Walk the Spiral

Sleepy Valley
Game Site: Gen Con 2012

Again, the six travelers found their entire world fantastically transformed around them. This time, the nightmarishly twisted reflection of their own time faded into a quaintly sleepy but definitely living town, mostly located in the valley below, where there had been a lake only moments before. The crypt and the keys were gone. Nearby, they could see a long, dilapidated building where previously there had been only a chimney. Down the hillside, where they had emerged from the Zodiac Well, there was a tangle of barbed wire and a thick tarp staked to the ground.

The road that had formerly plunged into the lake now wound into a small town in the valley below, dominated by a large concrete building. Along the way, it ran past another hotel that perched over the clear, glittering stream that ran along the floor of the valley. Nick, using his cosmic awareness, had a strange vision of overlapping versions of the town, like a bad 3-D image without the glasses.

After careful observation from their current position and some discussion, they decided to investigate the town and see what they could find out about where they were.

They found that the town was Silver Springs, Arkansas, and the large building was actually a bank, with a large, impressive lobby. There were several windows, but only one teller and a sleepy guard seemed to be working today. The teller was able to provide them with some information about the town, including the fact that the resort was bankrupt because of “Coin Harvey’s crazy pyramid.” The teller was also the first of several townspeople to demonstrate a marked prejudice against Mirela.

Having learned that Harvey charged admission to see his amphitheater (which the teller had referred to as a “pyramid”) they decided to try and obtain some money. Nick hit on the idea of selling some of Mirela’s costume jewelery at the general store. She was game for this, so Nick went in alone with a story about a dead wife and financial hardship and they made a couple of dollars.

AmphitheaterThe road from the main block of town out to Harvey’s amphitheater went through the serene park land along the Big Spring with its artificial waterfall and “lagoon” and up to the abandoned train station, which was directly across from the asymmetrical and just generally weird amphitheater. From the middle of the amphitheater ran the spring that fed the stream they had been following. A little ways up the hill sat a largish house, which they had been told was Harvey’s. A fence surrounded the site, with a guard shack near the road where the admission price was to be paid.

Rather than go directly to the amphitheater, they decided to see if they could talk to William “Coin” Harvey first. At the house, they noticed that the crypt was now next to the house, but had only the son’s name and no key holes.

Coin was home, but only yelled at the door until they convinced him that they were time travelers, or at least knew a troubling number of details about his tomb and the keys. He let them in, fed them, and told them about the shining visitor who appeared to be made of glass and warned him that the world was ending. Oddly enough, the visitor had actually said that it did end, not that it would. Coin told them all about his plan to build an obelisk that would contain cultural treasures and an account of the economic doom that he was convinced would topple his entire civilization. He had, unfortunately, run out of money after building the amphitheater and been unable to raise more to build the obelisk.

William "Coin" HarveyWhen they drew the keys for him, Coin agreed that he had seen them before, but not on his son’s crypt. He took them to the amphitheater to show them the spot. At the back of one of the strange cells embedded in the structure, Coin showed them a protruding section of natural rock which felt faintly electric to the touch and had shallow indentations in the shape of the three keys, only smaller.

Considering their options, they realized that, since they had gone back in time, the original three keys might still be here, one of them (the one in the boat with the diving equipment) probably in this area. They searched the area and found it in a nook under the stage.

While they were talking about this, and what it could all mean, with Coin, the sleepy guard from the admissions stand suddenly got up and began to head towards Harvey. Mark and Sarah broke off to check this out, and noticed that the guard’s eyes were gone, revealing the smoldering orange plasma behind them. In the scuffle that followed, Mark clubbed the guard on the head with the key, which unaccountably tore open its skin like a melon rind and allowed all the gas to escape, leaving only an empty husk with no organs or skeleton.

Turning back to Coin Harvey, they found him laying on the ground clutching his chest and staring up at the sky, dead. Alarmed that they might have changed history by causing Coin’s death several years early, they considered trying to find some way to hide the fact that he had died. In the end, though, they just carried his body back to the house and laid it out on his bed. They took the opportunity to search the place, but didn’t find out much more than they already knew.

ArtgalleryRemembering where the other keys had been in the future, they headed for the Oklahoma Row Hotel, the one with the tower full of cyborgs in the future. It turned out to be mostly abandoned, with a sign calling it the “Palace Art Gallery.” The manager let them in, explaining that there “used to be a gallery here in thirty years,” but there wasn’t now. He also showed them his walls covered with empty frames. It became apparent that he was either moving backward in time every morning, or was insane. Most likely both. The key was in the basement, so they collected it and moved on.

PyramidThe neighboring hotel, the Missouri Row, was completely abandoned, without even a crazy art dealer from the future to maintain it. They found the room occupied by giant silverfish with with big eyes. After killing the bugs, they grabbed the key, set fire the building, and headed back towards the amphitheater. Partway there, they noticed several shapes like giant wasps rising out of the burning building.

Back at the amphitheater, after poking around a bit more, they eventually checked the foundation where Coin had planned to build the obelisk. There, they discovered a set of keyholes like the ones that had been on the future version of the crypt. Inserting the keys, they passed through another light show and found themselves in the same valley, but with no signs of human habitation whatsoever, not even the amphitheater. The completed obelisk, however, was now towering above them. Also, the keys came with them this time.

Shadows of Silver Cove
Game Site: InConTroll 2012

pictureThe six adventurers clambered onto the shore, their clothes in rags and their minds filled with disorienting associations from lives lived in a dream world. They introduced each other by both their real and their otherworld names while doing their best to sort out their own memories. Greel didn’t mention his first name, but did reveal that he knew where they were, sort of, somewhere in the Ozark Mountains.

pictureThe lake shore around them seemed to be abandoned. There were a few houses, but they were mostly on fire. One asphalt road ran from a nearby boat ramp into the surrounding forest. Although the houses looked modern, there was no sign of any electrical or telephone lines. They could also see the remains of some concrete structures partly submerged and continuing out of sight under the water. There was a roughly cubical concrete structure up the hill, topped with a pyramidal cap (also concrete). Dream catchers were still crawling around on the rocks. Mirela conjured up a spirit to try and find out what happened (burning buildings, no one around, etc.). The spirit appeared to be a normal, if transparent, human at first, but then became more distorted, like a TV image with the alignment messed up. It was able to give only a partial, static-y report, including “Coin… Amon… Keys.” No one else could see the spirit, but Greel, realizing what Mirela was doing, used his own magic to reveal the conversation to himself, inadvertently making it visible to everyone and able to communicate with both him and Mirela. They were unable to to get much more out of the spirit before it turned into a giant worm thing and faded away.

pictureNoticing the concrete vault up the hill, they headed that way and discovered the shadowy forms from multiple time periods traveling up and down the road. They tried to talk to them and Mark swung a stick through one, causing it to split into three shadows and attack the group. Mirela and Greel tried unto communicate with the shadows, but to no avail. Before the fight progressed very far, Mirela used her command undead talisman on them, which had the effect of reverting them to their docile ghost forms. She was then able to talk to them, discovering that they were tourists coming to the boat launch (which was not there) at Silver Cove. The ghosts were drawn on down the road as if by a wind and vanished.

At the crypt, they examined the structure, noting its near-complete lack of features, and wondered how anyone got in or out of it. They also deduced from the dates on the plaque that the son died before the father. They examined the keyholes in some detail, correctly deducing their function. Mirela tried to contact a spirit here but failed. From here, they could see the top of a concrete tower and decided to head that way, possibly as a place to set up a secure camp site because it was getting dark.

pictureOn the way, they saw the crumbling remains of a multiple hearth hotel chimney and decided to set up there instead. Mark and Penelope went back to collect some burning wood from the house by the crypt while the others searched the chimney area. Greel found a glimmer of metal while searching behind the rock pile at the top, but then tiny charcoal-like creatures stirred from the rubble and and attacked. After the fight, they found the shimmering metal key and set up camp in the ruined foundation.

pictureDuring the night, Mark (also busy making spears) noticed that the dream catchers would try and creep close whenever he wasn’t looking. To see what they would do, he allowed them to get close to one of his sleeping companions. When he saw them start to web her up, he chased them off again. Later, they heard something crashing through the underbrush. It turned out to be zombie-like humans with huge black eyes. They killed two and overpowered another in an attempt to find out how he got that way. Greel and Mirela, working together, found a way to reach into its mind, where they discovered that it had been psychically drained the same way the dream catchers had psychically drained them. This was, apparently, what they would have become if they hadn’t escaped from the cocoons.

pictureIn the morning, they made their way to the tower, where they discovered the foundation of a large building with a basement (half filled with water) split into cell-like rooms below. In the tower, they could hear clanging and saw a group of battered-looking patchwork cyborgs with crystal chest implants. They were working diligently at a series of less than productive tasks. Penelope investigated the cells and, behind a section of cracked concrete, found a locked metal cabinet which contained the second key.

pictureMeanwhile, the others were exploring the tower and watched the custodians doing their mad repetitive work. They thought there would be something hidden behind one of the fireplaces but couldn’t find anything. They had already determined that the custodians were not interested in them when Sarah decided that she needed to examine one of the cyborgs much more closely. It responded to this interference by clubbing her with its large metal arm. Undeterred, she tried it again. After a second clubbing, the others dragged her away before she could get herself killed.

Across the inlet, they could see the one intact house, so they worked their way around and saw two men hauling everything outside to be burned. Although mostly ordinary-looking, they were carrying strangely contoured conical devices that fit over the left hand. Before anyone could advise caution, Penelope, excited to see normal human beings, shouted a greeting and got shot at with the conical devices, which turned out to launch clouds of bees. They missed, and she dived into the water to avoid the scattering bees. Mark hit one with a spear. Although not mortally wounded, the two men burst open. Clouds of iridescent orange dust rose from their split husks and flew away, leaving the empty skin peels to attack. After the fight, they found a scroll one of them had, which Mirela was able to decipher as, “Be thorough. A true vestige will not burn.”

pictureThey were able to recover some additional equipment from the debris, including a cigarette lighter, gasoline, and a bow (modern). From there, they could see a house boat docked a little ways down. They found diving equipment (empty tanks) and depth finder stuff and all that. In a locked box with some other artifacts they found the third key.

Returning to the crypt, they inserted the keys and opened the tomb, revealing two coffins, which they opened. They found two mummified humans, one with a large silver coin around his neck. They fled the tomb as the mummies shambled towards them. Mirela, thinking quickly, snatched the coin on the way out. The mummies collapsed into dust. There was a flash of lightning and, as the whole area faded into mist, they briefly saw an obelisk across the water where there had previously been nothing but the rocky shore.

Then the tomb was gone, along with the lake. Below them in the newly exposed valley was a small, sleepy resort town.

Teaser - Shadows of Silver Cove

You’ve clawed your way out of the underwater cocoons, felt your way to the surface, and clambered onto the shore. You’re free of the bizarre little crustaceans that had been feeding on your dreams, but what now? You have no idea where you are, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to ask. Could you have been the only ones to escape?

This scenario ran at InConTroll in Indianapolis and is also scheduled to run at BASHCon in Toledo. The full log will be posted after BASHCon, but impressions and brief summaries have appeared in Kopfy’s Kreche and The Delving Dwarf.

The Other Tower

Game Site: Carnage 14
Player Characters: Torath, Culthwan, Zai Kren, Greel, Kirella

The party arrived at the ruins in the afternoon and climbed easily down into the rocky indention that surrounded its central feature. A pair of stone legs, one significantly higher than the other, towered above them but, like the poet said, “nothing beside remains.” The pedestal below had the eroded remains of writing on it, but the only word still legible was "Brillig."

There was also a well of much more recent construction near the statue. Greel checked it out and found the water drinkable, noting the presence of the wooden bucket. Against the far wall of the depression, two statues of warriors with seashell accents carved into their armor guarded an archway over a pile of rubble. All three statues showed extreme wear and odd bits of coral-like growth. Several empty insets where gemstones might once have been were also evident.

While Culthwan searched the area for tracks, Zai Kren climbed down the well and used his power to enhance his senses. While he found nothing unexpected inside the well, his super-hearing did tell him that there were many more people moving around up top than their expedition could account for.

Culthwan looked up from his own discovery in response to Zai Kren’s warning and the party mobilized in time to defend themselves from a six-man Toven attack. Although no one was affected at first, Greel, upon inspecting the tattoos after the fight, went berserk and stabbed one of the corpses maniacally until Torath pulled him off and calmed him down. Culthwan wrapped up several of the Toven swords for travel and they proceeded to investigate the rubble-strewn archway.

While shifting the rubble, they discovered its unpleasant texture. It looked like regular stone, but seemed to snag and pull at the skin like pumice. Zai Kren suddenly had a choking attack and, when assisted by Torath, coughed up a pint of salt water.

As expected, there was a worked stone passage beyond the rubble. Zai Kren was able to detect occasional marks like those left by barnacles. Torath scoffed at Greel’s attempt to explain how the desert could once have been underwater.

Among the various false starts and dead ends, they found the following places:

  • Mirror Room: This perfectly round room was walled with a single, seamless mirror. While they were examining the room and wondering how such a thing could have been constructed, Zai Kren spotted something out of the corner of his eye. After carefully watching it for a while in his peripheral vision, he was able to discern that it was a silvery fish-like creature that seemed to be closing in on him with every pass. Kirella, following his gaze, realized this as well and broke the mirror. Three fish-tailed creatures with clawed humanoid arms and, big, toothy mouths, and cat-like eyes flopped out of the broken shards and attacked. During the fight that followed, they tried out some of the Toven swords and Greel improvised a magical solution to the mirror fish attack, gathering up shards in his magic cloak and casting them at one of the creatures. The shards seemed to draw its essence out in all directions, each mirror fragment turning into a small, harmless carp while the larger monster disappeared. He later tried using the little fish in an attack on one of the remaining creatures, but only ended up pelting Torath with them.
  • Stalactite Room: This rubble-strewn room appeared to have collapsed a long time ago and then been covered over by more recent (but still old) limestone formations. Poking around, Culthwan stumbled across signs that something long, thin, and spiny had been dragged across the ground. When they got around to looking up, they saw three long spinal cords tipped with small humanoid skulls clinging to the stalactites. Culthwan was immediately mesmerized by the glittering eye sockets of one serpent, while Zai Kren seemed to be engaging another one in a kind of psychic duel. Torath and Kirella tried arrows and spells. Getting ahold of some fallen bones, Greel attempted to use sympathetic magic against the serpents. On his second try, with a hand from Torath, he succeeded.
  • Web Cell: This square room was coated with calcified, oddly filamentous formations, seemingly spread over the rock like wallpaper. Touching this stuff produced an instant panic reaction reminiscent of finding beetles in one’s hair. This elicited a disgusted, “what the hell did we come here for anyway?” from the fastidious Greel. Giving the matter some thought, they realized that none of them actually remembered why they had come here, or when they had begun their journey. Some prodding with Torath’s firebrand sword revealed a magical cloak that made the wearer’s location difficult to pinpoint, but they found no answers to their larger questions.

All of which led them finally to a grand underground throne room. It was a long, vaulted chamber with a golden throne on a dais at the far end. Behind the throne, a silvery black curtain hung strikingly still. A strange, rasping hum filled the hall. Rows of statues flanked the approach, three on each side, similar to the ones outside but in much better condition, and still flourishing their turquoise insets. Near the middle of the room, before the throne, was a wooden table with a ceramic tea set in a style that did not seem to match the ruins. A skeleton was propped up on the throne, gaping senselessly across the table.

Torath and Culthwan were immediately drawn to the throne, while Kirella started prying out the turquoise pieces from the statues. Greel, frustrated in his search for inscriptions, poured himself a cup of “tea” and discovered that it was brine. Eventually, while Culthwan was peeling back layers of gold to take home and Kirella was counting her stones, someone looked up and saw the writhing mass of insect life on the roof. The bugs, which resembled long-bodied adult cicadas with stingers, grasping forelegs, and lots of feelers, formed into a crescent shape on the roof and then dropped into the air, swarming around the skeleton and clumping against it like glistening, chitinous flesh.

Greel attempted to communicate with it, but the only expression it offered that made any sense was to point at Kirella, who was busily stowing her new treasure out of sight. Still eager to communicate, Greel offered the composite monster some tea. It then reached out towards Kirella, launching a stream of bugs in her direction as she fled the room.

Torath and Culthwan came at the creature from both directions. Torath’s broadsword did little harm on its own, but the flames left a swath of dead bugs in their wake. Culthwan dealt it what should have been a crippling blow, hacking through both ankles, but the creature’s movement was completely unaffected. Eventually, however, their combined efforts wore down its supply of bugs enough for Torath to finish it off with a pair of great fiery slashes from his bastard sword.

Behind the throne (which they completely stripped of gold), they discovered that the curtain was actually the same sort of stony filaments they had found in the Web Cell room. Culthwan pried his way into it with his dagger and could see through the hole into dizzying vistas of twisting space beyond. Zai Kren staggered back, unable to face the impossible gap in reality. After some deliberation, Culthwan shrugged his shoulders and dove through the portal with a grin. The others were hit by waves of choking panic and a feeling of increasing pressure like their ears were about to pop. Finally, everyone, even Zai Kren, followed Culthwan through the hole, feeling as if they were being hurled forward on the crest of a wave.

After a directionless plunge through the abyss, they found themselves pushing their way through layers of clingy filaments and finally, back on solid ground, surrounded by wildly patterned curtains. They were all separated and fumbling their way through the awkward maze until Greel used his sympathetic magic to tear up all the curtains by tearing up one. Staggered by the sudden rush of magic, he was surprised to see another version of himself standing among his confused companions.

They also found themselves with two women who both claimed to be Culthwan. The two looked similar, but not identical, both looking like they could have been close relatives of the original Culthwan. Although they shared hazy memories of the deeds of the original Culthwan, neither remembered being anything other than what they were.

After some puzzlement over their distorted roster, the party set about exploring their new environs. They were in a circular passage with several doors on the inside walls and only solid stone on the outside one. There was no sign of a way back to the ruins at Brillig.

The first room they explored seemed to be some sort of weapons locker, but the devices it contained were bizarre, seemingly made of some kind of crystal with odd striations twisting throughout their interior. The found one oval buckler-like device, two odd monitor screen things that apparently fit over the hand like a boxing glove, two folding stinger-shaped attachments, and one crystalline claw. While the others were at least curious, Torath immediately found the objects disturbing and proceeded to look for other ways out of the room.

Greel(1) tried on the “shield” and it bonded to his arm. Knocked himself back by banging on a wall. Had Torath hit it and was thrown back. Called it useless and got electric shock. Culthwan(2) tried on claw and worked out its function. Torath stayed clear and looks for secret doors. Zai Kren tried out screen and then Culthwan(3) decided to punch it. Zai Kren let it happen and she bashed the screen in. Zai Kren noticed that it was repairing itself. The Greels added a stinger each, giving Greel(1) an attachment on each arm. Zai Kren, using his cosmic awareness, determined that these were artifacts of a civilization based on symbiotic technology.

Torath found a patch of wall where he could push through the filaments. Culthwan(2) probed with her new claw and found secret door lever. And into the straight inner passage. The others eventually followed and found the other secret doors, including the door back to curving passage.

Next they found a lavishly furnished bedroom with a dead guy in a red space suit on the bed. As they examined the room, they noticed that he got older every time they looked back at him. Soon, he was only a skeleton. Culthwan(2) probed the suit with her bionic claw but succeeded only in completing the astronaut’s transformation into dust.

The next room had six odd suits of armor made of hard, translucent filaments with crystal circuitry modules. Torath, realizing what he was looking at, fled the room in disgust. Culthwan(2) and Zai Kren experimented with the suits. In the process, they figured out that they could remove the symbiotic weapons by willing it, and that the smaller attachments had to be put on over the suits, not under. They also discovered that they could reach through the suits to access pockets & stuff, but regular armor wouldn’t fit under it.

They finally found their way to what appeared to be an ornate but otherwise unremarkable double stairway. Upon beginning to climb it, though, they found themselves twisting through space in an Escher-like maze of up and down spirals twisting around each other until they finally found themselves descending, not rising, into a huge glass-domed room. Looking outside, they could see that they were in the top of one tower in a floating castle. All around the castle, above and below, stars glittered in a black sky. Another tower similar to the one they were in was visible across from them.

On the far side of the chamber, there was a double throne upon which two skeletons in medieval armor sat. Torath laughed with somewhat hysterical relief at the sight of the death knights, something native to the world he knew and understood.

The rest of the party attempted to communicate with the creatures, receiving a number of cryptic answers about size and relative position like “it thinks it knows where it is,” always speaking about the person, not to him or her. Whenever one of the skeletons spoke, it would turn toward the other and disappear, its voice issuing forth from the empty throne. Finally, the question, “how do we get out of here?” was answered with, “It does not know about the other tower.”

Once again interested in the tower across the way, Culthwan(2) discovered that the suits pass through the clear walls like water, but to other matter it’s solid. The others went back for the other suits, but Zai Kren and Culthwan(2) started without them, first experimenting with a rope, which was immediately severed once Culthwan(2) was completely outside while Zai Kren, holding the other end, remained inside. Zai Kren went through as well and they tried to will the suits to generate some kind of propulsion, but couldn’t, so they pushed off from the wall instead.

The others returned with the suits, roped themselves together, and went outside. Greel(1) bashed the wall with his shield to propel them across the gulf. They rocketed past Culthwan(2) and Zai Kren, then realize they were about to crash into a brick wall. Culthwan(3) thought about slowing them down and glider wings popped out of the suit to slow them down. Greel(1)’s stinger was also useful as a brake.

They stopped at a window ledge. Climbing through, they found gravity and air in an open shaft with no visible top or bottom. The walls were coated with non-stick webby stuff. Greel(2) jumped and used the glider wings. The wings were not powerful enough to completely counter gravity, but they did allow for a soft decent. Greel(2) fell a long ways, and finally ended up back where he started, this time from above. He caught hold of the wall and rejoined his party.

Zai Kren began climbing down while Greel(1) and Culthwan(2) scouted upwards. Zai Kren continued going down into the dark, but did not loop as Greel(2) had. Above, Greel(1) and Culthwan(2) found criscrossing patterns like branches and leaves moving. Zai Kren figured out how to use the suits to communicate with each other. Everyone except Zai Kren began ascending.

Six human-sized crustaceans were clinging to the walls between them and exit. They were similar to the cicada-creatures from the Brillig throne room, but wingless and possessing only a mass of feelers instead of eyes. The party fought on the walls and beat them, then continued up, Greel(1) in the lead. Greel(1) found the shaft getting smaller and smaller, finally shrinking to a tiny point of light above him. Pushing through, he found that he had ripped free of a cocoon in a similar shaft underwater. He was no longer wearing his crystal symbiotes or any of his equipment, just rags. Breathing the water was uncomfortable, but not impossible, like breathing in thick smoke. Tiny versions of the crustaceans were crawling all over the cocoons.

The others only saw Greel(1)’s suit shrivel around him as he turned into a skeleton and dropped into the darkness. They immediately started climbing down.

Greel(1) tore one of the cocoons open and released Culthwan(2). As before, the others saw her shrivel up like Greel(1) did. The same process freed them all eventually, even Zai Kren, who had been continually climbing down all along. They swam to the surface, where they exited a stone circle on a lake shore. There, they coughed up the altered salt water that was enabling them to breathe down there. Torath was particularly disturbed, wondering how they could know that any of their history together was real.


A sort of flashback effect kept their identities confused at first, but as they shook off the last after-images of dream world, they began to recognize each other and remember some of their real lives.

Teaser - The Other Tower

You only signed on for a dungeon crawl, a hole in the desert with some buried ruins, some monsters, and – hopefully – treasure. This place isn’t right, though. The savages that live nearby speak words that burn your mind. The oddly-textured gray stones are inexplicably uncomfortable to touch. And there’s something about the air here…

This adventure is scheduled to run as a two-part event (The Throne of Gorgudai and The Other Tower) on November 5th, 2011 at Carnage in Vermont. The actual adventure log will appear some time after that, along with a teaser for the next one.