dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
  • Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian police inspector
The next day was their appointment with Beylab the perspires, but not until the evening. At breakfast, they discussed the man and bear they had seen. Radovan was convinced he was benign, saying that anyone who an animal trusted couldn't be all bad, but Rosaline wasn't so sure. When Feyar arrived, the party asked him about the proper etiquette for the meeting. Feyar explained that no gifts were required, putting their minds at ease, and they decided to go investigate the Red Mosque. After a long walk through the city, they arrived at a crumbling building that pedestrians walked by without even a glance at its grim-encrusted walls. Several young men, perhaps a street gang, lounged in the doorway and beckoned, calling out "Nice things! Nice things!" and gesturing to the investigators. The countess approached, asking about the trinkets, but then asked about the gang and the mosque, no whether they had seen anything unusual in the mosque at night. Feyar translated the answer--that they sometimes saw other gangs, but no one else. She asked about the Brotherhood, but the gang had only heard rumors. They took the countess's money without incident, and the investigators left.

For a change of pace, the party spent some time on tourism at the Hagia Sophia. The ancient cathedral was glorious, but had seen better days. The Basilica Cistern was across the street, so that was their next destination. That was better kept up but empty of water. After lunch, they visited the Hippodrome, and then the time had come to go to the baths and meet with Beylab. Knowing that Beylab was a stickler for punctuality, the investigators made an effort to arrive on time, and entered the bathhouse and left the bustle of the street behind. The professor checked the skin of the other bathers, but none of them seemed to have any identifiable tattoos or marring of the skin. The women went off into their own section, and the men prepared to meet the perspirer.

Beylab was lounging on a navel stone in the bath, grossly fat, and awaiting his visitors. The professor, Yan, and Radovan approached as Beylab raised a hand, and they took places next to Beylab on the stone. He greeted the party and asked them what they want to know, and the professor mentioned the disappearances of children. Beylab explained that it was an evil statue-worshipping cult, and that the children had not appeared in the slave markets. He said that the cult extended to the city bureaucracy, and that the statue's destruction was key to ending the cult. The ritual of destruction was in the cemetery, in Garaznet's grave, and suggested that the break into the grave in the night. As he reached for water and made to speak more, a shape surged up out of the water behind him and cut his throat!

Radovan and Yan heard the roaring of flames and pulled the professor off the stone as fire surged up and seared the body of Beylab. As the assassin fled, the three gave chase before they were blocked by two other bathers. Yan noticed that one of them had a mismatched ear and the other had an eye that was cloudy, and shouted, "They're here!" He tried to shove past the men but they stood firm, and Radovan's sucker punch flew wide. They made no hostile action, and in a moment it was obvious why--the flesh of Beylab flowed off his bones like a wave, surging across the water toward the men like a red tide. One of the cultists was caught by the monster, shrieking in pain as it reared up over him and began devouring him, and the party fled in terror leaving the screams behind.

There were already police outside, and when they saw the Europeans one approached and spoke in broken English, asked them to stay and and give their statements. Another policeman entered the bath and returned in moments, vomiting in the street. Another policeman later took the investigators statements, and the professor left out the parts about the cult or the monster, describing only a madman assassinating someone else in public. The police called a cab and they returned to their hotel, where the professor explained what Beylab had told them. They debated what to do, but quickly decided that they could not visit the graveyard tonight. Yan and the professor dressed and went down to dinner and had a long awkward conversation about their backgrounds, while the others had dinner sent up to their rooms.

The next morning, there was a message from the British Embassy requesting their immediate presence, so they bolted down their coffee and took the car provided. They were met by Sir Douglas Rutherford, in a clear agitation. He got right to the point, saying that his son was abducted in the last night, and asked for their help. The investigators agreed, and the ambassador said that his son James was last seen in the embassy garden and that he suspected the servants. He summoned the servants, and they stood in a line while the investigators examined them. One servant had mismatched eyes, and when he noticed the attention, he took a step back. The professor shouted to arrest him, and as guards appeared and seized him, the servant screamed that the Brotherhood had the boy and there was no hope. The Skin Beast would come and all of them were doomed. As he struggled, the tattoo suddenly revealed on his arm writhed and the skin of his face drew inward, flowing down his mouth and choking him to death.

Later, as they were drinking brandy with the ambassador, he said that he suspected the Red Mosque and while police searches had turned up nothing, he no longer trusted the police. The professor asked for excavating equipment, and while Sir Douglas was suspicious of his reasoning, he offered to provide it. He further suggested they speak to Lieutenant Douglas Hennessy about the British officer's death. The lieutenant met them in the lobby of their hotel, and the professor noticed that he was extremely nervous, constantly glancing around at the passersby. After asking what they knew, he said that the Drakes were part of a continent-wide smuggling and vice ring known for flaying people. He said that Evelyn was suspected in a murder, shortly before she disappeared, and that a local member named Phelps had recently turned up dead, but Yan realized that he was holding something back. The countess pushed further, mentioning the flayings that the investigators had encountered, and the lieutenant revealed that Mr. Phelps was deformed, half his face having been seemingly melted. The lieutenant said he was being transferred out, but asked that they tell Sir Douglas anything they discovered, and then he left.

After preparing, the investigators went down to the docks to hire a boat. Feyar suggested hiring a fishing boat, and they chartered the boat of a man named Haqim. And they were crossing the straight, Rosaline and Radovan noticed another fishing boat crossing on a similar course, but it remained at sea instead of docking, and it was too far away to make out any details. They landed and Haqim promised to wait, and the party made the short walk to the cemetery.
The countess's player: "Is this grave-robbing? Three of us are white. It's archeology."
After two hours of searching they found the tomb of Garaznet, its letters almost entirely faded away from the weathering of centuries. As Radovan and Yan began digging, Radovan noticed that the dirt wasn't as packed-down as it should be, but shrugged and kept digging. After some time, as the shovels clinking against a stone box, a man approached. He was babbling, in tattered robes, and Feyar explained that he was called the "Companion to the Dead." The professor listened, but most of what the beggar said was nonsense. He urged on their digging and said that "they" were numerous tonight as Yan and Radovan levered open the tomb of Garaznet, but when he heard the sound of stone on stone, he screamed "Don't let him out!" and leapt onto the countess and professor, flailing away. Eventually he backed away as an overwhelming foetor comes from the tomb. The lib slid back, and inside was a bubbling vat of flesh!

The flesh flowed out of the tomb and wrapped around one of the countess's legs as Rosaline began screaming in panic and Yan staggered around sightlessly. The professor threw a lantern onto the monster but it seemed to have no effect, and as he was looking for another weapon, dozens of shapes appeared out of the darkness and the Brothers of the Skin captured the party. The party was disarmed and tied to stone monuments with the weapons just out of reach and formed a circle, which parted to reveal six cultists carrying a squirming bundle. Four others brought in an older man, ancient and shriveled, on a chair born on their shoulders. He questioned them about the scrolls and the statue, but the party was silent. After a short moment, the old man looked at Radovan and began muttering. Radovan's skin twitched and seemed to rot, and Radovan shrieked for a moment and then slumped in his bonds. After further questioning, the old man again muttered and the same thing happened to Yan, though before he fell unconscious, Yan yelled that the simulacrum was in the bank vault.

Content warning: Violence toward children )

On the Golden Horn, Aktar led them to his room, a small cluttered dwelling. In the light, he seemed vaguely familiar, but none of the investigators could place it. Aktar revealed that he was disguised as a Roma, but actually worked for Ataturk spying out threats to Turkey. His daughter had been kidnapped by the cult, and he had followed the cult to their headquarters and found what remained of his daughter. He suggested they join forces and fight the cult. The investigators agreed, and they decided that they needed to get to the Sedefkar Simulacrum before the cult did. They arrived, leaving Radovan and Yan behind in Aktar's room, and found the bank closed, so they immediately changed tack and went to the hotel. The front desk clerk asked them if they had gone and come back--the cult had obviously already been there. Their roomed had Ben searched, and the scroll was missing. Aktar suggested that they must go to the cultist's headquarters immediately and warn the British and French, and they traveled to the cistern where the secret entrance to the cult's headquarters was. The stairs led down into water, but there was a small boat, and Aktar rowed them through the water to a secret passage, and the investigators travel down a spiral staircase. At the bottom were ooze-covered walls and a small door, on the other side of which was a tomb lit by a greenish glow and covered with horrific carvings.

Across the chamber was an antechamber with a guard facing away from them. Rosaline whispered that he had to be subdued, and Aktar drew a knife, crept behind the cultist, and cut his throat. As lights entered the room, shelves of scrolls were revealed, but a quickly glance didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary and the group continued on through a surgical room separated from the main room of the mosque by a curtain. The professor peeked out and saw a large group of cultists, but they were all facing away from the curtain, so the investigators slipped out into the room next door, only to find that it was a meat locker filled with disembodied limbs. There was also the body of a skinned woman hanging on a meat hook, and when the countess saw it she gasped but steeled herself. Rosaline noticed a pearl necklace lying on the floor, and she discretely pocketed it.

There was nowhere else but he main chamber, so the investigators snuck into the mosque chamber and crept into the crowd. In the center, under the mosque dome, is a stone slab with five indentations carved into it. Five children, James Rutherford among them, were led into the chamber and waited nervously near the slab. Aktar suggested that he would create a distraction while the others rescued the children, and lacking options, they agreed. As they waited, red-robed figures brought out the Simulacrum and placed it into the indentations on the slab. The old man also came out and pulled a scroll out of his robes, and began chanting. The professor understood part of the ritual, asking for power through the suffering of the flesh. As he stepped forward to end the ritual, his mouth sealed itself shut. The investigators began to usher the children out of the mosque, Aktar shouted, "foreign traitors!" and stepped forward, seizing the scroll, and completes the ritual. The statue absorbed itself into his flesh, and Aktar laughed manically and revealed himself as Mehmet Makryat, son of Selim Makryat, the new master of the Brotherhood of the Skin, and ordered the cultists to kill their old master, which they did with enthusiasm.

The investigators tried to run, but they were overwhelmed and escorted away. They were led past other cells full of maimed and mutilated prisoners, begging and whining, and shut into a cell on the top of the minaret of the Shunned Mosque. The professor understood some of the guard's speech--they were discussing the "flapping man," who might come for them, and they were desperate to retreat. As they left, the light revealed a shape in the corner, limbless and eyeless, covered in a blanket. He shouted out at the party, and Rosaline recognized the voice of Professor Smith before he fell unconscious.

Hours later, the door opened to reveal Mehmet Makryat, who lit a cigarette and monologued about his plan. He had impersonated Professor Smith from the beginning, setting the investigators on their entire quest, and revealed that he had been following them along the way and helping them overcome their difficulties. He thanked them for helping him defeat his father, and asked them how they had defeated Le Comte. They did not answer, and Mehmet explained that the Simulacrum's power was corrupting them already and they had only one hundred hours remaining in their lives, and that he was off to London to retrieve the Ritual of Cleansing that would save him from the Simulacrum's effects. With a smile, he said that he would unchain them so that they could see their bodies fall into slime, and he left. When he did, Professor Smith confirms Mehmet's story, but he said that the brothers believed the Flapping Man was a spirit of rage, and they could use that to escape. After some time, a pair of guards arrived to unshackle the investigators. As the countess passed Professor Smith, she flapped the blanket and screamed, and the the guards ran back down the stairs. Rosaline looked at Professor Smith and, after a short internal struggle, she slit his throat to end his suffering. Then the investigators fled down the stairs past the cells, past flayed skins, and the countess grabbed one and put it on. She ran out and babbled in a mix of languages, and the Brothers ran screaming in fear. The countess heard something behind her, and turned to see the real Flapping Man charging the Brothers. With that as a distraction, the party ran. Outside was James Rutherford, who ran up to them as they fled, as the sunrise washed the walls of the Shunned Mosque with blood-red light..
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
  4. Radovan Venclovic, Romani Ex-Soldier, driven to madness by the beast of flesh in the cemetery at Üsküdar, February 20th, 1923.
  5. Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian Police Inspector, driven to madness by the beast of flesh in the cemetery at Üsküdar, February 20th, 1923.
Over three thousand words. This was action-packed from beginning to end.

This part is, frankly, one of the weakest parts of the entire campaign--not only is it a railroad from start to finish, it has the players betrayed and captured by someone they thought would be their ally multiple times in sequence and the revelation that the entire quest across Europe and everything they accomplished was all at the bidding of the villain, so it would have been better if the PCs had just ignored Professor Smith's plea entirely and went on with their lives. I knew this was coming, and I've known for the entire game, so it didn't bother me that much. And it is a cosmic horror game, so it does a good job of showing the investigators' actions coming to naught. But as a roleplaying game device, it's poor form.

[ profile] mutantur said that the new version of the campaign has an option to end in a climactic battle at the Shunned Mosque where the PCs kill Mehmet Makryat and destroy the cult once and for all, which allows for immediate revenge. It's not how the scenario originally went, however, so we're going to do the original ending. That means there's two, maybe three more games and then we're done with the Horror on the Orient Express! Emoji ~ Cat smile
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
A while ago, I wrote up a description of elves for a science-fantasy RPG setting I'm working on. I liked them, but they were based on elves as creatures of Faerie and didn't really have anything science-fiction about them at all, so now I went back and changed them a lot and I think they fit a lot better:

The elves have always been a people apart. Before the coming of the Mist, the elves were united by the Elven Court of the Elder Wood, the center of elven civilization. There the Queen ruled, advised by the oldest of her people and the spirits of the forest. Even the far-flung communities in other forests paid homage to the Elven Court, their bonds aided by the Emerald Roads that facilitated travel from elven community to community.

The Mist ended that forever. As it washed over the Elder Wood, the elves made a choice. Some of them gave themselves fully to the rule of the forest spirits, forsaking such technology as they used and following the dictates of their shamans. Others saw the changes that the Mist wrought in those creatures it touched and determined to learn from them. They studied the Changed, using all their magic to form bastions among the woods to hold the Mist at bay, and developed the art of fleshcrafting. The former are known as the wild elves, and the latter as the mist elves.

There are rumors of a third group, who fled underground to avoid the Mist rather than ascending to the heights. It is said that the Mist changed them as they fled, that they worship spirits of fungus and spider and unclean things, and that they have tunnels under the surviving lands and raid the surface for slaves. But theses are merely rumors.

Physical Description: Generally taller than humans, elves possess a graceful, slender physique seemingly made of bark, vines and foliage. They vary greatly in appearance, as wild as nature itself. They encompass the colors of all plant life, tending towards shades of green and brown. Their hair grows leaves and branches. The older they are, the more growths they have, sometimes becoming long twisted vines that hang to their waist or longer. Their flesh is wooden, smooth when they are young and furrowing more and more as they grow older until it resembles the gnarled bark of an ancient tree. Their eyes vary from virgin wood green, morning sun gold, rich brown earth, to deep sky blue, but always a solid color with neither pupil nor iris visible.

The wild elves live in the forests and frequently dress in animal skins or clothing of bark and leaves, whereas mist elves wear suits designed to keep off the mist and work with fleshcrafted creatures, or the symbiotic armor given to their warriors.

Society: Where the elves were once unified, now there is a great division among them. The wild elves are ruled by shamans who speak to the forest spirits and look up to the warriors who practice supernatural martial arts learned from the spirits of the animals around them. The mist elves delve ever deeper into the arts of fleshwarping in the hope of discovering the secret of adaptation to the Mist without losing themselves to it.

There are still some similarities, however. Both cultures have a deep-seated appreciation for artistry and craftsmanship, and whether it’s a carved wooden chair or a piece of living furniture, an elven artisan will always work to their utmost and take pride in their work. Magic is held is high esteem, and the lifeshapers of the mist elves and spiritspeakers of the wild elves are some of the most honored members of their communities.

Relations: Others were always suspicious of the elves because of their insularity, and their new behavior has not changed that. It is the wild elves who are the most well-thought-of, because while they are savage and unpredictable, at least their powers are understandable. Wild elves get along especially well with grippli and sesheyans, who share their wilderness homes. Whatever it is that the mist elves are doing in their living strongholds makes the other races nervous, and their appearance, swathed entirely in robes or with visible symbiotic grafts attached to their bodies, does not allay that concern. There are some elves who live in the patchwork human cities that sprang up after the Mist came, but they are often not entirely trusted there, even after long years of residence.

And here's a picture I found on the internet that's a pretty good visual inspiration:

Pathfinder game mechanics )

Exalted stats )

Maybe someday, I'll actually be able to run this.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
  • Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian police inspector
The last leg of the trip was long, but at 12:30 p.m. the investigators arrived in Constantinople. Having been warned that it was easy for baggage to get lost, Yan and Radovan immediately went to oversee the unloading. Radovan looked for the large crate Le Comte's coffin had been in, but didn't see it. Yan saw four pieces of the party's luggage, Radovan saw two, but the remaining piece containing the right arm of the Simulacrum did not appear. The Baggage Office was a nightmare of bureaucracy, shuttling the countess and professor from department to department, each of which swore that they would find the luggage but gave no impression of confidence. When Rosaline spoke to the staff of the Orient Express, however, they apologized profusely for the error and told her that they would find it and send it on to the hotel. Satisfied with this, and with the staff procuring a taxi for the party, they went on to the Pera Palace Hotel.

Constantinople was grand but appallingly dirty, with dead animals and garbage in the streets, but the hotel was clean and grand. The party checked their luggage carefully when they arrived, and soon after they got a call that their lost luggage had arrived. Everything was in order as far as they could tell, but as they sat down the countess and professor felt pain in their arm and leg, respectively, that struck suddenly and did not go away.

The investigators discussed their plans for a time. They had been given no contact and had no leads on finding the Shunned Mosque or the Sedefkar Scrolls they needed for the ritual. They eventually decided to store the Simulacrum in the vault of the bank associated with the hotel, and the hotel staff transported it without incident. The professor, Radovan, and Rosaline went to the British Consulate to check for messages from Professor Smith or Beddows, and received one from Professor Smith stating that the Simulacrum required all parts assembled and the scrolls to be destroyed. After, they reassembled at the hotel, they went on to the Topkapi Museum. Unfortunately, the professor's Turkish was not good enough to read the museum catalogue, so they retreated in defeat. Their next stop was the Great Bazaar, a madhouse of commerce. The professor bought some souvenirs:
Me: "I buy some souvenir garbage for my children."
[ profile] mutantur: "Your beloved children."
As they approached the scribes' section, they saw five Turkish men approaching them quickly and with purpose. Yan waved at them, but they continued around him toward a young scribe and began to smash his possessions. Rosaline screamed for help, the professor asked the men what the scribe's was and received a gruff reply that it is none of his business. After half a minute of beating, the men left and Rosaline hurried over to check his wounds. The scribe, Feyar, explained that the men had business with the government that went badly through no fault of his own, and offered his services. The investigators accepted, told him to meet them at the museum tomorrow, and win back to dinner at the hotel. After dinner, the professor scanned a local newspaper and noticed an article about a rash of child kidnappings. Greeks were suspected, but the group thought the Brotherhood of the Skin was more likely.

The countess and the professor still felt stiff and unwell in the morning, and after breakfast went to the museum. Feyar was there, and they entered and searched the catalogue. Listed plainly was "Scrolls, Sedefkar," with a note that they were not on public display. They sought out the museum director, Professor Azap, and the professor stated that he was writing a book about Turkish linguistic history and wished to see an example of 13th century Middle Turkish. The director was insulted, stating that the scrolls were an embarrassment, but allowed them in. However, the tubes he provided were empty, containing only a note:
The Skinless One reclaims
what is his
Cursed be Garaznet the Thief.
The director began consulting books, and the professor asked who the last person to see the scrolls was. The logbook contained an entry dated 1823 for a person named Selim Makryat, perhaps an ancestor of the Mehmet Makryat who had died three times in London at the start of their journey. With nothing else here, they left the archive. Yan asked Feyar about the Skinless One and Garaznet and the countess asked Feyar about the Shunned Mosque, but he had not heard of any of those. The screen suggested the university library, so that was their next destination. The professor looked up Garaznet, finding he was a Kurdish scholar four centuries ago, who had died without children and was buried in the Üsküdar. The countess looked into the Shunned Mosque, but didn't find anything matching the description from the records of the crusaders, and neither did Rosaline find any mention of the "Brotherhood of the Skin" by that name. She did, however, find a "cannibal cult" rumored to gather in a ruined mosque of roseate tincture. They left, with Feyar promising to meet them at the hotel the next day. After dinner, they went to a belly-dancing performance that was obviously designed for tourist pounds and francs.

On the way back to the hotel, it seemed like they were being followed by a Romani man leading a trained bear. As he passed, it seemed that he said, "Take care, my friends" in English, and the vanished into the crowds. Back at the hotel, as the professor scanned old newspapers, he saw a note about a murdered British office who had been killed by a couple involved in criminal activity, Charles and Evelyn Drake. The article mentioned a skinned monkey left in her room, which seemed strange. The cult had never been reluctant to skin humans before.

The next morning, they went to the market again. Listening to the local gossip, the party learned that the children were continuing to go missing and that the child of a wealthy European had also gone missing, so maybe the authorities would do something about it now. A young woman seemed to know about the mosque but wouldn't answer until the countess reassured her, and then she revealed that the Shunned Mosque was also called the Red Mosque, but then ran in fear. They heard the name of Beylab the Perspirer, who can find out anything. Feyar said he could not be trusted, but was willing to draft a message requesting an appointment for the following day. Next the investigators went back to the university to look for the whereabouts of Professor Sadik, Demir's uncle. They found an address and followed it, and after drinking tea in the sitting room, Professor Sadik arrived. He was unsurprised at Demir's death, saying that he always expected that he would outlive his nephew. The professor explained how a Demir had died and asked Professor Sadik about Garaznet and the Red Mosque, and while they did not learn anything new, they had the information they already knew confirmed.

After speaking with Professor Sadik, the investigators went to the Hotel Oasis to look into the Drakes' murder of the British colonel. The hotel was slightly run down, with a large man staffing the front desk. They rented a room, claiming that they knew the Drakes and asking after them. The clerk claimed he had never heard of them but Yan could tell he was lying, and the professor noticed the Drakes' names in the ledger next to two days in then Sultan Suite. That was there next destination, and strangely the door was unlocked. The room had been cleaned, but the mattress still bore bloodstains.

Down in the lobby, Radovan and Rosaline noticed that there was a tall, gaunt man who seemed to be watching them. As the countess pretended to faint to distract the clerk, the professor paged through the register and found that Charles Drake and stayed in the hotel many times, but Evelyn Drake had only previously stayed once. As the countess went back to the room, Radovan, Rosaline, and the professor went to talk to the man. He gave his name as Maurice Cotting and said he was a writer. He did not answer the investigators' questions, but Rosaline realized that he was an opium addict and might be more talkative at an opium den. They excused themselves and removed to a safe distance to wait. After several hours, Maurice left and the investigators followed. He went into a cafe, then out the back and into an opium den. They followed and sat next to Maurice, who was much more talkative now. He said he frequently saw the Drakes and that Charles Drake claimed to be a carpet importer but was actually a gun-runner, and asked for a share of the reward. The countess promised a share, and as Maurice floated off into an opium haze, the group left.

On the way back to their real hotel, the investigators saw the man with the bear again. It seemed strange, like the two were blending into each other, but when they looked again, there was no one there.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
This session was pretty meandering, because we arrived in Constantinople knowing that we had to bring the Simulacrum to the Shunned Mosque and recite the ritual but didn't know where the Shunned Mosque was, where the Sedefkar Scrolls were, what the ritual was, and didn't have a contact or any other way to find the information out. There have been in-game days that took multiple sessions to cover, but this one session was almost a week.

I don't really have any other comments. This is the last slow point, then it's all a speeding train towards the ending!
dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
I've been tinkering with RPGs again. Some people write fanfiction, some people draw fanart, and I come up with RPG homebrew. Even though I'm in three games right now--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea game, [ profile] mutantur's Call of Cthulhu game, and my own Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game--and thus have no time for another one, I just enjoy game design. My latest burst of creativity was spurred on by finding Heretical Shadows, someone's fan supplement for using the Shadowrun system with fantasy settings. It's something I've always wanted to try, since there's already rules for fantasy races, magic, and spirits, it's skill-based instead of class-and-level based, and it uses my favorite dice mechanic (giant pools of dice). But it would be a bunch of work for a game that I'm not likely to run anytime soon, so I'm glad someone else did it.

I keep thinking about tweaking it more, but I should actually run Shadowrun for a while first to familiarize myself with the system. I did a lot of tinkering with Exalted, but I ran that game for years. And anyway, one of my players perks up every time I mention canon Shadowrun so that's probably next in the queue. And urban fantasy cyberpunk is a good departure from grim sword and sorcery.

At [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's suggestion, we sat down and watched an episode of Chef's Table about Ivan Orkin, a Jewish New Yorker who ran a ramen restaurant in Japan. So now I want to move back to Japan, and I really want a bowl of ramen. Especially his ramen, with its noodles made in-house using toasted rye flour. He's right that it's very unlikely a Japanese person would have thought to do that, especially since they usually buy their noodles.

This also reminds me of the first time I saw salarymen ordering noodle refills and decided to do it myself. I spent a few minutes psyching myself up and formulating how to ask and eventually said something like すみません、もう麺を一皿お願いします ("Excuse me, may I have another plate of noodles?"), and the ramenyasan looked at me quizzically and said かえだま (kaedama), the specific word for that very thing. Emoji Smiling sweatdrop I did get my noodles, though.

And speaking of food:

Farmer's Market dinner )

Overcooked comes out on Switch tonight and we're probably going to buy it. Usually, if a game is multiplatform I buy it on PC for future-proofing reasons--I just recently played through a game from 1994 with no problems at all--but Overcooked is specifically local co-op only, and sitting on the couch next to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to play is more comfortable than both of us crowding around my computer. It's also about cooking, one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's my treasured hobby. I'm looking forward to cooking together, on the back of two speeding trucks!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
    • Drifting Snow, chuzan former farmer.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Seriously injured but with their enemies dead, the party began cleaning up the loose ends. Elaphe searched the lab where the vampire had died, finding several seemingly-enchanted items--a suit of armor composed of tiny scales and fitting like a second skin, a cup as large as his forearm that had seemingly been filled with blood, and a set of chains made of soulsteel, as well as the cloak that the vampire had been wearing. He scooped them all up, as well as a pile of crystals, and the books on necromancy that were in a bookshelf against the wall. Shining Star offered her talents to the mercenaries, who had suffered several casualties and had severely injured members being carried out. They were also bringing out the corpses of the necromancers for burial, to prevent their angry ghosts from rising and attacking their killers. She spent some time on this while the Green Knight and Amos went down the remaining tunnel and found a living area with clothing, some money, but no food. They took the money and then left the cursed cave behind.

Outside, Crimson accepted the rest of the mercenaries' payment with grace, though obvious sadness. His company was in no condition to fight now and would need time to recover. They all made camp together away from the cave, and in the morning departed for Rockfort. This time, the mercenaries were not singing.

The trip back was uneventful under clear skies, though a chill wind was blowing from the north. Once in Rockfort, Bonnie told the wall guards about their success in fighting the necromancers and the undead, showing one of the necromancy books as proof after Elaphe would not give up the cloak to be used as a sign fearing that it would be taken from them. The guards were obviously skeptical, but they sent a runner off to the castle to consult with the king. The runner returned after about an hour with a message that the king's chancellor would speak with them after lunch the following day, and with no other option, the party accepted. They continued into Rockfort and through the pipe in the town square, passing into B'rabt, and taking a room at a hostel. They remained there that night, watching the B'rabti passing to and fro, the priests of the moon god, and the slow flow of the Kintai south to the Narrow Sea.

The following day, everyone except Elaphe went back to Rockfort to meet with the chancellor. Bonnie introduced herself as an Auspicious Orator of Chai and explained their deeds, and the chancellor eventually declared them knights of Fontina, subject to the rights and duties thereof. The Green Knight violently rejected the knighthood and almost earned a spear through the throat from the guards in the room, but stood down when Shining Star asked him too. The chancellor was very clear that the king was too busy to see the party, so they left and went back to Elaphe, who had been attempting to identify the items they had found. They rode north until the moons had risen in the sky and finally took a pipe through to the Scarlet City.

On the way in, Shining Star saw another one of the starfolk, who live in the Star Road and fight a ceaseless war against the demons to prevent them from descending in their swarms to the world below.
Bonnie's player: "Is there anywhere in this world which is just a nice place to live?"
Me: "Don't be ridiculous."
She nodded a greeting to them and received a nod in reply, and then they entered the temple. The Temple of the Goddesses in the Floral Quarter gave a warm welcome to Shining Star, especially when they heard that she had killed several necromancers and a vampire. The old priest of Tharu who had treated them last time gave them a room, though they would have to pay for their own food, and offered medical treatment of the injured. Elaphe' wounds were serious, and they would need at least six weeks to heal, so they settled in for a long convalescence.

Amos spent some time with a group of Muskalan mercenaries who followed the way of the Excellent Archer, eventually picking up their fighting style himself. Shining Star devoted herself to studying sorcery in the temple's library. The Green Knight spent time cultivating a patch of wilderness outside the city and training Drifting Snow to live off the land. Bonnie went to the Chaian consulate and spoke with a powerful orator stationed there about the books they had found. The orator was able to send a message back to Chai about the books--they were to be placed in the Orators' library--and realizing that she could convey a message, she asked if the orator would contact her father. She sent a message explaining what she had been doing, and her father sent her a reply about how proud he was of her and how he was glad she was accomplishing so much, since he had never left the borders of Chai. Bonnie left with a happy glow and spent time teaching Amos Muskalan and Shining Star Sarasan, using her supernatural understanding of languages to speed the learning process.

Elaphe, once he was cleared to walk again, took the artifacts they and found to a shady sorcerer for identification. The sorcerer told him that the cloak could be used to command the walking dead, the cup could be filled with blood that the owner could drink themselves or give to others to drink for healing, the chains had the ability to bind ghosts, and the scales were armor that would increase the wearer's mobility underwater. He later took them to be priced, but when he heard the princely sum offered for the armor--four and a half ryō, enough to retire on--he had second thoughts.

Two weeks before Elaphe's wounds healed, the first snow of the year fell.

Another logistics-based episode requiring convalescence extended by bad rolls on the part of the chirurgeon, much like session seventeen. Bonnie and the Green Knight's players are thinking of switching their characters out for new ones, but don't have their new characters finalized yet so that won't happen until next time. Elaphe's player also wants a set of silken armor, since he can't wear armor with Black Rose Style, but we saved that for the next game. The next game might be entirely more Scarlet City, actually, as new characters are introduced and the party figures out what they want to do. They thought about finally following the map to the treasure, but that requires winter travel into the wilderness. There's also exploring the safe route in Etemenanki they learned about, or the pipe through to the jungle ruins neither of which will be affected by the weather. We'll see!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
    • Drifting Snow, chuzan former farmer.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The adventurers and the mercenaries entered the cave mouth, descending into the depths of the earth. The darkness was oppressive, even more so than normal, and Shining Star felt the taint of darkness in the walls and floor all around them. They heard chanting as they reached an intersection and Elaphe sniffed at each of the passages. The left-hand side bore the strongest smell of rot, so Crimson left four mercenaries to guard the passage back and then continued downward. After only a minute or so, the emerged into a large circular room, maybe twenty yards across, with several of the walking dead milling around and a piled altar of rough stone in the center. Around the altar were four figures--the skeleton mycon they had seen at the entrance to the cave, a chuzan holding a strange mercurial sphere, a slightly smaller kappa, and a mycon with glowing red eyes standing further back. As they entered, the red-eyed mycon looked up at them and said in Floral, "Kill them."

The remainder of the session was a battle. The mercenaries surged forward into the walking dead as Amos quickly aimed at the chuzan necromancer and fired, seriously injuring him, while the chuzan threw the sphere he held into the mercenaries, hitting one and knocking him over. The skeletal mycon charged forward while the Green Knight prepared for his arrival and they began trading blows. One of the mycon's blows hit the Green Knight, scoring a cut on his side. The red-eyed mycon waved his hands and shadows descended on Shining Star and the Green Knight, draining their vitality, but Shining Star's answering bolt of white fire just missed.

As Amos fired another arrow at the skeletal mycon, half-a-dozen maggot-white hands attached to long arms erupted from the ground and grabbed at the mercenaries. Crimson shouted at his men to push the walking dead back and open up a path, but they were wavering. The red-eyed mycon gestured at one of the bleeding wounds on a mercenary and the blood leaped through the air into their mouth, which did not help with morale.

Elaphe sent out a mental call to his claw strider mount and drank a Crimson Hero's Elixir he had waiting for just such an occasion and collapsed on the floor, writhing in agony but growing in size. As he stood up again, now almost five yards high, he leapt over the mercenaries and brought his blade down onto the red-eyed mycon, but the mycon's body fell apart into mist as Elaphe struck.

Shining Star blasted the skeletal mycon with holy fire as Elaphe laid into the two necromancers near him, cutting the chuzan in half and seriously injuring the kappa. His claw strider leapt forward to guard him, but both of them were assaulted by shadow energy. The red-eyed mycon was revealed in the light as the mercenaries surged forward, though Bonnie saw one of them have her throat bitten out as something emerged from the dirt before vanishing again. Then hands burst from the dirt around her and pulled her to the floor.

Elaphe sent his claw strider to free Bonnie, and it bit one of the arms in half and ripped it from the soil, allowing Bonnie to push herself up from the soil and out of immediate danger. The red-eyed mycon, seeing that it was in danger, fell into mist again and Elaphe's attack missed...but Amos's arrow, or at least the fires on it, seemed effective. As the mist fled from them, the party chased it through the tunnels to a small laboratory or workshop filled with corpses and unholy texts and, just as it was going to some cracks in the wall, Amos's last shot struck home. The mycon reformed briefly, silently screaming, and then exploded into ash, leaving only the black cloak it was wearing behind.

And that was it. The battle took almost the entire session between the mercenaries, the thing under the ground, the three necromancers and the vampire, and the PCs. The Green Knight's retainer Drifting Snow botched her Valor roll, so she spent most of the battle cowering in fear. And yes, they left the mercenaries to kill off the skeletal mycon. Did they? We'll see.

I guess in one way I went easy on the PCs because I had to make a snap decision about how they could hurt the vampire's mist form, but fire harms mist in Vampire: the Masquerade, so that's the precedent I drew on.

Next session is next week due to the hiatus we've had, where we'll also deal with the fallout from the battle and what the PCs do next.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
It's probably not a good idea for me to read climate news right before bed.

I've since read some cogent critiques of the piece, pointing out its Eurocentrism and factual errors like the invocation of medieval stasis in the idea that for thousands of years, people would live mostly the same as their parents and grandparents did. This was the popular conception even at the time--see all those medieval paintings with Jesus and the disciples dressed like someone from medieval France--but it was never actually true. There were a lot of changes over that time, just none as visible from the modern age as the industrial or green revolutions.

There was also a good point about the wisdom of "The situation is bad and requires immediate action" vs. "Your descendants will ritually curse your names in the ruins of their ancestors' cities." The first is true, the second might be true, but encourages paralysis. If civilization is doomed, why bother trying to save it? Live in luxury now while it's still possible. Eat, drink, and be merry, etc. I'm definitely inclined more towards inevitable doom, but more in ScreamingInternally.jpg model than the conspicuous consumption model.

I could have written this last night around 1 a.m., but fortunately I've developed better bedtime discipline as I've gotten older and I just stayed in bed and kept trying to sleep.

I'm slowly making progress on re-linking all the photo embeds to their new hosting. I've done Darker than Black, all my video game reviews, and my Japan, Chicago, Translation, Warcraft, and Travel tags. Now I'm working on Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries and then I'll get to the RPGs tag and that'll probably be the vast majority of everything necessary. I'll catch the last few photos when I find them.

Tonight is the next session of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom after a month hiatus due to conflicting schedules. We left off right before the protagonists and their hired mercenaries entered a cave system in pursuit of a group of necromancers. They've spent half-a-dozen sessions tracking down the source of the walking dead plague and following them to this cave system, and now the climactic battle happens against at least three necromancers and whatever else is down there. They're mostly uninjured but fatigued, having force-marched through the day to arrive before sundown, and while they have mounts the mercenaries were on foot. Who will win? This or that by brokenboulevard
dorchadas: (Warcraft Moonkin Moonfire)
Just got out of a three-hour meeting where they again mentioned that we need fewer meetings. Maybe they can form an exploratory committee that can meet and determine a meeting schedule where they hammer out a plan for having fewer meetings.

I mean, some of the supervisors near me were playing Candy Crush on their phones. These are not vital meetings here.

I've been working on a Pathfinder adaptation of Warcraft, sourced partially from the old World of Warcraft RPG and partially from my eternal desire to tinker with systems. I already added two ability scores to the classic Strength-Dex-Con-Int-Wis-Cha lineup (one for Perception, and splitting Dexterity into full-body agility and fine manipulation) and am writing out all the spells myself rather than using the classic magic missile and cure light wounds. Now I'm working on the druid, and I'm trying to do it without any moon or sun spells. Moonfire is probably the iconic druid ability--it's what the moonkin is casting in the icon I used for this post--but in Warcraft III druids didn't have any of that. They summoned plants, roared loudly, and turned into animals.

The ones with the moon-themed spells were, of course, the priestesses of the moon. WoW brought in shadow priests and didn't want too many race-specific classes--and I don't blame them, it was a balancing nightmare for years until they finally wiped out almost all the edge-case buffs and special racial spells--so they didn't make night elf priests moon-themed, but I can ignore that for these purposes. Druids get to grow thorns and summon roots and spores and control the weather, and priestesses call down the light of the moons.

Moonfires will still be spammed, but in a more thematic way.

I took that Potter quiz that's all around social media now and got Slytherin, again. I always considered myself as a Ravenclaw until I starting taking those quizzes and they just came back Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin... Well, green and black are my favorite colors, and sometimes I do know what's best for you.

And I almost forgot, but I found an article on USGamer about a fan-made Final Fantasy XV cookbook. I showed it to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and now she's fired up about trying to make some of the recipes, so maybe when we draw Darker than Black to a close, we'll have a new cooking project to match it and 50 Weeks, 50 Curries.
Maybe I should actually play Final Fantasy XV first, though...
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
  • Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian police inspector
After taking the weapons distributed by Major Kristova's associates, the inspectors sat and waited until dawn. The professor sat by himself, casting surreptitious glances at the major's associates and wondering if they could be trusted. The countess offered up a brief prayer in memory of Jazmina, thinking of all the people she had lost. Radovan cleaned the shotgun he had taken, checked his ammunition, and otherwise fell back into his soldier training. Rosaline stared off into space, almost in shock.

Near dawn, they all piled into a truck and drove southeast of Sofia, to a set of caves near a smaller village. The entrance had been concealed and behind was an obvious emplacement for an ambush, with barbed wire and sandbags set up in front of a machine gun emplacement. The actual machine gun was lying yards away, smashed to uselessness against a rock wall. There were several trucks parked nearby but all of them had ruptured fuel tanks and were undriveable. The major surveyed the carnage, hoisted his rifle, and shared a grim expression with his men. There would be no prisoners.

The cave was completely dark, with a slick floor and unsteady footing. Further in were cave paintings, a bison and hunters frozen in time. The passages looped in on themselves as the group descended further and further into the earth, and finally they heard the sound of boiling water and the faint stench of decay. Through a jagged arch of rocks was a giant chamber, full of echoes, and liberally strewn with bodies with a strange pyramid in the center. As the police fanned out and secured the room, the investigators moved in an examined the scene. The bodies had been torn apart, still clutching weapons that had proved useless against what they had faced. Radovan examined the bodies and found that there was much less blood than there should be. He looked closer and and realized that they were already starting to rot, and then realized that only parts were staring to rot. Parts which had been attached to living bodies by unnatural means.

As Radovan reeled back, the countess moved to see what was wrong and, as she crossed the room, she saw her own eye staring at her from a dead man's eye socket.

The major followed a trail of blood toward a crevice leading upward, with the sky visible through the other side. It was far too narrow for a human to make it through, and he abandoned any attempt to follow the trail. As the group approached the pyramid, they realized that it was made of skulls. Fifteen feet high, growing more and more fleshy as it rose. The top was flat, possibly intended to be used as a platform, and the countess mused that the head may be here. Radovan tried to climb and backed off in disgust when one of the skulls fell on him, and Rosaline suffered a similar fate. Yan asked what they were doing, and when the professor explained he asked for a boost and easily climbed the pyramid of skulls. It was strangely stable, and from the top he could a shrine on top with a pillow, bearing the indentation of a heavy object but otherwise empty. Yan called down that there was nothing there except the shrine, and then climbed down.

Following another trail of blood that led behind the pyramid, the group entered a narrow passage and found a dead cultist who had been torn to sheds. Behind him was a small opening, two feet in diameter, that descended down into the depths of the earth. Rosaline shined a light down but couldn't see anything, and Radovan dropped a rock. When the sound came back, Rosaline reached a hand in, twisting her arm around the passage's turns, and felt two garlic cloves and something smooth, with eye sockets. She lost her footing and her check against the rock, but reached further and further and pulled out the Head of the Sedefkar Simulacrum.

As they existed the small passage, they noticed that most of the bodies on the ground had gone missing.

Radovan stared, seemingly in shock, but the group noticed that the other policemen were still there and had seemingly missed the bodies. One of the police shouted something, and the group noticed movement in the darkness, something darting around in the shadows. Climbing the walls and crawling along the ceiling, and a Yan called out to the major that they needed to leave immediately. A hundred feet from the exit, things came charging out of the shadows. Long-clawed, red-eyed, sharp-toothed, muzzled gray-skinned monsters, and the group prepared for battle.

Shots range out as the investigators fired at the rushing group of monsters. The major made the first kill, blasting one with its shotgun and sending it falling apart in a spray of accelerated decay, but then the monsters were on them. One of them hit Yan, knocking him to the ground, but Yan brought his pistol up and blew it apart. Another clawed Radovan and tried to seize him, reaching around Radovan's attempt to push it off and sunk its fangs into Radovan's neck...and then it crumbled as the major shot it in the head. Rosaline crushed a clove of her garlic and the creature attacking her backed off, hissing. As one of the monsters approached the professor, he drew forth the Mims Sahis, slashed the vampire, and cut it in half.

As the countess backed away from the creature attacking her, the major shouted at them to run and ordered Yan to follow them. Rosaline threw another clove to the major and the investigators moved toward the cave entrance, avoiding the creatures who reached for them, and fled through the passage toward the surface and into the sunlight. The monsters' footsteps followed them through the tunnels, but as they left the tunnel their flesh seared in the sunlight and they fled howling into the caves. The major, having followed them, punched the wall in fury and stalked to his truck. He said he had lost good men and there would be vengeance, and pulled out dynamite and passed it out to the investigators. They laid it down, triggered it, and an explosion sealed the entrance to the horrible caves where the Butchers had their temple.

Rosaline applied first aid to Radovan's wounds as the professor carefully examined the wound's reaction to sunlight. It seemed benign, and Radovan claimed that no blood was drawn, but the professor watched him all the way back to Sofia. There, the major and Yan had a private discussion and then Yan said that he would travel with them to accompany them on their trip. Yan grabbed his equipment and they all returned to the investigators hotel, where they had an almost supernatural compulsion to reassemble the Sedefkar Simulacrum.

HotOE Completed Sedefkar Simulacrum

Each investigator saw something of themselves in it, and they spent some time gazing at it. Yan asked them their plan, and the investigators explained the Shunned Mosque, the Brotherhood of the Skin, and the need to destroy it. The professor explained about Le Comte and the expectation that he would be coming for them, soon, and the investigators split up to prepare. The countess bought garlic, Yan bought wood to be whittled into stakes and "acquired" some holy water from a local church, and the professor picked up the Arabic translation materials he had had forwarded to Sofia. The professor wrote letters to his sons and daughter, and the countess bought a fashionable eyepatch. Then, they boarded the train for their last night on the Orient Express.

The investigators were exhausted, but they knew they were in danger. The professor suggested they crush garlic and apply it to the seams of the outdoor windows. Yan suggested that they jam the doors in their rooms that led to other rooms, and the countess suggested that they set a watch. After an uneasy dinner, they returned to their rooms and fell asleep, and in the night, there was a knock on the countess's door. Her questions as to the identity of the person were answered only with more knocks. The noise alerted Yan and Radovan, and Yan peeks out into the hall and saw a conductor. The conductor seemed to be sleepwalking, but they raised a shotgun, slowly, and fired. The sound raised screams and and shouts, and as the conductor raised his shotgun, Yan charged. The conductor moved backward just in time to be hit by Rosaline and the countess opening the door to their room.

As conductors came running and shouted at Yan about whether to arrest the conductor, the conductor who had the gun protested his ignorance and eventually was led away. After some brief argument about what to do, the investigators drifted into uneasy sleep. After about an hour, the professor heard a whispered voice demanding that he return the "skin." The professor said nothing, retrieving some garlic, and knocked on the door to the women's room. As the voice ranted, Rosaline knocked and the professor opened the door, shushing her. Eventually Le Comte promised to kill one passenger per hour that the Simulacrum was not returned, and the voice fell silent.

Waking the others up, the professor explained the situation. The investigators decided that they would have to track down Le Comte and destroy him, and so they girded for battle and proceeded to the Fourgon, where they assumed that Le Comte must have some coffin that protects him from the sun. As they walked down the corridor, they heard a roaring sound, and coming around the corner they saw a tiger that sprang on Yan, biting him! As the tiger's fangs sank into his flesh, Yan drove his stake into the tiger, but it didn't seem to have any effect. Rosaline crushed some garlic and hurled it at the tiger, and it recoiled and its body rippled and twisted into the form of a man. A horrific mockery of the human form, long arms and covered in scars, with a muzzle-like face, rotted nose, and hideous fangs. The countess threw holy water to no effect, Le Comte stared at Radovan but Radovan fired his shotgun, blowing a hole into Le Comte. Then the professor pulled out the Lover's Heart. The red light of hatred seared the ancient monster's face, and its body fell apart into mist as it fled.

As they entered the salon car, they were questioned by a conductor, but Yan managed to bluster enough to ward him off. To assuage further suspicious, Rosaline, Yan, and Radovan briefly went back to their room, but the professor and the countess stayed for a drink. As they drank, they heard from another passenger than one of the passengers had died.

The others returned and the professor told the conductor that he needed to retrieve something from this luggage and the conductor, who seemed unsteady on his feet, shuffled aside. They entered the Fourgon and began to search, frantically looking for a coffin or something large enough for one. They found an unregistered crate, clearly large enough to contain a body. Radovan and Yan pried it open and found a coffin, padlocked shut, and the investigators forced it open. The coffin cracked open, revealing a layer of blood-soaked earth and...Le Comte, who opened his eyes and attacked.

Yan hurled garlic and Rosaline tried to stake the vampire, who clawed her across they face, dropping her with hideous wounds. The vampire leaped up and stared at Yan to no effect, and Radovan grabbed Yan's carbine and fired, blasting a hole in the vampire. The countess quickly bandaged Rosaline as the professor pulled out the Lover's Heart and, in Latin, intoned, "Tullius Corvus, go now to thy reward!" The red beam illuminated the vampire, spreading like a bloodstain across his body, and the shock of hearing his name was the last thing he knew as his body exploded into dust and the ancient monster was finally laid to rest.

In the chaos of the passenger death, the investigators were able to scatter the blood-soaked earth and destroy the coffin. They told the conductors that there had been an anarchist bomb in the unregistered coffin, and surprisingly their story was accepted. They finally went to sleep, knowing that one threat had been dealt with, but they were traveling straight into the maw of danger.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
Crawl 'til dawn
On my hands and knees
God damn these vampires
For what they've done to me

I definitely thought we were going to lose Rosaline this session, but the countess pulled a clutch first aid roll at the last moment! And it's a good thing that none of us approached the windows. There's a lot of terrible things the vampire can do from the safety of outside the train.

Le Comte is finally dead (through the professor doesn't entirely think so, and he's followed us across Europe this far so I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to be suspicious). Now we just have the Brotherhood left to deal with. Just.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
​It was a ten hour train ride to Sofia, and the party used the time to catch up Rosaline on what had happened in the forest and explain what they were up against to Radovan. To their relief, Radovan accepted their story of secret cults, lands of dream, and vampires without much question, and when the story was done, the countess proposed a toast "to those who are no longer with us." The party drank gladly, though with some tears in Jazmina's eyes as she thought of Demir.

As they lowered their glasses, Jazmina spotted her father's friend Radko Jordanov, sitting alone at the far end of the dining car and taking notes on some documents spread on the table in front of him. Led by Jazmina, the party approached, noticing over his shoulder the words "Sedefkar" and "Simulare," as well as "Dzhudzheta" underlined several times. Jazmina greeted him and he responded warmly, astonishment that they were on the same train. The party asked him his business, and he said that he was on the way to Sofia to catalogue Dr. Moric's possessions and was studying a student's old paper that had some remarkable similarities. The student Ivo Pinev found a statue head that he claimed he bought from a farmer and spun a fantastical tale of a prehuman race, which he named after the Dzhudzheta of Slavic myth. His paper was full of gross inaccuracies and he was laughed out of academia, but Dr. Jordanov added that he was surprised to see that the strange words like "Sedefkar" that he thought were simply fabrications were reflected in the papers from Mr. Moric's cache.

As he spoke, Jazmina and the countess noticed that one of the waiters had stopped doing serving and was blatantly listening in to Dr. Jordanov's conversation and taking notes in his serving pad, ignoring all of the summons from the diners. When he noticed the party's attention, he turned and began moving toward the far end of the car. When the maître d' asked him why he was leaving, the waiter drew a knife and slashed at him!

As the panic started in the car, Radovan jumped up and began leaping from table to table in pursuit, while Jazmina tried to force her way through the crowd. Radovan was notably more successful, forcing open the door at the far end and struggling with the assailant as one of the conductors tried to dissuade Jazmina pursuit. She was not delayed long, however, and arrived as the waiter was trying to leap off the train and Radovan was grabbing at the briefcase the waiter carried. As he grabbed at the satchel, the strap broke and it went tumbling off the train. Soon after, the pair were able to restrain the waiter, after which the conductor arrived with several men to haul him away.

Radovan followed his nose and found the corpse of a young man, stripped to his underclothes and missing his right hand.

The party reconvened and discussed the situation. They couldn't think of of a reason why the hand would missing, and Jazmina, the professor, and Rosaline eventually decided to go check on the man himself. When they arrived, the guards told them in confidence that the waiter had killed himself while he was in the cell. Jazmina spun a tale of a ring that the waiter had snatched from her, which got the professor entrance to the cell. The waiter had killed himself by stabbing himself in the eye, and after a moment controlling his stomach, the professor inspected the body. The waiter had both hands, no rings, no tattoos, and nothing suspicious about him. His search fruitless, the professor exited the cell and they all returned to their rooms, where the awaited their arrival in Sofia.

In Sofia they were met by a grizzled police inspector, Major Kristova, who took them to the station and questioned them about the events on the train. He seemed to accept even the strangest of their stories about cults, and when Rosaline asked if these events were common, he replied in the affirmative. He seemed like he wanted to say more, and at the countess's urging he revealed that there was a group of slavers operating in Sofia called the Butchers, who kidnapped people and occasionally took body parts as trophies. He urged them to be careful and report anything they saw, and led the group out to the street. As they left, the investigators noticed that the other policemen snickered at the inspector as they walked out.

Dr. Jordanov offered the use of his car to the group if they would drop him off and the investigators accepted. They took rooms at the Hotel de la Bulgarie, and while everyone else went to bed, the professor and the countess ordered up wine and cheese and had a quick meal before retiring.

In the middle of the night, Radovan and the professor were awoken by scuttling in the middle of the night and awoke to find disembodied hands clambering toward them! They began to scuffle, dodging the hands' attacks. Radovan grabbed his hand and hurled it out the window, and the professor tried to hurl blankets over it but failed.

In the other room, the countess was awoken by cold fingers as the hand plucked out her eye! Emoji Face gonk

Rosaline and Jazmina were also under attack, but after the hands strangled them for a moment, they let go and began to run toward the heating vents. Most of the party let their hands go, and the professor's attempts to capture his were unsuccessful.

As the countess screamed in agony, Rosaline ran over and treated the wound while the professor called the front desk and demanded a doctor. Radovan closed the heating vents and searched the room before the doctor arrived and began to treat the countess. The professor said that he and awoken to figures in the room, but they fled as soon as they noticed their targets were awake. The doctor replied that this fit with the times, gave the countess some laudanum, and said the police had been called. The police took a statement, looked around, and then left, and the group drifted into an uneasy sleep.

As she slept her opium dream, the countess had visions of running through back alleys and climbing into a black car, leaving the city and speeding off into the country.

In the morning, Major Kristova was waiting for them in the lobby. The major did not buy their story of disembodied hands, and left in disgust after telling the investigators not to call him again. As they returned to their rooms, the countess told them about her visions and had another, of the car driving through the mountains, which had a very distinctive outline.

About this time, Rosaline, the countess, and the professor remembered what had happened to the priest whose eye was taken during the Fourth Crusade.

As they were leaving, the hotel staff took the professor aside and told the professor that an eye was found in the alley behind the hotel, but it was green and her eyes were brown. The professor thanked them and the group continued on to Dr. Jordanov's house, where after an awkward explanation and breakfast, he wrote down the title of the monograph and the party split up to search. Rosaline eventually found it in the library.

As the countess was searching, she had another vision, a stronger one almost crystal-clear. A person walking through a cavern carved out of the living rock.

In the study again, Jazmina sat down with the manuscript and began to read it. It claimed that the idol was created by prehuman dwarves, ridicules the academic establishment, and says the idol was sent to Dr. Todor Mativ at Sofiiski Universet. At that name, Dr. Jordanov pales and says that Dr. Mativ had killed his wife and sons and was found wearing their skins. He rushed at the police and was shot down like a mad dog. Years later, his assistant killed herself by stabbing herself in the eye. Dr. Jordanov sat down and said that he was done with the investigation, but the countess managed to drag a promise out of him to contact the Sofiiski Universet and arrange and introduction with Professor Chedenko.

As the investigators were leaving, the countess had another vision, again in the same cave. On a huge overhang, images were carved of mammoths and men wearing antlered headdresses.

At Sofiiski Universet, the staff were supremely uninterested in the urgency of the party's plight, until a professor of English took pity and, in a roundabout way, asked for a bribe. The countess gave over the money and he led them to Professor Chedenko's office, Jazmina knocked, and the investigators entered. Professor Chedenko was slightly absent-minded and easily distracted, but when Jazmina mentioned the Dzhudzheta Idol, Chedenko opined that it was probably a fake, maybe plastic. Rosaline tried to impress the urgency of their mission onto him with Jazmina's help translating, and Chedenko offered to show them the idol. Up a stair and down a hall lined with armor, was a door, and through the door was chaos. A headless man, spurting blood, and two seriously beaten men lay in the scattered parts of the workroom. Most of the investigators were okay, but for the professor this confirmed that Le Comte truly was after them, and he fled screaming.

The others saw men in dark clothes climbing out the window. One escaped, but the others turned at the opening of the doors and moved to attack. One of them had a shotgun, but his wild firing missed as Radovan charged in toward them. The other hurled a grenade. Jazmina tried to kick it back and Rosaline tried to throw it, while,the grenade man pulled a handgun and shot Radovan in the chest, dropping him. Then the grenade exploded.

Rosaline and Jazmina were seriously wounded and the countess, though she had run, was still shaken by the explosion. She stood up and treated Radovan and Rosaline, but her attempts to save Jazmina were unsuccessful, and Jazmina bled out on the floor of the Sofiiski Universet. Emoji Oh dear

As Rosaline worked, the countess looked out the window and saw the men in black standing by a large truck with a covered back. It screamed out of the parking lot and right into another car that moved to block it, plowing through the car and sending its driver flying. This knocked off the tarp and revealed a maxim gun, which the assailants fired at all the other cars in the parking lot as they fled.

The countess applied first aid to the only one of the survivors in the room, who muttered "Men. Robes. Who wear shoulders not their own," before passing into a coma. She checked on Professor Chedenko, but found that he was dead, and as she stood up she had a vision of a group of men in black robes walking through a fanged maw carved from living stone.

The students and faculty of the university arrived and, after some panic and worry, doctors were called, and Major Kristova was there as well. He said that he would protect them from the rest of the police, taking them in as witnesses, and he warded off the rest of the police when they tried to question the investigators and took the group away.

He managed to arrange some time for the investigators in the library, and the countess asked about the mountains. The librarian recognized it as the Sredna Gora, a local mountain range. Rosaline and the professor did some general research into eyes and heads, finding a few fragments about the eyes being the windows to the soul and cave paintings being symbolic representations of the animals. Then they left the library, went into a truck, Major Kristova whispered a password and the truck drove around randomly to confuse pursuers until it arrived at an abandoned bakery, where, after an exchange of knocks and passwords, they were admitted. In safety, they shared stories with the Major, explaining the cults that chased them, and the major replied that he had been chasing the Butchers for three years and now, the location of their base was finally known. The major said they would need a plan, and then attack tonight. Then he offered the base as a place to rest.

As they rest. The countess had another vision of horrific mutilations performed by something not quite seen. Limbs ripped out with impossible force, screaming faces torn apart, before something rushed at her and vanished in an explosion of light. As the countess panicked sightlessly, her brain refusing to see anything at all, she realized that the pain and itching in her eye was gone. Perhaps she was safe?

As they were resting, the group received a call from an informant saying that they saw a truck passing near full of bullet holes. The major stood up and said that this was their chance, and after passing out weapons, they all left to take the fight to the cult.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
The deaths are coming faster now.

I forgot about the eye! And those cultists in the library were much deadlier than most of the opposition we've faced this far. Shotguns and grenades? We're going to need to start carrying tommy guns like the most stereotypical of Call of Cthulhu protagonists. At least now we have a group of heavily-armed paranoid conspiracy theorists on our side. It's almost like we're playing Delta Green again!

When I failed the SAN check in the library, I drew from [ profile] mutantur's deck of failed SAN rolls and got unshakeable belief, so the professor is now even more convinced than ever before that the hand of Le Comte is behind everything. And honestly, I don't see why that's not correct. Once you admit that there are vampires, well.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
    • Drifting Snow, chuzan former farmer.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Just before dawn, Amos decided that he should scout out the necromancers' camp and see what it was that they had to face. Without waking any of the others--the Green Knight was already awake--he crept out of the camp to the north to within sight of the enemy camp. There were three figures sleeping near the fire, one large, one medium-sized, and one small, but that was all he noticed before he realized that the sapling next to him was a pole, on top of which was a skull, which turned and glared balefully at him before opening its mouth and letting out a sustained, ear-piercing wail.

Amos leveled his musket and fired at the shapes and then ran. He wasn't even sure he hit anything in the darkness, but he did see that the walking dead were coming for him. He arrived back at camp and explained, and after trying to start a prairie fire and failing due to the sodden grass from all the rain, the party mounted up and rode south for a mile in the lightening sky until they were sure that they weren't being pursued. They debated going back to try again, but eventually decided that now that knew where the necromancers were headed, they would go back to Gyere and see if they could raise a mob.

The ride back to town was uneventful and they were let in with only minimal hassling from the militia. They rounded up the militia captain and went to the tea house Three Wheat Sheaves, where they found the Band of the Red Dove drinking and dicing within. So they decided to call the mercenaries over as well, and with Captain Crimson of the Band of the Red Dove, they sketched out a map of the local area and asked the militia captain if there was anything that the necromancer could be heading for, a graveyard or a place of power or something. The militia captain recalled, in broken Floral and then in Muskalan with Bonnie translating, that he had heard stories of a cursed cave to the west of Rockfort during his childhood and maybe that was their destination. Then the party drew up a contract with the Band of the Red Dove and rode out at the head of a company of mercenaries. Emoji Dragon Warrior march

There was some side discussion of getting mounts for the mercenaries to try to beat the necromancers to the cave, but it was eventually dismissed as unfeasible due to the cost of horses, the likelihood of actually finding thirty riding horses in a farming community, and the fact that oxen aren't suitable for riding.

The mercenaries force-marched, and Shining Star called up the witch-sight as she traveled, and by mid-afternoon she saw a grove in the distance with a shadow hanging over it like a cloud. Bonnie immediately drank spirit-flower tea when Shining Star mentioned the miasma, and she saw pairs of eyes watching them as they approached. The mercenaries sent out scouts, and when they reported back, the party drew up a plan.

The grove surrounded a cave mouth that reared out out of the ground in a tiny hill, with two skulls on posts in front of it. There were no walking dead or necromancers visible, and the party decided to move closer and take up positions in the surrounding woods and try to lure the necromancers out by activating the skull guardians. Elaphe would send his bob-omb familiar above the cave mouth and, when the necromancers appeared, it would drop on them and then they all would attack. The Green Knight gave a brief sermon to Drifting Snow and then summoned the power of the forest to armor him in bark. The bark split through his skin...but it was gnarled in strange ways, with odd purple moss growing on it. Drifting Snow stared, unsure if this was what was supposed to happen, as the mercenaries began their plan.

Two mercenaries charged forward into the sight of the skulls and, as they started to shriek, they tossed off small bombs that made loud noises and then ran back into the trees. As zombies started filtering up from the cave mouth, mercenary archers began firing at did Amos and the Green Knight. The other members of the party waited as more of the walking dead appeared from the cave, as well as one ghul, which Amos and the Green Knight focused on until it ran forward and the mercenaries fell on it with swords.

Then, another figure walked up from the depths of the cave. Skeletal, with green balefire burning in its eyesockets and wearing black robes, it looked around the clearing, taking in the walking dead full of arrows and the shapes it could see in the trees, and shouted something back down the cave mouth.
Elaphe's player: "Are there any signs that this is a necromancer?"
Me: "Other than the obvious necromancy?"
At his signal, Elaphe's bob-omb ran over the edge of the cave mouth and exploded as it hit the ground, sending the walking dead flying in all directions. The necromancer was barely visible in the smoke, fleeing back down the cave mouth, as the mercenary heavy foot charged forward, tossing a few bob-ombs as they did, and began dismembering the remaining zombies to prevent them from acting. Emoji Axe Rage Then, the party configured. The cave didn't seem harmed at all by the explosion and the opening had jagged edges that were uncomfortably reminiscent of teeth, so collapsing the entrance didn't seem like it would work. The Green Knight opined that it might be the corpse of some unholy beast that the necromancers were attempting to raise and they would have to go in after them, and that is ultimately the course they chose. One of the mercenaries pulled a crystal out of a pouch and squeezed it, producing a flickering orange-red light as bright as a bonfire, as the mercenaries and party together moved into the cave mouth.

I expected the party to ambush the necromancers, but I suppose that is what they tried! Maybe if Amos had done better on his Stealth roll.

The players were originally thinking of bringing along a bunch of the town militia, but once they realized the mercenaries were still there they immediately thought about hiring them. Trained warriors beats farmers with spears, especially when fighting the walking dead and necromancers. And thanks to some good tactical planning by Amos and outnumbering the walking dead (so far), they've done very well. Going into an evil cave? Well.

We stopped a little early because there wasn't time to run the final battle in the last twenty minutes we had, so exploring the cave will be next game.
dorchadas: (Warcraft Algalon)
I've been on edge almost all day, which doesn't make it easy to relax on a three-day weekend. I even went to get a manicure with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and while my nails are much more manageable--they were long enough that it was pretty annoying to type--all I could think of while I was there was how long it was taking. I didn't find it relaxing at all. And I meant to start playing ふしぎの木の実 (大地の章) (Oracle of Seasons) today and haven't even booted it up. Instead I finished reading Japan at War, which is admittedly an excellent book, and fiddled with music for hours.

I've been really nostalgic for Warcraft lately. Not World of Warcraft, necessarily. The time of my life when I played MMOs is over. But the Warcraft setting, around which there isn't any way to interact outside of WoW and Hearthstone now that Blizzard isn't putting out Warcraft RTSes. I downloaded and organized the entire Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack, all fourteen hours of it, and have original WoW and Burning Crusade waiting for me to sort through when I can find the time. I booted up Warcraft III and played for a while before I tore myself away. And I made that icon that's up there from one of the few screenshots of Algalon I could find that wasn't full of PC nameplates or raiders trying to murder him.

I originally thought of putting "The stars come to my aid" as the text, since I played a Balance Druid and wore the Starcaller title from the moment I got it until I stopped playing even as I accumulated titles like "The Insane" and "Battlemaster," but I thought the current version would be more broadly applicable.

I'm all fired up over trying to make my perfect version of a WoW tabletop RPG game based on Pathfinder and using the Spheres of Power sourcebook to build spell lists for each caster class and Path of War for the martial classes, because I think it would work incredibly well even if it would be a ton of work. It'd be less work than actually balancing WoW is, though! And I need a new project now that Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom is in tinkering mode and I have multiple other games prepped and ready for when I have more time.

Of course, that's what I need, right? More time.

(On the other hand, an old woman at the nail salon told me that I had interesting pants and the proprietor said she was jealous of my hair, so some good things happened today!)
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Final met for another game!

Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The party huddled with Black Salted Earth in the Three Wheat Sheaves, ordered food and mushroom beer, and planned. Black Salted Earth went over the situation--Gyere was again terrorized by a vampire who now was even attacking people in their homes, making the old advice to stay indoors useless. She mentioned that they had already considered the obvious suggestion to assemble everyone in the town square at noon, but the refugees and farmers from the surrounding countryside made it impossible to keep track of who was in town. Shining Star and Bonnie consulted a moment and suggested that the vampire might be a shedo, a group of vampires who could assume the forms of those whose blood they drank and who were vulnerable to silver's touch. That led to some more outlandish suggestions--wear silver rings and shake everyone in town's hands--and then they asked Black Salted Earth to send for Sigeferth and ring him into the discussion.

He arrived moments later, ordered food, and with Bonnie translating into Sarasan the party filled him in. He was troubled by their story of the vampire attack in the wilderness, mentioning that he had once hunted a brood of jiang in Sarasa, but they had been half-feral and the Veiled Ones had been able to flush them out into the sunlight. An intelligent jiang and a shedo working together was a bad sign. He hadn't seen anything, but said he would keep a look out, especially now that he had a description of the jiang. He asked if any of them could scry and try to find the necromancers they were looking for that way, and Shining Star said she could not, but that they should consult the old amanita who had helped them look into Old Three Eyes's disappearance, so that was their next destination. The seer asked if they had any items from the person they were looking for or something affected by their sorcery, and they handed over the old sword they had found on the battlefield. The seer performed the ritual, lighting candles and pouring water over the sword, and then their hand tapped the table and slowly moved a handspan westward.

With some idea of where to go, the group made final preparations. Shining Star and Bonnie sought the aid of Gyere's healer and performed surgery on Elaphe, trying to make sure that the wounds he received from the vampire wouldn't lead to permanent disability. After several hours, and with the aid of Shining Star's hedge magic and Bonnie's alchemy, Shining Star was satisfied that Elaphe would recover, and they all went back to the tea house to rest.

Amos and Sigeferth went up to the roofs to scout out. They didn't speak a common language, but with Sigeferth using the Royal Speech and Amos pantomiming, they were able to have a brief conversation about where Amos came from and whether he had ever fought a vampire before. They didn't see anything during their watch, and some time after midnight Amos went to bed.

The Green Knight rode in patrol down through the village, and when he heard the sounds of combat he approached the southwest wall. He asked the militia captain what had happened, and in broken Floral the captain said that there had been a few walking dead but the militia had taken care of them. Seeing the assembled crowd, the Green Knight made a speech about the glories of the Way of the Forests and the downfall of mortal civilizations. Then he turned to go and he was halfway down the street before he realized the someone had actually listened to him. A young female chuzan, brown-furred, clutching a spear and a wooden shield and wearing homespun undyed wool. The Green Knight didn't speak Muskalan and the chuzan didn't speak Floral, but through the Royal Speech he was able to learn that she did mean to follow him and he had finally acquired his first disciple. Flush with success, he returned to the tea house and went to sleep, though he had sure to caution his disciple when she climbed into the bed that the things built of mortal hands were all impermanent.

The others were shocked to find someone else in the room when they awoke. Elaphe had dagger out almost before his eyes opened, and Bonnie let out a shocked squeak. She asked the chuzan's name--Drifting Snow--and bundled her off to the baths with some soap after noticing that she hadn't taken a bath in probably days or weeks. The Green Knight explained himself while she was gone, and while the Shining Star and Bonnie were dubious, they weren't going to stop Drifting Snow from following them, and they certainly weren't going to let only the Green Knight talk to her. They welcomed her when she returned from the bath, and she followed as they checked in about the village--no vampire attacks the previous night--and then mounted their horses and rode out into the rain.

They left Gyere heading west, past some abandoned farms and a few still being worked and watched over by wary-eyed farmers with bows close at hand, scavenging food from the ripe fields. Elaphe took some of the trow weapons, a sword, spear, and shield, and gave them to Drifting Snow to use. Her eyes almost bugged out of her head, but Elaphe just waved it off.

After midday, in the middle of a small copse of trees, they came on a pipe standing alone. Bonnie asked Drifting Snow if she knew anything about it, and the chuzan said that she had heard of a pipe that led to somewhere warm and overgrown, like a jungle, and this might be it. That piqued Bonnie's curiosity, and over the objections of the rest of the group she went down the pipe. It did indeed deposit her in a jungle, steaming hot, in front of a plaza overgrown with weeds and small trees between the stones. In the distance, rising out of the jungle, was an immense ruined ziggurat. Bonnie returned and excitedly told the party about her find, pushing the treasure angle to try to get them interested, but Amos pointed out that they were chasing necromancers and on a timetable. Bonnie marked the pipe on the map, and they pressed on.

Before dinner they found the remnants of a campfire, but the rain had washed away all the tracks. The Green Knight used his sorcery to speak to nearby plants and learned the necromancers had gone north, and after half an hour Amos managed to pick up the tracks again. They kept going through the night, guided by Amos, until they saw a campfire in the distance with figures milling around it. They set up campfire in bowshot range, without a fire, and waited for the dawn. During the night, Amos saw figures continually milling around during his entire watch, and the Green Knight noticed someone setting up some object on the edge of the firelight, but the others did not seem to notice them and the night passed without incident.

When dawn came, we stopped for the night.

The Green Knight's endless speeches finally worked! His player even spent XP on the Followers Background to cement her loyalty, so she'll stick around and earn XP. Though come to think of it, Henchman might be better for that, though she's starting from a lower base. "Subsistence farmer" is a classic D&D start for an adventurer, but the combat ability of a farmer is pretty low. She might have Melee 1, or more likely, Melee 0 (Spears +1). And Survival 2 (Farming +2)

The next session won't be in five weeks, barring a sudden cancellation. I was expecting a hunt for vampires in Gyere, but the players surprised me again. Next time, a fight against necromancers and the walking dead!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Since Elaphe was seriously injured, the rest of the party left him to rest in the abandoned village while they decided to scout out the battlefield that Spring Breeze had mentioned. They rode the entire day through the rain, seeing no one except a few animals that fled at their passage, and as the sun was setting their search bore fruit as the Green Knight found a rusted sword hilt poking out of the ground.

All of them spread out to search for any clues. Amos muttered one of the incantations he had learned and asked the birds in a nearby copse of trees if they had seen anything, and after some prodding he learned that there were a large number of the walking dead that had passed through the field and gone away to the northeast, a fact confirmed by the Green Knight's questioning of the local flora. That also revealed there had been three figures that had performed a ritual to call up the dead from the earth, but they had left as well. Shining Star sensed the remnants of dark magic pooling in low places in the earth, but it was faint. Whatever had been done there was fading and not a continual source of problems. Finding nothing else, the four spent the night in an abandoned farmer's house after burying the partially-eaten bodies of the amanita farmer and their family. The night was uneventful, and they left in the morning, again seeing no one as they traveled back to the village they had left Elaphe in.

They found Elaphe peacefully relaxing in the house, looking slightly better but still injured, and spent the night in the village. Near dawn, the Green Knight heard voices outside speaking in Muskalan, and he woke Elaphe who took a look through a shutter. He saw an amanita, a mycon, and a chuzan sitting around a fire, talking in low tones about the walking dead, how one of their number had been killed, and the lack of easy pickings in Fontina. Elaphe woke Amos, who readied his bow and snuck out of the house to get a clear shot, but after observing the group for a few minutes he snuck back into the house and shook his head. They weren't worth the trouble, and indeed, in the morning when the party woke up the bandits had moved on and left only the ashes of a fire.

The group saddled up and rode north toward the town of Gyere, which they had left a few days before after fighting a vampire in the streets. The roads were mostly empty, but just after midday they heard the sound of marching feet and overtook a company of three dozen chuzan mercenaries under the banner of a red dove holding a sword.
Bonnie's player: "Is he cute?"
Me: "He's grizzled."
The group slowed their riding and questioned the captain, who said that he had planned to winter in the Scarlet City but they had heard there was money to be made in Fontina fighting the walking dead. He was less than amused when Bonnie and Shining Star told him about the vampires they had fought, but seemed confident in his soldiers' ability to hold their own. He thanked the group for the information and they kept riding. A mile later, they spotted a speck in the sky slowly descending, and the Green Knight readied his bow, but it turned out to be a pigeon that landed on the head of Elaphe's claw strider. There was a message tube attached to its leg with a note inside that said:
"Vampire in the city. Come quickly."
They reached Gyere just before nightfall, where they found a cold reception. The militia kept the gate closed and demanded they identify themselves, leading to some disbelief until Amos fired off his musket and they quickly opened the door. Elaphe rode straight to meet with Black Salted Earth while the others questioned the militia captain. They learned that six people had been attacked and four were dead, but all of them had been in their homes. They knew the jiang they had seen before couldn't enter structures built by mortal hands without an invitation, so something else must be afoot...

Elaphe met Black Salted Earth, who after asking Elaphe to prove his identity and accepting the Black Rose code phrases he offered, explained that there must be a shedo in town, a vampire capable of disguising itself to look like others. The town was in a frenzy of paranoia because of it and Black Salted Earth didn't have any means of distinguishing a vampire from the person it was impersonating and asked if Elaphe's associates did. He conceded they might, and led the amanita back to the Three Wheat Sheaves, the tea house they had stayed in last time they were in Gyere, and we ended there.

The session this time was a bit shorter, since Elaphe's player has just returned from a two-week trip to Paris and hasn't entirely recovered. We're going to play again next Monday, though, and that's when everything becomes a paranoid search of the town. How do they find a creature that can disguise itself as other people and stop it? Good question. I'm looking forward to what they come up, though I do think they'll heavily consider "burn down the whole town" based on their past performance.

Gyere is, of course, based on "Gruyere," since in classic Mario tradition everything has a cutesy name.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The train pulled up to Belgrade at 9 a.m., disgorging the investigators amongst a swarm of children eager to help them with their luggage and calling in a variety of languages. Demir snatched his suitcase back from a child and the rest of the party tried to keep track of their luggage when a young man called out to them in accented English. He introduced himself as Pieter Riticht and offered to guide them during their stay in Belgrade, suggesting the Hotel Moskva as a good place to stay. After a moment's consultation, the investigators took him up on his offer.

After dropping off their luggage at the hotel and arranging for Pieter to return in an hour, Jazmina called the National Museum to ask after the director. The secretary replied that Dr. Todorovic would not be available until 3 p.m., so the investigators decided to go to the Turkish Bazaar first and then go to the museum in the afternoon. They waited until Pieter returned to the hotel and allowed him to guide them to the bazaar.

The rest of the group was astonished to see the chan in Demir's mannerisms at the Turkish bazaar as he laughed, told jokes, needled the merchants, and was generally jovial while the professor followed along as best he could with his textbook Turkish. Rosaline wandered off to go look for antiquities and the others looked for new sets of clothes--Demir's clothes had a conspicuous hole in it, but the others' clothing was a bit worn after a month and a half traveling across the continent. As they were shopping, they noticed a fortune teller, an old woman of indeterminate ethnicity with a black hen at her feet, and the professor and countess went over to have their fortunes told. After a moment and with some reservations, Jazmina followed them to translate.

The woman reached into the hen's nest and pulled out an egg, and after waving it three times widdershins over their heads, she poked a hole in both ends and blew the contents out onto a plate. She peered at the contents and told them that they had lost someone or something, both recently and in the distant past. They seek something that was once whole and now is not, and they are on a journey. She told them to "Beware the one who is unseen" and that "The three who greet you are old as man," but did not explain and ends her divination.

As she was speaking, Jazmina had noticed that her hen was staring at the professor and countess fixedly, almost with anticipation, and as the divination ended, she questioned the fortune teller about it.
Jazmina: "Your chicken is staring."
Fortune Teller: "It is a chicken." Emoji crossed arms
She was dismissive and broke off conversation, grumbling that she didn't have to explain herself, and Jazmina did not pursue the issue.

As they left to look for Rosaline, someone called out to them from the crowd and then a man walked up and asked them to help find his lost child. Demir brushed him off, but turned back to find that his brass knuckles had been stolen. When Pieter noticed this, he apologized profusely, blaming the Roma in the city. Demir scrutinized him carefully, but he seemed genuinely remorseful and not as though he was the point man in part of a scheme to rob travelers, so they accepted his explanation.

When they met with Rosaline in an area of the market devoted to antiquities, Jazmina spotted something that looked very similar to the simulacrum! They entered the stall and asked the man about the arm, but as he brought it out to be inspected, a burly mustachioed man ran into the stall, shoved Rosaline aside, and grabbed the arm, running off into the market! The seller shouted about thieves as the investigators gave chase, followed by some of the dealer's friends. They shoved their way through a narrow alleyway, leaped over a carpet seller, and pushed into a dense crowd. At this point Rosaline and Jazmina caught up with the thief, who swung the arm at them and a melee broke out. It was brief, ending as the man smashed the arm into Jazmina's right side, causing it to shatter into pieces and severely lacerating her. The professor ran up to administer first aid as the thief withdrew to join his associates, and as the shouts of the police drew closer, Pieter urged them to run and they followed him advice.

After a leisurely lunch and a visit to the hospital for Jazmina, the investigators went to the National Museum to meet with Dr. Todorovic, which they found in a museum hall, inspecting a statue of Venus. Throwing caution to the wind for once, the professor introduced himself and his companions, explained that they came on behalf of Professor Smith of London, and sought the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Dr. Todorovic wasn't familiar with the statue, but he knew of Professor Smith and mentioned his antiquities contact in the countryside, including showing some pieces provided by said contact, but said that there was a prohibition on exporting antiquities without a specific permit and would not give the name of his contact without a permit. The professor arranged a meeting the following morning and they went over to the government offices to get a permit.

Jazmina spoke to the secretary and after being led down several corridors, through stairs, through rooms, and down a stairway that almost certainly should have led to the boiler room, the investigators arrived at a small office. The man inside was unloved by their protestations until the professor revealed his station, at which point the man mentioned the poor of his village, the orphans left by the war, and gave the professor a knowing look. After a brief bit of haggling, the professor handed over £12 and the man wrote up a blank permit that the investigators could fill out later, and they were almost pushed out before the offices closed. They went back to the hotel and had dinner, after which they spent the evening relaxing and Demir went to have his tattoos repaired by a black market tattoo artist. Then, everyone went to sleep.

In the morning Dr. Todorovic arrived at their hotel to inspect the piece of the simulacrum. He was astonished at what he saw and said that he was unable to determine its provenience or its material, but he said that when he looked at it under the microphone, the arm appeared to be carved entirely out of entwined smaller arms. After asking if he could examine the other pieces and being told there was no time, he gave the investigators the name of his contact--Father Christian Filipovic, the village priest in the town of Orašac south of Belgrade. After offering to examine the statue when the investigators make their return trip, Dr. Todorovic bade them good day.

Before arranging tickets, the investigators went to the national library to research Orašac. In addition to some national propaganda about how the village was the birthplace of first Serbian uprising against the Ottomans, they found a record about a Byzantine expedition by Nikephoros I against a local cult of Cybele, where during the burning the form of the goddess rose out of the flames, hair waving like serpents find screaming with many mouths such that hardened soldiers fled in terror, but in the morning there was nothing in the temple but ashes. Emoji octopus glasses

They went back to the hotel and packed their luggage, among sure to arrange storage of the pieces of the simulacrum with the hotel since it was far too dangerous to bring with them and too dangerous to leave unguarded. As they were packing, Demir reached to move the Mims Sahis after noticing that it had somehow come unwrapped and accidentally brushed his skin against it. Before he had realized quite what had happened, he wrapped his hand around the handle and thoughts filled his mind of skinning and using the skins to achieve...something. He made half a movement toward the pieces of the Sedefkar Simulacrum before he managed to put down the dagger and, carefully wrapping it up again, he tied it with string and put it away.

The train to Orašac was extremely crowded, mostly with Serbs, though there were also some animals as families brought food home into the countryside. At one point, the countess left her seat and when she returned, she found it occupied by a large, stubborn-looking, and very determined to remain in place rooster. Nothing she did could dislodge it, when it pecked through a coat that Demir threw over it, the investigators decided to leave the seat to it for the remainder of the journey. After fighting through a crush of people to change trains in Mladenovic and taking a small rural train to Arandjelovac, the investigators disembarked in a rural area as the sun began to set. Seeing their confused looks, a local pointed to a set of wagon tracks and Jazmina managed to convince a farmer to allow them to ride in his wagon to Orašac.

Orašac was a rural town, with dirt roads and animals visble from the road. Children stopped playing when the investigators approached, and things seemed like they might be difficult until a housewife approached and asked them their business in the village. Jazmina explained that they were looking for Father Filipovic, whereon the woman offered to guide them to his house at the top of the hill. They were greeted by the father and his wife Ibrisa, as well as the local mayor, Todor Nedic, and his wife Ilija, all of whom are happy to meet foreign guests. The priest asks the investigators their business, and when told about Dr. Todorovic directing them to the wilderness, he asks if they wish to meet "grandmother." She is a local woman who lives alone in the woods, as long as anyone can remember, but who is sharp as a tack and who has made good money from the National Museum with the sculpture she sends on. The investigators cannot go there tonight, however, since it is already very late, so the priest and mayor offer to allow them to stay in their homes and the mayor invites them to dinner.

As they leave for dinner, Rosaline notices a photo of the priest's wife from their wedding day. A younger Father Filopovic, and his best man Todor Nedic, beam out in wedding finery, while Ibrisa is also radiant. Rosaline does notice, however, that while Filopovic and Nedic look their age, perhaps in their sixties, Ibrisa appears to be her in late thirties at most now, little changed from her appearance in the photo...
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
This is the section of the original Horror on the Orient Express that I remember the most about and part of the reason for all the [REDACTED] in my earlier posts. I thought it was one ridiculous nonsequitur the first time I listened, but [ profile] mutantur has said that they've made more of an effort to blend it in with the rest of the campaign, so I'm eager to see what happened.

I really want to harness the black chickens and unleash them on our enemies, though. There was some frustration over the inability to move the chicken out of the seat, since it was set up as a moment of weirdness but without enough context to explain why it was that it refused to move or why no effort by the investigators could move it either. Fortunately, we eventually gave up and moved on without taking too much damage from the Immovable Chicken's claws of doom. I have seen HotOE players who were not so lucky.

Also, as [ profile] mutantur was describing the camaraderie on the train and the way the villagers welcomed the foreign guests with open arms, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I kept confirming everything he said. We have real-life experience with that kind of thing, in Japan. Of course, this is Call of Cthulhu, so they could be setting up for the Foreigner-Skinning Festival, but I guess we'll see! Emoji Cute shrug
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Bonnie dragged Shining Star away to give her time to summon a Knowing Whisper, a spirit servant of Nyarhé that can detect lies and read others' hearts, as Amos and the Green Knight questioned Spring Breeze. The amanita claimed that they hadn't seen any people as they walked, only wild animals, and asked again if there really was all that trouble to the north. Amos confirmed that the walking dead were rampant north of them as Shining Star and Bonnie returned, and Shining Star told the spirit to verify Spring Breeze's story. The Knowing Whisper confirmed that Spring Breeze was not secretly a necromancer in disguise or some kind of spirit-possessed monster and that they believed their story. They did ask about locla battles and were told about a story that mentioned a battle between the Kong Imperium and an unnnamed enemy that took place there long ago during the Imperium's attempt to expand into Agarica.

And so after advising the amanita to turn back and take the longer road around to get to Etemenanki, the party turned around and rode north as the amanita's whistling faded into the distance behind them.

They spent the night in the ruins of the same village that they had left that morning, stabling their horses and eating trail rations in an abandoned house. They go to sleep and Shining Star's watch is uneventful, but in the middle of the night, the Green Knight hears something prowling around outside the house. He grabbed his shield and crept outside, but banged the shield on the doorframe as he left (botched the Stealth roll). As soon as he stepped outside, something grabbed him from behind.

As the other members of the party all groggily woke up, the Green Knight grappled with his unseen assailant. He tried to claw them with his wooden claws, but was seized with an unbreakable grip--and then fangs plunged into his neck!

Elaphe and Amos exited the house to find a chuzan holding the Green Knight's arms to the sides with its mouth over his neck, and Amos circled around to try to get a better shot with his musket. Elaphe threw the torch at the assailant, but the chuzan sidestepped without seeming to move, not crossing the intervening distance but avoiding the torch entirely. Amos fired, blowing off the creature's ear, but as they watched, the blood flow slowed and the wound began knitting itself closed. It lifted its mouth from the Green Knight and hissed, revealing blood-covered fangs and blood-matted fur. A vampire!

Shining Star summoned up blazing chains of light that closed around the vampire as it threw the Green Knight like he was a toy, hitting Amos but failing to injure or even phase him as he reloaded his musket. Elaphe darted forward and slashed at the vampire, ripping open its chest with his dagger and using the secret arts of the Black Rose--unlike with Amos's musket blast, this time the blood flowed freely. Bonnie sent her iron jaws to attack the vampire, but it dodged aside as its claws blurred. Elaphe blocked the first strike with his dagger, but he was unable to block the second, which torn a chunk of flesh out of his side and sent him reeling backward.

Shining Star blasted the vampire with white flames and the Green Knight stood up and readied his shield. The Green Knight and the vampire charged toward each other to little effect--the vampire sidestepped the Green Knight's claws, and the vampire's strike impacted on the Green Knight's shield. Elaphe retreated into the house as Bonnie hurled a flask of glue which her familiar caught and then it ignited on the torch that Elaphe had thrown, and it bit down on the vampire's shoulder and began to gnaw.

Amos fired again, and the vampire tried to get out of the way, but not fast enough. It reeled back and hissed, and as Shining Star hurled another beam of holy fire at it and Elaphe threw a dagger from inside the house, it fled, moving so quickly that it left only a blurred afterimage in their eyes, around the corner of the house and out of sight.

Injured and bleeding, the party decided not to pursue, and Elaphe drank a cinnamony Hero's Recovery while Shining Star administered first aid to him and the Green Knight. Real treatment of his wounds would require a longer period of surgery, but for the moment he slathered on an alchemical paste to prevent his wound from becoming infected and the party mostly went to sleep. The vampire did not return that night.

In the morning, Amos and the Green Knight tracked the vampire north to a stream, where the tracks vanished. The Green Knight spoke to the local plantlife which, after some prompting, said that their quarry had killed a deer and then flew away to the north, confirmed by a monjara hiding in a nearby bush that Amos asked. With their leads exhausted, they returned to the village, everyone climbed on their various mounts, and they rode out to the north.


I was a little worried partway through that I was going to have at least one death on my hands. The vampire could have killed Elaphe in a single blow--it did 2/3rds of his health with one attack--but beyond using a Charm that let it convert damage dice into damage successes, it didn't roll very well, which is a pattern with my NPCs. It's also possible that that vampire would have died, since several attacks only barely missed. But it got away to fight another daynight.

Elaphe doesn't wear armor--Black Rose Style forbids it--which is why he took so much damage. Enough damage to be seriously injured to the point of disabling. He has a crippling wound requiring surgery (or sorcery unavailable to the party) to heal, but it would require several hours of downtime the party isn't willing to spend yet. Maybe after they check out that ancient battlefield to see if there's a necromancer there causing this zombie problem!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
With Shining Star as a translator through the Royal Speech, the party questioned the lurker about his business. He gave his name as Sigeferth, son of Osric, a Veiled One from Sarasa. Unfortunately, he did not know much. He told them that the Dragonbone Speakers had sent him to investigate the "darkness in the south" and that he had only recently been sent south, as well as that he had seen witchhunters from the Temple of the Holy Flame traveling in Fontina. He disavowed the accusations that he and his "brothers and sisters" were the ones causing the disappearances and was surprised to hear that ghul were working with the walking dead, but seemed very interested when the Green Knight revealed that he had seen a strange, bat-winged figure fly in front of the moons. There was little moonlight as both Tharu and Diang were crescents and Nyarhé, while full, was dark and gave off little light, but there were few clouds and so the group took to scanning the sky. It was Amos who spotted it, just as he turned his head, a figure diving from the sky and falling into another part of the town.

Elaphe immediately slipped off the roof and moved toward the shape as the others raced over the rooftops. Elaphe found it first, tall and bulky, towering head and shoulders taller than him in an alleyway and shrouded in a large cloak. He could barely see it in the gloom, but it seemed to be waiting for something, so he stepped out into the courtyard to invoke a hedge ritual to enhance his resilience. When Shining Star arrived, she spotted him and told him of their arrival in the Royal Speech, and Elaphe gestured at the alleyway and put up a hand. Sigeferth made a gesture and shadows enveloped him as he slipped off the roof. Unfortunately for Elaphe's plan, the rest of the group grew tired of waiting, and while moving into position across the rooftops they made enough noise that the figure heard them and dashed out of the alleyway.

The Green Knight and Bonnie immediately gave chase, keeping pace with it as it dashed across the town's dirt roads, now sprinting, now running on all fours. Shining Star tried to bind it with sorcerous chains, but it scuttled sideways as they closed on it and escaped their grasp. It was less lucky when Amos stopped running, took a moment to aim, and shot it with a flaming arrow from his bow, which sunk into the creature's flesh. To the party members on the roof it seemed to disappear, but the Green Knight and Bonnie saw that it just moved so quickly they could barely see it, down the street and around a corner behind a house. And then it took wing and flew above the rooftops. Shining Star hurled a blast of searing flame at it, but it corkscrewed through the air and dodged before flying away to the north.

During all this, Elaphe had attempted to give chase, but timed a jump badly and hit a wall face-first.

(Don't botch, kids! Emoji cardboard box Or, as summed up by Bonnie's player...)

The group reconvened afterward and Bonnie shared what she knew. From the wings, the appearance, the speed, and the apparent desire to hunt, she guessed it was a jiang, a type of vampire almost more beast and mortal. They could not enter structures built by living hands, but she was less clear on their other vulnerabilities--silver or garlic or running water, she could not say. The party decided they needed to tell the militia, and so they walked over to the militia staging area where they were waiting for the upcoming attack by the walking dead. On the way, Bonnie got Sigeferth to talk to her in Sarasan, so she could study it using her sorcery, and he sang a lay of the Sarasan's coming to their grasslands that Bonnie didn't understand a word of, but after which her sorcery granted her knowledge of his language. He seemed surprised at her sudden mastery of Sarasan, but mostly took it in stride.

Shining Star and Bonnie told the militia captain, a grizzled amanita who had probably been a farmer until a month ago, that there was more to worry about than the walking dead--that they had a vampire loose and needed to set up a curfew since the jiang couldn't enter their houses. The captain reacted with disbelief, pointing out that a curfew was impossible since the people of the village needed to be ready to defend against the walking dead who always attacked at night. The group did not really have a response to that, and after making sure they weren't needed against the night's attack--there were only a handful of walking dead, so they weren't--they returned to their lodgings to sleep. In the morning, after buying food and questioning some of the refugees, who worried about the food supplies in Fontina with winter coming on and so many crops abandoned, they left the town of Gyere and traveled south.

The weather was misty but not raining, and the whole first day they saw no one. There were some bodies on the side of the road, not badly decomposed, and after a debate over time vs propriety Shining Star settled for making a small blessing over each of them as they passed. It wasn't until they found a merchant caravan all dead that they stopped and build a pyre for them from the ruins of the wagon, piling the raptok's body, the bodies of the amanita guards, and the empty red robes and mask of a Silent One onto it. They spent that night in an empty farming village, in a house with a broken-in door but shutters that still worked. They wedged the door shut and piled furniture in front of it and lit a fire, but nothing troubled them in the night.

The next day, they were a few hours on the road when they heard singing from the distance in Muskalan heavily mixed with Floral. They thought about hiding, but on seeing that the figure was alone they waited until they saw it was an amanita traveling alone. Bonnie questioned the amanita, asking them why they were traveling alone in the wild. The amanita introduced themselves as Spring Breeze and said that they were a traveling minstrel from town of Tannin to the south and were hoping to make it up to Etemenanki before the winter hit to make money in Tower Town, and when the group expressed incredulity, they asked if there was something wrong. Bonnie explained the zombie plague, and the amanita was shocked--they said they hadn't heard anything about this Tannin, though they had noticed fewer travelers from the north.

At this point Bonnie, overwhelmed with suspicion, scribbled a note and ensorcelled it with a message to Shining Star, asking her to fake a sickness so she could call up a Knowing Whisper, which might be able to determine whether the amanita was lying. Bonnie dragged the "swooning" Shining Star away from the confused amanita into a ruined farmhouse, and we ended there.

Vampires! Oh no!

The party seems to have found that the walking dead plague is confined to the kingdom of Fontina specifically, but what will they do about it. Keep going, or turn back to defend the kingdom? They don't seem to have very strong goals at this point other than following the map, though previously they went far afield thanks to finding a ghost by a roadside. Is this wandering minstrel another divergent point, or will they turn out to be another victim of Elaphe while the rest of the group isn't looking?

March Update

2017-Mar-18, Saturday 18:43
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Just a grab-bag of things that have been happening lately.

I got my yearly bonus and annual raise this week. Higher than average on both, because we managed to exceed our department goals by a respectable amount and I did pretty well. There also wasn't as much pressure to hold down salary increases this year, so I got more of a salary increase and less of a bonus. And I put it all into tax withholding and 401K contributions. Well...that's responsibility. Emoji Dragon Warrior march

Yesterday was also the last day that we're using the old database system, and over the weekend they'll be switching over to the new system that they've spent the last two years working on. And true to software project form, it was a complete mess until the last week, where it was pulled into at least semi-reasonable condition. That also meant that I couldn't do anything involving the database on Friday, and since my work almost entirely involves editing database entries, I had to make work for myself. On a co-worker's suggestion, I did some prep work so that when the new database is up and able to accept new entries, I can go add in all the disciplinary actions to the appropriate physician records without having to scan through state board orders for what the doctors did wrong. Unless the database upgrade doesn't go well, in which case everything will be on fire. Emoji on fire Hopefully it all goes smoothly, but these are computers we're talking about.

Today was the first session of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea 2e game! I read the book through to make sure I knew the system and I had some misgivings--it's much more loose and narrative-styled than the systems I tend to prefer--but in play it worked out really well! And doing a silly Russian accent and coughing at the republican and revolutionary talk for my Ussuran nobleman was a lot of fun. He's not that great in a fight, but he has magical powers. He's also really rich, which is kind of like a magical power! The star moment was when I called a raven to our jail cell where, we had been treacherously imprisoned for a crime we didn't commit, and asked it to fetch the keys in exchange for a bauble from my nobleman's clothing. I then let everyone out, locked the cells behind us, and left. The legend grows.

I paid our 2016 taxes. Last year we owned an enormous amount because I forgot to take into account [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's new job and thus that our salary was commensurately larger. This year I spent more time modeling our income vs. taxes paid and I came a lot closer--we owed 4% of what we owed last year, in terms of additional payments beyond our normal withholding. I'm not sure how much we'll owe on state taxes, but the state is usually much better at figuring out how much we owe than the federal government is and we rarely get a large refund or have a large deficit, so I'm not that worried. Edit: We owed more on state taxes than federal taxes. Looks like I spoke too soon! Emoji Shaking fist

We're going to see Hamilton on Thursday. I've successfully avoided most news about it, so while of course I know the subject matter and the characters, I haven't listened to a single song all the way through, nor do I know what parts of history the musical covers. I'll probably write about it after I go, but until then, it's a mystery! Emoji tali it is a mystery
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personæ
  • Asinius Ravila, Iberian medicus
  • Belasir of Tihama, Arabian sagittarius et speculatore
  • Emeric of the Suevi, Germanic auxiliārius, and a Christian
  • Galerius Evodis, Constantinopolitan optio
  • Milonius Kanmi, Carthiginian sagittarius
The legionnaires returned to the fortress with their prisoners, immediately reporting to the commander. After the local medicus saw to Emeric's injuries and they explained the bat-monsters they had fought to Longinus, he urged them to question the prisoners and learn what he cult was planning. They first tried a good cop/bad cop routine, but the two cultists just smiled with far-off expressions and ignored their questions. It wasn't until Galerius hit the boy across the face that he reacted, and that single hit opened the floodgates. The cultists began ranting about the doom and plague that would sweep over the Empire, and claimed that the "Army of Skin and Blood" was even now on its way. The legionnaires immediately reported the news to Tillius Corvus and Centenarius Longinus, who begin making preparations. At the legionnaires' urging, the refugees were brought within the walls and bonfires were kindled. As the soldiers made preparations, Galerius gave a rousing speech about the glory of Rome and the fortitude of the legions, sending up a wave of cheers from the men.

Almost as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, the army arrived. Groups of skin creatures and bat monsters, mixed with howling cultists with strips of their skin ritually flayed off. Emeric was more far-sighted than his companions, and beyond the army he saw a skinned parody of horse, bearing a robed rider that lifted a curved knife above its head. Overwhelmed, Emeric began to babble Christian prayers in Germanic as the army moved to the wall and began to scale it, paying no heed to the arrows and javelins of the Romans.

Several of the monsters gained the wall and combat dissolved into melee. One of the skin beasts latched on to Belisar and began to drink his blood, only to be shoved off and then chopped to ribbons by Galerius. The other monsters are quickly dispatched now that they don't have the element of surprise, a process that repeated itself across the came. Apparently, necromancy was no match for Roman steel.

After the battle, Emeric felt slightly ill, though he waved it off as the effects of his earlier fight. Tillius ordered the legionnaires not to pursue the fleeing army, but rather to wait until morning. After several hours of fighting, they were glad to obey that order, and they went to sleep. In the morning, they met with the centenarius, who assigned another group of legionnaires to accompany them as they followed the trail to the cult headquarters. The trail required no expertise to follow, littered as it was with blood, the bodies and greasy remnants of monsters, and discarded weapons from the Army of Skin and Blood. It led into the mountains, through a narrow defile that there would have been almost no chance to find if they hadn't had the army's trail to follow. As the proceed into the mountains, Milonius notices that the other legionnaires have abandoned them and turned back for the fort, but Tillius orders them to proceed with the mission.

After a few hundred yards, the trail opens up to a bowl-like depression in the mountains, with seventeen tall menhirs, half again the height of a man, each covered in weathered hieroglyphs and with a skinned human corpse lashed to the stone. In the midst of the menhirs was a pit, descending into an unnatural darkness. A dropped torch vanished into the darkness, and it wasn't until they spread out and searched that they saw a cunningly-concealed stairway descending down the rim of the pit. With no other choice, the legionnaires descended, finding a pool of liquid blackness near the bottom. A spear poked into it came out clean, and so the legionnaires steeled themselves and kept walking. The blackness felt slightly unclean and seemed to leave a thin film on them, but they were not further harmed.

At the bottom of the stairway was a cave complex, with three tunnels leading away and mosaics of implike creatures all around the floor and walls menacing primitive humans armed with spears.
Me: "Did you say, 'Impolite creatures'?"
Belasir's player: "I also heard impolite."
The floor was covered in a curling mist and the legionnaires heard the faint sound of whispers. As well, the sound of footsteps echoed through the caves, and so the legionnaires took one of the corridors that led to the cult's food stores. Milonius suggested destroying the stores, but Tillius was against it, and so the legionnaires continued, finding a barracks with two injured cultists who they quickly slaughtered and then hid the bodies in the human skin hammocks and covered them with the human skin blankets that furnished the room. When the patrol's footsteps had vanished again, they continued down the corridor and found the cult's main room. The mist was stronger here, coming out of holes in the wall, and there was a column in the center with a flayed human figure and some kind of instruction or ritual area in the back. After ambushing the patrolling cultists and killing then, Milonius and Emeric examined the column and were stunned when it transformed into an image of their own faces, each seeing his representation. The others examined the ritual area and the rugs and wall hangings made of human skin, drawing their swords as the skins began to move and attack. There were three against six legionnaires, though, and when they were cut to ribbons another passage was revealed leading further into the cave.

Through that passage was a floor carpeted in human scalps and walled with the skins of legionnaires. Bone windchimes hung from the ceiling and in the back was a bone bedframe with human skin sheets and bedding. In the center was the cult leader, who lifted aloft a curved knife with an unnatural sheen to its blade and babbled that "Your skins are mine!" and then the skin the chamber animated to surround the cultist as he started chanting in Gothic. The legionnaires charged, but Milonius was overcome by the cult leader's magic and attacked Emeric. Emeric managed to block the blow with his shield as the others attacked the skins, and when they were shredded, the sorcerer's skin fell away. Most of it became a strange insectile monster, slithering to attack, except for the skin of his face which animated as a bat-like flitting abomination. But none of it mattered as the legionnaires charged in, and Tillius drove his blade into the sorcerer's heart, causing all the skins to crumble to dust and the mist to fade away.

But the blow unleashed a fountain of blood, much more than a human body could contain. The flood knocked Tillius over, and when it faded Asinius examined him, noting that he was still alive but in a coma. The other legionnaires picked him up and carried him out, back to the fort, and arranged for transit back to Constantinople, where the magister militum offered them two months' leave and a year's pay in exchange for a promise never to speak of this again. He also demanded that Emeric surrender the knife he had taken from the sorcerer, which he did with extreme reluctance--at this, the professor and the other investigators reading the account stopped and looked at Demir, who simply shrugged.

The legionnaires all took that offer and, after their leave, they gathered for Belasir's wedding to Nona and then, when Tillius finally awoke, his wedding to Eudoxia, held on her family's barge on the sea. Just before the wedding, the magister militum summoned them back for one more mission, saying that the the knife has vanished. All of them except Belasir agreed to the mission, but first they attended the wedding.

Tillius gave a toast to the men of the Fortes Falcones, commending them for their bravery...but ended it by saying that Tillius was dead, and then snarled at the wedding guests as a wave of pain and nausea spread through the group. Before anyone could react, he tore out his new bride's throat with his bare hands and began drinking her blood! Milonius, Belasir, and Galerius died of the poison almost immediately, but Emeric and Asinius managed to fight off the nausea and crippling pain and flee to the side, deliberately knocking over several lanterns into their flight. They leapt into the sea as the tapestries and decorations caught fire, and looking back, they saw Tillius killing the wedding guests until the flames grew too high, where he transformed into some flitting winged thing and took off into the night. They knew they were not strong enough to swim back to the Golden Horn, but a passing fishing boat saw the flames and came to investigate, hauling them aboard.

Emeric quickly succumbed to his injuries, the shock of the sea, and the poison, but Asinius lived. He finished the journal stating that he planned to change his name and take ship to Iberia or Gaul, traveling as far as he could from Constantinople and the horrific sights he had witnessed. This was the last page.

Mr. Johnson! Emoji Shaking fist

I was expecting something to go wrong, but I was not expecting the commander to turn into a vampire. Maybe a bit more explanation would have been nice, since the historical Constantinople scenarios seem partially set up to explain where le Comte came from and why a Call of Cthulhu game has a vampire as a villain. Or, okay, an evil sorcerer who just happens to have all the legendary powers of the vampire. But it doesn't, really. Was Tillius possessed by the blood? Does the Gothic cult leader live on? Is it unrelated? Who knows. It's fun to play Romans, but this didn't actually seem to serve much story purpose.

I did like the combat, though. It turns out that our modern-era investigators should probably go buy some chainmail, since that, our shields, and our high combat skills matched with Fight Back meant that we slaughtered our opposition without much effort. We need more combat prowess from our elderly academics.

I like to think that Asinius is the ancestor of Professor Durand, but assuming he had children, he died probably around 360 or so. He's undoubtedly an ancestor of the entire group of 1920s-era investigators.

Next session, back to the 20s and on to Belgrade!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Woohoo! Twenty sessions and still going!

Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Sakuya led the group to Old Three Eyes' house, built away from the wall in a cluster of other houses with their backs against a courtyard. The inside was spartan, wooden floors with an opening to the dirt for a fire pit, a table and chair, cupboard, and a chest next to the mats set on a small platform above the floor, all in one room. The group spread out and searched, finding the remnants of what smelled like stew in the pot over the fire and an eating knife in the dirt and ash nearby, a few coins in the bedding which Elaphe pocketed, and--more damning--a few scratches on the windowsill. Amos muttered a few words and summoned up a witchlight, leaving the blue foxfire bobbing near the window as he walked around outside to the courtyard and checked the windowsill again, finding more claw marks on the underside. Shining Star opened her senses to the corruption of the darkness beyond the Star Road, but smelled nothing but dust. Elaphe and Bonnie climbed to to the roof and looked around, and Elaphe found a tuft of black and grey fur caught on a corner of the roof tiles. After about twenty more minutes of searching turned up nothing, the group decided to go back to the tea house and catch a few more hours or sleep.

In the morning, they split up. Shining Star went to the where the injured from the battle against the walking dead were kept and ministered to them, finding another victim of ghul fever and using her magic to aid them. She told the militia standing around to let her know if the victim's condition changed at all and, especially if they fell into a coma, to fetch her immediately.

Elaphe went looking for any kind of criminal underworld, and eventually outside a tea house he found an amanita named Black Salted Earth who understood his comments about rose gardens and led him to a more secluded table. Bonnie had secretly followed Elaphe, somehow managing to stay hidden, but she wandered off bored as the amanita asked Elaphe if he was in town on business. When he said no, she visibly relaxed and chatted with him about how her quiet life had been disrupted by the animated dead. She didn't know about the source of the plague, but was happy to keep an eye out, and took Elaphe back to her house briefly to introduce him to her pigeon, Zephyr, saying that it would provide a way to carry messages between them if necessary.

Amos went back out to the courtyard to talk to the other people who lived nearby and the refugees who had fled to the safety of the walls. They had not seen much, but they mentioned that Old Three Eyes had mentioned eyes watching him, and had sometimes trailed off in the middle of a conversation and then seemingly snapped out of it, returning to the previous topic without any sign of time having passed. One older amanita also mentioned that they had seen something flying high, silhouetted against the moon. Probably not a roc--it wasn't big enough and they didn't know of any rocs that nested nearby--but they were not sure what it was.

Around this time, Amos noticed a beroringa nearby licking some of the damage to the buildings and spoke it to. The spirit turned, seemingly surprised, and poked Amos for a moment with its tongue, which felt like being poked with a slightly warm feather even though it was larger than his arm. Amos asked it if it had seen anything, and the spirit mentioned the "darkness in the south" and that it could feel the rot in the earth, in a voice that Amos both heard with his ears and felt in his mind. Being a spirit, it didn't entirely understand Amos's perspective, but it did promise to keep watch any tell him if it saw anything. At this point Bonnie arrived and, seeing that Amos was speaking English to the air, quickly pulled out an old dose of spirit-flower tea and choked in down. She was delighted as the swirling colors resolved into the beroringa's body and questioned it in English, since that was what she heard Amos speaking, but the answers came to her in Chaian. However, she didn't learn much more than Amos did.

The party regathered near where Shining Star was administering medicine and shared what they had learned. They quickly formed a plan to stake out the courtyard near Old Three Eyes' house and watch for anything strange, along with some members of the militia, and returned to the tea house, this time paying for a private room and sleeping until sundown. The militia roused them, they ate a quick meal of stewed rice and mushrooms, and then took up their places on the roof.

Shining Star had summoned a Knowing Whisper, a spirit of knowledge in service to Nyahré, and as they waited on the rooftops it alerted her that there was something out there. She told the others and Amos, who could see in the dark thanks to the crystal he carried, gripped his musket and began to creep across the rooftops toward the distant shape as the Green Knight looked up and saw a shadow pass over the moons. There were arms, and legs, and wings. Perhaps one of the pidgit-folk, but with what they knew was happening in the town, that was not an assumption he would make.

Amos got close enough that the could see a shape shrouded in scarves or wrappings crouching next to the chimney of the tea house, and he remembered the rumors in Rockfort about people being attacked in an alleyway. He raised his musket and shouted out in Floral not to move, and the shape, clearly hearing him, looked up at him, letting him see the bridge of a nose and eyes peering out from the wrappings. Amos summoned a witchlight, illuminating the area, and asked who the shape was. He received an answer, but it wasn't in Floral, nor was it in Muskalan, which Amos didn't speak but had spent enough time around it being spoken to know what it sounded like.

The others arrived as the shape stood up, a tall mandragora- or human-shape with a red eye and teardrop embroidered on the chest of its clothing. When Shining Star saw it, she thought to use the Royal Speech, and greeted the shape. In a moment, she received a reply: "The Dragonbone Speakers sent me here to scout out the darkness in the south."

Mysterious! The Dragonbone Speakers are the shamans of the Sarasans to the northwest, which are a group of thunder lizard-riding grassy plains tribesmen that I based on the Hengist and Horsa-era Anglo-Saxons, so I can already say that this guy's name is "Sigeferth, son of Osric." I was tired of every horse-based riding culture either being based on the Mongols or the Native American plains tribes and wanted to do something different. Something different with dinosaurs and dragon-worshipping wizard priests.

The hordes of animated dead is something I thought that the players would want to go after earlier on, but I'm glad that they're checking it out now ten sessions after I expected! That also means they're better armed to deal with the enemies they might encounter, too, so it should all turn out of the best.

Elaphe's player pointed out they're amassing an army. A veiled one, the spirit of that courtyard and the buildings, the town militia...will it do any good? Hmm.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
It's been a long while since I did one of these posts, but I've written a lot more about spirits since last year, so here's a few more bestiary entries!


The spirits of the new moon, the dark, and the rare triple conjunction when all the moons are shadowed and the inhabitants of Agarica lock their doors and windows and light candles against the night, darkrai are harbingers of fear and bringers of nightmares. There are no ceremonies in their honor and no praises chanted to them, only propitiatory offerings in the hopes that they will keep away. They are occasionally called on by vengeance-minded summoners who seek to bring madness and despair to their enemies, but darkrai are exceedingly difficult to control, and more than one would-be avenger has died screaming under an assault of nightmares.


Hitokage are the bright spirits of sunlight and the heat of the day. They contain both the pleasant warmth of a sunbeam and the life-giving energy that causes flowers to bloom and crops to grow. They are often seen playing in the sunbeams on warm summer days, and are occasionally beseeched to provide extra light to help crops grow.


Bakeccha are the spirits of ripened crops, trees laden with fruit, and plants ready for the harvest. They sleep dormant for most of the year, emerging in late summer and remain awake until the first hard frost falls, which sends them back into their slumber. This cycle varies based on location—in B'rabt, for example, the bakeccha are merely drowsy for parts of the year, awakening each time the B'rabti bring in another crop of rice.

Because of their association with grain, bakeccha are also spirits of alcohol, and it is this patronage that makes them one of the most popular spirits in Agarica.


Nyoromo are the spirits of the tides, the coastal waters, and the river-mouths, all within view of the shore. They are used to mortals in their domains and usually do not hinder them during the course of their normal activities, but they can easily be roused to wrath by too much change. Fishing boats or children playing on the beach, for example, almost never provoke a nyoromo, but attempting to dam a river or building a pier can cause them to attack.


Pippi are the spirits of full moons, of the light that illuminates the countryside and turns night into almost-day. They are found on clear nights, dancing in the moonlight in rings on top of hills. They are usually placid, but do not like their dances to be observed and have been known to curse those who try to watch them.

In B’rabt, pippi are regarded with holy reverence as messengers of Yarikh the Lunar Serpent, and they are frequently summoned to dance at important festivals.


Camome are spirits of rainclouds, dancing in the raindrops and flying amidst grey clouds heavy with coming storms. They are most common near the sea, but will ride rainstorms inland and can be found far from the shores as long as the rain is heavy enough. Camome are not particularly intelligent and are easily distracted by shiny objects, and some farmers without the power to command them will place crystals or bits of glass near their fields in the hopes of attracting them.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
In the comfort of the salon car, surrounded by his fellow investigators, and one new addition, Profesor Durand opened Chronicon de Tillius Corvus and began to translate the classical Latin into English.

Dramatis Personæ
  • Asinius Ravila, Iberian medicus
  • Belasir of Tihama, Arabian sagittarius et speculatore
  • Emeric of the Suevi, Germanic auxiliārius, and a Christian
  • Galerius Evodis, Constantinopolitan optio
  • Milonius Kanmi, Carthiginian sagittarius
XII mensus Martius, F. Gallicano et A. Valeriō consulibus

The men of the Fortes Falcones were in Nova Roma, supervising construction crews for the Imperator's new capital. All of them had served long years in the legions and were looking forward to finally retiring and getting their pensions and land--other than Galerius, who loved the soldier's life and was grumbling about being forced to leave. As they went about their various tasks, their tribunus Tillius Corvus found them and told them that the Magister militum had told him that he had one last mission for them, and they needed to assemble immediately. Grumbling slightly, they did so.

They waited in the magister's office, along with their fellow veteran legionnaires Laurentius (Lorenz) Germanicus and Nabidius Ursus, both of which looked very disgruntled. Galerius asked the magister's aid why they had been summoned, and while the aid demured, eventually he explained that a courier had come from Lydia, and after hearing the message, the magister had the man imprisoned and immediately summoned Tillius.

Eventually they were invited into the magister's office, and he explained his tasks. There were rumors of plague in Sardis and the Ghilian Outpost in Lydia had been out of contact for days. He required a small force to investigate in absolute secrecy. The people were saying that this was the work of a Satanic cult, and it had to be dealt with before the Imperator opened his new capital. He brusquely commended them for not trying to speak with the courier and then ordered them to leave in the morning before dismissing them. Outside, Tillius apologized for the summons and the sudden calling away from their duties, but he said he was asked for his best men. He wouldn't force them to go, but he urged them to flee the city immediately if they had second thoughts. For his part, he was going to celebrate since his amica Eudoxia had promised to marry him as soon as he returned. The legionnaires eventually joined him, though some took care of other business first--Belasir said goodbye to his own amica Nona, and Galerius and Milonius both made sure to make a sacrifice to Aesculapius. Then, with much praise to Tillius and much ribbing of Belasir, they went to sleep.

The next morning the legionnaires assembled, minus Laurentius Germanicus and Nabidius Ursus, and they boarded a ship and crossed the Sea of Marmara. On the other side, as they were relaxing, other soldiers asked them what they were doing, as is the way of soldiers, which they deflected with varying degrees of skillfulness. Then, in the morning, they left.

They rode for days through the countryside, the villagers getting less and less friendly as they went until after three days the they hid at the legionnaires approach, shouting of plague. Finally, they arrived at the fort and several outriders rode out to meet them. The soldiers anxiously asked where the reinforcements were, and Tillius assured them they were only a few days behind, having been delayed by washed-out bridges. Then, they were taken to meet Curio Longinus, the local commander, who explained the problem. There was a local cult called "The Flayed," who were harassing the villagers, and there was an illness. The Valerian Plague, it was called, and it caused fevers and hallucinations, eventually leading to death. Longinus said his men had also been attacked, and so he finally ordered all of his men to remain within sight of the fort walls. The legionnaires ask if they can speak to the refugees, and Longinus agrees, so they go to the refugee camp.

The legionnaires split up and ask about the situation. They learned that the villagers were being attacked by bats and strange, flat ghost-things, that the plague had a 40% fatality rate and there were always six days of symptoms, that whole villages had been depopulated, and that the cultists were in the mountains to the east.

While Asinius was speaking to the refugees, a plague victim surged up from his bed, raving, screaming to G-d to save him from his fate. Asinius shook him off...only to have the man's skin come off in a single piece and fall to the ground. The man vomited black bile and stopped moving, and the camp's medicus and his assistants carried him off toward the trench in the north, where they had put the bodies of those who died of the plague. The legionnaires followed, and when the oilskin over the trench was removed, they found that all the bodies were skinless and piled haphazardly, and there were no flies or smell of decay. The medicus was shocked by this, saying that they had treated the bodies with respect, and the legionnaires carefully approached to examine the trench. Belasir found a strange trail, like a man walking dragging something, and followed it to the east to see where it led. Meanwhile, Emeric heard something moving in the bodies, and as Milonius readied his bow, Asinius and Emeric drew their swords and began moving the bodies, only for something leathery and white to surge up out of the pile at them!

Despite the initial surprise, they made quick work of the thing, which seemed to be made of human skin, but there were more sounds of movement in the trench. The thing's body burned away in the sunlight, and when it was nothing but an oily stain, Tillius arrived and asked the legionnaires for a report. He agreed with their plan to check the rest of the ditch, and when Belasir returned, they pulled the oilcloth back and found three more of the things, which surged up to attack as the sunlight began singeing and blackening them. When they were dead, Tillius ordered them to follow the trail immediately, and they did, eventually finding a farm with several corpses on the ground and an ominous silence.

The legionnaires began their search by opening the barn, and again they were surprised as three chiropteran, chimeric monsters rushed at them. Emeric howled at them, foam flecking his beard, but Tillius and Galerius met the rush with their blades, cutting one to ribbons immediately.
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and me simultaneously: "Die, monster! You don't belong in this world!"
The remaining two beasts were harder to kill, with one latching onto Emeric as he barely defended himself in the depths of his berserker rage and drinking his blood, but they finally chopped down the creatures. As they did, they noticed two youths running from the smokehouse. Their skins were marked with ritualistic scars, and they were wearing black robes and carrying knives, so the legionnaires chased them down and overpowered and bound them. The youths had far-away smiles and said nothing, and Tillius ordered the legionnaires to return to the fort and report what they had found.


One of the reasons I've been looking forward to this section is that in the modern world, bat monsters running around and attacking people tend to raise questions among the players. How come they aren't being reported? Where are the photographs? In the past, where so many people already assumed that there were monsters, the gloves can come off. Bring on the Draculas.

I wasn't a fan of how two of the PCs are archers but everything we found so far takes half damage from impaling weapons. That's always been a flaw of Call of Cthulhu, though. I mean, Pickman's Model has Pickman deal with the ghouls using a revolver, and yet ghouls take half damage from impaling weapons. Mi-go take minimum damage from guns even though in The Whisperer in Darkness, a guy with a shotgun kills like a dozen of them. Monsters being unstoppable in the face of modern weaponry is a trope of Cthulhu RPGs, not the original media, and I suspect is mostly just to prevent the investigators from solving everything with tommy guns and dynamite. I just wish it wouldn't extend back to arrows.

This could have been a very frustrating scenario, what with having a commanding officer, but [ profile] mutantur struck a good balance by characterizing Tillius as a wise leader who listens to the advice of his men--i.e., lets the PCs make the decisions. Some of the orders above were made after listening to us discuss our course of action, so it was more like an imprimatur than explicit orders. If we have to have NPCs telling us what to do, having us do what we were going to do anyway is the best way to go about it.
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
I've spent a long time putting together compilation documents for Dragon-Blooded Charms, hearthstones, sorcery spells, and martial arts and putting together a (currently 76-page) bestiary for that game I wrote about two-and-a-half years ago that I'm sure I'll get around to at some point. But despite that, I was never super happy with the Dragon-Blooded mechanically.

Dragon-Blooded abilities, and the Charms associated with them, are split into the aspects, with a surcharge on any power not part of the Exalt's own aspect, and it locks out a lot of character concepts or makes them more expensive. An Air aspect archer? Nope, Archery is a Wood aspect Ability. You'd think Fire aspects make good lieutenants because they're passionate and inspiring, but War is an Earth ability, so they pay a penalty for all the Charms. Earth should be good at contemplation and planning, but Bureaucracy is a Water ability and Lore is an Air ability, so no. And so on.

A while ago, I found a document by Ekorren from the Onyx Path forums called "Dragon-Blooded Revisions, Making Terrestrials Terrestrial" that cut all this out and gave each aspect its own set of Charms. Now there were just Air Charms, which covered a huge variety of concepts. Sure, Air aspect combat is focused on range, but it's possible to play an Air aspect swordsman and use the element of Air to do it, rather than having to take Fire-aspected Melee Charms and no longer have any Air powers despite being an Air aspect. Unfortunately, it was half done, with finished Air and Earth and only a bit of Fire.

Well, I took it, modified it, added a bunch of stuff from that compilation document, and now it's done. All five aspects, each with their own Charmset. Each with more ability in that aspects' thematic strengths, but with a broad range of powers that can accommodate a wide variety of characters.

I don't know if it's balanced, and only a quarter of it is my original work. I wrote a lot of Charms here and there, but I was also building on an existing framework and I made heavy use of Charms borrowed from fanworks like Hundredfold Facets of Enlightenment (PDF) or Ever-Cascading Torrent of Glory (PDF) or conversions of A Clutch of Dragons. But it exists and it's enough to run a game on, and I'm finally happy with the way that Dragon-Blooded work.

Now, to just get a game off the ground.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The group borrowed a car and, after loading it up with weapons and alcohol to make Molotov cocktails, drove it toward the medial research facility. They told the guards at the city checkpoint that Jazmina was going into the countryside to visit a family friend, and while she couldn't provide an exact address, the soldiers let them through with some suspicion. Rosaline drove the car to a side street and parked it, and the investigators made their way through the woods to the building. After listening to the guard patrols and throwing a carpet over the barbed wire, Demir slipped over the wall and hid in the shadows. It wasn't long until the guard approached again, but the one-armed guard now had two arms--and one of them was the arm of a gorilla or some kind of monkey. Demir gasped, revealing himself, and the guard carefully advanced, but it wasn't carefully enough. Demir stabbed the guard to death and hid behind the wall as Rosaline slipped over the wall and the countess took her place on a box behind the wall.

Call of Cthulhu attack on evil farm

Our improvised miniatures during the battle. Notice the inked-in corpses of the guards. Photo credit to Demir's player.

Another guard walked around the corner but was shot to bits by the investigators. Demir, after a shot whizzed past his shoulder, turned and snuck around the corner of the building Rosaline and now Jazmina were hiding behind. At that moment, the door burst open and another čudovište appeared, this one with the clawed bear hands and the head of a sheep. The party opened fire on as Demir, hearing gunfire, began to move faster around the building.
[ profile] mutantur: "You kind of hear, far off around that corner, a terrible bleating."
The other guard appeared behind the čudovište , but could not get a clear shot, and after a moment he turned and ran into another building in the back of the facility.

The čudovište bit Rosaline, but it fell under a hail of bullets and the professor shot it again as it lies on the ground. Demir arrived from his circuit of the building, and the party opened the door to the building they had been hiding behind. It was filled with animal cages--wolves, a bear, gorillas, sheep, cats, and dogs. Rosaline and Jazmina opened the prey animal cages, and with the keys that Demir found on the bodies of the guards, they opened the front door and let the professor and the countess in the main complex.

Carefully advancing on the final building, the investigators were ready when the door opened and revealed the final guard, who dropped as the professor shot him. Behind him was another čudovište, this one with human arms that ended in both human hands and the trotters of a pig, and the head of a wolf. A melee ensued, and at first, the guard and čudovište seemed to be getting the upper hand, with Rosaline, the professor, and the countess all being injured and knocked unconscious and the čudovište seeming almost to ignore the bullets that hit it. But the investigators prevailed, and Demir administered first aid to the party. Weapons in hand and at the ready, the the group opened the door and looked into the facility.

As expected, they saw Dr. Belenzada, standing in the midst of a group of twitching bodies, one a gorilla, one a pig, and one a human. All were dead, but all were clearly still moving, twitching and moaning in a way horrible to hear. Dr. Belenzada was wearing a medical smock, and carrying in his hand a strange knife. It looked to be made of ebony stone, with a bone handle, and it faintly glowed in the dim light of the room. The doctor shouted at the investigators that he had important research to be done, and otherwise continued his work. The professor told Dr. Belenzada that his research had already taken one life, and how much could it possible be worth it to continue if he led to more deaths? He brought up the use of chemical weapons in the Great War, but it was Dr. Moric's death that really got through. Dr. Belenzada dropped the knife and cried, sobbing about how Dr. Moric had come to him for help and he had shot him in the back like a dog. Jazmina managed to restrain herself from taking vengeance, especially when the doctor whistled into the darkness and six more horrific chimerical monstrosities shuffled out of the darkness. He shot all of them with a heavy pistol and then, before he could turn the gun on himself, Jazmina stopped him. She told him to turn himself in, to clear her father's name, and he agreed without hesitation. Then, after burning the bodies of the dead men and monsters, the investigators went to sleep.

In the morning, they discussed what to do with the knife they had found. It was clearly the Mims Sahis, the Serpent's Claw, and Demir argued that it would make a powerful weapon against the forces arrayed against them, specifically mentioning the čudovište who had taken so many shots to kill. The professor argued that it was too dangerous to be wielded, and that they had already seen it drive Dr. Belenzada mad. As well, he pointed out that they were being followed by Le Comte and by the cult, and what would happen if they got their hands on the knife? Jazmina stated that she wanted to fulfill her father's last wish, and that seemed like it swayed Demir. He agreed that they would go to the cement factory and leave town the following day.

The cement factory turned out to be a dead end, with the guards only grudgingly letting the investigators in and the foreman flatly refusing to throw anything into his equipment. He offered to write to Zagreb, where the owners of the factory lived, and Jazmina gave him her information. Of course, that was not the end of it, and while the professor, the countess, and Rosaline rested in the hotel from their injuries, Jazmina and Demir returned to the factory under the cover of night. They found the gate open and several bodies inside, all of which had been killed without much of a struggle, and some of whom they recognized--one at least was the reporter, or at least, someone who was now wearing the reporter's face. Neither Demir nor Jazmina were able to operate the machinery, and they didn't want to push random buttons and hope for the best. After searching the bodies and finding strange pouches containing herbs, bits of bone, and other, unidentifiable debris, and after Jazmina secured a promise from Demir that they would attempt to destroy the knife at a later date, they buried the bodies and left. They had to sleep in the wild, leading a patrol of Serbian soldiers on a merry chase, and did not return to the hotel before morning.

In the morning over breakfast, Jazmina checked the local paper and found a note that the National Theatre in Sofia, their next destination, had been destroyed by fire, but there was no particular note about deaths or further čudovište attacks. The was a note that the army had captured some local anarchists and the Orient Express was running again, so the investigators took their luggage, went down to the train station and endured the complaints from ssome of the other passengers who had been unable to board the first train through about how provincial Vinkovci was, and waited for the train. They were able to board and secure Jazmina a ticket, and as they settled into their compartment, Jazmina looked back. She noticed several policemen beating a man as a screaming woman tried to shield him from their blows, and could not help but notice that the man and woman were Croats and the police were Serbians. And as they pulled out of the town, they saw a convoy of army trucks leave the city. One truck, in which four pale faces were visible through the windows surrounded by soldiers, took a dirt path into the woods and did not return.

As they sat in the lounge car, Demir revealed that the knife had not been destroyed, but the professor accepted his reasoning. Demir further said that the knife remained wrapped and in the secret luggage compartment, and mentioned that he was carrying another object of power with him, from the Dreamlands, but not elaborate and no one in the group asked further. He then said he was going to sleep, as he had spent much of the last night running and not slept well, and the professor said that he had to make notes on the Chronicon de Tillius Corvus so that he could translate it for the group later. And then, the train left Vinkovci behind.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
I'm surprised that things went so well! I was expecting another death at least, but it turns out that overwatch is useful in more circumstances than while playing XCom. We got a lot of bonus dice that helped the shots of the countess, the professor, and Rosaline, who are not particularly good marks(wo)men. But we shot that second guard to pieces. It was the third guard and the last čudovište that gave us all the trouble.

Next session is Professor Durand's storytime, where we learn about a group of Roman soldiers. I've been waiting for this for literally over a year, so I'm looking forward to next time!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
A few hours before dawn, Elaphe's keen hearing picked up the sounds of movement and voices outside over the crackling of the tea house fire. After listening, he woke up the others and they grabbed their weapons and walked out into the town square, pausing a moment for Shining Star to murmur a blessing to Nyarhé that left all their weapons gleaming with a faint silver light. They heard commotion from the south and made their way toward it. Elaphe, Amos, and Bonnie climbed to the tea house roof and leapt from building to building, and the Green Knight and Shining Star walked through the maze of streets.

At the edge of town, Elaphe peered over the roof onto the wall of wooden stakes around the town. On the dirt ramp behind the wall was a motley militia of chuzan, amanita, mycon, and a few mandragora, as well as two kappa each holding a pair of battleaxes, and on the other side of the wall were dozens of of the walking dead. The townsfolk were holding them off with rural weapons--spears, pitchforks, and bows--but the wall was starting to creak ominously, and Elaphe noticed that some of the walking dead seemed to be moving more purposefully and their eyes were shedding a faint red light.

He leapt down to the wall, followed by Bonnie and Amos, and hurled his bob-omb into the middle of the walking dead. It exploded in a burst of silver fire, hurling bits of dead flesh everywhere and stopping the press of bodies against the wall, but drawing the attention of the red-eyed monsters, who jumped onto and over the wall. Up close, with the stink in her nose, Bonnie recognized them as ghuls, the hungry dead, eternally driven by empty stomachs that could never be full and whose bites were infectious.

The ghuls were vicious combatants, but not very skilled. Perhaps the bob-bomb explosion had damaged them enough that they were slower than normal. Amos used his musket and blew one ghul off the wall, and Elaphe followed it down, running down the wall and leaping toward it, and hacked off its head. He then turned and hurled a dagger into the eye of another ghul that was strugging with a chuzan militia soldier with a spear, also destroying it.

One ghul ran toward Shining Star and, while it dodged the bolt of holy fire she hurled at it, it could not dodge the Green Knight's wooden claws, which extended and wrapped around its neck until they took off its head. Amos shot another one before it started grappling the kappa next to it, prompting Bonnie to grab it from behind. It leaned back and bit her, tearing into her shoulder, and then Shining Star incinerated it with white fire and it burned to ashes in Bonnie's arms, leaving her untouched.

The last ghul was ripped in half by one of the kappa, and the other administered first aid to Bonnie while she admired the smooth curve of his shell and the pointiness of his spines. Shining Star also looked at Bonnie's wound, and when Bonnie told her about ghul fever, Shining Star murmured some words over the wound and made a note to keep an eye on it. As Amos continued to shoot flaming arrows at the walking dead, the others questioned the kappa.

In Muskalan heavily accented by the tongue of the Kappa Wastes, he gave his name as Sakuya, and said his clutchmate Ayumi and he grew sick of the Dragon Emperor's sacrilegious abandonment of the ancestors and decided to go somewhere where they wouldn't be bothered. This softened Shining Star's attitude toward them considerably, and Bonnie next asked about the walking dead. Sakuya replied that they first showed up a month or so ago, first only a few and occasionally, but gradually increasing in number until now they attacked almost every night. The kappa cursed the king of Fontina, saying that he hid in his palace with mercenaries around his town and refused to help his people.

The party asked Sakuya about the rumors they heard in Fontina, about shrouded figures attacking and people on rooftops. Sakuya replied that there were often people on the roofs, but a chuzan named Old Three Eyes had vanished after complaining about seeing eyes in his window. A local wise woman had tried to find out where he went, but turned up nothing, even when using his precious locket given to him by his dead wife as a focus. The party asked if they could see his house, and Sakuya considered and then agreed to lead them to it.

Combat can take a while. I was expecting to get a bit more time in for investigation, but it looks like that will be the focus of next session. There isn't really anywhere in the town for someone to disappear to, especially now that there are walking dead outside the walls, so what could have happened to Old Three Eyes? Will the party actually have to talk to people and do detective work, or will they get bored and decide to just kill their way to a solution? I guess we'll find out!

Bonnie is infected with ghul fever now. Bitten is not as good as dead, but Bonnie also has a Stamina of 1, so it's closer to that meaning with her than it would be with the others. Though maybe not. I realized when I went to check that I hadn't actually written the rules for ghul fever yet, though it'll probably end up being a less severe version of The Embrace of Decay from canon Exalted, which niche it fills. So I doubt she'll die, but she might be unhappy for a while.


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