[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 234, Part Two

Bhoior

Once they were sure he was out of immediate danger, they left Leon in Ayesha’s care.

Uriel seemed withdrawn and contemplative for a while after their visit to Thrag. (He had learned something personal about the nature of reincarnation, which he chose not to share with the others right away.)

Korrigan studied Calily’s map, and the version they were making themselves. Then he asked Uriel (and Xambria) to employ the vortex array to examine the energies of the surrounding planes. Once this was done, he began to plot a careful path through the Southern Gyre that would enable them to explore each and every plane without retracing their steps. He did not want to skip over any opportunity to forge a better world. This path would take them to Bhoior next, so he asked Calily how she had managed to move the great turtle.

“Patience,” she answered. When asked to elucidate further, she explained that she had meditated on the turtle for over a month, whereupon it slowly flew across the void at her request, enabling her to explore the deadly Northern Gyre. “An experience I only narrowly survived.”

Gupta wondered how a whole turtle could form just a fragment of a plane. Answers were waiting on Bhoior:

Ignoring Uru’s attempt to chart a path up the turtle’s arse, they landed at the very centre of the plane, where the energies would be strongest and Kai’s reading of its traits would be simplest. The plane was indeed a twenty-mile-wide turtle composed of stones filled with fossils that had trapped the souls of the dead. Now many thousands more spirits from the Bleak Gate filled this world. “We can go no further,” they told Uru, gesturing ahead to the plane their charts called ‘Amrou’, which appeared to form some sort of barrier to them.

The trapped spirits, meanwhile, whispered that they knew secrets but would never reveal them except to those who knew the souls when they were alive. Uriel used a spell to compel them to do so, and they confessed that had been lying. When asked why, they said, “For fun; there’s not much else to do around here.”

After being temporarily side-tracked, Uriel used his location loresight ritual to see if he could learn something of the history of this place. While he meditated, so did Kai. Kai soon declared that if bonded with, this plane would cause sounds to echo many years later. (A hard concept for a four-year-old to grasp and communicate.) They interpreted this to mean that people would be more innately aware of the past, and less doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. Interesting. (Everyone immediately thought of one specific person who could benefit from this effect. …)

Uriel’s ritual yielded unusually detailed results, so rich was this plane in sentient, whispering spirits:

Long ago another, greater turtle bore several continents upon its back, and when it neared its proscribed death it traveled for the spawning ground of its mighty species where it could transfer the people who lived on its shell to another. Alas, the great turtle died before it could reach its destination, and so died an entire world.

Centuries later a new turtle awoke from the huge dead body, and it could hear the mournful memories of those it never had a chance to save.

Made aware of this sad story, Kai was able to bond with the plane and an hour later another golden icon was created.

Shabboath

Gupta made an attempt to persuade Korrigan to head north straight away. She gave some half-hearted reasons about reaching Egalitrix, but Uriel could sense an ulterior motive. When pressed, she admitted that the blinking lighthouse of Ascetia fascinated her and she did not want to wait too long to investigate it. Korrigan tapped his chart pedantically, where his proposed route was clearly marked, and said, “We already have a plan of action. All in good time.”

On to Shabboath: a vast bog dotted with spurs of karst limestone. Remote viewing yielded little, save that this world was fairly teeming with listless vaknids. Closer, they realised that a light drizzle fell here almost continually. Uru cast a water-walk ritual on everyone. (Except Leon, who was yet to regain consciousness.)

They followed the usual routine: land, and wait for Kai to bond, while Uriel sought to learn something of the plane’s history. While they waited, Calily suggested that they investigate one of the huge sinkholes they had seen as they passed overhead, one of which was close by.

Uriel, still present in the moment despite his evident concentration, told Korrigan that Calily did not say what everyone thought she said, adding: there is a powerful sentient presence here, deep below the surface. “Evidently, it wants us to go down there,” he said.

Kai announced that linking Lanjyr with Shabboath would have a physical effect on the world, creating a network of spooky, underground tunnels, as vast and complex as the surface world. For the first time since their odyssey began, here was a trait that appealed to Uru. He was therefore presently surprised when, to everyone’s astonishment, the usually cautious Korrigan announced:

“I think we should take a look.”

There were mixed reactions. Uriel didn’t think it was a good idea; nor did Calily. Hildegaard said she didn’t want to go underground under any circumstances. “The last time I entered a sunlit, watery realm, inhabited by psychic entities it did not end well.”

When asked for his reasons, Korrigan said, “There might be someone down there who needs rescuing.”

That sounded a bit feeble, but Quratulain said, “You are the king. You call the shots. If you say we go down there, then we go down there.” Uru furiously agreed.

Uriel scowled. These inexplicable motives were signs of manipulation by a higher power. But Korrigan insisted that he was acting of his own free will, and wanted to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in their exploration of the Gyre.

A quick investigation of the sinkhole with Korrigan’s clairvoyant eye revealed huge, flooded tunnels that could only be navigated aquatically. Perhaps they could call in the Sunfish? They made arrangements for it to be lowered from the Coaltongue.

At this, Hildegaard became adamant in her refusal to accompany them and it was clear that she expected Rumdoom’s support. He gave a shrug and his expression was one of helpless resignation as he accompanied his wife back to the ship.

End of Session
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 235, Part One - The Severed Sea

The Severed Sea

When Rumdoom and Hildegaard returned to the Coaltongue, Korrigan thought better of bringing Kai along for their underdark explorations, and sent Quratulain back to the mother ship too, to protect him. Quratulain accepted this order without question, so it was unnecessary for Uriel to add, “I fear that mundane weapons will be of little use here in any case.” To which Quratulain responded, “There is nothing mundane about my weapons.” Calily decided that she would return to the Coaltongue too.

Those who remained on Shabboath checked out the sinkhole more fully. Creepers extended half of its depth, constantly dripping water into shallow pools in the rocks below. The tunnel then extended laterally for a while before it reached a deep, wide pool. It would be impossible to bring the Sunfish here, so they went back to check out other sinkholes. Eventually they found one where the water lay immediately beneath the hole. Korrigan shifted into his water form (a power he still had a habit of referring to as Meld with Mavishadespite its recent disconnection from that plane); Uriel took on the form of a squid; together they explored the tunnel to ensure that it was big enough to justify lowering the Sunfish.

It was: deep, branching and circuitous. They kept on going, maintaining telepathic contact. While they waited on the surface, Uru modified his tiny biomechanical friends for aquatic use, fitting them with miniaturised rebreathers. (These were prototypes he had not even tested out.) Gupta noted that several vaknids had approached and appeared to be watching them from a distance.

The scouts eventually found their way through to a vast body of water. How vast was unclear. Korrigan tried to inform those on the surface of this fact and at once discovered that telekinesis was no longer possible, which was disturbing. He wondered if this was a lake, and if they could surface, and so immediately headed up, rising a couple of hundred feet before meeting with a thick, waxy barrier. Neither he nor Uriel could identify this substance or name its origin. Uriel spotted hagfish-like eels – eyeless and barbed – swimming all about them.

Korrigan declared his interest in exploring further before bringing the Sunfish down, reasoning that it would be useful to know if the craft could surface: was there an air pocket above the wax? Uriel – who had counselled against coming down here in the first place – noted that there was something quite out of character in his old friend’s slightly reckless insistence on probing deeper and deeper into the depths with fewer and fewer allies. He gently insisted that they return to the surface and come back with the Sunfish, which was after all their initial plan. Korrigan reluctantly agreed and they did so.

After setting up a number of contingencies with the Coaltongue – namely that, should the king and his companions not return for any reason, the remaining unit members should continue their quest to explore the Gyre, create golden icons and find a way to get back to Lanjyr – they lowered the Sunfish into the sinkhole as far as they could, before dropping it the rest of the way. Uru, dressed in a fetching sailor suit, took the helm, with Gupta as his co-pilot. Down they went.

Eventually, they came to the vast expanse of water and, having first established that they were too deep to maintain radio contact with the Coaltongue, rose to the level of the wax and began tracing the wall of the cavern. Uriel spotted the barbed eels shooting up through small holes in the wax, then slithering back down again. Occasionally, they clutched something in their mouths when they returned: bats! This was a lake after all.

Korrigan wondered if the wax was itself a barrier to communication, since they were able to communicate with each other freely. Uriel said that he felt the same presence he had detected on the surface – a psychic presence that caused a kind of interference in its proximity. But the emanations weren’t directional and he couldn’t tell where they were coming from. Having dealt with that question, Uriel now dealt with another – he transformed into a barbed eel, and shot up one of the hole they were using, finding open air on the other side. The receptors the eels used relayed information to him – movement overheard, which he presumed to be the bats. Uriel then shifted form again, this time into a giant bat (so as not to present a tempting target to any other eels), and used echolocation to establish that this chamber was very large – extending far beyond the range and limit of the bat’s echolocation. Caution prevented him from flying around in this form. He switched back to eel form, returned to the water, and became a squid once again.

They resumed their circumnavigation, keeping a careful mental track of the location of the entrance hole, which was difficult, since the wall of the cavern was not circular or regular. In the end, after half an hour – at the end of which they merely established that this lake was very, very large – they turned around and headed back to the entrance, which they marked with an invisible symbol. This done, they then headed down. And down. Several hundred feet. The water became soupy and they spotted small fragments on the bed – shell or bone. Now they moved directly out, perpendicular to the cavern wall, hugging the bottom. The layer of detritus on the bed became thicker as they went and eventually the fragments became larger and more identifiable: bones; humanoid bones – skulls and ribs and femurs. Many, many creatures had died here.

“Drawn down here to explore, perhaps?” Uriel mused, pointedly.

Something loomed large in the water above them: what turned out to be the tip of a large structure, like an incredibly large, fat stalactite composed of the same waxy substance as on the surface of the water, from which this tower of wax depended. There were holes in the structure large enough for the Sunfish to enter, and so they went inside. Within were twisting tunnels that could not have been caused by the natural passage of water. These were far too abstract, sharp and strangely beautiful, like the interior cavity of a shell, or an earlobe – curved and carved, unlike the flat, functional seal above. After some time navigating this strange labyrinth – coming across occasional exits as they went; always heading gradually higher and higher – Gupta wondered aloud if they would find anything resembling a chamber, or if it was just tunnels all the way to the top. At that very moment, the tunnel they were currently following, gave out onto just such a chamber: broad and high, with many entrance and exits throughout, leading away like valves from a heart. But the chamber was empty. Uru suggested blasting it with the Tyrant Eye but his plan was overruled.

Uriel used location loresight here, and was instantly overwhelmed by psychic emanations – alien and unintelligible. He had never experienced such a powerful mental assault when using loresight before, and it left him reeling. When he eventually recovered, he tried to make some sense of what he had experienced, but could not do so, save to confirm that a very puissant mind indeed had occupied this chamber for a very long time. Korrigan at last demonstrated something of his customary caution, and suggested they leave the lake entirely. Uriel used the detect planar energies ritual the Voice of Rot had taught them. If this being was not native to Shabboath, they could follow its trail. But it must have been native, as the ritual failed. By the time he was done, Korrigan had changed his mind again, driven by curiosity to investigate further. This time they decided to exit the tower and follow it up to the surface in the water outside.

When they reached the wax barrier, Uriel found a hole and went through it again. Again, in giant bat form he used echolocation to establish that there were strange structures nearby, hemispherical lattices formed by clasped fingers of wax. He returned to the water, and it was decided that they should try to breach the wax barrier here. Uru began to use the Tyrant’s Eye to cut a hole; unlike the very basic mechanical means of firing and shutting off the eye in more-or-less a straight line, Uru was able to use his ghostly friends to manipulate the eye quite finely.

It took some time. The hole was three-quarters done when Uriel saw that something was coming.

At first it looked like a shoal of glowing fish, blinking in and out of sight but generally coming closer. Only as they neared did it become apparent that they weren’t ‘blinking’, but passing behind a much larger, darker shape which they were endlessly circling around. This thing was not at all streamlined, and yet it powered through the water at incredible speed, as if the water around it were less of an obstacle than thin air. A huge, segmented shell, the size of a house, with three glowing ‘eyes’ peering out of its segments, and three thick rubbery tentacles trailing behind it.

Both Uriel and Korrigan tried to communicate with the creature, while Uru rotated the Sunfish and prepared to fire if necessary. He had set the eye up to fire as a default – he was holding it closed. If something happened to him, it would fire automatically. He warned Gupta to take over in such an eventuality.

The creature powered forward, heedless of all telepathic greetings, reached out with a rubbery tentacle and grabbed Korrigan. Psychic energy coursed through him, and might have driven him quite mad, were it not for the anchoring power of the Humble Hook. The creature let go of him and kept on moving, leaving him hanging limp in the water, feeling disconnected from his own body, as if he were in fact the creature, moving at speed towards the Sunfish, ploughing past Uriel who was able to weave its fate as it passed (a spell that connected him to the destiny of the target).

Uru fired. The Tyrant’s Eye struck the creature and pain coursed through Korrigan, who had somehow been psychically linked to it. (Fortunately, the Hook once again protected him from suffering any real harm.) Shortly after the beam hit it, the creature vanished. Gupta peered through the porthole to confirm that it had in fact gone, not simply turned invisible.

What was it? Was it real, or a manifested psychic memory? Gupta thought on it for a while, and intuited that it had been a psychic projection of some sort.

Nothing happened for a while. Since cutting a hole seemed to have provoked it, it was agreed that Uru should finish the job. This he did, and proceeded to then slice up the circle they had made such that it would easily part when the Sunfish rose through it. Uriel kept an eye out, and announced that not one but two forms were approaching – both more easily visible than the first as the main body itself was aglow: one a blue and red harlequin, the other sporting purple striations. Again, Korrigan tried to reach out to them as they approached.

Suddenly, Uriel was aware of the approach of the being whose fate he had woven. It loomed upwards from the depths having approached from below, and emitted as net of eerie, slimy bars. These bars wrapped around anything they struck, forming a sticky acidic mesh; otherwise, they dissipated in the water. Uriel dodged clear, but the slime struck the Sunfish, eating into the hull, and interfering with propulsion.

Korrigan avoided being grabbed by the blue and red projection; the other swept past him and tried to grab Uriel, who darted away and wove its fate too. Korrigan swam towards the Sunfish and tried to hack off the acidic bars around the propeller. Gupta took the controls and turned the craft while Uru brought the Tyrant’s Eye to bear on the stripey purple manifestation. He fired and it vanished. Uriel fended off more tentacles. Korrigan ordered Uru to fire again and, with the help of his ghostly hands he turned the eye towards it, fired again and caused it to vanish too. The third creature – the original with the fiery fish-motes – vanished of its own accord.

Uru sent his biomechanical creatures out to try to fix the leaks that had sprung up in the hull of the Sunfish, but the damage could not be easily fixed. Korrigan wondered if they shouldn’t head back now. These beings were very dangerous, and further contact did not promise to yield further insights. Uru was keen to investigate the waxy structures on the surface, having gone to all that trouble to make a hole. But no, discretion finally got the better of them, and they returned to tunnel from whence they had come, hoping to cover the four miles without further encounter.

To their relief and surprise, the creatures did not return and they eventually came to the tunnel Uriel had marked. They entered, only to discover that it had been sealed by wax, about thirty feet in! It was then that the three projection appeared, crawling into the tunnel from behind them. There was a flurry of tentacle strikes, eerie slimecraft and unpleasantness. Instead of firing at the creatures, uru focused the Tyrant’s Eye on the wax barrier. It didn’t appear to be working! Gupta concentrated and realised that it was an illusion.

When she announced this fact, Uriel dug deep and invoked a powerful divine symbol. It split into three beams of radiant fire, striking each of the psychic projections and causing all three to vanish once again.

Limping back to the Coaltongue, they were all surprised when Gupta said, “I think we should go back and get to the bottom of all this.”

“She didn’t say that,” Uriel explained.

“No, I didn’t,” said Gupta. “Whatever it was.”

After more exhausted silence, Uriel couldn’t help but say, “I’d like to reiterate my earlier suggestion that we don’t go down there.”
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 235, Part Two - The Plane of Ruin

The Plane of Ruin

Later, while they recovered on the Coaltongue, Korrigan explained his plan of action. “We need to gather information to give us the widest number of options to secure the best possible outcome for Lanjyr. This only thing we have to lose is time, and for that reason, we will chart a path that means we do not have to double back on ourselves. For the moment, we are lacking options for a plane of water. Padyer was unsuitable; Hunlow and Shabboath unsafe. So we must bond with Mavisha.”

“We need a plane of death,” said Uru.


Korrigan acknowledged this fact before he went on: “Mavisha is close by, so I propose we head there. I’d be interested to know what it’s second trait might be.”

Uriel told him it was time.

“I’d really like to advocate strongly for a plane of death,” Uru insisted.

“Yes, we need a plane of death,” said Uriel. “We can’t pick and choose, we need one of each: earth, air, fire, water, space, time, life and death.”

“I just want to make sure we get a good death one,” said Uru.

They discussed Korrigan’s plan further. The only drawback with going to Mavisha next was that, according to his own rules – that they should avoid retracing their steps – doing so left Nem, Av and the Plain of Rice unexplored. Korrigan shrugged. They already had a Golden Icon of Nem; they couldn’t bond with Av without rescuing Thisraldion; they’d already been to Padyer; the plain of rice sounded… well, plain. Uriel reminded Korrigan that because he and Leon had been absent went they visited Padyer, and so there was still the matter of the arcane-locked, alabaster tower. Nem might at least be worth taking a look at; there might be refugees on Av. As for the Plain of Rice… well, they always just fly over that without stopping on their way back.

So the rules of engagement were established and they flew to Nem.

Every surface of Lanjyr’s erstwhile plane of death was a dark grey, except for glowing spirits on their exodus from Nem to Bhoior. They decided to fly down on discs and talk to the spirits, to see if any of them had died recently and could relay any news from Lanjyr. This turned out to be a futile endeavour, like finding a needle in a vague, querulous haystack.

Korrigan asked Kai what the plane’s trait was: “When connected to our world it is dangerous to come here. That’s not happening right now, though. Also, ghosts are stronger.”

Back on board the Coaltongue, Admiral Smith pointed out that the section of Nem they were looking at corresponded to the Avery Coast on Lanjyr: you could see the railway running along the coastline and – look there! – a train abandoned exactly where the unit managed to escape being dragged into Nem. They decided to go down and have a look.

They approached the train from the rear. Uru set foot inside and then picked his way from carriage to carriage. The others made their way along the train outside, or on the roof. Uriel was particularly interested in reaching the front, to see if they could obtain any oil of Nem left over in the shattered Wayfarers’ Lantern.

Three-quarters of the way along the train, Uru saw a glow up ahead. It was coming through the open door of one of the first class cabins (the very one they had occupied, if memory served). Gingerly, he picked his way forward, shuriken-crossbow raised. When he looked inside he saw the ghost of a debonair tiefling gunslinger slumped in one of the plush seats. His wide-brimmed hat was tipped forward over his eyes; his hand, lolling down by his legs, clutched an all-too-real pistol, fashioned in a baroque style. It was Boone.

“He was a very bad man, if I recall,” said Korrigan. “A murderer of defenceless women. We must take care.”

They approached with caution. When Boone became aware of their presence, all he did was turn his eyes in their direction and tilt his head sufficiently that the brim of his hat raised up so he could see them. He curled his lip slightly in apathetic disdain, then looked away again. Uriel at once sensed the danger the weapon posed and tried to prise it telekinetically from Boone’s grasp. Boone’s fingers tightened on the grip and raised up with it, but in the end he did not seem to have the energy of the will to hold on. His fingers slipped free and his hand fell back into his lap.

“This weapon is possessed by a demon,” Uriel announced. “It demands to be fed with innocent blood.” So Boone’s actions had been unwilling, had they? He looked back at the tiefling and said, “Do you desire peace?”

Without even looking at him, Boone replied, “I had it, until a moment ago.”

So they left him to dwindle, repent, or linger. Uriel brought the pistol along, keeping at it telekinetic arm’s length until had had time to conduct a ritual of banishment.

When went back to the ship they found that their ghostly passengers had manifested more strongly. Leon awoke to a gentle touch on his cheek. He opened his eyes to see that it was not Ayesha, who had been tending him, but Lavanya. Gupta was able to talk to Helandra, and learn more about Jenny Greenteeth; Uru sat down with El Perro and reminisced about the old days; Korrigan was overjoyed to be able to speak with and embrace Elizabeth for the first time in many years. Once they had shared a few words, he introduced Kai to his mother. What might have been a strange, eerie encounter was made easy by Kai’s disarming manner – he was not in the least concerned about Elizabeth’s ghostly form, and chatted with her happily. Because here on Nem, ghosts took s stronger, physical form, he was able to sit on her lap and give her a hug. Then he thanked her for giving her life to protect him – a tale Korrigan had told him many times.

Everyone received a mental message from Korrigan: “We will stay here on Nem for another day.”

And so we leave the unit for a while, enjoying a rare respite from their adventures, and from the depredations of the Gyre…

End of Session

PS. The only thing to disturb this peace was a cry of pain and alarm, and the sound of splintering wood and shearing metal, as Uriel’s attempt to banish the demon in Boone’s pistol drew a rebuke from the Gyre: The same misty gear-teeth that accompanied the banishments invoked by the priests of Hunlow tore through Uriel’s cabin and ripped at his flesh until he ended the spell. The crew gathered in alarm, then went to fetch materials to repair the damage. Uriel, meanwhile, repaired himself.

End of Zeitgeist Season 6
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I'm glad I got that last post in, just before the big upgrade, as it was the final session report before our six-week summer break. Would have been weird to have left it hanging. However, as I was behind posting these reports, the next session isn't all that far away now - less than three weeks until the final season of our Continuing Adventures.

It would appear that we will be taking our time over adventure #12, though. The party (well, Korrigan) has come up with a rationale for exploring every crevice of the Gyre, having decided (given their vision of the future) that time is not of the essence. I'm glad about this, but their determination to check out everything the campaign has to offer led to some odd behaviour on Shabboath. It was the first and only time that I as DM couldn't grok their justification for exploring. Obviously, groups coming to Shabboath from Mavisha haver every reason to poke their noses around; my group just wanted to and came up with some pretty queasy reasoning. But I quite enjoyed the serendipity that this happened on a plane where strange voices and psychic energies draw the unwary into the sunless sea, so that's how I wrote it up.

A nice, cathartic finale came about at random. I couldn't plan for anything dramatic, not knowing where the players would go. As it was, we left them in the relative calm of Nem, speaking with the empowered ghosts they had rescued from the Bleak Gate. We've handled these conversations on-line, and I'll report them in a prologue to 'Season 7'...
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
As we head into the final phase of the adventure path, I thought I would pause to consider our line-up one last time, talk about their mechanical development, and say a few words that might help to clarify how the team works together. I very much hope there won’t be any changes between now and the end of the campaign, and that this will be the unit right up to the final battle, but I feel like I ought to touch wood even saying that.

Here’s a quick synopsis of how each character works, including the special ‘shifts’ that make them particularly ‘epic tier’ in a specific area. For those of you familiar with Cypher System, it is worth noting that each character had a primary and a secondary focus from the outset, and each character recently developed a third.

NB: This post is very geeky, not narrative at all, so advise you to skip it if you’re not interested in ‘crunch’.

King Baldrey. I still call him Korrigan and so do his unit. His leadership powers (granting attacks, re-rolls and other bonuses), and suite of planar manifestations (completed through contact with Kai) have recently been augmented by psionic abilities (mainly telepathy, but one or two other non-aggressive forms). These slowly developed through his time with the gith, travels with Uriel, and the use of Ottavia Sacerdote’s headband. But they really blossomed once gidim energies flooded the world following the Great Eclipse. His player wanted to move Korrigan in a direction that established him firmly as more brain than brawn. His three shifts are in leadership, meaning attacks granted by him are much easier. (A house rule allows him to grant attack bonuses derived from the Rites of Rulership to his allies.) Korrigan is a Yerasol Veteran who draws his core abilities from both the warrior and speaker type, with many bespoke powers translated from the 4E warlord, and the Monument of War paragon path. He also has one or two paladin-like powers derived from an early character development that saw him adopt the interpretation of Triegenes as written by William Miller (which, prophetically, turned out to be the exact, true meaning of Triegenes’ teachings as revealed in his autobiography). Tellingly, Korrigan is able to wield a Holy Avenger. (To my mind, a bit like Cap lifting Mjolnir.)

Uru. In 4E, Uru had the highest skill bonus of any of the characters, in stealth. In Cypher System he has three shifts in stealth, and in the damage inflicted by attacks made while hidden – the consummate assassin. On top of that, his mastery of poison-use grants huge spike damage to a single target, though he is usually too distracted to keep this up for more than a couple of rounds. Uru also has a shift in speed. As a technologist, Uru has impressive mechanical know-how. His primary weapon is a shuriken crossbow he designed himself. He can even take control of enemy constructs from a distance (though he doesn’t use that power much; until recently he didn’t have the mental reserves). His most recent development has been the ability to interact with spirits, particularly in the urban environment (becoming an Urban Empath for story reasons). His feral mind has grown in tandem. Once the campaign is over, he’ll become a fey titan, but other than a growth of 4” in height, there haven’t been any mechanical consequences of this. Uru’s constant companion is Little Jack, a spidery contraption inhabited by the soul of a dead boy. Then there are Winkin’, Blinkin’ & Nod – three lost souls who he rescued from the Bleak Gate and act as mage hands – and an entire ghostly entourage granted by Vicemi Terio’s bracelet.

Rumdoom. Rumdoom’s shifts are in endurance. He didn’t really need the help, as his primary Cypher System focus was Never Says Die. But now he has three additional recovery rolls which trigger all sorts of bonuses when he uses them. Rumdoom’s defences are fairly good, but he absorbs damage like a sponge and can shrug off most negative conditions one way or another. He commands ice powers, thanks to his mastery of eschatological runes, giving him powerful AOE attacks when he needs them, but mostly he just hits things with his hammer. And now his hammer is the Stone of Not, which insta-kills anything under 10th level. (Translation: Cypher System only goes up to 10, except in ‘epic’ or ‘supers’ games, when it goes up to 15. The titans were all level 12, for example. Many of the foes in the Gyre are L10 or 11.) The Stone of Not may also have other undiscovered properties. Rumdoom’s mastery of the rune of destruction has also led to him becoming a Logos, able to affect the world around him with his words. Those same runes also grant him control of ice magic (derived from the Cypher focus Wears a Sheen of Ice). As the Herald of the Icy End, Rumdoom is idolised by a religious cult (a reskinned Idolised By Millions), granting him a loyal retinue, including the deep faen shaman Wuzwaz, Bhalu, Thurgid Ironspoon (his loyal retainer and bagman) and, last but not least, his wife and shieldbearer, Hildegaard. Fun fact: Rumdoom was a sapper during the Fourth Yerasol War and is also a dab hand with munitions.

Leon. Perfect mastery of the artful teleport makes encounter design quite tricky. I have to make sure there is a reason to stay and fight, or the group can simply vanish. Leon has other tricks up his sleeve. He’s a martial scientist, for one, and was trained in the eladrin art of the spellsword by Kasvarina herself, enabling him to wield the Dreaming Blade very effectively. Leon’s shifts are in curses; debilitating foes is his stock in trade. Shifts help him land these hexes on high level foes. Leon is also a member of the Unseen Court, and thus a master of dream-magic and illusions, undetectable and invisible at will. The Wayfarer’s Lantern rounds out his arsenal. I’m always glad to see this flavourful item in use, and Leon feels like the ideal person to wield it. Entire encounters often turn on imaginative solutions thought up by Leon, or some quick-thinking manipulation of the battlefield. But he has to work hard to keep the enemy at bay, as he really is an archetypal glass cannon. Quital’s Silksteel Mantel helps with this, as do his own reactive teleports. Leon combines the Spits Curses, Awakens Dreams and Masters a Weapon foci.

Uriel has several ‘builds’ at his disposal, thanks to his numerous incarnations. We designed this so that he has a core of abilities that define him, and a whole raft of options he can port in as and when. This means that whatever gap emerges in the line-up (due to absence, or an unusual encounter type) Uriel can often fill that gap by drawing on one of his past lives. This makes him something of a Swiss-army knife, but not an over-powered one, as none of his optional builds make him better in a specific area than another member of the team; except perhaps when it comes to AOE effects which, in any case, were always his forte (as Malthusius was a 4E invoker). Uriel can only access a certain number of builds at any one time. In system parlance, he has a range of foci to choose from, but has permanent access to the rarefied focus ‘Transcends the Human’. What is nice about this is, the way he is played – so down-to-earth in most respects – you wouldn’t know that he is on the path to becoming a higher form of life.

Gupta has shifts in the prowess of her tiger form, and in her ability to land the Ask A Question power, which is very effective indeed – causing foes to become bemused for a round while they try to contemplate it. This power is derived from her Wonders focus, which reflects a kind of awe and curiosity and growing understanding of the magical world. She also has a lot of ways to boost her allies, from her Provides Support focus, and her Speaker ‘class’ (or, in Cypher parlance, her ‘type’). A curious admixture of the esoteric and mundane. Of course, she is also a weretiger, having accepted the Blessing of Hewanharimau in the form of a love-bite from Sokana Rel. (And the reskinned Howls at the Moon focus.) This change was problematic to begin with, but now Gupta has mastered her lycanthropy and does not change unless she wishes to (or have a hunger for flesh that must be satiated). Having been an honorary Docker for years thanks to her family connections, Gupta has finally taken the plunge and become a Vekeshi Mystic. Her singular devotion to righting the wrongs done to the eladrin people have caused her to embrace the path of the Vekeshi Excoriant, one which she is developing even now, as they travel the graveyard of the multiverse, and will no doubt lead to a satisfying apotheosis on Ascetia. One of my favourite, serendipitous moments recently was her player’s fascination with the lighthouse.

Quratulain is a terrifying combat monster. Every military unit needs one. She is nigh-on impervious, with crazy defences and ridiculous armour. Her Calculates the Incalculable focus grants her bonuses to attack and defence; Fuses Flesh and Steel makes her hard as nails. While Rumdoom can absorb damage, Quratulain can resist it. In Cypher parlance she has deep pools and high edge in all of her traits, meaning she can keep going pretty relentlessly (though fighting at high levels takes its toll even on her). She has melee abilities from her warrior type, and ranged abilities from her Carries a Blaster focus (which translates the Gunsmith theme very neatly, in allowing her to craft ammunition and guns). Alden Wondermaker, the Clockwork King, has souped her up further with lightweight armour, rocket boots and a skeletal mask incorporating the firesight eye. She also carries the Nok Gun, and a small arsenal of lesser firearms, in her Coat of the Genteel Butcher. Bonkers! Of all the characters, Q is the only one who isn’t balanced, in the sense that, when I originally ported the 4E characters over to Cypher System, I was at pains to ensure that the abilities they gained from one focus didn’t stack with another. By the time Quratulain joined the campaign, it was more important that her prowess be evident to the party, so I lifted that restriction because at this level, it’s a drop in the ocean of bonuses. Her shifts are in accuracy and speed.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Nifty. Don't play the system, but I'm intrigued by the depth and variety.
In fairness, the depth and variety may not reside in the original system. The variety is there for sure, but characters tend to be less 'deep'. Any depth comes from the use of varied cyphers, which don't fit all campaigns or styles. I got rid of the cyphers and added more player power. We've basically broken the game.

Cypher System is very flexible but has its flaws, just like all systems. The best part for me is that bad guys are represented by a single number. So when I'm running the game from the 4e version, I just assign each foe a level and I'm good to go, figuring out variations (eg. defences that are likely to be higher or lower than that level) on the fly.
 
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SanjMerchant

Explorer
I don't know if you'd still remember, but when you first started out, did any of the players "pitch" their characters? (More recent for Gupta and Quratulain, but still.) I only ask because Quratulain almost sounds like someone said "I kinda want to play as the Terminator, albeit with a different backstory."
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I don't know if you'd still remember, but when you first started out, did any of the players "pitch" their characters? (More recent for Gupta and Quratulain, but still.)
Not only do I remember, but I attribute the success and longevity of our campaign (at least in part) to the method of character generation we used. It was indeed something similar to a pitch. I asked the players to think about two things: Firstly, what role their character would play if the campaign were an ongoing drama series - how would they make their mark on the audience? This was to be summed up in a keyword, and they would be rewarded mechanically (using reroll 'bennies') for enacting that keyword each session. So Korrigan was 'moral'; Uru was 'sinister', etc. (This was overly simplistic, but it got the characters off the ground, and faded out after a while once character development and familiarity with one another had rendered the single-word summary redundant.) Secondly, I asked the players to think about what role they would play in the unit; why Korrigan would have chosen them in the first place. They had to be very, very good at what they did. (And in 4E terms have a superlative 'basic attack' which he could use to best effect when issuing warlord commands.)

As that second consideration also suggests, the starting point was Korrigan. I chose the player I wanted to lead the group, and suggested that a tactical warlord would be the ideal class for that role. (Bear in mind we'd played together for years, so I was fairly confident this would work. The group is adult and mature; none of the others have ever bridled at the idea that they should follow his lead or defer to him. If anything, their loyalty has gone from strength to strength.) I also suggested roles to the other players, and we went through long email exchanges to settle on the final iteration of each character.

By the time Gupta came along, the unit was 'full'. They didn't need anyone else. So the important thing was to create a character that could play a supporting role without stepping on anyone else's toes. There was no attempt to make her capabilities 'up to snuff', in fact we set her at level 1, very long way behind the others, and made the reasons for her inclusion entirely story-based.

I only ask because Quratulain almost sounds like someone said "I kinda want to play as the Terminator, albeit with a different backstory."
Quratulain was very different. Our primary combat monster and all-round-cool-dude, Matunaaga, was leaving the party. That role needed to be filled. And by that stage in the campaign the character needed to be extradordinary, to help her stand out. I decided that some sort of 'thing' trapped in the Vault would be a good bet, and gave the player a range of options to choose from. He went with the Mechanical Devil, and came up with a beautifully poignant backstory. Insofar as she resembles the Terminator, in fairness she wore something akin to a porcelain kibuki mask to begin with (while her true, cadaverous 'skull face' was underneath). When he face got inadvertently healed and restored to its youth and beauty, I had the Clockwork King make her the steel skull mask as a kind of private joke.

The character concept was grim and relentless, yes, but tempered by real vulnerability. Her prowess in combat also comes from her mathematical genius, which is a facet I really like.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Conversations with the Dead - A Prologue to Zeitgeist Season 7

The unit spent an extra day on Nem, to allow those who had brought along lost ghosts of the Bleak Gate to converse with them, here where their spirits were strong enough to be seen, heard and even physically interact with.

Helandra

Rescued by Gupta, Helandra was no longer took the form of a comely ananta paudha, at least not at first. Her spirit was formed when she died, and it would seem that when she did so she was quite old. It transpired that Jenny Greenteeth possessed her and made several jaunts through time, eventually abandoning her in the Dreaming several centuries ago, having taken possession of another unfortunate - the Birch Queen's sister.

"By the time the evil green spirit vacated me I was already past my prime of youth. Unable to return to the modern day, I passed the rest of my years in the Dreaming. But when I died I fought to linger in the realm of the dead in the hope that I would one day find you and tell you all that I have learned..."

Now strong and self-aware enough to remember what she had to say, Helandra was able to provide some fascinating insights into the mind of the evil half of Kasvarina's spirit.

[More of which at the table on Monday...]

Elizabeth

While on Nem Korrigan's wife was also fully self-aware and able to interact physically with her surroundings. She spent most of her time talking to and mothering Kai, who was shy at first but soon began to ask the artless questions all four-year-old would ask of their dead mother. When he went to sleep, Korrigan and Elizabeth had a chance to talk alone:

Elizabeth began by saying, “I am sorry for keeping my intentions from you. I thought you would try to stop me and was not in a good state of mind. Perhaps if I had trusted you we could have found another way and you would not have to have raised our son on your own.”

"I know you did what you believed was best and now I am trying to do the same," Korrigan replied. "I am grateful you did what you did so Kai could have a chance to live, and I am sorry I wasn't there for you. But who can tell what would have happened if we made other choices? I am just happy that you and Kai have this chance to meet each other."

"I am happy too, though it saddens me to think of everything I have missed. I did not know that the spell I had cast would cause me to perish, though I knew it would cost me dearly. Thinking about it now, I can see that the fey bargain I made was as one-sided and I was foolish to enter into it. But then Kai would not be here without it. He has told me a lot about your adventures together. I do not judge you for your decision to bring him along; it is not for me to do that. But I wonder - what do you think the Voice of Rot want with him?"

"No one can fully foresee their the consequences of their actions," said Korrigan. "All we can is do the best we can with what we have. You had the courage to do that, and this not only gave life to kai, it also gave him a foundation for courage and wisdom of his own. He will always remember what you did for him. He may be a child, but he shows awareness and understanding beyond his years. He has something.. Unique. Who can tell what he will be able to do with it. But I'm doing my best to guide him. That's why I keep him close. We are surrounded by a storm unlike anything anyone has experiences before. I could shelter him from it, but I choose to guide him through it. One thing you can be sure of - he will never be alone and unprotected.

"As for Voice of Rot..." he went on. "Well, we know what he wants - the destruction of all. The question is, does he want Kai because he needs him to further this end, or because he knows that Kai can foil him. I have been thinking about it a lot, but I don't have an answer yet."

"You are right," said Elizabeth. "Strangely, it does not trouble me that you are taking Kai into the eye of the storm. I trust you, and I know that he will not come to harm. Now that it is too late I remember all of the reasons why I fell in love with you. You are the best person I have ever met, and I am lucky to have found you. My only regret is that I let my frailty and fear cloud my judgement and lost the sense to put faith in you, which was my downfall."

She took his hand and planted a kiss on his cold, stony cheek.

El Perro

A message for Uru from beyond the grave:


Transcript: "How ya doin', stinky trasgo? it's been a while, init? I hope, for your own good, you kept my firearms, because I'll be back someday from the realm of death... I can't stand having no flesh body... I can't feel the smell of gunpowder!!!"

Uru obfuscated with an amusing anecdote about loaning El Perro's pistol to someone but not giving them any bullets. What a hilarious plank! (This enabled him to sidestep the part where he gave the gun to a deep faen shaman in return for the secret to shadow walking. It escaped Uru for the time being that the self-same shaman was in fact now a member of Rumdoom's retinut, so in some respects it could be argued that he did still have the gun.)

Then he sounded out El Perro to see if he was open to the idea of "founding a Ghost Assembly, a small force of militant-minded incorporeal undead who could help investigate and castigate violators of the rules of your realm. In the meantime, I'll work on seeing what I can do to give ghost a more robust method of sensing the world."

El Perro agreed to co-operate since he is, or was, always a man of action... and also had a certain soft spot for the little creature.

Uriel, meanwhile, put two and two together and suspected that Uru might be closer to finding a solution than he realised. ...

Lavanya

Perhaps we should draw a discreet veil over her newfound capacity to interact physically with Leon?
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 236, Part One

A Trip Down Memory Lane


Helandra’s memory was dim, despite the boost to her spirit from the plane of ruin, and what she remembered had to be teased out by careful questioning. Gupta called on the others to help, as although she knew Helandra best, and had the closest connection to her, the others knew more about events that preceded her involvement, and – certainly in Korrigan’s case – were more personally invested in what Helandra had to say about Jenny Greenteeth.

Korrigan’s first question was, “Why does she want Kai?”

Frustratingly, Helandra did not know the answer to that, but she was able to say that getting hold of him was her sole motivation. It wasn’t mere opportunism, but the reason for her existence. Just as Lavanya had come into being with a mission, or series of missions (some of which she could not articulate the reason for either). It was her whispers to the River King that had originated the initial fey bargain with Elizabeth (although this came after she abandoned Helandra, and took possession of the Birch Queen’s sister).

They mulled over Kai’s importance once again and realised that his deep connection with the planes stemmed from his ‘schism-wrought’ blood: Korrigan’s nature had been changed on Axis Island, but unlike many others he had been able to survive the schism and pass his unique nature on to his son.

Gupta asked Helandra if she had experienced different timelines, like Leon and Lavanya had. Helandra found that intriguing and thought very hard about it. It would certainly make sense of some of the fragments of memory that did not seem to link to one another or even seemed contradictory.

Korrigan asked her if Greenteeth truly served the Voice of Rot, or if her involvement with him was more self-serving. Helandra did not know about Greenteeth’s allegiance with the Voice of Rot, and so the hag’s involvement with him must have come later. Helandra apologised that she was unable to be clearer or provide better answers.

Leon asked her about Kasvarina’s encounter with the serpent on Reida, which she had witnessed. Helandra said that Kasvarina’s intention had been to beat the Voice of Rot to the plane of time and commune with it for as long as possible. She succeeded, but her communion was interrupted by the titan’s arrival. Kasvarina was poisoned and… they knew the rest.

Lavanya wondered aloud if Kasvarina had created Jenny Greenteeth on purpose, or at very least was aware that her creation would come about as a corollary of her own.

“We do need Kai,” said Uriel.

Lavanya asked, “What else have her machinations made you do?”

They thought about the planar idols (retrieved by Leon at the behest of the mysterious Thinker), and also realised that Korrigan’s latest brush with Greenteeth had showed them the way to the Gyre…

Meanwhile, Uru spoke to Uriel about his plan to create a Ghost Assembly. Uriel didn’t know about that precise plan, but he did sense a strengthening of Uru’s connection to the spirits that surrounded him, one that did not necessarily stem from their presence here on Nem. He thought about it for a while and had a sudden revelation: The Voice of Rot once had domain over both corporeal and incorporeal undead. He no longer controlled spirits, but his eye did. Could it be that the loss of his eye had precipitated this loss of power? And could it be that Uru might now be in a position to seize that portion of the serpent’s portfolio, now that he too was a titan in possession of the Voice of Rot’s eye?

Uru set about at once to dismantle the Cyclopean Revelation so that he could get his hands on and begin to study the Eye.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 236, Part Two

Padyer, Av and the Plain of Rice


They returned to Padyer, to investigate the warded tower they had found last time, when both Uriel and Leon had been otherwise occupied. Timing their touchdown to avoid the boiling seas, they dispelled the wards and gained entrance, while Kai divined the plane’s very unhelpful traits. Uriel used location loresight to learn about Padyers’s history:

A hugely powerful elementalist captured avatars of the gods of fire and the sea and tried to bind their power into a staff. He then sent out a burning wave to annihilate his enemies in a coastal kingdom, but the wave did not stop. It carried its scalding heat across the entire world, until finally it reached the mage’s own tower. He managed to ward his tower against the wave, but it was not long before all the water in the world became hotter than the ignition point of flesh and wood. The mage plane-shifted away, taking his deadly staff with him, but leaving behind a dead world.

Once inside the tower, they found a veritable treasure trove of spellbooks and magical items. Leon and Uriel each chose a particularly powerful spell to take away for study. There was so much to be investigated here that they decided to stay longer than planned, even while the raging sea crashed around the warded tower, and when they left, their pockets were bulging with interesting artefacts and weapons they hoped to use against the Golden Legion.

On to Av, just passing through on their way to the Plain of Rice, but interested to see what had become of it: It was now a broken fragment slowly rotating in space. On one side, the Bleak Gate analogue of Cauldron Hill ; on the other, the Dreaming, in an area blighted by the factories of Flint. In the distance they spied a Golden Legion windskiff, flying low and capturing survivors.

They made a beeline for it, and Uru readied the Tyrant’s Eye. But before they even got there, they saw an amorphous , dark shape sweep like a wave out of the blighted forest and consume the devils and the skiff! Uru caught sight of a tiny, green figure that seemed to be directing this mass, and as they neared they heard music, as if the blighted wave was being being conducted somehow. When the wave subsided, they could see that the devils were dead –even their succubus commander – and the golden chains had been torn from their slaves. (This was not ideal in the case of those who had not only recently succumbed, and they were in the process of dying a noisy, horrible death. As Quratulain might put it, such is the price of freedom.)

At once, Leon recognised the Huldregarl, a powerful forest spirit he had once travelled with. It was formed from the rotting mulch on the forest floor, full of dead leaves, insects, fungi and carcasses. Leon had once travelled with the Huldregarl, and with its tiny companion, Etiotek Ekiokiet: a tiny, plant-like sprite, who soothed and communicated with Huldregaal through song. They did not recognise him in turn. (Nor had Ascodel, Nbed or Redcoat, for that matter.) But they saw he was one of the Unseen Court and asked for tidings.

Leon said that they were on a quest to rescue Thisraldion from captivity on Egalitrix (thereby restoring this plane) and asked if the two would accompany them, but neither was happy at the thought of going aboard the Coaltongue. They would stay here and prevent the Legion from taking any more slaves. Korrigan told them he might communicate with them from afar (in case they distrusted what they were hearing, as so often seemed to be the case). Before they left Av, Uru gathered soil and plant-life to create a Terrarium.

The Plane of Rice was… the Plane of Rice. They did not pause to create a golden icon.

Their visit to these last two planes marked the end of their first fortnight in the Gyre.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 236, Part Three

The Mirror of Opposition


Their route caused them to approach Mavisha from the south-east, where the plane did not abut another, and gave on to the cold, cold emptiness of space. The waves and chop of the surface came to an abrupt end, and a sheer, smooth face of water descended as far as the eye could see.

As a man of the sea, Admiral Smith was fascinated and insisted on taking a closer look. The Coaltongue flew down, close to the whatever supernatural, invisible force-field kept the water suspended.

The seas were teeming with life: turtles, schools of fish, sharks, dire anamalocarises, and the like. A few despondent fish men, just intelligent enough to grasp their world’s doom, dangled listlessly at the edge of the sea, looking into the void. They showed signs of amazement as the Coaltongue flew by.

At length, they had had enough of sight-seeing and prepared to ascend to the surface of Mavisha and investigate the plane fully. Just before they did so, Uru felt a twinge – a pull or call from a nearby spirit. He told the others, and they went to see what the matter was:

A shipwreck, mostly submerged, rocking against the edge of the world. The vessel’s enchanted wooden hull had survived thousands of years of abuse, but still unmistakable to Xambria, who piped up for the first time in many days and announced this to be of Ancient design.

Using the stone disks and Uru’s rebreathers (for those who needed them), the unit went to explore. They found it was possible to pass through the supernatural barrier with intentional movement.

The hold of the boat was filled with golden weapons looted from legionnaires the orcs fought millennia ago, as well as a gold plate that acted as a star chart of planes in the multiverse (which Uru made sure to purloin). It seemed this vessel was once capable of sailing between seas of different worlds.

Amid the piles of treasure a corpse lay face-down, wrapped in tarred cloth that preserved its flesh. His hands had been chopped off, and the deck bore ancient stains from where he bled out. When they began poking around nearby, the mummy rose up, but did not attack. It revealed an orcish face whose tusks and brows were pierced with gold chains. For a moment his hollow eyes took in the party with a primordial menace, but then he fell to his knees and held up his stump arms in a plea.

Uriel was able to converse with him in the tongue of the Ancients. In life, the orc’s name was Athotoc. He confessed that he had betrayed his people, but not by his choice. He was enslaved by the legion and told them of the plan to find the soul of this plane. Fortunately his people survived the ambush, but they butchered Athotoc, thinking him to be a genuine traitor. As he bled to death, he shouted a warning, naming the world that one of the legion’s generals, Paelyrion XVIII, was mustering his forces in. Athotoc perished, but his soul remained, waiting for news that his people succeeded in creating the seal.

“They did succeed,” said Uru at once.

Athotoc was content.

They asked him if he knew how the Ancients had linked Lanjyr to a sun. Athotoc did not even know about that, but was not surprised when he was told it was Toteth Topec’s idea. “Always a dreamer, that one…” They also asked how the Ancients had put the seal in place. “Every wizard in the world,” he said.

Then Athotoc asked them a favour. He told them to go to the nearest island, and find a golden oval, wrapped in wolf fur, buried in a mass grave where his kin disposed of the legionnaires. He asked them to destroy it, so that his soul could be free. And he warned them not to look themselves in the eyes in the golden mirror’s reflection, or else they would be slaves too.

They did as he requested and found the island choked with vines covered in fine fibres that glowed at their tips, and horseshoe crabs wearing golden helmets scrawling eerie patterns in the sand. The mass grave was easily found, since nothing grew over the sea-smoothed stones of a huge cairn. Their excavation turned up the weapons and chains of hundreds of legionnaires tangled with bone fragments. Buried in the centre was the tattered wolf pelt Athotoc had mentioned. It was wrapped around a large oval shape.

Rumdoom decided to destroy it with the Stone of Not, but the Stone only destroyed the wolf pelt, revealing the mirror. Fortunately, Rumdoom was able to resist the magic of the mirror and, giving an angry snarl, both shattered and obliterated it utterly.

Hoping that this might be the favour the plane needed for them to bond with it more easily, they had Kai make the attempt. But, no; the attempt failed. If they were to quickly create an icon of Mavisha, they would need to look elsewhere.

End of Session
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 237, Part One

The Mysteries of Mavisha


Searching for a way to effectively bond with Mavisha, they flew across the surface of the sea, heading towards the nearest unexplored island. On the way they flew over an atoll where a small group of fishmen were clustered over the carcass of a sea creature. Once again, the fishmen raised their heads and ululated at the Coaltongue.

The unit decided they might be worth talking to and flew down on stone discs. As they approached, half the fishmen dived into the water. Four stood their ground for a moment until one by one they jumped in too, with the last one to go throwing a futile spear in warning.

Korrigan shifted into his aquatic form and went in after them, with Uriel following in the form of a great sea turtle. They tried to make it obvious that they weren’t giving pursuit; just hung in the water as though curious. Gradually, the fishmen returned to cautiously circle around them. Then Korrigan reach out telepathically and had a rudimentary conversation with them. He asked if they had had any problems lately (beside the obvious, imminent end of their world with they may or may not have been aware of). The fishmen said ‘not in our village, but in those that way’ (gesturing north-east). It seemed that a malevolent force had lured the fishmen from their dwelling places and left them entirely empty. Gupta wondered if there might be aboleth here. Perhaps this was where they originally came from?

So they travelled north-east, and experienced a sinking feeling when they consulted their chart: to the north-east, Mavisha shared a border with Shabboath, where the fearful savants had lurked. So they sailed high over the cluster of islands and travelled to where the two planes almost touched, taking the Coaltongue down to see if there was any kind of connection. All they saw was a mist-shrouded cluster of floating rocks – not an uncommon sight in the Gyre. But as they drew nearer, Leon’s truesight revealed this to be an illusion which disguised an immense, two-hundred-foot long, waxy tunnel, joining Shabboath with Mavisha.

“I’ll fire up the Tyrant’s Eye!” Uru declared, eagerly, until Korrigan asked him to wait: the tunnel could be easily rebuilt if they didn’t find the savant, and that might be harder if it was spooked. A quick check revealed no guardians here. Uriel invoked the detect planar energies ritual given to them by the Voice of Rot. He used it to trace Shabboath energy from the tunnel, through the water, back to the largest island at the centre of a cluster they had passed over.

No one wanted to tangle with the strange savants again. But none of the other water planes had been suitable, Uriel reminded them. (Uru nodded his approval, as retaining Mavisha appealed to his innate conservatism; he was glad to see the others were coming round.) Rumdoom, however, was having none of it. He and Hildegaard had counselled against poking around in Shabboath, and the unit had ended up fleeing the lightless depths. Hildegaard wanted nothing more to do with psychic sea-creatures. They would remain on the Coaltongue. In preparation, Uriel cast the powerful foresight spell he had picked up on Padyer, which would improve his chances of defeating the dangerous savant.

The others headed down to the surface on stone discs. On the beach they found exhausted, dying fishmen and, now close, Leon penetrated a vast illusion concealing another waxy structure: this one a great tower, crawling with fishmen who appeared to be molding it. Many of their corpses littered the beach at the foot of the tower, having fallen from a great height; the others had died from exhaustion. Uriel cast truesight too, and together he and Leon established that the sigils covering this tower were capable of greatly magnifying psychic energies. Fortunately, it was not yet finished.

Uriel reached out telepathically to see what was controlling the fishmen. At once, he sensed that this might have been a mistake – the dominating mind gazed back as he did so, and their presence was now revealed.

At once the sea behind them erupted and huge tentacles swept the beach: a dominated kraken, flailing its tentacles in defence of its master. Ducking and dodging, they ran for the entrance to the tower, where Uriel was convinced they would find the savant. Korrigan was struck, grabbed and squeezed.

Hidden up front, running through shadows towards the tower, Uru noticed a fishman walk out of the tower with incongruous calm. It strolled straight past him (hidden as he was) and headed towards Uriel, who was close behind and distracted by the thrashing kraken. There was something very odd about this fishman. Perhaps a hint of luminescence too? It raised an arm to touch the deva, who whirled the Staff of the Hierophant in defence. Uru took a careful shot, straight through the fishman’s neck. In vanished in an instant, leaving behind a psychic residue which Uriel recognised: a schistic projection!

Meanwhile, Leon teleported Korrigan out of the grasp of the kraken and cursed the creature; Quratulain shot it with her lantern blaster set to ‘shrink ray’ and reduced it to the size of a mere squid. It could no longer threaten them from the shoreline.

Freed up, they ran into the tower. The whole structure was filled with water! The ‘entrance’ simply a force-field that held the water in place but allowed the fishmen to come and go. Within, the tower was entirely hollow, curved and smooth and covered in similar sigils to those outside. Dead fishmen floated in the water, worked to death.

A huge, alien form detached itself from the wall of the tower and headed down into a channel above which the tower had been built: the savant, in the flesh. As it went, it summoned a swirl of tiny elementals that churned up the water and tore up the corpses. Korrigan and Gupta were caught up in this maelstrom. Quratulain miscalculated her response and attacked with a Vekeshi Blade, which did no good whatsoever.

Uru dodged the elemental chum swarm, and ranged ahead on Little Jack, who had been fitted with a propeller for aquatic work. Although he could not hope to catch the fast-moving savant, he was able to use a magic item he had found in the tower on Padyer – a hunter’s charm, which meant he was able to know the savant’s location and direction of travel.

Leon used oil of Urim in the Wayfarer’s Lantern to protect them all from harm. They had a quick telepathic conference – all the while buffeted by the chum swarm – before they decided to pursue the savant. Leon created dimensions doors to expedite their flight; Quratulain lobbed grenades behind them, putting paid to the swarm.

The tunnel, which had clearly been excavated at this end, wound down through the island for many hundreds of feet. The water became very dark and cold. Eventually it gave out onto the open ocean. Uru sensed that the savant was headed in the direction of the waxy tube.

They teleported to the tube and discussed the prospect of ambushing the creature. In the end, they decided to take no chances. They called in the Coaltongue, teleported onto it, disguised the vessel with roiling stormclouds, charged the brand and waited.

When Uru told them that the savant had entered the tube, they fired the brand, killing the savant instantly and blasting it into open space. Then they returned to the island and destroyed the psionic amplifier in the same way, before attempting to bond with Mavisha once again.

Success!

“That,” said Calily, as the set off again, “was truly impressive.”
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Wow, that's a hell of a killing move.

I feel like you made the savants even bleaker than I did.
Well, you had a lot on your plate at the time.

Yes, it was a lovely way to dispatch the savant. Mustn’t forget, though, that the players made the assumption they had dealt with the savant. They haven’t realised there are more on Shabboath, simply that the one the killed was responsible for all of the schistic projections they encountered on that plane. I doubt they’ll ever discover that fact (unless I find a way to reintroduce it) so if they choose to bond Lanjyr with Mavisha, they’ll be bringing the savants along for the ride. (This, though, will be something of an anti-climax after the final encounter of the campaign...)
 

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