Peregrine, the pilgrim
Poseidon, the merman
Batman, the flyer
Jim, the gemcutter
Beastmaster, the animal trainer
Will, the smith
Kerhs, the half-orc
Litoli, the cave-woman
Sid "Vicious," the sage
Johnny "Rotten," the spy
Siouxsie, the nomad
Nico, the spy
A dozen humans found themselves standing in a misty hollow, the ground studded with boulders before them. Each could remember an earlier life as a professional, of one sort or another, but none could recall quite how they'd gotten to that spot. Beastmaster was a bit surprised to find his old mule and hound replaced by a deer-shaped pack-rabbit and a dog-like guard-weasel, and Souixsie was certain she used to have a horse instead of a riding pea-hen.
The group investigated the field, saw that the boulders were moss-covered and ancient, and that several were carved with faces. The faces were human-like, but with wide alert eyes, and ears that looked like spiny fish fins. Spending a little more time, they heard running water coming from the west, saw through a break in the clouds circling humanoid flyers in the sky to the northeast, and later heard the sound of marching musicians approaching from the south. Litloi wanted to secure a safe water source, and Poseidon agreed. Batman felt curious about the flyers, but agreed to follow his new-found friends.
Walking for awhile through the morning fog, the group eventually saw the source of the sound, a flowing river, with dozens of canals and irrigation ditches branching off from it, and a walled town near the water. At first, they thought the town had a low wall, with dozens of the inhabitants' faces visible above it. They saw that the canals and ditches were in extremely regular rows and straight lines with right angles connecting them, while each building seemed to be a unique structure with an assortment of towers and extensions. As they got closer, they realized the wall was human-height, and the inhabitants were at least 8' tall.
They began walking around the outside of the wall, looking for a gate, when one of the beings called down to them. The giant said they looked strange, too short to be Cadjula, their bottoms to small to be Nif, and asked them if they wanted to come in. The group agreed, and the giant used a wooden crane to lower a platform and then raise them up over the wall.
|On the left: a typical Bo-al|
The giant told the group that their name was Athern, and that their people were called Bo-al. Athern seemed to be guessing every time they called one of the humans "young man" or "young woman," and when asked, explained that they knew the other islanders had genders, but there was nothing like that among the Bo-al. A little more questioning revealed that the Bo-al are a town of architects, engineers, and builders, who spend a lot of their time drawing blueprints, improving their homes, and tinkering with this and that. Athern admitted that they were only looking over the wall because they were thinking of doing a little gardening. When asked where the group could secure some food or employment, Athern mentioned that everyone in town had been worrying about their greatest builder, Trondo, who'd been missing "for days and days," ever since finishing their new house. There would certainly be a find party if Trondo came outside! (Or a fine funeral if Trondo's body were discovered!) Athern explained that it would be terribly rude for any of the Bo-al to enter Trondo's house without permission, but that if some "wild animals" happened to get inside, well, there was nothing the townspeople could do to prevent it. Athern led them to the two story structure, pointed to the observatory on the roof, and then knocked on the door, holding it just ajar to call in to Trondo. "Are you there, my friend? I hope that no wild animals sneak into your house while I'm calling on you!" The group took their cue and hurried inside.
They found themselves in a great two-story foyer, with a balcony ringing the room on the second story. Light from high windows filtered in, but Krehs felt good to be indoors during the day. They saw a wide staircase on the far wall, accessible only from the balcony, a pair of hallways on the right (one on the ground floor and one overhead on the balcony), and a pair of spiral staircases in the corners leading up to the loft. They also quickly noticed that eight short skinny humanoids, with curvy limbs and pointy joints were standing on the railing of the balcony, yelling at them in gobbledygook, and brandishing rocks that looked like smashed paving stones from the floor.
|A foyer guardian|
Jim started to offer that they should try to reason with the creatures, but he was over-ruled by Litoli's split-second decision to pitch her stone spear, stabbing one through the chest and pinning it to the wall, killing it instantly. A chaotic few rounds of combat followed, with several of group beginning to rush for the spiral staircases, and others using missiles against the creatures. One creature hit Johnny "Rotten" hard enough to knock him over (although he survived the blow,) while another overbalanced and fell off the balcony. Sid "Vicious" and Nico threatened the fallen creature with their daggers, but it was Peregrine who killed it with his staff. He felt guilty for a moment, and then felt a divine inspiration to kill more monsters and ran upstairs too. Batman and Siouxsie threw a javelin and lance upstairs, but only Batman got a hit that way. Peregrine beat down one of the creatures on the balcony, only to be killed when it punched him with a rock in its fist. Siouxsie got revenge by shooting the killer with an arrow, and Poseidon and Beastmaster worked together to mop up. Poseidon tore one of the creatures to shreds with his trident, and Beastmaster took out the final two, siccing his guard-weasel on one and gutting the other with his knife. Jim and Nico spent most of the fight hiding under the balcony, where the creatures couldn't reach them.
Retrieving their weapons afterwards, the group noticed that the bodies turned flat, then into shadows, then disappeared completely. After the confusion cleared, they realized that everyone who had run up the right staircase ended up on the left side of the balcony, while those who'd gone up the left were now standing on the right. They also noticed eight abstract sculptures around the balcony. They looked like nothing but jagged irregular shapes, but their shadows had the same silhouettes as the creatures they just fought. Litoli and Krehs tried toppling a couple of the statues, but couldn't get them to tip. Will had more luck with a solid hammer strike that broke one in half. The group wondered if Trondo would be mad that they killed his guards and broke his statue, but then Nico pointed out that the creatures killed one of them too. She said that the death of one of their friends seemed like a pretty high price to pay just to get to go to a party, and went back to the front door to find Athern. They were gone, of course, with nothing but the usual town bustle in the distance. Dejected, she returned to the others, and Poseidon, feeling high on his victory, began striding confidently up the wide staircase.
At the top of the stairs, they found a room lined with built-in bookshelves, the books all Bo-al sized, 3' high and heavy by human standards. They began calling out for Trondo, and a book flopped itself off the shelf, and a half-dozen illustrated outlines of Bo-al emerged from the book. The illustrations were suprised to hear that Trondo was missing, and (after a really bad reaction roll) became agitated that "wild animals are in Trondo's house!" and started attacking. Poseidon was ready, again shredding one of his foes to tatters with his trident, the illustration turning to torn paper as it died. Jim used his magnifying lens to focus the light coming in from a high window, setting one illustration ablaze. Three others failed to distance themselves, and died too as the fire spread. Beastmaster's guard weasel tore the last one apart with its teeth, before licking its lips to get the taste of paper out of its mouth. Litoli quickly slammed the book shut, convinced that here suspicions of all writing were well-founded.
The group headed upstairs and into a sitting room. At first, the parlor with its couch and chairs and coffee table looked normal, but moving off the stairs, it quickly became clear that all the furniture had only three legs, and all the drawings hung on the wall had triangular frames, the sketches of the other buildings in town shown in extreme perspective. Several group members searched the room, but all they found was another three-legged footstool under the sofa. Jim felt there was something badly wrong with the space in the room, and insisted that they keep moving.
Up the stairs, they entered a room with a gravel floor, a model of the house in the center of the room, the ceiling hung with stone fish on barely visible strings. Poseidon liked the room, although he couldn't recognize any of the fish. Jim felt nervous again, and suggested they take the door to the right.
The group next entered a room with a large white circle surrounded by runes drawn on the carpet. Looking about, they quickly noticed that the 20' ceiling overhead had a circular pond immediately over the circle, with dozens of potted plants sitting on the ceiling as well. As they approached the circle, a demon appeared within. The monster (which we randomly generated on the spot) looked like a humanoid wasp with fish fins for her hands and feet and gills on her neck. She introduced herself as *the smell of salt-water* and a queen of the Nif. One by one, the group members dropped to one knee to pay homage, and Batman introduced himself: "I'm Batman." The demon told them they could ask her questions. They learned that Trondo was in the house, in two places, both ahead of them and behind, and that like anyone whose in two places at once, no, he's wasn't at all fine. They learned that the demon didn't care about Trondo, but that what she did care about was the Nif, who live in the desert to the east, and that if the group did a favor for the Nif, she would do a favor for them. Nico tried to ask who killed Trondo, but the demon said she'd answered enough questions, and disappeared.
Poseidon wanted to get a closer look at the pond, and stood on Will's shoulders. As he got up, and his head crossed the vertical center-line of the room, he became dizzy and disoriented, feeling like he was about to fall upwards. He managed not to lose his balance, but realized he'd need to get most of his body-weight above the center to actually transfer to the other side.
The group seemed to decide that Trondo had been beheaded or cut in half. They debated simply leaving with the news, but decided they needed to return with part or all of the body to be sure to get the really nice funeral they'd been promised. Sid "Vicious" led the way down the center of the next wide hall, and about a third of the way through, found himself nearly swept off his feet, but just managed to jump back in time. Litoli tried to carefully control her fall up, and took a nasty spill, but landed with nothing more than some shin splints and a bloody elbow. She asked the others to catch her when she walked back toward them, expecting to fall back to the floor, but remained standing on the ceiling. Poseidon suggested that the others should join her by returning to the pool room so that the water would break their fall.
They all went back through, with Litoli passing through a door on the ceiling, but when she approached the pool, a creature rose up out of it. This creature appeared to be a mermaid with compound insect eyes and large bee wings. She introduced herself as Ussa, and warned Litoli not to listen to the demon in the circle below her, saying that the demon lies about everything. Ussa claimed that Trondo was not dead, but was simply in the library. She also claimed that Athern was the one who built the house, and was also inside now somewhere. However, when asked to point to the library, she pointed back down the hall the group had just come through. Litoli felt suspicious, and asked the others to stay put for a minute. She crossed the hall, then entered a room where, on the ceiling with her, were the lifeless bodies of a dozen Bo-al all sitting in chairs. Litoli slammed the door and ran back to her friends. Ussa continued to insist that her Trondo was alive and well, and began inviting Litoli to join her in the pool. "I like you Litoli. You seem so nice. You'll like it in my pool with me." Litoli began to suspect that not everything Ussa said was true, and elected not to get into the water. She rolled up the room's 25' wide carpet, and used it as a bridge back down the floor, as Ussa began screaming that her friends were liars, that they're all wild animals, and they'd be much happier if they came up to be in her pool. The group quickly retreated back to the gravel-covered aquarium room.
Unsure of what was true, or how much of what they'd heard had been lies, or even who to trust, the group returned to the library, and Trondo was still not there. They debated whether Athern was the real architect here, or was responsible from Trondo's death, but then couldn't decide what they'd gain by sending humans in to find them. They spent an hour searching the library before finding a book in a language they could read, where an inscription on the front page said (in the same language) "Property of Trondo." The rest of the books were all floorplans, equations, and other engineering texts, all in a variety of unreadable scripts. Sid "Vicious" kept the book to read later. They decided there was no way Trondo planted a single book in Athern's library, and decided to trust the demon and look for the other part of their body where she said it would be. They returned to the triangular room, then the large aquarium room, and then went upstairs to find another sitting room with a small model aquarium on a table in the middle of the room. Looking around, first Poseidon and later Beastmaster stared too deeply into the fishtank and then vanished. They found themselves back in the large aquarium room, now filled with water, and the fish all alive and swimming. They also sensed a sinister presence in there with them, and both hurried out and back into the sitting room with their friends. Unfortunately, they realized they'd become intangible. The building itself seemed solid to them, but they couldn't touch their friends or the furniture.
Sid led the way from the sitting room into what turned out to be a clothes closet, then through to a bedroom. There, Poseidon and Beastmaster met the ghost of Trondo, looking ethereal and translucent even to them. (To the others, the ghost was nearly invisible and inaudible.) Trondo explained that they'd simply died of old age. After finishing the house, they'd gone to sleep in a chair in the room where Litoli found so many bodies, and then woken up dead in bed, a ghost. They were sticking around as a ghost now, because they wanted time to enjoy the house they'd spent so much time building. They authorized Athern to come inside to collect the body, and claimed to have some paperwork on file with a lawyer and in the town bank to handle the eventual disposal of the property. When asked about the dozen bodies, Trondo exclaimed, "Oh dear, it must have duplicated!" About the aquarium, "Oh the fish are harmless, although I hope my snail is okay. It might have gotten hungry!" The two personalities in the hall? "The one in the circle is alright. She's good conversation when she visits. But I wish I'd never installed that damn pool. You can't trust a thing that faerie says!" And last, of course, what's in the triangle room, Trondo? "Triangles!" Of course. Good night, Trondo.
The group thought they had enough information, and agreed that they'd skip the celebration they'd been promised if it would force them to go into any more Bo-al houses. My friends also decided to pause for the night before preparing to leave the house next session.
(Attentive readers may recognize this as The Alexandrian's Halls of the Mad Mage, with a bit of re-skinning. With 11 characters still alive, I'm a little worried I made the guardians a bit too weak, although they players were also quite cautious, and have so far managed to avoid some of the most dangerous areas of the house. The remaining foyer guardians might also be more dangerous on the way out, now that they can throw pieces of a broken statue. I'm also a little worried that not enough cool stuff has happened, but I think the book and the intangibility have promise to help make the characters unique. I also liked how the random appearance of the demon suggested an obvious faction alliance - to one of the factions Athern mentioned earlier, no less - and let me point my players toward another of the humanoid species on the island. Resolving the intangibility problem might also involve appealing to another faction for help.)
a promise of a very nice funeral from the Bo-al
a promise of a favor in exchange for aiding the Nif from a wasp/fish demon
an oversized Bo-al architectural treatise
Poseidon's and Beastmaster's solidity (hopefully temporarily?)
8 shadow-puppet guardians
6 illustrated librarians
the faerie's dreams of luring the group into her pool
2 for fighting the puppets
1 for fighting the librarians
1 for encountering the reverse-gravity trap
2 for conversing profitably with the demon *the smell of salt water*
2 for conversing non-fatally the faerie Ussa
1 for searching the library
1 for the ethereal trap
2 for finding and conversing with Trondo
(I may try to particularize this a little bit, based on individual actions. I may also decide to give out Luck bonuses for the magnifying glass trick, and for negotiating with the demon.)