Shining cities and tower tall,
broken at its feet they fall.
The Titan, red ash and smoke
in Cataclysm’s voice it spoke.
Then nothing but sand and wind
Then at last in caverns deep
The dwarves were first to break their sleep.
Their Empire rose in steel and stone,
bending all hidden in sand alone,
to kneel and bow to
the Lion Throne.
The Roots of Stone patient stand
until Dragon curse from human hand,
bit and tore at Secret Seal.
Druid-child born to heal,
led companions brave
across the sands.
There they found in canyon’s peace
a giant with crystal-heart to cease.
Bitter miles and hidden fear,
full of doubt but purpose clear.
They broke the heart,
to break the curse.
No curse they broke, and cursed their own
The sacred Roots a tomb of stone.
By Dragon-Word they slipped away,
awoke in chains both black and gray.
The Machine-City of Zero,
where the Dream sleeps.
Tales they heard and songs of light,
their learned much of Zero’s spite.
A story of a different sort,
the gods own ruin by Dreamers thwart.
Undo the Titan, free every mind,
at Dragons’ return.
With brittle lies and fortunes blessed,
the heroes fled from the Dreamers’ nest.
They brought their strange tales and questions meet,
to lay at Sunset Company’s feet:
The Final Seal is found,
Under sand and over stone they flew,
up spire and in air they knew,
the Temple Unknown, invisible and sure
they fell upon harsh knowledge, pure.
The Mask of Six found
a new bearer.
And there they fought against the Dream
Red blood flew against Sunset’s gleam.
Fleeing death and Zero’s might
the Mask unleashed a blazing flight.
Far to the west,
beyond the moon.
Led on by words of sleeping hand,
they journeyed west to a frozen land.
Beyond the desert, beyond the glade
Seeking for both Guide and Blade.
In Raven’s Hall,
they claimed them both.
Snow and mountain spire,
their path lead to secret fire.
A hidden temple amongst the snows,
where secrets wait and death’s wind blows.
The machine flickers to life,
and the Mask shines with fervor.
Careful now, you heroes bold
for what you find down in the cold.
It’s hidden heart slowly beats
Power does not die, it only sleeps.
Words and tales and songs and lies,
the empty choice is hero’s prize.
Make your way or make your grave,
the blindfold-man is Fortune’s slave.
[It’s been pretty tireless self-promotion here at Spell/Sword for the past week or so. How about some dyed-in-
the wool geekery to ease the sting? These are my DM notes from the Pathfinder game I ran earlier this week, presented with little to no context. If your eyes have already glazed over at this point, I wouldn’t bother reading further.]
Scene One: In the Cell
Most of the party wakes up at the same moment. [Justin’s Character] remains unconscious.
Everyone is wearing whatever clothes they had on when they teleported from the crumbling Stone Roots, but every other piece of gear has been removed. [DC 20 Sleight of Hand check to have hidden one Tiny object.] Falcon is nowhere to be seen. Everyone’s wounds have been healed, but they show signs of natural healing, not magical — suggesting some time has passed since they departed Rill.
The cell is 50 feet square, gleaming gray metal, adorned with regular bolts and rivets. Modular benches are welded to the floor in a square in the center of the room. On the far wall is a large crank over a spout, directly beneath it is a large hole with a metal grate over it.
The door displays no hinges or handle or window. The symbol of “0” is engraved into the metal, it gleams a dark copper shade.
The party have a few minutes to talk, compare notes. The Elven Cleric wakes up and introduces himself.
At last, a metal squawk fills the air — then a mechanically reproduced voice fills the cell.
“You must pass through the Dream to find the Truth. You must swallow the Truth to find the Heart. The Heart burns and we shine in the darkness of the Dream. Follow me, Children — and Remember.”
“These words are written in the book that brought you here. These words were spoken by the Dragon Prime just before he fell into his endless slumber, he spoke these words to his acolytes and fell beneath the sands.”
There is a scraping metallic noise coming from the grate. If anyone checks, a large plate has slid into place closing off the drain.
“You have served us well adventurers. The seals chip and shatter with time and skill, but you have broken two in a matter of days with nothing more than luck and ignorance. The Guardian of the Endless Road and the Stone Roots of Rill — both destroyed and gone, blowing away in the winds of the Descabellado. For this you have been forgiven. The murder of Lord Argon and his retainer Lithium have been washed from your slate.”
The crank on the faucet begins to move, and clear water begins to pour into the cell.
“Forgiven. Forgiven and spared. And chosen — yes, chosen. Chosen for something greater, to become something greater. Servant of the Dragons, yes — we will take you into the Dream, and your true forms will emerge. You will break the chains of the foolish Balance.”
The members of the party become drowsy with a magical sleep. As they fall unconcious all can see the pool of water spreading from the back edge of the cell and rolling slowly towards their closing eyes.
Scene Two: Indoctrination
The party blinks.
They stand in a room very similar in size to the cell, but the similarity ends there. The walls are made of lines of light, squares – a wire frame of energy. Where the cell door was, an open archway leads into a formless void.
In the center of the room, stands a tall wood elf with dark skin. She wears a floor length dress of sheer material, bodice plunging nearly to her navel.Tattooed in the center of her chest is the symbol of the Dragon’s Dream. Her hair is wrapped in a high twist, coiled with some sort of thick brass cable. She doesn’t appear to be substantial, she glows like a light purple phantom.
“I am Xenon. Welcome to the Dream.”
At some point the party will notice that they similarly do not appear tangible. Each party member glows as a mental projection of themselves. [What color is your mind?]
“You must pass through the Gestalt. Travel forward. Learn and survive. Apparent time moves slower than actual time, but your shells still lie unconscious in a room that slowly fills with water. Dally and they will drown. And sadly…your true selves cannot survive without your shells, at least not yet.”
“You are young to this way, your minds only have a fraction of the potential that we can unlock. For now you have what you believe you have — the residual impressions of the items and skill you carry in the physical world. In time, with our training, these limitations will fall away. Now begin.”
Xenon erupts into a beam of light, that arcs away across the dark void.
When the party passes through the first archway — they unlock:
PSYCHIC Rank: 0
A floor forms from green squares of nothing as the party proceeds into the void.
The room is circular, about 100 feet in diameter. A doorway is at 2 on the dial, but the center of the room is dominated by a vast square table, 20 feet on an edge. An elaborate clockwork city sits on the table, hundreds of tiny houses, vehicles, people, all whirring and moving in perfect harmony. DC 20 Perception to notice the Draconian details to the model — tiny claws, spines on the roofs, gears shaped like dragon’s jaws, smoked glass like dragon’s fire.
Then, black blobs begin to ooze up through the floor and take the form of primal ogres, and attack. They seem to be completely focused on destroying the table.
The door evaporates when the last ogre falls.
The next room has the appearance of a temple, or cathedral. Wide pillars support an arched ceiling holding back the void. The outlines of cowled humans cluster around men with the heads of dragons, who touch them kindly and speak in hushed tones. The dragon-men beam with the expressions of proud teachers.
There are three main clusters/classes – then one dragon-man standing alone in the pulpit.
The three teachers speak in Eld tongue, the Examiner speaks in Common.
Red Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary WIS drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see a vast field of lights spanning across the globe – dreaming minds slipping into the void and flying around and around the physical world, as free as the birds of the air.
Blue Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary INT drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see a vast creature, a Titan — stomping across the fields of green. Decay follows in its wake, rivers fall sere and desert winds begin to blow. The people retreat to their cities, and try desperately to resist, but they are tramped underfoot.
White Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary CHA drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see yourself in a cage, a cage of stone. It reminds you of the roof of the Stone Roots. Hundreds of people are crammed into the cage, they claw and bite at the bars — or simply turn their backs inwards and ignore it. You walk to the wall and step through as if it was made of water.
PSY DC 10
What is the Dream? The endless potential of the sentient mind. The Hidden Kingdom of the Dragons.
PSY DC 15
What is the Truth? The Balance is a lie.
PSY DC 15
What is the Heart? You are only caged if you choose to be.
The Gray Examiner steps aside , and a the dais irises open into a set of stairs leading downwards.
The stairs terminate on a featureless plain. Party makes out a faintly shining beacon to the north, as they approach, it reveals itself to be a tower with a torch on the top.
Xenon’s voice whispers in the void.
“You can save the planet.”
“You can undo what has been done.”
“Repair the breaking of the world.”
“You can break the Titan itself.”
“Break the Titan and break your own chains, Children of the Dragon!!!”
A second light appears at the top of the tower, and the party realizes they are looking into two burning eyes of a massive stone goliath. It pulls a vast scimitar from its chest and moves to attack! Scattered around the field are small nodes of psychic energy, a PSY roll of 15 unleashes a burst of energy against the Titan.
After defeat, the featureless plain collapses and the party slowly drifts down into a room similar to the first. Six Doors wait, each marked with an odd symbol and a word scrawled in Common on the door.
Xenon’s voice: Choose your name, choose your place in the Children. Choose a door and take what is offered. You are one of us now until the dragons awaken. Accept the power that is given and be blessed, or deny it and be enslaved. Or do nothing and drown. The choice is yours.
Beryllium – [Domingo]
Magnesium – [Rhoga]
Calcium – [Nenemi]
Strontium – [Anka]
Barium – [No-Name]
Radium – [Sir Mander]
The party each select a door — if they take too long, they all start to feel a pressure in their ears, and in their chest, the water is rising into their lungs. Each member goes into a door, and find themselves in a small closet. There is a stool, and a table with a chalice.
Those who accept the Dragon’s power gain 1d10 PSY points and Dragon Power: Telepathy 1/day. 10 min/level. you plus 1 person per 3 levels.
Those who resist gain 1d4. -2 Will saves against Draconic Effects.
The Dream begins to break up, and the everyone coughs and flails in the cold water they are laying in. Everyone stumbles to their feet, and see that the door of their cell lies open.
Descabellado in the Old Tongue. Misbegotten, wild, by-blow, wrong side of the sheets. Bastard.
Mean son-of-a-bitch Desert, is what it should be called.
They don’t worry about it much, down in the soft South. The fine cities, and the Emperor’s mines and the dons and their ladies sipping at spider-tea under the shade of a white umbrella.
I worry. I worry plenty.
My wagons and my goats, out in the mess. Wind and sand, chewing away at your skin, gumming up the wheels, howling in the night so a man can’t get a decent sleep. They pay’s good when I roll into a town, but I’ve come close to dying of thirst more times than I care to remember. Anything goes wrong out in the Bastard, anything at all and all they’ll find is your shiny white bones.
I’m a fair tailor, a better cook, and a sharp-nosed merchant. I buy cheap and sell dear, and the common folk know better than to complain about the prices. They know what it takes to bring my tiny wagon across the sands, know the gold I pay to my caravan guards to keep the critters and savages and damn trail-spooks off of me.
One day, I’ll have enough money to retire. Buy me a nice little shop in Toledo and sell coffee and biscuits and spend every morning and evening sweeping my front stoop. Not a speck of sand, and clean white cloth on every table – the inside of the shop will always be cool. Cool stone and some nice green plants.
Not like out here in the Bastard.
Shit, I don’t even know why I’m writing all this. Won’t feed the cat or wake the Titan, like my old man used to say.
Fills the time, I suppose. Better than praying, or remembering. Not as good as drinking, but I’m out of whiskey until I make it to Briar in three days time. Ink I got, whiskey I don’t.
Listen to that sand howl, like a mad creature in the wind. Ha. Time to go to bed, that almost sounded poetical.
— Day, — Year
The Bastard Sands
[A little flavor text for my nascent tabletop campaign, Titan’s Wake. ]