AT THE MOUNTAINS OF FLATNESS
THE ADVENTURERS are sent to trace a lost expedition to the remote Geometry Planes of the far North, the most desolate region of Flatland; endless miles of featureless nothingness, without trees or anything resembling civilization. Some nomadic Isosceles tribes eke out a precarious existence hunting wolves and bear (see Where Angles Dare for details of these species) and are suspected of eating the odd traveller if they think they can get away with it. It’s cold and very dry, so dry that even the omnipresent Fog that normally limits Flatlander vision seems thin and attenuated; this allows the adventurers to see for unusually long distances, but makes Visual Recognition difficult.
As the adventurers track down leads and interrogate the natives they start to hear vague rumours of “The Mountains of Flatness,” a region where “The numbers don’t add up.” The natives won’t discuss this in greater detail – and will die rather than talk about it – but fear that the lost expedition may have “angered the Old Gods” and are mostly heading South as fast as they can. They really are cannibals, and if the adventurers drop their guard they may end up on the menu.
If asked about the “Old Gods” the natives will only say that they “are not circles,” and hint of something vast, sharp and terrifyingly Irregular.
Eventually, as supplies are starting to run low, the adventurers find the expedition’s base camp, deserted apart from a deranged Square, who cowers in a corner of one of the tents and keeps repeating “A hundred and eighty-seven… a hundred and eighty-seven…” He seems to have had a nervous breakdown and will never regain his sanity. If he’s asked where the other explorers went he indicates a direction, approximately North by Northeast, but will fight desperately to avoid going that way.
If the adventurers head North by Northeast they’ll find it harder and harder to keep travelling; there are no physical objects to block their passage, but movement seems to require unusual amounts of effort, as though they are travelling miles instead of yards.
As the adventurers continue they’ll find luggage and equipment abandoned by the expedition, some of it damaged beyond repair, and the remains of at least one body, too badly damaged to be recognizable.
The next stage needs to be choreographed carefully; find an excuse to temporarily split up the party, then when they reunite tell players that they seem to notice something odd about one or another of their companions. Their angles are subtly wrong… For example, a Regular Triangle will now have three 60.5° angles, a Square four 91° corners. Anyone with heretical knowledge of the Third Dimension may now be thinking of spherical geometry, although that is much more advanced than mere knowledge of a possible third direction, but vague theory isn’t enough to prepare for an actual encounter with hideous Non-Euclidean Geometry…
At about the time that the adventurers notice this they should notice something else. The omnipresent white light seems to be getting dim and somehow redder than usual, so that everyone seems flushed, almost rugose. In the shadows ahead vague distorted forms seem to writhe and turn in a blasphemous mockery of all that is regular. And suddenly it’s harder to go back than to go forward; in fact, they have to fight to stay where they are, and their angles seem to have changed again. Now they add up to less than they should, so that a Regular triangle might have three 57° angles, a square four 86° corners…
What’s waiting ahead? A distorted reflection of the adventurers, somehow twisted through three or more dimensions. If they fire at the waiting forms they’re firing at themselves, although that shouldn’t immediately be obvious. And no matter how hard they try to resist, the adventurers are being swept inexorably towards the “monsters” they see ahead!
Keep this as confused and fast-moving as possible until the moment that the adventurers collide with the approaching entities… and seem to merge with them. Then there is darkness, a confused whirling sensation, and unconsciousness.
The adventurers wake in the far South of Flatland, a region that they have always regarded as the distant tropics. All of them now have the Reversed disadvantage and see everything in its mirror form; amongst other problems, this makes it very difficult to read or write. Anyone who already had this disadvantage is suddenly cured! Everyone must roll their MIND against Difficulty 8; if they are successful they now have some understanding of Higher Dimensions, and have become incurably insane by Flatland standards. Anyone who was already suffering from this form of insanity is now completely sure of their “delusion” and will be unable to resist talking about it. Unfortunately that’s a dangerous heresy in most parts of Flatland, punishable by death or life imprisonment.
No other traces of the earlier expedition will be found. Presumably they went through a similar experience but didn't survive.
What actually happened to the adventurers should never be clear to them, but any future visitors from higher spaces might mention Möbius strips or Klein bottles. It won’t mean much to Flatlanders, but it’s always nice to put a name to things…
All comments gratefully received.