The Last Tomorrow
This scenario starts on the eve before a new calendar year, be it whichever world the PCs inhabit. Across far-flung kingdoms the news is unmistakable and the populace is panicked. Riders from Toothless Amalgam’s tower, spurring their mounts, traverse the lands alerting kings and queens. Raven messengers fly and squawk from the tower by the dozens as well, Doom’s harbingers on sable wings.
The world will end with the dawning of the New Year, in this case, less than forty-eight hours away.
The Doomsday Machine has been spitting out birdseed for over one thousand years, since the very day of its creation…and now it has stopped. The sign is clear, the prophecy is coming true, or so says any sage worth his salt, for the legend of the Doomsday Machine has been so ingrained in the subconscious of evolving generations, that few souls doubt the veracity and authenticity of its supposed “powers” and predictions.
The Machine’s conception and construction dawned from the minds of the fabled Voltammetrists, mathematical wizards, which were long ago persecuted and slain, their secrets and formulas vanishing with them. According to legend, the Voltammetrists had help creating the odd device. Some sages claim they worked closely in association with a renegade K’tonian inventor-spirit, a dubious figure known only as the Bird Feeder, according to antiquarians and archaeologists unearthing clues to this nebulous past age, hidden well, as it was, by the veil of time.
Unknown to all, the K’tonian and the Voltammetrists succeeded in breaking through the limitations imposed upon them by something called Kirchoff’s Second Law (1), the Loop Rule, allowing them to achieve the impossible and build the Doomsday Device, a faultless predictor of the End of Days, or more precisely the Last Tomorrow. All it needed was some “feed”, as the scientists called it, something organic to power it, allowing the Device to endlessly replicate said object, until the End of Time. Birdseed was handy, as one of the Voltammetrists was an avid avian enthusiast, and so the Doomsday Machine was created.
Regardless of the convoluted, preposterous and unknowable origin of the bizarre contraption, its current Keeper, the Toothless Amalgam, a near-immortal sage of dubious race and creed, woke up one fine morning and discovered that for the first time in a thousand years, the Doomsday Machine had ceased its birdseed spittle.
Meanwhile, the PCs have heard by now, and by chance or serendipity finds themselves at the gates of the great capital city, a grand metropolis. Where better than to spend the end, or as good a place as any, depending on one’s views. The Queen of the kingdom and hence, said city, is a true noble, in every sense of the word. In the face of public outcry and alarm, and truth be said, sheer, unadulterated terror, she has steeled herself, prepared herself for the worst, and announced the Last Grande Ball, the last superior soirée of a civilization’s lucid streak, as one of her bards had needlessly pointed out later that night.
The PCs are invited to the Last Grande Ball, as tales of their exploits have reached the Queen’s ears by this time. She in fact makes a point to approach them, if they accept her invitation to the condemned panegyric. The Queen has a strong will, and her greatest wish in these last horrid hours, is for the nobles and guests attending her ball, to make peace with themselves, their loved ones, and their irreversible predicament, and act like true nobility to the end, stoically accepting their fates, and enjoying their last few hours together in melancholy merriment.
The plot begins at the Last Grande Ball. Just the mere interaction of a large group of people who have no where better to be, and little better to do, on this last of nights, the last few hours of the very world itself, could prove quite interesting. NPC interaction could prove bizarre, as the GM keeps in mind the psyches of people knowing that they are living the last few moments of their lives. The PCs reactions and interactions amongst themsleves, for that matter, in this Doomsday scenario, amidst the dire circumstances, could prove quite entertaining as well, extreme role-playing, so to speak.
1. The Simplest One. The Doomsday Machine is a crock. Nothing will happen at the stroke of midnight, and life will go on. The entire legend is false and nonsensical, and no one really knows what the weird contraption could possibly be, not even the Toothless Amalgam. However as the clock winds closer to the fateful moment, mayhem and disorder may surely ensue. There is no telling what someone is capable of thinking, or worse, doing, when they know the end is near. Perhaps the Duke slew his rival, the Baron, with a meat fork, figuring no retribution was possible with only hours until the bitter end of the world. Maybe an NPC and a PC or two, finally give in to some great temptation or vice, allowing long-hidden feelings to surface. It is not hard to imagine for example, mad coupling and perversion on the marble floors of the palace, as lovers old and new, embrace for a chance at that last dash of ecstasy. Secrets are revealed, confessions made.
When the next day arrives and the world has not as much as hiccupped, the real fun begins. Those that have been naughty, have nowhere to hide from their transgressions. The PCs may play the role of “policemen” at the Queen’s behest, making their way among the revelers, trying to make headway of any crimes or peculiarities that may have occurred in the “final moments”. The possibilities for investigative and pure role-play are limitless.
2. The Quest (We get to save the world, we get to save the world, hi-ho-a-merrio, we get to save the world!). The Grande Ball begins at precisely twelve hours before the stroke of midnight, signaling the Apocalypse. As the PCs begin to contemplate the End, one of the Queen’s advisers rushes over and whispers to them that the Queen has withdrawn to her chambers and wishes the PCs audience immediately. Assuming the PCs comply with the request, they are ushered into the Queen’s War Room, and de-briefed. Apparently, the Queen’s wizards have created a teleportation device that would allow a group of “heroes” to instantly travel to the Tower of the Toothless Amalgam, lair of the Doomsday Device, for a last gasp attempt to “thwart”, “solve”, or “restart” the Machine, and avert the Apocalypse. Who knows what bizarre wonders and dangers lie within the Toothless Amalgam’s Demesne? Who knows what the PCs may do? Who can possibly know how to stop the Mad Machine?
In this scenario, there will inevitably be a difficult, but achievable dingus, which will allow the PCs to save the world, and not a moment too soon of course.
3. This is the End. (The Truth shall set you free!) The Doomsday Device is as accurate as death and taxes. The end is indeed nigh. At the stroke of midnight, the complete destruction and end of the world, and everything in it, commences. However, no one said that it had to be instantaneous. The End comes slowly. Earthquakes do begin, electrical storms, and typhoons follow to be sure, but the world takes almost an entire decade to completely destruct and implode. A new type of rugged campaign begins, with a post-apocalyptic feel, in a pre-apocalyptic age, The Last Tomorrow, the last days.
Footnote (1) For anyone interested, Kirchoff’s Second Law states that:
The directed sum of the electrical potential differences around a circuit must be zero.
Otherwise, it would be possible to build a perpetual motion machine that passed a current in a circle around the circuit infinitely.
And this is exactly what the Voltammetrists accomplished working with the K’tonian spectre.
There is no such thing as a Voltammetrist, but Voltammetry is the real deal.
This is an experiment in designing adventures in a format similar to that of the short “Tales of Terror” plots that have been used in horror-themed games. In this format, a short adventure setup is followed by three different explanations, each leading in a different direction.
Those interested in seeing the original “Tales of Terror” using this format may wish to go to Steve Hatherley’s website: http://www.talesofterror.net