Friday, October 26, 2012

Denmark

So. One week in Denmark. Four gamers, one house, a ton of games, glow in the dark lollipops, lots of caffeinated drinks and sensible amounts of alcohol, not as many chocolate and sweets as there could have been: we had fun.

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We took walks on the beach.
And we gamed.

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The local wildlife was adorable.
We did some gaming.

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We got painfully blasted by sand when walking on top of the dunes in a high wind.
We removed the sand from ... everywhere and we gamed

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The beaches were littered with leftovers from the Atlantikwall. Cue some bunker exploration.
And some gaming

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More bunkers.
More gaming.

If you're planning on doing something like this, you better make sure that everyone gets along, though. We've known each other for a couple of years now and we got along extremely well right from the start, so we were pretty confident that this would work. And it did, with some minor tensions that resolved themselves after talking about them. So if you have a group that fits together well and the chance for a gaming holiday: go for it. It will be epic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: Cops and Robbers

Characters:
Sven Tore Berglund - private detective
Harry 'The Pen' Standish - reporter
Stuart Dunbar - a Bobby

Stuart is walking his beat in the East End when he hears the sound of a Bobby's whistle and runs towards it. He finds his colleague Hugh kneeling next to a body of a well-groomed gentleman. The man is very much out of place here and has paid for it with his life. Someone stabbed him, but not without working him over before that. While Hugh goes to get Inspector Avery Shaw, Stuart gathers up the dead man's belongings and aims a kick at a street urching trying to steal something.

investigate further


The man has a letter, some old books and a ring on his finger Stuart can't take a look at before Shaw arrives and takes command. He orders the body to be taken away and tells Stuart to present himself at the station in two hours.

Stuart did read the letter and found out that the body is probably that of Clemens Wright, who worked for the antiquarian bookseller Anthony Morris and was on his way to deliver some seemingly rare books to a Mr Morgan.

Harry is at the Dravot's Head where he meets the street urchin Colin. Colin tells him about the murder and that the Powell Brothers may be involved, a notorious gang of thugs. When Harry is about to leave the pub, he runs into Sven.

Sven in investigating a case and has uncovered that a shipping company is smuggling weapons to Germany. He's in the company of one of the men who work at the company and Harry knows enough to ignore him for now.

At the station, Stuart meets Anythony Morris in Shaw's office. It seems that Morris has quite a lot of influence over Shaw, enough to demand that the case gets special treatment. Stuart is assigned to it and is told to make sure the book that was stolen is found again. It's called The Writings of the Black Man. He notices Morris ring and thinks it's similar to the one Wright was wearing.

He goes through Wright's belongings again and find a piece of paper in one of the books. It says: "E.L., Coborn Street" - right around the corner from where Wright was found.

He wants to take another look at the body. On his way to the morgue, he runs into Harry and Sven and they both tag along. Their cab stops across the street and they all see a little girl in a nightshirt walking away from the building. Unfortunately, this is not really unusual in the East End, she probably has nothing else to wear. When they enter, they find no-one there, but they do find bloody footprints that match the girl. A quick look outside by Sven shows that she's already gone.

They follow the footprints further into the building and discover that both the coroner and his helper have been brutally murdered. It looks as if their chest has been pushed open from within. Further searching reveals nothing that would give any hint to solve this crime. Stuart remembers that he has seen the girl before, she was in the crowd that had gathered around Wright's body.

After they have told wat has happened to Shaw and others have taken over that investigation, they proceed to Coborn Street where Edward Lovett's shop of odd and ends is located. Lovett is not happy to see them and it takes a bit of strongarming to make him talk. To be precise, someone already talked to him and used his fists generously. When Lovett refuses to say anything, Stuart wonders aloud how long it would shut the shop down if he had to come back with backup and search for stolen goods.

Lovett gives in and tells them that he wanted the stolen book and Wright agreed to get it for him. Morris is the one who beat him up because he assumes that Lovett has it, but he doesn't. He also tells them that both Wright and Morris work for the Leopold Society.

They leave and when they walk out onto the street, they hear a voice from the shadows. "He's going to die." Stuart has very little patience for this and grabs the man. He recognises Fireface, a well-known doomsayer with a burned face. Fireface speaks only in hints and rumours, but it becomes clear that the book contains a ritual that, if performed successfully, will mean a catastrophe for London.

The book is in the hands of the girl (her name is Audrey) and there will be three more victims. But Fireface doesn't elaborate any further than that.

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This was planned as an adventure for one evening, but of course it didn't work out that way. The characters were pre-made for us and we had our pick. I chose the bobby and I like him a lot. He's not the gentlest of men, but not as rough as many of his colleagues.

I think the Dravot's Head is becoming a fixture in our Gaslight adventures. I came up with it for the Cat and Dai adventures as a place for them to start their ventures in the East End and somehow it keeps turning up. I named it after Danny Dravot from Kipling's brilliant short story The Man Who Would Be King

Monday, October 22, 2012

Endland: Radio Tower

We played through the first Endland adventure in Denmark. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 on Obsidian Portal.

I think it went quite well. My worst nightmare did not come true. I was afraid that a player would say: why don't we do this and punch a huge hole into the story.

I had a lot of fun watching them figuring things out, occasionally hindered by botched perception and prophecy rolls. But my favourite part of it all was having the players interact with the NPCs. There are a lot of story seeds there and a couple of those are already coming along nicely (Antero the butcher for example).

Arvo's player has bowed out of the campaign because he doesn't like the setting. I've recruited another player and I'm looking forward to the character he'll create. Until then, I get to mull over some story ideas I have, we're definitely planning to continue the campaign.

Memo to self: don't tell players what they cannot know. Just keep your mouth shut. Also: keep notes while playing. Might have to learn shorthand.

The spider, in case you're wondering, is modelled after a trapdoor spider.


Wikipedia has more information on them. They really are incredibly fast and it's very hard to see their burrows. They are also good diggers and can make a burrow even in hard soil.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: Monsters

Cast of Characters:
Thomas Roquefort, American, archaeologist and adventurer, recently arrived in London after an expedition to Egypt
Richard George Thomas Lumley, second son of the Earl of Scarbrough
Jasper Burnside, physician and in the last two years something of a hermit. It's common knowledge that he has lost someone close and there are rumours aplenty for those willing to listen (he's my character)

last time

The expedition enters the Temple of Toth. Thomas and Kamal lead the way and are accompanied by Jasper, Richard, Sir Jeffrey, Inspector Fox, Captain Hayden and Corporals Denham and Rester.

A tunnel decorated with a starry sky and reliefs of plants and animals gives way to a big chamber with pillars and statues of various gods, among them Anubi, Apophis and Suchos. Toth is conspicuously missing. Another tunnel leading further away from the chamber has collapsed. This is where Dümichen's expedition ended and where the bodies of the French solders were found.Kamal is still unwilling to help and tells Thomas that sometimes painful decisions have to be made when Thomas mentions that he's just trying to find a friend.

Searching the chamber turns up nothing much until Richards notices that Kamal is standing on a floor panel showing an ibis engraving. Kamal steps aside, without showing any reaction, and Thomas raises the stone slab with the help of the corporals and most of the others. Richard uses the time to talk to Kamal and is told that Kamal doesn't know where Sir Thomas Kincaid is. He gets the feeling that Kamal wants to say more, but cannot get him to talk.

The raised slab reveals a vertical shaft with brick walls. Jasper drops a stone, finally gettting a reaction from Kamal who shouts No! But it's too late and the stone is already falling.

click to explore

After a few seconds Jasper hears it drop into water and estimates the shaft to be about thirty yards deep. Thomas uses a rope to lower an oil-lamp into the shaft and after about fifteen yards the brickwork stops. At thirty feet the lamp is reflected in water and then it dips into the water and goes dark.

Richard volunteers to climb down into the shaft and finds out that the shaft opens into a huge vault. After some deliberations, the expeditions abseils into the vault, with Fox, Sir Jeffrey and two additional corporals staying in the chamber. The water is deep enough to come up to their stomachs and smells foul.

They strike out in one direction and after some wading come to a wall with a small ledge in front of it. Jasper steps on something hard and lifts a human skull out of the water. Further fishing uncovers more skulls and bones that Jasper judges to be from both humans and animals. Thomas hears a splashing, but cannot see anything. The group climbs onto the ledge, but when it's Corporal Rester's turn, he sees a bow wave coming towards him.

A huge jaw snaps at him and in the unsteady light of the torches, they all see enormous teeth, red eyes and a scaled, sickly white body easily the size of a grown man. Rester takes a shot at the monster and for a moment, everything's quiet. Then he's pulled underwater, frighteningly quick. The frothing waters turn red and the group runs to the right where the ledge widens.

The crocodiles try to climb onto the ledge and everyone who is armed takes a shot at them. Corporal Denham gets bitten and the crocodile twists, tearing his leg off. Jasper grabs the corporal and hauls him to the wider part of the ledge. Richard is attacked and falls into the water. Kamal pulls him out, jumping over the kneeling Jasper to get to him.

They all make it, with Corporal Denham unconscious and bleeding heavily. Jasper applies a tourniquet, but he knows perfectly well that the man will die if they don't get him out of here quickly.

The ledge forms a sort of apse with an altar and a big statue. Thomas recognises the altar from his dreams, although the rest does't fit. The statue has lost its ibis head long ago, it's lying shattered on the floor. But an inscription is still readable:

This is the likeness if Toth. Allies are the Gods of the Moon and of Fertility from ancient times, the bearer of the Ibis and the ruler of the crocodiles. The holy crocodiles are moon-coloured and thus their ruler Suchos has given them to Toth, for them to help protect the secret of Toth.

Next to the inscription are two small panels shwoing an ibis and a crocodile. Thomas destroys them and discovers a lever. He twists it and the water starts to drain, the crocodiles follow it to avoid being left on dry land. After some time, all the water is gone and all that is left is foul-smelling mud littered with bones. Jasper brings Corporal Denham up to the surface and sets to work on treating his gruesome wounds. The others take a closer look at the vault and find depressions in the floor that correspond with certain signs of the zodiac. With their help Thomas can determine the direction for the expedition to head next.

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Once again I realised that it sometimes sucks to play a doctor. You can't just run for your life when people are hurt. But Jasper did manage to save Corporal Denham's life and I'm quite pleased.

The vault was a very eerie place, especially when nothing much happened for such a long time. It was almost a relief when the crocodiles did appear, but that gave way to a slight panic quickly, especially when the secret of the statue didn't reveal itself despite our searching.

Kamal stays a quite mysterious character, but I think that all three players tend to not see him as a threat. He would have had a lot of time and opportunity to harm us. Time will tell.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: Up the Nile

Cast of Characters:
Thomas Roquefort, American, archaeologist and adventurer, recently arrived in London after an expedition to Egypt
Richard George Thomas Lumley, second son of the Earl of Scarbrough
Jasper Burnside, physician and in the last two years something of a hermit. It's common knowledge that he has lost someone close and there are rumours aplenty for those willing to listen (he's my character)

last time

On board the Egypt Star, the groups makes their way up the Nile. As promised, Fox hands the dagger over to Jasper for the night and stays to keep an eye on things. Jasper feels somelike like a slight electrical shock when he touches the dagger for the first time, but it may have been his imagination. He falls asleep and wakes up, hearing a quiet, monotonous singing and laughter in front of the door. He tries to wake Fox who sleeps deeply and who fixes him with a very penetrating glance when he wakes up. Then Japser wakes again, with things back to normal. Fox really has fallen asleep, but reacts normally when woken. Jasper doesn't get much more sleep that night and the little he gets is disturbed by bad dreams.

In the morning, he talks about this with Thomas and Richard and in the afternoon, everyone gets together for a briefing on the expedition. The next stop is the caravanserai Thena el-Gebel where Egyptian workers will join the crew. From there, it's about half a day to the excavation site at Uno. Again, Kamal remarks that things hidden in the Egyptian sands often stay hidden until the time is right for them to be found. Captain Hayden snarls at him and both Richard and Jasper defend Kamal.

Sunday morning sees the expedition at the caravanserai where everybody is introduced to camel riding, with varying success. An uneventful ride later they arrive at Uno and find the baboon statues marking the site of the temple without many problems. Digging starts and Thomas asks everyone to stay close and not wander off alone. Which Richard promptly does, but two of Hayden's Husars keep an eye on him. At dinner, Kamal tells an old story about an oasis, much more beautiful and greener than all others - always just a day's ride away, never to be found.

The next day nothing much happens, but on Tuesday (December 9th 1890) the diggers have found the entrance to the temple. Thomas takes a closer look and finds hierogylphs engraved into the lintel. He writes them down, gives instructions to continue digging and then tells Jasper and Richard in private what they say: "Believer, enter the realm of the God of the Moon with reverence for he is the Lord of Time."

Richard suggests that someone should take a look at Captain Hayden's orders and at Sir Jeffrey's papers and volunteers for the mission. Thomas and Jasper keep the others occupied with a meeting and he gets into the tent unseen. Neither Hayden's orders nor Sir Jeffrey's papers (including his personal diary) reveal anything suspicious, it seems that they are not hiding anything.

A short while later, the entrance to the temple is cleared and the expedition enters.

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Well. It seems that we were a bit too enthusiastic with our conspiracy theories. Pity - Captain Hayden made such a great subject for them. In other news: Richard is no longer useless. Jasper has been wondering about him for a while now, ever since Fox seemed so eager to have him come along, and he's beginning to understand why. But maybe he'll just ask Richard one of these days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Ninjas

last time...
Rat's Nest on Obsidian portal, character lists and a wiki are here

Glitzy chose the safehouse in Tacoma where the Scrappers had stayed while the Rat's Nest was occupied by the Picas to meet with the trideo pirates.
Maggie is left with the two prisoners in an old school bus, Christos and Mira have been bound with zipties. They start a discussion with Maggie about how much they can pay her if sge just lets them go. Unfortunately, that attracts the attention of two orks, Duke and his sister Terry, members of the Ragers. They threaten Maggie and attack when she called Duke a warthog. Maggie tases them both and puts some zipties on them as well.

Meanwhile, Ray and Rusty checked out the apartment where the meeting was to take place. It had been raided by the police earlier, as Rusty still vividly remembers, and they notice that the seal has been broken, although the tape is still in place. They ass the door and go up a flight of stairs. Between the noise of the passing monorail trains, they can hear someone leave the apartment.

Rusty goes downstairs to check it out and finds no-one there, but he does find three cameras. When he tells Glitzy, she says that's okay and that she'll be there in a minute. Rusty leaves and takes up his place on the fourth floor again. Ray goes downstairs to watch the street.

Glitzy arrives in disguise and goes up into the apartment. A minute later, two cars stop in front of the building. There are two trolls in the first one and a guy whose whole posture screams bodyguard in the second one. they check the street and one of the trolls tells Ray to beat it. Ray steps into the building - not what the troll meant, obviously.
When everything seems save, a female elf gets out of the car and is accompanied to the apartment by one of the trolls and the bodyguard.

Ray has climbed up all the way to the roof. From there, he spots a guy hunkered down behind one of the cars in the parking lot who is watching the apartment. Another private detective probably. He tells Glitzy about the guy and she doesn't seem worried (he's Michael Chase, a private detective she knows). Ray's next observation has her very worried indeed, though: a group of Kabuki Ronin come barrelling along the street, high as a kite and looking for trouble. They home in on the building.

Glitzy tells them all to get out of there and they run, up to the roof while she goes out of the window. The troll downstairs is the first casualty and looses his head. A part of the Ronin go upstairs, another part run around the building where they meet Glitzy, Chase and eventually Maggie, who freed Christos and Mira. Rusty, Ray and the Uwired people are on the roof. Rusty goes first down the rickety fire escape, planning to check if the coast is clear.

Which it isn't and he fires his Streetsweeper at one of the Ronins, putting him down and retreats up the fire escape to reload, wishing for a better weapon. One of the Ronin follows him, the rest get into a fight with Glitzy, Maggie and Chase and lose. Rusty and the bodyguard overpower the Ronin and hogtie him with zip ties.

The Ronin who went up the stairs are now on the roof and attack the second troll. Ray comes to the rescue and fights them with superglue and dye. After a couple of confusing seconds, dye-blinded Ronin have glues themselves to each other, to their weapons and to the roof. Doc Wagon and the police are on their way and so the Unwired people and the Kiddie gang split, but not before the Unwired pirates have agreed to stay silent for a while and the bodyguard has thanked the Kiddies for saving their lifes.

Everyone but Ray leaves as quickly as possible. He steals a katana and one of the bikes from the Ronin, hides it around a corner and then leaves as well, but not after some stunt driving to get rid of the police cruiser following him. Back at the Nest, Glitzy tells them that they did well. Ray sells her the katana - she buys it, but doesn't seem all too happy about it. The next morning, he goes and gets the bike and sells it to Monkeywrench, the Nest's main mechanic and chop shop owner.

Friday, October 5, 2012

RPG Blog Carnival: It Shall Be Horrible

The theme for the October Blog Carnival is horrible. As in

What is it that makes a gaming session horrible? It could be wonderfully horrible, such as that time you were playing Call of Cthulhu and the hair stood up on the back of your neck as your cat screeched at an ‘empty’ closet!

Or it could be horrible as in that time you ran the convention game and the only people who showed up were a set of quadruplets who were all rules lawyers in the system you created.

Tell us your horror stories! Make them scary, make them poignant, offer tips on how to increase the horror factor or decrease the chances of your game turning out horribly!


One of my horribly best Call of Cthulhu games ever was at a con and all the conditions were wrong. We played in a room with several other groups who all played much more lighthearted games, there was no creepy lighting, no chance for music ect. But the dynamics between the players and between the players and the GM were great from the start and we quickly became immersed in the game to a degree that none of us really registered the noise and laughter from the other groups anymore. It was storytelling at its best.

Personally, a GM can get me with things in mirrors. TV screens works as well (Ringu, anyone?) And anything resembling Slender Man. A friend of mine freaks out when you describe glowing eyes looking in through the window. You can't use such things too often, but it can work out great when you do. It's more than awesome when you hit on something like that by accident (unless it makes the player freak out completely, of course) and watch the goosebumps build up.

Knowing that my GM won't hesitate to kill my character is also pretty horrifying, but I appreciate the feeling. I like to have my hands shake with adrenaline when I get into and hopefully out of dangerous situations with my character.

And then there's personal horror. It's not about monsters, but about the things the characters fears will happen to him and those he loves. I have a GM who is very, very good at that and I love him for it. This is not for everyone, I guess, because it confronts you with very real fears - what if my wife died, what if my best friend had a serious accident, what if some drug got its claws into my son? It can be overwhelming, especially if you have invested a lot in the character. But it's actually the kind of horror I like best in a game. Whatever that says about me.

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Denmark Gaming

I'm leaving for a week of gaming in Denmark. My Cthulhu group has rented a house there and we'll be gaming, taking walks on the beach, gaming, flying kites, gaming, cooking and gaming.
So I'll see you when I get back (we'll have internet access there, but I probably won't use it all that much).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ulysses

Reality Refracted talked about inspiration and its sources a while ago and since then, I've had myths, legend and fairy tales rattling around in my head. Those are great because they have a lot to teach about how stories work, how they make their way into our minds. Fairy tales and legends have a certain rhythm that is immediately recognisable (it may differ from culture to culture, but you will know it).

Ulysses 31 is a great example of using myths to tell a new story. It's a 1980s anime series, a French-Japanese co-production and it's based very loosely on the story of Odysseus. I'm not sure how many kids knew the myth of Odysseus before watching it, but I did and I loved it. I bought the whole series on DVD years later and it does hold up. Yeah, okay, I could do without annoying sidekick-robot Nono, but other than that, it's brilliant and I have no idea why it's not more widely known.

The series takes characters from Greek mythology and nicely transforms them to fit into a science fiction setting - often, they do fit with very little alteration. The effect is often very creepy and dark and it creates some unique locations.

Here's the first episode on Youtube:


Monday, October 1, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Pirates

last time...

Rat's Nest Campaign on Obsidian Portal, you'll find characters lists ect. there

At the noodle shop, Ray and Maggie bicker a bit while Rusty plans his date with Liana and Ray picks the pockets of a pick pocket. When Glitzy calls them, they head back to their bikes only to find that someone stole most of their gas. Hooray for multifuel, though, and they buy cooking oil (at a steep price) from the noodle shop.

They head towards the first fix Glitzy has on the pirates' location and find several vans that may be them, among those a trideo repair man, an ice cream wagon, a red station wagon and a converted van that sells Greek food. The trideo guy looks genuine and Ray and Rusty decide to follow the station wagon and the Greek food. Both drive off in one direction.

Maggie is left with the ice cream seller and decides to get herself some icecream. She slips with her bike and bumps into the ice cream wagon. The owners comes out, screaming at her, but he quickly deflates when Maggie starts to cry. He even helps her with her bike and gives her an ice cream cone for free.

Meanwhile, Rusty and Ray have followed the two cars to another location. The van does indeed sell food and it's quite tasty, as Ray finds out. There are two people in there, a woman and a man, both fairly young. Maggie has arrived and because Ray asks her to, she grazes the mirror of the red station wagon. The owner, a big sleazy guy, get out and he's pissed. He makes a grab for Maggie, who pulls out the taser she got from Glitzy and the guy goes down.

Rusty keeps an eye on the Greeks, while Ray has driven down the street to help Maggie, who doesn't need help and says so. He uses the opportunity to check out the man's car and finds that he's a private detective, probably the other team who was supposed to find the pirates.

The Greeks drive off and the kids follow. Ray aims a dye bomb at their windshield and Glitzy hacks the car, so now they have no way of steering. The cook starts throwing pots at Maggie from the rear door, but she manages to evade the missiles. Rusty asks Glitzy to patch him through to the pirates and tries to talk to them, to make them understand that the kids only want to help them and that they are in great danger.

After a short drive, Glitzy parks the van in an abandoned parking garage and Rusty tries to get the pirates to come out of the car. They are frightened and not really in the mood to trust him, but when Ray slaps his fake bomb on the side window, they burst out of the van. The woman runs directly into Rusty's arms and he overpowers her while Ray tackles the man.

They are Christos and Mira and after some discussion with Glitzy, they agree to call their group leader. A meeting is arranged and the kids take the captured pirates with them. They have to make an unscheduled stop because they completely forgot to pat their prisoners down for weapons. Not that the pirates carry anything much, but they do have pepper spray and a taser.