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.
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.
Though the adventure isn't terribly significant in its own right, it's got some good examples of tropes in it.
The Apocalypse Stone provides examples of:
- 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.
- Big Bad: Prince Garloth. It really is all his fault.
- Black Knight: Lucius, being a Death Knight.
- Cosmic Keystone: The Stone of Corbinet.
- 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 Prince: Garloth Pescheour.
- Evil Sorcerer: Garloth.
- Failure Is the Only Option: The moment the Stone is removed from its resting place, the universe is doomed and there's nothing anybody can do to stop it. As noted elsewhere, the entire point of the module is to give a campaign an epic send-off.
- 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...
- Mind Rape: Garloth's driving his brother the king insane.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: And how.
- 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.
- 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.
- World Ends, 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.
- 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."
- Unwitting Pawn
- Using You All Along
- 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.