At long last, our brave boys return! We’ve had a rough couple of months for scheduling, but the gang were finally able to get back on the road and play two consecutive sessions of our Vaarn campaign.
Last time we saw them the crew had entered the dungeon underneath the Water Baron’s keep, ostensibly to find out why the water purification machine was malfunctioning and repair crews were not returning to the surface. However, they have a secret mission: to locate and disable the Water Baron’s sabotage device, and liberate Gnomon from his control! Guided by No-Luck the New-Monkey, they investigated a sealed door, broke open some strange eggs, and set off a trap that attracted the attention of some hostile subterranean shriekmen.
- Flim-Flam, a two-headed cacogen. Proficient cook. Fights with twin pistols. Owns a cyborg hawk named Midnight.
- Findus, a newbeast. Horse-man with mystical powers. Inhabited by a parasitic spirit entity.
- Crunk, a true-kin warrior. Taciturn, impulsive. A lover and a fighter. Has a big sword.
- Karak, a gaunt cyborg. Robed and hideous, machine supremacist.
- Nephew (NPC), a mute and enthusiastic fungus-man. Able to fuse his flesh with dead creatures and take on their abilities.
We rejoined the party after a long absence, facing down three hostile shriekmen in a dank underground room. Battle was immediately joined; the shriekmen wailed at hideous volume, trying to make the party’s heads explode with weaponised sonar, but were defeated in fairly quick time. The PCs pressed south, guided by No-Luck, who wanted to reach the lever that would purge waste water from this level of the dungeon, opening the heavy doors that blocked the path to the diagnostics centre.
The party saw another shriekman moving in the room to the south, and could hear the shrill battle cries of many more of the pallid, unwholesome troglodytes. Scouting with Flim-Flam’s cyborg hawk revealed at least seven of the monsters, preparing to ambush the party. Flim-Flam decided to use an item of exotica he had won in a gambling game way back in Episode 8. It was a glass sphere filled with stars, that functioned as a black hole grenade.
The weapon was effective – perhaps rather more effective than Flim-Flam had anticipated. The exotica exploded in the adjacent room with an awful flaring of purple light and a howling wind as the singularity began to suck air into its greedy maw. The PCs grabbed hold of pipes and doorframes, managing to avoid being drawn into the black hole; however Nephew and No-Luck were not as fortunate. Forced to choose between saving the life of their beloved companion Nephew, and saving the life of the hated monkey-man No-Luck, Karak made the only choice possible and abandoned their guide to being sucked into the lethal singularity. No-Luck’s final words were obscured by the howling of the wind and the piercing dying cries of the shriekmen, but they were presumably not complimentary about the PCs.
RIP to No-Luck, 2021-2021. We barely knew you.
Examining the scene of the massacre, the party discovered the singularity had compressed all organic matter in the room into a gruesome object the size of a basketball, comprised of all the furnishings in the room, 9 dead shriekmen, and one dead monkey-man engineer. Nephew, faced with this horrific sight, naturally immediately absorbed it into his arm, electing to use the corpse-ball as a weapon. The players were bestially delighted by this turn of events, eagerly awaiting the moment when Nephew would strike a shriekman dead with the compressed corpses of his family.
The PCs pressed on, deeper into the underground complex. The walls grew thick with a toxic, luminous fungus, which they elected to avoid touching. Eventually they came upon a room containing a glowing lever, which was being prayed to by three shriekmen. The walls of this room were choked with the fungus. The players reasoned that this was the lever they needed to pull to access the diagnostics room, and joined battle with the shriekmen.
Their foes turned out to be wearing crude respirator masks, and the shriekmen immediately began beating the walls of the room, clouding everything in spores. Crunk and Nephew ended the battle in short order, but everyone took a lot of damage from choking on the spore clouds. They looted the shriekmen’s O2 masks, burned as much of the fungus with plasma-rifle fire as they could, and pulled the lever. Machinery rumbled and whirred, presumably purging the waste water elsewhere in the dungeon level.
The party investigated the lever room further, discovering there was an air-vent high up on the wall. They decided to send Midnight flying through it to scout ahead, but his investigations revealed only glimpses of whirring, noisy machinery. The PCs decided to instead retrace their steps, finding their way back to the door that had previously been locked shut due to flooding. Sure enough, the water had been drained and the door stood open.
The players made their way through the door into a new, strange space. This room consisted of a narrow bridge that spanned a seemingly bottomless dark chasm. Water could be seen running down the smooth metal walls of this room, and lights indicated the presence of a doorway far across the bridge. However, extending up from the blackness below was an enormous, bio-luminous blue tentacle, more than sixty feet in length. It resembled the appendage of a jellyfish or anemone, and drifted back and forth in the dark, damp air. The PCs quickly deduced that the tentacle was blind but also fast moving, aggressive, and reacted to sound and sudden vibrations. They decided the best course of action was to creep along the bridge without making a sound, hoping the terrifying appendage did not detect them.
Inevitably, this did not quite go to plan. Flim-Flam and Karak made their way across without incident, but Crunk – large, brawny, inelegant – did not fare so well. The tentacle detected his footsteps and lashed out, fastening itself around his body and attempting to drag him off the bridge into the abyss below! He managed to break free using his enormous strength, and Flim-Flam rang and threw the bell he had traded from the worshippers of the Pale Faith outside Gnomon, many many sessions ago. This gambit worked, and the glowing tentacle lashed out towards the tumbling bell, allowing the PCs time to dart across the bridge and escape. They sealed the door behind them, finding themselves in a clattering high-tech control room which they assumed was the Diagnostics Centre. A small milestone in their mission within the Aquifer machine was complete.
Glad to be back on the horse with the crew again. This was an action-heavy pair of sessions, in which the PCs took more damage than they ever have before. I’m starting to ramp up the toughness of the creatures they’re facing in this dungeon – shriekmen are 3HD each, and they attack in large groups, meaning crowd control is needed. I’ve been enjoying returning to the dungeoncrawl formula of room-by-room exploration and encounters. I enjoy freewheeling city adventures a lot, but the structure of D&D really shines once you’re in the dungeon.
The blue tentacle is a tribute to a beloved monster that was cut from Half-Life 2 late in the game’s development. I’ve always thought the Hydra was a cool creature design and wanted to let it have its day in the sun during this dungeon.