Monday, May 16, 2022

The Laughing Tower (Stormbringer 1E) Play report #3

1. Vinket

Vinket knew he was dying. The young priest of Straasha's only regret was that he was so far from the water, out here on the Argrimiliar prairie. He remembered only dimly what had happened to him - the tower looming ahead, a blur of claws and fangs from behind, the sour smell of a giant cat, his lifeblood draining into the dirt around him.

Then there were voices, echoing and indistinct, arguing over him. Was it Strassha and Xiombarg, maybe, negotiating for who would get his soul? He knew not. He felt tugged by rough hands, then thrust through a silvery portal.

Was this death? The afterlife? He knew not.

Little by little the hurt receded from him like the tide trickling down a pebbled beach. Vinket stood and saw that he was in some sort of tavern or hall awash with throbbing music and piercing lights. People milled about, laughing, drinking, and fighting.

"Would you like a drink?"

Vinket turned to see a woman with flaming blue skin and horns holding a tray on which were set a variety of drinks the likes of which he had never seen. All were in high, fluted glasses, with garish colors, crushed ice, and decorative parasols or fruit wedges.

"Are they safe?" he asked.

"Sir, we guarantee that our food and drinks are safe for all patrons. It is the games that contain an element of risk."

Vinket scanned the woman's face and detected no ill intent. Although he could not be totally sure, he felt the truth of her words and grabbed a blueish drink that reminded him of the sea.

"Thank you."

The woman nodded and turned back to the crowd to ply her drinks.

Vinket sipped the drink and shivered at its delicious coolness. After what he had been through, it was exactly what he needed.

"Oi, Vinket!"

Vinket turned at his name and saw Bones and the rest of the party making their way to him through the crowd.

"What in the Yellow Hells' names are you doing, lounging about here?" snapped Lord Soo.

Vinket sighed. There was no rest for the weary, even in this particular hell.

2. The Wheel of Power

After Lord Soo had visited the Oracle, it was decided that each member of his coterie would have their turn with the strange creature. The Melnibonean ordered Maleia to give each a coin, and they dutifully lined up.

(We'll skip over this to give each player their privacy. Lord Soo is the figurehead so his question is public knowledge at this point)

The party was silent as they walked to the next doorway, each mulling over the implications of what they had been told.

"Now, onto the Wheel!" said Soo, with a hint of glee. This was the most emotion his followers had ever seen from him.

Through the doorway was a garish room of maroon curtains, where a large wheel stood on a stage. Before it was a small table laden with an array of missile weapons - daggers, darts, eastern throwing stars, bows and arrows. Next to this stood a large demon in a round brimmed hat.

"Roll up, roll up!" bellowed the demon barker. "Skill or chance, make your mark on the Wheel of Power!"

The wheel had 12 sections of alternating gold and jet, each with a symbol from the Young Kingdoms tarot, which every soothsayer knew well. Lord Soo, being a sorcerer, understood their meanings intimately. They were

The Champion

The Invalid

The Wiseman

The Fool

The Dancers

The Invalid

The Chalice

The Poisoned Cup

The Sorceror

The Vampire

The Angel

The Devil

"Wot'll it be, guv? Skill or chance?" asked the barker, his toothy grin undermined by the black pits of his eyes.

Ganseiyah stepped forth. "I will try my hand."

The demon gestured to the table. "Take yer pick, all finely balanced."

"I have my own," replied the nomad, readying his bow.

Gansaiyah glanced at his employer.

"Aim for gold, avoid jet." offered the Melnibonean.

Gansaiyah nodded, spun and let loose two arrows.

KACHUNK KACHUNK. Two feathered shafts quivered from The Chalice. Instantly Gansaiyah felt health flow into him, his face flushing with the change.

"Good aim! Last shot!" grinned the demon.

KACHUNK. The Dancer. Gansaiyah felt his catlike grace increase even further, so that his feet nearly glided across the floor as he stepped away from the table.

"Next! Roll up, roll up!" bellowed the demon, laughing.

Maleia picked up some daggers from the table, noticing the 8-arrow mark of Chaos on the pommel as she did. The wheel seemed to move closer, or else the room seemed to grow smaller as she readied herself.

"Know what you're doing, lass?" asked Billy Bones.

"Just watch."

THUNK. The Invalid. Maleia felt her legs stiffen painfully. She forced herself to go again.

THUNK. The Dancer. Instantly the effect reversed itself.

The shopwoman took a breath, steeled herself, and threw her last dagger.

THUNK. The Devil. Maleia's skin crawled like a thousand ants were marching on her. 


She gasped in horror as her skin began to change, from the olive complexion common in Ilmiora, to bright, saturated primary colors and bold patterns. Her skin now was a maze of spirals and mandelas, like the tie-dyed fabrics of southern barbarians, which drew the eye hypnotically.

"What is this?" she wailed in despair.

"It is the mark of Chaos." said Lord Soo. "And it is beautiful. Would that I be so lucky."

So saying, the Melnibonean proceeded to the table.

"Wot'll it be, guv? Skill or chance?" asked the barker again.

"I think I will leave it to Chaos." replied Soo.

"Very well."

When Lord Soo looked again the table was gone and the wheel stood next to him. He grasped a side and spun, the gold and jet triangles blurring as the wheel rotated. With a series of clicks the wheel slowed, then stopped.

The Sorceror.

Yes, this was precisely what Lord Soo wanted. He felt his reserve of power increase, and knew he would have less trouble dealing with demons and their ilk in days to come.

"Two more spins, guvnor."

Soo smiled and grasped the wheel again.


"Oy've never seen someone get THAT twice in a row." chuckled the demon barker.

The Lord Soo who staggered from the spinning wheel was a mere shadow of the man who had strode up to it. His cheeks were sallower, his complexion greenish, his chest sunken. He had gotten what he wanted, but as with all Chaos bargains, he had paid the price.

"Two Poison." said Vinket. "My condolences, my lord."

Soo continued to the door without answer.

The next member to go was Vinket. He looked at Maleia, her skin a whorl of colours and shapes, then the sunken figure of Lord Soo.

"I think I will pass. Better to save my luck for the sea."

(Note: Billy Bones' player was absent, so his attempt will be retconned later)

Finally, Lord Soo stood up and motioned to the door through which they had entered the wheel room. Outside, they could see that the party continued.

The group proceeded to the door of the last games room, over which was the sign of a bow and arrow.

"I would guess this is again my responsibility," asked Gansaiyah.

"I have no more stomach for these games." replied Soo. "We are counting on you."

The others nodded agreement.

The group walked into a darkened room. Lights suddenly shone on a semicircle of stone seats, and Soo and the others gravitated there. Another series of lights lead Gansaiyah up a stone set of stairs ending in a pedestal. As he reached the highest point, another pedestal suddenly lit up a good bowshot away. On the pedestal stood a creature of some sort, white like marble, an inhuman archer with long, goat-like horns. The creature was eyeless, but two eyes were painted in garish red and black on its bow.

"Heads or tails?" a voice intoned.

"Heads" replied the nomad without hesitation.

Gansaiyah fished a half bronze from his pocket, flipped it, then muttered a curse.

The archer demon drew its bow and let loose with a painful twang, but the arrow missed its mark.


Gansaiyah's return shot hit the creature in the heart, but there was no blood or sign of injury.

Once again the demon shot, and once again missed, as did Gansaiyah.

"Final shots" a voice intoned.

The demon hit Gansaiyah, but his plate turned its tip. Gansaiyah returned the hit, but his arrow pierced one of the two eyes painted on the creature's bow. It screamed in pain, and Gansaiyah now knew its weakness.

"No winner. Try again?" the voice intoned.

The nomad looked to see the archer-demon fully recovered and ready to start again. He sighed.

"We of the desert never push our luck."

They filed out of the room to the sound of chuckling from the darkness.

3. The Silver Tree

(Note they had also all flipped a coin into and made a wish on the wishing well. That will be resolved in due time)

Back in the middle of the tower, the party stood at the base of the great metallic tree that dominated the edifice's very center. The tree was silvery and thick-limbed, and seemed too big to grow naturally. At its base was a set of steps that wound up around the trunk. The party began to ascend.

"You monkeys should be happy now." quipped Soo. "We are going to climb a tree before we leave." 

They wound up around the trunk once, then came to a knot of silvern tree limbs that blocked any further progress. In front of the barrier, two ogre-like demons stood, one arms folded, the other carrying a long scroll at which he peered as revelers walked up to them, then either let them through or turned them back. The group stopped in front of the two giants.

"Names?" asked one,

"Lord Soo."

"You're on the list."


The demon peered at the scroll, then smiled a toothy grin.

"You're not on the list, love, but you got the look. Go on in."


"Not on the list."

Lord Soo turned back.

"These three are my servants. They go wherever I go."

"I'm sorry, m'lord. They are not on the list."

Maleia leant over to Soo, thrust a handful of the chaos coins in the Melnibonean's palm, and nodded to the demons.

Soo pointed at the scroll, dropping the coins in the demon's outstretched hand.

"I said, they go where I go."

"As you wish."

As the group climbed the tree, they could see many branches going off to various rooms, leafy bowers where small groups talked and dined, set off by latticeworks of branches. The raucous sound of the main hall receded, and was replaced by calming classical music they wafted to their ears as they arose.

They climbed interminably, it seemed, until they came out to see the night sky, set with a diamond dust of stars. In front of them two figures sat at a table drinking and talking, one a tall, thin being in a shining chromatic bodysuit, the other in black clothes and a wide brimmed hat, his eyes hidden by spectacles so dark they seemed to be twin abysses in his face.

The figure clothed in shimmering samite noticed the coterie, and beckoned, the threads of gold and silver in his raiment sparkling blindingly.

"Lord Soo! Welcome, welcome! We have been expecting you."

"I am honoured." replied the Melnibonean with all the calm he could muster.

Soo was surprised. He had expected at least to see Balo, the Jester of Chaos, or some other minor functionary of Chaos. The two figures before him were completely unknown.

The shining Lord offered, "I am Feedlar, and this is my associate, Lorex."

The figure in black nodded, then sipped his drink.

"Tell your servants to enjoy themselves while we talk." suggested silvery Feedlar, motioning to food and drink tables at the edge of the hollow.

Lord Soo sat with the two unknown Chaos Lords.

"May I ask a question?" asked Soo, wary of offending the two innocuous yet powerful beings.

Feedlar nodded.

”Are you here to take over The Young Kingdoms?"

Feedlar laughed.

"Let's say we are here to strategically align ecosystem incentives." 

"I see." said Soo. But he did not see, not at all.

The other Lord in black growled in a voice like gravel. "It's becoming increasingly evident that mutual collaboration amongst major ecosystems and communities is the optimal path forward to positive-sum outcomes in a budding interplanar reality."

Feedlar continued. "We have started our own currency, which we call 8-bit coin. As the dominant players in the 8 bit-coin space, commanding the vast majority of trading volume, we can control ample resources to buy up anyone with a hint of a competitive advantage."

Lorex growled, "8-bit coin is a lower tier exchange with clients getting an implied valuation of hundreds of mundane coin per customer. Contrasting to mortal fixed per customer valuation."

Soo thought he understood, but his mind quickly retreated from that supposition. He suddenly had a more interesting thought and asked, "What if it was counterfeited?"

"In practice," replied Feedlar, "our security plays out by enabling connecting wardpacts, called "multichains," to rely on the security of 8-bit coin's value through our validator set. Thus, each multichain taps our validator set to help create secure blocks on the multichain's own multichain. At the same time, through use of our validator set, illustratively called the "entropy relay chain," all the multichains can also securely communicate with each other to call contracts, pass messages and transfer assets. The strength of this model is manifold."

Soo nodded, but was using his Melnibonean ability to project interest and understanding.

Lorex added, "However, unlike a permission-less environment where demons can freely deploy their powers, connecting a multichain to 8-bit coin is not free nor is it permanent. The connecting multichain must pay to lease one of 8-bit coin's limited multichain slots.

Lord Soo said nothing.

Feedlar continued, "For example, the "X to Earn" theme, where coin rewards in the form of tokens or sigils are used to incent desired user behavior, is proliferating quickly. "X to Earn" is a novel concept that advances the reward dynamics of Sorcery 2.0 from free use of the product to ownership of the product and getting compensated to use the product."

Lorex finished the diatribe, "This new structure is intended to spur marketing, network effects, adoption and brand loyalty. In this new paradigm, utilization of sorcery directly rewards users' contributions with items of monetary value. The greater the contribution of the user, the greater the value that the user potentially derives from his or her rewards."

"Fascinating." replied Soo.

"I see you have some 8-bit coin already. Care to invest back into the system and get in on the ground floor?"

Soo was shocked, but realized he mightn't have a use for the coins outside this place.

"It would be my honour." He motioned for Maleiya to hand over the coins.

The conversation trailed off, with Feedlar and Lorex continuing on in their inscrutable manner with each other. Soo was looking for a good place to exit when he felt something slither across his boot.


He looked down to see a massive worm, about the size of a Troosian constrictor and topped with a human head, looking up at him from underneath the table.

"hElp!" the worm repeated.

Lord Soo recalled where he had seen the face. It was Chon Fla, the Pan Tangian priest who had let him escape from Melnibone during the invasion. So Bones was right - he had seen a Pan Tangian priest this morning.

"What is in it for me?" demanded the Melnibonean.

"B-but I helped you escape from Imrryr..."

"That time is past."

The Pan Tangian gulped. "I will give you anything it is in my power to give."

"Swear it."

"I swear."

Lord Soo picked Chon Fla up by its midsection.

"Mind if I take this with me?"

Feedlar made a dismissive gesture.

"Come Pan Tang worm!" hissed Soo. "I have plans for thee!"

4. On The Road

The group stepped out of The Laughing Tower and back into the ruins of Shet. By providence their horses were still there, so they mounted and made off the way they had come.

As they reached Tingle's farmhouse, two armed and armored riders of Agrimiliar livery approached them.

"Halt in the name of Agrimiliar! If you harbour any souls touched by Chaos, you must hand them over to us."

Gansaiyah laughed. "The two of you versus the five of us? Not likely."

Malea drew her daggers, and the two horsemen recoiled at her prismatic countenance.

"Be off, lest you want a taste of this!" warned the nomad. The two men turned their horses and fled back towards Cassandra.

"My lord, I suggest we either take a southern arc through the prairie, or north along the coast. They will be scouring the main road for the touched," advised Gansaiyah.

"Let's take the coast road," replied his lord. "Always better to stay near the sea."

"I agree," added Vinket.

As one they turned their horses north and made for the coast.

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