Some Help: Carceri Encounters

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Jack of tears
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Some Help: Carceri Encounters

Hey all, next weekend my party is heading to Carceri - traveling from the 1st to the 4th layer ultimately - and I was hoping to pick the hive mind here for some interesting encounter ideas.

Already I have some basic introduction encounters - such as the party being drug into the struggle of an army perpetually backstabbing itself over capturing and holding a worthless keep in a sinking bog; a couple bored hucksters purporting to be cursed brothers protecting a rare well of pure drinking water on the 3rd layer but one is cursed to always lie and one to always tell the truth (in fact they are both liars and the well is poisoned but the game passes the time - they have a handful of similar schemes they play, but this happens to be the one they're doing when the PCs come by); and a group of Anarchs planning to pop the cork on a Harmonium prison. (The redundancy alone is worth cracking the thing open over)

What I need are a handful of brief encounters to add more flavor to the setting and help really distinguish it from some of the other miserable planes they've come across.

So, thanks in advance ...

KnightOfDecay
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You should definitely include

You should definitely include gereleths/demodands - maybe the PCs find a lost obsidian triangle.

A vaath is also a nice encounter for Carceri.

If you have the adventure "Something Wild" you could include an episode in Malar's realm on Colothys "The Land of the Hunt" or escaped prisoners from the Vault.#

The Dispossessed are a sect with a special connection to Carceri.

Jem
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One of my favorite encounters

One of my favorite encounters that I employed on a Carceri trip once was Rotten Nannananna, a honest night hag who buys and sells magical items that are cursed but nevertheless have some marginal usefulness: for example, for people needing to get across spheres, she'll sell a hexed cloak of the bat (i.e., it's unremovable without remove curse), or a broom of animated atack that can be beaten in to submission with nonlethal damage. More generally, she collects and sells items with various drawbacks, some of which are colorful but livable if you really need a particular type of item -- a bag of tricks that only makes snakes, for instance. But hey, sometimes you want a snake.

Version 1 is a jerk with a temper but she does sell her items at a discount to what you would normally get them for, due to the curse -- unless she learns that she's your only option, in which case the sky's the limit, and she'll also employ the tactic of version 2, below. That goes for castings of remove curse, for which she's well known to have the ability (Clr 5 of Cegilune). In particular, she'll usually demand the cursed item in payment for the removal.

Version 2 sells her items for even more than the uncursed cost, reasoning that anyone buying from her is desperate anyway. She will lower the price, though, if buyers commit an evil act. When asked her prices, she says, "Too much! The price is always too much, sweetmeat. Everything you've got and another copper. But sin cheapens everything, it does. Strike your fellow across the face wi'out asking, and I'll knock off two bits. Tell me a secret you're charged with keeping, and watch the price turn from gold to silver. Steal it from me for free. Sin cheapens everything, my poppet. What'll it be?"

Finally, if your characters are fairly powerful and want to deal with someone with even more oomph, give her a larger store and a glimpse of a bunch of crystal balls in the back -- suggesting that she is one of those powerful entities who knows how to make crystal hypnosis balls and uses them to manipulate spellcasters across the planes. If there are further indications that she has some evil scheme in motion, this would make destroying her a potentially very welcome event for many people!

Quickleaf
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My experience with running

My experience with running adventures set in Carceri is that players don't trust anyone there. Thus, efforts at having NPCs surprise backstab the party are hard to execute cause the players are so on guard. My advice - if you do want to pull off something like this - is to save it for the end of their sojourn, once they reach the 4th layer Colothys. By that time, you should have gotten them to believe that there is a method to the evil of the Carcerites, that the betray specific people for specific reasons. Colothys is where you toss out that rulebook, and the petitioners betray folk just for the malicious thrill of it.

A Mystery: On the other hand, this is the perfect setup for a mystery scenario. The question isn't "who is evil? so let's get him" because *everyone* is evil. The question instead becomes "who committed such-a-such a crime and why?" A convoluted murder mystery involving unusual planar races (e.g. shator gehreleths, talking vargouilles, eccentric hordlings, greedy and gluttonous wraithworms, cyclops scapegoats, etc) would be right at home on Carceri. What would be unique about it is that the mystery would involves various types of evil, offering the PCs / Players a chance to decide which is worse.

Trickster's Delight (3rd layer, Minethys): Parrafaire (CN naga demi-guard of guardianship) dwells below the crimson desert of Minethys, spiritual home of hoarders who could have helped others with their wealth but chose not to. His realm is a prison of his own making, born of his obsession with solving a riddle/puzzle that has no answer. PCs could come here seeking magical secrets. Surrounded by non-lethal traps, puzzles, and riddles to test the mental prowess and resolve of supplicants, Parrafaire guards many magical secrets and hidden underground places. A word on his “non-lethal” traps of this realm: though they’re unlikely to kill, they can drive a body mad, bind him to Carceri, strip away his ability to wield magic, and lay bare the darkest secrets of his soul.

Shades of Petitioners: Not all Carceri petitioners betray in the same way. This is a good point to keep in mind since you're using 4 layers.

Othrys is the spiritual home of corrupt politicians and those who betrayed their country. If you have players with national allegiance, here is a great place to toss in dead NPCs from that nation! My idea would be a fortified small burgeoning freehold that claims autonomy from the gehreleths, rakshasa, barghests, yugoloths, Anarchists, dark gods, etc. The leader of the freehold would have lost faith with the "social experiment" and plans to betray the freehold in some way. The PCs would need help or info from some of the freeholders who've tumbled onto the freehold lord's plan and need the PCs' help to thwart it.

Cathrys is the spiritual home of those who gave in to their animal lusts. A petitioner here might fall for one of the PCs or an NPC, and cut a deal with a night hag to get the PC/NPC to notice them. Perhaps they attempt the classic "false guide" scenario but they expose what they were intending, claiming they can only think about the PC/NPC. This is true, so it wouldn't register as a lie magically, but the night hag of course counted on this and fed the petitioner false info. Thus, when the PCs do find their "own" way to the destination, it's the trapped brought the night hag wanted them to take all along. When the guano hits the fan, the petitioner tries to slake his or her lust on the PC/NPC once paralyzed or immobilized, etc.

Minethys is the spiritual home of hoarders, those who could have aided others with their wealth but decided not to. I see a scenario here where the PCs need to galvanize a recalcitrant wealthy merchant/aristocrat to put their money toward some productive or socially responsible effort (e.g. cleaning a polluted stream, building a school, funding a search and rescue, paying for release of a wrongfully imprisoned NPC).

Colothys, is the spiritual home of liars who hurt others with their falsehoods. This is where the classic sort of sheer malicious treachery you'd except on Carceri would come in. A petitioner here might be masquerading as a chant-broker who smuggles people out of Carceri by means of secret portals. These portals resist all attempts to divine their destination, but he assures folks they lead to various spots on the Outlands. In actuality, the portals lead deeper into Carceri, and are part of a deal the petitioner has with gehreleth gaolers.

The key to selling this is to develop real personalities with real motives for their evil, and preferably a way they could be seen sympathetic from a certain light (well, all except the last one!)