Friday, November 30, 2012
Lacuna Part I. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City
I heard about this game mid November and I will admit, I was anxious to actually learn more. The reviews I read spoke much about the game being ground-breaking and after discovering how much more fun games by John Wick were, I realized I should open myself to other game systems, especially by independent creators.
Jared Soreson, the creator of Lacuna, first caught my attention when I heard about the parsely rpgs, which were games in the homage of old text-based role-playing games like Zork. I was looking for a new easy to learn role-playing game to toss a friend of mine who wanted a solo game session. The name Lacuna was often mentioned in so many forum posts and as I read more reviews, I realized I just had to try this. Finally, I grabbed the pdf copy of Lacuna Part I (second attempt) at Drivethrurpg and started reading. Within the same day, I was hungry to run the game. The system was simple enough that I could focus more on mood development and tension building. I didn't think I'd have a chance to run the game yet, but fate would have a different plan for me. Half of the players of the Houses of the Blooded troupe that used to play every Saturday was suddenly not free, and so I asked the two others if they were interested in playing something completely different. They agreed, and even opted to drag their brother with them (they claimed he's been wanting to play under me for quite some time) and so here I am finally happily running Lacuna Part I. For those wanting a teaser on what this game is about, feel free to go here. However, I truly feel it would be best to experience, and learn everything in-game and thankfully my players trusted me enough to jump into the game without reading ANYTHING about the game.
The players arrived and I opted to leave them in the room with some "elevator music" playing. I headed downstairs to buy some soda, and accompany Rocky out (he had to head to work), but the moment I returned to the unit, I greeted the three players as if it were some business meeting, and welcomed them and asked if we were to start the recruitment process. I immediately identified each one as Candidate A, Candidate B and Candidate C, and went through the character creation process. As they gained their pseudonyms, rolled their age, noted their Heart rates and finalized their Skills and Techniques, I congratulated them for passing the recruitment process, reminded them that food, drinks and electronic devices were not allowed during the session, and that they only had three hours to accomplish their mission. (The players quickly decided I looked like Jeri Ryan. I wonder if somehow my diction made them image her as well.) When the players all declared they were ready, I stood up, slowly turned off the lights one by one, until only the bathroom light that cast into the room, and the orange glow of Christmas lights by the window was left on. I sat back down, faded the music out completely, and began describing how each of them had opened their eyes to find themselves in the Blue City. "Memories are fuzzy at this point in time, post Insertion. Please reconvene with your Team Leader," was what the Mystery Agents remembered.
The weirdness of the Blue City assaulted the players quickly. The Team Leader, Agent Stringer found himself arguing with a bartender in an establishment called The Bar, about having not paid his bills for drinks he did not recall ever ordering. He tried to ignore the pair of guys who had only their right eye (the left eye socket looked like it had healed over and closed up) and were throwing knives at the wall the way guys play with darts. Quickly calling Control with the land line at the wall, the Team Leader requisitioned for cash and received the exact amount to pay for the bill.
The second one, Agent Currier, awoke to find herself in front of a massive door. The sign above the door came into focus and read, "The Bar." Agent Currier opened the door and stepped inside and saw Agent Stringer arguing with the bartender. He pulls out a dozen weirdly-shaped and colored bills, and watches as the bartender begins counting. Agent Currier asks Agent Stringer if this was the mission, and the bartender then hands them a suitcase and tells them, "That's what you left with me when you first arrived."
"How long was he here drinking," Agent Currier asked, but the bartender merely ignored the question.
The third one, Agent Granger, found himself at a roof top. As he posed by the roof edge, he could hear giggles coming from a nearby window. (The two other players were giggling, but rather than break the mood and ask them to stop, I used the sound they made to add to the scene.) Making his way down, Granger finds the nearest land line, calls Control, and asks for Intel. Control reminds him to find the Team Leader, then from there, locate the Mission Papers which were with the bartender. As he looks for the Bar, walking away from a man who coughs wet orgami cranes, and the dead great white shark on the ground, he reaches the front of The Bar to find an Extremely Seductive Woman in Red who pretends to smoke an invisible cigarette. She asks for a light, and Granger admits to not recognizing her. "I remember you, Granger. From Dnalop..." He seems confused, and she continues, "Ride with me. Leave with me. Take me with you." But when Granger turns the offer down, the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red guns the engine and drives away. Agent Granger enters the Bar to see the two others at a table, discussing things.
They open the folder and learn the Mission was to "Locate the Woman in Red. Retrieve the Folders in her hands. Eject." Upon overhearing Granger talk about seeing such a woman, Agent Currier and the team leader hurry outside to find where she had gone. Agent Granger tries joking around with the bartender, but his words seemingly bother her, drawing her to pull out her shotgun and fire into his shoulder. Agent Granger drops to the ground in pain (-1 Force) and Agent Stringer hurries inside to drag him out. As the three slam the door behind them, they easily see the area further downtown slides into a slope overlooking the city, as if "downtown" was 90 to 120 degrees at an angle. Agent Currier breaks into a run, hoping to catch up with the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red who had turned the car to park in this great park in the distance. Agent Granger pulls to the side to try and heal the wound, but does not have the Commendation Points to activate the healing. Agent Stringer reminds him time is running, and the two opt to find a car they can use. The cars seem organic. Alive. And Agent Granger learns to steer one by sliding this tube-like umbilical cord from the card's dashboard into his own left eye (He remembered the Bar). The car roared into life and the two quickly made to follow where Agent Currier had gone.
Up at downtown, Agent Currier makes contact with Extremely Seductive Woman in Red, who admits to not recognizing her. She invites Agent Currier into The Garden, but Agent Currier instead chooses to wait for the others. When the three finally regroup, they go inside and find the garden is filled with trees where real animals have been tied to the trees. Workers tirelessly paint the animals green, to match the trees until they look like trees that have been hedged into beasts. Extremely Seductive Woman in Red taps the marble table beside her, and a folder begins to emerge. "This is what you came for, Agents?"
A phone rings in the distance. Agent Currier opts to check it out, while the two others make a deal with Extremely Seductive Woman in Red. Currier learns on the phone was Control, who warns her to tell the others not to negotiate with the Extremely Seductive Woman in Red. Agent Currier drops the phone to hurry back, but her return is intercepted by a man in what looked like an outdated Eastern Bloc uniform. As she moved towards him more, he pulls out a pistol and fires, clipping her in the left shoulder! (-1 Force)
Agent Stringer and Agent Granger try to convince Extremely Seductive Woman in Red to just agree to a deal. But she insists that the two must agree to one single term, and she will hand them the folder: Granger demands to know what she wants and she leans to whisper to him, "I want you to promise to take me with you."
Hearing the gun shots, the two curried outside to help Agent Currier. The Extremely Seductive Woman in Red made her exit, vanishing without further words. But both arrived too late and Agent Currier is forced to Eject before she is killed for real. They open fire, but the "Spider-man" seems harder to bring down than they thought. They pull out and Eject.
Back at Control, the woman kindly talks to each of them to debrief them of the mission. Only Agent Granger, however, shares how they all had to Eject as the "Spider-"
"Do not mention that name. That word. It is outside your Clearance," Control interrupts him.
Agent Granger then finds himself escorted by two bruiser fellows to leave the room, and before anything else happens, a shot is heard somewhere not too far. The door opens, and a new recruit steps in. "Welcome to the recruitment," Control speaks. The new recruit breezes through character creation, and just before that ends, Control informs Agent Currier and Agent Stringer that the new recruit does not look like anyone they've seen before. (Clarifying new characters are new characters, not just different names.)
The three discuss promising to work together to make things work Control tells them to relax, and inform Control once they are ready for another Dive. Agent Stringer maintains his Team Leader position. And Agent Harper, the new Mystery Agent, wonders how things will turn out.
The game was a fun brooding experience from the get go. Some of the things I added to the game included actually adjusting the lighting of the room to be different when they were talking to Control face-to-face and while they were inside the Blue City. Since I usually used ambient music in my games, to make the initial session unnerving, I did not use music while in the Blue City, until they started to make better sense of the world around them. Basically I let the game feel more "familiar" once they started to act more confident.
Special thanks go out to Travis Carr who made a Lacuna Heart Rate Dial. Instead of the lapel pin, however, I liked the idea that the Lacuna device was clunkier and something the players actually held. So the Heart Dial became the Lacuna Device, and the players would be holding it the whole time whenever they wanted to do risks and whenever they were tempted to Eject.
While the game system supposedly does not have the GM rolling dice, I still kinda liked using dice to bring tension. So in sequences where I wanted to throw some tension without "forcing players to gain heart beats per minute," I would hold a d6 and ask the players to either call it "Odds or Evens" (if I wanted a 50-50%) or to call out a specific number which if I rolled meant bad stuff would happen.
Finally, I kept static for the initial session as an auditory thing. While they were talking to Control, I would streak my words into static at times, forcing them to try to fill in the gaps.
Whenever the players needed a time-out, I would shift the music back to the "elevator music", then switch back all the lights on, and as Control, talk to them about things as if it were a debriefing. Then invite them to grab some refreshments or use the bathroom while we were chatting. It gave the feeling that even breaks were "in-game" which made things even feel more meta and cool.
The game was going so well for us, we opted to go straight to a second session immediately.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Mark, one of my office mates at Indigo-Entertainment Philippines messaged me in Facebook, asking if I could run a Cooking Master Boy inspired role-playing game. Admittedly, I always love it when other people ask for a specific experience they want to try because it challenges me to find the best system to use, as well as to come up with a great story that touches close to the inspirational source, yet feel uniquely an experience meant for the players themselves to enjoy.
I had three players for this session, thankfully, and I simplified the Big Eye, Small Mouth (BESM) system down to make it absolutely easier for the players to grasp so we could get into gaming as soon as possible. The three character concepts ended up as the following:
Bon played Chow Chao, the Wizard of the West, a 45 year-old master chef whose hands had the Solar Hands, the ability to heat up and cook food.
Mark was Fao Lao, the Smiling Crab, a young 16 year-old chef who had hands that could transmute water into other substances. Eager to gain recognition in the cooking arena, Fao Lao had come to join the competition even with his extreme phobia towards seafood, as well as being extremely blind without his glasses.
Urim played Bolin, the 30-year old master chef who had mastered the ability to create Clones of himself. He believed in the inner spirit of animals, however, which meant he had to pray and thank an animal before killing it.
The three had gathered in the place, upon hearing about the Yu Di Cooking Contest. And in hopes of making the game have a fun random element, I handed each player two paper strips to add "any descriptive note of a character you can possibly meet in the game." As the players began their stories, I drew out a slip for each of them to add a non-playing character they can interact with. Chow Chao drew out the Elder Monk Jiu Ge, who had hoped to join and win, but clearly was too old to do much. Fao Lao drew out Mei Li, his childhood friend whom had not seen him in many years. She had grown to be a quite seductive and sultry in the passing years. Fao Lao was able to stay stoic before her, unlike Chow Chao who clearly was smitten by the woman. And finally, Bo Lin turned out to be with his murderous brother, Bo Chan, who had the ability to become a living shadow.
While Bo Chan attempted to murder the other competitors, Bo Lin did what he could to stop him, wanting to win the competition through his own skills. Chow Chao wore a disguise to look like an old woman in hopes of avoiding any trouble. Fao Lao was surrounded by an entourage of fans who cheered him on as he joined. None of them anticipated the arrival of Pangu, the self professed Cooking God of Seafood, who had come to join the competition. As the reigning champion, Pangu had planned to extend his reign as Cooking God for another year. Fao Lao stared at him with horror, remembering how Pangu was the reason his phobia existed. As Fao Lao gathers the courage to welcome him, all the others realized if Pangu did not arrive in time to sign up, he would not be part of the competition. But even as Bo Chan attempted to kill Pangu, Bo Lin intercepted the attempt and allowed Pangu to traverse the distance. Pangu leaps upon his followers' hands and lands just in time to sign his name in and join. All the competitors were told to return by the next day, and to bring five ingredients they planned to use in the competition.
The competition was on!
The opening dish was to be an invention test. As each considered the five ingredients they had brought, the contest began with each being told to hand ONE ingredient in their hands to another chef. The objective was to still come up with a cool delicious dish using the ingredients they had brought and incorporating the ingredient the other chef had given them. During the cooking, a glass needle was thrown in an attempt to poison Chow Chao. Thankfully, the chef was fast enough to dodge it, then used it to strike the elder monk. Fao Lao grit his teeth as he submerged his hands into the steaming pot he had prepared, to transform the water into a new flavor. Bo Lin bowed his head to pray to the live piglet he had brought with him, then using various techniques, beat up the pig to let the blood internally flow, then ended it with cooking the battered pig into a delectable dish.
Chow Chao creates "Uri Uri" which uses Sake with a mix of salamander tongue and other spicy ingredients.
Fao Lao creates a unique blend of coffee and rice for a sweet and salty delicacy.
Bo Lin's Roasted Pork Rice Topping astounds the judges.
Mei Lin serves a Bean Sprout soup with five eggs, but her cooking barely catches their favor.
Bo Chan creates a sandwich with terribly thin slices, but pulls out a surprise that catches the judges off guard.
Finally, Pangu uses tremendously expensive ingredients such as crabs, and yellow fin tuna into an incredibly impressive sea food dish.
Results were in and both Pangu and the elder monk were disqualified, with Pangu for attempting to attack the others, and the elder monk seemingly having died in the contest (none witnessed Chow Chao poisoning him with the glass dagger that had been intended for him). The others take a breather as the next phase of the contest begins in a few. During the rest, Bo Chan attempts once more to kill Chow Chao and the most he successfully does is poison the guy. The contest narrows down to the three players after a free-for-all battle is suddenly permitted and Bo Chan, but Bo Chan is very quickly eliminated although his dish (a sandwich) is praised for having a meat that none of the others could identify. With the last three remaining contestants, the Emperor himself calls for a pressure test. The contestants are to match his version of Golden Fried Rice, and each hero successfully matches the Emperor's motions as he lights the right fire, gathers fresh river water without touching it, and cooks the perfect amount of rice. As the lights in the arena are killed, the Emperor challenges all the heroes to do the final step: add the egg to the rice in the right manner. Of the three, only Bo Lin correctly stirs the egg into the rice while constantly shifting the rice to coat it in the egg. With all having their own Golden fried rice, the final challenge is then announced: They are to add whatever they have left to give the rice a unique twist of their own.
Fao Lao transforms a remaining egg and water mix to give the rice an interesting new touch of flavor.
Chow Chao pulls a surprising twist by adding calamansi and salamander tongue into his dish.
Bo Lin transforms his rice into a impressive touch, using the remaining fat from his earlier dishes.
But in the end, it is Fao Lao who wins the judges vote. It is at that moment the whole Arena changes. The audience fades away into merely puppets. The Emperor becomes a different entity altogether. The group stares at the true God of Cooking himself, and his wife approaches Fao Lao to offer him a chance at godhood. The God of Cooking was hoping to take a vacation and needed someone to take his place temporarily for a year. "You are offered the chance for godhood, but you have the freedom to turn it down. The offer after all is not for everyone." Fao Lao turns the offer down, however, realizing he would not be able to handle experiencing godhood then becoming human once again. He suggests giving it to Mei Li instead, stating her presence in the contest had driven him to try harder. She accepts the offer, and learns from the Kitchen God's wife how to survive the experience.
One year later.
The characters are all invited by Mei Li to a lunch upon a barge she now owns. They all find themselves reconnecting as good friends, thankful for having entered the contest and finding new friends. Chow Chao feels guilty for having killed the elder monk, but the others remind him that the God of Cooking still forgave him. He should learn to stop berating himself and start appreciating more life. As Fao Lao asks Mei Li how she survived experiencing godhood without going insane after losing it, she raises a covered dish and invites everyone to eat. Placing it down, she raises the cover and a brilliant golden light blinds them all as they see the amazing dish.
"You survive it, by sharing the experience," Mei Li admitted.
And they all partook of the food and tasted a glimpse of heaven itself.
Somewhere, an elder monk finally awoke. He had a strange dream of various chefs and of being poisoned. But he awoke and dismissed the dream as just a dream. A pity Chow Chao would never realize the elder monk was not dead, just too old to care about going to meet them again.
The game was hilarious! I know the summary here doesn't sound that funny, but to be frank I doubt I can capture how funny it got even if I were to try to explain it. From crazy antics to laugh-out insane tactics, the players pushed their creative buttons to try to top each other with their dishes.
I had players describe their dishes after making Performance checks, and for every five points beyond the target number, they were able to use additional adjectives in their narrative. In the finale, with so much Energy in store, the three players rolled and Mark won the contest with a total of 12 adjectives to use. It was fun listening to each of them describe the emotional rollercoaster the judges would experience upon eating the food that they had cooked.
Oh Cooking Master Boy.
Thank you for the fun!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Adventure - Aberrant - Aeon Trinity
Politics is in the air at 2003 as Randel "The Fireman" Portman, the first Nova to ever Erupt, decides to try to run for office, believing that someone has to in order for the possibility of Nova Rights being acknowledged to become a reality. Sadly, neither Richard Rayner nor his team (composed of Diane Misselthwaite-Brewster, Anthony Towers, Mary Rose Mercer Song, and Jennifer Landers) find the idea worth supporting. The Fireman does not seem to have a clear political platform, and more importantly, none of them seem to like nor trust Portman's lawyer friend, Matthew Carter. Anthony Towers feels for the guy's intentions however, and tries to talk the others to reconsidering. When Rayner tries reaching out to his political ties, he learns the Democratic party does actually plan to try to find a good Nova candidate for the elections. Congressman Laurel even suggests to Rayner that Anthony Towers, known also as The Quarterback, might be a better option. Hands shake and the campaigning eventually begins, with Portman and his wife offering to instead help their candidacy.
This is a far contrast to the events unfolding in 1943. As Scarlet learns that her very own long missing fiance, Eric Gardner is the man behind the finances of the Machinatrix and Baron Zorbo, she is disgusted to learn he has begun calling himself Manifest Destiny and seems crazy enough to believe the world with become a better place, "Once everything is returned to its proper place, starting with the United States being handed back to the American Indians." The German, on the other hand, heads to Europe to seek out the Sleepwalker, and along the way, inadvertently crosses paths with Michael Donighal, who remains absolutely distraught by the loss of Annabelle Lee Newfield. When the German finds the Sleepwalker, the Sleepwalker tracks the long missing comrade to his hidden Sanctum, a stolen submarine. The German is invited to meet the League of Science and there receives an earful of advice from The Gray Web, who even informs him to eventually inform "A woman much like myself to trust in the information she reads," and to "Seek out Eric Langley when the time is right and he will help you do what you have to do." After which, the man vanishes. The Sleepwalker continues to have stranger dreams, and has begun to notice that his very own physical form has begun to erode into mere shadows when he is not concentrating!
Scarlet escapes by slipping the power disruptor that Manifest Destiny slides on to her hand back onto his, not realizing his very own Inspired powers were what kept the Sky Fortress aloft. As the place crashes around them, Scarlet leaps out into the free fall of freedom, and taps into a new power of the wedding bands that crafts an ice shelter for her to slide back onto the ground safely. Into snow.
In 2003, the elections begin to unfold. Switchboard learns from her massive computing that The Quarterback would have a larger chance at victory if he was shown to have a semblance of a family. Given Slider's role in the team, the two begin posing as a dating couple, a fabricated story that drives The Persuader very jealous. The Persuader makes the mistake of trying to get Slider jealous back by having a scandalous time with another woman. Slider calls their relationship quits, and in a depressed and emotional moment, ends up having sex with The Quarterback. The two very quickly spill into a relationship, and this boosts their campaigning even more.
Scarlet awakes in the snow to realize she is in Russia. Close to where the group had their first mission, Scarlet instead finds the shack of her old Mentor, a man whom she has left behind in a bad manner. Hoping to take shelter from the extreme cold, Scarlet finds herself facing a strange man who insists she is Anastasia and convinces her he is Rasputin himself! As she struggles with what seemed to be new strange memories, Scarlet realizes the man is probably using some kind of Nova power to implant memories into her head. After knocking him down, she discovers her true Mentor tied up and exhausted: Nikola Tesla.
Back in the Philippines, some years past 2120, Rebecca Bue li telepathically chats with her chosen scion, Lacierda-Wu. Wu understands the importance of the mission to uncover the truth of Huang-Maar and the Proxies. Eric on the other hand, receives another visit from Alex Cassell, and instead learns the man sent to him the first ever Live Model.
In the end, the elections go to the most abhorrent and close minded jerk of all time, Mark Green. The group, however, vows to try again next time. For now, however, 2003 is in the hands of one of the most vocally anti-Nova person out there.
Scarlet reunites with Aeon Society, only to learn of how many are missing, if not presumed dead, and just as the story comes to a close, Maxwell Mercer finds a visitor: a Younger Maxwell Mercer, an the young man identifies himself to be Mercer's son. Sharp-eyed people noticed that the old man Mercer himself, does not seem surprised.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
"I heard that..."
The Rumor Mill
In a typical game session, the players are in a Story. Whether the Story is about a party being held in Lady No's new Opera House, or a Hunting session with a few Serpents, or something just as grand, a typical practice is for the Narrator to declare three true things about the party which is then followed by the players making Wisdom risks to determine other facts in the Story.
In our games, I've decided to take this a step further. On the turning of a Season (for example, when Spring ends and Summer begins) all players choose what kind of Rumors their character has overheard. These Rumors represent events and changes that transpired as one Season shifted into the other. Given how quickly events shift in Ven society, it is not uncommon for Ven to overhear what has been going on even beyond the confines of their own Castle. This system is meant to reflect that idea.
At the turning of a Season, players choose what kinds of Rumors they have overheard.
- Romance, Affairs, and Relationship Rumors : Beauty
- Warfare, Trouble and Ork-related Rumors : Prowess
- Sorcery, Artifact and Shanri-related Rumors : Wisdom
- Senate, Insult, and Revenge-related Rumors : Cunning
For example, at the turning of the Season, Ti'Ann Burghe, the Bronze Inquisitor and Duchess of Grindle, opts to hold her ear towards Sorcerous and similar rumors. Rolling Cunning, and gaining extra dice from her Aspect, "I love Secrets" she gets three wagers. So she makes the following declarations as Rumors that she has over-heard: All Puzzle Houses have suddenly shut their doors, barring anyone from entering. Sorcery somehow has become harder to use, costing an extra Style point to invoke. And lastly, drought has struck Shanri... causing all Food-providing Regions to have +1 Trouble.
These Rumors can be accepted as Facts by the Narrator, and since they generally have made things harder for the players, the Narrator rewards them all with a Style point for each approved Rumor into Facts. Clearly any Rumors that need to be vetoed can simply be done by not playing the players Style for it and having it stated as, "Merely a Rumor, and nothing more..."
Basic rules of course apply. A player cannot use a Rumor to replace Espionage actions, for example, nor declare a Rumor to affect only one single character (or give one single character an advantage alone, but then again, there are precious few non-Wanker declarations that are not ultimately still double-edged blades).
While still seemingly will allow players to start the Story with a LOT of Style, it does encourage them to consider "writing" the general feel of the new Season as it begins, which makes for excellent role-playing opportunities.
"That is a lovely scent..."
More Interesting Goods
While Goods are described in the game typically as Clothes and affections a character wears and carry additional Style, in our game we've decided to push Goods to a new creative level. (Note: This was something we were doing prior to the advanced release of the Houses of the Blooded: Wilderness book, so our apologies for it contradicting some of the ideas in that book.) In our games, Goods can be more than clothes. The real question is, what Resource are you using to create the Good, and what benefit does the Good grant?
If the Good grants additional Style Points, then there's no need to worry too much about the specifics, other than to allow the Resource used to match the idea of what is then afterwards created into a Good. Here's a small example of things we've created as Goods in our games.
Lumber: Interesting Furniture, Nice Cabinets, Stylish Canes
Spices: Cosmetics, Perfume, Simple Healing Salves, Flavored Wines
Herbs: Paints, Dyes, Medicinal Powders
Iron: Intricate Metalwork, Simpler Statues, Simple Archways, Simpler Jewelry
Note that some of these items sound similar to works of Art, but since all they do is allow the player to start with additional Style at the start of the game, so long as they are at their Castle, then it simply acts as a non-carried Good. The total number of carried Goods however still remains equal to one's Beauty Virtue. The total number of uncarried Goods that one can draw Style from is equal to one's Beauty as well, but this Style can only be "gathered up" if the player spends one scene in the presence of the said object during the Story.
It was an interesting declaration for us that one of the Ven would "consume" a season's worth of Spices, for example, to create the perfect scent the character was to wear. Or spend a season's worth of Lumber just to get the walking cane he wanted to show off. Clearly, when statues, jewelry, archways, canes, and the like are no longer simple, then they becomes works of Art that follow the rules for creating Art.
This approach also made for very interesting Gifts when it came to Parties. One player presented the Duke with a large iron chest as a present. While not a work of Art, the chest was functional and useful and definitely sturdy enough, which matched the player's desire to give a gift that suggested, "The important of Security, your grace, is what I wished you to have."
So have fun with Goods and see what else you can come up to create with them. To be frank, I see no harm in giving players more Style to play with.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Adventure - Aberrant - Aeon Trinity
Having learned the stories of how the second World War has reached the United States (with Baron Zorbo's airships) this session explored how one of the members of The Aeon Society for Gentlemen had to return to his home country (The Sleepwalker) to help out in the war against the Nazis. His arrival is welcomed by Madame Prometheus who then gives him a ride on her Invisible Tank to The League of Science's headquarters.
There, he met with the remaining members of The League of Science, whose membership has very quickly declined due to the war. Many members died, with their incredible powers insufficient to avoid the perils brought about by the war. The First English who carried with him the Original Banner that granted him and all who followed him invulnerability was felled as the Nazis opened fire with their rifles and grenades. Somehow, the magic of the Original Banner had been nullified by their basic arms. Jessi of the Future, whose brain was said to be able to calculate so fast the future was a glimpse of probabilities she foresaw, could not mentally and emotionally fathom the atrocities that the war made her witness. The chaos of the battlefield and the thousand plus images of violence she shifted through in an eye-blink was enough to shatter her sanity. She dove headlong towards an incoming tank, and some believe it was to cease the torrent of cruelty in her thoughts. Lesley Lazuli who summoned Spirit Guardians and protected the allied camps could not cope with the horrible conditions that war forced upon its soldiers. She contracted an illness while in the battlefield and while distracted by a vomiting spell, was killed by a German sniper. Veridean Quick, who at first turned the tide in favor of the allied forces with his super speed, was eventually defeated by a barrage of tank cannon fire from German Panzers. The explosive barrage that encompassed the whole area around Veridean Quick was far larger than his speed could bring him. Some say his battered remains were flung out of the blast radius with only his right hand intact and undamaged.
Of the League, only the Gray Web, Madame Prometheus, Captain Normandy Nemo and Terra Obscura remained. And while the three others did what they can to help in the war effort, Terra Obscura refused to participate in any form with what he called a meaningless war, and the self-proclaimed True Elemental of the Earth submerged himself into the ground and was never seen since. The Sleepwalker's arrival was not a welcomed one, as far as The Gray Web would show. The Gray Web claimed to see information itself from what he called The Web, an interconnected energy source of information that tested one's sanity. "Like a million books of light, with words and images shifting with the blink of an eye, I can see what should and could have and what has. And this I know, it was you who should have died, Sleepwalker. But in your absence, your martyrdom did not inspire the rest of the League to victory." He warns the Sleepwalker that he now may find death in the hands of a man who "will take your heart away" and tells him of how he can help, albeit late as he is. The Nazis were winning with what they suspected to be a form of super-soldier program under a Doctor Kharl Vernet, who was originally tasked to use his research in hormones to rid the world of the homosexual "plague." The Web notes the Doctor of having succeeded with a certain Patient 314 in empowering him to super human levels. The Doctor has to be stopped before more of these GottenSoldat are created. Having narrowed down his possible location to three places, the Sleepwalker's incredible analytical mind deduces the Doctor would be at the Buchenwald camp which is deep inside the enemy's lines. Madame Prometheus looks at Captain Normandy Nemo who does agree, "Yes, it is time then to try your new vehicle."
The four reach the empty hangar bay and the Sleepwalker realizes what he is looking at once Madame Prometheus switches on the sprinkler system: An Invisible Jet. The two decide to leave at first light and spend the night prepping for the flight. The Gray Web visits him and the two talk about whether or not The Sleepwalker should reconsider The Aeon Society for Gentlemen and return to the League of Science. The Sleepwalker chooses not to reply.
Enroute to Buchenwald on Madame Prometheus' Invisible Plane, the Sleepwalker opts to grab a quick nap. As he sleeps, his dreams haunt him. He dreams he rides a plane of jet black darkness. He soars through the sky and descends upon an ancient ruin, a lone tower that stands at the fringe of a light woods. He soars closer to the tower and sees Nazi soldiers in a frantic panic, unloading their guns at something he cannot see. German soldiers are falling, dying, and blood explodes in flowery patterns. Then, he rises once more, and circles the top of the tower where three soldiers are sleeping. Two wake up after hearing the gun fire and one reaches to wake the third. The moment he hits the third to wake up... the dream ends.
Samuel Warren slips back his mask on and makes his way to the front of the plane. Madame Prometheus admits she didn't think he would wake on his own. But as she shows him where they are headed, the Sleepwalker checks the map and finds a small castle ruin west of the buildings they were headed. He tells her to fly towards the ruin instead and preps for a parachute jump. The Madame shares where she can land and the two decide to rendezvous in a few hours. While the jump is uneventful, it is far from ideal, and the Sleepwalker lands in the woods. He avoids any serious injuries and quickly makes his way towards the ruin. As he traverses a clearing however, a soldier with a rifle emerges and calls out from the darkness. "Flash!" Confused, the Sleepwalker just mutters, "Bang?" and thinking they were warning him, he covers his eyes.
Suddenly, he is flung backwards as two people grab his shoulders and bring him down. Then the soldier with the rifle steps on his chest and slams the butt of the rifle onto the Sleepwalker's face. The Sleepwalker wisely feigns unconsciousness and listens in as the soldiers debate on whether or not the the Sleepwalker can be trusted. The Sleepwalker then admits he did not know the response to the code because he isn't military. He directs the soldiers to find his Aeon Society ID and sadly informs them that he's here alone. With the trust restored, the group discusses the tower. As it turns out, Sergeant Powers and his men are very new recruits. Shipped out to the battle even before training was done, the soldiers were all pretty green. Their orders were to secure the tower as a strategic point, which much to the Sleepwalker's suspicion suggested one of them was Inspired. When the Sleepwalker offers to deal with the tower first, the Sergeant, whose nickname was Bacon, reminds him this is a military operation and that as a civilian, it was best he let's them deal with things first.
As they make their way to the tower, the Sleepwalker begins to see something unexpected: As Sgt. Bacon gives his commands, the various members of the squad begin to pulse with Inspiration. The group suddenly pulses and all of them are suddenly moving in perfect synch. Sgt. Bacon it seems is one of the Inspired. Babyface, Cheddar, Willis, Georgie and Gabe quickly move in coordinated focus.
As the group reaches the tower, they find it eerily empty. Babyface and Cheddar head in as the first wave. Willis and the Sleepwalker prep to follow as the second wave. As they head up the tower, the Sleepwalker realizes the Inspiration that guides the team has distance limits! Babyface and Cheddar, no longer within range to receive the benefits, sadly encounter whatever it was attacking the Nazis in the Sleepwalker's dream. As sounds of gunfire erupt from the tower, the Sleepwalker and the rest quickly try to follow. But the shoot out leads to a grenade being thrown out of the window, and the Sleepwalker sacrifices his grapple gun to deflect the grenade midair. Georgie and Gabe make their way up the tower, but sadly this leads to even more gun fire before the Sleepwalker can follow. The tower is littered with ammunition shells and blood. Babyface is found with his face torn off. Cheddar found with his spine ripped out. Gabe is on the ground, with one arm missing, and Georgie tells the Sleepwalker of some massive hulking figure with talons for fingers that leapt out of the window to escape. As Bacon and Willis quickly try to staunch Gabe's bleeding, the Sleepwalker very quickly peruses the files he can find of what was going on here and sees the studies that Doctor Vernet has been doing. Patient 314, it seems, has developed massive musculature development, intense regenerative capabilities, as well as uncontrollable masculine urges especially with aggression. It takes him a beat to merely realize that Madame Prometheus is the next likely target! Since Gabe is losing loads of blood, bringing him to her might also be the best way to save his life.
As Willis and Georgie carry Gabe with them to the rendezvous point, the Sleepwalker rushes ahead to see if Madame Prometheus is well. He arrives to find her standing in front of her Invisible Jet. Madame Prometheus admits she has been hearing the sounds of something stalking in the woods. Before anything else could be said, Patient 314 tears into the scene and charges for Madame Prometheus! Firing three shots into the hulk's open maw, the Sleepwalker realizes Patient 314 can't be stopped with just a few gas pellets. Cupping five into his hand, the Sleepwalker tries to anticipate when to hurl them at the hulk. Being in a clearing meant strong winds that would not allow the gas to concentrate in one location. Madame Prometheus opened her trench coat and raised both arms to criss-cross her bracers together as she declared, "Inside the jet, pull the red level! Now!" The Sleepwalker rushed into the Jet and found the lever in time and pulled it. With a crimson glow, fire erupted outwards from the front channels of the Jet. Amazingly, the fire twisted mid air and curved in the direction of Madame Prometheus. With a smooth circular motion akin to yoga, Madame Prometheus redirected the flames to engulf Patient 314. As the Patient 314 burned, the hulking form not once even screamed in agony. The Sleepwalker rushed close and slammed the pellets onto the Patient's face in hopes that the knock-out gas would impair the healing abilities as well. Unfortunately, it did not. But Madame Prometheus, seeings the green mist being inhaled, realizes the best way to stop Patient 314 was to burn him both inside and out! With another fluid motion, the flames were controlled by Madame Prometheus, and using the stolen fire, made to dance both inside and around Patient 314. As the charred skeleton of Patient 314 fell to the ground, the Sleepwalker decided to make things more certain by stomping down to shatter the blackened skull.
Unfortunately, neither of them were aware of what was transpiring back at the ruin. Back there, a hidden panel swiveled open and Doctor Vernet stepped out to speak with Sgt. Bacon. Though Sgt. Bacon at first kept his weapon trained at the Doctor, the Doctor's words about changing the world, ending governments and being free of the chains of others somehow makes the American soldier question himself. Whether it was the effects of a Knack, or a true weakening of his resolve, will sadly be a question for another day. For now, however, the tale ends with the Sleepwalker and Madame Prometheus gathering the injured solider to bring him back to safety. And deep down, the Sleepwalker fears that someday in the future he will find himself facing Sgt. Bacon at opposite sides.
Friday, November 16, 2012
The Shotgun Diaries
Ran the ever-popular John Wick game, The Shotgun Diaries, for my officemates at Indigo-Entertainment again. Of the original group that played, only one was available for this session. The remaining four other players were trying this game for the first time. Given this was a rushed game, I decided to have a player write in the Zombie Diary once every fifteen minutes or so. These entries will be in ALL CAPS.
After quickly giving them a brief rundown on the system, I handed out small sheets of paper which had the archetypes written on them. I thought it would be fun to have them randomly known their roles in the game, especially since of the four new players, three were playing a role-playing game for the very first time in their lives.
The Fast guy found the fire exit clear, and the doors opened to show an empty mall. The theater was on the fourth floor of a massive mall, and it seemed unthinkable that there was no one in the vicinity. He decided to slide back inside the theater and go to where the others were. None could see the Dangerous girl who had tripped over something in the darkness. Hoping to get up, she instead felt hands clutch her ankles! Kicking wildly, she was able to force the unseen attacker to let go, and in her panic, she rushed away from the group and made for the exit door. Hearing her scream, the Clever guy, the Sneaky guy and the Strong guy moved close to check as well. The Fast guy ran into the darkness, hoping to cast light into the area by shoving the exit doors opened. As he did so, both he and the Dangerous girl realized how empty the area outside the theater was. The nearby popcorn stalls, snack bars, and other theater entrances were empty as well. The whole thing felt surreal and odd.
There was a body in the corridor. The Clever guy slipped past it and quickly made his way to join the Dangerous girl and the Fast guy. But the Strong guy unwisely opted to sit down beside the body and turn him over. The man was missing his face, and his hands were bloody and broken. While the Sneaky guy decided to wait, the Strong guy ended up getting his face coughed at by the battered body on the ground. The battered body's eyes opened into empty whiteness and feeling threatened, the Strong guy slammed the switch-blade into the body's chest. "His head! His head!" the Sneaky guy gasped in fear, and the Strong guy was quick to oblige.
Outside, the three discovered where everyone had gone. Around thirty feet from the theater entrance was the escalator leading to the third level. Down below, hordes of what seemed to be the walking dead were bumping into each other and seemingly lost as to where to go. Unfortunately, a number of them had successfully walked onto the escalator, and the device was now bringing them up to the fourth level! While the Fast guy and the Dangerous guy rushed to find things to use as weapons, the Smart guy tried to open the hatch to the escalator wiring and reverse the moving stairs. But before he could succeed, the zombies were getting far too dangerously close! Thankfully the Fast guy found a metal trash bin to use, which he was able to hand to the Dangerous girl in time. The Dangerous girl threw the bin and successfully knocked three of the zombies away.. as well as delay the others for a few more precious seconds. With the second chance gained, the Clever guy finally reversed the stairs and forced the zombies back down.
Now aware of the threat surrounding them a floor below, the group hurriedly made their way to the closest fire exit. But this one had a long bloody smear that lead to the door. A quick vote, and they all decided it was best to find a different way out. The Strong guy handed the switch-blade to the Dangerous girl.
There was an elevator. And the elevator, to their knowledge was not too far from a gun store that the Clever guy remembered to be on the second floor. The group quickly made their way to the elevator, with the Strong guy dragging a potted plant with him to use as a weapon. As they descended in the elevator, the Clever guy worked quickly to jury-rig the controls to follow only their input. With the glass walls of the elevator providing an unparalleled view, the group gasped in horror as they discovered the whole third floor was swarming with so many zombies, they could barely move themselves. None have noticed that ZOMBIES ARE AFRAID OF LIGHTS FROM CELLULAR PHONES.
The second level, to their surprise was empty. And the gun shop was visible fifty or so feet away from where they were. The Sneaky guy quickly made his way closer, but stopped upon seeing a zombie nearby. Dangerous girl was nearly bitten by another zombie, but thankfully stabbed the switch blade into its skull before it got to her. Frustrated by their vulnerability, Fast guy hurried to the gun shop with Strong guy and Dangerous girl following suit. Clever guy remained by the elevator and noticed someone in the lower levels trying to call the elevator. He countered the controls and kept it stuck at their floor. It was then he started to notice something scary. The ZOMBIES CAN COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER. One zombie in the first level looked up and saw him in the glass elevator. Slowly, others around that zombie began to look up as well. Barely a minute passed before every single zombie down below was staring at him. Perturbed, the Clever guy rushed to join the others. Seeing the padlock on the door, the Strong guy used the heavy potted plant to smash it open. Few notice THE STRONG GUY COUGHING AND FEELING SICK.
All of the survivors gathered useful supplies in the Gun shop. Try as they might however, the could not transform the place into a Sanctuary. So while the others gathered some rest to let the fear subside, the Fast guy ran ahead to look for the service exit. There had to be a way for them to head out which the greater populace which had been infected were not aware of.
The group gathers at the door leading the service exit. Ready for zombies, the group opens the door to find zombies have already gathered there! Each one throws their weight into the fight as they hope to shoot their way into freedom, but luck doesn't smile upon them. Many shots miss and more often than not, survivors are nearly bitten had it not been for more of the supply they had taking the blow (bites that hit the first aid kit instead. Or swipes that tear away a weapon instead of an arm...) Since ZOMBIES' TOUCH BURN LIKE ACID, most aren't too keen on letting the monsters too close. With escape already visible for them, the group begins to splinter as fear finally overwhelms the Sneaky guy. He runs off for the exit, and the Fast guy opts to follow suit. Both see a running truck gunning for the door and fail to make it in time. The Strong guy feels sicker and ends up puking onto the Clever guy's face. The DANGEROUS GIRL BEGINS TO BLEED FROM HER NOSE that moment as well, making the Clever guy realize the infection has already reached them. Both the Strong and Dangerous survivors begin to hear whispers in their heads and they realize the whispers are the Zombies noting their location.
Outside, the Fast and the Sneaky guys see a number of parked cars just a few yards away. But the hordes appear and Sneaky guy opts instead to run back inside and find a place to hide. Fast guy pulls out his cellular phone, sees the zombies recoil from the light, and quickly slides into the closest car to start the engine. But back at the mall, Clever guy finds the Strong and Dangerous Survivors grabbing hold of him, and before he could do anything further, feels their teeth tearing into his flesh. Drawing out a knife he found from the gun shop, Clever slices his wrist to draw blood but as he realizes suicide won't come quickly enough, pulls Dangerous girl close in hopes for a final kiss before stabbing himself. His resolve fails however and the infection takes hold as well. The three drop to the ground, lapping at the still warm blood they have on their lips, even if they can no longer sense a living source.
Fast guy guns the engine and escapes with his life.
Sneaky guy survives a full week more in the mall, preying on other survivors he finds for food, and weapons, until finally he succumbs to the horde as well.
The Infection continues...
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Adventure - Aberrant - Aeon Trinity
The year is 1939, the Second World War has begun and Baron Zorbo has begun his attack upon New York City. The story focuses on Scarlet, who works with Safari Jack, to try to bring down the zeppelins of the opponent that fly close enough for them to deal with. Scarlet ponders on the whereabouts of two missing companions; the German and his side-kick, Phantom Face, remains missing. The two had vanished almost two years ago and with the coming of the war, Scarlet worries if they had anything to do with the sudden increase of Nazi power.
Jack finds a massive clown float which he has raised to bring them both closer to their target.Using her telekinetic abilities, Scarlet launches Safari Jack's zippo lighter onto the zeppelin, in hopes of causing it to burn down and crash. Jack questions the logic of having a flying vehicle filled with Hydrogen erupt into flames in front of them. But as the two map out their strategy, one of the zeppelins maneuvers to fire the death ray upon them. Scarlet has the lighter tear into the zeppelin's material, and the burning thing begins to crash their way. As the two leap from the clown and fall towards the Empire State Building. Jack uses his whip to latch onto a flag pole to swing them both to safety as they crash into a nearby window. Scarlet tells Jack they have to hurry downstairs. The downed zeppelin's death ray device was their objective. Unbeknownst to Scarlet, both the German and his side-kick, Phantom Face, were observing them from the shadows of a building.
Cut back to 1939, the German is clambering up a fire exit to see the events unfolding. The German had vanished after the incident with the Marquis FaSade in hopes of uncovering more truth regarding the existence of his son. In the many years of searching for answers, he had even found some documents supposedly of a Gravity chamber. He eventually finds the amusing Svetlana, who agrees to keep his existence a secret and inform Scarlet of his need to meet her when the opportunity arose.
In the Sky Fortress, Scarlet and the others meet with Machinatrix. Discussions are made and Maxwell Mercer offers himself for the safe passage of the group. Primoris and Crackshot had already left, she claimed, and the group decides to cut their loses at that moment.
Many years ahead of the timeline, Erik Langley converses with the Benefactor on the importance of the Inspired in relation to the Psionics and the Aberrants. With the Quantum that Aberrants harness making Psi unreliable, the Benefactor believes the Inspired - who seemingly disrupt probabilities to their favor - may be the best weapon against the Aberrants. He admits he needs Langley to be someone who can take over for him. He claims he has an Inspired survivor Langley can study, but he needs Langley to promise him the Inspired won't be abused. When Langley admits not being certain if he can trust the Benefactor, the Benefactor offers to ease his concerns by introducing himself directly.
A knock alerts Langley to someone outside, and he opens the door to see the Prexy himself, Alex Cassel. At first, this worries Langley, as it makes him think the Benefactor and the Prexy are one. But the Prexy instead admits to visiting Langley since he needs someone he can vent out to. He even goes as far as offering Langley promotions just to be a friend at his beck and call. The constant barrage of signals, transmissions and energy pulses are defeaning for the Prexy. When he comments on a constant buzzing that he senses from Langley's room, Erik realizes that many be the jamming signal that keeps his communications with the Prexy secret! The Prexy visits two more times, and even goes as far as shutting down a few city blocks to get some quiet. He reminds Langley that he needs the Huang-Marr Conspiracy settled, and suggests he contacts Miss Laceirda-Wu who is enroute to the Philippines. She had been regenerated by the Aesculapian Order, and the Prexy fears what conditions she had been made to agree with for her life back.
When the Prexy finally leaves, the Benefactor at last comes to visit. Langley stares at the man, who looks no older than someone in his mid-forties. The Benefactor admits that listening, eavesdropping and video devices won't work to capture his visage. And that the Inspired he was talking about was himself. When the Benefactor allows Langley to see him better, Langley realizes he does recognize the man: He is the German. And somehow, he has Defied Death though all these years.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Riddle of Blood
The fourth session opened with the coming of Summer. Only four of the five players could make it, though, so things were definitely going to be different. The immense advantage of having Contacts became quickly apparent as the players declared their Season Actions in each other's Castles.
Rocky, as Gaius Mwrr, has begun taking the steps to building an Opera House.
Arj, as the newly released Viktor Krev, having claimed Talia Mwrr's Domain as her own, has finally hired a Caravan to assist in Resource management.
Matt, as Kithranus Yvarai, attempted to prepare the Banquet in hopes of hosting a Party. But his attempt failed.
Princess, as Quan Wei Yvarai, on the other hand successfully created a Banquet with the potential of making it even more wonderful. Invitations to her Winter Party have been sent out to all the nearby Ven.
As new Senators, Kithranus and Quan Wei take part in a number of debates in the Senate Hall. Among the debates of note were the reemergence of Ti'Ann Burghe, who all had presumed to be dead. As it turns out, Ti'Ann Burge had been imprisoned in a Puzzle House by her own daughter. A tulpa had been created of her, then used as a puppet to further her own motives. Now seeking to regain her power, she entered the halls of the Senate to demand that Valentina Sinjin, Blooded of of the Falcon and Baroness of Grindle, return to her both title and lands. As the two debated publicly the matter, Kithranus stepped into the discussions and attempted to sway others into opposing Ti'Ann Burghe's words. But the young senator had overstepped in his actions and ended up becoming the focus of Ti'Ann's words. Even if the former Bronze Inquisitor claimed to have never met Kithranus before, the Crimson Inquisitor still addressed her as if stung by how the previous tulpa had treated him. But even as Ti'Ann Burghe attempted to sway the Senate to have the Crimson Inquisitor investigate her claims of knowing where the Mother of Monsters resides, Kithranus' debating skills triumphed over hers and won instead the Senate's vote.
But in private, Kithranus found himself in discussions with a smaller group of Senators. Composed of Dukes, and Earls, with Madelyn Yvarai (Kithranus' Mother-in-law most notably), the private circle warns Kithranus that his actions have inadvertently declared they would ignore Ti'Ann Burghe's warnings, and her plans of creating her own Senate would allow them the reason to execute those that gather under her banner as her Private Army.
Quan Wei Yan fears for her husband, who grows more despondent with every passing night. Ever since The Night, the former Veth has struggled to accept his new condition. She even reaches out to speak with her own mother, Josephine Yvarai who seems absent-minded and confused most of the time. But when Quan Wei stands to leave the table, Josephine pulls her back to sit down, and talks about her special earring that allows her to reap certain benefits. Fearing her own mother practices Sorcery, Quan Wei warns her mother that to practice Sorcery without a License is punishable in the eyes of the Senate. Quietly, she responds by using a Ritual known as The Rose, then tells her daughter that she knows of a group that seeks to replace the current Senate. "If you choose to be party to this, you shall let me know."
In the Azure Tower, Viktor Miklos Krev finds a visitor at his home. The Serpent, Gauis Mwrr had come to visit, hoping to ask questions. Earlier in the day, Gauis and his husband spoke openly of their concerns and fears. Vance had slowly begun to regain what seemed to be long lost memories, and among them was the realization he was Blooded of the Horse. Vance Vashna was his long forgotten name. Gauis had hoped Viktor could help share more information on who Moryandal Vashna was, and why Vance would have such memories of him. During their conversation, however, a second guest came demanding Viktor's audience: Melinda Mwrr, mother of the late Talia Mwrr.
The mother inquires about Viktor's assumption of her daughter's estate, and rather than question Viktor more on it, simply asks that she be allowed to claim one thing that she states is rightfully hers. Viktor agrees, and the three begin walking further into the grounds to the garden where a massive tree stands. To Gauis' shock, another shrine to the Horse is found, but this time, Melinda Mwrr seems to know about it. She escorts the three inside, then draws a necklace from beneath her clothes. When Viktor asks what she is planning to take, she holds the necklace to his face and asks Gaius to avert his eyes. "I take what is meant for me alone: the memory of this place." Viktor is affected by the Artifact's power, and is lead outside while in his daze. Gauis sees the value in staying close to his family, and is told that the Veiled Houses are gathering. There is talk of a new Senate to be forged for them. Viktor later awakes to realize he had dozed off while talking with Melinda Mwrr. She excuses herself for overstaying and leaves, with Viktor none wiser of the shrine beneath his feet.
Kithranus' returns home to see his wife in further degeneration. Her skin is marked with cracks and horrible tears, as if her body was aging.. destroying itself. She asks him if he is still beautiful and asks him to kiss her. When she notices him recoil, she feels a moment of weakness and admits to him she has not been honest to him. For the longest time, Kithranus believed Yvonne was their own daughter. Instead she was the daughter of Circe with another man. Now, she comes forward to admit a second truth: she had not been failing to have more children with Kithranus. She tells him how they actually do have children and she has not been straight-forward to him. As he tries to comprehend what she means, she uses the secret Devotion she holds to Mahl to make things clear: the Huge, mantis-like Orks with Sharp Limbs, Flying ability and a Cocoon to protect itself are their children. And one of them, the Ork seen during the Althua, remains imprisoned beneath Castle Grindle.
Gaius discovers a visitor waiting for him back at his castle. The infamous landless Ti'Ann Burghe stands at the gates and asks for an audience with Vance, Gauis' husband. The two welcome her inside and learn from her the plans of creating a new Senate. "The name Democracy seems to have a nice ring to it." She seeks to create a representation for all the Veiled Houses. Gaius offers her space in his own Domain to hold office, an act which Ti'Ann graciously accepts. As the three continue discussing the possible future of Sharni, Ti'Ann mentions that the dream was once shared by another man. This man, whom she refuses to name, had to embrace the ultimate sacrifice to save Shanri from one of the Fashuva. A Fallen Suaven, the stories say, had found a means to embrace physical form. The hero grappled the Fashuva and pulled it into the mirror prison of a Puzzle House. There, a Sorcerous Oath was embraced: So long as none mentioned this man's name, the Fashuva would remain imprisoned. Before the night ends, however, one more surprise arrives at their doorstep. The Vashna appaer, marching in what appear to be the hundreds, and stand before the gates. When asked if they have come on the behest of the Senate, the Vashna remain silent. But when asked if they have sworn to uphold what remains best for the greater good, they slam their spears against their shields. "It would seem," Ti'Ann Burghe mutters to the others, "We have a Private Army."
Quan Wei Yvarai recevies a visit from Viktor Krev, who seems intent in getting a License. She warns him of what getting such a Document entails, and finds her concern suffocating. He becomes uncertain if it would be best not to get one instead. As he returns home, however, he finds a guest waiting for him. Ti'Ann Burghe stares as he approaches, and eventually asks, "Do you remember me?" When Viktor admits not being able to do so, claiming to have had muddled memories as of the late, Ti'Ann looks forlorn and stares into the distance. Viktor asks why she has come to visit and she asks him to accompany him to some part of the Domain. As they travel, they find a massive Tree where a stone door rises from the earth. Leading Viktor inside, Ti'Ann was about to turn and explain to Viktor why this place existed when she instead meets the terrible Blood Sword in his hands. Stabbed in her stomach, Ti'Ann drops to the floor and sees the armed Viktor leering at her with glee. An alien voice speaks, taunting her of dying alone with no one ever learning the secret she keeps. Seeing two paths before her, one where she dies and leaves the Ven to learn and deal with the Fashuva threat all alone, and the other where she makes things worse but gets the opportunity to inform others of the truth, she chooses the latter. She calls out, "Viktor Miklos Leeto Krev!" and the man flings himself backwards from her as a dark Spectre tears away from his very heart. As the Fashuva escapes into the night, Viktor drops to the ground and realizes he has been freed from his wavering memories. As Ti'Ann feels death creep to her, she tells him of the fallen Suaven, Jaymen Steele, who once attempted to name himself Emperor, and tells him it is up to them now to stop the threat. Unwilling to have her die, Viktor prays to the shrine before him and asks the Horse to allow him a means to save her. He finds these strange herbs in the shrine, which when plucked erupt with unexpected fire. He uses the plant to cauterize her wounds, and holds her close afterwards as she falls unconscious out of sheer pain.
Matt got to experience the rules of Debate, and nearly found himself in the losing side. Luckily he rolled far better than Ti'Ann Burghe did.
Viktor on the other hand has chosen to embrace a new Devotion. Which of his current ones would be thrown aside remains to be seen.
The Season Actions continue to become more exciting for the players. Many already are looking forward to hosting massive parties, and building better Holdings.
For the final scene with Ti'Ann Burghe, I had the four players vote as to what action she would take. Thankfully, they chose that she make thing worse but survive. It meant more drama for the game as a whole.
And lastly, the political conspiracies have begun, giving the game the feel of shows like Rome and Game of Thrones. I am excited to see what further direction the game will take.
Friday, November 9, 2012
The Riddle of Blood
Houses of the Blooded
This third session of the game was bound to be a tougher one. With what has been established in the earlier games, and with more players getting used to the system of declaring Intent and additional facts, I foresaw the game taking leaps and bounds in the twists and turns that were waiting for the players.
And looks like I assumed right.
The game opens with Kithranus Yvarai and his wife, Scarlet, having a long discussion about the previous events that transpired and the need to find better vassals. Kithranus had in fact been stealthily visiting the Ruins ever since he dreamed himself being there and talking to his reflection. The reflection was offering him a Blood Sword in exchange for a sacrifice of blood. "The blood of one who loves you," was the price the reflection demanded. Circe Yvarai, the Scarlet Baroness and his wife, reminded him that his Valets were dead and it was best he took care of Yvonne for the time being. Leaving him to handle certain duties, the Scarlet Baroness had no idea what chain of events she had allowed to unfold with her decision.
Elsewhere, Quan Wei Yvarai and her husband, Yao Lin, discussed the importance of eventually finding the opportunity to be Blooded as well. The two were attending an opera and Talia found herself fascinated by the role of The Actress. During the intermission, Yao Lin stepped out to find an old friend of his, the Baron Munn, asking for his help. Quan Wei, on the other hand, ended up having an interesting conversation with the Duchess Gesserit Krev, the Mother of Pain. The Duchess admitted to enjoying Quan Wei's company and invited herself to her home. Upon Yao Lin's return, Quan Wei learned of Baron Munn's story, of how the poor Baron's wife, Baroness Sola was viciously Murdered by the Marquis Vittorio and the Count Dillard. She admitted, however, that she did not desire to be part of further Murder.
In Castle Archos, Gaius Mwrr wakes up to discover his husband missing from his bedside. He walks around his estate and finds the Veth standing at the Garden, facing a massive Oak tree. He talks of the dreams he has been having, of white steeds and ivory stallions. Of blood flowing down white marble floors and of black cloaks bearing shattered spears. Vance asks Gaius if he has ever heard of the name Moryvander and Gaius admits to having heard of the name in the past. Of a Senator who was deemed pariah. Of a family stripped of all power. Vance asks if Gaius knows of what resides in the door beneath the Oak tree. Gaius admits he was not aware there was such a door before.
Armand Steele ponders on how to gain a better standing on Ven society. He is visited by Alexi Burghe, the remaining family member of Ti'Ann Burghe and Mara Burghe, who openly swears to someday take Revenge for what he had done to his family. Armand sends out messages to both his parents, and to Cavilo Adrente to ask for assistance. He finds an unexpected visitor to the Dusk Citadel when The Unrelenting Passion, Cavilo Adrente comes knocking at his Castle door. Once again, the delicate dance of Romance is played, with Cavilo playing Prey to Armand's Predator. But Armand too often plays instead the desperate slave than the determined hunter, and this infuriates Cavilo. The two are interrupted by the untimely arrival of Armand's mother, Valentina Steele who pulls her son aside to talk to him about the events that have shifted in his absence. Armand's father and Valentina's husband, Lucian Steele had died, killed by a twist of fate - or perhaps the murderous intent of a jealous wife. Lucian had been having an affair with a Duke, Valentina claimed. And Armand realized she was speaking of no one else but Cavilo himself. The Duke then stepped into the room, hoping to bid farewell, only to have Valentina then recognize him for who he is.
And finally, in the darkness of Tower Azure, the exuberant Talia Mwrr discussed with the unpredictable Jaime Adrente the power that Artifacts offered its owners. He spoke of hidden wealth waiting in the depths of Ruins and the legacy awaiting them, given by the Sorcerer-Kings. Talia found herself seduced by the lure of adventure and power, and agreed to assist him, unwittingly becoming an accomplice to one of the greatest escape acts in the shared history of Ven society. An escape that would entangle the lives of the Red Throne, and threaten the future of Shanri itself.
Kithranus visits the Ruins located in his Province with his daughter in tow. Yvonne begins to act strangely, as if guided by forces the Fox could not perceive. When the child draws the Blood Sword from the mirrored walls of the Ruin, Kithranus realizes the child has somehow tapped into the power of the place, and had made a deal with some force within. Made to choose between Yvonne, whom he had learned is not truly his daughter, and his wife, Kithranus kills the child and takes the Blood Sword. The blood transforms the Ruin into a Puzzle House with velvet red carpets that adorn everything that is not a mirror surface. He steps out of the Puzzle House to find his wife poisoned, sitting in the shade, and hurries of to the nearby Baronies to seek a Health Salve.
His search leads him to visit Gaius Mwrr, once he successfully dispatches a band of Orks that attempt to intercept his trip. Kithranus and Gaius then get lost in a circular debate discussing business deals and promises. Realizing the Serpent is too crafty, the Fox heads off to the next barony to seek a salve. Gaius finds his husband, Vance, once again muttering in his sleep about white horses and strange promises, and discovers the door in his garden has opened. Beneath the garden, what stands is an ancient Shrine. What is uncertain, however, is to whom it is dedicated to.
Quan Wei Yan is forced to entertain the Mother of Pain in her own home. Their discussion explores possible deals and ends with the Mother of Pain hoping the two can be good friends. Happy that the Duchess had finally left, Quan Wei Yan and her husband then speak with the Baron Munn and once again clarify their unwillingness to soil their hands with Murder. Pained, the Baron leaves and swears to find some way to gain vengeance. Quan Wei Yan later finds all in her Castle staring at her with a mixture of horror and wonder, and she soon learns she happens to be illuminating everyone within the vicinity with some strange glowing tattoo that had manifested upon her brow.
Kithranus arrives at the Castle of Armand Steele, only to overhear the sounds of a conflict happening within. Using the Blood Sword, Kithranus slices away the locks of the gate and charges inside to see what he can do to help. Inside, Armand Steele dismisses his mother whose jealousy ignites his impatience. He then dismisses Cavilo as well, after he claims to have lost interest in the young Baron whom he states, "Is remembered all over as the Supporter of Sorcery." After abusively treating his Vassals like toys, Armand is found neck deep in a mutiny of sorts when Kithranus comes to offer assistance. But with his Stilleto in hand, Armand stabs one of the Vassals in the face and silences the rebellion. Reminding them all of their place, Armand commands the Vassals to return to their work and meets with Kithranus in his Solarium. There, the two debate long on a trade of healing salves and trouble-control, only to come at an impasse. The deal is eventually struck and Kithranus leaves with the healing salve in hand for his wife. Armand feels alone for the first time ever in his entire life.
The Scarlet Baroness, however, finds her troubles just beginning. It was not enough that she was poisoned by her own daughter. Talia Mwrr and her companion, Jaime Adrente, emerge from the forest and bid her greetings. Asking for permission to explore the Puzzle House, the Baroness is forced to give at least one of them permission to step inside. As Jaime enters the Puzzle House, Talia chats with the Scarlet Baroness and quickly deduces her vulnerable state. The Scarlet Baroness, however, reminds Talia that she is Much More Dangerous When Alone, and demands to know why the two had truly come to visit. Talia holds out a knife almost threateningly as she shares with the Scarlet Baroness the truth that she and Jaime are working for a man who is infamous even among Ven standards. Silently, the Baroness calls a massive Ork beast into the area, revealing her secret ties to a darker force, in a bid to protect herself. But rather than attack her, Talia slices her own wrists open to bleed upon the ground as she tells the Baroness of a grand plan that is now coming to fruition. As Talia Mwrr dies before the very Scarlet Baroness, Jaime successfully offers himself onto the mirror in the Puzzle House and a man emerges from the glass with Jaime's Blood Sword in his hands. After what seemed to be a long time imprisoned, Victor Miklos Krev, long missing father of Dillard Krev, smiles and realizes he is finally free.
To close the game, I had all players gather to make Beauty, Wisdom and Prowess risks. They were to shape the True Things that were to stand come the start of the next game, which was to open with the coming to Summer.
TRUE THINGS ABOUT THE START OF SUMMER
Massive Ork attacks struck all the kingdoms save for the Dusk Citadel of Armand Steele.
Given the attacks, the Senate permits the use of Sorcery against Orks. Requiring a License for such Ven.
Armand Steele is named leader of the war council against the Orks by the Senate.
Baroness Quan Wei Yan notices Baron Kithranus' obsession with obtaining more Healing Salves.
Most Trade with the Dusk Citadel ends due to his known affiliations to Sorcery.
The Baroness Quan Wei Yan is given the duty of awarding the Sorcery License by the Senate.
Kithranus is named Crimson Inquisitor and is charged with any investigations of Ven who abuse their License.
Both Baron Kithranus and Baronss Quan Wei Yan are given seats in the Senate.
Baroness Circe Yvarai's (The Scarlet Baroness) hold on Orks is not through the use of an Artifact.
Alexi Burghe, the remaining survivor of Ti'Ann Burghe's legacy, begins moving Resources to Castle Dune, the Castle once owned by Baron Dillard Krev.
Baroness Circe Yvarai's condition seems to grow worse every passing day, as if the Healing Salves were not working.
The Storm hits Shanri, and Kingdoms all over are affected by its coming.
Valentina Steele named herself the Bronze Inquisitor, and positions herself to bring her own son to Justice.
Word then slowly spreads through out Shanri as Ven find their Unblooded husbands and wives suddenly becoming Blooded one night. To their horror, these new Blooded are not of any of the familiar Houses.
Senate Majority is House Mwrr for this Season.
In lieu of the Storm and the rising Ork activity, the Senate shall convene within the week to discuss whether or not it is time for Project Reclamation to once again occur. Given the great effort to protect the Provinces from the dangers around it, the Senate must come to a vote if it is time for the Ven to migrate once more and find a new domain within the widespread arms of Sharni itself.
And if deemed so, the production of the Senate Airships shall begin at once.