Dispatches from the Eccentric Frontier - Escaped gaming meme

March 16th, 2004

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17:02 Escaped gaming meme

When I’m not waiting for a build, I’m waiting for a program to start up under Bounds Checker. And my mind drifts into the realm of gaming...

It’s always challenging coming up with a good Hallowe’en adventure. Horror is tricky to pull off well— splatterfests are tacky, and the unpredictability of players makes it difficult to set up particular horrific scenes. To add complications, I can’t make things so nasty and vivid that my wife gets sick.

So I decided to do an absurd homage to H P Lovecraft, based on the premise that Cthulhu’s little brother Xaphrolon had a sweet tooth and generally inspired by the cartoon “the Fungi from Candyland” in Murphy’s Rules.

Background: the game world in which the high fantasy stories take place consists of mobile islands (some quite small, some the size of a continent) floating on a sea of Moorcock-style primal chaos. Each island can have different laws of nature, physics, and magic. Adventurers travel between them on balloons and dirigibles. This makes it possible for multiple game masters to run in the same world without worrying about anyone’s ruling affecting anyone else’s. If one GM doesn’t want the Lost Hoobajoob of Iskheis derailing his plotlines, it just doesn’t work the same as where the player got it.

Candyland is an island where the basic building block of life is sugar. There are three general forms of life: gummi, marshmallow, and chocolate. (Chocolate beings often have caramel and/or nougat inside.) Everything there is a candy parody of normal life forms— the local sentients are the Chocloths, which are human-sized upright rabbits made of chocolate, capable of communication but not really tool-using, and the Zim-Zims, which are human sized upright bears made of gummi, who make primitive tools out of the red and white striped peppermint bamboo and by chipping the rock candy outcroppings. The Zim-Zims live in the pixie stick desert, where they can ride the giant gummi worms, Fremen-style, and worship the dark god Xaphrolon, who sleeps in a lake of syrup at the heart of the island, awaiting the proper stellar alignments for the time for him to rise and take over the world. And these odd puffball mushrooms that spray spores that grow cotton candy on all the holes in a being’s head and make their brain part of a networked intelligence run by the mushroom.

Physics is also a little different: heat only melts things, but does not cause combustion. This is a land without fire. There’s also a warping effect, analogous to magical radiation, that mutates anyone living there into a candy-based life form. Someone bringing their own supplies of food can last for months before they begin showing signs of mutation, but someone eating local matter— to anyone who can metabolize sugar, it’s all edible— will begin transformation within a week.

My character, Narya, is a ranger (the sort with access to druidical magic) with a fairly potent magical aura that sustains her power in adverse conditions and is bad for undead in her physical proximity. (Aura of Theurgy and Toxic Karma, if you play Feng Shui.) This turned out to be a mixed blessing: on one hand, more normal laws of nature asserted themselves around her, and many of the PCs stuck close to her to avoid getting warped. On the other hand, she left footprints of death wherever she walked and native beings attacked her on sight unless she expended effort to pull in her aura. She was able to verify that the local power was inimical to ordinary Nature.

The player characters were not the first people to wind up there; Candyland is off the trade routes, but some humans had wound up there as a result of being blown drastically off course by storms. The local humans had mutated into gummi creatures with rock candy bones, and were divided up into roughly three groups: the hunter tribes (named the Bloody Spears, the Skull Breakers, and Fierce Eaters), who were just nasty pieces of work but only at a human level; the Zim Masks, who wore masks made from the flesh off the heads of Zim-Zims, who practiced the rites of sacrifice learned by observing the Zim-Zims and hoped to replace the Zim-Zims in Xaphrolon’s affections; and the Earth Carvers, a group of farmers who tilled the soil to grow candy corn, got raided by the hunter tribes for food and target practice, and by the Zim Masks and Zim-Zims for sacrificial material.

The player characters were there because one of them had accepted a quest to retrieve a lost magic sword, so they had wound up in this benighted place, attacked by giant peeps that sprayed hot marshmallow entanglements, finding Swedish fish in streams, and encountering other such deranged creatures inspired by walking through candy stores. They managed to interrogate some gummi humans, where they learned about the various sentients on the island and the fact that raiding parties that were controlled by the cotton candy mushrooms would attack anyone carrying magic items.

It turned out that a priest of Corruption had arrived on Candyland a few generations ago with the intention of controlling Xaphrolon as a way of controlling the world. The fellow uploaded himself into the mushroom consciousness of the cotton candy puffballs, and set about consolidating power on Candyland, with the plan that if all the worshippers of Xaphrolon whispered the same thing into the ear of the sleeping god, he would be able to influence the deity. He was consolidating all the magic items on the island to provide an advantage in conquest.

So not only did the player characters have to deal with rampaging human tribes and killer Zim-Zims, they also had to cope with task forces from the evil mushroom consciousness. They wound up defeating the mushroom consciousness and helped save the farmers from the rampaging tribes, but Xaphrolon still lies dreaming at the bottom of his lake of syrup, and the PCs are determined to make sure he doesn’t get out.

Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic Current Music: Miles Davis - Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
(7 rants | My 2¢)
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From:deirdremoon
Date:March 16th, 2004 23:10 (UTC)
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That's... amazing. I'm speechless. I'll be over here now. Trying not to think about a world where gummi worms are the size of Dune worms. (Is a stillsuit, then, an M&M-type candy shell? No, no, don't think about it!!)
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From:slothman
Date:March 16th, 2004 23:24 (UTC)

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Stillsuits are too high-tech for Candyland; in a place where nothing can combust and metals are basically unheard-of, technology stays quite primitive. (Though a rock candy axe head can still do quite a number on gummi flesh.) Candy shells form on chocolate berries much the same way that a skin or peel forms on a fruit.

One of the first things the party was able to spot about Candyland from afar was the fact that the color palette was off: everything was in bright, saturated colors, as if the local demiurge had had nothing but chocolate and Skittles to paint everything.

I really enjoyed coming up with a blend of humor and horror. The PCs were definitely bothered by the depths to which the local humans had sunk— even the ones that weren’t worshipping Xaphrolon were still raiding each other, if only to capture prisoners so their barely-adolescent children could learn to kill in their adulthood rites. Mixing this kind of barbarity with rampaging giant peeps and human-size gummi bears who sacrifice the hearts of sentient beings on their dark altars (well, licorice flavored altars, anyway) provided a certain skewed perspective on it all.

And they even brought along some hard-to-control NPCs— Chaos-based shapeshifters that are sort of like redshirts with regeneration— to keep an eye on their airship while they were adventuring. One of the shapeshifters now turns into a gummi version of whatever he’s trying to duplicate, and another one has a chocolate left hand (or left front paw) in all forms.

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From:cmccurry
Date:March 17th, 2004 0:06 (UTC)
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It is such a shame that I never got a chance to game with you.
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From:slothman
Date:March 17th, 2004 0:30 (UTC)
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I’ll be sure to coordinate with you if we decide to abandon this country for someplace more sensible. And we’ll have to keep an eye on telepresence technology— at some point, it should be feasible to game around a virtual table...
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From:daehith
Date:March 17th, 2004 8:14 (UTC)
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ROTFLMAO!!!

Man, I will have to get you to collaborate if I ever decide to really write up the Kill the Care Bears campaign (Uncle Mikey's idea, originally, but he gave it to me).

Oh, and I am SO looking forward to that virtual gaming table idea happening...!
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From:slothman
Date:March 17th, 2004 9:06 (UTC)
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Candyland as written may be a little dark for Kill the Care Bears, but feel free to borrow anything you like... it’s not like I haven’t borrowed from Arion...
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From:daehith
Date:March 17th, 2004 9:11 (UTC)
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..and I've borrowed from the campaign you did for Ialuine! And from Dru, of course, who is amazing. Ah, we've all borrowed from each other at one time or another, so it's really all a muddle at this point. You sometimes credit me with things I don't remember! Haha! (I have borrowed the lost elven deity Srallathar from you, BTW, as well as keeping on Hwfel as an NPC hovering in the background somewhere at the Tower of Light.)
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