8 months ago ::
Oct 07, 2012 - 1:08AM
My players had been missing out from Episode 5 for so long so we agreed on a second in-between adventure and with only 3 days to prepare I mashed together a mix of stories from games, novels and comics and I thought I could post the results here. Note that this is 50% based on the Overlord DLC for Mass Effect 2. If you plan to play this DLC, do not read any more. In fact, if you run this one you may wish to verify that your players haven't planned to play this DLC since you are likely to spoil it for them. It's also inspired by System Shock 2, Serial Experiments Lain, Dead Space 2 and F.E.A.R. 2, but not as much as Overlord.
In my game Maya have been largely ignored or missing since the first episode. She isn't part of the "Alderaan Resistance" on the Resurgence (the players) but works as an undercover Alderaan Security Agent, conducting missions in interest of Alderaan. In thus episode she have gone rogue in her obsession to find a mythical holonet entity known as "Ariadne" and ended up in trouble for it.Soundtrack
In a discussion about atmosphere me and a friend agreed that we had two ways to absorb the atmosphere. I absorb it through visuals, images, graphics. He absorb it through music and sound. Because of that I have begun to take much more consideration about what music I use, trying to create a soundtrack for each game and find very distinct music fitting the setting.Spoiler:
With it's strong Cyberpunk theme in this episode I used mostly the soundtrack from E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy for this episode, which is very cyberpunk-like.AdventureSpoiler:
I have learned that for fights I can't use louder music, but I can still use a bit faster tunes as long as they are soft, such as the tune called "qnw" which I used for fights in this one.
But there were also suspense music from F.E.A.R. 2 and during "sad plot twists" I used the first 1:40 of "Welcome to Sprawl" from Dead Space 2.
One interesting (and appreciated) trick I used was to play a brief Music Box tune with the Star Wars music, using Windows Media Player (no-loop) while the suspense music played in WinAMP.
I also used Max Payne's Nightmare in the Labyrinth.
My Jedi player (who healed Maya in Episode 1) get a vision of Maya in pain. Upon investigation Maya have been researching the holonet phenomenon known as "Ariadne". My Engineer remembers Ariadne from a debate he listened to between two coworkers. They were discussing whether or not a droid can be seen as human if it was advanced enough. One of them brought up Ariadne. Ariadne is rumoured to be a presence on the holonet who's true identity is unknown but shown herself in various forums, often presenting secret information that lead to revealed corruption and political scandals. There are many rumours of Ariadnes nature, she is believed to be not a person, perhaps it's a malfunctioning droid, an advanced A.I. Others claim however that Ariadne shown some human qualities and believe she is in fact a collective of slicers. Others claim she's a ghost. Maya's intention is to try to find and recruit Ariadne to the Alderaan Resistance.
Note: The only major complaint I got for the adventure was that this introduction needed more logic. I believe this could have been solved by emphasising the value of Ariadne to the growing rebellion, perhaps promising a more open access to holonet than the players had up to now. I also believe that it's better if the players are recruited to save Maya for credits in return.
To the Warehouse
The players are informed that, Maya's last known location was Sundari, Mandalore. They get a transponder that tracks down her ship which contains clues that one previous attempt to trace Ariadne gave a string response that included the line "Dionys OS". A local search for this string gave only a really old reference to a defunct company that owns a warehouse in the Naxos block (points to you if you recognize some of the labels/names I used up to now).
There's also an undescribed reference to a "Taurus Gahn" who owns the mining software company that develops MinOS. If the players visit Taurus he will claim to have no clue about Ariadne or Maya; "Yes, she came here and asked about it and I tell you what I told her; as far as I concern Ariadne is a myth, and if she's not a myth I still don't know anything about her".
Note: If my players met Taurus (which they hadn't) they would be more aware of how Taurus looks like and they will also see the resemblence with Dionys and Tom-Tom below. But it would also delay the events for another hour.
Upon entry the players find an almost empty warehouse with a freight elevator and a holonet display. As they approaches this display briefly show a woman that looks a bit like Maya but not looking begging at them and say "Help me", then switch to a video feed from "C" with a group of droids guarding a room. A couple of seconds later the elevator doors open up. Unbeknownst to the players, the first video was actually a remixed cut from an old archived recording they will find later and much later they will know who played it for them. The second is real though.
Entry Floor: Reception
An empty reception, with traces of someone recently walking through the corridor (Maya) but otherwise looks abandoned. A computer which break down (hardware malfunction) if booted is at the reception desk.
Lab Floor A: The Childs Room
Floor A consists of primarily two rooms, an office and a childs room behind a glass wall (closed door leading into the other room). On the floor of this childs room lies a couple of small cubes with letters that spell the name "Tom-Tom". In the room there are a large amount of durasheets with solved labyrinths and other puzzles. Some of these are taped on the walls and some contains solved squareroots of very high numbers.
Clues: Boys name is established as Tom-Tom, Tom-Tom have been making a lot of puzzles/labyrinths.
A computer runs Dianys OS as operating system, the user "Dionys" is logged in. It contains a Journal with entries, most of it involving programming DianysOS, advanced A.I. as well as codebreaking software. The computer also have a single e-mail from "Ariadne Ghant" with a photograph. These are over 10 years old. The photograph have a couple with a child. The woman looks like a younger version of the woman that could be seen in the video, the man looks almost like Taurus but yet not, the hair color and shape of his chin is different. The child is younger than the boy in the video. The back of the photo is signed "He still asks for you / Love Ariadne".
Clues: The woman is Ariadne, perhaps Tom-Tom's mother? Who is the father? Is it Taurus?
Note: I consistenly had problems saying the name "Dianys" without adding "os" afterwards. The word "Dianysos" is not meant to be given away this early but I blew that one.
The video archive is empty except for an unconverted tempfile that can be played. This contains a brief recording of a young boy playing with cubes, sorting them and placing them in front of him in perfect order and diffeernt formations. He is suddenly interrupted by a man who's face that cannot be seen. The man angrily walks over to the child and slaps the boy on top of his head and forcefully give the boy more durasheets with puzzles on them. Suddenly the computer gets an incoming call, when replied to a brief clip is shown again with the woman; "Hurry, help me, Im in my office, he..." then the signal go down. Again this looks like a call but it's not. The call is traced to Lab Floor C, office of Ariadne.
Clue: A man forced the boy to solve puzzles. The father? Taurus?
The computer will finally have it's screen changed into a scary digital face of a human being (gender unknown) with piercing glowing eyes that just watches them.
Note: I suggest imagining the face as female and even forcefully call it a "she". I kept calling the face "he" all the time which partially blew the point. It's even ok if the face resembles the true Ariadne (see below).
Lab Floor B: More offices and pentry
Sometime when passing this level a holo-recording of the mans distorted face will show on a display. A highly digitalized voice (gender unknown) say; "Mother is home, I cannot play, go away!". Most computers on this level will have the same face, watching them, turning it's head as they walk past.
Lab Floor C: Ariadne's Office
The players are greeted with a remixed clip; "Im in my office." "Help me!"
Here the player gets to fight the droids that they saw in the video feed in the beginning here. In a corridor up ahead they will see one of them. As soon as they shoot it, smokescreens will blow out from canisters in the room, making them very hard to see (-5 or up to -10) but the droids can still see them. I initially used four ASN-121 in the smoke but moved one of them behind them and added a fifth one when this initially got too easy. I also used the smoke as hazard for the Jedi who were likely to rush in and attack in melee, but the smoke I used were too weak for his high fortitude defense.
The fight will give access to Ariadne's office where Ariadne Ghant is found hanging from the ceiling from a noose. Ariadne, the woman from the video they saw, are stone cold dead and her body is old, she have been hanging there for a long time.
Her computer have alot of video recordings as a video journal.
It's locked (User: Ariadne Password: Tom-Tom) but the password is easily bypassed if the players cant figure it out.
The Journal will provide some clues to what have happened;
1. Dionys and Ariadne were developing codebreaking software before the clone war.
2. Many references to Dionys "brother" (Taurus) were obsessed with advanced A.I.'s and cybernetic interfaces, especially neurointerfaces.
3. Dionys and Ariadne have an autustic savant as son (Tom-Tom). They become more invested in trying to "cure" or help Tom-Tom than building codebreaking software, but it's obvious that Dionys cant handle it well and have been missing. Many of the recordings are short like "I love you" or "I miss you" or "He miss you" meant to be sent to Dionys, many of these were never sent.
Some of these recordings contains the full clips that have been played before;
"You have to help me with this research, Dionys, I can't do it without you".
"Come by and help me, im in my office, he should see his father as well you know.
4. A newspaper article with "Software developer found dead. Police believe suicide. He left behind his wife and son.". This article describes the death of Dionys.
5. After Dionys dies, Ariadne is convinced to "agree to assist with his brothers research". This is the final journal entry on this computer except for a single note written a year later.
6. The final note is a suicide note. In regret over what she have done, Ariadne commit suicide after killing her own son.
The computer also allow the user to show camera uptakes from around the office. One of these show a large dark room with a female body (Maya, alive) hanging from the ceiling, mummified in thick cables. The display show "E2".
Clues: Yes, that's Maya. They better go rescue her. But where is she?
Like before the computer then change it's screen to the digital face, now displayed in glowing red together with a sharp digital noise/scream only to go black again.
Lab Floor D: Taurus office
This floor consists of a large office with it's sign taken off, or only the surname "Ghant" is shown. (Blew it here, accidently revealed the full name "Taurus Ghant" and spoiled a later puzzle).
A computer that contains alot of research about A.I., cybernetic interfaces and codebreaking software. A bookshelf reveals mostly titles involving artificial intelligence and even some sci-fi novels about rogue A.I. It also contains a list of lab employees who were fired but it seems even more quit, usually for "ethical concerns". There's also a notepad with a couple of entries, including an old note about "Dionys OS v6.0" that adds advanced A.I., a such radical change that the notepad also discusses a new title; "Min OS".
Clue: The brother is Taurus Ghant. Is it his A.I. that gone rogue?
Lab Floor D: The Digital Labyrinth
As they move forward they are suddenly "enwrapped" in a digital labyrinth.
The labyrinth is "drawn" in thin air, enhanced by the force. The players will hear something approaching them with heavy feet but they can just hear it moving when they are. They will come to a section in which all routes are locked or there are too many to pick from. Then they will hear the voice asking questions and vector-cubes with letters drop to the floor. They will need to reply correctly to make progress by placing the cubes on the floor.
Wrong reply leads to a fight with a demon-like figure with a huge nose, vibroaxe and two horns. For this fight I gave a Rancor a Vibro-Ax and gore. I also placed green balls on the battle map that would "suck up" the demon and teleport it somewhere else with recovered health. This demon was a heavy hitter, but it's very low willpower would have made it an easy target for my players force stun.
"Who are the brother?" (Taurus)
(After responding this question correctly they will see a digital recreation of Taurus killing Dianys by shooting him, then dropping the gun in Dianys hand and place a suicide note next to him. This is actually a digital recreation of a memory.)
"Am I Ariadne?" (Both yes and no is right)
This is followed by another question depending on which response;
Yes: "I am Ariadne. But who am I truly?" (You are Tom-Tom or You are a computer)
No: "Then who am I?" (You are Tom-Tom or You are a computer)
("You are a computer" will be replied by a moment of silence and an "I agree")
Lab Floor E1: The final lab
Lab floor E is lit up by monitor screens that displays flows of data like someone were typing in commands at a rapid rate on multiple computers at the same time. There's also a weird noise that sounds like a mix between an old broken soundchip and a child crying. E1 is a moon-like room with computer panels around the dark cylinder-formed E2.
Lab Floor E2: Ghost in the Machine
Before entering the room is unlit, but it will lit up once the players entered the room. The players will find a huge ball/capsule in the air with a lot of cables going out of it. The Jedi's empathy will feel that there are at least three entities nearby but only two are definitely human. They might see Maya hanging in the air (alive) enwrapped in cables, but she's behind the capsule. If the time is late he will then get killed from behind by some digital demon (in my game he was disabled from a distance by the Jedi), otherwise there will be another fight later. Now begins a "Boss fight" with the "computer".
Taurus will switch on a self destruct sequence with glowing energyballs running through cables towards the ball in the middle of the room. He will also disable airsupport into the ball. The energy balls should deal an average of 20 damage to the ball which have 100 hitpoints, hurting what's inside. Slashing the four cables (20 hp each) will stop this. But in the mean time the players have to deal with annoying squads of Buzz Droids that attacked them after the first shot was fired (I used 6 of them).
The ball can now be opened. It contains the (alive) now 17-year old body of Tom-Tom wrapped to a chair, with neurointerfaces plugged into his skull and feedingtubes filling his mouth. Maya will insist on taking him back to Alderaan to get psychological help and if possible, education for his special gifts. "He may not function like the rest of us, but he is still a human being".
Note: If the night is still young, the players will meet Taurus at the exit, with a couple of battledroids. He is there to silence them all. In my game the clock was 23:30 at this point so I ended the game here. Taurus actually tried to convince the players to keep Tom-Tom in his chair, "he will be of more use to you there". If I had the time I might have added some kind of sense to Taurus where actually promotes Tom-Tom's new existence as "he's more alive and more welcome in there than out here, would you take that away from him?".
The whole secret, revealed by Maya or a computer; Tom-Tom were a force-sensitive but savant/autistic child of software developer Ariadne and Dianys Gahn. Together with Taurus (Tom-Tom's uncle and Dianys brother), they developed codebreaking software long before the clone wars but weren't successful, so then Taurus proposed to use Tom-Tom. Taurus claimed that this would give Tom-Tom a new purpose, by connecting him to a cybernetic interface he would be able to dechipher codes much faster than any modern computer. Dionys rejected and was murdered, then Taurus convinced Ariadne. However, this experiment failed as well. Taurus abandoned both the project and the boy. Ariadne comitted suicide in regret, she tried to turn off her sons life support (food) but failed to do this properly. The boy who at this time had taken control over the computers turned it on again. He then survived for many years and acquired access to the outside world, living a life on the holonet. He eventually took the identity as Ariadne. When Maya came to investigate him he believed that his mother who had returned, so he captured her to keep her close.
Most of the names used in this adventure is based on the tale of the Minotaurus in greek mythology; Dionysos, Ariadne, Minos, Taurus, Naxos, labyrinth etc. The Labyrinth demon description is the description of a minotaur and "Gahn" in Swedish, when you pronounce it in english, sounds like "Garn" in swedish which is the swedish word for Yarn.