The Ultraviolet Grasslands

Session Two

The Low Road and the High

[The session began with the party re-doing the purchase of a caravan and a load of trade goods, under the revised buying and trading rules. Feedback was that this was better, but still a bit on-the-nose. Also didn’t like the ‘market research’ rules: Thought that it constrained the action a bit too much. Will tinker a bit more with them. Good feedback on the revised playbooks from HBW, especially the conversions of “The Earthling” and “The Con Artist” playbooks for standard Dungeon World. Will need to tweak them a bit more, but I think we’re on the right track. As a GM, I am very thankful for players willing to play-test a ruleset and let us adjust on the fly!]

With a letter of credit from Lord Schnookums, the party purchased an overland wagon and a pair of mothalos to pull it. They then bought five Sacks of provisions for the road, and a few sacks of trade goods to try to turn a profit: Cat coffee, livingstone bricks, and a barrel of indigo whiskey. After some discussion of route, the party decided to head south along the Low Road and the High toward the Porcelain Citadel, stopping halfway at Low Town and High. The journey toward the Black City begins!

[I had each member of the party make the Travel the Ultraviolet Grasslands move. Together, they got a total of 4 Trek and 3 Danger. They decided to use 2 Trek to shorten the journey by two days, and 2 more to make two Discoveries along the road.]

Passing past the gates of Violet City, the caravan rolled past farm fields of indigo beets, betafalfa, and oilseed, and then through a large plumquat orchard. The fields then ended and the vast ultraviolet steppe began. Four hours beyond the gates of Violet City, they passed a small crossroad. The sign said the “Last Chair Saloon” was in that direction, but it was early, and the party trudged on. Late in the afternoon, they started seeing the pylons holding up what remained of the High Road, fifty feet above their heads. The ancient plastisteel and concrete deck plating had fallen away in many places, and the stairs leading up alongside the pylons was crumbling. Thus, they kept to the Low Road. On the third day, a mishap occurred: One of the mothalos stepped into a gopher hole that was in the middle of the road, injuring its leg severely. This ground the caravan to a halt. Tarkov unhitched the now-lame beast, and saw that it was no longer in any condition to pull a cart. Slayton took a look, trying to put his skills as an EMT to work, but the creature’s alien anatomy was beyond his skill. Vitus spoke up: “I have an idea, Slayton Major of Mars. I can perform a ritual of bloodcalling and summon the power of the Blood God. Her sanguine humor may knit this beast’s sinews back together.” The party thought this an excellent suggestion.

[Vitus wished to perform the Ritual move, to heal the lame beast. I said, “Of course, but:” It would take a day, mark 1 use of Supplies, and might call other living beasts toward the site of the ritual. Vitus decided to use his Grimoire to shorten the ritual to half an hour. He rolled an 8 on the ritual: I decided the cost would be attracting dangerous creatures. Looking at the “Hazards” section in UVG, vome-infested prairie dogs seemed appropriate!]

Vitus drew a magic circle around the injured mothalo, poured out ritual oils onto the beast’s wound, and intoned a chant in a language none of the rest understood. The circle glowed with an ominous blood-red color, and viscous red liquid oozed up from several gopher-holes both within and near it. Some of that liquid rolled up the mothalo’s leg, and its wounds were healed by the might of the Blood God. The glow faded, and the red ooze seeped back into the earth. But nearly as soon as the liquid subsided, a small creature poked its head up from the hole: a brown, furry animal with metallic eyes. Its eyes extended like binoculars, focusing on the party, and it raised a telescoping antenna, which pulsed with a blue light at its tip. About a dozen similar creatures popped up from other holes, and they all rushed in toward the caravan! Tarkov recognized them at once: Vome-infected marmots, that the Bluelanders called “Metalchucks.”

“Be wary, friends! These beasts have metal teeth and fangs that inject poison!” The metalchucks swarmed the party, but Tarkov was very quick with his bow and took two out before they could attack. Likewise, Vitus conjured bolts of sarlet magical energy, which blasted two apart. Slayton cut one down with his sabre, but it managed to bite his ankle, injecting him with a strange venom that made him woozy. [Slayton took the Weakened debility, which really hurt his fighting ability!] Ivo mostly tried to keep the beasts calm. After a few minutes, the heroes slew the pack of vomish marmots. They quickly hitched the beasts back up and were back on the road before more metalchucks could arrive.

Slayton felt back to normal the next day. Late in the afternoon, they came across another crossroad, but this time they could see what lay down that path: A huge statue of a hand making a mystical sign, its first and second fingers extended into a “V”. From plinth to fingertip, the statue stood about 35 feet tall. The statue was seemingly carved out of rust-colored rock, and rested on a plastisteel plinth. It seemed to be less than an hour’s journey, so they turned the caravan to investigate. Arriving at the statue, the party found that it bore lots of graffiti. A plaque on the plinth had been defaced and was impossible to read.

There were also two people already there: an attractive woman lay in a seductive pose on the plinth, while an artists painted her on a canvas. Ivo hailed them. The artist introduced himself as Berengar, of the Violet City. He then introduced his very annoyed-looking model as the Lady Ashla, of Decapolis in the Orangelands. She waved. Berengar explained that he was an up-and-coming artist who was hoping to one day show at the Grand Gallery at the Porcelain Citadel, but he’d need to make a name for himself before he could hope to show at such a renowned gallery. He then showed the dozen or so paintings he had in his nearby handcart. Nearly all of them were paintings of Lady Ashla lounging before various landmarks. Slayton thought the art was pretty good.

Ivo then attempted to con Berengar out of one of his paintings, claiming to be an art agent with connections at the Porcelain Citadel. He said that he could take one of the paintings with him as an example to try to get him a show at the Grand Gallery.[Ivo attempted to use the Bamboozle move, and also tried to hit his Drive, “Convince someone to give me something I don’t deserve.” Ivo rolled a miss.] At that explanation, Berengar became extremely animated. “Really, Mr. Fontaine? You would represent me to the Porcelain Princes? Thank-you! Since you said that you were already going to the Porcelain Citadel, we would very much like to come along, and I can show all of my collected works! What do you say, Ashla? Shall we join our new agent on a trip to the Porcelain Citadel?” She shrugged. Not really able to walk back his too-successful deception, Ivo agreed to work as Berengar’s agent and to introduce him to people at the Porcelain Citadel. [And on that miss, the party has picked up two NPC hangers-on, neither of which have any particularly useful skills for the journey.]

While at the Rusted Hand, Slayton decided to climb it to take in the view. Finding it surprisingly easy to climb, he scaled the statue’s index finger. From that vantage point, he could see little more than the High Road snaking its way to the west. But he also found one other odd thing: Carved into the fingernail were runes that he recognized: Cyrillic. He snapped a photo of the runes with his strangely still-functioning smartphone, and ran the letters through Google Translate: “Dimitri Ivanovich. USSR. 1974”

Two days later, the group saw a weird red flash to the north of the road. Deciding to investigate, they steered their wagon to an overgrown side-path. About an hour off the road, they saw it: A large structure that appeared to be carved out of a single piece of yellow stone. It stood on a conical hill barren of vegetation. Its base was a cube, about 20 feet per side, and it was topped by an onion-shaped dome, itself about 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Set about eight feet off-center, toward the top of the cube, an oval-shaped hole bored straight through the cube. Littering the ground below the hole were scores of bones, bleached white in the sun. A ramp led up from the ground to the hole.

Vitus recognized the architecture as being in the Onion-and-Skull style of the Later Mahogany Reign. He then called into the spirit realm to attempt to learn what the ghosts might know of this place. A spirit manifested, but it either spoke in cryptic riddles or only asked about the status of the music scene in Cerulean City—a place destroyed by the Harmonic Collapse that doomed all of the Bluelands. [Vitus cast “contact spirits” but rolled a miss. The conversation was weird and unenlightening…but I got a chance to do my terrible Elvis impersonation.] Vitus then summoned a bolt of magical energy to pass through the hole: For the quarter-second the arcane missile was inside the hole, Slayton and Tarkov noticed that the color of the sky on the other side of the hole changed from lavender to blue. Slayton decided to investigate further and climbed into the hole. Inside, he saw that the length of the hole was lined with parallel metallic strips, some of which were missing, but all of which were inscribed with strange runes. He asked Vitus to throw another bolt while he stood inside. After attempting to dissuade his companion, Vitus complied. For the briefest of an instant, Slaton saw a different vista on the other side of the hole: Jagged scarlet mountains against a brilliant blue sky with wispy yellow clouds. Spires of opaque white crystal jutted up from the ground in front of the mountains, looking almost like a strange grown city. But the moment passed. Slayton realized that this was some kind of stargate, but it didn’t lead to Earth. They party decided not to investigate further, and returned to the road.

Unresolved mysteries:

What is Lady Ashla’s deal?

Who is Dimitri Ivanovich?

Who built the gates, and what was that crystal city glimpsed on the other side?

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Mike_Ferdinando

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