Tima always makes sure to watch the movement of the skitterfish before she strikes. On the hunt, they move like bands of fabric weaving through the air, cutting water like it's an extension of their body, a part of them as much as the stringy fins and ever-moving eyes. Strong skitterfish is good skitterfish, full of life, vitality and energy.
If they're lethargic, they're not to be touched. A hard won lesson, she knows, as she strikes her father's spear down. A straight line of violence punctuated by a puff of pink. She pulls the spear back, drops the skitterfish in the bucket. It's filled to the brim now, and her work is done.
The path from the small, sheltered bay runs along the southern coast of Home, rises above the rough-sand beaches until it reaches tall, sparse grass which turns all at once with the mild, southern wind. She feels the sand between her toes turn to dirt as she runs, bucket strapped to her back with the spear. The sun hangs low in the sky and the accumulated heat of a good day is spending. She feels the salt drying on her legs and the long burn on her back and neck. At the highest point of the headlands, all her world stretches behind and beyond, she stops and catches her breath. Slow and steady, strong lungs as anyone on Home must have. All her world, and nothing more.
The minute she opens the door uncle and mother is there, talking and laughing and carrying on a conversation she's far too late to join in on. Uncle grabs the bucket and mother tussles her hair, Tado is pouring spiced ale in cups and her brother Odon is singing. The room with the hearth is far too hot after her run, so she joins uncle and mother in the kitchen, grabs a knife and gets to work gutting. A rhythm learned from the time she learned how to hold a knife takes hold in her and eventually she joins in on the conversation and then Odon comes in singing and they sing and work until the meal is ready. The sun has dipped below the sea now, and she feels the hearth beckon.
"It's just a sinkhole," says Tado, "like so many others. You dive down and you find a few caves and strange sort of fish, but nothing special to speak of. The world beyond is the strange one, but we leave that to the travelers, the traders."
Tima feels the dull warmth of the ale spreading like ink through her body, tired and aching from a day of work.
"The other sinkholes don't glow." says Odon.
"You thought you saw a glow—"
"A glow and a glint."
"... But that might as well have been the sun."
Uncle pipes up, eyes opening on a head still dipped back.
"A trader told me a thing they said in the old days, they said «you cut the way the razor wills it»."
Everyone looks at him now.
"Means: the simple cut is the better one. Home has never had the strangeness other places speak of, never the things of old that can do wonderful or horrible things to a man. Here we have the sun glinting in the water and casting reflections in the sinkholes, when it's just so in the sky."
He closes his eyes again.
"The simplest cut."
When the fire is low and the light dull, Tima and Odon get up. He grabs his blade and she grabs the spear. With the moves and motions they've practiced since their twin birth, they grab salted fish and water, blankets and rope, flint and kindling, everything they need. Stepping carefully past boards they've memorized, they're out in the cold night smelling windborne sea. Only when they're far past the point where their voices would carry, Odon speaks.
"We take the valley and then it's just a quick climb past Grave Rock and towards the second harbor. We'll see it, even without a glow."
"A glow is not much to go on, especially when you only saw it once."
He turns and she can feel his eyes even in the night.
"I know what I saw, and I've never seen anything like it before. Trust me."
She can feel his smile as well. The wind picks up and they tuck their cloaks closer. In the starlight, they can see the heads of sheep and goats perk up as they jog past, feet sure on ground they've trod for years. The valley—those parts cast in shadows—are as pitch black as squid ink, so Odon lights the weird-steel lantern and angles it down towards the rocks. Even with practice, the jagged shadows among the crags makes Tima's stomach drop, but she knows that she knows the way, and like goats they descent, pass over the small stream at the bottom and then up past Grave Rock where they resume their jog. The moon is near the high point as Odon holds his lantern up and stops.
She inches forward, careful to not go past where Odon stands, but then she sees it a part of the ground darker than the rest.
And then, slow as the tide, it glows, brighter and brighter.
She tests his knots as he checks her harness. Another memory of her father, it's made of fabrics foreign to both Home and all the travelers they've met. It's just now, when she's old enough to hunt and swim like the rest of the adults, that it fits her. She feels a pride in that, a feeling of something fulfilled, and she glances back towards Grave Rock, the prominence barely visible past the highlands. Odon clips the weird-steel to her belt. She nods, he nods, and she steps off the edge.
Her back to the depths, feet working grip on the walls of the sinkhole, she can only see the steadily growing brightness as she descends, but soon it envelops her. She knows, in her rational mind, that something here doesn't make sense. A glow like this should emanate from the hole, be visible from far away, but as mud cannot flow like water, this strange light does not flow like the light she knows.
"Can you see anything more?" Odon shouts from above, "Glinting? I'm sure I saw glinting."
"Nothing, just the water below, I might have to dive."
Odon remains quiet for a while, but then says "Just as long as you know it's safe."
Aching just a little, she feels water on her heel, and with a light kick, she spins around. The glow lights up the featureless walls around her, but it's too bright to see what lurks below. She shouts for Odon to steel himself against her free weight, and with a steady hand she takes the spear from her back and dips it into the water. She feels nothing but the stone wall and the bottomless depth, and so, she clips the weird-steel to the rope, and looses the harness. A breath, and then again, and then again until she can feel her chest filled to the brim, and she drops down into the glow.
She thinks of Odon as she descends, imagining his worried face, thinking that she should've said something more before the drop, but her feet kick down towards the float. There's no taste of salt in the water, it's not like the cenotes that link to tunnels of seawater that run through the islands, but it's not the staleness of rain-filled pits either. She knows to keep her mouth and eyes closed to the tainted water, but this water is like... nothing. Her hands touch a bottom, and as she looks up, she sees a cave extending forward and then upwards, and the mirror of a surface. She's not past the halfway point of her lungs, so she continues forward. She realizes that the glow comes from the walls, not from a source near the surface, but there is another light at the surface, a white, almost blue light, reminiscent of the ever-lasting lanterns on some of the grander trading vessels that sometimes come to haggle and resupply. A kick and then another, and she breaks the surface, drawing in air. She's in a room made of metal, with a set of stairs running from the water to a metal floor. Lines of light mark the roof and the air tastes of the same nothingness as the water. She climbs to land, wrings out her hair and retrieves the spear from her back.
She knows she should swim back and tell Odon, if only to tell him that she'll take a closer look before returning again, but like a deep tone, something tells her to continue, just for a bit, just for a look. The room turns to a corridor, and then another room, this one with formations of glass and metal too strange for her to wrap her head around. She can see chairs and tables made of solid metal, but also strange cabinets and cupboards with ethereal lights, blinking like weak stars are wont to do. Onwards past the sculptures and into chambers filled with more sculptures, until it's something so strange that she stops in her tracks, mouth agape.
A figure hangs from black and yellow ropes and tendrils of varying thickness, a figure encased in dull, gray metal. She can see nothing but a metal plate where its face should be, nothing resembling the useful bits of a human, but it's like a human all the same. Before she really knows what she's doing, Tima speaks.
"Who are you?"
Slow like the tide, the head raises, and the plate-face looks at her even though it cannot truly look.
Tima stutters, tries to see how the figure spoke.
"What? What does that mean?"
"Treaz, vakandi, mustayqiz, awake—"
"Wait, awake? You're awake?"
The figure pauses. Lights blink on and off, and then a dull sound reverberates through the chamber. Before Tima's eyes, an impossible vision rises from the floor.
She knows that in the very center of this vision, is Home. She knows the coastline she's run countless times, the valleys and the peaks. She knows it like her heart. Beyond Home, however, stranger isles rise, some filled with the highlands and forests of her Home, some with things she will not believe can grow from the earth. Enormous things of metal rising and branching, right-angled things of glass, like houses covering an entire grazing field.
"It's ready," the figure says, "All we need is the choice."
"The choice about what?"
"Mark the useless, all we need is a gesture. Tell the choir what we will live without."
Pulsing circles surround the other islands, but Tima is still so lost. She feels the weight of the figure's words, and she feels some dark intention behind them.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand. I don't know who you are, what this is. I'm not the one you're looking for."
"You are, you can't be anyone else. But we have slept for a long time. Let me show you what the Waystation can do.
The simulation runs on data that was outdated hundreds of years ago, but it's more than enough to make a convincing spectacle. With lighted paths, it shows how the deep-core pumps of the Waystation compress magma into sliver-thin beams and propells them along paths on the ocean floor, red death streaking beneath the waves. The magnets guiding the weapon could last a myriad, they'll last now. Quick as lightning , the force of a volcanic eruption will be slammed into the bedrock of a Redundant Island, and remove it from the equation. The girl doesn't understand this, she doesn't need to understand it. All she must do is give the word.
The choir waits, but a voice, and then another, asks of everyone: what if she doesn't make the choice?
Leaning on the spear, Tima closes her eyes.
"What did you do? What did I do?"
"The waystation does not act until you will it. This is a dream, but it will be as real as the metal between your hands. You will make it real."
"No! I don't understand what this is, but I understand enough. You can't make me do that, whatever it is. I won't."
The figure is still for a long time, ceaseless blinking, the hum of something impossible.
"Then the other one will do it."
She turns around to see Odon, still dripping with water.
"I was worried, I jumped." he says, voice trailing off, eyes locked on the vision, the nightmare.
Trembling, tears welling up, filled with such love and such deep fear that her brother would fall victim to something that is monstrous in a way she could never describe, she pivots, and stabs. A straight line of violence, metal meeting metal, a scream of defiance. A perfect strike against the chest of the non-human, their father's arms filled with purpose, pierced metal and then a shock of light and sparks. She pulls back the spear, and the nightmare vision of destruction is as dead as the figure.
And then something else moves at the edges of the room. Doorways open, metal clangs deep within hallways, voices wake up. All these corridors and halls are some kind of being, and it comes to life. From the roof, more metal figures drop down. Some hit the floor as scraps and heaps of broken limbs, but some land on their feet. They look at her from their nothing-faces, and now she can feel a fury in the air.
"Run," she says, and with blade and spear they do.
In the surf, Tima looks at skitterfish. Her bucket is not even half-full, but she turns away. She doesn't trust her hands. Odon is there, and he takes her spear and squeezes her shoulder with a steady hand, but that's now, later it'll be worse. His eyes suddenly focus on something beyond her, and she turns around.
A ship, but not a trading vessel, with lettering along the side.
|# ? May 30, 2021 22:16|
|# ? Jul 3, 2022 06:16|
The Night Howler
There are rumors of a strange band of roving pirates. What is odd about them is that the entire crew is said to be made up of “Beastmen”; humanoids that resemble animals. Your group has heard from one of your contacts that their ship, The Night Howler, will be docking at a certain island to dig up their stashed treasure. An adventurous sort might be able to use this knowledge to their advantage.
The Sea Beasts:
The pirate crew of beastmen goes as follows.
Grayfeet-Captain of the crew. Resembles a grey wolf. Wields a cutlass and a custom flintlock pistol. No strengths but no weaknesses either. Has the key for the brig on his person.
Makreg-Firstmate and navigator of the ship. Resembles a golden eagle. Extremely fast and agile but also fragile.
Grimmouth-Boatswain, in charge of guard duty and unhooking the anchor. Resembles a great white shark. Can survive on land but he is much stronger when in water.
Dozzur-Crew Quartermaster. He keeps a record of treasure and provisions. Resembles a North American cougar. Hates getting wet like most cats. He has a key around his neck that will open the door leading into the cargo hold and ship stores.
Moguk-Ship Gunner. Resembles a bull. He wields a giant ax made out of scrap metal. Stupid and can be fooled easily.
The Night Howler:
Your traditional pirate ship. It uses sails made out of cotton canvas to travel through the sea. The ship areas and rooms consist of the main deck, crew quarters, captain’s quarters, ship stores and cargo hold, brig, and chemist quarters.
Ship defenses and defenders:
Makreg, Grimmouth, and Moguk are on sentry duty. The rest of the crew is inside the ship. Makreg will defend the ship by air; flying over the intruders and attacking them with his sharp claws and beak. Grimmouth will attack by sea. And Moguk will serve as fire support with the ship’s cannon.
Getting onboard the ship:
The Night Howler has ladders on its side that could be used to climb aboard. Your crew could also use a ship to board it directly but beware of cannon fire. Alternatively, you could sneakily swim to it. But Grimmmouth, the shark man, is guarding the waters.
The Ship has four cannons, two on starboard and two on portside. Moguk is manning one of the cannons. Once on the deck, you will see two doors. One leads to the crew quarters and captain’s cabin(Path one); the other door leads into the cargo hold but it is currently locked(Path two). Maybe you could break the door down or bait Dozzur out of the cargo hold? (I would recommend going through path one first and then path two to avoid backtracking.)
Crew quarters(Path one, Room A):
Inside, your party will see several bunks and lockers of the crew. Gold coins and valuables of the crew are scattered around haphazardly. Watch out for the captain’s exotic pet, a black mamba, which is prowling the room. If one of your PCs gets bit, they can find antivenom stashed around somewhere. There is also a door that leads into the captain’s quarters.
Captain’s Quarters(Path one, Room B):
The captain, Grayfeet, is currently holed up in his room. He will fire his flintlock on the first person that enters his room. He will use his cutlass once he fires his first shot. Once Grayfeet is dealt with, you can find a key to the brig on him. You can also find a map and a silver compass on his desk.
Ship stores and cargo hold(Path two, Room A):
This is where the Sea Beasts keep their treasure and provisions. Dozzur will attempt to spring an ambush on your party if you did not bait him out. Once Dozzur is dealt with, your party can examine its surroundings safely. They will find three barrels of food, a couple of powder horns, and a chest full of gold coins. Your party will also find a crank-powered freezer. Opening it will reveal four vials filled with unidentifiable liquids. Maybe someone or something can help you identify the vials? There are two doors in the cargo hold; one leads to the brig, and the other leads to the chemist quarters.
Brig (Path Two, Room B)
Two prisoners are being held in the brig. If both of them are rescued, one of them will give your party a golden ring as a reward.
Chemist Quarters(Path Two, Room C)
You can find an old, white-bearded man in this room. Upon speaking to him, he will tell you his story. His name is Kraus and the Sea Beasts have kept him captive for three years; forcing him to make mutagenic serum to be consumed by the crew(He won’t say how or why he knows how to make the serum). Kraus will refuse to make any more mutagenic serum but he will identify the strange vials found in the cargo hold if rescued.
A list of unique treasures that can found on the ship. This list does not include gold, gunpowder, and other generic treasure.
Grayfeet’s custom flintlock pistol-The grip has a design ingrained into it depicting a stag. Otherwise, it’s an ordinary one-shot flintlock pistol. Obtained by getting it off Grayfeet.
Moguk’s scrap ax-An ax made out of scrap. Mostly worthless. Moguk can be found welding it.
Silver compass-Could be used for navigation or sold. Found on the captain’s desk in his quarters.
Gold ring-A family heirloom of the rescued prisoner. Receive it by rescuing him and his friend in the ship’s brig.
Map-It shows the surrounding area and islands. Might be useful. Found on the captain’s desk in his quarters.
Strange Vials-Vials with unidentifiable liquids in them. Drinking them will result in strange effects on the body. The vials and their effects can be identified by Kraus. If identified, they will go as follows.
Grey vial-Canis lupus: If ingested, the character will receive a random mutation based on the wolf species. These can include night vision, fur, fangs, etc. (The mutation doesn’t have to be purely positive)
Orange vial-Felidae: If ingested, the character will receive a random mutation based on the cat species. These can include claws, night vision, etc.
Blue vial-Selachimorpha: If ingested, the character will receive a random mutation based on the shark species. These can include gills, scales, shark teeth, etc.
Clear vial-Purifier: If ingested, the character will remove a random mutation.
Note: The vials will not survive long outside of a cold environment.
Mutagen Serums-Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead
|# ? May 30, 2021 23:43|
Cascadaria, the Where the Fires Died
You have come to Cascadaria, as many before you have. If you came over the mountain passes, and the skies were clear, you must have seen Mount Raither, smoke drifting from the high crater at its summit, though the crater was not as large as you’d imagined from the stories you’d heard. But as you saw the glistening ice crowning it, you marveled. Real snow, white and gleaming, this far south? This close to the Great Deserts? You might have seen it, and its cousin Mount Ba’kier, if you braved the churning currents and bursting squalls of the Salish Sea. If you were lucky, you saw the greater whales breaching those gray waters and are now blessed with fortune. Either way you arrived, you’ve seen the ruins. Coasts and islands full of ruins, and the blasted towers of unfathomable size lying prone. Great stone roads, perhaps once conduits to distant lands. You’ve heard the gulls now, mourning. The legends say God’s Fire died here, but you should not seek it.
Why You Came
Perhaps you heard that the lands are fertile and untouched. Far from it—this place tasted the old wars and the great heat, just as the others. But it, unlike other lands, was reborn. The Priests of Climaton will tell you the land is kept cool and wet through a trick of fluid dynamics, the cold arctic currents, and the shelter of those high mountains. The Lushootseed clans know better; a Duwamish elder who has carried their chain of memories down from time immemorial will tell you that the great curse that was put on the land was broken, and the land transformed. If you’ve seen the black and white orcas, their fins cutting through the bays, or the black and white eagles soaring above, you know that they carry the blessing of the red-touched fish. If you eat that sacred salmon, you must give thanks to its soul, or else the land will reject you; twice-cursed, you will find the blessings here turn to ash in your fingers, and all the green will fade to gray in your eyes.
If building a peaceful life was your calling, you were right to come here. You will find work and rest in equal measure.
If you’ve come to scour the old secrets from the ruins, you will regret waking the malevolent spirits that rest in their metallic hollows. There will be no rest for your spirit.
Approaching the Grave of a Hundred Spires
Past the emerald forests, along the coast, are the greatest ruins. Be warned again; you are not the first to seek fortune and lore here, and the people here are right when they tell you to leave the old ghosts lie. There is a name to this place, where millions of souls built toward the heavens, but no one here will speak it, lest they disturb the spirit of the one for who the city was named.
As your sail-skiff clips along the waves, black fins may race you. Look below, and you will see more than their graceful forms; you will see parts of that once-great city. The waters are murky, but you will make out the shadowy forms of those buildings, still preserved by the waters.
If you insist on pushing forward, you will want to stop at the town of Alki that rests on the northern point of the nearby island. It is easy to spot. Look for the bright-painted wooden statues along the coast. Most of the town is nestled inland, among pines and maples, neither new nor old. The ruins here have been picked clean, then buried under mulch. Take care to learn from the wisdom of the townsfolk here, for it is the grandfathers and grandmothers here that planted the trees you see, and it is in their children’s shade that you rest beneath.
People of the Inside
The Priest of Climaton, Joseon, is gnarled and old as the trees, but has a kind smile. He will ask if you know of the sacred science, and trades in both seeds and wisdom. No other currency means anything to him. The gardens of cultivars you see are his, as is the Sun Harvester Tower at the edge of town. He observes the sacred geometry of the world, and seeks blessed numbers. If you have a careful hand, you might find rare plants for him, and his arcane devices will grow it; you will see blooms that you have never seen, and colors that cannot be described. He can tell you which plants are medicines, and show you how to extract the blessed substances within them. But if you bring up the Grave of a Hundred Spires, he will cast his gaze to the east, and then slowly shake his head. He will tell you there is nothing worth finding there.
The Elder of Alki, Sbahqua, is stern, but do not mistake her harsh tone for hostility. She is fair in trade and justice. You will know her by her straight, black hair, and the symbol she wears of the Great Blue Heron. And while she can mimic their call perfectly, as well as many other birds and beasts, the heron that perches on her shoulder is a simulacrum, part flesh and part machine. It does not need light to see, and should you make enemies of the People, it and the other simulacra will hunt you relentlessly. Did you think all the orcas in the Sound were flesh and blood? She is here for her people, her family, though, not you. Should you wish to join this family, you must show loyalty and care, and it must be you who learns the ways of the People, for she is too busy to baby the oft-transient outsiders that pass through Alki. Since you seek the Grave of a Hundred Spires, she has no time for you, though do not think she will not keep her eyes watching.
Armaan is in charge of trading to the towns south of the island. Look for the young man with a smile, even when the rain is pouring down. He has a head for numbers, and has great dreams for building up Alki. There is great glory found in the monotony of weekly expeditions and planning buildings. Hm. But you seek greater treasures? Then he will send you away, even if he still smiles at the day.
You will find Zahlra and Lagi minding the canoes. The two women are inseparable now, the wanderlust of their youths cured by each other. The former is thin and wiry, the latter you will know by her muscles. They can read the oceans like a book, and can tell you where distant islands are only from the swells of the seas. They know what map the stars show. The double-hulled canoe up on the drydock? They say Lagi sailed it across the Pacific, the first to use the new currents. She intended to return, but found peace here. Zahlra has the heart of an artist in her, and her brush keeps the canoes painted with the sinuous symbols of the Duwamish and the distant land of her ancestors. Together, they trade with the other islands, and sometimes travel as far as the Emerald Forest at the foot of the Olympic Mountains. But if you insist on seeking the Hundred Spires, you will take your own boats to that cemetery of concrete and steel, not theirs. They could navigate the strong current and treacherous artificial shoals with ease, but neither are fools.
Old Winter stands at the edge of town like a statue, wearing his feathered cloak of many eyes. He does not sleep. The crows keep him company, and he will sing with the birds. If you treat him with kindness, he will tell you of the only person here who will help you on your ill-advised path.
Only one person here will deal with seekers of that place: The Worm-Merchant. They are tolerated by the town because they have a deft hand with the pre-collapse artifacts. Joseon considers them a friend, though it is hard to say if the feeling is mutual. The Worm-Merchant trades in the relics from that place. They far older than their smooth face would have you believe; you cannot deceive the Worm-Merchant about the value of old devices, but you can be sure they will try to deceive you. Do you find the symbiote that crawls through their skull disturbing? Slithering steel, looping through that empty eye socket, coiling about their pale flesh. You should. The machines inside them that you hear whirring—there are more like it in the ruined city, and unlike these, they will mean you harm. But fine: Trade your knowledge of the past, trade your old treasures. The Worm-Merchant will tell you how to enter the deep places of that city, for a price.
The Channel of the Drowned Path
Now you must cross the channel, to the Grave of a Hundred Spires itself. This is the channel where Mount Raither’s fury once reached; the river still cuts at the lahars that it left behind. If you go south along it it, you will see where it gets its name. If the water is clear, you will see the great drowned causeways, and the submerged homes and buildings by its side. But you will not go south, not yet. The secrets of the spires still call to you. It is a shame you cannot ignore their siren call.
There are more buildings beneath the water as you approach, some quite shallow, as the wrecked vessels tangled in the ruins will attest. If the water is murky, you should turn back. The worst of the creatures stay to the deep ocean, but the cold currents here are rich in the substances that the ocean creatures crave, and it is the days where storms churn up the sediment that the largest beasts come. Beware the spotted orange tentacles that crawl up the hulls of ships; the bane-squid do not like the surface, nor the daylight, but will brave them both for easy prey.
If the tentacles blend in with the gray churning seas, you are probably dead already. The wraith-octopus is no legend, and far worse than its adaptive camouflage and venomous stingers is its mind. It is too-clever by far.
So wait for the clear waters, and look for the black fins. If you have Sbahqua’s blessing, you will see both. If you scorned her, you will only see the former, and you should know that the seas change quickly here, and the squalls come fast through the sound.
The Grave of a Hundred Spires
Up close, you now understand the scale of the structures that rest here. If you feel a tingling up your spine, if you sense that you are being watched—you no doubt are. There are old things that rest here. You were warned already that the war came here as well.
Much of once was has fallen to disrepair, and only the expertise of someone on par of the Worm-Merchant can salvage them. Other devices were build to last, and if you can understand the old magics that powered them, you can make your way into the deep places here. Beware the red eyes in the dark. Beware the sound of steel tapping in rhythm. Beware the storm-tides that seep into the hollows of the towers. Beware when the silence is total. Beware, beware, beware—
But you will insist that you must know what lies in these ruins. Any archaeologist will find the truths of what happened in the war, and be able to piece together the baffling lives your predecessors led, and you should know that there are many old archives preserved inside those colossal towers. Salvagers too will need to go deeper in the ruins to find anything worth the trip; no doubt one of the Steel Worms now follows you, both your access key and invigilator.
The oldest buildings were merely steel, glass and concrete. They have been picked clean of artifacts, or their contents turned to mulch by the storms and fauna of the island. If you simply want old steel for your weapons, there is plenty here, and the smiths back at Alki Point know well how to work it. The towers built just before war were made of arcane materials, and engineered so even as they toppled, the structures stayed intact, metal and stone somehow woven. Some few may be reachable by a deft climber. With grapples and strong rope, one might brave the perilous mazes of twisted beams and crumbling concrete. The real treasures, though, lie in the belly of the towers that have no windows, only thick doors that remain sealed. If the Steel Worm is with you, it will open them for you. Be ready to fight.
Above you, a black-and-white eagle will circle on thermals, watching your progress. Hopefully, you did not think you could deceive Sbahqua about your purpose.
The greatest treasures lie in the greatest spire. You will know it easily. It is the cylindrical one whose bottom third still stands, and even toppled, you know why they were called skyscrapers. Imagine what it looked like before it fell, and perhaps the legends that the old civilization pulled stars down from the sky is not so unbelievable. At the zenith of such a tower, they might only have had to reach out. You cannot climb the sheer outsides, and no arm, whether augmented or magic, can throw a grapple high enough. You will have to pass through the great door, and the Worm will be watching.
There are basements too in that tower, though they often flood in a storm-tide, drowning the fools come to pick at their insides. The guardians of this place can be defeated, though you should be warned they will return. Some power regenerates them, and you are unlikely to find a way to keep them dead.
There is plenty here to keep you and the townsfolk of Alki happy. Icy caverns with steel walls contain the frozen pieces of old plants and animals, the ones that came before the collapse. Devices full of prewar magic are here in great number.
But it is not enough, is it? You want great secrets? You want power? Travel higher. Travel to the highest surviving floor. Crush the burning heart of the adamantine golem there. Slice your way through the steel spider swarms. At the top of the tower, a single ray of light will pierce through the thick ceiling, illuminating the circular chamber at its heights. There, you will see the murals. You will find the key, a pitch-black box that cannot be opened.
You should leave both behind, and forget you saw them. They were hidden here for a reason.
The Earth Rests
Pray while you are exploring that the Earth continues its slumber. It likely will. But the land here is not always still. Once, it shook apart this city; it can do so again. If it wakes while you delve in the deep shadows, you will surely die.
The Stolen Sun
Legend says that there used to be a thousand suns, but humanity shackled them, until only one was left in the sky.
If you found the old murals painted in the greatest spire, then you no-doubt learned of where one was imprisoned. The graveyard of that star still smolders. You should have turned back.
Return to Alki
If you merely brought old treasures to delight the Worm-Merchant, or the boxes of frozen organics for the Priest of Climaton, the town will welcome you back. If you come with steel scrap and a hull packed full of material, Armaan will thank you.
If you have the Black Key, if you read the legends on those murals, they will not. Do not pass through Alki if you took those things, for they will kill you, and rightfully so. They know what you may awaken, and have a right to protect themselves and their lands.
Where God’s Fires Died
You know of the Old Empire; of course you do, every child knows. But you can’t understand its size. This place, for a hundred square miles, was an arm of a titanic warrior. It was part of the hundred-armed beast that enforced the will of that Empire; this one held one of the swords that contained one of the Fires of God. The runes, if you can read them, will call the sword the held Nu Kuleer, sealed by the sigil of a circle surrounded by six rays, three of shadow, three of light. That sword was forged from the heart of a star, plucked from God’s Heaven.
Should you seek that relic of war, you will go south along the Channel of the Drowned Path, south along the Gray Road where the river cuts at the fossilized lahar, then west towards the setting sun. You will know you are close when the night has come, but the horizon glows with dusk-light.
If you thought the dangers of the Hundred Spires were treacherous, if you thought the protectors of the last spire were great, they are nothing. Their war-sorcerers crafted terrible things. They will bite at you with teeth of fire. They will rip your limbs apart. The cloaks of invisibility, the spells of camouflage—they will not hide you from the eyes of the predators here, nor the eye above. Look for that star above that does not move. It is the gaze of their great warrior, who well jealously guard the power here.
Your flesh will burn, either by beams of light or the smoldering fire that will poison your very spirit. Spirits will tear the very color from your eyes. The plants of this land are poison. If those things do not kill you, keep a close ear. The Worm-Merchant fears what may be unearthed here, and their agents will watch you with great interest. Sbahqua does not fear what lies here, no; but she knows of it. If you are not torn apart by the mystic machines in front of you, then it may be silent simulacra from behind. They would be right to kill you, to seize that key and drown it.
The fires that died here should not be reignited. You should have turned back.
|# ? May 30, 2021 23:59|
The Silent Island
“Kenner ye disco?”
The old woman at the docks hisses the question at you, her body hunched over and her eyes scanning your group. When you answer - if you answer - she flinches at your words. With a lick of her lips and a quick scan of the treeline behind her, she questions you again.
“Kenner ye the rolling stones?”
You have landed on the Silent Island. The narrow strip of sand before you marks the only safe harbor, the rest of the island being raised far up out of the water, a shard of earth slanting into the sky. The beach shows signs of recent landings; footprints and long furrows of scuffed sand stretch up above the tideline, disappearing into the trees ahead.
You are met on the beach by Ranka, a woman who seems to be in her 70s - though hard living may exaggerate her age - and dresses in old, mouldering rags. She flinches when spoken to, scans the treeline non-stop, and uses a halting, uncertain voice peppered with a stunted, warped vocabulary.
A month ago, a dozen individuals calling themselves the Conservatory came to the Silent Island, hoping to bargain with its spirits for inspiration in song and verse. Ranka wants them off the island by whatever means you care to use. If you help, she promises to guide you to a secret cache of old world tech.
The Silent Island is a semi-mythical location that just about every travelling storyteller and tavern drunk knows of. There are countless variations to its tale but they all have a common theme: spirit-granted lyrical talent, paid for with one’s own voice.
“I bid you stop and hear my tale
That nature does abhor
An island where the spirits sing
And winter preys no more”
Trying to find the island is a task in itself; it always seems to be two islands over, the exact location known to a friend of a cousin of the person whose drink you had to pay for to hear the telling.
“... and when the fella stops singing, see, he looks down and finds that the handsome lad is gone, right, and there’s just all these bones …”
Follow those threads for long enough, though, and you will arrive in a small fishing port with a major problem: the port chief’s daughter has disappeared, along with his fishing boat, in the arms of a travelling bard. Eyewitnesses report that the boat was last seen heading straight for the fogbank that sits on the horizon and is said to shroud the Silent Island - a cursed place where travellers should not go.
“Everyone knows it’s called that because it steals your voice. Duh.”
The port chief can pay in fuel and food and ship repairs if you’ll just bring back their fishing boat or their daughter. Preferably both.
A plate of rock tilted out of the ocean, one end of the Silent Island rises high above the waves while the other runs down into the water. The island is always summer-warm, regardless of the time of year, and permanently humid. A temperate rainforest covers 90% of the island’s surface, with only the highest end left bare. If you arrive during the day, you will see smoke rise from that bare part of the island; arrive at night and you will instead see the light of a solitary campfire.
Mist covers the island in an ever-shifting veil. This makes navigating the Forest a difficult task; the best that newcomers to the island might achieve is to head uphill to the bare tip of the island or downhill to the beach. Anyone spending any significant amount of time in the forest will run across the museshrooms, as well as plenty of edible vegetation, small animals and freshwater springs.
Buried in the middle of the island is the Temple; almost impossible to find without the aid of a proper guide, this rusted iron door is blocked behind a large boulder. Move the boulder and you will find that the door opens with a little effort. Only Ranka knows its location.
The Camp sits at the highest point of the island, looking down over the forest to the beach and the sea. A small circle of a dozen tents - some hide, some fur, some woven from branches - arranged around a smoking campfire, the camp is inhabited by the members of the Conservatory. A careful observer will notice that there are more tents than people and that the Conservatory members enter the forest in ones and twos to fetch fresh firewood.
Ranka lives in a small hut at the top of the beach and was - until recently - the island’s sole inhabitant. She is visibly uncomfortable around other people and absolutely terrified of music - anyone who sings or performs in her presence will have a hard time getting her to trust them again. Her desperate plea for you to get the Conservatory off of the island is genuine, though she will be light on the details - referring only to “buriedsome things that must be buriedsome”. The only new item of clothing she has is a pair of sturdy leather boots - she will refuse to discuss how she came by them, though they are noticeably similar to those worn by the Conservatory members.
Ranka can be bartered with for information about herself and the island. She responds favourably to items of food or clothing, revealing that:
Ranka will not spend any more time around you than absolutely necessary. If you can prove that you have removed the Conservatory from the island, Ranka will guide you to the Temple.
Lizbeth is the port chief’s daughter and one of the inhabitants of the camp. Captivated by the charisma of the Conservatory’s leader, Emmaline, Lizbeth has spent her time on the island gorging on museshrooms in the belief that this will lead to visions and inspiration. Her goal is to aid Emmaline in her attempts to commune with the spirits of the island and she is wholeheartedly devoted in her efforts. She will not abandon Emmaline without being directly and openly betrayed. If engaged in conversation, Lizbeth will struggle to remember some words and substitute in other words at random, seemingly without noticing.
Emmaline is the leader of the Conservatory, a charismatic cult leader and a talented vocal performer/travelling bard. Emmaline has spent their time on the island trying to push their followers - including Lizbeth - to achieve communion with the spirits and be inspired to greater musical heights. They are convinced that if they can figure out how it works they can repeat the process and go from talented to legendary - but they have heard the rumours of the Silent Island and are not willing to risk their voice if they can get someone else to risk theirs instead. Emmaline will sell out their followers if their life is truly threatened - however, they are a talented fighter in their own right and will fight to the death if cornered.
The followers in the Conservatory have spent their time on the island fetching firewood, hunting for food and water and eating museshrooms in greater and greater quantities. They are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and are close to abandoning their leader. If they do not achieve results within another day they can be persuaded to leave the island voluntarily, especially if promised passage back to port. They are a varied group in a fight, having strength only in numbers and prioritising their own escape if too badly hurt.
The museshrooms are flat, fleshy, wrinkled masses that grow in the forest. Appearing somewhat like oyster mushrooms, they grow directly from the ground and are ordinarily grey. However, closer investigation will reveal that they are not actually fungi and playing music in their vicinity - humming, singing, performing on an instrument - will cause them to ripple and pulse with blue-green light. They have a very mild earthy taste if eaten and no obvious immediate effect - however, repeated consumption will result in a form of mild (and then increasingly severe) aphasia, speech morphing uncontrollably into old world song lyrics. This would normally take years of consumption and so you are unlikely to experience this unless - like Lizbeth - you gorge yourself.
If not convinced to stop eating the museshrooms, Lizbeth will start to show more severe symptoms of aphasia within the next few days. Emmaline may be more easily convinced to give up and leave the island once this occurs, especially if you can rally the followers around that idea.
The fishing boat is not present on the island, though there are traces of it on the beach and Ranka will admit having seen the Conservatory arrive in it. It will return in three days, carrying a further six followers. These followers are high-spirited and will not abandon Emmaline’s cause without direct instructions from them or - possibly - being convinced to leave by Lizbeth. Lizbeth knows that the boat will return “soon”, though has no further information, while Emmaline knows when to expect it back. It will take at least two people to pilot the boat back to port.
If you can convince Ranka that you have successfully removed the Conservatory from the island, they will lead you to the Temple. You will have to clear away the boulder blocking the entrance yourself but once inside you will find an antechamber to an old world research facility. The antechamber contains useful old world technology that can be sold on - lanterns, medicines and so forth - as well as a large, secure door leading further into the facility. This is locked, though the access panel appears to still work.
If you return the fishing boat to the port, you will receive all the repairs, refueling and resupplying your own vessel could possibly need. If you return Lizbeth, you will be an honoured guest for the rest of your days.
If you do nothing, Lizbeth will continue to gorge herself on museshrooms. Her increasingly severe aphasia will - without outside interference - be interpreted by Emmaline as spirit-inspired brilliance and the Conservatory will devolve into a fully-fledged cult, drawing more members to the island. Over time they will explore more of the forest, eventually locating and entering the Temple. They will remove the contents of the antechamber but be unable to pass the secured door.
If, in your future travels, you locate the means to unlock or bypass the door, you may return and delve further into the facility. Inside, you will discover the BCR - Biostorage Cultural Repository. This is an attempt to preserve pre-apocalypse media using biological storage mediums - the museshrooms, which have long since escaped the facility and spread throughout the island, mutated by the decaying reactor below the facility which is heating the island. To the right buyer, this technology - and the media stored in it - could be priceless.
That is, unless the museshrooms escape the island and enter the local food chain …
|# ? May 31, 2021 00:21|
The Tomb of Drix
The player characters have been contacted by an archeological scholar and showman Dr Zee. Zee has a dubious reputation as an expert on pre-apocalypse matters - despite having no qualifications or credentials, his research is unerringly and inexplicably correct.
Zee invites the players to his island museum. This island is a remnant of the flooded northwest, paved over with a strip-mall constructed on it. There are several “businesses,” all chain restaurants and big box stores. Guards patrol the island, dressed in the work uniforms of the represented retail stores and incongruously armed with halberds.
He meets them at the Starbucks, which he has painstakingly restored and recreated to a nearly perfect copy. Stress this to any players whose characters have knowledge of the pre-apocalyptic world. Feel free to use the phrase “...like someone reached back in time and grabbed a Starbucks.” Describe this place as the last Starbucks you visited.
Zee offers the characters an opportunity to aid him in his latest endeavor, an archeological dig at a pre-cataclysmic cemetery. There’s a body, a specific body, which he believes was buried with artefacts offering clues to complete the crown jewel of his museum park - A 1990’s era Walmart.
What’s really going on is that Dr Zee is a monster. His park is a disaster. Nobody wanted to visit these places before the apocalypse, and nobody wants to visit them now. He has no scholarly talent, he has no time machine, and he has no business sense. This will all become apparent upon talking to him for more than three minutes. He has all but abandoned the future of the park weeks ago, and has re-purposed his resources.
He has one source for his pre-war knowledge: He beats it out of a sasquatch.
A sasquatch is an interdimensional being, with one relevant ability to this adventure: It assumes the feelings, memories, abilities, hopes, and aspirations of genetic material it consumes - this process essentially fuses its mind, heart, and soul with its last meal. A complex identity can overwhelm its own, and a strong personality can reside indefinitely within a sasquatch. This isn’t voluntary, and isn’t avoidable. For this reason, nearly all sasquatches are vegetarian; Feeling like grapes for a few hours is preferable to the confused jumble of fusing your consciousness with a prey animal.
Zee has captured a sasquatch and has been feeding it the exhumed bodies of working-class pre-apocalypse people, then torturing the hybrid persona to learn what their life was like, down to the finest detail. This takes place in the back room of the Walmart.
He offers the players an opportunity to tour the island, but cautions them against visiting the Walmart, as that exhibit isn’t complete. The Walmart is under guard, and contains the enslaved sasquatch in a soundproofed interrogation chamber, and dozens of caskets containing partially-consumed human remains. If they liberate the sasquatch, it’ll seek immediate vengeance on Zee - enlisting the players as aid and joining their party.
It’s starting to occur to Zee that his museum park is a disaster, the island isn’t making any money, and he’s barely making enough to pay the guards. He won’t tell the players this, he won’t tell the guards this either. He’s going into the music business.
Zee wants the players to exhume a specific body which he tells the players was buried with “certain artefacts” necessary for the completion of his Walmart. He offers them directions to a burial site indicating where the Tomb of Drix lies on one of the two nearby cemetery islands.
Zee’s plan is to hire the player characters steal the remains of Jimmy Hendrix, feed him to sasquatch, and then enslave the fused being to produce and record music from his island.
This is an ethically bankrupt plan, but it will work. Or would, if not for Zee’s previous experiments in entertainment. For the last few weeks, he’s been feeding his sasquatch the degraded remains of celebrities and entertainers, hoping to find anyone marketable. The sasquatch has most recently eaten and imbued Bruce Lee, who Zee only knew as a relatively minor film star.
As the characters travel to the cemetery islands, Bruce/Sasquatch will easily overpower the guards and escape, stealing a boat and setting off to the grave of Brandon Lee. The fused being wants three things: To live in peace, to consume his son giving Brandon a second chance at “life” - and revenge against Dr Zee.
Brandon Lee and Jimi Hendrix are buried on neighboring islands. Bruce/Sasquatch will correctly assume that the players are working for Zee, and move to stop them.
This is where things get interesting, and where the players take over determining the outcome. Sasquatch/Bruce is the real victim in all this, and he’ll make an effort to enlist the players in ending Zee’s corporate necromancy. It’s up to them whether they assist in the Lees’ revenge, or take him back to Zee along with the body of Hendrix.
|# ? May 31, 2021 00:40|
In the Shadow of Three Giants
A doom is coming to these lands. Not so great a doom as the one just beyond living memory, the one that remade the world. But no less deadly to those living here. Three mountains rumble and smoke, and the mystics and scientists for once are in agreement: they will erupt, with force enough to blanket these lands in ash, to poison air and water and land and bring a long, cold winter. And even then most people underestimate the danger.
This has always been a rough part of the world. While food and water are plentiful, law and safety are rare. Beyond the borders of a few settlements, banditry is rampant. To maintain trade and communication armed escorts are necessary. On the seas, no navies patrol or root out pirate dens. The people are disunited and quarrelsome, always near the point of war. The coming disaster has not changed this, not for the better.
Many wish to escape, to flee their homes before the eruptions. But where to go? There is no good answer. To the west is the Ocean of a Hundred Typhoons. No ship has made it across in ages. To the south are the badlands, irradiated and lifeless. To the east are deserts, tough to cross and downwind of the mountains, like as not to suffer as badly as here when the end comes. And to the north is the powerful Vesh Confederation, who have closed their borders and sealed their city gates, turning back refugees without mercy.
For a new campaign, the easiest way to introduce characters to this region is to have them come from it. Existing characters can arrive in many ways:
** Shipwreck. The western ocean is famously prone to storms. The eastern sea is the opposite, subject to doldrums. Not are wracked with piracy. Travel by sea could result in a disaster and washing up on any shore hex.
**Exile. The Vash Confederacy punishes a wide array of crimes in this manner, and is corrupt enough that anyone with enemies might find themselves outside the gates in Hex 1501.
**Exploration. The characters may have travelled from the East, across the desert or by sea or strait. There is little trade along that route, making these regions unknown terrain to the people on the other side.
Ideally the players will form their own goals in reaction to the situations they find. There are some broad directions that are likely to be explored, though:
**The Optimists. They may attempt to stave off the doom and prevent the coming mass eruption. This likely means inducing early, less intense eruptions to relieve the magma pressure. Stopping all three will be extremely difficult, nearly impossible, but partial success can be achieved.
**Nation Building. They may try to bind the communities together into something more suitable to surviving the coming doom. But under whose rule?
**Migration. They may lead most of the people out of the region, perhaps forming a Pledged Legion for the Vash, or perhaps crossing the desert or badlands.
**Escape. They may be only interested in their own safety, perhaps after acquiring some of the richer treasure to be found here.
Hexes are six miles across (point to point), a day's travel with favorable terrain. The water separating islands are not rivers but straits: wide, saltwater, subject to tides, and often treacherous to navigate or cross. In the winter they freeze over, then the tidal pressure breaks and crushes then ice into chaotic and treacherous terrain.
This region has been seismically unstable for decades. The unsteady ground should be a constant presence in the campaign before the eruptions. Do not let many days go by without at least a tremor, and don't hesitate to use strong quakes to punctuate dramatic moments or shift the ground, literally, of a combat.
The Vashan dollar is treated as hard currency in this region, though some businesses prefer gold and silver.
Hexes are quite large, and many encounter areas are multiple hexes. In most cases the suggested encounter need not be the only thing of note in that hex.
If your campaign style allows you to nudge the party in a particular direction, it may be good to arrange for them to visit Racehorn(0611) or Asteria Library(1511) early.
The timing of the eruptions should be chosen for maximum drama. If the players are attempting to stop them they should be given enough time to have a fair chance of at least mitigating the damage.
These volcanoes, combined, are not as large as a supervolcano like Yellowstone, are not a world or continent scale catastrophe but are still significantly larger than anything in recorded history. When they do erupt, the impact will be devastating for anything within three hexes of the volcano; only the most well-sheltered have a chance of survival and even they may find themselves buried under massive drifts of ash and debris. After the explosion the region will see massive crop failures and animal die-offs. Communities as a rule have extensive food stored away, but food and clean water will become expensive, with most holders reluctant to part with much at any price.
Newman City(0504), Forgefire(0906), and Quentin Smythe's Smoke-eaters(1613) all will aim to conquer the region in that aftermath unless the PCs have already quashed those ambitions, and other survivors will be caught between those armies.
0401-0502: Plato's Island, a place populated by gigantic animals, from Man-sized Ants to Huge Sealions. The only human present is the giant Plato , whose parents have died years ago. Plato speaks English well enough, but is quite out of practice. He is lonely but unwilling to leave, considering himself the guardian of the other animals. He particularly despises hunting parties from Newman City(0504).
1401: The Vash Confederation patrols this strait and still maintains a ferry service crossing it. Transporting exiles and would-be refugees southward is done without charge, while northbound trips require a small fee.
1501: Pennyblade, the southernmost outpost of the Vash Confederacy. Until recently a commercial hub, but now the gates are closed to all but Vashan citizens. There is an open-air market outside the gates where some trade continues. The only way to gain entry into Vash territory is by arriving with at least a thousand fighting men or women willing to swear oaths to the Confederation and become a Pledged Legion and fight in their wars in the north. At the end of a three year tour soldiers are settled on the conquered land. Noncombatant relatives may be given permission to reside inside the Confederation only after payment of a significant bribe.
0302: The permanent whirlpool here marks the spot of the Mu-Theta Site , an underwater facility only accessible by a high tech submarine like the Panther (see 0106). This site is rich with high-tech treasure, guarded by devious traps, mechanical guardians, and the mutated descendants of the original staff.
If the PCs reach this site it is likely to be the endgame for the campaign: the treasure should represent a clear solution to their major problems, a key to their goals. The dungeon guarding it should be challenging and provide a suitable climax, as making use of it may wind up more denouemant to the overall story.
0203: The Cannery, see Antivehicular adventure module TD-5
1303: The Library, see mockingquantum adventure module TD-3
0504: Newman City, which does not quite compare in size to even the smallest cities of old, or to the cities in the Vash Confederation, but is still a quite large settlement. The doctors here specialize in xenografts and nearly every adult in town has replaced a hand with a stronger or more dextrous animal's claw, pincher, or tentacle. These treatments require hard to find materials, as well as live animal specimens, and PCs may be recruited to assist procuring them.
The leader of the city, Boss Fincus, has the left hand of a red-furred bear and has led for more than a decade. He has imperial ambitions that will be unleashed after the disaster.
0905: Monkey Skull Crypt, made more curious by the otherwise absence of monkeys and apes in the region. This is an underground tomb full of menacing traps, false walls, and, beyond them, undead monkeys, including animated taxidermied chimpanzees and skeletal great apes, all protecting a treasure of gold, gems, and rare books.
0106: Beneath the surface here is the remains of the U.S.S. Panther, a diesel-fueled nuclear submarine. It is close to shore, on a fairly shallow seabed, just barely visible from the surface in rare calm conditions. It's more likely for the PCs to learn of its location and seek it out than to stumble upon it.
The hull is in fair shape, with a few holes in need of repair but overall still structurally sound. The engine is a wreck, in need of full replacement. The torpedo bay has already been thoroughly looted, leaving only four missiles that were already loaded and locked into tubes: three conventional ship to ship weapons, and a single nuclear device. Salvaging them will require raising the entire submarine.
Rebuilding the submarine or salvaging the missiles will involve a massive engineering effort, needing help from at least one of the more technologically advanced communities. It will be necessary to rebuild the hull, replace the engine, possibly building a diesel or ethanol engine from scratch, acquiring fuel, and creating instruments and controls and integrating them with other components. It may be easier to disassemble the missile and build a new device from the fissile material within than to bypass the launch controls.
0606: Mutos Lab, see Simply Simon adventure module TD-2 "Rod of Mutos"
0906-1006-0907: Mount Fear. This large Volcano is home to the underground city of Forgefire. Discovering it may require luck or insider knowledge, though. The community is isolationist and decadent, making extensive use of geothermal power to heat forges and even generate limited amounts of electricity. There is a consensus among the people here that they can use a series of magma vents to forestall the eruption of Mount Fear. A character with solid science and engineering skills will be able to determine that they are wrong, but considerably more persuasion would be needed to change their minds. If persuaded, though, they have the technical ability to cause an early eruption of the mountain without additional equipment. They would become displaced people with a huge, well-armed army at that point.
The leader here is King Sabra, who is a peaceful and reasonable ruler. He has an ambitious advisor, Dethric, who will attempt and likely succeed in a military coup, especially if the community is already migrating. He will favor a policy of conquest to find a new home. Sabra's legitimate heir is Villa, and she is likely to escape capture and, if she has met them before, seek out the PCs for help.
0307: This appears to be a bandit camp, and has certainly been raiding the surrounding small farms and villages as though it were one. But it has a larger wall and fort than might be expected, and makes a lot of effort to keep people away. This is because it is actually the camp of the Second Newman Legion, soldiers serving under General Affheyer, readying to assist Newman City(0504) in conquering the region.
Affheyer considers himself Boss Fincus' natural successor, but would not move against him unless the PCs deliberately work to drive a wedge between the two.
1307: Crossways, see Sitting Here Adventure Module TD-4, The Flagon's End
0408-0309: Direwind Canyon The bottom of this canyon is unusually warm and is the range of a large herd of Carnivorous Horses. These are prized as mounts but impossible to tame as adults. A foal raised from near birth will often bond with a single rider, more easily with a child or adolescent than an adult, and will still be a danger to any other human that approaches it.
It would be possible to create a new volcano here by breaking the thin crust at the bottom with a nuclear device, releasing enough pressure that one of the existing volcanoes need not erupt at all.
0210: Storage Bunker Alpha This is not a place of honor...
A hastily constructed facility for storing nuclear materials in the immediate aftermath of the great disaster, this site is intact due to its massive concrete shell and steel doors, as well as a background radiation hazard. If breached,there is a gauntlet of warnings, traps, and Mechanical Golems still in working order (the batteries powering them will only run for a week if the PCs think to wait then out) to be passed. Beyond it can be found sufficient plutonium to construct a single crude nuclear weapon with the refining tools available in this region. There is also a fully intact nuclear submarine engine, which could be used to rebuild the Panther, salvaged for material to make a second crude nuclear device, or used to provide electricity for a midsized community for years. If word of its recovery spreads almost every faction in the region will want it for one reason or another.
0611: Racehorn, a port town on the north end of the road. The Astera Library is here but in the process of moving to a new location and may hire PCs as caravan guards. The loss of prestige from the library is causing tension in town and there is a rising war fever against the town of Bluebell(0715).
The elders and residents believe themselves a safe distance from Mount Hell. If convinced otherwise, they will migrate, planning to rebuild on (1110), which will also be the favored site of a migrating Bluebell
1511: Astera Library. The ancient bunkers here are now the new home of a library with the mission to survive and preserve knowledge. At the beginning of the campaign they are still in the process of moving their books from Racehorn(0611) to this new facility, and may recruit visiting PCs to help escort shipments. They also will be a possible buyer for any rare and ancient books that might be recovered. They have some currency to pay with but can also pay in knowledge.
One contact here is Academician Dora Thane, who will attempt to recruit visitors to help with her research into the coming volcanic crisis. Her first set of requests is for scientific readings from as many of the three volcanoes as possible. With one set of data she will learn how violent the disaster will be, and provide a report that will help persuading leaders that they must take action. With a second set she will explain that prematurely causing eruptions of the volcanoes will prevent the full scale disaster. (A premature eruption will only cause destruction in the adjacent hexes, and if all three erupt early the climactic impact will be less, just a single full year of winter in the region.) She doesn't know anything short of a nuclear device that would be enough to cause the eruption. With the third set she will be able to calculate the time of the eruption, and also provide plans to detonate one with only conventional explosives.
Other researchers here can give information on most hexes, if the PCs know enough to ask the right questions.
0812-0713-0813: Lake Vesper, the region's only freshwater lake. The lake is home to several colonies of Giant Midges, who are predated by Mammoth Toads, who in turn are prey for the Gargantuan Lake Serpent
0413-0513-0514: Mount Hell Settled into the area around this volcano and sulfur lake are the Order of the Ashen Face, a hedonistic death cult that is growing in numbers. Their leader, Brother David preaches a gospel of love and violence and an eagerness to embrace the coming end of the world.
The PCs may be sent from any nearby community to attempt to bring back a family member who has run away and joined this cult, which may be accomplished by stealth, persuasion, or carefully applied violence. Brother David has loyal disciples to take over if he is killed.
If they are coming to prematurely cause Mount Hell to erupt, they will either need to fool the cult into allowing it, which will be difficult as their doctrine does not allow interfering with the volcano in any way, or they will likely need to bring a small army, as the cult commands around three hundred fanatics, all fierce in combat.
0913: Toadrider Camp, a group of several dozen bandits who ride tame Mammoth Toads as they raid caravans and lone travellers on the road on the west side of Lake Vesper. Their leader is Big Nell, who has ambitions of becoming leader of a larger community, by growth or by conquest. They may end up being recruited by another faction with the promise of land.
1613: Fort Smythe The ruler here, Dr. Quentin Smythe , does not often receive guests but may invite the PCs if they have something he wants. He is never without a contingent of cloaked bodyguards.
Smythe is raising an army in the labs beneath his tower, an army of Smoke-eaters, univing soldiers with metal jaws, teeth, and sharp armblades adapted to thrive in the ashen conditions after the eruptions. He means to unleash them in the immediate aftermath, converting corpses to soldiers as he conquers. If the PCs are having any success against the disaster he will begin taking actions against them, which may lead them back to this lair.
In addition to the large number of Smoke-eaters, about a dozen assistants live here, along with his family: his wife and partner Gloria Smythe, who may try to carry on his work should he die, and his adult children: loyal Crispus Smythe, ambitious Francis Smythe, rebellious Xenia Smythe and innocent Garland Smythe.
1214: Mad Mountain, this volcano is a difficult climb with no easy landing anywhere on its rocky shores. The mountain itself has steam vents and mini-geysers where thermophilic microbes have infused the gas with psychoactive chemicals that will cause disorientation and hallucinations. The mountain is also home to many monstrous birds, including Firewings, Great Grey Condors, and a nest of Rukhs near the caldera.
1414: An empty island, or insert a GM's choice island adventure here
0715: Bluebell, this town is in crisis and being driven toward war. There have been a series of sabotage attacks on the town's food stores. The PCs may be hired to investigate and protect the remaining supplies. The sabotage is being done by agents of Newman City(0504), but no natives from there with the distinctive exografted limbs. Their agents are largely Racehorn(0611) residents, with evident ties to that town in their possession and payments traceable to a local moneychanger. Only a successful interrogation of live, captured saboteurs can lead to the true culprit.
1415: The Flagless Islands, the largest pirate haven in the region. On Hangman's Tooth serious business is done, accepting ransoms and arranging to trade stolen goods through trusted merchant ships in Bluebell(0715) or ports further east. On Captain's Smile shipbuilding and repairs are done, though lumber supplies are growing scarce and there is rarely enough metal to consider steel hulls when cannon and balls are more in demand. And on Deviltongue the taverns never run out of rum.
0116: Tall Town, see Crabrock adventure module TD-1
0316: The Pit, see Sebmojo adventure module TD-6
0916: The Tower , see Idle Amalgam adventure module TD-7, "Tides of Change
1217: An abandoned watchtower, or insert a GMs choice land or tower based adventure here
1517: The Paranus Archipelago holds dozens of small islands for the GM to use as they desire: destinations for treasure hunts, homes for dangerous exiles, castaways wanting to be delivered home, where home is a place that visiting would serve the story, monsters to defeat for treasure or useful organs, and so on.
1617: The Strangle The sails of this unusual sargasso are visible from shore: dozens of ships, held in place by a variety of extremely aggressive kelp vines that may attack vessels and swimmers alike. They create and plug holes in any wooden hull, leading the ships to take on water should they force themselves free. Thin metal boats will be bored through and sink immediately. Thick metal hulls will survive.
A handful of survivors remain aboard the Frondwind, having sailed from the far east. They will be grateful for rescue, though they have little to offer as reward apart from a few books from those lands. A fair amount of gold and other treasure can be looted from the other ships, but there is risk of attack by Vegetable Zombies of vengeful sailors.
Encounter suggestions for unkeyed hexes:
Great Desert Worm
A caravan under attack by raiders
Wind-uncovered tomb or minor ruin
A flashfire threatening a small farm
A swarm of rabbits so thick they blot out the ground, and is that blood on their mouths?
A party from one farm carrying out a blood-feud against their neighbor
stampeding cattle after an earthquake
A false inn run by murderers
Large bat cave with harvestable guano for saltpeter
Landslide or avalanche
Lonely goatherder willing to trade rumors and stories
Deep cool cavern with fresh water pools
Box canyon ambush by bandits
Traveller under attack by bandits
A single talking squirrel who claims to have a valuable secret
A grove of Giant carnivorous plants
A faerie circle of hallucinogenic mushrooms
|# ? May 31, 2021 02:56|
The Curse of Cannery Island
Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 03:18 on Jan 5, 2022
|# ? May 31, 2021 02:57|
Sanctuary: A Module
Sanctuary is a module built around two concepts: interacting with a second party in between action-combat scenes, and a conclusion based around making a complicated choice. While there’s plenty of space for crunchy fights, this module is ideal for players who like discussion, investigation and conversation alongside combat.
Note: Descriptions in italics can be used as prompts, or read verbatim, as initial descriptions given to players.
The Sanctuary was once a place of clandestine study. What its residents were studying was risky, secret, and possibly still valuable today. The exact nature of this study can be changed to fit your setting: consider corporate research and development, arcane universities, reverse-engineering alien technology, or mystical mathematics.
What sets the Sanctuary apart from other similar forgotten places is its artificial intelligence, or construct, or genius loci—theme this to fit your setting. This is the Guardian. The Guardian is a non-organic sentient being originally meant to provide for the protection, management and coordination of the Sanctuary. It has not had to fulfill these duties for many years. In the absence, it has grown used to its solitude, and wishes to remain undisturbed.
Your players aren’t the only ones here to poke it with a stick, though. Another party of adventure-seekers has shown up just before your players, also trying to reach the Guardian. This second party is more like friendly rivals than enemies. They’re here to score the ‘prize’ that’s rumored to lie hidden within the Sanctuary, which they assume is something more like treasure and less like a reclusive Guardian. They just won’t be sure what to do with it when they get it.
That’s for your players to decide.
The Guardian does not want to fight. It once kept the Sanctuary safe and running efficiently, but then it was “forgotten” (or maybe “lost”) in some great catastrophe, and had to watch the people it protected try to survive, then slowly waste away and die. Over the years, it has come to view the Sanctuary as a combination of memorial and penance: honoring the people it was made to serve as punishment for being unable to save them from death. Now all it wants is to be left alone with its memories.
The main enemies the players fight in the Sanctuary are drones. These are subsidiary constructs created by the Guardian, with limited intelligence and little capacity for speech. The Guardian has had a lot of time to embellish their designs, so drones that belong to each “house” of the Sanctuary have individual quirks.
House of Life: Long white robes emblazoned with green crosses. Attacks with medical tools.
House of Growth: Hooded robes conceal featureless faces. Can use chemical sprays.
House of Dream: Black mourning veils, candle in chest. Vision unimpeded by darkness.
House of Thought: Marked with red crosses along their chests. Shoot fireball projectiles.
House of Loss: None.
The drones should be weird in the same way the Guardian is. They may be robots, hard-light projections, persistent magical constructs—whatever the case is, they die in a strange and dramatic way. Some kind of disintegration, into ash or motes or light or crumbling into nanoparticles, is probably ideal.
The Other Party
A. Zil, the Tinker
A clever, fiddly sort, Zil is the party’s de facto leader. He prides himself on being practical, but not “in an rear end in a top hat kinda way”. As such, he’s mostly interested in scrap, salvage, and easily portable things. His weapon of choice is the Boom Stick, a spear with an explosive charge strapped to the tip, so that it can be thrust into an enemy and then detonated. (While the number of explosive charges is limited, making more is a trivial task that can be assumed to take place between sessions.)
B. Ginder, Demolitions
Ginder is a big lady who likes to watch things burn, blow up, or crumble to bits. She’s the one who managed to crack open the Sanctuary, and will eagerly point that out to Zil. Her “flares” are actually more akin to slow-burning napalm; the sticky substance both provides light and deals constant chipping damage to anyone it sticks to. Even better, they can be made with common materials. She is also romantically involved with Ekks, and is loud enough to make up for Ekks’s silence and then some.
C. Ekks, the Sharpshooter
A crack shot with a ranged weapon, Ekks is an enigma, which is a nice way of saying a weirdo. The only thing anyone’s heard them say is “one pull, one kill” and they like to draw X’s on the remains of their kills. Also, Ginder is their girlfriend.
D. Tholomew, the Padfoot
Tholomew is a sneaky type, which is a problem for him, because he snuck into the room that has a big stompy boss enemy in it. He’ll be all right, since Dave is with him, but boy is he happy to see someone show up with the macguffin that lets you actually beat the boss.
Dave is a big monster, and the team pet. Also Dave’s a she, because they didn’t check before they named her. She might be a giant dog, or a really weird boar—no one’s really sure.
1. Outside the Sanctuary
(Connects to: 2. The Vestibule)
The Sanctuary is in a secluded location, and would be an unremarkable small, ruined structure were it not for the fact that another adventuring party has clearly parked their stuff outside, just as your characters are about to do. These include their means of transportation and some personal effects, but nothing particularly valuable or worth taking. At best, they have equipment that’s as good (or bad) as the players have. There are five members of the other party.
Draw connections between the parties where possible. These are similar adventurers, with similar quirks.
The location is deliberately secluded; whoever built the Sanctuary was trying to stay clandestine. The structure on the surface clearly looks antique, old enough that no one alive today was around when it was in use.
You’re not the first ones to get here. It looks like the other people are still here, too: their gear is still tied up outside, and it looks like they could have been here just minutes ago. But they may not be expecting anyone else to drop by; although their gear looks to be about the same quality as yours, no one’s keeping an eye on it.
2. The Vestibule
(Connects to: 1. Outside the Sanctuary, 3. House of Life)
Below the exterior structure, at the end of a flight of stairs, is an entry hall. There is little to be found here, as this is mostly a mood-setter for what’s to come. This would have been a reception area once, but it’s been thoroughly scoured by wandering scavengers. The Guardian has used some of its drones to alter a sign that once had the actual name of the Sanctuary; all it says now is ‘sanctuary’.
The construction of the sign is up to you, it can be anything from a defaced stone relief to a Happy Birthday banner to one of those signs with the black felt strips and the white letters you push into it.
There are doors that lead to 4. Hall of Houses, but they are locked and impassable, and the Guardian is making sure they stay that way for now. The “proper” exit is a hole blasted through the wall that leads to 3. House of Life.
As you descend the steps, you enter into a vestibule of sorts. At the end of the hall lies a door, locked and barred and thick with the dust of ages. All that remains of any value is a sign above the door; it may have said something else once, but it has been neatly altered to spell ‘SANCTUARY’. To your left, a hole has been punched straight through the wall, and you can hear sounds—and the occasional crack of explosives.
3. House of Life
(Connects to: 2. The Vestibule, 4. Hall of Houses)
The House of Life is the Sanctuary’s old medical facilities. They were cutting edge, back when they were in use. Now, they represent a kind of forgotten technology. For modern settings, think limb regeneration and cybernetic prostheses; for fantasy, healing pools and bottles of panacea; for sci-fi, healing tanks, cryostasis, and cloning.
Zil is here, fighting House of Life drones with his ‘boom stick’. When he sees the players enter, he finishes off one of the drones with an explosion, then calls out to ask for help with the remainder (3-5 drones, at your discretion) while he attempts to operate the door locking mechanisms. Give Zil a turn too. After four turns, he’s finished unlocking the door. If the players finish before his fourth turn, he’s impressed; before his fifth turn, he’s satisfied, and after that, he’s a bit smug.
Afterwards, Zil tells the party that he and his crew go by the “nice guy scavengers’ code” which goes something like ‘he who sweats with me, shares with me.’ They’re here because they got a tip about hidden treasure beneath the Sanctuary, and are unclear what the treasure might be beyond old and valuable. He opens the door, and informs the party that Ginder and Ekks are in the House of Dream while Tholomew and Dave are in the House of Loss. He will enter the Hall of Doors and keep trying to get all the doors unlocked, “but it’s tricky”—he’s already locked himself out once, just before the players came by. (If he dies, the same narrative role is filled by one of the players fiddling with the panel for the locking mechanism.)
As you step through the hole blasted through the wall, the air is suddenly cool and dry. Several beds line the walls, flanked by medical equipment that looks almost familiar—but simultaneously older and more advanced than what you’re familiar with.
The sound of an explosion whips your attention around to the door, just in time to see a white-robed figure crumpling to the ground. [Insert your setting-appropriate Weird Death here.] Several others surround a man who draws back his spear and rips an explosive charge from his bandolier.
“Oy!” he shouts, “A little help while I open the door?”
There is one unique item here: The Physician’s Bane, a projectile weapon. Depending on setting, it may be a rod, ray gun, or something akin to a hand-held spray gun. It was meant to be a way of rapidly treating patients, but instead causes rapid, uncontrolled growth and mutation, which should be treated as a kind of weird poison damage. (It works on drones as well; instead of mutating out of control, they become choked by rapid growth and spread of fungal spores.) The Physician’s Bane recharges over time, and can be used once per encounter.
There are also face masks here, which are not obvious but can be found with a general search.
4. Hall of Houses
(Connects to 3. House of Life, 5. House of Growth, 6. House of Dream, 7. House of Thought, 8. House of Loss, and 9. Sanctuary Core.)
This is the central space of the Sanctuary. A large, circular hall lit from above a skylight, it has six doors at regular intervals along the walls, and a secret hidden staircase built into the floor. The five Houses, as well as the Vestibule and the Sanctuary Core, are all accessible from here, but only at certain times.
Upon first entering after meeting Zil, the only open doors are to the House of Growth and House of Dream. Once the keys in these two areas have been found, Zil (or the players) will be able to open the House of Thought and House of Loss. Once they have the code from the House of Thought , the way is clear to Sanctuary Core.
You emerge into a circular hall, lit by a small lensed skylight which fills the room with natural light. You can see the other side of the door which lead to the Vestibule. There are five more doors here, each marked with its own repurposed sign: the one you just came from was the House of Light. Continuing clockwise, there is the House of Growth, House of Dream, House of Thought and the House of Loss.
After a bit of fiddling with the locks, Zil [or the players] steps back as the doors to the House of Growth and House of Dream slide open.
(After completing House of Thought:)
Tholomew and Dave rush out ahead of you, eager to meet back up with the rest of their party. As you [speak/read/play] the [incantation/access codes/voice commands] the floor in the center of the hall shifts, then slowly lowers to form a spiral staircase leading down.
5. House of Growth
(Connects to 4. Hall of Houses)
This is where the inhabitants of the Sanctuary grew the food they ate. Once like a greenhouse, the plants inside have been left to grow, tended only by the robed House of Growth drones. These drones will not attack unless provoked by attempting to harm or remove any of the plants.
Also, the entire area is permeated with a kind of pollen that causes rapid allergic response in most animal life. Makeshift face coverings like scarves or rags will help, but at significant disadvantage. Face masks from the House of Life or other appropriate protective equipment will reduce the symptoms, but it’s still enough to cause a short-term but irritating rash after a few minutes’ exposure.
Refracted sunlight shines down through a gauzy haze onto overgrown planters, thick with vegetation. Even just looking inside, your eyes begin to water and your nose begins to run. Dark, hooded shapes walking among the plants, expelling fine mists from their sleeves. Though you’re well within sight, they don’t even seem to acknowledge your existence, or that the door is now open. If you squint, you can make out a shape like a body, laying at the other end of the hall. It can’t be one of the other party, though.
This body is one of the previous residents of the Sanctuary. Their remains were never moved because a new species of flower has sprouted from the bones, and the drones have been tending it. A search will reveal a key, but will also attract the suspicion of the drones. They will halt and all look in the same direction, as if wary, but still will only attack if provoked or if the plants are threatened.
6. House of Dream
(Connects to 4. Hall of Houses)
This used to be the dorms for the inhabitants of the Sanctuary, and has now been repurposed into their crypt. Ginder and Ekks are here. The special setpiece here is the darkness; aside from candle light, and the occasional light from one of Ginder’s flares, this area is nearly pitch black. This means that it is difficult to tell who is where; ranged attacks are only possible against enemies who have not moved since the last flare. It can be fully illuminated, but this will enrage the drones. Ginder and Ekks get a turn, and each turn Ginder sets off a flare, but are generally engaged in their own combat, separate from the party.
When enraged or when all drones are defeated, one will spring out of the shadows to attack Ekks. Gil drops a flare, if applicable. Any player who doesn’t have a ranged attack is now within melee range. Each player gets to take a potshot at the remaining drone, then Ginder, then Ekks. If the players finish off the drone themselves, Ginder and Ekks are impressed; if Ginder does it, they’re grateful. If Ekks gets in their one-hit KO, they’re just relieved. Afterwards, Ekks will mark the remains of the drones they killed, then the two of them will join Zil in the Hall of Houses.
The hallway turns as you enter, and soon, you’re standing in almost complete darkness, save for small glints of candle-light. They’re your only points of reference until a thick glob of some burning orange stuff splatters onto the ceiling, giving you a momentary glimpse: a broad-shouldered woman and a sharpshooter stand back to back, flanked by a pair of veiled drones with candles sitting in their chests. More veiled, featureless faces turn your way and then everything is dark again, and all you see is the approaching candles.
(If fully lit:)
Beds flank the walls, tucked into niches, each with the rough shape of a human skeleton, covered by plain blue sheets. And yet, there are tables set with chairs and strewn with personal effects: old books, bits of clothing, trinkets—as if this had been a living space.
There is one unique item here: a Clicker. It is a small handheld device which when activated will produce an illusory image of the bearer at the moment that they pressed the button, like a snapshot of them. The image is temporary, but can last up to a couple hours. Activating the Clicker again will cause any previous image to disappear. The illusion is purely visual, but convincingly real.
There is also a key on one of the tables.
7. House of Thought
(Connects to 4. Hall of Houses)
This used to be actual research wing of the Sanctuary. As such, it has a lot of complex and technical information available in your setting’s local data-storage format, whether scrolls, journals, or terminals. Most of this isn’t terribly useful now, but there is a LOT of it, and it’s all a little bit odd. Think Voynich Manuscript, Codex Seraphinianus, or similar. For some sample topics, try ‘the sacred geometry of the honeybee’, ‘electromagnetic consciousness fields’ or ‘dreamspace trigonometry’.
Past the archives is a series of test chambers with a key item: the Bounding Bracelet, which can project a roughly door-sized wall of physical force twelve feet away from the user. It cannot be moved any closer and will always move relative to the user. The wall is movable by the user and follows the shape of a sphere with a twelve-foot radius, but will simply fail to project any portion of itself that intersects with a solid object. While it can deflect projectiles, direct physical damage will cause it to shatter. It can, however, be climbed upon safely.
The test chambers lock once entered, and follow a progression of four puzzles. Fireball-shooting drones can be added for extra challenge as seen fit; this is meant to be a ‘training room’ for teaching people to use the bracelet.
1: A large flamethrower blocks the exit. The bracelet can be used to deflect the flame so they can pass.
2: There is a gap in the floor that must be crossed. If anyone, or the bracelet, should fall in, they are teleported back to the first side. The gap can be bridged by the bracelet, however, one person will have to stay on one side to use it—the trick is to throw the bracelet over to the other side. (It moves relative to the user, so you can’t use it to catch your fall.)
3: A handle on the ceiling must be pulled to open the door. One solution is to use the bracelet near the ground, have someone grab on, and then lift them up until they reach the handle.
4: The “boss” drone, as well as Tholomew and Dave. It’s big, and like the other House of Thought drones, shoots fireballs, except now they’re bigger. Tholomew can give orders to Dave, if the party needs help distracting the boss, as well as suggesting how to kill it: the big red X on its head, accessible via bracelet. Or just shooting it, but Tholomew won’t be as impressed.
At the end, the players enter an observation room where they can see the test chambers, return to the archives, and pick up the thing they’ll need to reach the Sanctuary Core. This can be an incantation, a sticky note with Core Access Codes written on it, a tape recorder with voice authorization commands, whatever fits your setting.
8. House of Loss
(Connects to 4. Hall of Houses)
This door from the Hall of Houses simply opens onto the top of a dark underground chasm. Not even the Guardian remembers what it used to be, or maybe it just doesn’t want to say—whatever it was, the memory is painful.
There isn’t even much space beyond the door before the floor shears away into a deep, black pit. If there was anything here, it’s long since fallen into the chasm.
9. Sanctuary Core
(Connects to 4. Hall of Houses)
The core of the Sanctuary is a room the size of an average office with a pedestal that holds the device through which the Guardian speaks. The Guardian is inhuman, but fully sentient and capable of emotion. However, it is not used to having to speak, and thus its speech can be curt, clipped, and somewhat oblique.
The dilemma is that the Guardian wants to be left alone, but the Sanctuary itself will almost certainly attract more scavengers. Its drones can be rebuilt, but its resources are limited. If questioned about its power source, it will reveal that it only has about a century of life left before it, too, stops working. It is afraid of its own mortality, but more afraid of the people here being forgotten.
The players should be free to solve this in any way they see fit. Mercy-killing is an option, but not one the Guardian will accept easily—but it will be more willing to budge if it can have some reassurance that it won’t be forgotten (e.g., taking down an oral history of its experiences, promising to take a printout of its personnel records “back to central”, sending some drones to destroy the above-ground entrance to hide it again, etc.)
It is also possible to simply leave the Guardian to its own devices.
If the other party is asked their opinions, Zil is “mostly just confused” and a little disappointed there’s no treasure, Ginder feels sympathetic, and Tholomew suggests just turning it off and leaving.
A sample snippet of conversation with the Guardian:
“Who are you?”: I am the Guardian.
“...what are you?”: I am an intelligent construct.
“Okay...what do you do?”: I guard and keep the Sanctuary.
“So you’re the one who sent those things after us?”: Yes. To discourage you from entering the Sanctuary.
“What is this place, anyway?”: It is penance for my failure. It is not for you.
Whatever the party decides to do, the other party will accept their decision—though they’re nice guys, so pulling the plug might make them a little wary.
As the two parties are packing up outside, they’ll offer to trade for any of the loot the party may have found, offering Zil’s Boom Stick and/or Ginder’s flares, plus a quick lesson on how to make more explosive charges/napalm, for either the Physician’s Bane (Tholomew correctly guesses that it’ll work like it’s supposed to on Dave), the Bounding Bracelet (Ginder thinks it’s cool) or the Clicker (Zil wants to mess with it).
|# ? May 31, 2021 03:32|
Tides of Change
Sailing west past the drowned cities and beyond the Confederated Isles of New Cascadia, a massive domed tower threatens the sky. It is a submersible living habitat that was part of a failed program meant to adapt humanity for marine life. The mad geneticist who led that program devised a mutagenic serum that turned the inhabitants of the tower into fish mutants, sahuagin. After countless decades, it has emerged from the sea.
The tower looms over the coastal region ominously. Verdigris lines run over the blackened, barnacle-covered steel, like veins laying across a necrotic arm. Porthole windows decorate the lower rungs of the building, one every 10 feet or so, but they are so thickly covered in sludgy grime, that the interior cannot be discerned.
Higher up on the tower, sections protrude into nodule-like rooms but like the smaller porthole windows below, the visibility into these areas is completely marred by decades of biofouling. Higher still, the tower thins around a central column until it reaches an expansive dome at its top.
At night, villages on nearby islands see muted flashes of light from the dome, and sailors tell tales of fantastic creatures skulking the waters near the tower. While most sailors give the tower a wide berth, there is a smattering of abandoned rafts, dinghies and small ships that bob and drift along the exterior of the tower.
A group of unscrupulous adventurers has arrived before the party with a lust for treasure and rare relics, but instead have accidentally exposed themselves to the mutagenic compound and have gone mad as they transform into pelagic monstrosities.
1-in-6, roll d12
The Infection Mechanic
Less a mechanic and ever present threat, when the players are mucking about in brackish water, goop, remains, or anything ichthyic in nature, they should have a 10% chance of getting infected for every 10 minutes they spend mucking about in a gross environ.
Once infected, the player’s character begins to feel weak over a period of time. After an hour the first scales appear. After two hours, physiological changes to their body maybe irreversible, after 3 hours, they've become a sahuagin.
|# ? May 31, 2021 03:34|
The Bread Island Bake-Off
Bread Island is a thriving sea port, with people coming and going from many different islands in the area. Due to a specific fluke in geography, it is particularly easy to access the island by boat, allowing ships to come right up to some low-hanging cliffs to load and unload merchandise. As a result, it’s become a local hub for trade, with a busy market located in the large coastal town of Ciabatta. Today the market is set up for a local fair of sorts, with the main attraction being a inter-island Bake-Off. The competition is fierce, and rumor has it that the prize for winning is highly valuable.
Most of Bread Island is covered by a Jungle, growing where there had once been agricultural land. At some point in the past, the growth of the jungle was unnaturally accelerated in some way, meaning that not only is there a lot of vegetation, some of it is pretty… unusual, and the local wildlife isn’t much better. However, the jungle is said to be rich in resources, and can be highly lucrative for those adventurers who are strong enough to make it back out again. There are usually locals who hire out as guides/bodyguards for those venturing into the jungle, but the usual group that runs the service is absent today, probably enjoying the festival.
The Bake-Off is in full swing by the time the players show up, with most of the contestants already entered. There are a wide array of baked goods of wildly varying quality already on display, and the atmosphere is festive while people wait for the judging to proceed in a few hours’ time. However, entries remain open until judging begins, giving any latecomers (or newcomers) a chance to enter.
Word on the street is that local great-grandmother, Gladys Eclair is the favorite to win the Bake-Off, but for some reason her dish is still missing from among the entries. There is some talk of mysterious disappearances in the area lately as well.
Players can find Gladys at her usual market stall, where she sells crocheted items and homemade candles. Gladys is crying dramatically loudly, with the occasional wail. If players approach Gladys, she informs them that her entry for the Bake-Off was stolen on the way to the competition by an unknown group. Although there is still time for her to make another dish, the ingredients all came from the jungle, and she is unable to retrieve the items on her own, or to purchase any more. If players inquire, it turns out that no one in the town has any of the necessary ingredients left, all of them having either been used or sold for the Bake Off.
Players can choose to help Gladys or ignore the Bake-Off and explore the jungle.
If players agree to help Gladys, she gives them the following ingredients list for her Famous Huckleberry Cobbler:
All items can be found in the jungle (see Jungle section) and brought back to Gladys.
If players ignore the Bake-Off the bandits will win the Bake-Off and take over the local government, turning the island into a haven for pirates, and charging steep fines to anyone who wishes to buy or sell in the marketplace. Players can still encounter jungle inhabitants and try to sell or use the ingredients they find, but they won’t get much by way or profit after taxes.
-Mutant huckleberry shrubs
-Flour sack drones
-Giant Ants guarding a giant sugar cube
-Bake-Off Bandits (if not ignoring the Bake-Off)
Mutant Huckleberry Shrubs
These appear to be regular huckleberry bushes until their berries are harvested. Once a creature has picked ~5-10 berries, vines will wrap around the creature’s limbs, essentially grappling them. The vines will continue to wrap around any creature in the shrub’s grasp until they are completely enveloped, at which point the shrub will attempt to crush the creature into mulch. Shrubs are weak to fire or ice attacks, but fire in particular may spread to any creature it is currently wrapped around, so caution is necessary.
The huckleberry shrubs also house a super-intelligent mouse civilization underneath their roots, but characters are unlikely to encounter or see them unless they pass by the area again, in which case the mice will be engaged in repair of the plants and surrounding area. Characters can converse with the mice if they have the ability to speak with animals or have the ability to understand languages that are unfamiliar to them. If the players can both communicate with the mice and persuade them to help, the mice can provide information to adventurers about the surrounding area (location of flour containers, giant ant weakness, etc), and tell them to search the offices in the dairy for secret doors. However, the mice will be more difficult to persuade depending on how much damage players did to the huckleberry bushes in the initial encounter.
Flour Sack Drones
These are aerial drones that can be observed flying over/through the jungle, each carrying a sack of flour in varying sizes. The drones fly back and forth between two “warehouse” locations, which are partially decayed shipping containers full of flour sacks. When the drone reaches one “warehouse,” it will set down the sack of flour it was carrying, then pick up a different sack of flour to transport to the other “warehouse.”
Drones will ignore players unless they attempt to approach the shipping containers. If a play approaches a shipping container, any drone in visual range will sound an alarm klaxon, summoning the guard dog. It is possible to retrieve a flour sack without summoning a guard dog, but it will require multiple stealth rolls.
Guard dogs are large quadrupedal robots with a crane-like neck (think a Boston Dynamics dog) and varying offensive capabilities, mainly projectile weapons and vice-grip biting attacks. The guard dogs are resistant to most physical attacks, but their protective covers can be damaged enough to expose their inner workings. It is also possible to overload the guard dog by burdening it with a weight beyond its capacity (approx 1 ton).
While fighting the guard dog, any drones in the vicinity will attempt to dive-bomb characters, but have no offensive capabilities to speak of, and can be taken out of commission with a solid hit or two. They are highly agile, however, so actually hitting them is somewhat difficult.
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. These are regular ants that have been enlarged in some way, although they somehow do not collapse under their own weight. Each ant is 4’ high at the top of their head, and roughly 8’ long. Each ant has the same proportional strength as their regular-sized counterparts, so they have no trouble uprooting trees and swinging them around. Their jaws are extremely strong, with the ability to easily snap weapons (or limbs) in two, and they can regurgitate an acidic substance. Their main weakness is the waist point between their thorax and upper bodies. There is only one ant in the area to begin with, but at the end of each turn, the DM should roll one d10; on a 10, another ant shows up.
When players defeat all ants in combat, they can approach the object the ants were guarding: a giant sugar cube, roughly 20’ to a side. There is much evidence of people scraping sugar off of the sides, but otherwise the cube has held up remarkably well.
Bake Off Bandits (should be the last encounter before the Dairy)
These are an assortment of humanoid/mutant creatures living inside the jungles of Bread Island. They sometimes hire out as protection for people attempting to forage in the jungle, and often rob and kidnap those who fail to hire them. They have a deal with the Church of the Divine Bovine to provide regular sacrifices, so many of their victims end up there.
If players defeat the bandits, they will find Gladys’ original dish, but it is evident that the dish has been tampered with; specifically the bandits have laced the dish with a potion that makes the consumer highly suggestable, with the plan of gaining influence the Bake-Off judges, including the local governor.
If players cannot defeat the bandits, they will be taken to the Dairy as prisoners. (See Dairy Basement section)
The building was used as a dairy factory farm in the past, and housed hundreds of cows, a now-extinct species once used as a food source. Most of the dairy has been stripped of anything useful, but there are still a few areas of interest:
-The processing rooms
-The overseer’s office
The Processing Rooms
This is where the milk was processed for various uses. Adventurers can find pictograms on the walls explaining the use of the different machines, although most of them no longer work. One of the machines, however, not only works but still contains one of the ingredients Gladys requires! However, when players attempt to collect any of the butter in the machine, the butter proves to be both alive and hostile.
The Butter functions as a basic pudding enemy (see Black Pudding monster in 5e), but can be buffed or debuffed for player level. Once the Butter has been defeated, players can safely collect the ingredient.
The Overseer’s Office
The Overseer’s office is on a raised platform above the factory floor where the cows were housed. There are a variety of artifacts here from the before times: fidget toys, self-help books, motivational posters and other detritus. Players can search through the papers in the office to find the door code to the basement. On a high perception roll, players can also find a false wall in the office, which leads to a back room.
The ceiling of the back room has been replaced with glass, and the floor is covered in a thick layer of “mulch” (ancient cow dung). Plants proliferate within the back room, the largest of which being a huge tree that has broken through the skylight at its highest point. The tree bears oblong yellow fruit, and there are a variety of other flowers and shrubs. If players take a lemon, it can be given to Gladys to enhance the cobbler; players can also find vanilla bean pods if they pass a search check, with similar results.
The Basement is sealed off from the rest of the Dairy by a strong door locked by a keypad. If players attempt to brute force the door open or circumvent the lock they will receive painful feedback, either in the form of electric shock or a gaseous irritant.
If players find the code from the Overseer’s Office, they can enter the basement, which will take them into the caves beneath the Dairy, where the Church of the Divine Bovine is headquartered.
The Church of the Divine Bovine is a group of mostly humanoids and mutants, who claim to be descended from the original workers of the Dairy. Members of the Church worship the Divine Bovine, a cow that has been kept alive for the last hundred of years in a state of suspended animation. The Divine Bovine is kept fully submerged in a nutrient-rich liquid that keeps it young; church members make regular sacrifices to the Divine Bovine, usually unwary explorers who come across the bandits in the woods. The sacrifices’ bodies are used to brew the nutrient liquid the Divine Bovine floats in.
The most sacred ritual of the Church of the Divine Bovine is the Uddering, when the high priest uses machinery within the chamber to extract the Divine Bovine’s “blessing,” AKA milk. Most of the milk is given to the congregants, but some amount of the blessing goes to the Bandits as payment for the sacrifices they bring to the church.
Players can attempt to fight their way through the Church, or try to infiltrate their ranks. Infiltration will be markedly easier, especially because only the Head Priest knows how to safely perform the Uddering. Once players collect the milk, they will need to either trick or fight their way out of the Church.
Back in Ciabatta
Once players collect all of the ingredients, they can return to town and give the ingredients to Gladys. Fortunately, there’s just enough time left for her to make her Famous Huckleberry Cobbler, and she is able to enter the Bake-Off.
If players defeated the bandits in the jungle, Gladys will win the Bake-Off and give players the prize (some kind of cool and/or useful item) to thank them for their help, along with a bag of her Famous Sugar Cookies, which are a powerful healing item. If players brought Gladys the lemon and/or the vanilla beans from the Dairy, she will also give them the recipe for the cookies. As thanks for getting rid of the bandits, the Governor also awards players with the Key to Ciabatta, which gives a discount at local stores.
If the players did not defeat the bandits in the jungle, the bandits will try to manipulate the judges via hypnotic suggestion, although players can interfere and challenge the bandits a second time. The newly suggestible Governor (the head judge of the contest) will agree to a tiebreaker, but will insist that it be a Dance-Off rather than combat. If a Dance-Off doesn’t suit your players, you can replace that suggestion with something else, but the idea is it shouldn’t be combat to avoid wrecking the rest of the festival. If/when players are victorious, Gladys is declared the winner, and players are gifted with the prize item and the cookies, but NOT the Key to Ciabatta.
|# ? May 31, 2021 03:54|
The Titan’s Pit
The players stumble on an archaeological dig site, populated by PROFESSOR SNERP, his NUMEROUS KEEN GRAD STUDENTS and a few GRIZZLED, COWARDLY MERCENARIES. The dig has just unearthed a huge rusted metal plate, inscribed with the ancient rune of power USAF.
Shortly after the party arrive, a KEEN GRAD STUDENT screams “THEY’RE COMING!” and the camp is attacked by a large pack (~12) of crazed six-legged RADWOLVES, which rush through the camp in a frenzy, snapping at everyone and possibly crippling a grad student or two.
The GRIZZLED MERCENARIES leap into efficient if cowardly action, the PROFESSOR yells excitedly contradictory orders and the NUMEROUS GRAD STUDENTS are torn between climbing trees, protecting their research materials, and/or the razor-sharp talons of the RADWOLVES. The fight is vivid, impressionistic, a chaotic nightmare of screams, flying (radioactive) drool and eyes that glow like jellied fire. When the fight seems to be tipping the party’s way, or after a couple of grad students have gone to the great oral exam in the sky, the RADWOLVES run off as crazedly and as suddenly as they arrived. SNERP got his leg bitten fairly badly, and will need a stick to walk with for a while.
In the aftermath, either the party or LARGE CARL the head mercenary notes the oddness of RADWOLVES being so aggressive this time of year/season/latitude etc, then BLARBLARBLARBLARBLAR there’s a siren going off (https://youtu.be/Tz0oSlw_eTY?t=74) and a harsh mechanised voice yelling something in a forgotten tongue, seemingly from up in the sky!
The GRAD STUDENTS are screaming (again), a couple of the more religious ones are prostrating themselves on the wet pine needle strewn earth, PROFESSOR SNERP is casting round wildly for the source, the MERCS are falling back from the big metal circle, weapons in hand, because holy poo poo it’s lifting up, it’s slowly opening, creaking, showers of powdered rust falling away, this is a bona fide archaeological miracle!
What do the players do, this is important! If they haven’t got an answer in a couple of seconds they stay where they are quaking in awe!
Regardless what anyone does, after half a minute the siren winds down and the lid grinds to a halt, leaving a black slit about a four feet high. All is quiet. It starts raining, in a gentle persistent sort of way.
PROFESSOR SNERP is instantly on at LARGE CARL to send his men down the hole to investigate, but he is obdurate – as far as he’s concerned he’s here to protect the dig site, one of his men was wounded and the RADWOLVES could come back any time.
Either he, or SNERP then ask the players if they would help investigate, for (in order of preference) a credit on any resulting papers, a genuinely glowing credit on any resulting papers, a part share on the proceeds of any marketable discoveries or (sigh) some money. SNERP would be down there himself but his drat leg, curse it.
Assuming they agree, the MERCENARIES set up a rope on a hammered spike and toss it in the hole for the players to use.
Into the Pit!
The pit is a TITAN 2 MISSILE SILO that was overlooked when they were nearly all decommissioned hundreds of years ago, thanks to the machinations of a reclusive billionaire who wanted his own nuclear deterrent. It still has a missile inside it, and though the liquid propellants would have boiled away, before being stabbed to death by his wife the billionaire arranged for them to be replaced with long lasting solid propellant! This is all an elaborate contrivance to ensure the players have the potential to launch a 35 megaton nuclear explosive somewhere in the world, of course.
Looking down into the pit from outside, the air smells stale, with maybe a hint of something rotten. An easy perception check will notice there’s a faint, pulsing glow coming from down there. A pebble or twig dropped in will bounce off something metal and clatter down a long long way. Here is a map of the silo, in better days.
Clambering and dangling down the rope will eventually lead, 30 feet or so down, to a rusted circular metal gangway, one of eight that surround the rocket. The rocket itself is in surprisingly good condition, its chromium-vanadium steel skin still gleaming in places, though the runes that had been emblazoned on it are mostly peeled away (a perception/ancient history check will reveal it to maybe read A__Z_N, perhaps a prayer to a pre-apocalypse materialist cult that ruled much of the world before the Great Fire).
Being in the shaft with the looming pillar of death should be made as eerie as possible, voices echoing weirdly, a faint distant hum that modulates like whispering, a skittering that seems to vanish when the players try to listen for it. SNERP occasionally yells questions and instructions and whatever the players response is testily dissatisfied.
Falling into the pit
The gangway is mostly intact, but if anyone leans on the railing with any weight it will collapse. The ladder down to the second gangway is also rusted beyond redemption and will fall away the moment anyone tries to climb it, dumping the unlucky climber into the pit.
There is a 100 foot drop past the balconies, into a ten foot deep puddle of water in the blast baffles at the bottom of the shaft. The puddle is full of quasi-sentient GIANT EYELESS COILWORMS that hate noise, vibration, heat, and people in roughly that order and will wriggle towards any perpetrators and slowly but inexorably wrap themselves around their limbs, bodies, and head (also in that order). The puddle is lit by faintly luminescent GLOWSHROOMS that get brighter as people thrash around in the pool, eventually releasing their energy in a bright actinic flash that will temporarily blind anyone in the pool or on the bottom two gangways (GIANT EYELESS COILWORMS are, naturally, immune). Fire will scare them away and they are not particularly strong. If they wriggle away, and the players explore, they will find a set of stone curse tokens from nearby tribes that were thrown down a number of years back when the hatch opened last. These have considerable academic value and weigh around fifty pounds. They are also slightly radioactive.
Exits from the pit
There is a hatch with heavy dogs that can be opened with a decent shove accessible from the third gangway down from the hatchway. When the door is opened, the siren sounds again and the hatch closes, with a boom that echoes around the shaft and sends a shower of dust sifting on to the players heads. Uh Oh!
Behind the hatch is a long low-ceilinged tunnel lined with mysterious tubes and wires that stretches for 200 feet. On the floor are intermittent pools of iridescent green slime that will produce intense hallucinations of whispering and words, seemingly coming from behind the walls (which will be moving and shifting) for 10-60 minutes if touched with bare skin, or for 1-6 hours if tasted. A player that ingests any significant amount of the slime will gain a permanent boost in their wisdom, as the doors of their minds are flung wide.
Halfway down the tunnel is a large gang switch in a big rusted metal box. The box appears to have been covered with glass once, but the glass was broken long ago. The switch is in the up position. If it is moved it will spark harmlessly, and if placed in the down position the lights will come on – not all of them, but enough to be almost blinding in the darkness of the tunnel. A whirring noise will also start at the far end of the tunnel away from the missile. Back in the shaft, a number of lights have also come back on, gleaming off the surface of the missile. A careful observer will note engine noise that wasn’t there before, as though the missile is coming to life…
The blast lock
These two rooms are designed to help shield the silo and control room from nuclear attack. In the first room, behind a 3 foot thick steel and concrete door that has opened after throwing the gang switch, is a smallish room that has a decontamination shower and a wall covered in peeling, faded Amazon motivational posters (“the harder you work, the luckier you get!” “The difference between a bad yesterday and a better tomorrow is you!”) is a sink unit with an ancient coffeemaker (the contents of which have mutated into weakly psionic fungus that gives anyone within ten feet with an intense desire for a coffee) and a GATLING GUN.
The GATLING GUN, which is set up on a tripod in the middle of the room surrounded by brass shell casings and has a thick cable running into the wall, will spot the players the moment they come through the door and whir terrifyingly to life as it targets them with three laser red dots. A recorded voice will yell something incomprehensible (“This area is off limits, present valid authorisation, you have five seconds to comply”). Count five seconds on your fingers, then the gun will fire. Its bullets are extremely dangerous. However the gun only has twenty rounds remaining in its ammo belt. Cutting the cable will stop it, as will any number of clever player schemes.
Converting the gun to normal fire is complex but doable if you can find an expert in ancient technology, making the ammunition would be hard if not impossible.
There is a towel on a rack which crumbles at a touch, and a pair of jeans on the floor – looking in the pocket of the jeans reveals a small key.
There is a thick door leading into the next part of the blast lock that is opened with a switch and motor (which doesn’t work, but could be fixed) or a crank on the wall. The crank handle is in the shower for some reason.
The entrapment zone
Opening the door lets out a waft of dead stale air and reveals a small room completely filled with coiled purple and gray vines that writhe unsettlingly at the light then are still. The vines are THORNED STRANGLER VINES, once a mutated by the high level of radiation in the complex into malicious murderplants. The vines will be still until someone steps into the room (which was a containment zone for people entering the silo until they had shown their authorisation) then drop loop after loop on their target. They’re still plants, so honestly not that much of a threat, but they will constrict their target for a little bit more damage each round until destroyed and ripped off.
A little after the players have entered the zone, an automated voice will demand authorisation – when it isn’t forthcoming, gas will start hissing out of the vents above. The gas is unlikely to knock out the players but will slow them down until the two vents are plugged with something or the players wait it out (~2 min) and allow it to clear.
There are two doors out of the entrapment zone, one that leads to the stairway out and has a similar crank opening mechanism to the last one, and another that also has a crank but with the addition of a keyhole over the crankhole. The key from the jeans fits this hole and allows access to the control centre.
There is a six story stairway up to the surface, but the top three floors have collapsed. Slumped in front of the doorway are three skeletons, two of which have shattered skulls. A pump action shotgun with seven shells is nearby, covered in soil, and a couple of empty shells are on the ground. In the corner, also lightly covered in soil, is a rotted rucksack with six small gold ingots.
The control centre
The control centre is well lit, and, bizarrely, ventilated, though there is a thick layer of dust on all the surfaces. The most obvious feature is a large illuminated map of the world with bright points of light indicating potential targets for the missile’s MIRV warheads. On the wall are two stations, each with keys in, and activation buttons.
The map is absurdly out of date, but the missile will still fly if the keys are turned and the activators pushed at the same time.
Other areas of interest are the emergency explosive bolt controls for the hatch (large red button under a plastic case), a set of call and response codes, elaborate communications apparatus that is almost but not quite completely useless (though perhaps a signal might be heard from a nearby island…).
If the hatch release button is hit, there is a five second klaxon warning, then the hatch is sent flying (probably flattening a grad student or two), and the missile is free to fly.
Slumped in a corner is a skeleton with a .45 automatic and 9 shells in the magazine.
Crew common room
Upstairs from the control room is the spartan common and recreation room for the crew of the silo. There is one skeleton in its bunk with a bullet hole in its skull on ocher stained pillow fragments.
Another is sprawled on the floor, with bullet damage visible to the careful observer.
On a title is a tablet that has long since lost power but, if it could be repowered, holds hundreds of novels and non-fiction works (including the entire oeuvre of Chuck Tingle).
Down below the control centre is the backup power supply, comms gear, and emergency rations which are all, incredibly, still functional. Truly the ancients built well.
There is also a hatch that leads to a ladder which can be used as an emergency escape from the complex.
SNERP is thrilled beyond measure to hear what a find he has made and how extremely famous he is going to be. If the players are difficult about, e.g., leaving a basically operational nuclear missile in the keeping of a bunch of nerds, he’s not above ordering the mercenaries to detain or even kill the players, but whether they would do that is a matter to discover in play.
GRAD STUDENTS: Chad, Brad, Todd, Brettina, Molly, Dave, Noops and Emily. These are a motley bunch of varyingly talented academic strivers who are either insanely pumped to be out In The Field doing Cool Science Stuff or Holy poo poo Terrified for the same reason. No reason it can’t be both.
Things they might say: “The Professor told me that there are fourteen distinct varieties of soil substrate on this island!” “I can’t wait to get back and start writing up our findings!” “I think this cut’s gone bad!” “How are we doing for beans, lucky I love beans!”
GRIZZLED, COWARDLY MERCENARIES: Large Carl, O’Regan, Walt and Sgt Flort. Mid-price mercenaries who took this as a milk run job after a nasty bit of work fighting tunnel rat guerrillas down in the Southlands. The constant rain, Professor Snerp’s endless badgering and the Grad Students unremitting ability to fall off things and get in trouble have really started to get to them and they’re ready for the contract to be over.
Things they might say: “Got any smokes?” “Piece of poo poo detail, eh.” “Weather like this makes me wish for a Nuclear Summer.” “Movement on the perimeter, you wanna check that? I did it last time”
PROFESSOR WILLOUGHBY SNERP: Tall, stooped, balding, wispy hair, brings his face too close to yours when we talks. Basically every cliché of the cloistered academic you want to deploy, but it all conceals a raging ego and a deathless hunger for glory that would shame a Mongol warlord. Will happily sacrifice the lives of his students, the mercs and the players if it gets him the kudos he thinks – knows! – are his by right.
Things he might say: “Splendid!” “This will open the eyes of those fuddy duds back at the Academy!” “I don’t care if you’re scared to die, this is important!”
|# ? May 31, 2021 03:59|
The Flagon's End
You and your companions smell the township of Crossways before you see its modest roofs and steeples: the verdant odor of hops underscored by the briny pungence of a shallow bay. And, because your nose is sensitive after weeks in the sterility of the eastern deserts, you detect subtle notes of ash, along with something eggy and foul.
Crossways resides on a series of hills that slope down toward a small inland sea; the sea, your guide tells you, is like a maze, rife with rocky inlets and deep fjords. As you and your companions approach from the east, you get the sense that this city has its back to you—all the buildings seem oriented west, toward the shallow bay and the inland sea beyond.
Your guide points out a strange cloud on the southwestern horizon, which you first took to be a distant thunderhead. They explain that it’s an ash cloud from Mount Fear, one of the three volcanoes that tower over these strange western lands. All three could erupt at any time. The guide seems perplexed that, having glimpsed the towering pillar of smoke, you and your companions don’t simply turn tail and flee back across the desert from which you came.
It would be no use. This land is most certainly doomed, but the doom you and your companions escaped was so much bleaker. You don’t dare even think of what you left behind. It’s too horrific. At least in the land of volcanoes there’s the tiniest chance you might survive the dark winter of ashfall and poison air.
Crossways’ hills are quite defensible on their own, but at some point in the township’s history a wooden curtain wall was erected to protect the city’s east-facing backside. From a distance, the spindly wooden guard towers look like knobby fingers; flickering electric light shines from some of them, but most of Crossways is lit by torch and by candle.
And where there is a wall, there is of course a gate. Where there is a gate, there are bored customs officials, shabby in their oft-patched uniforms, rattling with weapons. You’ve heard some of them even carry guns, though that may just be a rumor.
It’s nearly nightfall by the time you, your companions, and your guide reach the outskirts of the city. You decide to make camp before heading in; you don’t want to deal with surly customs officers at the end of their shift, and you’re not sure you’ll be able to find accommodations for your party in the township before the morning.
Everyone is exhausted from your desert crossing. You fall instantly asleep in your patched and threadbare tent.
Your guide, however, remains awake. As you and your companions sleep, they make off with the box of ancient circuitry you were going to use to barter your way into the township. When you and your party awake, you realize you now have nothing to offer the officials at the gate, and you will most certainly be turned away with no guide, no supplies, and no hope.
Some of your party suggest trying to persuade the officials. Some of your party believe that stealth is the ticket; surely the old wooden fortification can’t be that hard to breach. Still others advocate for a more assertive approach: wait until nightfall comes again and incapacitate the tired, irritable township officials. A few mumble about magic or strange technologies.
Ultimately, all eyes turn on you and your trusted inner circle of companions. It seems that you are the deciding vote.
By some miracle, or perhaps through your own application of skill and strategy, you find yourself and your companions inside the township of Crossways.
The smell of hops and brine is overwhelming; brewpubs stand on nearly every corner, alive with laughter. The township is surprisingly lively for its size, with people from all over the western lands coming to sample the hundreds of different beers on offer.
There is a deep sadness under all the merriment. You observe, as you and your party make your way through the narrow, crowded streets, that the pubgoers all laugh a little too loud and drink a little too fast, as though the flagon in their hand might be the last one they ever taste. You infer this is because of their impending volcanic doom, though you can’t understand why all they do is sit around and drink about it.
You always thought of these mysterious western lands as a place of heroes, of people who brought down deranged sorcerers and thwarted technological monstrosities. Surely someone is working at this very moment to prevent the catastrophic eruption of Mount Fear and her two sisters.
You work your way toward the water, stopping by several inns on the way, but they’re all full of tourists who’ve come to, in their worlds, drink at the end of the world. As a refugee from your own apocalypse, you find their fatalism nigh-intolerable.
Finally, you and your companions find yourself in a muddy, derelict part of town near the docks. Here you can hardly smell the brewpubs beneath the sickly green odor of rotting kelp and drying fish. The voices of dock workers echo off the buildings around you as they load flat-bottomed cargo ships with pallets of beer kegs.
At long last you reach an inn with claims to vacancy. It’s a sad, stooped old thing, and you’re fairly sure it’s scowling at you as your party approaches, but the steady glow of a neon sign implies a healthy patronage; most of the surrounding businesses sport wooden signs illuminated by lanternlight. The neon sign above the dour-seeming door reads Flagon’s End.
As you and your companions approach the door, you consider that you’ve never been sure whether neon is a chemical thing or an alchemical thing; you’re not even sure whether you understand the difference between the two.
You’re met at the door by the proprietor: a short, handsome woman with a wry grin and heavily lidded eyes. A spidery scar puckers her left cheek and she has the stance of someone who knows how to throw a punch.
“Ah,” she says, as though your arrival is the least surprising thing in the world. “A merry band of adventurers, then?”
If you say yes, then it’s clear that she very much wishes your answer were no. Had your answer been no, she might’ve allowed you inside straight away. At the sound of your yes, however, her wry smile gives way to a rueful grimace.
“We don’t allow adventurers here,” she says apologetically. “No protagonists. No heroes. No chosen ones. It’s for your own good, really.”
There’s a hint of doubt in her voice. An opening. Perhaps you could appeal to her sense of hospitality. Perhaps you could convince her that you’re not really adventurers after all. Perhaps you could learn more about her, use her own painful history of adventuring to your advantage. Your companions are exhausted from wandering the township and all of you stink to high hell; you need a bed and a bath, urgently.
You could give up, lie down in a gutter, and sleep in the noisome muck of the township, beholden to no proprietor, but something tells you this is at best a very last resort. There’s a chance the proprietor might come to your rescue out of a deep sense of guilt, but it’s best not to count on that happening.
Against all apparent odds, the proprietor, whose name you learn is Cassandra Flagon, finally ushers you inside Flagon’s End.
You squint in the sudden crispness of electric light. You’ve never seen decor like this before; everything is blanched and white, gleaming in the way that only old-world plastics can. The dining tables are somehow lit from within, their creamy translucent surfaces glowing like a sorcerer mid-incantation. Your boots ring crisply on the tiled floor as you follow Cassandra through the dining room and down the opulent hall leading to your party’s quarters.
After a luxurious bath and a brief nap, you return to the dining room to discuss payment with Cassandra. She waves you off and gestures that you should take a seat at the table where some of your companions have gathered.
Within moments, a flagon of beer and a deep bowl of mushroom stew appear before you. After weeks of old ration packets and tepid water, the fare at the Flagon’s End is almost too good. You see your companions having similar reactions, savoring every bite with a kind of reverence. The beer has a sharp, citrusy bite that invites you to sip slowly, which you should be doing anyway, after going so long without.
Cassandra takes a seat across from you and observes thoughtfully as you enjoy your meal.
“So,” she says, “What will you do now that you’re in Crossways?”
Some of your traveling companions pipe up as you swallow a mouthful of stew.
“I’m here to start a new life and make my fortune,” says one. Several voices rumble agreement.
“I came to make a name for myself and do great deeds,” says another, and this too is met with assent.
Cassandra turns to you and your closest companions, one eyebrow raised. “And you?” The earth stirs as you consider, a light volcanic tremor that makes the walls grumble and creak. Cassandra barely seems to notice.
...if you came to start a new life and make your fortune:
Cassandra leans back in her chair and smiles broadly. She seems relieved.
“You were asking me about your bill earlier,” she says. “I would of course consider anything you have to barter. But I have an offer that you might find appealing, one that doesn’t involve trading away your worldly possessions for a few nights’ rest.”
As it happens, Cassandra recently lost her entire staff to a clandestine quest, the nature of which grieves her too much to describe to you. As a consequence, she has no one to send to purchase supplies on her behalf, no one to mind the Flagon’s End when she’s away.
After some deliberation with your companions, you accept her offer. Your first task as her employees will be to either:
Find the missing mushroom hunter she commissioned to harvest rare specimens in the forests to the northeast of Crossways.
The forest, you discover, has been overrun by a gang of bandits who’ve been modified by a rogue sorcerer, their bodies a warped amalgam of modern magic and ancient technology. It’s clear Cassandra’s missing mushroom hunter likely isn’t their only victim, and you refuse to imagine what might happen to those people if no one comes to their rescue. Hardened by your recent trek across the desert, you and your companions agree on an approach strategy, then make your way through the bandits’ cleverly hidden, well-fortified defenses in search of kidnapped travelers and townsfolk.
By the time you exit the forest with whatever survivors you can muster, you aren’t even sure whether you won or lost the fight with the rogue sorcerer. It doesn’t matter. You stagger toward Crossways with your mind and heart full of death. It doesn’t matter that they were raiders, that they were heavily modified and all but mind-controlled by the sorcerer. You can still feel the impact of sword on bone in your wrists, elbows and shoulders. You don’t think you’ll ever stop smelling the blood and viscera.
Cassandra pays you double the promised rate when you return with the bloodied sack of rare mushrooms, and says there’s more work if you want it. She won’t meet your eyes.
Mind the inn while Cassandra seeks the mushroom hunter herself.
Playing innkeep isn’t the busywork chore you thought it would be! In spite of the apparent opulence of the place, Cassandra’s patrons treat the Flagon’s End as an extension of their own homes. You have to fake your way through gossip about people you’ve never heard of, [/b]convince belligerent drunks[/b] to go home and sleep it off, and hastily put together rooms for a group of sailors whose ship had grazed a rock and had to make an unexpected stop in Crossways’ harbor for repairs.
Now and then the earth shakes — Mount Fear and her sisters’ reminder that doom is imminent, or at least probable. The patrons at the bar cheer and raise their flags whenever this happens, a drunken salute to death itself.
By the time Cassandra returns with a slightly bloodied sack of mushrooms, you’ve more or less got the hang of things, and the Flagon’s End is bustling. She offers you a relieved smile that doesn’t touch her eyes.
As the weeks go by, Cassandra becomes more and more withdrawn, leaving more of the day to day operations to you and your companions, who you now think of as coworkers.
One day she emerges from her quarters wearing ancient hiking boots and a few pieces of lovingly preserved plastic body armor.
“You’ve taken to this work quickly,” she tells you and the others. “Too many times have I sent hapless adventurers on hopeless errands, based on rumors, no less!” She’s despondent with guilt. You ask her what she intends to do.
“The Flagon’s End is yours,” she says with finality. “The transfer has already been filed with the township, so there’s no arguing with me, I’m afraid.”
You ask her again, more urgently, what she intends to do.
She laughs and says, “Stop the eruptions, of course. Save the world.”
After she’s gone, there’s nothing to do except keep the Flagon running the way Cassandra did; over time, her customers become your customers, and you stop expecting her to return. Mount Fear continues to stir, shaking the earth and sending up plumes of ash, but after the first few years, you stop noticing it.
The mountains will either blow or they won’t, but you, for the first time in your life, are content.
...if you came to make a name for yourselves and do great deeds:
Cassandra sighs. “Greatness of deed is in the eye of the beholder,” she says. “And there are many ways to make a name for one’s self.” You either:
Ask her if she has a particular great deed in mind.
The wry grin returns to her handsome face and she reaches inside her tunic for a folded piece of paper. On it are carefully-written instructions for a beverage that is made from, of all things, fermented honey! Cassandra calls it ‘mead’.
You can’t recall the last time you saw a bee, much less an apiary, but Cassandra has a plan. On the roof of the Flagon’s End, you’re thrilled to discover, is sequestered a small flower garden; Cassandra explains that she’s been hand-pollinating each plant for quite some time. The only reason she hasn’t acquired her own bee colony is simple: she is allergic, and would die from a single sting. You and your companions, as far as you know, have no such allergy among you.
Acquiring a colony is nearly as hard as you thought. You have to convince a group of conservationists to sell you a queen, which they will only do if you can demonstrate that you have the proper beekeeping equipment, which you have to retrieve from an abandoned farm outside of the city. It’s entirely possible that you quietly fudge a few steps along the way and have to come up with your own solutions, but so long as the Flagon gets its meadery up and running, Cassandra isn’t interested in the details.
Eventually, the roof of the Flagon’s End hums with the labor of bees and the flowers no longer require human intervention to pollinate. Making mead from scratch, you learn, is a long process; first the bees have to make the honey, then the honey has to ferment. One batch of mead is months of work.
By the time you take your first sip of sweet, golden honey wine, you have all but ceased noticing the tremors from the distant volcanoes. The patrons of the Flagon’s End have a habit of toasting the small quakes shook up by the restless Mount Fear; you find yourself joining them in this salute to your imminent demise.
Cassandra, for her part, seems content in a way she was not when you first arrived. She dotes on you and your companions, seeing to your every need, ensuring you want for nothing. For the first time in your sad and weary life, you go to bed with peace in your heart. You realize that even if Mount Fear and her two sisters were to erupt tomorrow, you would die with honey and a smile on your lips, which is, all things considered, a lovely way to die.
Tell her you are going to stop the eruptions and save the west.
Cassandra puts her face in her hands and says nothing for a long moment. When she looks at you again, the anguish in her eyes is almost enough to put you off the idea. Almost. You are a newcomer to this land, scarred by the unspeakable horrors inflicted on your homeland to the east. You have no ties except to your companions, no reason to live except to make life better for others.
“I heard a rumor,” Cassandra says woodenly, “about an ancient fortress with the power to stop earthquakes. Would you like to know more?”
Cassandra furnishes you with a carbon copy of a map. Someone has scrawled all over the original, marking quake epicenters and circling plausible sites for the anti-earthquake fortress. Most of the latter are crossed out, eliminated from consideration. Peering closer, you realize that the map features several different flavors of scrawl — the handwriting of many people making many marks over many years. Your carbon copy includes these, too.
“You’re not the first to try this,” Cassandra Flagon says as she sorrowfully offers you the map, “and you won’t be the last.”
In addition to the map, Cassandra gives you a set of ancient plastic body armor, a sword that’s light as a sparrow and stronger than steel, and a gun. She doesn’t have ammunition for the firearm, but, as she explains, the person you point it at doesn’t have to know that.
“None of this will help you find the fortress or stop the eruptions,” she says, somber-eyed, “but you might die a little harder.”
Some of your companions stay behind at the Flagon’s End, content to remain in Cassandra’s employ until the volcanoes either erupt or they don’t. The rest, like you, are not content to sit idly by and toast death with the impenitent drunks of Crossways.
You decide to focus your search on a relatively unscrawled region of map—what looks to be a forest that stands some distance to the south of Mount Fear. You circle your destination on the original map, adding your mark to those of your predecessors.
To reach the forest, you’ll have to cross a wide saltwater straight, on the other side of which are sheer cliffs and few places to disembark from a vessel. The straight is patrolled in many places by pirates; you’ll have to defend yourself constantly.
If you reach the other side, there are bandits and marauders to consider; rogue sorcerers wielding magic and ancient tech, commanding grotesque fiefdoms of enslaved and altered people. You’ll have to fight off hordes of them, and even though they’re barely human, you’ll still hear their screams in your sleep, smell their viscera every time you try to eat.
Your party, devastated by the stress and trauma of constant embattlement, will suffer from intolerable psychological fatigue and you will have to hold them together, in spite of your own worn and threadbear heart. There is nothing joyous to think of, no hope to cling to, only the slog toward an uncertain point on an old map.
Mount Fear stands in the distance, visible no matter where you are, flaunting her hateful cloud, taunting you with the threat of eruption.
Your map will be tattered and bloody by the time you find the low hump of earth with the ancient metal hatch. Your companions will be reduced to a handful of dead-eyed ghosts, little more than bodies shambling forward as if yoked to your terrible purpose.
You’ll fall to your knees and sob into the earth. The hatch is locked, the rusty metal no less impenetrable for its age. You won’t know if this is the entrance to the fortress or some long-dead survivalist’s bunker, and if you want to find out, you’ll have to locate the code to the old, still-active keypad attached to the lock.
You won’t locate the keypad. You’ll continue to sob into the dirt until your tears make mud. Your companions will look on numbly as the flagon of you is drained to its dredges.
You see all of this in Cassandra's eyes as she stands on the frowning stoop of the Flagon's End, waving a sad goodbye. Her face begs you to come back, choose again.
|# ? May 31, 2021 03:59|
|# ? May 31, 2021 04:00|
Interprompt: let me tell you about my character, 400 words
|# ? May 31, 2021 05:02|
The SS Big Old Upside Down Boat 1377 words
‘Check it out,’ said Alice. ‘Over there. Big old metal thing on that atoll.’
‘Huh,’ said Simon. ‘Looks like one of those big old timey boats, if they’d built them upside-down and with a hole blown in them.’
‘We gotta check it out,’ said Alice. ‘We need provisions. And there might be some neat stuff.’
So, they pulled alongside it and tied their boat off a little loop thingie on the side of the big old metal upside down boat. Simon chucked a grappling hook up to where the big explodey bit was, and it snagged and held. The two of them climbed up and peered over the edge.
‘Man,’ said Alice, ‘it is a good thing you have so much rope.’
‘Can never have too much rope,’ said Simon. He tied a length of rope to one of the jagged exploded bits along the side of the hole, and they lowered themselves down. ‘So, I guess down there it becomes less massive gaps and more passageways or whatever,’ he said pointing to one end of the room where it was less massive room and more passageway. An end kind of away from the exploded bit, that was significantly less exploded but still a bit worse for wear, but that’s how explosions usually went, right?
So the two of them wandered in that direction until they came across a hole in the floor, with a ladder that went all the way into the ceiling, but didn’t really go down into the room below. ‘This whole upside-down business is gonna be a nuisance,’ said Alice. Simon shrugged and pulled out more rope. ‘How much of that stuff do you have anyway?’
‘Enough,’ said Simon. ‘We’ve gotta remember to collect it all on the way out, though.’
There were a few doors along the side of the next passageway, but they appeared locked. ‘Lucky I bought my can opener,’ said Alice.
‘I don’t think that thing’s designed for this kind of metal,’ said Simon.
Ignoring him, Alice pulled out the can opener, cut a circle in the nearest door, put her arm through and opened the door. ‘Never doubt my can opener again.’
‘I never will,’ said Simon.
The room it opened into appeared to be a bedroom, although the mattresses had fallen onto the ceiling and the cupboards had fallen and broken open. ‘Heck yeah,’ said Alice. ‘Loot.’
They had a look and there were some basic provisions, some coins and a video disc. The video disc had pictures of naked women in various poses on the front, with big words reading Backdoor Milfs 37. ‘Wow, ancient smut,’ said Alice, and tucked it all away in her backpack.
‘We don’t even have anything to play that on.’
‘That’s not the point. It’s history. Future anthropologists will thank us. Financially.’
They systematically worked their way through the entire floor with Alice’s trusty can opener, relieving the no doubt long dead inhabitants of the rooms of their coins, their canned goods, and their smut. Also, one of the rooms had a big metal club that said Easton along the side, which Simon stuck in his belt loop.
‘Obviously this boat is from the East,’ said Simon.
‘OK,’ said Alice, ‘but how far East? I mean, if you go far enough East, you end up West.’
Simon shrugged. They cleared the passageway, then used some rope to get to the next level down. This level was clearly a kitchen or something, and had a lot of canned goods. ‘We’ll have to make a few trips,’ he said. ‘With what we’ve got here, we’ll never miss a meal again.’
‘Could just make this place our new base,’ said Alice. ‘That way we don’t have to carry all the stuff up and down the ropes.
‘OK,’ said Simon, ‘but if we’re making this place our home, we’re fixing up the ladder situation, so we don’t have to climb up and down ropes everywhere.’
So, they put most of their accumulated rations with all the other rations in the kitchen. Also, they found a big old cleaver that the rust hadn’t gotten to, and Alice pocketed that.
The next floor down, they came to what appeared to be the bridge, with a bunch of important looking smashed up electronic equipment. ‘It’s a shame none of this survived,’ said Simon.
‘I guess,’ said Alice. ‘We wouldn’t know what to do with it if it had, though.’
‘Radio other ships,’ said a voice that was neither of them.
They turned towards this voice and saw what appeared to be a skeleton wearing a captain’s hat and carrying a sword.
‘Oh, hi,’ said Alice. ‘Didn’t know anyone was here. We were about to claim this place as our new base, but if the place is already occupied, that’s our bad.’
‘Hmmm,’ said the skeleton. ‘I haven’t seen anyone in… well since the event I suppose.’
‘Oh wow,’ said Simon. ‘How old are you?’
‘Dunno, my electronic calendars aren’t working’.
‘Fair enough,’ said Alice. ‘I’m Alice, by the way. This is Simon.’ Simon waved.
‘I’m Captain Bonebeard,’ said the skeleton, and he did indeed have something resembling a beard made of bone.
‘Honestly didn’t think skeletons could grow beards,’ said Simon.
‘Or walk or talk,’ said Alice. ‘What’s up with all that?’
‘Probs magic,’ said Simon.
‘Can’t be,’ said Alice. ‘Gotta be a scientific explanation.’
Captain Bonebeard shrugged. ‘Radiation or something I guess. It was hot and it hurt like heck, but afterwards… well you see.’
‘How can you do anything with all your vital organs gone?’ asked Simon.
‘I dunno,’ said Bonebeard. ‘Some kind of radioactive mutation thing I guess. Also my chin exploded which is why I have this bone beard, which is cool because I could never grow a beard before.’
‘Right,’ said Simon. ‘Well. Sorry to bother you, but I guess we should be going.’
‘Can’t let you leave, actually,’ said Captain Bonebeard.
‘Don’t see why not,’ said Alice. ‘Look we’ll give you back some of this ancient smut, how’s that?’
‘What? Show me that!’ Alice showed him. ‘Dammit,’ he said, ‘I knew those scumbags had contraband.’
‘They’re not allowed smut on the boat?’ asked Simon.
‘Ship,’ said the Captain. ‘It’s a ship, not a boat.’ Simon shrugged. ‘And no, it’s poor discipline, I run a tight ship and I don’t allow for those shenanigans.’
‘All right,’ said Alice, ‘well I’ll leave this contraband with you, and we’ll just be on our way.’
She handed him the smut, and he took it from her muttering ‘Disgraceful. Shameful. That one’s just unrealistic. Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a working player…’
Simon and Alice left the bridge, took some of the provisions back from the kitchen, then climbed back out to the exploded bit, where they once again encountered Captain Bonebeard. ‘I told you I can’t let you leave,’ he said.
‘How did you even get here this fast?’ asked Alice.
‘Secret passages,’ he said.
‘Ah, we’ll have to look for them after,’ said Simon, and he took the metal club, walked up to Captain Bonebeard, and clubbed him hard in the skull, which went flying.
‘Ow,’ said the skull of Captain Bonebeard. ‘All right, fine you can leave, if you really don’t want to stay here for dinner.’
‘Well, we did kind of want to stay here,’ said Alice.
‘Then why did you knock my skull off?’
‘You were sounding all threatening,’ said Simon.
‘What?’ said Bonebeard, then thought for a moment. ‘Hmmm, now that I think about it, I did phrase that poorly, didn’t I? Almost menacingly, in fact.’
‘We thought you were going to try to kill us,’ said Alice.
‘You know, now that I think about it, I can see that,’ said Bonebeard. ‘It’s just, I haven’t really talked to anyone for a while, so I guess I got bad at expressing myself. Sorry, didn’t mean to imply I would kill you or whatever.’
‘No worries,’ said Simon, ‘sorry for clubbing your head off, all a misunderstanding I suppose.’
Anyway, long story short, Captain Bonebeard joined their crew, and they made the upside-down ship their base, but they never did find any working machines to play the ancient smut, much to his poorly concealed disappointment.
|# ? May 31, 2021 07:17|
Are you the next judge? Wanna prank yourself super loving good? Set your word limit to 4k. It'll be hilarious.
I'm speaking specifically to Yoruichi, by the way, whose entry GET BIGFOOT was very dumb but also very, very good. I'll be implementing it in my campaign in the upcoming weeks. Grats on the win.
Trad Games representative and Thunderdome newcomer moths does their subforum proud by snagging an Honorable Mention. They are joined on the HM podium by Uranium Phoenix, Staggy, Thranguy, Antivehicular, Djeser, Idle Amalgam, Sitting Here, and Mocking Quantum. If you're thinking, poo poo, that's a lot of people... it is! But I'm just pleased as goddamn punch right now. Really sharp stuff this week. Seems like everyone had a lot of fun writing. And I certainly had a lot of fun reading what was written.
No one DMs.
Black Griffon, unfortunately, takes the loss. And not even necessarily for writing bad words. You wrote the least usable thing. I tried to make it very clear that that was the point of the prompt.
As a heads up to everyone, my partner takes a lot of notes during gameplay. If I use your "dungeon," I'll hit you up with a copy so you can see how other people experienced your story. Crits will be posted shortly.
Take it away, Yoru.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 01:51|
The Arcadia Facility
A factory that makes futuristic Disney-ish animatronics is dope. The clown robot thing is a great mental image. You have some fascinating, unique characters like Manyheads. The fact that the player characters might get a delicious meal at the cafeteria is very funny. You have a potential ending where the whole place blows up and the player characters walk away with nothing. Lot of stuff I dig here.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Yeah. Totally. With a little work. What’s missing is a hook. I mean, the big Welcome sign is enough to invite curiosity and I like that there are competing factions but there’s not much of a reason in what’s written for the players to side with one over the other (potential rewards would be cool) nor is there an impetus to explore other than exploration itself. The factions are also in an ancient deadlock. The introduction of a new party will, of course, begin tipping the scales and perhaps you meant for things to already be right at the precipice of conflict but I think this would be improved by being more distinctly at that moment where things are about to kick off in a serious way. Maybe the PC’s hear an explosion in the distance and that’s what leads them over here? What sets off the explosion? One faction attacking the other? The power system finally failing after all these years? I don’t know! I’m just spitballing. Adding urgency in some way would be a solid improvement. Both in hooking the PCs and in motivating the NPC factions.
I might turn this into more of a beached cruise liner for gameplay aesthetics.
But I like this. This is pretty good.
The Citadel of the Cross
Grab some beans and save the people from starving. Simple, easy quest. Lobsterbears are tight. The villagers are creepy. Emphasis on pilgrim is good. The prize being coffee is hilarious. Love it. You also succeed in giving me a story for someone else to experience; not in the way that you wrote this but in creating an active world that is operating and happening regardless of PC influence.
Can I slot this into my campaign? With quite a bit of work. You tell me there are three trials. Two of them are nothing. The third is a lava pit. Lot of lead up for not a lot to do. You give me multiple points of entry but only vague descriptions of why those are dangerous and not much at all on how those paths would change things. I get the impression that this is a rich world you’ve created but that I’m not getting the fullness of your creativity because of the limitations of the narrative structure. Which is a bummer.
Also, how does the farmer know about the beans? Does he regularly send wandering strangers to the Citadel for more? What does he do with them once they’ve succeeded?
Bigfoot? Bigfoot?! Ah, I’m in love. Okay, so, I thoroughly enjoy watching Bigfoot hunting shows because I think they’re just so loving stupid and the people doing it are so loving serious. It’s amazing. They always make me laugh. Taking that idea and cranking it to eleven is great. Personal interest aside: the cult not wanting to find Bigfoot because it ruins their existence is good. Dave deciding he must become Bigfoot is good. Bigfoot wanting to leave is good. Simply calling the place Sasquatch Island is good. Lot of conflicting motivations, lot of interlocking relationships, lot of danger, lot of danger that is as avoidable or encounterable as the player characters decide, and, like the entry before this, you give me a world. A story for someone else to experience.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Yes. Easily. The only thing I wish you’d delved further into is the ritual/bioengineering stuff and what a piece of that juicy tech might be. Other than that, this is sharp. And impressive because you did it in under 2k.
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: An Adventure for Low-Level Mutants
I kept reading "Filip" as "Flip" and that made me think he was a dolphin and it was very confusing. I decided to go to bed and re-read when I was sober. Everyone should thank you because I'm sure if I had kept going my judge post would have been utterly nonsense
The fact that a major, major part of this is based around a karaoke conflict is dumb and rad. Big fan. Same with the volleyball ending. A major character being a loving octopus hybrid is neat. I like that one whole area is underwater.
Can I slot this into my campaign? I don't know. It's all pretty high tech. Functional high tech. And there are a lot of questions I'm left with post-reading. Who is Filip publishing with? Who is reading? Is peer review still a thing? Is there still an academic system? How expansive is it? How did this place continue operating after the world fell apart? Was it continuous or a concentration revival many years later?
Rod of Mutos
Island as a "natural containment" is a smart way to adhere to the prompt. I enjoyed the twist of the quest giver being the professor.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Yes. I'd probably do some tweaking of your ideas, though. As a personal preference, I find the name "Rod of Mutos" to be a little on the nose. It is an excellent prize, though. I think there are some timeline issues, too, unless the Professor is a couple hundred years old. I haven't decided if that's not a problem or if it would make more sense for him to be a descendent of the original. I'll have to think about it some more.
Overall, pretty decent. And you wrote it quite well both as a story and a module which isn't an easy feat.
Interesting? Yes. Usable? Only with a ton of effort. I like the idea of this force being capable of just destroying whole rear end land masses. And I like what you've written as kind of a lead up to an adventure. But you're leaving me to do a lot of the leg work which doesn't exactly fulfill my gaming homework outsourcing mandate. Still. This is sticky in my brain. How odd. I'm not sure how I should view it.
The Night Howler
Decent and straight forward. I can respect that. I like the ship name. The reward for rescuing the captive is good.
Can I slot this into my campaign. Yeah, pretty much anywhere. And I appreciate your consideration in writing it in such a manner to allow for a flexible, any time introduction. I think you missed an excellent opportunity to get loving weird here, though. Making the crew all so disparately mutated is fine but having each member so distinct in their animal forms is a little… well, boring. It's a wolfman. Sharkman. Eagleman. Etc etc. Pretty standard beastmen type stuff. I think you would have been better served toning down the completeness of the transformations and instead have aspects (possibly all similar aspects so they're more thematically related) like gills or teeth or whatever. Also, not everything should be beneficial. The cougar not wanting to get wet (despite being a pirate) is a fun little addition! They should all have something like that. You got big rear end horns? Cool, until there's a tight doorway. Also, I mentioned that gunpowder is a rarity. They seem to have a lot of it. How? Why? Where did it come from? Also, they have cannons. Let your creativity out for a stroll. There are a million far stranger things you could include in lieu of traditional cannons. Some form of futuristic tech that was never meant to be a weapon that they've fitted into one.
Cascadaria, the Where the Fires Died
"trades in both seeds and wisdom. No other currency means anything to him." That's great. The Worm Merchant is fascinating. In fact, all the characters here are interesting.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Sort of. My only real critique is just how big this feels. I'd love to see what you could do if you focused on just one small part of this world you've built.
The Silent Island
You call it the Silent Island and then fill it with shrooms that make it so you can only sing? Fantastic stuff. The island itself, being raised up, is neat. The bio-info reveal at the end is great. Easy hook for player characters with branching paths to go down. Just solid stuff here.
Can I slot this into my campaign. Yuuup. Honestly, very little I don't like. The weird language alteration will be difficult to DM on the fly but is a fun enough idea for me to spend the time figuring out how to pull it off. This is really good stuff. Excellent work.
The Tomb of Drix
Well, this is just great. Zee is a ridiculous character in the most perfect way. Starbucks is hilarious. The Sasquatch memory thing is, frankly, a genius bit of creativity. I'm all about this.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Easily. I might, might make the celebrities fictitious but that's going to be more of a game time personal preference decision. The choices you made here are great. You crammed a poo poo ton in a very tight word count. I'm impressed. I wonder what you could have done with more words...
In the Shadow of Three Giants
A map? Hell yeah.
Can I slot this into my campaign? No. Because you didn't give me an encounter for one or two sessions. You gave me an entire loving campaign. And you know I'm a sucker for collaboration so I'm all about how you interwove the other entries. I can't imagine the amount of work this took. So much variation. So much creativity. All tied together neatly and thematically. Very nice.
The Curse of Cannery Island
A murder mystery is a strong choice to start. Complicating that with a machine cult and a fussy, deadly AI elevates it even further. I like that you don't state who the killer is and I agree that these things are usually best led by the players themselves and their suspicions.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Why yes, yes I can. A small, small hiccup that I see is in the autopsy. There's a very good chance that the player characters will do that first (and it is written early on) yet the three potential killers all committed the murder in a different way. It would be better if the murder was the same (slit neck, multiple egregious stabbings, etc) but the motivation for getting there is different based on who the killer is. That's me being extremely particular, though, and is something I'm able to focus on because everything else is so tightly written. Very good stuff.
Sanctuary: a Module
Nice intro. I like that there is another "party" but they're just, like, super chill and not antagonistic. I like that there are little rewards (and uniquely strange ones at that!) sprinkled throughout but that there isn't a big payoff treasure at the end: just the knowledge of a tragic history. I like that you've opened up the opportunity for multiple ways of completion.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Sure can. It was an interesting choice to give so many options based off of the kind of game that is being run (sci fi or magical or whatever) since you should have a pretty good understanding of my game based off of the prompt post. But maybe you're writing this with grander goals of publication? I'm not going to fault you for that.
Tides of Change
It's wild that I've gotten this far in the week before someone did something underwater. Or potentially underwater as the case is here. Speaking of which, I'm a big fan of the whole thing sinking into the ocean. The mutants and their specific mutations are horrifying and good. I think a weakness of people writing mutants is the tendency to not give them any weaknesses. Yours are gross and dangerous but also awkward and clumsy. Pretty dope.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Mmhm. I don't know how I want to implement the infection mechanic (either altering it or keep it as is) but it's an interesting non-combat threat which adds urgency. That's always a good thing
The Bread Island Bake-Off
Silly. Fun. With surprisingly serious consequences. I super dig all of your naming conventions. Lots of varied enemies/conflicts which is really cool. And varied both in what they are and what you have to do to get past them. I'm glad you went out of your way to give almost everything a non-combat solution so cleverness is rewarded but brute force can be just as efficient if that's the way players want to play.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Yeah. I do wish you had given me a little bit more explanation as to why the jungle has gotten as weird as it has. The Dairy Cult makes total sense. The intelligent mice are interesting but what made them smart? The giant ants and the giant sugar cube are pretty funny but why are they so big? You need, like, one more thing that can explain this and tie it all together thematically. Even if the player characters won't or can't discover that explanation, it's good for me to know because it has rippling effects throughout the dungeon.
The Titan's Pit
You want to give my player's access to a loving nuke that they can just launch at something? Sweet. The various defenses and remnants of the past inside are neat. I'm particularly fond of the gatling gun with only 20 bullets. The professor is a dick in the best way. I like that you gave me common sayings for the characters. And thank you for specifying that the works if Chuck Tingle are now (potentially) accessible.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Yup. It's not specifically island-y but it's open enough for me to throw pretty much anywhere. It does presuppose the continued or revived existence of academic institutions which is an interesting theme for this week that I didn't foresee. It also means I'm going to need to come up with a university or two. You leave a lot of bullets laying around. I may or may not cut those numbers down. I think you missed an opportunity to leave some weird futuristic tech as loot but, with that being said, you did give the players a nuke. So.
The Flagon's End
Toasting the end of the world is great. I like the unique way you presented the branching pathways of potential action. The ending is tragic.
Can I slot this into my campaign? With work, yes. This isn't so much a one-off dungeon as it is part of a greater narrative that seems to have been built behind the scenes in Discord. I'm not complaining. Also, I'm disgusted by parts of this because you, my most hated and bitterest rival, have written things so close to encounters that I have written and planned out that I feel like my creative genius has been tainted by your gross mediocrity and that I need to take a shower to rid myself of your filth.
The SS Big Old Upside Down Boat
You really can never have enough rope. I'll probably use Captain Bonebeard as a character.
That's a fun twist! You have got my mind racing! I read this once and then immediately re-read it again.
Can I slot this into my campaign? Uh-huh. Is it distinctively island or oceanic? No. Which you could have done pretty easily. Still. Simple enough to implement wherever I see fit. The ending is loving great. I think I'd toss in a line somewhere foreshadowing it but I'll need some time to think about where it would go or what I would say. I mean, it's more reasonable to be disappointed if the player characters "intentionally" disregarded a request for entertainment, yeah?
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 01:52|
WEEK 461: Seasons Change, Thunderdome Stays the Same
It is the first day of winter and it is very cold. But, for many of you it is the first day of summer! Weird. Anyway, this week you are to write a story inspired by the changing of the seasons. Be as literal or metaphorical as you like. I don't know why I'm bothering to say that, you'll all do whatever you want anyway.
If that is insufficiently inspiring, ask for a flashrule and I'll give you a funny animal picture.
Sign-up by 9pm Saturday, submit by 7pm Monday NZ time.
Seasonally affected writers:
1. Black Griffon
5. Barnaby Profane
6. Idle Amalgam
12. My Shark Waifuu
15. Ironic Twist
18. Sailor Viy
Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 07:48 on Jun 5, 2021
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:26|
flash me up daddy
Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 09:31 on Jun 1, 2021
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:29|
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:33|
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:34|
In, flash me.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:42|
In, flash me.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 09:44|
Hello please provide me with an animal picture.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 10:42|
in and flash, please and thank you
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 12:50|
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 13:03|
In and flash
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 14:56|
also i will post crits for the week i judged before i post my entry this week
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 16:01|
In and flash.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 18:32|
Hello please provide me with an animal picture.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:25|
in and flash, please and thank you
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:32|
In and flash
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:34|
In and flash
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:40|
In and flash.
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:40|
In and flash
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 19:42|
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 22:12|
with yoruichi's win, the first td gangtag has been granted. made a couple of changes to how they work, below.
there's a Thunderdome gangtag!
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:08 on Jun 1, 2021
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 23:03|
|# ? Jun 1, 2021 23:13|
In, and since I shamefully bailed the last time I put my hat in the ring, add a for good measure.
|# ? Jun 2, 2021 08:42|
|# ? Jul 3, 2022 06:16|
|# ? Jun 2, 2021 17:21|