Session Report – The Fungus Forest

I ran a Play-by-Skype session last weekend, with one new player (Moses) and one returning player (Kevin). Three PCs set out from Tau this time – Bart, Sawney, and Jest. I also threw in two NPCs (Logan and Lucas) in case the group needed backup.

Instead of returning to the Eden Prairie Vault Complex, the players decided to explore the mysterious fungus forest.

Read on for the session report…

Setting out from Crestone in their trusty damnation van, the group drove cross-country to the southeast until they reached the edge of a vast and mysterious forest. Giant mushrooms, the size of large trees, towered high above – their caps blocking out nearly all sunlight.

A carpet of puffballs and smaller mushrooms spread along the ground around the border of the forest, choking out off all other plant life. The PCs parked the van and set up camp within sight of the forest edge and left the NPCs behind to guard.

Bart was cautious, tossing rocks at the puffballs to check for reactions before venturing further. They appeared harmless, and the presence of game trails and animals flying in the forest convinced the group that it was safe enough.

Just inside the forest edge, Bart took samples of some of the smaller mushrooms – including a patch of what appeared to be red death cap. Other than small insects, there were no signs of animal life. There was also no grass, no shrubs, no trees – only various species of fungus.

The party ventured further in. For the rest of the day, they poked around the mushrooms, taking samples and checking things out. Other than a a group of giant insects (the bugs ignored them, and they ignored the bugs), nothing of interest was encountered. (I made a lot of boring rolls – weather was good, the party did not get lost, the reaction roll with the flies was ‘indifferent’)

As evening fell, the group found a small open area (resulting from a fallen mushroom tree) and set up camp. It was then that the PCs realized that most of the action here occurred at night… The fungus forest came alive with croaks, hoots, burbles, and shrieks. Creatures here seemed to live in the canopy overhead – glowing insects descended from above in swarms (but never approached the PCs), movement could be heard from above (but didn’t come close enough to identify), and everything seemed generally wild and dangerous.

The PCs stayed awake, cowering in their small clearing. Near dawn, a disgusting trio of giant vomit flies ambushed the group. They were dispatched with (relative) ease, and luckily the sounds of battle did not attract any more interlopers (much to the dismay of the referee, it must be said…).

With the morning light, the group decided to venture back to the damnation van. For several hours, everything went fine. Sawney scouted ahead of the party, avoiding any apparent dangers. Suddenly, Sawney diverted towards a particular grove with hanging tendrils (failed Will save vs. psionic charm). A grasping fungal rope entwined around his neck, and he was lifted up towards the canopy! A fierce combat ensued, with Bart grappling at Sawney’s feet to keep him close to the ground. Sawney cut himself free only moments before he blacked out, and Jest was entangled for a few rounds as well. The group wasn’t able to defeat the hangman vines, but they did manage to escape the grove with their lives.

After combat the group swiftly fled – not even stopping to regain their breath. They managed to find their way back through the forest (lucky rolls) to the base camp without any further interruptions.

By this point, it was pretty late so we called it an evening. The group drove back to Crestone to recover and report their findings.

Experience and Loot

The party gained 300 XP total from combat with the vomit flies and 250 XP for escaping the hangman tree. I’ll add another 140 XP for exploration and mapping, and Bart gets 100 XP for scientific inquisitiveness and for quickly treating wounds with rubbing alcohol (and thus avoiding fungus infection). Split evenly between the players (not the PCs), that gives 175 XP for Sawney and Jest and 445 XP for Bart (plus the usual +10% pure-strain human bonus).

No loot was to found this time. Bart might be able to do something with the death cap mushrooms, but other than that there was zilch.

Referee Commentary

I don’t know whether it was because it was lack of preparation or the fact that it had been a long week, but I wasn’t as smooth at improvising as I usually am. In a exploration-based session, creating evocative images was key, and I feel I dropped the ball this time.

It took a while to get technical issues sorted out. We ended up just using Skype and an online dice roller. Moses has suggested a web-based RPG map site, called Stout Oak. I couldn’t get it figured out quickly enough to use it in this session, but will check it out for future use.

I had assumed the PCs would explore the Eden Prairie Vaults, and had not prepared any material for the fungus forest. I should have a couple generic sites laid out, perhaps using the Round House Modular Dwelling Unit.

As a consequence, I used the random exploration tables heavily. The party encountered several strange mutant creatures (vomit flies, hangman vines), but there were absolutely no Ancient ruins or artifacts to be found. I am going to make this a key feature about the fungus forests – they break down any pre-Fall relics, meaning that they are very loot-poor. I’ve also got some ideas on new inhabitants for this strange ecosystem…

Also, Bart has expressed a strong interest in the natural world (biology, botany, etc.) as opposed to technology. I think this would make a good character quirk. Something like:

Biologist – the character receives a +2 bonus to Lore checks related to living creatures (including medical treatment), but has a -2 penalty to all other Lore checks (including Decipher Artifact rolls).

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