Saturday, July 12, 2014

Deadlands: Ghouls

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

last time

You'd think that we would have been getting the hell out of Dodge after last time, but Etienne had new orders and those were to clean up the mess Miss Graves made. In an open fight we didn't stand a chance and we came up with some sort of plan: burn them out.

Why don't I just mind my own business and let someone else deal with this crap? Hm. I'm not sure I rightly know. I've spent a good deal of my life keeping my head down and listening to other people tell stories around the campfire, only half believing it. I've seen a thing or two myself, no-one gets as old as I around here and doesn't, not when you spend most of your time outside, far from any town. There's some weird stuff and it's everywhere. For the longest time it was enough that I made it through, didn't give much thought to other people. Most of them didn't give a damn about me, after all. But now - I've come to care about these people, I won't abandon them. And seeing to it that those monsters are taken care of, it's a purpose. And it's a damn sight better than being told that I'm too old and no more use to anyone.

Right. Burn them out. We bought up three huge barrels of petroleum and all the sticks of dynamite and bottles of nitroglycerin the town had to offer. And we packed our stuff and got the horses because there was no way this was going to be quiet and we better be ready to get away quickly. I don't know how, but Etienne even got the doctor to come along. We found the entrance to the ghouls' lair and they had tunnels all over the place. I got right up to their, I don't know what to call it, a big hall where they were all together, talking about how they were going to stay. Or rather getting told by their...king? The biggest and strongest of them all in any case, I wouldn't have liked to get on his wrong side.

We put some smaller barrels of petroleum in the tunnels. I had seen a crack in the ceiling of the hall that they used as a chimney and Elisabeth and me went to look for it topside, took a big barrel and some dynamite with us. Etienne, Kenneth and Alan stayed below to clean up any ghouls that might survive. It took some searching, but we found the crack. The soil was loose and if we had tried to get too close with the huge barrel, it probably would have collapsed. So we took a bundle of dynamite, lit the fuse and lowered it on a piece of rope, then dropped it when it was clear of soil and roots and ran like hell.

The explosion threw us even further, dropped what felt like a whole tree on me, but it rolled off then the soil started to slide beneath us. Somehow, we got a hold of some roots and pulled out of the hole. I could hear screaming and yelling from below - not all the ghouls were dead, but it didn't sound like they were going to make trouble any longer.

When we got back to the hole, we could see black smoke coming from it and the doctor said she could hear shots. I didn't hear much but the ringing in my ears. Kenneth was already topside, a bit singed around the edges. Alan and Etienne had been busy cleaning up the rest of the mess, but by the time we got to them, they were all done. Alan had been clawed and bitten and he blacked out while the doc was treating him. Etienne was, well, Etienne. I think he'd probably shrug it off if someone took an arm or leg. Elisabeth offered to heal Alan and me. He agreed and with a prayer, she healed all his wounds. I give her that, her faith can do good things. I still didn't want it, I would have felt like a liar if I did.

The good people of Dodge were already on their way to see what had happened and we made ourselves scarce. Etienne still had something to do in town, so we met up a few miles west. Over breakfast, we talked and Elisabeth made a joke to Etienne about laying on hands. He asked if she maybe wanted to lose her hand and made a grab for her. He didn't mean nothing by it, but I still flinched, almost punching him because I wasn't sure who was doing the grabbing, Etienne or the other guy. Etienne took me aside later and said that I would notice if the other guy took over, but I'm not going to rely on that. I've seen what can happen and I'm won't do any guessing and maybe guess wrong. I told him as much and he took it as the warning I meant it to be.

We're going West now. Etienne has been ordered to California and we're going with him. It's going to be quite a trek, especially this late in the year. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm not used to staying in one place too long and I'm restless after the months spend with the tribe, although I felt right at home there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Deadlands: Berserk

last time

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

We decided to check on Miss Graves and her compaion, but met only Mr Frakes who asked us to come back later and we didn't press the issue. On our way back to the saloon, I spotted footprints walking through an alley. Just footprints, not a person in sight. Etienne didn't see anything and when we took a closer look, there was just a cat. But the footprints were still there, small ones, form someone who didn't weigh all that much. My money was on Miss Graves, just a suspicion. It didn't get any better when we caught up with her later at the hotel and she lied every time she opened her mouth.

Elisabeht talked with Anna Morgan, the wife of the minister, who was somehow involved in the whole story around Garret, a Northener spy Graves and Frakes had been trying to catch. Anna admitted to being a spy for the South, right before she was dragged into a hole opening in her own kitchen floor by a monster. We were too slow to help her, especially since the tunnel caved in. So we took to knocking on doors and asking people to let us check their cellar and we did find a trace, followed it to the US Signal office. There, Kenneth and me walked into the cellar with just a candle and I couldn't blame you if you called us stupid.

The floor broke away under Kenneth and something grabbed him. I dropped the candle, held onto him, pulled him back and we stumbled out of the cellar, Kenneth bleeding from deep wounds, just in time to run into Frakes. Who just turns on his heel when he noticed the smell coming from the open door, like something long dead frying in the sun, and says he has to go. Alan and me followed him back to the hotel and pushed out way into his room, demanding answers. Yeah, this wasn't the day for clever decisions.

By now it was pretty clear that Graves was behind this, that the monster was probably Garret and things didn't get any better when Frajes had his guns trained on us. I could hear Badger growling, he wasn't happy about the idea of just letting Frakes push us around and probably putting a bullet in our heads. I turned and attacked, not what Frakes expected and I got my hands on his gun. I also got a bullet in my leg and that was when I lost it. I can't really remember what happened. No. That's a lie. I can remember it, it's just that...I never was a violent man. I can hold my own in a fight, but I never fought like this, fought to kill. And kill I did, I beat Frakes to death with his own gun. Alan later told me that he didn't dare get into my way and I guess that was a wise decision. There's a price I pay for the help Badger gives me.

We tried to grab Miss Graves, but she attacked us with some kind of spell, a blue ball of fire that went clean through the wall. And she turned invisible, didn't I say she could? So she escaped us and when we were alone, I finally calmed down. Frakes had managed to put some more bullets in me and with the fury gone, the pain hit me. I collapsed and I woke up only a day later. In jail, together with Alan because the law doesn't look kindly on people who murder citizens in good standing.

While I was out, Etienne went to Boot Hill with Kenneth and Elisabeth and there, they found Miss Graves, doing some kind of spell to raise the dead. Elisabeth blinded her and she lost control of the ghuls who killed her. Etienne came face to face with Garret who told him that he had to the count of ten to get as far away as possible. Of course Etienne just walked away slowly, if there's one thing he never did even when he was alive it was run away. Garret attacked and got killed by Etienne and Kenneth, who had brought Masterton and his deputies along.

We were in luck - since Frakes and Graves were spies, the judge didn't see the need to do more than recommend that we leave Dodge City as soon as possible. We didn't need telling, to be honest.

next time

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Steal this Selkie

Cast of characters:
Glitzy - fixer
Fog - scavenger and unwilling leader of the group
Zoé - street girl
Stanley - street doc
Jet - professional thief
Rusty - pilot and data courier

The campaign is on Obsidian Portal

Last time, I introduced a couple of selkies (seal-human shapeshifters) kept in the New England Aquarium as a bit of flavour. Of course my players decided to free them. In a manner very untypical for Shadowrun, they talked about their plan for all of, I don't know, thirty minutes and then just went ahead. If you don't play Shadowrun: entire sessions can be spent planning a good run and it's entirely possible for the run to last much shorter than the planning phase.

This time, they are flying by the seat of their pants. There isn't much of a plan except: talk to the selkies, ask if they want out, walk out with them. And basically, that's how it went down because I'm not going to throw much of a security force at them in an aquarium. The hard part of the plan comes now because the selkies, in their human form, are extremely attractive and really stand out. People will remember seeing them. Also, everyone in the group's thinking about sex, just at the back of their mind, but the thought and the desire is there. A couple of drunk guys on the subway were distracted by Zoé, who now has to deal with them. On a dimly-lit parking place next to the hotel where the group is bringing the selkies. And by deal with them I mean that the plan is to knock them all out with the help of Fog.

And then they either drive the selkies a hundred miles or so up or down the coast or, and I really love this, they fly them to Seattle. Get them an illegal SIN (passport) and just smuggle them out of the country and then back in again (the middle of the US is now the Native American Nations). This would be asking for trouble even if Rusty wasn't in trouble with some other runners who want the data he's carrying around in his head and who might just think this is important enough to try and catch them at the first stopover in the NAN.

Players, and I include myself here, do such wonderfully stupid things. Just because they can or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The selkie run is incredibly stupid, but it's brilliant roleplaying, very much in character. I'm enjoying myself very much and I think my players do, too.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bees!

IMG_7966

This is my hive, it's a top bar hive I built using instructions from The Barefoot Beekeeper. It's basically a big box on stilts, with bars covering it and a roof. The bars are for the bees to hang their combs from and give me easy access without disturbing the bees too much.

Some of the bees
bee2

this, I believe, is a drone, a male bee - it's not visible here, but his eyes were enormous
bee1

and here's the whole swarm, two days after moving in
swarm

I got the swarm from another beekeeper and I was very excited and a bit afraid they'd all fly off. I did spray them with water to keep them from flying, but I had never done this before. But they were very well behaved. I only got stung three times, all at once, I think I must have pinched those bees by accident.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a hand full of live bees. That I learned on this day.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Selkies

I took over as GM for the Shadowrun Rat's Nest group for a while. The group stole a ton of chocolate at a run in Seattle and now they're trying to sell it to the Irish mob in Boston. I planned to give the characters a day in Boston to get their bearings (and to give the mb time to examine the chocolate...wich is fake and not made form cocoa, a fact the players would rather keep secret).

So they do a bit of sightseeing and I mention the Boston Aquarium. They go there and since one sourcebooks says that there are merepeople there, I mention that as well. Merrows, but I couldn't remember and went with Selkies. They are sentinent beings, but their former home, the Boston harbour, has been polluted and they have been spending the last twenty years in that aquarium.

You probably see where this is going. The characters are already planning a run on the aquarium to free the Selkies and, here come the part I really love, want to take them to Seattle to set them free there. Through several airport security checks - at least they do have their own plane - and with hundreds of miles of perfectly good coastline just outside Boston. But I'm not going to spoil the fun and say anything.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

7th Sea: Wanted Men

last time

cast of characters:
Aidan - member of the Exporer's Society
Gregor - fighter and bodyguard and maybe something more
Marinus - son of a rich vendel merchant family, travelling after completing his journeyman's piece

15. Octavus 1668, on a ship to Vodacce

We found the princes. And that is where things started to go very wrong. No. In truth, it had begun much earlier than that, when we noticed that we were no longer able to find out way back although it should have been easy. We were lost, with only a day or so worth of lamp oil and food and water for only a bit longer. But soon, this did no longer concern us because we all had the feling that we simply knew the way. We followed lights and voices on the cusp of our hearing to a cave overgrown with crystals and we felt welcome there, among friends.

click for spelunking


I snapped out of it just in time to keep Gregor from touching the crystals by punching him. Aidan had already touched the wall and the crystals immediately started to grow into his flesh, he pulled back just in time. We realised that we were even more lost than before and in even greater danger than we thought. There were two vaguely human-shaped crystal pillars and each had a sword made from Dracheneisen by its side. We pulled the swords loose and found that the crystals receded when touched by the weapons. Under them, we found the princes, clearly long dead.

Disheartened, we left the cave to look for a way out, taking the swords with us. The crystals no longer seemed to want to keep us in the cave and we all felt hostility towards us. I canot explain it any better. We found the underground river we had heard earlier and followed it, wading and sometimes swimming. After a while, we heard voices and saw a light through an opening above. Our calls for help were answered by a group of game wardens who pulled us up and were astounded to find us.

The weather was too bad to make our way to Atemlos that day and we spent the night in the mine with the wardens. We wondered about them because they wore no sigil and it was quite a coincidence that they were there just in time to find us. But maybe we were too distrustful.

Unfortunately, our suspicions were only too well-founded. The leader of the wardens left that night and I overheard him telling his men that he would go to Atemlos for instructions and we were not to be left out of sight. We decided to try and leave the next morning anyway, fighting them if need be. Aidan had slept through it all, he has been growing weaker for days now, for no apparent reason. They let us go, but we soon noticed that they followed us.

We made our way to Susa and I wish we had not. She already knew what had happened and said that we were in danger and must not go to Atemlos. Before we could decide what to do, there were voices outside and Susa rushed out, trying to buy us time. The men simply shot her. We killed or wounded all but one of them, the man who had shot Susa and I would really have liked to get my hands on him. But he escaped. Susa was still alive when everything was over, but I did not need any surgeon to tell me that she was mortally wounded. She healed Aidan of whatever it was that was weakening him, with her last breath.

We had two prisoners who told us that they had been searching for us and the princes. But not to bring us back, but to kill the princes and to either kill us or take us back to Atemlos as scapegoats. It seems that Knef is planning to take over Hainzl. For a moment, we were angry enough to think about going back to Atemlos, to get our things, just out of spite. But we thought better of it and now we are wanted men in Hainzl. We are on our way to Vodacce. I have not been there before and I hope it will be a friendlier place than Hainzl for us. I have written to the League and I can expect my belongings, including the Syrneth artifacts, and my mule to arrive in a few weeks.

We kept the swords. But we will send one back to Knef, with a message that its twin will find him when he least expects it.

--------------------------------------------


We have been having quite a few talks about this whole adventure because a couple of unusual things happened. The mood was very dark for 7th Sea and while that was fun for one adventure, we asked that it doesn't continue that way because that's not what we play 7th Sea for. Same with the fact that we could have died easily, just by bad dice luck. If I want that, I play Cthulhu. 7th Sea, for me,is a swashbuckling game where I can do or at least attempt things that were impossible or unwise in other games and I don't have to be afraid to die immediately because of one single roll or one decision. Give me consequences, sure, but I want to be encouraged to be heroic, to attempt things no ordinary character would even dream about. What I love about 7th Sea is the freedom to say: hey, let's do this! If you have to wonder whether a single roll can kill you, that style of play is not possible.

Also, we had no way of solving the mission given to us. The princes were dead already and there was no way we could have avoided being branded as murderes. Again, this is okay for one adventure. But it takes agency away from the players and that's not a very good feeling. As a GM, you can totally do that, but it's something you have to be very careful about and don't overdo it. Having the characters betrayed by an NPC like that is a cool thing and I suspect we may get a story or two out of that later in the campaign, but it should be rare. If you let your players play stories too often that result in them coming out of at the end with nothing, no goals reached, nothing they wanted accomplished, that becomes frustrating incredibly quickly.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure a lot. The cave was fucking creepy and the dead princes a well-placed punch to the gut. Our characters are pissed at being betrayed and we were that close to actually going back to Atemlos. For revenge, a mule and two wooden ducks! (Gregor bought those for his nephews and stored them at the castle). But we decided against it, especially after realising that Marinus had his stuff stored at the League's branch and can get it all back with a letter. But we really want to see Knef again just one more time.

The GM used Ambient Mixer for background noises and that was brilliant. It's such a simple thing, but it really helps create the right mood. Even if it's only the sound of a thunderstorm outside. Go check it out, it's a great tool for GMs.