Image by Wolfgang Hasselmann
To create the region-at-large for this campaign, I used Leo Hunt’s Vaarn Region Generator for Vaults of Vaarn (see picture at end of post). Table is found in Vaarn #3. Jacob Marks made a stunning and beautiful adaptation called the Vaarn Atlas.
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.
As a side note, everyone leveled up and is now level 2. There were distinct movements of erasers towards constitution scores.
After collapsing the entrance to the Fount, the companions flee towards the oasis of Medeba Basin, hoping to meet Rendmoor’s contact. They also hope to evade the reach of Zofir, who will be less than pleased that the Fount’s entry was caved in. Whatever water Zofir could have collected from Stone6’s demense is now buried under tons of rubble.
The group leaves just after midday, followed by a stolen janitor synth (autarch-headed jackal trapped inside) and a female cacogen named Brut, kept as motile nutrition for Rendmoor. That isn’t all. They are also afflicted with the blessing of several waterskins–liberated from the cistern beneath the Fount. Disregarding caution, they scurry in the direction of Medeba to meet Joseph-Gordon Diehard, a privateer turned bootlegger who gave Rendmoor second life. If he helped the mycomorph once, he might be willing to help again. The companions decide that when the location of a particular cistern of sweet, pure water is tabled, Diehard would be predisposed to a deal.
As they set off, I warn the companions that I will be rolling a d4 whenever they draw attention to themselves (noise, light, tracks). I only have a set number of d4s under the table. When I draw the last one, something bad happens. The first d4 gets rolled as the group sets off with speed. Luckily, it’s only a 1.
Near late afternoon, they see the brief glare of orbital debris glow emerald in the sky. Minutes later, they come upon a small squad of six hegemony legionaries conducting a weapons drill with their skiffs nearby. Five are busy firing their lasguns into a teal dune, while a sixth soldier smokes a cigarette and sits by his skiff, listening to the comm radio.
Nirid, upon the sight of his ilk, approaches the leader, a tall, brutish lieutenant, and offers to share a dram of water. The soldiers wave it off and instead pass around a skin of liquor. But that’s where the pleasantries end. The lieutenant tells the companions to unload their gear for a search. The legionaries immediately see the bounty of waterskins and grab four or five. Feeling conned, the companions decide they want their water back.
Faustyn leads the lieutenant over to the janitor-synth, telling him that they have something inside that might be of interest. He takes the bait. When the janitor’s front hatch opens, the soldier peers inside. Faustyn kicks him in and tries to close the hatch. The jackal inside starts to rip him apart. At the same time, Rendmoor summons an ice-wall to protect Faustyn from the inevitable fury of lasguns. Nirid impales the nearest legionary. The firing line bursts into action. A soldier dissipates the ice wall with a laserbeam. Nirid and Rendmoor take several hits, the latter receiving a wound to the face, slurring his speech.
This works in Rendmoor’s favour as he goes postal and starts hitting the nearest soldier (the one who was taking a smoke break by the radio) with the de-skulled head of Rappash-Ik. The soldier panics and flees, along with several others who hop on their skiffs (think Star Wars speeder bikes), shoot the front-mounted lasguns at the characters, and take off. They score a few hits, but the companions all manage to stay up. The fight ends mercilessly as Nirid dispatches the last legionary, throwing his blasphemous spear through the poor soldier’s chest.
Due to the noise of the firefight, I roll another d4. It is a 2. So now we have a 1 and a 2 on the table.
They rescue the lieutenant, who had bested the jackal, from of the janitor synth and get him on the radio to call off any Hegemony reinforcements. They have a short discussion with the man, whose name is Aran. For his trouble, they load him up with water and heal his wounds.
Luckily, three skiffs are left over. The companions take up the path to Medeba again. About suppertime, they pass a large dune skuggy transporting timber and salt. The pernicious chief-merchant aboard eyes them from a distance.
The group decides to make camp after dusk. They share their desires for the future. Rendmoor isn’t concerned past daily survival, Nirid’s wish is self-actualization, and Faustyn’s ambition is to return water access into the hands of the region’s inhabitants.
After they sup, they see three columns of dust heading towards them, from the direction they had just come. I gave them an timer and in a minute and a half, they had decided that they would light the janitor synth on fire and mount it on a skiff. I’m assuming this was meant to be a distraction of some kind.
But it’s too late. They only manage take off as the dust columns close in. Appearing over the rise are Zofir and two synth guards. A chase ensues (using the Pursuit rules in Vaarn #3 on page 15, but since they are piloting vehicles, I used opposed PSY saves).
At first, Zofir catches up close enough to the group to yell out a warning. The companions disregard him, naturally, and manage to duck into a gully, losing their pursuers. But as they exit the gully, waiting in their path is Zofir and the synths. He fires a warning shot. The group stops. Terse discussion ensues.
Zofir demands an answer for why the Fount’s cave entrance is collapsed. The characters tell him it was an accident. He doesn’t believe them and presses for the real answer, wondering why they’re heading this way. Faustyn diverts Zofir’s attention with a fanciful explanation and tells him that he intends to hire a sandworm to clear the rubble (in our region, there are sandworms south of Medeba). Faustyn made a great roll here, I believe it was a natural 20. Either way, I was simply impressed by his desire to hire Faa to wrangle an actual sandworm just to eat a pile of rocks.
Zofir, unable to argue with Faustyn’s perfectly good idea, tells them they have three days, then speeds off.
Exhausted, the group settles into a new camp.
Because of the noisy chase, I bring out my next d4, which is also the last. I roll a 1. So that’s a 1, 2, and another 1. Luckily, all these rolls are low because I add them up and declare that they are under attack by Yurlings. Four of the small, mischievous beasts approach the companions, a gleam in their eyes.
Three of them manage to snatch a waterskin and run away. One isn’t so lucky and doesn’t make it home.
During the night, more water is stolen by a mysterious visitor. My players don’t know who/what it was and they are reading these blog posts, so I’ll keep it a secret for now.
In the morning, the blood-red day dawns and the companions head off to Medeba. The oasis is quaint, even if the water is sour and the amenities slim. At least there is a tavern and a gutsmonger to help them heal from their wounds. The monger is a one-eyed cacogen whose name is Grok. He gladly accepts their water and performs his service.
Finally, it is time to meet with the bootlegger named Joseph-Gordon Diehard, Rendmoor’s contact. They find him lazing in the tavern’s booth seating, enjoying a game of dice with a cacogen and a Faa. He revels in the group’s recent activities and listens to their request for a sandworm. He notifies them that yes, he has connections to the Faa, but it might not be as simple as hiring them to wrangle a sandworm from point A to point B. The Faa are reclusive nomads and convincing them to help won’t be all too easy.
Meanwhile, there’s commotion outside. Joseph leans back and opens the window blinds. Several people are milling around the Hegemony skiffs, including an officer. Joseph turns to the group and asks them if those are their skiffs. They say yes. He asks them why they rode them into town. They just look at each other. The bootlegger curses as the power in the tavern goes out.
Afternote: Even though it was a “travel session,” I really liked the amount of tension that came up in play. I tried to incorporate it in as many spots as possible. For the record, I have GM’d a lot of D&D games where travel falls flat. So, my tools were quite simple. Have a small hourglass timer (I stole on from my copy of Codenames) and something else that gives the characters (and GM) a “falling hammer.” This could be anything from simply incorporating good encounter tables, having a turn-based system where characters act then the GM gets to impose a challenge/obstacle/threat, or, in my case, rolling the Yurling dice. I liked rolling the dice because it put something tangible on the table that I knew I wouldn’t forget and it gave the players that visual reminder that the wastes aren’t so friendly. I used three dice and that seemed perfect for a day’s worth of travel. I would set aside 4 or 5 for two days. and just use 1 for short travels. I didn’t use exhaustion rules as per Vaarn #3, but I feel that we are trying to ease into the swing of things (it’s a new ruleset/setting for all of my players) and we are trying to introduce pieces as we go. So far, Vaarn has been a blast and I, for one, can’t wait to get back to the sweltering blue dunes.