After a long while of warming up to the idea, I decided to run +Kiel Chenier 's Blood in the Chocolate in the Distant Lands of DIY (with a healthy amount of FLAILSNAILS character options) and it resulted in one of the best nights of gaming I've ever hosted. There was a point towards the end where I was curled up on the floor, laughing hysterically.
The first-level party, gathered under the employ of a Scarabae-Umberwell chocolatiers' guild, consisted of:
- Mel, a Guild Dog
- Robin a Sister-Knight of the Order of the Sable Maid
- Octon, a Calimarimancer
- Simmons, a skeleton
- Augustine, a plague doctor
- 108, a crab-man from distant Yoon-Suin
- Xeno, a tiefling
A note of appreciation is in order for Robin's player, who supplied everyone with turkey and mashed potatoes before we got to playing.
They steps off the boat in the early morning, amidst the bustle of unloaded cargo. Martell Company sailors and Lucia's dockworkers scramble about with carts and crates, unloading raw goods from the Swordfish Isles and loading chocolates ready for market in Vornheim, Corpathium, and elsewhere. It is frigidly cold, of the sort where the sky is completely clear and the sun uncomfortably bright.
The party quickly introduce themselves to Karl Weiss, who tells them that tourists are always welcome to observe the factory from the loading area, but they are to come no closer. Dark figures can be seen in the guard towers. The factory itself was described as "huge and brutalist, like the inside of a Vogon spaceship but on the outside."
A plan is swiftly hatched to gain access to the dock office. Simmons, being a skeleton and thus immune to drowning, bumps into one of the sailors and throws himself in the water as if pushed. Robin raises the alarm, and Karl starts shouting for a rope. In the resulting commotion, Augustine slips into the dock office building. They steal the lockbox, the pistol shot, and a glimpse of the guards' timesheets before making an exit.
With the help of some sailors, Simmons is pulled from the freezing water. Being a skeleton, he is at no danger of hypothermia. Augustine and Octon make a convincing cover that he is some eccentric northerner, and so his swiftly-freezing clothing is of no concern. The frazzled Karl agrees that this makes sense and tries to recover his stalling work-shift. He's so distracted that he doesn't notice Simmons swiping the elaborate golden key hanging from his pocket.
The party convenes behind the office. 108 breaks open the lockbox with his big, meaty claw. Augustine gives the notice that the guard shift will be changing soon, and soon enough there are two whistle blasts.
Octon takes the opening to lead the group in a flat-out sprint up the path to the main doors. The mad dash is miraculously successful, if completely ridiculous.
"Shit! Shit! Shit!" Octon shoves the key in the door and hurries everyone inside. The doors swing back closed behind them, and lock with a solid kla-chunk.
The Smash and Grab
Upon entering the factory, the party swiftly sheds their heavy coats and gets geared up. The smash and grab begins: Xeno steals the mink coat in the foyer, pocket-fulls of chocolates are swiped but not eaten, several bottles of alcohol were picked up by Mel, Xeno, and Octon (108 decided to drink much of the rest), and Augustine raided the guest bedroom. Octon was able to identify the opal broach by its twin-headed raven insignia, marking it as belonging to the Von Vorg family of Vornheim.
With nowhere left to check, the party attempt to open the locked door in the east hallway.
The locked door in the hallway gives way to Robin's shoulder, and the paladin manages to resist the poison gas. The group enters the main river-room, to the horrifying sounds of "Primus in the Chocolate Factory" (courtesy Augustine's player).
More looting follows. Mel and Xeno pour out their rum and fill up bottles of chocolate. Simmons and Octon fill up their backpacks with whatever plant life they can find (much of it clearly imported from the Swordfish Isles).
There is some debate as to where to go next, but the group decides to pass on taking the paddleboat or crossing the bridges and instead exits by the southwest door into the west hallway. From there, they enter the stairwell and storage room, and happen across a mummified corpse.
"Everyone stand back! I'm a doctor!"
Augustine, of course goes to investigate the thief's corpse, which collapses into a cloud of sugar-dust. The beaked mask and goggles do nothing, and the good doctor is infected with Bubblegum Gasbags (A re-flavored Terrible Swells, appearing as clusters of neon-pink tumors that swiftly inflate) Robin takes the map from the dust, revealing that the bottom floor has two rooms: one marked with a skull and crossbones, the other with the phrase "what the fuck?"
The now-buoyant Augustine is tied to 108 with a length of rope, and the crew descend the stairs into the darkened hell of the boiler room.
The pygmies working the boilers are a horrific lot; shrivelled, macrocephalic things colored like jellybeans. They attack the intruders immediately, but manage to do little. One fumbles his attack roll, and stumbles into a grinding gear. Augustine manages to drop a knife on one, 108 gurbles a crab-man war-cry, a dead pygmy in each claw.
But the violence, though intense, is short-lived: Octon shoots a Blob of Bioluminescence at the ceiling, and the flash of psychedelic ooze-light (plus the deaths of about a third of the pygmies present) breaks their morale and sends them scurrying back into their hidey-holes, beady glowing eyes peering from the darkness and evil chitterings heard under the noise of the boilers.
The experimentation room is next and contains in the far corner an elephant-sized blob of marshmallow goo. This is ignored to deal with what is brewing in the cauldrons. The party grabs whatever beakers and flasks they can find and gets to grabbing:
- 11 pints of chocolate liquor, which is then used to overencumber Augustine so he's only bobbing a few feet off the ground, instead of up by the ceiling.
- 2 pints of normal milk chocolate (stolen by Octon)
- 3 pints of hazelnut chocolate (stolen by Simmons)
- The last cauldron explodes all over the floor, and is lapped up by the blob.
The prison is broken into, and they find a blue-skinned man there, body covered in scars and tattoos. No one can understand his babbling, but the pleads of an imprisoned man are universal. Robin, being sworn to liberate the oppressed, frees him from his shackles and leads him into the light of the laboratory...
The Ojou-sama Laugh
Enter stage right, Lucia de Castillo. There are four guards with muskets in the lab's two doorways, all aimed at the party.
"Hello hello hello," she says. "What have we here? Mice in my walls, nibbling at my pantry?"
[Aside] The timing here was perfect, and completely not my doing: by the time the party was down in the lab, Lucia had just finished her tour of the factory floor and had descended there herself, with prior warning from Karl
Also, this moment is why you buy this module, guys and gals. You get to do the laugh. You could do the laugh normally without buying the module, and the module is really good on its own, but Lucia is designed specifically for this moment and it is wonderful. [/Aside]
There is a moment of knife-edge tension, and then Simmons throws his spear at her, which successfully wounds.
"Oh fucking hell..."
(Augustine's player comes in again with the music)
Lucia draws a pistol and puts a bullet through Simmons' skull; the skeleton collapses to the floor with a clatter and clang. The factory guards open fire to cover her strategic retreat back upstairs, but it appears that Lucia hires fresh graduates from the Stormtrooper Academy, as their shots (which could have easily killed several of the party right off) miss.
All is chaos. Octon hides himself by jumping inside the marshmallow blob. Mel rushes a guard pair and successfully knocks them down, pushing on to the boiler room. Blue takes cover behind a table. 108 and Augustine charge the other pair and together fail to injure them.
Octon notices now that the blob is purring, and he starts receiving psychic visions: scenes of gothic towers choked in snow and rust. Vornheim.
The two standing guards retreat to the stairwell, to block off Mel's path out. Robin gravely wounds one of the downed guards, who is left crying and bleeding on the floor: the other manages to right himself and retreats into the boiler room, just in time for Xeno to dash into the boiler room, stab him in the side, and nearly topple him into one of the furnaces. (Like, she has got him hanging over the edge, it's super-metal). The pygmies cheer from the darkness, howling for more blood.
Octon continues to get visions from the blob; the two-headed crow of the von Vorgs on a tapestry, hanging across a long, knife-angular hallway.
Simmons reforms, picks up a dropped musket, and runs to the boiler room, just in time to see Augustine toss a vial of acid at the base of the stairs: an act that breaks the guards' defenses and forces further retreat, while simultaneously melting through most of 108's carapace and killing Mel in the friendly fire (his player immediately takes up the role of Blue, arming himself with the machete of the fallen Guild Dog). Augustine, being a balloon of healing, is able to aid 108. Xeno stabs the grappled guard in the chest and dumps him into the furnace. Blue and Robin take to the stairs. Tiny, technicolor hands pull the wounded guard into the machinery.
A third and final vision is delivered unto Octon: a table with a box of chocolates marked "Complimentary", and an invitation addressed "My dear Cordelia..."
What I'm getting at is that the squid-wizard successfully seduced a giant blob of marshmallow.
Cordelia, now carrying Octon aloft, cascades out of the lab and up the stairs, the remainder of the party right behind.
The two surviving guards have planted themselves right at Lucia's door, and manage to avoid getting killed by Robin and Blue, but they ended up failing their saves vs. gigantic marshmallow ooze and are splattered all over the doors in a pulp (Robin and Blue manage to survive by pressing themselves against the walls)
"My dear Cordelia," Octon says in his best Lucia impersonation. "The rest of these traitors are in the next room. Open the door."
The ooze extends a pseudopod and taps out the musical key-code. The doors swing open.
Lucia stands before the party, bloody bandages wrapped around her shoulder and a pistol in each hand.
"Cordelia. Put him down. Now." Her command is like a hammer dropping down.
"No, Cordelia! I'm the real Lucia! You know me! I don't bleed, I never lose!" Octon counters.
The ooze, terribly confused by two of its mistress, cannot withstand the voice. It deposits Octon before Lucia.
GUN VS INK, LET'S GO
GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS
|GO ON, GUESS.|
The squid-wizard's Ink-Splash is faster than Lucia's trigger finger, and just barely. Blinded, Lucia's shot goes a hair's-width wide. Simmons takes this opportunity to commando-roll out from behind the ooze and take a shot with his new musket. He rolls minimum damage, which in this case is sillier than missing entirely.
Robin, being the paladin and thoroughly fed up with this sort of tyranny, walks up past the deafened calimarimancer and the aimless skeleton and stabs Lucia right through the stomach with her greatsword.
Final Words: "Hurk, blugh"
Now dead, Lucia's corpse gains all the years and pounds it had hidden away, which was pretty gross. Robin takes the silver necklace, which upon closer inspection is a fat elf lady getting a bit handy with herself. The vial in Lucia's pocket is given to Augustine, thinking that it is a cure.
It was marshmallow serum. The poor doctor is now a marshmallow blob, help aloft by bubblegum gasbags.
[Aside] The table (and Augustine's player in particular) just loses it in the best way here. I end up doubled-up on the floor with laughter.[/Aside]
When the laughter subsides, the safe is opened with Lucia's key. The recipe book is lost to the acid trap, but the silver bars are there for the taking, as well as shipping contracts with the Martel Company, details of their Swordfish Island expeditions, and receipts for Carcosan slave-traders.
The group decides then it is best to take over the factory themselves, which they do. With the recipe book lost, the factory is sure to hit some hard times, even with Octon and Cordelia acting as the pygmies' new god-king. But the Old Growth remains, and the jungles and ruins of the Swordfish Isles offer greater mysteries to unfold. So to does the frozen waste of Carcosa, and the palace intrigues of Vornheim.
But mostly Hot Springs Island because dammit, I want to run Hot Springs Island.