Chasing The Sunset & Bertha

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

The party: Buckle the Beast/Heart of Earth, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, Buckle absorbed the Heart of Earth, a source of power that caused a mine full of mining robots to go rampant. He accepted the Heart of Earth in a desperate moment: pinned under the red-hot body of the Robot King and the Heart of Earth dangerously unstable without containment.  When Stella shoved the Heart of Earth down his throat, a burst of energy rippled through his body, empowering him to shove the giant metal husk aside. He stands up and opens eyes that glow like fire, no pupils or irises. He looks down at his burning hands, then up at Stella.

Stella: Buckle, are you OK? You’re on fire.

Buckle. That was a rush. I feel fine though.

GM note: Heart of Earth is a custom Destiny that replaces Buckle’s Apex Destiny. It’s mostly the Firebrand Destiny, but with advantages & disadvantages like the Remnant, and a few life-related moves, since the heat of the earth brings life as well as fire.

Buckle’s body is hot enough to ignite flammable objects with a touch, and he shines like a campfire. Stella considers carrying a “Buckle Bucket” around to douse anything he accidentally torches.  Buckle considers getting a non-flammable leather coat to hide his brightness. Such a coat would allow him to literally flash people.  Camping out discreetly in the wilderness will also be difficult. Stella considers throwing a chain over a tree branch and hoisting Buckle aloft to pretend that he is the moon. That’s too similar to hanging for Buckle’s comfort.

OK, but what’s going on here in the mine? After the destruction of the King Robot, the group of mining robots that were guarding it and attacking the party have turned to collect ore.  They don’t speak or respond to speech.  The robots are finely crafted to look like metal dwarves, but without the influence of the Heart of Earth, they seem capable of only simple actions. Stella and Buckle explore the mine to figure out what happened here. The tunnels twist and branch, but Buckle’s excellent sense of direction prevents them from getting lost.

Stella Look Closely 7-9

Stella can see two distinct styles of excavation. Up to the chamber where they found the King Robot, the tunnels seem like a normal mine for metal ore, but after the Heart of Earth awakened the King Robot, the robots started mining in different patterns, ignoring the directions of the living Dwarves, who apparently fled. There are no signs of recent living Dwarf activity. The only control or interface to the mining robots is a dial on the robots’ back, under the backpack/hopper in which they collect ore.

The hidden switch on the mining robot.

Buckle reaches for the dial on a robot. Stella thinks smacking his hand away would be insufficient, and tackles him out of the way. Stella thinks they should talk about it before messing with anything.

Stella: Which glyph is your favorite?

Neither of them can read Dwarvish, so they have to guess at the glyphs’ meanings. Buckle likes the arrows. Maybe the robots pass each other.

Stella: OK, smarty-pants. What do the other glyphs do?

Buckle thinks the left glyph might make the robot put everything down. Stella decides to try it out on an isolated robot. She tells Buckle to stand some distance away in case of trouble. She reaches out to turn the dial to the left, and the robot, sensing her approach, reaches back to swat her away!

Stella Overcome 7-9

After knocking Stella a few paces back, the robot returns to its task. She decides to leave it alone.

Stella: Buckle, wanna give it a try?

Buckle: Maybe it’s good I didn’t touch it.

They look for the living quarters of the missing Dwarves.top view of the Oolite mine. A shallow funnel with three spiraling paths leading to a flat bottom. Entrances to mine tunnels along each of the three paths.

Dwarves prefer to live underground. The depth of one’s dwelling is a sign of privilege.  The living quarters of the working class Dwarves who used to operate this mine are right below the flat bottom of the shallow-funnel-shaped mine. The furniture and items in these barracks look quite old. The mining robots did not go rampant recently. New tunnels cut through the barracks, not with intent to deface or destroy them, just because that was the most efficient route. The rampant robots drove the Dwarves away, but did not seem to have any particular antipathy towards them.  Buckle finds a manual and picks it up. It bursts into flames from his super-heated touch. He drops it and stomps on it, but that only makes more flames! He decides not to touch any more books. Stella looks around at the books and posters that survive, but she can’t read Dwarvish.  Ugg’s a technical fellow. he has to maintain his robotic arms.  But Goblins don’t usually mingle with other cultures, so he doesn’t read Dwarvish either. Also, he almost died in a fight just a few minutes ago. He squints at some diagrams through a swollen eye, but he’s in no shape to help.

Buckle Look Closely 6-

Buckle tries to find some kind of command center, and falls through a weak patch of floor!  Stella assumes that he burned through, but that area had been undermined by a rogue tunnel. He did land in some sort of command center, and when the party joins him, they discover a log book (in Dwarvish, of course) and a regional map! They can’t read the place names, but they recognize places they’ve been recently.

An old map of the area surrounding the Oolite mine.

The X represents the mine. The circle due north must be Templeton, and the square to the west of Templeton must be Sugar’s Crossing because it’s on a road (grey line) and river (blue line) There’s a road leading from the mine to this port city that they haven’t visited. Maybe the Dwarves fled there, and they can go find them.

They prepare to leave the mine, and check in with the giant Dung Beetles before they go. The Beetles don’t recognize Buckle. He’s changed so much!  The Beetles are grateful that the robots will no longer break through and threaten the Beetles’ caverns, and offer the party the choice of several gifts:

Fellowship of the Beetles earned!

  • a big pile of nutritious mushrooms
  • knowledge of other Dwarven tunnels that lead to new places
  • An old Siege Tank, found in an abandoned tunnel

Besides the obvious benefits of armor and weapons, an enclosed vehicle can conceal Buckle’s bright glow.  The party accepts the Siege Tank from the beetles, and they all pile in and set out for the port city.

New companion: Siege Tank

  • Spikes And Steel
  • Heavily Armored
  • Secret Weapon

The road to the port has not been used in a longtime and has fallen into disrepair.  Parts are washed out. Bushes grow in the path. Tree roots distort what pavement remains. The Siege Tank rolls over all of it easily. It’s not much faster than walking.

Near sunset, as Stella drives the tank toward the pink and yellow horizon, Dark shapes appear on the road, silhouetted by the setting sun. There are about five of them, but they are backlit and hard to see.  They demand the vehicle halt, although their bearing doesn’t quite match their authoritative demand. Stella tries to think of a plan and the tank slowly approaches the dark figures. Silk is too weak from the last fight to help now.  Buckle opens the top hatch and climbs on top of the tank. With burning eyes, from the top of a war machine, he tells the figures on the road to move.

Buckle Talk Sense (impress with Grace) (Stella gives Hope by not stopping) 7-9

The figures shrink back into the brush on either side of the road.

Figure: We were only trying to warn you. Stay low!

The tank proceeds unhindered. Sometimes the next day, the tank crawls through a pleasant landscape.The sun is shining. The birds are not singing. There are no birds. Weird.  Up ahead, one of the hills is missing its top.There’s a flat scorched area where the rounded apex should be.

Buckle: Look at that former mountain.

Stella: It had a bad day. Or a bad haircut.

Stella drives the tank towards the hill to investigate, with Buckle on top as a lookout

Stella Look Closely (+Hope from Buckle) 7-9

Clearly whatever sliced through the hill was very powerful and very hot. Buckle’s immune to heat, so he’d be fine, but everyone else would avoid it, whatever it is. As they drive around the damaged hill, they see a castle made of ice! Getting closer still, they see the castle rests on the back of a giant turtle, flippers spread out across hundreds of feet, eyes closed.  A turtle’s chest won’t rise and fall with its breathing. Their ribs are fused solid to form their shell, but the party can tell its breathing by looking at its nostrils. This enormous creature is asleep.

A giant turtle carrying an ice castle, hiding behind a burned hill.

Buckle: Do you think the king is home?

Stella: That’s presumptuous. I’m sure the queen has it under control.

Buckle: Wanna find out what burned the mountain?

Stella: It’s not the craziest thing we’ve done recently.

They leave the tank and their companions a polite distance away and walk up to the castle. They are greeted at the gate by Gertrude, a beautiful woman made of clear, sharp crystal. With her every movement, little rainbows shimmer and dance around. Stella elbows Buckle.

Stella: Told you. Queen.

Gertrude is happy to see them. They ask about the hill. Gertrude says it’s fortunate that the hill is there, since it provides for Bertha (the turtle) so she can sleep in safety. Gertrude is trying to put a cheery spin on everything, but it becomes clear that Bertha and Bernard’s castle were forced down by a powerful beam weapon fired from nearby. Buckle elbows Stella.

Buckle: Bernard’s castle.

Gertrude invites them in for an audience with Bernard. When buckle steps onto the castle, he starts melting the icy flagstones, leaving webbed-foot-shaped puddles. Gertrude gasps and fires a high-pressure jet of water from her body, pushing Buckle back outside in a cloud of steam. She’s embarrassed by her outburst and very apologetic, but Buckle’s fine. Stella will go meet Bernard, and Buckle will wait outside.  The other inhabitants of the castle are also humanoid-shaped, but seem to be made of ice or snow. Bernard is a large man, all polished facets of ice, with a crown of ice crystals (probably part of his body) on his head. He is formal but direct, a strong contrast to Gertrude’s customer service voice.  He explains that they were flying over the land (It’s always nice to explore new lands) when they saw a glint or shimmer from the ground, It was bright, almost a second sun. That’s the source of the beam weapon that hit Bertha, and forced them to take shelter behind this hill. Stella agrees to check it out.

Stella: Anything else?  Are you urgently leaving the planet?

Bernard: Ha, we only arrived a generation ago!

Also, Bertha is taking a nap, and won’t wake up for a day or two, so the castle can’t move before then.  Stella asks for a token of goodwill to give to whoever owns the beam weapon, to show that Bernard & his people are not a threat. Bernard thinks for a while, then produces a gem. It’s smooth and clear, like Gertrude, and rainbows shine on his hand as he holds it. There’s a slight enchantment on it. When Bernard opens his hand, the gem rises slightly and floats an inch over his palm, but it’s easy to hold. Stella takes the gem and goes back out to Buckle.

GM note: Bernard isn’t as friendly and helpless as he appears. He sent stealthy assassins out with orders to kill whoever Stella gives the gem to, since she’s going to give it to the person who shot down the castle. I didn’t the players about the assassins.

Stella asks Buckle to go look over the top of the hill, since he probably won’t get burned. Buckle pokes his head over the crispy edge of the hill. Nothing happens. He stands on top of the hill. Nothing. He jumps around, but still does not draw the ire of whatever is out there. he does see a shimmer about a mile to the north, roughly where Bernard described the beam weapon firing from. Since it’s apparently safe, Stella joins Buckle at the top of the hill and also sees the shining light.  She explains the plan she and Bernard discussed, and shows Buckle the gem. Buckle reaches out to grab it, but Stella snatches it away.

GM note: That was close!

Buckle and Stella return to the Siege Tank and drive it over towards the site of the beam weapon. As they approach, they see an huge hexagonal mirror, 100 feet across, suspended between two giant crabs, each the size of a house. On the ground behind them, a humanoid Spider (segmented exoskeleton, walks upright on two legs, six arms) pulls on reins for the crabs, and a series of wires connected to metal girders on the underside of the mirror.  Stella and Buckle leave the tank a polite distance and approach on foot. If this does not go well, blasting things with the Seige Tank’s secret weapons is a fallback plan.

They are about to introduce themselves when the Spider (his name is Agate, pronounced uh-GAH-tay) spots a bird and excitedly motions them to watch. With the reins, he directs the crabs to aim the mirror towards the bird, then pulls the wires attached to the mirror to focus the reflected sunlight into a deadly beam. Poof!  The poor bird is destroyed.

Stella: Impressive.

Agate: Thanks, I’m great.

Stella clenches her fist in frustration. They ask about his contraption. He’s been practicing with it ever since he found it. As far as he knows, this mirror fell out of the sky. They mention that they saw a similar mirror on their travels.

Agate: There’s another? You left it? You gotta take whatever you can get!

Stella: Why do you attack flying things?

Agate: Because I can’t reflect sunlight down. Sun shines down, beam bounces up. But if I had two mirrors… Where did you see that other mirror?

Stella: We’ll get to that later. But first, do you hate Bernard?

Agate doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She starts to talk about the flying castle and he interrupts. Shooting the castle was so cool. He cut off a whole tower before it dropped below the horizon. It’s not every day a target like that presents itself, so he jumped at the opportunity.

Stella: You like reflecting the sun. What about refraction?

Agate: It’s all good. Whatever works.

Stella shows him the gem. It’s beautiful! Agate fires a webline to snatch it away from her.

Stella Overcome 6-

She tries to close her hand, but he’s too quick!

Buckle Overcome 10+

Buckle grabs the webline, which burns instantly. The gem falls to the ground.

Buckle: First you have to promise not to shoot down the castle. You’ve heard of a deal, right?

Agate: Yeah, yeah. A deal is for people who aren’t strong enough to get what they want, so they have to trick people into getting what they want.

Buckle: Well, here’s how you trick us into giving you the gem. Promise you won’t shoot down the castle.

Buckle Talk Sense (sense, a plan) 10+

Agate promises. Stella picks up the gem.

Buckle: You get the gem after they fly away.

Agate: Fine. Hurry up!

Stella and Buckle return to the castle, where Gertrude and Bernard await them.

GM note: The assassins were so very close to attacking, but no one ever took the gem except Stella. True to their orders, they stayed hidden.

Stella explains the giant mirror weapon to Gertrude and Bernard, and how Agate doesn’t even care them. He just wants things to shoot at, but the gem has enticed him to promise safe passage. Buckle suggests that the castle could produce a lens of ice to counter Agate’s beam weapon. Gertrude is offended by the suggestion that the principle that makes her sparkle and brings joy and hope to all around her, should be harnessed as a weapon of destruction! Buckle reassures her that it doesn’t have to be a weapon. It could be used defensively to disperse or refract Agate’s beam weapon.  Stella is impressed by Buckle’s vocabulary and knowledge of optics. He shrugs. They have science class in the Platyperson village. Bernard assigns some people to work on a lens. He is surprised that Stella did not give Agate the gem.

GM note: You know, so his assassins could kill him.

Stella says that Agate is untrustworthy, and perhaps Bernard should drop the gem as the castle flies away.

Stella and Buckle return to the Siege Tank

Stella: How do you feel about that Spider having access to mirros? Maybe we play a prank on him.

Buckle: Pranks are fun.

Stella: maybe more serious than a prank.

They are still half-dead from fighting squads of invulnerable robots earlier, so Stella serves a feast to heal herself and her companions, while Buckle goes fishing to get food for himself and Ugg. They wait until nightfall before making their move.

Stella: It concerns me that a being so careless and egotistical could have so much power.

They will destroy the mirror! But how? It’s a huge structure of metal and glass. Buckle can scorch the reflective surface, or heat it until it warps, but he can’t blow it up. The tank could blow it up. They could try to steal it, but they’d have to steal the giant crabs as well. It’s too big to carry otherwise. Buckle can talk to any beast. Maybe they talk to the crabs and set them free. They’re not sure where Agate will be when they arrive, but Buckle’s electro-sense will be able to find him at close range. To use electro-sense, Buckle will have to exit the tank, so he’ll light up the area, alerting Agate.

Stella: We need a plan. When Buckle sticks his head out, We’ll have to go quick.

Stella drives the tank to within shouting distance of the giant crabs. Buckle pokes his head out of the hatch, shining bright light all around. He senses agate in a hammock on the underside of the mirror. He’s stirring, but he won’t be able to act for a moment. Buckle tells Stella that the Spider is in a hammock, then tells the crabs that he’s come to set them free and return them to the ocean.

Buckle Talk Sense (sense, desires) 10+

The crabs like that idea, and start cutting the webbing that secures the mirror to their backs.

Agate: No, no, no!

Agate runs upside-down on the underside of the mirror firing webs to replace the ones being cut by the crabs.

Stella Keep Them Busy 7-9

Stella rides Silk up the leg of a crab and barrels into Agate, knocking him down to the ground.  Buckle climbs up onto the mirror, throwing black powder around, setting fires, and trying to warp the mirror with his burning footsteps

Buckle Finish Them (sense, disable) 7-9

The mirror flexes and warps, but it’s basically still in one piece. Agate sneaks up on Stella, running on the underside of the crab’s shell and appearing behind her with a flurry of blows from his six fists!

Stella Overcome 7-9

She grabs one of his arms and uses his momentum to throw his past her, but it was a scary attack, so her Courage is damaged. Agate tumbles forward, then throws a webline and swings to the other crab. The crab that Stella is on finishes freeing itself from the mirror and shoves the mirror off its back, threatening everyone in the area! Stella and Silk flee back to the Siege tank

Stella Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

Buckle is on top of the mirror and rides it down, jumping off at the last moment, rolling through a cloud of debris, and running back to the tank.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 -> Survivor -> Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

The mirror is bent out of shape, and the other crab is close to freeing itself. Agate can feel his glorious beam weapon slipping away. But there’s still a precious gem, and that glowing Platyperson has got to be important. But these enemies have destroyed his great weapon and he’s barely touched them. He can’t win this fight, not now. He grabs a hidden webline prepared for just such an occasion and is whisked quickly away. The other crab throws its side of the mirro down, completing its destruction!

The Siege Tank leads the two giant crabs back to Bertha and Bernard’s castle in a triumphant procession. Bernard thinks Stella was very shrewd to break the deal and attack Agate at night.  He asks for the gem back, since they don’t need to give it to Agate anymore.Stella wants to keep the gem to commemorate the achievement.

Stella: Isn’t it good to do things for the greater good?

Bernard: Ah, an altruist! How generous and unselfish!

Stella: I mean, it’s so beautiful. It would make me happy to look at it.

Stella Talk Sense (wisdom, emotions) 6-

Bernard keeps the gem. The party plans to continue on to the port. Bernard says Bertha can carry them, if they are willing to wait for her to walk up. That sounds like a good plan.

Several days later an amazing sight appears over the rooftops of the port city. A huge flying turtle looms overhead, gleaming spires of ice on its back. It lands, and the gates of a castle open up. Out come two huge crabs, flanking a secret war machine of the Dwarves. Atop this war machine, a mighty beast, eyes glowing, flaming with the heat of the Earth’s core!

Buckle is sitting down like a dog, unaware of how cool he looks, and asks amazed onlookers where to find a tavern.

GM note: End of session move.  Three boons. Level up. Heal. Heal. Buckle takes Dragonfire, which lets him kill or destroy anything that’s not a Threat To The World. Stella takes Queen Of The Wild, so all Beasts are her Companions. These are very powerful abilities!

Chasing The Sunset & Change Of Heart

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

The party: Buckle the Beast/Apex, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, the party set out to find a Source Of Power. They found it inside the leader of an army of mining robots! These robots are infringing on the territory of some giant Dung Beetles who want the party to drive them out, and are willing to lend some support. Stella and Buckle prepare to assault the mine.

GM note: Buckle took an Apex move that allowed him to ignore a Location Stat, but Buckle’s Mammalian move already allowed him to ignore a Location Stat. So he swapped that move for “Twin Fang” which gives him a new companion describes as “your shadow” We decided that this was literally his shadow, able to take three-dimensional shape.

Buckle: War Paint, gain 2 Power

Buckle prepares for battle by applying warpaint and doing a traditional war-dance.

Buckle. I figure I’d rampage, go after them unflinchingly

Stella: Buckle, you’ve changed. In a good way.

Buckle: Hanging out with beetles changes a person.

Buckle plans to take point. There’s a group of about 50 robots waiting at the edge of the mine’s territory, preventing them from entering. The Dung Beetles can roll boulders down into the mine, but they need to be protected from this forward guards.

Here’s the situation. The party is in the top left corner. Fifty robots and a few shield robots block them from the mine. Another dozen robots with one shield robot each guard each of the three paths down into the mine.

Stella: What’s the signal?

Buckle: A howl. Not a terrifying howl.

Stella wants to roll boulders down all three paths, instead of just onto the big group.

Stella: How do you feel about log-rolling, but on a boulder?

Buckle: I’ve done some log-rolling at fairs in my day

GM note: Platyperson festivals do involve log-based sports.

Stella’s plan is for Buckle to disrupt the robots, then for the beetles to roll the boulders roll at Buckle, who will leap on top of one and ride it down to the bottom of the mine. She’s not sure how she will get down.  The Dung Beetles rolling these boulders are the size of a compact car, and their boulders are even bigger than they are. Trying to jump on one before it crushes him seems like a bad plan to Buckle. He’ll feint and get out of the way instead.  Instead of sending boulders down all three paths, the Dung Beetles split into two groups. One will attack the group of 50 robots (top-left of the map above), another will attempt to clear one of the paths (bottom of the map) so the party can enter the mine.

Stella, Buckle, and the Dung Beetles can plan safely because the robots don’t leave their territory. They can sneak around behind the hills that surround the mine, but getting close to the robots will require them to reveal themselves.

Buckle Get Away 7-9 (avoid notice, take harm)

Buckle and his Shadow make daring dashes to get within charging distance of the group of fifty robots, but their position is pretty bad, This was a foolish plan. Buckle’s Wisdom is damaged.

Buckle War Paint, spend 1 Power to Rampage

Buckle and his Shadow rampage into the big group of robots, throwing them aside in their fury! The robot formation is disrupted, but none of the robots seem damaged by their rough treatment.

Shield Robot Diamond Command: all nearby Robots (except Shield Robot) cannot be harmed

Buckle Overcome robot counter-attack 7-9 pay a price (damage Shadow) for 10+ result

In the melee, a robot grabs Shadow by the bill. Robots emit a strong constant hum of electro-energy, and getting grabbed right on his sensor overwhelms Shadow’s electro-sense.  Buckle howls, and Stella orders the Dung Beetles to release the boulders!

As the boulders come rolling down the hill, the group of fifty robots forms up in several rows and holds up metal arms to stop the boulders! The huge rocks crash into the four-foot-tall metal robots. The first row is pushed back into the second row, and the second row slides back to the third row, but they stop the giant boulders! None of the robots are damaged!

Buckle Get Away 10+

Meanwhile, Buckle and Shadow are running around the mine on the slippery gravel slopes between paved paths.

The Dung Beetles to the south release their boulders. The group of 12 robots on that path also form up to stop the boulders, but there aren’t so many robots and the boulders have more time to build up speed! The boulders crash through the robot formation like bowling balls through pins, but the robots that are thrown through the air or run over are unhurt and try to get up as they tumble downhill with the boulders. Then the Shield Robot in the back of the group gets hit by a boulder. Its crystal shield shatters, and the robot’s body is flattened by the giant boulder. Then all the robots tumbling down the path start falling apart, and at the bottom of the path, there’s only boulders and scrap metal!

Buckle and Shadow take the path cleared by the boulders and duck into a tunnel. Stella’s party is able to join them.

Buckle: The Mothers are fragile compared to the Children.

Buckle’s electro-sense gives him a different view of the robots from most other creatures. The shield robots feel more alive than the normal ones. The loud constant hum of robotic energy is even louder from the Shield Robots.

Stella: So we take out the ones with shields, then take out the others? That’s a plan I can get behind.

Buckle: Children protect Mothers.

Buckle’s electro-sense detects slightly different energies coming from each tunnel, so he’ll always know where he’s been. That doesn’t mean he knows where they are going.

Buckle’s Mammalian Protection cancels Location’s Maze stat

GM note: I used a Clock from Blades In The Dark to track progress through the mine. Players describe how they find their way and make a move that follows. The success of the move fills up more or fewer clock segments, and when the clock is full, they find the Source of Power

Stella Look Closely 10+ (search clock: 3/6)

Stella takes a bag of powdered sugar from Gus, her cook, and throws some in the air to find air currents.  They follow the air currents deeper into the mine. They are able to spot unstable sections of the tunnel and move carefully past them.  They hear the sounds of mining tools up ahead.  Buckle senses two Children and one Mother down a side passage.

Buckle (+hope from Stella’s assist) Get Away 7-9 avoid notice, take harm (search clock 5/6)

The party throws themselves across the intersection, avoiding the robots’ notice, but landing on some sharp rocks.  They continue and notice the temperature rising slightly.

They follow the heat until they reach a chamber with a large, obvious main entrance. There’s also a small natural tunnel off to the side. Buckle uses his electro-sense again. Mammals give off a pulsing energy, like a heartbeat. The robots are a loud, constant hum. He senses something else ahead. It pulses, like a mammal, but its builds and decays over several seconds. It’s deeper, slower, more powerful, than any other energy signature in the mines. This must be the Source Of Power in the chamber ahead. He feels that they will be unwelcome there.

The central chamber of the Oolite Mine. In the front, a 15-foot-tall door. High on the side wall, a small natural tunnel. At the back, a huge geode split open. In the center, a dozen Robots, guarded by a Shield Robot, and the King Robot, guarded by two Shield Robots.

Buckle: It’s not alive like the metal Dwarves are alive. It’s like a normal person, but much bigger.

They wonder how to approach this intimidating lifeform.

Stella: My people aren’t known for walking in front doors uninvited.

Buckle: My people are.

Most of the party sneaks in through the narrow tunnel, but Shadow goes into the main entrance as a distraction. Buckle can’t talk to Shadow remotely, or see through his eyes, but he gets a vague sense of how Shadow is doing, and what Shadow sees is scary. The big energy source is indeed inside the giant glowing King Robot they saw before. Its guarded by two Shield Robots, and a dozen normal Robots with a Shield Robot of their own. At the back of the room is a huge geode that’s been split open, with a gap in the middle. Along the sides of the room are blocks of metal.

Shadow Keep Them Busy Pay A Price to act against King Robot

Falling Block Trap reveal this threat when someone pays a Price. 2 damage and trap those nearby (i.e. Stella and Buckle)

As the rest of the party moves through the natural tunnel, part of it collapses!  Stella and Buckle are buried and trapped!

Buckle takes 2 damage & is trapped

Stella takes 2 damage & is trapped

Buckle’s actions harmed Stella, so one of her bonds with him is broken. Erase “Impressed with Buckle’s ability to get in trouble and survive”

Damage Ugg’s “Tough as Can Be” for advantage “dig out of rubble”

Damage Rose’s “Get Right In There” for advantage “dig out of rubble”

Ugg and Rose dig them out.

The robots in the chamber advance menacingly on Shadow. Shadow tries to turn 2-dimensional and return to Buckle, but the glow from the King Robot prevents him from forming an actual shadow. He’s trapped in the room!

Stella Lived In A Shoe to shrink to the size of an apple

There are gaps in the rubble the size of an apple, so Stella shrinks down and squeezes through. She’ll get into the chamber quickly, but the rest of the party will have to clear the rubble, so they won’t be able to help her immediately.  She sees Shadow menaced by the group of Robots and Plunge Attacks their shield robot!

Stella Finish Them (advantage: surprise, plunge attack) 10+

She takes its arm off, and the crystal shield shatters when it hits the ground. The glittering aura fades from the robots.  Back at full-size, Stella and Shadow fight to keep the Robots at bay.

Stella & Shadow Keep Them Busy 7-9

Back in the tunnel, Silk makes some rope out of webbing so the team can haul the rubble out of the way.

Buckle Overcome rubble 7-9 pay price (Gus’ lunch) for 10+ result

Gus drops on of his packed lunches, and the shifting rubble crushes it. Poor Gus.  Buckle rides Silk onto the chamber ceiling.

Buckle Finish Them (advantage: plunge attack) +Hope (Ambush predator striking for hiding) 7-9 damage Diamond Command

He picks his target, drops, and tail-slams one of the Shield Robots guarding the King Robots. He knocks it over, smashing its shield. The King Robot is still protected by a second Shield Robot.

The group of robots recovers from Stella’s assault and forms up to go on the offensive.

Stella Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Stella slides between the legs of a few robots and they lose track of her, but she slides right into the King Robot!  Buckle chooses to go after the other Shield Robot.

Damage Ugg’s “Bigger ‘n’ You” for advantage “restrain enemy”

Ugg jumps down from the tunnel and grabs the Shield Robot with his big mechanical arms, holding it in place for Buckle’s attack.

Buckle Finish Them (advantage: restrained by Ugg) 10+ destroyed

Buckle tail slams the shield, sending the fragments into the robot, destroying it!  The King Robot no longer has the invulnerability aura, but it’s still big and scary! It picks up Stella in one big glowing fist and smashes her into the ground!

Stella takes 1 damage

The group of robots are going after Buckle & Shadow, and the King Robot is focused on Stella.

Buckle (+hope from Shadow) Overcome 7-9 pay a price (damage Shadow) for 10+ result

Buckle and Shadow attack the group of robots in a pincer move. they punch through the enemy formation and reunite. Shadow’s webbed hands are torn up in the assault.

Damage Silk’s “Creepy” for advantage “distract King Robot”

Silk extends a line from the ceiling and swings in circles around the King Robot’s head.

Damage Rose’s “Loyal” for advantage “Fastball Special”

Stella Lived In A Shoe become small enough for Rose to throw

Stella Pack Leader working with companion makes her Threat To The World. Does not pay a price to roll against King Robot

Stella Finish Them (+hope Pack Leader) 10+

Stella runs at Rose and yells, “Catch!” Rose knows what’s next. Stella shrinks to the size of an apple and Rose grabs her and hurls her a the King Robot. Stella enlarges to full size en-route, leading with her sword! She punches through the stretched, softened metal of the King Robot’s chest and comes out the other side holding The Heart Of Earth! The Source of Power that was empowering this robot!

The King Robot is dead! It’s giant body topples over.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle grabs one of the worker robots and puts it between him and the falling King Robot.  The weight of the King Robot’s collapse knocks them both down. The robot is destroyed and Buckle is pinned beneath it! The King Robot’s body is soft heated metal, and it slowly bends and drips towards Buckle. Without the King Robot’s influence, the surviving robots stop fighting and move off to start digging again.

Buckle Overcome 6-

Shadow rushes to assist, but the glowing light from the King Robot’s body flattens him into a regular shadow.

Stella Overcome 6-

Stella starts to move towards Buckle, but the Heart Of Earth she’s holding draws her attention. The long, powerful pulse that Buckle could sense is now audible, and it’s getting faster and less regular.  It’s unstable. Without something to contain or control it, it could explode and collapse the entire mine!  It was stable while inside the King Robot. Maybe that geode on the back wall is where the Heart of Earth came from. What will she do?

GM note: I emphasized “contain” more than “control” which I fear pushed the players’ thinking in one direction, but it turned out to be a great direction!

Buckle:  Shove it in me!

Stella: Do platypeople have pouches? Either you eat it, or it’s a suppository.

The almost-melted body of the King Robot slumps closer and closer to the trapped and sweating Buckle.

Buckle: C’mere Stella. You must replace my heart with the Heart Of The Earth!

Stella: I’m gonna do open-heart surgery here?!

Stella has an idea and calls to Buckle again. When he answers, she shoves the Heart of Earth in his mouth! Power surges through Buckle’s body and he’s able to throw off the husk of the Robot King! The Heart of Earth has changed him!

GM note: Absorbing the Source of Power replaced Buckle’s “Apex” Destiny with a new Destiny “Heart of Earth”

Chasing The Sunset & Dung Beetles

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

The party: Buckle the Beast/Apex, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, Buckle & Stella “saved” Templeton by returning the rightful Mayor (annoying as she is) to her seat of power and capturing the shape-shifting impostor in her place. For this, the Mayor grants them the Fellowship of Templeton, and offers several boons.  They choose to learn the location of a Source of Power, a legendary artifact of potentially earth-shaking power. They also get a room in a nice hotel in the tourist district to rest up for a week.

While they recover their health & gear, Buckle is excited to play tourist. He buys a fake hard hat with a plushie light on top. He’s a cute platypus wearing a cute hat with ear flaps.  Pomplamoose doesn’t want to wait a week to return home. Her home is just a little further to the east, so she announces that she’s heading out.  Stella and Buckle need the rest, so they don’t go with her.  Buckle is heartsick, but tries to hide it. Pomplamoose pats him on the head as she leaves.

After a week, Stella, Buckle, and their permanent companions: Silk, Gus, Rose, and Ugg head south towards the Oolite Mine, rumored site of a Source of Power.

GM note: The Oolite mine first affected this world before this world existed, back in the Fairmeadow Fair campaign. Despite searching for it for a long time, and even learning its location, the players in Feairmeadow Fair never visited it.

As the party walks down dusty paths between rolling hills, a giant spider suddenly appears. It’s about the size of Silk, a riding spider for Halflings.  It’s interested in Gus, who had a bad experience with spiders in the past. It took him a long time to trust Silk, and he doesn’t trust this spider. He runs in circles until Stella slaps him! She sends Silk to talk to his fellow spider.  Silk and the wild spider mirror each other in a dance with their many legs. This spider isn’t hostile, just curious.  It approaches Gus in a gesture of goodwill, then steals a snack from his pack and runs away.

Later, the party walks under the edge of a rock face and boulders start falling from the cliff above!  The party runs from the rolling boulders, and Buckle falls into a hole in the ground! There are lots of holes, and the remaining party members have to dodge the holes while outrunning the boulders!  Down in the hole, Buckle is surrounded by darkness. The ground he landed on wasn’t as hard as he expected.  His electro-sense detects someone down here with him! He calls out, and the creatures show themselves. Giant Dung Beetles!  Each Dung Beetle is the size of a hatchback car.  Buckle says he’s lost and confused, and they’re happy to explain. They collect the boulders for their young. The boulders are too big to fit down their tunnels, which is why one hasn’t landed on Buckle’s head. He asks the Dung Beetles to help his climb out of the tunnels and to assist his friends being chased by the boulders. They agree, but he must do something for them as well.  The Dung Beetles grow nutritious mushrooms in certain caverns, but some of those caverns have collapsed. Buckle is small enough to fit inside and retrieve the food. Buckle agrees to help.

Back on the surface. Buckle rises out of a hole in front of his teammates. He keeps rising, and the Dung Beetle he’s standing on also emerges from the tunnel. Other Dung Beetles emerge from other holes and stop the rolling boulders.  Stella and the companions can’t understand the Dung Beetles’ speech, but Buckle explains the situation. They all go into the tunnels to the stricken mushroom cavern.

A side view of a cavern blocked off form a natural tunnel by a fallen rock. On the far side, a perfect square tunnel connects to the cavern. The cavern's floor is covered in purple mushrooms.
The mushroom cavern where the Dung Beetles grow food for their young

A large boulder has fallen through the Dung Beetle’s tunnel, mostly blocking the entrance to the Mushroom Cavern. There is a tiny gap on one side: tiny for a car-sized Dung Beetle. Buckle is able to shimmy through without a problem. Inside, he finds the whole caverns has shifted. The ‘floor’ on which the mushrooms grow used to be horizontal, but now tilts sharply. There’s a square hole in the far side of the cavern that glows with an orange light.  Buckle cautious sneaks down the perfect square tunnel to investigate. The tunnel is six feet on a side, too small for the Dung Beetles, and too precise for their methods too. Buckle approaches a junction with another tunnel and carefully peers around the corner. A ways down the next tunnel are three metal statues, carved to look like Dwarves. These statues move on their own! They are pulling ore out of the tunnel walls and and putting it in hoppers on their backs, carved to look like backpacks. This is a mine operated by robots!

Buckle puts his weight on the wrong bit of stone and it collapses, making a loud noise.  The robots’ head quickly swivel towards the source of the noise, and one rings a bell. Another statue approaches. This one is also shaped like a Dwarf, but it carried a large shield, carved out of one giant crystal. As it approaches, a glittering aura appears on each statue within a certain distance. These four robots are advancing on Buckle’s position.  Buckle flees back through the mushroom cavern and pushes through the gap in the giant boulder. It shifts again, and Buckle slides out just in time!  He tells the party and the Dung Beetles about being chased by metal statues.

Stella: Buckle, are you sure you’re OK?

Buckle: I did get hit in the head, but I’m pretty sure it was all real.

Stella pats Buckle on the head.

These mining robots might be connected to the Oolite mine. The party investigates above ground. The terrain is pretty barren: low gravelly hills one after the other. As they crest one hill, the next hill is gone! There’s a hole where the hills should be: a strip mine.

top view of the Oolite mine. A shallow funnel with three spiraling paths leading to a flat bottom. Entrances to mine tunnels along each of the three paths.

The mine is shaped like a shallow funnel with a flat bottom. Three paths spiral down the sides fo the funnel, with square tunnel entrances along their length. Dwarf statues bustle about, moving ore.

Buckle: See?

Stella is embarrassed.  They observe the robots for a while. Most look like miners, but there are a few holding big crystal shields. The shield-bearers provide a glittering aura to nearby robots, but they themselves do not have the aura.  Buckle looks around for a boss or foreman. When one emerges, Buckle wishes he hadn’t seen it! This used to be a mining robot, or maybe several. Now it’s much bigger, stretched out, with parts of other robots bolted to it. Its chest bulges and its whole body glows with heat. Surely that is the Source of Power!

Buckle: It’s bulging. Will it lay eggs?

Stella: Do Dwarves lay eggs?

Buckle: Doesn’t everyone lay eggs?

Stella: Square holes. Anything is possible.

The robots don’t speak, but they are clearly responding to motions from the King Robot. It spots them and sends a group of 50 worker Robots and several Shield Robots after them! They retreat, and the Robots do not pursue past a certain point. They have well-defined territory. Buckle jumps down a Dung Beetle hole. The Dung Beetles are surprised to see him back so soon. He asks some questions about the situation. The Dung Beetles don’t know much about the King Robot, but it’s scary. For all they know, it wants to dig down and flood the world with fire. The Dung Beetles want to secure their mushrooms for their young, but are evasive about the benefits of the mushrooms and where they keep their young. The Dung Beetles want Buckle and friends to secure the mushroom caverns from these invading Robots. Buckle asks for the Dung Beetles’ assistance. These Robots are a threat to their young, so it’s in their best interest to fight them. If the Robots are driven out, the Dung Beetles can use the mine tunnels to access the mushroom caverns instead of the collapsed tunnel.  The Dung Beetles are fired up by this speech, but Buckle and friends have to help too. The Dung Beetles will roll boulders down on the Robots, but the party must be the vanguard and ensure the Dung Beetles’ safety.

Buckle rises from the tunnel entrance on the back of Dung Beetle, as other Dung Beetles emerge from holes all around Stella and the companions.

Buckle: I’m raising an army!

Together they form a War Council and plan their assault on the Robot mine.

GM note: End of Session move. Heal, Heal, Level up.