Inspired to make something that makes inspiration

During Roguelike Celebration 2020, I heard a talk by Clarissa Littler about a generator they created to help them write poetry.

Skip to 45:16 to see Clarissa’s 10-minute talk.

I make generators that generate complete, ready-to-use artifacts, but Clarissa’s generator only creates rules and constraints for a poem that Clarissa has to write. A completely different paradigm!

The pandemic destroyed my normal artistic outlet of traveling the country and photographing people at large events. I’ve barely taken any photos in 2020. How can I continue this practice which I love so much with none of my usual events? Many photographers have a discipline of taking a photo every day on sites like Tookapic and 365 project.  But getting ideas for interesting photos every day without fail is a constant challenge.

Let’s bring it all together

  1. a generator of ideas, not artifacts
  2. a reason to take photos every day
  3. ideas for photos when I don’t have any

The solution is a system that tells me what sort of photograph to create each day!

I use Kate Compton‘s Tracery for lots of generators because it’s easy to write lists of options and let Tracery pick from them. So I can write down all possible subjects, all possible lighting conditions, all possible compositions, and be done. That generator would be completely generic, and I have a style developed over many years. I want photographs that I like, not all possible photographs.

a screenshot of a file manager, show 200GB of images in a folder named "Photos by others"

I’ve been downloading photos that fit my style for years! I looked through by photographer, and wrote down what I liked about each one. After I had a big list, I split it into categories: mood, people, light, composition, environment, and other. I love people and photographs of people, so I had a lot of “people” features that were unsafe to recreate during a pandemic, so I created a list of other subjects that I could more easily acquire. The Tracery grammar picks one to three lists, and picks one option from each. Sometimes an option is negated, just to mix things up.

CheapBotsDoneQuick is a service that hosts Twitter bots that generate their Tweets with Tracery grammars. This is a good fit for getting persistent daily suggestions. I could even reply to the bot with the photos I take based on its suggestion.  I had to create and verify a new Twitter account. Twitter’s account creation pipeline doesn’t let me pick my @. I have to edit my profile and change it from some auto-generated nonsense in a separate step. I don’t like that!

The final step was to go through each feature and assign an emoji! It’s so cute when bots use emoji, and I want using this bot to be a pleasant experience. These tweets aren’t assignments. They are opportunities for me to go out and create art! The emoji also function as bullets for a bulleted list of features.

The resulting inspiration generator, @photo_inspo, is online, tweeting a set of constraints every 6 hours.

Goatriders Session 2

Last time, Junker (as good at breaking as she is at fixing), Moth (slippery feral gremlin child), and Skellington (that weirdo who’s friends with ghosts) got their first job as a crew: pick up a shipment of drugs from the docks for the Red Sashes, because the Lampblacks were hassling the normal couriers. Things got a bit out of hand and, but the Goatriders escaped the docks with their cargo, leaving property damage and angry ghosts behind.

The Goatriders have some quiet moments as they sail down the dark canals of Duskwall on their boat which is decorated with mer-goat motifs and hot rod flames. They turn their attention to the crates, about the size of plastic tubs that cosplayers use to transport bulky costumes. They expected these crates to weigh about 40 pounds, easy enough for one person to carry, but they actually weigh 80 pounds each. Slow and difficult for one person to carry. Better to carry one between two people.  But why are they so heavy?  Junker picks the padlocks securing the crates to look inside.

Junker Tinker 2d controlled standard: 4

She realizes that her tools are going to leave marks on the locks, evidence of tampering. She accepts that risk and opens the creates revealing not drugs, but weapons!  Eight rifles in one crate, and 32 grenades in the other! This is literally not what they signed up for! No one feels bad about taking a few items from their employers, since their employer lied to them. As Smugglers, they are able to conceal a few items on their person even against patdowns, so each person considers what to take and where to hide it. Rifles are cool, but how useful would they be?  Junker already carries grenades in her bandoliers, so she could put one of these grenades right out in the open, in the patch where she kept the Drown Powder the threw at that Lampblack thug on the dock.  These are Iruvian grenades, and the grenades that Junker builds are Dagger Isles-style, so the difference might be noticed.

Skellington checks for a manifest. Sure enough, each crate contains a pre-printed form, filled out in pen. If they take things from the crates, these manifests will reveal that something is missing.  Moth thinks she might be able to forge the manifest forms and hide their theft.  The team agrees to take 3 rifles and 12 grenades, leaving 5 rifles and 20 grenades in the crates.  Moth studies the form and the handwriting.

Moth Study 1d fortune 6

With a bit of practice she’s able to convincingly replicate the handwriting on the form, which puts her in a good position for writing new manifest forms.

Moth Finesse 2d controlled standard 6

Junker and Skellington hold the new forms and the old forms and look back and forth at them. They’re basically identical!  They put the new forms in the crates and lock the crates again. They will stop by the lair and stash the stolen weapons before delivering the crates. They took too much to conceal on their persons.

Ahead in the canal, two boats are in distress! A towboat has pushed its barge into a gondola. Both boats are taking on water, but the smaller gondola is in worse shape. The large barge is taking up most of the canal, so sailing around it will be tricky. The gondolier sees the Goatriders approaching and waves at them, signaling a request for aid. The crew squints to see who is on the sinking gondola:

GM NPC rolls: gender 4 (woman) appearance 2, 4 (tall) profession 4, 1 (leatherworker) name (Bowman)

There’s a tall woman in working-class clothes.

GM NPC rolls: gender 6 (roll again? nah, ambiguous) appearance 6, 5 (bald, shorn) profession 6, 5 (messenger) name (Morrison)

And a bald person clutching a satchel.

GM NPC rolls: gender 3 (woman) appearance 6, 1 (disfigured, maimed) name (Nail)

The gondolier is Nail, so named for the spectacular industrial accident that she survived and which gave her the gnarly scars on one side of her head. The crew is familiar with Nail, since they both work the same canals, and the Goatriders respect the Gondoliers as the dominant faction in the area. The gondola looks like it’s doomed to sink, so the Goatriders decide to evacuate its passengers. They make sure the crates of contraband are locked and throw a tarp over them. Moth takes the controls and Junker stands in the bow to give her directions as she attempts to put the boat right beside the damaged gondola.

Moth Finesse + Junker Aid 3d risky standard 6

Moth parks the boat perfectly right next to the gondola. Nail throws a rope over and Junker holds it to steady the two boats together. The two passengers hop over the gunwales and are glad to be on something that isn’t sinking.  Nail pauses to grab her logbook and a personal item from the gondola: a nail pulled from her body after the accident. It’s a reminder and a good luck charm.  The Goatriders move away from the gondola, and crew from the barge use their poles to push the wreck away from their boat and let it sink. The barge will have to bail water until they reach the docks, but they’ll make it.

Nail thanks the Goatriders for their assistance.  Morrison, the bald person with the satchel, says that they are delivering a time-sensitive package to Whitecrown and are willing to hire the Goatriders for 1 coin if they divert and take them there immediately. Whitecrown is north of the docks, far out of their way.  The coin is tempting, but the Goatriders don’t want to be late for their first job for the Red Sashes. Moth is sitting on crates of illegal weapons that she really doesn’t want the new passengers to notice.

Moth: These crates are burning a hole in my bottom.

They refuse Morrison’s offer. Morrison is upset, but is in no position to insist. They were just saved from a sinking boat. Can’t complain about that.  The Goatriders put Morrison, Bowman, and Nail ashore and bid them farewell.

The Goatriders return to their lair in the sewers without further incident. They stash the rifles and grenades in their lair, then bring the crates up through the fountain and out through Junker’s family shop.  They ponder how to carry the heavy crates through the streets to Rolan’s drug den. Skellington imagines stacking the crates on top of each other, with one person on each end, and the third person behind keeping the crates from tipping over. It’s much less complicated to get Junker’s cousin to hold the end of one crate, so each crate is supported by two people.

Junker’s aunt & uncle run the Ankhayat Body Shop, and Timoth is their 18-year-old son. Like Junker, he works in the cover operation, the junk shop, and hasn’t graduated to real responsibility yet. He grew up here in Duskwall, unlike Junker who is a recent immigrant from the Dagger Isles.

GM Fortune 1d who do they meet on the way? 1 enemy. Pick Bluecoats over Lampblacks.

GM Fortune 1d position? 1 desperate

The Goatriders step out of an alley and literally bump into two Bluecoats on patrol. One Bluecoat taps a crate with his club and asks, “So what’s in here?”

FLASHBACK: In the lair, the Goatriders took some weapons for themselves, so the crates are no longer full. Junker adds a layer of straw to cover the illegal weapons and puts some junk from her family’s cover operation on top, so a cursory inspection will show that the crates are full of low-value knick-knacks. That’s easy enough to arrange, so no stress cost. But is it convincing?

Junker finesse 1d fortune 5

The false packaging is pretty convincing, so even if the Bluecoats force the crew to open the crates, they won’t be revealed immediately. There are no distinguishing marks on the crates, like “DANGER: EXPLOSIVES” since the contents have been disguised twice.  Weapons pretending to be drugs pretending to be spare parts.  That improves the position to Risky. Skellington tells the Bluecoats that they are transporting inventory from the junk shop to a new location.

Skellington Sway + aid 2d risky standard 4

That’s a boring enough explanation that the Bluecoats don’t want to investigate further, so they wander off.  Timoth noticed the sharp glances between the other crew members and realizes that they didn’t were deceiving the Bluecoats and him. He didn’t sign up for this criminal stuff. He could get in real trouble! He doesn’t want any part of this. Skellington tries to explain that it’s fine. It’s a short job. The scary part is already over.

Skellington Sway 1d controlled standard 1

Timoth doesn’t buy it. He’s leaving right now, and he doesn’t care if they have to drag their crates of contraband the rest of the way. Skellington gets red in the face and yells at Timoth to return.  Skellington can get redder than most because of his unusually pale skin.  Timoth won’t like being treated this way, but he might go along long enough to finish the job.

Skellington Command controlled limited 5

Timoth will do it, but he’s mad. The Goatriders have blown whatever good will they had with him. They reach Rolan’s drug den without further incident, and as soon as they reach the door, Timoth drops his end of the crate and stomps back towards home. He was not holding the crate full of grenades!

Junker: Tell Auntie I’ll be late for dinner!

GM NPC rolls gender 2 (man) appearance 1, 1 (large) goals 3, 6 (infamy, fear) method 3, 1 (theft)

Rolan opens the door, but there’s no sense of openness because he takes up most of the doorframe. He takes the crates from the Goatriders and carries them in by himself. He asks if there was any trouble along the way.  Moth goes off on a rant. Lampblacks! Ghosts! Cops! Rolan opens the crates, is surprised to see junk, but digs inside and finds the rifles and grenades. He’s glad that the cargo arrived safely, but is surprised that there’s so little in each crate.  He checks the manifests, and the quantities match up. Alas, smuggling is difficult.  The Goatriders pretend to be shocked when Rolan pulls weapons out of the crates instead of drugs. This job was way more than they signed up for! Rolan apologizes for the deception. Tensions are high in Crow’s Foot with the sudden death of the Crow’s leader. The Lampblacks will push for greater influence in the area, and the Red Sashes won’t let that happen.  The Red Sashes pride themselves on their swordplay, but this is a new situation, which requires (he hefts a rifle) new solutions. Since the crew was expecting drugs, he offers drugs as an apology. The crew gladly agrees.  Moth is especially enthusiastic. Rolan goes to a device that looks like a “Take A Number” dispenser, except it dispenses little tabs of drugs that dissolve on the tongue. He puts a key in the side and pulls out three tabs, one for each. He also gives them the agreed-upon payment: 4 Coin. The Goatriders have finished their first score!

DOWNTIME:

Goatriders gain:

  • 4 Coin
  • 4 Rep (+2 bonus for acting against Lampblacks, which are 2 Tiers above Goatriders)
  • 2 Heat (not much exposure, no killing)

Faction standings:

  • Red Sashes: +3 Allies (+1 for doing a job for them)
  • Lampblacks: -2 hostile (-1 for doing a job against them)
  • Gondoliers: +1 helpful (helping Nail was nice, but not enough to improve status)

Junker took harm and quite a bit of stress, and she learns how painful recovery is at lower levels. None of the Goatriders are Physickers, so she can either rest & hope to heal (1 stress, 0d healing roll) or acquire the services of a healer (roll crew’s tier (0d) for quality. 75% chance to get Quality -1, who can’t heal at all.) So she spends 2 downtime actions to heal.

Junker heal 0d 5, +2 healing clock segments, +1 stress

GM note: I got confused. 0d is “roll 2 dice, take the worse” but when Junker rolled 2 dice, I thought each one was a separate healing roll. I didn’t catch the error until much later, and undoing it would be a lot of work, and also probably be worse for Junker, so I let my earlier ruling stand.

Junker fake healing roll 5 +2 healing clock segments, +1 stress

Junker’s healing clock is full & Level 2 Harm: Drained moves down to Level 1 Harm: Less Drained. She buys a 3rd downtime activity to indulge her Vice. Her Vice is Obligation to the family business, so she goes to family dinner.

Junker indulge vice 1d 2 -2 stress

That’s only enough stress to counteract the stress she took healing. A costly and unsatisfying downtime for Junker.

The Goatriders are turning into The Fast And The Furious.

  • family business is a front for vehicular crime
  • front business is bad, because it’s obviously a front
  • unrelated people join the family through crime!
  • family dinner is an important tradition

Skellington and Moth spend both their downtime action training Resolve by taking the tabs from Rolan and yelling at each other while high. Somehow this improves their conversational skills. Skellington has enough XP to put another point in Sway.

GM note: The group enjoyed this one-shot enough to come back a second time to finish the score, and we’re still having fun, so this isn’t a one-shot anymore. Welcome to the Goatriders campaign!

Goatriders Session 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 & Jail-break

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

The party: Buckle the Platyperson, Stella the Halfling

Buckle & Stella & the Mayor of Templeton float down the river on the belly of Pomplamoose, a giant albino Platyperson, who is recovering from the thrashing she took during her rescue from Lady Evelynn’s dungeon. About a mile downstream from Lady Evelenn’s estate, they find a bustling city built on either side of the river, with a large bridge in the middle. This is Sugar’s Crossing.

A map of the city of Sugar’s Crossing showing the river flowing south the the center, three mills, docks, and other landmarks.

Two figures with reptilian heads approach swiftly through the river. These are Naga, amphibious humanoid snakes, closely related to mermaids. They are in charge and they know it. They belittle the team as they order them ashore, telling them that they’re a danger to navigation, and even a child would know not to float down the middle of a busy river.  Buckle hesitates, but agrees to go ashore.  The Naga guards swim away. The Mayor recognizes this city as Sugar’s Crossing. Now she knows where she is.  Templeton is five days’ travel to the east, and she expects everyone to set off immediately to escort her there.  Stella asks what’s in it for them. The Mayor offers civic duty, then money, and thinks Stella is very strange for not being motivated by either.

Stella: Mayor, you are on our schedule

Stella takes every opportunity to remind the Mayor that, out here, she is not in charge.

Where does Pomplamoose want to go? Her home town of Willow’s Landing is further eat, past Templeton, so going to Templeton is on the way home for her. Pomplamoose was hurt in the escape from Lady Evelynn’s estate, so Buckle gives her some food to recover her strength. Pomplamoose is disappointed by the food she’s been getting. It’s all flavor and no sustenance. She feels herself getting weak. Sure, this is the food that sustains Buckle, but he’s so small. He’s like a child. Buckle thinks he’s normal, not an unusual size compared to the Platypeople he grew up with.

GM note: Sugar’s Crossing was created and fleshed out in the Fairmeadow Fair campaign, and added to Chasing The Sunset later. When Sugar’s Crossing was made, Stella’s quest to find Halfling refugees from the Giant War had not yet been invented, so Sugar’s Crossing was a town full of Halflings, outnumbering all other species. The Halfling player doesn’t just control Stella, the Halfling hero, but Halfling culture and history in general.  I asked Stella’s player: should we change the lore of Sugar’s Crossing, or was Stella wrong about her people? Stella’s player decided that Stella was wrong, and there are large, old, stable populations of Halflings outside her homeland, not just scattered refugees.

The team starts to explore the town and Stella realizes that most people here are Halflings. Many of the buildings–old buildings!– are built at Halfing size, although there are plenty of multi-scale or large-scale buildings to accommodate taller species.  This is no refugee camp.  Halflings have lived on this continent for generations.  Stella thought that all Halflings lived in her homeland across the sea.  She has to sit down. She’s been telling every Halfling she met to go back home. Were they already home? Was she pushing people out of their homes? Buckle tries to comfort her.

Buckle: I learned about giants. You’ll be OK.

They explore the town and find the theater, which has public shows morning and evening about the history of the town. Stella wants to watch the shows. Room and board is easy to come by in Sugar’s Crossing. Large homes for extended families, apartment buildings, and hotels, aren’t very distinct from each other, so the team will be able to find a home with a few extra beds and some seats at a large table for supper.  The Mayor is impatient. If these people won’t help her, she’ll go to the garrison at the bridge. Surely the Dwarven guards there will know their duty and escort her back home.

Stella: Feel free to come back if they think you’re too much of a handful!

Stella watches the morning show about Miller, le Grind, and the star-crossed lovers. She meets a food vendor named Pan at the show & they hit it off. After the show, the Mayor is back. The Dwarven garrison went off-duty and was replaced by a Naga garrison in the time that the Mayor was in the dungeon. The Naga, famous for domineering rudeness, did not react well to Mayor’s orders.

Mayor: You’ll have to take me to Templeton.

Stella: If you are too much trouble, we will throw you back in the river!

Buckle asks Pan if anything exciting happens around here.  Pan says that the most exciting thing is the harvest festival across the river at Fairmeadow, but the missed that by about a month. Oh, there was excitement at the most recent Fairmeadow Fair. A Black Beast threatened the town, but was slain by an invisible gorilla! Buckle wonders how anyone knows about an invisible gorilla. Pan says that this wimpy Elf man survived an attack by the Black Beast and witnessed the gorilla’s attack. That Elf was nothing special, not like the great knight Lucia, hero of many battles! Now that you mention it, there was also a commotion at the le Grind mill, and those thieves that drove a cart right off the docks into the river! Lots of adventures going on recently. Stella asks if the thieves were caught. Pan says they are being held in the garrison here in town. Stella also asks about Lady Evelynn. Pan has no reason to think she’s a troublemaker.

Plan view of the le Grind estate: 3 mills, a museum, mansion, and docks.

Stella and Buckle continue sightseeing by taking the tour at le Grind Mill. Buckle looks at the historical displays and sees a picture of the three mil owners, which confirms that the woman they saw talking to Anton in Lady Evelynn’s estate was indeed Evelynn herself. The tour guide cheerfully explains the mill’s features, and le Grind’s superiority to the other mills in town.

Tour guide:  We treat our workers like family, because 18% of them are!”

Stella asks about the mill’s safety record, and the tour guide only has unsatisfying pre-approved corporate statements.  Stella looks around and sees a false wall section that opens into Mill A, which is being used for real sugar production. She slips through the door and is immediately noticed by a worker.  She uses a bold-faced lie to get in close and bamboozle the worker.

Stella: I was looking for the little Halfling’s room!

She steals a coin purse from the hapless worker, and offers him a Halfling Packed Lunch to not get her in trouble. He ushers her through the secret door, shielding her from the eyes of other workers. She finds Buckle in the gift shop, with a Ring Pop on each of his webbed fingers.

Next they go check out the garrison, base of “those unreasonable snakes.” the Mayor hangs back. Her last experience with the Naga was unpleasant.  The crew looks around. The garrison is a small fortified building that houses the troops that guard the town. Its fortifications look different from fortifications in the real world, since it has to defend against creatures who can fly, teleport, and squeeze through porous surfaces. The dungeon in the basement has windows that are high on the dungeon walls, but just above ground level. The team peers in and sees three captives: a Halfling, a Human, and a Dwarf. These are the bandits that Gleador & Lucia met long ago, and captured in an exciting chase on the docks.

While the team is looking around, trying not to draw the ire of the Naga guards at the main door, four people approach the garrison. Three are nondescript humans in traveling gear, but their leader is an impressive human man in armor. Coils of chain are wrapped from his wrists to his elbows, and as he strides purposefully towards the guard at the entrance of the garrison, the team can hear his followers talking to him.

Follower:  Really? Again?

Paladin: It’s necessary.

The Paladin asks the Naga guards at the door about the garrison. The Naga is as unhelpful and dismissive as possible.

Naga: Clearly it’s a garrison. See all the guards and the big walls?  Yeah, we have prisoners here. Do you think we just let scum walk around? Are you stupid?

The Paladin rears back and punches the Naga in the face! All the Naga guards converge on him. Two of his followers also wade into the melee, but one backs away.

Javelon: Not again. I’m done. I’m out!

The Paladin and his two followers are overcome by the Naga guards and dragged into the garrison.  Buckle and Stella are stunned by the sudden unprovoked aggression.  They follow the follower who abandoned his associates, asking for an explanation. Javelon walks towards the docks and explains. He and the other two humans were in prison in Castellum, as town far to the northeast. They were bandits, the scourge of the area, but had finally been caught. The Paladin ended up in prison alongside them, then broke out and gave them all a chance to follow him.  Better than staying in jail!  They’ve been following him as he travels from town to town. He just really hates jails and gets arrested in every town that he has one so he can break out all the prisoners.

Buckle & Stella let the dangerous criminal board a ferry and sail down the river. They decide to get a room for the night that overlooks the garrison but is on the other side of the river, since they’re sure something exciting will happen during the night.

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They rent rooms at a Halfling hotel. Dinner is included. There’s a big wooden table in the main room and everyone, staff and guests, sits around it and shares food. It’s a big room with 10-foot ceilings, so Pomplamoose can fit, but she sits on the floor.  Halfling style dinners have piles of food dumped directly on the table: chicken legs, ribs, grapes, nuts, and so on.  Each person grabs food with their hands form the main piles and makes a personal pile in front of themself.

After dinner, the team goes to their room and looks out the window, across the bridge at the garrison. It’s a clear night, and they can see the moon and four twinkling lights near it. Those are new and unusual!

Buckle. Maybe those are rogue stars. Whatever happened to Ori?

Stella: That’s unresolved. Maybe these flashing lights are some kind of sky lighthouse.

Buckle: Maybe we’re getting more moons. Maybe those new lights will get bigger over time.

While they discuss cosmology, there’s a whistle from the garrison! Figures on the walls run around. Smoke starts pouring from one corner of the building.  The big wooden doors of the garrison burst off their hinges and fly across the street.  Figures rush out of the garrison and across the bridge.  There’s the paladin, his two followers,and the three prisoners who were locked up there before.  There’s a checkpoint at the far side of the gate, and the Naga guarding it drop barriers across the road. The Paladin hits the barriers with a palm strike and they fly into splinters! He certainly didn’t display this strength when he provoked the Naga into arresting him. That guard would not have a head anymore!  Buckle and Stella rush out of the hotel towards the commotion.  The Paladin doesn’t need any help escaping his pursuers, so Stella & Buckle ignore the band of fugitives and approach the garrison.

Most of the Naga are pursuing the fugitives, but some stayed behind to take care of the garrison building. The front doors are lying on the other side of the road. The hinges are gone. There’s a fire in a back corner of the building. Naga are running back and forth from the river with buckets of water to put out the flame. Buckle opens a hidden path into the garrison but burns his hands in the process. The team is inside the garrison and has a bit of time before the naga return with full buckets. They look around to see what happened. There’s a metal barred door that leads down to the prison cells that is crumpled and shoved aside. Downstairs there are broken manacles on the floor, and the locks of each cell have been wrenched out of the doors. Everything that restrains or blocks people from moving freely has been destroyed with overwhelming force. The Naga return and find strangers inside their formerly secure base! Buckle quickly convinces them that they are there to help, and organizes a more effective bucket brigade that quickly puts out the fire.

After a short time, the pursuing Naga return with no prisoners. The bucket brigade Naga mock them for failing to capture the fugitives, and the pursuing Naga mock the bucket brigade for staying back like cowards.  Stella and Buckle return to their hotel and sleep for the rest of the night.

The next morning, they set off for Templeton to deliver the Mayor back to her people. It’s about a five day journey to the east. Across the river, through grain fields, past Fairmeadow. The road runs just south of a forest for much of the way.  On the second night, they camp near the edge of the forest.  During the night they feel small tremors coming from the forest. They get stronger, then stop.  They hear scratching and rustling about 100 yards away and can see the trees swaying a bit.  None of them see very well in the darkness.  Stella remembers the invisible monster that threatened (or saved?) the Fairmeadow Fair.  The team sets out timidly to look for the source of the rustling. They find a clearing, but can’t see anything in it because of the darkness.  Stella sends Silk up a tree to see if he can see anything from there. They all see another spider on the opposite side of the clear. Buckle thinks it might be a reflection. He steps forward into the clearing and sees another Platyperson opposite him.  His electro-sense does not register this Platyperson as a living being.  He approaches and finds a giant mirror across the entire clearing!  The side facing them is reflective, and the other side is a metal framework. The ground around it indicates that this huge object fell out of the sky. They notice that the four twinkling lights near the moon are gone.

Buckle: Apparently the sky is falling.

On the fourth day, a crowd of people traveling the opposite direction on the road rush upon the group.

Mob: Where did they go? Where are the prisoners?

Buckle: With the Paladin?

Stella: Do you work for him?

The mob are actually opposed to the Paladin and have been pursuing him for some time.  Team team tell them that he has a week’s head start on them, and he was last seen in Sugar’s Crossing, thataway. The mob runs on.

So ends the long journey from Sugar’s Crossing to Templeton.  A volcano looms in the distance and the Mayor excitedly says that this is her city! Next time, the team will enter the city.

End of session move. The team earns 3 boons: heal, heal, gear.

GM note: The team watched a lot of events happen this session. I’d prefer them to be more active. They had quests to do: getting Pomplamoose and the Mayor home, so one way to look at it is I threw more plot hooks then they can deal with, and they prioritized.

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.