Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Horror of the Orrery

Right at this moment my players are working their way through the tower home of an astronomer-wizard (he's currently near-catatonic on the top floor but they don't know this yet). What do astronomer-wizards have in their towers? Scale models of the solar system, duh. But bigger than you're thinking. And interactive. Like this:

The orrery covers the entire diameter of the tower, so it's a perfectly round room, double height (20ft) - it’s entered from a trapdoor in the ceiling of the room below. On opening it, you’ll feel a slight tug: the room beyond has false gravity, such that everything floats at 10ft off the ground and is gradually pulled towards the centre, where there is an artificial miniature sun, a fixed point of intense heat and light. If you’re not a planet on a set orbit you move 5ft towards it every turn. Bad shit happens if you touch it (2d12 fire damage a turn, plus a STR15 check to escape its pull). The walls of the room are all covered in copper sheeting, which is engraved with angles and trajectories and intricate forms of notations – extremely hard to get any kind of grip on. Way over on the other side of the room is the next door, in the ceiling. You have to launch off things to move anywhere.

Luckily, you have the planets, big bronze spheres (varying from like a basketball to a big beachball) which silently orbit the sun, though a good deal of force could knock one off track. They're deeply engraved with meridians and parallels and whathaveyou, and so grippable with a moderate dex test, if you can get to one. Possibly your campaign has already established what's in the solar system, but if not I recommend taking 6 or 7 dice – mixture of d4s, 6s and 8s – and rolling them, then setting them 5 or 10ft apart in a line outward from the sun. Each of them moves in a steady circle the number of squares/hexes you rolled per turn.

Naturally, some of them should have little moons and maybe rings. Less naturally but more interestingly, at least one should orbit in the other direction from the others. One of them is hollow, too, randomise it – it can be broken open quite easily, containing a pitted, fist-size chunk of meteoric iron, which has numerous applications. Any astronomy-based magic used in this room will go haywire.

My players had plenty of fun/trouble trying to get across this thing without any opposition, but if you did want opposition, you wanna go for something nuisancy and with a flying speed. Its tactic should be to fuck with the PCs until one of them flies into the sun, not the all-out attack. An imp acting as a record-keeper for the wizard would be ideal, an imp with scrolls of astronomical observations bobbing in front of it, tracking the whirl of the planets, awaiting propitious alignments and eclipses.

More fun than this fucking film or your money back