Image by Jacob Marks (Midjourney)
The group escapes a tavern shootout and travels to a hypergeometrically-entangled vault in search of an elder Faa named Yudhi. It is said that this elder can ride the great sandworm.
Rendmoor, a burnt-coral mycomorph with aphrodisiac flesh. Re-animated from the corpse of a plague victim. Wields cryokinetic powers. Driven by the desire to live and feed.
Faustyn, a golden janitor-synth. Vampiric and cannibalistic. The demise of his kin is the source of his mystical powers. Believes that all memories are a lie. Desires to liberate the local inhabitants from water-oppression and put them back in control of their reservoirs.
Nirid, a veracious true-kin. Protector of the purity of his kind. Armed with a blasphemous fungal spear and the gift of healing hands. Possesses a weird orb and a fascination of necrotech.
Last session, we ended in the oasis-settlement of Medeba Basin. The lights had just gone out in the tavern. Before that, the companions had just sat down with Joseph Gordon Diehard, a contact of Rendmoor’s, and discussed the possibility of hiring a Faa wormrider to travel to the Fount and eat the rubble piled high over the entrance. There was talk of using the water cistern discovered within the Fount to relieve the region’s water-poverty, instead of handing it over to the Hinnom Cartel. Faustyn repeats his desire to free all from the stranglehold that the Hinnom Cartel and the Hegemony hold over the local inhabitants.
Anyways, back to the tavern. The darkness erupts with the lance-fire of lasers. But they all fly wide. Joseph Diehard disappears into a vent, telling Nirid to meet him in Grok’s basement (Grok is the local gutsmonger). The party stays to return fire, while Rendmoor decides it best to illustrate the walls with infrared graffiti. What did he write? No one knows. The barkeep screams as his establisment is torn asunder.
The Hegemony guardsmen are riddled with shots while they yell for reinforcements. After killing all three guardsmen, the companions search their bodies, finding carbines, grenades, and a document detailing a bounty. The bounty is on their heads. The paper is signed by the Hinnom Cartel and the Hegemony Second Legion.
Stowing their loot, the companions dash into the same vent Joseph used. Brut (the senile cacogen) and the stolen patrol skiffs are forsaken. Someone from outside the tavern throws a grenade in the door. But the companions aren’t there to receive it. It goes off, bottles and bodies shattering in shrieks.
The group surfaces near the oasis water filtration station. The sourness of the water fills their senses. They sneak over to Grok’s. They hop in the basement entrance. As they descend, someone grabs Rendmoor in a choke hold and puts a gun to his head.
He lets Rendmoor go and puts the gun away without smiling. They talk further about the Faa wormrider. Joseph gives them a half-portion of sacchar. Sacchar is the potent substance that the Faa harvest from the husbandry of the sandworm (it is my own name for the Amaranthine Sugar found in Vaarn #3, page 54). It is purple in colour and condensed into a cube. Joseph says that the Faa will know who sent it. It will ease communications.
Before leaving to visit the Faa camp, Joseph tells of Indigo Mystics visiting the nearby crypt of Bethor, an exarch who lays interred under a large statue just outside of town. He also tells the companions that he’s witnessed hypergeometric disturbances at a location six days southeast–a place called Complex 51. In case they end up going there, he hands them two things. A near-empty bottle of anti-psychotic pills and an Occam blade.
The companions head to the Faa camp, greet the guard, and determine the whereabouts of the current elder-at-large (Faustyn speaks Faatongue). They meet with the elder, a frail grandmother named Janna, in a stilltent with her two nephews. They place the sacchar in her hand and voice the need for a wormrider. She tells them, in between sobs, that Yudhi, their rider and elder-ruler, was captured and imprisoned at Complex 51. She also laments the deplorable state of her people, who live under the terrible heel of the Cartel and the Hegemony. She wishes to end her life, to join Vaa, and thus escape the destitution of existence in these parched lands. The nephews, ashamed of her oversharing, ask the companions to bring back Elder Yudhi before Janna does anything drastic.
The group agrees to bring him back; they tie bonds in a water-rite. Quickly after, the companions are given three riding camels and sent on their way to Complex 51.
It takes three days. The first day, they pass a cacklemaw den. The second, a book-littered ruin. The third, nothing but azure dunes.
They approach a narrow defile in the cerulean crags, taking them into a hidden valley where Complex 51 is thought to be found. Luckily, they have to search no further. They come across a concrete stairwell leading into the earth. The ground shimmers uncannily here. There is a guardian posted to watch over the entrace–an autoturret synth. Luckily, it is out of ammunition and Faustyn simply walks up to it. He disassembles the turret and connects to its circuits. With a bit of probing, he extracts crucial information about the purpose of this complex. The rumours are true. It is a hypergeometric research facility.
He also learns about a couple entities on file, the notule and the fractalisk. The Notules are heat-seaking fleschetta. But a well-timed waterskin of piss will distract them. The Fractalisk is a fearsome, non-euclidean blight. It can only be hurt with hypergeometric weapons and it is said that the gaze will render other beings into a crazed state of repetition to exhaustion. Specially-prepared mirrors may also be used to fight this monstrosity.
So, first thing Faustyn does is collect a urine sample from the true-kin (analyzing it, naturally) and rub himself all over with lubricant. They also whip up a makeshift torch in case of notules.
The front door opens with a Red Autarchy Keycard, which Nirid snatched from Rappash-Ik. Inside is a staircase spiraling downwards inside a pentagonal facility, there is a landing at every corner and a door at each landing.
But two things are wrong. First, as the group looks through the door, they see to be a skewed, translucent boundary in the threshold. Second, a warning blares from inside, “Warning. Ontological generator offline. Warning.” It loops over and over.
Nirid steps through, looking for a light switch. He passes through something but it is also nothing. When he looks behind himself, he sees a staircase spiraling up. It doesn’t stop. It goes on forever, ad nauseum. Beneath him is the same thing. It spirals downwards forever. He realizes he’s trapped.
A scream echoes from the bottom. It sounds close. But again, Nirid cannot see any bottom at all.
He moves up and down the stairs, dodging attacks from Notules, which appear like holes ripped in reality. His torch almost goes out several times. Soon his friends join him and they find the Ontological Generator room, finding that there are several, pentagon-shaped slots in the large generator. They go looking for the objects that belong in these slots and follow a hint written on the dormitory walls in brackish red, “HOVEL IS DECOMPRESSING.” They make it to the Decompression Room and find an emaciated corpse. Inside the stomach is a black pentagon-shaped object. They pull it out. It crumbles in their hands. Three Vapourlings pour out of the overhead pipes, engulfing them in toxic fumes. They flee (but not without gaining one TOXIN d6 each).
Behind them, a man in a HAZMAT suit comes running up, the inside of his visor foggy from sweat. At first, they want to “blast ‘im.” But he tells them his name is Hovel and offers useful information about the location of the other black pentafoils. The companions put their guns away. But Hovel does want anti-psychotic pills in exchange for his help. He takes Nirid’s last one.
The group sets off for the Hypersomatic Weapons Lab. Inside is a scene of unabated horror. Bodies litter the ground like leftovers. Terrifying machinery is humming with unurthly vibrations. A man in the corner is stuck repeating the same motion. He covers up his face then tears away his hands. Again and again and again. He is screaming and exhausted, near the point of death.
In ghostly light, two Fractalisks (adjusted so as to make them an appropriate challenge; usually they are Level 5) float into view from behind a large machine. They are many-tendrilled, hyper-dimensional horrors. They ebb in and out of tertiary space, their very substance striking fear into the eyes of mycomorph, synth, and true-kin alike.
Combat ensues, wherein the group splits into two parties. One includes Rendmoor and Hovel, who are using hypergeometric weapons (an Occam blade and a line pistol, respectively). The other includes Nirid and Faustyn. Faustyn steps into an infratertiary press, becomes 2D, slides on the ceiling until he is overtop the first Fractalisk, then falls through it, causing some damage. But his second attack splits the same Fractalisk into two before Faustyn becomes caught in the recursive gaze (this is a special ability of the Fractalisk which forces the target to copy the exact same action that they chose the round before). So Faustyn might be doomed to split the Fractalisk dozens of times until he dies of exhaustion! But Nirid pushes Faustyn across the room before the synth’s next turn.
Then, to spice things up, Nirid takes a chance and steps through a strange, portal-looking machine. It is a tesselation threshold and splits him into three copies. He does this two more times. He is now tesselated to both sides, front and back, as well as forward and backwards in time. In short, he himself becomes a hypergeometric being! He throws his blasphemous spear. It appears to miss, but (using his inspiration point) he realizes that he can grab hold of this one instance and redirect space-time and mass-energy to his bidding. The spear buries itself deep inside a Fractalisk’s heart, killing it.
Meanwhile, Hovel and Rendmoor have been shooting and slicing away at their own Fractalisk. Rendmoor manages to cut straight through his enemy (with his hypergeometric blade) and, as he severs it in half, he hits somehting in the middle. A pentafoil! He scoops up his prize.
There is only one Fractalisk left and the companions make short work of it. A pentafoil is inside, but it crumbles to dust at the death of its host.
The group runs to the Ontological Generator and places Rendmoor’s pentafoil inside one of the slots.
Reality is back online.
Lights slam on. Black shreds fall from the facility’s ceiling, only two floors up. Pieces of Notules. They’re all dead. The facility returns to its original architecture and they can see, several meters up, that the stairs lead to the doorway out.
Below them are several small holding-pits in the bottom floor of the facility. Inside one are two Faas. An elder and a youth. The boy is unconcious. The elder says, “water,” before he too passes out.
Afternote: There are definitely some things I will change about this vault (dungeon) called Complex-51. I plan on publishing it digitally. So it is nice to have run it myself and have a feel for what needs to change. I’m excited that the overarching story of the Cartel-Hegemony and the rebellious locals is evolving. I won’t share too much here, but there are things happening behind the scenes that I look forward to bringing into the story full-force. I’m also interested to see how the rest of Complex-51 plays out. The players have gotten to their Faa elder. But now they have to get him out. This might or might not be an easy task, depending on some important choices the players will make. I believe all the characters are at <5 HP, so the next sesion will probably be a nailbiter.