Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ceteri Prequel 2: Enter the Labyrinth they said, it'll be FUN they said

The Cast:

Cormac McAllister (Mavrick): The team's scout and master of crossroads. Cormac is also handy with a gun and might not be fully human.

Yanay Servantes (Annia): An Incan witch and powerful spellcaster. Yanay is really good at psychology.

Landon Winchestor (Alex): Rich. Posh. Utterly aggrandizing and pretentious. Still, an effective face.

Mike Bastian (Andre): A holy warrior who fights for the glory of heaven. Easy to guilt trip.

Agravaine Tashalan (Me): The grease that makes the entire team work smoothly. Agravaine is inhumanly and inconveniently attractive, extremely smart, and a real mastermind when it comes to planning.


We handwave the rest of the fight against the plant. One of the injured is an observer, which is unusual. We were under the impression that they had a handle on this small slice of the labyrinth. Yanay crits on esoteric medicine, with Mike providing First Aid, and Agravaine helping via Teamwork!

We stabilize the group, temporarily. Agravaine tries to trigger his bracelet to get more observers to show up, but it doesn't work. Mike casts a spell that confers regeneration to the observer, but they're in a nasty coma.

The way we'd entered from is now closed off. Two new directions are open though. We take stock, and head off 'left' (cause, labyrinth). The tunnel starts to narrow the further along we get. Either we're growing, or it's shrinking.

There's a tiny door ahead. Yanay tries to go through.

Yanay's bracelet suddenly glows blue. Then she gets stuck. Mike shoves her through, and then the door turns normal size.

The next room is strangely shaped. There's a stone sliding door, similar to a portcullis. We all hear the sound of buzzing. It's a bunch of bees.

Yanay casts a spell, which fizzles the second it hits the bees.

There's a big carving of a Queen Bee in the center of the room. When stepped on, it seems to trigger the door. A few bees get agitated by this, buzzing around Mike. He tries to order them, and is attacked. Mike is getting stung and chased by the bees.

Yanay steps onto the center dais and bees start landing on her. They aren't stinging her, but they are making it hard to breathe. It's at this point Annia points out Yanay has Animal Empathy, and is evidently a badass at it. The bees clear her nose.

The door slowly starts to lift up. After about three minutes it opens into a field. Yanay is fatigued by heat exhaustion just sitting in a blanket of bees.

Our bracelets turn green upon entering the field.

Yanay refuses holy water Mike seems to conjure on the spot. The field is featureless and extends forever, perfect for retreating forever. Of course the door behind us is gone.

We wander a bit. Mike is able to Navigation (Land) to keep us on a straight course. Landon's gut instinct spell seems to indicate danger down below. Cormac uses Survival (Between), and Yanay uses Hidden Lore (Dimensional). Cormac definitely senses something dangerous.

There's some signs of ecology- insects, rabbits, other strange shit- but it looks like a twisted version of the great plains.

A door opens ahead of us, appearing magically.

There's three observers, including Olivia,  carefully avoiding the grass. We're allowed in through the door, into the labyrinth. The Labyrinth is getting even more angry and hostile.

We're escorted to the infirmary and the injured Observer is placed on life support.

Cormac tries to ask Olivia what happened. She smirks and claims technical difficulties, and then indicates that no, trials (and beatings) will proceed until morale improves.

(It's currently the 15th of October, next trial is on the 17th of October.)

Yanay finds a bee in her hair made of solid gold while bathing after the trial. It looks really realistic, like it was transmuted. She decides to use it as jewelry.

We have two days of rest. Landon continues to impress and win over everyone during downtimes with his charm and sophistication.

Olivia visits Agravaine on the 16th, accompanied by someone who might (maybe?) be mid 40's, with long hair and a Flamberge on his back.

He introduces himself as Erasmus McAlister. Erasmus and Cormac look suspiciously similar. Yanay asks Cormac if there's a relation, while Agravaine cracks a joke about Cormac aging more gracefully.

Erasmus indicates that he gave up familial relations when he took his oath as a Custos Knight, but notes that Cormac looks a lot like his mother.

Olivia indicates that Erasmus is in charge of the Custos Knights, that the Observer we saved was his partner, and that she's speaking for Erasmus cause he's a man of view words.

They leave, and we all receive a card with the Custos Sigil on it. The Director might consider us for Custos Training if we survive the trials.

(Date: October 17th)

We are ready to go through our third Trial. Cormac isn't going this time- something about library duties and compulsory safety training.

Ms. Baril continues to guide us to the Labyrinth.

We go down a hall, and find ourselves in a small room. The walls are covered in symbols and writing from what appears to be every culture and every language.

We're all allowed checks against Symbol Drawing to make sense of it all. Yanay crits. Yanay can detect that there's a pattern, but not all of it. Certain symbols need to be pressed in a set order, which means finding out the order, as well as finding the right symbols themselves.

Most of us are relying on Thaumatology to piece things apart, while Mike seems to be leveraging his theological knowledge to help.

We start to make some headway on the patterns and symbols, but progress is slow.

Landon decodes: So in the Heavens
Agravaine decodes: As on Earth
Mike: Raziel (Basically Uriel from Dresden, angelic spy, yadda yadda) is involved
Yanay: There's some Incan related stuff, but nothing that's really contextually related to what we're dealing with

Yanay crits vs. IQ. The pattern revolves around three concepts- Secret, Heaven, Earth.

Landon sees the name Pursan in Hellion. Pursan is closely related to secrets as well.

(Aside: Alex draws an off-hand reference to Fable from Christopher, which is produced by Lionshead studio, and Raziel is depicted as having a Lion head......)

We're getting drained as we spend time in the room, we begin to notice. All of us are down 6FP.

We keep plinking away at the symbols. Touching all of the Zodiac causes the symbols to go nuts and the door to open. It leads to a hallway, then another room which is full of stone hands that are jutting out of the wall, making multitudes of gestures.

Landon and Agravaine quickly determine that the hands are making magical gestures.

Yanay crit-fails, and is grasped by a stone hand. Mike shoots it with his pistol, to no effect.

Numerous other hands merge together to form faces in the walls. "That wasn't very nice."

The various faces start talking. They let go of Yanay once it's established that grabbing her wasn't cool and that Mike didn't do any harm with his pistol.

The hands instruct us to do symbols as they do.

All of us decide to go along. The symbols and hand movements start getting more complex. Lucian and Agravaine are both doing excellent (Agravaine crits.)

Landon and Yanay find that their hands are frozen in position.

During the next wave, Mike and Trina (Tina?) wash out.

Agravaine dislocates his index finger during a surprisingly hard series of gestures (crit-fail). But the room resets and everyone's hands return to normal. It seems it was Lucian's test, and he passed. Agravaine pops his finger back in with a successful Teamwork! check.

Another hallway. Another room. More self-closing doors.

This room looks sterile, clean, and its floor is segmented into 3-foot blocks. Once inside, the door closes and the floor starts sliding around, like the rocket hideout from the first generation of pokemon games.

The entire floor flows one way, before switching it up. The walls start to produce spikes when we get close. Landon seems to have no trouble hobbling along (Crit).

Tina and Agravaine are the first two to touch the walls. Landon and Agravaine both then fall as the room speeds up. Both manage to catch themselves before hitting walls.

Agravaine's produced a spear, attempting to use it to brace himself from smacking into the wall. Tina falls and smacks into a wall. Landon is the only one that keeps his feet. Agravaine smacks into a wall, taking damage.

Yanay casts a spell to mitigate getting slammed on spikes, which causes the spikes to grow in length. Trina is the only one who isn't able to get back up during a pause, getting stuck and taking an additional 3 points of damage.

Agravaine tries to determine the pattern to the movement of the floor- and crit fails. Agravaine just barely avoids disaster during the next loop of the pattern. Tina meanwhile is getting savaged by the spikes.

Eventually, Agravaine notices that some bars and ropes are overhead. Everyone jumps up and grabs them, eventually losing FP (meaning all of us are down 7) desperately hanging on. The floor slows and then stops.

Tina is in horrible shape. Yanay and Mike stabilize her with Magic, but she's too injured to continue the trials- and will likely be in recovery for months.

We're treated with magic and then given two days to rest. Trina's stuff is gone when we return. Landom schmoozes, Agravaine's dragged off by Olivia for more training, Mike likewise, and Yanay engages in some dancing. Agravaine's noticeably tired and cranky after the second day of training with Olivia.

Onto the fourth Trial. Baril is humming Another One Bites the Dust. She's more than happy to inform everyone that entire groups of initiates do fail sometimes.

Eventually, we wander into a gigantic ballroom, complete with Dancers. Someone identifies it as 17th century France. All of us are approached by dance partners. Seeing that Mike has been paired up with a dude and has to dance the female part, Agravaine applies some Sex Appeal and his otherworldly appearance to ensure he gets a good looking female partner.

Agravaine's partner is wearing Greek robes and laurels.

The dance begins. Agravaine seems to be a natural, getting a crit vs. DX to dance, then getting a second crit on dancing during the slow number. Agravaine's partner introduces herself as Namid. She's impressed that he can dance well for someone so young- and he's surprised himself. He eventually scores her number.

Yanay and Mike both fall out of step with the dance. Landon does his best to continue, but his partner flubs, dropping him out. Agravaine and Namid continue to gracefully move across the ballroom floor.

The labyrinth isn't done with us however, sending us to another Trial. The next room is a massive apothecary storeroom. Nine bowls rest in the center, marked with a single letter of the Jewish Alphabet. Alchemical ingredients are everywhere. Yanay figures it out more or less immediately- the bowls correspond to something to do with the 9 branches of the Jewish Tree of Life Sefirot, which match up with the 9 path skills.

We confer to see who should try and cover what path for the sorting that's likely about to begin.

Lucian - Path of Undead
Landon - Path of Chance, Path of Spirit
Yanay - Path of Magic, Path of Matter
Mike - Path of Energy, Path of Body
Agravaine- Path of Crossroads, Path of Mind

We're given an opportunity to guess appropriate ingredients for the paths in question, or the option of making a check.

Mike rolls to deal with the bowl covering Body. He eventually finds a dagger, placing it in the bowl. The bowl glows and the dagger floats to his belt and inserts itself there.

Alex, Landon's player, guesses that a deck or cards or a four leaf clover might be appropriate for Chance. He finds a dried out four leaf clover and places it in the bowl, which lights up.

The crossroads bowl is next. I guess that keys would be appropriate, and the bowl lights up.

Mike opts to roll to find an ingredient appropriate for Path of Energy. He scalds his hand when he places a bad item into the bowl. The second time around he scrounges for Coal, and his bowl lights up.

Yanay is next with Path of Magic. She places some gorse in the bowl, and it lights up. Next up is Path of Matter, and she dumps some lead into the bowl.

For Path of Mind, Agravaine's foresight allows him to produce some cocaine, which causes the bowl to light up.

For Path of Spirit, Landon opts to steal some of Mike's blood, flicking it into the bowl. The bowl lights up. Landon quips something about Virgin Blood, and Mike slugs him.

Lucian throws gravedirt into the bowl for Path of Undead.

We're onto the next challenge, and the next room.

The entire room is entirely circular, disorienting due to the lack of a ceiling overhead, and 9 symbols of magic around the room. The day/night cycle is fast, comprising about 40 minutes to do a full day/night cycle.

We touch the symbols in the same order as the bowls. Eventually Yanay gets zapped. We all take injury as we get zapped.

We start casting spells as we touch each symbol, which causes them to glow and us to not get zapped. It's in the same order as before. We breeze through to the next room, and the Labyrinth spits us out.

Agravaine uses super-dark chocolate to keep Olivia from strangling him for having Cocaine.


So, the symbols, floor, and hands puzzles were basically just a series of skill checks. OVER and OVER and OVER. The drinking challenge was the same too. My patience definitely started to run out during the floor challenge- rolling against DX 10 over and over again isn't particularly fun, especially after you've exhausted options for improving the situation.

Commentary (Christopher):

I'm kind of disappointed that over both sessions I haven't been able to make these various tests more interesting than I have. The players are doing some fantastic work...but I feel like I'm failing here somehow. I'll need to ponder exactly what I'm doing and how I can do it differently to make things work.


"Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains
"Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve
"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
"The Drowning Man" by The Cure
"Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men

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