Monday, July 17, 2017

Post Traumatic Adventure Syndrome

Campaign: Scarabae Open Table (5e D&D on Google Hangouts)

- Leonid Vok, weretouched fighter
- Traviata Manu, human artificer
- Lavender Wildrose, human rogue
- Alesandro, half-elf rogue
- Jupiter Jones, (something short, I think?) mystic
- Khajj Khala, minotaur cleric

Objective: Restore a dead adventurer's apartment to normalcy.

Events: The party was assembled by Phineas Smiley, a representative of the Smiley Bank--a smarmy dwarven banking institution whose motto is "Give Us Your Money and You'll be Smilin'." Phineas explained that the bank had taken ownership of an apartment after the loanee, a former adventurer, had died with his loan left unpaid. The Smiley Bank wanted to employ a group of adventurers to venture inside to "fix" the second floor of the apartment; the second floor was experiencing some planar weirdness, and the bank needed that corrected so they could flip the property and sell it off.

Key in hand, the party traveled to the tower apartment complex. The tower's elevator was on the exterior of the building; it took the form of a mechanically-modified giant roach--the wings opened like doors and inside were buttons to press corresponding to the desired floor. The party opted to start at the first floor of the adventurer's two-floor apartment; the cockroach lurched and clambered up the building, depositing them on the twelfth floor.

The kitchen and living room area were arranged on a open plan, with a sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. In the living area the party discovered a mechanical device shaped like a cardinal; the cardinal's beak was open and the interior covered with a metal mesh. A wax cylinder was held in the cardinal's claws. As a former opera singer, Traviata knew how to operate the device; pressing one of its feathers set the cylinder spinning--the apartment was soon filled with the mournful sound of film noir-style jazz. Horrid saxophone solos and all that.

The desk in the corner of the living room had a large metal turtle on its scarred surface that turned out to be a typewriter. Someone had typed "Only blood can open the silver door of the mind" on the paper still stuck in the machine. Alesandro noticed that the balcony was covered with some sort of hive, but when a number of gigantic buzzing bees emerged he quickly shut the door and decided that they were better left undisturbed. A further strange message was found etched into the bottom of an enamel wash basin discovered in the laundry room: "GUILTGUILTGUILT NEVER CLEAN AGAIN CANNOT WASH MYSELF CLEAN I REMEMBER IT ALL." Further exploration located a walk-in closet. Inside was a single wardrobe that held a former adventurer's gear: a set of unmended and blood-stained leather armor, a bag containing thieves' tools and a number of coins, and a rusty shortsword. The adventurer's bedroom evidenced that his life had taken a turn; the sheets were soiled, the bed was unmade, and a pipe was found on the side table. 

Due to her training as an alchemist, Traviata identified the pipe as a "runeburner" and the translucent parchment as hallucinogenic runes. She understood that the runes on the translucent parchment were a type of drug taken by people looking for a way erase traumatic memories; however, she also knew that in some cases these drugs could actually make traumatic memories manifest as reality in the world. This information, combined with a psychic impression that Jupiter received, went a long way to explaining what had gone wrong in the apartment. Jupiter had a vision of someone in leather armor desperately picking a lock in a dungeon while their compatriots screamed for help behind them.

Ready to tackle the second floor, the party ascended up the apartment's spiral staircase. Whereas the first floor held evidence of residency by a disturbed person, the architecture of the second floor was itself disturbed and deranged. Instead of a series of rooms that matched those on the previous floor, the party exited the spiral stairs and found themselves on a short stone landing surrounded by rough brick walls that would be more at home in a dank dungeon than a rental property. The only feature before them was a heavy stone slab door with half a silver bowl embedded in it. Above the bowl was carved "FEED YOUR PAIN," and the bowl had the remains of dried blood within it. Leonid sought to cut his hand to drip a few drops of his blood inside, but he was gripped by a mania to cut deeper--his blood splattered within the bowl, and the door groaned open.

Beyond was a tunnel of rough stone bricks that opened into a small chamber and then turned right. The party followed the right turn and found themselves in a circular chamber. A pile of small rectangular stones sat the the middle of the chamber; a hole of utter blackness floated at the top of the domed ceiling directly above the pile--every so often another rectangular stone block would drop from the hole and tumble down to the pile. Another stone slab door--this one with a small hole in its center--made up a portion of the circular wall. Examining the stones revealed that each was inscribed with the word "BURDEN"; an inscription above the door read "YOUR SHAME GIVES YOU SUBSTANCE." 

While investigating the room, the adventurers were subjected to a sudden flash of light. When the light receded the party was confronted by three menacing shadows that attacked them. The battle was dangerous; Khajj and Traviata used their healing magic to keep their compatriots from death. The party was triumphant; the shadows were dispatched--they faded away, leaving behind three moss agates and three black feathers. The party then decided to experiment with reenacting the vision that Jupiter experienced earlier; they brought the apartment's former occupant's adventuring gear up from the first floor--and the trip to fetch the gear revealed that a previously-missed door had opened in the first tunnel they had ventured down.

This door was connected to another winding tunnel that terminated in a chamber whose only feature was a massive stone altar crowned by an amalgam of "sacred" statues. As a priest, Khajj had the insight that the statues were a confused admixture of extant deities; it was as if they were the imagined fancy of someone with only a vague understanding of the religious practices that comprised the statuary. Six figures, each garbed as a member of an adventuring party, knelt before the altar, their heads bowed in prayer. Attempts to get their attention discovered that each of the six was an ambulatory corpse--once disturbed they closed on the party to engage in melee. Lavender was particularly excited to throw a dagger into the undead bard. The monsters were resilient but slow; when the dust cleared, the bodies of the undead adventurers quickly rotted away--each leaving behind a gemstone and a withered, blackened heart.

The party tried out a few theories by placing various items upon the altar; the religious statues animated and reacted in a myriad of ways to these "offerings." Next, the party experimented with placing a BURDEN stone in the hole below the legend that read YOUR SHAME GIVES YOU SUBSTANCE in the circular chamber. The door opened, revealing another curving tunnel that ended in a briny-smelling room whose only feature was a wooden chest. Inside the chest, laying on a bed of gold coins, was an ornate set of scales. Inscribed on the scales was this message: "Here be the truth, all things are not balanced, and neither guilt nor forgiveness can be weighed against the other." The feathers collected from the shadows were placed in one of the scale's pans, and the hearts harvested from the dead adventurers were placed in the other. 

The scale did not sit in equilibrium, but even attempting such caused something miraculous to happen: the "dungeon" of the second floor of the apartment began to crumble away into dust. The party decided to run back to the stairs; a stolen glance over the shoulder showed that even though the environment around them was flaking away like ash, it was revealing a normal, empty second floor of the apartment that was living underneath. They had successfully intervened against the traumatic memories of the dead adventurer made manifest in the world.

XP - 152
Coin - 163 gp, plus 75 gp each from Phineas Smiley.

Gems - (each worth 10 gp each) - turquoise (opaque green-blue), two tiger eyes (translucent brown with golden center), three moss agates (translucent pink with green swirls), lapis lazuli (opaque dark blue yellow flecks), hematite (opaque grey-black), blue quartz (translucent pale blue). (All claimed by Lavender.)

Items -Weird scales (75 gp), turtle-shaped typewriter (50 gp, claimed by Khajj), cardinal-shaped phonograph (75 gp, claimed by Traviata),

Magic Items - Two hallucinogenic runes.