Blades In the Dark One-Shot, Part 1

GM note: This was the first time playing Blades In The Dark for all of us. Explaining the rules, creating characters, and creating the crew took two hours of a three hour time-slot. Since this game is much rougher than my “PG-rated family adventure” game of Fellowship, I started with Lines and Veils, a way to agree on what content to avoid.

In the Crow’s Foot district, a haunted jumble of ramshackle buildings and competing gang claims, stands a two-storey building with a small courtyard in the rear.  Facing the street is a small store-front, the Ankhayat Repair Shop. It’s a front, of course. Actually two fronts. The Ankhayat’s actual family business is fixing people, not vehicles or appliances. Vond, the daughter with an unfortunate affinity for destruction, has recently started a new venture with a couple of friends.

The fountain in the courtyard hasn’t worked for years.  Removing a flagstone from the empty fountain reveals a hole, which leads to a stair, which leads to a sewer, which leads to the canal. In this sewer is this hidden lair of the Goatriders, a strange crew of smugglers.

Goatriders

Strange Smugglers working out of Crow’s foot, traveling up and down the central canal, from Coalridge to Brightstone.

  • Hidden lair (in the sewer beneath a broken fountain)
  • Prowess training
  • Smuggler’s rigging
  • Vehicle: a small boat

Junker the Leech

Vond Ankhayat, daughter of immigrants from the Dagger Isles. She works at the family business as a clerk, since she’s too good at breaking things for a repair business.

Moth the Lurk

Myron Blackfield, an ‘ambiguous little dirty fae baby-faced troublemaker.’ She comes from a military family. She rejected the discipline and duty to slink around from party to party.

Skellington The Whisper

Yurei Kazokuai, from far-off Tycheros, has such pale skin that he could be mistaken for the ghosts he spends so much time around.  He ‘looks like a tall Timothy Chalamet but paler.’  He used to work for the Spirit Wardens, but he’s fond of ghosts and doesn’t want to see them destroyed.

Contacts

  • Eckard: Junker’s nemesis, a corpse thief who tries to rob Junker’s family business.
  • Flint: Skellington’s nemesis, a spirit trafficker who tries to snatch the spirits that Skellington befriends
  • Jul: Junker’s friend, a blood dealer who buys supply from Junker’s family business, both from corpses and from living donors.
  • Rolan: a drug dealer for the Red Sashes
  • Roslyn Kellis: really mad at Moth for neglecting to mention that she wasn’t nobility for the duration of their three-month whirlwind romance.
  • Scurlock: Skellington’s friend, a vampire that Skellington is emotionally attached to.
  • Telda: Moth’s buddy, a begger who infiltrates parties with Moth, and gives her crash space after she’s ejected from parties.

The story

Tensions are high in Crow’s Foot. The Crows keep the peace between other rival gangs, but the leader of the Crows died suddenly, and the smaller gangs are testing the limits of the new leader. The two main contenders are the Lampblacks, who don’t like the Goatriders, and the Red Sashes, who are fond of them. The Crows themselves think the Goatriders are a nuisance, but our fledgling crew does stay on the good side of the Gondoliers, who control the waterways they use for their smuggling.

Rolan, the Goatrider’s contact in the Red Sashes, tells them about a job. A shipment of drugs has arrived on The Docks, but Lampblacks are watching the docks and hassling the Red Sashes’ regular couriers. Since the Goatriders aren’t officially affiliated, Rolan wants them to pick up the shipment and deliver it to Rolan’s drug den in Crow’s Foot.

A spokesman for the Lampblacks walks into Ankhayet’s Repair Shop and says that big changes are coming to Crow’s Foot and that he wants to be sure they are on the right side.  Junker is manning the front desk, and says she doesn’t know what he means, since they are humble junk dealers are tinkerers. The Lampblack knows they are a front (he probably doesn’t know that it’s two fronts) so he insists. Junker says that they want to be on good terms with everyone.  The spokeman nods in mock understanding. He offers another job, one of goodwill. He has a gift for the Red Sashes, but it’s a surprise, and if Junker and her friends could slip it into the Red Sashes’ headquarters, that would be just great. Junker says she’ll think about it.

The Goatriders don’t trust the Lampblacks at all, and Rolan’s job plays to their strengths, so they choose the drug smuggling score. They will transport the packages via boat down the canal to Crow’s Foot, then carry them by hand the few blocks from the water to Rolan’s den.

engagement roll: 1d, 3, desperate

two crates ofdrugs on a dock surrounded by larger crates. The Goatriders' boat is tied up nearby, just in front of a large ship.

Junker pulls the boat alongside the dock that Rolan indicated. Moth and Skellington climb up to the dock (it’s built for big ships, not their small boat) and approach the two crates, about 100cm x 50cm x 50cm.  Four Lampblack thugs approach. They aren’t just looking for Red Sashes, they are watching the crates themselves!  “You can’t take those creates.” says the lead thug. “Those are ours.”  Skellington & Moth feign surprise. Surely there’s been some mix-up. Their boss gave clear instructions. They try to get the thugs talking.

Skellington + Moth assist. Sway 2d desperate standard 5

These thugs were picked for their fists not their mouths, so they admit that they don’t really own these packages, but were told to prevent anyone from taking them. But two thugs circle around & separate the Goatriders on the dock from their companion on the boat. Junker maneuvers the small boat under the high dock and pulls out a crowbar to destroy the dock under those two flanking Lampblacks. They aren’t paying attention to her, but the dock is quite sturdy.

Junker Wreck 1d risky limited 6

Junker quietly pulls out the nails securing a few boards, then smashes one of the boards. The board doesn’t break away cleanly, so the thugs fall halfway through the floor and start struggling among splintered boards. The other two thugs roughly shove past Moth and Skellington to assist their teammates.  Skellington tries to pick up a crate, but it’s surprisingly heavy! Perhaps a ghost could do the work for him. Ghosts and corporeal objects don’t interact that strongly, but it’s worth a shot.

Skellington Attune (Compel) 2d risky lmited 5

Skellington meditates, searching for a ghost who died near here. He finds a brawny deckhand woman: broad shoulders, big arms, big belly. He draws her out of the ghost field and tells her to push the crates over the weakened dock, so they fall into the boat. Moth and the four thugs are terrified as a ghost forms out of thin air right next to them! Sailors on the nearby ship shout and point!  Moth clutches her Spiritbane Charm and flees, pressing herself into a small space between two stacks of crates. Two of the thugs freeze, and two run. The ghost manages to push one crate over the weakened section of dock. The weight of the crate breaks through! The crate and one of the frightened thugs plummet down onto the boat. The new hole in the dock reveals the ghost to Junker, who also freezes in terror.

Junker and the thug start to recover about the same time.  Junker pulls a packet of Drown Powder from her alchemical bandolier to attack the thug, since a sailor’s worst fear is drowning.

Junker Skirmish 0d risky great 3

It’s not going to work. Devil’s Bargain. Invoking the fear of drowning will draw a drowned ghost to her.

Junker skirmish +1d risky great 4

The thug gets a lungful of Drown Powder and starts to panic. A drowned ghost rises from the inky water and climbs aboard the boat. The thug panics more and tries to climb back up to the dock, grabbing the leg of the other thug who didn’t run. They both fall into the water.

Junker Resist (Resolve) 1d 4

Junker stands firm in the face of this new horror, but takes 4 stress. Skellington in on top of the deck with two recovered Lampblack thugs, and sees a new ghost menacing Junker below deck. He yells down, “She didn’t drown you, they did! Over here!” hoping to set the fierce creatures upon his enemies.

Skellington Sway 1d desperate standard 6

The thugs are rushing up behind Skellington with their cudgels, but the drowned ghost rises through the dock and rushes upon them. The brawny ghost, who was named Olga in life, has finished her assigned task and reverts to her primal motivations: revenge and hunger! She sets her sights on Junker. Moth peeks out from her hiding place and sees that neither the ghosts nor the thugs are paying attention to her or the remaining crate of drugs. Maybe it would be best to leave with only one crate and only ask for half the pay. No, the Goatriders will complete the job! Moth and Skellington push the remaining crate towards the hole in the dock, trying to avoid the ghosts and the thugs’ desperate attempts to fend them off.

Moth + Skellington assist Prowl 3d risky standard 5

They are not struck by cudgels or drained by electroplasmic fingers, but the heavy crate breaks a damaged board, sending itself and Moth plummeting. the crate lands on the boat, but Moth goes into the water. Heedless of the danger to herself from Ogla’s ravenous approach, Junker throws Moth a rope and pulls her in. Junker takes Level 2 Harm “Drained” as Olga devours part of her life energy. The cargo is secured, and only Skellington remains on the dock, Time to leave!  Skellington prepares to leap through the broken board to join his teammates on the boat.

Skellington Prowl 1d controlled standard 1

Actually, those splintered boards are twisted at weird angles and it’s hard to judge a safe path.  He runs to the edge of the dock and jumps in from there. He is picked up and the Goatriders sail away from the chaos on the docks.

GM note: The hour was late, and this was only the first obstacle. I asked the players if they wanted to say this was the successful end of the quest and move on to down time, or run late and see what else happened. They chose to make the one-shot a two-parter. We stopped playing there, but the score is not over. We will schedule another session and see what else stands between the Goatriders and their destination.

I asked the players what they enjoyed, what they wanted more of, and what they wanted to change. We didn’t get much time in-character, so they didn’t have answers for everything.  More experience is needed.  They enjoyed the setting, where they were expected to do the most underhanded, wild thing possible, immediately devolving into ridiculous shenanigans. They also appreciated the limited power of the characters. Teamwork was required to cover gaps in each others skills, and only one special ability to start prevented analysis paralysis. Since ghosts are important to this gang, I need to be prepared to insert ghosts suddenly into any situation, and be familiar with how they interact with the world. This time, I didn’t know how effective the thugs would be against a ghost, or if they could do anything at all.

Musing about a vehicular combat tabletop game

Inspiration:

  • The Fast and the Furious series: wild chases, lots of different beautiful vehicles, missions and heist that always require racing and fighting.
  • Mad Max series: car vs. car, boarding actions, person vs. car, person vs. person while on a car.
  • Terminator series: running battles that move through various locations, from foot to vehicles and back again.
  • Blades in the Dark: a crew of scoundrels picking jobs and executing them, always in over their heads, daring greatly.

Goal

Chases, vehicular combat, and heists are combine high stakes, complicated situations, and fast action. I like the fantasy of operating a dangerous machine in an even more dangerous situation and quickly making the right decision to lead to victory or to escape looming destruction. How can I make that feeling available to others through a tabletop game?

I have two very different ideas.

Emotional approach

A scene is rising and falling action, setups and payoffs, tension and release. the condition and position of vehicles doesn’t matter. The roads on the movie screen don’t exist in real life.  No car could actually survive those jumps, make those turns, withstand that many bullets, so why bother trying to track that stuff? What matters is the characters’ will to continue, their skills, and a vague approximation of how much car they have left.

There are three types of abilities, in descending order of safety:

  1. Automatic. Due to the features of the car or driver, this action always succeeds. These features may be damaged, removing the associated actions.
  2. Spend. Spend resources to perform actions. Once the resource pools are expended, the actions are unavailable.
  3. Risk. Use random chance (dice, cards, etc.) to see if the action works at all.

Everyone involved in the chase or combat will add dangers to the scene: uninvolved traffic, sharp turns, gunfire. Characters will use their automatic abilities as much as possible, spending resources when necessary. As damage accumulates and resources wane, obstacles will become more troublesome, and characters will have to make risky actions. When a character’s resources are all spent, or the vehicle is completely wrecked, that character is out of the scene.

The scene starts out smooth and controlled, but the participants are worn down and by the end they are making desperate maneuvers and thinking about how much they want to spend and how much damage they are willing to endure to continuing pursuing their goals.

Technical approach

Make it crunchy! Cars, guns, roads. These all have many measurable qualities, so let’s measure them.

  • Miniatures and a game grid are required.
  • Minis for cars are tiny game-boards with spaces for custom equipment and passengers.
  • Character sheets
  • Vehicle sheets have holes in them. Line up a character sheet and a vehicle sheet and the vehicle sheet will cover the parts of the character sheet dedicated to on-foot action.

In this model, characters and vehicles are complicated, and damage is granular and specific. The simulation determines the outcome. This can lead to some undramatic conclusions, like a beloved character getting t-boned by a semi-truck three blocks into pursuing a minor adversary and instantly dying. Cars are dangerous! That’s always a risk.

What’s next?

I’m re-watching my inspirations, taking detailed notes on how their chase, fight, and heist scenes work. From that I’ll look for patterns and extract mechanical rules. Even a play test is a long way away.

Chasing The Sunset & Anti Anti Moon Weapon Strike Team

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Ori the Construct, Rod the Exile

Rod emerged from secret waterways under the mountains and is wandering through a spooky forest of huge, ancient trees, riding on the bad of his trusty dog Tobit. One particular tree grows on the edge of a small hill, its roots spilling over the edge like a wooden waterfall.  The roots start shuddering and splintering. As the roots break, a cavern behind them is revealed, and a strange group emerges:

  • 12 Kobold Pokers with shields and spears.
  • 12 Kobold Slingers armed with slings.
  • A Kobold carrying a stack of large books on a frame backpack.
  • A robot made of purple crackling energy and gold metal.

Ori: Hello, we recently arrived.  Where are we? Which continent?

Rod: Were you in the waterways?

Ori: I was on the moon. It’s more inhabited than you might think.

Kobolds: We are the Anti Anti Moon Weapon Strike Team!

This lengthy name causes some confusion. See, there’s the Moon. Someone wants to destroy it with some kind of weapon, an Anti-Moon Weapon. The Kobolds won’t stand for that, so they are Anti-Anti-Moon Weapon. The double negative is completely justified!  Other explanations and introductions follow.  Rod just came through the secret tunnels under the mountains to the East. Those mountains aren’t visible because of the huge, dense forest. Ori and the Kobolds have been sent from the Moon to stop attacks against the Moon, but they don’t know where the attacks are coming from, and they don’t know where they are now.  Ori figures that an astronomer or a library with a map would help him on his quest.

While everyone is standing around talking, a fairy flies out of the foliage and steals a ration from Rod’s bag.  She zooms up to about ten feet above the ground and taunts Rod as he tries to get the food back. She pulls items out fo the bag, taking a bite and throwing them away in disgust.  She flies into the forest and Rod follows, quickly getting lost in the maze of branches and undergrowth. Ori’s half-dead from powering the teleporter, so he has to stay put and use a repair kit instead of assisting Rod.

Rod despairs of regaining his lunch as the fairy makes a show of eating it on a high branch in sight but out of reach.  He walks off, not sure where he’s going, and as he walks around a massive tree trunk, he sees someone from his past, poking at something under a bush! Rod grew up in some kind of evil laboratory, and here, in the middle of a forest, far from that awful place, he sees Brigid. Brigid was Rod’s handled, sort of a caretaker, although that word is a euphemism. She was mean and antagonistic, and enjoyed ruining Rod’s day for no reason. Here she is, same clothes, same tightly-braided hair. Rod immediately releases a lethal blast from his shock collar at his bitter enemy! The electricity makes Brigid’s body rapidly jerk into odd positions, but also into different shapes!  When the bolt of lightning dissipates, the figure in front of Rod is no longer Brigid, but a suggestion of a humanoid, like something hastily formed from clay. It looks into the trees as if for confirmation, then forms brows to furrow angrily, turns its fists into hammers, and rushes at Rod. Rod dodges out of the way.

Ori and the Kobolds hear the thunderclap and rush to investigate!  Ori urges calm and wants to talk about the clay person’s grievances. The clay figure pauses, but a voice from the trees shouts, “No, fool! Don’t listen to him!” Rod looks up and sees an orange-yellow fairy hiding in the branches. This is the one giving orders to the clay figure.  More fairies emerge from the forest to join the fight and try to remove Rod’s shock collar. Ori appeals to this newly-reveled leader to end the fight.

Ori: Maybe you could be my master.

The fairy leader, named Marigold, orders the fairies and the clay figure to stop fighting. She and Ori introduce themselves.

Marigold: I’m always ready to accept reverence and obedience. Anyone else want to bow?

Ori clarifies that he hasn’t pledged his service to Marigold yet, but it’s on the table as a start to negotiations. He turns to Rod and tries to pledge to him very quickly, pushing a Talisman of Calling into his hands.  Rod is ready to play along.

Rod: How dare you betray me, servant!

Ori: I’m trying to save your life!

Rod leaves.  Marigold demands that the Kobolds leave as well, but the Kobolds don’t answer to Ori or Marigold. They won’t be dissuaded from their mission to protect the Moon on behalf of the Dragons! Marigold’s eyes widen. She had forgotten Kobolds, but she remembers Dragons, because she’s one of the Vampires the Dragons built the Moon to fight! She transforms into a large bat and orders her fairies and clay figure to attack the Kobolds!

Rod hears the sounds of combat from afar and activates the Talisman of Calling, teleporting Ori to his side, away from the fighting.  Ori doesn’t want to leave the Kobolds to die, so Ori and Rod run back towards the sounds of combat to help.  Marigold and the clay figure are fighting the Kobold Pokers, while fairies harry the Kobold Slingers.  Rod engages Marigold with his sling and she turns on him.  Ori wants to talk the clay figure down, and demonstrates his commitment to de-escalation by diving in between the battling parties, putting himself at great risk.  He tells he clay figure that he has served a lot of masters, both good and bad, and that the figure deserves a better master.  The figure is convinced and switches sides. Marigold is enraged and swoops in to attack Ori. Ori uses the clay figure’s “Aimless” stat to have it accidentally step in front of Marigold and block her attack. Ori’s still almost dead from powering the teleporter, and he’s between an enraged vampire and a phalanx of spear-wielding Kobolds. It’s too hot! He teleports straight up into the tree canopy.

The fairies steal the Kobold’s manuals and start yelling out instructions at random, throwing the rule-oriented Kobolds into confusion.  These volumes are quite large, and Fairies are only 11 inches tall, so each volume is carried between two Fairies. Marigold moves in to attack the scattered Kobolds. Using his advanced sensors, Ori foresees her next move and tells Rod, who intercepts her with a sling bullet.  Marigold calls for retreat!  The fairies are slow because they are holding heavy books.  Rod runs over and grabs the books back from them. They pummel him ineffectively with their tiny fists.

The vampire forces have been repelled! The Kobolds celebrate!  Ori glides down from the tree branches now that it’s safe.

Ori: I didn’t expect resistance from Vampires so soon!  Where to now, master?

Rod: I thought that was a joke.

Now that there’s time, Ori explains the Anti-Moon Weapon. Someone fired an energy projectile from the Earth to the Moon. Very accurate, but not powerful enough to threaten the whole moon. But that was only the first shot. Who knows what’s coming next? Ori and the Anti-Anti-Moon Weapon Strike Team want to destroy the Anti-Moon Weapon before it becomes a bigger threat. Rod wonders which way they should go. It’s hard to tell from inside the forest. They can’t even see the sky.

Ori: Is there a pressing reason for us not to go back through the tunnels you used?

Rod: I worked hard to get here. So you’re from the Moon?

Ori: Not quite.

Rod: Why don’t you know where you are? Didn’t you aim?

Ori: No, we took a teleporter and the other terminal was in this forest.

The Kobolds are impatient and set off to find and destroy Vampires. They don’t work for Ori, and he doesn’t work for them, so they aren’t concerned about sticking together. Ori and Rod let them go, and wonder how to choose thier own path. Rod enters Ori’s riding pod, and Ori starts climbing trees. If he slips, he glides safely down until he can catch another branch. Eventually, he reaches the canopy and can look around.

  • In the distance to the north: a tangle of urban building. Hard to tell from this distance, but they don’t look organized into neat rows.
  • To the east: high, steep, scary, snow-covered mountains.  These are the mountains that Rod tunneled under to get to this forest.
  • To the south: a dead forest. The trees look diseased.
  • To the southeast: a mountain with a crack running through it.

Ori: Do you favor caution or swiftness?

Rod: Live your best life. Do what makes you happy.

Ori realizes that he can’t bring the clay figure along with him. Ori forged a Bond with the figure by talking about their shared experience of serving various masters. As long as it has a bond with Ori, it is Ori’s companion and will join the fellowship. If Ori directly causes the figure harm, damaging one of its stats, he will also break a bond. Breaking its only bond will remove it from the fellowship. The figure’s only remaining stat is Nameless, so Ori sends it away by giving it a name!

Ori: Farewell my earthen friend. I name you Seeker. May you know what you are looking for when you find it.

GM note: That’s . . . that’s perfect!

Ori and Rod teleport north to the tangled city. They arrive on top of a tower. An upside down clocktower rising out from the windows of a factory set on it’s side. Buildings of all functions, sizes and styles are piled around them as far as the eye can see at every possible angle.

End of session move: The party restores gear and health.

 

Chasing The Sunset & Hidden Dungeon

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Stella the Halfling, Buckle the Platyperson

Last time, Stella, Buckle, and Ori sought hospitality at the house of a noblewoman. Stella and Buckle found a secret passage behind the wall of their bedroom and decided to investigate while Ori stayed behind to look at the sky.

The party started in the leftmost bedroom, and the red line represents the secret passage inside a wall.

Stella and Buckle peek into the next two bedrooms. They are clean and functional, but nowhere near as fancy as the ballrooms they walked through to get to their rooms.  They get the impression that they are not honored guests.

They peek through the eyeholes of a painting that looks into the ballroom on the other side of the wall. Two fancy people are having a conversation. One is a woman dressed in expensive-looking black & magenta clothing with gold accents.  She has pince nez glasses and long, sharp fingers.  She’s talking to a thin man in grey clothes. he has a gaunt, severe face with sunken cheeks.  The party dubs him “Resting Evil Face” he’s explaining how he is looking for a Halfling boy, probably riding a dog, who ran away.

Evelynn: “If there’s one thing I hate more than pets, it’s kids!”

In consideration of her long relationship with Anton’s organization, Evelynn will keep an eye out, but she does not want to babysit! Stella is worried about her fellow Halfling, since these two do not seem benevolent.

GM note: Evelynn is based on K/DA Evelynn from League of Legends and Antony is based on Anton Ego from Ratatouille.

At the east end of the secret passage, there are ladders leading up and down. The party climbs to the upper floor.

The secret passage is in the north wall.

They peek through the peepholes and see two large, fancy bedrooms that are much nicer than their quarters downstairs. Two humans are asleep in the western room. The woman has a shiny suit of armor on her side of the room, and the man in the other bed has gadgets spread out all over his side of the room.  They are Dryden and Lucia, player characters! Buckle looks over Dryden’s gadgets: a magic stone, a gun with a coil of rope, a Dwarf-made hammer, and other strange objects.  Stella slips a Halfling snack (cashews almonds, an apricot, and grapes) into Dryden’s bag. Buckle writes “Buckle was here” on Lucia’s shield.

On to the next room. The room is set up and there’s luggage here, but no one is inside.  There are elbow-length rubber gloves, first aid kits (especially for burns) and a bottle of odd-smelling fluid (probably chloroform).  There’s a planner that details Anton’s search for “Experiment #72” with several place names checked off, including “Port Fennrick”. They hear footsteps approaching in the hallway and dive past the painting back into the secret passage.  Too close! They watch and Anton enters the room. He doesn’t seem to notice that anything has been disturbed. He needs to de-stress after that important conversation. Talking to people takes a lot out of him. He gets out a pad of paper and does some chemistry puzzles to relax.

Confident that their intrusion was not noticed, Stella and Buckle move on.The entrance to the eastern room is behind a shield. It’s a trophy room, with tables around the room covered in fancy items. There’s a large pedestal in the center of the room. Buckle comes out of the wall and dives under a table.  Stella confidently walks up an examines the central pedestal. It has glass sides and a metal lid, so it could probably support quite a bit of weight. It seems the fanciest trophies are here. As Stella leans in to looks at the treasures, she unknowingly presses a hidden button and the pedestal lowers into the floor!  Stella is now teetering over a shaft going down to who knows where!  Buckle runs out to grab her, but he’s on the other side of the shaft, so now the two of them are leaning on each other over the shaft. They both push off each other at the same time and regain their balance.  They retreat to the secret passage. Buckle is sure they’ve alerted someone and wants to retreat to their room, but they hear footsteps approaching from the ladder that leads back to their rooms. They retreat to Lucia and Dryden’s room.  They listen for the footsteps, but of course they can’t hear people moving in the secret passage from inside the rooms. That would not be very secret. Buckle slides the painting aside just a little and sticks his snout in to the passageway. His electrosense detects the servant moving into the trophy room then back into the secret passage. The servant suspects one of the guests, but will alert Evelynn before questioning the guests. He goes back into the trophy room, leaving the secret passage clear. Buckle and Stella hustle back to their room.

Ori is gone!  There’s no time to figure that out now. Stella and Buckle quickly get into bed. Stella pretends to sleep but keeps one eye open. She sees someone look through the peepholes from the secret passageway, then shortly afterwards there’s a knock at the door.  Stella  slowly opens the door and yawns. Buckle is snoring in his bed. Jayce is checking on the guests. He doesn’t see Ori and wants to come in and investigate, but Stella warns him not to.

Stella: “It’s not wise to wake Buckle, he’s gets violent.”

Jayce is bamboozled and will not press the issue. He leaves and Stella snags a key from him.

Once he’s gone, Stella goes over to Buckle and finds out that he was actually asleep!

Buckle: “Best way to pretend is to do.”

They wait for the house to calm down, then venture out into the secret passage again. This time they take the ladder down and emerge in the cellar.

Stella peers out from the secret passage before stepping into the room. There is a row of small holes in the ceiling above the door in the north wall. The south wall is mostly a huge vault door. On the east and west walls, three doors each with small barred windows. In the middle of the room, a square hole with a piston extending from it through a matching hole in the ceiling.  Buckle detects life-signs from two of the cells.  Every few seconds, there’s a sharp click from the northwestern cell.

GM note: Attempting to replicate this sound over a webcam by tapping on the desk produces a terrifying, earthshaking sound.  I gave my players entirely the wrong impression.

The party considers how to approach the prisoners. Stella thinks they should have fake names. Buckle doesn’t think that will work. He’s a Platyperson. He’s sure to stand out.  Maybe he could pretend to be a dog.  Stella steps out fo the secret passage, then steps back in,

Stella: “Just so you know, your name is Pickle!”

They step out and peek through the windows of each cell in turn. The middle cell on the west wall contains a giant albino Platyperson sleeping on the floor, using the cot as a pillow. Stella examines the cell and sees some dog-eared books on the floor and tally marks scratched on the ceiling. Stella doesn’t wake the creature and moves over to the cell that’s making noise.

That cell contains a female Dwarf in a fancy but tattered dress, lying on the cot and bouncing a rock off the wall and back to herself. She spots Stella at the window and rushes over.

Mayor: “You’ve got to help me! I’m the Mayor of Templeton! I was kidnapped by insurgents!  I’ve been here for weeks!”

Buckle: “What’s up with the giant Platyperson in the other cell?”

Mayor: “I have no time for such trivial matters.  You’ve got to get me out of here!”

Buckle: “We’ll get you both, but maybe not in the same trip.”

Mayor: “Me first!”

Stella wakes up the Platyperson. Her name is Pomplamoose and she’s eight feet tall, twice as tall as a normal Platyperson. She and Buckle exchange a traditional Platyperson greeting. Stella tries the key she stole from Jayce and it opens the cell door!  Pomplamoose doesn’t know why she was kidnapped, but she hopes it’s not for taxidermy!  Buckle asks why the Mayor is here.

Pomplamoose: “I heard Evelynn says something about ‘disrespect.’ She threw the Mayor in the cell personally. Well, her shadow did, technically.”

Buckle: “You mean her beast shadow?”

GM note: Buckle’s Destiny playbook, the Apex, lets him gain a Shadow, a companion with abilities like his own that lets him be in two places at once.

Pomplamoose: “No, an actual shadow.”

Stella: “Is the shadow here now?!”

Everyone looks around, but the shadows cast by the torches that light the room show no signs of intelligence.

Stella: “How did they get you in here?”

Pomplamoose: “Roughly?”

Stella: “No, which door? What about those holes over that door?”

Pomplamoose goes to look at the door Stella indicates, and Stella has to scramble to stop her! Those holes are definitely a trap. Anyone who opens the door will be shot with arrows. Stella and Buckle plot how to get everyone out. Should they activate the elevator in the middle of the room? It caused quite a distraction last time. The secret passage is a tight squeeze for a human. Pomplamoose has no chance of fitting.

Buckle: “Pomplamoose, how do you feel about being ridden?”

Pomplamoose: “You are small and sickly. I’ll carry you.”

Buckle and Pomplamoose do a Platyperson ritual to prepare for battle.

Stella opens the Mayor’s cells and warns her sternly.

 Stella: “You must say nothing. Pickle will throw you back in!”

Buckle and the Mayor leave through the secret passage and head back towards the bedroom. The Mayor is having a lot of trouble staying quiet and following orders. Buckle finds Rose, Gus, and Ugg in the bedroom. Ori is gone. He’ll have to fend for himself.  Silk the giant spider is in the stables. They have to retrieve him on the way out.

Stella counts to sixty to give the others time to get to their room before causing trouble.  She asks Pomplamoose how impenetrable her tail is, then decides a cot is a better shield.  Pomplamoose holds a cot up to the ceiling to block the arrows while Stella opens the door. The trap fires, injuring Pomplamoose.

Stella and Pomplamoose burst out of cellar doors on the north side of Evelynn’s manor while Buckle and his four companions jump out the window on the west side and head for the stables.

Akali, a petite woman with red skin and small horns on her forehead, runs from the stables towards the cellar door, accompanied by a Hellhound.  Buckle attempts to avoid notice as he and his followers approach the stables to retrieve Silk. It works, because Akali is laser-focused on the giant escaping prisoner.

Stella’s player: “OK, I’m ready to fight this demon child!”

GM: “She’s an adult. She’s just petite!”

Pomplamoose slams her tail on the ground and roars. Stella enlarges to her maximum size in a threat display.  Akali leaps with a flying kick, smashing into Stella, who knocks back into Pomplamoose, who is violently sandwiched into the manor wall.  Stella no-sells the attack, which intimidates Alaki. That was her best shot and it did nothing.  She retreats and doesn’t see Pomplamoose fall over unconscious. The Hellhound still thinks it can fight, but it hears a terrifying howl from Buckle, looks south and sees half a dozen angry creatures charging it.  Stella also draws a longsword and charges, and the Hellhound flees with its tail between its legs.

The alarm has well and truly been raised.  Lights tun on on the upper floor, and a woman throws her windows over to look down on the crowd of fugitives.  The lamplight behind her throws a dramatic shadow on the lawn, and this shadow starts pulling itself out of the ground.  Oh, THAT shadow.  Now they understand.  All seven conscious escapees get under Pomplamoose to carry her away, down the path to the mill and into the water.  Stella starts to heal her as everyone floats down the river on her belly.  Surely whatever town is downstream will be safer than the estate they just escaped, right?

GM note: No end-of-session move

Chasing The Sunset & Lady Evelynn

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Lucia the Brave the Heir, Dryden of Conwall the Collector

Lucia and Dryden are inside a hidden library. Centuries ago, when Lucia’s ancestors decided that their kindgom should become the Forgotten Lands, some librarians who did not wish for all their knowledge to be forgotten left their home and founded this library. At the bottom of an extinct volcano’s caldera, they collected lore about creatures of darkness. An evil warlord besieged the library, intent on capturing its secrets, but two legendary heroes broke the siege, giving the librarians within time to encase the library in a magical impervious shell. One hundred and two years later, who should break the shell and reach the inside but the rightful Queen of the Forgotten Lands! Only one ghostly librarian is left, but she has issued Lucia a library card and is ready to answer her questions.

GM note: Fellowship has a move for getting information from people, and a move for learning about the world, but asking a librarian to recite information about the world is somewhere in between. As a compromise, I let the players ask questions from both the Look Closely and Speak Softly list, but reduced the number of questions from three to two.

Lucia wants to know about vampires.  Vampires feed on the blood of the living. Sunlight harms them. Like with Zombies, if a Vampire bites you a little, you become one, but if one bites you a lot, you die and are consumed. Vampires don’t age from the time they are turned. Since they have long lives and consider normal people as livestock, they tend to be shadowy manipulators. th ghostly librarian floats through stacks of ancient books, pulling some out with poltergeist powers to illustrate her points. Here’s a portrait of a noble rumored to be a vampire. Here is a report of a battle against vampires.

The librarian doesn’t know anything about Werewolves. She doesn’t even know about the Moon, That appeared after the library was sealed away.

Dryden wants to know where to find magical items. The librarian says that following the river to the north all the way east to where it flows into the sea, there’s a small settlement housing a magical tinker.  She also heard word of a mine south and east that made a large effort to open new shafts, then suddenly went quiet. Perhaps they found something powerful and didn’t want anyone to know. Lucia thinks that might be the Oolite mine.

GM note: I told Dryden’s player that something was going to pop out of a big specimen jar and get Dryden. Would Dryden knock it off the shelf, or open it and look inside? Dryden would definitely open a specimen jar and look inside!

Dryden notices a large specimen jar on a shelf that is completely black. It’s impossible to see what’s inside. He pops the lid open, looks inside, and finds a Creeping Shadow! The specimen jar is clear, like a normal jar, but completely filled with a malevolent shadow creature. It emerges from the jar and pours over Dryden’s body like some horrible black jelly! The goo stiffens and begins to operate Dryden’s limbs like a puppet!  The librarian quickly informs Lucia of the Creeping Shadow’s power to control the bodies of others, and its weakness to bright light and fire. Lucia draws her sword and tries to scrape the Shadow off of Dryden and put it back in the jar. Shadow Dryden grabs her arms to stop her, and as they wrestle, they smash into a pile of ancient books stacked up to the ceiling.

Hundreds of tomes collapse on top of them! At the end of each shelf in the library is a sign warning “Do not remove books without a library card.” Lucia was given a library card, since she is the queen, but Dryden does not have a card, so he has violated a magical taboo! The penalty is teleportation. He appears outside the library at the top of one of the staircases leading down from the rim of the caldera. Great news! In the sunlight, the Creeping Shadow begins to dissolve. Bad news! This is the staircase damaged in the fight to save the library long ago. There are no stairs under Dryden’s feet, and he falls!  He grabs his rope gun and throws a line to save himself!  back inside the library, Lucia’s library card means she can stay and be crushed by a huge pile of books! She rolls away and the heap only strikes the ghostly library, who floats out of the pile untouched. She’s quite upset. This will take hours to clean up. Alas, Your Majesty, the library is closed and you must leave now. Books start floating back to their proper places. the librarian has no arms under her ghost’s sheet, but she has telekinesis.

As Lucia leaves, she asks if the librarian has any message for home. The librarian would like to re-establish contact with the home branch, but normal messenger hawks are afraid of ghosts. Lucia will tell the main library that this branch is open once more, and they will figure out how to get in touch. They do have the accumulated knowledge an the entire civilization.  Lucia crawls out of the crack in the library’s shell and finds Dryden still swinging back and forth on his rope, since that’s the most entertaining action available right now.  They ponder their next move. Dryden wants to assemble some magical traps to kill Dr. MacLeod, the Vampire mad scientist who is trying to destroy the moon.  Since all vmapires are evil. they won’t feel bad about killing her.

GM note: Dryden’s player remembered a detail from Fairmeadow Fair, when he played a different character, so he played it like Dryden remembered a story that Lucia told him, since Dryden wasn’t there.

Dryden asks Lucia about the sundial in Templeton. It focused and re-directed the sun’s rays, so it’s basically a death ray for vampires. Lucia sees how useful it would be, but remembers that she did not leave Templeton on good terms.

GM note: She beat up a lot of people on her way out, then they sent a death squad after her, then she (accidentally) kidnapped the mayor, then she lost the mayor. It’s really a lot!

There are lots of options. Now that she’s queen, Lucia could demand an audience, but with whom? The mayor is gone. Dryden would be fine because they don’t know him. Lucia could wear a disguise. They could go elsewhere to gear up, maybe that settlement on the river. Maybe they should just go fight Dr. MacLeod now, before she can try to destroy the moon again!

GM note: That little settlement is now Port Fennrick, and the tinker no longer lives there. The librarian’s information is 100 years out of date. Lucia’s player mentioned the very meta strategy of waiting and hoping another group of player characters would kill Dr. MacLeod first.

They decide to head back to face MacLeod immediately, and since it’s on the way, they stop in at Lady Evelynn’s house again. Jayce, the butler, recognizes them and prepares the same rooms that they used a few days ago.  Lady Evelynn is not busy this evening and invites them to the sitting room and asks about their travels.  They carefully do not mention the library full of secrets of creatures of darkness, since Lady Evelynn is a terrifying and cruel woman with a living shadow. they say that Goblins are coming out of their underground city because a Dragon has taken over and is looking for challengers.  Lady Evelynn has heard about dragons. The history books all sing of their power, wisdom, and benevolence, because the Dragons hired all the historians. Dragons think they are better than everyone else and Lady Evelynn doesn’t want some new Dragon tells her what to do. They also mention the strange light near the moon. Lady Evelynn noticed them as well, and leads them to an observation dome on top of her mansion where the moon is visible. Four bright lights surround the moon and as they watch, they notice that the lights are moving!  Three of the lights streak across the sky in different directions, but the fourth seems to headed right for the mansion! The unidentified flying object hurtles over the horizon just to the south, and after a few seconds, the room shakes. Lady Evelynn, usually very calm, looks genuinely shocked, but recovers quickly and says, “Sugar’s Crossing.  I hope it hit one of the other mills.”

This whole moon plot just got a lot more dangerous! Dryden begins an impassioned speech!  He and Lucia know who caused this disaster and they are working to stop that person. He implores Lady Evelynn to allow them to use some of the artifacts that she has in her collection. Perhaps there is something that will help us kill the mad scientist vampire who is trying to destroy the moon! Lady Evelynn is instantly on her feet, furious. “You dare come to me, to use my treasures, to kill my dear friend Diana?!”  Two large, diamond-shaped blades erupt through Lady Evelynn’s housecoat, one of each shoulder. With a quick circular motion, the blades cut off her housecoat, revealing that they are on the ends of 10-foot-long ribbons which Lady Evelynn controls as easily as her own limbs. The outfit Lady Evelynn wears beneath her housecoats is more form-fitting and suitable for the fight that Dryden just started.

Lucia and Dryden consider retreating, but don’t want Dr. Diana MacLeod to be warned of their intentions. They have to stop Lady Evelynn here!  Lucia steps forward to engage, but Lady Evelynn has two blades to Lucia’s one sword, and a serious reach advantage. Will, Lucia’s bodyguard, dives in and takes a blow meant for Lucia, letting Lucia get the upper hand momentarily.  Dryden reaches into his cloak and retrieves space-warping, gas-spewing bolas! Each end of the metal cord has, not a rock or metal weight, but a combination rock, gravity field for extra weight, and incapacitating gas! These three components continually grow and shrink in turn, so the weapon is very unbalanced and difficult to wield. Dryden maneuvers to throw the bola and entangle Lady Evelynn’s ribbon-knives where they emerge from her back.  With all her attention on Lucia, Lady Evelynn doesn’t see the attack coming, and is enveloped and knocked to the ground. The gas expands rapidly, putting Lady Evelynn to sleep and threatening to knock out Lucia, who holds her breath and leaps away.

Jayce, waiting at the door like a good butler, heard the commotion and ran in to assist his mistress. He tackles Dryden to the ground. Lucia gets up and brandishes her sword at Jayce, demanding his surrender. Jayce shoves Dryden at Lucia and runs for the door to raise the alarm.  Dryden uses his rope gun to entangle Jayce, then drags him into the gas cloud around Lady Evelynn to put him to sleep.

This escalated out of control! Dryden really thought that evil people would hate each other.  Lucia reminds him like-minded evil people also join forces.  What do they do now? If they leave someone in the gas for too long, they’ll die. The gas’s effect expands and contracts, like the restof the space-warping weapon. It expands for 12 hours, at which point the victim is at perfect rest. Then it contracts for 12 hours, so at the end of 24 hours, the victim dies. She is pretty evil, so maybe that’s OK. They could drag her off somewhere to conceal her, but if she’s lit by a bright light, her shadow will appear, and maybe the shadow will not be unconscious! Could they drag her into town and have her arrested? She runs one of the biggest businesses in town. She has a lot of clout. Deliver her to one of her rivals, like the le Grinds? The le Grinds aren’t too nice either. If they leave her in the observatory, she’ll be exposed to the sun when it rises. They’ve never seen hour outdoors, so maybe she’s a vampire and she’ll just die. They determine to go look at Sugar’s Crossing real quick (something big did just crash/explode there) and come back in about 12 hours to pull these two out of the gas. They put a “do not disturb” sign on the door of the observatory and Dryden puts a trap on the door to make extra-sure. The trap takes on the color of its surroundings, and if anyone touches the door, a force-field will immobilize them.

GM note: I asked them not to ransack the mansion, since there’s another group of players who entered the mansion earlier in game-time, and we haven’t run another session together yet. that session, in the future of real-time, will be in the past of game-time. That’s confusing enough. Please avoid time-paradoxes!

They leave Lady Evelynn’s estate, with the very believable and true excuse that they must go see what happened to Sugar’s Crossing.

Chasing The Sunset & Moon

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Ori the Construct

Last time, Ori noticed an odd light near the moon. When his friends stepped out for some Scooby-Doo shenanigans, Ori decided to TELEPORT TO THE MOON without telling anyone.  The moon is artificial, covered with giant hexagonal mirrors.  A Kobold appeared and took him back to base in a cable car.

Cables converge from all directions to a central tower.  Beneath the tower are several bunkhouses, a control center, and a weird red pyramid.  Lee Lee IV, Ori’s Kobold guide, brings him into the command center. It looks like NASA mission control: a large room with big desks covered with gauges and lights. Ori has never seen anything this advanced. His creators must have advanced technology, but he does not remember the facility that built him.  Ori is impressed but not shocked.  The Kobolds are not used to visitors, so Ori’s entrance causes a stir.  Lee Lee IV brings Ori over to a certain desk and introduces him to Jim Jim IV. Lee Lee IV found Ori because Jim Jim IV saw a variance in his temperature readings and sent her to investigate.  Ori hopes he did not cause any damage to the system. Jim Jim IV reassures him that the variance was not that severe, but it’s procedure to investigate.  Jim Jim IV consults a handwritten manual to see what to do next. He can’t find any relevant instructions in his manual, so he sends Ori to see Junior.

Junior is an old Kobold in an elevated glass office at the back of the room. He’s clearly the boss, since his office lets him oversee the rest of the control stations in the room. He has more manuals than anyone else, and his copies are printed, not copied by hand.  Junior finds the instructions for people who arrive unexpectedly: check if they are vampires by exposing them to sunlight.  Junior and Ori step outside, and Ori has no reaction to the sunlight.  Ori asks if the Kobolds have problems with vampires. Junior explains that keeping this machine running properly will keep all dragonkind safe from vampires.  That’s an odd thing to say, since Dragons disappeared from Earth about a hundred years ago.  Fafnir is definitely an exception.  Ori asks if the Kobolds visit Earth, and if there are any Dragons here on the moon.  Junior says no to both.

Junior also says that intruders are expected to arrive from the red pyramid, not in the middle of nowhere, like Ori. He’s not sure what to do with Ori. There’s nothing in the manual about this situation.  Ori wants to explore the mysterious red pyramid. According to the manual, supplies may come from the pyramid, although none have arrived in a long time, but it’s also where intruders are most likely to arrive.

Ori leaves the command center to examine the red pyramid up close.  Whoever built this impressive machine may be a good master. He also wants to tell Fafnir about this important part of her people’s history.  The pyramid has big triangular doors on two of its four sides. the doors are closed, and hand-written signs on each say “DO NOT OPEN” Ori notices that this building is carved out of stone, while the other buildings in the facility are have modular pre-fab metal construction.  Ori opens the doors to look inside, which causes an alarm to go off. He can see a commotion in the command center. Kobolds will come here soon, so he needs to hurry!

Inside the pyramid is a pyramidal room lined with a wire mesh cage. There are bigger structural metal beams filled in with wires about the thickness and spacing of chicken wire. There are four terminals for big batteries, but the batteries are gone. Ori realizes that this is a teleporter. If it was powered, it could swap the volume defined by the wire cage with the volume of another room somewhere else.  The teleporter would take a great deal of energy to power, but Ori is mostly energy. With the right wiring, he could probably power the teleporter with his own body. It would HURT! He hears a group of Kobolds approach the door he opened and chatter about how unusual this situation is. One Kobold apparently has amanual and other Kobolds are shouting section and page numbers to check.

Ori goes through the wire cage and tries to quietly slip out the other doors, but they fall on him, pinning him. A group of Kobolds come around the pyrmaids with shields and spears. Ori is surprised to see that they are going straight for physical confrontation, but to be fair, this is the place that vampire invaders are expected to emerge from.  Ori appeals to their devotion to procedure and says that the pyramid is malfunctioning! Look how these doors are malfunctioning! There’s non-standard signage!  Most of the Kobolds are distracted and huddle around a manual, but two Kobolds move to box Ori in. Knowing the Kobolds’ dependence on manuals and rule-following, he throws out a confusing barrage of claims. “I’m being tested by exposure to sunlight! Don’t interfere!” “This pyramid isn’t up to spec. The batteries are gone. Someone isn’t following the manual.” The Kobolds take him to Junior, because they don’t know what else to do.

GM note: We got a bit bogged down. Ori’s player kept getting partial successes on talking the Kobolds out of attacking him, so we just agreed that the situation needed to change and made it happen.

Junior is upset with Ori. Ori got permission to look around and immediately caused trouble and broke protocol.  Ori counters that protocol was already broken. The manual says to keep the pyramid powered to receive supplies, but the pyramid has no batteries.  Junior counters with a resource priority table in another volume of the manual. He shut down the pyramid to keep the cable car network running.

At this point, the ball of light that Ori originally came here to study is getting really bright. Its movement is visible to the naked eye. It won’t fall right on the command center, but it’s definitely headed for the moon.  Ori points out the imminent danger and says this should be Junior’s priority, not Ori’s protocol violations.  Junior says that the light must not be important, because there are no sensors or gauges dedicated to detecting or measuring it. Ori asks if there’s anything in the manuals about handling collisions, Junior starts flipping through several volumes. Before he finds an answer, the bright ball of light streaks over the horizon, and a few seconds later, the entire facility shakes! Gauges spike and alarms blare all over the control room. Kobolds scramble into action.

Several cable cars full of Kobolds are being dispatched to the affected area.  Since Ori is so interested in this light, Junior brings him along as a consultant.  They zip along the cables for several minutes. The impact site is not close. Eventually they have to stop and continue on foot, because several towers and the cables they suspended were destroyed. There’s a big smoking hole, surrounded by dozens of displaced and shattered mirrors.  Several mirrors have been flung into space, twirling and twinkling in the sky. Junior wants Ori’s opinion on what happened.  Ori surmises that the big ball of light hit the moon and exploded.  The energy didn’t dissipate during the long trip to the moon, so this was most likely an advanced weapon, aimed precisely at the moon.  Despite the great engineering effort and willpower required to fire a weapon from the earth to the moon, not much of the moon was affected. The damage spreads over hundreds of yards, but the moon is thousands of miles across. Ori sees two possible explanations:

  1. This was a desperate and ineffective attack
  2. This was a test shot

Only an Artifact of Power would have the energy required to destroy the moon, either with a giant explosion, or by carpet bombing the surface of the moon.  Ori looks towards the earth and does not see any more shots incoming. This shot took about a day to reach the moon, so there will be time to notice any future attacks.  Ori worries that the attacker may adjust their aim based on this test shot and walk thier shots into the command center. There’s only one command center, so destroying it would disable the moon. Ori’s not quite sure what the moon does, but someone put a lot of effort into making it, and now someone else is putting a lot of effort into destroying it.

GM note: Ori’s player had some ideas about the unknown attacker that were smarter and scarier than the actual plan that I’ve given to Dr. Diana MacLeod.

Ori keeps most of this to himself, but tells Junior that this was a deliberate attack by someone on earth who wants to destroy the facility. More shots may follow, so Ori recommends that Junior power the pyramid and send a strike team to disable the weapon. Junior says that Ori must join the strike team and act as their guide.  Ori counter-offers: he will power the pyrmaid so Junior doesn’t have to shut down the cable cars, but once they return to earth, he will not be under their command.  Junior agrees. The Kobolds on the moon have their work cut out for them. Already Kobolds are requisitioning spare mirrors from storage, clearing debris, and repairing the fallen towers.

The strike team assembles: a group of Kobold Pokers with spears and shields, a group of Kobold Slingers with ranged weapons. Ori suggests that the strike team takes a copy of all the manuals instead of just hte volume on operating the pyramid.  Junior agrees and adds a bookkeeper to the team.  The strike team takes position inside the wire mesh teleportation volume inside the pyramid. Kobolds run wires from the battery terminals inside the mesh to Ori.  Ori winds all the negative wires around his foot spike, and takes two positive wires in each hand.  He jams the wires into his face! The purple energy that makes up most of his body crackles along the wires and a high-pitched whine gets louder and louder. As the energy starts flowing, it starts flowing faster, drawing more and more energy out of Ori. Ori’s energy starts to dim. Does he have enough in reserve to survive this? Yes! The wire mesh and everyone in it disappears. The battery wires fall to the floor, cut where they enter the teleportation volume.

Ori and the Kobold Strike team are in a red pyramidal room just like the one on the moon. They walk outside and find a red stone pyramid, just like the one on the moon, but this one is underground inside a large cave. Where in the world are they?

Chasing The Sunset & Magical Barrier

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Lucia the Brave the Heir, Dryden of Conwall the Collector

The party is looking for an old library that’s hidden inside one of two volcanoes, but their directions did not indicate which volcano contained the library. Smoke pours from the caldera of one volcano, so they head for that one, looking for an entrance around the slopes of the mountain. A huge drill, 15 feet across, bursts from the ground at their feet, towering over them, and then starting to fall in their direction. Lucia and Dryden leap aside and see that the drilll is the front end of a large earth-moving vehicle that has emerged from an underground tunnel.  Several Goblins (short, green-skinned people) emerge from the machine and are surprised to see Lucia & Dryden.  Introductions are exchanged, and the goblins say they are making a public entrance to their underground city.  Dryden asks to use it, and the Goblin asks if he has come to fight the boss. A dragon named Fafnir just took over the city and is looking for challengers. Another Goblin grumbles that his grandfather helped build this canopy to keep the town of Swallet hidden, and here they are punching holes in it and encouraging outsiders to come in. Fafnir wants fighters from all over to come to Swallet to challenge her, but Goblins are used to secrecy and don’t know how to encourage people to come into their towns.  Dryden suggests building a road to this entrance they are building.  A Goblin exclaims, “This is all backwards! Let’s just head right towards the No Go zones on the maps!” The Goblins need to get back to work on the entrance, but Dryden asks if their town has a library.  Goblins collect technical manuals and such, but there’s no great library in Swallet.  Dryden promises to spread the word about Swallet and its new dragon ruler.

Dryden overcharges his flying stone and flies himself and Lucia over the other volcano. Around the caldera they find signs of an old war camp.  The camp was pointed in, like it was besieging the volcano, not defending it. The bottom of the volcano’s crater is an unnaturally smooth and regular surface, like the top section of a sphere. Two spiral staircases go down the inside of the caldera, but one staircase is broken.  They explore the war camp and find a graveyard: 40 or so spear points stuck in the ground, and a volcanic stone with the name “crusher” carved into it. They walk down the intact staircase to the dome at the bottom. There’s a light layer of gravel and hardy plants, but it’s easy to sweep that aside and see a smooth, non-porous, extremely hard ceramic surface.  A perfect barrier.  Dryden has a Dwarf-made weapon, so hard that it’s almost indestructible. He gangs on the dome a few times, chipping it, but he needs more force to get through.  He climbs to the rim of the caldera and drops the weapon from that great height. The impact cracks the dome with a deafening sound!

Lucia approaches the crack and calls out. From inside she hears a faint, spooky voice: “Do not remoooove booooks without a library caard.” and other such announcement.  Lucia identifies herself as the queen of the Forgotten Lands, and sees an eye glinting through the crack. She shows her symbol of royalty through the crack. A ghost floats up through the crack! A sheet with empty eye-holes is all that’s left of the librarian. This is indeed the library founded by the librarians who left the Forgotten Lands when they decided to withdraw from the world. They did not want their knowledge to be lost, and thus they sailed far away and founded this library. She is honored that the queen is visiting and wishes she could let Lucia in. She explains that about a hundred years ago, an evil warlord besieged the library, intent on stealing its secrets. Two heroes stood against a horde of invaders and gave the librarians time enough to cast the spell that sealed the library in this protective shell. She is the last one left, and the spell, cast by many magicians, cannot be broken my just one.  If Dryden and Lucia want to get in, they will have to find some way to enlarge this crack. The ghostly librarian can slip through the narrow crack. but people with solid bodies can’t fit.

Dryden, the gadgeteer, has another weapon to try. An unwieldy, devastating weapons. A long stick with explosives at the end that will launch rocks on impact.  Using it here, next to the inner wall of the caldera, will probably cause a rockslide.  Dryden prepares to use his rope launcher to pull himself up as soon as the explosion goes off! It mostly works! He swings the giant weapon. He deploys the rope launcher! He rises over the resulting rockslide! He loses his grip on the rope launcher and falls on the sharp rocks! He decides to rest overnight and dig deep into his cloak for a more appropriate tool.

During the night, the party sees tiny flashing lights near the moon. No doubt aftermath of Dr. MacLeod’s attempt to destroy the moon. Dryden finds a curiously carved wooden monkey. Back at the palace, where he grew up with Lucia, he got good at picking locks, and then the locks got replaced by better locks. The next step in this arms race was to invent this little device in the shape of monkey with its hands together. He slipped the hands between the door and doorframe, then activate the monkey, which would forcefully spread its hands and pop the door off its hinges!  Will it work on this cracked protective shell? Yes! The monkey widens the crack enough for Dryden and Lucia to slip through. They find themselves on the roof of a building. There are double doors that lead inside. the library is lit by spooky blue flames in sconces along the walls on on the ends of shelves.  The shelves have signs “Do Not Remove Books Without A LIbrary Card” Shelves piled with books seem to extend forever. Sometimes there is no shelf, just a stack of books and scrolls up to the ceiling.  The ghostly librarian moves to the counter. There’s a shimmery blue barrier between the counter and the rest of the library. She explains that the library lost contact when the barrier was erected. They used to send messenger birds across the sea to the Forgotten Lands. They could send messages or even small books, wrapped in water-proof paper.  The librarian issues Lucia a library card. Of course the Queen can check out any book she likes.

This is great. Our heroes need some information, and they’ve found a center of learning, a place to store and retrieve information. They ask the ghostly librarian for all the information she has on werewolves. She’s never heard of a werewolf. They explain that it’s a person who transforms into a fierce beast under a full moon. The librarian doesn’t know what a full moon is. They realize that this librarian has been isolated since before the moon appeared! They try to explain that there’s an object in the sky that causes these transformations, and they were sent by this woman, only they aren’t really working for this woman, but she’s been trying for 60 years to destroy the moon, which is an unreasonable amount of time. The librarian asks if this woman looks too young to be as old as she is, like a middle-aged woman who takes a lot of care in her appearance. the party confirms, surprised by the accuracy of the description.  The librarian says she is probably a vampire. Vampires are starting to infiltrate and cause some trouble, but the Dragons won’t stand it! they run a tight ship and will no doubt run those trouble makers off.

Or party realizes that this librarian has been out of touch for a long time, and that world was a very different place back in her day.

Chasing The Sunset & Secret Base

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Lucia the Brave the Heir, Dryden of Conwall the Collector

Lucia and Gleador have sent an angry mob home with no injuries, but a longer-term danger still remains: werewolves. People were attacked by at least one werewolf, and may turn into werewolves themselves. They consider the injured farmers they met earlier. Surely Kenney will turn, maybe the others too.

They return to town, where they are not particularly welcome, and return to Olivia’s healing house.  They are met by Miles, a young man who is Olivia’s apprentice. Olivia is not here. She runs supplies to the scientists on the mountain to the north every two weeks. They ask what he knows about werewolves. Miles says that werewolves are only legends, although he did hear that some fierce, furry creature attacked the Fairmeadow Fair a few weeks ago. Lucia says she’s heard of the Black Beast. They go in and talk to Kenney, inquiring after his wounds. He’s healing very well, but still needs to stay in the healing house for a few more days.  He doesn’t know what attacked him. He can’t remember anything from that night. They float the possibility of a werewolf attack. Kenney says thsoe are just stories. Dryden points at his wounds and asks “What does your chest say about stories?” They point out that the attacks happened on the night of the full moon, which reminds Kenney that last night, he was looking at the moon through the window and noticed a bright star that was not there previous nights. Molly pips up from the next bed. She noticed it too.

The party suggests that Kenney travel with them for the next month. That’s a sudden change for a farmer like Kenney. He barely knows them. Dryden says that they are very capable, and could protect him from mobs out for revenge (like, maybe, his home town?) and maybe find a way to heal him. They’ll let him think it over and check back once they return from visiting the mountain that Olivia has gone to.

So Lucia & Dryden leave the village and head north. The ground rises of plain suitable for fruit trees to hills, and mountains beyond. There’s a path to keep the party heading the right way, and soon they can see one particular mountain with buildings and paths on it.  Far beyond, towering, sharp, snow-covered peaks are visible in the distance. Lucia & Dryden walk up the path and encounter a gatehouse.  Addison, a woman wearing a thick apron and big gloves, asks their business, and they say they know Olivia & have come from the village. That’s good enough for Addison, so she leads them up the mountain to where Olivia is staying.  The paths cut into the mountain are all covered, and the buildings that dot the slopes have huge umbrellas over their roofs. The gatehouse is on the southern slope and the main building is on the northern slope, so the path winds all the way around the mountain. The stairs cut into the rock turn into a bridge as the path crosses a huge slit cut east-to-west all the way through the mountain. the slit isn’t vertical, but tilts to the south. It’s aligned with the ecliptic plane, the apparent path of the sun and moon through the sky. In the center of the slit is a huge tube, thousands of feet long connected to tracks on the inner surface of the slit that let it rotate. Further up the path, around the north side, they approach the headquarters of the facility, which looks like a James Bond villain’s hideout, jutting out from the rock at an aggressive angle, all big windows and simple lines.

Addison introduced Lucia & Dryden to Olivia and Dr. MacLeod, the owner and head scientist of the facility. The party explains how they suspect a werewolf attack. Dr. MacLeod immediately believes them. She hates werewolves and is actually working on a plan to destroy them! This entire facility is dedicated to destroying werewolves, who only emerged after the Moon suddenly appeared 102 years ago. Dryden and Lucia aren’t old enough to remember a time before the moon. Dr. MecLeod explains how the appearance of the Moon and the werewolves was such a terrible thing, and how she’s been working for so long to construct this facility, and it’s finally ready! Tonight, the fruit of her labor will be revealed! Dryden asks how long she’s been working on building this enormous facility.  She says 60 years, which is weird because she looks like a 50-year-old who puts a lot of work into her appearance, e.g. Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron. Dryden wants to know exactly how she’s going to save the world from werewolves, but Dr. MecLeod is determined to wait for the demonstration tonight. Why tell you when you can see for yourself? The party agrees to wait. Dryden pretends to take a nap on one of the designer couches in the huge lounge, but he secretly lays a trap in case things to badly.

Immediately after the sun sets, Dr. MacLeod gathers her guests and most of the workers to the observation dome at the mountain’s peak. Everyone faces the moon and waits. There’s a flash on the surface of the moon and after a few minute, a few tiny twinkling lights surround the moon.  Dr. MacLeod is distraught! The propulsion worked. The trajectory was perfect. The warhead was insufficient! The party realizes that Dr. MacLeod’s life work is to destroy the moon!  Dr. MacLeod is pacing the room, thinking out loud. The warhead she built herself wasn’t even close to big enough. She needs a Source Of Power to be able to attack the moon. Alas, the library would probably be able to tell her where to find one, but that stupid warlord ruined everything, and the library is inaccessible. Dryden is sympathetic and asks technical questions about how the anti-Moon cannon works. Dr. MacLeod can prepare the compressed-light propellant for another shot before the next full moon, but without a Source of Power for the warhead, it’s useless.  Dryden asks how she affords all this. She says “Old Money”Dryden indicates that the party could go find and secure a Source of Power for the next test.

The party is given a room for the night, since it’s already dark and too late to return to the village. As soon as they settle in, Dryden turns to Lucia and says, “She’s crazy! We have to stop her!” Lucia suggests finding a cure for werewolves at that library that she mentioned.  Dryden says he’s already hidden some traps, and they may have to destroy this place when they return.

The next day, they set out for the location of the library, as described by Dr. MacLeod: inside on of the twin volcanoes to the west.  Their route takes them past Lady Evelynn’s estate. Lady Evelynn is pretty scary, but Lucia is a Queen now, so Lady Evelynn will have to show her respect.  They knock at the gate and a bored, sullen young woman with little horns on her forehead answers. Lucia shows her symbol of royalty and demands hospitality.  The young woman walks unhurried to the main house, then a butler comes back much faster. This is Jayce, a tall, neat human that the party met last time they visited. He welcomes them warmly and brings them inside to meet Lady Evelynn. Lady Evelynn was amused last time, but she’s polite this time, mostly. She says that Lucia is now traveling in better company.  Dryden agrees, and says that he has heard she has a collection of treasures. As a fellow collector of fine artifacts, he’d like to see her collection. Maybe they could even trade.  Lady Evelynn assures him that her collection is better than le Grind’s, and takes Dryden into a show room. Her collection is cruel, just like her. Lots of items that are hard, sharp, or specifically weapons. Dryden doesn’t see anything he wants,but he wnats to present Lady Evelynn with a gift: the Ever-Burning Brand. It’s a branch that is always on fire, clasped in a protective stone gauntlet.  Lady Evelynn leans into admireit, and the brand casts a big shadow of her on the wall and ceiling. Her shadow moves independently as if to get a better look. Lady Evelynn accepts the gift and places it in her showroom. (It’s actually an explosive trap. Dryden doesn’t trust anyone!)  Lady Evelynn tells Jayce not to put these guests downstairs with the other guests. Use the nice rooms upstairs.

The next morning, the party says farewell and sets off toward the east.  When they stop for a break, a pesky marmot gets into their bags looking for food and generally making a mess.  Lucia kills it and cooks it.  They continue and approach two volcanoes. One has smoke rising from the top and the other does not.  Dryden jokes that Helen and Shasta could explore these volcanoes easily.  He set off for the smoking volcano first.

Chasing The Sunset & UFO

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Orichalcum the Construct, Stella the Halfling, Buckle the Platyperson

GM note: Before we started, I asked my players if they were OK with fighting cops in the game, since that’s very close to scary things that are happening in real life.

Buckle and Ugg are in a locker room in Cloorick’s Fight Club inside the hidden Goblin city of Swallet.  Ori comes in and Buckle in intimidated by the energy robot that’s 50% taller than him. Ori gives Buckle a very specific compliment on his fighting style and victory over Ugg. Ori, Buckle, and Stella share introductions.

GM note: The players had not met each other IRL, nor seen each other’s characters, nor encountered their cultures, so there were a lot of introductions!  Buckle and Stella’s players were impressed when I said that this was the player of the strange robot they saw fighting last session.

Ori explains that his life’s goal is to look for a master. Buckle says that sounds like slavery.

Ori: Maybe I am a slave, but I don’t like the connotation.

Buckle: Were you hatched?

Ori: No, I was built.

Buckle: That’s weird. I’m Buckle. I’m a Platyperson.  I was hatched from an egg, and I accidentally hatched a dragon too.

Stella: We have to save him a lot.

Buckle: I saved myself just now against Ugg.

Rabbish rushes in. He was replacing the front door (wrecked by Fafnir) and noticed suspicious movement out from. There could be trouble!

Cloorick's fight club & surrounding buildings: fish cannery, warehouse, black market, merch shop

Ori and Buckle take the ladder ot the roof and peer over the front edge.  There’s movmeent of people entering the warehouse to the right. People are fleeing the fish cannery on the left (which is actually a front for money laundering) Two Goblin police in Power Suits are walking down the street right in front. They are Nub-Nub and her partner, who have already crossed paths with Stella and Buckle. The second Power Suit leaps from the street to the roof of the warehouse, spotting Ori and Buckle! Buckle tries to run and the cops go loud!  Windows on the top floor of the warehouse break, and Goblins hidden inside point personal, customized ranged weapons at the Fight Club and unleash a barrage of arrows, bolts, bullets, metal rods, and other projectiles!  One projectile smashes a hole in the roof, and Buckle dives through to the relative safety of “inside.”  Nub-Nub is surprised. The posse wasn’t supposed to attack just yet, so she turns on her loudspeaker.

Nub-Nub:   Cloorick, we have evidence that you are harboring spies seeking to steal our precious Goblin secrets. Surrender them at once!

She hasn’t heard that Cloorick is dead and the Fight Club is under new management.  Ori peeks over the roof and asks for parley. Nub-Nub tells the squad of gunners to cease fire, and tells Ori to come out the front door to talk. He goes back inside and wonders who these spies are.  Stella and Buckle fear that they are wanted as spies.  The three of them walk outside, and Nub-Nub immediately shouts, “There are the spies!”  Her partner leaps down from the roof to arrest Buckle.  Buckle tries to flee, but the cop’s Power Suit fires a rocket fist to grab him and winch him back in.  Ori wants to know what will happen to Stella and Buckle.  Loss of technological secrets is one of the worst things that can happen to Goblin cities, so those who try to take their secrets can never be allowed to leave.  Stella’s companion Rose holds up a bag of unknown powder and Stella yells that it’s a toxic chemical, and if the cops try anything, she’ll release it on all of them!  The cop releases Buckle, who flees and hides in the merch shop. (Fafnir quickly became a local hero, and there’s an unauthorized merch shop next door. Buckle dives into a pile of plushies and blends in, like that scene in E.T.) The gunners back up out of toxic cloud range and open fire!  Ori grabs Stella and flies around to the back of the Fight Club. The companions run back inside the front door.

Ori admits to Stella “This is as far as I’ve planned ahead.”  The gunners are fanning out in the street in front, slowly encircling the building.  Ori & Stella aren’t sure where to go, when Ugg opens a hidden door in the back of the building.  Of course the ilegal fight club has secret getaway routes.  Buckle wants to rejoin the team, but he’s trapped across an alley watched by several police gunners.  Ugg spots him and beckons him over, but he cowers. Ori transforms into a Goblin in a Power Suit, steps into view, and says the fugitives are on the far side of the building. Nub-Nub and the gunners on that side start o move, then notice that the other Power Suit is right there. Who’s in the third suit?  The distraction is enough for Buckle to cross the alley & join the others, but Nub-Nub leaps down the alley right on top of Ori, She’s very suspicious and tries to read his badge number.  Ori grabs her and says that she’s the fake, not him!  He’s got her immobilized, and she’s blocking fire from the gunners at the far end of the alley, so everyone can get away except for him. He’s safe until he tries to disengage.  Gus (Stella’s cook) leans around the corner and starts throwing food at the gunners. Like real cops, these gunners are terrified of milkshakes, tomatoes, and water bottles, so they retreat and hunker down.  Ori throws Nub-Nub across the alley and everyone flees down the secret escape route, which is shut and invisible by the time the cops recover and turn the corner.

The crew is in The Blackest Market, a building that sells unregulated obsidian.  It’s very dark. The walls are painted black for the look.  They have some time before the police figure out where they are, but they shouldn’t dawdle. They consider the exits from Swallet.

Going up the waterfall is difficult. The caldera isn’t intended to be an exit, and climbing out is also difficult. The sewer seems like the easiest way out.  Clearly Stella and Buckle have to flee, but what about the others?  Ori was staying at the Fight Club, and it looks like there won’t be a Fight Club anymore, so he might as well go with them.  Ugg lives in Swallet, but he’s loyal to Buckle after being beaten in a duel, so he’s also coming along.  they sneak away from the police and head for the garbage processing facility.

The garbage processing facility is a big dangerous industrial building with pipes, catwalks, conveyor belts, and big containers of trash. Goblins take trash, sort it, pick out valuable items, then send it to be burned, dumped, or poured into the sewer, a big pipe that matches the one that forms the waterfall in the park across town.  As a load of trash is dumped into a fire, the fire flares but doesn’t subside, It grows, takes shape, and starts moving on its own. A Fire Elemental has appeared!  The Goblin workers flee, calling for the shift leader and the cops!  Some run to the fire extinguishers, big backpack-mounted units with nozzles that come around the side, like Ghostbuster proton packs, or the Heavy Bolter from Warhammer 40K.  There’s also a gas-replacement bomb in the middle of the facility that will remove all the oxygen in the facility in case of major, uncontained fire. Obviously this would be very unhealthy for anyone still inside the facility.

GM note: We said “Halon bomb” at the table, but actual research reveals that Halon fire suppressant causes only giddiness and is safer than carbon-dioxide.

Ori: Hello, fellow energy being. Whom do you serve?

The Fire Elemental makes an effort to shape itself into something with a face,and makes talking motions, but vomits flame all over instead.  Ori puts out his hands and makes his body long and thin behind them, like a diver trying to make as little disruption in water as possible. It works! He comes through the barrage unscathed, but more of the facility is now on fire.  Stella grabs a fire extinguisher. The Goblin workers will take all the help they can get and point her at the Fire Elemental.  Instead she clears a path through the flames to the sewer entrance. Buckle and the companions follow. Again, Ori is in trouble as the rest of the crew beckon him towards safety.  Stella suggests setting of the bomb and running for the sewers.  Goblins close in with fire extinguishers, and the Fire Elemental retreats from them, unintentionally cutting Ori off from his route to the sewer.  Ori just powers through and zips right past the Fire Elemental, braving the heat radiating from it.  he makes it, and the crew flees down the sewer, leaving the Fire Elemental and the Goblins to fight it out.

Only liquid waste is poured down the sewer, so there’s nothing to run into in the long, dark journey, but the water is pretty dirty.  Buckle electro-sense can detect living creatures, but doesn’t notice anything except rats and bugs.  After hours and hours, the crew reaches the end of the tunnel.

A map showing the scret tunnel emptying into a river. There's a mill on the river, with a path leading up a hill to Evelynn's manor, surrounded by a wall with a gate.

There’s a small platform at the end of the tunnel, about the size of a studio apartment. It’s level and high enough to stay dry. there’s a door at the far end of the platform.  The crew floats out of the mouth of the tunnel and into the river to wash in the clean water. Most of Ori’s body is energy and can’t get dirty, but he rinses off the metal armor bits.   The mouth of the tunnel and the door from the platform are both camouflaged from the outside.  It’s night now.  The moon is up, and there’s a bright light near the moon that is not a normal star.  Ori is very curious about the light, but can’t tell much about it.  It’s not moving visibly, but maybe observing it through the night will reveal very slow motion.  Back on the ground, there’s a mill a little ways downstream.  The crew goes up to investigate.  No one is working at night, and the doors are locked, which seems a bit paranoid for such a remote location. A sign on the door reads “LE GRIND KEEP OUT!” so they assume the mill is owned by someone named “le Grind”  There’s a hill behind the mill, and lights from a large estate are visible on top. They follow path up towards the estate.  The estate is surrounded by a wall, and the wall is surrounded by topiary sculptures. The sculptures represent a wide range of creatures, all predators.  They knock at the gate, hoping for hospitality.

GM note. This is Evelynn‘s estate, from the Fairmeadow Fair campaign.

After an awkward pause, a petite woman slowly walks to the gate.  She’s wearing a leather jacket and has a cap with a bill specially shaped to fit around the small vertical horns on her forehead. She regards the crew with bored eyes and asks what they want.  They ask for hospitality. She’s heard of it, but it’s more work for her, so she’s not a fan. She says she’ll check, and slowly walks towards the main building.

After a while a different person returns from the house. He’s a tall human man, probably about 50. He has neat slicked back hair, black but greying at the temples. He introduces himself as Jayce and apologizes for the delay.  of course Lady Evelynn respects the ancient rite of hospitality and will grant travelers a night’s rest and a hot meal.  He calls for Kaley, the sullen Teifling, to stable Silk, Stella’s giant spider. There are six humanoids: Ori, Stella, Buckle, Ugg, Gus, and Rose. Jayce takes them in the front door, into a spectacular foyer with big staircases leading to balconies all around. he leads them through a door into the less impressive side of the house and assigns them to three bedrooms with two beds each.  He will fetch food and bed clothes for each of them.  Jayce inquires after Ori’s needs, since he’s never seen someone like Ori before. Ori doesn’t eat or sleep.  Jayce leaves to make preparations, urging his guests to make themselves comfortable and to stay in their rooms.  Stella examines her room and finds a secret passage hidden behind a painting! Jayce returns with nightgowns and food.  For Stella, Gus, and Rose: Halfling food with meat, fruit, and veggies. The food is prepared well, but the portions are too small. Buckle gets fish. The fish is fine. Can’t complain.  Ugg usually eats subterranean food like mushrooms and bat meat, but he gets freshwater crab. It’s OK.

Jayce bids them goodnight and reminds them to stay in their rooms.  Buckle and Stella convince themselves that the picture is part of Stella’s room, so the secret passage must also be part of the room, so it’s not technically breaking the rules to go exploring. Ori declares that a clever bit of sophistry and stays in his room, watching that mysterious light through the window. After several hours, he determines that it’s moving with the moon, which moves across the sky slightly faster than the stars. it’s a little closer to the moon than it was at the beginning of the night.

GM note: I was not prepared to explain all these celestial mechanics, even though “mysterious light near the moon” was 100% my idea. Would a waning gibbous be visible right after sunset? How much does the moon move against the background of stars?

Since Ori can’t determine what the mysterious light is from here, he decides to use his unlimited-range teleportation to TELEPORT TO THE SURFACE OF THE MOON.

GM note. Oh. Oh, OK. We’re doing this.  This is happening right now.  I wanted the players interested in the moon, but this is skipping quite a few steps.

Ori disappears from Evelynn’s estate and reappears on an endless field of giant hexagonal metal mirrors.  Each mirror is 100 feet across, and machinery underneath allows them to be steered somewhat. There are towers every few mirrors, and cables between the towers lead away, over the horizon.

The planet is visible below. The location that Ori just left is in shadow.  If Ori teleports back, his accuracy will be poor. He might land in the location next to the one he aims at. The mysterious light is there between the moon and the planet, still a bright featureless light, still not moving visibly.

Ori watches the mysterious light for a while and consumes some fuel.  A cable car arrives at the nearest tower and a Kobold gets out and approaches Ori. The Kobold isn’t wearing a suit or mask, so there’s air on the moon.  The Kobold is curious. How did you get here? Ori says he came from the planet to look at that light. The Kobold looks up at the light in surprise.  He didn’t notice.  It’s not on any of the sensors. The Kobold decides that Ori should come with him back to base. Wait! Show me your teeth!  Ori doesn’t have teeth, which reassures the Kobold, and they zoom away on the cable car.

GM note: Players have a tendency to run mysteries to ground as they notice them. The GM wouldn’t mention it unless it was important right?  Of course they want to see what the GM prepared. I didn’t think the players could do much about this particular mystery just yet, but I was wrong, and I am excited to see how this goes when one player jumps right into the middle.

Characters also made big strides. Ori gaines a level, and Stella and Buckle both took powerful Destiny playbooks.

 

Chasing The Sunset & Fire Pits

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Lucia the Brave the Heir, Dryden of Conwall the Collector

Lucia’s friends from her homeland have linked up with her and htey are ready to adventure in these new lands, but where will they go?  Dryden asks Lucia to choose their direction. He’s more formal than Gleador. The vibe is going to be different.  They survey their surrounding.  Upriver, the town of Sugar’s Crossing, which Lucia and Gleador have already explored and disrupted. Downriver, the swamp of the witch Samantha, and beyond that, the port that Dryden just came from.  To the east, Fairmeadow, and other towns that Lucia has already explored.  To the west, orchards, and a plume of white vapor.

They head for the white clouds, walking through neat rows of small fruit trees.  The find the source of the white smoke: a steep sudden valley. A hole in the ground, full of geothermal activity.  Pools of water, bubbling and colored by strange minerals.  Boiling fumaroles, delicate travertine. Down near ht bottom of the pit are two humanoids, lounging in the pools and having a great time.  One of the figures, a man named Shasta, sees the crew looking down and invites them to join him.  He assures them that the hot springs are very refreshing.  Great heat is wafting out of the pit, but Dryden decides to go down and meet Shasta.  He climbs down the steep slope, but slips, and ends up next to Shasta’s pool covered in mud.  Shasta laughs and splashes some scalding hot water at him to clean him off.  Dryden tries to block the water with his cloak, but still gets burned.  Helen, the other red-skinned person in the hot spring, admonishes Shasta.  She doesn’t want to scare Dryden off, like the last fellow.  She’s got the cheery over-familiarity of a Southern diner waitress, and points out the features of the natural spa.  Wash in this pool, rinse under that waterfall. This pool is good for soaking. Wash your hair there. The minerals will make your hair soft and luscious like ours.  (They do have very nice hair.)  Stay out of that pool. it’s actually acid!  All of these features are near boiling. Long exposure would be lethal to a human, but Shasta and Helen seem to enjoy it very much.

Dryden asks if he can collect some of the water from various pools, and his hosts allow it.  He retrieves a long metal flask from his cloak, halfway between a canteen and a test tube, and holding it with metal chopsticks, he carefully fills it with water from the soaking pool. He collects water from the hair washing pool in a second flask, and reaches for the acid with a third. The acid pulls back away from the flask and and rises in a mound on the far side of the pool!  This is no unliving pool of acid but a Rain, like Melvin, relaxing in the heat.  Non-porous containers like metal flasks are the only way to capture a Rain, and the Rain don’t like being captured!  Dryden has never met Rain before and wants to know all about them. the Acid Rain is willing to chat, if Dryden will provide snacks.  Dryden has many snacks! He offers a branch of a tree from the island of Moldova. The acidic soil is drawn into the roots of the tree and a unique mushroom grows on those roots. The mushroom is an acquired taste for most people, but the Acid Rain loves it and tells Dryden a bit out The Rain. They arrived on a comet from another world. They are shapeless, able to slip through the smallest cracks. They are ruled by The Rain King.

It’s really hot down here. Even though Dryden avoids the scalding water, the air temperature is high enough to be unhealthy. He needs to leave.  When he was a child, he played alone a lot, so it was hard to play catch. He tied a string to his ball and practiced throwing the ball across the yard and pulling it back with the string.  This skill transfers over to his rope arrow, which he fires to the rim of the pit and starts to climb.  Again, the steep, muddy slopes betray him. he loses his grip on the rope, tumbles down, and ends up balancing on a small, wet rock in the middle of a bubbling pool of boiling water! Shasta looks up and says, “Good choice! That one is particularly refreshing!”  Lucia grabs the rope arrow, tosses the end down to Dryden, and pulls him out of the pit.

Lucia and Dryden look for a more survivable settlement. They are in orchards, so there must be one nearby.  After following rows of trees to a path to a barn to a road, they do find a town.  The humans in the town seem on edge.  When they enter, the townsfolk ask if they’ve been attacked.  Two nights ago, on night of the full moon, three people were wounded, and one person was killed!

GM Note: I paused at this point and said, “Oh right. People die in this game.” In all of Fairmeadow Fair, the closest the party got to killing was turning off robots and dispelling ghosts. Chasing The Sunset is more violent and dangerous.

The townspeople suspect the burning deceivers in the horrible Fire Pit out there in the orchards. They’re always trying to lure people in to their death! Devon, the designated cautionary tale, is brought forward, and he pulls up his pant legs, again, to show the burn scars he got when he trusted the “burning deceivers” and went into the Fire Pit.  Dryden and Lucia want to see the victims to figure out what happened.  The local healer is named Liv. She has the three wounded victims resting in beds. The dead body is behind a divider in another area of the healing house.  The three victims give their testimony.

  • Tanner has bandages on his feet and legs. The foot of his bed is next to the window, and something reached through and tried to drag him out. The assailant failed, but Kenney’s legs were cut up.
  • Molly’s left arm is bandaged and in a sling.  She was out late on her farm, when a strange furry figure came out of the trees and grabbed her arm. She pulled free and ran, but her arm was injured.
  • Kenney doesn’t have a shirt on, instead his chest is wrapped in bandages.  He doesn’t remember the attack at all. He went to sleep early, before the sky got dark, and woke up outside bleeding. He figures it must have been the Burning Deceivers, because who else would threaten this small town?

Lucia and Dryden notice that all the wounds are lacerations, not burns. The evidence doesn’t point towards Shasta and Helen, who don’t seem like the types to sneak and attack anyways. Lucia wants to ask Liv a question, but she’s not around. Lucia peeks behind the divider and sees that the dead body is also missing.  Suspicious, but before she can investigate further, there’s a commotion outside.

Angered by the attacks, and encouraged by the arrival of powerful-looking travelers who are concerned for their plight, the people of the village have formed and angry mob, with pitchforks, torches, and everything!  They won’t tolerate the presence of the Burning Deceivers anymore! They are going to defeat them! Somehow! No one has a plan for fighting them at close range without being horribly burned.  There’s a particularly charismatic villager who even convinces Dryden that fighting right now is the best thing to do, so he and the mob set off. Lucia is faster on her mighty steed than the mob on foot, so she picks up Dryden and rides ahead to to Fire Pit. Out of earshot of that very convincing villager, Dryden realizes that fighting would be foolish.  he considers putting a trap in the mob’s path to stop them, but doesn’t want to injure them.

Shasta hails them from down in the pit.  They explain that an angry mob is on the way, and it will turn out badly for everyone, but mostly the villagers.  The villagers blame Shasta and Helen for attacking people on the night of the full moon.  Lucia and Dryden explain the attacks. Of course Shasta and Helen didn’t do that. They stay here in the lovely sauna. But two nights ago? They did see a weird hairy guy up at the rim? They hailed him, but he didn’t come down.

GM note: I said “full moon” “hairy person” and “slashing wounds” enough for the players to say, “Oh, it’s a werewolf!” at this point.

Lucia asks if Helen & Shasta can retreat elsewhere to avoid the mob.  The Fire Pits opened up recently, when geothermal energy broke through from some underground system, and Helen & Shasta also came from underground. There is a path back under the earth, but they aren’t willing to abandon their lovely spa.

The mob arrives. Dryden tries to redirect their anger with a passionate speech about the danger of werewolves, but this turns the mob against itself! Villagers realize that any of their neighbors could be the deadly beast. Tensions are high, and weapons are at hand!  Lucia can’t get their attention. She asks Dryden if he has anything that explodes. He has lots of things that explode!  He selects fireworks that explode with a loud bang, and shatter into mosaics of nature scenes, trees and hills and the like.  Those are things farmers like, right?  The villagers stop and look towards Lucia, who commands them to stop. They are insulted that this outsider thinks she can order them around.  Dryden and Lucia won’t be welcome in the town after this, but they do seem less violent.  Shasta climbs up to the surface and tells the people to get lost. He’s trying to have a nice time and all the noise is really harshing his vibe.  Lucia recommends discussing the werewolf problem back in the safety oft he village. The villagers still think the Burning Deceivers are a problem, so they want Lucia to beat up Shasta first. “Beat him up?” says Dryden mischieveously. He brings out his flying stone and offers it to Shasta. “To activate this, you tap out a beat on the stone, then you’re rise into the air, so I’ll beat you up!”

GM note: That’s such a horrible pun is just has to work!  Roll for it.

Shasta taps on the flying stone, which activates and sends him up and out of sight through the vapor that constantly rises from the pit.  Shasta lands safely o nthe other side, pleased by the adventure. The villagers see Dryden fling a Burning Deceiver right out of the scene and are very impressed!  they head back towards the village, and a terrible brawl has been averted.