Hot Springs Island

Hot Springs Island: Session 6, The Forge

Cast for this session:

  • Ruber Valis, elementalist
  • Hootford Jr., guard and associate of Ruber
  • Rickard Astley, healer (cutter?)

The party awakened to the sun rising above the misty jungle below. They were encamped on the edge of a grassy field partway up the mountainside.1HS-21-03 Across the field lay the Egg and a flock of horned beasts who gazed at them warily while chewing their morning cud.

During the previous evening Ruber and Hootford had managed to properly identify the items that they had found during the Topaz Spree:

  • Ruber has the Blasted Wand, which works the same as the WWNWWN Worlds Without Number (2021), a ruleset (and more) by Kevin Crawford spell The Howl of Light, except that it forms a column extending from the end of the wand. Each time it is used some of the end of the wand is burned off; roll a 1D4 and on a 1, the wand is destroyed.
  • Hootford has the Shield of Sunrise which can be activated to emit a blast of light, blinding anyone looking towards it for 1D4 rounds (reflex save to avoid). It is recharged by being exposed to light from a sunrise.

The party decided to continue to move inland and up towards the volcano’s peak (Ruber: “shall we summit this mountain?”), and set off through the early morning sunlight.

Further up the mountain,2HS-17-03 the jungle parted to reveal a bubbling pool of magma, surrounded by red-gold plants shimmering in the reflected heat. Beyond the red-hot pool was a cave going deep into the volcanic cliff-face. The plants around the pool are each topped by puffy fronds like those of pampas grass or toi-toi. Hootford immediately approached the plants to collect some for his master, but as soon as he disturbed them, he was showered by a cloud of pollen. He immediately found himself dizzy and stumbled toward the magma, only to be stopped quickly by Rickard.

Across the other side of the pool, a woman erupted from the cave in the cliff. She drew her bow on the run and loosed an arrow back towards the cave entrance, from which emerged two large scruffy-looking birds with large beaks. One of them swooped at her and managed to cut her arm with vicious-looking claws.

Rickard sprung into action, throwing his scalpel at the nearest bird. The throw went wide and the scalpel embedded itself in the dirt at its feet. In response the bird flew towards him, battering him with its filthy wings as it raked and bit at his unprotected flesh.

Ruber began to sing as Hootford moved to shield him. Ruber forcibly exerted his will over the other bird, entering its mind and impelling it to fly to him and coat its talons in one of his fast-acting poisons.

Now unarmed, Rickard ran to fetch grab his knife from the soil, as the bird inflicted a deep wound on his shoulder. It shook its filthy wings and from within the feathers of the bird a shower of writhing maggots dropped onto the fresh injury. Some of the maggots fell directly into the wound and began to bury themselves into Rickard’s flesh.

Rickard struck back with his knife, cutting the horrible bird’s horrible throat, and it crashed to the ground. Blood pooled around it and the wriggling maggots started to dig into the bloody soil.

The main threat removed, bird-Ruber flew into the cave to check for any remaining enemies. After finding the cave clear, he flew high above the magma pool, licked the poison from the bird’s talons, and experienced first-hand the ordeal of pitching head-first into molten rock. The bird’s feathers sizzled and burned as the fat maggots roasted and popped upon the red-hot surface.

With the fighting over, the woman introduced herself: she was Joni, a ranger who had come to the island looking for her brother. She had also signed up with the crew of Jack the Jeweller to look for the fabled Forge of the island, and was out in the jungle searching by herself, as she thought that Jack’s current plan of scouring the Elven city would be fruitless: “the sooner we find the forge, the sooner I can get Jack to help me find my brother”.

She spoke fast and excitedly; she believed she had located the Forge in the cave and was eager to return to Jack to tell him the good news. Thanking the party for their assistance, she warned Rickard to seek medical attention quickly or the maggots could eventually be deadly.

Rickard used his medical experience to successfully fish out the maggots one-by-one from his wound. Joni was impressed by the skill with which he removed the infestation and bade them farewell, saying that she would meet them back at Captain Rand’s ship.

The cave appeared to be constructed by hand, hewn from the volcanic rock. Channels cut into the walls and floor guided molten lava from the inside of the mountain to the pool of magma outside, and in the intense heat Hootford removed his helmet, revealing an astonishingly handsome face.

At the end of the tunnel they found what appeared to be a large forge of Elven construction, decorated with symbols of fire and the burning sun. Beneath the forge was a contraption of some kind and Ruber recognized that it was designed to store an elemental core of some kind — probably that of a fire elemental. It was at this point that he also realized the cold crystal fragments he had in his satchel were those of an ice elemental, and — given time — it would be possible to “reincarnate” the elemental core.

However, the immediate problem was to obtain a fire elemental core. Ruber consulted his notes upon the subject and found that fire elementals were attracted not just to fire but to accumulations of combustible materials. His notebook recorded that a large cloud of flour could be enough to draw one’s attention. Between the three of them, they hatched a plan…

The noon sun beat down upon Rickard, sweat streaming down his cheeks from beneath his bird-beaked doctor’s mask — his only protection from the clouds of soporific pollen that now surrounded him. Dancing and twisting in a bizarre manner, both of his arms grasped large bunches of the fluffy-topped plant. He waved them through the air, casting showers of white dust in every direction.

From deep within the cave came the sonorous sounds of Hootford’s voice. His deep throat-singing echoed and resonated around the clearing. Rickard’s crazed dancing grew to a fever pitch as Ruber chanted arcane incantations into the air, and from the fringe of the jungle emerged two red impish creatures, beating their wings in the hot air.

“See, I told you! Look! It’s going to explode!” one screeched to the other. Rickard stopped his dancing as he ran from the area, and Ruber finished his chanting. He raised his arms, sparks fizzing from his fingertips (Elemental Sparks), and with a woosh the cloud of dust erupted into an immense fireball.

The two imps were driven to the brink of ecstasy by this display, their eyes seemingly bursting into flame. “LET’S FIGHT!” one screamed, the other shouting “ONE ON ONE, LET’S GO RIGHT NOW!”

Rickard began to step forward, but Ruber motioned him to stay still, and then raised his other hand. A powerful blast of water (Beckoned Deluge) jetted into the nearest imp, who screeched and collapsed in a damp pile on the ground. Rickard rushed up and slit the throat of the drowned imp, its body melting and fading into thin air. From the centre of its body a glowing elemental core fell to the soil.

The other imp shouted “Cheating! You’re cheating! You’ve killed him!” and, its enthusiasm for the fight immediately quenched, turned and sped off as fast as it could flap his wings. Ruber sprinted as fast as he could toward the edge of the clearing, casting another blast of water after the second imp and sending him crashing into a nearby tree.

Hootford now emerged from the cave at a full sprint, and upon reaching the edge of the clearing attempted a last-ditch throw with his dagger, which flew out of his hand as if launched from a crossbow and impaled the imp to the tree. With a thud, another elemental core landed up the jungle floor.

The party returned to the cave with their new goodies and planted them in the contraption below the forge. It began to glow internally with eerie flames of elemental fire.

Having confirmed that they can activate the forge, and so Anvil will be able to use it to construct items, they recollect the cores and begin the long journey to return to Hot Springs City, there to meet the ship and regroup with Jack and Captain Rand.

On the way back down the mountain they passed a large statue of a seven-headed dragon.3HS-17-01 It seemed to have an infestation of the insects that they had previously seen,4I rolled #4 on the Vyderac table! so they quickly passed it by. Rickard took them past the blue tower on the extinct volcano that he had noticed previously,5HS-15-02 and they found that it was positioned very high above the jungle floor on a rocky outcropping. If they wanted to scale the rock up to the tower they would need to return with equipment or magical means of transportation.

Finally, they returned to the Elven city and made a short detour to the Broken Quarter to stash some of their treasures in an old mud-brick tower. At the bottom of the central stairs they found Joni waiting for them. She used her horn to signal the ship and they returned to it upon the ship’s boat.

Safely back aboard the ship they reported back to Captain Rand. Rickard used one large chunk of the topaz they had collected to pay off his Martel Company debts for the next week.

They reported to Jack that they had located the forge. Joni recounted to the others that Rickard was a skilled healer and would be able to help them in future.

Captain Rand also indicated that the group he had mentioned last time they had seen him — the ones who had been collecting notes and mapping the island — had returned to the ship, and pointed out Zilbee, a small green goblin woman.

After a brief discussion about creatures and plants that they had found upon the island, Zilbee agreed to share with them the collection of notes that she and Matthias (a zoologist) had been working on: tentatively entitled A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island.

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 staricase 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.