Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rasterperch Keep - A Numenera/Ravenloft Adventure - Session 1


Encounter at Rasterperch Keep


Long ago, during my Dungeons & Dragons years, I played a lot of Ravenloft.  Even though I think I'm a crappy horror GM, I've regularly shared my fondness for gothic horror RPG's.  When I was playing AD&D 2nd Edition in high school, my friends and I would light candles, burn incense, and put on creepy music while we explored the Demiplane of Dread.  

Did you know that the 7th Guest CD had a soundtrack?  It was pretty wicked!  

During my 3rd Edition days I had the opportunity to be a player in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, written by Bruce Cordell (The Strange).  In 4th Edition I ran over a hundred sessions of "Ravenscape", a Ravenloft/Planescape hybrid campaign, for several high-school buddies via Skype and Maptool.  Despite endless hours spent journeying into darkness, I never grow tired of the twisted setting and its cast of nightmarish villains.  

Recently I was trying to think of a way to get some Ravenloft spirit injected into one of my existing campaigns.  I have a 25th Anniversary Edition of the original Ravenloft adventure, updated for AD&D 2nd Edition just sitting on my shelf, and it would be a shame not to break it out.  Actually, I've never run the original Ravenloft adventure, and while I featured the legendary Strahd Von Zarovich in Ravenscape, he spent most of the campaign as a party ally.  

Since my Tuesday night Numenera campaign wrapped up Pulse, there was room in the schedule to kickoff a new adventure path.  Sure we could've waited for the release of the Cypher System Rulebook before trying our hands at horror, but I'm impatient.  So I decided to kickoff a completely reskinned version of the original Ravenloft adventure, chock full of Ninth World flavor!  My goal was to do a "Spot Hack" of the adventure.  I've done this before, back when I ran "Isle of Dread" using pulpy Steampunk heroes in Clockwork.  The process of Spot Hacking is pretty simple:

  1. Pick an old school adventure using a familiar system
  2. Re-write/reskin the plot to have it fit the new setting
  3. Make up the rest of the stuff on the fly
Okay, okay, there is a bit more planning involved.  I went through both the Numenera and The Strange Bestiaries picking creatures that would be a good fit for Ravenloft.  When we encounter a scene in the adventure that calls for a type of creature, I can easily replace it with something more appropriate.  Even the more supernatural denizens that I grabbed from The Strange can be given a quick, far-future, extreme makeover.  Sure there are a few rules and creatures that I need to come up with on the fly, so keep an eye out for the "Campaign Notes" that I'll include at the end of each adventure.  Fans of the original Ravenloft will definitely notice a lot of similarities, but be prepared for even more twists.  

This is something that you should DEFINITELY try at home!

Without further ado, let's start with Expedition to Castle Ravenloft… er… I mean Encounter at Rasterperch Keep!

Characters

  • Chase Rombek or Raa-em, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond or a Mad Nano who Wields Power with Precision, played by Frank
  • Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
  • Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
  • Ralyx, Mlox Jack who Throws with Deadly Accuracy, played by Marc
  • Takkorek, Slaker Nano who Entertains, played by Jeremy
  • Garren, Varjellen Glaive who Studies Anatomy, played by Andreas

Non-Player Characters of Note

  • Modorianna:  Muleni catamaran captain
  • La Dama:  The hive-minded, antlike fortune teller of the Afterlife
  • Lady Von Zaro:  "Sister" to Raa-em

Summary


If you missed our last adventure, you can find the summary here.

Tracking down the Nano that the party still believed to be Chase Rombek proved fairly straightforward.  Luckily for the group of numenera hunters, massive, hulking, kaiju-sized Varjellen were easy to track.  Somewhere deep within the eastern hills of Draolis Chase/Raa-em was discovered sitting in a field, having just finished a long conversation with the ancient astronaut.  Chase/Raa-em didn't seem interested in sharing his findings, and no one in the party pried.

The trip back to Qi took nearly a month as the band leisurely stopped from village to village gathering information about potential caches of numenera.  Upon returning to the big city, the decision was made to establish a new base of operations.  Given the party's recent negative dealings with the Marish Clan, the rich coastal city of Mulen, located only a few hours south of Qi, seemed promising.  It took Takkorek less than an hour to charter a fast-moving catamaran that could make the journey.

Captain Modorianna was a no nonsense sailor who didn't seem all too interested in making friends.  Her craft was a beast-sailed catamaran; the sail itself was a massive, flat, bird/flish eating, bioengineered creature.  Halfway between Qi and Mulen the ship hit a bump in the water.  Captain Modorianna just figured that it was a drit-reef, and didn't bother to look back at her passengers.  This meant the captain didn't see Chase/Raa-em take a tumble into the dark and unforgiving waves.  

The mystical nano wasn't concerned at first.  Raa-em was in control, and could easily hover up and out of the water.  While the nano pondered what to do next, a large form appeared just below the waterline.  Ralyx noticed the incident, as well as the massive, uncoiling tentacle.  The Mlox grabbed a belaying pin, and threw it at the form, but this didn't stop the tentacle from grabbing Chase/Raa-em, pulling him below the waves.  To everyone on board the ship now witnessing this event, it appeared that Chase/Raa-em was trying to breathe underwater, taking in large mouthfuls of salty death. 

But for Raa-em the encounter was serene.  He wasn't in the ocean, but rather in a beautiful field of grass and wheat.  There was a cottage nearby, the aroma of baking bread filling the air. 

Raa-em didn't like cottages.  The nano called upon one of his esoteries to destroy the structure.  But this only served to wipe away the surrounding imagery, and bring on a new picture.  This time Raa-em was on a beach with a mug full of cold brew.  Before he could truly enjoy the new scenery, the nano realized that he was in the water, drowning.  The tentacle had pulled away, and was getting sucked back into a cave below.  It turned out that despite the nano's tendency to cause pain to the rest of the party, they didn't want him dead.  Glyquorg had jumped into the water and attacked the tentacle directly while Jak and Ralyx peppered the limb with arrows and random thrown objects.  Using his hover esotery, Raa-em pulled himself out of the water and released all of the water from his lungs.

Chase/Raa-em was very agitated by the tentacle attack, as it had blocked a message that he was receiving once he touched the water.  Hoping to get the "signal" back, Chase/Raa-em put his hand in the water and received the following message from… somewhere… : 

"Greetings, master of mind and matter,

I, your former mate in gestation hope to find you well and further enlightened.
I have discovered something extraordinary.  An Afterlife, the afterlife with such joy and happiness that I should never want again. Such joy such... happiness I will forever be satisfied... perhaps you will too.

I discovered it, just off the coast at the following coordinates [star chart included.]

Below the waves, you will find it.  I beg for you to come... and bring strong souls, with heart and conviction, for those are the kind I like the best.

I look forward to meeting with you again.


Your Dearest Sister"

According to Chase/Raa-em, the signal was over three-hundred years old, and was being transported by the water itself.  In the imagery that the nano received was a star chart.  Chase/Raa-em described the scene to Ralyx, who used some of his strange and eccentric skill suites to craft a crude astrolabe and sextant.  Using the devices, Ralyx was able to determine that the location Raa-em was describing was north, in the center of Ryness Bay just off the coast of Navarene.  

Offered several pieces of numenera by her passengers, Captain Modorianna finally agreed to transport the team to their destination.  With her swift moving craft, it was only a thirty-hour journey to the bay.  Once they arrived, the party realized that they had traveled somewhere special.

Despite the new morning light, the team of numenera hunters were able to make out a strange, bright glow beneath the waves.  At least seventy or eighty feet down, something filled the water with a soft, constant glow.  Captain Modorianna gave the party three, numenera-enhanced snorkeling tubes that would allow the users to travel down at least one-hundred feet beneath the waves.  Chase/Raa-em was definitely going, with Glyquorg and Jak offering to dive as well.  The trip down was amazing!  As the three divers approached the source of the glow, they started to make out an incredible scene.  A twelve foot wide glow rested on the bottom of the bay, and at the center of the globe was a brilliant landscape surrounding a massive stone keep.  

Upon closer inspection the globe was attached to a large, fifty foot long metal and synth body.  Chase/Raa-em scanned the form and realized that this "thing" was a construct called a "Latos".  Chase/Raa-em knew that his kin had to be on the other side of the sphere, so he reached out to touch the Lato's head.  Instantly the nano was teleported elsewhere.  

Glyquorg and Jak quickly swam to the surface and relayed the story back to the rest of the group.  Takkorek was interested in following Chase/Raa-em, but didn't want to touch the Latos' head.  Instead the Slacker Nano tried to open a portal between the catamaran and the interior of the Latos' head.  It took every ounce of energy that the nano had to create the wormhole, but with a loud scream Takkorek succeeded… only to be blasted with a brilliant light.  The nano jumped through the portal, followed by the rest of the team.  Only Captain Modorianna stayed behind.

Once through, the entire band of numenera hunters began to feel the same pain as Takkorek.  The landscape was idyllic and serene.  There was a village nearby, with old-fashioned buildings, thatch roofs, and seemingly normal townsfolk.  On a hill several miles away was an enormous, monolithic keep.  But none of these views seemed to gain the interest of the party, as they were all too busy rolling around on the ground in agony!

Despite this realm lacking a sun of any sort, there was a blinding light flooding the entire field on which the party lay.  The "Brilliance" was not necessarily burning the flesh, rather it was disassembling it, breaking it down through some other means.  Chase/Raa-em lay on the ground writhing, but the rest of the team wasn't going to wait for death.  Grabbing their nano, everyone took for the woods to the south.  

Once in the forest, the shade from the pine trees muted the Brilliance's reach.  Electing Ralyx to take the lead, the party decided to continuing exploring this new realm, under the protective canopy of the pines.  Reaching another clearing, Ralyx went into stealth mode and crept forward.  There was an odd buzzing ahead, and the Mlox Jack didn't want to give away the party's position.  Reaching an open field Ralyx saw a stone pathway, leading from a bridge to the northeast, and continuing west, possibly towards the monolithic keep.  In the center of the path there were three crystalline giants, each standing at least ten feet tall.  The constructs were completely clear, but their "insides" were formed and powered by millions of buzzing insects.  Ralyx tried buzzing in return.  Although appearing somewhat threatening, the three constructs were performing repair work on the road.  Ralyx decided to choose another path, and returned to the rest of the party to report.

The Mlox had no sooner returned when a dozen rat-sized, ant-like insects crawled out from the trees.  The creatures announced themselves as La Dama, a hive-mind fortune teller that inhabited the forest.  La Dama revealed to Ralyx that "she" had heard the Mlox's buzzing, and that he must have known the words of her kind, for he spoke them perfectly.  La Dama offered to tell the fortune of anyone in the party, for a small price: a bone.  The bone would have to come from the one wanting the fortune, however.  No one seemed too interested in surrendering a digit, and La Dama was about ready to open another line of questions when she hissed.

"She comes!" La Dama whispered.  

A voice then called out from all around the party.  "Brother… where are you brother?" the voice repeated.  

An inky black mass rose up from the ground.  The form introduced itself as "Lady Von Zaro", sibling to the entity known as Raa-em.  Raa-em was absolutely delighted at this opportunity to connect with someone from his past, especially another ancient who had formed as he had.  Lady Von Zaro chit-chatted with the party for a few moments before moaning about how hungry she was.  

It was then that the inky creature attacked!

The amorphous shadow stretched out with long, whiplike strands of ink, splashing against the cloth and armor of Chase/Raa-em, Takkorek, and Garren.  Glyquorg barely dodged one of the impossibly fast black cords.  When struck, the afflicted individual groaned in absolute agony, realizing only a few moments later that one of their emotions was completely gone.  The Lady was feeding on the party, but wasn't consuming flesh or blood, but rather feelings.  Making matters worse was Raa-em.  The leaching entity that had gained control of Chase Rombek joined in his sister's bloodlust, turning to Jack to tear him open with an esotery.  Once Lady Von Zaro had taken several "bites" she disappeared…

… and with her Raa-em.  

When Chase was struck by a strand, the effect severed the connection between the psychic parasite and the mystical nano.  Chase was finally free.  

Quotes



"Just to clarify Jim, is Frank in the water because something hit the boat, or did we hit Frank?" - Jeremy wasn't sure about Jim's description.

Marc - "But he [Craig] saw me throwing something right?" 
Jim - "He saw you angrily throwing a belaying pin into the water, at Frank."
Andy - "I clap." 

"Eh… they got it… " - Takkorek woke up and noticed the party was struggling to keep Chase/Raa-em alive.  Then he went back to sleep.

"Where'd the beach go!" - Chase/Raa-em was quite surprised when he was dragged out of the water.

"Once we get there, just imagine wealth, riches, gold beyond your imagination!" - Garren to Modorianna, trying the hard sell.

"She's a woman sailor, I'm offering her cosmetics and flying fish, what more does she need!?!" - Frank.  My wife Jen overheard this comment and said "no deal".  

"Marc is a friend of the insect world!" - Frank references a really old inside joke… long story.

"What if I give you some of my friend's bones." - Ralyx wasn't about to give up his own.



Campaign Notes



If you've stuck with this blog this far, you can see that I've made quite a few changes to the traditional Ravenloft adventure.  I always felt that in Ravenloft the players would come to fear the night, however in Rasterperch Keep it is the "daylight" and the Brilliance that should bring fear and trepidation.  I'm excited to reveal more about Lady Von Zaro, the people of this … place… and the history of Rasterperch Keep, but that shall be saved for future posts!

I don't want to reveal too much about the custom mechanics just yet, but I'm happy to share the following house rules and custom creations from Tuesday's game!


  • Tentacle Creature
    • Level 6
    • Level 5 Initiative and Speed Defense
    • 30 Health
    • Armor 3 (Water Armor 2)
    • Mind affecting tentacle, Intellect Defense roll, Difficulty 7, or the target believes to be transported somewhere pleasant.  Immediately drop one step on the damage track every three rounds should the character be submerged.
  • The Brilliance
    • Level 5 hazard
    • Exposure requires Might Defense roll or take 6 points of Might damage