This week we played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter. We created a world where many sea people live in the utopian Shallows, human scientists have established Aqua Base Z on the ocean floor, and explorers tell of giant sea monsters that roam the Deep.
Our characters are Luna, a mermaid who wants to leave her overprotective family in the Shallows to explore the Deep and start her own business; Amber, a skilled doctor in the Shallows who lost her young child to illness years ago; Atlas, an explorer working out of Aqua Base Z who hopes to discover a new creature; Roy P. Hannigan, a deep sea diver looking for lost knowledge; Maren, a merperson helping humans and sea creatures to understand one another; Zimmon, an octopus-person mage concerned about the impact of humans on the environment; Ron Johnson, an excitable marine biologist stationed at Aqua Base Z; and the Violet Kraken, an ancient sea monster recently awakened from their slumber in the Deep Hole.
At a medical ward in the Shallows, Amber is distraught and overworked as children are falling ill from a mysterious new disease. Near the old whale ribcage, Zimmon greets the Kraken respectfully, while Atlas looks on from Aqua Base Z, confused at what he’s seeing. Later, Maren meets with Zimmon and the Kraken at the same whale ribcage, hoping to promote understanding between them and the humans, but the Kraken is annoyed at the bright noisy base and Zimmon worries that humans only study the sea to control it. Meanwhile, Roy is descending from his boat into the Ancient Drowned City, where he sees an entire chunk of continent has broken off and sunk to the ocean floor.
At Aqua Base Z, Ron and Atlas argue about whether the Kraken Atlas has seen matches the rumours they’ve heard about leviathan sightings, but agree that they want to do more study of whatever creatures haunt these waters. Maren meets with Atlas and asks if he has the Kraken’s permission to film them. Atlas asks Maren to negotiate on his behalf, which surprises them. Back in the Shallows, Luna has come to visit her family, who offer her a gift that is almost, but not quite, the conch necklace she’s been hoping for. Her parents want her to stay at home, but she learns about a rare plant found in the Deep that may help treat the mysterious disease afflicting the children and vows to go find it.
Just outside the domes of the Shallows, Zimmon and Amber meet to discuss the disease outbreak. Zimmon suggests that human pollution or even warfare could be behind it, but Amber doesn’t have time to track down the source. When Zimmon, using his magical perception, sees a pattern in the sick children that reminds him of the Deep, Amber resolves to go to the Deep Hole and seek the Kraken’s help.
As Amber is on her way out of the city, Luna accosts her and asks to go along on her journey to the Deep. Amber doesn’t trust Luna not to disrupt her meeting with the Kraken, but Luna gives her word, and her necklace as collateral. Maren agrees to translate between Amber and the Kraken, but doesn’t understand the urgency until Amber explains that her species has only one child at a time, not hundreds of eggs.
Roy finishes descending into the Drowned City and finds that the only building not covered in algae is an ancient temple covered in writing he can’t read. He takes samples and pictures of a mural that seems to depict an epidemic.
At the Deep Hole, Amber is awed by the Kraken’s size even as Maren translates for her. The Kraken says it remembers a disease outbreak like the one she describes, and offers information in exchange for making the noisy humans of Aqua Base Z go away. Maren keeps the details of this deal from Amber, but offers the Kraken information on the structural weaknesses of the base. Amber is torn between asking about the disease killing children now, or the disease that killed her child ten years ago, but decides the present is more important. The Kraken tells her the answers she seeks are in the Drowned City, near the Volcanic Vent.
Maren races back to Aqua Base Z and warns the scientists to pack up their research and get out before the base is destroyed. Atlas hangs around hoping for one last chance to film the Kraken, and ends up taking video footage of the Kraken destroying Aqua Base Z.
In the Drowned City, Roy is about to re-ascend to the surface when Amber arrives, interrupting his mesmerized study of an ancient writing. She begs him to help her, saying the Kraken promised her a cure was somewhere in this temple. Roy invites her to return with him to the surface, where they can contact a translator to decipher the writings from the temple walls. But when they arrive at Roy’s boat, they learn that Aqua Base Z has been destroyed, dashing their hopes of working with a translator there.
In the end, all our characters reach their destinies: the Violet Kraken has destroyed Aqua Base Z. Luna opens a B&B where Aqua Base Z used to be. Amber has found the cure for all disease, if only she could translate it. Atlas publishes the video of his encounters with the Kraken, but nobody believes him. Roy P. Hannigan has discovered lost knowledge, but does not understand it. Maren has helped humans understand the discoveries of the deep. And Zimmon meets an unidentified U-boat captained by a man named Nemo, who offers him leadership of an organisation that protects the ocean. The last thing we see is Zimmon and Maren sailing off to explore the deep.