Chasing The Sunset & Change Of Heart

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

The party: Buckle the Beast/Apex, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, the party set out to find a Source Of Power. They found it inside the leader of an army of mining robots! These robots are infringing on the territory of some giant Dung Beetles who want the party to drive them out, and are willing to lend some support. Stella and Buckle prepare to assault the mine.

GM note: Buckle took an Apex move that allowed him to ignore a Location Stat, but Buckle’s Mammalian move already allowed him to ignore a Location Stat. So he swapped that move for “Twin Fang” which gives him a new companion describes as “your shadow” We decided that this was literally his shadow, able to take three-dimensional shape.

Buckle: War Paint, gain 2 Power

Buckle prepares for battle by applying warpaint and doing a traditional war-dance.

Buckle. I figure I’d rampage, go after them unflinchingly

Stella: Buckle, you’ve changed. In a good way.

Buckle: Hanging out with beetles changes a person.

Buckle plans to take point. There’s a group of about 50 robots waiting at the edge of the mine’s territory, preventing them from entering. The Dung Beetles can roll boulders down into the mine, but they need to be protected from this forward guards.

Here’s the situation. The party is in the top left corner. Fifty robots and a few shield robots block them from the mine. Another dozen robots with one shield robot each guard each of the three paths down into the mine.

Stella: What’s the signal?

Buckle: A howl. Not a terrifying howl.

Stella wants to roll boulders down all three paths, instead of just onto the big group.

Stella: How do you feel about log-rolling, but on a boulder?

Buckle: I’ve done some log-rolling at fairs in my day

GM note: Platyperson festivals do involve log-based sports.

Stella’s plan is for Buckle to disrupt the robots, then for the beetles to roll the boulders roll at Buckle, who will leap on top of one and ride it down to the bottom of the mine. She’s not sure how she will get down.  The Dung Beetles rolling these boulders are the size of a compact car, and their boulders are even bigger than they are. Trying to jump on one before it crushes him seems like a bad plan to Buckle. He’ll feint and get out of the way instead.  Instead of sending boulders down all three paths, the Dung Beetles split into two groups. One will attack the group of 50 robots (top-left of the map above), another will attempt to clear one of the paths (bottom of the map) so the party can enter the mine.

Stella, Buckle, and the Dung Beetles can plan safely because the robots don’t leave their territory. They can sneak around behind the hills that surround the mine, but getting close to the robots will require them to reveal themselves.

Buckle Get Away 7-9 (avoid notice, take harm)

Buckle and his Shadow make daring dashes to get within charging distance of the group of fifty robots, but their position is pretty bad, This was a foolish plan. Buckle’s Wisdom is damaged.

Buckle War Paint, spend 1 Power to Rampage

Buckle and his Shadow rampage into the big group of robots, throwing them aside in their fury! The robot formation is disrupted, but none of the robots seem damaged by their rough treatment.

Shield Robot Diamond Command: all nearby Robots (except Shield Robot) cannot be harmed

Buckle Overcome robot counter-attack 7-9 pay a price (damage Shadow) for 10+ result

In the melee, a robot grabs Shadow by the bill. Robots emit a strong constant hum of electro-energy, and getting grabbed right on his sensor overwhelms Shadow’s electro-sense.  Buckle howls, and Stella orders the Dung Beetles to release the boulders!

As the boulders come rolling down the hill, the group of fifty robots forms up in several rows and holds up metal arms to stop the boulders! The huge rocks crash into the four-foot-tall metal robots. The first row is pushed back into the second row, and the second row slides back to the third row, but they stop the giant boulders! None of the robots are damaged!

Buckle Get Away 10+

Meanwhile, Buckle and Shadow are running around the mine on the slippery gravel slopes between paved paths.

The Dung Beetles to the south release their boulders. The group of 12 robots on that path also form up to stop the boulders, but there aren’t so many robots and the boulders have more time to build up speed! The boulders crash through the robot formation like bowling balls through pins, but the robots that are thrown through the air or run over are unhurt and try to get up as they tumble downhill with the boulders. Then the Shield Robot in the back of the group gets hit by a boulder. Its crystal shield shatters, and the robot’s body is flattened by the giant boulder. Then all the robots tumbling down the path start falling apart, and at the bottom of the path, there’s only boulders and scrap metal!

Buckle and Shadow take the path cleared by the boulders and duck into a tunnel. Stella’s party is able to join them.

Buckle: The Mothers are fragile compared to the Children.

Buckle’s electro-sense gives him a different view of the robots from most other creatures. The shield robots feel more alive than the normal ones. The loud constant hum of robotic energy is even louder from the Shield Robots.

Stella: So we take out the ones with shields, then take out the others? That’s a plan I can get behind.

Buckle: Children protect Mothers.

Buckle’s electro-sense detects slightly different energies coming from each tunnel, so he’ll always know where he’s been. That doesn’t mean he knows where they are going.

Buckle’s Mammalian Protection cancels Location’s Maze stat

GM note: I used a Clock from Blades In The Dark to track progress through the mine. Players describe how they find their way and make a move that follows. The success of the move fills up more or fewer clock segments, and when the clock is full, they find the Source of Power

Stella Look Closely 10+ (search clock: 3/6)

Stella takes a bag of powdered sugar from Gus, her cook, and throws some in the air to find air currents.  They follow the air currents deeper into the mine. They are able to spot unstable sections of the tunnel and move carefully past them.  They hear the sounds of mining tools up ahead.  Buckle senses two Children and one Mother down a side passage.

Buckle (+hope from Stella’s assist) Get Away 7-9 avoid notice, take harm (search clock 5/6)

The party throws themselves across the intersection, avoiding the robots’ notice, but landing on some sharp rocks.  They continue and notice the temperature rising slightly.

They follow the heat until they reach a chamber with a large, obvious main entrance. There’s also a small natural tunnel off to the side. Buckle uses his electro-sense again. Mammals give off a pulsing energy, like a heartbeat. The robots are a loud, constant hum. He senses something else ahead. It pulses, like a mammal, but its builds and decays over several seconds. It’s deeper, slower, more powerful, than any other energy signature in the mines. This must be the Source Of Power in the chamber ahead. He feels that they will be unwelcome there.

The central chamber of the Oolite Mine. In the front, a 15-foot-tall door. High on the side wall, a small natural tunnel. At the back, a huge geode split open. In the center, a dozen Robots, guarded by a Shield Robot, and the King Robot, guarded by two Shield Robots.

Buckle: It’s not alive like the metal Dwarves are alive. It’s like a normal person, but much bigger.

They wonder how to approach this intimidating lifeform.

Stella: My people aren’t known for walking in front doors uninvited.

Buckle: My people are.

Most of the party sneaks in through the narrow tunnel, but Shadow goes into the main entrance as a distraction. Buckle can’t talk to Shadow remotely, or see through his eyes, but he gets a vague sense of how Shadow is doing, and what Shadow sees is scary. The big energy source is indeed inside the giant glowing King Robot they saw before. Its guarded by two Shield Robots, and a dozen normal Robots with a Shield Robot of their own. At the back of the room is a huge geode that’s been split open, with a gap in the middle. Along the sides of the room are blocks of metal.

Shadow Keep Them Busy Pay A Price to act against King Robot

Falling Block Trap reveal this threat when someone pays a Price. 2 damage and trap those nearby (i.e. Stella and Buckle)

As the rest of the party moves through the natural tunnel, part of it collapses!  Stella and Buckle are buried and trapped!

Buckle takes 2 damage & is trapped

Stella takes 2 damage & is trapped

Buckle’s actions harmed Stella, so one of her bonds with him is broken. Erase “Impressed with Buckle’s ability to get in trouble and survive”

Damage Ugg’s “Tough as Can Be” for advantage “dig out of rubble”

Damage Rose’s “Get Right In There” for advantage “dig out of rubble”

Ugg and Rose dig them out.

The robots in the chamber advance menacingly on Shadow. Shadow tries to turn 2-dimensional and return to Buckle, but the glow from the King Robot prevents him from forming an actual shadow. He’s trapped in the room!

Stella Lived In A Shoe to shrink to the size of an apple

There are gaps in the rubble the size of an apple, so Stella shrinks down and squeezes through. She’ll get into the chamber quickly, but the rest of the party will have to clear the rubble, so they won’t be able to help her immediately.  She sees Shadow menaced by the group of Robots and Plunge Attacks their shield robot!

Stella Finish Them (advantage: surprise, plunge attack) 10+

She takes its arm off, and the crystal shield shatters when it hits the ground. The glittering aura fades from the robots.  Back at full-size, Stella and Shadow fight to keep the Robots at bay.

Stella & Shadow Keep Them Busy 7-9

Back in the tunnel, Silk makes some rope out of webbing so the team can haul the rubble out of the way.

Buckle Overcome rubble 7-9 pay price (Gus’ lunch) for 10+ result

Gus drops on of his packed lunches, and the shifting rubble crushes it. Poor Gus.  Buckle rides Silk onto the chamber ceiling.

Buckle Finish Them (advantage: plunge attack) +Hope (Ambush predator striking for hiding) 7-9 damage Diamond Command

He picks his target, drops, and tail-slams one of the Shield Robots guarding the King Robots. He knocks it over, smashing its shield. The King Robot is still protected by a second Shield Robot.

The group of robots recovers from Stella’s assault and forms up to go on the offensive.

Stella Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Stella slides between the legs of a few robots and they lose track of her, but she slides right into the King Robot!  Buckle chooses to go after the other Shield Robot.

Damage Ugg’s “Bigger ‘n’ You” for advantage “restrain enemy”

Ugg jumps down from the tunnel and grabs the Shield Robot with his big mechanical arms, holding it in place for Buckle’s attack.

Buckle Finish Them (advantage: restrained by Ugg) 10+ destroyed

Buckle tail slams the shield, sending the fragments into the robot, destroying it!  The King Robot no longer has the invulnerability aura, but it’s still big and scary! It picks up Stella in one big glowing fist and smashes her into the ground!

Stella takes 1 damage

The group of robots are going after Buckle & Shadow, and the King Robot is focused on Stella.

Buckle (+hope from Shadow) Overcome 7-9 pay a price (damage Shadow) for 10+ result

Buckle and Shadow attack the group of robots in a pincer move. they punch through the enemy formation and reunite. Shadow’s webbed hands are torn up in the assault.

Damage Silk’s “Creepy” for advantage “distract King Robot”

Silk extends a line from the ceiling and swings in circles around the King Robot’s head.

Damage Rose’s “Loyal” for advantage “Fastball Special”

Stella Lived In A Shoe become small enough for Rose to throw

Stella Pack Leader working with companion makes her Threat To The World. Does not pay a price to roll against King Robot

Stella Finish Them (+hope Pack Leader) 10+

Stella runs at Rose and yells, “Catch!” Rose knows what’s next. Stella shrinks to the size of an apple and Rose grabs her and hurls her a the King Robot. Stella enlarges to full size en-route, leading with her sword! She punches through the stretched, softened metal of the King Robot’s chest and comes out the other side holding The Heart Of Earth! The Source of Power that was empowering this robot!

The King Robot is dead! It’s giant body topples over.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle grabs one of the worker robots and puts it between him and the falling King Robot.  The weight of the King Robot’s collapse knocks them both down. The robot is destroyed and Buckle is pinned beneath it! The King Robot’s body is soft heated metal, and it slowly bends and drips towards Buckle. Without the King Robot’s influence, the surviving robots stop fighting and move off to start digging again.

Buckle Overcome 6-

Shadow rushes to assist, but the glowing light from the King Robot’s body flattens him into a regular shadow.

Stella Overcome 6-

Stella starts to move towards Buckle, but the Heart Of Earth she’s holding draws her attention. The long, powerful pulse that Buckle could sense is now audible, and it’s getting faster and less regular.  It’s unstable. Without something to contain or control it, it could explode and collapse the entire mine!  It was stable while inside the King Robot. Maybe that geode on the back wall is where the Heart of Earth came from. What will she do?

GM note: I emphasized “contain” more than “control” which I fear pushed the players’ thinking in one direction, but it turned out to be a great direction!

Buckle:  Shove it in me!

Stella: Do platypeople have pouches? Either you eat it, or it’s a suppository.

The almost-melted body of the King Robot slumps closer and closer to the trapped and sweating Buckle.

Buckle: C’mere Stella. You must replace my heart with the Heart Of The Earth!

Stella: I’m gonna do open-heart surgery here?!

Stella has an idea and calls to Buckle again. When he answers, she shoves the Heart of Earth in his mouth! Power surges through Buckle’s body and he’s able to throw off the husk of the Robot King! The Heart of Earth has changed him!

GM note: Absorbing the Source of Power replaced Buckle’s “Apex” Destiny with a new Destiny “Heart of Earth”

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.

Chasing The Sunset & Dung Beetles

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

The party: Buckle the Beast/Apex, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, Buckle & Stella “saved” Templeton by returning the rightful Mayor (annoying as she is) to her seat of power and capturing the shape-shifting impostor in her place. For this, the Mayor grants them the Fellowship of Templeton, and offers several boons.  They choose to learn the location of a Source of Power, a legendary artifact of potentially earth-shaking power. They also get a room in a nice hotel in the tourist district to rest up for a week.

While they recover their health & gear, Buckle is excited to play tourist. He buys a fake hard hat with a plushie light on top. He’s a cute platypus wearing a cute hat with ear flaps.  Pomplamoose doesn’t want to wait a week to return home. Her home is just a little further to the east, so she announces that she’s heading out.  Stella and Buckle need the rest, so they don’t go with her.  Buckle is heartsick, but tries to hide it. Pomplamoose pats him on the head as she leaves.

After a week, Stella, Buckle, and their permanent companions: Silk, Gus, Rose, and Ugg head south towards the Oolite Mine, rumored site of a Source of Power.

GM note: The Oolite mine first affected this world before this world existed, back in the Fairmeadow Fair campaign. Despite searching for it for a long time, and even learning its location, the players in Feairmeadow Fair never visited it.

As the party walks down dusty paths between rolling hills, a giant spider suddenly appears. It’s about the size of Silk, a riding spider for Halflings.  It’s interested in Gus, who had a bad experience with spiders in the past. It took him a long time to trust Silk, and he doesn’t trust this spider. He runs in circles until Stella slaps him! She sends Silk to talk to his fellow spider.  Silk and the wild spider mirror each other in a dance with their many legs. This spider isn’t hostile, just curious.  It approaches Gus in a gesture of goodwill, then steals a snack from his pack and runs away.

Later, the party walks under the edge of a rock face and boulders start falling from the cliff above!  The party runs from the rolling boulders, and Buckle falls into a hole in the ground! There are lots of holes, and the remaining party members have to dodge the holes while outrunning the boulders!  Down in the hole, Buckle is surrounded by darkness. The ground he landed on wasn’t as hard as he expected.  His electro-sense detects someone down here with him! He calls out, and the creatures show themselves. Giant Dung Beetles!  Each Dung Beetle is the size of a hatchback car.  Buckle says he’s lost and confused, and they’re happy to explain. They collect the boulders for their young. The boulders are too big to fit down their tunnels, which is why one hasn’t landed on Buckle’s head. He asks the Dung Beetles to help his climb out of the tunnels and to assist his friends being chased by the boulders. They agree, but he must do something for them as well.  The Dung Beetles grow nutritious mushrooms in certain caverns, but some of those caverns have collapsed. Buckle is small enough to fit inside and retrieve the food. Buckle agrees to help.

Back on the surface. Buckle rises out of a hole in front of his teammates. He keeps rising, and the Dung Beetle he’s standing on also emerges from the tunnel. Other Dung Beetles emerge from other holes and stop the rolling boulders.  Stella and the companions can’t understand the Dung Beetles’ speech, but Buckle explains the situation. They all go into the tunnels to the stricken mushroom cavern.

A side view of a cavern blocked off form a natural tunnel by a fallen rock. On the far side, a perfect square tunnel connects to the cavern. The cavern's floor is covered in purple mushrooms.
The mushroom cavern where the Dung Beetles grow food for their young

A large boulder has fallen through the Dung Beetle’s tunnel, mostly blocking the entrance to the Mushroom Cavern. There is a tiny gap on one side: tiny for a car-sized Dung Beetle. Buckle is able to shimmy through without a problem. Inside, he finds the whole caverns has shifted. The ‘floor’ on which the mushrooms grow used to be horizontal, but now tilts sharply. There’s a square hole in the far side of the cavern that glows with an orange light.  Buckle cautious sneaks down the perfect square tunnel to investigate. The tunnel is six feet on a side, too small for the Dung Beetles, and too precise for their methods too. Buckle approaches a junction with another tunnel and carefully peers around the corner. A ways down the next tunnel are three metal statues, carved to look like Dwarves. These statues move on their own! They are pulling ore out of the tunnel walls and and putting it in hoppers on their backs, carved to look like backpacks. This is a mine operated by robots!

Buckle puts his weight on the wrong bit of stone and it collapses, making a loud noise.  The robots’ head quickly swivel towards the source of the noise, and one rings a bell. Another statue approaches. This one is also shaped like a Dwarf, but it carried a large shield, carved out of one giant crystal. As it approaches, a glittering aura appears on each statue within a certain distance. These four robots are advancing on Buckle’s position.  Buckle flees back through the mushroom cavern and pushes through the gap in the giant boulder. It shifts again, and Buckle slides out just in time!  He tells the party and the Dung Beetles about being chased by metal statues.

Stella: Buckle, are you sure you’re OK?

Buckle: I did get hit in the head, but I’m pretty sure it was all real.

Stella pats Buckle on the head.

These mining robots might be connected to the Oolite mine. The party investigates above ground. The terrain is pretty barren: low gravelly hills one after the other. As they crest one hill, the next hill is gone! There’s a hole where the hills should be: a strip mine.

top view of the Oolite mine. A shallow funnel with three spiraling paths leading to a flat bottom. Entrances to mine tunnels along each of the three paths.

The mine is shaped like a shallow funnel with a flat bottom. Three paths spiral down the sides fo the funnel, with square tunnel entrances along their length. Dwarf statues bustle about, moving ore.

Buckle: See?

Stella is embarrassed.  They observe the robots for a while. Most look like miners, but there are a few holding big crystal shields. The shield-bearers provide a glittering aura to nearby robots, but they themselves do not have the aura.  Buckle looks around for a boss or foreman. When one emerges, Buckle wishes he hadn’t seen it! This used to be a mining robot, or maybe several. Now it’s much bigger, stretched out, with parts of other robots bolted to it. Its chest bulges and its whole body glows with heat. Surely that is the Source of Power!

Buckle: It’s bulging. Will it lay eggs?

Stella: Do Dwarves lay eggs?

Buckle: Doesn’t everyone lay eggs?

Stella: Square holes. Anything is possible.

The robots don’t speak, but they are clearly responding to motions from the King Robot. It spots them and sends a group of 50 worker Robots and several Shield Robots after them! They retreat, and the Robots do not pursue past a certain point. They have well-defined territory. Buckle jumps down a Dung Beetle hole. The Dung Beetles are surprised to see him back so soon. He asks some questions about the situation. The Dung Beetles don’t know much about the King Robot, but it’s scary. For all they know, it wants to dig down and flood the world with fire. The Dung Beetles want to secure their mushrooms for their young, but are evasive about the benefits of the mushrooms and where they keep their young. The Dung Beetles want Buckle and friends to secure the mushroom caverns from these invading Robots. Buckle asks for the Dung Beetles’ assistance. These Robots are a threat to their young, so it’s in their best interest to fight them. If the Robots are driven out, the Dung Beetles can use the mine tunnels to access the mushroom caverns instead of the collapsed tunnel.  The Dung Beetles are fired up by this speech, but Buckle and friends have to help too. The Dung Beetles will roll boulders down on the Robots, but the party must be the vanguard and ensure the Dung Beetles’ safety.

Buckle rises from the tunnel entrance on the back of Dung Beetle, as other Dung Beetles emerge from holes all around Stella and the companions.

Buckle: I’m raising an army!

Together they form a War Council and plan their assault on the Robot mine.

GM note: End of Session move. Heal, Heal, Level up.

Chasing The Sunset & First Blood

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

Last time, Lucia and Dryden spared Lady Evelynn’s life, but she’s sure to warn Doctor Diana MacLeod about them. They agreed to help Dr. MacLeod find a more powerful warhead for her Anti-Moon Weapon, but they actually think she’s dangerous and needs to be stopped. If they don’t hurry, Dr. MacLeod will learn of their true intentions and won’t welcome them to her mountain-top facility.

They reach the facility ahead of the news of their treachery, because Addison at the gate house doesn’t suspect them.  They say they have a Source of Power to give to Dr. MacLeod, and Addison opens the gate for them and takes them up the covered stairs to the main building near the summit.  There’s a space there for guests, with floor-to-ceiling windows facing north giving a gorgeous view of a tall mountain range. Like all buildings on the mountain, this one is overshadowed by a huge umbrella, extending far over the walls on all sides.  Dr. MacLeod is busy preparing the Anti-Moon Weapon for its next shot, but she will join them for dinner in a few hours.  Dryden goes over to lay down on the couch that he trapped on his previous visit. The trap goes off! Who could have predicted this? Lucia applies a healing poultice to Dryden’s self-inflicted wound.

They plan to attack Dr. MacLeod when she arrives for dinner. Dryden has a trap that could immobilize her, but she’ll definitely know they are unfriendly when that goes off, so they don’t want her to trigger it pre-maturely. Dryden sets the trap near the back wall. It’s a Chameleon Bear Trap. It’s made of goo, like Ooblek, that changes color to match its surroundings. When someone steps in it, it hardens. Like the novelty finger-traps, struggling makes it grip tighter.  Dryden breaks into his stash of Curious Curios, Useful items that aren’t magical like the more important items in his collection. He uses Fusion Tape to attach a mirror shard (from the giant mirror that fell on Sugar’s Crossing) to the harpoon gun that he stole from Lady Evelynn’s trophy room. Fusion Tape is very sticky, but he can remove it with his Fission Cutter when he needs to. He puts sticky-tack on the harpoon gun’s handle, so he can mount it to a table.

As they are preparing, a cook comes into the room. Dryden quickly throws a cloth over the harpoon gun.  The cook is there with snacks. Dr. MacLeod doesn’t want her guests to get low blood sugar.  Dryden requests some nuts, which the cook quickly provides.

Finally, it’s dinner time, and Dr. MacLeod arrives to greet her guests.  She’s still wearing a leather apron with pouches around the middle and long rubber gloves covered in some strange purple goo.  She asks about their trip (supposedly to retrieve a Source of Power for her Anti-Moon weapon) They don’t mention beating up Lady Evelynn, since the two are friends.  Dryden shows the harpoon gun with the mirror shard attached.  They say that a giant mirror fell out of the sky in Sugar’s Crossing.  Dr. MacLeod is sure that it came from the Moon. Finally, she has confirmation of what it’s made of.  She had several theories about how the Moon was constructed, while Lucia and Dryden hadn’t considered that the Moon was constructed by anyone! They ask if she’s sure the forces who made the Moon are enemies that need to be destroyed. She’s very sure! What a foolish question! They mention the Goblins making roads to a city led by a dragon. Dr. MacLeod’s eyes go wide. A dragon? Alive? Where? This is the most important thing they’ve said yet.

There’s a map on the back wall, near the gooey trap. With a bit some sweet-talking and maneuvering, they get her to step in the trap. The goo hardens around her feet!  Dryden fires the harpoon gun, launching the mirror shard through the floor-to-ceiling window and onto the edge of the overhanging umbrella, where it can catch the rays of the setting sun. He orders the mirror shard to shine on Dr. MacLeod. The sunlight burns her, because she’s a vampire!  She lashes out with a flame attack, burning a hole in the wall and harming Lucia. Lucia uses her bloodline power to make her forget the last few minutes. The attack, the mirror falling from the Moon, the Dragon, all gone.  She takes a red vial and a blue vial from her belt pouches and throws them at her feet. The chemicals within react and explode, destroying the goo trap.  Lucia and Dryden dive away to avoid the explosion.

Dryden: The power source is attacking!

He performatively and ineffectively wrestles the harpoon gun. Dr. MacLeod goes through the hole she burned in the wall into the kitchen, where the mirror can’t target her. She sends a couple of cooks out to break the mirror. Dryden urges restraint.

Dryden: It’s the power source we have to show her.

Lucia: Wait, maybe I can get it.

She throws a grappling hook out to the mirror shard. The cooks want credit for securing the powerful artifact, so they jostle her to pull the rope in themselves. She has to steady herself and grabs the broken edge of the window. Dryden hits “retract” on the harpoon gun to secretly assist her.  Dryden gives another order to the autonomous Harpoon Gun

Dryden: Shoot the heart of the face you saw.

The cooks proudly go into the kitchen to show Dr. MacLeod the harpoon gun with attached Mirror Shard. The Harpoon Gun sees Dr. MacLeod and fires! She shrieks in pain and explodes into a swarm of bats! Two of the cooks are injured. The third cook, a fat sweaty guy, is unharmed by the swarming bats because he is also a vampire!  Lucia gets a faceful of angry bats.  Dryden deploys a prank weapon to keep the bats away from himself.

Dr. MacLeod starts retreating further into the facility and away from any reflected sunlight.  Dryden pulls out the prize of his collection, a priceless artifact. Anyone who sees it wants it!  He says that this is the real Source of Power!  Dryden backs up into the lounge, but Dr. MacLeod won’t follow. While everyone is distracted, Lucia retrieves the mirror shard from the harpoon gun.  Dr. McLeod sends her cooks to take it by force. They rush Dryden with cleavers and rolling pins. Lucia trips the fat one. Dryden meets the advance of the two human cooks with his two-handed Dwarven Hammer.

Dryden: This is a poor way to repay us

Dr. MacLeod: Give me the prize and you won’t be harmed.

Dryden: Not after last time!

On the ground, the vampire cook recovers and Lucia uses the bloodline power to make his forget the fight. He’s a bit confused because he doesn’t why he’s on the ground and the lounge lounge is smashed.

Cook: I gave you treats.

Lucia brings the mirror shard down with both hands, stabbing the vampire cook in the heart, killing him!

GM note: This is the first time Lucia has killed a person. A big deal! Vampires are evil at the best of times, but these vampires have world-shaking evil plans. That was enough to convince Lucia to use lethal force.

Dr. MacLeod is advancing towards Dryden and sees Lucia kill her fellow vampire, but she can’t be swayed from her course.

Dr. MacLeod: Price of progress.

To avoid her, Dryden overcharges his flying disk and flies out the broken window into the sunlight. He tries to quickly deploy a Dart Trap, but that’s such a dumb plan that his WIsdom is damaged.  Lucia tries to sneak up on Dr. MacLeod, but she is spotted and tackled by one of the human cooks.  Dryden Fusion Tapes the prize to the flying disk and orders the disk to stay in the sun. Dryden leaps back into the lounge to defend Lucia. He uses his poison-gas, gravity-warping bolas, but misses his throw. The bolas hit and deploy the debilitating gas behind Lucia, Dr. MacLeod, and the cooks.  One of the cooks gets a whiff and collapses. Lucia breaks away and avoids the gas.

Dr MacLeod summons a gust of wind to blow the flying disk & prize into the room, which also sends all the broken glass flying through the room.  The other human cook is taken out. Lucia throws her cloak around her, which protects her, but her longsword is blown into the kitchen.  Dryden orders the flying disk to return to him, heedless of the flying glass. He’s cut up, but he has the Prize.

Dr. MacLeod: I must have the power source!

Dryden throws it into the cloud of knock-out gas. Dr. MacLeod is taken aback, unsure of how to proceed. Dryden seizes the opportunity and fires his ranged rope at her. She sees it coming, grabs the rope, and pulls Dryden into her grasp. Lucia rushes in, using the bloodline power to make Dr. MacLeod forget the fight again. Dr. MacLeod is confused but obviously surrounded by enemies and lashes out. Lucia’s bodyguard Will (who has been here the whole time) takes the blow meant for Lucia, and Lucia and stabs Dr. MacLeod in the heart with the mirror shard! Dr. MacLeod’s body burns from the wound outward, quickly turning into ash and blowing away.

Lucia and Dryden have killed the mad scientist in charge of the Anti-Moon Weapon, so it probably can’t be used in the future. But there’s a whole mountain full of loyal scientists, technicians, and so on, and who knows how many of them are also vampires? Satisfied that they have removed a threat to the world, Lucia and Dryden make a hasty exit.

GM note: As I feared when this power was first invented, “forget everything for the past few minutes” is indeed too powerful.  Lucia’s player will have to pick a replacement power next time. Big character development for Lucia, going from never killing to killing twice in quick succession.  End of session move: restore gear, restore gear.

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 & Shape-Shifter

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

The party: Buckle the Beast, Stella the Halfling

Finally, the city of Templeton is in sight: a cinder cone volcano rising high above the low hills of the surrounding countryside.  Returning the Mayor to her city will make her someone else’s problem. The Mayor is delighted to return to her city and get the respect and treatment she deserves after the indignity of captivity in Lady Evelynn’s dungeon, and the sass Stella has been giving her.

A map of the city of Templeton, built into a cinder cone volcano.

As they approach the entrance of the city, the Mayor runs up to the two guards, expecting a hero’s welcome.  Instead, they look surprised, even scared, and demand the password.  The Mayor doesn’t know what they are talking about. She’s the mayor who has been missing for so long. Everyone should be thrilled by her return.  The guards exchange worried glances. This is exactly what they worried would happen. One runs to get help while the other keeps an eye on the Mayor.  Buckle wonders at this strange behavior.

Buckle: We’re trying to be rid of her.

The Mayor realizes what’s happening. Shortly before she was kidnapped, an unstoppable shape-shifting creature was released from a secure faciilty. No doubt it has impersonated her in her absence!  The Mayor and the remaining guard accuse each other of being the creature.  Buckle asks how to tell if someone is really the shape-shifter, but the guard won’t reveal state secrets.  As Buckle argues with the guard, an Orc woman who was definitely not there a moment ago suddenly has the Mayor in her clutches!  Stella leaps towards Buckle and shrinks to the size of an apple. Buckle catches her and hurls her at the mysterious assailant. Stella enlarges in mid-air and tackles the Orc off of the Mayor.  The Orc is knocked to the ground, but flings a throwing knife at the Mayor. The knife only grazes her, but the Mayor howls and cries as blood flows from the wound. Seeing this, both the guard and Beth (the Orc commando) rush to assist her. They’re sure this is the real mayor.  Buckle tail-slaps Beth as she rushes past him, knocking her out.  The guard helps the Mayor up, but if the Mayor is here, just returned from a long absence, who has been in the mayor’s office all this time?

Buckle, Stella, their companions, Pomplamoose (the giant albino Platyperson), the Mayor, the guard (his name is Alebringer), and the unconscious Beth all seek medical attention.  Since official channels seem to be compromised, Alebringer leads them to the medical school at Fortinbras Collage Of Mines. He brings them to Doctor Regina Strongarm and tells her to keep their visit hush-hush. Dr. Strongarm will see to the Mayor personally and won’t tell her students.

Stella and Buckle ask Alebringer what’s gong on. There have been strange murders in town, and the Mayor (apparently an impostor) blamed it on the shape-shifter and has all the town officials paranoid and suspicious.  Alebringer recommends they leave town. It’s dangerous. No one can be trusted. As far as Alebringer knows, stabbing people isn’t official policy, but Beth is pretty high-up in the org chart. Maybe she has access to policies that Alebringer does not. Stella and Buckle want to stay and figure this out. Buckle appeals to Alebringer.

Buckle: We took a lot of effort getting the Mayor here. Let us help you. Trust us, because we didn’t know about the impostor. We can hold our own.

Stella snickers at that last part.  Alebringer is convinced.  Stoutarm reports that the Mayor will be fine with just a bandage, but Beth needs to stay overnight. They really did a number on her!

Buckle: Are there more commandos like her?

Alebringer: Yes. They will be on high alert since Beth didn’t report back.

Alebringer wants to bring the Mayor to City Hall, but Buckle recommends tact. They don’t know who they would be delivering the Mayor to.  Alebringer, Stella, and Rose head for City Hall with the news, while Buckle and the others will stay at the hospital with the Mayor. Alebringer & Stella can also find the rest of the comandos.  Stella and Buckle arrange a secret password to confirm their identities.

GM note: The players kept the password a secret from me.

As Alebringer and Stella walk through the spiraling city streets, Gimel, a Human woman in the same black armor as Beth, appears from a shadow and demands to know what’s happened to Beth. Alebringer reports that Beth is in the hospital, and the real Mayor has returned! Gimel thanks them and rushes off.

Back at the hospital, a med student enters with a tray of snacks for the Mayor, but she drops the tray, jams her hands into her own chest, and pulls out knives! She’s attacking the Mayor! Buckle tries to interpose, but the assailant slips past him and stabs the Mayor.  Buckle tells Ugg to grab the assailant. Buckle giant metal exo-skeletal hands close around the assailant’s body, squeeze, and go right through! The assailant’s body squishes through his fingers like clay! Clearly this is the shape-shifter, and it can’t be grabbed or held.  Buckle looks around the room for specimen jars.

Buckle: We need to can this thing!

Pomplamoose and Buckle each grab a specimen jar and charge at the shape-shifting assassin. Buckle scoops a chunk out of the assassin and slams the lid on the jar.

Assassin: I’m not going back in a box!

The assassin tries to smash Buckle’s specimen jar.  Buckle throws the jar to Ugg, who isn’t expecting it.  Slow-motion reaction shot of Ugg as the jar flies past and he dives to catch it.  The assassin gives up on imitating humanoid form and pours towards the Mayor, all knives and pulsing flesh.  Silk zooms in and Buckle leaps aboard as they race the assassin. They arrive at the same time! Buckle scoops up the Mayor and takes the Assassin’s blow in her place.  Silk runs away with Buckle and the Mayor on its back and the Assassin pursues. Silk passes Pomplamoose & Buckle swaps the Mayor for Pomplamoose’s specimen jar. he turns around on Silk’s back and leaps off, straight at the Assassin, forcing it into the specimen jar! The Assassin is now contained in two separate jars, and the fight is over.

As Alebringer and Stella walk through the spiraling city streets, Gimel, a Human woman in the same black armor as Beth, appears from a shadow and demands to know what’s happened to Beth.

Stella: She’s with the Mayor. How many of you are there?

Alebringer: We already talked to you.

Gimel realizes that the Shapeshifter impersonated her and got information from these credulous chumps.

Gimel: Which way did I go?

Gimel, Alebringer, and Stella all rush towards the hospital.  Stella outruns Gimel and reunites with Buckle.

Stella: Isn’t Lady Evelynn so nice?

Buckle: She casts a long shadow.

Stella explains that they met the same person twice, and that Alebringer told one of them where the Mayor was, so the shapeshifter may try to attack. Buckle points to the specimen jars full of shape-shifting assassin.  Gimel arrives to take control of the situation. Ugg tries to grab her to make sure she’s not squishy and she judo throws him across the room.  She wants to take the assassin back to its secure facility. The party says that facility is clearly not secure enough. They want to inspect and evaluate the facility. Dr Strongarm arrives to make sure everyone is OK, and the Mayor recovers from her panic.  Despite the facility being top secret, the party convinces the Mayor and her commandos to let them inspect it and maybe suggest some improvements, so this shape-shifter doesn’t get out again. They are taken to a sub-basement in a science lab in the Fortinbras School of Mines,

Science building, lower storey

The door to the room has an impressive lock. One half of the room looks like a normal lab, with a table and chairs, but there’s a metal band separating the two halves of the room, and the other half is smooth, bare, and seamless. the metal band is the border of a Wall of Force, and the specimen jars are placed in the seamless section, behind the Wall of Force. The controls for the door lock and the Wall of Force are inaccessible from inside the Wall of Force, so the Dwarves don’t know how the shape-shifter managed to disable both of them. Buckle and Stella examine the room and find a big air vent under the table. People could use this vent to enter or exit the room. They recommend putting another Wall of Force across this vent, with a password that allows air to pass through.  The scientists will get on that right away.

Chasing The Sunset & Broken Bridge

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

Last time, Dryden & Lucia left Lady Evelynn in an elaborate death trap and slipped away without alerting her staff with the convincing and true excuse that something just fell out of the sky and hit the nearby town of Sugar’s Crossing.  They’ll go investigate, but if they don’t want Lady Evelynn to die, they’ll have to get back soonish.

The highway crosses the river at Sugar’s Crossing, and the great bridge, guarded by soldiers from around the region, over which so much commerce and travel crosses, has been split in half by a giant hexagonal mirror, probably 100 feet across! The mirror fell perpendicular to the highway and went right through, wedging itself in the river bed.  The whole town is in an uproar! People are bustling around on the bridge and on boats and rafts in the river.

Some workers on the bridge are trying to clear the rubble around the mirror so it can be moved away from the bridge (somehow!) but the rubble shifts and three of the workers fall into perilous positions!  Dryden fires a rope from his rope launcher to anchor to the supports under the bridge. He’s ready to swing into action, and his chance comes immediately, as one of the imperiled workers slips off the bridge and plummets towards the water!  Dryden swings in like Spider-Man, snatching the worker out of the air and landing safely on the shore.

Meanwhile, Lucia is running up to the bridge. One worker is hanging over the water and the other is trapped in a small space between the bridge and the hexagon.  If the mirror shifts again, the second worker could be crushed!  Lucia heads for the most immediate danger and lays down at the broken edge of the bridge and reaches a hand down for the trapped worker to grab. The cobblestones under her crumble, and Lucia tumbles into the narrow space as well! Dryden wolfs down a snack to regain the energy he needs to overcharge his flying disk, grabs his rope, and flies up to assist Lucia & the trapped worker.

GM note: Overcharge allows Dryden to either carry another person or fly for the entire scene, but he used both options simultaneously.

Dryden drops the rope for Lucia and lifts the worker out of the crevice. The worker clings to her crowbar, wedged between the mirror and the bridge, and as she pulls it free it scrapes across the surface of the mirror, showering Lucia with shards of glass! Lucia grabs the rope and hauls herself out of the crevice.

One more worker is in danger, hanging by his hands over the river.  Dryden puts down the worker he’s carrying and flies in to snatch up this worker.  The worker panics as Dryden tries to pick him up in passing and doesn’t let go of his handhold, so Dryden is yanked to a sudden stop, loses control, and they both fall into the river!  Lucia has run to the end of the bridge and down to the shore, and she jumps in and swims to the floundering worker.  She drags him to one of the many rafts and boats either trying to provide relief or caught in the traffic jam.  The owner of the raft isn’t happy about two unexpected passenger. He diverts to shore to let them off, but cusses Lucia out the whole way.

No one is in immediate danger anymore, so our heroes can take a deep breath.  Dryden recovers his rope launcher and a shard of mirror.  Naga guards shoo people away from the bridge and try to enforce some sort of order.  Dryden is relieved that the the mirror landed parallel to the flow of the river and not across it.  The mirror is big enough it might have blocked the river and flooded the town!  Is this giant mirror what MacLeod launched at the moon?  Lucia applies a healing poultice to her shrapnel wounds. She notices that someone scrawled “Buckle was here” on the hem of her sleeve.  Dryden realizes that the snack he ate in a hurry was a Halfling snack:  nuts and small fruits. Who has been messing with their stuff?

Lucia & Dryden return to  Evelynn’s Manor. Callie, the sullen Oni woman, opens the gate.

Callie: Guess it wasn’t a big deal.

Lucia: Actually a giant metal mirror fell from the sky and blocked the river.

Callie blinks a few times in actual amazement before she can restore her uncaring facade. She opens the front door for them, but does not follow them inside. What do they do now?  It seems their earlier indiscretions have gone unnoticed thus far.  Lady Evelynn has been in the sleeping gas for about nine hours. If she stays there for three more hours, she’ll die. She’s definitely a bad person, but she hasn’t done anything against Lucia & Dryden personally. Can they just let her die? Not doing anything isn’t technically killing, right? They decide to look around the mansion a bit before deciding.

There’s a trophy room at the center of the upper floor: tables full of strange, sharp, unpleasant-looking items; Tapestries, paintings, and shields hung on the walls; a pedestal in the center of the room.  Dryden looks around and discovers a secret passage by moving one of the paintings on the north wall.  There are also locked double doors on the north wall.  Dryden investigates the pedestal in the middle of the room and unintentionally hits a secret switch, causing the pedestal to lower into the floor!  Dryden teeters on the edge of a pit!  Lucia pulls him back to safety.  (That secret switch is not in a good position.)  They hear footsteps approaching and dive into the secret passage to avoid notice.  Two servants enter the room and look around.  One presses another hidden switch and brings the pedestal back up. The servants wonder who moved it, and if anything is missing from the trophy room.  Lucia uses her secret bloodline power to make the servants forget the past few minutes.  They find themselves standing in the trophy room, which looks perfectly normal. Confused, they leave and return to their duties.

Lucia and Dryden explore the secret passage. There’s a ladder leading down, and access to the guest rooms on the second floor, including their room. There’s no access from the secret passage to the room behind the big locked doors, which they assume is Evelynn’s master bedroom.  Oh, right, Evelynn. They go back to the observatory to check on her. Dryden disables the trap on the door before entering. Evelynn and Jayce are still lying unmoving in the pulsating gas cloud.  The sun has risen, so Evelynn is casting a shadow. The lashers she used in the fight last night are nowhere to be found.  Dryden pokes the shadow cautiously, but it does not move.  He reaches into the gas cloud and picks up the bolas in the proper way, so the gravity waves suck all the sleeping gas back inside the bolas.  Evelynn and Jayce have been in the gas for about nine hours, so they will wake up in another nine hours.  She’s sure to warn MacLeod that Dryden & Lucia want to stop her when she awakes.

They are determined to get into Lady Evelynn’s room, so they return to the trophy room.  Dryden steals a harpoon gun, and collects the Ever-Burning Brand that he donated to Lady Evelynn’s collection earlier. It’s actually a bomb. The light is a side-effect.  He blows the doors off and they enter Lady Evelynn’s suite. It’s a huge room with a desk on one side.  The other side is dominated by a circular bed ten feet across covered in dozens of pillows. Another set of double doors are on the far wall. Lucia wants to read the documents on Evelynn’s desk, but the explosion has attracted attention!  Lucia hides in the bed. Dryden wants to hide under the bed, but this bed is directly on the ground. So weird!  He hides in a pile of pillows.  Three maids and cook burst through the smoking doorway and look around in a panic.  Two maids and the cook rush off to get water or warn people, so there’s only one maid left in the room. Lucia and Dryden run from the bed to the doors in the far wall, which lead to a swimming pool. The maid starts to chase them, but Lucia makes her forget & shuts the doors.  The maid re-discovers the explosion and runs off to alert people!

For a moment, Lucia & Dryden have the place to themselves. They look around the pool room. This is where Lucia and Gleador first met Lady Evelynn long ago. The pool is surrounded by big windows. They consider escaping through the windows, but looking out, they see Callie patrolling the yard with a Hell Hound. Lucia grabs some papers from Lady Evelynn’s desk which confirm that the Mayor of Templeton did NOT leave before breakfast, but was thrown into a secret dungeon in the basement. There’s also a work order for reinforcing security of the secret dungeon, after a recent jail-break freed all the prisoners.

Lucia & Dryden are sure they will never be welcome here again, and need to leave soon. How violent and spiteful should their exit be? They can’t bring themselves to execute a helpless enemy, so they will let Lady Evelynn live. They will, however, destroy her secret dungeon.  Dryden looks through the trophy room and finds an explosive device. She keeps a lot of nasty stuff in her trophy room! Not a nice lady!  The cook from earlier returns and sees them up to no good.  He comes at them with his cleaver and Lucia draws her sword to keep him back.  Dryden pulls out a terrifying, cursed weapon.  It’s basically a gladius, but the crossguard is a reflective globe. Looking into the reflective reveals a great fear.  The cook looks at the cursed sword and sees a long banquet table of sick, thin people. No matter what he serves them, they can’t eat it. He can’t please them. He can’t nourish them.  The cook breaks down in tears.

Lucia and Dryden have no time to comfort him. They run back to the pool. Dryden sets the charge and detonates it! The building shakes and the bottom of the pool collapses. Thousands of gallons of water crash down through the ground floor and into the basement, completely ruining them.  They smash open a window, Lucia holds on to Dryden, and he overcharges his flying stone to fly them both away!  A spectacular exit!

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.