Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / The Apocalypse Stone

Go To

The Apocalypse Stone is an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure module published by Wizards of the Coast and credited to Jason Carl and Chris Pramas as authors. It's designed to give an epic adventure for high-level characters that will end with the destruction of the game world. It came out shortly before the Third Edition, as a way to "clear things out" and start fresh with the new system.

When the gods created the world, its seed was the stone known as The Stone of Corbinet. Once the world was complete, they sought a worthy champion to guard the Stone, and settled on a man named Pescheour, whose family has guarded it in their castle ever since. Now, however, an evil prince of the family, Garloth, has sworn revenge after being denied kingship. Not knowing the Stone's true importance, he plans to steal it. To this end, he feeds the player characters false information about a test of heroes. Once they have retrieved the Stone, Garloth retires with it in his own castle, not knowing that its removal from its proper place is cutting the world off from other planes of existence and will eventually cause its destruction. After the heroes find this terrible truth, they are sent on a last final mission to set things right again.

The Apocalypse Stone provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: In the default ending, nothing the PCs do ultimately matters, since the world is too far gone to save by the time they confront Garloth. But it did allow alternatives where the world is either just fine or only damaged somewhat. One of the alternatives is that the fabric of reality has been altered in ways that accommodate Third Edition mechanics.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X-4. The entire plane of existence is annihilated.
  • Apocalypse Wow: If you have to blow up the world, this may just be the coolest way to do it. Few critics can actually deny that the module is enjoyable and fun if played right.
  • The Atoner: Lucius, an undead death knight, wants to redeem himself. A Secret Test of Character is for the party to realize they shouldn't kill that skeletal warrior that's registering as evil to detection spells. If they bring him along, he gets the chance to turn neutral and then good.
  • Batman Gambit: Garloth's elaborate plan to get the heroes to look for the castle and the Stone by pretending it's a divine test for heroes.
  • Burn the Witch!: In one of the tests, the PCs happen upon a village preparing to carry this out on a woman accused of murdering a child. A cursory examination of the evidence seems to indicate she is innocent, and the boy she's accused of abducting is safely rescued from the hole he fell into. A more thorough investigation reveals she murdered a different child, and is exactly what the villagers are accusing her of.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Moloch is an archdevil in exile. And just when he was about to conquer his layer of Hell back, someone cut off his hiding place's connection to other planes.
  • Downer Ending: This module was intended to destroy a second edition campaign world to make way for the imminent release of the third edition, so in the default ending, the world is vaporized no matter what the PCs do.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Specifically, "the world swirls away into the cosmic dust from which it was created."
  • Evil Is Hammy: Moloch makes a bombastic speech when he finally confronts the player characters.
  • Evil is Petty: Garloth and Moloch both. Garloth would risk ending all of existence than allow his brother to have the Stone of Corbinet, driving said brother to insanity and corrupting his castle in hopes of luring adventurers to steal the stone before hopelessly trying to escape to another reality with his prize. And Moloch's plans to reconquer his layer of Hell go up in smoke when the stone's theft causes plane-hopping to be entirely impossible, immediately turning his attention to pettily and fiendishly trying to murder the party for their role in causing this in the most horrific ways possible.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Moloch has a unique - and rather horrid - spin on it. He has the PCs' families and friends murdered, then cuts up their bodies and crafts them into flesh golems to use against them, combining this Trope with psychological warfare.
  • From a Single Cell: This property of the Tarrasque is exploited in the secret test of foresight given to the player characters. Don't swear to kill any unspecified giant monsters when you're supposed to be saving the world. It might be harder than you think.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: An avatar of the God of Justice is trapped in the world, and wants to help the heroes. But it is bound by a divine compact not to stick its nose into any business involving the Stone. It resorts to some very vague, inscrutable hinting.
  • Kaiju: With the world going to end anyway, the legendary Tarrasque comes out to destroy at least a few villages while it still can.
  • Last Disrespects: Likely Moloch's most horrendous strike at the heroes is attacking the funeral of their loved ones, whom he murdered and turned into golems. (The two assaults are often seen as crossing the line even from a meta point of view.)
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Garloth has sworn a magical oath not to remove the Stone from the castle, but it doesn't say anything about getting others to do it...
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: And how; the entire start of the adventure is poised like an absurdly high level and abnormally dangerous dungeon crawl through a castle to retrieve a MacGuffin, only to unwittingly deliver it to the suspicious Garloth — or, realizing he's up to no good, be forced and have the stone stolen from them — and find out afterwards (maybe, as it's intended to be as vague and indirect as possible until a theoretical final fight with Moloch spells it out) that they've started the end of all of existence by doing so.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After Garloth is given the stone, he spins a bunch of hooey about how the party will be visited and tested further before attaining their final prize. He thinks he's just spewing lies, but doesn't realize that since he has a bit of divine blood, his words carry the weight of prophecy, and enable the events that allow the heroes to (try to) take him down.
  • Nintendo Hard: Since the module is built with the intent that the PCs fail and let the world burn, it is Tomb of Horrors levels of unfair. The Secret Tests Of Character are especially insidious. The party has to refuse to help a warrior kill a monster that is massacring innocents, and allow a village to Burn the Witch! rather than intervening, among other counter-intuitive choices.
  • Only the Worthy May Pass: The rules about finding Castle Perscheour involve a test of character. When the characters have to find it a second time, the avatar of the God of Justice, bound by the rules, has to arrange them a series of tests too.
  • Railroading: Special note goes to the "Rebellious Characters" section. The writers of the module actually anticipated that the player characters might not want to hand the Stone to Garloth once they've got it, but since the plot relies on the MacGuffin Delivery Service, the DM is instructed to have him use overwhelming force to take the stone.
  • Revenge
    • Garloth was the elder son of the king, but sensing that he was a bit selfish, his father gave the crown to his brother Alain instead. Secretly seething with fury, Garloth turned to the study of very dark magic, until his brother told him to stop it. Garloth stormed out, but later came back, seemingly willing to reconcile but really just in order to drive his brother insane, transform the rest of his family into monsters, and get someone to steal the Stone for him. Um, hate to tell it to you, but your father may have had a point.
    • That's nothing, though. Moloch had planned his re-conquest of his former realm in Hell a long time, only to be foiled at the critical moment because he couldn't leave the world he was hiding on. When he finds out the player characters are to blame for severing the world from the planes, he gets... angry. He starts out by feeding the player characters human-meat buns in an inn disguised to look pleasant but in reality containing a bloody slaughter, and continues by killing their loved ones and sewing these into grotesque golems that they have to fight. To finish them off, he attacks them in the funeral, inflicting as much collateral damage as possible and readily explaining that they have doomed their world.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Virtually unavoidable. Even if the party wins, all of existence is going to collapse. In fact its capacity to completely destroy parties, no matter how overpowered they are, has caused several people, Noah Antwiler among them, to endorse it as a panic button for any DMs who have realized too late that they've been running a Monty Haul campaign the whole time and now absolutely nothing can give their players a challenge anymore, giving them a guaranteed way to force the group to start fresh without getting the party to revolt due to contrived DM bullshit.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: Moloch, an arch-devil trapped in the world by the Stone's displacement, visits torments on the PCs. The first one is while they are stopped at an apparently warm and cozy inn featuring delicious "pork" buns. Only the next morning do the players find out that two of Moloch's underlings slaughtered the staff and served them as dinner. The DM is supposed to give the players a chance to realize something's not right with the food, but a sidebar suggests letting them go ahead and chow down with no warning if the DM really wants to up the horror-factor.
  • Stupid Evil: The biggest criticism of the module is that Moloch's revenge-motivated assaults are kind of dumb; the world is ending, and one can't help think he could be doing something else rather than blame the heroes for it.
  • Stupid Good: The "heroic ideal" in the Test of Generosity requires you to give your magic items to the village instead of defending it. The module even admits that killing the behir who threaten the village is the logical solution to the problem - but it's not the generous solution, which is what the test is looking for.
    • The problem is that you never were not told that the test was about generosity (Or the themes of any of those tests!) so the test is too arbitrary: Throw away logic in a very precise moment, when the test before (A witch trial) was about thinking logically!
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: It's not that Garloth plans to destroy the world, and he's hopelessly trying to save his own skin to the last - but he will never consider doing it the obvious way by taking the Stone back. "If he can't be king, then the whole world can burn."
  • Timed Mission: In theory, once the Stone of Corbinet has been removed from its proper place, you're on an unseen time limit encouraged to be used at the DM's discretion of reality ripping itself asunder. The problem is that not only does Moloch attempt to waste your time out of spite for what you've done, but the tests Garloth accidentally set into motion are intended to be partly time-wasters to the point of the very first test throwing you against a Tarrasque if you foolishly accept it instead of focusing on the timed mission. Even if you manage to clear the tests and/or make your way to defeat Garloth, however, it's too late; so much damage would've been done that everyone's doomed anyways, and getting the stone back wouldn't mean much if you don't even have the time to return it to its castle. Essentially, you're not supposed to beat the timer, just see how far you get before it goes bye-bye.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The tests are all about this:
    • The background of this part of the adventure is that the heroes see in their dreams a castle, and they know that they must go there. They don't know anything else, and they don't know that they are being tested at all.
    • The first test is Foresight: They are told that a monster is attacking a town, and it's called "The Horned Beast", the problem is that the monster is The Tarrasque, and can regenerate itself From a Single Cell. Should they want to help the citizens, they are bound to destroy the Tarrasque. And the book is explicit about the P Cs must not know that they are fighting the Tarrasque!
    • The second test is Honor: There are two tribes which are about to go to war. Both of them try to bribe the characters with gold, jewels and magic items so they would join their side
      • The tribes fight because of a petty food theft, but then they start giving treasures and legendary magic items. This is the first -and maybe ONLY- sensible clue that something is fishy. Yet the GM is supposed to temp the characters with something they REALLY want (A family relic, a sacred legacy... whatever)
    • The third test is Mercy: They find an undead fighter. They are given some clues, they can talk and get a loyal ally and a good friend... if they don't attack a dangerous Death Knight on sight (What would be not only reasonable in EVERY scenario, as Death Knights are dangerous)
    • The fourth test is Justice: They are supposed to stop and attend to the witch trial, and as it was said above: The witch was innocent of the kidnapping she's accused, but guilty of many others, and still a dangerous witch!
      • The problem, of course, is that they had been said that they must haste to the castle without any distractions, yet they must stop and investigate!
    • The fifth and final test is Generosity: Some monsters are kept under a magic field, and magic items must be sacrificed for the field to renew itself. You are asked to sacrifice powerful weapons or magic items
      • The monsters aren't that tought for the Party, yet they are supposed to surrender magic items (One with a +3 bonus, minimum. Those items are close to legends) especifically forbidding you from throwing a handful of +1 daggers.
      • The very module says that defeating the monsters are the Logic thing, but you are not being tested by logic, but by generosity... YET you are not told that you must be generous!
      • To put a final nail in the coffin, the adventure is far from over, and you must fight powerful monsters, so you are asked to destroy something that you are REALLY going to need.
    • In the end: You are punished for helping people against a monster (The Foresight Test), for roleplaying your flaws and ambitions (The Honor test), for trusting your experience and listening to old wounds and scars (The Mercy Test) avoid the previous nudges about 'make haste' (The Justice Test) and just solving permanently a monster problem instead of destroying their magic items (The Generosity Test) So the entire test is a complete textbook Violation of Common Sense!
  • While Rome Burns: In the Final Battle (assuming the heroes make it there) Garloth and his servants seem completely unconcerned with what is happening.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: A vital part of the campaign. The module warns the dungeon master that the players cannot know what this campaign is. Not even the name, to prevent them from looking it up. Disguise it as a different module, if you have to.