Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tomb of the Rocketmen - 1st Playtest Report.

Tomb of the Rocketmen Playtest - I ran a playtest of Tomb of the Rocketman the other night, the party was fairly successful, losing one member to a trap and most importantly they showed me that the Tomb isn't instantly deadly (as I had feared) or impossible to enter.

A crack team of skilled graverobbers, killers and antiquarians assembled at the personal orders of the Grande Vizier of Denethix.

Grisham Everyman – A perfectly mundane man of middling years, with mud brown hair and hard brown eyes.  Only his armor, a suit of white ceramic plates, marked with blue designs is remarkable. Fighter 6

Dogrok – A cyclone of anger from the beleaguered tribes amongst the Feasting Trees.  This warrior wears elaborate fluted armor made of the finest steel and his hammer is the living heartwood of a Feasting Titan. Fighter 6

Mo-Mo – Moktar Warrior from the Certopsian, Deadly with a black Zweihander from a dusty serpant man tomb and favored by his ancestors.  Moktar 6

Marina Cleric of Theosaurid – Worshipper of the gilded god of dinosaurs, a devotee of the most savage faith amongst the orbital gods (or so they claim – Rarge God of Savagery disagrees).  She is always accompanied by her Doberman convert and guardian, Lt. Dog. Cleric 6

Gamma Ray – Sorcerer of the Sword, a well built warlock who is fond of  grandiose gestures.  His past is unknown to any but himself, and he hints at retaking a tower somewhere in the Worthless North.  He carries a powerful artifact of lost sorcery. Magic-User 6

11 – An ancient machine of rust and impenetrable armor plating, unearthed near the home warrens, 11 destroyed the foolish dwarf nobles that thought he could be bound by chains of compound interest.  Its drills and magma cannon still function, and now 11 is a heartless bounty killer. Robot 6

1 Platinum urn (500 GP)  - Shaped like a rocket ship and filled with isotropic ashes

2 Pulsing Lavender Pace Gems (250 GP Each)  – Gems that speak strange whispers in an unknowable tongue.

1 Clear Plastic Block Containing an Alien Flower (50 GP)

Scrimshaw of Rocketship/Nebula on Orange Tusk (125 GP)

1 Miracle Medal (5 GP in Silver 0GP Shrapnel)

2 Ceramic Sabers – Ancient weapons of unknown material.  They are bone white and exceedingly sharp.

The party has arrived on the shores of a vile swamp, known as the Slough Uncanny, following both the direct advice of the Dinosaur God Theosaurid, the research of the Temple of Science into its ancient archives and the advice of the kindly priests of Furter who run the burial and relic trades at the Obelisk of Forgotten Memories.  Yet even with these varied and powerful sources of information, the adventurers only know that a great evil lurks in the waters of the slough, lairing in the ruins of an ancient Rocketman Tomb.

From the shore the party sees only a couple of black pod like structures jutting from the oily water, which is partially overgrown by fungal scum of unnatural colors: maroons, teals, cyan and bright yellow.  11 the robot destroyer ventures into the slough and discovers that beneath the waters fungal growth predominates.  The pods are indeed the tip of a huge structure, built into some sort of artificial well at the bottom of the slough.  In addition to the black pods, a pair of domes, one glowing with blue and amber lights, are visible through the murk. 

The adventures prefer not to dive into the dirty fungus choked depths, and when 11 returns to the shore wade and paddle out to the black pods.  Searching the pods the adventurers find the central pod has a hatch 3’ under the water.  The hatch proves to have no visible latch, so using the powers of Gamma Ray’s staff the party opens a mystic portal into the pod where it is above the water level.  In a burst of black motes and tiny ash like butterflies Gamma ray is able to stretch time and space, allowing Dogrok and Grisham to leap into the chamber below.  The pod is 40’ long with glass tubes filled with greenish liquid and a vague human form along each wall.  There are eight tubes in all and when the condensation is rubbed clear Grisham discovers that the occupant of the tube is a fit young woman with a stern square face wearing some kind of armored jumpsuit.  The woman wears an officers saber at her waist and her suit has the distinct look of a uniform.  A green button glows beneath the tube, and Grisham presses it without hesitation.

As the rest of the party pours into the chamber the tube empties, fills with a red liquid and then empties again and the woman within’s eyes snap open.  The tube retracts and the occupant introduces herself as “Citizen Valentine 28”.  Valentine warns the adventurers to depart the “secure facility” as the “protocol means that there are risks here”.  As she talks Valentine presses buttons on the other chambers and soon eight identical Valentines  marshal in the room and insist the party leaves.  As Gamma opens the hatch on the pod’s Western end as Marina begins a theological debate with one of the Valentines.  The discussion goes badly.  While it’s unclear if it’s the denial of Marina’s “Primitive Superstition” the insistence the she “Submit herself the criticism and discuss the matter with her Commissar”, that cause Marina to react, but the cleric, resplendent in her crystal chain mail and towering golden crown turns suddenly smashing Citizen Valentine 28 in the spine with her Tyrannosaur toothed, blessed mace.  The blow is not enough to bring the clone down, and instantly a wild chaotic melee begins.  Mo Mo's ancient blade slices down one of the clones, as 11 backs towards the hatch and charges his magma cannon.  Gamma Ray cowers behind the robot and the battle rages - ensorcelled weapons of the fallen world striking against clean white ceramic blades of the ancients.  The clones are thrown back and the party dashes past the glowing nozzle of 11's cannon.  Searing red plasma splatters about the cryogenic chamber blistering several of the clones.  The hatch is held shut against the clones' battering by the 800 pound bulk of 11 and the strength of Dogrok.

Gamma ray investigates the chamber the party is currently in, as the hatch pounds with the sound of saber pommels. Three more hatches spiral along a staircase that winds down to a hatch and a glass screen with the image of four right hands in glowing icons.  The left-most hand flashes orange, while the other three are green.  Gamma touches the orange hand a loud buzz fills the room.  He is about to touch one of the green hands when Dogrok calls from above "Those are the locks for the other chambers - don't wake them all up!"

Deciding not to leave the clone behind them, Gamma Ray prepares a oil bomb, and the party readies their weapons. Throwing open the door Marina narrowly avoids the thrust of a gleaming saber blade, and a clone leaps form the chamber smashing into 11, and taking a huge chunk of armor plating off the robot.  The clone is quickly hacked down, and Gamma's oil bomb lands perfectly, filing the doorway with a wall of fire.  The clones manage to slam the hatch leaving the dead clone outside.  Marnia, who strongly resembles the clones, loots the body of the dead clone, taking her saber and armored jumpsuit, and cutting her hair the the same severe cut that the Valentine's wear.

Moving downward into a narrow metal tube, the adventurers discover another hatch and Gamma pushes it open, stepping into the room.  As he opens the door the first thing he notices is a wretched perfumed scent.  Gamma spots a huge bulk of fungus moving slowly towards him, a mass of variegated slime with four whip like pseudopods and a gaping maw of teeth. 11 steps into the chamber behind Gamma, magma gun filling the room with hellish red light.  In the glow of the heat cannon, eight lurching figures step from alcoves in the walls, and the seared blob of fungal rage crawls forward.  Gamma quickly incants a powerful charm and shoots up to the ceiling 20' above, where he floats preparing an oil bomb. As the rest of the party barges through the door, the mobile body of space fungus whips at 11 with it's pseudopods.  Two fungal whips strike the robot, pulling it towards the creature's maw, but Mo Mo leaps from the shaft and his black blade cuts through one of the pseudopods, while 11 throws the other off, with servo motors squealing.

As the fungal horror collapses in a mess of goo, zombies, clad in bubble helmets and torn orange jumpsuits, the zombies are malformed with fungal growth bursting form them, glowing and pulsating with alien life. The battle with the zombies is lengthy, with flailing infected limbs battering almost all the adventurers, and the adventurer's weapons smashing down the undead with honed reflexes. Mo Mo's blows are deadly, and even Gamma attacks with a flurry of blows that cuts down several wounded zombies.  In the end the lurching corpses are destroyed, and the adventurers inspect the dripping vibrantly colored chamber.  It appears to have once acted as a crypt, with twelve molded sarcophagi built directly into the walls.  Eight have been smashed open, and four remain closed, but covered in a thick layer of red and white undulating fungal fronds.  

Gamma decides to wipe one clean of the wall sarcophagi to reveal the sculpture beneath.  Grabbing a rag, the wizard begins to scrub the wall clean, but a fleck of the incredibly aggressive alien fungus splatters on his hand and Gamma begins to convulse on the floor, with red and white streaks crawling up his arm, writhing through his veins. Marina steps forward and with a quick prayer to her dinosaur god slices the wizards infected hand, now a boiling mass of fungus.  The hand flies off with a sickening thump, but the fungus still crawls up the warlock's arm.  Grisham steps forward and with a butcher's stroke hacks free the wizards brawny arm at the elbow.   The fungus still spreads and in minutes the wizard is a gurgling mass of fungus, that 11 puts to rest with one of its massive mining drills.

Saddened by their loss the party uses the dead wizard's burning cloak to melt the rest of the fungus off of the unopened wall crypts, revealing identical carved figures of heroic looking figures clad in flowing robes.  The sarcophagi prove to be covered only in plaster, and Dogrok's hammer smashes them easily.  Within the first tomb Mo Mo grabs a platinum urn in the shape of a rocket ship, and opening inhales a snout full of sparkling green ashes, with no ill effects.  The second and fourth tombs contain nothing more than orange clad skeletons, but the third tomb holds a skeleton with strange whispering gems in its eyes.

Moving South East from the encysted tomb, Mo Mo pries open a iris door and the party steps into a vaulted chamber seventy feet across.  A crystal, about the size of a head floats above the floor, glowing amber and casting rays of light around the chamber that glance off a series of sculpted reliefs, covering the entire dome. Dogrok covers the crystal with a sack and attempts to grab it, but cannot move the crystal, instead feeling a magical shock course through his body, as if trying to pull him through the floor.  The fighter steps back quickly however, and is unaffected by the crystal's magic.  The adventurers move down a narrow twisting stair into a smaller round room, this one filled with display cases and paintings, some still lit by tiny spotlights.  The cases hold a variety of odd objects, including another ceramic saber, some medals and odd rocks, a few of which might be considered gemstones.  Another crystal floats to one side of the museum chamber, and Dogrok touches it, allowing the magical power within to flow through him.  He disappears in a shimmering haze of amber motes, but a few moments later walks down the stairs from above laughing about the elevator.

Rather than loot the room the adventurers press on through an ornate filigreed door that leads into a room resembling a giant amethyst geode.  The walls and ceiling a purple crystals and when Marina enters they begin to glow brighter and brighter. In the center of the room a huge purple crystal, as tall as a man juts from a platform surrounded by ward runes, also glowing with purple light.  The cleric rushes down a the geode room's flight of light stairs onto a central platform, crosses the ring of glowing symbols and waits. As the light gets brighter and brighter only Mo Mo and Marina stay in the room, the cat loitering on the stairs and the Priestess staying near to the giant crystal. Just when the purple light begins to burn the eyes of the viewers, every crystal in the chamber flashes.  Searing purple light designed to destroy non-humans cascades over the Moktar, but he resists its effect with little more than a singed whisker or two. marina is unaffected, safe within the  circle of protective wards.

We ran out of time to finish exploring, but there is talk of a second session.  The play test was quite helpful at judging monster difficulty (There's not enough) and treasure placement (Random tables are good, but may need to be enlarged).  I think there may be too  many save or die traps, but then this may be a feature of the mid/high level adventure.  The other concern I have is that combat at 6th level drags on and on.  Numbers of enemies are useful for providing challenge, but take forever, even when the fight is a foregone conclusion.  Perhaps it's worth considering an "All trick monster" system where fighting is completely avoidable, more then normal even, but more deadly and clearly a penalty for poor decision making.

Also I should report that a 6th level ASE Robot is pretty cool, and works quite well - dangerous, but limited by its inability to heal with normals means.  6th Level Moktar also seems fairly good, lots of HP, bad AC, and enormous damage dealer (due to low THAC0) with no ranged weapons.

1 comment:

  1. I was there and I still read the whole thing.

    About the "long combat with too many combatants", you could just increase the damage they do while reducing their numbers.