Glitches + Horror = Conspiracy?
With the other secrets out of the way, the gang decided to head down into the sewers in Midsommer Faire and hunt rats, hoping to complete the "collect 10 rat tails" quest. The first rats they found were fairly easy to kill, but Dapper Dan took a good bite from one of them. The result: a wound, and 3 rat tails (plus one that Kenny surrendered), for a total of 8.
After sloshing through the sewers for a little while, they encountered a trap! A portcullis slammed down behind them, and another in front, trapping them. The water began to rise, slowly. Rather than figuring out the puzzle directly, Kenny and Cazeon climbed up to the ceiling, and poked around up there. Kenny found a crack, and managed to fish out some kind of wooden wedge; as he did so, the crack slammed shut. Cazeon decided to try to repair the trap, perhaps hoping it was a secret door. With his terrible repair skill - and, indeed, complete inability to repair anything - he instead managed to damage the device beyond repair. With a crash of gears and springs, the slab over their heads shifted around, dropped down a couple feet, then slammed to the ground. Kenny and Cazeon jumped upward, grabbing the edge of the hole and swinging out of the way, while Dapper Dan merely watched as the enormous rock crashed to the ground, bending a portcullis in the process. He attempted to climb up the slab to join the others, and managed it, after a failed attempt.
Inside the trap - for indeed, that's what they had stumbled into - they found a jumbled mess of gears, springs, and other mechanical equipment. They also found a smallish hole - crawling through, and down and down and down, they eventually came to a dark cavern.
Cazeon was the only one who could see in the dark - and he spotted three shapes at the far wall. Approaching, stealthily, he realized they were trolls! After some (quiet) consultation, the three decided that now was the time to attack. Together, the three focus-fired the closest troll, finishing it off; the other two trolls leaped to their feet, but couldn't locate their attackers in the darkness.
What transpired was somewhat a comedy of errors. The normally brutally difficult trolls could only stumble around in the dark, making guesses as to where their enemies were, while Cazeon attacked with reckless abandon, easily able to see with his infravision. Dapper Dan insulted the trolls, while Kenny, blind as he was, still managed to land a few good hits. The trolls only managed to land a single hit - at least on the gang. They attacked each other more than once!
Finally, with the trolls dead, Cazeon collected the loot - 30 gp and 6 healing potions - and handed it out, one potion to Kenny, one to Dapper Dan, and the rest for himself. At least he split the money equally!
The trio attempted to head down the hallway, but realized the area was full of armed foes - whatever trigger turned on the lights hadn't been hit, so they were stumbling around in the dark. Unless they wanted to essentially fight their way backwards out of the entire dungeon - one meant for much higher leveled players - the only other way was through the ancient vampire. Hoping their darkness-based luck held, they headed back the other way, to the large, decorated doorway that lead to the vampire. Having a change of heart, Cazeon handed another potion over to Dapper Dan and Kenny - and Dan drank one, removing his wound. Wouldn't it be nice if there were such things in Noir Detective?
The first room was... empty. Truly empty, with no items or vampire to be seen. The second room at least had a fire to light things up, but... still empty. Finally, the third room had the vampire - sitting at a desk, writing on a sheet of paper, and looping. Whatever triggered the lights was also supposed to trigger the vampire, it seems.
Searching around, Cazeon managed to find a strange amphora. It had a magical effect of some sort, dim purple lines occasionally appearing on it. After some consideration, he chucked it at the ground. It cracked open, and an orange light seeped out, swirling into the shape of an expanding sphere. Suddenly, the vampire leaped to its feet, dashed out the door, and began shouting its dialog all the way back in the first room - "Welcome, interlopers!" in the first room, immediately followed by "Ha! A challenge!"
Next, the vampire dashed into the second room and thundered, "But I have yet to show you my true power!" before immediately crying out, "You have wounded me!? How can this be!" and bolting into the third room, as the trio watched in some amusement. It snarled, "In this room is my wellspring of power, you will never defeat me here!" and almost overlaying the words, "What have you done! Fool, you have doomed us all!" finally vanishing in a gout of flame.
The orange globe extended out of the amphora, enveloped the gang, and teleported them to a location just outside town - leaving behind some damaged equipment and three items:
- A spell scroll; when picked up, Cazeon got the message "Quest Complete: find Lord Thanatol's Teleportation Scroll"
- A set of Boots of Fire Resistance (when worn, fire does -2 damage, and any saves against fire are made at a +2; it is no longer possible to catch on fire with normal fire)
- A Gnomish Musket of Automatic Reloading; 2d8 damage, and reloads at the push of a button (an action). Range is 10/20/40.
Along with the completed quest... it seems Cazeon has also failed a huge swath of quests, most of which he has never seen before, including the rat tail quest, and:
- "Kill 5 dire wolves"
- "Locate the Baker's son"
- "Speak with the Mayor about the undead problem"
- "Rescue Lord Thanatol"
and so forth. Whatever they did in that dungeon sure changed something!
With their questing done, it was time to move on to real life - they sent me a message, and we met up back at the diner. After comparing notes on our research, Charles called up the family of the kid who committed suicide about a month back, and we chatted with them a while. It seems he didn't have any classic signs - no notes, no depressive behavior, friends and family alike were shocked. His had made plans for the next weekend, so on and so forth. After presenting the evidence to Better Be Entertainment Group, the family had a couple lawyer types drop by. They were awarded money, but had to sign an NDA; the father put the money in a bank account, though, and as he told us, was willing to give it all up if he could help keep others safe.
While we didn't get anything super useful, the family was willing to give us the equipment their son used. We headed out, driving about an hour east to reach them. Gotta say, Charles' truck is... something else. It's got some gnarly electrical problems. I will never look at polka music the same.
We reconvened at Charles' place, and Kal brought some tools to take apart the device. He spent a while getting it apart, and looking at connections and chips and so forth, but as far as he could tell, it was all standard stuff, and in good working order. He put it back together, and Charles elected to give it a try.
The account was already logged in, though in "stealth" mode, so no friends got notified that he was online - nothing like having your dead buddy log in to throw off your evening, right? He poked around a bit, and made a few discoveries.
First, the kid was into horror. The main game he played was "The Darkness That Lurks Beneath", and he had a bunch of notes on it. He also played "Vulture's Feast", and "Space Marines III" - makes sense with the horror side of things on both. Interestingly, he had also gotten an early invite to Tilt-a-Werld, and had made a map - a jumpscare and a major spook-fest, naturally. He'd played a bunch of other horror-themed maps as well.
Meanwhile, the family texted the names of a few of his friends: Dr_Reeddd, OF_DOOOOOM, Lede999, and Larry_the_Plumber (who seemed to be on a different time schedule, as they mostly communicated through text, rather than audio - Larry was convinced the kid was the "next Stephen King of the VR world"). Charles sent a few messages out (through his own account), and we headed home.
I don't know about you guys, but this feels like a conspiracy theory in real life! Is Better Be actually covering things up? And if so, what?