Part 5 of our first Album Adventure, based on Assembly by Theatre of Tragedy, a gothic metal/electronic band from Norway. Assembly was released in 2002 by Nuclear Blast.
After the tomb of Queen Sarromere proves a little underwhelming, both due to it's simplicity (a mad, exiled queen could not afford much in the way of a tomb, and her sons may have exaggerated somewhat) and it's content, and with the key in hand, the players have what they need to finally defeat the Assembly, a being that seems to have managed to survive in the form an entity trying to subvert the systems of the Dream Sallow on the Sarromere brothers estate to it's own purposes. A days solid journey on the fast Brehm, should get them back to Dynafel, but what will they find when they return?
Getting the Players Involved
The adventure leads on directly from the last encounter, though the players if not involved, may come across Lady Alizarin and the two dead brothers. She will offer them the key, telling them the Dynafel requires it to avert a terrible trouble in the city and that the players will surely be heralded as heroes if they return with it. She makes no comment on the slain brothers and will have collected up the dormant gazers in some large sacks which she will be taking on the backs of the two spare Brehm.
The way back to Dynafel is uneventful, but as they get closer they realise that the mist has receded. Has something happened to resolve it, or are they too late? Without the mist in which to manifest, the player may realise that the avatar of the Dream Sallow can not communicate with them, if she is even still alive.
As they move into the city, the find people just standing still, looking up at the sky, their faces expressionless and eyes blank. There is a faint white dust settled on every person, but they don't seem to notice or care. The people remain motionless and are non-responsive, even if shouted at or slapped.
Throughout the city, as the player head to the Sarromere Estate, they come across hundreds of people just staring blankly upwards. Everything seems extra bright, the light reflecting off the white dust that lays everywhere. As they move through the city, the players should make perception checks against a difficulty of level 3. If they succeed they catch a glimpse out of the corner of their eyes of one of the catatonic citizens moving slowly towards them, but if they turn to look, the person is standing as before. Clever players may investigate the dust and will notice that they have actually moved, leaving faint foot prints.
When one of the player fail a roll, perhaps one of the citizens attack, driven to action by the Assembly in their heads.
Dust-folk 2 (6)
- To protect the Assembly
- 2 points
- Immune to intellect attacks
- The dust-folk lash out with fists and feet, even attempting to bite if they get close enough. They are slow to activate and prefer to sneak, taking their prey unawares by leaping on them from behind and biting them savagely on the neck.
- When directly observed, the dust-folk host mind tries to free itself to communicate, but fails and results in the blank, staring mode they normally occupy. However, when not watched, the Assemblys programming takes over and tries to turn them into silent, stealthy killers.
The Sarromere Estate is gone, cocooned in a web of white dust, compacted and joined together into solid walls so that it appears more grey than white. On closer inspection, the walls of the cocoon are not made just of the spore-dust, it seems people have been integrated into it's material, their flesh melting seamlessly into the texture of the wall. Hundreds of faces look out from the gossamer cocoon, staring blankly.
If the players attempt to cut, damage or touch the wall, the faces all stare at them, screaming silently. One face can be heard, the face of Queen Whenith Sarromere - the Dream Sallow's avatar. The voice is strained, but it manages to speak.
Listen, there is not much time. The Assembly has gained control of the spores, it's using them to turn the people into something else, to build itself a body, an organic machine, in the real world. It will be born soon.
If they players show her the key, she smiles, though clearly pained.
It is too late for me to help, it has taken too much control of my systems. But if you travel through the cocoon and find the tree, you can enter the dream-space yourselves. You have the key now, you will have power there, great power, perhaps enough to stop him before it is too late.
Her face takes on a great look of strain and a tear opens in the cocoon.
Go now. The Assembly awaits.
Then her face fades away into the material of the cocoon.
Inside the cocoon is bright, too bright, a pulsing red and pink with the rhythm of a heart that hurts the eyes. The players can almost feel the power of place and the air is host and moist, stinking of sweat and decay. For the most part, the layout inside the cocoon is the same as that of the Estate, though some places are difficult to move through due to thick nodules of flesh and spore-stuff and grow and pulse with the sickly red light.
As the approach the tree, the pulsing becomes louder, brighter and the heat and moisture becomes oppressive, making it difficult to breathe. It looks a lot different from the last time they were here. The tree looks sickly and black, red cracks open in it's trunk leaking out a sickly looking, milky-yellow fluid. The roots of the tree a practically visible through the ground, the dull, pulsing red but what stands out most of all is the branches of the tree. Gone are the gentle, drooping fronds of leaves, instead above the trees trunk, supported by strings of sticky spore-stuff is a huge pulsing mass of flesh, the once-branches disappearing inside.
From the mass hisses a wet, rasping voice, it's pitch warbling and distorted as if learning to use vocal cords for the first time.
You specified me, my new form. All must be one, we will all assemble, as is the great program. I will make you happy, I will make all happy, in unity there is peace. All will be one. Assemble.
A series of tentacle burst out of the ground, fleshy roots that shoot for the players skulls.
The roots shoot forward and before you can react, burrow into your skulls. The pain is excruciating but it's suddenly gone and the world fades to grey, to be replaced with a vast, glass city.
If the players refuse the intrusion (or you don't want to use it), they have to fight the roots.
Dream Roots 3 (9)
- Downloading minds into the tree's dream-space
- 2 points
- Speed defence as level 5
- Dream Roots attack with their razor sharp tips, trying to burrow through the skull or connect to the spine to establish a neural connection. When an attack hits, in addition to the damage dealt, targets must make a level 5 intellect defence roll or slip into the dream-space of the Dream Sallow.
Welcome Back, Operator
When the players awake into the dream-space, they find themselves in an immense city of glass, floating in a grey, cloudy expanse. Rectangles of light appear in the air and symbols rapidly scroll on them until resolving into words in Truth.
Welcome back, Operators.
As the player read, there is the sound of splintering glass as one of the immense skyscrapers of the city is smashed into pieces by a gigantic beast. Any questions the players ask are answered by the system via the rectangles and it tries to perform any commands they give it, such as:
- What is that thing?
- Anomalous process designated Assembly.
- Kill/Stop it
- Can not terminate process due to system corruption. Initiate debug mode?
- Initiate debug
- Debug mode enabled.
The system can grant them virtually anything, including flight, enhanced stats, and virtually any equipment or tools they can imagine or think to ask for. However, it is all of little use and the system, analysing their actions, eventually keeps prompting for debug mode to be initiated.
When debug mode is initiated, a light rectangle opens and from it emerges a gigantic, metal automaton covered in a variety of tools and protrusions of unknown purpose. The players are teleported to a command deck inside the automaton and a range of commands are supplied to them.
The automaton has many features and functions. With normal attacks such as punching and kicking, it deals 6 damage against Assembly (or instantly destroys anything else).
Raise(): Crashes the target process, stunning it for 1 round.
Renice(): Players can re-roll initiative but lose this turn.
Disassemble(): Exposes weak points of the creature, making all attacks 1 step easier for 2 rounds.
Download(): Sends the target process to an outside storage device - in this case, puts the process into the mind of the new body the Assembly has been growing. Using this on the Assembly makes it disappear instantly, but now they need to contend with it in the real world.
Logout(): Sends the players back to the real world.
Reload(): Resets the automatons health to 100. However, doing so is extremely disorientating for the pilots, dealing 5 intellect damage to each of them unless they make a difficulty 5 intellect defence.
Kill(): Does nothing, players see an error about system corruption.
When performing any action, players use Intellect, for both defence and attack. All players roll, the highest roll is the one that is used as the result.
The Assembly is clearly angry and confused. It is smashing it's way through the city and hundreds of residents, all manner of weird alien creatures and humans too, flee the destruction. It is clearly searching for something, trying to find a way out of the dream-space. When it spots the players, the beast turns on them.
I will find a way out, I will feel blood in my veins. A different life awaits outside. I can't stand this feeling any more, I must escape. Give me the key. GIVE ME THE KEY!
It charges them and attacks.
The Assembly 5 (15)
- The Assembly is too busy focused on maintaining it's control outside in order to grow itself a new body to inhabit that it can only manage basic physical attacks. It swipes with it's claws and bites with it's teeth.
When the players defeat the Assembly, it fades away. The Dream Sallows avatar appears and congratulates the players, telling them that without the Assembly to subvert it's systems, the body it was growing will die.
The Assembly in Flesh 4 (12)
- Confused and disorientated by it's new body, defends as level 2
- It swipes with it's claws and bites with it's teeth.
After defeating the Assembly (again) nothing much changes. Things are still a mess but the avatar is happy and her systems are restored. She insists the players should remain in the dream-space to live forever, but she allows them to leave. Out in the real world, the cocoon is coming apart and the fleshy nodules beginning to break down. The people covered in dust begin to wake up, their minds free, but the whole of the city of Dynafel is in disarray. It will be a long recovery process and a long time to clean up the mess.
King and Queen toKalloban survive. Hidden in the mayor's home, with the top physicians available, they remained mostly sealed off from the spores and managed to heal and hideout from the dust-folk. The mayor, if the players check in, believes their retelling of events and orders the destruction of the Sarromere estate and the Dream Sallow within, burning the whole mess of flesh and spores and the tree to the ground.