Saturday, 6 August 2016

CSR Dark Sun Play Report # 2 - Dangerous Mystery Items (P2)

  • Play report 
  • Second session - Part 2 of 2
  • Rules: Cypher System
  • Setting: Dark Sun - Burnt World of Athas 
  • Number of players: 3 

This is the continuation of our Dark Sun campaign. I will describe what happened in the second half of our second session.

This is one of the most memorable sessions I have ever witnessed.

     It is mid-afternoon by the time the group returns to the inn. Goron heads straight into the kitchen to begin cooking. He barely fits in the small room, but he happily makes do.

     Nameless attempts to sneak off to the room. Gator, suspicious since the encounter with Tarez, notices the man's departure from the common room and follows. He catches up with the man as he enters their room.

     Nameless goes directly to the storage locker, unlocks it and pulls out the small, black box. 
     When he sees the box, Gator immediately recognizes it as the item Tarez was searching for. Gator simply says, "Oh," and nods his head slowly.

     The container looks like a normal box. It is of a simple design. But as he is holding it, Nameless starts to feel a sense of apprehension and unease. He is reminded of the times he experimented with magic from the Grey. Images of ghouls, shadows and the dead flood his memory - unpleasant images that he would rather forget.

The Grey

The Grey is a dreary, endless space - the place Athasians go when they die. This infinite expanse of ashen haze attracts the spirits of the dead, where they exist in a sort of limbo, floating aimlessly in the ether or assuming the forms they held in life. Eventually the souls dissolve.

Few living people have been able to penetrate through to this plane of existence. There is a rumor that a group of powerful mages managed to pierce the Grey only to find death and destruction on the other side. 

Gith legend states that there were once a great race living on the other side of the Grey that flew on giant astral ships through it. The act of penetrating the Grey caused their ships to crash and stranded them on Athas, where they mutated into the creatures they have become today. 

 Excerpts from and

     His impatience taking over, Nameless opens the box. The inside is lined with plush, red leather. In the middle of the cushion, there is a single 2-inch tall egg. It is black, like obsidian.

     Gator leans over Nameless's shoulder to get a better look. He says, "I don't get it. It's a rock." The Mul reaches out and gently touches the egg. As soon as he does, his fingers go numb. He immediately flinches and withdraws his hand. His whole hand tingles with pins-and-needles as feeling starts to return to it. "Okay. I get it. Don't touch."

     Nameless mutters, "And don't let the half-giant eat it." He positions his hand tentatively above the egg and begins to cast a low-level spell.

     Gator watches him apprehensively. "I don't think that's a…"

     There is a small sound of air being sucked into a vacuum. The energy from the spell disappears immediately upon being cast, presumably absorbed by the egg. From its position above the egg, Nameless's hand can feel a slight amount of heat radiating off the egg. It only lasts for a few seconds and then everything seemingly returns to the way it was.


     As it is getting close to meal time, Nameless closes the box and locks it back in the storage locker. He has to think about this. Perhaps there is somewhere he can obtain information that will shed light on the mystery.

     The regular patrons have already eaten dinner. Goron is almost finished cooking. Amalia has set up a separate, special table for the meal. Her two guests have already arrived, and are making small talk near the table. Gator recognizes them as local politicians - senators, if he remembers correctly.

     Goron serves up a blood spice lizard curry. The meal is a great success.

     The smell of the meal seems to attract more patrons to the inn than normal and the common room is bustling that evening.

     Gator offers to buy a round of drink for a group of Silt Sea sailors, who are laughing loudly over their cups of fermented sugar cane. He sits with them and asks, "Heard anything about a merchant named Tarez?"

     One of the sailors nods enthusiastically. He is on a crew that ferries shipments for Tarez. He describes the man as "strictly business". He owns a rather sizable business, including a few warehouses, down by the docks. Makes a small fortune off of imports and exports, but he pays his people well. The worst the sailor says about Tarez is that the man's security is a bunch of goons. He even hired a particularly nasty half-giant named Groog.

     Goron is still at the dinner table, half passed out. He is in a happy food stupor.

     Immediately after the meal, Nameless returns to his room. He spends the evening sitting in a chair, staring at the storage locker.

     That night, Nameless sleeps a lot better. His dreams are filled with blackness. After a long time, a small light appears in the distance. And then the silence and tranquility of the dream is shattered by a loud "crack". This causes him to jolt awake.

     As he sits in the darkness of the inn room, reorienting himself, he hears another crack. The noise wakes Gator, who immediately jumps from his bed, grabs his axe, and checks the lock on the room's door.

     The cracking noise continues. The sound is coming from the storage locker.

    Gator stands by, gripping his axe, as Nameless slowly and cautiously opens the locker. Inside, the little black box is shaking and jumping about.

     Nameless reaches into the storage locker and slowly undoes the latch on the box. He carefully lifts the lid. Inside, the egg still lies on its red cushion, but now there is a noticeable crack in its side. Unnatural blue light is seeping out through the crack. The egg rattles around in the box. Another crack appears. There are a few seconds of stillness and then the egg shatters. 
     A little black phoenix bursts out of the box and flies chaotically around the room. In a panic, it searches for a way out. It leaves scorch marks of black energy whenever it touches a surface.

     Nameless and Gator watch the small bird fly around the room.

     "Should we catch it?"

     "I might be able to erase its memory. Maybe it would calm down."

     The bird knocks over a lamp, and lets out a shrill shriek.

     "Well, we’ve got to do something before the whole inn wakes up." 
      Gator pulls out the orb that he got from Iggy earlier that day. "Maybe this will help." He turns it over in his hands a few times, and then pushes the large, obvious button on its side. The crystal ball glows brightly and a panel slides back to reveal another button. An unknown symbol appears in the orb. The new button lights up and then begins to pulse, and the orb symbol changes with each pulse.

     By this time, the phoenix has wrecked the room. The curtains are torn and scorched. The bedding is smoldering. There is more the one hole in wall.

     Gator shrugs and presses the second button.

     (Note: Clay rolls a dice and grimaces.)

     The button dims, and the symbols in the orb begin the change in a rhythmic pattern. The phoenix reacts immediately. It slowly, but surely gets larger. And its cries become more frequent, more frantic, and louder.

     It becomes obvious that the other residents of the inn are beginning to gather in the hall. Outside the door, someone calls out, "Do you know what's going on?"

     The bird is obviously reacting to the cypher, but not in the way Gator had intended. In frustration, Gator throws the orb at the bird. He misses, and the device hits the wall with the thud, then lands on the bed.

     (Clay [GM]: "Ngaire [not involved in this scene], do you want to look at the card to see what the cypher does? It is ...pretty messed up.")

     (Ngaire: "No. I think I'd rather not know.")

     The orb's symbols start changing faster. Originally green in colour, they progressively turn yellowish, and then continue toward a reddish hue.

     Gator picks up the orb off the bed and strides to the window. He opens the window, flings the shutters wide, and throws the device out toward a fountain in the town square below. The phoenix immediately follows the cypher through the open window, shattering the pane glass as it passes. The room is a smoldering, smoking mess. Half of its contents have been destroyed.

     The bird flies straight to the fountain where the cypher landed and circles above it. A few seconds later, the device goes off.

Doomsday Device
Level 10 (automatic)
When activated, the user sets a timer for up to one year. When the time runs out, the device explodes out to a range of 1 miles (2 km). The explosion inflicts 20 points of damage to everything in the area and saturates the air and ground with radiation that lasts for 5d20 years. Until the radiation dissipates, it inflicts 1 point of ambient damage for each minute a creature remains in the area.

(Note: Goron, the half-giant, is the most resilient of the party members, with 40 points in his combined pools. ...This cypher is likely to kill most everyone in the city of Balic).

(Additional note: Clay [GM] did not plan for this). 

     The fountain erupts in a volcano of fire and molten rock. A rift is torn between dimensions and a three-story-tall elemental demon materializes in the middle of Balic.

     The phoenix wheels in the air above the elemental, shrieking. Tendrils of energy rise from the fire demon to the bird, which slowly grows larger and larger and begins to crackle with blue lightning. The elemental focuses on the phoenix and attempts to swat it from the sky. Around the town square, fire steadily spreads away from the fountain, and chunk of molten rock soar through the air and crash into nearby buildings. The closest walls to the square turn red with the heat and begin to melt.


     When the fountain exploded, Nameless dives for cover behind one of the beds.

     Gator (rolls 1) stands in the window, staring as Armageddon unfolds. The side of inn is ripped off in the shockwave, and Gator is thrown into the air. He watches as a building, below him, explodes. As he hurtles through the air, the glass pendant he got from Iggy begins to hum. 

Gravity Dampener
Level 4
The device automatically activates whenever its user falls 10 feet (3 m) or more. The user floats down until he lands safely, taking no damage from the fall.

      Gator's decent slows and he floats down to an alleyway below. When his feet touch the ground, the little pendant shatters into dust.

     (Clay [GM]: "Lucky.")

     (Matt: "Lucky? We just unleashed Armageddon. …by accident.")

     The demon elemental starts to hurl lava at the phoenix, which remains just out of its reach. The missing projectiles rain down from the sky. The city is filled with people's screaming. Fires rage for blocks in every direction.

     Embers rain down on Gator and a small chunk of molten rock crashes into the wall a few feet from his head. He runs down the alleyway, away from the impending doom, and takes cover behind a fallen chunk of building.

     The lava demon goes back to swatting at the phoenix, but he is too slow and the bird dodges nimbly. But every time the elemental's arm makes a pass at the phoenix, the bird visibly grows larger. At the same time, the lava demon is becoming visibly weaker. It over-extends on its final swing and collapses onto the ground. A wave of molten rock washes over the nearby buildings as the elemental loses all cohesion.

     (Ngaire: "And the half-giant sleeps through the whole incident.")
     (Clay [GM]: "Oh, yeah.") 

     Goron wakes up to explosions, screaming, and flashing lights. He jumps out of the cot and looks around to see the stables on fire.

     (Ngaire: "Save the horses!")

     (Clay [GM]: "There are no horses in the Dark Sun setting.")

     (Ngaire: "What's in the stables, then?")

     (Clay [GM]: "Large beetle-like creatures.")

     (Ngaire: "Save the beetles!")

     Goron leaps into action, letting loose a battle cry of "Save the beetles!" Within a few minutes, he has lead all the creatures out into the inn's courtyard, where they are safe from the fire but still contained. The mounts are panicked and frantic, but there isn't much around for them to hurt, so Goron leaves them there.

     High above the city, a giant black and blue phoenix cries out a victorious shriek. It now has a wingspan greater than 10 feet. The creature does one last pass over its fallen foe and then flies off to the South, out of view. 

     Balic is in a state of panic. It is not long before the Templars arrive. With no enemy to fight, they turn their attention to putting out the fires and saving the citizens.

     Gator wanders back into the inn. The front wall is missing, exposing the common room, and many of the bedrooms above. Amalia is on her hands and knees in common room. She is crying over the ashes of the former hardwood tables.

     Gator drops heavily into an undamaged chair.

     With the beetles safe and secured, Goron rushes out of the inn's courtyard, into the street. He joins a group of Templars and is quickly put to work moving rubble to rescue people trapped inside buildings.

     Nameless, still in their room in the inn, hides the broken eggshell and the wooden box in the bottom of his pack. He packs up his belongings and prepares for a hasty getaway.

     By morning, the fires are under control, and most of the collapsed buildings have been searched for survivors.

     At dawn, something unprecedented happens - it snows in Balic. Although there are legends of snow falling on the city, no one has ever witnessed it in person.

     The King's Pig Inn is severely damaged. Gator and Nameless discuss their course of action. They realize that many of the rooms were damaged - not just theirs. There are no witnesses to their part in the incident. Sure, there was a lot of noise coming from their room before the explosion, but that could be explained …if anyone remembers it to mention it. There is really no indication as to who was responsible for the disaster. They relax a bit and decide to play things cool and remain in the city.

     (Matt: "Are we going to tell Goron?")

     (Chris: "No. No. Hell, no.")

     Goron continues to help people by moving rubble to un-bury bits of their broken lives.

     As the day progresses, the temperature doesn’t warm up much. This is almost as distressing to the townsfolk as the attack last night. There is a lot of speculation about the crops and olive trees dying.

     Gator wanders around the city to collect gossip.

     He overhears that the Templars have begun an investigation, into both the attack on the city and the odd weather. There are a lot of rumours that the disaster was intentionally caused by a group of Defilers (magicians).

     After a while, news is spread that the Templars have determined that the attack was actually a summons from the elemental plane. 
      The townspeople often look up anxiously at the towers and ask each other if there have been any answers from the scryers who are testing the skies for weather patterns. People start to expressed great concern over why there is no news about the weather. Someone says that they overheard one of the Templars say that there is no indication of a cause or a weather pattern, and that they have no idea when it will improve. From then on, most people discuss the crops and what they will do if there's a famine.
    When possible, Gator encourages and adds to the rumours about the disaster. He suggests slightly more outrageous versions of the details being told and he mentions that he overheard that it was a wizard duel.

     Nameless heads to the docks and quickly locates Tarez's business. It is on the other side of the city from the explosion, which remained untouched by the disaster. There is an "open" sign in the window and the door is open. Nameless walks in to find a skinny teenager sitting at the clerk's desk and an otherwise empty shop.

     "Where's Tarez?"

      The youth stumbles over his words a bit, but then informs him that Mr. Tarez left on last-minute business early that morning.

     "When is he expected to return?"

     He was in a bit of a hurry when he left, probably concerned about the explosion that happened on the other side of town. He didn't mention exactly when he'd return - he just left instructions on what to do if he were delayed for more than a few days. The young clerk gives Nameless the name of the fellow who was left in charge of the business operations, and Nameless leaves the shop.

(End of session).

So, in Part 1 of this session, the party avoided the planned fight scene with Tarez and his goons in the market square. This can be frustrating for any GM. Especially if he planned to reveal information about a plot item through the confrontation.

But then the party unleashed Armageddon on the city of Balic, almost killing everyone, including the entire party. The story was almost over before it had really begun. Clay [GM] really had to think on his feet to react to that twist.

I will put together the session planning notes for the next post. But only Clay can comment on his GM in-game decisions and how they affected his overall plan.


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