This campaign is somewhat light on the horror, because it turns out I don't know how to run horror. I'll figure it out eventually (maybe).
Note: this does reference Sunless Horizon's system a bit, but all of it should make sense.
Unnamed - Oblidisideryptch (joined on Session 2)
Aemanda Tessier - Dom
Eni Léashvath - Vayra
Arok Tseyvar - Kwub
Erul Avedayati - PurpleCthulhu
Zoma - Justin Hamilton
The characters were conscripted by the Overseer of Subrayada, a small fortress-town on the edge of House Chaigidel. The Overseer signed to her Herald, who said the Maglev Rail outside of town has failed. It's the town's artery - without it, there's no connection between it and the outside world. The Herald continued, saying the rest of the town's Jackals have gone missing after being sent on the same mission.
Then, the Overseer nodded, and the Herald said that she will give the PCs all her favor after the train is repaired. The Overseer waved again, and a small machine prints out a piece of plastic, on which is a map.
|Numbers here are for Route Stats - random encounter table/number of encounters per half-mile/distance in half-miles.|
A Trip to the Beach
After being given their mission, the PCs leave Subrayada, heading on the half-mile journey to the Coolant Sea. Eni decides to take the lead, rolling their incredible Analysis stat for a Pathfinding check.
And rolling a 1.
Eni decided to take a "shortcut", neglecting to mention that the shortcut would take them through a Red Zone - fully functional areas of Ein Soph, used for esoteric industrial purposes.
The path turns downwards, into a pool of reddish mist that swings back and forth like a tide. After long discussion (and a small amount of exposure), the PCs decide to light one of their torches and slowly push it into the mist. As the heat of the fire reaches it, the mist recedes - not burning up, but moving, almost like it was alive.
Note to Self: everyone will try fire on mists - don't have it work.
As they start to cross the mist, they hear footsteps behind them. They decide that caution is best, and continue before dousing their torches on the other side. They hear the footsteps progress, a cry, and then they recede.
They continue upwards, away from the pool of mist. Soon, they reach a gargantuan plain of metal, lit by cold white light. Eni immediately turns them around to head down a second path, which descends until opening up into a huge chamber - the Coolant Sea.
The Coolant Sea is a Region Node - one of the four types of map in Sunless Horizon (Region Nodes are small hexcrawls, Structure Nodes are dungeoncrawls, Abstract Nodes are for cities and other places where exact location doesn't matter, and the fourth is the pointcrawl map used for overland travel).
And here's where I made a tremendous, obvious mistake. The players start in hex 1.1. The goal is in hex 2.1. This leaves 7 hexes (all the most interesting ones) just... there, with no real reason to explore them.
Why Did We Take a Trip to This Beach?
The cracked, rusting deck of the worldship curves down into a miserable lake of knee-high stagnant water, with pools of prismatic chemicals drifting on it like clouds. A shattered tower juts out of the water like a broken tooth, and a flipped raft bobs up and down with the slight tide.
The PCs wasted no time, immediately splitting up to investigate both the tower and the raft. The tower was ruined and covered in Sea People graffiti, with only a single growing machine still working, and all its crops had already been harvested.
Some of the other PCs flipped the raft, uncovering a pair of waterlogged corpses, that seem to have been preyed upon by wandering water-striders. The players dump both of them, taking a pole to use as an oar, and start moving towards the mile-high power line they can see in the distance.
As they slowly make their way past the vines and roots that cover the water here, Eni looks up, and notices movement, a few stories up on one of the towers. Then, they see guns - simple rifles poking from many of the buildings, tracking them as they move.
They realize that a town has sprung up, holding on to the sides of the power conduit like a leech. They've all been told stories about the Sea People - about how they're violent and paranoid, and despise the Houses.
While Eni suggested lying about their work, and pretending to be independents, they decided to hide instead, slowly rowing around until they reached an unoccupied piece of the cable. Zoma was chosen to climb up, passing his climb roll and reaching a boxy outcrop 50 feet up.
At this point, I realized that the game's climbing/crawling rules took to long to figure out, and were too safe. Something to fix in the next version, I suppose (argh).
As Zoma thought about how to force the box open, the players saw 4 shapes bound across the towers - strange feathered crickets, each the size of a man.
Bugs are Fun
This was the first test of Sunless Horizon's combat system, and it felt like the first test of a combat system.
The tremendously overcomplicated action-based initiative system took 15 minutes to do on the first round, and the idea of declaring actions before you roll initiative, which was intended to provoke planning, actually took the feeling of control away from the players, as after initiative rolled everything became the GM declaring what they were doing.
The fight went well - my auto-hit + hit location attacks were pretty quick, and the low HP pools on each side meant the fight only lasted 2 turns (which would've only taken like 10 minutes if it wasn't for that terrible, awful initiative system).
Zoma forced the capacitor box open with his shiv (breaking it in the process), while [unnamed] tore open the crickets, looking for anything edible.
They all decided that things had gone pretty well for them, so they could probably afford to spend some more time in the Sea. They moved south, to inspect a Sea People watchtower. The tower was occupied by one rifle-armed person - while two PCs pretended to be from a nearby Sustainer Cell, [unnamed] climbed up the side of the tower and killed the sentry. Now, they have a gun!
At this point, all the PCs go completely feral.
Erul suggests that they should just eat the sentry, and most of the other PCs agree, despite the fact that it's been less than a day in-game, and they enough food for 3. Then they steal the sentry's pants.
After their descent into madness, the PCs all return to town, delivering 3 capacitors to the Overseer, and selling the last one for 5u - enough for one day of food.
There are many conclusions that can be drawn from these sessions:
- As a system, Sunless Horizon is a flaming ruin. The climbing/crawling rules are (currently) a complete waste of time, initiative takes years, everyone is sad, everything is bad.
- Don't put the start and goal of your hexcrawl right next to each other (how did I even do that).
- I desperately need a good introduction to the setting (one is currently in progress).
- I don't know how to write session reports (please tell me what I did wrong).
- My players are really nice to deal with this nonsense.