Hot Springs Island

Hot Springs Island: Session 0/1

This was our first time playing with Worlds Without Number (WWNWWN Worlds Without Number (2021), a ruleset (and more) by Kevin Crawford). Both sessions were on the shorter side: the first session was mostly spent creating characters, the second was online but cut short due to technical issues.

Notes that are for GM eyes only are in footnotes and hidden behind a link like this:1hi there!

The Cast

Anvil Levigne: an Artisan (Expert)
Abilities: Masterful Expertise, Quick Learner
Foci: Arms-master, Artisan (weapon-/black-smith)
Equipment: Short Sword, Throwing Knives, Small Shield, Buff Coat

Anvil is a master smith hailing from the town of Muriwai. He is following rumours of newly discovered ores and other means to improve his craft.

Ruber Valis: a Spare-Son Mage (Elementalist)
Foci: Poisoner
Arts: Elemental Sparks, Elemental Resilience, Beckoned Deluge
Spells: Elemental Spy, Wardpact Invocation, Cognitive Supersession of the Inferior

Ruber, an unwanted younger son, has recently come into the study of magic. His father has asked him to investigate the recently discovered Swordfish Islands for the benefit of the Valis family.

Hootford Jr.: a Guardsman (Warrior)
Abilities: Killing Blow, Veteran’s Luck
Foci: Nullifier (a suit of ancestral armour), Valiant Defender (sworn to defend the line of Valis)
Equipment: Short Sword, Large Shield, Pieced Armor

Hootford’s family have long been bodyguards for the noble line of Valis. He has been assigned to travel with Ruber and keep him safe from harm. Hootford is well skilled in survival.

Session 0: Arrival

The party washes up on a black sand beach, the last remnants of a storm beating themselves out against the rocks and trees.2This is the hex HS-15. Coughing up seawater, the characters regret the sequence of decisions that brought them here…

Waves on a black sand beach, with jungle in the background.
Black Sand Beach, Maui” by Pedro Szekely (2011, CC BY-NC-SA).

Ruber had secured passage to the Swordfish Islands for what was, in retrospect, a suspiciously cheap sum. Hootford & he boarded the ship Sandhorse, a run-down cargo transport that did not seem well-equipped to transport passengers, and the ship set out from Karkat. On the way they met Anvil, who had signed up to work for his passage to the Islands.

Part way through their journey the party became aware that a large ship was trailing them. The crew paid it no heed and when the three brought the ship to the attention of the captain, he dismissed their concerns.

As they neared the islands the ship trailed closer and closer, until it drew alongside, and the captain had his crew bind the ships together. Now the larger ship’s name was visible: The Unbroken.3A Martel Company ship. The three found themselves surrounded by the crew, with weapons drawn; they had no choice but to be bundled aboard the larger vessel. The captains shook hands, some kind of recompense was exchanged for these newly-captive passengers, and the ships departed from each other.

They were now within sight of the islands. The bo’sun motioned them over to a table, upon which lay a large ledger, when a strong wind began to blow. He frowned and told them to stay out of the way as the seamen began to reef the sails. These sailors were all in tidy uniform, dark blue with white piping and trim, and they stepped to the bo’sun’s orders with well-practiced professional competence.

The winds continued to increase, rain started to fall, and the sky darkened. The unnatural speed with which the storm grew seemed to upset the sailors, who worked with increasing speed. Despite their actions the ship began to wallow, larger and larger waves crashing over the gunwales, lightning striking the ocean, until suddenly there was enormous cracking noise and the whole deck lurched. The ship quickly began to take on water and the sailors began to unlash the ship’s boats.

The three managed to find a boat that no one else was attempting to untie. It was in poor condition, probably awaiting repairs, but with no other options they climbed aboard and cut the ropes. As the boat crested one, two waves, the ship disappeared behind a wall of water, and they were lost from sight.

The storm drove the boat towards the island and as they started to enter the surf, it capsized, throwing them and all their belongings into the turbulent waters.

… Hootford cursed Ruber’s naïvety as he spat out more sand. As the storm wore itself out, they looked out to sea. There was no trace of the ship or any of its crew.

Scattered across the beach were broken boxes and other flotsam and the party were able to recover some weapons and possessions from the wreckage.

As the sun rose, they were able to see more of the island. Black sand beaches skirted the island in both directions as far as they could see. They were sitting on a sandbar separated from the island by a small lagoon, and above the beach rose a dense jungle which seemed to cover the island. In the far distance, above the trees, a tall volcano rose. The sand surrounding the lagoon glinted in the morning light, with flecks of gold catching the early morning rays.

The party swam across the lagoon and made their way toward the jungle…

Session 1: Exploration

In the bushes they could hear snuffling and grunting noises, and pushing through the undergrowth, spotted a boar rooting around the base of a large tree.

Ruber used his Elemental Sparks to create a distraction for the boar as Anvil crept up and then leapt at the boar, slitting its throat. They spent a few hours butchering the boar and cooking some meat, Hootford showing the others what needed to be done.

With provisions secured, the party wandered back out to the beach to decide what to do next. Down the coast toward the south, they could see what seemed to be ruins peeking out of treeline, so they decided to continue that way.

The party made their way down the coast. The sand became blacker, with none of the golden flecks that were in the sand around the lagoon. Remnants of statuary and massive constructions began to appear in the jungle. All of the ruins were in a decayed state, with vines and flowers growing over them, but their origins were obvious to Anvil, who was able to identify the workmanship as Elven. Their civilization had fallen thousands of years ago, and it was now extremely rare to see an Elf.

As they rounded the next head, they were greeted with a view of a large, ruined city. Some buildings were submerged beneath the waves, and above them tiers of white stone buildings rose up against the mountainside. On the highest level was a large building topped by a dome.

A first view of the city.

In the harbour a ship lay at anchor; smaller than The Unbroken was, but still of a decent size. A boat was making its way to the “shoreline” where steps descended beneath the tide.

The party climbed a steep staircase up a wall into the city proper. In front of them, steaming water poured down a series of pools, which glistened with iridescent deposits. Some of the shining rock had been chipped away by tools.

They passed a large statue of a pregnant elf, which upon inspection was made from coral, and moved through the city toward the central staircase. As they passed one building, Ruber thought that he saw a pair of glowing eyes looking at him from the depths of the shadows, but upon a second glance they were gone.

When they make it to the stairs, they can see that the boat has been tied up at the base, but there is no sign of whoever was in it. They climb up the stairs toward the top of the city, and Ruber casts Elemental Spy on a pebble to leave beside the stairs and alert him if anyone is following them.

At the very top of the stairs, they find a large building which seems to be the focal point of the city. It stands three stories tall, with a frieze running around the building depicting elves fighting some kind of lizardlike humanoids. Ruber notices through the pebble two very large birds wandering slowly across the staircase. They hear a loud “Qwop! Qwop!” as one of the birds barks a call that echoes around the empty city. They continue to investigate the building, but as they are doing so they hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, so they quickly move into the shadows of the façade.

Soon, four people reach the top of the stairs: a man with red hair dressed in bright yellow and green, a tall woman with dark hair and leather armour, a woman with a floppy hat and robes, and a shorter dark skinned man holding daggers. The first man runs toward the building but the woman with the hat calls out “Stop! You know what happened last time we went in there!” The man changes direction and the group of four turn to their right and run along the plateau.

Soon the two large birds reach the top of the stairs as well. They are not chasing the people but are looking inquisitively at each building and ruin as they pass. Hootford decides to approach the birds and steps out from the shadows. He holds his hand out with some of the preserved boar meat and “qwops” in a low voice. The bird walks toward him. It is taller than him, eight or nine feet tall, with dusty grey feathers, a powerful beak and stocky legs. As it approaches it sniffs Hootford’s outstretched hand, then, looking surprised, picks up the meat and swallows it in one gulp. At the same time, Hootford has reached out and plucked one of the large grey feathers from the bird’s chest. The bird regards him a little longer, but when it is apparent no more food is forthcoming, it rejoins the other bird, and they move off through the city. Hootford gives the feather to Ruber.

Turning away from the departing birds, the party moves deeper into the large building.

Inside they see two staircases leading upwards: one decrepit, falling apart, and overgrown, like the rest of the ruins. The other looks pristine, undamaged. As they near this staircase the owl-heads mounted on the shoulders of Hootford’s magic armour begin to spin, warning him that there is magic at work. Ruber is also able to detect the magic, and it seems very old. Nevertheless, they make their way up the pristine staircase, only to find at the top a crowd of elves drinking and laughing.

This is extremely unusual: elves are very rare and have not been seen in any significant numbers in thousands of years. They observe the crowd, who are in various costumes and states of (un)dress, some drinking, some smoking, most laughing and enjoying themselves. A waiter walks directly toward the characters, carrying a tray of iced drinks. As he nears, Anvil reaches out to take one, but the waiter continues to walk — directly through Anvil’s body!

Next: Hot Springs Island: Session 2, the Bathhouse

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