Thursday, March 5, 2015

Session 4: Janitor Needed

The woke up to the sound of hellish screeching and the porters shouting about strange shadows - as if of men flapping their arms - passing over the campsite. Sean, Sloth, and Vlad ran out of the tent, as did Ricin Dexter and his Temple armsmen, Meniscus and Beaker. The three PCs drew their bows and sling, Ricin readied a throwing scalpel, and the armsmen pulled out long rifles.

The weird creatures soared low, silhouetted by the rising sun. As they approached, they resolved into huge winged creatures, half stag and half griffon with many sharp-tipped antlers. The humans got two volleys off, with a few arrows and bullets inflicting minor wounds on the perytons. As they approached, Beaker ran off and hid behind a tree. Then the beasts tried to gore Meniscus and Ricin upon landing, but one missed entirely and the other only slightly punctured Meniscus' side. Ricin fought with poisoned scalpels, but the poison didn't seem to affect the creatures.

The PCs moved to defilade positions so they could shoot the perytons without risking much friendly fire. They did this pretty effectively, getting a few good ranged hits in before all charging in to surround the perytons and chop them to death. Meniscus was scuffed up, and Ricin took a wicked slash into his shoulder. 

Sloth knew that Peryton gall bladders could be used to make a potion that allowed a human to run faster, and had Sloth attempt a harvest. He successfully extracted one, but also removed their hearts and roasted them off the open fire. Sloth and Vlad ate them, and Sloth experienced temporary chills and ghostly visions afterwards. Vlad also plucked some of their feathers and claws. 

Buoyed by this victory over huge magical creatures, the group decided to head back into the dungeon, undaunted by the reports of metallic screeching that emanated from the tunnels the previous night. They opened the "Barracks" door and found themselves in a 30' room with two southern and one northern door. Inspecting it closely, they found many footprints and a large dust-free area surrounding the northern door, which they decided was a trap. Vlad inspected it closely and found that the lever door handle indeed had a strange sort of resistance to being opened. After some discussion, they tied a rope to the handle and pulled the door open. On cue, a large black metal pipe swung down and through the door. A broken piece of metal wire hung down from the ceiling.

Beyond was a 30' hallway ending in another door, with two more on the west wall and one more on the east. The group decided to ignore this hall and try the southeastern door. They found that it opened into some kind of bathroom - they recognized the fixtures as toilets and showers, but of a far fancier and technologically advanced kind than they'd ever seen.  There was another door in the west wall of this room, and they opened it to see a group of eight more automatons.

Unlike the others, however, they hadn't incorporated human bones into their frames, and were friendly. They looked at the party in surprise: 
"We're uh a janitorial crew."
"There hasn't been any janitors here for hundreds of cycles! Many things need to be cleaned. For instance, the bathrooms you are in are very dangerous."
"Well we'd be happy to clean, but there are other robots we met, that had human bones in them, and they tried to kill us."
"Degenerates! They are despicable fallen creatures. We only use automaton parts to repair, due to our superior moral circuits."
"Could you come help us as we... cleaned?"
"Yes, we will send four with you, and the rest of us will defend our base of operations."

Looking around, it didn't seem like much of a base - lots of broken shards of furniture, and a pile of human bones in the southern end of the room. Nevertheless, four robots stepped forth, and marched north into the large room.

As they did so, the dust at their feet swirled and congealed, lit from within by static sparks.
The robots exclaimed, "Dust ghosts!" and began to attack. The party swarmed from behind, and found their swords and sling bullets effectively dispersed the ghosts. Only 1 automaton was pushed over during the battle, suffering a few dents.

Sloth asked what dust ghosts are, and the automatons said they were the lingering wills of their ancestors. "Robots building other robots? Sounds good to me," said Sean. 

The group headed north and the four automatons grabbed the hanging pipe and started lifting it back towards the ceiling and extruding thin steel wire. The party told them to wait, however, in case they had to pass that way again and the automatons obliged.

They began opening the doors in this hallway in clockwise order, finding a large single bathroom, with a working toilet and shower, but no sink - just like the communal bathroom they visited previously. Next was an empty 20' square room with plastic hooks mounted on the walls. After that, however, was a 20' square room with a huge floor to ceiling mirror built into the eastern wall, and a hole with multicolored wires poking out of it in the north wall. They found that the mirror couldn't be pulled off the wall, and seemed to conceal a hollow space. Sean and Vlad searched every surface of the room but found nothing new, other than that the mirror didn't seem to have any hinges - clearly the wires were some kind of control mechanism. They consulted the automatons, but the metal men said they didn't even know of such a space. They also didn't seem concerned about the party breaking the mirror, so Sloth wound up his sling and took a crack at it. The bullet ricocheted off, and nearly hit him in the face. He decided they needed more power. 

Next, Vlad and Sean examined the wires, and asked the automatons, which said that there used to be a kind of personal lamp there, but they had no idea when it had been detached.

The group tried the final door in the hallway and found it to be nearly empty, except for an unlocked black metal box. Vlad inspected it and found it to be trap free, but had Sean unlatch it. He found two gold pins with some kind of eagle and star insignia. They concluded they were rank pins. Sean picked up the box and found it to be about 10 pounds, but didn't have the room to carry it with him. 

Returning to the surface, they asked if Ricin wanted to take a look at a few things, and the scientist obliged, ordering his armsmen to keep a sharp eye out while he was gone. Vlad pinned the insignia on him and the automatons straightened up and shouted, "Lieutenant!" and asked him what the status of the Company was. "Uh... good. It's like, good," he said. The party cajoled Ricin into lightly interrogating the automatons, and found that they were charged with protecting the Gatehouse, "where we are now," and preventing anything from leaving the Environment "entry is to the southeast," which was "accident free for hundreds of cycles." The environment was closed, however, and had been when the company left - "standard operating procedure." When asked if anything was dangerous, they said that there was some kind of creature - worse than the "degenerates" - in the northeastern section of the Gatehouse, but that the Environment was "filled with danger and opportunity!" The automatons once again tried to get the party to clean the bathrooms but were ignored. Meanwhile, footsteps echoed from the hallway, coming from deeper within the facility, before fading again.

Ricin was then brought to the wires, which he said looked like mostly power cables, and a couple that weren't power cables. Vlad decided to try brushing some of them together but was unable to trigger anything. They sent Ricin back to the surface and went back down part of the "Subsurface Research Facility" stairs, inspecting the door they had ignored last section. Upon opening, they found another 20' square room, a lever, and a 5' wide black disk in the floor. Nothing they tried could budge the lever even an inch, and Sloth said it probably needed power. Sean grabbed the black metal box and set it on top of the disk, finding that it appeared to be of the same metal. 

Vlad and Sean opened the drawers and found them to be filled with ancient papers, written in Common but still basically incomprehensible. Vlad also noticed that the dust at his feet was pooling and running in rivulets towards the west side of the room... dust ghosts! The three PC's and four automatons were able to overcome the 7 creatures, Vlad finding that his arrows were much less effective than the heftier blows from Sloth's sling or his sword, but three of the automatons were heavily corroded and one of the dust ghosts pulled down Sean, shoving an abrasive, dusty arm down his throat and into his lungs. Even with Sloth's healing spells, it would take the elf nearly five whole weeks to recover. 

Vlad inspected the automatons and decided to return to the last session's battle site, but found only small handfuls of debris - the 15 destroyed bots were nowhere to be found, and there were two 10' scratch marks along the walls. When Vlad and Sloth delivered the parts to the automatons and described what they had seen, the bots shuddered in fear, and said it was probably the abomination. They thanked Vlad and decided they must retreat to their base in order to repair and assess the situation. 

The party decided they would do the same, and took the papers to Ricin, who was visibly excited by the sight of them, and brought Sean back to camp. 

Session 3: Strange Sightings

Back in Denethix, they gave Terry over to the Scientists as vengeance for his cowardice and betrayal. Hexane Deuterium rubbed his rubber gloves together as the armsman was dragged screaming into the labs. Hexane also agreed to a 1,000 GP fee to revive Vlad, and offered to "improve him" - the party politely declined and Hexane said "we'll do our best to honor your wishes." 

The scientists pumped out his entire bloodstream, removing both the poision and Vlad's hemophelia! (I asked him to roll 1d6 to pick a stat to re-roll, and lo and behold, it came up CON - his weakest stat. And the new stat was 14! The revive machine will have to break soon.) 

The party spent most of the next three weeks looking for lodging, after they found that renting was much cheaper than hotels. Tuan Fen did train heavily, gaining a second level, as well as attempting to foster bravery in his wardog Fluffy. Vlad and Tuan Fen decided to split a two room apartment, finding two available on an alley off of the Street of Students - Tuan Fen feeling that he'd rather be off the beaten path. The first landlord, Tefek, wouldn't play ball and give them a discount if they paid a year up front, so they went across the street and met Crush Grimskull, a pit fighting trainer who recognized Tuan Fen from the practice yard and heartily agreed to the deal. Meanwhile Sean and Sloth, unable to convince their rich friends to let them share a room, found a cheap studio on the Street of Industrious Efforts. Vlad bought a new bow, and then they went out to look for cults to join. 

Only the Church of Starry Wisdom advertised, however, and they were rude to Sloth, calling him delusional and telling him to renounce his vows and join them. He did ask what he'd need to do to demonstrate new loyalty if he did join them - but it was a tall order, as the cultists demanded he steal the God's Eye from the Grand Temple. He ended up declining, though they did find that the Church was looking for a "Shining Trapezohedron," which was prophesied to be buried beneath the western mountains.

Returning to the Scientists, the party revealed Harvinius' map (after making a copy) and got the Temple to send Ricin Dexter, two armsmen, two porters, and a big stack of water and food rations up with them to continue the deceased scientist's research. The Temple demanded half of any resulting loot, and the party surprisingly assented. Ricin was a Shadow Scientist (I haven't converted the ASE classes yet, so he's an amalgam of Rogue and Scientist) who used poisoned throwing scalpels and wore a black lab coat. The party was suitably impressed and decided they wouldn't kill him immediately. Hexane also announced that one of the scientist crew had a life monitoring device that would warn him if the man was killed, but he "didn't remember who had it." 

The crew trudged up the mountain. At one point strange shadows of men flapping their arms passed them, but they couldn't see what cast them. Further up, they ran into a caravan, marked as belonging to the Hodo Brothers - six similar-looking men who said they were taking a shipment of pine liquor to Denethix. Tuan Fen decided he'd buy some, and he'd drink off an entire flask of Purple Lighting to make room.

Tuan Fen's intoxication took a strange form, however. His lips turned purple, and a strange man in a purple robe appeared, telling him that glory was to be found beneath the earth. Tuan Fen started poking at the ground with a dagger, and then the man said that his friends were dragging him down and he should kill them. He found this advice less useful, however, and he told the man to shut up, sheathed his dagger, and continued up the mountain.

The rest of the party looked concerned, but ultimately this wasn't too strange for someone who'd chugged a flask of dubious alcohol.

The hiking sobered Tuan Fen up, luckily, and the man faded away. The map guided them well, and they entered a small cave, mercilessly slaughtering the bear inside. Its flesh yielded two rations, though more were wasted as the group lacked a trained butcher. There was a section of worked stone in the rear of the cave, with a six-inch hole and sealed black metal door. They asked Ricin if he'd brought any sick rock, and Ricin pulled out a large lead flask, and had one of his porters unscrew it and dump the fist-sized lump into the hole. They heard no sound afterwards, until the door hissed open, revealing  a brightly lit hall and octagonal room. 

Ricin declared that he and his team would guard the entrance and inspect the party as they exited. It would be their responsibility to face the dangers below. 

The room had a western door, an eastern door, and a northeast door. They were labelled, respectively, "Barracks," "Subsurface Research Facility," and "Emergency Generator Core" in ancient, but somehow still legible, stencils. 

The party decided to open the eastern door, finding themselves looking down a winding staircase. The stairs turned a corner to the south, and there was a door by the landing. They asked Sloth to open the door, but instead he began waltzing down the rest of the stairs, the rest of the group following at a 20' distance.

At the bottom, Sloth hit a T intersection - nothing visible but more hallway to the south, but a bizarre and frightening sight to the north: a phalanx of fifteen strange automatons, built out of corroded metal and bits of human bone and ribcage. The two groups were equally surprised, and the party gathered around Sloth as the creatures' eyes turned blood red.

Battle was joined. The automatons were eventually all destroyed, Tuan Fen's axe scything down two and three at a time. But first Fluffy was knocked out, tossed to the ground with broken ribs. Then Waddell was killed by a metal claw to the head. And the last automaton, bloodlust lighting its LEDs, cut open Tuan Fen's femoral artery, bringing the stalwart warrior down before being destroyed itself. 

The group fled to the camp to lick its wounds. Fluffy would live, but was out for at least two weeks. Sloth's spells and mundane medicine saved Tuan Fen's life, but he would be unable to fight for the next 48 hours.