Prologue: Meeting & Road to Nilocus
Overcast skies mark a dull September day. You have been wandering about for days and have only a day’s worth of supplies each. You arrive at a clearing near the entrance to a valley, a good sign; as depressions such as these tend to occur near existential settlements.
As you arrive you are stopped by an official and officer of the IPTC. The officer looks aggressive, drawing a weapon but the official holds him back and tells him to stand down. He then introduces himself and his friend, named Nakset and Blackbird respectively.
A group of Dire-Postmodernists [equal to # of Party members] have taken over the road.
Plot Elements [Available from Looting]:
Ironic T-Shirt of +1: +1 CHA [Value: 1 Treatise]
Bow & Arrows of Deconstruction: Roll any 2d6+CHA. [Value: 3 Treatise]
1-7: You miss.
8-13: Enemy takes stat damage, can’t defend.
14-19: Enemy is stunned, can't defend.
20+: Enemy attacks allies
Chapter 1: Violin Hunting
You arrive in a rather dull looking small town. Surrounded by a wooden barricade and occupied by empty houses, it looks like it’s halfway to becoming a ghost town. In the middle of the street a young woman is running about frantically, searching for something. With the exception of her, the streets are completely barren. Houses are broken down and boarded, largely from inattention. The residents seem to have left gradually, as there are few signs of looting. Down the road there is a coffee shop, which aside from a few houses here and there, seems to be the only thing open in the entire town.
The woman approaches you. She is in ragged clothes and looks rather unkept. She implores the players to retrieve the violin, which is of great sentimental value to her. In exchange, she will give them a city map, and reward them as best she can and serve as their guide upon their return.
As the players head south a Cat-thing Civet will introduce himself as Lemmington to the group, and offer his aid in exchange for a share of the treatise. If they accept, the Civet will lead them to the old opera house, on the way, he will imply that he knows about the letter that the received, they are not the only ones to have received them [implying the other town folk, more than himself], that he is repaying a dept to the party [though he will not expand on what it is for] and that something big is about to happen [which he may or may not be behind].
If they refuse, they will hear music as they continue south, in case the opera house wasn’t obvious enough.
Once they enter, the violinist stands on the stage and is angered that anyone would dare to interrupt his recital. Vat Brains attack. Violinist declares without his beautiful music the town will soon wither and die. [Treatise Pages= lowest common multiple n and n+1 where n=# of party members]
Has much sentimental value.
Chapter 2: The Plague
PCs walk outside into heavy rain. Everything seems greyer under the now darkened sky. It would be wise to seek shelter.
If they wander around the rain or search for Marie’s house, they will be attacked by last men and forced to take shelter in the nearest building. Go to 2.
If they go into a Random House, They will be met by Fredrick. Who will very reluctantly greet them. Mention how it’s a pain that they’d be stuck together again and that the town in now infested with last men. He’ll reluctantly offer the group trade.Fredrick knows a short cut to the coffee shop where he suspects the other will be holding up. Roll stealth to see how many last men are encountered. Go to 3.
If they head to the coffee shop, they will be greeted by other NPCs aside from Marie and Lemmington. The PCs interrupt a speech by Nakset. ‘Seau greets a PC, shaking his hand and saying it has been a long time. If a PC asks what he is doing, he will turn to another and refer to him as ‘Seau and ask what the PC is talking about. He will then introduce himself as “Florien” and the PC as “’Seau” to the NPCs, before correcting himself [referring to himself as ‘Seau and the PC as Florien]. If told by the PC he is not Florien, ‘Seau will reply “Whatever you say Florien” [For the rest of the game ‘Seau will refer to that PC as Florien]. Mr. Nakset continues his speech; demanding that the city be shut down in order to slow the spread of the plague. The NPCs and PCs are believed to be the only survivors. ‘Seau will mention having run into Marie on his way, saying she ran into the nearest building, Fredrick will say it’s not worth the risk.
If the Nature of the Plague is asked about;
Nakset: No one is really sure what happened, just a flash to boredom that enveloped everything. And threatens to envelop the world.
‘Seau: [Knowingly] It was divine Intervention, that is to say, either retribution concerning Luciferra or a good turn from above concerning another; East was devastated by the wrath of the Gods themselves, while West found favour. Of all places, Fate chose to mark Luciferra and so it fell. [Turns to “Florien”] Remember Florien? …It was a long time such a long time ago that it’s all blurred together.
Blackbird [or Nakset]: What do we do now then?
‘Seau: We wait.
[Anyone]: For what?
Chapter 3: Let’s Split up gang!
If they go, Nakset will be in favour of this, and whip out a chainsaw saying he’ll hold the fort at the coffee house and sending Blackbird with you, ‘Seau will follow as well. The Last men will be led by a Demented Nihilist, who will stand around apathetically, giving out Stat Penalties. Epic Battle. If the Nihilist receives more than half damage, or the Last-men are all vanquished, he will disappear. With Blackbird’s trust, he will reveal during the next long rest that reveal that one of the PCs betrayed him during a grift to the detectives. After which he became an officer of the IPTC to hunt them down.
a. On victory, there will be fewer last men, and the colour will have slightly returned to the town.
b. On defeat, they will once more be forced to take shelter in an abandoned house, where they will find supplies. 6 Vials of Synthetic Absolute Truth and a Red Herring. They can hold up until they heal [long rest, -8 CON if they neglected to pack food] or drink the vials and attack the weakened Last Men.
Continue the advance to Marie’s House, where they encounter her. She is unharmed and rather calm and blindly optimistic about the entire situation. She gives them 3 treatise each as a reward for the violin as well as food and supplies and say she would have expected nothing less from a PCs. A long rest is optional. If they do not, their return is easier. If they do, they will have to roll stealth against Last Men.
Nakset will break out a chainsaw and discuss defensive plans. A map will be provided of rooms, defences and barricades. Long Rest as they discuss with the remaining NPCs. They may pilfer whatever supplies they want. Last Men attack the position, supported by a Demented Nihilist if they did not slay him earlier.
The group opts to stay, Fredrick will applaud their reason. Nakset will reluctantly agree. Blackbird will be irate, claiming that [one of the characters] hasn’t changed a bit and will go out alone.
a. If they follow Blackbird, go to one.
b. If they remain there, they will have earned Fredrick’s trust, but antagonized Blackbird. Nakset will break out a chainsaw and discuss defensive plans. A map will be provided of rooms, defences and barricades. Long Rest as they discuss with the remaining NPCs. They may pilfer whatever supplies they want. Two Demented Nihilists attack supported by an indefinite number of Last Men, one of the Nihilists is recognizable as Blackbird.
Chapter 4: Fighting Retreat
Players will have to trap the attacking Last Men in rooms or loot as they retreat toward the backdoor of the coffee shop. Nakset will stay behind to fight the Last Men and send Blackbird [if still alive] with the players. Players will retreat to whatever house they can find. If they did not save Marie before, they will encounter her there. Lemmington will make an appearance.
1. If Demented Nihilists were not defeated; If the Demented Nihilists were not slain, Lemmington will suggest that the Demented Nihilists are making the plague worse and defeating them will drive back the plague. Nakset returns to the building and Lemmington will promptly disappear. He will claim that they’re doomed and they may as well take out as many Last Men as possible. If players mention Lemmington, he will demand to know “where that cat bastard went”. If the players mention the Demented Nihilist slaying, Nakset will claim that it won’t make a difference but is willing to kill them anyway. ‘Seau will take out a carrot and offer it to “Florien”, then begin eating it, before shrugging and following “Florien’s” lead. Players hold the line, taking a short rest which heals them for REF. New Map. Demented Nihilists lead Charge. If players slay Demented Nihilists, Last Men continue spawning. NPCs will retreat out rear. Go to 2.
2. If they were slain; Lemmington will suggest that players gather supplies and retreat to plains, as Last Men are slow and will leave them alone. Surviving NPCs will do likewise and follow. They will have about 7 days worth of supplies if rationed [-2 CON & Bonuses], 4 if Not.
The Players encounter a group of Last Men before leaving, spawning one per round. As they escape, Nakset shuts the entrance to the town trapping the Lastmen inside.
Chapter 5: Vesperra
Nakset refuses to allow anyone to leave the plague area for fear of spreading it faster. Marie begins to play a tune on her violin. Nakset will suggest a suicidal assault on Vesperra. Fredrick will comment on the suicidalness of the assault, Marie will argue that there is always hope.
‘Seau will suggest obtaining “The box” as an alternative which can reverse the plague. When asked where it is, he will say “Vesperra”. With few other alternatives, they will march to Vesperra. Fredrick will insist that it is suicidal, but continue anyway once he realizes that no one is listening.
During their march, they see decaying last men, but the Last Men are too apathetic to notice them and the ones that aren’t are too slow to catch them. They may choose to avoid urban centres and make the march in 5 days or risk encounters to make it in 3.
If they take the short cut, there will be two encounters decided by Stealth rolls. One Lastman spawns per round. There is assumed to be a long rest before and after each.
On the entrance to the walls it is written
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;
Ever drifting down the stream-
Lingering in the golden gleam-
Life, what is it but a dream?
As you enter you see the ruins of a once great city; marble pillars are collapsed, roofs have fallen in on themselves and overgrowth from plants litter the landscape. In the center of the city is ruins of a once mighty spire that now crushes several buildings under its weight. The characters look on in horror and awe, with the exception of ‘Seau who munches on a carrot. Before you are a few scattered houses, about one nearby is in decent condition and a street that leads towards the center of the city.
Players go to the house. Inside they find; 3 vials of Synthetic Truth and 9 Empty Vials, a massive store of food that seems several years old but at least five days worth left in cans. They also find an old Journal.
Log Day 1
We are part of the largest expedition ever assembled into the Plague. We are assigned with discovering the cause of the Plague in Vesperra and stopping it. No one has come close, but no one has come in such high numbers before.
Log Day 9
Overrun and Flanked by Last Men today. Nicholas Faust and Dorian Nihilo have not returned and are assumed to have fallen into dementia. I am beginning to question the value of this expedition, but I cannot be fazed by loses. We have to discover the cause.
Log Day 21,
The expedition continues. We’ve made it this far, but we have no idea how much further our little company will make it. We found another wanderer here, though frankly, upon closer inspection, we have no idea how he survived this long. Though, I am beginning to doubt our odds as well. He has the box at least, so it may prove worth our while after all. We need the reinforcement anyway, we’ve already added a few that way. It’s getting harder; I’ve watched three quarters of our expedition fall into dementia one by one already. Now I fear it is only a matter of time until I do as well. [Player Character] has assured me that it will not happen, but I am not as optimistic. The survivors are voting on whether to take action. 21 one days, over a dozen lost, and we are no closer to solving these mysteries. Tomarrow, I am voting for a final gamble, if it can even be called that. At least it’s death with dignity rather than starvation.
Note: It is preferable to use characters who are antagonist towards each other for additional Effect.
'Seau will ask the character if he really wrote that.
If the character answers in the affirmative but denies having memory of it Seau will ask if you can really be someone who have no memory of being.
b. You wade through the back alleys, careful to avoid any contact with the countless Last Men that litter the streets. Roll CRE.
1-14: You are taken by Surprise by Shadows.
15+: You notice Shadows are flickering and acting very strangely as though they have a mind of their own.
Shadows attack the Philosophers. The Party Breaks, Shadow’s force the NPCs left and players right. They take the form of the PCs only slightly younger, by a year or two. -1 in all skills, -5 in primary stat.
When defeated, the shadows fade into the player’s shadows. If players observe their shadows closely, they will remark a two second delay in motion.
On the edge of the alley there is graffiti reading: “Not even the fastest man can outrun his shadow”
Players head towards the light away from the Shadow, only to be attacked by a pair of Somnambutterflies as they reach a clearing and see a red king. He’s deep asleep and judging by the plant growth on him; he’s been that way for a while.
Lemmington appears behind the armoured man and references Alice in Wonderland:
"He's dreaming now, and what do you think he's dreaming about?"
"He is dreaming about us. And if he awoke, where do you suppose we would be?"
"No. We would be nowhere. We are merely a sort of thing in his dream!"
He will converse with the players, and imply they are getting closer to the answers and to continue to the spire. If pressed, he will reveal that he found his own and thank them. And say that the Red King will wake soon.
If Players inspect the sleeping King closer, they will find “Lemmington” inscribed on the side.
Nakset will enter revving his chainsaw blaming the “Cat bastard”. Players may attempt to trap Lemmington to force a final confrontation, try to stop Nakset or ignore the two.
Players must succeed in a CON roll against Lemmington. Those who succeed corner him and enter into a final encounter against him with Nakset. On victory, Lemmington will ask if he wasn’t just as real as the king. He will then smile and claim he is nothing more than a shadow; and the King is free. If players return, they will find the bones of the Red King, and the Gauntlets of a Knight of True Faith. Go to B.
Players stop or ignore Nakset; ‘Seau, Marie and Fredrick suggest heading towards the spire in the center of the town, as at this point there is nothing to lose. If Nakset is ignored, he and Lemmington may return later at the DM’s discretion.
Chapter 6: Reunion
As they march down the streets, the party are attacked by Last Men led by a Demented Nihilist in an old tattered great coat and bowler hat. He looks at ‘Seau and the fog begins to envelop him, ‘Seau is stunned by the attack, he cries out the word “Flo-ri-en” imploringly.
Each round, ‘Seau will implore Florien for help. ‘Seau will refuse help from anyone but Florien, if “Florien” helps [By retreating him from the battle], ‘Seau need treatment that Fredrick will offer to provide. If the players ignore ‘Seau for 5 rounds or destroy the Demented Nihilist, ‘Seau becomes Demented himself and will lash out at the players.
If players inspect the Demented Nihilist, they will find that the hat reads “’Seau”.
‘Seau & the Demented Nihilist possess 1 vial of synthetic Truth, and Sickness Unto Death. ‘Seau possesses a ‘Mysterious Box’
If players defeat demented Nihilist and demand that ‘Seau tell them why the Demented Nihilist has his hat, he will claim ignorance. He will then take the hat, dust it off, put in on his head then remove it and tell “Florien” to keep it as it fits him better. Marie will insist they leave and allow Fredrick to continue treating ‘Seau.
If entire party retreated to protect ‘Seau, Fredrick will offer to stay behind and continue treatment. Rickshaw and Marie will offer to stay behind and catch up later.
If the players accept this, then they will indeed catch up to the player characters later on.
If the players choose to take Rickshaw and Marie, then Fredrick and ‘Seau will remain out of the game.
If only “Florien” or part of the Party retreats, the rest of the party will be able to catch up after a long rest and a second fight with a [weaker] Last Man Foe.
The Party ignored ‘Seau, and advances with all the surviving NPCs toward the spire.
Chapter 7: Truth and Meaning
On the front of the spire is scrawled.
“Cognito Ergo Sum”
As they enter wide empty hall of the Spire, their shadows expand across the room. They are attacked by a mass of Vat Brains. They must fight their way through in order to reach the next room.
As they reach the next room, the Vat brains continue flooding. The rear escape is cut off. On the ground they can see their Shadows begin to move of their own accord; splitting into each of the NPCs as well as a couple others. A scene plays out from three years ago.
Blackbird and the PC he accused of Treachery are fighting side by side against the vat brains. ‘Seau is alone and catatonic. They fighting the vat brains in tandem with the PC. Both sides are aware of each other appearing as Shadows, but can’t hear anything.
Eventually both clear out the room, and the shadows walk out a door leading deeper into Spire.
Players will have to fight their way through the brains to make their way into the next room.
Once they make it into the next room, they come across two mirrors, above them is "Who You Truly Were" and "Who You Believe Yourself to Be". One displays the characters as they were in flashback from the room before, the other how they are now. On each mirror is a knob.
Entering through the first door, awakens the shadows that they fought before. This time they are of equal strength and health.
Entering through the second, awakens Tabula Rasas, which appear like the Protagonists but with different costumes and mild cosmetic differences. These represent who the Player Characters could be; if any of them have mentioned hopes or aspirations, that would be the preferred form of these Tabula Rasas.
Finally, at the end of the hall is a room.
In it are many sleeping people, some from the flashbacks, others unrelated. There are several vials of Truth lying about. Enough to get the player characters up to full health.
At the end of the room there is an inscription:
"Your story is nearing an end. Beyond these doors lies your final reward:
Your are two doors above each is a different description:
If You Seek Truth or If You Seek Meaning.
If They Seek Truth: The Cartesian demon was the one who opened "Pandora's box" to gain power but ended up unleashing the plague. Have him imply that he took pity on the players after they asked for mercy instead of battle, and imply that they may still be asleep merely dreaming of the fight. End with a grateful Demon thanking them for his demise. In this ending, feel free to have the PC's wake up from their old bodies [and memories] along with all the other sleeping characters and flee the collapsing tower.
If They Seek Meaning: Alternatively, have them find the bodies and conclude that it does not matter whether or not they find the truth but to complete their mission. In this case they defeat the Dire Nihilist and steal his staff [Zarathustra's Staff], granting the [some control] of the Last Men allowing them to quarantine the area, saving countless lives. This scenario too, causes the tower to collapse once they leave the room.
The staff is able to remove all hints of the plague from those not already entirely converted and obliterate Last Man by pointing at them [takes a turn in combat].
They can probably trade this in for a lot of experience or keep it.