EFFECTIVELY PREPPING THIS ADVENTURE
Get a good feel for the NPCs. Give them personalities, plans, conflicts; make them as 3d as your brain can handle. The adventure gets a lot more interesting if the heroes like the bandits and want to help them, and even more so if the feeling is mutual.
Decide why the players are on the Halcyon, and how long it is until the next stop- it’ll change the dynamics of the adventure drastically. If you have an hour to try and figure out how to evade your Imperial pursuers before the Halcyon docks again, that’s very different from being pilgrims wandering aboard and planning on staying for two days while flying over exposed Æther.
Skim over the locations; almost all they are are little oddities for the heroes to steal and interact with, but the conflict almost entirely arises from the party’s relationship to the bandits.
For a mean complication, have the heroes accompany an innocent but high-paying acolyte onto the Halcyon. Not only must they deal with the brigand’s plots, they have to make sure the acolyte doesn’t find out that the Halcyon has been defiled, else their worship would be ruined!
Thanks for reading, and happy gaming.
This carrack-blimp is adorned with religious iconography of a myriad of faiths, acting as one of the Church’s few remaining hubs of diplomacy and goodwill.
The Halcyon essentially acts as a mobile embassy.
Anyone on board is legally considered to have diplomatic immunity from the Empire bar none, and by extension most all surrounding republics and principalities as well.
Along with attracting genuine pilgrims of all sorts who come to revisit holy relics and cultural artifacts plundered by the Empire, the Halcyon attracts criminals and heretics who seek refuge from the Church.
In most cases, the priests of the Halcyon let them pass freely and make their final peace with whatever divinites they may worship, but firmly deposit them at the next port to meet their fates.
In the cases of high heretics and other such dangerous individuals, though, the Halcyon bears a secret incarceration chamber reminiscent of an Inquisitorial cell.
About a month ago, a group of five petty brigands, fat and lazy off a recent carriage robbery, boarded the Halcyon to try and finesse GOD BLINKED TWICE, a blade they (rightfully) suspected to be on board.
The robbery went sour, and the priest-crew tried to incapacitate the intruders.
The brigands slew them all, took their robes, and have been pretending to be the Halcyon crew since.
This defiles the Halcyon, rendering its protections moot and its religious significance impotent
Maestoso, an inordinately short, machiavellian Iodinian.
Dressed in a stage costume of nobelry, stolen from the acting troupe he was a part of.
He split off because he hated being the comedic relief all of the time, (erroneously) considering himself a serious actor.
Despite his bloated ego, he is terribly mediocre at most everything, and the others mostly keep him around because he’s engaged to Accelerando, and without his swordsmanship, the group would likely be captured.
Speaks with a nasal, haughty affect.
Accelerando con Molto, a perpetually tipsy Iodinian fencer.
Wears a billowy shirt, tight leather vest, and jaunty green scarf befitting of a swashbuckler of his infamy.
Genuinely caring and kind, tries to avoid violence if possible.
He has to pay for his booze somehow, though…
Wields GOD BLINKED TWICE, stolen from the Hall of Oblation (III).
When this rapier is broken (as with a FUMBLE), the broken piece flies into the air and fights on its own accord for d6 minutes.
It speaks unknown syllables aloud in a long-dead tongue whenever it sees a species it hasn’t seen before.
Speaks in rhymes and poems with mellifluous Iodinian lilt.
Delphine Bai-Chen, a fallen Saccharinian noblewoman-turned-infiltrator.
Disgraced after House Bai-Chen was revealed to be entangled with a smuggling ring.
After years spent training under Lord Voldwynscythe of the Oroborus Network, she is a master of spycraft in all its myriad forms.
She bears the tattoo of the Network on her right wrist, as does every inducted member.
Sarcastic, pessimistic, charismatic. Quickly grows angry if she’s not in control of a situation or if people aren’t following her (admittedly good) directives.
Speaks with any accent she damn well pleases, though her native Saccharinian sounds light a highfaluting French.
Ahvo, a grizzled Churlian pirate-mechanic.
Wears a classic Diesel-Age pilot uniform laden with beads and fringe, standard garb for a Churlian tribesperson.
He’s a dab hand at machinery and airships, and is halfway through an attempt to soup up the Halcyon’s propulsors.
Generally cheerful and honest, but has a deep vendetta against the Empire related to the woman in the daguerreotype in his cot (see VII).
He’s tight-lipped about the specifics, which means it’s free real estate for your creativity. When in doubt, they executed his sister for heresy.
Speaks with a Churlian accent; that is, like a British “person” trying to impersonate an American
Karavonovitch (Karo), a haggard Verminfolk in the shape of a vaguely humanoid mosquito.
Thirsty for blood and exhausted, given that he hasn’t fed in days.
Speaks in a deep Golgothan (Russian) drawl punctuated by ragged, wet coughs.
Their collective goal is to break into the innermost sanctum (X), where they presume the greatest of the Halcyon’s treasure lies.
Thusfar, they have been stopped by the Undifferentiated (see Room VIII).
The heroes represent their chance of getting past the barrier.
To try and convince them to help out, the five will pretend to be priests, and claim that the Undifferentiated’s presence are a novel development.
All five will frequently mess up on basic matters of ecclesiastical canon, sometimes humorously, sometimes as a deliberate clue that they might not be who they say they are.
Once they have reached the sanctum, the five intend to turn upon the heroes and try to seize the hold for themselves.
ENTER THE HEROES, running from the law or seeking some religious artifact they know to be aboard…
I: DECK OF FLAGS
A tangle of ropes from the masts and balloon bear flags of all makes and meins, from prayer flags to national and city-state emblems to donated rags made by grateful pilgrims.
Doors lead away to map chamber (II), the hall (III), and double doors give way to the worship chamber (IV).
If not elsewhere, Accelerando con Molto reclines on a rocking chair on the upper deck nearest the steering wheel, merrily whistling and greeting new arrivals with a lazy wave.
II: MAP CHAMBER
Intensely detailed maps of the motescape of various makes line the walls.
Small paper ribbons draped lovingly across the maps dictates the projected travel path, a months-long nation-spanning tour. Weird, the Halcyon is well off-course…
A large chest of drawers against the wall contains a catalogue of navigation crystals.
Navigation crystals are networks of silicon that show patterns (usually motes and their movements) in 3d space when light is shined through them, like a hologram.
A switch under the skirt at the top pops open a secret cabinet of crystals.
The crystals contain the location of hidden Inquisitorial bases, many of which are located in the unlikeliest of places.
If not elsewhere, Maestoso is muttering to himself like a lunatic while he shuffles through the map crystals, looking for somewhere safe from the Empire to land the Halcyon.
Stairs lead down to the cargo hold (V), while two wooden doors lead out to the deck (I) and the hall (III).
III: HALL OF OBLATION
Illuminated by large windows, a myriad of pedestals stand about the periphery and center of the room, each bearing gifts once given to the Halcyon by religious diplomats.
d10 random offerings...
1 An inert mechanical squirrel with laser eyes from the Churlian Fields with alien script translating into “Mr. Nutsley” carved into its flank
2 GROWL, a butterfly knife of Bursingrian steel complete with glass wings keeping it aloft; whispers a constant stream of curses in all manner of tongues
3 The death mask of Reladonna Vestis, a famously assassinated scion of the Saccharine Dynasty; small glyphs are visibly scribed around the back of the eyes
4 A red-iron ankh that was allegedly ‘extracted’ from the tomb of one of the former Red Hierophants (rest their soul)
5 The skull of an Elf, whatever that is, excavated from a Golgothan quarry
6 A Saccharinian pot of multi-hued paint that once belonged to Garderyn Gallowel the Mad Sculptor; anything painted with it animates, but there’s not much left
7 A hunk of unrefined diamond from Zenith Mons that acts like an anachitis
8 An irate demon of whirling smoke trapped within a skull-shaped glass bottle
9 A worn Churlian-leather jacket with a talking skull embroidered into the back
10 A Golgothan spoon that can stir any liquid into pure water
A large glass display case bearing a sword stand lays shattered against the farthest wall.
The brigands will claim that they were raided by Churlian pirates, who stole away the sword in the case, which they refer to as HALF MOON FALLING.
In reality, Accelerando wields GOD BLINKED TWICE, the sword that actually came from the case. HALF MOON FALLING rests in other hands.
If not elsewhere, Delphine staring preturbedly at the contents of the display cases.
Doors lead back out to the deck (I) and the map chamber (II).
IV: WORSHIP CHAMBER
The wall of this room is dominated by a cubist display case of reinforced lead in the shape of the Periodic Table, in which rest samples of pure elements.
A battered copy of the Codex Periodicum sits in a lectern against the wall, alongside racks of incense, bells, and other artifacts of worship available for public use.
The Codex is an abridged compilation that weaves the narratives of the sundry Saints into a singular tapestry.
It is the canonical text of the Church of Her Red Word, though most theocratic scholars (even Clerical officials) agree that it cuts corners in its simplification.
A sand mandala set into the floor in front of the wall display contains a colorful, angular depiction of the Periodic Table.
Disturbing the sand on a particular element causes the relevant door to open on the wall display, giving a sample of the pure element.
At a moment when no one is looking, the case closes and is restocked with the element- this is replication arcana.
This property cannot be used again until the mandala is fixed by a trained Cleric.
Double doors lead away to the deck (I).
V: CARGO HOLD
This large, empty space cluttered with unorganized crates, some open and looted by the brigands, comprises the majority of the ship’s second floor.
d8 things in cargo crates:
1 Moldy peaches, now gathering flies
2 Saccharinian wine; written on the back of one of the labels is a draft of a rebellious communique
3 Silk rope, canvas, and wax for sail maintenance
4 Pickaxes and empty lanterns from a decommissioned Bursingr mining operation
5 Small bags of gunpowder
6 Confiscated Churlian narcotics from an Inquisitorial drug bust
7 Heretical books full of Ætherial research all annotated by one “Zzol the Mysteriarch, Ascendant to the Third Plane”, some occultist with a bloated ego
8 Golgothan religious artifacts painted over and labelled “masquerade costumes”
If not elsewhere, Ahvo is here doing some maintenance on the ship’s hull while merrily whistling a Churlian folk song.
On one side of the hold, a set of paper doors lead away to the Tea Room (VI), while on the other, a lead-bound iron door leads to the first Gauntlet (VIII). Stairs lead back up to the map chamber (II).
VI: TEA ROOM
Paper walls coated in a calligraphic rendition of a multicultural religious union mute the glow of lantern light into this reception chamber.
Behind the walls, one of the burning lanterns heats a valuable porcelain tea kettle whose water has long-since boiled.
A large round table, adorned with a tea set gone long-cold and cakes that are beginning to develop mold, is surrounded by plush cushions.
If not elsewhere, Karavonovitch is in this chamber, picking through the food for edible scraps without much success.
They will ask if any of the heroes brought anything edible, particularly blood, as an offering, no questions asked.
If they do so, Karavonovitch will become genial, and will advocate for the heroes staying alive. Otherwise, he will be snotty and advocate for their disposal.
A paper door leads back out into the hold (V), while an entrance concealed by murals leads to the cloister (VII).
VII: THE FELICITOUS CLOISTER
Four colorful cots of plush silk are surrounded with candles and blankets, one in each corner of the room.
Maestoso’s cot is hastily made, but moderately orderly. Under his pillows are a stiletto, an eternally half-finished script of his trials and tribulations made melodramatic, and a well-worn smiley face stress ball.
Accelerando’s cot is in a state of disarray. Included in the heap that is his sleeping area are unworn designer boots he plans on saving for his next joust, an empty engagement ring box, and a half-drunk bottle of Bursingr moonshine.
Delphine’s cot is immaculately made and arranged; everything is neat and organized. In a jewelry box next to her cot are a set of blue pince-nez, a makeup kit, and a vial of arsenic-water.
Ahvo’s cot is made, but oil-stained and wrinkled. Among his things are a well-stocked toolkit and a daguerreotype of a stony-faced Churlian woman.
A set of silver chains with a pile of pillows below serving as a perch near the center.
Karavonovitch rests hanging from the chains, like a bat. Underneath the pillows are their possessions: a used electrum incense burner in the shape of a beetle, a chunk of purple amber, and an empty decanter stained crimson smelling thickly of sugar and salt.
In the center of the far wall is a bookshelf laden with religious tomes.
A WITS roll or deliberate inspection reveals that a false book called “A Catalogue of Sins” is instead carved from a single block of wood.
Pulling it causes the bookshelf to swing on a hidden hinge and reveal a secret chamber behind the Cloister.
Scriptural runes along the top of the walls invoke Saint Phosphorus while living creatures are in the room, producing a harsh biological light.
Intended for surreptitious Inquisition behavior, the center of this chamber houses an austere medical chair, while a metal shelf on the far wall bears rusting tools of torture.
Four corpses in the earliest stages of decomposition litter the room, beginning to draw flies.
This is the original crew of the Halcyon, rest their souls.
Above the door shelf frame is a small bronze plaque bearing the inscription “C: DISSOLUTUM”
See the Gauntlet of Saint Carbon (VIII)
A sliding paper door leads out to the tea room (VI).
VIII: GAUNTLET OF SAINT CARBON
This room is locked with lead-reinforced steel; no scrying can divine what lies beyond while it is sealed.
Delphine carries the lead-bound key, looted from the pockets of the original Halcyon crew.
Two large troughs of fecal- and metallic-smelling maroon sludge line the walls.
When someone enters the room, the sludge begins to coagulate and separate into golemic forms, masses of blood and muscle and brain and bone medically named the Undifferentiated...
D6 Undifferentiated spawn, with another d4 spawning in d4 rounds.
Saying the word “Dissolutum” (found in the secret Inquisitorial chamber bordering Room IV) causes all of the Undifferentiated to collapse back into their constituent cells.
In the bottom the first trough the heroes check is a blue key; in the bottom of the second is a powerful lodestone.
A locked metal door painted blue on the far side of the room leads to Room IX.
Alongside the door is a long rubber glove, spanning fingertip to shoulder, stained with Undifferentiated-sludge.
IX: GAUNTLET OF SAINT SULPHUR
There is a vaguely warm 2-foot iron platform right near the mouth of this room; the rest of the floor and walls are superheated.
Metal left for a minute on the surface begins to glow dull red, bare skin blisters and boils on contact.
The ceiling is also not heated- maybe the loadestone will come in handy?
The gilded door on the far side of the room is unlocked, though the gold plating makes it immune to magic.
Somehow, the heroes have to traverse this 30-foot room without getting burned beyond repair.
The secret code word to shut off the heat, “Conflagrata”, died with the head priest, whose body is stuffed in the secret chamber behind the priest’s quarters (see VII).
X: SANCTUM OF THE SAINTS’ GIFTS
This reinforced, austere room contains nothing but granite pedestals lining the walls.
Each one bears a 6”x6” lead box finely carved with a cartouche containing either one or two letters.
The lead makes the boxes’ contents immune to being perceived, through magical or sensory means, until the box is opened.
He, Saint Helium’s box
In the box is a colorful feather from some Golgothan bird.
Flap the feather to hover a few feet off of the ground, and eat it to have your arms turn into wings (hope you aren’t attached to your digits).
Mg, Saint Magnesium’s box
Unsurprisingly blows up in the face of everyone CLOSE to it, dealing 1d8 damage.
Ca, Saint Calcium’s box
In the box is a single white pill that heals all HP or refreshes all POOL when eaten.
As, Saint Arsenic’s box
In the box is a slip of Arsenic-infused paper.
Write someone’s name on it to have them die of Arsenic poisoning one week from now.
In the meantime, a tattoo of St. Arsenic’s sigil and the writer’s name appears somewhere on their body- a warning.
Ag, Saint Silver’s box
In the box is a thin mirror, partially broken, the back surface containing a partially exposed ring of High Chemoglyphic.
The mirror can scry through broken shards of itself (d4 usage die before the mirror is expended).
One shard is already missing; where has it been placed?
If the mirror is entirely broken and the entirety of the Chemoglyphic ring is exposed, it summons a hostile ghost.
Rn, Saint Radon’s box
- In the box is a very hungry parasite called a Glueworm, native to the thermal caverns of Bursingr.