Kia ora koutou! My name’s Liam and I’m here to take over the blog for a day.
I recently got to have my first experience running Hypertellurians in an epic 7 hour game on New Year’s Eve. I mentioned it to Frank and he invited me here to tell you all about it. So here we are.
But this story doesn’t start on New Year’s Eve, but rather several months beforehand. I first got a copy of Hypertellurians from Frank to look at. I read it and quickly fell in love with it. I committed to play it, and then promptly didn’t, due to life commitments, other new shiny games, etc. But the worm was planted within my mind.
Fast forward a couple months and my partner tells me one of her good friends is coming over to New Zealand in summer, is interested in RPGs and has never been a player. Asks if I would like to run a game for him and his partner. Ever the well behaved partner I agreed in hope of brownie points to exchange for her doing the housework.
I start thinking about what to run for this game. I learn that our future guest had only played D&D 5e. Now, a bit of info about me; I dislike D&D. A lot. So much so I have a podcast where we talk about RPGs that aren’t D&D. There is just something about the ultra-heroic, middle of the road genericness of its fantasy that puts me off. But the GM’s job is to facilitate a good time for their players, so my likes and dislikes come second. Still, I devise a survey for our two guests to fill out to find out exactly what sort of game they want to experience, ranging from wacky through to horrific. The results come back: Basically D&D style high fantasy. I needed to put down all my dark and grim games and find something to run fantasy with. Or swallow my pride and learn how to run D&D.
Around this same time, my podcast came to review Hypertellurians. Frank even ran a game for us, we interviewed him and talked about it, reviewed it and, spoilers, loved it. It was great. The rules didn’t get in the way, and let you play more or less whatever you want. They put the players front and centre in a way that not all games necessarily do. I loved Wonder, I loved how the game focuses on defining characters through equipment and powers instead of stat lines. I had to run this game.
The worm in my head was screaming at me. So I set out to take Hypertellurians and use it for D&D-like fantasy.
At this point I had a few weeks left. So I made some characters as pregens. I dunno if Frank will include them with this post so I’ll summarise [He will. See bottom of article.—Frank]. I made one of each archetype. For the Alien I made your typical edge lord elf mage. The Beast was a man cursed to be a minotaur. The Construct was an angel on sabbatical, inhabiting a statue of itself. The Revenant was a drowned spirit of a forlorn bride. The Royal was an exiled dwarven lord seeking to settle old grudges. But my favourite was the Ultranaut; Eli the everchosen, a young man born on a patch of four leaf clovers under a full moon who carried around a sceptre he had pulled from a stone. He was very lucky, destined for great things, but otherwise a naive young man making his way through life.
So I had my characters. There would be four players so the six would comfortably cover it. Now I needed an adventure. I was quite busy so didn’t have time to write one myself. So I started digging through my collection looking for something new that was high fantasy and epic enough for the D&D fans, but of a flavour I could stomach.
I found it in The Spire of Quetzel. It’s an adventure written by Patrick Stuart for Forbidden Lands. It ticked all of the boxes, so I set about very quickly converting what little mechanically needed converting to Hypertellurians. I was good to go.
On the day, we got together. My four players chose the minotaur (Olgen the oxen), the Revenant (The ivory lover), the Royal (Helga the Honourable), and the guest of honour naturally went with our Ultranaut, Eli the Everchosen. I explained how the rules worked, dished out snacks, and we sat down for our planned 5 hour game and finished 7 hours later.
A fun time was had by all. The adventure proved to be a hit, and the game worked well for a quick pick up game that rewarded player ingenuity. It was an amazing experience and has me wanting more Hypertellurians. The only issue I ran into was when a creature is coming out of cover to attack the party. The initiative order means the players have no choice but to receive the charge before acting. While I don’t mind this personally, it was mentioned by the players as annoying, so in future I think I would not place an enemy into initiative order until they are actively sighted by players. But a small easy fix that only experience with the game could highlight as an issue to me.
I absolutely recommend Spire of Quetzel for any system, but especially Hypertellurians. It just fits. To explain why, I’ll break down the adventure below. But warning, here be spoilers! If you are a player that may run into this module one way I’m about to spoil the shit out of it for you.
The game started with the party being approached in a dream by a strange shimmering masked figure, informing them of a tower nearby in which the body of a demon queen lay, needing to be destroyed. The shadowy figure gave the party a list of items they needed to gather and said it would meet them at her corpse. The party accepted (phew!) and we were on!
They headed north and found a strange needle-like iridescent tower that was hazy and hard to focus on. Around it, all plant life grew as if leaning away from it and the ground hummed with vibration. Its front door was made from silver with a giant eye etched into it. Much Wonder was given. They went through and were confronted with a room full of mummified bodies twisted and torn across the floor, spiral stairs leading up, and two giant bird-like monsters. These creatures spoke like two elderly scholars happy for the new company, but whose body language suggested they were ready for action and violence any time someone neared the stairs. At first the party explored the room, more or less ignoring these strange bird demon things, but after some time they learned that these beings contained the bound spirits of two mages forced to guard the stairs who desperately wanted Quetzel destroyed. They had to see an invitation to let the party pass or they were bound to attack. After massively overthinking it, the party went outside, wrote their own invitations and presented them. Glad to see someone was on their way to take on their slave master, the birds quickly accepted the obviously fake invite and let the party up the long staircase. Puzzle one solved!
After a long climb the party emerged in a large ruined town, with a dim opal coloured sky. Ash blew through the streets and the bricks were blood red. Strange wolf-like creatures stalked the shadows, occasionally seen licking the blood bricks, and the party constantly had this feeling of seeing figures on the edge of their vision that they could never actually look at. They could make out two standing structures nearby. Another tower, and a gothic looking mansion overrun by vines and plants. They headed to the tower.
Along the way the party stopped and one of them found a silver knife; one of the objects they were tasked with gathering! But in the process they got separated from the others and the wolf things attacked. Our first combat broke out, and our party made short work of the wolves with human faces. But not before Helga got a nasty bite that grew infected. Yep, that kind of infection.
Inside the tower, behind a silver door with an eye etched on it, was a mirror maze. With the ground obscured by a layer of frozen blood. But not cold frozen. In this tower time itself freezes until something living passes through nearby, so everything would be still until the party got close, and then suddenly spring into motion only to freeze again as the party passed. Soon they started to find the bodies. People left frozen the moment after death, in the air mid fall, clutching at neck wounds. On top of this the party had a feeling of being followed. They pushed on and soon found the centre of the maze. Here, a young half elf girl worked away on a glass forge. Molten glass would spring to life as she neared, and moved it to a crucible that would spark as she neared. Wonder! What they didn’t know was that the girl was Quetzel’s fear personified, so as soon as she saw the party, armed and covered in blood, she fled for her life calling for her “tigers”. The party found themselves attacked by perfect glass sculptures of tigers emerging from the maze, hard to see in the constant mirror reflections. It was an epic fight full of floating frozen glass splinters and brutal fights. Wonder was had. The girl was soon caught and a key retrieved from her neck, as well as a strange enchanted necklace with instructions on it that after another 15 minutes of overthinking was finally solved.
The party left the maze and approached the garden house through the ruined city. What they found was a large greenhouse full of plants and large buzzing bees. Inside, near some hives they find an old wizened woman. Unknown to them this woman was the empathy and consciousness of Quetzel embodied. There was another eye laden silver door. The party asked to go through. Not trusting the party, believing them to be on the way to kill Quetzel and thus her and her “sister”, she put them to a test. She would let them through the door if they drank nectar; the most powerful poison known to mankind. If they did and survive, their purity was proven and she would unlock the door. Eli volunteered and luckily he is lucky. Barely, he stayed standing. She opened the door and let them enter. Unfortunately for her, Olgen the Oxen had noticed she was wearing a silver ring, which the stranger from the dream had requested they gather. When the woman turned her back, Olgen cut her down like a true murder hobo. They stole the ring and fled the garden through the door as lizards emerged from the bushes to attack the party.
The party emerged on a sailing ship, flying high above storm clouds and crewed by a terracotta crew, as lightning flashed all around. So much Wonder. The crew ignored them, and there was no obvious way onto the flying ship, until they realised that there was a chain hanging from the “engine”, and at the end of this chain was another silver door etched with an eye. Around the captain’s neck was a silver key. The crew quickly tried the ring they had murdered to obtain, and learned that it turns the wearer into whatever bird most closely resembled them. It had to be removed by another to turn back. But onto the task at hand. Predictably a fight broke out, with the crewmen trying to push the characters off the flying boat. The door was being used as a lightning rod to power the ship, and as it got winched up the ship started to lose altitude. But the party was able to get it up and unlocked with the liberated key in quick time.
The party walked out into a room, whose ceiling was made of shimmering iridescent galaxies. In the centre of the room, on a throne of obsidian was the mummified remains of Quetzel, chest torn open exposing her obsidian heart. So the party was here, with the gathered items before the body of Quetzel. Ivory stepped forward, and reached for her heart. On touching the heart she found herself staring up at her own smiling self pulling the obsidian heart from her chest.
The party never figured out that the stranger in the dream was Quetzel herself, luring the gullible party in a vain quest to kill her. She waited for them to arrive with a fresh body, as her required items turned on the party in her trap. The necklace’s ornament grew into a giant silver bird and attacked, the silver feather blade from the ruins flew through the air attacking the party and the ring started crawling like a worm looking to force itself onto someone’s finger and turn them into a bird. All while the party attacks the mummified body that now contains their friend.
It was an epic encounter. Quetzel’s magic was powerful, reversing gravity and doing all sorts of other crazy things. She was pushed back into her old body; Ivory was later turned into a chicken while desperately opening Quetzel’s spell tome. It was tense, it was fun. But soon Quetzel’s body was broken, the fatal blow coming from a critical hit as the now chicken Ivory scratched at her remaining eye. The trap items grew tame and dropped to the floor. The party collected its bounty, including the obsidian heart and left. Olgen took the heart, still believing that they would one day find the stranger from the dream and permanently kill Quetzel. Quetzel had the last laugh.
We were now 2 hours over our planned time, so we called it quits. I provided an epilogue to summarise the future of all the characters. That night, after leaving the tower, abandoning all within to carry on their slave-like existence till the heart was destroyed, Olgen stood and walked off into the darkness. Quetzel, whose body was destroyed, was still conscious within the heart and Olgen’s mighty minotaur form made a perfect shell for her to start a new reign of terror. The party carried on without Olgen, selling the various retrieved goods. Including the book. This meant the chicken curse lasted on Ivory for many years, until one day she popped back to her former self, as someone realised destroying the book was the only way to undo the spell. Helga vanished one day, not to be seen again, though rumours of a stunted wolf-like creature with a person’s face were heard around the lands. Eli the Everchosen, well his story is still ongoing, and somewhere out there he is meeting his destiny.
The Spire of Quetzel is a great adventure. I cannot recommend it enough. Its magical jumping through dimensions and planes is naturally suited to Hypertellurians and has so many obvious Wonder inducing moments. I absolutely recommend you play it, be it in Hypertellurians, Forbidden Lands or your fantasy game of choice. It’s amazing and really made for a special New Year’s Day.
Elements of the pictures for this article are from Freepik/Rawpixel.
Have your own play report? Want to suggest other adventures that might be perfect companions for Hypertellurians? Let us know!