Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh
Session #075: Tao & the Supreme Being.
Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue Lvl 8
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8
Inverna Nightbreeze (played by Goonalan) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)
Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar
This is session 75, and it was a cracker.
And apologies before we get going but this is all just me relating to you what happened, there's no action here (well... no fighting) its all just a voyage of discovery.
The Dark Squad are heading through the Fire into the Light, which in this instance means tramping through a mysterious series of natural lava caverns, their journey narrated (once, so far) by a pre-recorded dwarven voice. The Dark Squad are looking for... well, they're not sure yet, all they know is they keep finding hidden doors, and then opening them. And look over there... the gang have just found a pair of dwarven statues stood guard outside a pair of dwarven wrought doors. The statues depict Moradin (the All Father) and Dumathoin (the Secret Beneath the Mountain).
Here they all are, the Dark Squad, perched on a sliver of stone and at their backs a sea of lava, all is well with the world. Vincen-Whoooo! Has just ferried his friends across the bubbling ferocious divide.
Although after humming and hawing at the latest pair of dwarven doors for a while- they're not trapped, not locked, and yet they still can't be open. The Dark Squad, at last, remember that the access code here is Vinnie and his maze-etched magic button. Latterly christened by the PCs/player, the Symbol (or Token) of Ub.
The doors, of course, open when Vinnie and his magic button get close.
Inside is an ancient, but clean and tidy, dwarven made stone passage- boy, but it's hot in here, and the PCs could do with a rest, and a sit down, and a chat. And so they do...
Newton's Tiny Hut, the PCs are keen not to have to start making constitution saves for exhaustion, they're taking precautions. I know, who are these people, and what have they done with the Dark Squad?
The PCs also take a brief moment to have a chat about what's going on in here, but somehow we're playing poker here, and so while everyone has an idea no-one, it seems, is prepared to show their hand too early. So, something's going on here- more information is needed.
But anyway, let's get on- through another pair of button-auto-opening doors and into a much larger hall, and there are two more dwarven statues here to admire- Moradin again, and... but hang on, the other statue- that's Ub/Durgeddin the Black.
A bit much with the chains motif, what's that all about?
Note, at about this point Vinnie lets loose with his semi-big idea-
“Monsieur Durgeddin, ay-kay-ay monsieur Ub az kwiyt an eye opinyon of himzelf, he zinks he iz a god!”
So, that's out there. His comrades in arms nod along.
Just to make clear, the Dark Squad think that they have a hand to play in the coronation of Ub/Durgeddin, furthermore they fear they've been duped, somehow, into playing the part, and... last bit. The coronation is happening right now, whatever part the Dark Squad have to play- well, this is it.
But then the dwarven voice is back, and this is what it says-
“If you have come to this place like a wanderer in the dark, seeing all- but wary still of the shadow...
Then rejoice, for this is the way, pay your respects to those that have gone before you and then pass on.”
And in the centre of this chamber is a bubbling burning well filled with lava, and so- again- Vinnie leads the way. The druid bows to both statues, offers a prayer to Moradin, and a little cheek for Durgeddin/Ub, and then a platinum piece thrown into the lava pit.
His colleagues follow suit, although coin denominations differ, as does the amount of respect shown- Newt is fairly unpleasant to/about Durgeddin/Ub, but nothing out of character, just more whispered hatred.
Then through another pair of doors, and into the stone and lava wilds once again.
There are going to be a lot of pictures in this one, we're exploring. I've been waiting on this session for a while now. You know how that is.
The Dark Squad snake and squirm around the lava, there's another large well-pit combo here, only this one is full of bones- more demons/devils/Ashardalon-like dead.
However at this point Vinnie and Daktari decide to test the effectiveness of their spider climbing slippers, they both have a pair of these now.
The pair complete a cautious circuit (nearly) of the caverns. Note there are a trio of doors just a bit to the south of where Vinnie stands in this image. It seems whatever it is they're going to find here is in the next bit.
Also note, Vinnie has made clear to his colleagues, save for the lava, he's 99% certain that there is nothing in these caverns that means to harm them.
The maze button, of course, opens all three doors, and within a short passage south and three more dwarven statues.
Left to right = top to bottom- Dumathoin, who the hell is that? And the ubiquitous Ub/Durgeddin the Black.
There's another slightly larger statue to the south of this trio, Moradin again. The All Father is looking into a much larger chamber to the west, and so the Dark Squad also come to stare.
A high-ceilinged circular/domed chamber, steps up to a raised platform- more lava bubbling from the font at its centre, and all around statues. Dwarves, of course, and this- the PCs very quickly figure out is the Morndinsamman, the pantheon, or else some part of it.
Here's a better picture, annotated as the Dark Squad play guess the dwarven deity.
The statues of the dwarven gods on the ground floor of the chamber are, clockwise and from the top- Abbathor (Greed), Dugmaren Brightmantle (Lore & Learning), UNKNOWN, Gorm Gulthyn (Defender of the Halls), Sharindlar (Healing & Mercy) & bottom row- Vergadain (the Laughing Dwarf), UNKNOWN & UNKNOWN.
So, not bad.
And the dwarven gods depicted on the upper platform? The big guns...
Moradin, Dumathoin, UNKNOWN (the crazy guy again) & the Dark Squad's favourite (not) Ub AKA Durgeddin the Black.
So, part of the mystery is accounted for.
Vinnie is pretty certain-
“I am rite, as use-yule. Zis Ub zeeks zer Godhed! Merde!”
But then the dwarven voice comes again-
“Rejoice for you are at the threshold!
All that is left is the mystery, be amazed.
Press the button- seven times.
The first five chosen from the supporting cast.
The final two from those that are raised above, or else beyond, but are always watching on.
The first must come before the last.
For the last will open the way to the throne room.”
The Dark Squad like the idea of the throne room, that sounds like a place someone would go to get their reward, or at least to have a chat with someone important.
Maybe for the coronation of Ub/Durgeddin?
They figure what needs to be done here remarkably quickly, again- Vinnie to the fore, although it's Ram that actually spots that the dwarven statue he's looking at has a small round indentation in its helm- the size and shape of the Symbol of Ub, the maze button. What's more the next statue along has a similar space on its belt buckle, and the next- on its satchel.
“Press the button- seven times.
The first five chosen from the supporting cast.”
Therefore, the sequence is, pick five from the supporting cast- the dwarves not on the platform, one at a time, each member of the Dark Squad inserts the button into one of the circular indentations. Then presses it and sees what happens next. Then the next guy, and a new statue is selected.
But then where next-
“The final two from those that are raised above, or else beyond, but are always watching on.
The first must come before the last.”
And the squabbling begins, although it doesn't last for long because Vinnie is still on a roll, the druid discovers that the larger statue of Moradin, positioned outside of the chamber but looking in, also has a gap suitable for the maze button.
Therefore Moradin is the sixth button that needs to be pressed.
Newt argues the toss for a while- “But how do you know this druid!”, try it with a heap of scorn, and make it sound like a threat- always a threat, everything Newt says.
Vinnie patiently explains-
“Zer furst muz com before ze last.”
Moradin, the All Father, is number one- therefore he has to come next.
It's Durgeddin/Ub isn't it, this is his party. That's the last button that needs to be pressed.
And so under instruction from Vinnie, who also leads the way- that's what happens, a member of the Dark Squad selects a dwarf from the lower tier, puts the Symbol of Ub in the sculpted space- presses it, and it clicks like a button, and hears the following messages.
Each delivered by the dwarf selected from the lower order-
“There is a lot to see.”
“Don't get carried away.”
“Don't lose your breath.”
“Be as a child.”
“See the world in all of its wonder.”
And that's five done.
Then Vinnie heads out into the hallway and puts the Symbol of Ub into the larger statue of Moradin there, and presses it-
“Well done! Pass on to the last.”
And the last is Ub/Durgeddin the Black, although there's a little bit of prevaricating until we get to him, Newt- eventually, grabs the maze button from Vinnie and does the honours.
“Seek and ye shall find the last best part of me.” Ub/Durgeddin states.
But then nothing happens, only... on the screen another large closed door has appeared, although there's no screen shot of this, and it took the PCs/players a couple of minutes to notice it was even there.
Again, the Symbol of Ub opens the door, but there's just darkness/nothing within.
Vinnie walks into the black, his comrades follow.
The Dark Squad are sucked and stretched through the black.
To the throne room...
Not the kind of throne room the adventurers were expecting.
The floor is made of metal here, as is the ceiling, the walls- odd, some metal-stone mix. There's a door (where Daktari is stood, heading north). But the button wont open this portal, and so Daktari gives it a shove, and...
Although, note before the Dark Squad exit Ram discovers that the seat of the strange metal throne lifts to reveal a pool of possibly holy water. Newt is minded to try some, and so he does- it stings a little to drink but, we move on...
A barracks? Five bunk beds, all neat and tidy, but nothing else to signify who lives here, or else where here is.
There's another door to the north, and another to the east.
The Dark Squad, after a bit of a look about, head north.
Now this is interesting.
And there are lots of things going on in here, and looking at the space, well... you've figured it out, but the Dark Squad, after a few giggles, are in character, and so-
Newt fiddles with one of the silvery desks, there's a light on and a bunch of flashing text some how magically projected onto the glass.
The text is a long string of flashing numbers (actually just ones and zeroes), and its in binary- so the players have to make a few rolls and then be allowed to find themselves a binary to text translator on line.
The flashing binary code translates to-
And so, on their third and last attempt, the Dark Squad get the password right, they type in-
Hardly the most secure of passwords.
Then lots of other things start to light up, and also begin making ZX81/Spectrum loading noises- you know the kind of the- a big bag of white noise that squeals and peeps every now and then.
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, and over a dozen binary to text messages, and replies, things continue to happen.
That is until a 'system check' detects an error-
“WARNING! God detected in Power Arm!”
But the Dark Squad keep exploring, they even manage to get open the large and strange looking container in the storeroom to the west. The box here seems to be made of some sort high density ceramic/metal (maybe) hybrid.
There's a suit of armour, as identified by Ram, in the large container.
Note Newt is doing a lot of the interacting with the binary messages, and getting more and more irate as the binary codes keep on turning up. At one point Vinnie and Daktari have to dance around the tabaxi warlock, the druid trying to calm Newt down- the tabaxi is dead set on blasting the binary bastard machine to atoms.
Onwards into a much larger chamber, and Vinnie wonders aloud- “Zis iz remarkable, I wunder wot iz beyond zer huge doors to ze west.”
And so using the Symbol of Ub, which is working again- after Newt managed to get the 'systems' back on line, anyway Vinnie opens the bay doors, and lets space in.
Or else gravity intrudes, and the vacuum seeks to make its presence felt ostensibly by vacuuming everything up (and out).
Vinnie is instantly enrobed by a (magical) pale blue static cling like skein, or bubble, and equally suddenly he's made much heavier, or else his feet somehow (magically) adhere to the metal deck.
His colleagues fare less well.
As all of the air, and the other non-bolted down stuff thunders and spews out the of the great wide doors and into space.
But because there's a moment before the doors are full-on open the druid's colleagues get to act.
Ram is as cool as a cucumber, he takes a deep breath- grabs out his rope and grappling hook, flings it into the doorway- it snags, and is then whooshed off his feet and yanked about ten feet towards the now open door, then the line goes taught. A second or two later and the rogue has also grabbed out his immovable rod from his belt and pressed the button.
Ram is holding station.
The rogue hangs on, and avoids several large and hefty lumps of metal that come spinning and accelerating towards him, racing off out of the doors and into space.
Meantime, Daktari and Inverna have also managed to each grab a breath, and then to grab onto and then drag themselves along Ram's rope line to the door, there they hang on- and get battered a little by flying debris, but not much because they both keep rolling very high for the dexterity saves.
Well the tabaxi digs his claws in as best he can to the metal floor plates, and scarpers, as quickly as he can, using his Feline Agility to add an extra burst of speed- although he has to spend his inspiration point to avoid failing to take a breath (saved second time around).
Then, while the warlock is clutching onto some kind of bleeping machine he slips and ('1') flies all the way back the way he came, somehow managing not to get too hurt by the flying debris, and likewise not crash too hard into any walls. More remarkably the tabaxi also manages to be sucked past/through Daktari and Inverna in the doorway, and although both try neither of the pair can grab the accelerating Newt, and then...
Just as he's about to be whisked out of the great bay doors, Ram lances out an arm and grabs the cat man by the scruff of his neck, and then continues to hold on as the screaming wind slowly dissipates.
At last, Vinnie using the Symbol of Ub, closes the bay doors.
And when that happens several of the formerly flying PCs fall hard onto the metal floor.
“C'est magnifique! Did yew not zink! Orl the World- we are in zer seat of ze gods!” Is Vinnie's read on things, but the druid was barely conscious of the action going on behind him, he was transfixed by the vista.
The remainder of the Dark Squad are more than a little perturbed.
But again, Vinnie gets the final word-
“We are in zer 'eavens, zat is Toril- our owme, floating way beneath ower feetz! Sacre bleau and formidable!”
Apologies, neither I nor Vinnie are fluent in cod-French.
Eventually, after a lot more chat, we go on- and here's the thing, Ram has figured it out, this, of course, is Tao. Remember the map type etching on the wall of Tracticus Halfpipe's office...
This one. Note the dwarven runes on the drawing translate as, the large text- “TAO”, and the smaller text bottom left- “The Supreme Being”.
And as above-
“WARNING! God detected in Power Arm!”
The power arm is obviously to the south (as on the map), and Vinnie is going on a walk-in-space (there's probably a better way of writing that).
Then there are a pair of double doors and a cubicle type chamber- an air lock, and then...
Vinnie is outside again.
And then into the power arm, remembering- eventually, to shut the door behind him.
Note, fellers- I gave you the Sending Stones around thirty sessions ago- walkie-talkies, I knew you would be needing them.
Into the power arm.
And at the end of this procession of humming and vibrating rooms is another small chamber with a flashing light, and the flashing light is a button.
Vinnie presses it.
And there's a knocking sound from one of the large humming metal contraptions in here.
The druid investigates, opens the canopy lid of the container and...
A small ball of metal and flesh flies out, Vinnie identifies the thing immediately- it's a monodrone, a Modron.
The creature 'talks' to Vinnie, in binary- and via (somehow) the Symbol of Ub- the druid sees lines of flashing ones and zeroes scroll through his mind's eye, while at the same time his brain translates. The modron says-
“I am Ubmo.”
The monodrone, still flying, performs an aerial bow.
“I am the one true supreme being, the Lord of all creation.”
And then, after allowing a pause for the above to sink in-
“How is it hanging?”
Vinnie discovers that he can think his replies in binary.
But Ubmo has more to say-
“I will accompany you to the end of times.”
“For I exist outside of time, like lunch time, or bedtime.”
And then a promise-
“I will keep you safe from harm.”
Before signing off with...
“That is Gnarly!”
A short while later and Vinnie (and Ubmo) are back to his friends, and Ubmo is introduced. There follows a would-be lengthy discussion, I write 'would-be' because we were already over time, and so I'm going to hang this bit over until the next one.
But just to make clear, and this message is for the Dark Squad, next session starts with the following-
- Discussion about where we are with the plot, or to be more accurate- where you are with the plot.
- A new list of Dark Squad things to do, because depending on where you want to go next then... well, I'm going to have to write some more game. I was kinda hanging on to see how this stuff went down before I wrote too much more of what follows.
So, a chat at the start of the next one.
This is a great game, because it's 90% good to great, and then every now and then... we smash it.
The Dark Squad’s to-do list reads a little like this-
- Chat with Ubmo, the Supreme Being & Lord of Creation.
- To the Moon Pool.
- Goblins in the Dreadwood.
- Nightshade in the Dreadwood.
- To Blackedge, find the Goblin Stair.
- Return to Fallowstone Holy for answers- the Witch’s Tor & the Pact of the Flame.
But we'll revisit this list sometime in the future, no doubt.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.
Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.