As we entered the Valley of the Brain Collectors adventure of the Iron Gods Adventure Path I decided as both a DM and Dad that the two youngest will need to skip this adventure (due to the horror themes) and Palace of the Fallen Stars (due to adult themes) so you will see a drastic drop in quality as I write the game summary. My son (playing Heidt) and my daughter (playing Rikku) will spend the next two adventures exploring the original wreck in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. So expect a separate adventure path written by Rikku for that.
I modified Valley of the Brain Collectors to make it a mini-hex crawl using the rules from Kingmaker. Nothing fancy but much more sandboxy. Thought it would be a good change of pace for the campaign.
Our Brave Band of Adventurers the Crimson Lotus:
- Charisma, a “human” -mutant- sorceress whose power source is Gamma Radiation which she was exposed to as a child. As a child of the Atom her hair goes green in the presence of radiation and she progressively gets greener the more powerful spells she casts (and as she gets angry). She has no love for the Technic League.
- Sylvanus, a dark elf monk who escaped the clutches of mind flayer slavemasters in the area of the Scar of the Spider after a daring raid by surface dwelling heroes freed her.
- Brokthor, a human fighter who was raised by dwarfs and thinks he IS a dwarf.
- Tufast, a human cleric who serves Thor – power of thunder and lightning. Much like his barbarian family he hates technology and has a particular spite for robots. He sees the cleansing power of lightning as the perfect antidote to the curse of the robot infestation of Nimmeria.
The Valley of the Brain Collectors
By The DM
After successfully conquering the Choking Tower, the characters withdraw to Chesed to divide the loot and maintain their various business – Tufast in Chesed and his healing business while Brocktha plans the Dominion of Scrapwall and becoming a king. Rikku recives a message from her father, Khonnir, that he has a lead about her parents as well as a potential “back door” into the Silver Mount. The group decides to split up to investigate the two strands – Rikku and Heidt as Team Crimson Lotus B will head to Torch and then scout out the back-door Khonnir spoke about while Charisma, Tufast, Broktha and Sylvanus as Team Crimson Lotus A head to the Scar of the Spider to try and locate Casandalee’s braintape.
The group drives their rhino, Cortina, to the Scar of the Spider. This was Sylvannus “home” once when she was enslaved by the mind flayers which call this place home and though it’s been a few years since she had last been here she gives them a rough layout of the area and what to expect – lots of spiders, lots of mind-flayers.
Their plan to drive Cortina through the Scar is immediately thwarted by the fact the easiest access point – the mouth of the valley where the river runs through, is blocked by the wreck of an annihilator robot. After some examination they managed to piece together there was a battle here, maybe with two annihilators fighting. They also discover the grisly remained of half-a-dozen Kellid tribesman with their skullcaps pealed back and their brains missing. The novice enginseer, Brocktha also said that the wreck had a fractured reactor and it could blow up at any time. They decide to roll back Cortina and using magic missile from Charisma detonate the Annihilators’ core. Of course this obliterates any further clues in the area and notifies all and sundry that someone new has arrived at the Valley.
DM’s Note: With the loss of Heidt the party has no-one with a survival skill and only a novice cybertheurgy skill as well as the loss of anyone who can speak, read and write Gothic (the language the crew of the Divinity spoke). Probably two of the most important skills in this particular hex crawl. It made for some interesting rolls and player plans to try and mitigate this weakness.
After the explosion Cortina can easily get into the valley. They set Cortina to auto-follow while the group moves in front of the war-rig slowly sweeping the area the best they can. Just outside the blast radius of the destroyed Annihilator they discover multiple humanoid footprints hugging the south canyon wall. They begin to follow them when they spot a man hiding behind a big boulder. As they approach him he ducks behind the boulder. The wild-eyed man introduces himself as Paetyr the Druid here to restore the natural order and purge the land of the alien infestation.
Paetyr says “I saw you blow up that machine, that is good. But you have your own machine, that is bad”. The party manages to mollify him by downplaying Cortina as just a “magical carriage” not any kind of robot. No, of course not. He invites them back for breakfast and gifts them each a “special” vegetable from his garden as he cheerfully explains the properties of each. The conversation soon turns from friendly chit-chat to information gathering (as it always does with adventurer types).
How did you come to be here? “These trees called me, these f lowers asked to bloom, these carrots gave muff led pleas for my aid.”
What happened to you? “The Butchers from the Dark Tapestry did these things to me. They gave me to the f layer, and she remade me and unmade me and when I escaped, I recovered through the strength of my own will.”
Who are these “Butchers?” “The deep darkness birthed the Butchers, disgorged their malevolence. The stars wink at horrors mercifully beyond our ken.”
Where are these “Butchers?” “The river f lows from the west. It is from this source they have come. Their vessel rots yet on the banks of the river source, and their hive lies beyond its remains.”
Who is the f layer? “One of the Butchers’ agents. She is not like them. She is from the shadows beyond, a minion of pain and darkness, yet she works with them as a mercenary. She alone is not from the Dark Tapestry, yet her capacity for cruelty might be even greater.”
Can you help us against the Butchers? “I will not return to them. I can give you food to bolster yourselves against them, but I will not risk my mind and body. There may be others nearby who can provide you aid, though… but them I do not trust. You might, though. You seem to be trusting folks.”
Who else dwells in the Scar/Who else can help us? “There are some people who live in a cave to the southwest—at the end of a narrow gorge. They are strange, but their distrust of the machines marks them as trustworthy, I think. Another man has come recently as well, but he has the stink of the rifts on him. He visited me shortly and asked about some Technic League agents who visited the Scar many months ago. He was seeking them, but as an ally or enemy I cannot say—he may still be within the valley, or may have left. He
made me nervous. But the four-armed lady, though… she is the strangest of the non-Butchers. She fights against the Butchers. This marks her as an ally, yet she works with the machines as well. She uses them. She wears them. She lives in the machine cave. I do not trust her, yet you might. She seems eager to kill the Butchers, and destroyed one of their metal pets. You saw that already, though.”
What is the four-armed lady? “She is from the stars as well. She fights with weapons from the stars. She is not from the Dark Tapestry, but she is not from here. I do not trust her alliance with the machines, but her hatred of the Butchers tells me she could be an ally.”
Where is she? “She dwells in the machine caves. I can show you but I will not go within.”
What happened at the entrance to the Scar/Who defeated the robot? “Those machines have dwelt here since I first arrived, and now they serve the Butchers. They gather victims from afar and bring them back, but the four-armed lady blew one up. There is one other, but I haven’t seen it since it hobbled back to its masters. I hope it died.”
What did the Technic League agents want? “They came here months ago and they had questions about the machines. They were uncouth guests and overstayed their welcome, but left me alone once I told them the machines served the Butchers deeper in the Scar. They seemed intrigued and angry that the Butchers now controlled the machines. They spoke of confronting the Butchers, but they have not returned since. I suspect they found the Butchers to be more than they could handle. I hope so. They were rude to me.”
Have you seen a neurocam anywhere? If the PCs describe the device they’re seeking, Paeytr can’t help them. He hasn’t seen one of these in his time in the Scar, but he does suggest the PCs head north to the Machine Caves. “There’s entire caves in there filled with junk. Maybe you’ll find one of those neurocams in there?”
After visiting with Paetyr the Crimson Lotus has a few choices – continue to search the area, resume following the humanoid tracks south or head to the Machine Cave in search of the four-armed lady. A potentially competent ally. And anyone who hates the Dominion of the Black can’t be all bad. They decide to continue following the tracks first and discover the Penitent Androids.
They find the campsite to be a humble spot within a small cave on the south wall of this narrow box canyon. Several logs sit around a central fire pit, on which sit four pale androids clad in breastplates and bearskin coats. They are a quiet quartet, one warming his hands, their eyes closed as though reverent in prayer. A jumble of metallic junk is scattered west of the fire as well. These androids seem to be in deep meditation.
Tufast politely coughs *ahem* and the four androids react, immediately stand and grab their weapons, startled. One shouts, “Harab! We’ve got visitors!”
A tall dark skinned female steps out and says, “Greetings, visitors. We are but pilgrims, on a holy journey through these lands in search of the humanity that evades us. We wish no conflict with other honest travelers, provided they possess no blasphemies. If you are clean, or submit to righteous cleansing, we will leave you unharmed. We will permit nothing to stand in the way of this pilgrimage and our new sacred charge.”
The Crimson Lotus looks a little uncomfortable and presses Harab for details. Harab states bluntly, “Any and all alien devices dug from the earth are an abomination and must be destroyed… any technology is an affront to life itself. Turn over what you possess and allow us to cleanse you.” The party refuses but a fight is avoided by some quick thinking (and fast talking). Brocktha points out they only use technology to fight technology just as they do the same (politely implying that they are pieces of technology without actually saying it). Harab thinks on it before saying “she agrees to disagree”. She escorts them further from the cave entrance as the rest of her pilgrimage watches. She gives a brief outline of the dangers in the area but its not anything the fellowship didn’t know already.
After this they decide to head to the Machine Caves. The Valley is particularly dangerous and the more allies the better. No one wants their brains removed or worse, become a thrall of the Dominion of the Black.
The mouth of this dark cave is fifteen feet wide and twelve feet tall, with a number of closely spaced natural pillars on the right-hand side. Gray-green lichen hugs the entry’s arch and the unmistakable odor of burned oil drifts from within. Various odd scuff marks in the rocky soil and grass suggest others have passed this way before.
The three spherical robots descend from the darkened roof – each about the size of a melon – and as they descend the a dozen different torture devices spring from their bodies with a twang – buzzing bone-saws, needles and scalpels – both normal and laser. The Crimson Lotus had difficulty bringing down the robots shields permanently until they pulled out an EMP pistol which dropped the shields for 1 minute allowing them to hit the robots directly. They machines seemed somewhat unstable as they kept asking questions in gothic along the lines of “where is the princess?” and “Where are the plans?” (Tufast cast tongues so the group could understand them and talk back, managing to confuse the robots by telling them the Princess was in the Castle and the Droids were Outside (DM’s Note: This was a tough battle so I gave the party a break and rewarded creative thinking and a good Persuasion role into a temporary attack disadvantage on the torture bots). They also chattered about “Lord Binox will be displeased!” and “You are not on Lord Binox’ invitation list!”. Eventually the Crimson Lotus A was successful in exploding each of the bots and silencing them permanently.
The battle with the torture robots is long and draining but not particularly dangerous. Though it bodes ill for what lays deeper in the caves if the “gate keepers” were so tough. The group searches the remains of the woman buried beneath the rubble and find some gems, coins printed in the Imperium of Man and a wayfinder – a type of magical magnetic compass. This wayfinder has the image of a handsome gunslinger hand painted on the inside and instead of pointing north it is pointing south-west of the Machine Caves.
A conundrum to be left for another day.
DM Commentary: The party lost two members going from 6 to 4. They are also under-leveled for this adventure – sitting at level 8 but the adventure minimum starting level is 10. This made the one fight they had this session with the torture bots a hard battle of attrition draining more resources than in the case of having six characters or being level 10. Having said that, the fact they survived means they get a disproportionately large experience point award which means they should catch up to the required level quickly (they each got 10,250 XP this session).