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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 1: It Begins

Updated: Aug 3, 2023


When one bridge just isn't enough.
And this is the dummy bridge Picard uses . . .

Welcome friends to the inaugural episode of a new kind of campaign. You've had shenanigans. You've seen weird. You've endured the coliseum. Now prepare for . . . THE MADNES! That's right, step right into a world that would make a Picasso painting seem downright bland, brought to you straight from the twisted mind of the man, the myth, the troll, Alex Blancarte.


(Edited by myself, of course)

What about the power to infuriate multiple people at the same time?
Seen: A live picture of the DM . . . God help us . . .

{Player's Note: It should be noted (in the player's note, no less) that some time ago I observed that I could make Loki from the MCU fairly easily in pathfinder. Just need a dab of Rogue, a pinch of Magus, and a fistful of Arcane Trickster. Of course, it wasn't long before other Marvel characters were being worked out within the confines of the corpus Pathfinder


The DM has allowed a modified Gestalt rules system to be used by the players. In this, anyone that chooses to gestalt suffers all the normal level penalties, but also moves down one track on the experience ladder. ie. if they were on the fast track they move to the medium track.}


So, without further ado, I give you the cast of this little roleplaying bonanza of insanity:


Loki, an (Eldritch Scion) Magus, (Knife Master) Rogue, Arcane Trickster played by yours truly, Brandon Thompson.

Thor (how else can we do get help?) an (Urban/Primal) Bloodrager [Elemental (Air) Bloodline] played by Christian Parsons.

Nebula, a cybernetically modified (Martial Artist) Monk played by the newest member of the group, Shanna Lee. Captain America, a (Shield Champion) Brawler, (Drill Sergeant) Fighter at the mercy of Clint Jensen.

And Hazel a.k.a. The White Witch (modified from Scarlett Witch because the MCU is sadly deficient in the area of healers), a (White Haired) Witch (Celestial Agenda Patron) played by Beth Loutzenheizer.


As our story begins, our heroes (All level 1, but with great aspirations) find that the Foreign Legion-ish army they'd enlisted in had received word of an entire settlement suddenly vacant. (No, the word Croatoan was not found anywhere,)


Now, in past campaigns we would no doubt have been deep into plotting to claim and use said land, perhaps putting the peasantry to work building adventuring gear. But now we were part of an army. And we apparently had quite the Dwarven taskmaster. At least, I'm not testing someone with the surname 'Battleborn'.


Oh, and the settlement's name was Ryleh, a clear warning to those players who've read Lovecraft. (I haven't, so its going to be an interesting ride.)


So the group geared up and marched over to the scene of the crime. Even from a distance it became clear that there was no one around: no people, no animals, and no clues. Loki, smelling a trap, attempted to use silent image to send a copy of himself through the gates.


He was stopped and throttled by his direct commander for speaking out of turn. Yep, it was apparently that kind of army.


Fortunately for them there was no trap waiting to be sprung the moment anyone entered the town. As they discovered the canary way, by walking balls first into the town. Investigation revealed only the stretched out shadows of presumably the townsfolk burned into the ground. Triangulation suggested that whatever had caused that phenomenon had come from the woods outside of town. Loki and Thor's squad was sent to investigate.


{Player's Note: I smell just a slight hint of foreshadowing here; just sayin.}


Meanwhile, in the town the various members of the army were starting to get spooked by vague fleeting images that refused to leave the confines of their peripheral vision. Any time they would turn to bring one of them into focus the target of their interest would disappear.


By the time they were all quite unsettled the scouting group had reached its destination. They found little beyond a used ritual site with nothing to indicate who had used it or for what. Cleanly little terrorists, aren't they? Oh, yeah. And they found a tree with claw marks deeper than their fingers in it.

Being level one, they found nothing else and began to head back to the town to report. I'm sure there were other clues out there. They simply were not able to perceive them. Hey, you get what you pay for, right?


The shadows' shyness lasted only until the return of the scouting group. As the first of them reached the gates the images stopped playing silly buggers and started a race for the fountain at the center of the deserted town. Once there they dove in, disappearing.


As they did so, a ioun stone shaped crystal floated out of the well. With each added shadow sacrifice it rose taller, and became bigger and brighter. While the others watched in interested dismay, Loki attempted to use the town's defensive wall as cover. He'd barely gotten around it when the orb burst into a flash of light, knocking the entire army out.


Hazel (White Witch) was the first to come to. She found herself stripped of all gear, buried in a pile of the bodies of the army, and harboring the feeling that too much time had passed. As she began to wiggle out from under the mass of meat she heard a whispered exchange, followed by the sounds of small feet running away. She paused at the first sound, then resumed her efforts with greater intensity.

She finished her arduous burrowing to find herself alone (aside from the dead bodies) in a giant cavern. The mound of bodies was in the center, on a giant cart, as if just having been dropped off by the Amazon guy. Tracks led from the cart to a massive door that turned out to be locked. The only other exit was a spiraling ramp clinging to the outer perimeter of the room. With no choice, she chose the chance. Anything was better than staying there.


Loki awoke, strapped tightly to a large table in what appeared to be a butchering room. This feeling was heightened as he spotted the only other inhabitant of the room: a six foot tall mass of human male looking a bit like Thomas Brown Hewitt, with one minor exception: this monstrosity had had one forearm removed and replaced with a large butchering implement.

An implement he was currently using to hack apart another body. While Loki watched. As difficult as it was, he managed to tear himself from that preview of coming attractions to look around. That's when he spotted Hazel, watching him through a crack in the door. Before he could signal her she disappeared again.

Fortunately, before Leatherface could finish his grisly task a small creature (that I imagined looked something like this) ran in, garbled something at him, and left. It seemed to be in a mix of languages as he could only catch a couple of words. No doubt it was something about escaped not-quite-victims because the butcher immediately followed it out. Loki did his absolute best rendition of 'dead guy' for the back and forth.

They were barely gone before Hazel slipped into the room and released him from his confines. They quickly ransacked the room, coming up with assorted rusted knives and cleavers, and two burlap sacks to put them in. They then exited as stealthily as possible, in search of an exit.

As you've probably guessed from the title, they did not find it. They did find a couple of curiously shaped keys, one of which opened a door to a room with six pressure plates in it, suggesting some sort of a secret compartment, sadly they were grouped in pairs and too far away for two people to activate. Another opened into a room with a decently stocked wardrobe, allowing them to at least find clothing. (They'd been stripped down to their skivvies)


Meanwhile, Thor had awakened in what appeared to be a dishwashing room. At least, that was the conclusion he drew from the top half of a giant's skeleton that had been mounted to the wall, moving dishes around. What do you want? He's little better than a barbarian in the brains department . . .

He was in a burlap sack that had been hung on the wall. Fortunately, being a casty barbarian he had no trouble making arm and leg holes in said sack, turning it into an uncomfortable onesie. The interesting part was going to be when he when he needed to use the bathroom. But he probably just planned to make a pot hole then . . .

The sack had been slung low enough that extending his feet allowed him to stand on the floor. He removed the hook affixing the bag and approached said undead dishwasher, asking where he might find some hammer shaped object with which to bludgeon people with. It glanced at him, then at a door set at the end of the room, then went back to its chores. Subsequent attempts to question it yielded no further result.

Shrugging, Thor stepped through the indicated door, finding himself in a kitchen. He immediately picked out the most hammery thing he could find (that being the wooden meat tenderizer) and moved on.

The door out of the kitchen led him into a hallway where he began knocking on doors, as if delivering pizza. Most likely he was just looking for a volunteer to help him test his new hammer-like thing. Like I said, only slightly better than a barbarian in the brains department . . .

Surprisingly, this yielded results, though not the results he probably expected. The knocking was loud enough to be heard down a stairwell where Loki and Hazel were investigating. Loki listened for a moment before rightly identifying this asinine approach as one his brother would cook up and went to investigate.

After being reunited Loki and Hazel led Thor back to the room with the pressure plates. When activated one wall slid aside revealing a corpse on a table. In its hand was some sort of ancient book, around its neck was a holy symbol to a god none of them had ever heard of. Hazel called dibs almost immediately. Loki just shrugged. He had little interest in holy symbols, and had no doubt he could get a peek at it when and if he chose, with or without permission.

They also took Thor to the room they'd found clothing in, allowing him to trade in his burlap onesie. Afterwards it was back to their futile search for an exit


That leaves one Steve Rogers unaccounted for. (Well, Nebula too, but Shanna couldn't make it the first day, so her character hasn't been introduced yet.) He too came to, strapped to a table. But unlike Loki's table this was an examination table. One that was currently set in the upright position. As he opened his eyes he found the examiner, one hulking monstrosity much in the same vein as Doctor Satan, looking back at him. It seemed completely unconcerned by the consciousness of its specimen. It hmmed and hrmed to itself as it continued to examine Cap's bone structure, skin elasticity, sight, etc.

Once the examination was complete it stepped away and pulled a lever that lowered the table into the table position and started it rising towards a hole in the ceiling. Now, Steve may not have known what was up there, but he was certain he didn't want to find out. In fact, he so very much didn't want to go up there that Clint rolled an 18 on his escape artist check (much to the chagrin of the DM). He managed (just barely) to snap his bindings and roll off the table, falling back to the floor just as the table vanished through the ceiling.

The mad scientist turned around in surprise, noting the lack of exit of its specimen. One lighting fast arm snaked out, grabbing Steve by the torso and lifting him up for further examination.

"No one's ever done that before," it said as it tilted him this way and that, sounding perplexed. "I think I'll keep an eye on you," it added ominously. It then marched him over to a wall, pulled on a candlestick, and deposited him into a trap door as it rotated around.

Steve found himself in a dark room that had clearly not been used in ages. Some fumbling found a door he was able to let himself out of. He quickly moved down the corridor it led to, before encountering the other three. There was much rejoicing.


From there the group discovered many strange things. They found:


Another cavern with walls sloping away from them up to a ceiling that apparently doubled as a floor. That's if you judge the movement of the shadowy figures they saw on said 'ceiling' as meaning anything.


A ballroom with attached dining room. As they were exploring said luncheon area the lower half of the giant skeletal dishwasher roamed into view. Due to the shorter ceiling of the tabled area they couldn't see anything above the hip. Most didn't want to see anymore anyways. They dove for the cover of the tables while Loki did his best to look like he belonged there. When nothing happened he decided to chance a quick peek, only to see one of the small gremlin like creatures squatting on top of the pelvic bone, apparently driving the half giant conveyance around.

Just then Hazel squealed as a human sized eye attached to the underside of the table opened looking right at her. It then fell from the table to land on tiny legs and scurry away. A moment later the entire group (minus one Loki) was treated to a shower of the little monocles. Each plopped to the ground, then scurried over to the skeletal conveyance and crawled up its length.

The gremlin on top took turns swapping them with one of it's eyes, as casually as a normal anything swaps socks. It took a few moments between each swap, as if reviewing surveillance footage, before moving to the next.

Then it seemed to get bored and wandered off back through the large door in the ballroom it had come through.

By unspoken consensus the group headed the other way, towards the closed door at the end of the dining area.. They'd just made it to the massive door when the sound of a large group of creatures from the other side sent them diving back behind the solid wooden tables. All except Hazel who hid behind the partition between the dining area and ballroom. Apparently gremlins riding bifurcated skeletonized giants were less scary. Hell, being a witch she may just have found that normal.

A moment later a group of 6 . . . creatures entered. I say 'creatures', because not one of them was just one race. And no, I don't mean they were half-breeds. Their limbs often mismatched. None had two of the same color eyes. It was as if someone in this dungeon had started treating all humanoids as if they were of the genus Spudicus Cranius. Their heads resembled the gremlin cavalier that had just left, save for the fact that two of them had one orange eye each. And they were clearly searching for something. Most likely, a group of runaway captives.

Loki had it though. He cast Auditory Hallucination on what appeared to be the leader of the group, making him think his boss was calling for help, down past the ballroom. What? The Cupcakes had makeshift weapons that would probably survive a single hit and no armor! That's hardly the time to go spoiling for a fight, whatever the Bloodrager thinks.

The group quickened its pace past the group. Hazel had just enough time to hide behind one of the ornamental curtains adorning the ballroom before they ran past and exited stage left. The Cupcakes vacated the area as quickly as they could, which led them to . . .


A second cavern with some sort of tentacle creatures on the ceiling. Ringing this was a hallway leading to three pedestals. The first had a smashed statue upon it and an inscription that read 'First Lord of the Manor'. The second was similarly adorned, but read 'Second Lord of the Manor'. The last quite inventively said 'Third Lord of the Manor'. But, instead of a smashed statue, this had a life size statue of a Mindflayer. Good fun those guys.

The group Noped their way right out of there, and headed down the spiraling ramp to the cavern floor. All except Loki, who first tried to rotate the statue (Yes, I've played too much Resident Evil) before following. There they found a door into . . .


The Garden. But this was no ordinary garden. It was a massive sprawling structure (that apparently had no roof) filled with strange plants of all imaginings. It had grass that fed on blood, vines that shed blood -perhaps a sprinkler system?- carnivorous plants, and a patented creepy feel. There was a statue of a woman cloaked in vines. In garden awards this one earned the prize 'Most Likely to be the Love Child of Lewis Carol and H. P. Lovecraft.

The group did its best to avoid the plants in general, sticking to the beaten path wherever possible. This eventually led them to the gardener's quarters/shed. Considering the gestalt of the rest of the place they had no idea what to expect the gardener to be. Perhaps some sort of bladed plant? Edward Scissor Hands? What they found was a desiccated corpse of a humanoid in a position that suggested it was trying to hold something protectively against its chest. They were also able to upgrade their weapons with gardening equipment. Thor now had an actual sledgehammer. Loki had a machete.

At the end of the garden the group uncovered (from behind scary looking vines) a door leading into a massive miles long tunnel. Every so often they would find a door on the left side of the tunnel. The group bypassed those to see where the tunnel led. As it turned out, it led to a miles long tunnel with a lava flow running down one side. They elected not to explore.

Instead they backtracked, trying the first of the four doors they'd passed on their way down the farmer's tunnel. It led to a barn with barded horses that smelled awful. It was impossible to see what type of horses they were through the barding, and none really cared to try. Given the tone of the place they were probably zombie horses. Or Nightmares.

There was a door at the opposite end of the barn leading to what appeared to be a deserted dark ages style jousting arena. Also in open air. At the opposite end was a closed door. Through the cracks they were able to observe a town, though none of its ghostly inhabitants paid the slightest attention to them. They were just able to make out a very familiar fountain when a spectral shape occluded their path.

When asked what they wanted the Cupcakes replied that they were trying to get back to Rhyleh. It replied that this town was the same, but when asked for entrance it told them they could not enter for they were still living. When Loki pressed the issue a spectral hand emerged from the wood of the door and flicked him in the forehead. It felt as if he'd been flicked in the brain. For one brief, disorienting moment, he found he could understand the spectral villagers' speech. But that understanding faded as his other senses returned.

He strongly warned the others that they did not want to feel what he'd just felt; they chose to heed his advice and left the spectral gatekeeper alone.



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