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  • #11937
    Profile photo of Hervé CARTEAU
    Hervé CARTEAU
    Spectator

    Honored Friends,

    This is the story of what happened in our 9th HARREKSAGA game, the first I wrote myself completely, having used Loz’ eventually-to-be-published campaign until then. While not of same caliber, it did give us good fun and some of you might be amused by it.It’s about 3 x A4 pages long.

    December 20, 2014 / HARREKSAGA 10th GAME: « FOREST OF DISEASE OR BUST » (5 ½ hours)
    Characters Cast : Bonétoile (« Lucky Star ») the esrolian thug, Dyneria the Anilla cultist, Big Paw the Rathori (Harrek’s cousin, a blue bear), Bienvenu (« Welcomed ») the arkati assassin of Naskorion, Valonoo the Rightarm Islander fisherman turned warrior (however reluctantly), Juno the Man of All Disorder from Tortun.
    PREVIOUSLY IN HARREKSAGA : After Laskal’s conquest, Harrek’s new possessions are beset by raids from the pujaleg (bat people), who include many vampire bats. Harrek grunts to the argrath (the PCs) « solve this ». They set to work, identify the pujaleg leader, Kwararafa, discover he has gone chaotic and draws power from the forest of disease and from an krjalk artifact called « the Mirror of Mutations ».
    The party sets towards the forest of disease to root out the problem and cross Falutha, dread jungle, after many challenges. They find the head of an artmali warrior of old who offers to transport them far to the south where they will find the Spear of Artmal and use it to kill Falutha the smotherer. They agree and travel to the skies on Artmal’s Indigo ship. Once in Zamokil, they meet the veldang and retrieve the Varanu (Artmal’s Spear) from its bomonoi guardian inside a volcano caldera (ToRM 10 scenario, revamped).

    NOTE : I used Topi Pitkanen’s cards and had each player draw one from the deck at the start of the game. Each bears a rune, a number and a drawing. You can use any of these ONCE during play to change or modify an opposition’s outcome.

    Still inside the caldera, the PCs see many veldang gathering on the top and gesticulating excitedly. They wonder if they’ll take the Varanu by strength of numbers and worry much, hesistating a long time before manning up and walking towards them – only after Gramma Veldang beckons them. Once among the veldang, they are treated like heroes ; the blues prostrate themselves to them, there is a feast. After much discussion, Dyneria the Annilla cultist agree to let Gramma touch the Varanu. She gets almost instantly younger and changes her name to Mamma Veldang.

    There is much debate among the PCs. They want to keep the Varanu (Artmal’s Spear) and use it to destroy the Forest of Disease, NOT Falutha as their former artmali guardian told them. They negotiate with Mamma Veldang to get a ride back to Laskal and to keep the Varanu for their mission, giving it back to the veldang once it’s done. Several crits made while using Oratory about « erecting the first stone of Jarkaru’s New Empire in the jungle» gets the veldang motivated. They agree to a pact :
    – veldang help pirates to destroy forest of disease
    – pirates give back veldang the Varanu
    – veldang give pirates « Artmal’s Purple Mist » (one-use teleport spell)
    – veldang and pirates swear pact of non-agression
    There is still some mutual distrust and Mamma Veldang closes the deal when saying to get back to Laskal, they will have to ride the Blue Streak and start the voyage in Hell, so everybody will have to die first. Once down, they will have to cross « Auntie Black River » and swear on her waters. Some PCs realize this is Styx, the Garrote of the Gods, upon whom only the direst oaths are sworn.

    The access to Hell is in Tiva Tadarida (it’s in the Guide!), a series of bottomless chasms opening up in the veldt. Everybody has to jump the abyss backwards after pretending to kill him/herself or getting killed by someone else. There are many amusing rituals (with much untold fear of betrayal), but everybody falls into Hell. On the way down, some bats flitter around them but they don’t catch the meaning of it – they are spies for the pujaleg and their recurring enemy Kwararafa. Once Down, the PCs and the 100+ veldang warriors, led by Mamma Veldang, start their walk towards the Blue Light, where Sertarmal lands after her fall from Zenith.

    On the way, they are attacked by an immense cloud of vampire bats, so many their physical might is useless. Bigpaw is soon covered by hundreds of tiny bloodsuckers and struggles uselessly. After some quick thinking, the PCs use a combination of Bienvenu’s Darkwall magic (on which the bats’ sonar bounces back), Juno’s summoned Fire Snake and, mostly, Dyneria and Mama Veldang’s combined Blue Ebb Ritual, powered by the present veldang. The Ebbing takes the flight out of the bats and they fall to the ground by the many thousands, allowing the PCs to crush them underfoot.

    However, the clearing reveals Kwarafara himself, now full mini-crimson bat style, dripping with chaotic ooze and yielding the Mirror of Mutations. Valonoo gets a look of himself in the Mirror. I ask him what he wants to become most and he says “a proud, powerful fishing bird”. And he does. Feathers start to grow on his arm and belly at a quick pace. But Bienvenu stabs K. in the back and the Mirror falls on the ground. Valonoo then stabs K. with his harpoon. The chaotic leaps upwards, ready to fly away, but Bienvenu hangs on to its leg and slashes at its wing. It falls back and the PCs fall upon it and butcher it. Then they carefull wrap the Mirror and carry it with them. Valonoo’s mutation still progresses but at a much slower pace. About a third of the veldang have been killed by the bat cloud.

    The group then carefully avoids the procession of the dead sun, and recognize one his first advisors as Gulsharp, the High Priest of Dombain whom they killed on their first adventure – he seems to smell his Book of Fire, carried by Juno, but they still manage to stay hidden. And then they come on the banks of the Styx. Blue Jeset comes forward on his skiff. The veldang each give him two blue pebbles, but the PCs have no such things and must improvise. Bienvenu dramatically pulls out one of his eyes to give it to the ferryman ; Bonétoile must part with his “Dombain Loot 13” after much whining, Juno gives his Talor Sword ; Bigpaw sacrifices some of his “Love of Harrek” trait (!!!).

    On the river itself, I am beset by many questions which I can’t answer : “does the Styx reflect back my image ?” “Couldn’t we counter Valonoo’s curse by having his image reflected by the Styx, then by the Mirror ?” Bienvenu fills a small vial of Styx’s water after a proper arkati prayer. Then the skiff stops in the middle of the river and the Pirates/Veldang oath is sworn. This is when I remind the players they have NOT been mandated by Harrek to make such alliances, and am rewarded by much justification (“he’ll be glad we bring back such allies and cool magics”, etc.) I tell them we will see… Mama Veldang changes name again and becomes Cathora.

    Upon landing on the Good Bank, the PCs are inexplicably separated from their veldang supporters (one minute they’re here, the next they’re not – that’s the underworld for you) and meet Mostali Survey Patrol 34B, who starts asking questions: are you 1) animist, 2) theist, 3) logician 4) none of the above. Players begin by making joking answers but the iron mostali squad leaders gets threatening. Things get worse when the mostali feel the varanu and declare “cerulean power source of out context – must be recuperated – give cerulean power source or be recycled”.

    The PCs then attack the iron mostali. Their leaders takes a grenade at its belt and pulls the pin (I used a fake defensive US army grenade, pulled the pin myself and dropped it on the table to some players’ horror). The players say they want to pull the grenade out of the mostali’s hand before he throws it. They use Dyneria’s kusari-gama with its magically-lenghtening chain, Valonoo’s net, distraction tactics – and succeed! The grenade explodes in the mostali leader’s hand.

    The fight is still hard, but Bonétoile then calls on his “Storm King” card, using his death and water Runes and raisse a storm on the Styx; a wave of Styx water crash on the mostali patrol and drags them into the Black River. Bienvenu and Bonétoile manage to pick each one grenade from the struggling mostalis’ belts while Juno takes an Iron Axe. Much shaken by the battle, the PCs link up with the veldang again and arrive at the Blue Streak’s site.

    They see it in its glory, its complicated, pulsating spiral made of hundreds of dancing, fighting, lovemaking entities; it ends in a geyser of blue/purple misty lights. After some ritual, all hands linked together – and to the Varanu – they step into it. They soar updwards, out of hell, up in the Sky World. The mist slowly coalesces in a Ship. The veldang become the artmali crewmen. Pamaltela spreads far under the hull, it immense plains spreading until they meet the northern jungles. The ship is not any more in This World and not yet on the Other Side. It sails between worlds, just like the Jarkaru texts said. Surely Laskal will be reached very soon.

    But a glowing, hurting red spot appears on the horizon. It slowly materializes in a giant red vampire bat. After a moment’s panic among the PCs (who for a while tought I was siccing the crimson bat on them), they notice it looks and feels like a perfectly healthy animal, not a chaos monster. But it is a giant vampire bat nevertheless. It stops outside of missile range, it wings beating at an impossibly slow pace. Its wingspan is over 150 feet. It speaks, and its low voice, combined with its sonar emission, makes the bones of all on board rattle inside their bodies.“I am Artia, Mother of the Pujaleg People. This ship carries the foreigners from the north who want to hurt my children. Throw them overboard and turn back”. (I make the PCs feel its 18M2-5M3 Power- I want them to worry).

    There follows a tense, difficult but ultimately successful conviction attempt that 1) the pirates are not enemies of the pujaleg 2) they are out to destroy mallia and chaos, which also hurt the pujaleg 3) they are ready to make offerings to the pujaleg (cattle, whatever – we’ll see later what Harrek has to say about that) and 4) the only pujaleg they killed were chaos-warped – they produce they Mirror of Mutations as proof. After promises the pirates won’t hurt the pujaleg unless attacked (group single opposition), Artia flies away.

    Once the Indigo ship reaches the forest of disease, the PCs disembark on blue moonbeams and must cross a cloud of disembodied diseased guardians hovering over it. There their preparation rituals pay off (they all had +6 v disease after artmali / pigmy rituals before setting off on the trip). They burst through and land inside the mutated, suppurating, twisted jungle, fight off strangling vines, shifting ground, bursting fruits and moving trees that bleed when cut. They get closer and closer to the source of evil: it gives off weird, sickly kaleidoscopic lights behind the tree line.

    The ultimate obstacle is a gang of monstrous, feral broos warped beyond even chaotic “standards” (I used a mix of the most striking broos from different RQ books, including a rhino and croc broo, and sicked the acid-pissing broo from “Big Rubble” on the player who called me out saying I was “recycling old stuff” (which I do, but still). It was an extended group contest, the first in a long time and it played very well. Bigpaw tore his way trough a giant (8M2) shoveltusker broo while Valonoo almost died choking on the intestines that an obese broo vomited at him. It was a cathartic battle, fought with abandon after a tortuous, negotiation-heavy scenario.

    Finally, the PCs get to the Chaos Void at the heart of the forest of disease. While Dyneria, Cathora (Veldang queen) and the other veldang coordinately use their Ebbing Magics, supported by the Varanu, and Juno cast Burnt Earth around the Void to slow its growth, Bienvenu and Bonétoile both toss their mostali grenades into it. The release of mostali grade-1 kinetic.chemical energy, synchronized with the ebbing of chaos, suffices to close the void and to let nature reassert its rights. The void is shut. The world breathes. Plants start almost immediately to grow. Animals come around (I made this a “Bambi” scene and we even had a naming contest: name as many weird jungle animals as you can).

    The PCs give the veldang the Varanu. The Veldang give the PCs Artmal’s Indigo Cloud in a bag. All is well. And then, Cathora lifts the Varanu and spears the palm tree sapling growing closest to the former site of the Void. She says in a cold, inhuman voice: “the filthy jungle will NEVER cover again ground gained by the Artmali New Empire!”

    NEXT: the wolf pirates want to sail back to Genertela. On the way, they will meet THE GHOST FLEET.

    #11938
    Profile photo of Harald Smith
    Harald Smith
    Spectator

    Thanks for the wonderful writeup! The Mostali Survey Patrol 34B is great – just the thing to pop into the Underworld. Lots of good, intriguing story bits.

    > “does the Styx reflect back my image ?”

    I’d say absolutely NOT. It’s the ultimate darkness that absorbs all light – no reflection whatsoever.

    >NOTE : I used Topi Pitkanen’s cards and had each player draw one from the deck at the start of the game. Each bears a rune, a number and a drawing. You can use any of these ONCE during play to change or modify an opposition’s outcome.

    Can you tell more of this? They sound like they could be very useful.

    #13662
    Profile photo of Gianni Vacca
    Gianni Vacca
    Spectator

    > Can you tell more of this? They sound like they could be very useful.

    It basically works like a Hero Point, except that its use is restricted to whatever is depicted on the card or covered by the card’s rune. Or it may give you a bonus on a single action if its use is topical.

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