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Unfathomable! Session 19

Mutant mutatis mutandis!

The Campaign: Operation Unfathomable! and Odious Uplands!, both by Jason Sholtis

The Ruleset: 5e

Ye Dogs of Destiny:

  • Brother Ded, a monk/political shit-stirrer. 
  • Mort, a fugitive from Imperial justice. 
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich. 
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler. 
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist. 
  • Toljin, a magical boy raised by pirates. 
  • Doloth, an unwilling-Citizen Lich. (absent)

The Story So Far

Ye Dogs of Destiny have traveled into the Underworld to find the fabulous Nul Rod, found it, left it in the safe-keeping of Primordial Gods, fought the last remnants of the Cult of Nul, and returned to the flying saucer of a bear from the future for a rest.

Session 19

Psaltir 19 (7th day in the Underworld), 2nd Bell

The session began with some conversation about what their collective goals are at this point. Should they go after Shaggath-Ka, the Worm Sultan? How will they get all their treasure back up the thousand-foot ladder to the surface? Is there any way to get Thotorius's saucer out of this cavern?

Thontorius said that his number one priority was running the math on how the Party's actions with the Nul Rod would have changed the future. Robot Apocalypse or Moribund Undead? He needs a lot of time, and more information—this could takes weeks, months, years! This could be the project of the rest of his life. And... well, he's feeling some pressure, knowing that there is a squad of Campus Security from his future timeline out there, hunting for him. And if the Party did change the future, and the Spatio-Temproal Fistula has closed, the Security forces would also have designs on his saucer as the only way back to a future that doesn't exist anymore.

Thontorius suggested that perhaps they could use their Token of Divine Favor to wish his saucer to the surface. That would get the party and their treasure where they wanted it to be, and get Thontorius well away from the Security Squad. The party seemed pretty interested in this, but then remembered that the absent Doloth desperately wanted to use it to return himself and his full-lich daughter back to life.

Instead, they agreed to go look at the fistula and see if it was still open and leading to the Science future.

The path back to the fistula led them through the Experimental Farm of the Science Fungoids, where they are eager to perform experiments on surface-dwelling humans. The Party had bluffed their way past them last time, but the Fungoids were determined to get some data on this trip. Brother Ded went all Bugs Bunny on them, grabbing one of them to dance and twirl them around. The fungoids pulled out ray pistols to paralyze the surface-dweller. Brother Ded used his monk-speed to flee the scene. The fungoids paralyzed several of the other party members and asked them if they wanted to opt-out of a trial on the effects of mutagenic spores on humans. They were unable to answer and so one of the fungoids thwacked them with a fungal stalk, covering them in spores. Mort used Boomer the Booming Blade to cast thunderwave, which neatly dispatched most of the science fungoids, but also turned the vicinity of the fungal garden into one giant spore cloud.

Everybody rolled Constitution saves. Making it meant you rolled on a list of good mutations. Failure meant rolling on the bad list. The bad list was pretty bad.

Greta, who had just recovered her full Intelligence after the run-in with the Psychephage, got Mushroom Mind, where her entire nervous system was replaced by a fungal network. She had to re-roll her Intelligence. I let her roll 4d6, keep 3, and apply her various chargen bonuses (+3). She did well and ended up with an 18. Not as good as the 20 she used to have. She also underwent a change of personality, going from selfish and conniving to bubbly and optimistic.

Ulfer developed a surface infestation of grey mushrooms, which lowered his Charisma from 8 to 5, making him utterly repellent.

Toljin developed the Speed of Mildew, dropping his Dexterity score and developing a personality shift towards "extreme lassitude."

Mort picked up Cold Vision, which lets him shoot out an icy blast once a day. 

Zinee burst into blue flames, which she could extend into an area-attack burst.

Brother Ded ran back in to help out the others, and acquired a fungal third eye, growing out of the palm of the third arm he's been hiding in his tunic for most of the adventure.

I didn't require re-rolls for people who were exposed a second time to the spores, but I did offer that those who had gotten bad mutations could try another save to see if they got a good one that might counter-balance their bad one. Only Toljin took me up on this, and ended up with a Heat Vision ability that was the fiery bookend of Mort's Cold Vision. 

That was intense, so, for the rest of their journey to the fistula, I didn't bother with random encounters or Underworlds events. They arrived at the relevant cavern, peered in, and saw a dozen or so figures in science-future power armor bivouacked. 

I assumed this encounter would be all about them figuring out how to talk to people with whom they didn't share a language. Instead, Zinee the Blue Flame, ran through the camp in bear form, triggering her new flame-burst ability and scorching everyone pretty badly. Panicked combat broke out, with the security forces being unsure exactly where or what the enemy was. The PCs quickly learned that Security's power armor was very hard to get through, but that they weren't so tough once you did.

The session ended after the first round of combat. We'll pick up next week, where I may be about to drop a nasty surprise on them.


Bother Ded's player was clearly annoyed that his Looney Tunes routine resulted in the Fungoids drawing weapons and later made a comment about me not being open to attempts to resolve encounters non-violently. I think I handled this scene fairly: he was acting erratically in front of beings that are established as being primarily driven by reason, and who don't value human lives. They thought paralyzing an unstable specimen was de-escalation. But my internal narrative doesn't matter much in the face of an unhappy player. What I should have done, and what I think most GMs should do when a player is doing something that seems completely out of left field, is ask "What are you hoping this action accomplishes?" Because I honestly don't know what he was going for or what sort of reaction he thought he'd elicit. And it's so easy for the GM and the Player to picture a scene in subtly different ways that lead to big differences in expectation. Then, I could have come up with something that made sense for the Science Fungoids and for Brother Ded.

The mutations were fun at the table, but I'm wondering how well they've settled with the players since then. Wild transformations are established Old School fun, but it doesn't necessarily mix well with the PC Protagonist Hero mindset of modern D&D. It is totally understandable to feel less enthusiasm for your character if they have changed in some fundamental way that you had no say in. Next session, I'll check in with everyone to see how they're feeling about their mutated weirdoes. I'll ask if they have any wishes for their character in these last, waning sessions of the campaign. That is, I won't undo what has been done, and I won't promise any future developments, but I'll register any strong desires and see if there are opportunities to work them in before the end. I'd like for everybody to end the campaign with a character they want to remember.

Lastly, I should have foreseen that they wouldn't parlay so soon after gaining new abilities. Of course they wanted to try them out! So, I did exactly the wrong thing by not putting a random encounter in their way. If they had blown apart some giant pill bugs, they probably would have been more receptive to talking to the security forces.

Live and learn.


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