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Author: Orri Eiríksson
System: D&D Planescape
What could surprise the truly chaotic...?
Once every philosophical year, during the month of Capricious, the Xaositects, also known as the Chaosmen, hold an event known only as the Surprise!. This event (some, e.g. the law triad, probably have other names for it) takes place on the factol’s day of their month, which, instead of being the first day of the month, is a random day, sometimes more than one or even every day, and once didn’t happen at all! The Surprise! is the only event of the year that Xaositects officially get together for the purpose of making chaos, although it can hardly be called carefully planned, or even planned at all. The Surprise! can take any form, as long as it is chaotic, but it is usually on quite a large scale. Sometimes it’s quite harmless, like when they painted the prison pink (the Mercykillers probably disagree), but it’s just as likely to be dangerous, like when they tried to build a spoke across Sigil’s wheel (see S.I.G.I.S., issue 2-5). One thing worth mentioning is, that if anybody manages to guess what form the Surprise! will take, that person will become the Chaosmen’s friend for the rest of the month and almost treated like an honorary factol. Several times, the Surprise! has been accurately guessed, but the person who did never tried to stop it from happening. Until now...
"I have decided to quell my chaotic impulses this time. There won’t be any surprise."
-Fredrick Descartes, a member of the Sign of One-
The Sign of One’s philosophy is based on that every individual, or even a single individual, creates the world around him/her by thinking it into existence. Fredrick Descartes is a young member of the Signers who has managed to successfully guess the next Surprise! : The Xaositects will try to wash the streets of Sigil by applying tons of Arcadian soap (with a fresh lemon scent!) in front of several portals to the water elemental plane they have discovered above ground and open them. This will effectively flood Sigil with soapy water until it runs out another portal. This he claims, he found out while meditating on his chaotic subconsciousness. Now, Frederick believes that he creates the multiverse, but also that he has only limited control of his subconsciousness (otherwise, what fun would it be?). However, to prove to himself that his conscious mind really is the tool that controls everything, he has decided to try and stop the Surprise from happening. It would be the single most important act of his life if he could manage to do that.
-Flip a coin with three sides-
The PCs have three basic ways to become involved in the events following Frederick’s decision:
One: They can help him stop the Surprise! from happening. This is fitting for lawful players, and especially those who belong to the law triad. The Surprise! has been known to be a dangerous, even fatal catastrophe (just think of all the innocent rodents that might drown!), and should not be left unchecked, if at all possible.
Two: They can stop him from stopping the Surprise! from happening. Chaotic PCs, and those who value freedom would want this, as well as those belonging to the factions opposed to the law triad. Xaositects will, of course, fall into this group. The Surprise! is a celebration of ingenuity and freedom, and should not be stopped by the forces of oppression (just think of all the bloody rats that might drown!).
Three: They can stop the two other sides from hurting each other. Open-minded PCs, as well as those who see both points are optimal for this group. Members of the Trancendent Order are also used to act as middlemen in conflicts such as these. Guvners, who made the calendar in the first place, might also make interesting additions to this group. They might try to help the Xaositects defend their rights, since the Chaosmen did allow the Guvners to allocate them a month, and have never tried to hold the Surprise! in the month of another faction. Besides, Sigil could do with a bath.
-A formal complaint-
If the PCs are likely to help Frederick, then they could meet him before he makes his declaration, possibly through contacts in the Hall of Speakers or possibly as mercenaries. It should be made clear, though, that if the PCs decide to help him, it will be for reasons of philosophy, not money, since Frederick isn’t paying any. Cutters with strong beliefs should be willing to act on them.
Frederick will then explain to them why he is doing this: not because he doesn’t like the Surprise! (he doesn’t), but because he wants to prove to himself that he can stop it from happening. He won’t associate with people he thinks might try to ruin his plans, therefore he would trust members of the law factions the most, even before members of his own faction (who all believe that they are causing the Surprise! instead of him).
Twenty-four hours before the Surprise! happens (it isn’t planned at all, Frederick simply predicts it accurately), Fredrick comes forth with a public statement in the Hall of Speakers, having paid Harys Hatchis to advertise his appearance the following day (“Witness the astonishing power of the mind! See philosophy with clubs at work!”). He states that the Surprise! will be a flooding of the Cage with water and soap. Xaositects in the room nearly start celebrating, as they have done before when someone guessed the Surprise! They move to congratulate him when he suddenly adds that he isn’t going to let it happen. The crowd goes wild. This has never happened before in the history of the Surprise!
Representative members of the factions are quick to speak out on the subject, condemning it or supporting it, in most cases. The factol of the Fated has a notably different approach. The duke declares that the Fated will support the highest bidder, since anyone that gets his will in the matter clearly deserves it. After a short discussion with Sarin, he declares that the Fated will support the law. Factol Rhys warns people to fight needlessly, asking the law triad to try and regulate the event instead of cancelling it. The Dustmen support the Surprise!, saying that it will help controlling of the city’s vermin population (and possibly cause the death of many hivers...but that’s not their official statement). The Athar support the Surprise!, as they are afraid the events of their own month might be cancelled if this precedence is set, and the Believers of the Source condemn it, saying that innocent lives may be lost if Sigil is flooded (and they may be right, especially if people are on the streets rioting in stead of securing their homes against the flood).
The Xaositect factol Karan is nowhere to be seen, but one of his factors, Silent Lucidity makes one of her infrequent appearances. In a thirty-second long, confusing speech (she has tied several bells to her hair and keeps shaking her head), she condemns Frederick’s intentions and calls him a “gibbering, uncontrollable busybody”. She also claims that the Xaositects will do everything in their power to stop him from ruining the fun.
-Giggles and screams-
The Chaosmen *do* try everything to stop Frederick’s plans. None of it is very effective, however, since their complete inability to make coherent decisions makes their actions, well, chaotic. Among other things, they dismantle a part of the Hive and move it to Lady’s ward, dig a hole under the Barracks and detonate a stink bomb and, of course, riot. A lot.
”My armor is all wet! Now it’ll rust for sure! ....smells nice though...”
-a Prime paladin, enjoying the Surprise! -
A few Chaosmen ramble onto more efficient ways of making the Surprise! successful. They form picket lines around several known portals to the water elemental plane, barring all access until after the Surprise!. This leads to conflict with the Harmonium early on, as the Hardheads try to confiscate every portal leading to the Boundless Blue. And then a few of them try to kill Frederick.
If the PCs are...morally challenged...and are supporting the Xaositect cause, they might very well be recruited for the assassination attempt. Otherwise, they might want to stop the assassins. The attack is flawlessly coordinated. This is mostly due to David Thrawn, a Sinker factotum commanded by Pentar herself to assist the violent attempt, but also because several members of the Revolutionary League, posing as Harmonium officers, find out where Frederick is kept and lead the assassins there. Pentar believes that, if the attack is successful, then the Surprise! will escalate into a destructive riot of prodigious proportions, and that might just be the case. PCs who side with the forces of law will be hard pressed to keep Frederick alive, and may have to smuggle him out of Sigil. Frederick will object, saying that even if his subconscious were throwing obstacles in front of him, it would never actually try to kill him. He could be convinced otherwise, but it would take some doing.
Meanwhile, the less violent part of the Ixoatects are acting on their own impulses. Karan himself comes up with the idea of using portals to other planes in stead of the water elemental plane, such as Oceanus, Lunia (the first layer of Mt. Celestia – fiends won’t like that very much...and neither will the Dustmen), a prime ocean, the Styx (the Lady herself might object to this), or even Ooze (it won’t be much of a cleaning then). Anything remotely liquid will do.
Naturally, if the PCs manage to come up with this idea before Karan does, or another idea that is better, Karan and the rest of them will be delighted to help them put it into action and they will score big points with the Oaxitects (good PCs should object to Styx portals, and only truly filthy people will like the Ooze idea). If the PCs belong to the other side, they will be really challenged to stop the Surprise! from happening, and any good attempts should be rewarded even if they aren’t successful.
-The fist of justice-
It goes without saying that the lawful side have their own plans. Naturally, when it comes to breaking up the picket lines around the water portals, nothing is as effective as a little excessive force. And if people won’t give in to the Harmonium, there’s always a legion of Mercykillers that's ready to use their persuasiveness on the crowd. Mercykillers tend to be less scrupulous when it comes to handling mobs. Not all the actions of the law triad and their allies are violent. One of the first order of business is to protect Frederick from would be assassins. If the PCs wouldn’t want to see this troublemaking sod killed for being stupid, and if they are somehow connected to high-ups in the law triad, they help save him. The adventure will then mostly revolve around the assassination attempt mentioned above, as the PCs probably won’t go far from Frederick.
The Guvners and the Godsmen, sometimes helped by Cyphers and Sensates (who, even if they support the Surprise!, don’t want to see people drown...more than once, anyway), concentrate on preparing everyone for a possible flood. Besides helping citizens build dams and boats, they also keep a few cutters near key portals, which can be opened to let the water out. Letting the water out may be especially important in Undersigil, since the creatures down there might wander to the surface if the tunnels get flooded. Fortunately, the Dabus are well informed about dangers such as these, and won’t let their homes get filled with water (nobody knows Sigil better than them, anyway). If the PCs are non-violent types, they might find it most satisfying to help these groups. Real bloods can really make a difference, and the common citizens will appreciate the kindness. The experience awarded, should the PCs decide to go this way, should be at least as high as if they decided to take a more violent approach.
-Conclusions and Consequences-
These events could take almost any course, from minor inconvenience to outright warfare. However, the most likely outcome would be scattered, minor riots throughout Sigil, and a bunch of drowned rats. It seems fairly obvious that the Xosaitects don’t have the manpower or concentration to flood Sigil completely, but it also seems hardly likely that the forces of law can oversee every portal to a watery place. Also, the Dabus will keep important places (such as large areas of Undersigil) from getting wet, and the Lady would interfere if there were a true danger to the Cage. Therefore, only about a dozen portals are opened for a short while, and the consequences are minimized; dirt gets moved around (mostly towards the Hive), and a few streets stink with a fresh scent of lemons for a few weeks. However, one Ooze portal gets opened in the Clerk’s ward, making an entire block uninhabitable until the Dabus clean up the mess. Also, the Sensates open one portal of their own inside the Civic Festhall to show their support, but they keep the water well under control and merely give the building a good wash. Some barmy sensate even adds bubbles to the soapy water, and they all enjoy a good public bubble bath. Much to the chagrin of the sods who live by the Ditch, it overflows when soap water is introduced to it. The PCs, depending on whom they helped (or didn’t help), can easily gain much respect in the Cage for their actions during this “crisis”. But if they acted either strongly for or against the Surprise!, they may have acquired more than a few enemies as well.
A few days later, Frederick Descartes leaves Sigil for Ribcage, for unknown reasons.