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Pokémon Vaporwave Frontiers (PMD Quest)

1. Prologue


Fruit or vegetable?
I'd rather have someone vote on the latest chapter than review anything, though of course you can do both! Quests rely on reader interaction, they tend to die otherwise.

Just to cover my bases: language, possibly graphic violence and death, possibly major character death.

New Arkady, your one and only home. A vast and decrepit city, where the rivers run neon and noxious fumes fluoresce in the night air.

Like other Tartarian cities, it wasn't built by hand. Instead the founders stabilized a region near the most profitable dungeons, and let the continent generate everything from scratch. The result is an architect's fever dream, a teetering city more vertical than horizontal. Most of its denizens rarely see the sun.

You don't mind living here. Sure it's the most isolated city on Tartaria, surrounded by dungeon territory with no other bastions of civilization in fifty leagues. Sure, dungeons are deathtraps. But do you make bank going through them? Also sure. And you could
really use the cash.

That's why you're in the Explorers' Guild, for better or worse...


➤ 1. Prologue

You have a nice home here, though no one ever visits. Sure it leaks, sure the walls haven't been patched up in forever. The iron grille that passes for a floor rattles when you step on it, and sometimes things crawl in through the vents, but it could always be worse. That's what you tell yourself. You like your place. You've decked it out and everything, covered the ceiling with bells. Shiny.

Tonight, a shadow sets the bells swaying to and fro. Their quiet chimes echo in the confines of your room.

That's all the warning you get before the shadow lands at the foot of your bed and jolts you awake. You twitch, recovering from a dream about Space Emperor Foongus and his foongus legions of terror. Such a great dream. It had war and peace and vagaries of the heart, it was novelworthy, but now it's gone forever. You have to do a mission tomorrow. You have to go back to sleep. You don't have time for this.

"Go away," you mumble, retreating into your covers. But to no avail. The shadow approaches you.

...who are you, again?

[] Esher
[] Remy
[] Thierry
[] Write-in: Any reasonable name of your choice.

[] Write-in: Any gender of your choice.

[] Staryu — You are a bundle of five stubby limbs surrounding an eldritch red core that is breathtakingly shiny, but please don't touch, sorry, thanks. You don't have any facial features, or a head for that matter, but who needs that when you can breathe underwater? And glow? And regrow broken limbs? Admittedly that last one takes a while.
Your late mother, bless her heart, fed you stories about staryu coming from the sky and something something aliens? But those were just stories.
[] Spritzee — You are pink, fluffy, and something like a bird. Unfortunately flying is beyond you, but you can flutter for a few seconds, and you're tiny enough to squeeze through gaps. You've got a sharp nose for scents. You know what scent appeals most to people you meet, and how to produce it. Not astoundingly useful, but hey, it's there.
You will also go to great lengths to acquire new scents, which is a slight inconvenience for others. Slight.
[] Sableye — You are an ethereal spirit of shadow and darkness. Supposedly. You're not great at the phasing thing, or the entering death thing, which some ghosts can do like second nature. Being nocturnal doesn't net you many friends, but you do get perfect night vision and a peculiar predilection for eating jewelry. That definitely hasn't caused you any problems.

Your home is in:
[] The Explorers' Guild — At the intersection of the Waterfall District and Chimney District, a monolithic smokestack has been repurposed by the Guild for official business. This includes providing room and board to any exploration team in exchange for a larger share of the profit. An option usually taken by large or dedicated teams, you know the ones, those ambitious go-getters who shoot through the ranks and achieve Platinum within a few years of joining. Then they take one ill-fated mission and no one sees them again. Fine, some achieve wealth and fame and live out their lives in glory. You're not bitter about that at all.
It's unusual for a solo explorer to live in the Guild, but it has its advantages. Networking! Social interaction! Whether that's worth the price is up in the air.
[] The Pipe District — A populous district, teeming with people and the acrid stench of chemicals. Pipes of every size wind up and down, occasionally gouting steam, flame, and other devious substances that residents know to avoid. Merchants set up their stalls inside pipes, and barter with competitors for good positions. If you know your way around, the right pipes will take you to secret entrances across the city. Others lead to certain death as you find yourself in the Steam Siphons during a heat surge.
[] The Waterfront — The city's shore, where murky waters lap at dilapidated structures and half-sunken streets. At low tide scavengers scramble for treasure in the newly unveiled depths, and metal wrecks lie rusting on the lakebed. At high tide the skilled scavengers are long gone, and those wrecks become fatal traps for the unwary. Swim the wrong way and riptides will pull you into Septic Lagoon, where you'll be lost to the currents, the toxins, or the ferals that stalk the polluted waters and occasionally enter New Arkady proper. The guards take care of those. Usually.
[] The Depths (only possible if Staryu wins the previous vote) — A catch-all term for the submerged areas beneath the waterfront, deep enough to be free of pollution. Many aquatic pokemon live here, while landdwellers can't survive without help. This far down, the currents are gentler, and there are entire drowned districts where you can find a home. But delve too deep and you end up in Black Sluice Station, where the feral tentacruel and freezing waters aren't kind to intruders.

Speaking of intruders. Your home intruder hasn't done anything yet, but you know why they're here and you don't like it. Maybe you can act first, forestall your inevitable doom, but how?

[] Talk them down. Uh, about that debt? I'm working on paying it. Promise. I'm gonna do another mission tomorrow and I think that will be the big one that will take care of everything so you can just go now. Yup. Really.
[] Talk them down but with more begging involved. Please don't hurt me, I swear I can pay it off. I swear! Yeah it was a priceless relic and you're all torn up about it but that's not an excuse to attack an innocent citizen like me, right? Right?
[] Attack the intruder! Commence a reasonable act of self-defense which certainly does not involve screaming murder and lunging towards the enemy with a sharp rock. Why a sharp rock? You keep one by your bed just in case. Not the best weapons, but they're free.
[] Write-in: Any other suggestions?
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Fruit or vegetable?
➤ Info

This is my attempt at a forum quest! To vote, reply with an [x] next to the option you want. You don't have to vote for everything.

[x] Esher
[x] The Explorer's Guild

I'll tally up votes after a few days. I'll take every vote into account when possible, but in votes where only one choice can win, I'll use the most popular option and roll a die for tiebreakers.

The quest will be light on number crunching, focusing on character interaction and exploration. There will be violence and possibly death, but I'll try to keep things from getting too depressing. I'm not experienced with quests, so I may fiddle with the systems a bit.

Hope I posted this in the right place. I'm not that experienced with forums either, so apologies in advance if I screw something up.

Moves have 3 competence levels, with 1 being barely learned and unreliable, 2 being average skill, and 3 being mastery. It's purposefully vague, since this quest isn't very number heavy.

You can have any number of moves, though it's rare to have more than a few. There are no levels or experience points in this quest. New moves, or increasing the competence of existing moves, occur through training or pushing yourself to the limit.

The quest is less about combat applications of moves and more about using them creatively to solve problems.

Like other things about how the quest is run, the system might change if I don't like how things are working out.

Esher - Sableye ⚥

Ability: Keen Eye
(Has perfect vision, even in extreme darkness.)

  • Shadow Sneak (Ghost) - Competence 2: You have minor control over shadows, and can move them to attack nearby enemies. If you really stretch yourself, you can teleport through them. But only a few feet. And it's exhausting. You'd rather not, really.

Inventory (in your bag)
  • One business card from Elida. It reads:
The Memory Emporium
Pipe District - Winding Ladder Street - B2934
Open 12h - 22h, every day!

  • Nothing! Unless you count...

DEBT: 50,000 G (12,000 G paid off)

Mago ~ Vulpix ♂

Ability: Flash Fire
(Strenghtened by and immune to fire.)

  • Ember (Fire) - Competence 3: Spit a small ball of fire. Which can turn into a lot of fire, if you do it again, and again, and again, and spray fire all round you, and set your enemies ablaze, and your friends, and...
  • Incinerate (Fire) - Competence 2: Spit a roaring stream of fire. Which fades away quickly, but is great at burning things, including things that shouldn't be burned, and the fire does spread if you're not careful...

Items: Doesn't seem like he has anything on hand, besides Elida's business card. Same as you, really.

Elida ~ Elgyem ♀

Ability: Telepathy
(Communes with the minds of those in close range, excepting Dark types.)

  • Confusion (Psychic) - Competence 2: Flood the mind of one creature within range with a deluge of psychic nonsense, temporarily stunning them. Prolonged use can cause headaches and migraines in the target.
  • ?

Items: ?
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Cosmic Guardian
The Circle
  1. luxio
[x] Esher
[x] agender
[x] Sableye
[x] The Waterfront
[x] Commence a reasonable act of self-defense


Play the Rain
Vaporwave PMD???? big eyes, big eyes, I'm definitely here for this. Glad to have you start something up!

Also, gotta put in another vote for sableye gang.

[x] Remy
[x] Agender
[x] Sableye
[x] The Explorer's Guild
[x] Talk them down but with more begging involved.
2. Prologue (Why I Hate Evenings)


Fruit or vegetable?
Yeah, uh, holy unplanned hiatus Batman. Really sorry for dropping out of existence with no warning for several months. Real life happened, personal issues happened, and so on...

I've spent too much time planning this story to just abandon it, though, and I want to keep on going. Aiming for weekly updates at least. No guarantees. Things still aren't back to normal for me, so this is the most I can do for now.

[x] Esher
[x] Agender
[x] Sableye
[x] The Waterfront
[x] Commence a reasonable act of self defense/Talk them down but with more begging involved

You fire on all cylinders. Metaphorical cylinders because you do not possess actual cylinders like some species do. You leap out of your bed, self-defense rock in hand, and lunge towards the shadow while screaming "Please don't hurt me please don't hurt me please don't hurt me I can pay it off please don't hurt me". If you're fast—

Your would-be assault is stopped by a glittering barrier that manifests in your face. You smack unceremoniously into it and topple to the ground, clutching your arm in sheer physical agony. Ow. Ow ow ow you curl up in pain and shiver on the floor. You are not awake enough for this.

"Esher," the shadow says, sounding awfully casual for someone trying to kill you.

The shadow looms over you and now that it's closer you realize it's a kecleon. He's a kecleon, oh god they brought a kecleon into this. The merchants are involved, this is bad, they could ruin your life if they wanted. No more equipment, no more food, no more anything. You'll have to forsake civilization and live in the dungeons for the rest of your life. Go feral.

Is that a tear leaking out from the corner of your eye? It might be a tear. A single shadowy tear.

That stupid kecleon is staring your injured self in the face with an expression like he wants to kill you, or maybe help you up, you can't tell your head is spinning you really should be asleep. You croak, "Please," and scramble away from him but he follows you easily. He's standing and you're not.

"Esher," Klor says. "Your friends warned you."

"They're not my friends. They're her friends."

"They warned you that when you borrowed the Clairvoyant you had to return it. And what did you do? You ate it. Ate the priceless relic. It cost thousands and you ate it like it was your fucking breakfast."

You cringe and curl up against the wall in hopes that it will make you feel safer. It doesn't.

"How much have you given us?"

"Twelve thousand," you croak. Scourged together from your life savings, from random change dropped on the street, from selling belongings you didn't want to part with. Just twelve thousand.

"Not enough. Not close to enough. You're not stupid, Esher. You know that."

You make a sound that shouldn't be coming out of any throat, ghost or otherwise.

"But we're generous. We won't do anything to you. Yet. We've decided on a bit of leniency, you see? You have fourteen days to get us all the money."

You nod fervently.

"Fourteen days." Klor leans in close. "When I come back, you'd better have it with you. Use those little adventurer brains of yours. Find some buried treasure and get rich. Or you know what will happen."

In desperation you charge up an attack, a proper attack this time, not some sleep-deprived "lunge with rock" attack. The energy wreathes you, you have it this time, you need to make him understand. You gather the power of:
[] Shadow Sneak
[] Night Shade
[] Fury Swipes

But your blow lands nowhere. He's already vaulted out the window. For a moment he hangs suspended against a backdrop of neon vapor and pulsating lights, then he grapples onto a pole and swings out of sight. And you're left alone with your thoughts.

And your debt.

Esher is now subject to a 50,000 G debt!


Five hours later.

It's evening.

You're in your assigned division of Guild headquarters, staring blearily at the mission board.

It's not nearly late enough for you to be awake, but you have to do this. You have to. Oh shit oh shit the thought of what they might do to you if you can't pay makes a keening panic rise up inside you, so you squash it down with the power of stolidly ignoring your problems. Though ignoring your problems is what got you here in the first place.

But nevermind that. Focus on what you have to do.

Discount all rescue missions, they won't let you explore, not that Bronze rank adventurers get many rescue missions anyway. Give the bounties a once-over just to know who to watch out for: rogue sigilyph, ivysaur, that giant centiskorch still crawling around Steam Siphons, some others. But no horrible violent criminals, so that's at least one thing going for you. Some of those criminal bounties are high enough to almost be tempting (twelve thousand for one random helioptile?), but going after criminals is restricted to Silver and above. As for the missing pokemon, you're not lucky enough to count on finding one of them.

So you're left with fetch missions, which might as well pay nothing. But if you want any hope of paying your debt on time, you can't do missions like normal. That get in get out strategy won't fly anymore, because now you need to go deep. Deeper than you've ever gone. Buried treasure, or something like it, is what you need to save yourself.

The fetch missions are just a little bonus for whichever dungeon you choose.

[] Coral Highlands
A subterranean ruin, where furling plants cast rippling blue light across the wreckage. Broken faucets and pipes spray their contents freely, covering everything with a thin layer of water. Sometimes called "The Fountain", for the sheer number of geysers, waterfalls, and other watery landmarks. Full of all kinds of bizarre flora, and feral water pokemon with a nasty habit of rearing up to bite you when you least expect it. It's a sprawling dungeon with plenty of unexplored paths, so maybe...?

Entrance in the Waterfall District. Exits to Steam Siphons, Hydraulic Spire, Stormfront, and back to the Waterfall District.

Missions: Let's see, someone wants five coba berries and five nanab berries, which aren't hard to get from here. Someone else wants two glowfruits, which only grow here. 1500 G reward total.

[] Salt Refinery
An enormous factory. The first thing everyone notices when they enter is the noise. That horrible clanking, screeching, grinding noise that never ends. It's not as bad once you get used to it, but then you have to deal with the conveyor belts, crushers, and other machinery, along with those steel and electric ferals. In general, the rule is to watch where you stand, or you'll find the walls shoving you into a death pit. But there are all kinds of ancient gadgets in the depths for those brave enough, or so they say.

Entrance in the Pipe District. Exits to Steelworks, Flywheel Canyon, and the Chimney District.

Missions: Requests for three iron thorns, four black pebbles, two firebursts. You know where to find those. 1800 G reward total.

[] Overhang
A cliffside wreck, under a sky crackling with green lightning and dense with snow. Falling is a constant hazard, but thankfully it takes you out of the dungeon and not to instant death. Flying ferals wing high overhead, ready to snipe unfortunate targets, while more ferals lurk in the interior rooms to ambush prey. If you can get into one of the deeper passages, maybe you'll find a secret area or something.

Entrance in the Chimney District. Exits back to the Chimney District, and to Aerial Switchyard, Precipice, and Crawlspace. Ugh, Crawlspace.

Missions: A hail orb, twelve lengths of charged wire, three volumes of green pitch. Not the easiest to get, but maybe...? 2700 G reward total.


Despite the size of the room, it feels claustrophobic. All around are pokemon, milling around, talking with their friends, laughing. Few teams here and there depositing their finds at the appraisal desk. Footsteps clatter on the metallic floor. Smoke hisses through vents, somewhere.

There's a few other people looking at missions. You don't recognize all of them, so some are probably unlicensed explorers, who technically can't do missions but the guild lets things fly. Higher-ups ignore regulation to make money, who would've thought. Not that you've met any, since they have better things to care about than a lowly adventurer who'll never accomplish anything.

Maybe you could... talk to someone. Get a meat shield partner to help you with your mission. You know what they say, safety in numbers and all that. The recommended team size is three at least, but this low in the ranks loads of adventurers go solo anyway. Including you, usually. Dealing with people, not your thing.

But if you're going to delve for treasure—for something, anything that might help you out—you should get help, right? Maybe?

What are your options again? You look around, giving the other solo explorers a surreptitious glance.

[] Agate. A hunk of rock floating midair, examining the mission board with their strikingly red gaze. Hey, you recognize that lunatone. You met them, well, you don't remember where. Some mandatory guild meeting or something. Last you recall they had a team, but they're here alone for some reason. Should you say hello?
[] Mago. Oh no. Not him. That vulpix is stuck doing solo missions in Bronze rank for a reason. (So are you, but try not to think about that.) Everyone knows he's a flaming pyromaniac and if you do a mission with him you'll end up burned half to death. Are you really desperate enough to ask for his help? Really?
[] That elgyem. A tiny pokemon with an enormous head, engraved with odd sigils. You think you've seen her before, some newcomer to the Guild. What was her name again? Did it start with an L? Feels bad that you can't remember. She looks back at you and gives a small wave.
[] That duskull. You almost don't notice their skull-like visage, hovering to the side, phased half out of reality as if they don't want to be seen. That's better phasing than you can do. You don't think you've seen them before, but who knows. How long have they been here? For that matter, how long have you been here, staring at everyone?
[] Go solo anyway. Screw it. None of these people would want to deal with your problems. You'd just hurt them, convincing other Bronze-rank explorers to go deep delving.
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Cosmic Guardian
The Circle
  1. luxio
[x] Fury Swipes
[x] Salt Refinery
[x] Mago


Play the Rain
(( Good to see you back! Sorry to hear that things are still rough for you, though. Take as long as you need between updates--we'll be here when you get back!

Love to see some threatening kecleon action in a PMD story! It's wonderful how much character you get across for our protagonist even in a short post like this one--and great job of atmosphere, too! Definitely a darker world than the PMD games themselves. ))

[x] Shadow Sneak
[x] Coral Highlands
[x] That elgyem
3. Night 1 (Salt Refinery)


Fruit or vegetable?
You know how I said ties would be broken by dice roll earlier? I lied. When a tie happens I decide the winning vote, because I said so.

And since only two people voted (and all for different choices, too!), we have:

Winning Votes
[x] Shadow Sneak
[x] Salt Refinery
[x] Mago, and that elgyem

You make your choice. Not sure if it's the right choice, but better something than nothing. Right?

"Hey, you two. Uh." This would be easier if you actually remembered the elgyem's name. "Yeah, elgyem over there. And... Mago. What would you say if I hypothetically asked you to do a dungeon run with me? Or not hypothetically. Since I could really use some help."

Before you're even done talking the vulpix bounds up to you with far too much enthusiasm. "Esher! Great to see you around!" He reeks of smoke. You back away. "Esher, buddy, no way am I turning down someone in need. And no one's asked to do a mission with me in ages. This is fantastic!"

Fantastic. Now you can't even change your mind without making him feel bad.

"Course I'm up to helping you," Mago continues. "We ate at Coulomb's a year ago, remember? During the division meal? Had a great time there. Excellent. Loved it. You lent me a few guilders to pay for my bill, very kind of you, as I recall you were the only one willing to..."

As a matter of fact, you do remember the division meal. You didn't lend him just "a few" guilders. It was three hundred and he never paid you back.

"...so I've been meaning to make up for the favor, you know, and oh hello there!" The elgyem is walking over, or rather gliding over. She moves soundlessly, hovering just above the floor, not quite beholden to gravity. "Hello hello! The other member of our impromptu team! Elida, aren't you? Saw your name on the new member bulletin."

What, even he knows her name? Who actually checks the bulletins?

"Right, that's me," the elgyem says, or you think she says. Her voice is so quiet. She tilts her head, peering at you with disconcertingly bright eyes. "Mago and Esher? I've heard a lot about you two."

Mago laughs nervously. "Of course you have. But I assure you most of it's exaggerated! If you heard I burned my old team members to death, what actually happened was only two of them had to—"

"Wait wait wait," you say, before he can tank his reputation even further. "Hold up. Let's not get into rumors right now. Just, uh, trust me, it's not as bad as what everyone says."

"Exactly. It isn't," Mago adds.

"Um. Okay?"

She sounds the opposite of convinced. It's fine, it's fine, there's no such thing as a perfect first impression. You tried. "Good," you tell her. "Glad we got that cleared up. Now back to my request... uh."

You remember that you're surrounded by people and it might be a bad idea to let everyone hear about your problems. The rumors could always get worse.

"Uh, actually, I can explain in detail once we get to the dungeon. Short story is I really need money, fast. Aiming for Salt Refinery since it's loaded with relics if you go deep enough, so this won't be a normal dungeon run. I need to go deep delving."

Elida shrinks back. Mago flattens his ears. "You're planning on what now? I mean it's fine by me, friend in need and all that, but you sure?"

"I'm sure—" The thought of what happens if you can't pay makes your throat seize up. "Real sure. I'll do it alone if I have to."

"But then why did you ask me for help?" Elida says. "Deep delving is dangerous. I wouldn't mind helping with a normal mission, but, um. I don't have a lot of experience. I'm not sure if I..."

Great. So maybe you just asked her for help because she waved to you and part of you was hoping the rumors hadn't reached her yet if she was new, but now you're losing her. You can't let her jump ship and tell all her friends you're a lunatic who wants newbies to do suicide missions. "Look, look, deep diving sounds worse than it actually is. It's safe if you don't do anything stupid. I'm not going into the depths, just until we find something interesting or think we can't take it anymore. We reach that point, we turn back. Simple. Trust me."

Elida blinks at you. "Um."

"Also, you'll have us to guide you. Also, I've been to Salt Refinery plenty of times. Also," think fast, think fast, "I'm taking a few fetch missions along with the delve. So why don't you join us for the fetch part and see if you want to continue after? If you change your mind before we're too far in, you can always leave."

"It won't be that bad if you have our help on your side," Mago says. "Since we'll be doing this together and all that!" He sounds too excited at the prospect for your comfort.

Elida scrutinizes the floor. "Okay," she says finally.

Hopefully you won't regret this.


The crowds thin as you approach the edge of the Pipe District, where the gate to Salt Refinery arches over the broad, flat pipe that passes for a street here. Night has fallen, but the lamps shine bright, and pokemon hustle to and fro. Merchants hawk wares—accessories, minor relics, occasional souvenirs for the rare tourist. A panoply of gems glitter in one stall, and you eye them with hunger. Likely fakes, but imagine having the money for good food. Unfortunately your bag, strapped onto your back, is devoid of coins or anything else.

"I've only been to Salt Refinery twice," Elida admits, adjusting the straps of her own bag, a tiny purse slung over one shoulder. "Both times with other people. The start isn't so bad, but the deeper you go, the more hazards there are... and all the valuables are deep in, so I thought it would be too risky to do a solo mission there. You said you've been there before? What is it like?"

It's odd to have someone treat you like the leader of a team. You're used to skulking in corners and being left out as a liability. You wonder when she'll stop trusting you for good advice.

You say, "I wouldn't call Salt Refinery one of my favorite dungeons. I don't have favorites. They're all deathtraps." Should you have said that? "But, uh, I'm familiar enough to know where to find everything for fetch missions. Mostly you just have to watch your step, keep your guard up."

"Salt Refinery's one of my favorites," says Mago, showing fangs with his grin. "Lots of steel ferals there, you know, plenty of flammable material!"

You suppress a shudder. "Good for you. Elida, the sound's the worst part at first. Besides that there's nothing in the early areas to worry about."

"Oh, that reminds me," Elida starts rummaging in her bag. "I have a way for us to communicate with telepathy, so the sound should be less of an issue."

"You do?" Mago says, ears perking up. "Man, that's great! Stuff like that makes me wish I was a psychic sometimes."

"I don't do well with psychic stuff," you put in, figuring it's better to disappoint her now than later.

"Right, um, you're a dark type. But I have something for that!" Elida pulls out a small delicious-looking object that glints in the orange lamplight. Shiny—no, not food, don't get distracted.

She offers the item, which is revealed as a metal pin with concretic rings etched into its surface. "It's a ring target. If you wear it, I can extend the telepathic network to all three of us. But you'll be more vulnerable to aura, and physical and psychic attacks, and some other things. So, um, you can say no if you want. I won't mind."

Of course. Even she came more prepared than you.

[] Wear the ring target
[] Don't wear the ring target


The gate is spun from twisted metal and wire, and strung with sacred bells. As you pass through its shimmering veil, the familiar din of Salt Refinery greets you. You wince, and so do the others. Even after all this time, it's still hard to get used to.

The room immediately after a dungeon entrance is usually safe, but you still sweep your surroundings just in case. No ferals, no immediate hazards. Good.

You stand on an enormous walkway, pitted with holes. Swirling vapors in the air glow with fey light, neon blue. Through the haze you vaguely make out a distant ceiling and a wall far to the right. Not that you could reach them, since below the walkway is only more haze, and you are not jumping down there. Thankfully the sides of the walkway are fenced off, but that won't save you from falling into one of those holes.

To your left is a mess of pipes, ladders, and poles, a vertical labyrinth that stretches towards the distant ceiling and continues forward along the walkway's length. As the walkway progresses it slopes gradually down, into the mist, and long tendrils of wire bristle from its ruined surface.

The floor is metallic, rusted, catching unpleasantly on your claws. A red light blinks somewhere on the ceiling.

You have fourteen days.


Which path does Esher want to take?
[] Climb up using the pipes - Going up eventually leads to the outermost portions of the refinery. Not truly outside, since it's impossible by all accounts to reach an outside here. But the rooms become larger and larger, developing their own deadly weather systems, and even stranger phenomena as you climb. Close to false windows, firebursts can be found. There's also food, if you know the right place to look, and you haven't eaten much lately.

If you keep traveling up, and follow the right paths, you'll reach Steelworks. Not that you plan on entering Steelworks.

[] Go forward/down on the walkway - Going down eventually leads to the deepest recesses of the refinery. The heat intensifies down there, and the rooms become progressively smaller, until they might more accurately be called tunnels. As the temperature increases, so does the frequency of steam clouds and entire flooded passageways, sometimes filled with boiling water or other, more exotic things. The thorns and black pebbles are down there, somewhere.

The right paths down will take you to Flywheel Canyon, but you have no intention of entering that cesspool.

[] Enter the pipe labyrinth, but go forward/left instead of climbing up - You have no idea where this will lead you. Could be anywhere. Dungeons don't always stick to known rules, it's probably not a good idea to take this path.

[] Write-in: something else?


What should Esher tell the others about their predicament?
[] Don't explain why you need money, lots of it, fast. - It's just a personal thing. Private matters. You don't need to know.
[] Explain that you need a lot of money to pay a debt or your debtors will not be happy with you. - Uh, so I may have screwed up a lot. A lot.
[] Tell them the whole truth. - Uh, so I heard this rumor that there were these really delicious gems in Crystal Rift...
[] Write-in: something else?


Anything else Esher should do?
[] Write-in (feel free to examine parts of the room, ask your teammates questions, etc.)

Yep, dungeons are a little different in this setting.

Also, character sheets have been updated! See the info post for more.

Thanks to those who voted, glad you're enjoying the story. I should hopefully be more free to update during the next few weeks.
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Cosmic Guardian
The Circle
  1. luxio
[x] wear the ring target
[x] go forward/down on the walkway
[x] don't explain why you need money, lots of it, fast


Play the Rain
(( Sorry for giving you a real rough vote to work with, there! Hope you had fun picking choices.

"It's safe if you don't do anything stupid." Fortunately, Esher would never do anything stupid.

Oh no, Elida. :(

Love the atmosphere of the dungeon!


[x] Wear the ring target
[x] Climb up using the pipes
[x] Don't explain why you need money, lots of it, fast
[x] Anything else: Let's test this ring target and enjoy some small talk to get our minds off our potentially imminent demise! So Elida, you're new at the Guild, what made you want to join up? Mago, have your burned anything interesting recently?
4. Night 1 (Why I Hate Dungeons)


Fruit or vegetable?
Winning Votes
[x] Wear the ring target
[x] Go forward/down on the walkway
[x] Don't explain why you need money, lots of it, fast
[x] Anything else: Let's test this ring target and enjoy some small talk to get our minds off our potentially imminent demise! So Elida, you're new at the Guild, what made you want to join up? Mago, have your burned anything interesting recently?

You pin the ring target to your chest, near a cluster of rhinestones by your shoulder, and a wave of vertigo overtakes you. Feelings flood into your mind, not your own—be an opportunity—can they tell what I'm going to—this really a good idea—then it all vanishes into a rising tide of static. A voice says, Sorry, can you hear me?

You try not to overreact. You fail.

"What, never interfaced with a psychic before?" Mago blinks at you. "Guess that's what you get for being a dark type. No offense meant, it's not that bad once you've done it a few times! Had a psychic on my old team, though actually we don't talk anymore for reasons you might be able to guess—"

You barely pay attention to him, still shaking off the lingering conviction that you've turned into a walking radio transmitter. Feels like a radar has been jammed into your head.

Oh, I think it works! Elida says. Her voice is more quiet than ever, barely a whisper, but it somehow carries above the static. You focus on it. Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to disorient you. Can you try to respond? Um, try to think at me.

Like this?
you imagine saying to her. Am I doing it right?

Yes! Okay, okay. This is good.


Uh, listen up, everyone. I see two good paths here. First is those poles and wires to the left. Yeah, doesn't look great, but it's not that hard a climb. Trust me. Elida eyes you dubiously. You feel like you've been saying "trust me" a whole lot here. Really. I've done it before.

Second option is taking the walkway. It might be easier to navigate, but there are holes, and ferals could come out of that haze. What do you think?

I vote walkways.
Mago says. I don't mind ferals. Lemme have at them. He flicks his tail, and red sparks sizzle in his fur. You step back. So does Elida, you notice.

Um, are you sure? I mean, not to be rude, but I don't really like how these holes look. I think I'd rather go left?

Guess it's up to you to be the tiebreaker. Lucky lucky day. You look at the pipes to the left, then the pitted walkway, noticing how the wires emerging from it glimmer in the light... shiny... no, you definitely don't just decide on the walkway because the wires are shiny and remind you of food. You are a reasonable person who does not make impulse decisions.

Let's go forward and down, you say. We can fetch the thorns and pebbles first, then swing up for the firebursts later, then go back to the city. I know the exit routes. And maybe get some food while you're at it. There's an excellent halite vein deeper in, even if it doesn't appear reliably. Ahh, the thought of food sends hunger pangs through your poor underused stomach.

If you're sure, um, then we can go down then.

You shrug, and then start walking. Might as well start sooner rather than later, that debt won't pay itself. Elida and Mago follow you, Elida in the middle, you note, which should help you catch her if she falls.

She sounded so uncertain. You better be making the right decision here. Though considering how she glides around—Can you fly over the holes, Elida?

Oh, do you mean my floating? It's more of a levitation thing, um, there's limited antigravity waves we use to...
She trails off. You probably don't want to hear specifics, but I can't, sorry. Just a few inches is the best we can do. It's just, um, how we're used to getting around. All the elgyem and beheeyem do it. Falling hurts less, but it still hurts.

Great. Was that an offensive question? Hopefully it wasn't an offensive question.

No, it's not offensive, it's fine!

Wait, she heard you. You didn't mean to think out loud.

Oh, um. Sorry. The telepathy can be hard to get used to, especially if it's your first time.

You sigh. Yep. I can tell.

This is going to be great.

The three of you walk without speaking for a while. You try to clear your head. It's fine, this is fine. This is just walking. This is just the first room out of who knows how many. You can't mess up in just the first room, right?

Pay attention to your surroundings. Don't get distracted. Notice the soft haze of the fog, the red lights blinking rhythmically far above you, the cacophonous whirr and buzz of machinery that won't shut up—gah. The wires on the walkway, from close up, look disappointingly inedible. The texture is wrong. And there's something discomfiting about the way they seem to grow out of the bridge's surface, tall and coiling. Doesn't help that they twitch subtly, reminding you of tangrowth vines waiting to ensnare prey, or the strands of an ariados web. You give them a wide berth and warn the others to do the same.

After who knows how long, the entrance has vanished behind you. You're just walking, now, in this vast hazy room, on this walkway suspended high above nothingness. You sink into the familiar pattern of dungeon delving: watch your surroundings, watch your footing, watch for traps, don't get careless. Be prepared to fight or run if anything happens, because anything could happen.

It feels different with partners. Elida is slower than you're used to, her every movement purposeful. She's doing a decent job of watching her step, all things considered. Okay, stop staring at her. You should say something. Have a conversation. These people are your partners, that's what you do with your partners, right, you talk to them.

So, uh. Mago, have you, uh, burned anything interesting lately?

Wow. What a great thing to ask someone. As if he needs a reminder that everyone knows he's a pyromaniac.

Mago laughs again. Nervously. Well, now that you say it, I've been doing a lot of missions in Verdant Chasm lately. It's ninjask season over there.

Oh yes, ninjask season. You grimace at the memory of an entire sky replaced with bugs. Bugs crawling on every available surface. Bugs the size of your head jumping at you. Followed by twenty more bugs the size of your body jumping at you. Since you're partially made of spiritstuff their attacks don't do much, but it doesn't help when there are hundreds waiting to chew on your delicious flesh, all ravenous from having newly moulted out of their skins.

And don't even mention the skins, which all too often are inhabited by... things. But try not to think about that. It might give you even more nightmares.

Of course you'd like that, you say, then realize you didn't mean to say that out loud. Oops.

More nervous laughter. This guy sure has a tick. Well, you know, there's nothing like setting whole swarms on fire as they come after you. There's just something to the smell of smoke in the air, and— He sees something in your expression, or Elida's, and stops. It's not as bad as it sounds, trust me. They're also rather nice to eat! Ever tried them before?

You regret ever asking him this question. You have a vivid mental image of those same bugs flying at you, but now they're on fire. You are imagining yourself on fire. You might be in a few hours, if Mago is as deranged as everyone knows he is. And what would they even taste like? Would their legs crunch between your teeth, or... don't think about that. Don't.

Thankfully, Elida steps in to save you before the conversation dies and you're left to stew in awkwardness forever. Um, I don't eat ninjask? My family and I, we don't eat ferals at all. I've always thought it was kind of, um, you know.

Know what? Eating ferals is perfectly fine way of obtaining food, especially if you're short on money. Mago clearly thinks the same, because he says, It's not as bad as you think, then launches into a detailed description of how crispy their carapaces are when fried just right and... no. You are blocking that out of your memory. You refuse to have that lying around your consciousness for your mind to unearth at noon when you're trying to sleep.

Uh, everyone, can we have a change of topic. Please. Please.

Mago might notice the faintly ill look on your face, because he stops talking. Your sigh of relief goes unheard over the clamor of machinery. Good. Now why don't we talk about something else for a change, how's that? Uh. Quick, think of a conversation topic, a better one this time.

There's a few moments of conversational silence—not real-world silence, that horrible screeching is still there as background noise—while you think of what to say. You can't help but notice the wires you're passing by are getting larger. Sometimes they intertwine, forming thick, coiling spires that resemble more and more some deranged plant. The haze has thickened too, and that uncanny effervescence means you can't see more than a dozen meters out.

To distract yourself from the thought that something might come flying out of the haze any moment, you ask, Elida, what made you want to join the Guild?

Oh, um. Um, there's a lot of reasons. I can't say just one. I'm not sure, honestly...

You'd raise an eyebrow if you had any. You don't know why you decided to do life-or-death expeditions as a hobby?

Not like that. Um, I wanted the money, so I thought I might as well do missions. It is kind of what this place is known for, right? No one really comes here for anything else.

So are you not from here, then?
you ask.

No, I am, it's just that... my parents run a memory shop, you see? So I help them out sometimes, too, along with my older brother, he's set up to inherit and everything, he's half taken over running the business already... Oh, I have a card!

She rummages around in her bag a little more, and pulls out a slip of crisp, clean paper.

The Memory Emporium
Pipe District - Winding Ladder Street - B2934
Open 12h - 22h, every day!

Here, you can have this one! I have a lot more. Now that I think about it, Mago, you can have one too. Don't, um, set it on fire or anything. Her eyes flicker green. She floats the business card into your hand, and puts another in Mago's paw. Mago's bag, you note, is strapped to his chest, and looks empty and deflated as your own.

Esher has obtained 1 Memory Emporium Business Card!

Because you're friends, see?

Wow. For a moment your cold dead heart is warmed by the thought that she considers you a friend, and then you remember this could just be a marketing ploy. You can't afford whatever they sell, anyway.

So your family sells memories? That's cool, you know, very cool, but what does it have to do with joining the guild? asks Mago.

We don't just sell memories. We can also extract them, like the negative ones, for a fee. But if your interest is piqued, we have pleasant memories, educational memories, and a variety of others on offer! There's plenty of variety! Sounds like she's given this sales pitch many times before. You should really check the shop out some time. It's a cool place. Um, obviously I'm biased, but still.

She pauses.

Um, for your second question. I said I have a lot of reasons. I guess the main one is that I don't really want to spend my whole life here, if you get what I mean? It's a stupid idea, but if I can save up enough of my own, maybe I can afford transport to the old continent, and save up money to start a new life somewhere else. Or something like that. Because sometimes, you know, with the news and everything, it seems like things just keep getting worse, and there's not much of a future here. And you hear about everything going on and feel like this place isn't safe anymore, not that it was really safe in the first place. There's more people leaving day by day. I guess it's selfish of me, um, but I want to be one of them. And there's my family too. I keep thinking, maybe if I can really strike it rich I can help them out? They say there's more people in the old continent, and it's better there. And there's opportunities and so on. So, I guess that's the main reason.

She looks down. Sorry, I know that's a lot.

It's hard to find words all of a sudden. She's far more ambitious than you are, that's for sure. Imagine what it must be like to have real aspirations for the future. And hope, and everything. Great going, Esher.

Well, she just confided her secrets in you, you absolutely have to say something now. Say something moron. Say something.

Oh, that's a very noble goal to have, Mago says, while you fail to find the right words. An excellent goal! Love it. I wish you the best, I really do, and it's sad what's happening out there, isn't it? Does seem like things keep on getting worse. All the missing people—

You don't really follow the news. What missing people? New Arkady has always been kind of a dump, but what's getting worse? Except it would be too impolite to ask now.

—been keeping tabs myself on the shifts happening in Heat Ducts, Mago says, and then fortunately or unfortunately, the conversation ends, because your all-too-keen vision spots something up ahead. Wait. Wait wait wait, hold up, you two.

Something wrong? Ferals?
Mago asks.

No, something on top of that wire. Not moving. Need to get closer for a better look. You approach carefully. The wire is thick and bristling with smaller wires, curling around it, tracing silvery curves through the haze. The distant something, at least ten meters high, is large and red. It looks like... a flower? No, attached to something. A body? Is that a pokemon?

Oh no.

It's someone's body. Impaled on the wire.

You recognize the pokemon now. Vileplume, often seen as greenhouse workers, but this one's wearing a backpack. Not even a feral. A fellow explorer. Or they were, until they died here. You rack your brains for vileplume you know, but no one specific comes to mind. Plenty of unlicensed explorers out there, though, and higher-rank solo adventurers, and it could be anybody. Could even be a criminal. If they're important enough, there could be a solid bounty on their head.

That's if you want to risk trying to fetch the body, along with whatever might be in that pack of theirs. You really don't like how high up it is.

They're wearing a backpack, they're an explorer, there could be something in there. But one of us would have to climb up to get the body.

Elida looks a little pale. You wonder if this is her first time seeing a corpse. Is it safe? she asks.

Those silvery wires. You touch one, realizing too late it might not be a good idea, but nothing happens. You do confirm, wrapping a shadowy hand around the twisted silvery coil, that it's sharp enough to do a lot of damage if you ran into it without thinking. Or ran it through someone. And the way those other wires are twitching doesn't give you a good feeling.

Not sure. It could be dangerous, it could be— But Elida looks even paler now. The sigils on her head glimmer. Something's up ahead, she says.

What? Mago bristles. A flurry of red sparks rain down from his tail.

I think they're ferals, she says, gesturing into the haze.

You aren't lucky enough to have psychic powers that can scan out any pokemon within range, but you do have decent vision, which lets you stare into the spot she indicates. If you focus, you can see the multitude of tiny lights glimmering ahead. Oh shit that is a lot of lights.

Hey, don't worry! Remember you've got me on your side, Mago says, which is possibly the worst combination of words you could hear right now. I can burn them all away, don't forget! Nothing to fear!

The lights reveal themselves. The first is a joltik, a tiny yellow thing clinging onto the side of the walkway up ahead. It's followed by another. And another. And another. Oh shit there's at least ten, twenty, thirty of them? More? A voice deep down inside you is screaming with horror. You don't want to be swarmed by thirty plus feral joltik. Nobody wants to be swarmed by thirty plus feral joltik.

Elida eeps and backs away, standing a little behind you. You would be enthused at the sight, look she trusts you to defend her, if you weren't currently screaming internally at the sight of thirty plus paralyzing electric spiders headed straight for you.

Mago bristles. Red sparks sizzle up and down his coat, which is smoldering, heated by an internal combustion engine that is about to unleash all its barely restrained energy. There's an unpleasant red glow forming in his throat which you imagine is a fireball. Let me handle this, he says. They're bugs, I can fry them, this will be perfect. Perfect. You can sense something else under the psychic connection. Memories of fire, burning, twisting, the thrill that comes with ravaging the world in flame.

The floor up ahead doesn't look stable at all. You are suddenly, completely, horribly certain that if you have a fight here, if you let Mago go all out as he is preparing to do right this instant, this section of the walkway will collapse.


You have some options here. Better think fast.

[] You could run. Turn the other direction, though you've already come this far.

[] You could jump down one of those pits with Elida while Mago does his thing above—you doubt he'd be hurt by the fire, you and Elida are the real question here—and wait for him to burn them all to cinders while you face whatever there is to face down below, in the fog. You can see glimpses of twisted metal, piles of rubble, through the haze. The fall might not hurt Elida, if her gravity stuff works well. You, on the other hand...

[] You could tell Mago to restrain himself—might be hard, considering he's barely listening to you now and primed to unleash a fiery inferno on the unfortunate swarm up ahead—but if you yell loud enough you could maybe convince him to go easy, and then you and Elida can help with the fight and maybe not destroy the walkway. Maybe. That's a lot of maybes.

[] And last of all, that body. You could climb the wires, while Elida and Mago fight? But what if the walkway collapses while you're on the spire?
[] Or you could get Elida to climb up, she's not bad at getting around, though it might take her a while. Mago doesn't seem like he could be convinced to climb anything right now... Or, look, you'd hate to abandon someone, but they're dead, and you're not, and you'd like to keep it that way, even if abandoning them also means abandoning the bounty on their head and the potential valuables in their backpack. Yep, that's you, a completely moral person.

[] Or you could do something else? Some course of action that lets you get that poor vileplume, and not get swarmed by feral joltik, and not get set on fire, and not destroy the walkway, and not traumatize Elida for life and make her abandon you when you need all the help you could get?

(Feel free to pick do something else/write in your own plan for this situation. It's pretty open-ended, after all. I'll try to keep what everyone votes for in consideration.)

Don't feel bad about the votes. Having ties does give me more leeway to cherrypick my favorite votes, after all!

Me: I'll have more free time to work on this now.
Also me: Gets sick.

Feeling better now, but that was a rough few days. Oh well.
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  • Eyes
Reactions: Pen


Play the Rain
(( Ohoho, the plot thickens! Lots of fun stuff going on in this update...

Love the bizarre environment here. Feels very appropriate for a mystery dungeon, and also nicely unconventional, since we don't really get urban-ish dungeons in canon. Gives me Metroid vibes, kinda? Very evocative!

I feel so bad for Elida, lol. Imagine getting stuck with Esher and Mago for one of your first missions. We'll need to come back to that memory business (might it be possible to have a certain kecleon remember that we've already paid off our debt?), but we've got more pressing concerns to deal with! ))

[x] Do something else

The guild has a strict "no one left behind policy," especially when that person might be carrying valuable treasure and/or a huge bounty. Mago, use incinerate on that spire, but be careful not to hit the vileplume! Wouldn't want to burn up our potential paycheck poor, unfortunate former colleague... If you can work things so that the spire falls on top of the joltik, all the better! Perhaps the impact will scare them off either way.

Elida, have you got telekinesis? If so, it would be swell if you could use that to cushion our fall if the walkway gives out. If not, or if you don't need to featherfall for us, you're on retrieval duty! See if you can't grab that body once Mago's brought it within reach. Speedrunning Elida's dungeon trauma? Wouldn't dream of it!

And Esher, it looks like you're in charge of cleanup--help Elida with the body if necessary, or swat any joltik that are left unfazed by Mago's attack. Maybe just use the old Shadow Sneak to kinda nudge them back into the fire. There's going to be a lot of fire, right?


the cat is mightier than the pen
  1. dratini
  2. dratini-pen
  3. dratini-pen2
[x] Do something else

Fully endorsing Field Commander Negrek's plan! (which we chatted about off-thread; I hope that doesn't break the rules!)

((I've never participated in an interactive story before, probably because I am terrible at making decisions, but yours has been a ton of fun to read so far and I will try my best! to copy Negrek's homework. I'm loving how much characterization and world-building you've worked into these short chapters, and all within the constraints of the choose-your-own adventure nature of the story. The dungeons and world you've described are so darn cool, with vibes of both steampunk and eldritch-fantasy. With the salt factory, you've got the creepiness of machinery and the creepiness of machinery that feels worrying alive.

Esther's voice jumped out even before they had a name. Cowardly, shady characters are so much fun, and the accidentally nommed a jewel backstory only makes it better. Speaking of Team Poor Impulse Control, Mago is the absolute best/worst, his pyromania is unabashed, and I am here for it. The crunchy ninjask conversation was wonderfully awkward. Poor, poor Elida--the whole scene where Esther was pressuring her into going I was thinking, baby don't do it. I feel like she might have some secrets of her own, though . . .

I'm generally just really impressed with how you've built the story off the votes. Combining the 'beg' and 'attack' votes into pleading for mercy while wielding the self-defense rock--which, I mean, who doesn't have one--was chef's kiss. And the Esther/Mago/Elida set-up already has evolved a whole Dynamic. I like Esther's horror at realizing they're now being treated as the experienced, responsible one (since Elida is not experienced and Mago is not responsible.)

Very glad I checked this out, and looking forward to seeing how out-of-hand it gets!))
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