Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cypher System Fantasy - Starfall in Ardeyn - Part Three



Valkilmers vs. Travoltans


I think it's important that we get right into the meat and potatoes of this post, therefore I don't have much to say here in the intro.  Just know that, by the end of Starfall in Ardeyn (from +Bruce R Cordell's Strange Revelations) our group figured out that long, long ago, Ardeyn was populated by two distinct fantasy races: Valkilmers and Travoltans.  

No more spoilers.

As with previous posts, you'll see that I'm following a format where I interject my thoughts "mid-play report."  Hopefully this gives you some insight as to what was going on in my head during last night's session.

Big breath…

Here we go…

Living 4 Crits Presents

Cypher System Fantasy Campaign

Ardeyn: Land of the Curse


Cast

  • Sister Sariety, a Charming Speaker who Works Miracles, played by Frank
  • Zamani, a Spiritual (Ugallu*) Explorer (Magic) who Masters Foot and Fist**, played by Andy
  • Shenuesh, a Graceful Adept (Combat) who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Jeremy
  • Yaren, a Foolish Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion, played by Craig
  • Verrenn, a Spectral*** Adept who Casts Spells, played by Marc
* Ugallu is a race option from Broken Immersion by Ryan Chaddock Games
** Masters Foot and Fist is from Worlds Numberless and Strange by Monte Cook Games
*** Spectral is a new and original focus written by Marc Plourde and featured on his blog, Inspiration Strikes

Episode 7: Starfall in Ardeyn, Part Three


The journey into the depths of Ardeyn’s underworld via an old well was less than pleasant for Zamani.  Much to his surprise, the descent was slower than expected.  Strange, disembodied hands passed the monk down a long vertical passage.  Although they were not capable of damaging the Ugallu's tough hide, the hands' handling was not welcome.

[GM’s Note:  This is totally an homage to the scene in Labyrinth when Sarah is dragged down into the oubliette.  We just watched the movie again last week after learning about David Bowie’s passing.]

Rather than let himself get tossed into oblivion, Zamani activated his lightning fists and took a swipe at the grasping fingers.  The owners of the hands did not enjoy the attack, and immediately ended their hold on the Ugallu.  With nothing holding him back, Zamani fell the rest of the way into a pool at the bottom of the well.   

[GM’s Note:  While last week’s cliffhanger was a fun way to end an adventure, it left me with a challenge.  I was introducing an alternate path into the adventure’s dungeon, other than the broken seal.  Fortunately, the map found in Starfall in Ardeyn leaves many rooms, chambers, and passages undetailed.  Adding the cave at the bottom of the well was simple, and it also gave me a place to put one of the adventure keys.]

Zamani’s quick trip down the cursed well came as a bit of a shock to the rest of the adventuring party.  One moment the large Ugallu monk was standing there in front of the stone structure, and the next he was plunging head first into the dark abyss.  The entire team, save for Shenuesh who held back at the edge of the farm house fence, came to examine the well.  Yaren didn’t notice what had happened, and turned to the party with his hands outstretched in bewilderment.  

Unfortunately for poor Sister Sariety, one of Yaren’s “bewildered hands” struck the Charming Speaker, knocking her down into the well.  The Sister fell fifty feet, landing in a splash right next to Zamani, who had to swim quickly to dodge the falling nun.  Making matters worse, Zamani’s hands were still “electrified”, giving the Sister a bit of a shock.  The Ugallu tried to assist Sister Sariety out of the pool, but continued to shock her with his electric fists. 

On the bank of the small pool, in the center of the chamber, Zamani squinted but couldn’t seem to make out any details with such little light coming from above.  That’s why he didn’t see the stalagmite, which caused him to trip into a low hanging stalactite that detached from the cave ceiling, smashing into the Ugallu’s head knocking him out cold.  

[GM’s Note:  If my count is correct, Zamani’s fall into the well last week was a GM Intrusion, as was Sister Sariety’s initial shock in the water, and her shock as she was dragged out of the water.  Then Zamani got knocked out during a GM Intrusion.  So that’s four GMI’s in one locale.]

Eventually the entire party would find their way down to the bottom of the well.  Verenn used some rope and then enchanted it with some hedge magic so that it would glow.  Shenuesh reluctantly entered the cursed farm and gave several of the characters a quick scratch, infecting them with just enough lycanthropy so that they could see in the dark for a short time.  

[GM’s Note:  I’m really enjoying Shenuesh’s adept power trappings.  It’s obvious in the game that Jeremy's character is not an arcane spellcaster.  Yet he found a very unique way to explain why Shenuesh can bestow abilities and “buff” other player characters: temporary lycanthropic afflictions.  What’s even cooler is how Marc doesn’t allow his undead character Verrenn to get afflicted.  I love this group of players!] 

The cave at the bottom of the well was quite large: fifty feet in diameter, with the center of the space taken up by a twenty foot wide pool.  The pool seemed to be supplied from a trickle of crystal clear and remarkably pure water from the west.  Shenuesh took a taste of the pristine water, much to his benefit.  To the east, a stairwell ascended thirty feet into a man-made passage.  

[GM’s Note:  I gave Shenuesh the Luck Pool benefit of the “Lucky” descriptor for the rest of the day.  It takes guts to drink weird, perfectly clear well water!]

Something at the bottom of the pool sparkled in the soft glow of the enchanted rope.  Verrenn was the only one who seemed to notice, so the Spectral Adept took the plunge, retrieving a small bejeweled crown of a scepter.  Verrenn realized the artifact was magical, but could not determine its strength, so he tucked the small trinket in his pocket for later.  

The sparkling scepter crown wasn’t the only weird site in the chamber.  As the party rested and regained some of their health, Sister Sariety saw a bizarre image at the top of the stairwell.  An angelic being, obviously a qephilim, passed in front of the stairwell, laughing maniacally.  

“My scepter, oh my scepter!” she wailed.  “Stolen, never to be found… where can it be?”  

But before anyone else in the group saw the creature, it disappeared from view.  

At the end of the team’s break there was only one direction the party wanted to travel: up the stairs.  Verrenn cautiously used an arcane scanning ability to check the stone steps.  Sure enough, they were imbued with magical power, with a tinge of necromancy.  Along the walls of the stairwell were six stone doors, three on either side.  The doors were not easily visible at first, but Verrenn’s spell made them stand out as clear as day.  

Zamani placed his foot on the first stair, and all six doors opened.  Six skeletons emerged from their tombs, each armed with a buckler and a sword-gauntlet.  The skeletons made no attempt to move off of the stairs, but they certainly blocked the path of anyone who would want to ascend.  

[GM’s Note:  These skeletons shall forever be known as “Valkilmers.”  I made a comment that each skeleton had a sword gauntlet similar to the one that Madmartigan wore in the final epic battle of Willow.  I reinforced the comment by stating that each skeleton obviously had the same bone structure of the 1980’s Val Kilmer.  It should also be noted that the nation of humans known as the Valkilmers were vehemently opposed to the terrible Travoltans.  Take notes, Bruce Cordell.  This should be Ardeyn: Land of the Curse canon!] 

Verrenn hoped that his own undead nature would be an asset in this situation.  Taking a deep unnecessary breath [because he’s undead] Verrenn started up the stairs.  Immediately the skeletons attacked, slashing and stabbing at the adept.  Fortunately Verrenn was able to dodge the blades, as he made his way to the top of the stairwell.  Once there he turned and realized that he wasn’t followed.  These pitiful beings would only harm those on the steps.

One by one the rest of the party made their way to the top of the stairs.  Zamani had to attack one of the creatures, because that’s what Ugallu Monks do with their lightning fists.  

Realizing that the bucklers and swords were covered in gold and silver, Yarren took the time to approach one of the skeletons and wrestle it for its gear.  The Foolish Warrior managed to earn himself a pair of skeleton [Valkilmerian] artifacts in the process!  He was so excited that he started cheering in place, causing several of the skeletons to attack him with their remaining weapons.

At the top of the stairs the party had a choice: travel north or travel south.  Lighting a torch, the team chose “north” and Verrenn led the way, careful to use his arcane scan every few dozen feet.  

The next chamber was certainly ominous.

[GM’s Note:  One might say that it was completely infested with a high volume of “nope!”]

It was a rectangular room, the entrance in the southeast and exit in the northwest.  On the eastern side of the room, where the party entered, the ceiling was starting to collapse, with several large stones resting on the ground.  The western side of the room featured a series of stairs descending into a pool of murky red liquid.  

[GM’s Note:  I know I said the liquid was red, but I couldn’t help but hear Egg Shen yell “Black Blood of the Earth!” in my head when I described this room to the players.]

If the bloody pool wasn’t foreboding enough, there was something very disturbing in the chamber’s center.  Four ivory pillars held up the remains of the ceiling, and at their center was an ivory altar

On top of the altar there rested a large bronze urn...

In the urn there was a red, scaly hand…

… and the hand was moving!

[Nope!]

After a very, very brief discussion the team of adventurers decided to skip the room.  

Completely.

[Seriously?]

There was no need to investigate further, no need to see who owned the hand.  Perhaps the urn was an artifact, or the hand an ancient being of some importance.  [Nope!]  It didn’t matter.  Each of the characters carefully made their way along the edge of the wall, so as not to disturb the broken ceiling, until they came to the northwestern exit.

[GM’s Note:  A very wise decision!  The GM Intrusion recommendation was that the hand could drag the soul out of a character.  How friggin’ wicked is that?]

Eventually the party found their way to an intersection.  They could continue north, towards what they believed was the direction that, at least on the surface, would’ve taken them to the broken seal.  But the passage to the west seemed to have a soft eerie glow that made Shenuesh’s fur stand on end.  Then again, Sister Sariety could hear the angelic qephilim’s laughter to the east.  

After a quick vote, the party traveled west.

It was a short thirty foot trek to the next chamber, and the team’s torchlight revealed another rectangular room.  At the room’s center was a fountain full of black liquid [the REAL Black Blood of the Earth!] and on the western wall was a jagged tunnel heading up and out of the underworld.  Squinting, Shenuesh gazed up the tunnel, and saw that the light was coming from one of Ardeyn’s moons.  The passage could take the party to the broken seal for which they were originally searching.

Apparently the adventurers had taken a shortcut!  

[GM’s Note:  Finally, at the end of the adventure, we were at the expected beginning of the adventure!]

By this time the crazed laughter was getting louder, and the party realized that the angelic qephilim had come to “chat”.  

“My scepter, my scepter, have you taken my scepter?” she begged.  “Are you thieves?  You are!  You are the thieves that took my scepter!”  

The being charged forward but Yarren got in the way, repulsing the creature’s powerful, and energized grasp.  Sister Sariety hoped that her soft words could soothe the creature, and so she reached out with a calming voice.  Eventually the qephilim backed down, allowing the sister to heal her mental trauma.

The angelic qephilim’s name was Teremiel, and she was the “star” that fell to Ardeyn.  She stated that in her crashing, she broke through the seal of this chamber, and her enchanted scepter snapped.  One piece bounced away, into a room full of various liquids, while the other was stolen by shadowy beings.  Teremiel believed that she could use the scepter to repair the broken seal, but she would need both pieces.  

Verren told Teremiel that he did in fact have one piece of the scepter: the bejeweled crown.  Nearly giddy with delight, Teremiel told the party that she could take them to the room where the shaft had been lost, the room of many liquids.  

[GM’s Note:  This adventure is just chock-full of liquid!]

The chamber in question was on the far eastern side of the dungeon.  In the center was a pool of crystal clear water, with a small jug adjacent to the pool.  Each of the four corners of the room featured another pool containing a different liquid: milk, red wine, oil, and blood.  

Zamani stood watch as the rest of the party attempted to solve the “puzzle-room.”  Using his motion sensing cypher, Zamani noted that there were seven creatures over a hundred feet away to the south.  His teammates would have to work fast, or they risked an encounter with the dungeons’ dark denizens.  

[GM’s Note:  I had to steer the players away from combat at this point, something I don’t like doing.  It was 10:45pm.  On one hand Frank was expecting a hard stop at 11:05pm, but then again he was pushing for combat with the creatures to the south.  But this was the last necessary puzzle room, which would reveal the final adventure key.  Fortunately I kept the action on Verrenn and the liquid, and away from the seven creatures.  I believe they were Umber Wolves.]

It took a few minutes, but Verrenn was able to figure out the correct sequence to unlock the magic of the room’s central pool.  All he needed to do was take the pitcher and pour some of the milk, blood, oil, and wine into the clear water.  At the end, the shaft of the scepter appeared!

[Cue the Legend of Zelda treasure chest music!]

So the brave adventurers returned the scepter shaft to Teremiel, who in turn connected it to the crown.  The angelic qephilim then commanded the party to depart from the dungeon, so that she could seal the crypts.  Sure enough, the magic from the scepter worked, and the seal’s broken half reappeared.

“But what about the well?” the adventurers asked.

[GM’s Note:  Crap!  I forgot about that part!  I had to ad-lib quickly.  That’s what I get for making up a second entrance to the dungeon.]

Teremiel asked to be taken to the farm.  Once there, the qephilem took the scepter and sealed the well’s connection to the crypts below.  

“But what about the curse?”  the adventurers asked.

[Okay, this wasn’t verbatim, but someone asked a similar question.]

Poof!  

With a wave of the magic scepter, Teremiel removed the curse from the farm.

“But what about Verrenn?  Can she restore him to life?” 

[Seriously, I could strangle whoever brought this up.  Already this NPC fixed the seal, fixed the broken well, and removed the curse.  Now you want the party's undead player character to be restored to life?  I’ll show you, you tricksy players!]

“Of course,” Teremiel stated nervously.  The angelic qephilim had Verrenn kneel down, as she placed the scepter against the spectral adept’s disembodied skull.  

At first everything was fine.  Radiant magic flowed from the ornate shaft into the ectoplasm-covered skull.  Perhaps it was working?  But then, something backfired.  A booming voice filled the air.

“This is not the deal!” the angry unknown voice announced defiantly.

The radiant magic suddenly ceased, and necromantic energy started traveling back through the skull into the scepter’s shaft.  Teremiel started to shake and cry, as the rod burned her flesh.  Piece by piece, the angelic qephilim turned to ash, until nothing remained but a small pile of grey grit.  The magic scepter fell onto the pile of ash, causing the dusty material to puff up into the morning air.  

“Oops,” Verrenn announced, as he leaned over and picked up the scepter.  


[Oops indeed, you greedy players.  Oops indeed.]


Quotes


"What's that Shenuesh?  Timmy fell into the well?" - Marc's calling Jeremy a "Lassie".

"Andy, make a speed defense roll to not get hit by a falling nun." - Jim makes the ultimate Cypher System ruling.

*THUMP* "Meow!" - Zamani's cry as he gets struck by a stalactite.

"Andy's a monk?" - Frank, and everyone else in the party, is still sure Zamani's a wizard.

"I'm thinking now that one of us needs to make a race known as the Valkilmer."  - Marc speaks truth.

"No, these are Valkilmers, not Travoltans!" - Marc continues creating new fantasy races.

Jeremy:  "Is anyone here an engineer?"
Frank:  "Andy is.  He's a wizard and engineer."