited to the biggest bash of the entire night, the Sensate Ball at Montgomery Manner, where the factol herself appears as hostess. Dustmen PCs may be coldly intrigued by this party, interested in seeing what it’s like, or be there to argue that this is not a sensible activity to the Sensate factol herself. Or they may just be dragged along to be the death of the party.

The actual location and size of the party doesn't matter much, only that they be at some sort of bash to begin.

The PCs, of course, must have costumes. Usually, the players should be able to say what they want to go as, and should be able to find someone to make it for them. If the DM wants more control over costuming, he could easily limit it along the lines of "This little kid's Kobold costume was the only one left in the entire store" or some other control method, but players will be a little irked at first, and quite irked as the night goes on, if they’re given silly costumes.

The reason a DM may want to do this anyway is because the PC's costumes may grant them powers that could, even temporarily, become quite unbalancing.

2) The Trouble Begins:Either way, the party shows up at the bash decked out in exotic costumes. The DM should be quite descriptive on his part in giving the details of the NPC’s costumes. Undead, of course, are the most prominent, though other creatures abound as well, from Solars to Bugbears. And even Solars dressed as Bugbears, because this is Sigil after all, and many otherwise strange creatures may dress up as other strange creatures. Think of having a Vrock go to the party as, say, the Lady of Pain. If this is THE Sensate bash, the DM may lavish extra attention on Erin's no-doubt-seductive costume, perhaps she goes as a swan, with long, graceful wings on her arms, and a covering only of downy feathers hugging her body.

The party winds on and on. The DM should allow the PCs to do basically whatever the please -- dance, stare out the widow, drink themselves silly, whatever. Once the DM gets the impression that the players are fairly complacent, spring the following on them: As the PCs are doing their deeds, they see a soft, pinkish mist waft in from under doors or through open windows. The cloud expands slowly to fill the room, and, though some seem a bit confused by it, it doesn't seem to be causing any trouble -- doesn't even smell like anything. People simply shrug and breathe it in, going about the party as if nothing had happened. Gradually, however, the mist exits, and, as it does, things start to change.

Here, remember the costumes you described earlier. Now, describe the wearers of the costumes and the costumes themselves as they become one. Someone dressed as a ghost slowly has the sheet wrap around him or her as he or she grows insubstantial. Someone dressed as a Balor suddenly doesn't just have cheap, paper wings, and they exude real flame. Someone wearing the costume of a zombie suddenly has a limb fall off. Someone that went as a hanged man suddenly has the noose tighten around his neck again. Perhaps the Sensate Factol's arms disappear within the wings, and her exquisite face starts to sprout a beak. Perhaps those dressed as the Lady start to float in the air.

For now, the changes are minor, but troublesome. The most obvious aspects of the costume, the physical properties of the creature, start to take hold upon the wearers. Unless the PCs were suspicious and held their breath, even they are affected ("I knew it was a bad idea to pick up that French Maid costume..."), gaining the physical properties of whatever they dressed as (e.g.: attack forms, movement rates, non-magical powers…).

3) Typical Sensate Party:If the PC's do nothing about this state of affairs, the night wears on and the people start getting more and more like their costumes, both mentally and physically. Vampires start to crave blood, skeletons start to claw at partygoers, and, worst of all, the trick-or-treaters arrive, hungry for living flesh.

Eventually, the PC's should be inspired to look for the cause of this. If they need encouraging, they may find their friend and/or Factol Erin Montgomery herself taken by the trick-or-treaters. By now, almost everyone conforms to the MM statistics of these creatures (woe be the man who dressed like a bottle of bub...), and behave accordingly. And, since the whole theme of Masquerade is "dress up as dangerous and scary creatures", there are more dangerous and scary creatures than usual running through the streets of Sigil. Several fights are sure to break out as well, as none of these beasts seem to realize where they are. Strangely enough, when someone is killed, they return to their natural form -- though they are still undeniably dead. This can lead to some quite tragic trick-or-treater killings.

If the PCs try to find the source of the pink mist, they can follow the more coherent eyewitness reports (not everyone dresses up on Masquerade, after all), assuming, of course, the eyewitnesses weren't killed by the costumed freaks running rampant in the city. This leads them through the streets of Sigil into the Hive (and don't be afraid to toss copious random encounters in their way -- the more and the weirder, the better. It may even give PCs the chance to use some neat powers).

If they don't search for the cause of the trouble, however, the DM must employ a Deus Ex Machina ending that is much less satisfying. In this scenario, the chaos caused by the mutations is enough to make the Lady very angry. And, after 1d4-1 hours, she reverses what mutations she can. This means that basically everyone in Sigil may now be partially deformed, and there is a 25% chance per hour that one mutation remains permanent, as given below. The power of the Lady reduces the chance of acquiring a permanent mutation. Here, the only challenge is staying alive long enough to see it through, and not to be mutated yourself. Remember, though, that those killed will revert back to normal form -- albeit dead.

The longer the PCs take, the more likely they are to succumb to the effects of the mist themselves. They have the physical powers of the creature they dressed up as, but not the spell-like powers or the mental capacities. They retain their own mental powers, and, assuming they have a correctly shaped body, can still cast spells and use skills that they had as humanoids. However, every hour that they spend out, one feature of their new form has a 50% chance of becoming permanent. And, once one part becomes permanent, they are considered to be planetouched for the rest of their lives, in the same way that Tieflings and Aasimar are. The quality is dependant on the DM's decision, but could be, say, an arm, a finger, a wing, a tooth, their whole face, their head, one patch of skin, one limb, or anything else the DM can think of. To lessen this impact on the campaign in general, the DM can make it a trivial detail, such as a patch of skin turning to scale. However, if the DM wants to make this particularly dangerous, he can have the PC's make a saving throw vs. paralyzation (or a Will save for 3e), and if they fail it, there is a 50% chance that it affects their mind. And, once their mind is affected, they completely become that creature. This could be as simple as turning an elf into a dwarf, or as dangerous as turning a Githzerai into a Dragon. Once their mind is affected he or she is that creature, for all intents and purposes. It is up to the DM if this creature remains a PC or is so powerful that it passes into the realm of NPC.

This can be a very interesting way to retire a PC, or it could be a great way to introduce powers and abilities that are just plain bizarre. However, this is also potentially unbalancing, and the PCs won't like it if they all turn into daisies and the adventure ends there.

Now, if the PCs are just searching for the cause of the mist, it takes them 1d4-1 hours to find the house it emanated from in the Hive. During this time, they can get into countless battles, and may develop up to 3 mutations from the magic. However, if the PCs are following a kidnapped friend/factol, they get there in 1d2-1 hours, since they are following the direct trail of the kidnappers. Of course, if the DM wants to avoid mutations all together, it could take them less than an hour either way.

4) The Leak:The PCs eventually come to the ramshackle abode of one Sylus Nedir, a Xaositect who had plans. He had built a "planeblaster," a tube that connected to a shifting portal that would shoot pieces of whatever plane the portal was connected to out and into Sigil. Different things dropped into the tube yielded different planes, and different "ammo" for use.

Why did he build it? He's a Xaositect. He thought Sigil was not "planar" enough, so he brought the planes to Sigil.

Unfortunately, things went wrong in a hurry.

Sylus's friend, a Dustman namer by the name of Ergius, had heard about this machine, and figured it would be a great way to show people what Mortis was really for. Ergius had a plan tonight, to open the gates to the Negative Energy Plane and have undead rampage through Sigil.

Things went wrong here, too. Sylus wasn't as conducive to incurring the Lady's wrath that Ergius was, and so tried to stop his friend, first by breaking the trigger and the shifter, and then by trying to block the pipe with his own body (he's a Xaosman, not a strategist). Ergius, enflamed with anger, pulled the trigger anyway. It so happened that he did so when the shifter was halfway between the Ethereal Plane and Limbo.

Things only went downhill from there. Releasing a little puff of pinkish gas from the spout, the planeblaster hit Sylus dead-on, transforming him into a Chaos Beast. Sylus then grabbed Ergius, and threw him down the tube, causing the planeblaster to release another, much longer, belch of pink gas that was carried through Sigil, transforming all into what they believed they were. It couldn't have been worse timing...

Strangely enough, the people that were turned into mindless Undead by the mist saw Sylus as their creator and leader, and awaited his orders. Depending upon if the kidnapping approach was used or not, they either just got very confused, or inferred from his garbled speech to kidnap the friend. If they kidnapped Erin, they got the idea from Sylus's pictures of him and the girl together (they had a "relationship" in the distant past, which she has forgotten about since he called her a three-toed Oliphant and she left him, and he has gone on to call people one-toed Oliphants and five-toed Elephants).

Of course, the PCs know none of this. All they know is that, upon entering the room, there is a big blobby creature oozing all over the place, occasionally belching pinkish gas. In all likelihood, a battle ensues.

If the PCs loose...well, they die. That's obvious enough. If they win, the day is saved but the mystery remains unsolved. Sylus's dying body sprays a greenish mist into the air of Sigil that reverses the affects of the pink mist (those that haven't become permanent, at least). Sylus's house is a mess (as befits a Xaosman), and the Planeblaster sits as a large, rubber pipe connected to a transparent crystal sphere in the corner of the cluttered house. Papers and books about planar travel and suction lie scattered about, and Sylus's notes are almost unreadable. If there are any Chaosmen in the party, there is a chance that they may make sense of the slop: a chance equal to an Intelligence check. (DC = INT - 20 for 3e), and they will instantly arrive at the story above, complete.

5) The Aftermath:Sigil is trashed. Sure, not everyone changed, but not everyone who did change changed back, either. In the next few days, everyone gets the feeling of being a Tiefling, since half of Sigil has an extra eyestalk or a horn on their heads. Eventually, normalcy is returned, with copius use of priestly magic, but some people are altered forever, for better or for worse. Of course, the staples of Sigil (such as Erin) don't change much, if at all, but the DM can be justified in giving many Sigilites for generations to come an insubstantial finger from when they turned into a ghost on the Masquerade. It is this sort of story that legends are born of, and Erin or the friend is bound to reward the PCs handsomely for their help.

Also, the PCs who are more research-oriented may find another use for the Planeblaster, perhaps using it as a portal or as a weapon. At least, once they remove the dead Dustman from it.

In the end, this adventure has potential to change some details for the foreseeable campaign, and should only be used if you don't mind injecting a bit of Xaos into your world. If you are a DM who loves control, and perhaps doesn't want a bunch of weird critters infesting the streets of Sigil, this adventure may not be suited for you. But it is great for a DM who has been wanting to shake up the land a little bit, or maybe introduce a new character race in the form of a popular costume. It is an adventure where many quite unlikely things could happen…but what do you expect from a Xaositect?

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