This act feels like it was written as an introduction to Torg and the Living Land. They set aside time for storm knights to introduce themselves and tell stories, and some of the scenes look like they are designed to showcase simple combats and teach players that the Living Land is primitive and has dinosaurs. While good in itself, it comes at the expense of the story holding together.
These revisions assume players already know each other and understand the Living Land. Some of it is cosmetic, changing speeches so that players have more information about what they're after from the beginning. There are also a few encounter changes that allow players to use the many abilities they have.
The first act is not opened up too much, it's still a bit of a linear railroad, but there's a little more connection to what comes later. The most important part is to get them to realize a rebel edeinos has stolen the God Box and is making her escape with it.
In this scene, players receive their briefing from the Delphi Council and go through the Living Land to get to Fort Washington. Along the way they need to deal with a few hazards of the Living Land. My changes involve stronger tie-ins to the later story, giving the players a bit more choice in how they get to the Living Land, and adding the difficulty of actually getting the supplies into the Fort.
Specific breakdowns follow.The USS Theodore Roosevelt
I don't like pulling in Quinn Sebastian all the time. I'd recommend a different agent to do the briefing, especially if the players already have another contact. I prefer Amanda Larkins. The briefing the players receive needs to change in emphasis, use something like the following.
"Welcome to the USS Theodore Roosevelt. I'm Amanda Larkins and I'll be your handler for this mission. Officially, this is a rescue and resupply run. You're going in to the ruins of DC, which we're still holding by the way, and our reality still rules there. It's one heck of a hardpoint. We have supplies for you to bring in there; it's not just a cover story. They need ammo and medicine, and we have it. You'll also be going on rescue missions. There are lots of small communities holding on in the area, and we want them out of the Living Land before they transform or the lizards get to 'em. I don't have much more info on them now, you'll get that from Colonel Chavez on site.
"OK, I've been calling that the official reason, which probably tells you there's another reason I want you in the area, and you'd be right. The lizards have been making serious runs at the Smithsonian. Sure, there's probably artifacts in there that are supporting our reality, but there are lots of other hardpoints in DC. No, we think they're after something, but we don't know what. Whatever it is, if they want it that bad, we want it out of the area.
"No raiding the museum, though. Sorry. Director's orders. He's sure there are artifacts there holding up our reality, and we're not to move 'em. If you can show the lizzies really are after something and figure out what it is, you have authorization to take it and bring it back here, but only if you meet both conditions.
"We can airdrop you or bring you in by sea. Any preference?"
The supplies for Fort Washington are packed in bright plastic so they're harder to lose, and secured to a sled in case anything goes wrong. The sled and supplies weigh over a thousand pounds, and will require at least two people to pull. It has wheels for solid ground and runners for swamps, but it will not be easy, so the closer you get to your goal the better. The Council has experience with the Living Land, and are trying to maximize their chances of getting the supplies to their goal.
Entering the Living Land by air is generally preferable since you can get much closer to your target. The agent should try to emphasize that. If players do choose to go by plane, the plane suffers a Lakten attack as in the module. However, it is possible that Storm Knights have the air vehicles skill. Anyone who does can try to take over from the pilot. Allow a challenging (DN 12) air vehicles check to avoid the Lakten. On a success, the flight resumes and they air drop right into Fort Washington. If they fail, allow the Storm Knight another challenging air vehicles test to land safely. On a success, they bring the plane down and do not have to fight the entangled Lakten. If they fail that test, or no one has any piloting skills, run the encounter as written.
If the players go in by sea, or the plane lands outside of DC, they will have to pull the sled. It's heavy and slow going, but in either case will just take a full day's travel.The Gospog Field
The gospog field should be a bigger deal than it appeared in the original module. If players flew in safely, they will skip this part, only encountering it if they had to make the trek. This version is a bit more difficult than the original, and it will be references again in Scene Three, when the edeinos attack Fort Washington.
If players have not encountered gospog or a gospog field before, emphasize the strangeness and horror of vines growing from and twisting through the dead bodies. If players have seen it before, emphasize that this is close to Fort Washington and was not included in any of your briefing material - this is a serious threat. However, there are far more of the creatures here than you can deal with.
Discourage players from rummaging through their sled. They would have to cut open the containers and do not know how things are packed. If they insist, improvise.
Moving through the field without alerting the gospog is a dramatic skill resolution, but the survival difficulty is 14 if the players are hauling the supplies - the big sled hampers them from moving easily among the bodies. If the gospog begin swarming, there will be 2 gospog/ Storm Knight, but an equal number arrive each turn - this is a field, the storm knights will be overwhelmed eventually. The gospog will attack the Storm Knights in groups of 4, generally doing an all-out attack. To all intents and purposes, there are in infinite number of gospog. Players can outdistance them easily if they run, but they cannot run with the supplies.
When players arrive in DC, Major Chandler will work as in the original, but will also want to know where the supplies are if they players don't have them - he'll want to recover them. If players tell him about the gospog field, use the following:
"What? That close to us. How did our scouts miss that? Those bloody things are getting way too aggressive, I don't know if... Don't repeat this. I'll get one of our special teams out there once we've got your ammo. I think there's some firebombs in there, and it that doesn't work, well... We'll do something else."
In this scene, the Storm Knights meet and interact with several NPC's whose rescue is intended to drive them through the majority of the adventure. They also go out on a mission to rescue people in the Living Land, and again are supposed to form attachments to drive them through the adventure. The revised version puts a bit more emphasis on defeating the villains, so we introduce Malacryx's forces here, and also show some intra-edeinos conflict. Escort Duty
Major Chandler's speech to the storm knights needs a few additions to remind them of the main threat from the edeinos. Try something like the following:
"Right. Your Delphi Council sent you here to help bring in refugees, so let's get to it. We still get a few each day, though God only knows how they get through the jungle and the lizards.
"Not sure how, but there are still some whole communities out there. My soldiers forget what a gun is if I send them out scouting, but these folks have lived out there for three months now. Go figure. I hear you expect to survive out there, and I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"Standing orders say we don't forcibly move anyone, so if they don't want to come, you've got to let them stay where they are. With Lizzie getting anxious out there, I don't give them much chance, and we keep trying to convince HQ that some of these folks are joining the enemy. So far, the orders stand. You want to press the issue a bit, I won't complain, but that part's up to you. They're still Americans; don't kill them.
"And don't bring back the ones who've already changed. That goes bad.
"You'll be going to Temple Hill, the Henson Creek Manor complex. It's down the Potomac and then inland a bit. We've got a boat for you that's already survived two trips out there without falling apart, so we're hoping it'll do a third. Just keep a close eye out. We've seen lots of lizard movement the last week. There's something big going on. Ready to go?"Hansen Creek Manor
When the players make it to Temple Hill, they find several of the residents badly injured. There have been three edeinos raids over the last week. If players ask for details, they will say that two of the raids involved the edeinos with the red dye on their face, and that's where the injuries came from. The most recent raid had lizards with yellow dye on their backs, and they slaughtered anyone they caught.A Bigger Boat
This encounter is almost a complete rewrite, and is the main center of this scene now.
On returning to the boat, the players find there are edeinos present. To let the fight scale, assume there are 3 edeinos / Storm Knight, and half as many velociraptors. If players ask, but only if they ask, tell them the attackers are Redjaws. The edeinos are hunting for slaves, they aren't here for a fight. Once they identify the Storm Knights, they'll using Grasping Vines to hold them in place while they abduct the civilians. For ranged combatants, they will bless another edeinos, who will use a called shot to try to disarm their foes.
Once the attackers have captured their first civilian, a new edeinos bursts onto the scene, this one with gold on its back, a Goldsun. She is one of Malacryx's Handmaidens, and rips apart the civilian being carried away. Half of the Redjaws will work to block her from taking further civilians, giving the Storm Knights an edge to get away.
What's going on: The Handmaiden, under Malacryx's orders, is slaughtering humans to try to bring the "cowards behind the walls" out into the jungle. The Redjaws, under their orders, are gathering up slaves to fight or work. They are all under Kaah's Holy War, and are not to attack each other (though they'll ignore that order under many circumstances, at the moment they're keeping it.) Neither of them speaks the other's language (I have the clans speak different languages given their low social axiom.) If the players speak either clan's language or have another way around it, or you prefer to ignore language problems, use something like the following:
Handmaiden: "Stop coddling these apes. They're dead already. You ruin us by bringing them inside the circle, and if it weren't for Blessed Kaah's orders I would rip you into shreds and eat your hearts."
Redjaws: "Stay away, Goldsun. Your people are weak in Lanala's eyes. It's easy to pretend strength when we aren't allowed to fight you. Go back to your lands and conquer there like the Great Saar told you to."
The Handmaiden will not attack the storm knights, she's here for slaughter. As long as at least 4 Redjaws can interfere, she will be able to kill one civilian every 3 rounds. If there are fewer, she will kill one every round, and if there are none interfering, she can kill two per round. If the Redjaws run off, when half of them have been killed, she will retreat as well. She'll also retreat if she takes 2 or more wounds.Everything Here Wants to Eat You
As the fight with the edeinos has been ramped up, the dinosaur attack on the boat ride back would be an anticlimax. Skip it unless the players had a particularly easy time with the edeinos. Or run it quickly just to remind them that the jungle is dangerous even without their main foes.
In this scene, Fort Washington is attacked, the God Box stolen, and some hostages taken. The players set out after the hostages, and follow them through the black box of the dimthread tree. In the revision, the attack gets bigger play and tries to show that both sides are competent. The Storm Knights will start to interact with their opponent's forces, and the God Box maguffin gets earlier play.Tall Tales
This scene starts with an interlude back at Fort Washington. It feels light to me, but is reasonable enough. I'd recommend shifting the focus of medical attention to the new refugees, rather than the Storm Knights.
During the dinner talk, the major should find some time to emphasize that the ongoing edeinos attacks they've suffered have shifted in the last few weeks. There are stronger lizards, and strong strike teams have focused more on the Smithsonian. This would also be a good point to bring up that edeinos military tactics are quite good - they don't do logistics, so moving from point to point is slower than a modern equivalent, but during a fight they feint, retreat, surround, and use terrain to excellent advantage. Living Land social axiom is roughly equivalent to ancient Sumeria, and all these military tactics were standard fare in their wars. Do not downgrade the edeinos.Too Good to be True
When the battle starts, use the following for Major Chandler:
"Battle stations, everyone. You," pointing to the Storm Knights, "hold here." He goes to get a radio report of the situation, then says, "There's a big assault. I want you to head to the Castle. They've been after it enough that this could be a way to draw us out. Bring the refugees with you, they'll be safer if you get them inside." He will go to his station without taking time for any questions.
Depending what happened with the gospog field in scene one, he'll add:
If the players never encountered the field: "The brought truckloads of those dang gospog. This is going to be tough. You should... No. Stick with the plan. Get to the Castle."
If the players encountered the field but abandoned the supplies there: "This is what they wanted those gospog you told us about for. Wish we'd had time to clear them out. Keep to the plan. I want you over at the castle."
If the players encountered the field and got supplies to Fort Washington: "Hah. They've got some of those gospog on the attack, but not near as many as they'd have liked, I bet. Good job, and thanks. Now get to the Castle."Battle in the Gardens
To scale the fight with the chameleon scouts, have two and a half per storm knight, plus the one reality rated optant. Their job is to delay any reinforcements from reaching the castle while Malacryx gets the artifact. These scouts are Gold Suns, if players ask (again, only say so if they ask.)
In their first surprise round, they will use grasping vines - keep in mind the storm knights are flat footed for this attack. The optant will cast strike on his spear and attack, while the rest will look for ranged combatants and gang up on them, while leaving enough room that the melee combatants cannot get to them.
After the first round, a flare gun goes off from the Castle, indicating they are under attack. If any storm knight tries to head to the castle, the chameleon scouts will begin attacking the civilians. If players go to the Castle anyway, no more than half of the chameleon scouts will follow, but the storm knights will face two Handmaidens guarding the entrance, with several slaughtered soldiers inside.
Five rounds after the signal flare went up, Scouts and Handmaidens will try to break off, when a tree outside the Castle catches on fire (Malacryx's signal.) For all the Goldsun forces, their main purpose in this battle is to delay the storm knights, and then to escape. If players are content to eliminate them, they can use Shape Plant to give themselves cover and defense. Tricks and intimidation can be used to stymie players so they can't do what they need to get into the castle, and so on. When they are trying to escape, they will leave people behind. They know what Malacryx carries is much more important than any one of them. Bread Crumbs
Major Chandler is unnecessarily cryptic here, and Baruk Kaah's involvement is needless and counterproductive to the end goal. The entire speech might not be needed, since players might go right to the chase, which is fine. If not, change Major Chandler's speech to something more like the following:
"Lizzie's on the run, but they made a royal mess of the Castle. They could have done a lot worse if they were just trying to destroy stuff, but it looks like they wanted aomething specific. They got it, and that might be bad enough. Reports are it's a Mayan artifact from the First Nations collection, religious artifact called the God Box. No idea what they mean to do with it, but if they want it that bad, I want it back.
"They also took some of our people, maybe hostages. Again, our reports say they were being carried off alive. Try to bring them back too. I'd send my men, but too many would go Tarzan in a fight. You're my best bet. The longer you wait, the harder it'll be."The Swamp
Malacryx has a head start, but players can try to catch up, and that's what this portion is all about.
First, if players get a good tracking success or a standard evidence analysis after any tracking success, they will know they are chasing a party of 20-25 edeinos with about 5 human prisoners. Let the party know that they will have multiple opportunities to reduce Malacryx's party size, which will make a difference in the end. She will not be able to get reinforcements. I'd let her start with about 6 handmaidens per storm knight - way too much to handle now, but not so much if they whittle them down.
Following the edeinos is fairly easy until players hit the swamp, at which point they go to a Dramatic Skill Resolution. If it takes longer than 5 rounds to get through the swamp, their opponents can make a clean escape. This is a hybrid DSR/chase, in that only one person needs to complete the first step, but then each storm knight must complete the remaining steps individually.
A: Tracking 12. Only one player needs to make this step. Find the trail the edeinos left through the swamp.
B: Survival 12. All players must make this (and see Leeches, below.) Make your way through the swamp without getting stuck in the mud.
C: Strength 10. All players must make this. Swim through a deep portion of the swamp.
D: Survival 12. The round the first player makes this, any players who have not completed it will be delayed by 1 round / step for the next bit. Hurry out of the swamp and try to make up some time.
Possible Setback: In item the storm knight carries (GM's choice) has been snagged or dropped in the swamp if the storm knight fails this step. The player has the option of repeating the step or losing the item (like Law of Decay, but without any possibilities.)
Complication: A snake or other small, poisonous creature is nearby and you must avoid it. On a failure, you're infected and stymied until receiving standard First Aid.
Critical Failure: Lost. Between the mist and mud, you lose track of both the enemy trail and others in the party and must find them, starting over from step A.
Leeches: Beginning in step B, the first storm knight to fail any test will encounter the leech swarm from the original encounter. Unlike the original encounter, there are no edeinos hunting nearby - that was too much of a distraction from hunting Malacryx.The Dimthread Tree
This encounter gets a bigger rework, as this is one of the earliest points to encounter your actual enemy. Assuming the party succeeded on their DSR, they arrive while Malacryx and half of her handmaidens are still present. Two of them hold captive humans from the base, but Billy is not among them (he's already gone through.) Should anyone understand the Gold Sun language, Malacryx says:
"Crumbling Bone and Dust! Stormers! We don't have time for this. Follow me as quickly as you can, and break the portal behind us. Glorious Kaah will forgive us when we give him this gift."
She enters the portal on the tree and it closes behind her. The handmaidens left behind - about three per knight, should be enough to overwhelm them, but the edeinos will leave at two per round. As they leave, they will throw spears to destroy the pods with captured humans in them. They'd like the last to leave to kill the last pod. The storm knights can try to block the handmaidens from leaving, protect the pods, or jump in the portal themselves. If they jump in the portal, they will be separated from the edeinos by unknown means, and arrive with the rest of their party.
Otherwise, the handmaidens should be extremely difficult to fight. They coordinate their attacks, use all-out attacks but then protect the ones who did that, and use miracles to heal themselves and each other as they are taking damage. Use intimidation or trick to leave players vulnerable so another can rip them apart. Ideally, players should feel like they would have had to run away if the handmaidens themselves were not leaving the scene.
If players have already been weakened, or were slow on the DSR, you can reduce the number of handmaidens left, but they should get to see and hear Malacryx (and not get a chance to stop her - this one is a plot hammer.) It is important that they get a sense that Malacryx's minions are tough, so they don't really want to fight the woman herself without being prepared.
If players failed their DSR, or managed to save any of the pods, they can still free the person inside. If not, this is one of their dying speeches. Change their speech to be something more like:
"Oh God, thank you. You're real, right? Not a nightmare? Please tell me you're real. That, that, that thing was draining me, tearing at my... at my soul. Really. And giving me nightmares in return. Hard to tell what really happened, and what wasn't. So much I hope never happened.
"That one that just went through, her name was Malacryx. She's a rebel, turned against her tribe because they weren't brutal enough. She's got some followers, and they're convinced what she's doing will turn all the lizards to her side and win them the war.
"Please. For the love of all that's holy, stop them. Don't let that thing get her way."
Note that the tree needs power, it must have a living being inside it to function. If the edeinos killed all of them, the Storm Knights may need to sacrifice one of themselves or use one of the rescued prisoners or people who came with them. The Nightmare Tree is Orrorshan in nature, and demands payment. That is a simple decision for this adventure, but you can remember and extract further payment next time they're in Orrorsh.