When we last left off, it was 13:30 and the party was in the clutches of a celebrating band of Theorists, about to be inebrifixiated to large metal letters in the middle of the campus green. With approximately an hour until the gang from the front gate wake up and come looking for then, they were looking for a way to regain their freedom even while their captors poured tankard after tankard of ale down their throats. Fermi had stripped down to his birthday suit, torn out pages from The Chancer’s Guide to Dicing Dens and Gaming Hells of Bastion, and plastered them to his body using ale as Nujanai, Emmeline, and the remaining Mockeries looked on in bafflement.
What follows is based on the summary written by Nujanai’s player, though I’m expanding it a bit:
- Nujanai, hoping to create a distraction, throws his loudest Mockery—a Badgerman—toward the inebrifixion mound. The badger mockery lands directly on one of the inebrifixion victims, and grabs on tight, putting him beyond retrieving.
- Within moments, and to Nujanai’s chagrin, the remaining four mockeries are also tossed into the crowd, and as the characters watch, a sort of “game” develops, where drunken Theorists grab mockeries and begin tossing them out across the crowd, who surges this way and that to catch them. (Think of four bouquets at a very drunken wedding and you’ll get the idea.) The mockeries are tossed up and over the crowd, time and again.
- Emmeline, Nujanai, and Fermi run toward the pile of confiscated belongings at the edge of the campus green. Trading speed for accuracy, they grab one backpack each, but not their own, as they run toward a nearby building.
- On the way, Emmeline feels something wriggling in her backpack. She shrieks, drops the bag, and out from it pour a swarm of just-activated scorpion microautomata. The characters evade the little mechanical scorpions easily, and continue running toward the nearest building. They hear some strange music from the North, but it seems quite far away, so they ignore it.
- They arrive at the entrance to Sintram Hall (21), which they learn when they see the sign over the main entrance.
- Nujanai looks in the bag he grabbed for his map, to check their location, and discovers that he, too, he has grabbed someone else’s bag: it contains £1 in loose change, a lovely pair of leather gloves, and some textbooks.
- In the heat of the moment Fermi, significantly, does not look in his bag.
- The group finds that the first floor is filled with kiosks and (closed, apparently empty) professors’ offices.
- They chat with the security guard at the front desk counter—a deeply bored woman whom they realize is an aging former adventurer, now deeply in debt.
- Nujanai begins to preach his newfangled Mockhuman ideology to her, only to discover that she is secretly married to a Chicken mockery and already shares his beliefs about the communion of Mockery and Humanity.
- Her sympathy enflamed, she explains that they can get a new map of the campus from Kiosk 51, which she believes is on the fifth floor of Vintram Hall (which, she tells them, is “that building over there”).
- As they are leaving the building, the party notices a group of Theorists students who’ve shown up to once again with a bucket of black paint and some paintbrushes, to adjust the time of Tintapan’s scheduled lecture to 15:30.
- They leave, noticing that the scorpion automata swarm has spread out to cover much of the ground in the area, albeit in a more diffuse manner.
- They arrive at Vintram Hall (20) and hurry to the fifth floor, only to find a note hanging from the kiosk: KIOSK 51 IS NOW LOCATED ON THE FIFTH FLOOR OF SINTRAM HALL. APOLOGIES FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
- Flustered, the group prepares to leave Vintram Hall, when Emmeline stumbles upon a stack of pamphlet maps of campus near the entrance to the building. It is different again from the other maps they’ve seen so far:
- Map newly in hand, they leave the building, not sure where to go.
- They decide to go retrieve their belongings from the edge of the Campus Green, and then make for the Grand Amphitheatre (3), where Dr. Tintapan is scheduled to speak in less than an hour.
- Just outside the building, an odd-looking being approaches the group:
- The figure specifically approaches Fermi, imitating Fermi’s “I mean you no harm” gesture as it approaches. Suddenly, when it gets close enough, it asks Fermi telepathically where Kiosk 67 is now located. The group, not knowing the answer and eager to avoid dealing with this being, direct it toward the Campus Green (7)—the inebrifixion site from which they themselves so recently and narrowly escaped. (Perhaps they are hoping it will suffer inebrifixion? Perish the thought!)
- Out of the corner of his eye, Nujanai notices an odd couple stuck in the middle of the scorpion automata swarm: the pair they encountered in the depths of the ruins of the Buttonsnemp Researchery:
- The man seems to be some kind of holographic projection. The woman, formerly a middle-aged, scarred gangster, now looks a decade or two younger and missing all her terrible scars. Speculation ensures as to whether there is something about the woman and Tintapan that is shared in common, given that they’re both younger versions of older selves: time loops? Time travel?
- The group decides to avoid the pair—as well as the scorpion automata—by going around the north end of Sintram Hall (21).
- hear some noise to the north, but continue sneaking along, and are suddenly stampeded by a Giraffelump (which escaped from the Menagerie (22) a few hours ago and is being chased around campus):
- Fermi manages to avoid the creature entirely, but Nujanai and Emmeline end up in its path and are flung aside very forcefully. Poor noseless Emmeline loses most of her teeth when she slams face-first into some stone ornamentation on the north wall of Sintram Hall. (Ah, the Scars table.) The Giraffelump takes off toward the Goat’s Head Pitch on the west end of campus.
- As the group arrives at the edge of the Campus Green (7), two things happen:
- They notice the Mockeries are still being tossed up into the air and across the crowd, in some horrific game of catch. The Mockeries are all alive, but are significantly worse for wear.
- Fermi notices a ticking sound coming from the backpack that is slung over his shoulder. (The bag he took but never bothered to look inside. Lucky thing he avoided that Giraffelump!) He examines the contents to find some kind of complex explosive device, with multiple wires connecting bottles of liquid to a clay-like substance, and a strange mechanical clock attacked to the entire apparatus.
- Fermi, panicked, stuffs the bomb back into the backpack, snapping the latch shut again, and tosses it into the crowd of reveling Theorists.
- The group rushes to the pile of belongings, quickly retrieving their stuff: the Theorists are all too drunk now, and too riled up by the excitement of the Mockery-toss, to notice this.
- The group decides to hurry to the Grand Amphitheatre, leaving the Mockeries behind (temporarily) to their fate.
- They don’t get very far.
- From around the corner of the thus-far enigmatic Building 8, a familiar figure appears:
- Her presence is unsettling: she seems to be a ten year old, but has an elderly woman’s voice and personality. She asks the group whether they discovered any evidence that Tintapan isn’t whom he claims to be.
- In the background, the mob is still tossing the Mockeries and the backpack with the bomb in it back and forth. They start taking potshots at both with air pistols.
- The group tells her that they have, and shows her some of it—the letter they found addressed to Tintapan, congratulating him on his old-age retirement, and the Researchery President medallion with his name inscribed on the back. She produces a Research Funds Disbursemet Voucher for £2000, which she tells them is redeemable at Kiosk 61. The group responds by telling her that they want something more: since she’s a Professor, can’t she order the students in the Campus Green to let the Mockeries go?
- She balks, pointing out that she’s an Applicationist and the students in the green are Theorists. When the group hints that they will take her hostage if she doesn’t, which prompts her to snap her fingers. From around the corner appears a gang of heavily-armed Applicationist students who seem to be faithful to her: they were waiting around the corner just in case, after all:
- The Professor (who still hasn’t given her name) orders the student gang to go rescue the Mockeries, and they proceed to thump their way through the crowd toward inebrifixion hill.
- The group and the Professor haggle over the details of the voucher redemption: they insist the professor must accompany them to the kiosk or redeem the voucher herself; she tells them that’s not how it works in any university in Bastion.
- (Thanks to a timely Luck Roll) one of the gunshots hits the backpack with the bomb, detonating it above Inebrifixion Hill. The Applicationist girl gang is mostly burned alive, along with everyone who is inebrifixiated and the Badger mockery, as well as one-third of the campus’ Theorist students. Miraculously, only one of the Mockeries is completely destroyed (the Badgerman), though the surviving four all need extensive repairs, are losing their stuffing and/or missing limbs, eyes, and are shot through with bulletholes.
- Fermi and Emmeline continue talking to the professor until Nujanai returns, at which point they take the professor hostage, and tells her to take them to Kiosk 61.
- Just as they are about to leave, a group of non-inebriated Theorists appear with their bucket of paint and brushes, and hurry to a poster on the outer wall of Building 8, where they seem to be adjusting the time for Tintapan’s lecture.
- But with a £2000 voucher in hand, the group doesn’t even bother to check before leaving for Kiosk 61.
- The professor—her name on the voucher is “Prof. Crabbleston Winslee”—directs them to Kiosk 61, which is on the 5th floor of Pintram Hall (19).
- The worker in Kiosk 61 is a young, gaunt man who speaks with g-g-g-g-greeeeeeeeet diiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-fficulty. (It’s Like 1/3rd stutter and 2/3rds like he was slowed down to half his normal speed.) He takes a look at the voucher, and confirms that he can indeed redeem it, though they characters must submit Form 237A along with it in order for the payment to be processed.
- That group of Theorists shows up, paint buckets in hand…
- … and they adjust the lecture time for Tintapan’s lecture. It is now scheduled for 7:00PM… the following night.
- Prof. Winslee, looking on, mutters, “That coward.” This is when the group realizes she’s pulled a pistol from her little robes and has it pointed at them. She tells them that there are Applicationist students in multiple classrooms who will respond if she calls for help, and then assures them they payment will go through as long as it is “properly submitted” but that Tintapan is a deadly threat not just to the campus, but to all of Bastion, and that she must do all she can to neutralize him as soon as possible. The group decides to let her leave.
- Then they ask the man in Kiosk 61 where they can get a copy of Form 237A. He directs them to (die roll) Kiosk 73, which is (die roll) just down the hall.
- The group proceeds to Kiosk 73, and discovers it is (roll, roll) an Automated Kiosk. A small ticker text runs across the top of the machine that reads:
THE ADMINISTRATIVE GUILD OF NEW GUTTERSHINE COLLEGE IS EAGER TO EXTEND ITS MULTITUDINOUS AND INEXTINGUISHABLE GRATITUDE TO BOTH STUDENTS AND FACULTY AS WELL AS STAFF FOR THEIR PATIENCE DURING THE QUARTERLY KIOSK REDISTRIBUTION AND FUNCTION REASSIGNMENT. OPERATIONS SHOULD RETURN TO TYPICAL LEVELS OF SMOOTHNESS WITHIN 4–6 WEEKS.
- The group presses a button to activate the Kiosk, and a small ticker tape with a message printed on it appears:
WELCOME TO THE NEW GUTTERSHINE COLLEGE AUTOMATED KIOSK SYSTEM. PLEASE INSERT YOUR STUDENT IDENTIFICATION PUNCH CARD TO ACCESS THE FORM DISBURSEMENT SYSTEM.
And that’s where we left off!
Man, random tables. A lot of things in this chaotic mess of an adventure happened just because of a few random tables: the Giraffelump showing up when it did, Emmeline being recurrently prone to horrible facial injuries, the moment when Dr. Winslee showed up, the explosion and the number of Mockeries who survived, the locations of the kiosks as well as their quirks, were mostly the result of random die rolls on the fly.
As time passes, things become more and more dense and chaotic on campus: everyone’s drunk and milling around. Random Encounters went from 1-in-6 at the start of last session to 1-in-3 at the start of this session, and we ended up with one random encounter per movement between buildings, (with a Luck Roll to see whether more than 1 occurred during that turn).
This adventure has a lot of balls to keep in the air. My players are wise to it, too: they’re wondering when the gang from the front gate will turn up, and doubtless expect the alien that they sent to the Campus Green to come looking for them too, unless it died in the explosion. I doubt they’d be surprised if the pair from the Buttonsnemp Researchery hunted them down, even.
The Kiosk business can be fun, but it’s also go the potential to be infuriating. I think there’s probably not optimal table for rolling up Kiosk Inconvenience: while each kiosk should pose some kind of obstacle—an impossible-to-understand clerk, an automated kiosk demanding ID the students don’t have, at some points in the adventure, it’s easier for for the next Kiosk to be in the same building, or even maybe on the same floor. At other times, you want PCs rushing across campus—and running into random encounters—only to arrive at some strange building wherein they learn that the Kiosk they’re looking for has moved to some other building near the one where they were earlier.
Oh, and tracking the Kiosks is messy and difficult. If you’re playing online, sharing a Spreadsheet like this one (after making it editable by anyone with the link) can help a lot. (Note, there’s a hidden GMs-only Tab: there’s nothing top secret in there, just some roleplaying notes. Otherwise, a Kiosk Tracking sheet is something you can do to help your players (and you) to keep track and stay sane despite the insanity.
I think one more session at the Campus is possible. After that, they’re going to snap or burn the place down. Time to think up some new rumors and leads linked to other corners of Bastion, I think!