The Deadly Game

Summary: An old shack, empty but in apparently pristine condition, is home to a chessboard which can summon a daemon who will play a game with anyone who sets up the board properly. If the challenger wins, they are blessed with wealth or longevity. If the daemon wins, he takes their soul.

Discovery: The one-room building containing the chess board is not at all hidden, but it is fairly small and in light jungle. A Routine(+20) Awareness test is required to locate the building.

Exploration: Within the cabin is a bed, a foot locker, a sink with a hand pump, a cabinet with some plates and eating utensils, another that might once have held food, and a table. Underneath the table is a chess board, folded up with the pieces inside, a chess clock on the side, and a note atop. The note reads “play against black, play for tax. Play against white, play for life.”

If the pieces are unpacked, the board unfolded and placed on the table, the clock set up nearby, and only one side is set up properly on the board, a skeletal daemon in a cloak matching the color of the opposing side will appear (i.e. white if the challenger set up black, black if the challenger set up white) and his side’s pieces will arrange themselves automatically on the board. If, during set up, any piece is set up in the wrong position or pieces from the opposing side are placed on the board before the challenger’s side has finished set up, the daemon is not summoned (although if the opposing side’s pieces are placed on the board and then removed while the challenger’s pieces are all on the board, this will summon the daemon). Once summoned, the daemon will offer his hand to shake. If the challenger shakes the daemon’s hand, they immediately take 2d5 Corruption and the challenge is on. If the challenger flees the cabin, the daemon will not pursue. If the challenger just stands there gaping, the daemon extend his hand a little further (as if to say “come on, are we doing this or not?”) and if that doesn’t prompt a reaction, he’ll return to the Warp and refuse to re-enter the Materium until a new player approaches the board.

Confrontation: Playing the daemon in chess requires a series of opposed Logic tests. The daemon is a significantly more dangerous opponent in the endgame than early on, but only very skilled players will do well even early in the game.

During the early game, the daemon rolls at +50. Whoever plays as white gets a +10 bonus to the early game roll due to first move advantage. If the daemon succeeds with 5 or more DoS, he catches the challenger off-guard with an early gambit and forces them to trade their queen for a bishop to escape an early checkmate, giving the challenger a -20 penalty to future rolls. If the daemon succeeds with 3-4 DoS, he catches the player in an early fork and forces them to trade a pawn for a knight, giving the challenger a -10 penalty to future rolls. If the daemon succeeds with just 1-2 DoS, the only material exchange is a pawn swapped for a pawn, but the daemon has managed more control of the center, giving the challenger a -5 penalty to the next roll only. All of these results are inverted if instead the challenger wins, imposing penalties on the daemon instead.

During the transition from the early game to the midgame, the challenger must choose whether to play aggressively or conservatively and make another opposed roll against the daemon. If the challenger plays aggressively and succeeds, then they push into the middle and successfully chase the opponent’s king into a corner while clearing out several pawns from the center of the board as well as one of the daemon’s bishops, making the remaining bishop much less threatening, giving the daemon a -10 penalty to future rolls. If the opponent already lost one bishop as part of an early gambit, it is a -15 penalty instead. If the challenger plays aggressively and loses, the challenger has overplayed their offensive and the daemon slips a bishop into position to put their king into check halfway through the attack. While the challenger shuffles their king around to safety, chased by a bishop/knight duo that can cover most of the squares the king can retreat to, the daemon is able to gain a lead in pawns and force the challenger to trade a bishop for one of the daemon’s own pawns. The challenger takes a -10 penalty to future rolls and a -5 penalty to the next roll.

If the challenger plays conservatively and wins, the board remains deadlocked for several turns until the daemon finally makes several pawn exchanges just to open things up a little and get things moving. While the material exchanged is even, the challenger ends up in a much better position, with knights placed to threaten deep into the opponent’s side of the board and one of the daemon’s rooks pinned to his king by a bishop. The daemon takes a -5 penalty to future rolls. If the challenger plays conservatively and loses, the daemon sneaks a knight into a position to wreak havoc with the challenger’s carefully constructed defensive line. The challenger is ultimately able to chase the knight back to the daemon’s side of the board, but by the time they have the daemon has already ripped their pawn wall up at minimal cost to themselves. The challenger takes a -5 penalty to future rolls.

During the midgame, the board opens up and rooks and queens come more into play. If the daemon wins the midgame roll by 5 DoS or more, the challenger’s king is trapped amongst his own pieces and mated. If the daemon wins by 3-4 DoS, he gets a bishop in position to chase the challenger’s king around, and the king is so boxed in by his own pieces that ultimately the only way to save himself is by using the queen to block the bishop, the bishop subsequently capturing the queen, and the king capturing the bishop as consolation. If the challenger doesn’t actually have their queen because they lost it in an early game gambit, they are unable to block the bishop and mated. Otherwise, they take a -10 penalty to all future rolls. If the daemon wins by 1-2 DoS, the daemon is able to trade his knight for the challenger’s bishop, which seems like a fair trade on the face of it, except that bishop was the lynchpin of the challenger’s defenses on the queen’s side of the board, and the challenger ends up losing a pair of pawns on top of it, taking a -5 penalty to future rolls. Once again, these results are reversed if the challenger wins the rolls instead.

Transitioning from midgame to endgame, the challenger must again choose to play aggressively or conservatively. If the challenger plays aggressively and wins, they’re able to fork the daemon’s queen, trading a knight for her, and then use their own queen to force a midgame mate. If the challenger plays aggressively and loses, there’s a hole in the fork they hadn’t seen, the queen captures the knight, and subsequently a rook, leaving the challenger at a -20 to future rolls. If the challenger plays conservatively and wins, the daemon tries to chase them into a midgame mate with their queen, but overlooks a knight at a critical moment and ends up losing her, giving a -20 penalty to the daemon’s future rolls. If the challenger plays conservatively and loses, the daemon chases the challenger’s king around with his queen, forking pieces left and right, finally sacrificing the queen to take the challenger’s last rook. While the irritating queen is gone, the daemon now has more power pieces, giving the challenger a -10 penalty to future rolls.

Few pieces remain on the board in the endgame, and the exact shape of the game will depend on what’s happened so far. One final roll is made to determine the outcome. Degrees of success are, at this point, only fluff, because someone’s getting checkmated. Whether that someone ends up getting rook rolled by an opponent with a massive material advantage or trapped between their two remaining pawns is largely irrelevant.

Rewards: If the challenger won playing as white and against black, the daemon concedes and hands over a white diamond and a black pearl. Each one is a Very Rare(-30) item, and together they can be used as an Extremely Rare(-40) item. They have no particular use except to provide bonuses on acquisition tests for almost anything. If challenged again, the daemon will refuse to play black, instead spinning the board around so that white is on his side and black on the challenger’s before offering his hand to shake.

If the challenger won playing as black against white, the daemon concedes and presses a bony thumb to their forehead. They are immediately filled with vitality and fortune, fully healing any wounds (including replacing any lost limbs, displacing cybernetic augments in the process if necessary), giving them +2 to their wound maximum, and increasing their Fate threshold by one. The daemon will refuse to play the challenger again altogether.

If the challenger loses, the daemon takes a fragment of their soul, decreasing their Fate threshold by one. If the challenger’s Fate threshold is already zero, they are taken bodily into the Warp when the daemon leaves to suffer a fate worse than death.

The chess set is the daemon’s link to the Materium, and if destroyed, the daemon will be unable to manifest. While even one surviving piece would be enough to summon the daemon again if the rest of the board were reconstructed, the board, pieces, and clock don’t have any particular resilience, so it’s easy enough to just set them all on fire and then scatter the ashes. The chess set is also fairly easily transported, so it can be returned to a safe place for future challenges or to keep it out of the wrong hands. There’s nothing sorcerous about the small cabin the chess set is found in at all.

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