Big Dungeon Energy

Parkour and Pub-lunch
Session 21

Crowds gather throughout Shadow Port to watch the Taverns of Distinction contest, and flocks of telepathic parrots fly around the city to repeat commentary and announcements. The Ring ’a Rosie is just one of five taverns competing in what is better known as The Prince’s Pubquest – and if they don’t win, Uncle Umm may lose both his tavern and his thumbs.

At the city gates, Max prepares to run a frantic race across the city, hoping to defeat representatives of the other four taverns – a slithery naga, a newt-fingered dark-elf, a beggar in a high-speed wheelchair and a foul-mouthed cabin boy. And in the arena in Portview, Tibié takes a seat next to Rosie and Saga as the judges – a terrifying sea hag, a respected librarian, an other-dimensional elemental, Lady Agatha Swanblood and Fabius Prescott – enter, ready to review each pub’s offerings.

A horn blows – IT’S TIME!
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Pie Round: The judges are unimpressed by mediocre pies from The Crow’s Nest and The Leaky Shack, while the pies presented by Snakeoil and The Crimson Fish do better. Happily, the Ring ‘a Rosie’s ‘green salty fungol’ pie proves to be a hit, with the rich flavours of the Dire Wood truffles balanced by fruity undercurrents and the piquancy of a denatured poison that Saga introduced at the last minute; several judges enjoy the sensation of very briefly dying as part of their dinner. But victory is undermined by Fabius Prescott, who gives the Ring ‘a Rosie a terrible score while praising the Crimson Fish’s unexceptional pumpkin pie; our heroes (and some other judges) suspect bias.

Beer Round: No-one scores particularly highly this round, and the judges seem critical of everyone’s offerings. The crowd grows restless, demanding more.

Entertainment Round: Disaster strikes! While Saga and Petra put heart, soul, key changes and wind effects into their power ballad, they are sabotaged by agents of The Crimson Fish, who awaken the snakes in Petra’s hair. Saga and Tibié avoid any accidental petrifications, but the musical number is cut short and scores poorly. They still do better than The Crow’s Nest (a rubbish sea shanty) and The Crimson Fish (gelatinous cube wrestling that goes fatally wrong), but the Leaky Shack (a stumbling jig) and Snakeoil (pole dancing) move into the lead.

Flower Arrangement Round: The Ring a’ Rosie roars back with a gorgeous arrangement of rose petals and illusory narwhals that every judge (other than Prescott) scores highly. The Crimson Fish is blasted for yet again presenting a corpse flower suspended within a gelatinous cube, and Snakeoil’s orchids-and-serpents display is just short of pornographic, but the other two taverns get respectable scores.

Coming out of the four rounds, The Ring ‘a Rosie and Snakeoil are tied, and The Leaky Shack is close behind – all will depend on the outcome of the race.
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MORE OR LESS MEANWHILE
And they’re off!

Max stumbles out of the starting line, lagging behind the other competitors as they take different routes through town. He races down to The Docks, where cabin boy Ragged Ned (representing The Leaky Shack) is eating up the terrain. But luck soon breaks Max’s way – luck in the form of his dockside criminal contacts, who pile obstacles in Ned’s path as Max clambers speedily though the rigging of various ships. He parkours through a confrontation between thugs and merchants, gaining ground as the other competitors face their own challenges. Not even the Blood Fin mercenaries can slow him down – they release a swarm of winged monkeys to attack him, but Mrrurrr breaks up the pack with her skeletal minions, and Max holds on to a flying chimp just long enough to give him the lead.

With a slim but decisive lead, Max reaches the clock tower at the far end of Shadow Port and begins to climb. The naga and Ragged Ned are close behind, and Max almost falters as he climbs, but he draws upon his last reserves of strength and his swaggering panache to keep going – and he reaches the top first, winning the race and enough points to ensure that the Ring ’a Rosie wins the Pubquest by a wide margin!

The day is saved! The tavern is triumphant! Our heroes are feted!
It’s a victory they’ve all earned, and it’s good that they take time to enjoy it. For much greater and much more dangerous challenges are soon to come…

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Fungaloids & Fire-bolts
Session 20

While Saga and Petra continue rehearsing at the Ring a’ Rosie, Max, Tibié and Mrrurrr head down to the Smugglers’ Tunnels – a busy network of clandestine meeting places beneath Shadow Port, managed by a colony of intelligent rats – to buy Dire Wood truffles from the goblin smuggler Jezar Velouri.
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They meet Velouri (and his companion parrot Liv) deep within the Tunnels, within a ruined bathysphere. Cursed to speak only in growls and grunts, Velouri keeps watch for something while Liv translates and negotiates. To complicate matters, a rival appears to bid on the truffles – Gutter Gary, the King of the Beggars’ Guild, backed up by henchmen and his pet dire boar Babe, who wants the truffles for the Guild-affiliated tavern The Leaky Shack.

As the two parties trade offers, Max cracks open the casket of truffles, letting loose a wave of powerful scent. When Mrrurrr offers both gold and the lifting of Velouri’s curse, Gary prepares to unleash his followers – only for all parties to be attacked by fungaloids, drawn by the scent of the truffles! The adventurers manage to extricate themselves from the melee, thanks in part to Mrrurrr capturing fungal spores in corpse-fruit, and leave the beggars and their monster boar to fight the hungry mushroom monsters. They make their way back to the streets of Shadow Port, where Mrrurrr transfers Velouri’s curse into the corpse-fruit, and he hands over the truffles in gratitude.
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Morning dawns, bringing the final day of Shadow FOMO the Sea Foam Festival! Max and Tibié work with the tavern’s chef to change their pie recipe, bringing in traditional fungal flavours from orc cuisine, as well as the corpse-fruit and some Bitterwood herbs provided by Janus, to balance the sweetness of their (stolen) apple scrumpy.

With that out of the way, the final task is to escort the tavern’s rose arrangement safely to the competition site. Mrrurrr and Tibié create a decoy wagon, shrouded in illusions and piloted by zombies, to draw away attackers. Max and Mrrurrr then head to the starting line of the cross-city race; Max prepares to race, while Mrrurrr encounters Uncle Umm and learns that the gnome has bet everything on winning the Pubquest in order to pay off old debts. If they lose, the subterranean mafia will claim both the pub and his life!
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Tibié and Saga set off via hidden routes to reach the competition grounds in Portview. The decoy draws away the majority of their attackers – Blood Fin mercenaries working to support The Crimson Fish tavern – but a smaller group manage to pick up their trail, and pursue them through the Warrens! The mercenaries shoot fiery crossbow bolts into the cart, and Tibié casts a protective ice shield too late to stop the flames destroying the flower arrangement. Desperate, she reaches within herself and unleashes the power she promised The Archmage she did not possess – she rewrites fate, in effect rewinding time a few moments, and then casting the ice spell just at the right moment to deflect the bolts. The wagon makes it to the judging arena, and the warped strands of fate reweave themselves without ill effect – this time.

There’s just time to get the rose arrangement into place, and for Max to take his mark, before the heralds sound their horns – the competition has begun!

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Reefwatch & Race-planning
Session 19

Reefwatch_Lighthouse.jpg Saga and Tibié discuss the complexities of rune magic as they head to Reefwatch Lighthouse, an hour’s walk from Shadow Port. The lighthouse is old and run-down, and the adventurers can hear harp music and faint singing from near its peak, while on its steps they find lifelike stone statues of two chickens and a plump man with a notepad. Suspecting what may lie ahead, Tibié creates a magical mirror floating before them, and they climb the stairs (passing a stone cat) to the top and call through a door to the musician – who tells them that yes, she’s Petra, and they must leave before something terrible happens!

Petra.png They convince her to come downstairs to talk, and in the mirror they see a young half-elf with snakes growing from her scalp. An ancient curse upon Petra’s family has doomed her to become a medusa – she has hidden at the lighthouse to avoid hurting anyone else, and can’t come back to Shadow Port. Tibié examines Petra’s fate and sees a strand of reptilian destiny woven into it – something she could reweave, given time.

But there’s no time to spare, as the lighthouse is attacked by… upper-class pirates? It’s the Golden Cutlasses gang, here to force Petra to perform for the Crow’s Roost at the Pubquest! A dozen gangsters attack the adventurers, which turns out to be an incredibly bad move on their part – they retreat a few moments later, blinded, frozen and thunderstruck by Saga and Tibié’s powerful magics. With that cleared up, Saga plays a song to lull Petra’s petrifying head-snakes to sleep for a day or so; she agrees to perform for the Ring a’Rosie at the Pubquest, and the three return to Shadow Port.

Meanwhile, Max and Mrrurrr spend the day making plans for tomorrow’s Pubquest events. They scope out a path for taking the massive floral arrangement from the pub to the judging grounds in Portview, one that should minimise the risks of being ambushed by rivals. They also review the rules of the upcoming cross-town race, which Max will likely compete in for the pub; he decides he’ll take a route through The Docks, and arranges for his local criminal contacts to help him cheat win as he runs along the waterfront.

(Also meanwhile, Castiel tries to protect his group of bureaucratic nuns as they run from gangsters with their gambling winnings.)

Max and Mrrurrr return to the Ring a’ Rosie, where they find Saga and Petra rehearsing their song for tomorrow and Tibié building a snake-containing wig. The adventurers relax from their productive day and prepare for tonight’s meeting with a smuggler. Rosie interrupts the discussion with news – the city has released the organisation details of tomorrow’s judging, including the names of the judges. They include Lady Agatha Swanblood, who may be a friendly face on the panel, but also Fabius Prescott, a wealthy merchant from Glitterhaegen – and the man from whom Max stole the Wyvern’s Egg after killing his pet megaconda.

This could be… awkward.

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Visions & Visitations
Session 18

Saga dreams about the day she discovered a great tablet bearing the Runes of Creation upon an island in the Midland Sea, and how the Runes burned their meaning and power into her mind before she was forced to flee.
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Her dream point-of-view shifts into the sky, looking down upon the Dragon Empire, and she sees vague glimpses of similar rune-tablets scattered around the world. They fade to reveal the architect of this vision – the Great Gold Wyrm, a storm of golden energy and runic power in the shape of a dragon! The Wyrm tells Saga that the Runes are the First Language, the words the gods spoke to tell the world into being, and that the rune-tablets are their signatures, their lexicons, the records that underpin reality. The Stone Thief devoured one in ancient times, and now it hungers for more, which is why they are hidden away – but somehow it is still tracking them down. The Wyrm charges Saga with finding and protecting the tablets, starting with one somewhere near her homeland of The Eld, and lends her a degree of his power; she wakes with a sense of purpose, and a ring forged of pure runic might upon her finger.

Over a hearty breakfast, the adventurers compare notes and work out their plans for the day. The smuggler Jezar Velouri is willing to meet later tonight to sell them Dire Wood truffles, so they have all day for other tasks; Saga and Tibié will look for the missing bard Petra, Mrrurrr and Max will deliver Pharos’ shield to his mother, and Castiel must find and protect his nuns as they go wild exploring the Sea Foam Festival. As the others chat, Cousin Shrug draws Max into another room to give him gold and resources, telling him that their ‘mutual friend’ is pleased by his recent adventures – the Prince of Shadows enjoys a little chaos. Shrug also tells Max that the Prince stole the Stone Thief’s eyes years ago, leaving the creature(?) blind. The Prince can steal anything, Shrug says as Max leaves, and is a master of disguise to boot; when Max turns back, he finds only a false moustache and bartender’s trinkets upon the ground, and realises that Shrug was actually behind the bar the whole time.
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Max and Mrrurrr venture into Portview, the wealthy district at the heart of Shadow Port, to visit the home of Lady Agatha Swanblood, an retired Imperial courtier. They find her to be fierce and sharp, but hurt nonetheless by the loss of her son; she take them to a room in her home, a memorial to the spouses and adopted children she has lost in the Empire’s service over the years. Mrrurrr tells her that Pharos said the Faithless Families were returning, and Lady Agatha recounts a story told by her late historian husband (who was maybe also a vampire?) about a group of noble families who tried to overthrow the first Emperor and were exiled for their crimes in the early years of the Dragon Empire. Mrrurrr suspects these families follow the Lich King, but Lady Agatha isn’t so sure. She also tells Max that she was a friend of his mother, the legendary paladin Zarah Power, but hasn’t seen her since she went hunting the Stone Thief 20-some years ago. She promises to search her husband’s library for information and send it to them before the end of the Festival; Max and Mrrurrr leave, faintly hearing Lady Agatha’s sobs from deep within the memorial to her lost family.

Castiel discovers the hard way that the bureaucratic nuns don’t understand that it’s wrong to count cards when playing high-stakes blackjack.

equus.jpgSaga and Tibié head to the arty middle-class district of Buffert; on the way there, Saga tells Tibié of her dream, and they discuss the mysteries of runes, fate and magic. They reach the apartment of Petra – a half-elf bard who performed regularly at The Ring a’ Rosie – and find it vacant. But there are clues – unread mail, a threatening note from the Golden Cutlasses gang (allies of a rival tavern), a torn newspaper and… a bucket of dead snakes? Saga realises that the snakes are all head and trunk, no tails, while Tibié finds a stone tortoise on Petra’s bed, and they begin to concoct a theory. Finding another copy of the same newspaper, they realise that a job ad has been torn out – a role as keeper of a lighthouse just outside town, overlooking a reef of dangerous voidcoral. They set out to visit the lighthouse and see if Petra’s there…

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Icons & Infamy
Session 17

Deep within the Necropolis, the Lich King demands that Mrrurrr justify using necromancy to thwart Jericho Xoth. She argues that her duty is to maintain the balance between life and death, not to serve the King; he scoffs at the notion of ‘duty’, but agrees that she’s not his subject. He produces the ghost of Xoth, then states that he has no interest in fate magic or The Black Meridian, which were relics of his living days, and begins to devour Xoth’s soul as punishment for his assumptions!
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Horrified, Mrrurrr ask the King to show mercy; he agrees, but only if Mrrurrr journeys into the Stone Thief to meet his agent, the Flesh Tailor, and gather information about how to take control of the living dungeon. She pushes back, demanding more in return; the King agrees that he won’t claim the souls of her and her friends, but they don’t quite seal the deal. He lets her leave, telling her that he’ll be in touch to negotiate further…

At the Ring a’ Rosie, Max, Saga and Burrum identify a smuggler, the goblin Jezar Velouri, who might be able to supply them with Dire Wood truffles. Before Max can head out to contact him, or Saga can search for the missing bard Petra, a halfling postman arrives with a message for Tibié – or rather, to draw a summoning circle through which the real messenger can arrive. A portal opens and a grotesque creature comes through – a giant floating eyeball with a huge fanged mouth, terrifying to behold! It erratically introduces itself as the Imperial Postmaster Specific, and asks for ale and raw chickens while Tibié attends to the actual message – a crystal ball through which speaks the Archmage, the most powerful wizard in the Empire!
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The Archmage complements Tibié on her thesis but then gets down to brass tacks – what the hell was she thinking, unleashing The Black Meridian and its ancient crew upon the current Age! He wants to know if she has learned forbidden fate magic, what her plans are for the flying warship, and in general if she is an evil wizard who needs to be eaten by the Postmaster and its anti-magic eye. Tibié argues that she and her friends stopped the Lich King from reclaiming the Meridian, that she hasn’t learned fate magic (or at least hasn’t mastered it) that she’s not evil, no matter what Horizon University’s ethics panel might say, and also hey how about this Stone Thief business, isn’t that more important? The Archmage accepts her argument and says to use the crystal ball to contact him if she learns more about fate magic or is tempted to turn evil. As for the Stone Thief, he’s heard rumours of a cult that worships the living dungeon, but historical records are scanty because the great library of Quillgate mysteriously vanished back in the 12th Age – as if it was swallowed up by the earth itself…

The Archmage signs off but the Postmaster remains, quaffing poisoned beer with no ill effects as Mrrurrr returns from her adventure. She tells the others of her meeting, and Saga is extremely perturbed that she made a deal with the lord of the undead. The heroes decide to focus on the immediate problems of the Prince’s Pubquest, rather than the threats of Icons and their agendas. They decide to steal some beer from whoever poisoned Rosie’s Imperial Pilsner, and Max recalls similar poisonous roots growing around the back entrance of Snakeoil, down in the smugglers’ tunnels beneath the town. Before they can leave, the tipsy Postmaster asks if it can hang out with them and experience the Festival, as it doesn’t have any cool friends like them in this dimension, and they quickly come up with a plan.

Max and Tibié escort the Postmaster to Snakeoil, where it draws all eyes (ahem) as it gobbles down absinthe and wobbles around the dancefloor. They’re greeted by the club’s owners, the provocative and edgy dark elves Sinead and Patrice, who seem thrilled to meet the infamous Max Power – although they also promise to murder him (in provocative and edgy ways) if he tries to steal from them! Meanwhile, with everyone in the club distracted, Mrrurrr and Saga sneak in through the tunnels to steal a barrel of Snakeoil’s famous apple scrumpy. They work together, blending physical skill with necromantic power, and Saga starts to become more comfortable with Mrrurrr as an ally and friend.
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With the others away, Tibié magically brings up the lights in the club, making everything and everyone look less provocative and edgy; the dark elves shoo everyone out in response. The adventurers escort the drunken Postmaster back to its dimensional tunnel, then get a good night’s sleep so that they’re ready to face the next set of Pubquest challenges.

And to break the bad news to Pharos’ mother…

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Farewells & Festivals
Session 16

After four days of flight, and despite various threats and disasters, The Black Meridian lands near Irkendale, home to the refugees of Harrowdale, to let its passengers depart. Castiel helps unload the horses, carts and nuns they collected from Bastard! on the way, while Mrrurrr and Max make themselves comfortable for the long haul. Saga and Tibié say goodbye to Indigo-7, who must fly the Meridian to the Overworld outpost of Starport to obtain desperately needed repairs; he gives them a crystal fatestone, chipped from the Fate Core of the ship, as a way to establish magical contact in the future.

A week passes as the adventurers make their way back to Shadow Port – staying in roadside taverns, marveling at the beautiful/imposing/terrifying countryside of the Dragon Empire, briefly tangling with a magical academy of feral children hiding out in the woods… pretty standard stuff. They get home just in time for Shadow Port’s Sea Foam Festival, a great celebration marking the end of spring, and the town is alive with events, parties, food, drink, pickpocketing contests and the like!
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At last they reach the Ring a’ Rosie tavern, only to find it scarred by fire – and patrolled by The Red Knives, the gang they tangled with months earlier. Tibié leads her friends in through a secret path to find – Rosie, Uncle Umm and the tavern’s staff, plus Janus and Saga’s friends Berrum and Cilvyr, waiting to launch a surprise Welcome Home party! But there are also some less expected guests on hand, such as Brutus and… Cousin Shrug?

The heroes try to put the strangeness to one side and reconnect with their friends. Rosie explains that Shrug arrived in town a few days ago with the news that the heroes were returning; the gnome fixer drops a few comments about ‘your thrilling adventures’ and Mrrurrr regards him with suspicion. Max greets Brutus warily, given their last encounter; the bugbear explains that he’s taken over the Red Knives and is working to rebuild the gang’s reputation. He says he bears no further grudge against Max, but still, it’s awkward. In fact, there’s kind of an awkward air around the whole party, like something’s not being discussed, so Tibié leans on Uncle Umm until he finally explains everything.

Every year, the Sea Foam Festival ends with the Taverns of Distinction contest – or as most folks call it, The Prince’s Pubquest. Five taverns compete in five categories! The two that score the most point receive the Prince of Shadows’ seal of approval, ensuring their popularity with the city’s criminal classes – but lose the contest and the Prince will call his debts due. The Ring a’ Rosie has placed highly for the last three years, so this year its rivals are sabotaging all their efforts. The judging is just 40 hours away, and if our heroes can’t help their friends to victory, the Ring a’ Rosie will go bankrupt!
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The five categories, and the challenges our heroes must overcome:

  • Best Pie: The pub’s salmon & mushroom pie is good, but not good enough to win. Orc chef Dorgon Ramshead needs Dire Wood truffles to kick it up a notch, but those are hard to get.
  • Best Beer: One of the rival pubs has poisoned the Imperial pilsner! There’s no time to brew a new batch, and there are no replacements of sufficient quality on the market.
  • Best Entertainment: The band Rosie hired has been bought off by a rival! If Saga can find Petra of the Standing Stones, the tavern’s usual musician, they may have just enough time to put together a winning act. But Petra has been missing for days now…
  • Best Flower Arrangement: Uncle Umm’s narwhal-themed arrangement is lovely, but will a rival pub firebomb it before it gets to the competition venue in one piece?
  • Contest of Skill: Are our heroes ready for a parkour race around Shadow Port? …actually, yeah, they probably are, this one’s doable.

Uncle Umm also fills the team in on the four rival pubs:

  • The Crow’s Nest, a piratical pub that puts on airs
  • The Leaky Shack, where the wealthy can drink like common (poor) people
  • The Crimson Fish, another nautical pub backed up by ruthless mercenaries
  • Snakeoil, this year’s HOTTEST underground dark elf pole dancing club
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    That hour of explaining means there’s just 39 hours left to go! But as her friends work out plans, Mrrurrr is called away by the ghost cat Zeekiel, who says ‘he’ wants to see her. She follows him to Boneblossom Hill and down into a mausoleum, across the border of the Afterworld and through a pinch in space to Necropolis. There they come to the Wizard King’s long-deserted throne-room – and are confronted by the Lich King himself!
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Skeletons & Showdowns
Session 15

The elven necromancer Jericho Xoth gloats as he confronts our heroes, thanking them for both leading him to The Black Meridian and breaking the fate loop. With that gone, he can claim all of its lost secrets – the Fate Core, the elemental cannons, the scrying chamber, the Omen Key – for the Lich King. He teases that he will let the adventurers live as a reward, but when they mock and disrespect him, he loses his temper and returns to his army, pledging to destroy them all.
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The tower shakes as Xoth’s skeleton hordes besiege it, and the team casts about for ways to defend it. Max goes out the tower’s windows to scope out the enemy army, and sees a force of White Walker kobolds – led by Tchok-Tok – trying to hold back the dead! He and Castiel arm up, attach a line to the tower and bungee jump down into the fray to aid their friend. Meanwhile, Tibié uses sympathetic magic to flood the Fate Core with energies that confuse the invading skeletons, turning them against each other!

While all this goes on, Mrrurrr struggles to contain the semi-sentient energies of the Omen Key, while Saga hears the fading runic notes of the dying arcanites’ magical souls. The two of them wonder – could they restore the arcanites to life to help fight Xoth? Saga channels runic power into a song of life and freedom, while Mrrurrr weaves a necromantic net to hold the arcanites’ souls within their bodies. The soul of Indigo-7 asks if they intend to enslave his crew, as the Wizard King once did, but Saga shatters the bonds on their souls, returning them to life in a new, free Age. While some crewmembers stay back and attempt to restart the ship, the others telekinetically lift themselves and the adventurers out of the tower and down to the battlefield!
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Combat rages around the tower as the heroes, the arcanites and the kobolds take on Xoth’s skeleton army, while the towering figure of the Northern Colossus appears on the field, slowly making its way towards the Black Meridian. Using teamwork, tactics and magical tools, the adventurers push back the undead horde and take down Xoth’s bone-dragon mount to confront the necromancer and his strongest minions in battle. Those undead minions include Pharos, the Imperial officer they met in Harrowdale – Max convinced him to confront evil, and that apparently ended badly.

The heroes manage to overcome the skeletal minions, and Mrrurrr convinces Pharos to turn upon his new master – he asks her to return his shield to his mother in Shadow Port, and warns her that the ‘Faithless Families’ are returning. Max steals Xoth’s bone orb while the necromancer is distracted, disrupting his control over the undead, giving Pharos the opportunity to strike down the necromancer once and for all. The battle is won!

…except now the Northern Colossus, a 150m-tall statue that looks remarkably like Castiel, picks up the Black Meridian and prepares to hurl it into oblivion!
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The heroes rush back into the tower, where the arcanites still struggle to restart the Fate Core. Tibié joins the efforts, aided by Mrrurrr, using magic to scan and reject multiple possible fates for the tower – so many of which involve it being… swallowed up by the earth? Castiel and Saga jump from the tower to run up the arm of the enormous statue, hoping to convince it not to destroy the Meridian. And Max is struck down by a pounding headache as the ground opens up below to reveal an impossibly deep and hungry chasm lined with dungeon corridors and architecture – the Stone Thief has returned!

The Colossus lurches as the ground shakes, tossing the inhabitants of the tower about, but somehow Tibié and Mrrurrr manage to keep processing fates. Castiel connects emotionally with the Colossus, convincing it not to throw the Meridian into the maw of the Stone Thief; he tries to learn its nature, with Saga’s magical help, but sees only a vision of cities in the sky, both heavenly and infernal, barred from the world by the hand of the Wizard King.

Before he can learn more, the Meridian lifts from the statue’s grip – Tibié has fixed the Core and linked it to a stable fateline! Saga and Castiel jump back aboard before it pulls away, and the restored sky-ship glides towards the east, out of Moonwreck. The White Walkers wave goodbye to their friends, the frustrated Stone Thief sinks back down into the earth, and the fate of our heroes…

…well, that’s a tale for next time.

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Apex & Arcanites
Session 14

Still processing everything they have experienced – or been told that they experienced in a time that no longer happened – our heroes reach the very top of The Black Meridian, the space that was once the bridge of the flying dreadnought.
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Now this space is an upended riot, where dozens of arcanites and constructs try to put out fires, repair systems and coordinate damage control efforts. Their leader, the arcanite mage Indigo-7 – a figure that Saga and Tibié have observed in recordings and visions – hovers in the middle of the room, directing the work. One ‘wall’ is dominated by a huge, complex control centre, a fair larger and more sophisticated version of the Planar Orrery that Professor Inkblotter assembled from scavenged remains. And everything connects to the ship/tower/dungeon’s Fate Core, a great column of moonstone within which fate threads tangle, knot and spell inevitable doom.

But is anything truly inevitable?
Or is there no fate but what we make?

Saga and Max use gravity crystals to float invisibly into the centre of the room, and Saga uses the power of the runes to make contact with Indigo-7. This strips away her invisibility, and all the arcanites focus on this intruder – allowing Tibié, who has NOT discussed this with her allies AT ALL, dashes forward to connect her magic orb, the Wyvern’s Egg, into the damaged control panel! Meanwhile, Indigo-7 attempts to draw upon the power of his Omen Key, which contains the power of the Wizard King, but feedback from the damaged Fate Core causes it to erupt with energy!

…at this point, a lot of things happen all at once.

Tibié attempts to take control of the cascading failures within the Fate Core, but they overwhelm her! Castiel sees the gnome wizard disintegrating into fate threads, but the bound devil Abraxas says he can help, so the paladin throws his magical chains into the mix even though it means loosening the fiend’s bonds. Bolstered by Abaxas’ power, Tibié channels the fateflow through herself and back down into the scrying chamber, past Vortigern and into the planar window – she breaks the fate loop! But in the process, she sees her own possible fates – becoming the new Archmage, being killed by skeletons, roaming a world consumed by dungeons – break apart, and she cannot know what (if any) fate remains, or how her very essence has been altered…
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As the Omen Key sends Saga and Indigo-7 careening across the room, Mrrurrr captures and pulls it away with her necromantic powers. She’s still torn between presenting it to either the Prince of Shadows or the Lich King, so she chooses a third path – she steals the arcane power from the Key and hides it within a pocket of the Afterworld. Now neither of them can have it! …but within that knot of power, she detects a partial consciousness, a lingering engram of the Wizard King himself…
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Indigo-7 is suspicious of Saga, although he feels some inexplicable connection to her. She tells him that the Wizard King is long dead and that the arcanites are free from servitude. Still dubious, he uses his magic to dive into Saga’s memories, revealing his own in the process – memories of a life cut short and repurposed long ago when the Wizard King reshaped unwilling humans into his arcane servants. Pulling free, Indigo-7 accepts the truth, tells his people that they are free – and throughout the bridge, the arcanites collapse, allowing themselves to finally die.

And in the aftermath of all this action, the great windows of the bridge open up, revealing an army of hundreds of skeletons surrounding the Black Meridian, as Jericho Xoth astrally projects into the room to dictate the terms of our heroes’ surrender…

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Robots & Rune-magic
Session 13

As the heroes climb further up the Black Meridian tower, Mrrurrr and Tibié warn Max and Saga to be careful and not to touch anything, lest they succumb to one of the dangers that killed them in previous passes through the fate loop.

…easier said than done.
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Beyond the arcanites’ crew quarters, the tower opens up into what was the artillery bay when the Black Meridian still flew. Catapults are bolted down onto a weapons platform, alongside magical cannons powered by captive flux elementals. One of those cannons is damaged, and another is pulling away from the upended platform, suggesting a calamity to come. Constructs (i.e. fantasy robots) attempt to repair and clean up the damage, but as the heroes watch from hiding, the constructs turn on each other and begin fighting. Knowing that time is of the essence, the adventurers climb past/through as fast as possible – but Max makes eye contact with a flux elemental, trapped inside a cracked containment crystal, and a memory he never experienced makes him shudder.

Beyond the artillery bay, the heroes find a chamber once sealed with iron doors and containment magic; now the doors have cracked upon and Saga hears the cacophonous clash of runes within. In the chamber they find a dozen standing stones, bearing powerful runes, set into configurable iron rings that broke out of alignment during the crash. Above the rings is a star-shaped window that looks out into the interplanar void, and guarding the stones is… the severed head of a crotchety storm giant!
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Saga is drawn by the call of the runes, the symbols/language/songs the gods used to create reality and that underpin her magical gifts. They let her communicate with the giant, Vortigern, an emissary of the ‘Inverse Observatory’ who (like Abraxas) was a hostage in service to the Wizard King. She convinces him that the Wizard King is long dead and that they mean no harm, and he explains that this scrying chamber is part of the Black Meridian’s navigation/propulsion system, allowing it to slide down lines of fate that stretch through the interdimensional windows and across the planes. But if the runic circles are out of alignment – why, firing up the engines could cause the core to implode in a recurring fate loop!

With Vortigern’s guidance and Max’s help, Saga tries to repair the circles and reconfigure the planar window – as the others look on, knowing that this is how Saga died in a previous loop. But she succeeds, locking the window onto a shadowy plane – and mists seep from the portal, turning her and Max invisible! Still, the plan has worked, and the Fate Core will be safe – so long as it’s not damaged by a massive energy explosion, like the one that erupts from the artillery bay as they speak.

Whoops.

As the tower shakes and the cloister bell rings, Vortigern asks Saga to take a hair from his beard and bring it to his people – for while his head is alive here in the tower, he knows that his body must be long dead, and when the loop is broken his head will surely die. ’Don’t forget me,’ he calls to the bard, as she and her compatriots climb upwards to the bridge, in the hope of somehow shutting down the system and breaking the loop once and for all…

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Deathlands & Devils
Session 12

Tibié tries to get more definite information from Abraxas about the fate loop trap they’re in, but as the tolling of a cloister bell marks the passage of precious minutes, Mrrurrr decides it’s time to act. She gathers and releases her full necromantic might, sending out tendrils of power that draw herself, Tibié and Castiel into the borderlands between the worlds of the living and the dead. (Saga dodged the magic; this may have been a mistake.)

The three heroes sink into an almost-void of shadows and mist that slowly drains the life and light from them. Mrrurrr explains (more or less) her plan – to rescue Max’s ghost and avoid the time loop resetting – as they move deeper into the borderlands, the sound of the cloister bell still faint above/behind them. They find Max’s ghost in a grove of dead, ash-white trees near the very cusp of the Afterworld – but he is not alone. There are more ghosts there – fragmented, half-sentient ghosts of Saga, Castiel, Tibié and Max himself!
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Talking to their own ghosts, the heroes work out that they must have died (in some surprisingly awful ways) exploring The Black Meridian during previous cycles of the fate loop; when the loop reset, their souls returned to their bodies, leaving only these shells behind. As the sound of the bell is overwhelmed by a terrible grinding, shattering din, Mrrurrr tries to convince the most recent Max-ghost to return with them, but his soul is pulled back to the tower by cords of fate. Still, she manages to channel a little of her knowledge and ebbing lifeforce into his soul, hopefully blunting the effects of the fate loop, and the heroes leave the borderlands before the ghosts consume them.

With a rush of light and colour, the adventurers rematerialise in the brig, in front of an astonished (but still trapped) Abraxas – they’ve escaped the loop! They’re soon joined by Max and Saga – both are still trapped in the loop, but Max’s retained enough of Mrrurrr’s knowledge to get a powerful case of deja vu and know where to find his vanished friends. (Saga’s confused by all this, but wise enough to roll with it.) As they discuss next steps, Abraxas tries to convince them to free him from the Wizard King’s bindings so that he can help them escape. Castiel offers a compromise – he’ll release Abraxas if the devil binds itself to him instead, so that he can prevent it from working its evils upon the Dragon Empire. The devil agrees, and dissolves into oily smoke that infuses both Castiel and the magical binding chains, which Castiel takes up to use as a weapon.
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Short on time, the heroes climb further up into the tower and discover the upended and smashed quarters of its crew, most of whom are missing. They find a few corpses of human-ish folk with runes flickering around their heads; Abraxas’ knowledge washes greasily through Castiel’s mind and he identifies them as arcanites, post-human servitors reshaped by the Wizard King’s magic. The size of the quarters suggest a crew of around 25, wielding considerable magical power – a formidable force, but where are they? Most likely on the ship’s former command deck or bridge, along with – perhaps – the chance to end the fate loop permanently.

So long as they don’t succumb to the dangers between them and the top of the tower -dangers that killed some of them before…

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