This recap will be a spoiler for the short adventure The Factory, available on DriveThruRPG.
Faced with a plethora of political problems at home, our stalwart heroes choose the better part of valour - and flee into the wild in search of adventure, leaving their cleric and five archers to guard their tumble-down keep.
They have a ship now and they mean to use it. Strapped for cash to fund the infrastructure development of their new county, they set off for the fabled Gold Coast in search of sweet, sweet mercenary wages. Travelling by sea is safer than travelling by land on the World of Prime because the ocean is an empty place (encounter checks are made half as often). Their very first day, however, is the exception that proves the rule.
As the sun begins to sink and the captain begins to search for a likely cove to anchor for the night. There is no sailing after dark here; the dangers of unseen reefs and shoals is too great close to shore, and the danger of getting lost is too great further out. Prime does not have a moon, but it has so many stars that the average night is as illuminated as a full moon. This makes navigation by the stars impossible, so most vessels are coast-huggers unless they have magic or a superlative captain.
His search is interrupted when a tentacle flops onto the deck, grabbing a crewman by the ankle. More tentacles follow and the party leaps into action.
His search is interrupted when a tentacle flops onto the deck, grabbing a crewman by the ankle. More tentacles follow and the party leaps into action.
The foe – a giant octopus – is merely searching for dinner. It grabs several crewmen and begins battering them against the deck, unwilling to drag anything still moving into its maw. It lashes out at the barbarian, who promptly severs a tentacle. The ranger also charges into the fray but with his usual luck with dice we need not concern our narrative with him for the rest of the battle. The druid tries magic but the animal is too hungry to be calmed.
One of the sailors has gone limp and is dragged overboard. The barbarian frees another by hewing through a tentacle; the octopus grabs three more. The druid sensibly ties a rope around his waist, anchored on the mast, before going to fight a grabby beast. The bard trusts to his nimble feet and lays too with his halberd. Another sailor is knocked unconscious and disappears over the edge.
The barbarian pushes past the tentacles and leans over the edge of the ship to attack the huge, rubbery body of the beast, stabbing fiercely. The druid summons flame to his hand – prompting a Will save on the part of the crew to not douse him with a bucket – and starts trying to free sailors from the sucker grasp of death. He and the bard succeed in severing two more tentacles and the creature withdraws. The party has now traded two sailors for a large pile of fresh calamari. This is not a good bargain but they make the best of it as the bard slices off rings and spices them while the druid roasts them over his open hand.
On shore they break out the grog as a morale booster for the men, passing a bottle of rum around their campfire. The bard is suddenly disturbed to realize that the fellow who takes the bottle from him has horns, goat feet, and far too much fur. A band of satyrs have stealthily joined the party, drawn by the smell of alcohol. They are boisterous and quite friendly, at least until the ranger cuts off the flow of booze.
As they grumpily prepare to take their leave, one of them notices the barbarian’s masterwork greatsword and asks him how he got it. The barbarian says he won in a duel, to which the satyrs respond with evident astonishment.
“You mean, one on one? You beat the guardian mano a mano?” When the barbarian nods agreement, apparently having mistaken “guardian” for “Ser Branford” (to be fair, he had been drinking too), the satyrs explode with glee.
“The gang will want to hear this. You have to come with us!”
They plead with the party until the suspicious ranger finally relents, and the four heroes follow a group of drunken goat-men into the darkness, never to be seen again.
Next week we’ll start a new – oh, wait, that’s not what happened.
After a short journey they come to a glade inhabited by a tribe of grigs (two foot tall fey with an Irish accent). The grigs are none too happy with the surprise guests; after all, the satyrs drink enough on their own. But when they see the sword and hear the tale of how it was won in single combat, they are just as excited as the satyrs.
“This could be our chance to finally smash the factory!” one them exclaims. “And thus the end of Grubazor and his evil plans!” cries another.
The barbarian notices that the grigs are themselves all sporting masterwork greatswords, though on a scale of only a few inches long. The party interrogates the grigs as best they can, though fey are notoriously inexact when talking about mundane details. They uncover that there is a magical factory that produces greatswords, and that some ogerish “big folk” creature named Grubazor wants to seize it to his own ends. They are opposed to this; it is the tribe’s sacred duty to either destroy the factory or at least see that its weapons of destruction are not loosed upon the world.
When the ranger notes the quality of their many tiny swords implies these too are products of the factory, they change the subject. Their leader strikes up a merry jig on a tiny fiddle, causing the satyrs to immediately form a mosh pit. Tiny bottles of wine are emptied and a good time is had by all, until the ranger, once again the voice of sober adulthood, compels the party to return to their boat and reassure their sailors. They promise to return in the morning, hoping to resolve the mystery of what the heck the grigs were talking about.
However, the morning finds more complications. They set out with a squad of marines but a handsome, exceedingly tall blue-haired man intercepts them before they reach the grig glade. He looks over the party and likes what he sees enough to offer them a job. There’s a band of grigs, apparently, that are standing in the way of Industrial Progress and his plans to raise an army of greatsword wielding warriors. The party, deeply suspicious of Grubazor because his appearance does not quite match what the grigs had lead them to expect, decide that he must be under a disguise spell. One by one they manufacture an excuse to shake his hand, clap him on the back, or perform a mighty fist-bump. The end of their investigation is a few bruises – Grubazor responds to a hearty slap on the back with a clubbing blow that would kill a sheep, though apparently without any malice on his part – and no new information.
Grubazor asks them their price. The barbarian shouts out a large sum – 5,000 gold! Grubazor considers it and then agrees, causing the barbarian to realize he’d started too low. They follow Grubazor through the forest to a small open patch where a series of animated machines are busily cold-forging a sword. There was once a building here, and indeed an entire city, but all of that has faded away from the ravages of time, leaving only this self-contained automated assembly line.
The factory is not unoccupied, however. The mysterious guardian finally makes its appearance. And it appears as nine-foot tall bronze and marble statue of a blocky man-shape in full armor. However, it is not the factory that is the target of its protection, but rather the Frankenstienian monster wandering around the machines as the work. A flesh golem, grotesque beyond measure, seems to treat the factory like its home.
While the party watches the machines complete their task, falling quiet as a gleaming sword falls out of the assembly line at the end. The flesh golem picks up the sword, ambles back to the start of the line, and drops it into a hopper. Immediately the sword is mangled into a mere slab of iron, the machines rumble into life, and the entire process starts over.
“What a waste,” Grubazor says, shaking his head.
The party inquires what would happen if one were to dart out and grab the completed sword before the flesh golem recycled it.
“You’d get your arms ripped off,” he replies. “At least, that’s what happened when I got this sword,” indicating the blade he wears across his back.
The party looks at him with surprise. “Well,” he clarifies, “not my arms.”
The party proceeds to devising some manner of destroying the rather fearsome guardians of the place. While they are debating the depth of the pit that would be required to subdue the creatures, and also the small matter of who would dig said pit (with many side-eyed looks at the squad of marines), a troll comes bounding out of the woods at them, slavering manically.
The party bursts into flight, cleverly moving so as to draw the creature through the factory and thus trigger the guardians on its head. The troll does not take their bait; instead, it leaps on Grubazor and bites his face.
Grubazor responds by punching the troll repeatedly and shouting, “Down, Kato!” Eventually it kneels at his feet, whining. The party returns, somewhat concerned by the fact that Grubazor appears to be none the worse for wear despite having worn troll fangs all over his face just a moment ago. They are also none to happy to discover that their erstwhile employer has a pet troll. In their book that’s pretty much proof of playing for Team Evil.
Nonetheless they hatch a decent plan. If Grubazor and the troll can keep the guardian occupied, they will endeavour to destroy the flesh golem, on the theory that once it is dead the guardian will cease to function. This fits with what they know of arcane science, though at this point they are really missing their wizard or even their cleric (both of whom have missed the last few sessions). They bemoan their lack of magical attacks until bardic knowledge assures them that the golem and guardian are immune to magic anyway.
But all is not ready. A harpy swoops down to land in a tree and opens a bag of pine nuts. She’s waiting for the fun to start so she can enjoy the show. There are more arrivals when the grig tribe and their satyr allies appear on the other side of the clearing.
The ranger goes over to talk to them. They are openly dismayed that the party seems to be working for Grubazor, but the ranger assures them the party intends to double-cross Grubazor the instant the flesh golem is destroyed. (This guy seems pretty flexible about his hiring arrangements, you know?). The grigs agree to send in a squad of flying dagger-men to help.
Now that the plan is fully in place, they spell up, take their positions, and charge to the attack. The troll goes in first, jumping on the guardian in an impressive flurry of claws and fangs. The barbarian dashes to the flesh golem and slices into it with a mighty blow (he has so many bonuses on him right now that it takes the party a minute to add them all up). The marines assist him in combat, the bard summons images and moves to attack, and the ranger does his usual terrible dice rolling. A squad of grigs flitters about the flesh golem’s head, doing surprisingly little damage despite their tiny sharp swords. Then Grubazor swings his mighty great-sword against the guardian… but it blocks his strike with a stony fist.
Now the creatures react to the onslaught with their own. The guardian jackhammers the troll in the face, both arms pumping like pistons, while the flesh golem swings its meaty arms wildly, knocking the stuffing out of the barbarian.
The druid decides its time to break out the big guns. Convinced that the flesh golem is massive enough to occupy the attention of an entire swarm, he calls spiders out of the ground. For once this is not a fight-ending move; the golem is immune to the various nauseas and poisons of the swarm and its damage, even when boosted by his feats, remains in the single-dice range. Mostly it serves to drive the grigs off for fear of being eaten alive, and they cast no shortage of nasty looks in the druid’s direction.
The barbarian continues to trade blows with the golem. He deals out a ton of damage but the thing seems nigh-indestructible. Worse, its return strikes are crushing, and though the guardian doesn’t hit as hard, it never seems to miss. The bard breaks off his attacks to act as emergency healer for the barbarian when the druid runs out of spells; this turns out to be the difference between life and death as the golem’s next strike reduces the barbarian to negatives.
After only three rounds the troll is reduced to a pile of green paste. Grubazor now faces the guardian without allies, and while his sword is deadly, the monster is visibly repairing itself even as it fights. He is taking mighty blows to the face faster than he is dealing them out. The barbarian gets back on his feet and strikes at the flesh golem; the swarm retreats into the ground allowing the grigs to fly back in and the satyrs to charge the flesh golem like bowling balls only to bounce off with minor effect; then the golem strikes back, driving the barbarian into the ground again and catching the ranger with a haymaker. The druid, driven to desperation, summons flame and moves into combat range, his life flashing before his eyes.
The situation is so dire the party, normally tight-fisted as a Scotsman on a French vacation, resorts to expensive healing potions. This gets the barbarian back on his feet just in time to deliver the killing blow – the golem falls!
Immediately the guardian grinds to a halt. But before anyone can so much as let out a cheer, Grubazor makes his move – catching most of the party, half of the grig tribe, and all of the satyrs in a freezing cone of ice. This spares the party the shame of backstabbing a battlefield ally, because he backstabbed them first, but the bard and barbarian are now unconscious, leaving the ranger with a handful of hit-points and the druid with a handful of fire to face their new foe, an eight-foot tall horned blue ogre magi. At some point in the fight he resumed his true form, though everyone was too busy to notice.
However, Grubazor has been incautious. His spell has caught the guardian in its effect. And while the spell does no damage to the creature, it still interprets it as an attack. It resumes jackhammering his face and the ogre falls to the ground.
Immediately the squad of marines pounces on his corpse, stabbing like mad. The ranger takes a shot with his bow, totally unconvinced that just because the ogre is on the ground means the fight is over. And his suspicion is for once entirely appropriate; the next round, Grubazor rises to his feet again. The troll is also reforming; apparently everything here except our heroes and their allies regenerates. And worse, the guardian has gone still, reset to pacificism after having defeated its attacker.
But the ranger delivers in the end, putting an arrow through Grubazor’s throat. The druid leaps into action, tossing flame at the two fallen bodies until all signs of unnatural life are extinguished.
“Well done,” says a sweet voice, “though I am sorry the show is over. Still, I’ll take the spoils.” The harpy, all but forgotten, has merely been waiting for the right moment.
The ranger covers his ears, remembering too well how dangerous these creatures are, but for once our party is saved by their alliances. The grig chieftain breaks out his fiddle, sending most of the satyrs into a mad dance (which is unfortunate, as they were at exactly zero hit-points and hence this sudden exertion causes them to collapse from injury). The harpy counters with her song for a stalemate. Then the sole remaining satyr plays his pipes, causing fear to all who do not dance on goat hooves. This drives off everyone but the ranger. When the druid finally comes creeping out of the woods, the spell exhausted, he finds the ranger on guard with his bow while the grigs take turns stabbing the burnt corpses and striking heroic poses.
The druid gathers the tael from their fallen foes, his eyes agog from their sudden wealth. These were powerful creatures and the reward is correspondingly great. Uncharacteristically, the druid is slow to loot the corpses for mundane treasure, and only notices that the grigs have helped themselves to a crystal earring after it’s too late, one of them adding it to his vest as a button. The earring, of course, is worth a pittance… but its faint purple glow hints at more. The party hastily assembles all the gemstones it has, which consist of a single crystal each from the early days in the dungeon under the lake when they used them to store tael. They engage the grigs in a dice game, gambling for the many varied shiny buttons, and out of sheer luck walk way with a pearl, a jacinth, and Grubazor’s crystal. Which contains the tael he was saving to promote another ogre to the magihood – another fortune! (On Prime, the treasure tables that gave monsters random amounts of gold coins and jewellery are replaced by tael, because monsters need to collect tael to reproduce, while they literally have no use for gold.)
Once everyone is restored to health, the barbarian has the bright idea of tossing his masterwork greatsword into the machine along with a handful of silver. His intuition is rewarded when a silvered sword, proof against werewolves and other such creatures, comes out of the machine the next day. The ranger follows his lead though he’s not normally one for using a greatsword. The party hangs around for another two weeks, accumulating a dozen extra swords as trade goods. The remaining grigs look a little askance at this use of the factory but for now say nothing, preferring to dance and party with their new friends and the recently healed satyrs.
Tune in next month when the party reaches the fabled Gold Coast – assuming of course the DM has finished writing it up and doesn’t need to throw another side-adventure at them to stall for time.