|Art by Sorairo-Days|
You Are Not Alone
Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine
For the July mini-convention of Gamers & GMs Philippines, I gave a talk as well as ran a session of Jenna Moran's revolutionary game, Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. The one shot game was to be a game which I wanted to capture the feel of the movies by Studio Ghibli. To my luck, I was able to have five players who were interested in playing such a game.
We quickly went through the rules again (as some of them were not around for my talk on how to play the game) and after the quick recap, we quickly got started on creating the character concepts.
The five characters in this story are:
Ali, the street rat with a good heart. (Played by Maita)
Blend into Shadows 1
Great Cook 1
Pick Locks 1
Gets away with things because she's pretty 1
Animal Communication 1
She has the Aww! Emotion XP
Connections with the Thieves Guild
Chu, the secret Witch. (Played by Marie)
Broom Flying 2
Making friends 1
She has the Thumbs Up! Emotion XP
Connections with the Collector's Guild
Clay, the extremely talented young potter apprentice. (Played by Adrian)
Sense of Smell 4
He has the Offering Comfort Emotion XP
Connections with the Old Master Kiln
Boron, the old man scholar who has become a hermit. (Played by Flip)
Tinkering, small things 3
Tinkering, big things 1
Growing Crops 1
Star Gazing 1
Card tricks 2
He has the Speechless Emotion XP
Connections with the School of the Golden Gear
Ken, the young man. (Played by Aldrin)
Fantasy Fanatic 2
Company Drone 2
Nerd Muscle -1
He has "Oh no, Ken is in trouble!" Emotion XP
Connections with the Famous Author Circle
The story begins with Ali running across the rooftops with a twenty foot baguette held over her shoulders. A clowder of cats ran alongside her, eager to taste the tremendously aromatic bread. As people watched her clear the gaps between buildings, and even at one point running across the wall to land on the building at the other side, Ali waved goodbye to the security guard that tried to chase after her. She reached her "penthouse suite," a doorless place with all these trinkets and things that Ali had been "borrowing" through the years.
Upstairs, the Collector's Guild supplier Chu was talking to her friend Po about the possibility of finding more information on an artifact that she had found. Called the Sword of Darkness (a name which Po found very disturbing), Chu wondered what other lore they could unearth of its history. Po shared that the sword might be connected to the legendary Guardian Sword which was once planted at the Gate of the City to protect it supposedly from great monsters and beasts. Chu revealed an old tome she has that spoke of the Sword once having a marvelous stone on its hilt. The gem, stories tell, was lost somewhere in the catacombs beneath the town. While the two talk about the stone, a knocking alerts them to the arrival of Clay, the young potter who serves the Old Master Kiln. Clay is coughing and wheezing, prompting Chu to ask if he's feeling okay, and he tells them he's merely tired from the hard work he's been handling to perfect the crucible she had commissioned him to build. Po muses how that pot looks like something used to cast spells and stuff, and Chu insists it is merely to be used for cooking. Chu sends Po away to prepare for their trip to the catacombs, and upon hearing that, Clay admits she can help them in that journey given his superior sense of smell can guide them down below. The catacombs has certain types of quality earth that Clay recognizes by smell.
Elsewhere in the town, just past the massive garden of the Magic Guild, a young man named Ken ponders over the loss of his mother. His thoughts are interrupted by Mama Font, the kindly old lady who had agreed to watch over him before her passing. She reminds him he is due rent for the month (again) and as she leaves, she slams the door a tad too strong that it causes the glass case containing Ken's mother's pendant to fall! Ken leaps to catch it, and successfully does so only to see the case slip open and the pendant gently clatter to the floor in front of his face. The rock begins to sparkle with a bright blue light from within, and its dazzling sparkle illuminates his eyes. Ken feels the rock call to him, and deep down he feels a wish rising out from his heart to his lips. He wishes his mother was still alive.
And suddenly, she is.
Ken stares in surprise as she touches his shoulders and admits he looks far older than she remembers. Ken, overcome with words, can only embrace her in response.
Down at the street, the old scholar Boron sees the blue sparkling light and recognizes the patterns it makes. Fascinated, he hurries to check what it is and climbs up the steps to peer through the window. He sees him and the woman in an embrace and watches as she vanishes with a sparkle of blue light. He walks into the room, addressing Ken about the stone being a long missing artifact that the Collector's Guild has long desired to find. When Mama Font walks in, asking Boron to explain who he is, Boron pulls Ken to head out with him and reassures Mama Font that Ken is working for him handling some research work. Ken, speechless, merely goes along with Boron, hoping to understand what is going on.
Po finds Ken and Boron at the street and quickly tells the old man that he's been looking for him. He explains that he's about to go on a quest into the catacombs and admits he would prefer if he could accompany them in the quest. Boron, fascinated by the glowing rock Ken has , and the news that the quest has to do with searching for a magical rock lost in the catacombs, is more than eager to go and check it out.
Back at Ali's place, she and the cats are celebrating a small party for her fat dog. The dog eagerly bounces around the bread, which she had coiled around like a small pen for them to play in. A spiral of smoke trails across the sky towards her ledge, and it coalesces into a svelte woman in red with a massive hat that is as wide as she is tall. The cats all gather by the window, hissing in response. Ali hurries to their side, despite the dog wagging his tail furiously excited to see a "guest" to his party. She inquires at first, asking if she happened to see a young boy thief who had stolen bread from her magical bakery (after all, its not common for bakeries to be able to bake twenty-foot long bread. The witch asks Ali to invite her in, as she is not permitted by ancient laws to enter any abode without permission. Ali chooses not to, despite repeated attempts, and waves the witch away to leave. When the witch stays adamant, Ali decides to use her ventriloquism to throw her voice across the street, mimicking the voice of someone calling the witch names. The witch smokes away, searching for the source.
Smelling brimstone, Clay hurriedly heads out to check with Chu on what is going on upstairs. They see Ali and the party, but when they try to ask to be allowed in to see what is going so, Ali shooes them away too. The dog whines, frustrated that he has no guests in his party, which has Ali then allow the two to say hello. But when the two have worn out their welcome (probably due to Clay freely eating the bread and bonding with the dog), Ali ushers them out as well. Clay decides to prepare for the trip. Chu, feeling hunger due to the smell of the delicious bread, bakes her own bread. It brings here some moments reminiscing her time learning magic but hiding from the Magic Guild. Outside, buildings lift from the ground as Ardelle uses her magic to search for the thief.
Ali realizes she has no gift for her dog, who now seems sad that all his birthday guests have left. She sneaks down to Chu's place and sees the stacks and piles of things in there. Hiding in the shadows, she snags one of the nicer pots to give to her dog as a present, then noticing all the maps and charts of the catacombs that Chu has laid out, she whispers to Chu from the darkness, "I know where to find what you are looking for!" She slips away before Chu can detect her, which has Chu ponder on the voice for a few minutes.
Ardelle returns, furious at being tricked, and threatens to cast a spell upon Ali. To her surprise, Chu emerges on her broomstick, ready to defend Ali with her own magic. Ali sets her cats on Ardelle! Clay returns and upon seeing the commotion, leaps to join Chu - wanting to protect her. As the cat swarms around Ardelle, Ardelle nearly zaps at Chu had it not been for Clay messing up the balance on the broom! As they hilariously hang from the floating broom, old man Boron arrives with Po and Ken and they convince Ardelle that they have to find the artifact for the Collector's Guild. Ardelle reluctantly agrees and Boron tells the group that they can find their way to the catacombs using the stone itself, which can act as a key to the door leading below. Ali decides to join them, as being with them keeps Ardelle off her back. Since the Wishing Stone can't summon its sister stone, the group sets off for the catacombs. They assign Po to stay by the entrance, with Chu enchanting a spool of thread to glow and eternally stretch longer to give them all a guide to head back out if they get lost. Po promises to stay and wait til they return.
Down below, Ken starts to wonder why the whole place seems familiar. Ali guides the group deeper and deeper until they reach the lair of the Pack Rats, which are ruled by the Rat King. At one point, Clay snags the Wishing stone from Ken to wish for them all to be able to understand Rat speech. As they try to negotiate for the whereabouts of the rock, the Rat King laments his loneliness since Ali had turned down his offer for her to be his wife. Chu spots the stone encrusted on the King's throne and sneaks closer to pick it out. Clay sees this and tries to cover her from the others while Boron, Ken and Ali continue to debate with the Rat King. Out of the blue, Boron reveals an old Steam Grenade which he has found among the many things in the muck and threatens to ignite it if the Rat King does not surrender the stone! And just as the threats mount, Ken slips into a hole in the muck, which prompts Chu to fly after him to catch him. (In truth, it also provides her a chance to snatch the rock away and leave the scene of the crime!) Boron drops the steam grenade, but Clay grabs it, despite the growing heat of the steam burning his fingers, and plunges it into the muck to use his superior pottery skills to encase it in the thick goop. Angered by the threat, the Rat King calls for his men to surround everyone - which the group realizes is composed merely of Boron and Clay as Ali seemingly has slipped away in the commotion.
Down the chute, Chu catches Ken but rather than return up, they descend further down below. There, more familiar sights hit Ken who starts to wonder if he had lived here before. He does not, however, recall ever living beneath the ground. As he wanders off, wondering about the stone murals and high walls that remind him of home, he ends up reaching a massive mural of a man, woman and child, and realizes the woman on the mural has the same stone around her neck as the Wishing Stone!
Chu celebrates her success and already begins to dream about the wealth she is to gain when the bidding war for all three artifacts comes to the fore. But then she sees Ken approached by a mud-like being who turns out to be an old man in an ancient diving suit caked with the goop. When the suit is pried open, Ken discovers inside is his father, alive after what he believed so long ago to be long dead. The two embrace as they find their reunion spotlight by the coming swarm of the Rat King's forces, who spiral out of the chute like a flood of rats holding each other's tails. Like an unfurling staircase, the Rat King descends demanding for his stone to be given back!
As Boron and Clay remind the Rat king that this might be connected the old stories about the Guardian Sword of Darkness, the King of Collections and the Queen of Magic uniting the town under their banners. Ken however ignores these words, and just feels happy to be with his father. His father admits the true story of their family: Of how he and his wife married to bring a peace between the Collectors and the Magic Guilds. Of how the castle once stood above the ground, but a great cataclysm forced it into the ground. When Ken asks about the stones, he admits that Ken's mother tried placing both the Wishing Stone and the Focus stone on the Sword's hilt and the subsequent feedback caused her to be struck backwards so hard, the castle began to collapse all around them. The father, with the Focus stone fall into the grounds below, while Ken and her mother escape to live as new faces in town. Ardelle must have manipulated things in order for them to be taken out of the picture and her rise to power assured!
Ali clambers up a shute, hoping to escape but as she opens it she finds Ardelle waiting for her. The witch is amused at Ali's predicament and tells her, "If you welcome me in, I can let you step out." But Ali remains adamant. The Rat King sees her predicament and leaps to her position, landing on her shoulder and reminding the witch that Ali is under her protection. In return, Ali is forced to give the Rat King a kiss to show his words are true. Ardelle hisses angrily at them.
Ken and his father call for Boron to help them activate the ancient gears to bring the Castle back up. Ken's father had spent the last few years repairing things to help bring it back up. He was not aware that Ken's mother had finally passed away, and is shocked that no one is protecting the town since the loss of the Guardian. Ken however realizes that Ardelle must have been faking the attacks all those years to push for the contract!
The Rats close in and Clay decides to use the Steam grenade once more to threaten them to back off, but he drops it and the clay cracks, releasing the immense steam in all directions! Expecting death, Clay instead discovers the steam merely quickly cleans everyone up, which the rats seem to talk of as something murderous (but in truth, has merely made them more cute). As the castle shudders and rises, Ardelle pulls back to watch the massive garden that she had built over the ruins of the castle shatter away to reveal the castle resurfacing! Ardelle enters a magical battle against Chu, and the two trade spells to try to disable each other. When Ardelle grabs the Sword of Darkness, snaps the Focus stone onto it, and charges to strike at Ardelle, Clay actually shoves Ardelle out of the way, not wanting Chu to murder someone. Seeing the gathered crowd, Ardelle calls out to all and proclaims Chu and Clay to be "The Legendary Guardians of the Town returned!" And the people, not knowing any better, cheer! Chu and Clay hesitate, now uncertain if the battle should continue. Ken and his father emerge, and the people recognize him as the rightful rules of the times before. Ardelle and Ken sign a new treaty, with Ardelle promising to stop her wicked actions and focus on what is best for the town. And Ali enjoys her new life as a thief who lives among the Rats, stealing stuff during the festival to bring back down to her fat doggie waiting with the Rat King.
All seemingly have forgotten poor old Po who remains at the entrance of the catacomb's ruin, staring at the golden thread, wondering when the others would ever come back.