“Barsoomian Adventures” Sessions 4 and 5 — alternate timeline

Fellow role-players, here are notes from our fourth and fifth sessions, which Brian W. hosted in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 18 March and 1 April 2013:

>>Player Character roster for Jason E.R.’s “Barsoomian Adventures: the Tenth Ray of Mars” (Tē-sis ē Bâr-süm) pulp planetary romance miniseries, usingSavage Worlds,” as of spring 2013:

  • Sgt. Joe ‘Knack’ Kanaki” [Gene D.]-male Nisei Jasoomian (Japanese-American Terran human) tail gunner; two-fisted patriot who’s smarter than he looks
  • Beauregard ‘Bo’ Jennings” [Beruk A.]-male African-American Jasoomian, USO trumpet player, expatriate (NYC), former professional boxer and member of the French Foreign Legion
  • Kar Dalan (Kâr Dé-lan)” [Brian W.]-male aysismad (red Martian), an independent panthan (sellsword/scout) currently serving the nation of Raxar (Rax-âr)
  • Olera Gala” [Sara F.]-female Barsoomian masena (Thurian/Martian), one-eyed feline hunter and scout
  • Capt. Billy ‘Rip’ Rohrer” [Bruce K.]-male American Jasoomian pilot of the “Lucy Goosey,” a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber
  • Betsy ‘Blaze’ Harper” [Rich C.G.]-female American Jasoomian, fiery redhead, former Olympic hopeful, and aspiring actress on USO tour for exposure and patriotic duty, along with Carla Rizena and Lucy McIntyre
Perils of Barsoom
Barsoomian dangers

>>[Historical records] “4 January 1944:” The group quickly suspected that this was an alternate Barsoom, one where history had been altered radically. Noticing a group of white-skinned warriors retreating, the Jasoomians of the party leaped with their earthly muscles to intercept.

Instead of a peaceful introduction, the Jasoomians landed in the middle of a firefight between the morgor {m’R g’R} and the soldiers. A fierce battle ensued; Blaze suffered a horrific injury from a morgor plasma rifle, but luckily the Barsoomian medical paste healed her very quickly.

All the morgor died, and all but one of the soldiers. He introduced himself as “Than 4722515,” a soldier bred on Jasoom and stationed here on Barsoom to repel the morgor invasion of the solar system. He didn’t understand any of our complex questions about reality and time travel — he suggested that the group accompany him to Horz to talk with a Van (Barsoomian for Priest). Blaze grabbed a working morgor plasma rifle.

In Horz, the Thans were reassembling their forces. The group met the local Vans (513, 675, 926), who, according to Kar Dalan and Van-tija, resembled therns. The Thans and Vans dared not utter the sacred name of Issus, instead referring to her as Aysha [É-ša], which means “The Forbidden One”. Van 513 showed his medallion, which projected a visual image of Lucy dressed in an ancient Barsoomian costume.

The Vans told the group about the coming of Issus 1 million years ago and the founding of Kiptang. Zylor Bar was well known as a historical villain. Once Issus’ herald, soothsayer and high priest, Zylor Bar had the gift of prophecy and held council with powerful leaders of the time to discuss an ambitious plan that spanned a million years. Apparently, he then betrayed Issus and was killed by Issus’ champion, Kar Kilad.

Van 513 led them to the museum at Horz to the exhibit of Zylor Bar, which still contained his notes and the time machine behind thick glass! After fruitlessly hacking and shooting at the glass, Blaze finally used the remaining fuel in the plasma rifle to melt a hole. The air rushed into the vacuum, disturbing the silence of a million years. The group decided that Bo and Van-tija would stay behind to pore through the notes to discover a way to repair the machine.

The rest commandeered 2-person fliers or kozar [kō-zâr] and headed for Raxar in search of Knack. The group discovered that the city of Raxar did not exist — in its place was a large field, with two sets of tracks leading north, both tracks eventually converging, implying that the travelers were companions.

Olera noted that the second set of tracks was made by a masena. Kar Dalan reminded them that the mines of Emar Radtai were located to the north of the city in the foothills.

Nearing the mine, Olera noticed that an invisible vessel was following them. Sensing this, the ship released its skin of prismatic magnetic sand (which appear to have been bending the light) and attempted to flee. Rip pulled an Immelmann turn and blasted the morgor scout vessel out of the sky.

The group was met at the mine’s entrance by a host of Kors or miners. The overseer Kors (5814481, 5793207, 5943392) explained that their friend had volunteered to enter the mines to investigate the disappearance of several miners over the past two cycles (approximately two weeks).

Skeptical, the team nevertheless agreed to enter the mine as well. They came upon the wounded mutated masena in the passageways. Next, they saw the unconscious Knack, webbed up as captives of horrific, blind digging creatures, the rykor [rī-kōr]. At the same time, creatures began to enter the mines: morgor, greb {g’R ‘B} (morgor tracker hounds) and syhar {S ‘R} (morgor war hounds). Although the group vanquished the rykors, the vast numbers of morgor seemed insurmountable.

Strangely, none of the morgor or their hounds attacked the group. A morgor captain whistled for his forces, stated that the mines were now under the control of the morgor and that they would return with the right equipment. The morgor collapsed the mine entrance, leaving the reunited group in the back of the mine….

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars

>>”From the correspondence of Joseph Kanaki, 8 January 1943:” I’m not exactly sure of the date anymore. I had gotten separated from the rest of the crew of the “Lucy Goosey.” Yes, we’re still on Barsoom, as the locals call this version of Mars. I should say, “versions,” since Zylor Bar’s infernal machine had thrown us into an alternate timeline, where the red planet was still lush with vegetation.

If you think this is confusing, just imagine how we felt. The city of Raxar had vanished, and the mutated masena (cyclopean, cat-like Martian) from Padzok was still with me. I made my way to an encampment, which turned out to be a mining outpost (the source of Emar Radtai’s wealth on the other Barsoom). I learned that the red folk had been wiped out and that Barsoom had been repopulated by Jasoomian (Earthling) slaves. What had Zylor Bar done?

While I couldn’t quite pass for a native, I offered my services in the hope of learning more about my surroundings. After all, I’d need more allies than a former lab rat if I was to find my companions and get home. Nearly everything we’ve encountered here is hostile, beautiful but deadly, or both.

The miners gave some sob story about missing miners, so I thought about volunteering but opted to make for the city of Kiptang instead. Well, I must have been knocked out, because I don’t remember what happened when I turned my back.

When I awakened sometime later, “Blinky” the hapless masena and I were bound in giant spider webs. What tortures or monsters would we face next? Fortunately, the rest of my merry band found and fought their way to me.

“Bo” Jennings had fled Hors, a city populated with Vans (priests) and Thans (warriors). The city was besieged by the shriveled morgor. With Bo was the clever Van-tija, former aide to Thuran Gan, a.k.a. the Thern mad scientist Zylor Bar.

Van-tija was angry that Zylor Bar had picked Lucy McIntyre to pose as the goddess Issus in the distant past, rewriting history — don’t ask me, I don’t come up with these cockamamie ideas. At least she made herself useful by studying the notes for rebuilding the time machine.

Kar Dalan tersely explained where and when we were. The red scout and the Amazonian “Blaze” Harper have been exchanging lingering glances, but I don’t want to think about that right now.

Olera Gala, another masena but not mute like “Blinky,” identified the cracked power source for the device as a seenar [sēn-âr]. Of course, the stones were rare. Capt. “Rip” Rohrer got us back on task — the morgors had collapsed the exit, so we’d have to find another way out of the mines before they returned.

We delved deeper until we came to a large intersection. In the center of the chamber was a control panel with three buttons. There were three tracks leading out, two with two-person mine cars, and one with a four-passenger car.

After some debate, we tried pushing each of the buttons, which apparently fueled the vehicles, sent them down the tracks, and then recalled them. The cabin of the four-passenger one filled with a strange fluid. Rip and I took one of the two-seaters for a look.

We came to a disused cell with an ancient timekeeping device, but we couldn’t read the many dials and numbers. I shuddered at spotting yet more webs. We rolled back and shared our findings.

The other two-seater led Capt. Rohrer and me to a spherical chamber with a strange column in the center. It looked broken, but we could tell that the top and bottom somehow fit together. I think this area was some sort of refinery.

Brave Kar and impatient Blaze took the larger car down to what they described as a larger chamber with a possible exit. It turns out they didn’t have to hold their breath — the goo that had enveloped them allowed them to breathe as they descended through rock and water.

Bo and Van-tija rejoined us, having slipped by the morgar army assembling outside the mine. Olera and Blinky smelled their hounds, so we took turns in the four-seater and descended to the lower level.

We followed artificially lit passages to a row of mechanical humanoids standing behind more buttons. Beyond them was a room with seven alcoves, and we soon realized that each robot was like a key.

When I pushed a button, my body slumped to the stone floor. As I opened my eyes, I saw from the perspective of one of the robots! Blaze followed suit, but she got two robots stuck in the arcing electricity of one of the doorways. I had to hop to help free them.

We also learned that if a robot was affected, we’d wake up back in our own bodies. After some trial and error, we matched up the automata with their corresponding buttons. My hopping android enabled me to avoid the lightning and push one button.

Bo dove into a deep pool to push one button with a blast of air, while Kar used a long bar to move aside barbed wires from another. Rip took control of a flying robot to ascend a vertical shaft. Blaze’s strong construct lifted a stone blocking one button.

Olera and Van-tija reluctantly entered robots to extend a metallic arm through a tapering passage and rapidly push a segmented set of buttons, respectively.

When we pushed the buttons simultaneously, a large spherical chamber similar to the one we had encountered previously opened up. The column or pillar at its center came apart, but nothing else apparently happened.

Unfortunately, six morgor commandos led by a giant representative of that horrible race, Gorgum {g’R g’M} caught up to us. We didn’t know how to get out of our robotic forms, and they had already tied up our Earthling bodies and Blinky. Rip and I dove into the emaciated menaces, knocking several down. Capt. Rohrer’s robot was melted, but he returned to his own body.

Bo blasted one at short range with a burst of compressed air, and Olera and Blinky turned invisible and freed Rip. Kar smacked some of the morgor until his robot was destroyed. Blaze wandered toward the pillar, and Van-tija went to a control panel and returned to her own body.

We returned to the control room, where more of Gorgum’s morgor troops waited. They assigned us numbers. The general gave us one zode (two hours) to find a seenar. Smooth-talking Bo got permission to go out to his hidden flyer to retrieve some “mining equipment” — actually, the inert time-travel device.

Scrambling for a lead and an escape route, we went back to the first spherical chamber. Now that we knew how to operate the pillar/piston, we activated it. We found writing in English from Lucy giving a date: “Oct. 12, 9,996,539 B.C.E.” This must be where, or rather when, Zylor Bar took her.

We quietly raced to the old clock, as the morgor ignored us. We eliminated the remaining rykors and destroyed the spider-like hatchlings.

Under Kar and Olera’s watchful gaze, Van-tija reset the clock, which had been counting down to a date three days hence. We saw a floating image (hologram) of Lucy, but it dissolved into static and sputtered out. A vault then opened, revealing an intact seenar on a pedestal!

Apparently, Zylor Bar’s machine could travel through space or time, but each trip through the latter consumed one gem. We transported ourselves through space just outside of Kiptang, which was being sun bombed by the morgor. Relieved to be free of the morgor in the mines, we then plunged back in time, nearly 1 million years.

If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to undo the damage caused to the past, restoring Barsoom to a dry but somewhat free planet and returning to Earth to fight the Axis. But to do this, we have to stop Zylor Bar without killing him.

Kiptang was little more than a village, surrounded by tents. Kar noted that it looked like a religious revival, and Olera invisibly scouted ahead. Rip and Blaze wanted to charge in, but Bo and I realized that we were outnumbered.

Olera returned and confirmed that Zylor Bar appeared to be in the village square, presenting Lucy as the divine Issus and holding a version of the device. We had to rescue her from his shackles or mental control, but first, we had to find a way to get close. Rip grabbed some period clothing, and we prepared to follow Zylor Bar and Lucy as they headed toward the nearest ancient Barsoomian city….

As always, feel free to add any details I’ve missed as you post notes for the past two sessions. I look forward to continuing our adventures later this month! -Gene