Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cthulhu: Masks

Cast of Characters:
Doctor Karl A. Schwarz - physician who works at the Krankenhaus Moabit and who has a surgery on the side in Berlin Wedding (a district known for being a stronghold of the Communist Party and for being populated almost exclusively by working class people)
Gero Thalmann - a student from a middle-class family who plans to become an architect. Meanwhile, he's involved with the Communists and has taken an interest in the pressing social issues of the time. He has been living in Berlin for about a year.
Ferdinand Rosenthal - a dealer in antiquities, specialising in the South Seas

last time

Thursday, 1 June 1921

Gero tries to trace back the crates they took to the port last night and after some searching, he find a dealer of antiques by the name of Rosenthal whom he think is probably the owner. Not that Rosenthal is an uncommon name, as Schwarz reminds him, but still, Gero is reasonably sure. Schwarz returns to the hospital and talks with his boss Seltmann about the brainless body that Seltmann had wanted him to look at so urgently. Seltmann squirms and tries to downplay it all, but finally he comes out with the truth: Reuschner, accompanied by the police, took the body and threatened that any further investigation would have consequences.
Rosenthal gets a package from Reuschner and is asked to deliver it to Babelsberg, to the UFA film studio, which he does.

Friday, 2 June 1921

Schwarz and Gero have decided to pay Rosenthal a visit to try and draw him out about the crates. This is not very successful, although Rosenthal does say that he owns such crates. Gero find a mask he's strangely fascinated with and buys it for the proud sum of 200 Mark and he asks that the mask be delivered to him. Rosenthal first assumes that Schwarz is Gero's father and when he learns that they are not related, he does wonder about their exact relationship. But he doesn't let it stand in the way of business.

Just as they are leaving, the scar-faced guy they already know comes in with three other men and pretty much takes them hostage, to the outrage of Schwarz and the quiet indignation of Rosenthal. The man wants to know where Rosenthal delivered the package and after it becomes clear that the men are perfectly willing to use force, Rosenthal agrees to show them. So they arrive at Studio Babelsberg and when they get out of the van, Schwarz tries to attack one of the men guarding them. His attack fails, but it's a distraction Gero uses to pull his revolver and shoot. A shot and violent time later, only one of the men is still alive. They decide that it's better to get out of there as quickly as possible. Schwarz puts the survivor in the back of the van and drives to his backyard clinic.

Rosenthal returns to his shop, while Gero stays with Schwarz, but Gero's too busy throwing up once he fully realises what just happened to notice what Schwarz does. The man is badly hurt and there is no way he is going to survive. So Schwarz does nothing to help him and asks questions instead. He finds out that the package Rosenthal delivered contained Hitler's brain and was supposed to be taken to Hamburg, but now that whoever the man works for knows where it is, that is not going to happen. Apparently the man works for or rather is used by creatures intending to take over the power, but that may well have been the ramblings of a dying man. In any case, Schwarz leaves the van somewhere in Wedding once the man is dead.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Post-Christmas Post


First off, as every year, the tree.


And then the nativity scene. The figurines are a motley crew, most of them have been around for decades and have acquired a place one way or the other. The house itself is new - my dad made it himself and I think it's absolutely gorgeous.


And here's the most weird thing I got for Christmas:


Yes. It's a glass of pickles and my parents actually imported it from the US. Those things are delicious, especially on white bread with butter and maple syrup/honey, and you cannot buy them here. I haven't opened it yet because when I do, the whole glass will be gone in a couple of days. I have no self-control when it comes to Vlasic's pickles.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Here, have a sunfish being released back into the wild. The thing stuck in his back is a tracking device and sunfish have such thick skin, he doesn't feel it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

7th Sea: Marbles

25 Septimus 1668, Donnerfall

Well. Donnerfall may be a quiet little place normally, but the games brings a lot of interesting people here. I asked the Castillian blacksmith I met yesterday if he could make me lead shot for my sling. He had not done that before, he assured me he could or rather that his apprentice could. I'll try out the first sample later.

We also met an Ussurian trader who had, among assorted knick-knacks, two truly interesting things to offer. One artifact that at first glance looks like some kind of bauble, and a handful of glass marbles that have a peculiar oily sheen. Aidan seemed interested in the artifact and I bought both things, more hindered than helped by Aidan's doubtful skills in haggling for the price.

But before we could investigate further, it was time for the log tossing. I have no idea how I did it, but I managed one toss that was not a complete embarrassment. But we lost without a doubt to both other teams, as expected. We befriended the Hainzler team and drank a few rounds with them until we were interrupted by the news that someone had been murdered.

Just outside the town, Ludwig Doppelkeuche, the minstrel we met when we first arrived had fallen victim to a gruesome crime, he had been impaled with great force. To be honest, I could not stomach looking at him for long. He's not the first man killed violently I have ever seen, but I doubt that I will ever get used to the sight. Gregor has some experience with tracking and he could tell that someone riding a warhorse or at least a horse big enough to be taken for one was responsible for the murder. He and Aidan also told me that they had seen black oil seeping from the man's wounds and that the surrounding plants were all yellowed and dead. When the priest arrived and did the sign of the Cross over the body, all that vanished. I do not know what to make of that, but I have no reason to doubt the word of my companions.

We attempted to follow the trail left by the horse, but it soon became clear that we were not going to find anything. The trail lead us into the mountains and the horse had been ridden at a full gallop, so we were much to slow to catch up. We turned back.

In the evening, Aidan and I investigated the artifact and the marbles a bit further. The artifact is capable of producing a light much brighter than anything I have ever seen, but we are still not sure what exactly it is. It might be a mistake to think of it as a lamp only. The marbles seems to be just that. Until I decided to test if they were really glass. I went outside and hit one of them with a stone. I was thrown to the ground, blinded by a flash of light and feeling like my heart had been pierced with a splinter. I could not catch my breath for a while and although the pain in my heart stopped, the arm I heald the stone in felt like a thousand ants were crawling over it. I had no use of it for hours, just as I had lost my sight. I feared that it would remain that way and that I was blind, but after a few hours, my sight returned, as did Aidan's. I do not know what kind of magic this is, but I intend to find out. If I survive the last taks of the competition: keeping my balance on logs that are rafted downriver.


I have encountered Syrneth technology before as a player and I knew very well that hitting it with a stone was a recipe for disaster. My GM did his best to hide his 'you are not doing this-face. I'm just happy that all my fingers are still there. And I'm still going to play around a bit more with those marbles - Marinus hasn't got a sling for nothing.

next time

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Blame It On the Clams

A couple of sessions ago, our characters - small-time crooks, thiefs and would-be runners in the loosest sense of the word - broke into an asylum run by the Catholic church to free one girl. They had already found out that the asylum was a front for some sort of operation that left a number of girls dead each week. They did not expect to find Seattle's mayor and other dignitaries using it as their own private brothel. But they decided to use this opportunity for a spot of blackmail, to force the mayor to close the asylum and get the girls into a place where they would get real help.

If you are feeling a bit doubtful about the value of that agreement: congratulations. So were most of us, but we felt at least that we had a chance to do some good and to get out of this without too many ruffled feathers because we had been careful to hide out tracks. And then Zach, our technomancer goes ahead and calls the mayor, right in front of our hiding place. He gets hit by black ice and actually tries to pass it of as a case of food poisoning (bad clams) when we asked what he did. Meanwhile, the runners doubtlessly sent by the mayor have a fix on our position. We did get away and so far, we have been evading them, although I still wouldn't want to bet much on our chances.

It was beautiful, in a way. Kind of like seeing a nicely coordinated train wreck in an action movie. This is absolutely in the top five of my personal 'You cannot be serious'-moments in Shadowrun. Zach has this really serious problem with trusting people and in-character, he's toast when he does something like that again. Everyone is entitled to one really big fuckup and we do get why he lied about it - years of fending for himself on the street and it's not like technomancers are welcome anywhere but in a corporate lab. But that's not something you can do twice, not without getting killed by your friends or not having any friends left after it (either because they're dead or because they left you).

Out of character, we did talk about it because we wanted to make sure that the player knew this. We had one very similar situation before and that one went fubar quickly, with the player fully intending to keep it up. The group didn't last for other reasons, but that character would not have a very high life-expectancy. At the very best, the player would have had to make a new character because no-one would have trusted the old one any longer. I really appreciate that we were able to talk about it this time without anyone getting pissed and with a result we all can live with.

The campaign on Obsidian Portal

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shadowrun: Multiple Characters

We started to play a sandbox-style Shadowrun campaign a while ago. Normally, Shadowrun isn't the first system you think of when someone mentions sandbox, but it works really well. None of us play the normal runner characters, we're just trying to survive in the slums of the Redmond Barrens. So I took the chance and made myself a shadow doc who had build a shadow clinic at the Rat's nest. Unlike the sourcebook's Rat's Nest, we decided to make it into a working community where people look out for each other and soon, my doc turned into one of the leaders of that community. I hadn't planned for that. And I also hadn't planned for the fact that Neil was no longer a character to do much outside the Nest - he had his hands full dealing with all the people in the nest and to make the Nest work.

So I took over Rusty, one of the gang members from the Nest, a young man who dreams of becoming a runner. I've been playing him for a while and he just got the offer to learn how to fly a small plane and to work as a pilot (with a side order of smuggling). At the same time, the group is planning to break into a chocolate factory - a plan that could make us all rich, given how rare chocolate is. But it's also risky and with a steady job on the line, Rusty doesn't want to risk it. And so I get to play a third character, a former NPC who is involved in the chocolate factory run.

I very much like this about the Rat's Nest campaign - with so many NPCs and such a lot of potential stories, I have the freedom to decide that my characters just won't do some things. I can of course do that in any game, but often it means being left out of the next few gaming sessions or playing a one shot character, something I don't like all that much.
Three characters is quite a lot and it takes up some time to not neglect one of them. We play a lot of small scenes on Skype or by email, the campaign is heavy on social interaction anyway. It also gives the GM a lot of ways to introduce stories or information, Rusty will for example hear things Neil doesn't. I only recommend this style of playing if you are prepared to invest more time than the average character needs, but it really is worth it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lady Blackbird: A Good Villain

After escaping from the Hand of Sorrow (while blowing up the hangar and kidnapping Captain Hollas' son Basil), the crew of the Owl took refuge at Atlas 4, an abandoned mining colony now occupied by goblins. Snarge got a very icy reception, but the goblins agreed to give them supplies and coal in exchange for imperial radio frequencies and a closer look at the fighter the Owl still has in tow.
Cyrus finally decided to share Hollas' offer (kill my son and get rich or don't kill him and every bounty hunter will be after you) with Lexi on the way to Haven and Lexi managed to restore the message on the data crystal. And after a very good meal cooked by Norman, everybody on the ship got to see it, to varying degrees of dismay.

I said a while ago that one of my goals as a GM was to write a villain that my players will really hate. I think I may have succeeded with Captain Hollas. It probably helped that I'm channeling Tywin Lannister when I play him. The players don't trust him any farther than they could throw the Owl and there was a lot of indignation that he even thought they would accpt his offer.

I've been waiting for months for Cyrus to tell the crew (we play by forum, so it's slow) and I enjoyed the moment. This one time, I would have liked to sit with them all around a table to actually see the reactions, but the mails and OOC comments were quite entertaining, too. It's been already pretty much decided that they won't kill Basil and I'm curious what they will come up with to solve their problem. I hope they decide to mess with Hollas - I would love to play him again and even I want to see him taken down a peg or two.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I Want My Hat Back

The bear has lost his hat and he asks everyone they meet if they haven't seen it. But no-one has.
Although some animals may answer more truthfully than other.

Until the stag asks what the hat looked like and then the bear remembers that he DID see his hat.

If you want your picture books nice and fluffy and bright, then this is not for you. If you can deal with or love a bit of black humour, then by all means get "I Want My Hat Back" by Jon Klassen. It's great for reading aloud, especially if you do the voices and of course you must do the voices.
I like the art a lot, it's simple but very expressive. I have this thing for characters who mainly communicate their emotions with their eyes and Klassen does this extremely well. He's also great at telling a story with very few or no word at all.

Reviews 2013