The Pantope
"Dance Of Hours"

The following description of Dancer was written for me by Earl, who did a lot of the background material and world design for the Jack campaign and the early part of the Pantope campaign.
-- JimB

The pantope Dance of Hours is the property and home of Captain Lee Verger, born 28,701 AD, aged 545 years. The Captain has been many things in his times, which explains the variety of facilities in the Dance of Hours (or Dancer for short). He is most often a scholar and explorer. He often has large and semi-permanent households, and likes to entertain folk from everywhere in cosmopolitan parties that sometimes go on for weeks. But when and if the game players ever meet up with him, the Dancer will be empty of all save the Captain, who will clearly have been in a fight.


The Dancer is a flattened cylinder with a radius of 100 meters and a height of 80 meters. On each side, 20 of those 80 meters are shallow transparent dome, under which are the Gardens. The remaining 40 meters of wall are flat white, with here and there the outline of a doorway. So the Dancer looks rather like a white aspirin tablet painted shiny green on the faces. Since it can shrink, it might even be able to pass for such a tablet.

The Style Of The Dancer

The general style is rather like that of 18th-century architecture -- airy, spacious, luminous, lightly ornamented. It is neither frowsty like late 19th-century, stark like early 20th-century, or gaudy like late 20th- century.

The style is emphatically Terran and concrete. That is the Captain's deliberate choice. He likes travel, but he also likes home, and home is Earth. He could have drawn on any human colony or alien world, but every garden plant and animal, and every biological motif in the decor, is Terran.

Likewise, the Captain's technology could do everything by direct TK, supplemented with illusions. Instead, the Captain has a taste for the solid. Not all of his contemporaries do.

The Dancer does not feel like a ship. It feels like a country house. There is no background hum of engines, no flutter in the gravity. Floors are quite solid, and the place would be deathly still (in the absence of guests), were it not for the garden noises of breeze, water, and bugs that one can hear through the windows in many rooms and corridors. (Of course, one can have any kind of music merely by asking for it.)

The Serving System

The Dancer is maintained by a community of AIs. They are coordinated by the Serving Intellect, which resides in the robot garage. It monitors all passengers and advises the other AIs of their inferred or explicit needs. The Serving Intellect is also a superb linguist. It adjusts the languages of the other machines and of stored records to that of the passenger.

The Serving System never uses the first person. It tries to avoid self- reference, and when it must refer to itself, it uses third person and calls itself "the Serving System," or refers to the individual machine. It refers to Lee Verger as "the Captain" and to passengers by their formal titles, "Master/Mistress N" by default. (Beings of dubious or complex gender are "Master.") It addresses passengers as "Sir" or "Madam."

All machines use exactly the same voice (quick, precise, androgynous), and share data with each other, so they seem like the same "personality," the Serving System. It is, however, a taciturn, passive, self-effacing, and colorless personality -- again by the Captain's choice. He goes elsewhere for companionship.

The Serving System has little initiative or imagination. It will keep you from doing anything truly dangerous, but it will let you do many grossly inconvenient things. It also cannot protect you from dangers originating outside the Dancer. And, since the accident, it is sporadically deaf in places without their own robots or computers, so you can't always get help by yelling for it.

The following rooms have their own computers: bridges, labs, museums, the art gallery, the galley, the sick bay, the planetarium, the wardrobe, the game room, the map room.

The following rooms have their own serving robots: Sick Bay, Labs, the Technology Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Pool (life guard), the Wardrobe (tailor), the Game Room (playing partner). Four more are available on demand.

A serving robot is a 40-cm-high egg of what looks like white marble, with a pair of slender, androgynous arms (also "marble") and a couple of finials. When in neutral, it floats in a corner with its arms folded, completely motionless (even if you lean on it). Robots in rooms with computers are just servos for the computers, but the others are pretty bright, though monomaniac within their specialities. They all know emergency procedures.

You seldom see the other robots. The gardeners are dull green hemispheres, 30 cm in radius, working with a complement of gene-tooled animals. The janitors are telekinetic blocks, dull brown and the size of hardcover books. These machines are "shy" and actively avoid intruding on human attention. Floating trays deliver meals, drinks, and other light loads.

The Damage

When the players board the Dancer, they should rush to the Sick Bay and pop the Captain on a bed, which will put him in stasis. He will be in sad shape. They now have the Dancer to themselves and all the time in the world, so to speak, to learn how to steer it.

The Serving System will not be much help. The bridge computer was traumatized somehow in the accident. It can only tell you that the Dancer was attacked, but it doesn't know by whom or how. What kind of attack? "Topological." And, no, the bridge computer does not give flying lessons.

The topological attack screwed the portal system. Only the portals connecting to the Main Bridge and Main Corridor are reliable. Others sometimes close altogether. More often, they swap around, changing the traffic pattern randomly. The Serving System is even more bothered by this than the passengers will be. It occasionally loses robots this way.

The Serving System, as mentioned above, is now partially deaf and does not always respond.

Several portals closed permanently and must be repaired to be open again. This effectively chops off hunks of the Dancer, unless you go through the narrow and inconvenient crawl space under the rooms.

Gaming Recommendations

Piloting: World-Year Mode

There is probably some perfectly simple way of making the Dancer open on the desired place just by naming it in plain language, but either that mode was knocked out in the attack or the party won't be able to discover it. After a lot of practice opening on starscapes, they will discover a mode that lets them pick the year and the planet. Within that, they have to take pot luck and a second try at the same world-year will land them anywhere on the surface of the planet within six months either way. Hence the Dancer is not as mobile (for them) as they might desire.

If you don't want to let them have the shuttles, the party can simply lack the skill to pilot them, or they can be missing, or they can be damaged and under repair by the robots but not available until you let them be.

Architectural Drift and Deafness in the Serving System

The chances for drift and deafness both increase as you go away from the Main Bridge and the Main Corridor. The stability of every door is marked on the Flowchart. Whenever a character seeks out a door, roll against its stability. If it fails, it doesn't lead where it is supposed to. Roll "per mill" dice and two d6's to determine where the door now leads, which way it is pointed, and how long the malfunction will last. (See Swap Table.)

All pop stations have a stability of 60%. That is, once you tell it where to go, there is a 60% chance it will take you there. If the pop station fails, roll per mill dice and consult the Swap Table. You do not need to roll the d6's.

Whenever a character tries to initiate a conversation with the Serving System, roll against the stability of the worst door leading into the room. If you fail, the Serving System was temporarily deaf and did not hear. Roll 1d6 to see how many minutes the deafness lasts.

Copyright © 1984,1995 Earl Wajenberg. All rights reserved.