Meet Me at the Megaworm

A scenario hook for The Gaean Reach

The highest holy day on Jernki’s World occurs on the 23rd day of its seventeenth month. On that day the Ship of Blessed Delivery descends from the stars over its capital, Jernki City. This S-Class bioship gives birth to the megaworm, a genetically engineered organism that plays a pivotal role in the selection of the planet’s head of state, the J-Monarch.

The Ship of Blessed Delivery drops the megaworm into Divine Right Plaza, a fortified concrete park positioned on the northern end of the Boulevard of Righteous Succession. The worm then proceeds to rampage through the city, charting an unpredictable pattern of mammoth hops through rich and poor neighborhoods alike. Wherever it lands, it topples buildings, shatters transport infrastructure, and crushes flat unlucky celebrants. Registered contestants in the Struggle for the Worm, which according to the scriptures of All-Hoth “typifies mankind’s eternal struggle against absurdity and empiricism” then attempt to kill it. They must wield one of the Seven Permissible Weapons: spear, knife, sword, arrow, flash-frozen dejeek skull, truncheon or brick. Only analog sighting devices are allowed, although this rule is unenforceable and therefore regularly breached.

Aside from its vast bulk, the megaworm, lacking basic motor control, scarcely constitutes a threat to any armed warrior fortunate enough to reach its head, where all of its vital organs cluster. The malice-hoppers, members of a similar species trained to regard the megaworm as its young, present a different story. Six of these killer annelids swarm to attack any human approaching the megaworm, slashing with the razor-sharp serrated teeth of their fore and aft heads.

Malice-hoppers slay around a dozen contestants each year, until they are all finally defeated and a wily maneuverer sidles in to finish the megaworm. It then releases the psychoactive musk that wafts across the entire urban area, lifting hearts and lowering inhibitions. After a week of orgiastic revelry wherein all misdemeanor offenses are legal, the megaworm killer is crowned J-Monarch and proceeds to rule for 785 days. (The current holder of the office retains it if the killer dies during the roistering, which happens oddly often.) The engine of the city’s economy, repairs of damage caused by the megaworm and its pursuers, revs into high gear, and happiness again reverberates through the metropolis.

This concerns your crew as they hunt the despicable interstellar criminal Quandos Vorn because one of his former accountants, Erekor the Jaw Splitter, has determined to escape his old boss by becoming J-Monarch. He knows where Quandos Vorn stashes his wealth, but won’t dare reveal a single spreadsheet cell until he is safely under the protection of the J-Assassins. Even Quandos Vorn wouldn’t dare cross this royal bodyguard of virgin ultra-murderers, or so Erekor reckons.

Do the player characters help him kill the megaworm, or attempt to connive the truth from him some other way, before or after the worm drops? The answer, as always, depends on their determination and guile.

The Gaean Reach, the Roleplaying Game of Interstellar Vengeance, brings to your tabletop the legendary cycle of science fiction classics by the great Jack Vance. This ingenious hybrid fuses the investigative clarity of the GUMSHOE system with the lethal wit of the Dying Earth Roleplaying Game. Purchase The Gaean Reach in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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