Image by Rafe Johnson
I used Leo Hunt’s Fount of Illustrious Flesh published adventure for Vaults of Vaarn. In order to access it, you need to become a patron of Vaults of Vaarn. I highly recommend you do. Leo has released a number of valuable goods on there–monsters, adventures, supplements, and Vaarn mail.
Rendmoor, a burnt-coral mycomorph with aphrodisiac flesh. Re-animated from the corpse of a plague victim. Wields cryokinetic powers.
Faustyn, a golden janitor-synth. Vampiric and cannibalistic. The demise of his kin is the source of his mystical powers. Believes the memories are all a lie.
Nirid, a veracious true-kin. Protector of the purity of his kind. Armed with a blasphemous fungal spear and the gift of healing hands.
The companions meet in the settlement of Pergam with a common contact: Zofir. He is an overworked debt collector who works for the Hinnom cartel. He hires them to secure a water tribute from the settlement’s overlord, a calculating synth named Stone6.
They meet with Stone6 and discover that the synth has the water payment. Just not right now. And not here. The magistrate says that their water sources have dried up and they recently hired water prospectors to look for more. The prospectors found an promising anomaly in a cave to the southeast, but the companions will have to go uncover the anomaly themselves if they want to speed up the process.
In reimbursement for having to endure this minor obstacle, the group secures an old cacogen husband and wife duo, Zeedle and Brut, which will be liquidated by the companions later (for organics and water). This was hilariously dark.
Faustyn receives the triangulation coordinates data from Stone6, but because of the data’s errancy, they have a guide named Mull, a cacogen goatherd, to take them to the exact spot.
The companions end up at the mouth of a dark cave. They post Zeedle and Brut as sentries at the cave mouth and say farewell to Mull.
At the back of the cave is a door, covered in a cryptic message. They open the door and enter an atrium, greeted by another ominous message in pictograms. Alongside the pictograms is a terrifying mural of Rappash-Ik’s last stand as well as his retreat into the Fount’s hidden cloning facility. The vault is completely dark and Nirid isn’t satisfied with his puny flare for light, so he recalls the right of his true-kin inheritance and commands the lights to turn on. Much to his delight, it works. The lights come on. They move to enter a hallway that leads them deeper into the facility, but Faustyn’s trained lenses spot the scorch marks along the walls. He throws his cudgel into the hallway, which initiates the trap. The hallway’s doors seal shut and they all hear the oppressive thrumming of lasers. After, a janitor synth comes to clean. Faustyn grabs his cudgel and they dodge into another room.
The scene inside is oppressive. Clones, sleep two to a cot, wallowing in their own filth and moaning for release. The companions have seemed to fall out of the frying pan and into the fire as the door behind them locks and sleep gas pours in through the vents. Nirid collapses. Rendmore uses his mystic gift of cryokinesis to freeze the vapours before his face so that he can swipe them away.
Janus (Rappash-Ik), the two-headed autarch, arrives to collect a cloneling and is thrilled to see someone who can help him overthrow Mimir and escape into the overworld. He grabs Nirid and a sleeping clone. Faustyn, who has disguised his presence by cleaning the filth from the dormitory floor, tries to surprise Janus with a blow to the head(s) but misses, and so pretends that he was whisking some dust from Janus’ back. Rendmoor, the mycomorph, wonders when he will get to feast on all of this readily available organic matter.
Janus leads them to Mimir and a fight commences in the simulation room as Mimir takes hold of Janus’ fools-head and makes him attack the group. Faustyn tosses an EMP grenade at Mimir’s feet. The blast successfully disables all of Mimir’s hardware and renders him a stationary head in a jar.
Seeing the opportunity, Nirid jumps at Mimir and stabs his polyglass container, causing a crack just big enough for the blasphemous spear to do its work–black tendrils of mycelium infiltrate the biotic gel inside. Mimir watches in horror as his doom slowly arrives. He screams for Janus to kill the intruders before it is too late.
But Rendmoor has restrained the two-headed autarch with his whip, long enough to take his cast iron skillet to the fools-head of the autarch and decapitate it with a critical hit. The situation looks hopeful if it wasn’t for the hungry baying of jackals echoing throughout the facility.
The jackals are human-headed pseudo-canines, products of Mimir’s obscene genetic experiments. They arrive and delay the group long enough for a bleeding, frantic Janus to seek an escape into his quarters. Nirid, looking for options, finds the facility’s cuboid custodian-synth and commands it to help. He manages to trap an autarch-headed jackal inside the synth’s body.
This whole game, Nirid has rolled extremely well on all of his inheritance checks to subdue the Autarkic tech under his command. The ability has been more than helpful.
Janus whistles for his jackals and they come running to his quarters.
Rendmoor tries taking a chance on offering some of his aphrodisiac flesh to the animal but it takes one sniff and canters away to its master. The fitful, frustrated screams of Janus can be heard as he locks himself inside his bedroom with two jackals.
With the help of Nirid’s inheritance, the companions break into the room. The true-kin, riding atop his newly-subservient custodian-synth like an anachronistic cavalryman, throws his midas bomb into the chamber, right at Janus’ feet. Janus manages to jump towards Nirid and out of the blast zone, but the two jackals are caught off guard. Half of their bodies transubstantiate to gold statues. They fall over, dead.
Janus attacks Nirid in a rage, wielding a sceptre. As he attacks, the autarch screams that Rappash-Ik was routed once but his sovereign highness shall never see defeat again. The companions fight him, crushing his body and spirit until at last he makes one final decision–to end his life honourably by his own sword, rather than falling by his enemy’s hand.
The group dispatches a few other jackals and the fight is over. They resuscitate and interrogate Mimir for the location of a water source in the facility. Even though he is dying, he is glad that they have vanquished Janus, whom Mimir had come to despise in the latter centuries of their sojourn here in the Fount of Illustrious Flesh. He tells them the command to get to the self-filling cistern which is plumbed to the coffee vending machine. Even though the caffeinated beverage produced by the machine is underwhelming, the cistern that it draws from is quite the opposite.
The vault holds a water reservoir that could, in the words of Mull the goatherd, “fill one thousand bladders, one hundred times over.” The companions realize that they are sitting on a discovery that could incite wars. This much water in the middle of the desert is a cynosure. They decide that they do not wish to tell Stone6 of its discovery, nor the trade cartel. Rendmoor has a connection (from his previous life as a plague victim) who will pay handsomely for the knowledge of the cistern’s whereabouts.
After collecting exotica from the vault (a jolt ring and the polychromatic vestements of the autarch), the companions take as much water as they can carry, ditching items in the vault for their return. They collapse the entrance to the facility and trudge into the desert with their cacogen chattel, wandering in the direction of Rendmoor’s old acquaintance.
Afternote: Kudos to Leo Hunt on creating this nifty adventure for low-level characters. I think it has lots of potential for combat as well as and role-playing. My favourite part of it was the cloning facility and instruments. I think there is lots of potential for this to get into the wrong hands. It would also be interesting if the players themselves took it over, imprisoned Mimir, and started cloning themselves. The exotica makes sense (keycards and vestements) but I would have liked to see a little more variety on offer. Exotica is where Vaarn really shines. Either way, I ended up adding some of my own.
Secondly, I feel as if I didn’t play Janus well. He was the first d6 encounter I rolled and I felt like he came in too early, but I didn’t want him to immediately start ripping the party to shreds (he’s quite beefy with 4 HD and three d8 attacks). I wanted him to appear as an ambiguous character and roleplay him a bit. I thought that the PCs should confront themselves with the dilemma of “is he helpful or harmful?” It came off forced and gimmicky (my fault). If I were to run this vault again, I would have just made him jump into the room and start freaking out on these “overworld intruders” that were coming to “erase the illustrious memory of Rappash-Ik.” Then, once either side was hurt enough, there could be some parlance about favours. If the PCs dropped to an untenable health, Janus would force them to hunt down Mimir and get his secret knowledge about cloning or if Janus dropped to untenable health, he would go find Mimir and the jackals for help.
Lastly, I did the math on the cistern (becasue I was curious). Mull’s description of the volume of water in the cistern would turn out to be 50,000 litres or roughly 12,500 gallons–about the size of an average above-ground swimming pool. If it didn’t refill, this cistern would provide a village of 500 with 25 days’ worth of water. This is presuming the bladder is of average size (500 mL) and the cistern truly does fill 100,000 bladders, like Mull said. But he spoke in a metaphor, so there’s a good chance we’ll never know the true volume.
Portraits of the players provided by Faustyn, thanks to MidJourney.