In our Season 5 campaign, the party has crossed a barrier which prevented access to a third of the planet’s surface. As they came up from underground and beheld the surface beneath the magical dome, they found an impossible view: this side of the world was concave, not convex, as though an enormous chunk of the globe had been bitten, and a gigantic “inner moon” hung low in the sky, its outermost point touching what would have been the crust of the planet were it not for the concavity. They soon declared that they had to get to that moon by hook or by crook. Unfortunately, the locals said that flight was a restricted privilege on this side of the barrier; the dracocracy made sure that no one could fly without their permission.
I had jotted in my notes a few months ago that there was some kind of flying thing that traversed a circuit between three cities near where the party would emerge from the Underdark on the far side of the barrier. Who flies when the most powerful force around says that no one’s allowed to fly? Pirates, that’s who.
So I went through Dyson’s maps again, looking for inspiration. I came across a cache I’d never explored – the Kevin Campbell section. Everything within grabbed my attention, but this one in particular caught my eye:
To me, it looked less like an underground dungeon and more like some kind of futuristic multiuse complex, like something out of the Bioware Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC game. Something with clean white stone or ceramic floors, indoor parks with benches and fountains, and tech greebles posted around. When I read Dyson’s commentary that it reminded him of Star Wars as well (and it becomes clear why on a moment’s reflection, since there are plenty of Millenium Falcon visual references strewn about the map – funny angles, round bits intersecting flat surfaces) I knew that I was on the right track.
I decided that before it became a pirate base, this was once a floating monastery full of tech-savvy ascetics. They installed touchscreen monoliths and holotanks. They eventually disappeared – I can’t reveal why yet, given that my spouse reads the blog! – and were replaced by the pirates (“flametouched” because, well, most of them had the Fire subtype, not that it ever came up except as a campy pulp name for the adventure). They, too, vanished, this time because a group of monsters were dropped onto the monastery by an unknown entity to clear them out.
Given that history, I went room by room and decided how the flow of the place would work. The large central room with five different exits seemed like a natural dividing point. I eventually came up with this:
The ascetics probably used the armory and training room for other purposes, but the pirates engaged in extensive refitting. “Steller observation” was less about science and more about spiritual reflection on the natural world (for the ascetics) or spending some time in a dark, pretty room with a big round skylight for looking at the night sky (for the pirates). Frankly, I had an idea that the party might want to take the place over if they got onboard, so I threw that on for fun. The A/V room, too.
I then threw the power system into horror-movie-flickering-lights mode and populated almost every room with an assortment of tough-shelled cocoons that looked like dog-sized pomegranate seeds – the monsters that had wiped out the pirates. The stage was set for the party to foolishly defy the edicts of the dracocracy and launch themselves from the surface onto the monastery.
When they got onboard, I played up the creepy ambience and the weirdness of the cocoons. The party dissected one of them to find that it was full of differentiated organ material and rubbery, noodly masses. They tried a blade with an ice enchantment on another and discovered that the exposure froze most of the cocoon instantly and made it quite brittle. After a bit of prodding, they decided to leave the cocoons alone while they explored the place.
Starting at Park I, the party moved out to explore the Park sector first, then the Knowledge sector (and they saw an even bigger cocoon in the auditorium). When they came back to Park I, they discovered that the cocoons were beginning to soften and pulse with a dim red glow. They realized that when a living being entered a room, the cocoons began to come out of their dormant state. One of the cocoons began hovering, then spewed out a mess of tentacles (the noodly masses from their dissection) and attacked!
Not only did the things do damage and grapple automatically, they also drained Constitution with every hit. For a relatively low-CON party like this one, that was a serious threat. Luckily they’d already found the things’ weakness to ice. In the party’s adventure in the dark elf city of Beznetherel, they had come to the city’s aid against the disciples of a trapped dragon, and as a result had received two ice-enchanted short swords and an icy burst longbow (which I had forgotten about when I populated the monastery!). With some good flanking, it wasn’t hard to freeze the attacking beasts and take stock of their situation.
After a brief rest, they decided to split up. One group went to the bridge to try to restore ship operations while the other went hunting. Most of the creatures were easily dispatched – Grim, our sylvan elf / werewolf DRD/RGR took out one of the big suckers and its nearby smaller cousins with a stupidly high set of rolls, resulting in a manyshot supercritical icy burst extravaganza – though I did manage to get a good pop-scare moment in on Ylandra, our normally unflappable ROG/RGR. And since the party had started their hunt before exploring the Command sector, they were able to clear the last of the creatures without a single roll.
Since then, they’ve restored operations and have spent a couple of nights getting attached to the monastery and all its gadgets. They have a plan to park it around the tropical island chain that always winds up being home base for parties in our Folly campaigns. We’ll see if they can get it back home intact.