Dungeons & Dragons Online

How Can a Party Fight a Monster They Can’t See or Remember

In the northern region of Shirzu, stationed nicely on the eastern shore of the Karmayo Sea, the population of a small town has gone completely missing. Villagers who were meant to visit their family members never showed up, ships scheduled to export goods never arrived at port, letters were never delivered. Nobody knows for sure how long the town has been missing for, but search parties that were sent out never returned.

The party will be sent out by a patron to find out how an entire town dissipeared off of the face of the earth, and how long it has been gone. When they arrive, however, they will find that the town and its people are still very much there. What's more, the townspeople remember making those shipments, and visiting their families outside of town. It seems simply that the world outside… doesn't remember them.

The villain for this arc is heavily inspired by the Doctor Who villain, The Silence. In Doctor Who, you can only remember seeing The Silence as long as you look at it. As soon as you turn away, it's as if they were never there. In this world, a group of monsters have infiltrated this town that much like The Silence, have the power to affect memory. Their power is a little more intentional. As long as you are looking at them, they can edit your memories in any way they please. When you look away, those changes immediately take effect. The party will learn of their existence through letters that they themselves wrote, without ever remembering it.

"Stop whatever you’re doing and only look at this piece of paper. When you finish reading it, close your eyes and instruct everyone around you to do the same. You have to trust me. There is something in the room with you. You’ve already seen it, you just can’t remember. If you look at it, it will edit itself out of your memories and make you forget things, so keep your eyes closed. Don’t forget…" The letter ends.

The creatures themselves are the minions of a massive being named Zachriel, an Angel of Memory that is trying to reach the heavens. The creatures have killed several towns already, leaving Zachriel to erase memory of evidence of their existence from the world. By absorbing the souls of towns people, Zachriel can rebuild his power so that he can create a tower of water from the ocean that stretches all the way to the sky, allowing him to reunite with his home.

This arc is going to be centered around a cosmic-horror/mystery narrative, however I know that my players love combat. How can I have my players combat a creature that they can't see, for fear of forgetting they were ever in a fight in the first place. Maybe there is some way they can protect themselves from having their memories changed? How do such creatures fight, anyhow? Perhaps they have claws or teeth, but the party can't ever know. Perhaps there are cultists in the town who somehow remember the creatures, or know they exist and want to remember? Maybe they can be fought.

I don't want to ever describe their appearance to my players. I think it's far more terrifying if they never know what it is they are fighting. What are some combat encounters that could center around this idea?

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