Chasing The Sunset & Civic Center

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

The party: Dryden of Conwall the Collector/Hunter, Averiela the Elf, Lucia the Brave the Heir

Last time, the party found the city of Thaumatown in chaos. The streets were choked with hapless citizens, trying to follow impossible commands from hordes of Enforcer Droids. The Droids led the party to the leader of the city, who is long dead!

Knows Too Much, White Sand, and Roddy stayed outside the city, since they don’t like crowds or cities. Dryden, Averiela, Lucia, Will, and Mara are in the study at the top of the wizard’s tower.

Averiela looks around the wizard’s study.  The books and scrolls on shelves and tables all over the room are destroyed by water damage. The body of the wizard has been dead for some time, and the knife that apparenlty killed him has a strange design unfamiliar to all present. There’s a wall of screens, half blank, half showing aerial views of crowded city streets. No doubt this is footage from the Flying Eye robots that flit about everywhere. A balcony overlooks the city, facing the Civic Center, a large building in the middle of the city. The doors and windows of the Civic Center are closed with metal shutters. There’s a spiral hole in the roof of the Civic Center, and by walking back and forth on the balcony, Averiela can determine that the spiral hole is aimed at the balcony she’s standing on. Something large moves inside the Civic Center, only visible in glimpses through the spiral hole. Averiela also notices a short, rotund man trying to sneak through the crowds. He’s carrying a ladder and is trying to reach the Civic Center, but Enforcers Droids keep getting in his way.

Map of Thaumatown. Wizard's Tower in southwest corner. Water treatment plant in northwest corner. Mighty River flows west to east o nthe north edge of town. Civic Center in the center of town.
Map of Thaumatown

The group wonders how to reach the Civic Center with the streets in such disarray. Dryden has a harpoon gun, but it can’t reach from the wizard’s tower to the Civic Center. Lucia’s royal brooch convinced the Enforcer Droids to lead her to the city’s leader (sadly deceased) but she can’t order them to lead her anywhere else.  Averiela wonders about becoming the leader of the town. Then the Enforcer Droids would have to let her pass.

Averiela Elder Art: Camouflage: she and her friends turn invisible

Averiela camouflages the group and they start moving towards the Civic Center. The Enforcer Droids don’t notice them, and thus don’t order them around, but they have to push through crowds of harried townsfolk who can’t see them to avoid them. It’s no fun!

Dryden Ranged Rope to rooftops

Dryden fires his ranged rope to the rooftops and everyone climbs up. The streets are narrow and the buildings lean out over them, so the group can hop from roof to roof almost to the Civic Center. The Civic Center is in the middle of a plaza, so no roofs overhand it. Most Enforcer Droids are giving nonsense orders, but a few Enforcer Droids close to the Civic Center seem to be cooperating and working towards a goal of keeping everyone away from the building.

Walter, the short, rotund man that Averiela spotted from the balcony, is trying to infiltrate the building. He runs across the plaza and ducks behind a stack of crates to hide while a pair of Enforcer Droids pass. They don’t notice the ladder sticking up above the crates. When they are gone, Walter leans the ladder against the wall and climbs up to fiddle with a window. The metal shutter gives him some trouble, and the next pair of patrolling Enforcer Droids spot him.

Enforcer Droid: Citizen, you have violated Civil Codes by entering a restricted area and littering. Leave at once.

One Enforcer Droid picks up the ladder and carries it away from the Civic Center. Walter wobbles and clings to the top rung. The Enforcer Droid puts the ladder down right on the line where the tiles of the plaza change to the cobblestones of a street, turns around, and resumes its patrol. Its jurisdiction covers the Civic Center plaza and not an inch beyond. Walter flails and tries to keep his balance on top of the precariously balanced ladder! Lucia reaches down from the edge of the roof to grab Walter

Lucia Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

She does grab his hand, but he unintentionally drags her mostly off the roof. Her feet hook on the gutter right at the edge. Lucia, Walter, and the ladder are now three links in an unstable chain.  Dryden leaps into action. He aims his harpoon gun between two rungs of the ladder. The taut harpoon line should prevent the ladder from falling, so Lucia and Walter can climb down.

Dryden Overcome 6-

Dryden’s aim is off! The harpoon hits the ladder, knocking it out from under Walter. Walter and Lucia tumble to the ground!

Lucia damage Armor

Instead of thanking his rescuers (did they actually rescue him?) Walter immediately starts telling them how they should have done it.

Lucia Speak Softly 7-9 3 questions, 1 answer the hard way

Walter explains that the Civic Center went into Lockown on the day of the Wizard Battle, a little over a month ago. He’s trying to enter and regain control of the city’s Droids. It’s his duty, since he was elected according to Allan a Zham’s instructions, when the wizard left the city after winning the Wizard Battle. Allan a Zham said that the people were qualified to lead themselves and should elect representatives, and Walter was duly elected leader of the Council! (He’s very proud of this position)  Lucia offers to help him, and he recommends that she & her friends run interference for him. If he had more time, he could pick the lock on the window and get inside. He shows the tools he’s gathered for the task: a railroad nail, a fork, and bit of metal filigree. He picks up the ladder, and sees that the harpoon has broken one of the side rails. The other side rail is already patched with a section of 2×4.  Walter grumbles. He’ll have to get another one from Ruby. Goods are so expensive now, since transport is thoroughly disrupted by the Enforcer Droids. He wanders off with the broken ladder.

Lucia climbs up the harpoon rope to rejoin the others on the roof. Now it’s clear that two pairs of Enforcer Droids are circling the plaza to find and remove anyone geting close to the Civic Center. Dryden winds up the harpoon cable, then fires his ranged rope from the roof to the roof of the Civic Center. The end of the rope ties itself around the railing on the catwalk spiraling up the clock tower that rising above the Civic Center.

Thaumatown's Clock Tower

Averiela easily walks across the rope, but the others climb hand over hand with their knees hooked over the rope.  Dryden peers through the spiral hole in the roof. Inside there’s a large open area. The roof is about 20 feet above the floor. Slowly stomping around inside is a 10-foot tall robot, roughly humanoid, but covered in thick armor plates.

  • Sentry Droid:
    • Begone
    • Mostly Immobile
    • Tough As Nails
    • Threat To The World

Averiela: Do we want to destroy it or rewire it?

Lucia: I’m worried about having robots in charge! If we fix them now, will they go bad again later?

They’re not even sure how to make the robots behave properly, or turn them off, or whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. The Civic Center is the most likely place to find a control center. Maybe the control center is inside that Guardian Robot! So they need to get inside the building. Dryden approaches the shutter covering a skylight.

Dryden: Back in the day, I had lockpicks, but they melted! Or I read about someone’s lockpicks melting. I have pen pals.

Lucia: That was Gleador!

Dryden: You know Gleador?

Lucia: He was with me when you linked up with me! We had a touching farewell ceremony!

Dryden needed lockpicks for various activities in his youth, so he trained worms of the forest. He pulls a small box from behind his cloak. The box is full of dirt, but worms emerge and slither into the lock. It unlocks with a click, and the worms return to their box. Dryden rewards them with rare basalt from a small pouch of treats.  He heaves the skylight open. The Sentry Robot hears the noise, sees the light pouring in, and slowly turns its bulky frame to to look up at the skylight.

Sentry Droid: Warning: unauthorized activity. This is a restricted area.

Exploring the Civic Center quietly is no longer an option, but the Sentry Droid can’t easily reach them up here in the roof. They consider their options.

Dryden: I have an arm signal for Roddy.

Dryden demonstrates the signal.  In the plaza below, the nearest Enforcer Droid explodes! One second later, the sound of a giant cork reaches them. The signal works! Roddy is watching! A few Flying Eye turn and fly towards the sound.

GM note: While discussing how to handle the Sentry Droid with teamwork, the players realized they forgot to add bonds when Averiela joined the party. They wrote some bonds right now based on past interactions.

Drdyen is ready to zoom in with his Flying Device to create an opening for Averiela, but she’s invisible. The Sentry Droid won’t see her attack coming.

Averiela Pay a Price to face a Threat To The World: spend extra ammo

Averiela Enemy At The Gates: can Finish Them with Grace when hidden

Averiela Finish Them +Grace 10+

Averiela Enemy At The Gates: on a 10+ remain hidden

Moving with the superhuman speed of the Elves, Averiela leans into the skylight and fires three arrows that all hit the Sentry Droid in the neck, weakening it. She fires a final, bigger arrow right between the chest armor and the ‘helmet’ cutting the Sentry Droid’s head off! The Sentry Droid slows and collapses, making a low buzzing noise.  Averiela, Lucia and Dryden, crowding together to peer in the skylight, erupt in celebration! Dryden gives the arm signal again!  Another Enforcer Droid explodes!

Sentry Droid Big Fish: When the Boss is angered, increase the Response Level

Thaumatown Response Level 3: Show Of Force. Boss gets one Hard Cut to spend at any time.

The buzz from the Sentry Droid rises in pitch and volume to become a hum, then a voice!

Sentry Droid Tough As Nails: first time this creature would be damaged or destroyed, damage this stat instead

Sentry Droid: Critical Damage. Switching to backup systems.

The armor plates on the chest move forward, then slide apart, revealing a hidden glowing eye. The Sentry Droid stands up, grabs a desk, and hurls it at the skylight!

GM note: I told them what Tough As Nails did before they engaged, but I still let them describe their victory and celebrate before snatching it back. Two great moments in a row.

Lucia Get Away (+hope Averiela’a aid) 7-9 avoid harm

Lucia and Averiela dive into the skylight, rolling on impact to avoid injury. Dryden jumps first, then goes for his flying disk to avoid hitting the floor.

Dryden Curious Curios Overcharge Flying Disk: fly for the whole scene

Dryden Get Away 10+ avoid harm, avoid notice

The only intruder the Sentry Droid can see is Lucia, so it turns on her. One of its arm is articulated like a human’s, so it can pick up and throw objects like a desk. The other arm is a piston forged in the shape of an outstretched hand making a “stop” gesture.

GM note: Like Cherno Alpha from Pacific Rim. The piston addsto the punching action. You haven’t seen Pacific Rim? Oh.

Lucia identifies this powerful creature as the Boss of the Location, so she attempts to receive Royal Treatment by showing her Symbol Of Royalty.

Lucia Keep Them Busy 6-

Unfortunately, the Sentry Droid’s programming is not sophisticated enough to include hospitality, so it steps in and fires its piston arm at Lucia.

Sentry Droid Begone: attempt to eject enemy when dealing damage

Will Look Out! Take harm in Lucia’s place

Lucia’s loyal bodyguard interposes himself and takes the blow meant for Lucia! He’s knocked across the room and would  have tumbled into the hall, except for the metal shutter blocking the door. He’s still conscious, but disoriented.

Dryden thinks about Hoth. Perhaps a small flying creature could wrap a rope about a big armrored machine to disable it.  Averiela throws a water bottle to Dryden and tells him to dump it into the exposed circuits in the Sentry Droid’s neck. That should short-circuit the giant robot. He does so, and Averiela fires again, but misses.

GM note: My notes are a bit messy here. Dryden probably used Keep Them Busy, so Averiela’s Finish Them attempt Triggered both Pack Hunter and Enemy At The Gates, but still rolled 6-. That breaks her camouflage.

While the Sentry Droid is distracted, Lucia ducks behind a bench and draws her throwing knives.

Lucia Quiet! Don’t Move: duck aside, stay still, stay hidden

She throws two knives in quick succession!

Lucia Pay a Price to act against Threat To The World: +1 ammo

Lucia Finish Them (+sense) advantage: strike from hiding. 7-9

Sentry Droid’s Begone! is damaged

Lucia’s knives strike true! In response, the Sentry Droid disables safety protocols and engages Desperation Mode! It doesn’t want to remove them from its area. It wants to kill them!

Sentry Droid Show Of Force: Deal Damage

The Sentry Droid’s piston arm slaps Averiela into a wall and it rushes upon her with a sudden burst of speed!

Averiela spends 1 use of Armor

Averiela uses all her Elven agility to avoid the Sentry Droid’s powerful blows, nimbly leaping on its hands and arms as it pummels the wall and floor into rubble.

Averiela Touch The World Lightly: you can safely walk on top of held weaponry.

Averiela Keep Them Busy 7-9

Lucia throws Dryden a water bottle so he can try to short circuit the Sentry Droid again.

Lucia spends 1 use of Food

Dryden Finish Them (+sense) advantage: Averiela Keeps Them Busy. +despair 7-9

Sentry Droid’s Mostly Immobile is damaged

Sentry Droid: Systems failing. Return to maintenance facility for urgent repair.

It turns away from Averiela, walks to a door, lifts the heavy metal roller door with one arm and leaves the lobby. Lucia dives under the door as it falls back into place, pursuing the Sentry Droid.

Lucia Get Away (+despair) 7-9

GM note: Lucia’s Strike True move lets her inflict Pinned Down on an enemy so it can’t move for the rest of the scene. But the scene is about to end, since the fight is over. We decided that a ficitionally similar benefit would be to delay the Sentry Droid’s repairs, giving the team plenty of time in the Civic Center to find how the robots are controlled.

The Sentry Droid moves through the halls and tunnels of the Civic Center, single-mindedly trying to reach the repair facility somewhere deep below. Lucia follows, striking with her beautiful blade. She probes for anywhere her blade can get past the Sentry Droid’s thick armor. The eye. The knee. Finally, the Snetry Droid shudders to a halt.

Sentry Droid: Mobility 0% Deploying emergency beacon.

This juggernaut has backup systems on backup systems.  A panel opens on its shoulder, revealing a a small alunch tube. A Flying Eye launches out, straight into the ceiling! The tunnels are scarcely bigger than the Sentry Droid. The Flying Eye clatters to the floor, broken. Elsewhere on the Sentry Droid, a bright red light starts pulsing. Back in the lobby of the Civic Center, Dryden hears a faint repeating alarm tone far above him.

Dryden Workaholic: spend 1 food to heal

Dryden restores his Courage by drinking a special bottle of water. The trick is to gather the water from the top of a waterfall, after it has gone over the edge. Drinking the water reminds Dryden that he had the courage to collect this special drink, so he can be courageous again. Now that he has some time to think, he recalls that Walter said the wizard who used to rule Thaumatown was named Allan a Zham. That’s not the first time Dryden has heard the name. Brainiac, riding a Giant Alligator in the forgotten Dwarven tunnels, said he was sent on a quest by Allan A Zham.

Drdyen prepares to fly up into the clocktower, since the beeping seems to come from the top. The clocktower isn’t built on the roof of the Civic Center. There’s a gap in the ceiling, and the six pillars of the clocktower extend down into the lobby. There’s a also a piston extending from the floor of the lobby right up the center of the clocktower. Unfortunately for Dryden, there’s also a grid of electricity across the clocktower halfway up. Flying straight through that seems bad, so he looks for another way. He uses his third and final Ranged Rope to connect a line from the looby floor to the open skylight. He and Averiela return to the roof and walk up the spiral staircase wrapping around the clock tower. They open a clock face and find the control center! The piston from the floor connects to a fancy chair, allowing it to move from the lobby to this secret control center. The chair is surrounded by panels of status lights, levers and buttons with walls of screens rising above them. Half the screens are blank, but the screens that work show aerial views of Thaumatown beamed back from the Flying Eyes.  The control panels have been damaged and repairs. Some wires are ripped loose, and other wires are patched and bypassed. Figuring out how to operate this control system would be difficult even if it was undamaged, but now it’s a huge mess.

Averiela:  We could fetch Walter to operate this.

Dryden: I don’t think he knows. We should probably disable the robots.

Averiela Keen Senses: Ask a question about your surroundings

Averiela: How do we turn off the robots from this control panel?

Averiela doesn’t have much experience with electronics, but as she sits in the chair and looks at the mess of wires as a whole, she starts to understand it like the roots of a forest. She connects a wire here, cuts a few there, asks Dryden to translate a few magical runes, then connects a jumper cable to an antenna and presses a button! The screens go black one after the other, and looks out over the city, they can see Flying Eyes fall out of the sky. One drops onto the roof of the clock tower with a surprising thud!  Enforcer Droids in the street stop moving. She did it!

Lucia finds her way out of the tunnels below the Civic Center by following the trail of parts from her running battle with the Sentry Droid. She bangs on the heavy metal roller door blocking the door to the lobby. It’s not locked, but it’s just really big and heavy. She has a horse and Averiela has a Unicorn. Maybe the two of them could pull the door open. Maybe Dryden’s Dwarven hammer could smash through the door. Eventually they figure out that none of them are in the lobby, and there’s nothing they need in the tower. Lucia walks out the front door. Averiela and Dryden climb down from the roof. They all meet in the plaza.


Walter arrives with a brand new ladder!

Walter: Great luck! No Enforcer Droids about. Looks like you cleared the way for me!

Lucia’s not sure if he’s actually the elected leader of the town, but she knows how to find out. She presents her Symbol Of Royalty.

Walter: Oh my! You deserve Royal Treatment!

Lucia Royal Treatment: the ruler of a place will offer a meal and a night’s rest

Walter leads them through the streets (much easier without Enforcer Droids giving random orders at every corner) while explaining that monarchy is an outdated form of government, and Lucia should relinquish her rule. She’s not even present to rule her people!  He brings them to a temporary headquarters and proudly presents them to the rest of the elected council!

Walter: Behold, our government’s influence grows! Already with have diplomatic relations with foreign officials!

Everyone chats over dinner

Fill Your Belly: everyone heals one stat

Lucia Speak Softly 10+ ask 3 questions

  • Tell me about the robots: The robots were created to ensure order and increase efficiency. The great Allan a Zham commissioned a brilliant inventor to create the perfect servants for the people.  They started malfunctioning on the day of the wizard battle.
  • What are you doing next? The provisional government will move into the Civic Center and take power. They are sure they can figure out the robot problem and get them back to helping the city. How hard could it be?
  • What should I be wary of? Lucia gets the impression that these council members don’t actually know how to govern. They were present when Allan a Zham announced his abdication and told the people that they should rule themselves. What greater endorsement could they hope for?

Dryden Speak Softly 6- ask 3 questions. 1 answer the hard way, 1 answer unhelpful\

  • Tell me about Allan a Zham. Allan a Zham was a brilliant Wizard who used his powers of foresight to plan ahead and think of everything!
  • Tell me about the other wizard. Different members of the council tell different stories. Some say there were two troublemakers. Some say four. One was definitely a wizard. Was there a ghost with them? Two women, one with a strange light hovering over her shoulder. No matter who were accomplices were, another Wizard came to cause trouble, just as Allan a Zham predicted. Oh, they had a pink dog.
  • What would you have us do: You can go. We’re fine. We have everything under control.

GM note: Despite my innacurate description of the events of the wizard battle, the players figured out that another group of player characters came to town and killed Allan a Zham.

The party retires for the night and talks among themselves. Dryden knows that the man he met in the tunnels is the Brianiac who designed and controlled Thaumatown’s robots. Maybe they could go find him. He told them where he was going last time they met. But is he a good guy? Should he have all that power?  Lucia wonders if the council would accept Brianiac if he returned. The new government is a bit of a mess. How long do the current representatives serve/ Will they have more elections?

Whether Brianiac returns or if the council figures out the control panel, eventually they could get the robots working again. The party decides that the robots are no good and must be shut down forever. Somewhere below the Civic Center, an Artifact of Power distributes power to all the robots. They resolve to delve into those unknown tunnels and take that Artifact of Power!

End of Session move.

  • Did you thoroughly explore a new location? Yes
  • Did you learn more about the world and its people? Yes
  • Did anyone find what they are looking for? Yes

Restore Gear, Restore Gear, Averiela and Lucia level up.