Welcome back, at last, to Consult the Oracle. I’ve been spending a lot of free moments collecting my thoughts on the practical machinery of fourthcore. I’ve always thought that fourthcore is a sundry collection of distinct ideas, and I’d like to explore these pieces. In this very brief podcast, the first of a series I hope, I explain what I see as one core concept. I keep things very concrete, very practical. Enjoy it now!
My friends, you’ve seen the fourthcore elite fall within its first three rooms, now I give to you the full first level of the Tower of the Ascendants. It’s called the Cathedral of Plagues, and it’s ready to eat players by the party.
The Voice of All spoke three times before falling into silence. The first time to give shape to the Ancients. The second to give them the world as their domain. The third to build the TOWER for the war that was to come.
And war did come. The Ancients, primordial warriors charged with protecting the world, were subverted by three great crusaders, vindictive and powerful. The Ancients were stripped of immortality and cast from the heavens to serve and suffer with the rest of humanity. The crusaders claimed new bodies for themselves, and became the Triumvirate, god-tyrants of all realms.
The long line of descendants of the Ancients is dwindling, along with humanity’s last hope. What few remain have gathered to enter the TOWER OF THE ASCENDANTS. Crumbling stone tablets of ages forgotten say that a mortal who ascends the TOWER that pierces the heavens and slays the gods who dwell in its highest bower will reclaim lost immortality.
Many thanks to the fourthcore elite for being the first to attempt to conquer the Tower’s first level. It’s a sad thing that the adventure couldn’t continue, but it was truly a blast to run. Thank you C. Steven Ross, Milwaukee Joe, Daniel Roanoke, and Sersa Victory!
Download the adventure! (last edit: 01/25/13)
What daring! How outrageous! Insolence! Arrogance!
The egos of the gods are easily inflamed and the incursion of the despicable, scaled creature Vercingetorix have set them ablaze. In cruel mockery of the fallen dragon king, an affliction now infuses the caverns and caves where he once dwelled, turning the skin all who linger under the earth to slowly turn to dry, stone-like scales which peel off and reveal the tender, raw flesh beneath. Countless wandering children and outcast beggars, unaware of the dangers of these caverns, will now die a most gruesome and painful death as their skin is flayed and their bodies infected en masse.
Anka’s eyes flutter open. She stands, finding only an endless carpet of black feathers in
all directions, the landscape nothing beyond her forsaken plumage.
“The death I prayed for this cannot be.” Her wings beat behind her, shedding even more
“The death you prayed for can never be.” A figure walks into being. “No death can ever
be.” Anka’s brother, Rurik, stands before her, somehow hollow, tinged with an emptiness
beyond the conveyance of words.
A flicker of emotion betrays Anka’s cold façade. “Brother.” She reaches for him, but he
is forever beyond her reach.
“No death will ever be.” Rurik’s voice trails away on an unfelt wind, rippling feathers
past, present, and future.
Rurik peers at his hands, raising them for Anka to see. “No death means no life means
no circle. Only a line, forever stretching in all directions both simultaneously and not at all.”
His hands begin molting, feathered fingers giving way to feathered hands, to feathered arms, all
falling away, revealing nothing.
“Despair.” Rurik’s voice is all that remains. “Your only worthwhile action in a world
ungoverned by death.”
Anka slits her throat, black blood spilling on black feathers.
Anka’s eyes flutter open. She stands…
Can machines reincarnate?
The five greatest crusaders of the realm, the only remaining ascendants, the last of those who held the spark of immortality, have fallen. What is left of their bodies will be placed with the littered remains of all the other crusaders who have died in vain search of the TOWER’s highest bower.
The fourthcore elite, having been wiped out completely in the third room of the TOWER by an endless horde of three-headed king cobras and priests of plagues, have decided to throw in the towel! In accord with the terms of Hell Mode, which the ascendants brazenly agreed to, each of the fourthcore elite will pay tribute to the Triumvirate in one of their future works.
Additionally, I’ve asked each player to write a little vignette detailing the curse that has been laid upon them and their races for their insolence to the gods. These will be posted in the following week, culminating in the release of the first level of TOWER of the Ascendants!
The ascendants slowly advance forward through the northern passage. Calamity and Grantham stay hidden behind the wall, while Vercingetorix slowly creeps forward. The light of the red-flamed torches is more than sufficient for his reptilian eyes, and he sees scattered throughout the chamber are statues of black stone, depicting humanoids of varying races. Some have weapons drawn. Others have hands outstretched before them, as though attempting to ward off a blow. One of these figures blocks a short and narrow passageway that leads from the room.
The glass columns to which the torches are attached are filled with a swirling green gas. Visible between the columns, at the far side of the room set into a niche about four feet off of the ground, is a semicircular brazier of tarnished brass, unlit.
But most noteworthy in the chamber is an enormous petrified four-horned dragon’s skull that levitates in a shrine.
Adorning the shrine are diseased organs, candles of green flame, and censers burning with pungent incense.
The stone door opens weightlessly under Calamity’s scarred red hand. Anka and Vercingetorix peer into the revealed corridor beyond as Lord Grantham stays sharply focused on the grotesques, wary of any sudden movement, or perhaps another apparition. However, all remains quiet and still in the vestibule.
Behind the door is a low corridor of rough stone, dripping with cold moisture. A low, droning chant of many voices, barely audible, emanates from the damp stone walls. Calamity must crouch to enter the passage, and even in doing so, his horns scrape the stone of the arched ceiling. More torches of feeble, sickly light line the walls. The corridor opens onto three branching passages. Each of the three passages ends in a thick, rotting wooden door.
Vercingetorix stalks down the darkened hallway, his slitted reptilian eyes drinking in the traces of light that reflect off the bleached bones in the rightmost archway. The tunnel runs straight for over a hundred feet to a light at its end. Calamity walks a step behind, jagged black sword poised over a notch in his shield. The mystics follow, casting glances back at Father Sun, perhaps for the last time.
Though the advancing thief finds no signs of traps, a loud clattering echoes down the passage as a skull falls from the wall of bones. Its jaws wrench open and shut, and in a strange screeching voice, it wails, “DEATH IS A MERCY!” The further the ascendants advance down the tunnel, the more skulls dislodge themselves from the wall, wailing similar warnings— “THE THREE SEEK VENGEANCE TO THE SEVENTH GENERATION!” “DEFY THEM NOT!” “THE TOWER IS BUILT UPON THE ABYSS!”
At last, the tunnel reaches its end, opening onto a roughly round chamber, like the vestibule to a grand cathedral. Gothic arches support a high ceiling overhead. The room is dimly lit by the sickly light of torches whose wrought iron sconces shaped as withered arms. More of the dim light pours from foot-high letters of some unknown language that circumnavigates the walls of the entire vestibule.
Standing in the center of the room are three grotesque statues of hooded priests, each facing the very center of the vestibule, and each holding an iron box in both hands. Dark droplets of moisture drip from the eyes of each of the grotesques. A sword of crumbling brimstone has been thrust through the chest of one of the statues.
Three closed doors of weathered stone lead out from the room.Vol Sucineri: in the village of traitors, an old hag approached you, her skin wrinkled and black, and her eyes replaced with red glass. Your hand went to your weapon to cast the vile wretch from your sight, but the words died in your throat. Her blind gaze held you rooted to the earth, and all strength fled you. Wordlessly, she drew out a bundle of sackcloth, carefully unwrapping her prize—a gilded tarot. Placing the cards upon a great stone, she gestured to it, and under her spell you watched as your hand moved unbidden to cut the deck, revealing a single card. “If you fail to act,” she croons.
Your first sight of the TOWER comes long before you find yourself at its doors. The wastelands of Va’hal Geth are a wide, flat plain of lifeless salt, leaving nothing to obstruct your view of the TOWER. It is an impossible structure, standing behind the horizon, behind the sun itself, black against the unblinking sky. Once a great glittering sea surrounded the base of the TOWER, but that was in the time of the Ancients. The Ancients have faded, and with them the sea.
In the wastelands, there is nothing to mark the passage of time. The very rising and setting of the sun becomes unreliable. Whether the long walk to the TOWER took weeks or year, neither you nor your fellow ascendants can say.
But at last the unvarying wastes give way to change, a scant forest of blackened, twisted trees. Humans hang from molded rope from every tree, swaying violently in the never-ending winds that blast the open plain. Tarnished and broken shields bearing the templar’s cross are laid at the base of the trees. Amid the trees are low huts of ancient stone. Peeking from the half-opened doors of the huts are the occasional pair of reddened or yellowed eyes. These are the traitorous ascendants who have given up the quest to ascend the TOWER, who have vowed their service to the Triumvirate for a paltry share of immortality spent in eternal servitude. They are weak and lowly. You bite back your revulsion for them as you make camp in this village of the damned. The TOWER awaits you tomorrow.
At long last, you reach the entrance. Behind you, the traitors have gathered to watch you, knowing that you will either die inside, or that you will soon be one of them.
You crane your neck to look upward, to see the enormous stone blocks that comprise the TOWER leading up into the lightning-torn heavens. Somewhere above the gods themselves are waiting. Not one entryway, but three stand before you. Three archways, each five feet wide and ten feet tall, lead into the dark. Each stone archway is flanked by the graven images of faceless angels. The feeble sun barely illuminates the interior of the archways, enough to show walls mortared with human bones.Ascendants, in your first post before you describe your actions: in your night spent among the village of the damned, you were each approached by one of the traitorous ascendants. Who was this former crusader? What did they ask of you, and did you grant it?