Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rasterperch Keep - A Numenera/Ravenloft Adventure - Session 4


200th Blog Post!  Death Comes at Last!



Last night's session of Numenera was special for two reasons.  First, the corresponding blog-post (this thing you are reading now) would be my 200th Living 4 Crits entry!  

*Applause*

Since my 100th and 150th posts happened to fall on adventure summaries for The Strange, it's only fair that Numenera gets some attention.  

But the second, and perhaps more important reason that last night's game was so fantastic, comes at the expense of my poor friends and players Andy and Marc… since I killed off their characters in this final session of Rasterperch keep.  Rest in piece, Glyquorg and Ralyx.  You were taken from the weird Ninth World far, far too soon.  

I'm not going to apologize for the deaths of these characters, since you'll find out soon enough that it was another player who caused their deaths.  All I did was set up the scene, and make the threats very dangerous, and restrict the players on their rests, and refrain from giving out healing cyphers, and… well… 

… okay, maybe I did create a situation ripe for character death!  

But in an adventure designed to emulate the feel of that original Ravenloft module using the Cypher System, it would've been disingenuous of me not to inject some serious risk into the sessions.  By the time the players started last night's game they were already short on stat pools and recovery rolls, so any threat was significant… especially those causing 18 points of Intellect damage!  To make  matters worse, one of our players who had healing skills wasn't able to make it to the game.  

Following the adventure summary I will be including some of the details from the adventure, and for those of you reading up until this point I'll clue you all in on some of the spoilers!  

Characters

  • Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, 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, Craven Nano who Entertains, played by Jeremy
  • Garren, Varjellen Glaive who Studies Anatomy, played by Andreas

Non-Player Characters of Note

  • Lady Von Zaro:  "Sister" to Raa-em

Summary


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

Now that they were finally inside the keep, the exhausted party of numenera hunters gathered together to figure out their next course of action.  In the center of the room was a burned out mound, the remnants of what used to be a partially re-grown Raa-em.  Chase had noticed that there were wires and cords stretching through grout-lines of the synthi-stone, leading up to what appeared to be a wooden door.  Using a divination esotery, the mystical nano revealed a large, moss covered hall filled with great machinery on the other side of the portal.  The party quarreled briefly about who was going to enter the door first when Ralyx stepped forward and just moved the panels aside. 

He instantly regretted his decision!

A puff of brown filled the air, and immediately Ralyx stumbled back in a coughing fit.  The door wasn’t brown at all, but rather made of synth. The “wood” on the door was a caked brown mold that filled the air after it was touched.  Luckily for the Mlox Jack, he only caught a quick sniff before his gag reflex set in, perhaps saving his life. 

Once the door was open, the troupe peered into the chamber.   Since the Brilliance was still shining outside the windows of the first chamber, light poured into this new hall. On either side of the hall were great machines, fifteen foot cubes with lights and wires working all throughout.  But what got the party’s attention immediately was the moss.  

It was well known, especially to Chase Rombek, that Raa-em was a pile of psychic moss when he was first encountered.  Lady Von Zaro also referred to Raa-em as her “brother”. Perhaps this massive patch of moss, easily a hundred feet long by countless dozen feet wide, was in some way Lady Von Zaro?  How this moss was related to the inky black demoness outside the party did not know. 

Since flames worked so well on Raa-em, Chase decided to use his burning esotery on the green carpeting.  As soon as the flames touched the floor, a terrible feeling of terror and foreboding filled the air.  A psychic backlash of raw emotion pummeled the characters viciously.  Chase was able to resist the horrible waves, and for some reason Takkorek was not affected. 

But the rest of the party endured pure hell. 

Only a few moments passed for Chase and Takkorek.  But Jak, Glyquorg, and Ralyx experienced a full six months of fear and anguish, enduring six months psychically trapped in what felt like a real coffin.  When they finally came to, the three that were afflicted were terribly shaken, and appeared to be shadows of their former selves. 

For the next hour the team rested, and tried to agree on what to do next. 

Jak was the first to enter the great, moss covered hall.  As his feet touched the soft organic material, he suddenly grew fearful but regained his nerve.  Along with Glyquorg the two scouted out the chamber, and discovered thirty two of the cubes, all surrounded and covered in moss and vines.  There were also several exits leading out of the hall, including a great ascending staircase. 

Chase seemed interested in the mechanical cubes, and with the assistance of Ralyx set out to determine their purpose.  Using his scanning esotery, the Mystical Nano figured out that each small “light” was actually a dirt-covered view screen.  With his thumb, Chase cleaned off one of the screens.  The small view screen showed the first-person view of a townswoman doing laundry and engaging in a loving embrace with her paramour.  Takkorek soon joined Ralyx and Glyquorg.  Using his countermeasure esotery, the now Craven Nano disabled the part of the machine cube attached to the view screen of the woman.  At first the screen just went dark, and some green lights below faded out.  But on a similar screen on the opposite side of the cube, the trio noticed a woman lying on the ground.  This other screen was showing the "paramour's" point of view.

Each of these view screens was connected to the consciousness of someone in the town, and Takkorek’s countermeasure succeeded in deleting the unnamed woman from existence. Rather than feel sorry for his actions, Takkorek spent the next several minutes trying to find the screen associated with the bartender he had met earlier.  Once located, Takkorek used his countermeasure esotery to send the bartender off to oblivion. 

While all of this was going on, Glyquorg was examining the staircase. The steep wooden steps headed to the upper levels of the keep, and the Exiled Jack was very interested in exploring. But as soon as he stepped on the “wood” he realized a terrible mistake! Just like the door Ralyx had encountered, these steps were also synth, and the brown wood was “mold!” Catching a full blast of the spores, Glyquorg collapsed backwards in a choking fit.  By the time Ralyx reached his fellow jack, Glyquorg was on death’s door. 

It was becoming increasingly apparent that the party needed to find a way out of this nightmarish place soon, or they would surely perish.

Heading south the numenera hunters came to another doorway, but this portal was free of any mold.   Stepping through, Chase Rombek noticed several large view screens, and one seemed to be active. Upon further investigation and the use of a scan esotery the Mystical Nano discovered the screen to be a control panel connecting the cubes to a great power source located deep within the mesa.  Each of the thirty-two cubes was represented, and thirty one were receiving power.  It appeared that someone, or something, recently diverted power from one of the cubes to the pile of moss formerly known as Raa-em.

Putting two and two together, the team came up with the following hypothesis: 

Upon reaching this “world”, Lady Von Zaro discovered the cubes and realized they were connected to consciousnesses, each full of emotion. The residual emotions from each consciousness sustained Lady Von Zaro’s mossy form. If the party could disconnect the energy from the cubes, it could negatively affect Lady Von Zaro. 

Chase Rombek believed the plan was worth a shot. The nano shut down one of the connections, and immediately the party was awash in deadly emotional waves.  Although easier to resist than the blast that had come after the burning, the soul-crushing psychic energies caused the same effects to those afflicted.  But there was a noticeable effect on the moss, which receded from the disconnected cube and immediately withered and died.

Since everyone was still alive, Chase asked the party one more time if he should proceed with another cube.   Everyone nodded, and this time the Mystical Nano shut down two cubes.  Instantly Glyquorg and Ralyx dropped dead from the psychic wailing, their minds trapped in illusionary coffins for what felt like fifteen years before finally succumbing to death. 

At this point, Chase figured that he could successfully resist shutting down one cube at a time, and it was obvious that Takkorek was not affected.  Jak was the only member of the party truly at risk, and Chase was willing to take the chance with his Mutant Glaive’s life.

So Chase just started shutting them all down. 

Chase and Takkorek watched Jak, waiting for the mutant to fall over dead as each of the twenty-seven remaining cubes were deactivated… but in an amazing feat of mental fortitude the glaive survived! 

Once the last cube was cut-off from the power plant an alarm started to ring out in the chamber.  The remaining three numenera hunters followed the klaxons back to Raa-em’s shrine. On the way they passed piles of dead, gloopy moss.  Not only was Lady Von Zaro dead on the inside, there was an inky black mess splashed against the outside windows of the chamber.  Using Takkorek’s portal esotery, the party jaunted back to the upper level of the keep where they found a glowing white platform waiting. 

One by one the numenera hunters stepped on the platform, and each instantly teleported to the waters just outside of the Latos’ long-dead body.  Desperately Chase and Jack swam to the surface, while Takkorek portal’d back to the boat. 

Modorianna, the Muleni catamaran captain was quite surprised when the party showed up. While it had been hours since they left the boat, for the captain only a few minutes had passed. 

“Back already? What happened to Glyquorg, Ralyx, and Garren?” she asked.

Dead, dead, and… uh… hmm, the three survivors thought to themselves.  Whatever did happen to Garren?

Quotes


"I would be very angry at him for abandoning us, except I don't have that emotion anymore." - Frank's trying to role-play his recently emotionless character's personality

"If I second guessed every time Jim could ask a question, I'd never get anything done." - Marc's right.

"Do you guys want to camp here for an hour?  Do you think we can survive that?" - I was going to throw an encounter at the party while they slept.  Until Frank said this.

"You know what?  You can have one of my XP!" - Jeremy being gracious.

"No, not more wood!  Forget that!  It'll probably send me plummeting to my mold-filled doom!" - Marc wasn't about to try the stairs.


Rasterperch Keep - Behind the Screams


Since not all of the clues were revealed during the course of the game, I thought I'd let you all in on some of the backstory to the adventure.  

Rovi

The "land" inside the Latos' head was called "Rovi".  This domain was designed to be an afterlife for a group of people in a prior world called "The Rewarded".  The Rewarded could have their consciousnesses uploaded into Rovi, to be protected by its Latos guardian for all of eternity.  Unfortunately this Latos wasn't so eternal.  

Although bound by reality and the laws of science, Rovi operated with an appearance of mysticism.  Outsiders would be considered "demons" by Rovi's computers, and the Brilliance could take care of the demons by incinerating them.  Some entities, such as the Vista (a visitant species of psychic hive minded insects), found ways to get around the Brilliance.  When Lady Von Zaro, a sentient mossy creature discovered Rovi, she was able to infest the world's central processing controls.  She was also able to take on a form as a creature from the Rewarded's mythology while outside of the keep itself.. the form of an inky black demon that could actually exist in the Brilliance.  

Lady Von Zaro

To sustain herself, Lady Von Zaro could slowly consume the emotions of each consciousness from inside the keep.  In addition, any outsiders that discovered Rovi would be even tastier.  While the Rewardeds' consciousnesses could keep Lady Von Zaro alive, they left her incredibly hungry.  It was Lady Von Zaro's goal to call to her brother, Raa-em the telekinetic moss, and see if he could come and assist in controlling the Latos body itself from inside Rovi, perhaps making it functional.

Spoiler alert: the name of Lady Von Zaro and Raa-em's visitant species was… moss.  That's it… nothing really that special.  Sometimes I refer to them in my notes as psychic moss, or emotion leaching moss… 

The stats for Lady Von Zaro were pretty easy to come up with… I just stole most of them from The Strange Bestiary!  Essentially her inky spectral form was the same as a Level 10 Vampire Lord with the following modifications:

  • Damage Inflicted:  10 Speed (armor applies) with a tendril strike.  Two attacks per round.
  • Emotion Eating:  For each successful hit, roll 1d16 (yes, that's a d16… shout out to my Dungeon Crawl Classics friends!) and subtract one of the following:
    1. Anger
    2. Anxiety
    3. Confidence
    4. Courage
    5. Curiosity
    6. Desire
    7. Fear
    8. Guilt
    9. Lust
    10. Passion
    11. Pride
    12. Regret
    13. Sadness
    14. Shyness
    15. Trust
    16. Wonder
Fight a level 10 enemy is brutal, but that was the point.  As well as attacking the moss directly, I would've let the party upload weaknesses (such as silver or running water) if they could've hacked the proper terminals in the Keep.

Mossy Von Zaro

As a giant patch of moss, Lady Von Zaro was still deadly.  If endangered in any way, the moss itself gave off a burst of terror that overloaded the mind of the target.  
  • Difficulty 10 Intellect Defense Roll
    • Difficulty decreased by the number of emotions removed from the inky attack.  At three emotions removed this attack has no effect.  (That's why Takkorek wasn't affected)
  • Damage:  18 Intellect
  • Special:  Those afflicted experience a period of time, ranging from 1 month to 20 years, trapped underground in a coffin (or any other terrible, hell-like scenario).

Final Thoughts

This adventure had some other tidbits I was going to throw in:  
  • More fortune telling from the La Dama and the Vista.
  • Some Golthiar roaming the woods to the west.  Actually, if any characters died, my plan was to let them play a Golthiar (out of the Numenera Character Options book) as a replacement.
  • A few more personalities the party could observe in town.


Final Ramblings

I'm not sure if my players enjoyed the torment I put them through for these last four sessions, but I had a blast putting them through their respective miseries.  I really enjoy using OD&D and AD&D 2nd Edition adventures in the Cypher System, and am very excited that the Cypher System Rulebook is coming out soon.  While its easy to toss a module into either Numenera or The Strange, and I've done so several times, I hope to spend some time with true Cypher-Fantasy soon!  

If you've done any conversion of old-school adventures into the Cypher System let me know!  I'd love to hear about your experiences!