Sunday, June 23, 2024

Kill White-Eyes

It had been a very long time since I ran any of the older editions of D&D, and since we have a few players in the group who never got the old-school experience I decided to run Unicorn Meat using my aged copies of B/X D&D. At the outset, I can say that Unicorn Meat hits many of the notes that give the full flavor of old-school D&D: random character generation, faction play, random encounters, resource management, dungeon crawling, and maybe even a totally unfair fight that is best run from. 

For those who haven't read or played it, Unicorn Meat is set in a unicorn meat processing plant where young girls have been sold, kidnapped, indentured, etc. into service as workers. In the scenario I used from the book, the characters were all "carvergirls" (their names: Willow, Chip, Squid, Twitch, Tick, and Mouser) and they had a simple goal: kill White-Eyes, the tyrant who had assumed authority on the factory farm after the adults all left without warning.


Before they tackled the factory, where they knew White-Eyes had made her lair, the group visited several locales to gather information, allies, and equipment for their assassination plot. They first spoke to Stitches, a carvergirl who had become the farm's de facto doctor, in the med hut, where Mouser traded rations for painkillers. In the garden, they found some useful healing herbs and Squid knocked a bone charm from one of the windmill's blades and pocketed it. Twitch climbed the Nightwatch tree and found a chest in its branches that contained supplies for making charms.At the barn, they traded rations for bullets for Twitch's rifle.

They also explores the farm's tower, which was made of a strange black metal. Squid climbed up and entered from the second-story window after they found the door blocked. Inside, they discovered a dead adult in a uniform and a large obsidian hexagonal device that had a heartbeat. On top of the hexagon was a keyhole. Additionally, they found partially shredded paperwork that appeared to be files on all the carvergirls employed at the farm. They did not mess with the medical machinery on the first floor.

The group examined the pillars surrounding the farm. They already knew that to cross the boundary set by the pillars meant an agonizing death, but what they discovered is that inside each of the pillars was a combination of living meat, bone, and gristle. They next visited the bucha market. (The buchas are insane carvergirls loyal to White-Eyes.) Since the market only accepted unicorn meat as currency and the group had none, they decided to try their luck at hunting unicorns in the swampy forest. 

However, the creature they mistook for a unicorn turned out to have a sunken-in head instead of a unicorn's long, regal neck and its legs ended in gross toes instead of hooves. They killed it and carved it for meat, but a few of them took wounds in the process. They also found a canoe and a wind-up music box in the forest, but no unicorn meat was obtained.

The carvergirls also paid a visit to the church, where they met with Crazy Angel, the girl who was in charge of the cult. The group made a deal with Crazy Angel: they would bring her the head of a bucha and in return be taught the three spells that those in the church had access to. Which...they were able to do!

They now had done enough work in the farm to feel confident in entering the factory. They had their choice of ways to breach the factory, though each entrance had its own peril. Squid opted to climb the factory's wall and drop a rope down so that the others could scurry up. They planned to break in through a skylight. The church members they had allied with agreed to come up and fight off the blood-fatted crows that lurked on the roof. The plan mostly worked, though Squid was assaulted by multiple crows in the time it took others to climb up to his aid.

After climbing down a suspended walkway, the group found themselves on the factory's killing floor. Aside from butchery gear, there was a disturbing machine made from the same dark metal as the tower. The top of the machine featured six hatches, one of which was open. Around the top of the hatch was fairly fresh blood and footprints indicating that two people had entered it. Peering down into the machine's guts they saw that its innards were made for grinding and chewing, and they could see a passage beyond the fearsome machinery.

Willow experimented with throwing some meat into the machine, which caused it to start up and grind the meat into shreds that disappeared down the hole. Tick used a bit of pipe to jam the grinding mechanism, and the group ducked under it to proceed into the tunnel beyond. 

They now found themselves in darkness without a source of light. They could tell that there was cold air rushing up from somewhere, and they could hear water running in from the south. Searching around carefully revealed that the middle of the chamber was a yawning chasm with a narrow ledge encircling it. They heard the pipe they had wedged into the machine break; its bent remains came ricocheting down into the chamber. 

Feeling their way forward, they hit a stone pillar. Chip discovered that the pillar was carved with scenes of massive cruelty: cannibalism, human sacrifice, and the like. Mouser was able to cobble together a torch; once lit, they could now see that they were in a cathedral-sized room with an altar in the center. The altar had blood grooves cut into it that led down into a drain. On the altar there was curved golden knife. As they continued to explore, they crossed a room where a strange, multi-elbowed stone arm attempted to grab Chip, but he was able to avoid its grasp. They also head the ominous sounds of hooves on stones echoing in the caverns.

Exploring further, they discovered the corpse of an adult with her head staved in and an exit from the subterranean level. They also found enough pale frogs and cave fish by the stairs ascending upwards to eat as rations. They determined that the stairs led to an escape route near the train tracks behind the factory. However, when they returned below, they found a humanoid creature with a horse's skull for a head awaiting them. After a brief skirmish, Twitch managed to shoot its skull, which caused it to run off into the cavern complex. 

Unfortunately, as they resumed exploring they again heard the sound of hooves on stone. They followed the river that entered the chasm chamber and found a milkdrinker tangled in a curtain of unicorn bones; the milkdrinker was clutching a metal object that glinted in their torch light. As they attempted to kill the creature to get the object it held, the skull-headed creature arrived again and attacked. To escape, they ran to a metal basket on a chain that could be winched down a shaft.

They had to winch themselves down for what felt like hours, but eventually they could see a reddish-golden light at the bottom of the shaft. At the bottom, they found a perverse landscape of fleshly nodules. White-Eyes was present, wearing a bloodied uniform and holding an infant. At her feet was a large humanoid figure that seemed to be made of muscle and congealed fat. White-Eyes plunged the infant into the large, inert figure's chest and then sprouted a unicorn horn from her forehead. She charged at Mouser and Willow. The group quickly surrounded White Eyes and stabbed her to death. Around her neck was the key the hexagonal device they found in the tower.

Unfortunately, the large figure now "awoke" and attacked. Twitch and Tick were both slain in the initial onslaught. The group ran back to the basket to winch themselves back up to safety, but before they could clear its reach the creature grabbed Chip and killed her as well.

Of course, the horse-headed creature was still waiting for them above. Using Twitch's rifle, Squid took a shot at it--and then it ran at her and smashed her head open. Willow and Mouser each cut around the creature in different directions and managed to avoid being struck down!    

Willow and Mouser made their way to the tower and inserted the key into the hexagonal device. It opened, revealing a beating heart that slowed to stillness. They were pretty sure this had disarmed the pillars keeping them hostage at the farm and set out to test their theory. As they stepped beyond the boundary, they were relieved that they were not smote with blinding pain. They had won their freedom.

Note: of the two characters out of six who survived, one had three hit points and the other had a single hit point left.