The first session of We’re Not In Arkansas Anymore! is under the Man-Day belt. The PCs were Rob (former professional baseball player), Chuck (unemployed high school drop out), Ebenezer (semi-retired woodworker), and Lindsey (Democratic Party campaign consultant). The adventure opened with boxed text:
You and 19 other people relax aboard a deluxe tour bus heading for the Grand Casino in Louisiana. You won a three-day, two-night, all-expenses-paid gambling trip as part of a promotional contest sponsored by the casino and Arkansas’s number one morning show Good Morning Arkansas. You left Little Rock about two hours ago. The rising morning sun struggles to pierce the unseasonable fog.
“Folks,” says Mitch Michaels, Good Morning Arkansas host, “we’re about to head over the Ouachita River across one of the first bridges built in Arkansas by the Public Works Administration during World War Two.”
The drone of the tires on the road changes pitch as the bus rolls onto the bridge. Suddenly, the big vehicle lurches hard to the left. A woman screams. A flash of light whites out the windshield at the same time a high-pitched whine pierces your ears.
Just as quickly, the light and noise vanishes. The bus tilts at a strange angle, its front end higher than its rear.
“Holy crap!” someone yells. “We’re in the river!”
Rob acted quickly, forcing open an emergency exit. Ebenezer noticed the driver was unconscious. Lindsey took the lead in trying to organize the bus community. This included prompting Chuck to get the first aid kit. Thanks to Rob and Lindsey, everyone made it off the bus okay, including Rob’s dog Texas and Ebenezer’s wife Maisy. Ebenezer hauled the unconscious bus driver out of the bus and into the river, but not before he tossed Rob the keys. Lindsey exited the bus, swam around to the submerged end and climbed atop it, where he tried but failed to get a signal for his cell phone.
Chuck unfortunately got caught in the river’s current and started to flounder. Lindsey dived in and pulled him above water, saving the dropout from drowning. While everyone made their way to the closer river bank, Rob fought the current and gravity to open the baggage storage area in the bus’s undercarriage. Against all odds, he located his two gun cases that he’d brought along to do some hunting down in Louisiana. Rob swam away as the bus sunk out of view, carried slowly along by the river’s current.
Miraculously, everyone made it ashore. The driver remained unconscious, probably in shock and definitely with a concussion from where his forehead had smacked a window. The pregnant lady, Charlie, was also safe and unhurt, albeit rather winded. A quick visual inspection of the surroundings revealed something wasn’t quite right.
To the north rose rugged, wooded hills. Downstream — not upstream — was a bridge, but not the PWA bridge. Instead, it was a stone and mortar causeway, apparently of great age and in a major state of disrepair. The river’s far bank was barely visible through the light fog, and it was certainly far wider than the Ouachita. No one’s cell phones could get a signal. Rob’s fancy GPS watch also had no signal. After seeing to the bus driver, Rob and Ebenezer started walking upstream. Lindsey and Chuck, following Maisy’s advice, helped move everyone else more inland, and then started getting folks organized.
After walking for 20 minutes upstream, Rob and Ebenezer — armed with Rob’s hunting rifle and shotgun — found neither the PWA bridge nor any sign of the road. In fact, they found no signs of civilization at all. No power lines. No litter washed up on the river bank. Neither of the men could identify the local trees, and they saw several samples of wildlife that were also alien to their experiences. Befuddled, the pair returned to the main group to report their findings.
It was then decided to head downstream toward the ruined bridge. Rob, Ebenezer, Lindsey, and Chuck made it to the bridge after about a five minute walk. An ancient, cobblestone road built atop of berm led from the bridge toward the rugged hills to the north. Ebenezer found a single print in the soft earth close to the river bank. The print was about a foot long, with five toes, apparently webbed.
After a short discussion, it was decided that everyone should follow the road toward the hills. By this time, the bus driver Ralph had regained consciousness. Moving along the road was slow-going, especially with Charlie and Ralph along. By two in the afternoon, the group had left the river behind and was in the rugged hills proper. Old growth forest spread in all directions. Lindsey, a student of geography, was convinced that nothing that they were seeing belonged in Arkansas, but he was at a loss to explain what had happened.
The sun set. Camp was set up. It seemed like it would be a peaceful albeit strange evening, but then the attack happened. Monstrous creatures, part man and part lizard, rushed in from several directions. They tossed nets, snaring people. Others bludgeoned people with cudgels. Rob and Ebenezer opened fire. Lindsey urged folks to remain calm and rally to this position. Chuck leapt upon an net-ensnared man, engaging the lizard-man in a life-and-death game of tug-of-war. More of the monsters could be seen rushing from the darkness.
Then the volley of arrows hit. A few of the monsters fell, both from arrows and bullets. The others retreated. A group of six men, dressed in strange leather armor, carrying bows and arrows and swords, introduced themselves.
“I’m Belskel,” the leader said. “We’re members of the Shield Watch, and it’s not safe here. The Bloodscale Clan raiders are likely to return with reinforcements.”
Close curtain. Fade to black.
At this point, the group PC creation began and roughly three months passed. Rob, Lindsey, Ebenezer, and Chuck have more or less adapted to the strange world they’ve fallen into. I gave the players the house rule document and the basic setting background for the Four Communities. I also gave them the faction cards with information about the Recondite Order, the Shield Watch, the Tangled Lady, the Sparrow’s Nest, the Black Tongue Society, the Library of the Silver Key, the Fey Courts, and the Night Stalkers. I’ll post more information about the Four Communities and these factions at a later date.
As of right now, all the PCs are second level. One level is in the basic d20 Modern-style class that represented their capabilities prior to landing in a new world. Each PC also has one level in a Pathfinder class. Specifically, Rob is a ranger, Ebenezer is a druid, Chuck is a rogue, and Lindsey is a wizard.
Next Man-Day is in two weeks. Between now and then, I’ll flesh out the Four Communities more and come up with some plot hooks. The players are charged with coming up with their own ideas for plot hooks, relations with factions, et cetera. All of this’ll get tossed into the sandbox for our next session.