The campaign picked up after a week off with the characters in the mythic city of Argatha, a place where the sun never moves from its place high over head. The characters had gone through the Eye of Shambala to this place, expecting…well, Shangri-La, and instead finding a deserted and damaged city with a Hindu-Annamese vibe to the architecture, and strange plants and animals that were “almost prehistoric” in the words of Dr. David Gould, the member of the group with “Atlantean blood.”
Originally, two of the players were going to be around last week, so I split the party, and this evening started with Lady Zara, Gus, Olga, and Dr. Heiser, the Thule Society philologist and historian a “guests” of the apemen that inhabit Argatha. They had learned of an ancient war that was fought between the devi and the asura, and the following destruction of these “gods” by an advanced civilization that Heiser assumes is the Thule, and John Hunter — our Terra Arcanum overseer — thinks is Atlantis.
After having earned the trust of the apes, who have no real animosity toward the party, but also don’t much care what happens to them, they were able to trade the firearms that they had (they were almost out of ammunition) for swords, spears, and bows. Heading out with an apeman guide, Uth, into the wilds of “the World”, intent on finding Hunter and Gould, who had been washed downriver and over a waterfall, Zara resolved to go to San Antonio — a trading post the apes claim is at the mouth of the river, three days hard travel from Argatha.
Meanwhile, those two men had found each other, rested in the boughs of a tree, and were busily trying to find food and make weapons. Gould’s compass showed that the magnetic field was small, irregular and most likely highly localized. It is useless for navigation. Hunter has a working wristwatch and a stiletto; Gould a pocketknife. They are, in a word, screwed. They start marking the river-facing trees and rocks to let people know where they are, and after a few hours stumble onto a clearing where something has been hunting: there are animal remains of creatures that had been cleaned for food, and a tapir-like creature was in a snare trap, hanging from the tree overehead.
At that point, they are aggressed by a trio of velociraptors and find themselves in desperate straits, with Hunter bitten on the ass, and Gould driven up into a tree. Before things get too hot (and with a judicious use of style points) suddenly they find themselves watching a fight between the raptors and a trio of…cat people. A mother and her young male cubs has been hunting the area and assault the raptors. In the middle of the fight, Gus and Uth burst out of the bushes to save their friends (they had gotten excellent tracking rolls), followed by Zara (armed with a bow) and Olga (armed with a bullwhip one of the apes had traded.)
The fight quickly showed a problem with the velociraptor write-up. The 3 body and 5 dexterity meant that the characters had, in essence, no chance of killing these beasts. Even the fast and effective team of panthermen were having issues. (GM, say “oops!” Read the write-ups frst, Scott!) I quickly scaled their dexterities down to a reasonable 3 — still making them incredibly dangerous, but making them animals…not some super-monster.
With the raptors dispatched, the panthermen and Uth are suddenly at each other’s throats — the apemen and the more solitary cat people appear to have some kind of animosity. Gould and Gus attempt, and fail, to cool things off, but surrounded by a larger number of opposition, and not understanding each other, the panthermen decamp.
The characters carve up the raptors for dinner, and they turn out to be delicious. Uth points them in the direction of San Antonio, but he will go no further; the people of that town and the apemen do not get on.
They travel to the town — a smudge of dirt, stink, and activity surrounded by a wide alluvial delta. From a high vantage point, they see the horizon curves…up! disappearing into the haze of humidity.
Surrounding the town, there are farms where men are growing crops (using slaves in some instances) and husbanding dinosaurs and other strange creatures. The town is surrounded by a wooden wall, protected by a wood fort with cannon. The place has a wooden plaque over the gates: San Antonio Founded 1653.
Inside they find a town with muddy streets, loads of poor and homeless, brothels, trading warehouses, and a wide beach with tents for the crews of the ships berthed in the sea — which they later find out are the Straits of Varuna — Chinese junks, caravels, other styles of ship from the 1400s to 1800s. The people of the town are universally human, mostly Asian (they hear Chinese, but also Annamese), the others are a collection of folks from everywhere.
At the church, a Franciscan friar named Julian takes them in and explains the place. It is a port of call for many in the area, run by the chua te, Captain Van Trihn and his crew. They keep the place safe from the other monsters out there. They find out that, though Julian was born here in the World, Father Ricardo — who once ran the place — was from what he called the “outer world.” The father was pulled into “the World” through a whirlpool in a place called the South China Sea — a story others have also related. Others have come by different means. The characters start positing the hollow Earth theory is correct, and even try to guess as to how gravity works here, and why the sun remains so constant in the sky.
Without money, they cobble together their belongings and are lucky enough to realize that Lady Zara’s silver flask and cigarette case will aid them. Soon they have supplies for the trip back to Argatha, including booze for the DT-addled Gould, and a flintlock rifle for Gus. As they are preparing to head out of town, they run into a crew of men who want to buy Zara and Olga (the dangers of having a character who is “attractive” in a pirate haven), and after some issues with language and Zara’s being a haughty English lady (How dare she know her own worth!?!), they find themselves in a fight…
At which point we broke for the night.