dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Click for glorious finale! )

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Yay!

You probably recognized a lot of the monsters here. The image for devourers gives them away, and shadow hunters were taken from the SCP Foundation. Also, when I statted up the shadow hunters, I forgot to give them an armor rating, so what should have been a miniboss battle turned into a bug stomping. Rather than changing it in the middle of the battle, we fluffed it up as that particular shadow hunter being old and decrepit.

I wrote up the battle against the Noble in a lot more detail because it was really the climax of the game and, in some ways, of the campaign. You can find the statistics [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd used as a basis if you follow the link to Four Sun Lynx above, though after the game she told us that the rationale she was using was that this was one of Four Sun Lynx's brood, which is why he had similar habits but was a lot weaker. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd also had really bad luck with his dice rolls, other than dodging. He only landed two attacks, only one of them serious, and failed every single roll to break past us when he was in Rötschreck. My original goal was just to get him to run away in panic and then for the crew to go to Aurora and leave, but when Mara's player started mixing up an alchemical molotov and the Noble kept failing to escape, I realized that we might be able to kill him.

nWoD's numbers bias also helped us a lot. The (lack of) action economy means that the side with more people wins unless one combatant is overwhelmingly powerful, and since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had to adjust his stats on the fly and since we were running out of time in the session, she didn't make full use of his powers or add in the szlachta that he probably would have had guarding him. And it would have gone differently if he hadn't failed 11-die Dexterity + Athletics rolls to get past us. Since he had Celerity active, there's no way we would have caught him.

It was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's first time running a real dungeon crawl, and I thought it went pretty well. The Noble she was basing it on explicitly stocked the ruins with weird traps and monsters, so the usual, "Why the hell are all these things in here?" questions had an answer. And we had a map of the top but no map of the lower story, which was nice.

If you want to read [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's comments on running the game, you can find them here! And you should!

This really stoked my interest in running or playing in another game in the Summer Empire, which is really odd because I wrote the whole setting and I didn't realize just how much I liked it. I guess seeing it brought to life like that was much more compelling than writing it. Now I have a bunch of campaign ideas running through my head, which is a bit of a problem with all the other campaign ideas I have running through my head. So many games, so little time.

I'm pretty sure Autumn Oak, Mara, and Petrichor will show up as NPCs in a game I run, though, or at least as rumors. And maybe Bartleby too, depending on what kind of game it is...

All in all, I'm very pleased! Emoji love heart
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
Realizing that air spirits are not the most reliable or consistent servants, the crew delegated the grounding of the Ruinous Finders' ship to Petrichor, who manipulated the winds like a conductor with their orchestra. As the storm raged around their prey's ship and the crew sat and waited, Autumn Oak asked Aurora to leave the ship and check on the Ruinous Finders, and when the spirit returned it told him that more than half of the Ruinous Finders were asleep. The crew figured that was as good as they need, and they landed the ship, disguised themselves with false beards and scar makeup and ripped clothes--or, in Autumn Oak's case, stripping down to a loincloth and trusting in his chameleon fur--and set up code names. Petrichor is "Lightning," Autumn Oak is "Storm," Mara is "Dr. Ugly," and Bartleby is "Talkers."

The crew approached the grounded ship under the cover of rain, and when it was in sight, they noticed a lookout on the deck, peering out into the rain. Autumn Oak concentrated a moment and made the deck ripple, throwing the lookout off his feet, and then Petrichor leaped into the air, clearing the ship's railing with a mighty beat of his wings, and knocked the lookout out with a single blow as the rest of the crew scrabbled aboard. Knowing that he wouldn't be of much use in close-quarters combat, Bartleby stays on deck as the others find a door and descend into the hold.

Below decks, Autumn Oak looked into Twilight to get a hint of what sort of totem spirit the Ruinous Finders followed and was surprised when he saw a warrior clad in shining armor and bearing an enormous sword--a Chooser of the Slain. Before Autumn Oak could say anything or react, the spirit walked through a wall and vanished, and Autumn Oak led the group to where it had gone, where they found the captain's cabin. The door was locked, but Autumn Oak put a hand over the lock and bent the wooden door away from it until the lock cracked, and then they entered. The captain was slumped over his desk with a half-eaten biscuit in his hands, which Petrichor nearly grabbed and stuffed into his mouth before Mara stopped him.

On the desk was a metal lockbox. Autumn Oak couldn't affect it with his magic, but Petrichor pulled out his lockpicks and got to work...to no available. After a few minutes of tinkering with it, Petrichor just grabbed the box while Mara mixed up a simple remedy for a hangover and left it behind on the desk, then they made their way out of the ship. They weren't quite as quite on the way out as on the way in, though, and a Ruinous Finder stumbled out of a room as they traversed the corridor! Petrichor again felled him with a single punch, hitting him in the face and lowering him slowly to the floor. They reached the top deck without incident, interrupting Bartleby's practicing with his crossbow.

Bartleby pointed out that they weren't sure if the lockbox actually had the scroll, and Mara sneaked off back belowdecks to check the captain for a key, which they find and bring back up. The lockbox contained a scrollcase and a golden locket with a picture in it. Bartleby made to put the locket in his pocket, but under the withering stares of both Mara and Petrichor, he finally took out the picture and put it back in the lockbox while saying the words that define his character
"Love is priceless and therefore has no value to me."
Autumn Oak took the lockbox and snuck back into the captain's cabin to return it. While there, he searched the captain's pockets for money, but finding only a few loose coins--and seeing the rejected application to the Explorer's Guild on the wall--he elected to leave them there and made his way back to the crew, who clambered back over the side and returned to Aurora.

On Aurora, they opened the case to find...half a scroll, written in Classical Patrian, which none of the crew can read. Autumn Oak turned his gaze to Twilight and saw the Chooser of the Slain standing there near the scroll. Autumn Oak asked it why it was here, and it replied that it was here for him. That it could smell blood and it knew Autumn Oak was a warrior. Autumn Oak replied that it was a long time ago, but the spirit claimed that he would always be a warrior and could never forget. At that, Autumn Oak laughed and mocked the spirit, since its very nature meant it only knew battle and could never understand the joy of a child's laughter or the scent of flowers after the rain, and then closed his eyes and reopened them to the physical world.

The crew was a little spooked by Autumn Oak talking to thin air again, but they quickly returned to busy. Bartleby is worried that they only have half the scroll, but Autumn Oak pointed out that they weren't told anything about a scroll being cut in half and that they've done exactly as asked. Petrichor also mentioned that they hadn't be identified and there was no way to trace the theft back to anyone, and Bartleby eventually agreed, so they let the storm dissipate and took off.

The ride back to Cevedes was extremely bumpy, with random temperate fluctuations thoughout the ship. Autumn Oak spent a lot of time in the engine room trying to keep Aurora calm, since it was very worried about the scroll on the ship. Bartleby kept checking on the scroll and trying to use his extensive linguistic knowledge to decode Classical Patrian from first principles, until one day he vanished into his office with the scroll, there was silence, and two hours later he marched down to the engine room and started complaining to Aurora about the temperate but received only singed pants for his efforts. With no other reply, and smelling the delicious scent of cooked oatmeal, he made his way to the galley.

As the crew ate together, Bartleby mused about opening a restaurant, reasoning that they wouldn't have to risk their lives and they could make use of Petrichor's contacts. After that brief interlude, Bartleby brought up the choice of Maximilian and Dario again, but Autumn Oak pointed out that they had already gone over the arguments for each of them and decided that giving the scroll to Dario was less risky, and the rest of the crew agreed. Autumn Oak sent off a raven with a message to Luquasz to meet them at the docks, and the crew settled in for the rest of the voyage.

When they arrived in Cevedes, Petrichor took the gold necklace and went off to buy ingredients, returning just as Luquasz arrived and they settle down to discuss payment. Bartleby pointed out that they returned the scroll days ahead of schedule with no deaths or anything that could be traced back to either the crew or their employer and tried to angle for more money, and Luquasz accepted the argument and handed over a premium. Then he told the crew about another job with an even bigger payout if they were willing to take it.

A Noble stole two artifacts, a cup and a spearhead, from someone and secreted them in his castle on an island named Ahnaméd near Sheol on the lower reach. The Noble is almost certainly dead, but his castle is a trap-filled maze and has remained sealed since the Dawn War. Furthermore, Ahnaméd is near the blockaded section of Sheol, sealed off ten years ago due to a plague of nightcrackers. Mara asked if there was any plague reported near the castle, and Luquasz said there was not. Autumn Oak asked how old his info was--five years--and Petrichor asked if there was a good noodle restaurant in the Capital. Before he received an answer, Bartleby said the crew wanted to discuss, and they adjourned.

Bartleby wanted to hire specialists in finding traps. Petrichor said he's trained in disarming traps, but agreed that they might need more people. Autumn Oak suggested finding people who had explorded Merkavah and survived, and Mara mentioned that she knows an archeology professor who specialized in high-risk digs and might be able to find some contacts.

The group returned to Luquasz and Bartleby asked for more money, managing to secure it after only a bit of haggling. After that, they broke to prepare for the mission. Autumn Oak wrote an old comrade who served under him in the Dawn War, asking him if he knew of anyone from the forest clans who'd be good in an extremely dangerous situation. Mara writes the professor and secures a meeting, going to a bar where archeology students hang out. She quickly found some students who were getting roaring drunk on Hippian fermented mare's milk and talked to a fourth-year guya archeology student named Máli who bragged about surviving a Merkavan expedition, managing to sign her on to explore a Noble castle after discreting taking an alchemical preparation against alcohol and drinking most of the other students under the table. Having proven she can match the students, Mara set up a meeting time between Máli and Bartleby.

Meanwhile, Bartleby contacted the Yeoman Bastards, an old smuggling group he knows, and asked them for helping running the blockade. He headed off to a meeting and saw his contact running a con on some slumming rich people and quickly dove in, providing the obviously awful deal so that his contact's deal would seem better. After the proper amount of money had been fleeced from the marks, Bartleby met with Pekos and described the job in Sheol to him. Pekos said that there was a ship he knew could be bribed near Ahnaméd, but Bartleby asked how the Sheaim navy would recognize Aurora and let them in. Pekos thought a moment, then countered that he could disguise Aurora as a Sheaim ship, which Bartleby agreed to. They shook hands and Bartleby went off to arrange for materials.

Petrichor spent the time studying noodle cooking.

The crew met back up on the Aurora. Mara went to the Bartleby's office and, after warning him that the archeology students are good but they're at least half bark, asked him for money for medical supplies, making an impassioned argument about the dangers they would be facing and all the horrible ways to die. Much to her surprise, Bartleby gave in and disbursed some money to her for supplies. As she left the room, Autumn Oak was waiting in the hallway, and he handed her a larger sack of money from his own salary and told her to put it to good use.

Autumn Oak managed to negotiate a cut rate on replacing the front panels and the rudder, and then Máli came aboard, as well as an alfar who introduced himself to Autumn Oak as Twisted Cedar.

Thus assembled, the crew and their hired henchmen set off explore an abandoned stronghold of the Nobility.

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As before, names were mostly left to me. "Ahnaméd" comes from it being an Unnamed Island, Máli is a fantasy spelling of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's original "Molly," and Pekos comes from invoking Wild Pecos Bill as the archetypal Yeoman Bastard. When you have a mostly improvisational GM style like I do, you get good at coming up with names. You need to be fast or your players will name NPCs for you, and then you're stuck with it.

Still no idea who Dario is or who we're really working for, but we get to explore a Noble's castle! Bartleby's player referenced Autumn Oak's past until we remembered that Autumn Oak hadn't told anyone about his role in the war, which is when I pointed out that his Vice is "Deceitful" and that actually Autumn Oak keeps stuff from the crew all the time. Not just about his past, but in nearly any dealings with spirits Autumn Oak plays up the mystery and only gives the others an edited description of their actual conversation. Maybe he's going by the logic that the best way to stay employed is when your boss knows your job is absolutely vital but isn't sure what you actually do. Emoji crackling laughter

Next session is the "season finale," since this is a limited-run summer game. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has said she'll leave it open so we can pick it up in the future if we want. Assuming we don't all die, since we're exploring a Noble's castle. Or if we don't retire, with Mara going into practice, Bartleby and Petrichor opening up a noodle restaurant, and Autumn Oak hiring a new crew for Aurora and heading down to the lower reach to fight off Noble pirates harassing the water trade. Though even then, there's room to get the band back together...

Stay tuned for the exciting (I hope) finale of Flight of the Phoenix!
dorchadas: (Perfection)
First off, Mara wanted to figure out who this "Dario" character was, so before the crew left the Capital she looked up an old school chum of hers named Daren who had been a bit of a rapscallion during their university days. After briefly asking around, she managed to find him in the very same noodle bar where Petrichor had made such an impression, running a betting scheme based on bowls of noodles consumed. Mara slid up to the table and after introductions, she asked him what he knew about Dario, and Daren repliee that he's known as a good man to get work from who doesn't stiff his clients, but that the scuttlebutt is that Dario's working for someone else. When asked, Daren said he had no idea how to contact Dario, but that the contact who gave the crew their task to retrieve Mazatl artifacts, Liam, tends to frequent a bar called the Maiden's Name. Mara thanked Daren for the information, then plopped down a longshot bet and told Daren that if she won, he should send the money to Provost Quarrin.

Mara returned from meeting Dario and went to Autumn Oak, asking his help in checking out the Maiden's Name. He quickly agreed and the two set off to the tavern. After they arrived and briefly looked around but didn't see anyone, Autumn Oak walked up to the bartender and insinuated that he's a man with an interest in maybe talking to the sort of people who hand out tasks to roguish types in bars. The bartender replied that he didn't know what Dario looked like or where he spent his time, but that Liam was in the tavern right at that moment. Autumn Oak thanked the bartender and walked back to confer with Mara. They relatively quickly decided not to do anything, but Autumn Oak realized something and told her he would catch up, so she tossed a coin to the bartender and left. He walked outside to an alley across from the Maiden's Name and waited, and was rewarded when he saw a suspicious mouse make a beeline across the street straight for the tavern.

Autumn Oak concentrated and reached out toward the mouse's mind, but he couldn't get a grasp on it and it went into the Maiden's Name with only a glance at him. Finding failure with his magic, he decided to rely on his muscles, and when the mouse emerged he sprang up and ran straight at it, but it dashed under his feet and he quickly lost it among the crowds in the Capital. Somewhat dejected, he searched for it briefly, but found nothing and eventually made his way back to Aurora[1].

While Autumn Oak made his way back to the ship, Mara took the rubbings from the Mazatl tomb and dropped them off at the university, and Bartleby asked Petrichor what he knew about Dario after growing up on the streets of the Capital. Petrichor replied that Dario occasionally asked the street urchins to run tasks, and he was known for always paying on time and not treating his clients badly.

Their investigations having reached a dead end, the crew took a job transporting chili peppers from Bannor to Amura, but partway through the voyage they learn that the chilis were stolen, they were not actually supposed to be transported, and their rightful owners were put out enough to come looking for them. Through some amazing flying and skillful navigating which I won't go into[2], the crew delivered the peppers to their recipient with only minor losses in transit from Petrichor's taste for food. Though in good news, Petrichor took over the cooking for the Aurora's crew, and despite burning the first batch of food he makes rather badly, the crew was so sick of Bartleby's cooking that they gave Petrichor another chance, and he proved himself with flying colors.

Having arrived in Cevedes, capital of Amura:

Flight of the Phoenix Amura photo

Click for source.

...and the crew spread out. Petrichor and Mara went to go buy ingredients now that mealtimes were actually something to look forward to, and knowing Bartleby would still refuse to disburse enough money for proper meals, Mara bartered her healing skills to the various merchants in exchange for a reduction in the prices. While in the market, they keep their ears to the ground and learn that a rich private collector named Maximilian has been seen wandering around the city even though he previously had rarely ever left his mansion.

Bartleby instead went to the docking master and said that he knew that Amura's reputation as a center of thaumaturgical research meant that it was known as a prime location for finding mystical objects, and he asked if he knew of any objects to "transport." The dockmaster didn't know of anything concrete, but after speaking to him, a man walked up to Bartleby, introduced himself as Luquasz, a colleague of Liam, and said he had a job for the Aurora's crew.

While Autumn Oak went to the temple of the Dryad to offer a sacrifice and Mara stopped in at the bookstore and grabbed a used book from the damaged books section (which after paying, she learned was titled The Window's Eyes, a travelogue with a very...odd point of view), Bartleby and Petrichor met with Luquasz to hear the job. Luquasz told them that a private collector named Maximilian is scheduled to receive an artifact that Dario believes would do better in someone else's hands. The artifact, a scroll written by the Priest-Kings of the First Empire, would be transported from another island in the mid-reach and should arrive in Cevedes within the week, though he wasn't sure exactly when it would arrive. To sweeten the pot, Luquasz claimed that Maximilian used to correspond with Queen Alexis of Calas and that he was known to collaborate with the Nobility, but was spared during the Dawn War because he proved himself too useful to the rebels to be executed.

When Petrichor asked who was doing the transporting, Luquasz replied that it was a group called the Ruinous Finders, which Petrichor recognized as a group of failed aethernauts who weren't good enough to make it as real pirates and who couldn't pass the exams to become recognized members of the Explorer's Guild. When Bartleby asked why someone as rich as Maximilian would go with such a two-bit group of failures, Luquasz said that there's no way the Explorer's Guild would let such a valuable artifact into private hands and that it obviously belongs in a museum. After some brief negotiations, the crew took the job.

Mara and Autumn returned and were briefed on the task, and then Bartleby went to the nearest pirate tavern (there's always one) to see what they had to say about Maximilian. In a few minutes, he quickly learned that he was simultaneously an evil wizard, an immortal mastermind, a Noble ghoul, and a crazy old coot. All sources agreed that he has a huge private collection, however. Meanwhile, Mara went to an Amuran university and asked about the university museum and any rumors about smuggling, since as a center of thaumaturgical knowledge, Cevedes would probably have a lot of clandestine artifact trading as well. She didn't learn much, but she did learn that the university museum accepts submissions without too much question as to how the givers got them, and that Maximilian has several items from his collection in the museum.

The crew met up and discussed what to do, with Bartleby briefly floating the idea of trying to sell the scroll to Maximilian instead, but eventually they agreed to go with Dario's original proposal after Autumn Oak pointed out that Dario was able to send an agent to find them in an entirely different country after they had traveled from Patria up to Bannor and then back to Amura. Petrichor said that the Aurora would need to be disguised, and when Bartleby wondered whether the ship would accept having its appearance changed, Petrichor said that maybe they could approach the Ruinous Finders under a conjured cloud bank, or dive in out of the sun. Bartleby suggested that maybe they could steal the scroll from their ship while they were docked, but everyone agrees that they need a flight plan.

Bartleby managed to leverage his connections to get a flight plan relatively quickly, but the actual plan was frustratingly vague. It did inform them that the Ruinos Finders were planning to make a lot of stops during their flight and the crew might be able to intercept them during one of their stops. Petrichor pointed out that it could be any of a large number of islands, and Autumn Oak replied that he could summon up air spirits to check the islands and report back on the ship's location. Petrichor and Bartleby were sure they could get descriptions, and then the talk turns to him to subdue the ship. Petrichor considered using a storm to force the ship to land, but the crew wasn't comfortable with possibly marooning the Ruinous Finders on an island without the materials to make repairs. Mara wanted to make sleeping darts and shoot them at the Ruinous Finders from hiding and then loot the ship, but Bartleby suggested finding a place that the Ruinous Finders were going to stop for supplies, disguising the crew as merchants, and selling the crew poisoned food to put them to sleep. After some discussion and thinking of Petrichor's newfound cooking prowess, the crew went with the food plan and went to put it into place.

After getting the description of the Ruinous Finders' ship, Autumn Oak summoned up three air spirits and sent them on their way, with a promise that they could freely fly on the wind currents around the ship if they would perform the task. The spirits returned relatively quickly and told Autumn Oak the location, and the crew consulted the map and found that a small town called Karlsport was almost certainly where the Ruinous Finders where be traveling, so they made their preparations and set sail. The voyage was uneventful, though Autumn Oak had a trying time as the air spirits kept flying around him and bothering him, when they weren't up on the crow's nest with Petrichor. Finally, however, they made it to Karlsport and set their plan in motion.

Bartleby negotiated to set up a stall in the small market, and while Petrichor (wearing false beard and with wings hidden under a cloak) and Mara cooked up the Sleepy Time Poison Biscuits (Mara's player's words) and Autumn Oak wandered off to avoid being too conspicuous, Bartleby scanned the crowd for the Ruinous Finders. When they showed up, Bartleby drew on his own supernatural powers and made a pitch to them (and got an exceptional success!). They immediately came over to see what these amazing biscuits were like...but so did quite a few other people, and Petrichor had to make batch after batch of biscuits to satisfy the demand. They quickly sold out and Mara ran off to find more biscuits.

Knowing that the Ruinous Finders would be a bit suggestible now, Bartleby asked them some questions about their travels, claiming to merely be an old man running a biscuit stand who lived to hear tales of the voyages he could never go on. The Ruinous Finders were happy to expound on some of their deeds, and described how they went to an island on the very edge of the mid-reach and claimed how they were transporting an artifact they found to a museum in Cevedes. Bartleby made sure they have enough biscuits for the eight of them on board and even throws in some rum for a minor discount, and when the Ruinous Finders move on, the crew quickly closes up shop[3] and heads back to the Aurora to get ready to steal the scroll.

And that's where we ended.

[1]: Failed multiple rolls in a row, including 9 dice to magically hypnotize the mouse vs. the mouse's 1 die to resist. The dice seriously hated me tonight.
[2]: I won't go into them because this was all setup by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd for the rest of the session. It happened between episodes, so to speak.
[3]: It was described as a cloud of flour blowing out, and by the time the Karlsporters stopped coughing, the shop was gone. Further group speculation led to a hypothetical Karlsport Biscuit Day and one of the town's 13-year-olds reenacting the part of the biscuit boy.

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A lot of this session didn't translate well to a writeup, because there were a lot of you-had-to-be-there jokes about the events. For example, Autumn Oak chasing the mouse to the tune of Yakety Sax, Petrichor learning that Bartleby had bought oats for porridge in bulk from a cavalry supplier, "Luquasz" becoming canon because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd delegated the spelling of his name to me, the air spirits (who only Autumn Oak can hear) talking like Catbug, Mara repeatedly referring to poisons and intoxicants as "bad news herbs" like some kind of after-school special, Karlsport getting its name because Bartleby's player accidentally said "Port of Karl" instead of "Port of call," and the whole group dissolving into laughter as Petrichor's player acted out the roll of the biscuit boy, cousin to Igor.

Dario finds us again! Does he have seers looking out for us, or how did he find us? Maybe he's actually working for one of the groups with greater supernatural power, like the Nobility or the Uratha or the dragons? I wish I hadn't miserably failed all of those rolls to find the mouse, because Autumn Oak interrogating it could definitely have opened up some doors. Well, if Dario keeps tapping us for jobs, eventually we'll be able to meet him and then we'll get some answers.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
As the roar faded from the air, Autumn Oak stared into the jungle as the others all returned to Aurora. Petrichor grabbed his air rifle, making sure the cartridge was full and the rifle was loaded. Mara rummaged through her medical supplies and grabbed a few soporific tinctures she had, and Bartleby grabbed a crossbow that he had occasionally waved around during business deals that had gone sour. Even though it was more for show and had only been actually fired a few times, he figured it was better than nothing. When they gathered together, they spent a few moments wondering why it was that a terror wyrm was on the island, since at only ten miles wide it simply wasn't large enough to support one. Then, Petrichor concentrated and summoned up a mist to hide their passage through the jungle as Autumn Oak bent the plants around them to speed their passage and they walked into the thick jungle.

While Petrichor looked at the brightly-colored frogs croaking in the trees, Mara tried to balance remaining stealthy with examining the plants for anything that seemed to have medicinal or scientific value, and Autumn Oak concentrated on his thaumaturgy so as to blunt the worst excesses of Bartleby's inelegant attempts at stealth. After a few minutes, they came to a small clearing made by a fallen tree, in which several smallish lizards with brightly colored feathers were bent over and eating something that had been ravaged enough that it was unidentifiable.

Autumn Oak waved at them to hide, but the claw runners were intent on their meal and didn't seem to notice the group. After Bartleby remembered that the brilliantly-colored feathers are worth quite a bit among the Summer Empire's fashionable set, he asked Petrichor to shoot one, and he did so, killing it in two shots and making the others scatter. Before Autumn Oak could say anything, Bartleby walked out into the open and picked up the claw runner, admiring the feathers and getting some blood smeared on him. Then the island started to shake slightly.

Bartleby handed off the corpse to Mara, who quickly and expertly plucked the feathers as Autumn Oak hissed about the smell of blood in the air and how they needed to hide now. Petrichor condensed a bit of water out of the air for Bartleby and Mara to wash themselves off, and they hurled the claw runner's body to the far end of the clearing and hid among the trees just as a foot crashed down on it and the terror wyrm emerged from the jungle.

It completely ignored both the shreds of flesh that the claw runners had been feasting on and the claw runner's body itself, and as it swung its head back and forth, Autumn Oak was acutely aware of the smell of blood that still hung heavily in the air. It slowly lowered its head, looking at the spot where the group was hidden, and Autumn Oak looked across the clearing at the other side and, reaching out with his magic, made the trees rustle. The terror wyrm spun around and started moving, and he rustled the trees a bit further off in the jungle, continuing the pattern as the monster crashed through the trees until it was lost from view in the mist.

Bartleby immediately wondered how much the terror wyrm's body would be worth, but the others pointed out how infeasible it would be to transport it back to Aurora and also that they don't have nearly enough preservatives on board the ship--since the Sea of Shadows is freshwater, the salt trade is both highly lucrative and cutthroat enough to make the mafia lose their appetite--to keep the body from rotting, and no one wants to travel ten days with a multi-ton rotting corpse in the hold. So they kept walking through the jungle.

The group had almost made it to the ruined temple when they heard the crashing of trees behind them and felt the ground shaking. Autumn Oak told them to run and sprinted for the temple, making it to the door and turning to find that Bartleby had tripped over a root and Mara had hauled him to his feet and was half-carrying him toward the door. As Petrichor kept the terror wyrm busy, letting it lunge toward him and leaping out of the way at the last moment, Autumn Oak bent the trees down and picked up Mara and Bartleby, moving them toward the door of the temple. Seeing this, Petrichor leapt upward, using his wings to get over the terror wyrm and running for the door himself, and the entire group piled into the temple with the terror wyrm snapping futilely at the entrance. A close-range shot from Petrichor's air rifle convinced it that it should seek elsewhere for prey and it turns and vanishes into the mist as Petrichor says:
Terror wyrm charges
Its mouth a sea of sabres
The warrior leaps.
[Here's an annotated map of the temple made by Bartleby's player:]
Click for map )
The immediate danger taken care of, the group changed its focus to the temple. Autumn Oak enhanced his senses with magic and smelled rotting linens from the lefthand passage. Mara brushed some of the moss off the temple walls and recognized the carved lizard figures as Mazatl, a pre-First Empire civilization that was apparently composed of lizardmen, and as she started to make rubbings of the walls she pointed out that the temple location would probably be valuable for scholars trying to learn more about the past.

After the rubbings were taken, they entered the room with the linen smell. It was mostly empty except for a table, or possible altar, or sarcophagus, in the center. As Bartleby enters the room, looking for the egg or for any other valuables, Autumn Oak gazed into Twilight, but the room was empty of any spirits. Bartleby leaned on the object in the center of the room and jumped as the top shifted, and he immediately asked Petrichor to come help him move it, completely ignoring Autumn Oak's pointed warning not to disturb the dead. After they shifted the stone lid, they saw a mummified corpse inside, and Bartleby immediately wondered about the monetary value of the body, but Petrichor and Autumn Oak said that was terrible idea because it risks offending the creature's hungry ghost.

Just after Autumn Oak said this, his fur immediately began to stand on end. Looking around the room, he switched to the Dragon's Tongue, the language of spirits, and apologized for disturbing the grave, claiming that they were travelers seeking shelter from the jungle, meant no disrespect, and would be willing to offer sacrifices to make up for the transgression. The response was a wave of force that shoved him against the wall, causing Mara to run over toward him to see what was wrong. As she got close, her amulet began to glow, and she spun around and held it up as Bartleby and Petrichor moved to join the others and the feel of the air in the room got heavier and heavier until a spirit coalesced out of the air.

It was tall, with an odd feathered headdress atop it's iguana-like head. Reddish eyes burned as it gazed at those who had come to invade its tomb, and no breath disturbed the hole in its chest as it lunged toward Mara and the amulet, but it stopped as hitting a wall. Petrichor dropped into a combat crouch and made to lunge out at the hungry ghost, but Mara told him to stop and to get down on his knees in a respectful posture, pointing at the wall carvings that showed figures kneeling in supplication to Mazatl lords. Autumn Oak looked at the carvings and then asked Mara for a knife. When she passed it over, he slashed his palm, held his hand out, and let the blood run onto the floor. The hungry ghost stared for a moment, before crouching over the blood and drinking it, then crawled back into the sarcophagus and vanished. Bartleby immediately instituted a new policy not to open any more sarcophagi, to which Mara said nothing and Autumn Oak said he'd be sure to remember that.

The room across the corridor was filled with mushrooms, and Autumn Oak concentrated a moment and then pointed out several interesting specimens for Mara, including one that helps with joint pain, a potent toxin, and one that induces visions. Seeing nothing else in the room, the group walked back out into the corridor and turned right, going into the room straight from the entrance. In the light of their torches, they could see a glint in the far corner past the altar covered in dark stains in the room's center, but as Bartleby immediately started to walk toward it Autumn Oak grabbed for his arm. He merely brushed his sleeve, but Bartleby felt it and turned, and Autumn Oak warned him that it was probably grave goods and they should leave it alone to avoid more trouble from hungry ghosts.

Mara touched her amulet and walked into the room, and as she got a closer look she saw it was a knife, made of some silvery metal and still pristine and untarnished even in the slightly damp atmosphere of the tomb. Remembering her university training, she started to examine the murals on the walls, noticing the repeating importance of eggs in the iconography. She mentions it aloud, but Bartleby said it obviously wasn't important, walked into the room, and collapses as soon as he reached the altar.

Mara ran toward him and found that he was breathing, but she barely had time to examine him before he coughed and immediately started feeling his pockets. Petrichor dryly said that no one had time to take his money, but Bartleby snapped that he wasn't looking for money and then pulls an oversided coin out of one pocket, ancient and corroded without any design but a crude fade on one side. As the group looked at the coin, Bartleby said that the room was used for sacrifices and that they shouldn't touch anything and that he had a vision and thought he had the egg. The group briefly discussed visions, looking to Autumn Oak, but he said that it wasn't his area of expertise and that maybe they should consult and expert when they return to civilization. Petrichor said he was told to report all visions by his superiors and Mara remembered her grandmother telling her old tales about visions. Bartleby said that in the vision, he took the egg, but he felt like it was the right thing to do.

The group left the knife behind and continued down the corridor, entering another room, this one with beautiful murals that were perfectly preserved. The murals showed Mazatl in ceremony, with more prominent egg imagery and several focal points. One showed a winged baby Mazalt emerging from an egg, another showed the world appearing out of an egg, a third showed a cracked egg with a shadowy figure emerging from the crack. As Mara started to take rubbings of the walls, Autumn Oak examined the eggs, holding his hand near them to check for air flow. Near a carving of an egg being cut out of the chest of a Mazatl, he felt a faint stirring of the air, and he pressed down on the egg and the wall began moving inward and then to the side, though it didn't get far until it jammed. Fortunately, everyone together pushed it far enough that even Petrichor's wings could fit through, and they entered.

The next room was circular, with concentric rings on the floor leading to a pillar in the center with a beautiful crystalline egg on it. Autumn Oak gazed into Twilight and saw two Mazatl spirits, but both of them were looking directly at Bartleby. As they noticed his gaze and turned toward him, he shook his head and returned his gaze to the physical world, where Bartleby was wondering if they should actually take the egg, since they didn't know who their employer was and they might be aiding the Nobility. After they decided that, having come this far, they should see it through, Petrichor levitated the egg off the pedestal and grabbed it. Almost as soon as the egg moved, the ground started to shake and parts of the room began to collapse, and the group dashed past the half-open door and down the hallway, dodging falling rocks and diving out as a part of the ceiling collapsed, blocking the entrance to the temple. Though not collapsing it completely Mara noted, as she filed its location away as news for her professors.

Determining that they had gotten everything they needed and having no desire for a rematch with the terror wyrm, the group made their way through the jungle back to Aurora, where they captured a few exotic birds who were roosting in the rigging and immediately set sail back for Patria. On the ten-day trip, Autumn Oak had repeated dreams of being some kind of Mazatl priest. He could feel the fangs in his mouth elongating as he raised a bowl brimming with blood toward the sun and then drank it down before the exulting crowd. Then, the dream shifted, and he saw dirt-streaked claws and raised his eye toward an angry red sky and flaming rocks falling from the sky and crushing the temple cities until one of those rocks fell on him and the dream ended.

During the trip, Mara categorized the mushrooms, Petrichor fed the birds they had found, Bartleby arranged to preserve the claw runner feathers, and Autumn Oak communed with Aurora. The journey mostly passed in solitude with the crew only meeting for meals, but at one point Bartleby came to Autumn Oak and asked him how Aurora was. Autumn Oak said that she was agitated, maybe because the egg was on board, and in response Bartleby asked if turning over the egg is the right idea. Remembering the sunlight in his vision, Autumn Oak said that the egg itself probably isn't associated with the Nobility, but they might be able to use the egg as leverage to find out who their employer actually was. Bartleby agreed, and they lapsed back into their silence and made the rest of the journey to Patria.

When they arrived, the representative was waiting at the docks, having received the bird sent by Autumn Oak, and the group invited him on board and the negotiations began. Despite repeated questioning, he apparently didn't know anything about his employer's goals, saying only that he was given his orders from a man named Dario. As the egg was handed over, Bartleby mentioned that there were other artifacts around the temple that might be worth something, that the group could bring back if they had enough incentive. The man said he'd ask, then left, and the group wondered if maybe this "Dario" was worth tracking down to find out who they were really turning this egg over to.

---------------

A good old-fashioned dungeon crawl! [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had been thinking about this for a bit, but really settled on it when I told her about the existence of the One Page Dungeon Contest that she could plunder for inspiration. She eventually settled on Ramsey Hong's Crimson Maelstrom as a template, and you can probably see the outline of the Mazatl temple/tomb building in the map and session outline above. I'm glad we didn't run into any invisible carnivorous death fungus, though. Or the murder of crows.

A plot is taking shape! Who is this Dario and who does he work for? I mean, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd bounced the initial ideas off me, but I don't know what she's planning--the direction she took the Mazatl isn't something I came up with, since I didn't write much about them. I'm looking forward to see where this goes.

Oh, also, the game has an Obsidian Portal site, if you're curious!
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
Wind blows through the ship
Removing all aggression
Only peace follows
-Petrichor
Previously-disarmed sword in hand, Petrichor and Bartleby went to House Aundae to smooth things over with the dhampirs before the entire organization decided that we're a threat that needs to be eliminated, or at least an example that needs to be made. After being met at the gate by a guide who lit a torch, they were led into the main headquarters of the Aundae. The inside was pitch-black other than the light of the torch, and they could hear the sound of people sparring, the murmurs of conversation, and see people studying ancient tomes in apparent darkness, all of them with the parchment-white skin and snow-colored hair of the Aundae.

They were led into a large room in the center of the house, where they were met by three people--a bald man, a woman with her hair bound in a tight bun, and an old man in between them with a snow-white beard. The meeting got off to an excellent start when the woman said, "You are the ones who took Ash's sword from him," causing Bartleby to immediately go into high gear. He mentioned the misunderstanding and how he wouldn't want any damage to Aundae's reputation, and offered to sell the Aurora's dye cargo to the Aundae as a gesture of goodwill. Petrichor mentioned that he only had the sword because it was being wielded against us, and there was some argument between the bald man and the woman before the man with the beard shut it down as family business.

The woman asked why Ash and Wren were even on the ship, and Bartleby tried to divert attention for a bit before admitting Pav's existence. After being asked about her whereabouts, Bartleby said that the last place he saw her was at the docks, and the woman said that if she would be returned to House Aundae, the dhampirs would be very grateful for her return and for our "continued discretion." Bartleby agreed, and an agreement was struck while the sword was handed over and the dye promised.

While this was occurring, Mara and Autumn Oak headed to The University in order to talk to one of Mara's contacts, Provost Quarrin, a scholar of the cultural impact of the Dawn War and an aficionado of games. They were trailed by Pav, wearing a large cloak to hide her distinctive hair and skin, through the campus. The University is centuries old and has been built and built over and rebuilt enough that they have to make their way through a maze of different architectural styles, with Mara pointing out some examples commissioned by vengeful professors or deans of ages past along the way. When they reached the provost's office, they found a long room with walls stacked with games from all over the Summer Empire, as well as a number of historical works on the sociology of the jihad against the Nobility.

While Autumn Oak checked the book titles of books on the war, Mara and Quarrin chatted. Quarrin asked about Mara's fieldwork and mentions he managed to find a new game from the quarantined part of Sheol, and Mara talked a bit about her time on board the ship, then the discussion got quickly to business. Mara explained Pav's existence, the nature of her abilities (to the extent we're familiar with them) and how she was hoping Quarrin would know a scholar who might be able to assist. Quarrin cautiously said that he could probably take her in, and that he has a colleague studying Ruach, the name for whatever it is lamiae drain from people to keep themselves young, and that Pav might make a good research assistant as well. Mara replied that she could donate some of the proceeds from the Aurora's jobs to Pav's upkeep as compensation for Quarrin's money and time.

At this point, Autumn Oak interrupted to point out that the provost has a game of stones from Alfheim, but it's only half-complete. Quarrin agreed that this is so, but mentioned that he bought it from a merchant who talked up the difficulty of trading with the Ljosalfar. Autumn Oak replied that this used to be true, but as the Nations of the Night get further from people's memory most Ljosalfar are becoming more open to the outside world, and he sketched out a crude map with the location of a village where Quarrin could probably get the second player's pieces. Quarrin thanked Autumn Oak and Mara, and as the two left to go to the university dining hall, they couldhear Quarrin ask Pav, "Now, my dear, do you enjoy games?"

After the meeting at House Aundae, Petrichor and Bartleby headed out to the streets of the The Capital and stopped in at a food stall, ordering some simple meat pies and soup. As they were eating, a man walked up and sat next to Bartleby, introduced himself as Liam, and mentioned that he sought them out specificially with a job. Bartleby quizzed him about the job while successfully seeming indifferent, and learned that Liam's employer wants us to head to an island in the upper reach with ruins in the middle that need exploring, and that his employer wants the crew to retrieve a specific item in exchange for a large amount of money. Sensing that Liam was hiding something, Bartleby offered tentative acceptance but said he needs to put it to the crew, so he agreed to meet with Liam on the ship later and then, praising the generosity of Liam's employer, passed him the check.

Petrichor spent the whole conversation eating increasingly improbable amounts of food and attracting a larger and larger crowd.

Back on the ship, Autumn Oak consulted Aurora about the necessary port rites, since part of the pact the crew has with the ship spirit is that a part will be replaced every time the ship is in port. Aurora wanted the window that Petrichor blew Ash through to be fixed, and while Petrichor lay on the deck in a food coma, Autumn Oak and Bartleby headed out to get a new window that would satisfy both Autumn Oak's need for quality and Bartleby's need to maintain high cash flow. They returned before nightfall having secured a work contract, and when Liam arrived at the ship for a meeting, the whole crew headed into the mess to meet with him.

The meeting was mostly inconclusive, with Liam having very little information to contribute, but he did have a map of the island that shows it to be covered in thick jungles, and he said that as far as his employer knows, it's not inhabited because it's far away from most of the main trade lines. The item we would need to retrieve was a large stone egg, but the only description available was that we would know it when we saw it. When asked what we should bring back if the egg was gone, Liam suggested bringing back the ruin reliefs, and when Autumn Oak incredulously asked if actually meant a rubbing of them, he clarified that no, he meant the originals. He also explained that the ruins were left over from the Mazatl, a pre-First Empire civilization of lizardmen--at least, according to the art in their ruins--who had died out for unknown reasons.

Finally, Bartleby and Liam got down to negotiating, but due to incredibly flowery language and incompatible systems of metaphor (and neither of them rolling any successes), they spent quite a while dancing around each other and getting nowhere. Finally, Autumn Oak leapt in with a demand for higher payment up front, the rest of the original payment if they bring back the reliefs and a bonus if they can find the egg. Liam somewhat grudgingly accepted, and then he handed over the initial portion and left the ship.

Expecting problems with diseases or poisons, Bartleby took some of the money and gave it to Mara to go buy additional medical supplies. Somewhat astonished at his generosity, she quickly took the money before he changed his mind and headed out. While Petrichor stayed on the ship, the others all headed out to stock up. Mara bought some medical supplies and some simple charms against disease, as well as some paper and brushes for Petrichor to write more of his poetry and some fresh grubs for Autumn Oak to sprinkle on the gruel that Bartleby makes for dinner. Autumn Oak bought some chalk and paper for rubbings of the reliefs, because there was no way he was going to He also bought a freshly picked apple and, with a smile on his face, ate the entire thing.

In one of The Capital's market, Bartleby was looking through supplies when someone brushed into him. The person started to speak sharply but stopped and stared in astonishment, just saying, "It's you!" and "You're here." Bartleby brusquely said that they must be mistaken and dove into the crowd, quickly losing the astonished man and ignoring the shouts that followed him.

The next day, the ship left port and headed out on the long voyage to the island. It would take a week, and other than a storm on the second day that Petrichor used his weather witchery to steer the ship through while Autumn Oak summoned a tempest-spirit to smooth their passage, there was no difficulty. As the ship ascended higher and higher and the islands in the skies above grew less common, Mara and Autumn Oak--both from the upper reach--started spending more time on deck, while Bartleby, who missed the more crowded skies of the area around Patria and Lanun, spent more time in his office.

Eventually, they reached the island and performed a quick flyover, finding the ruins but noticing that the whole thing was full of riotous overgrowth and even though it was only a dozen or so miles in diameter, they would have to land at the edge and walk overland, probably taking at least an entire day to reach the ruins. After a bit more flying and surveying, they found a suitable spot and landed, and right as the crew walked off the ship, an incredibly loud roar resounded through the jungle, which Autumn Oak identified as the call of a terror wyrm.

The session ended with Autumn Oak staring into the jungle and, with a heavy sigh, asking the others how good they were at remaining unseen.

------------------------------

Session two didn't have as much inter-character focus or action as the second one, but there were some moments that I really liked. Mara deciding to buy presents for the other crew members, or the way Mara's player developed Provost Quarrin as the contact that we were going to meet. The scene where Liam and Bartleby were dealing by the noodle stand made me think of Blade Runner, and I imagined it raining heavily even though I know that's not what the in-game weather was like. It was a slower session, but it's setting up for dealing with hungry ghosts, angry jungle spirits, rampaging dinosaurs, and hopefully a total lack of undead lizard people next session.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
That game I wrote about had its first session today, so here's where I write about it!

We began in media res, with a bunch of pirates swinging from lines onto our ship after hurriedly leaving from our previous location with a load of dye destined for Lanun. As Petrichor, Autumn Oak and Mara fought off the invaders, Bartelby ran down to the cargo room to secure the dye, then to his office in the ship, came back up on deck, and--waving official papers in their faces--loudly proclaimed that we were official traders from Lanun, and we were fully paid up on our licenses, and why were these pirates attacking us...and it worked? Since no one had died and there were only a couple wounds on each side, we all laid down arms and settled to parley. The pirates mentioned a cargo they had taken on and offered to trade it to us in exchange for some medicinal talismans from Mara, since they had all been feeling under the weather for a while. As the cargo--a white-haired teenage girl--was brought up on deck and handed over, Bartelby asked Autumn Oak to check out their ship, so Autumn Oak looked into Twilight and saw that their ship's totem was a wolf spirit. Far from being a strong predator, though, the wolf was weak and sickly, just like the ship's crew...

With the pirates sent off with references that might get them mercenary work in Lanun, the Aurora's crew settled into the mess. Mara spoke to the girl, and it turned out that her name was Pav, and that she had been taken away from her parents while they stopped in a market somewhere in the lower reach of the floating islands. We managed to get out of her that she was from the Capital in Patria, and Bartelby recognized the names of her aunt and uncle--Wren and Ash--as being similar to the naming style of House Aundae, one of the dhampir families. House Aundae was also a business consortium that made a tidy sum dealing with rogue spirits, and with that sum came the opportunity for wealth for us. We agreed to take her back to her family and changed course to Patria.

Autumn Oak summoned up ravens to dispatch messages to a contact Bartelby had in Patria to drop off the dye and a message to House Aundae that we had found one of their members who had been kidnapped and were coming to the Capital to return her. After the messages were sent, while Petrichor read the winds, Autumn Oak went down to consult with Aurora about the state of the ship. Aurora was a bit uneasy about the new passenger, and referred to the starving wolf spirit of the other ship, but Autumn Oak couldn't get a straight answer out of it. Eventually, everyone went to sleep, but in the middle of the night Bartelby woke up to a knock on his door, opens it, and found Pav standing there. After asking why she's there, he led her down to Mara's room and put her back to sleep, and then stumbled back to bed himself, feeling far more tired than even waking up in the middle of the night would have led to.

In the morning, after breakfast, Petrichor moved a storm out of the way to shave some time off the Aurora's trip to Patria. Pav asked him about what he's doing, and after the ritual was completed, she gave him a quick hug and then head off elsewhere on the deck. Petrichor sat down, feeling more tired than he should have from just manipulating the weather, and while Autumn Oak and Petrichor discussed the weather patterns and how close they can safely get to increase their speed, Mara went to Bartelby and asked for him to restock her medical supplies, since fieldwork and research is part of the reason she signed on with the crew. However, Bartelby was as tightfisted as ever, and eventually Mara stormed out onto the deck, muttering imprecations about Bartelby's purse. Soon Bartelby came up on deck, and with the whole crew there, the questioning started again. Pav eventually admitted that she didn't really want to go back to House Aundae, because she didn't feel like she was "special," and she didn't have any powers like her aunt and uncle. Bartelby went back down below, and a still-annoyed Mara told Pav that Bartelby would be a great person to go draw next to--a suggestion that Pav eagerly agreed to.

Pav made a drawing of a grub--part of Autumn Oak's breakfast--and Aurora, which Bartelby later offered to Autumn Oak as a sacrifice to take to Aurora. Autumn Oak said that a sacrifice was usually something valuable, and Bartelby spun a grand tale of how he had always wanted to have children but his constantly-moving lifestyle meant that he had never been able to, and the drawing of a happy child was of inestimable value to him and Aurora should find it so as well. Autumn Oak believed him (curse you, dice!) and took it down to the engine room. Much to Autumn Oak's surprise, Aurora accepted the sacrifice.

Later, the crew were talking on the deck about what to do about Pav and how she still seems odd. She was drawing pictures, but her drawings and her speech were more like that of a six or seven-year-old rather than the fourteen years she claimed to be. As they discussed, they felt an overwhelming sense of danger from Aurora, and Autumn Oak ran down to the engine room. While Bartelby and Mara found Pav and gathered in the mess, Autumn Oak communed with Aurora and received a vision of Pav walking by and the a sudden sense of loss, and all of the pieces fell into place. Autumn Oak ran up to the mess in a fury and summoned up vines out of the floor and walls to entangle Pav, and as Mara looked on in horror, Autumn Oak blamed her for draining the ship and for draining the pirates and their ship before that. He said she was a lamia, and that she wasn't safe to have on board.

Bartelby performed some tests to see how safe Pav was, and after two attempts to touch her with bare skin left him sweating and slumped against the wall, they bundled her off to her room, locked her in, and settled down to discuss what they had to do. Autumn Oak was adamant that they had to take her back to her family, since House Aundae would surely have a better idea of what to do with her than they did. Mara was torn between letting her go free and the knowledge that Pav probably wasn't in a proper state of mind to decide. Bartelby thought that Aundae probably wouldn't pay up and wouldn't want anyone else to know they had a lamia in their family because of the association with the Nobility, but Petrichor pointed out that if we did that and Pav hurt anyone, we would be partially responsible. Bartelby mused that maybe House Aundae would just kill her, and she might be better off in the still-Noble-ruled nation of Calas. That drew an explosive reaction from Autumn Oak, who categorically refused to go to Calas for any reason and stated that there was no way they would hand Pav off to Alexis and Flauros. Bartelby asked why it was so bad, but got no reaction from Autumn Oak except an angry stare and eventually agreed that they would not go to Calas. The crew decided that they would take Pav back to her family, because while they might know what to do with her, we definitely had no idea.

The landing in Patria was uneventful, but two representatives from House Aundae were waiting for the Aurora at the docks and boarded the ship. They introduced themselves as Wren and Ash of House Aundae, and while quite cold and imperious, things seemed to be going okay until Autumn Oak noticed that Wren was an adept and was prying into Mara's mind. He accused them of bad faith dealings, and things soon escalated as Autumn Oak called the House Aundae members "Noble-spawn" and Wren used her powers on Autumn Oak and sent searing pain shooting through his whole body. As Autumn Oak dropped to the ground screaming, Petrichor ran to the scene and Bartelby ran to the engine room, where he--knowing Aurora's opinion of him--told the ship-spirit that Autumn Oak was in danger and she should take off immediately and make as many evasive maneuvers as possible. Mara rammed into Wren, breaking her concentration and freeing Autumn Oak from the pain, and the ship lurched, throwing most of them off their feet. Battle immediately commenced, and Ash and Wren were pretty quickly bested. Petrichor whistled up a wind and blew Ash off the ship (though the ship wasn't high enough to kill him) after disarming him and taking his sword, and once that happened Wren was subdued, knocked unconscious, and dropped off in a rural area, then the ship took off again.

The session ended with the crew planning to go back to House Aundae's headquarters, return Ash's sword as a gift of goodwill, and offer a detente--no assassins sent after us in exchange for not revealing Wren's unsanctioned mind reading and Pav's existence. As for Pav, the university Mara attended is in the Capital, and Autumn Oak suggested that she write to the university and see if there was anyone there who could train Pav, or knew someone who could do so.

------------------------------------------------------

I had a bunch of fun! A first session of game is always a bit difficult because the players are all feeling out their characters and there isn't the weight of past actions to drive the action forward, but we all clicked pretty quickly and got everything rolling right away. The debate over what to do about Pav was my favorite moment in the game--it did a lot to establish important points about the characters and their relationship to each other. That was pretty much the focus of the whole game, actually, and though I know I originally said this was shaping up to be Firefly-esque, it turned a bit more that way than I expected. Including the weird magic teenage girl, though that was probably unintentional on [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's part and she isn't intended to be a permanent part of the ship. I'm definitely looking forward to next game!

The mechanics--and while we're using nWoD as the base system, essentially all of the special powers and a good chunk of the merits we're using are ones I wrote--seem to work okay. This game is simultaneously a test of the setting and the system, and it seemed to hold up so far. We'll see how much that continues to hold as the game goes on and our opponents get more complex and dangerous, though.
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
My to my delight, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is taking one of the random RPG ideas I come up with, work on feverishly for a while, and then eventually peter out on when I realize that it's probably never going to get used and I'm the only one who will ever see it. That's not quite true here, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did run a one-on-one game using this thread basically as written.

My innovation was that I thought "airships are cool. Floating islands are cool. That thread is cool. What happens if I combine them all?" and then add a bunch of inspiration from Blue Rose, the Fall from Heaven mod, Vampire Hunter D, plus bits of Xenogears and the Elder Scrolls games, mix together and stir. A setting recently freed from the iron grip of the vampiric Nobility but learning that democracy and freedom are easier than overthrowing tyranny. A setting with revitalized by the invention of the airship and the easy wave of exploration it enables. A setting of bickering nations, Noble pirates (note caps), watching werewolf tribes, rogue spirits, ancient ruins, vanished civilizations, conflict, trade, strange magic, and glorious adventure and opportunity.

Then, I had no opportunities to play it, so I set it aside and didn't work on it for a year until recently. Yesterday we met for character creation, with the premise that we're the crew of an airship looking for new sources of profit, and this is what we've come up with so far:

  • Petrichor, one of the winged People of the Air, who was plucked from his gang of street kids due to his affinity with air magic and conscripted into a special military program to create supersoldiers. He had killed his first man before he turned 16, but eventually left the service and took his magical talents freelance. He signed up with the ship as the weather-witch, to keep the air currents good and for his battle talents. Taciturn and stoic, he spends much of his time on the edge of the ship, staring off into the sky.

  • "Counselor" Bartelby Marklay, the nominal owner and financier of the ship, who may be a representative of the Patrian Trade Council doing on-site supervision of their latest exploratory venture or may have an empty storefront in The Capital and some hastily-filed business papers as the sole parts of the company that aren't on the airship. After a string of failed business ventures, he hit on airship trade and exploring the floating islands as a way to make money, but it's a constant struggle between the need to spend money to make money and his desire to hold on to as much money as possible. Also the ship's main negotiator, since he's a polyglot and well-connected.

  • Mara, who comes from a family of folk healers and midwives in the small oasis towns of the desert land of Malak. Unsatisfied with her future as another member of the clan, she arranged an education in a city medical academy and is currently out on fieldwork. She signed on as the ship's doctor to provide her transport and give her plenty of access to new medicinal compounds, plants, and techniques she can use to expand her education. Trained as a thaumaturgic Healer, she's also interested in finding more broadly-applicable medical discoveries that don't require a thaumaturge to be nearby to be applied.

  • And my character, Autumn Oak, a druid from the wooded fastness of Alfheim who's signed on as the ship's shaman to keep the peace both with rogue spirits and with the ship-spirit. The part I've worked out since we met, inspired partly by the song in the "Listening to" section, partly by Shepherd Book, and partly by taking the Longevity merit, is that Autumn Oak used to be named Waning Moon and was a rebel commander in the insurrection against the Nobility, but ended up wiping out several villages of noncombatants due to worries about Noble sleeper agents and mind control after a number of skirmishes against his forces. He earned the name "The Butcher of Hearthglen" for his actions, and after the war he resigned his commission, refused employment anywhere else, and vanished into the forest to live as a hermit for a while.

I didn't want to be all hard men making hard choices, but I figured that in a world where powers like Dominate and Majesty exist, there's a reasonable argument to be made that anyone who's been alone with a Noble isn't entirely trustworthy ever again. At least, the kind that people in that situation would find reasonable. Whether his fellows would think he was a war criminal or someone forced into it by the horrors of war, he wasn't okay with it. We'll see where that goes during the game.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd also used a trick from a while ago that I picked up from somewhere (sadly, I forget where). At the beginning of the game, each player gets a sheet with five categories--Combat, Mystery, Intrigue, Romanticism, and Exploration--and has to divide 100 points into them to show how much they want each of those themes to be focused on. All of us had Mystery, Exploration, or both among the top two, which makes it pretty easy to imagine the game. It'll be Firefly with an airship and floating islands instead of planets.

I'm excited!

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August 2017

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