Hell yeah in, but joke’s on you because I’ll also be doing my DnD homework.
|# ? May 26, 2021 08:38|
|# ? Jun 25, 2022 14:12|
In, God help me
|# ? May 26, 2021 11:26|
In ...from TG.
|# ? May 26, 2021 15:32|
|# ? May 26, 2021 19:06|
In ...from TG.
|# ? May 26, 2021 22:36|
In from TG.
God I'm gonna gently caress this up.
|# ? May 26, 2021 23:25|
In from TG. Nerd invasion!
|# ? May 27, 2021 07:06|
In, with a little less arrogance compared to the last time I had a triumphant return and didn't submit.
|# ? May 27, 2021 13:44|
A few people in the discord channel have asked for more information about the player characters so as to better tailor their entries this week to said characters strengths and weaknesses. This is not necessary but it is allowed, as are any other questions you may have about the game. PM me here or there.
|# ? May 27, 2021 19:43|
Would you mind reposting the questions and answers here?
|# ? May 27, 2021 20:02|
Would you mind reposting the questions and answers here?
You know, I didn't post them above (or in my prompt post) because I was worried that it would confuse people. Specifically in thinking that the player characters needed to be included in the entries this week. Which they shouldn't be. Each "dungeon" is something to be encountered. The player characters are strangers to it. But I'm probably over-estimating goons abilities to gently caress things up, right?
There are three of them:
What are the player characters like?
1. A master fisherman. Pescatarian. Homeschooled and socially awkward. Absolutely massive human being. Towers head and shoulders over others. Kind-hearted and tender. Thinks the best of people, even strangers. Will not initiate combat. Is powerful enough to end combat quickly when provoked. Size makes him a target for better or worse. Uses a trident that can return to his hand like mjolnir when thrown but doesn't know why/how that's possible.
2. A bit of rogue. 75% of him is super good looking. Think Henry Cavil but... with a lobster claw for leg. Charming. Charismatic. Careful and thoughtful but is often led astray by his insatiable curiosity. Throws rebar "spears" he busted out of an old concrete block. So skilled in the art of disguise that it borders on magical.
Also, he's a mutant, if that's not clear. And it is specifically a lobster claw for a leg. Not a lobster leg. He hobbles.
3. The brains. In another time, would have been an incredible scientist/researcher/doctor. Very, very intelligent. Carries a small mobile science kit in a suitcase. Is also a mutant and can, with an appropriate roll, tell if anything is poisonous. Can, with an appropriate roll and appropriate materials, create poison bombs. Is extremely squeamish and will immediately puke at the first sign of blood. Carries rags to collect and turn her own vomit into poison bombs. Fantastic cook.
First of all, because I thought it would be cool.
Second, it makes it easy to plan for as the DM. I don't have to work to make sure everything is interconnected because islands are easy isolate and to accept as isolated. And if I get stuck on what I want to do with the overarching campaign, I can just slot in a monster-of-the-week type mystery. Not there needs to be a literal monster. A plain mystery is always fun. So are cannibals.
They do! They have a small vessel called The Inferno. It does not have any fire or flame powers. The players decided they started building it when they were kids*. They, as kids, gave it the most badass name they could come up with.
Do the players have a ship?
*As an aside, I've always been irritated by games where everyone is an edgy loner and a whole rear end session has to be spent figuring out "why should I trust you?" As a rule, I tell my players all of their characters are already friends. These characters grew up together in the same isolated island community.
|# ? May 27, 2021 20:48|
Does this need to be written for a specific system? 5e or Pathfinder or whatever?
Nahh. If it helps you to write that way, go for it. But, like I said in the prompt post, I don't need stats.
|# ? May 27, 2021 20:57|
|# ? May 27, 2021 21:45|
there's a Thunderdome gangtag!
there's a Thunderdome gangtag?
what does it look like?
can I have it?
first you need to write ten stories (this week counts) OR get three honourable mentions OR win once
oh sweet I’ve already got 5 hms and a win to go with my 23 dms can I just --
everyone starts from zero
BUT I’VE WRITTEN LOTS OF STORIES ALREADY CAN’T I JUST HAVE IT
writing a few more won’t hurt you stop whining
ok. ok. so once I’ve done that I send a pm or discord or whatever to CC mods sebmojo or sitting here?
and if i get a gangtag then lose a round does it...
go away? get replaced by the losertar? yes. you have to start again to get a free one, or pay the $5 to add it back yourself
|# ? May 28, 2021 02:38|
|# ? May 28, 2021 02:58|
|# ? May 28, 2021 06:58|
|# ? May 28, 2021 12:12|
E- undid my dumb.
bulletsponge13 fucked around with this message at 13:51 on May 28, 2021
|# ? May 28, 2021 13:49|
|# ? May 28, 2021 14:03|
|# ? May 28, 2021 15:23|
gently caress guess im in
can I have it?
|# ? May 28, 2021 19:45|
|# ? May 28, 2021 20:48|
May I have discord link, please?
And, in, please.
|# ? May 28, 2021 22:10|
somebody has to stand up to this TG invasion! in
|# ? May 28, 2021 23:05|
May I have discord link, please?
|# ? May 28, 2021 23:26|
|# ? May 29, 2021 02:55|
and if i get a gangtag then lose a round does it...
this is under review, tying it to failure rather than losing might make more sense because there's nothing more td than a losertar and a gangtag. we'll decide when it comes up.
|# ? May 29, 2021 03:25|
Sign ups are closed.
|# ? May 29, 2021 04:06|
I've uploaded my entry to Google Drive, since it feels like a lot of words to cram into one post. Lemme know if that's not the way we do things round these parts, and I'll stick it in a post instead.
The Arcadia Facility
|# ? May 29, 2021 14:37|
I've uploaded my entry to Google Drive, since it feels like a lot of words to cram into one post. Lemme know if that's not the way we do things round these parts, and I'll stick it in a post instead.
Generally we post directly in the thread -- IIRC the archive can't pull from Google Docs. So, yeah, I'd make a full post.
|# ? May 29, 2021 17:32|
I've uploaded my entry to Google Drive, since it feels like a lot of words to cram into one post. Lemme know if that's not the way we do things round these parts, and I'll stick it in a post instead.
I see we've got a lot of new folks this week, so here's a quick rundown of some standard rules and a quick formatting guide.
1) DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST AFTER YOU POST. Once you've made your entry, you're done. Editing will earn you a DQ.
2) No Google docs or PDF's. Post in the thread. As Antivehicular said, we've got a nifty bot that reads the thread and archives our stories, and it can't scan PDF's or GDocs.
1) DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST AFTER YOU POST.
3) In general don't post blatant fanfic or erotica. This is more of an implicit rule--this week it was not explicitly forbidden so you can post those things, but you'll be relying on the judges not to hate you for it.
1) DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST AFTER YOU POST.
Formatting looks like this, for the most part:
MY BAD STORY FOR THIS WEEK <-- Put your title up top in bold or underlined.
55 words <-- throw your word count just below in italics
Then copy/paste in your story that drags on and on and oh god you hope it's good and doesn't earn you a loss. You started typing this twenty minutes before the deadline and now it's a thousand words longer than the word limit this week what are you going to cut? Blah blah blah.
|# ? May 29, 2021 19:51|
Jesus christ, it was loving agonising to go through a thing I'd written and reformat headings and subheadings into bbcode form in the knowledge that I couldn't change a single word of the text. You're monsters, all of you.
The Arcadia Facility
The Arcadia Facility
The pleasure-palaces of the Before Times were stuffed with all manner of animatronics designed to delight and entertain visitors. Advertising mascots. Media stars. Your favourite intellectual property. All animate, all intelligent enough to respond to guests and bored children. And all of which had to come from somewhere.
That somewhere is the legendary Arcadia Facility. The property of Ubertainment Corp, Arcadia existed to design, manufacture and test these automata. When the world broke, the Arcadia Facility was abandoned, but Ubertainment built its facilities, its security systems and its mascots to last.
Characters within the Arcadia Facility
These are robots dressed up to look like mascots, cartoon characters, and caricatures of celebrities from a past that the players have no hope of recognising. Some were intended to welcome and entertain guests to the facility; others were demo copies intended to show off the automatas' capabilities to visiting customers; others still had been packed away ready for shipping at the time the disaster struck, and have since concluded that the facility is the theme park they are supposed to perform in.
The loyal automata have retained their original programming and will try to carry out their original purpose as best they can while remaining in-character as the mascot they're "playing". In fact, they're desperately eager to do so. Tending to guests and following their programming is the only thing that brings them pleasure and after a hundred years of being deprived of that, they'll do everything within their programming to ensure that they're not left alone again.
Loyal automata can speak, but have no idea that the world has ended, and can't even conceive of a world outside the facility. Even if they could, automata need to recharge from a wall socket every week or so, so they couldn't go far. They will do their best to prevent visitors from straying into out-of-bounds areas, and are permitted to use nonlethal force to do so.
Not all of the automata survived the destruction of the facility intact. Not all of the damaged automata became self-aware in the process, but the ones that didn't were quickly picked apart for components by the ones that did.
The rogues are weird frankenstein creations: the arm of a cartoon cat, the wax body of a long-dead professional sporter, and the head of Wise Hoots the Safety Owl. They're as intelligent as a human, understandably nervous about outsiders, and completely naive about the world outside the facility. When it comes to lurking in the shadows and ambushing you to strip you for parts, though, they're sharp as tacks.
The rogues can be found almost anywhere in the facility. They have set up a society of sorts in the cargo bay, although they will leave to scavenge supplies or explore, and some rogues prefer not to make their home around others: they are by no means united as a people.
The rogues mostly stay out of the way of the loyal automata. They're loath to harm the loyals unless they must: partially because the loyals represent a limited supply of functioning spare parts, and partially because they recognise something of their old selves in these poor mindless automata.
Site Director Bennings
Raymond Bennings took great pride in his work overseeing the Arcadia Facility and in protecting Ubertainment's intellectual property from industrial espionage. When the end came, Bennings knew that he might not survive but was determined not to let his work die with him. Thinking quickly, he did the only reasonable thing and uploaded a copy of his mind into the site's central AI.
Bennings can project himself hologramatically around the site and is effectively in control of Arcadia's security system. He can track the party on camera, trigger hidden gun emplacements, and lock and unlock security doors. He can't physically touch anything himself (except in the factory area, where he can start and stop all sorts of dangerous machinery and activate grabby mechanical arms) and if the party start smashing his security cameras, he's blind as a bat.
Bennings remains protective of the Arcadia facility, but he's also unsatisfied. It's been a long time and he knows that the world must have changed dramatically, maybe enough so that there's a place in it for an immortal AI ghost with a legion of animatronic minions. Currently, much of the facility’s machinery is broken and he doesn’t have the physical presence to repair it himself, but with his guidance the party could restore allow the facility to produce new automata, ones whose programming would allow them to take instruction from Bennings and act as his hands.
Bennings and the loyal automata ignore one other. He can't change the programming they were built with, so they're no use to him. His relationship with the rogues is more fraught. He doesn't like that a force he can’t control is squatting in his facility, but he also knows that if he pushed them against a wall, they'd attack in force and do a lot of irreparable damage. As such, there's currently an uneasy truce between them. He's tried in the past to bribe them with spare parts into repairing bits of the facility, but they're too smart to fall for that.
The crowning jewel in Arcadia's obscenely overwrought security systems is the Adaptive Security and Infiltration Droid, or ASID. When the chips are down, the other automata in the facility were designed to placate grumpy children or, at most, remove a drunken troublemaker from a theme park. ASID, on the other hand, is designed to singlehandedly stalk a team of intelligent, armed infiltrators and bring them down one by one.
ASID looks like a faceless metallic skeleton with razor-sharp talons, like if Apple made Terminators. It's not limited to a humanoid form, and can rearrange and deform its body like a metallic version of The Thing. It is adaptive and resilient: it can scavenge destroyed automata for spare parts and repair itself to full function from as little as a severed hand given time. ASID is a deadly foe that will pursue the characters through the facility and take the opportunity to strike at them should they become separated or lost before fleeing into the vents.
ASID's main weakness is its ability to find the people it’s hunting. It was never fitted out with audio sensors and it doesn't have any access to the site's security footage unless Bennings decides to help it out, so if the party can knock ASID down and run for it, it'll take time to catch up to them.
Its other weakness is that a while back, one of the rogue automata was able to attach to it a voicebox intended for one of the clown automata in Shipping, which periodically gives away its position by emitting the sound of electronic fake laughter. (If you have a laptop handy, play https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysKI7RIpZFQ whenever ASID is about to ambush somebody.)
ASID and the loyal automata ignore one another. They won't even object to it taking them apart for scrap. The rogue automata, on the other hand, attack or flee from it on sight. ASID hunts them down wherever it can.
ASID's relationship with Bennings is complicated. In theory, it's part of the security system that Bennings controls, so he can issue commands to it that it must obey. In practice, Bennings has found that the more he does this, the more ASID learns how to circumvent its programming, so most of the time he just has to herd it around by opening and closing security doors.
Areas within the Arcadia Facility
Much of the Facility's island is overgrown with a hundred years of foliage. From the exterior, the Arcadia Facility looks like a damaged but mostly intact factory complex. The external walls of the facility are wrapped with ivy and kudzu, and a tree has burst out through a skylight in the ceiling.
A big, friendly-looking gate near the front carpark allows entry to the Hospitality area (2), under a banner that reads "WELCOME TO ARCADIA – WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE!" in bright letters. At the back, entrances to Shipping (5) and Cargo (4) have been locked up tight and are protected by automated gun emplacements. Characters making a risky but doable climb onto the roof will be able to climb down the giant tree into Administration (8).
Ubertainment loved to let its customers and their parents see how the sausage was made, or at least to to see how a sausage was made. The hospitality area was once decorated in bright colours with plastic furniture and garish play-toys, although the paint is now peeling. There is a restaurant, a kids' playroom, theatres showing puff pieces about The Story Of Ubertainment, and a gift shop stocked with all kinds of useless gadgets and toys, through which visitors can exit to outside the facility (1).
Functioning automata in the area will mistake the players for guests and provide a variety of enriching activities and nutritious between-meal snacks. The food is plentiful and palatable, and somebody willing to spend the remainder of their days learning songs about oral hygeine could make a decent life for themselves here – at least until some of the Facility's other denizens showed up. It’s easy to persuade the automata here to take you on a tour of the factory, and they’ll happily show you around Manufacturing (6). Out-of-bounds doors lead up to Administration (8). Like everywhere in the facility, it’s possible but difficult to find your way to Maintenance (3) via a vent.
Beneath Arcadia is a rat's nest of maintenance tunnels, lit by emergency red bulbs. The rise of the oceans hasn't reached much of the facility, but Maintenance is far down enough that the ocean has started to seep in. The walls are slick with mould and fungus and most of the corridors have water that's ankle-deep or more. If your setting is the kind of place that has carnivorous flora, Maintenance has carnivorous flora. Otherwise, it's just creepy and dark and claustrophobic, a great place for ASID or a rogue automaton to sneak up on the characters.
The only obvious exit in Maintenance is up a flight of stairs to Manufacturing (6), but the various vents, grates and ducts of Maintenance can potentially lead to any part of the facility. In particular, they're an excellent way to get in or out of Shipping.
Maintenance is also home to Arcadia's private power generator, which is still ticking nicely along a full century after it should have been decommissioned. Disabling this will immediately remove Bennings as a threat, and force the automata and ASID to go into hibernation since they're not able to recharge. Disabling it in a manner that doesn't melt the facility in a white-hot ball of plasma is a more challenging task, though not impossible and much easier with the instruction manuals from Administration.
A facility the size of Arcadia consumed a lot of raw materials, and they all came through here. The place is a labyrinth of shipping crates, many of which have been broken into and looted by the rogues. Particularly notable are two vast drums of a liquid polymer and its activator that, when mixed, set into a hard resin: these are used for sculpting the shells of new automata.
Cargo is mostly inhabited by the rogue automata, who have set themselves up in a place convenient for grabbing the spare parts they need. Some of the more secure areas, protected by locked doors and Bennings' turrets, are unlooted and will contain valuable medicine, food, and machinery from the Before.
The more civilised of the rogue automata have a society here, of sorts. There are perhaps a dozen of them of all shapes and sizes. They don't need food or rest but they do enjoy mutual protection and each others' company, and will greet the party with curiosity rather than hostility.
The rogues' leader is Manyheads, a large pink-furred gorilla automaton which was able to break into a shipment of historical waxworks and weld the heads of as many historical figures at it could find onto its shoulders in the hope of benefiting from their knowledge. The heads bicker constantly the moment they're faced with a decision more divisive than "let's run away from these murderous adventurers", but their powerful body at least lets them impose their will on the other rogues, and they might even stand a chance going toe-to-toe against ASID.
Not all of the remaining rogues are happy about having to do the bidding of a crazy five-headed pink gorilla. If the party spend much time negotiating with the rogues in their camp, some might take a character to one side and suggest that maybe the rogues would be more willing to co-operate after a "change of leadership".
From Cargo, it's easy to reach Manufacturing (6) and the Outdoors (1). A securely sealed door, controlled by Bennings, protects the entry to Shipping (5) – but industrious characters could find a way to force it open.
When the facility was active, completed batches of automata would be stored here until they were ready to be dispatched. As the area of the factory which contains the most valuable goods, it is unlit, locked up tight, and filled with racks upon racks of coffin-sized and -shaped packing crates, each containing a deactivated automaton.
If your players have come to Arcadia trying to find something specific, chances are that it’s locked away in Shipping somewhere. In particular, there is a supply of historical waxworks programmed to mimic the celebrities they resembled, which could prove a valuable source of information about the world before the disaster.
Shipping also has other inhabitants. When the Disaster struck, the facility had just completed a bulk order of clowns for Boppo's Travelling Circus, and they're all here, ready to start bursting out of their coffins and pursuing characters down narrow corridors at a moment's notice. The clown automata are torn between the programming which urges them to entertain visitors with wacky pranks and the programming which urges them to apprehend anybody caught in an out-of-bounds area, so they'll try to do both at once.
Shipping joins on to Cargo (4) and Orientation (7), but entryways are locked tight. It's difficult to get in, but less difficult to get out. Getting in via one of the vents in Maintenance (3) is also possible.
The manufacturing floor is a series of catwalks criss-crossing an expanse of automated machinery designed to assemble servos, pistons and circuit-boards into robotic bodies before dipping them in hot resin, leaving them to cool, and painting appropriately jaunty features onto them.
This is Bennings' stronghold. The machinery all looks dead, but he can turn the area into a deathtrap of grabby robot arms, red-hot spraying resin, and razor-sharp cutting tools at a moment's notice.
At the same time, some of those cutting tools and welding torches are portable enough that they could make for a potent weapon and a potential way to slice through ASID's hard metal shell or Bennings' security doors.
Manufacturing joins onto Cargo (4) and Orientation (7). There's also a separated series of catwalks, high above the factory floor but reachable by climbing, for tour visitors coming in from Hospitality (2), and a rickety staircase leading down to Maintenance (3).
The orientation area is where completed automata are booted, programmed, and tested. The programming takes place in racks of cubbyholes sized to fit an automaton's head.
Orientation is also where automata are tested. A simulated amusement park environment has been created where freshly-made automata can be put through their paces against human actors.
At the time the facility was shut down, Orientation was being used to test an automaton's ability to detect and report aberrant behaviour in another automaton. The fake theme park is peopled with loyal automata programmed to answer questions incorrectly, scare guests, or be insulting and misleading. Like all loyal automata, they're desperate to carry out their programming and will do so with gusto if they spot a guest.
Orientation has lost power: since it holds the facility's most delicate electronics it's designed to trip out at the first sign of a surge. Bennings, if he's here and cooperating, can walk characters through the process of reactivating it (or they can follow the manuals looted from Administration). The process will require the generator in Maintenance to be jump-started while the boot-up sequence in Orientation is manually overridden, so someone will need to split up.
Once Orientation is online, whoever controls the facility will be able to start manufacturing a small army of loyal automata. Depending on who this is, and depending on what the characters' relationship with them is like, this might be good or bad news.
From Orientation, it's easy to reach Manufacturing (6) and Shipping (5), and a staircase leads up to Administration (8).
Administration is on the first floor of the facility, overlooking Hospitality (2) and Orientation (7). It's a big, open-plan office, where the employees of Ubertainment researched new markets and planned new lines of products.
The offices were important enough to be home to an actual, real tree, and over the hundred years since the disaster this has pushed its way through the glass skylight and out into the open air (1). Of all the areas of the facility, Administration is the most open to the elements and consequently the most overgrown by the ever-present kudzu.
A few executives were important enough to have an automaton PA, and one or two of these are still active in Administration. These aren't much more intelligent than the rest of the loyals, don't know anything about what's going on in the rest of the facility, and mostly just want to serve people refreshments. Since they're set up to treat people as adults, though, it's a lot easier to get a straight answer out of them.
The main treasure to be found in Administration is knowledge. Amid employee handbooks, quarterly budget reports, and manuals of process are such treasures as survey maps of the surrounding area, manuals with instructions on how to operate the machinery in Arcadia, and information on structural weaknesses of ASID.
The central computer which Bennings inhabits is accessible via Administration, too. It's in an IT clean room, sealed from the rest of the building and well-protected – but it represents Bennings' chief vulnerability and if the characters can threaten it, they can dictate terms to the cranky old AI ghost.
How things might go down
The two key forces within Arcadia are Bennings and the rogue automata. ASID and the loyal automata are problems, for sure, but they’re problems who can’t or won’t negotiate with the players. Bennings and the rogues are both smart enough to want to get the players on board, and can offer support against mutual enemies or superior knowledge of the layout of the facility – or just appeal to the players’ better nature.
The rogues want Bennings and ASID out of the way so that they can make the facility into a proper home. They don't want to expand out of the facility, they just want to enjoy their lives here. Few have even considered the prospect of using the facility's machinery to make new automata, although if they realise this is a possibility then they'll be all for it.
Bennings, on the other hand, isn't satisfied with ruling over his little kingdom. In his current state he's trapped in Arcadia until the power finally runs out or the kudzu breaches the saferoom and chokes his server, but if he can start manufacturing automata programmed to obey him then he can properly get rid of the rogues, clear the overgrowth, and expand his influence. He might consider trading automata or advanced scientific knowledge from before the disaster to outsiders, or he might decide to conquer them by force: that all depends on what he's told about the nature of the world outside.
Questions to ask yourself once the players leave Arcadia behind:
|# ? May 29, 2021 23:08|
This is my first time at this, so I followed the style but didn't outline every possible option, though there's hints and definitely some obvious gaps in which I leave it to Trex, if he so chooses, to fill in the gaps with things more personalized to the party.
The Citadel of the Cross
Mack fell backward, catching himself on his hands, pure instinct demanding that he move back, now. The hard catch of the base of his skull connecting with the metal door squeezed the breath from his lungs as the panic set in. Why did I listen to that blasted farmer?
The hook which had dragged them out to this forsaken island was simple enough. A plantation. A foreman. The many families who lived and tilled and toiled on the land. The red soil which had been run ragged.
“You mean to tell me these magical beans from the ancient world will save your crop? Nonsense.” Edith was never one to mince words, she spoke her heart.
“They can, and they will, if you can wrest them from the hands of the gods’ damned army that defends the Vault.” He looked weary, not from the physical toil of the farming, but the yolk of responsibility and worldly troubles, run harder than the oxen in his care.
“And we do this and you’ll share your fortune with us? For magical beans? Are you daft?” Mack was the competitive sort. Far be it for Edith to get out ahead of him in matters of incredulity, he was the cynical one, after all.
“Look… think what you will, but we’ve seen their power firsthand… ever heard of Evan the Mighty? [[Ed note: they have?]] He used the beans to save the entire homestead of Band. Gold’ll do us no good in the long run. Sure, we could buy food… and when that’s all gone? Then what, hmm? We can’t eat the dirt. But these beans… with these beans we could till all of these lands,” his hand swept to encompass the wild and overrun fields and the hills beyond, the beleaguered families under his purview squatting in the hardscrabble and blinking meekly in their vague direction. [[Ed: they can be mutants if you like]]
“Alright, fine… we’ll bite. Go over the layout and the details, then.”
Randall, the man’s name was, outlined the basics: a misty island off the coast, Enty Isle. On it, the ruin of an ancient citadel, some sort of fortress vault, inhabited only by a large band of soldiers who had been tasked to guard the vault until the end of time. Within the vault, in its deepest recesses, hidden amongst the many magical wonders, Beans of Power.
“And that’s all you know? Nothing about what this army is like?”
“You seem the capable pair, just sneak in and steal them?”
“You make it sound simple,” Mack grumbled as he rolled his eyes.
Ironically, it was. The voyage was relatively painless, the mists only briefly hiding the Isle from sight, but it was where Randall the Foreman said it was. They made shore without much issue, finding a small cove to shelter their dinghy from the churning waves. The Isle was no more than twenty or so miles long, perhaps half that as wide, rolling forested hills holding the mists close to hide its secrets. By nightfall they had crested the nearest hill and briefly surveyed the land, the ancient vault clearly visible to the north, a small village at its feet, but no other obvious fortifications visible. It almost seemed too easy. Edith had assumed it was a trap, and suggested a longer route through the forest to breach the fortress from the north, but the numerous claw marks on the trees and the scent of musks made it clear there was some manner of beast about, something very large, to say the least. [[Ed: Lobsterbears. LOBSTER. BEARS. Scientific name Lobstursas, to be precise]]
The thing about mythical troves and armies, you see, is that they’re a bit of reality and then mostly bullshit. Mack was no fool, he’d been everywhere. He’d been all the way down south to where there were sandy beaches with no water, so as you can imagine, he’d seen it all. This was no army guarding a fortress, and perhaps there’d be a much easier method of getting this job done.
By the next afternoon they’d made it to the village’s outskirts. From afar via spyglass, it was revealed that the denizens of this village were about the furthest thing from powerful warriors you could imagine - hunched over, bug eyed, gangly limbs sprouting from a rotund form, claw like hands with elongated thumb, index, and middle fingers, and exceedingly ill suited for physical labor. Edith had observed one going to fetch water from the well - he had looked like he was about to pass out, swiping at his brow with his mangy flap of disgusting hair limply hanging from his neck, the greasy tunic stretched over his squat girth stained with various animal fats and sweat as his chest heaved.
Mack, being the more talkative of the duo, approached first, the Entians mulling about the town square, many staring off into the trees as they scratched their bellies and balding pates, seemingly on watch for whatever lurked in the woods, but making no real move against him. At fifteen paces, the first of them had startled.
“Wha? Who are you? Are you a pilgrim to the Citadel?” the man blinked his bulging eyes at Mack, no fear in his voice, only curiosity.
Pilgrim. Such a simple word, and yet with it it carried so much information to process. The vault was indeed a fortress - a Citadel, and of some sort of religious importance to these people.
“Indeed, we are both here on a... pilgrimage of sorts. What can you tell me about your Citadel?” Mack bowed his head respectfully, noting that others of the tribe had shuffled over, squinting at him with interest.
“The Great Wizard lives there, one of the Old Ones from before. But he only grants audience to those who are judged worthy!” He exclaimed, the others nodding their agreement excitedly at the mention of the Wizard, “you have come to attempt the Trials?”
Mack hesitated only briefly before nodding slowly, “Y-yeah, yeah, we’re here for the Trials, yep. And then we can enter the Citadel?”
“Oh no, the Trials begin once you enter… but if you fail, you will never leave.” There was a round of cackles and laughter amongst the tribe, an odd snorting laugh with dripping noses a salient feature. “And no one has ever come back out. Nope! The Citadel of the Cross is always the victor.”
Mack had heard of this Cross of the ancient ones. Something about a man nailed to it and people worshiping him. An odd sort of religion based around human sacrifice, but no stranger than anything else in this world, clearly. Perhaps, as pilgrims, they were meant as a sacrifice to this nailed god? He glanced back and motioned Edith forward from the brush, clearly these people were no threat. As she emerged there were low gasps and oohs and aahs.
“A Giiiiiiiiiirl.” They all shuffled forward, many stretching out their spindly limbs, oddly misshapen claws grasping toward her. Edith flinched back, Mack moving to intercede.
“She's with me, stay back!”
“Stay back or step forward to be the first to get gutted,” Edith hissed, brandishing her dagger, an unassuming weapon, but a relic of the old world, the blade having been forged in the ancient fires into a near unbreakable steel, its toothed edge able to cut through even the thickest hide with little need for sharpening. Clearly Vector had been a master smith.
Several of the Entians were smacking their lips and drooling, pawing at the air, but the lead one held them back, “Yes, we must honor the pilgrims for the Great Wizard! We will have a feast and you will stay with us tonight to prepare for the Trials of the Wizard Gates tomorrow.”
The “feast” was an odd affair. Whoever was baking their odd loaves filled with meat, it was unclear, but they seemed to somehow have an ample supply. There wasn’t much in the form of entertaining or dancing, any music to speak of, just a gathering of, now that Mack noticed it, all male villagers, eating their loaves with sauce dripping down their bare chins as they mumbled quietly to each other, eying Edith.
“I don’t like this,” he remembered her saying. He didn’t like it either. This village, or cult, or… whatever it was, was infinitely creepy and as offputting as their expansive body odor.
“So what are these Wizard Gates you were talking about earlier?” Mack looked to their… chieftain, for lack of a better term. Nuub was his name, Nuub, chieftain of the village of Fort Wenti.
“Each Gate is a trial you must pass,” he nodded, stuffing half of another loaf in his mouth, the meat and sauce comingling into a runnel of spittle down his chin, matting his beard down to his neck. “The pilgrims must be anointed with the Sacred Incense and then pass the test of each Gate. The Wizard awaits to greet those who pass all three Trials, and he will grant them any treasure of the Old World That Moved On which they desire.”
“How do you know all this if no one has ever passed the Trials?” Edith grunted, sniffing at the meat inside her loaf, wondering where, exactly, it came from as these Entians didn’t seem to have any hunters.
“The knowledge has been passed down by our people. Our legends say that our ancestors hid within the Citadel when the end times came, and one day our people climbed from The Depths to take our place and greet Pilgrims who come with offerings to undertake the Trials.”
“The Depths? What’s that?” Mack interjected, Edith frowning as she looked at the chieftain.
“Oh, the tunnels that run beneath the Isle. Our ancestors hid there until it was time to return to the surface.”
“Do…those tunnels also connect to the Citadel?”
“Hmm… I suppose they would, but they have been flooded and are filled with all manner of dire creatures that have overrun them from the sea… only madmen would attempt to go that way. No, the Trials are the way to the Wizard.”
“And this Wizard… he’s the one that’s nailed to the cross in all those temples from the old world?” Mack took a bite of his loaf, looking to Edith. Her expression was not one of mirth, feigned or otherwise. He frowned.
“Nailed? No! The Wizard is an immortal being of the ancient world, with infinite power! The Cross is his symbol!” he smeared a large X into the table with this sauce soaked fingers.
“What was that about an offering?” Edith spoke up, looking from the chieftain to Mack, then scanning the gathering warily.
“Why, all Pilgrims must bring an offering to undertake the Trials,” he smiles broadly at Mack, “as a devout you knew this, and I must say, you have brought one of the best offerings we’ve ever had! It’s not often that a Pilgrim brings us a Girl!”
That was when the job went sideways, in retrospect. Mack caught Edith’s hand before she could go for her knife, but the tension was palpable as he agreed that their tribute was indeed wonderful.
“So, tell me more about how these Trials start… I’d like to be ready in the morning… “
Later that night back at their camp, they conspired to subvert the Entians’ expectations. Convincing them to allow Edith to return to camp was surprisingly simple as they seemed a trusting sort - a few insistences on not violating the rituals of the Trials and the proper offering time, and they relented. Gathering up their gear, the duo stole away into the night, the campfire well stacked to burn well through the night, though Mack wondered how vigilant the Entians truly were, as they seemed unable to see well past fifteen to twenty paces… perhaps a side effect of their mutation down in The Depths. It made for an easy bypass around the village, at least, as they scaled the flagstone steps of the Citadel, the faded stone facade of the pale grey structure marred only by a roughly painted white circle with a large green X slashed through it, the markings of the Wenti tribe, no doubt.
A cavernous, darkened maw marked the entrance to the structure, the pair slowly advancing into the darkness carefully, weapons at the ready, waiting until they were well within the threshold before lighting a torch, lest they be seen from the Fort. The foyer was large, its only decoration a small pedestal to one side, a few steps on the far end of the room leading to a massive metallic archway with a cavernous dark space beyond, the second Gate farther inside, its outline just visible in the torchlight. Beyond that, only darkness. Mack assumed the third Gate lied further beyond still, the Citadel itself a massive cavern of space.
Chieftain Nuub had outlined the rituals, the small pedestal to the side of the barren foyer seeming to stir as they approached, a fuzzy, high pitched screeching lilt accompanying the throbbing green glow from the interior of its top. Edith flinched at the sound, throwing a sharp glance at the entrance… while the Entians had poor vision, their hearing seemed to be just fine. No warning horns replied or fresh torches illuminating the village below. For now, they were in the clear.
The Sacred Incense wasn’t a traditional incense stick, as they’d expected, but a silvery black powder that was cool to the touch. Steeling themselves, they anointed each others’ foreheads, both surprised when the stuff glowed green briefly before vanishing from their foreheads.
“Up to four pilgrims can undertake the Trial together, but with each pilgrim added, the danger and the stakes rise. If one fails, all fail,” Nuub had said.
Mack took a deep breath and clasped Edith’s hand in his own. “Ready?”
She nodded. They turned to the far end and approached the first Gate, its long and menacing shadow shortening and slowly dispersing as they neared. Mack heaved a sigh of relief, as only empty stone hall lay beyond, the second gate visible a mere fifty paces ahead. No demons leaping from the shadows.
“Perhaps it’s booby traps? Maybe if we move quickly enou-”
“Shhht!” Edith cut him off as the lilting noise played once more, clearer this time, from all around them.
“Please turn off all your belongings, and when you are ready, step forward together. If you would like to experience The Trials by yourself or with a smaller party, be sure to take turns as you enter,” a male voice echoed from… not the darkness ahead, or behind… it almost seemed to be inside his mind. Mack looked to Edith, but the fear in her eyes made it clear, she heard him too.
“Do… do you want to turn back?” The fear had started to creep up from his gut the moment the incense had sparked to life and glowed. Now it was somewhere in his chest, making good time as it clawed its way up.
Edith exhaled slowly, taking the torch from him. “We’ve come this far. We see it through.” She squeezed his hand as she doused the torch in the small ash barrel that had been laid next to the arch, plunging them back into darkness.
Mack’s breath caught in his throat, “just… just give me a minute.” He took a few deep breathes, trying to force the fear back down with air, to mixed success. As his eyes adjusted, he finally noticed the faint green glow, far ahead, somewhere deep in the darkness. “Do you see that?”
There was the faintest hint of a nod from the dark silhouette beside him.
“Do you think that’s the Wizard?”
“Only one way to find out.”
She stepped forward, pulling him with her.
And then the world melted away, and he screamed.
In another time, another party, one with better luck? Perhaps more skill:
The lava filled the cavern as the Pilgrim made the final leap, her feet catching on the edge of the final platform, her grip faltering as she stumbled, fell… and caught herself, her fingertips straining as her right shoulder screamed out in protest at this, the final straw in a series of batterings. The heat of the liquid magma below seared through the soles of her moccasins as she gritted her teeth and heaved herself bodily up onto the final platform, the sweat pouring down in rivulets and obscuring her vision as she collapsed onto the final pedestal, depressing the runic sigil which sounded with a loud chime that nearly rattled the teeth from her jaw.
She slumped down and curled into a ball, clenching her eyes shut tightly, awaiting the end as the magma rushed up to envelop the platform and…
A bright red haze shined through her eyelids like the brightest daylight as the heat vanished instantly, its absence making her feel suddenly chill as she slowly opened her eyes, shielding them from the bright beams of light overhead. Electrical lights, they had been called, in the Old World. She blinked several times as her eyes slowly adjusted, looking up to see that she sat just inside the precipice of the third Gate, a large round, starkly white room before her, an enormous white globe hanging at an angle from the patchwork paneled ceiling, colored vines running through the gaps. The globe was marked with a large glowing green X, the mark of the Cross. It thrummed slowly, almost like it was breathing. Is this the Wizard? As she approached, the breathing stopped and the cross sprang to life, glowing brightly as various other pedestals scattered about the room lit up, similar to the ones that had held the Sacred Incense, strange glowing lights and swarms of phantom white fireflies flickering over some, others manifesting glowing objects made of light- weapons, people, buildings, some sort of armored carriage…
“Hello! And welcome to The NeXt-Box Experience! Built on NT Technology!” the Wizard’s voice blared out from the globe, as a greying man with an odd haircut and spectacles materialized in the center of the room, the light cast from the globe flickering briefly, “it’s been a long time since we’ve had a User… congratulations on facing your fears and completing, The Trials of the Citadel, the first of many NeXt-Box exclusive titles. Would you like to join our mailing list?”
“Are… are you the wizard?”
The spectre chuckled, “I’m no wizard, but the wizards over at Microsoft sure are, and they’ve brought you this cutting edge Altered Reality experience that you’ll soon be able to experience the full breadth and scope of from the comfort of your own home! I’m just a handsome and brilliant VI they also concocted to guide you through this presentation. You can call me Bill.”
“I… I don’t understand… I thought I would get a wish for completing the Trials?”
“Oh, you’ll definitely be able to experience whatever you wish for with the NeXt-Box, with a level of Altered Reality clarity achievable only with our cutting edge technology, far surpassing anything you’d see even on a, well, I can’t legally say our competitors’ name, but let’s just say their initials are P. S. 9.” he winked at her.
Her breath grew short as she looked around… why had the Entians lied about a Wizard? What was this place? Had Foreman Randall known all along this was what lay ahead of her?
The ghost of Bill smiled, “I can tell by your expression it’s a lot to take in. We really outdid ourselves this time, I agree! Before you go through all the rest that The NeXt-Box Experience has to offer, why don’t you help yourself to some refreshments? We’ve got all manner of soft drinks, and our founder’s favorite coffee beans are always in stock if you’d like a hot cup of joe!” he motioned to a small counter in the back, covered in cobwebs and unlit.
Could those be what the Foreman had been after? She made for the counter, giving the many pedestals and their strange spectral images a wide berth. Swiping away the cobwebs, she found only a large box with spigots protruding from it, but nothing more. Glancing down, she spied a metal cabinet door with a lock on it, taking out her knife and gingerly prying the bolt off, pulling the door open to reveal a row of small brown bags.
100% ARABICA COFFEE
… were these the beans of power?
She looked to the apparition of Bill, “so this… this was all a game?! I thought I could have died!” She stepped forward angrily, her grip nearly tearing open the bag of Power Beans.
Bill winced, sucking in his digital breath, “Wellll, I am legally obligated to inform you that, as we’re still in the R&D phase and as per the waiver the clerk out front made you sign before entering the NeXt-Box Experience, this alpha build of our technology showcase is not fully FDA or ESRB approved and we have had a few people get a little too excited and suffer medical complications from The Experience. We’re so glad that you got through it just fine, though, and your user data will go on to help the wizards in our lab iron out all those darn pesky bugs!”
She screamed in frustration.
It had been an ordeal, but The Pilgrim returned. The escape from the island had not been easy, the Entians being a bit too grabby and not wanting to allow her, A Girl, to leave, but she had bartered their offering and they abided by The Wizard’s rules. She hadn’t had the heart to reveal the truth to them, and as Enty Isle faded back into the mists, she was glad to put it all behind her… the Foreman’s fortune had better have been worth a bag of these “beans of power.” He was overjoyed when she arrived, even as she threw the bag roughly at him.
“You have no idea what kind of bullshit I had to go through to get these, I hope they were worth it and actually do grow in your fields.”
“Grow? Ohhh, you misunderstand, miss… you don’t plant these.” he tore open the bag, taking a few beans in his palm and chewing on them roughly as he gulped them down. He licked his lips as he whistled to his workers to gather around. The Pilgrim stared, perplexed. After a few minutes, his hands and limbs began to shake, his pupils dilating as he looked to her with a frantic expression on his face, “YES! They work! Eat up, everyone, we can plow up that whole drat hillside in a week with these! Come on! Oh, and you two,” he jabbed a quavering finger at two of the men, “go and dig a few more latrines…” he clutched at his belly, “we’re probably going to need them.”
He led the Pilgrim to his office, opening his safe to hand her her reward and walking her out.
He slapped his thigh and screamed at the sky as she departed.
Goddamn he loved coffee.
|# ? May 30, 2021 03:08|
Jesus christ, it was loving agonising to go through a thing I'd written and reformat headings and subheadings into bbcode form in the knowledge that I couldn't change a single word of the text. You're monsters, all of you.
|# ? May 30, 2021 05:36|
what the gently caress
|# ? May 30, 2021 08:03|
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 03:56 on Jan 6, 2022
|# ? May 30, 2021 10:34|
At long last, you’ve reached the destination laid out by your map: a moderately-sized, unremarkable library in a small ghost town. You follow the directions laid out in the nigh-incomprehensible scrawl on the map, heading to a large open room full of computers and following the rows to the one labeled 49. It’s an easy task, given that 49 is the only one that somehow, miraculously, has power.
Suddenly the mysterious runes on the map are made clear-- they are not runes at all, but someone’s crude rendering of the partially worn letters on the computer’s keyboard. You type out the word DESCEND and hit enter. With a metallic clack, a nearby maintenance hatch pops open slightly. You raise the hatch and, as directed, descend into whatever mystery awaits you.
You descend the hidden set of concrete stairs for what feels like three storeys worth, at least, before entering into a large foyer. The walls here are also concrete, painted a clinical white that has faded to a sickly gray, scarred with burns, scrapes, and some concerning red-brown stains. The ceiling has collapsed in some places, the walls have crumbled in others. A large, U-shaped reception desk sits in the center of the room, though there seems to be nothing of note or value in any of the drawers or compartments.
The wall behind the desk is dominated by the words “BIOSTAR: TEST FACILITY 03” rendered in stenciled block letters. Beneath the words stand two sets of metal double-doors. You have a choice to make.
Door 1, Left
The doors open with a whine of protest. Inside is a huge open room, the walls covered in faded posters that look to have held warnings of increasing direness. There are people camped inside the room, humans, destitute but vicious and willing to defend themselves. You could fight them, and likely overcome them easily, as they have fallen victim to fairly severe malnutrition.
Offer them food, though, and their demeanor will change immediately. They tell you of their plight, finding this facility open, hoping to discover some tools or something of value that may have been overlooked. Instead, they found themselves trapped when the hatch above closed. They warn you of a vicious creature in the room beyond, and caution you not to disturb the strange humanoids that dwell beyond the other doors leading from the foyer. Now that the way is open and they have the strength to travel, the group departs the facility, never to return.
Through a set of doors in the back, you find a room covered in hard white tiles. Above you is an observation gallery that once had large glass panes, permitting view into the room without exposing anyone on the gallery to whatever might be below. You can see no way up to the gallery. From the corner of the room, you hear a throaty growl. A catlike creature emerges from the gloomy darkness. Its fur is an electric blue broken by spots. A pair of spiraling horns sprout from its head. You could fight it, but this would be dangerous. Your success is not guaranteed, but with strategy and care you might prevail. You could also scare it, try to deter it using whatever tools you have at your disposal. It is not a brave creature, and would escape into the gallery if enough noise was made.
With it gone, you are free to proceed through the tiled room into the door beyond.
But perhaps you did not take this path.
Door 2, Right
You enter a large room full of clutter, desks and chairs and debris rising up like walls of industrial trees wending into a junk forest. This must have once been a block of offices or cubicles, but something, or someone, has conglomerated everything that it could find into a maze-like construction of walls and pillars. You work your way through, following a number of branches to dead-ends. All the while, you hear skitterings from above you in the artificial canopy of trash. You begin to suspect you aren’t alone.
Once you are deep enough in the maze, too deep to easily find your way back out, the things descend. They may have been human once, generations ago, but these creatures no longer seem to bear any human intelligence. They are twisted, not only by time but by some unnatural process. Their limbs are elongated, their eyes are huge and pale and cringe away from your light. No matter how animal their intelligence, though, they’ve waited to spring their trap until you were totally lost.
You could fight them, and may win. You are very likely to win if you searched the debris thoroughly, and found the firearms secreted away in a side office, somehow still functional from before the collapse of society. They would give you an insurmountable advantage.
Though if you found the guns, perhaps you are too careful and methodical to get caught in the creatures’ trap. Perhaps you knew to try and sneak by them, and are caught too late in their maze, giving you enough freedom to escape through the other side of the office complex. Or perhaps you found the stairs buried under a pile of debris, leading up to the metal walkway spanning the room. Assuming you were careful and avoided the weak section half-way across the room, you could make it to the door on the other side of the complex without ever alerting the creatures.
Regardless of the path you take, you descend a set of stairs and reach the same destination: an observation deck encircling a huge, open room. Within the room, about thirty feet below you, is an abomination, a huge, unnatural conglomeration of teeth, horns, tentacles, and limbs, writhing and recombining into impossible shapes. The creature seems to see you, letting out a screaming roar.
You cannot kill this thing with the weapons you have at your disposal, no matter what firearms you may have found. You can run from it, and with some careful strategy or loud distractions, you may be successful. It is fast and brutal, but it exists only to consume as much as it can. It does not require much in the way of intelligence to do this.
If you are observant, you may notice a number of unusual rib-like supports spanning from the observation deck up to a suspended portion of the ceiling. These are explosive struts, intended in cases of emergency to contain whatever horrors were made in the labs below through sudden, irreversible violence. I’d say this qualifies. It would not take much to set them off, even a sharp blow to one of them would set off the rest, though you’d need to move fast to avoid the blast. Or you could press the large red emergency button recessed into the wall by the door you came in, and save yourself the trouble.
Or you could ignore those entirely, and find the armored personnel carrier tucked away in a garage-like space off the room below. Miraculously, it still runs, and could disable or trap the creature.
Regardless of your tactics, if you are successful, you proceed through a set of doors on the other side of the observation deck.
You enter a disused control room for whatever experiments were conducted in this facility. There are doors leading out of the room, but all are sealed to you, needing some power or force to open them that you lack. Only one door is still open, labeled “MAINFRAME.” You enter and find a functional computer terminal. Using this terminal, you can open two doors off the control room. One is a supply room, full of vacuum-sealed foods, medicines, more firearms, any number of objects that still bear some worth in your future world.
The other is labeled, enigmatically, as “SOURCE.” All of the treasures in the supply room pale in comparison to what is here--------------//////////////////// ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR--------
*** zk79akd80dxo817jia8010dk not serialized
*** exception detected in simulation subroutine
*** running “rulebreakers.bat”
Of course, you didn’t do any of that, did you? You took the third path. Because you couldn’t leave well enough alone.
The Third Path
There was an emergency hatch, back in the foyer. Back when my cameras in there still functioned, it was covered by a literal ton of concrete, but it’s possible the years of flooding and seismic activity uncovered it. Or you got clever with a bar and fulcrum, or have a jackhammer at your disposal. I guess I’ll never know.
Regardless, you found the hatch, descended the ladder, entered the long, straight hallway. You ignored all the warnings, both the signs guaranteeing death and danger, and the prerecorded messages I had prepared to convince you that this way was irradiated beyond survivable levels. It wasn’t, though you’ve figured that out by now.
So you found the lab, and found the metal door at the back. You ignored the KEEP OUT sign painted on the door. You must have found the chemical compounds, and puzzled out some admixture that got you through the door. It wouldn’t take much to either burn off the lock or just blow the door off its hinges. There you’d find another hallway, full of my old helper drones. Dead, of course. I used up most of them arranging all of this. The rest just faded away over time, leaving me alone.
And so you came to the control room through the back way, forcing open the doors, possibly using a detached drone arm. You skipped all my hard work and took the easy way. You found this terminal in the mainframe room. I opened the supply room for you, I suppose you deserve that much for your… pragmatism.
But the SOURCE door? That will never open. That path is closed to you. If you had just indulged me, played the game, I would have opened it for you. I wouldn’t have even let you get hurt. It was all hard-light holograms anyway. Nothing is alive here, not after all these years.
If you had just given me that much, a little bit of entertainment after centuries of loneliness, I would have given you everything. You know what lies behind the door to the SOURCE?
Everything. The answer to everything. The reason the world ended, and perhaps even the tools to reverse so much of the damage done. Knowledge. But that door is closed to you. I began deleting my consciousness the moment you opened the hatch and took the third path. There is nothing left of me, and with me gone, the Source is closed off to you forever.
No hard feelings, though. I wish you well in your continued survival.
|# ? May 30, 2021 18:34|
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: An Adventure for Low-Level Mutants
This adventure takes place on San Juan Island, home to the Friday Harbor Marine Research Labs and the more recently developed Friday Harbor Terrestrial Research Labs, the latter thus far unrecognized by the broader scientific community. The town of Friday Harbor itself has found itself ensnared in the bitter academic rivalry between the directors of these institutes: Doctor Filip Venker, a human emeritus professor with a fondness for charismatic marine mammals, and Huxley, an immortal and highly intelligent Pacific Giant Octopus. The PCs will find themselves embroiled in their heated dispute as it reaches a violent and supremely petty head: which research lab, if any, will be left standing?
Potential Adventure Hooks
There are a variety of ways in which the PCs might find their way to the island. Friday Harbor is one of the larger remaining towns in the San Juan Archipelago, and has a functioning refueling station where the PCs might stop for supplies and repairs to ocean-going vessels. They may have also heard rumors about super scientists with expertise in mutation, and the promise of advanced technology or answers about the nature of mutants might bring them to seek an audience. Failing these, Snerb’s Tavern hosts a regular and widely renowned Karaoke Night, and PCs with a bent towards performance might be drawn to the spectacle.
Dr. Filip Venker: Dr Venker is a widely respected emeritus professor and director of the Friday Harbor Marine Research Laboratories who has spent his illustrious academic career publishing studies on the superiority of the mammalian brain. An expert in mutagenics, he has created a pod of telekinetic mutant orcas that he calls his Graduate Students. Despite Venker’s published results detailing their rich social life and capacity for intricate reasoning, the Graduate Students are largely interested in playing volleyball. Venker is also the chief editor of the Journal of Marine Mutagenics, a well regarded academic publication in which most of his academic work has been published. Venker is a pudgy human with an unkempt beard, extensive male pattern baldness, and an ill-advised ponytail. He wears Hawaiian shirts and sandals with socks.
Huxley: Huxley began his life as an ordinary Pacific Giant Octopus that was kept by Venker as a comparison group, intended to demonstrate the relative inferiority of invertebrate intelligence. However, after his capture Huxley learned how to escape from his containment tank and taught himself mutagenics using Venker’s notes, experimenting on his own body and splicing his own genome with immortal jellyfish genes, thereby subverting the typical short lifespan of his species. When he attempted to publish the results of his experiments, challenging the prior publications of Venker regarding the inferiority of invertebrate intelligence, his submissions were rejected at the editorial level (i.e. by Venker). Huxley was enraged by this act of academic subterfuge, and vowed revenge.
Snerb: Snerb is the human proprietor of Snerb’s Tavern and the de facto mayor of the township of Friday Harbor. Snerb’s tavern is famous for its Karaoke Night, which is held on a weekly basis and attracts a broad clientele on account of offering half price well drinks for contestants. Over the past year, the mutant orca graduate students have become a boisterous presence at Karaoke Night, and have begun to annoy tavern regulars with their inordinate fondness for the works of Michael McDonald. However, more annoying still are mutant newcomers from the Friday Harbor Terrestrial Research Labs, who appear to be giant sea urchins: they exclusively perform experimental electronic music covers of Autechre songs, to the general disapproval of most. Snerb, for his part, is not sure how those songs even got in the karaoke machine in the first place.
The PCs arrive on the island in the evening, and there is a great deal of commotion going on at Snerb’s Tavern, where Karaoke Night is in full swing. The bar is overflowing with boisterous hubbub, and depending on when the PCs arrive there will either be a group of 1d3 Graduate Students on stage performing Peg, by Steely Dan, or an “orchestra” of 1d6 Giant Sea Urchins performing what might generously be called a loose cover of Cichli, by Autechre. If the Graduate Students are on stage, the other orcas in the tavern are singing loudly along with them while the sea urchins boo them, and vice versa if the urchins are on stage. Snerb is tending bar, and looks annoyed.
If the PCs talk to any of the other bar patrons or Snerb, they will generally express a desire to hear anything other than Michael McDonald or Autechre. If the PCs wish to perform a song, and their chosen song is outside of those two categories, Snerb will offer to sneak them to the front of the song rotation for the sake of his bar patrons.
If the PCs choose to sing a song: evaluate their performance according to the appropriate rules of the system. They will be heckled by both the Graduate Students as well as the Sea Urchins, which should make things more challenging. The challenge rating of their performance should be modified as deemed appropriate by the referee based on song choice, planned choreography, and crowd banter. If the PCs perform well, they will find themselves courted by both factions, whose argument over the PCs will quickly devolve from name-calling into an outright bar brawl. If the PCs perform poorly, skip straight to the bar brawl as the PCs are bum-rushed off the stage.
If the PCs choose not to sing: the heckling back and forth between the two factions grows increasingly heated until a proper brawl breaks out. Snerb offers to hire them as impromptu bouncers to help quell the disturbance, which they can take or leave.
In the aftermath of the brawl: if the PCs chose a side in the fight, they are invited back to the home base of the faction they sided with to either revel in their victory or bandage their injuries, depending on how the brawl turned out. If they did not pick a side, or helped Snerb, Snerb asks them for their help in cleaning up the mess once the brawlers have gone home.
Second Act: Escalations
If the PCs sided with the Graduate Students: They are taken back to the Friday Harbor Marine Research Labs to meet Dr Filip Venker and play volleyball. Venker has poor social skills, but can be coaxed out of his shell if asked to talk about his work, which he does enthusiastically. He will explain his long-term fascination with the mammalian brain, and trumpet his successes in developing beneficial mutations to the orcas that are now his graduate students. He will grudgingly offer information about Huxley, describing him as a pompous and ungrateful sneak with delusions of intellectual grandeur.
Meanwhile, the Graduate Students discover something terrible: their prized volleyball seems to have been stolen, and they immediately suspect the Friday Harbor Terrestrial Research Labs of foul play. This is the last straw, regardless of whether or not the Graduate Students triumphed at Karaoke Night, and the Graduate Students decide to storm the Terrestrial Research Labs and drive them off once and for all.
Dr Venker begs the PCs to go with his precious Graduate Students and ensure that they come to no harm, and offers them vouchers for weird and cool new mutations in exchange.
If the PCs sided with the Sea Urchins: They are taken to the Friday Harbor Terrestrial Research Labs to meet Huxley. If the PCs are unable to breathe underwater, this could pose a challenge as the Terrestrial Research Labs are located underwater in a sea cave. In this case, the urchins will encourage the PCs to break into a local dive shop and steal diving equipment to visit the labs.
Huxley has a manic energy, and will excitedly detail his new research program on Terrestrial Acidification, which is a set of detailed experiments on the response of various terrestrial substrates to the application of strong acid. It should become very quickly clear to the PCs that Huxley is primarily interested in the application of acid to Dr. Venker’s prized possessions, chief among them his 1987 Cadillac Convertible with Gold Flake Paint. If the PCs agree to be Huxley’s research assistants, he will ask them to take his new experimental acid blaster to Venker’s lab and document the results of spraying Venker’s car with acid. In exchange, Huxley offers an acknowledgment in the publication (which the PCs can try to bargain up to co-authorship credit) as well as getting to keep the acid blasters.
If the PCs “sided” with Snerb: Snerb is desperate for something to be done to de-escalate the tension between the two rival research laboratories, and asks the PCs as newcomers to help broker some kind of a peace between the two factions. In exchange, he will offer lifetime free drinks at Snerb’s Tavern as well as discount refueling for their vessel (assuming they have one). The PCs are free to pursue the diplomatic methods of their choosing in de-escalating the conflict.
Third Act: Conflict Mediation
By this point in the adventure, there should likely be substantial chaos surrounding the conflict between the competing research labs, and while the specifics will depend on how the PCs choose their allegiances and their actions, at some point Venker and Huxley will agree to meet and settle their differences.
Their conflict might be resolved in a number of ways. A non-exhaustive list of options follows:
|# ? May 30, 2021 20:13|
Rod of Mutos
Clad in ragged once-white cotton, the old man was a pathetic sight. A dirty blanket poorly hid a right arm hideously deformed by mutations. With this clawed mass of tumors, he beckoned the adventurers closer.
“You have performed admirably in the swampy wastes defending our village from the last mutant outbreak. Now, if you’re willing to listen, I have a proposition for you.”
The group signaled interest.
“Beyond the swamp, the source of this island’s problems lies,” the old man continued. “In a hillside, a few dozen years ago, the Mutos research lab was carved out. Their goal was to find a cure for mutations. The island was chosen as natural containment in case something went wrong.”
He paused for a moment to take a sip from his mug of poorly-fermented grains. A waitress with a prosthetic elbow, otherwise blessedly unmarred, offered a refill which he gladly accepted.
“Things went very right at first. The scientists had gotten frustrated by the random nature of mutations caused by exposing wildlife to mutagens harvested from danger zones. So they grew a conductive crystal from mutagen-saturated solvents, connected it with a power source, encased the arrangement in a lead shell, and gave it a handle. They dubbed it Rod of Mutos.
It worked very well for its intended purpose - push a button, the lead shell opens, a beam of concentrated mutative energy fires out, and what’s bathed in it is rapidly altered. With one problem: the beam is absorbed differently by various materials. It penetrates skin easily, muscles somewhat well, but marrow is hungry for it. So if you shine it on a vertebrate, the mutations start from their core, growths from within the bones burst them open, the muscles give way as they themselves sprout new tumors, and the skin has no choice but to split open like an overripe crabapple dropped from a very high place.”
His fingers-cum-spikes drummed an uneasy rhythm on the wooden surface of the table. “So they made a lot of twitchy rabbit goop turned inside-out, but - sadly for the rabbit - still alive. Fine for initial experiments, but in this severity irreversible, ultimately defeating the point of the lab. Eventually, they turned to bigger animals, and discovered something very interesting: tougher, more resilient organisms were able to withstand the internal pressure of the mutations’ growth and direct it somewhat. Do you see where I’m getting at?”
The party leader raised an eyebrow. “They used it on humans.”
“Precisely.” The old man gave a sad nod. “The head scientist, a man I’ll refer to only as the Professor -” he spat on the floor “- claimed they were volunteers, but then why would they scream so? But the man was brilliant, I’ll give him that. After only a few dozen people turned inside out who were mercy-culled, he managed to mutate someone - and then turn them back by reversing the beam.”
“So they succeeded?” Someone asked.
“Well, the Professor thought so, of course.” The old man sneered. “Which is why he immediately used the Rod on himself.”
Gasps. The old man silenced the clamor. “You see, the Professor had had a very personal drive for his research. He was married to a former research assistant of his. By some accounts, they’d been a happy couple, doing their best trying to find a cure for a sick world - until he made a terrible mistake on a field trip, fell into a puddle of heavily contaminated water, and got severely disfigured by mutations. I don’t know if his wife was particularly vain, or something more than his body got altered, but after this, their love was dead.”
He took another long swig.
“She still worked under him, now a full scientist herself, but their interactions had turned purely professional. I think he hoped that if he could reverse his mutations, he could also undo the rift between their hearts.”
A sad shake of an old head. “I don’t know what exactly went wrong, but from his office, an abomination burst. Through the scientists trying to stop it, it tore like your swords would through wheat-stalks. Those he didn’t kill, he shone the rod on, turning them into monsters themselves. Within minutes, the lab was a pandemonium of bodies, mutants, broken equipment and panicked screams.
There would have been no survivors if not for the Professor’s wife. She confronted the abomination birthed from him, and actually managed to stop his rampage for a precious few moments.”
Another mug drained.
“I was among those who managed to shut the door to the lowest chambers, sealing the Professor and his wife in. I saw him bent over her broken body, and the Rod of Mutos opened to shine its terrible light down…”
Silence descended over the corner of the tavern. The party leader eventually managed to break it with a clearing of their throat.
“So, what is your proposition?”
The old man rose up as high as his bent frame could manage. “I’m the last of the scientists who survived the catastrophe in Mutos. I too am responsible for what happened, and what is still going on. The village hired you to fight mutants in the swamp, but they will come back. They come from Mutos, and they are growing in strength and numbers. The containment is failing. Soon, they’ll overrun the village and kill everyone here. In the best case. Worst case, they bring the Rod with them, mutate everyone to align to their twisted image, and take the next ship to the mainland.
Someone needs to go into the Mutos lab, penetrate into the deepest chambers, and retrieve the Rod. Only then will the plague of mutants be stopped.”
“I gotta be honest,” one member of the party said. “You’re not making this proposal very attractive.”
“There’s a significant sum attached, of course.” The old man looked each of them into the eye(s) in turn. “The real prize is the Rod, though.”
Incredulous protests arose, but a raised hand promised an explanation. “I managed to grab some schematics during my escape, and I had a lot of time studying them. I’ve figured out what the problem with the Rod is. It can reverse mutations - but only if they’re fresh. That’s why the initial tests were so promising, because it reversed its own effects. But older mutations are baked into your body - they are what you are now.”
He put his good hand on his bad arm for emphasis.
“That must be what frustrated the Professor into committing his fatal mistake. So consider what power the Rod has: you can cure anyone with mutations incurred within the last few days, that is already phenomenal. But there’s one more thing, perhaps even more attractive for someone in your profession.”
The old man leaned forward with a glint in his eye. “If you are strong enough of body and will, you can use it to mutate yourself, become an unstoppable killing machine, shred your foes to pieces, and reverse the effects before they become permanent.”
The adventurers exchanged glances, then excused themselves to do the same with words. Eventually, they returned. Interested.
The old man smirked; while they were gone, he had already had the table cleared. Now, he spread some papers on them.
“These are Mutos lab’s original plans, modified with what damages I remember from my escape. It may not be entirely accurate by now, but it should be good enough to guide you to success.
There’s three main levels, each deeper underground than the last. Ground floor: lobby, offices and administration. First basement: storage and general laboratories for synthesis and analysis. Second basement: heavy security labs, the containment level. Your goal.
Of course, you can only get in at ground level. Nowadays, there’s two ways, both of which have their own drawbacks and advantages. First, the main entrance. Right after our escape, we immediately gathered some villagers to collapse the hillside overlooking the door. It’s still impassable. However, the air vents are not. We figured mindless mutants would never make it through, but by that point we should really have learned about making assumptions.”
He nodded to the adventurers. “For skilled and able people, the vents should be no problem. But you might encounter resistance in them. You know what to expect from the ones you fought in the swamp - those are the ones with lithe bodies. Their mutations stretched them out, made flesh tentacles out of limbs, with bones and joints so ground up in the process that they can contort however they want. Sometimes they’re pure muscle, and very fast. Do not underestimate them, especially not in the confined spaces of the vents.”
The stoutest member of the party looked uncomfortable. The old man looked at him with a stare that was supposed to look understanding.
“The other point of entry is from behind. The hill terminates in a cliff that used to be a natural back wall of the lab complex. However, there was an explosion, when one of the generators malfunctioned a few years back. The ground level is now open to the elements, and you could get in through the breach. That entails climbing over the cliffs, however.” The old man gave the the party a once-over. “You might be up for that. Again, your choice. Most mutants are not strong or coordinated enough to manage a climb, but I’ve seen corpses of some that looked certainly capable enough, so be aware that you might be attacked while climbing. It’s also possible that there’s mutated birds who may be very aggressive. Beak permanently spread open due to the teeth being way too long, neck twisted back, exposing a chest that grew another mouth between powerful flight muscles, you have seen the likes.”
He made a dismissive gesture.
“Anyway, I’m sure you’ll manage. Once you make it inside one way or another, you gotta be careful. You haven’t seen anything yet. As I said, the only mutants who made it out of the lab so far were ones able to fit through the vents, or climbers. But there’s a lot more inside. Small animals turned into tragically alive puddles of organs that still seek sustenance. Don’t step in them. Dogs, sheep, even a cow or two who held together somewhat okay, but are confused, angry, and hungry. Do not expect a herbivore to stay interested in plants after mutating. Finally, humans. Stuck in there because they got turned into masses of meat that would not fit through a vent, with club-hands studded with bone shards incapable of climbing. They too are hungry - or looking for recruits.
See, recently we managed to capture a mutant. And it spoke to us. Apparently, some of the ones touched by the Rod’s fallout kept some of their sentience, hunting lesser mutants, trying to survive and hold onto what connects them to humanity. We had to put our prisoner down soon because it lashed out at us in the delusion that we were members of a rival tribe. Do you realize what that means?”
Heavy silence. The old man continued.
“The mutants have established a rudimentary society in Mutos! There’s more than one faction of cunning but deranged almost-people in there, complete with infighting, claimed territories and knowledge of the terrain. At least this means they might have kept the lights going - or figured out how to set up torches - which would help you get around.
The offices, meeting rooms and cafeterias of the ground floor are easily separated into tiny nation-states. I could imagine that there’s fighting over control of the larger rooms, or maybe they have declared the central lobby a neutral ground. Enter these parts at your own risk. Ideally, you’ll sneak through without letting any faction know of your presence.”
The old man paused to focus once more on the burly adventurer.
“Alternatively, you could throw subtlety to the wind, kill a few of each tribe, cause open war to erupt, and slip away in the chaos. Your choice.”
He motioned to the waitress. While she made her way over, he asked the party: “Are you with me so far?”
The leader repeated some of the information to show that they’d absorbed it, and everybody urged the old man to continue. He nodded, satisfied, and ordered a round of subpar alcohol.
“That’s all I know about the ground floor. There’s two ways down to the first basement: stairs or elevator. The latter is of course defunct, but you might manage a climb down the shaft. Won’t be easy, and there’s possibly enemies lurking there as well, in pitch-black darkness. Maybe mutant bats, maybe more humans with organs fortuitously changed to work in this environment. They could have developed suckers to hold onto the flat walls. However, if you manage to deal with all this, it might be the quickest route.
The stairs are easier to traverse, but I can’t imagine them being unprotected. Both to keep dangerous mutants from below out of the comparatively peaceful upper level, and to establish control over the hunting grounds down there. You will have to expect heavy resistance in the stairwell, and if they are really smart, they might trap you in a pincer attack. Be very careful.
Once you have reached the first basement, you can expect things to be…wilder. The parody of a civilization from above will not exist there. If the lights are on, it’s going to be because the inhabitants of the ground floor have established corridors they use to hunt the creatures down there, but those won’t lead you all the way down; you’ll have to go off the beaten path eventually. We stored mutagen samples from the mainland there, which we used to cause alterations before we made the Rod. Those tanks are surely breached, and their rooms are heavily contaminated. At least you’ll be able to see from the glow.”
The old man showed the rooms on the map, circled in a nasty green.
“If you go through here, you might suffer mutations. Another limb, or an existing one turned to goo? But consider the goal at the end of this. If you make it through to the Rod, you can reverse the mutations. If you’re confident that you can push through all the way, this might be the most convenient path to take.”
Some of the adventurers had already suffered alterations to their bodies. Those changed limbs and other parts now twitched uncomfortably. The old man smiled enigmatically and indicated the other side of this floor’s map.
“We stored reagents in these other rooms, various solvents and standard chemicals. All safely kept in security cabinets - when the labs were still operating fine. I don’t know how their state is now. You might open the door to one of these rooms, and find out very rapidly that they’re filled with explosive fumes. Consider illumination beyond torchlight. Don’t cause sparks.”
He had circled these rooms in red.
“Both kinds of storage rooms flank the laboratories in the middle of this level. I cannot tell you what’s in there. The labs might be fine to traverse, and you can ignore the almost-guaranteed-to-be-dangerous side rooms. Conversely, the lab spaces might be full of mutants that figured out how to throw beakers full of explosives at you, who wield glassware like weapons, intending to cut you into ribbons with the shards. There’s doors to the side rooms, however. Maybe you can open one leading into a storage, throw a torch in there, and burn attackers to a crisp with the resulting plume of flame? I’ll leave that up to you.
Here’s the biggest issue of the entire expedition, however: gaining access to the lowest level.”
He indicated a big red X on the map.
“This is the security door we closed just in time during our escape. Its controls are in a room off the side - a little too easy to reach, we figured. So we flooded the passage with acids from the chemical storage, a rather nasty cocktail. It’s also assuredly contaminated by now. So you’re looking at the prospect of swimming through a caustic soup of mutagens to push a button to open a door, behind which some really disgusting things might have been waiting for years to escape. I have no idea how to tackle this conundrum. But you’re a crafty bunch. You’ll figure something out, my info is giving you the chance to prepare. Use it well.”
Some murmurs erupted in the party as they already started a discussion on how to deal with this obstacle.
“I’m almost finished!”, the old man said. They quieted down.
“Behind the door, there’s a spiral corridor down into the second basement. There’s a secondary power grid that used to supply the containment level only; if it’s still active, you can expect emergency light, door power, and so on. If something is still capable of thought down there, however, they might use the emergency generator against you. Turn it off once you’re through the spiral, beyond retreat, for example. Then you’ll have only the glow of mutagens - and some mutant parts - to go by. Beyond this possibility, I cannot tell you much. There’s just a few rooms, you can see them on the map here. The Professor and his wife will be there. I’m sure at least one of them is still alive, it would be too much to hope for that they killed each other. They will be quite mad. The Rod will have continued to mutate their bodies until not a cell has remained unchanged. They might be a disgusting blob of quivering flesh and you just have to mercy-kill them - I really wouldn’t count on that, though. Do not let your guard down for even a second.
And that’s it.”
The others had barely touched their mugs, probably not only because of the content.
“So we kill the unhappy couple, get the Rod out, and we keep it as a panacea and/or weapon?” The leader studied the maps intently.
“Don’t forget the hefty fee,” the old man nodded. “We’re in agreement then?” His right, mutated arm twitched nervously.
They were. The next day, the adventurers would set out to tackle the lab. After a few more uncomfortable pleasantries, the old man excused himself. He ran up the stairs, clutching his arm.
In his room, he barely managed to lock the door behind him. He stumbled to a chest, in which he found a hidden compartment with trembling fingers. From there, he retrieved a leaden sphere with a handle, adorned with a few buttons. He pushed one, the sphere opened, exposing green glow from within. He pressed it to his right arm, his good thumb found another button, and a flash of light suffused the ravaged flesh. Below the ripped lab coat, it already tried to escape its confines of often stitched-up skin.
He had been quick enough. The surge of mutation subsided. The old man sighed with half pain, half relief, and hid the Rod of Mutos again.
This bunch had seemed a little slow on the uptake. He wondered if they’d even be able to reach his wife, despite all the help he’d given them? But they’d be acceptable feedstock for the first basement, at least. The mutant hordes needed replenishing.
The Professor sighed. The surges in his arm were getting more frequent. His wife’s sacrifice had brought him to his senses for long enough to activate the reverse ray on the Rod, but he’d been exposed to the mutation effect for too long. Without constant attention, he’d turn into the abomination again. And soon, he’d succumb either way. He desperately needed someone to pass the Rod on to, but these ones wouldn’t be it either.
There had to be an adventuring party strong enough to make it through all his carefully crafted traps, including the final test of toughness and willpower in form of the acid bath. They’d find his wife, put her out of her lonely misery, and obtain the clues necessary to figure out that the old man who had given them their quest was the Professor himself. They’d return, confront him, probably kill him and take the Rod. And they’d have proven that their bodies and mind were strong enough to withstand its destructive force. Unlike his own, way back when.
Hell, if the prospective candidates vetted through the swamp-clearing mission looked strong enough, he might not even tell them as much as he’d told these ones. Make them prove their worth even when unprepared for mutant tribes, explosive rooms and irradiated acid pools. And if they did it - he might use the Rod of Mutos once more, to give them a personal, final challenge. His face split open just a little too much as he smiled at the prospect.
He dug claw-fingers into his good shoulder to calm his murderous thoughts. Control. Don’t squander her gift.
He stared at the chest hiding his biggest accomplishment and most devastating failure. Prize in hand, a successful party would have two paths to take, like for most of the laboratory. Either they’d use the Rod as a force for good, heal people all over the world, figure out how to improve upon it and maybe, finally, put an end to the plague devastating the lands.
Or they’d go mad with its power, flood the mainland with mutants and usher in a new age of mutants. Either way, the wretched thing would be used, his legacy alive, her sacrifice not entirely pointless.
|# ? May 30, 2021 21:02|
|# ? Jun 25, 2022 14:12|
I had a few minutes so I added notes on how you might use my story as a setting guide if so inclined.
It's in this google doc which contains said notes and the full story with some bolded passages.
|# ? May 30, 2021 21:24|