This was the first of two adventures from Phantasm in fall of 2015. It was also my first experiment with extra-planar journeys in Fifth Edition.
The runners are contacted by their fixer about an extraction job. The job will require some legwork, but he/she would like to discuss the details at Club Penumbra at 9PM.
Scene 1 – Old Stomping Grounds
Club Penumbra is having a quiet night, which is entirely relative given the fact that it’s still a nightclub. The dance floor is still active, but with room to move. The regulars are still crowding the bar and the music is still near deafening. But the thinner crowds means the runners can get in without a cover or much of a line up.
The team’s fixer is waiting for them at a back table in a sound-insulated booth. Offering to buy the team a round, he waits for everyone’s orders to arrive before getting to the matter at hand.
“Thanks for coming. Mr. Johnson wanted to hire a team who could get the job done in a timely manner. A geomancer under the employ of Red Wheel Engineering has gone missing and Mr. Johnson wants to know what has happened and have the man returned. He wants you to investigate the man’s disappearance, track him down and bring him back alive along with any information that might have warranted his abduction. Mr. Johnson is willing to offer 10,000¥ apiece for your services.”
Mr. Johnson works for Wuxing, the parent company of Red Wheel and wants to know why one of their enchanters has gone missing. As far as he is aware, the man is of little consequence, so suspicions have been raised that he was working with an outside company and has been extracted. He needs to ensure company secrets haven’t been stolen away.
Their fixer is clear to negotiate some, up to a maximum of 12,000¥ apiece (in 500¥ intervals per net success on Negotiations). Once the team is on board, the fixer fills in further details.
“The man you are looking for is Guiren Yao. I will provide you his home address, commcode and image to try and help you to track him down. Mr. Johnson didn’t know what the man was working on for his employer, so you may have to get the info out of Red Wheel for that. Odds are, whatever he got involved in was done without his employer’s knowledge though. We don’t know whether Dr. Yao went willingly or not, so be prepared for resistance.”
Thresholds – Corporate Contacts (3), Magical Contacts (2)
1 – Dr. Yao? He’s a geomancer of some talent. Got recruited by Red Wheel to “adjust” some local buildings for better prosperity.
2 – Red Wheel was experimenting with higher magics to better hone the flow of qi through the spaces. I believe Dr. Yao was part of that research.
3 – Rumour has it that he was doing some field research into ways of tapping greater sources of power.
Red Wheel Engineering
Contractor and Building Services
Thresholds – Corporate Contacts (1)
1 – Red Wheel Engineering is a recent acquisition of Wuxing and has only recently begun making inroads into North America. They are aggressively hiring.
2 – While the company has obtained several government contracts, they are looking to streamline their business and aligning with more of Wuxing’s other industries.
4 – There has been a build up of dragon line energy in key Red Wheel structures around the metroplex. There doesn’t appear to be a definitive reason for it, but productivity is up company-wide…
Scene 2 – Tracing Footsteps
The runners will need to follow Dr. Yao’s movements over the last several days he was operating in Seattle. His commlink seems to be offline, but his data trail can still be traced by an intrepid hacker. In the days surrounding his disappearance, Dr. Yao shows that he was frequenting assorted talismonger shops around the city. He continued to work for Red Wheel during the day, but spent many of his off hours touring the cities or practicing assorted enchanting rituals.
If the runners opt to investigate Red Wheel, Dr. Yao’s work for the company is pretty standard for someone familiar with geomancy. The areas of the city where he was tuning up the qi are stationed around the city and he has manipulated the local mana flow to siphon off power to a central location in the downtown core.
Talking to the talismongers Dr. Yao spoke with will tell them that the materials he purchased were for summoning rituals. Investigating the area where the mana was focused, they found a ritual circle with a spirit sealed inside.
Speaking with the spirit, the spirit reveals that Dr. Yao summoned it in order to find a way to tap into untouched potential of the metaplanes. In exchange, for power the spirit opened a door to the metaplanes and Dr. Yao stepped in. While the spirit knows which plane he went to, he knows that the Doctor found another way out and the spirit doesn’t know where on the planet he is now.
As the runners are talking with the spirit, Wuxing has decided to follow up on their missing man and followed the same leads they have. As a result, a Wuxing team moves in to clean up Guiren Yao’s mess and to interrogate the spirit.
Once the Wuxing team has been dealt with, the spirit is grateful that they have spared it whatever the Wuxing team might have planned for it and if they agree to break the circle that binds it to the mortal plane, it will send them to the same plane as Dr. Yao in thanks.
If they agree to the terms and free the spirit, it upholds its side of the deal and opens an astral window for the team to step through and pursue the only lead they have.
Scene 3 – Out of their Element
Using the astral window, the team is thrust into the metaplane suitable for a Wujen (since Dr. Yao was a Wujen himself). They find themselves in a small home that appears on an isolated pond. The home has all the wuxing elements in balance a small village, circling a lake (water), with a large tree at the center (wood). At the side of the lake is an earthen plateau (earth) with a campfire at the center (fire), as well as several tools used for shaping the ground and chopping wood (metal). Beside the fire is an old man in long flowing robes who sits patiently, not speaking unless spoken to.
The old man refers to himself as the “Keeper of the Way” and if the runners ask about Dr. Yao, the Keeper speaks of a young traveler who recent came by, seeking knowledge. The traveler sought the Keeper’s counsel, but was dissatisfied with the Keeper’s caution and warning about the traveler’s impatience and when the traveler insisted, the Keeper sent him on a journey that he was certain the man was unprepared for.
If the runners ask to be pointed in the same direction, the Keeper shakes his head. “Every person must follow their own path. If you truly seek this wayward traveler, then you must take on your own journey and obtain your own answers. Are you willing to do this?”
If the runners decide not to play the old man’s game, they will wander off through the plane, be attacked by a local denizen of the plane and end up back at the old man’s home. Once they agree, he nods. “Very well. Head toward the mountains (which as far as the runners can recall, weren’t there a moment ago) and climb to the summit. At the peak, you will find your answers.”
The journey up the mountain will challenge them on all five elements:
A giant forest around the base of the mountain
As they near the edge of the wood, lightning strikes and starts a forest fire
As they ascend, a rockslide threatens to knock them from the mountain
Atop a large perch where they can rest, a band of rogue soldiers attack
The chill of the snow at the peak actively slows their progress.
Each element has a sympathetic element and an opposing element:
Wood = (Water is sympathetic, but Metal opposes)
Fire = (Wood is sympathetic, but Water opposes)
Earth = (Fire is sympathetic, but Wood opposes)
Metal = (Earth is sympathetic, but Fire opposes)
Water = (Metal is sympathetic, but Earth opposes)
The runners will quickly learn that each challenge aims to stop them and the only way to overcome each challenge is wield the appropriate element. The first challenge is the forest slowing their progress with overgrowth and thorns, but any metal will stop them, so guns, blades and even cyberlimbs are enough to slow the growth. Using fire will also work, as the sympathetic links consume.
The second challenge is a forest fire, so if the runners used fire to purge the wood, they may have shot themselves in the foot. The only elements that will aid them here are water (since water opposes) or Earth (since fire is sympathetic to earth). Any time the runners use something else, the opposition is unaffected unless they use a sympathetic element or the same element, in which case it intensifies. So if they use wood or fire in the forest fire, the blaze gets worse. Mages who rely on spirits can only summon the spirit types available to wujen.
If they can subdue the fire, they must begin climbing the mountain, but rocks fall as they ascend. Using wood or metal, they can get through, but using Earth or Fire intensifies the damage, either my making rocks larger, or reducing the mountain side to magma.
Once they make it up the mountain to the clifftop perch, they find a team of bandits, representing metal. Unfortunately, using weapons like blades and bullets count as the same element and instead of slaying their foes, causes them to split in two and replicate. Using Earth has a similar effect. To defeat the soldiers, they must use fire or water.
Once they move beyond the bandit camp (they can stop to rest, eat, etc), all that remains is the summit. The snow actively seems to slow them down through blizzards and in the worst case, an avalanche. Using earth and wood will allow them to carve a path, while water and metal only make matters worse.
At the very summit, stands the Keeper. He congratulates them on reaching the peak and says they must overcome one final challenge before he can open the gate. One Yeti bursts from the snow for each runner to face. Once they have proven themselves worthy, a gateway opens into a black abyss and the Keeper tells them that the man they seek is beyond. Whether the runners want to or not, they are expelled from the metaplanes through the portal.
Scene 4 – Frozen Guardians
The runners are unceremoniously dumped into deep snow and bone chilling cold. After their commlinks reacquaint themselves to the Matrix, they have been thrust onto the Antarctic continent without proper cold protection. The environment is considered Harsh Cold (or if GMs are feeling particularly malevolent, Extreme), which means they are required to take regular tests against the cold to avoid frostbite and succumbing to the frigid temperatures.
Luckily, they are able to see light on the horizon when they are kicked from the astral plane and can minimize their exposure by heading to the light. When they arrive, the cold is already starting to make them numb and potentially taking damage from the cold.
The Antarctic facility is owned by Evo and there doesn’t appear to be external defenses around the compound. A hacker or someone with lockpicking will need to unlock the outer door to allow them into the facility. The compound is small with a compliment of only 40 employees total, but the quarters are tight. The lights are on minimal power and heat is starting to fail. Security forces have been reduced to crystalline statues in combative postures, while others are in positions of fear before being turned to crystal.
Two Guardians of Order are loose in the facility and Guiren Yao is currently doing his best to hide from the dangerous spirits. On the far side of the facility is the foundation of a fixed astral window, which will allow them to escape once they find Yao and either defeat or evade the Guardians.
B: 10, A: 5, R: 6, S: 6, W: 6, L: 8, I: 6, C: 6, Edge: 3, Ess: 6, Magic: 6
Astral Init: 12+3D6
Skills: Assensing, Astral Combat, Counterspelling, Exotic Ranged Weapon, Flight, Perception, Spellcasting, Unarmed
Powers:Astral Form, Compulsion, Crystallize, Influence, Materialize, Natural Weapon, Spell (Control Thoughts), Spell (Mob Mind), Energy Aura
Crystallize – Use Exotic Ranged to attack for 12P damage -6AP. Target is then immoblized. If further attacks hit and fills the condition monitor, they are fully crystallized. This isn’t fatal unless shattered.
The formula to reverse the crystallization is in the facility, or if they can find an Evo mage, he is already familiar with the spell. Otherwise, they need to grab Dr. Yao and flee. A ritual will need to be conducted in order to open the portal to return to the metaplanes and find a path back to Seattle… like through the heart of an Evo compound…
>> Chasing some wizard across the metaplanes is no way to earn a paycheck. Not interested.
>> Just remember that the metaplanes are sticklers for metaphor and imagination shaping the landscape. It can be one of best tools or the worst setbacks in the team.
>> The plane of Wuxing is particularly tricky. A wujen friend once went on a quest and was nearly thwarted by casting a heal spell on a friend. The whole yin and yang balance thing meant that for every scratch he patched up, he took it instead. Not everything functions the way you expect…even magic.
>> The quest for power rarely ends well. Best to let this guy burn in his own ambition.