D&D 5e, Zardoz, and Getting A Head

My last 5e session (both in terms of “most recent” as well as “probably the last face-to-face game for a while”) saw my players’ 5th level hooligans traveling into the Coppertop Mountains in search of the fabled Mount Durasil, rumored to be the ancestral home of the warforged.

The week before the game, I had no idea what I was going to do. Then I stumbled across Luka Rejec’s Rrypo Get-A-Head module in my OSR folder. The adventure as written involves chicken-riding, rifle-armed barbarian hordes led by a floating head-shaped fortress out to exterminate life in a thinly-veiled Zardoz homage. I just needed the head.

Tackling the Adaptation Head-On

I had a few names already – Mt. Durasil, the warforged, Rrypo. The Zardozian head could be the very peak of Mt. Durasil, a dead god’s head hollowed out and transformed through arcanical engineering into a reclusive immortal wizard’s bunker. I had a mental image of this grotesque stone head overlooking a mountaintop fortress where rows of warforged monks trained in open courtyards. Instead of leading a cult of chicken-riding feral humans, Rrypo would be hiding away, perfecting his mechanical creations until the time was right to sweep down from the Coppertop Mountains in a war of extermination. Finally, he would be safe from his enemies.

The PCs could be mistaken for assassins sent by rival sorcerer-kings, or if their diplomacy was strong, kept from leaving with the secret of Mt. Durasil’s location. I know my players, and things would degenerate into glorious battlemapped violence. It’s okay, it’s part of our social contract – D&D is for fights.

Never Slime a Guy With a Floating Head That Has a Disintegrator Ray

Thinking a-head (ahem), I wasn’t sure I wanted to change my campaign to revolve around the PCs owning a floating head fortress. I decided to make the head’s power source geothaumic reactors below the monastery, using soul-powered engines as auxiliary power. That way, when the head inevitably ripped from its moorings and battle was joined, the immense power available to the party would slowly fade. It would be an awesome but limited power-up rather than a completely different campaign. YMMV of course, and the module itself lists ways the head changes campaigns as well as ways of challenging the party once they own such a marvel of warfare.

There Was a Firefight

So what happened? The party trekked their way through dangerous mountain passes and through storm-wracked castle ruins until they found Mt. Durasil. They defeated the galeb duhr guardians (in this campaign I used the galeb duhr as Rrypo’s warforged prototypes) and were escorted into the city by warforged rangers, eventually meeting Rrypo him/itself at the top of the mountain. The rogue smelled trickery and gained entry into the head while the others battled warforged monks. Eventually the rest of the party fought their way into the head and captured the wizard himself. Removed from his anti-aging fields and exposed to toxins and infections he’d never encountered during his eons inside his protective bunker, Rrypo soon died and crumbled to dust. His lies were laid bare for his warforged creations to see.

We left off with a steady truce between the warforged and the party. It remains to be seen if they will try to use Rrypo’s fortress or leave it to the warforged.

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