– Or –
Shit Just Got Real
In the last session the group had managed to hold off attacks from both Uncle Ivanovik, his hunting dogs, the Original Spider, and the spider’s cultists. As always in this game, the Players had a lot of choices to deal with: Should they continue exploring the village for more effects of the Spider Cult? Should they look for the source of the village’s strange time dilation and solve that mystery? Should they head back to the town of Murnau, where they had left Karr-El, the Jale-skinned warrior from Carcosa they had befriended? Should they head back to Munich to fence their treasure so they could level up (per the Lamentation of the Flame Princess rules)?
Their decision of what to do next was based on two points:
- They now knew that time moved slower in Bergenzel than in the outside world. They also had no idea how much time had passed in the outside world while they had been in Bergenzel for what seemed to them to be only a few hours. So they were worried about how Karr-El was faring back in Murnau. Getting back to Murnau to check to make sure Karr-El was all right seemed paramount. (They had left him in an inn with a stock of food.)
- Moreover, they had acquired enough treasure so that all of them were going to level at least once (the Specialist in the group would in fact hit two levels). And those that leveled once would also be gaining enough XP to be just under the level requirement to gain another level very quickly after that. So, getting back to Munich alive to take advantage of the XP gains seemed a wise course. (How sad would it be to continue exploring Bergenzel only to die because they did not get the extra Hit Points awaiting them if they had instead returned to turn in their treasure and gain levels in Munich?)
They group decided it was going to travel back to Murnau, collect Karr-El, and then get back to Munich to turn in their treasure and level up. The group had also rented a farm house for a full three months and had hirelings waiting for them there (an alchemist and two fighters). They would rest up, research spells, and make plans for their next move.
However, as they approached Murnau they saw smoke rising in the distance. Getting closer they saw flame burning low and the charred remains of the town. They could just make out corpses scattered about the land around the town. And at the edges of the town they saw crucifixes with people on them. They assumed, reasonably, that the mad, religious war sweeping Europe had reached the town they had left recently left. But, more importantly, they had left their companion from another world in a town that had just been attacked and massacred.
They rushed toward Murnau, covering distance quickly, leaving caution aside. When they reached some of the corpses outside the town they examined them. They found arrows in the backs of some. But others had cauterized wounds that had punched through the clothes and into the backs. The group was a bit stunned by this, as their 20th Century brains struggled to mesh together what their 17th Century characters were looking at.
“So,” one of the Players tentatively ventured, “might we say this is… laser fire?”
“Not that we would know that.”
I nodded. “Exactly.”
The group kind of went crazy at that moment. Not in an excited violent way. But their imaginations were stirred in a confused way, not sure what the heck to do with this new, important piece of information.
What the Players didn’t know yet, but that I’m about to tell you, as that the marauders who destroyed Murnau were not Protestant soldiers but a company of warriors and sorcerers from Carcosa.
At this point the Players know that Carcosa exists. They know that there are Sorcerers on Carcosa and learned from Kaar-El that Sorcerers get their powers from making deal with strange gods. They know that there are warriors, but have only seen the warriors use strange, primitive swords carved of stone. They know Carcosa is a brutal place of tribes and clans.
But because Kaar-El would have a difficult time articulating some of the concepts of his world to people of 17th Century Europe, and because it never occurred to the Players to ask, there has been no discussion of the alien technology left behind on the world of Carcosa and now used by its warriors.
And to clarify some of the basics of travel between Carcosa and Earth…
- People can travel from Carcosa to Earth via Null Space using the Spatial Transference Void on Carcosa. (The Spatial Transference Void is found on p. 31 of Carcosa. I have added the Null Space/travel element for the needs of my campaign. Also of note: The Player Characters know about the Spatial Transference Void on Carcosa because three PCs got trapped in Null Space while adventuring in The God That Crawls. The remaining members of the group wanted to find a means of rescuing their friends, and their research into Null Space led them to understand there was a method of entering Null Space on Carcosa.)
- There is no direct portal from Earth back to Carcaso. Thus, a ritual was made to create the World Stone. This stone, activated by murdering three people, allows folks to teleport from Earth back to Carcosa. The World Stone is inefficient: It only allows one person to travel per murdered person (the murderer is the one who travels) and it only transports organic material (so no alien technology). Thus, Carcosa has been shuttling spies and limited strike teams back and forth between Carcosa and Earth, but has yet to find the means of efficiently launching an invasion.
- The Players found the World Stone in a Duvan’Ku temple (it was the McGuffin found in the Sacred Parasite’s chamber in Death Frost Doom), but have so far been loathe to use it. First, because they are afraid going to Carcosa. And second the whole murder thing is kicking them out.
- Agents from Carcosa have been hunting them to track down the World Stone. Currently, anyone from Carcosa on Earth is trapped here.
- With the loss of the World Stone to the Duvan’Ku several decades ago, all communication back to Carcosa has stopped. But a cult on Carcosa has stepped up efforts, sending sorcerers and warriors to Earth. The motivating strategy has been successful: in order to survive, the Carcosans have been working their asses off to figure out how to open a fluid gate between Earth and Carcosa. They did research on the Duvan’Ku and discovered the cult, through their research in manipulating time, also found methods of seeing other worlds (the snow globes in DFD!) They are now seeking out methods of traveling to other worlds in alternate earths to get help.
- Note that the Player Characters are pursuing a similar path of research and exploration, having tracked down the Other Worldly Explorer and having found the codes to three other worlds in the Other Worldly Explorer’s drawings.
- Note that Carcosa and Earth are in the same dimension, and none of the methods everyone is pursuing right now can help anyone get back and forth between Carcosa and Earth. The issue of traveling between Carcosa and Earth is traveling, quickly, the gulfs of space. These new methods are for traveling between alternate Earths.
So, the Player Characters rushed into town, finding a few survivors amid the ruined buildings as they searched for Karr-El. A young boy told of how the attacks fired weapons of “colored-lightning”–confirming the fears of the Players.
When they finally found their Jale-colored friend, he was burnt and dying. I had set him at -4 HP (meaning, per the LotFP rules, he could not be cured), but hanging on with all of his effort to warn his companions if they could find him before he died.
He was so happy to see them. And so desperate to warn them who had destroyed Murnau and to warn them of what was to come.
Days earlier I had been walking the dogs and this monologue popped into my head. I spoke for Karr-El, pretty much word for word as it had first occurred to me:
You need to know, you need to know, they’ve come… I didn’t tell them anything, they wanted me to tell them where your were, but I didn’t tell them anything. But I listened, I listened to what they said. They’re heading for a temple, full of glass globes that can lead to other worlds. They have used auguries and magic to find a world with a metal canister containing a magical substance, Aakom… they are going to find it. They are going to rip a hole between your world and my world. They are coming to replace your gods with our own. You must not let them do this…
I was listening, while I was in the room you left me in, I was listening between, I think you called him a priest, I saw him from the window. A young man came to visit him. They were talking. I was listening through the wall. The young man was worried about many things. And the priest said, “Let us pray.”
And I heard the prayer. It began, “Our Father, who art in Heaven… give us this day, our daily bread…” And I thought, I know those words, words like those words, that’s who we beg for food on my world. But then the priest said, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we we forgive those who trespass against us… lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”
And here Karr-El choked up…
We have no words like that on my world. You must stop them. You must not let them bring my gods here.
He looked to the two clerics in the party.
If my friends were to die, I wish they could die on this world. Because it is, what I think you call, Heaven.
And he died.
Well, after that there was this quiet moment from the Players. And then, whereas all options were open, there was a sudden determination on the part of the Players to focus their efforts and find a way to stop the invasion of Earth by the Carcosan gods.
The picked up on what Karr-El had said about the metal container. They went through the handouts and scraps and notes they’d been accumulating for the first 17 sessions of play. And then they pulled out this sheet from the folio they found in the home of the Other Worldly Explorer:
“There,” they shouted, “the canister!” as they jabbed their finger at the image of the canister.
“That’s where we’re going,” they declared, focusing their decisions to a specific path.
I explained to the group’s Magic-User that Aakom is rumored in the reality bending texts of the arcane arts. It is the string-theory of magic, I said, and quoted the words from Qelong about it: “Aakom is a substance somewhere between mana, azoth, and plutonium.”
They were all suitably impressed.
They gave Karr-El a burial, and took what survivors they could and made their way back to the barn they had rented outside of Munich. They decided they would level up, research spells, and make decisions on what equipment and retainers to add to the group with all the loot they had hauled out of Bergenzel.
The session then slowed down to them looking through the rule book on the sorts of retainers they could hire, looking at details about estate managers and accountants.
My fiancée was in the kitchen baking, listening to all this talk of monthly expenses and employment concerns and declared: “What are you people doing! This sound terrible!” Because, honestly, it sounded like they were planning a new company at my dining table.
The hour had run late, and there were more planning to be done. I decided to let the group dwell on these matters in the break between sessions before they committed to further action.
As it is, they plan on heading for the Other Worldly Explorer’s keep in the Alps. And there they hope to find the method of traveling to the world with the Aakom, getting to the canister before the group from Carcosa does.
Weeks have already passed in preparations at the barn. Meanwhile, the Carcosans, led by His Magisterial Importance, have followed in the footsteps of the Player Characters into the temple of the Duvan’Ku. They lost several members when they became possessed by the Clerics in the shrine (and were gunned down by their companions.)
But His Magisterial Importance and his troops have found the snow globes hidden away in the Duvan’Ku High Priest’s chamber. Using arcane methods learned by a sorcerer who has studied the ways of earth magic for decades, he has discerned which world contains the Aakom they need to port back and forth between Earth and Carcosa. They, too, wish to travel to the Valley of Qelong…