Thursday, November 12, 2020

Starling & Shrike: Missions of Mercy

Summary: These are the islands of high adventure. The battleships of a cruel empire steam to conquer a forbidden archipelago of diabolical psychonauts and secretive, star-enslaved sea-raiders. If this archipelago falls, the cradle of our civilization will lay open to invasion. You are the only hope for the wicked and benighted peoples of Glossolalia, Daimonia and the Grave of the Sorcerers, and for our people in turn. You will not be alone as you approach the final chaotic coast before the Seas you must defend for the tendrils of empire already reach for your throat....

This is a Weird Gonzo Detective Fiction campaign with its own rules-light system.

Fact Sheet
The World: Another
Tech Level: 1918
Playable Races: Humans
The Supernatural: Unique antediluvian monsters and spirits; dangerous occult powers
Social Organization: City states and bandit tribes
Character Classes: Jedburgh-style Detectives, their Contacts and their Auxiliaries

This series of posts will detail all relevant adventure locations, their situations, and their major personalities. The enemy will have his timeline. Whatever else happens is down to the players.

1. Missions of Mercy: Summary (you are here)
2. Character Creation and the Briefing at Starling & Shrike: The Snowy Night
3. The Dominion of Mandrake: The Mad Anarchy
4. The Panopticon of Bombaryx: The War of Light and Water
5. The Channels of Light and the Place of Things: The Bandit Tribes
6. The Kingdom of Kadwa and the Fire Isles: A Crumbling Tide
7. Glossolalia Isle: The Gossamer Pact
8. The Grave of the Sorcerers: The Dimensional Ark
9. Daimonia: The Shreds of a Shattered God
10. The Cynthian Empire: Know Your Foe

The Players Characters

You were born beneath boreal lights on a snowy mountaintop. Your destiny was written before your first heartbeats. You would be a wanderer, a detective, a gunman.

The corporate state of Starling & Shrike raises its citizens to be detectives for hire. Masters of infiltration, detection and the quickdraw. You are one of their chosen. No longer a wandering detective paying dues in his own good time, you serve Starling & Shrike in its internal affairs and special mission force: as one of the elite, unknown, and evil-touched Inspectors.

You have been called up for the deadliest mission in Starling & Shrike’s history: to enter a region that is experiencing an unprecedented anarchy and prevent a successful invasion on the part of the most powerful empire in the world.

You will be faced by the prospect of terrible foes seeking your aid in common cause; if you give them what they want you may win your war but end up delivering the world to even darker powers. You will experience the abyss that waits behind every vista and touch the daemonic and distant disinterested divine. You will encounter the extraterrestrial, extradimensional and superordinate at the zenith of each of the self-contained civilizations you must save; your ability to surmise and your .45 will be all you ultimately carry as you approach the heart of an enemy whom you must win as a friend from beneath the blades of the most extraordinary despots of this earth.

The Situation

The First Fleet of the Cynthian Empire is awaiting the completion of a canal in their client Kingdom of Kadwa. The canal will be finished in two days; the villages of the whole nation have been emptied of men, sent to labor under the whips of Cynthian enterprise.

Once finished, the canal will open our continent’s South Coast Sea region to the Cynthian Empire.

We were informed by a mole in Kadwa two days ago that the Cynthians intend to attack the three largest islands in the South Coast Sea so as to establish naval bases from which they will invade the continent via the chaotic South Coast regions. The island states targeted by the Cynthians are all absolute pariahs and we have no means of communicating with them.

No allied fleets will be able to reach the Southern Sea before the Cynthians invade these islands. As such, the inland city-states of Archzenith, Ascension, Troutbridge and Bounty have contracted Starling & Shrike with a request that S&S send the Council’s personal operatives to prevent this invasion. The S&S Council has accepted as the Cynthian Empire is an hereditary enemy. A cadre of experienced and trusted S&S Council Inspectors will be activated and insert onto the Southern Sea Coast, at which point they will do everything in their power to deny the Southern Islands to the enemy.

S&S has negotiated a contract with the northern city-states and a number of other regional creditors. Terms and payment are as followed:
Repulse or prevent the invasion of Glossolalia Isle: One dozen 100oz gold ingots
Repulse or prevent the invasion of the Grave of the Sorcerers: One dozen 100oz gold ingots
Repulse or prevent the invasion of Daimonia Isle: One dozen 100oz gold ingots
Secure all islands; the Cynthian fleet retreats to the Western Sea: Two dozen 100oz gold ingots
Starling & Shrike will take two ingots per objective; the rest will be delivered directly to the party or to a bank account of their choice.

S&S is providing the party with a single 100oz unmarked gold ingot for their preparation. It can be cut down however is needed. Each player also has 1d20 x 10oz of gold of their own personal liquidity.

The Mission, in no uncertain terms

Stop the Cynthians from conquering and occupying these islands by any means necessary. Payment is per Island held by forces not aligned with the Cynthian Empire; a grand bonus will be awarded for completely defeating the invasion.

Likely PC courses of action

Travel to the islands, ascertain the dispositions of the current inhabitants, free them of their domination or chaos and lead them in the defense of their islands against the Cynthians.
Ascertain Cynthian invasion plans, sabotage the construction of the Kadwan Canal to buy more time for the S&S operation, stabilize the South Coast region and thereby gain local forces and resources for the defense of the islands, rally support from the Bandit Tribes, clandestinely acquire high-quality gear from the Fire Islands (site of the annual Games of Fire; stunt planes, advanced belaying rigs, race-built yachts, biathlon gear, etc)

Obstacles - unknown to the players

The people of Glossolalia Isle are secretly exporting large runestones of radioactive lead and mercury to drive the people of the continent to madness in preparation for a transcendent empire in the ashes of the current world order, where all men of the master class are stretched to fit the insides of grinding dimension-shifting statues (the Statue Men) at the behest of the enigmatic Machine Elves. Several of their high priests have already been made into these statue-beings, who commune with the Elves by wrapping their arms in the gossamer of a unique subterranean creature to which they feed prisoners and psychologically-dissolved novitiates. The web gradually fractalizes into their bloodstreams and allows them to commune with their benefactors and taskmasters; transforming into a Statue Man requires the cocooning of a high priest in this gossamer. If the players can destroy the gossamer-spinning creature, they will sever Glossolalia’s connection to the Machine Elves. But that by itself won’t stop the invasion...

The relict and remote people of the Grave of the Sorcerers are being ruled by mistiform Star Viruses who were called down on comets by the sorcerer-kings of yesteryear. These viruses are intelligences whose neurons are distributed between viral cells suspended in a cohesive mist; they cruelly dominate this society by selectively raising and lowering the fevers of their people. Tongueless raiders (whose heads have been filled with lies about the continent) are sent forth to capture ironclad ships, theoretical physicists, biologists and occultists for the grand project of the Star Viruses: the creation of a vessel that will convey them to another dimension, or convey a viral planetary invasion force here- a Dimensional Ark. Few who labor on behalf of the viruses do so willingly; knowledge of the outside world is so scarce that if the players can begin to communicate with this tormented people, they may begin to unravel the web of lies that sets the People of the Grave against the human race at large. That said, should the players burn the viruses beyond brain-damage into destruction, the surviving Sorcerers will attempt to finish their work to escape the wrath of their people, leaving the island a glassy ruin...

The island of Daimonia is totally unknown to the outside world except as a shimmering shell over an unapproachable tropical paradise; a gleaming, many-colored wall of hard mist that vaporizes approaching ships. It has even lashed out to destroy watchful lingerers. In truth, the people of this island have been protected for many generations by their Tutelary Deity, an entity that ensures the Daimonia-dwellers are able to harvest their yams and hunt their seabirds in a state of absolute tranquility. Cynthian agents were able to breach this defense using a technology unknown to the isolated Deity: the submarine. After arriving on shore, they brushed past the confused islanders and located the Great Pearl in which the Deity dwelt, shooting it to pieces and bringing down the island’s defenses. What the Cynthians didn’t anticipate was that the shreds of the shattered Deity would take roost in various creatures and places throughout the island. They have since been prevented from leaving by the Deity’s rage subpersonality, which has possessed and fearsomely mutated a blue whale off the coast. They have been harried by the Deity’s possessiveness subpersonality, which has inhabited and gigantified a vampire bat in the island’s high crags. The subpersonality-shreds of interest, impulse and compassion are also loose on the island, while many more remain within the Great Pearl’s largest chunk. Without their deity, the bow-armed islanders will be defenseless against Cynthian steamships and armored sea-legionnaires, and even now factions among the priesthood debate whether they will join the Cynthians as auxiliaries or endeavor to bring together the deity’s shreds once more. A resurrected-but-incomplete deity could protect the island, but would perhaps turn out to be a greater danger to the world than the Cynthians…

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Art - First Run