Four months after the initial ‘demo tape’ session for Vaarn, I got the chance to GM the setting again last night over Discord. Despite a few audio glitches I think the session went really well and was excited to play with three new players who I’ve never GM’d for before. This was a new, much larger dungeon, which I’m hoping to use as a starter dungeon for Vaarn in future.
The party consisted of:
- Nirid, a young true-kin Adept (a new character class for Vaarn). She was the scion of a high caste true-kin family, and was an expert in emotional manipulation.
- Sam ‘Squid’ Skid, a disreputable cacogen Adept. Sam had tentacles for arms, and would only wear the colour purple. He owned a stealthy chameleon cloak.
- Margaret, a pious synthetic Mystic. She was a small priest-shaped robot, with translucent limbs and a penchant for wearing human clothes. Her mystical Gift was the ability to make everyone else in the room start crying when she did (an invention of Margaret’s player).
After rolling up some gear, I informed the PCs that they had been visiting a remote temple in the blue wastelands of Vaarn, a temple dedicated to the Titan GAEA, which was known for miraculous healing treatments administered by its priestesses, the Pelerine Sisterhood. However, the PCs did not awaken in the guest rooms of the temple, as they had imagined they would. Instead they awoke to find themselves hanging upside down in a dank underground room. Their weapons and bulky gear were missing, and there was a headless corpse hanging on the opposite side of the room. Not a great start!
Nirid immediately began screaming. Sam managed to free himself from his restraints, albeit clumsily, and freed Nirid and Margaret as well. Unfortunately the noise of Nirid’s screams had attracted attention. A heavy, wet tread could be heard approaching the room where the PCs were imprisoned. As they discussed what to do, a dark shape loomed in the doorway. Margaret gamely greeted the being, which moved into the prison room without responding, revealing itself to be a monstrosity resembling a headless skinned bear, which walked clumsily on gorilla-like hands. Deciding this being was not friendly and being for the most part unarmed, the party escaped through a fissure in the eastern wall of the cell, a passage too small for the creature to pursue them.
The party found themselves in another dank underground chamber. This room had a pool of murky water in the middle of it. Margaret tested the water and discovered it was inhabited by something that resembled an eel with a human face. The creature did not attack her, but everyone agreed it might be best to leave the water alone. They moved south into an even larger chamber, a subterranean vault with a ceiling supported by enormous pillars of rock. This chamber smelt extremely bad, and also contained a large pool of black liquid, which seemed to be a foul ichor or waste chemical of some kind. Margaret was alarmed to realise that there was a shaven human head visible in the middle of the slurry. At first unsure if this was another of the man-faced eel creatures, the party realised this was in fact a very unfortunate human, who in a husky and desperate voice introduced herself as Orma. She explained that she was a Pelerine nun, who had displeased Mother Yarot, the head of her order. Mother Yarot had imprisoned her with chains in the slurry pit, which was essentially the toilet of ‘Brother Currow’, the headless bear creature the PCs had already encountered. Orma begged the party to free her before she drowned in the monster’s waste products, a truly awful fate. The party agreed, but saw no way to free Orma from her predicament immediately, given that any noise in the dungeon would attract Brother Currow’s attention. They resolved to explore further, find Mother Yarot, and steal her key to the chains that kept Orma captive. At this point, hearing the sound of Brother Currow returning to his awful slurry pit, the party hastily beat a retreat to the south, promising Orma they would return.
The party found themselves in a decrepit underground chapel to the Titan GAEA, decorated with a crude statue of the Titan, and a large mouldering tapestry covering the back wall. Pious mystic Margaret instantly prostrated herself before the Titan statue. Sam and Nirid explored the room further, discovering there was a hidden doorway behind the large tapestry. Margaret, expressing dismay for how the holy tapestry was falling into decay, rolled the large artwork up and slung it on her back (I ruled this would take up three inventory slots but she was insistent on rescuing it), before moving through the hidden door.
The PCs found themselves in a natural cave, with sunlight entering through a fissure in the ceiling – too high up and narrow to climb out of, sadly. The main feature of note in this cave was a large sheet of polished metal, on which lived a hypergeometric being, a Planeyman. The creature was highly distorted, resembling a Picasso painting more than a regular human, but seemed friendly enough after some initial friction with Sam. The Planeyman introduced himself as Spooltart, and begged the party to free him from the sheet of metal where he had been trapped for aeons. The PCs asked if he knew the way out of the dungeons below the Pelerine temple, which Spooltart did. He also asked for them to reunite him with his beloved, a two-headed Pelerine named Sister Olide, who had used to visit his slab some years ago, but stopped coming. Spooltart ached to look upon those two beautiful faces again. Margaret agreed, and freed him from his slab by unrolling the devotional tapestry and allowing Spooltart to flow onto it, before rolling him back up.
Spooltart proved his worth by telling the PCs that the pool of water in his cave actually connected to a little-known underground waterway, which would take them to the step-well used by the Pelerine priestesses, and from there the temple proper, where he imagined Mother Yarot and Sister Olide would be found. Under his direction, they dived through a submerged tunnel, coming up in a natural cave system through which a small stream flowed. They followed the stream, finding themselves waylaid at one point by a nasty being, an ambulatory human skeleton that was covered by a thick jelly. Sam made an INT test to remember that such beings were slow and weak but effectively immune to all harm, because of their gel-like nature and intense cellular regeneration. The party deftly avoided the jelly-ton’s attempts to throttle them, and ran past it through more caves. Another submerged tunnel brought them out into the step-well, just as Spooltart had promised.
The party briefly explored the step-well, discovering a mosaic decorated room that was clearly used as a storeroom by the Pelerine priestesses. They looted several items here, and were delighted to discover their lost weapons as well. Nirid was especially pleased to be reunited with her lightweight plasma rifle. They then made their way up into the Pelerine temple proper.
Venturing into the nearest room, they discovered a huge clear vat of milky liquid, in which a human figure floated. Unsure if the person was dead, they investigated further. Sam noticed they were hooked up to a breathing mask, and stepped on the oxygen tube, prompting the person to furiously surface from the milk to find out what was going on. They turned out to be a true-kin Armiger (think a knight or samurai), who had been badly injured in a duel and was healing in the Pelerines’ fabled rejuvenation device. The party told him about the dungeon beneath the temple and the horrible creatures that lived there, but he was unmoved, being of the opinion that anything the Pelerines needed to do to others to cure him was their business. The Armiger further mentioned that he had spoken with Mother Yarot, and she could be found in her cell behind the grand idol in the main temple of GAEA. The party left him to rejuvenate and set off to find the leader of the Pelerines. At this point Margaret also allowed Spooltart to leave her tapestry and freed him to roam the flat walls of the temple. Thanking her, the Planeyman left in search of his lost love.
The party made their way through the temple grounds, encountering nobody (they were lucky on random encounter rolls for the whole session, only getting one snake, which paid them no attention). The grand chapel of GAEA was much more luxurious than the shrine they’d found underground, but it also sported a huge devotional tapestry with a hidden room behind it. In this case the room was Mother Yarot’s white-marble sanctum. They found Yarot herself, an ancient True-kin priestess wearing an elaborate golden headdress, meditating on a prayer mat. Nirid and Sam began threatening her, but were ambushed from above by Mother Yarot’s ghastly attendants, which resembled an eight-legged ferret with a hypodermic needle for a head, and a human hand grafted to a snake’s body. A short battle ensued, with the PCs suffering moderate damage from the agile monsters, but easily evading Yarot’s weak attacks. Eventually Nirid managed to roast both abominations with point-blank plasma rifle shots, and the party forced Mother Yarot to surrender. They interrogated her about her justification for keeping a dungeon full of monsters below the temple (she was unrepentant), took her set of master keys, and then executed her with a plasma rifle shot, likely a sensible decision in the long run.
At this point we had been running for three hours, and the audio issues were getting worse, so we elected to break the action and return to it next week. They now have the means to rescue Orma from her horrible fate, and I have a while to think about what havoc Spooltart could be causing in the Pelerine temple…
A fantastic session with great players. The dungeon produced exactly the experience I wanted it to, and the PCs rose to the occasion with gusto. I didn’t include all the funny moments, but Margaret’s power to force everyone else to start crying along with her made for some great role play. Very creative Mystic’s Gift and something I’m keen to see more of.
I was glad the PCs encountered Spooltart, as he’s one of my favourite NPCs in the whole dungeon, but would be easy to miss if they hadn’t searched the GAEA shrine properly. The decision to free him using the tapestry wasn’t something I’d anticipated, but I was really happy to have him alongside them, shouting muffled encouragement during combat from inside his rolled-up rug. There are a few other secrets in the temple’s underbelly that they didn’t find, but I’ll be curious to see if any other parties do.
The structure of taking away their weapons and items was something that made me nervous, but I think it works and gives an incentive to hate the Pelerines and work to get them back. It also helps teach that combat isn’t the only problem-solving tool you have in Vaarn, and it often isn’t necessary at all. Very much looking forward to finishing this one up soon.