Chasing The Sunset & tunnels

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

We pick up immediately after the affair with the pirates, with Rod the Exile & Sapphira the Spider discovering an entrance to a mysterious underground facility.  Before they head down the spiral staircase into the ground, they notice a thin, white spire in the distance.  It’s a giant, magical taper candle, a signpost where travelers leave notes.

GM note: This is a diagetic way for players to share information about the area with other players. There’s one in every location.

They don’t have much to say to other travelers, so they head down into the darkness, lit by the shimmering of Sapphira’s electric field. At the bottom of the staircase, they find a tunnel running perpendicular to the river above. It’s about 4m across, and half full of water. There are posts in the middle of the tunnel at regular intervals along its length. there are signs that other structures used to be attached to these posts, but they’ve disappeared from decay and neglect.  A narrow pipe runs along the top of the tunnel, with periodic vents.

A cross-section of the underground tunnel.

Again, our heroes want to travel by water, but don’t have a boat. They return to the surface and find some logs and branches along the river bank. They carefully carry them down the spiral staircase and Sapphira lashes them into a raft. They have been traveling west, against the eastward current of the river.  This tunnel stretches north and south, with the water flowing south.  They decide to float with the current and head south.  After some time, a tunnel splits from their tunnel, heading west. They take the side tunnel and soon find metal spikes hammered into the stone and brick tunnel walls, like punji sticks keeping something from coming east towards the main tunnel.

The raft encounters punji sticks pointing the other way.

The raft can’t fit between the spikes, so Sapphira picks up Rod & Tobit and climbs over the spikes.  Just past the spikes are two alcoves set into the wall of the tunnel, right next to each other. Each alcove is the size of a modest room, about 3m on a side. They are set above the waterline of the tunnel and have dry floors.

Two alcoves, separated by a barrier.

As Sapphira approaches the first alcove, her electric shimmer reaches out and dances over a vertical plane across the tunnel. It’s an invisible magical barrier, blocking their path.  The water in the tunnel flows unimpeded. There are some weapons lying on the floor of the near alcove: 2 daggers and a flare gun (ranged, burning, 2 ammo).  It’s common knowledge that magical barriers have a power source, and a condition that allows or denies passage. Rod wonders if this is a Dwarven badge-reader.  He attempts to swim through the barrier, but is stopped harmlessly.

They enter the near alcove and claim the weapons. Rod takes the daggers and Sapphira takes the flare gun. There’s a door at the back of the alcove that leads up a spiral staircase to another concealed entrance.  They emerge on a hill. Below them, to the east, the mighty river crashes over impressive rapids. To the west, high white mountains rise like a wall. The river drops hundreds of feet in a powerful waterfall. If there is a pass through the mountains, it’s not obvious from this position. They check for a hidden entrance nearby that hopefully leads to the far alcove, but no luck.

They return to the tunnel and ponder the mystery of the magical barrier.  They talk to the barrier, but if there’s a verbal password, they don’t guess it.  Rod wonders if living material is blocked and tries to push a dagger through.  The dagger’s point touches the barrier and stops. The barrier flares with energy and Rod tries unsuccessfully to push the dagger through. Since aggression didn’t work, Rod tries relaxing and just floating through.  It works for the water, but not for him. He bumps into the barrier and stops.  Next, they throw rocks, which also bounce off the barrier. Throwing rocks all across the face of the barrier reveals that is has no gaps.  Frustrated, Rod charges up and blasts the barrier with electricity. The barrier flares brighter and brighter, matching Rod’s escalating power until the entire barrier is opaque. Rod can’t overpower it. Tobit barks, and the bark echoes down the tunnel, so air as well as water can pass through.

Rod is right up next to the barrier, so he has an angle to look into the far alcove, the one blocked by the barrier.  He sees some glowing equipment set into the back wall. This is probably the barrier’s power source.  Sapphira notices that the wall between the two alcoves is in disrepair and dispatches her spiderlings through the cracks with instructions to disable the equipment.  the spiderlings wriggle through, there’s some creaking and straining, then a crash.  The glow from the far alcove fades, and the barrier is gone.  Sapphira and Rod enter the far alcove and see that the Spiderlings dislodged some kind of power crystal, which fell to the floor and shattered. It’s no good now.  They rest and heal.  Rod scoots closer to Sapphira.

Rod: Have any feelings you want to talk about?

Saphhira: That’s the first time you’ve asked me that.

They continue down the tunnel. It’s better preserved than the exterior sections.  The central poles hold conveyor belts powered by paddlewheels that could carry things against the current. There are larger platforms on the sides of the tunnels that look like tram stations, but everything seems to be long-abandoned.  There are burned and melted trails across some of the platforms, probably caused by lava.

Elevated conveyor to travel against the current.

There’s a glow and a hiss ahead. As they approach, they see that the tunnel has been breached by a lava flow. The water is flowing into the lava and evaporating, causing the hissing sounds and a cloud of steam. Our party exits the tunnel at the last platform. The far wall of that platform is gone. There’s a big chamber carved out of the mountain, cutting right through the Dwarven ruins. Only the bottom is filled with lava.

GM note: One player wanted to discuss contingencies without me overhearing, because she knew that I could literally make her worst fears come true. I assured her that I had already decide what awaited them, and it turned out to be exactly what she feared.

Fearing an ambush by some sort of lava creature, Sapphira attempts to rig the platform with webs, but she’s interrupted as a lava monster does indeed emerge from the lake of lava in front of them! Rod fires his slingshot at the lava monster, attracting its ire. As it approaches, Sapphira interposes herself to keep Rod safe. Rod tries again to knock the creature unconscious with his sling bullets.  The creature takes a swing, splattering lava over Sapphira, who uses fast healing to soak the damage.  Sapphira deploys a pit trap right at her feet and the lava monster falls in right before it grabs her. The heat radiating from the lava monster’s body sears Sapphira’s armor.  While the lava monster tries to get out of the pit, Sapphira deploys webs around the platform, and Rod runs to get some water to pour on it.  As Rod returns to the pit, the lava monster climbs up and swats him away with a burning arm. Rod retreats towards the watery tunnel, pulling at Sapphira. She’s not quite ready to flee and uses her webs to fling loose rocks at the lava monster.  It pauses and flares with extra heat to melt the rocks embedded in its gooey body.

Rod and Sapphira retreat back into the tunnel, sure that the water will harm the lava monster if it pursues them.  Sapphira prepares more webs in the tunnel and Rod is ready with a bucket of water to throw at the creature.  They are right, the lava monster does hate water. It does not follow them into the tunnel, but moves back into the lava lake and stares down the broken end of the tunnel at them.  Rod pins it down with sling bullets, allowing Sapphira to slip back out onto the platform and fire acupuncture needles form her mouth The monster’s chakras are not in the expected locations, but she finds them and paralyzes the monster. It freezes in place and tips over, sinking partly into the lava lake.

Victorious, Sapphira leaves her mark at the end of the tunnel, then carries Rod over the roof of the chamber and to the exit.  The emerge on the other side of the mountain into an ancient forest, and that’s where the session ends.