Sunday, 15 October 2017

Deadlands - Tam's War: Repercussions and Spying

When I come to in the morning (17th October 1879), the worst of the drugs have left my system. Blearily, I explain to Tam and the others what I learnt from the hostage: that despite the attackers all being in Kwan's colours, Kang was actually behind this; and it wasn't just about chaos, but an attack on Tam's life.

Tam's livid - partly because he didn't see it coming. He's angry because Ma and Woo, like Kwan, left before the violence as if they knew what was coming.

Tam's heard that Kang and Kwan are meeting in Dragon's Breath in 4 days time, and he wants us to spy on the meeting. Us, because now he doesn't trust his men. He'll help us however he can, including getting us there in time. He warns us that Kwan knows it was us who sank the Abysmal, to complicate things further, but says this will be the last task he asks of us: he won't hold us to the rest of the time he originally demanded. We can have the key when we get back.

He looks after us for the day, feeding us and tracking down things that should be useful for the task. He puts us up for one more night, and we leave early in the morning on a boat called the Sturgeon - Tam's ironclad.

Around noon, the temperature falls. A thick fog forms around us, and frost forms on the hull. The captain slows the ship and the crew looks anxious. I don't blame them. The shadows extend and contract unnaturally in what light we have. I start, then race to Carson when he starts screaming for no obvious reason. When he calms again, he explains the fog is supernatural. 

By now, it's so thick we can't see more than a few yards - which means we can't see what causes the screams at the back of the boat, nor why they end so abruptly. The captain's never seen anything like this. I head over, and there, looming through the mist, is a towering ghost ship. The Abysmal. I shudder, but remember something Dillenger told me about ghosts: they can only be defeated with magic. 

I send Chin to punch the boarding spectres, hoping the powers he displayed in the Kumite are magic enough. Tesla's freaking out, so sit with him and calm him and bring him round. He lends his lightning rod to Carson, who passes him a knife - he picked it up in the wizard's lair on Felheimer's Folly and thinks it's magic, but is as good at fighting hand to hand as I am. Meanwhile, I head to the ship's guns to strafe the ghost ship, to see if we might be able to board it in return, but it seems unlikely. Instead, I climb to the highest place I can find and sing, to keep everyone's spirits up.

There's chaos every direction I look, but Carson notices every time one of the lightning bolts hits The Abysmal rather than a boarding ghost, part of the ship fades away, so he turns his attention on that until eventually the whole thing is gone, the fog lifts, and the only sign anything happened are the spent shells and the missing crew members. Roughly half of the crew, gone. Less than a minute has passed.

The rest of the day is spent acting as replacement crew. We borrow a dinghy to reach Dragon's Breath after dark and manage to find a place to stay.

Explore in the morning. Most of the buildings are traditional-Chinese in style, except one which is red brick and surrounded by creepy statues - human/lizard hybrids. Chin says they look like tomb guardians, used to keep robbers out (or dangerous things in). There's a single door to the building, dramatically barred. This isn't Kang's fortress, though, which has crenellations, guards, cannons - but is low enough you could jump to the roof from another building, if there wasn't a clear gap all round it. The guards on the gate are busy with people and carts entering and leaving. Some people are interrogated or even searched on the way in, but everyone is ignored on the way out, so Chin grabs a box and follows a group in.

The rest of us look for another way in, and settle on the sewer. Not pleasant, but it'll do. We've still got a few days before the meeting, but figure if we can, we should break in tonight, before security is ramped up for the meeting. Chin rejoins us, having scouted the place, and he and Carson head out to set a very smoky fire to draw the guards attention. Tesla and I head to the grate we'd settled on, and use some of his acid to cut through the metal, and some of his other spare bits and pieces to rig it so it looks sealed but should still be easily opened. Chin leads us somewhere inside where we can hide, and we stay there for all of the following day into the next.

Chin acts as scout, so he's the one who sees Kwan's posse arrive on 21st October, and works out where the meeting will be held. He fetches us and we hide by a wall to listen in. Kwan's brought 'Emperor' Joshua Norton with him, so most of the conversation is in English, which helps.

Kwan isn't happy the attack was carried out in his colours and wants to know who was behind it. Kang doesn't say, instead pointing out Tam believes it was Kwan and will want revenge, so Kwan should attack first. They discuss plans: Kwan can't attack without naval support, which Kang will supply. They switch to Chinese and we struggle to follow (even Chin, whose parents raised him to speak more English than Chinese), when we hear a shout of "INTRUDERS!" and make a swift exit (the sewer grate functioning as hoped).

We get back to the Sturgeon and race to Shan Fan, but don't get back before dusk falls and the captain makes us stop for the night. None of us sleep well, and in the morning realise we got a little lost: we don't get back until mid-afternoon. Kang's fleet is already in place - much sooner than should have been possible. Kang's navy means the ship can't get through, so the captain drops us outside and we'll walk through the refugee camp again. Or what we thought was a refugee camp, but now realise is indeed an army camp, so they'd both been ready in advance. Ready to betray each other? We can only hope.

Carson takes out the sentries using sleeping darts we got from Tam and we creep through the camp, into Shan Fan and back to Tam. He's very concerned with our news, but is true to his word and gives us the key. We hightail it back to the Sunrise Lodge to get our stuff. Pennington-Smythe and Dillenger aren't there, so we head to the remains of the Explorers' Lodge.

Friday, 13 October 2017

FictionFriday - King Akwern's Levy

I heard you was out across the country lookin' fer local folklore, afore them temple-dwellers knock it all outta us.

Weeelll, I've no doubt ye've heard already of King Akwern, Lord of the Grey Ones, though as I hear it he has other names and other genders in other parts <he spits>, so yeh may not know 'im proper yet. And it bein' Harvest and all, tis a good time to know yer enemy.

So, you'll be seeing 'em all out (if yeh haven't already), collecting collecting their crops from tree and soil, and yeh'll be seeing them leavin' a great pile of it at the edges: every orchard, every field. And later, we'll all a-come and heave what's there to th'edges of the forest, what 'iz troops haven't tekken already. And if we don't, well, misfortune follows.


Tek little Bonnie. She was a friend of my Grammer's, though her huzbban weren't so kind as my own Granfer, as they tell it. But she married him and he got a son in her and carried on his drinking and shouting and lazing even after the babe was born and his parents had died and another babe on the way, when then he stops only for he drops himself dead. And little Bonnie's all big with child and can't manage the orchard alone . Some of the crop makes its way to market and some to King Akwern, but most finds its way nay further than the floor. Well, King Akwern don't tek kindly to this. And ye may be wundering why, when he had his tithe. The thing is, see, he doesn't just want his share  of the crop, he wants that share to be the very best, and what he got from Bonnie, it weren't the best of what'd grown.

So he sends his black-and-white birds as lookouts, and the dust-tailed lieutenants swarmed their house, them chittering ones tided in like water turned grey, and when they ebbed away, sure and her son was missing.  

Now, Bonnie was a brave lass for all her huzbban had done. This'd be reet when she'd jowst hadden the new babe, a girlie, and she wasn't going fer that babe to lose it's brother so, so she traps herself one of 'iz lieutenants, bound it to her mekking it swear thrice that it would aid her and not mislead her afore she let it out of that trap, fer all the good that did her, and off she set with the babe at her breast, her cloak round her shoulders and that squirrel on her shoulder.

And nehver was she seen again, at least, not in these parts. Mayhap she got the better of King Akwern and married herself a prince and lived happily ever after, but I think he et her. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Exalted - Farewell Derren's Ford

The tree was not comfy. Mummy and Daddy hadn't come back by the time we woke up. We stayed hiding in the tree but it wasn't nice and we were hungry. I convinced Kito we should go back. I pretended I wasn't scared or else he wouldn't've come.

When we got to the village, there was no one there, except there was a big fire in the distance. Kito didn't know if there was some special celebration going on that we were too little to know about yet. Everything was messy in our house and no one was there. Well, Roxy was in the barn but she was asleep so I put some oats down for her and made Kito and I some food and we looked around again after we ate and our friend's daddy had gone to sleep outside their house. He must have been drinking something red when he went to sleep and spilt it everywhere. He was lying on his tummy and it didn't look like a nice way to sleep but we couldn't wake him and he was too heay to move so we found a blanket and wrapped him up and it was late and we were tired too so we went to bed and he was still there when we got up in the morning so he must have been really tired.

Roxy was still asleep too and she hadn't had her oats so maybe there was some big party we weren't invited to and that's why everyone was so tired. Only then Kito thought maybe we should look in Daddy's cellar where we're not meant to go and Daddy was in there but Han was too and Han said we shouldn't wake Daddy but we should go to Thorns and find Mei and get Mei to take us to our Uncle Chow of House Cathak. Han didn't look very well but said he was ok really but had to look after Daddy. There was a big sword by Daddy that I couldn't lift but Kito could, just, so Han said we could take it with us and he said we should look under the floorboards in the kitchen and there would be a pouch with some jade in it and we should take that to. So we did, even though we're not supposed to have jade because we're peasants, and the jade was all different colours and there was a piece that had a picture on it, like a stamp. And I found some food and Kito wrapped the giant sword. And Han stayed behind to look after Daddy and Kito and I went into town because we thought finding a boat to go to Thorns would be easier than walking. And in town there was a big bonfire which I thought maybe was where everyone was partying but Kito got closer and said it wasn't and said I mustn't go any closer and he looked very pale and wouldn't tell me what was wrong. It did smell funny. 

Anyway, we got down to the dock and it was all damaged but we managed to find a little boat that wasn't and then we set out and we went the wrong way but Kito didn't believe me only later I saw him turn the boat around when he thought I didn't notice and I didn't let him know I'd seen because I didn't want to make him sad.

It was tiring and I am bad at sailing. Kito's better because he wants to be a sailor like Song and every time Song visits he makes him teach him all about boats and we have to play boats and that's ok but I also want to play other things so I don't always pay attention and now we were out on the water and I couldn't help very much. 

We found a harbour one night, with all these fishing boats and after everything we were too scared to meet any of them but it was dark when we got there. I made some bowls out of the clay there while Kito made the boat safe and we left in the morning before the fishermen were up and I dried the bowls and fished while Kito rowed and sailed and the same the next day and after that we could eat more easily because we had bowls. And then another night we found a clearing and Kito went for berries and stuff while I prepared fish and food and then he got attacked by a whole pack of giant tiger-wolves - the size of tyrant lizards!* - and I wanted to run back to the boat but he wasn't fast enough and they bit him so I jumped on its back and hit it with a stick until it let go and it shook me off and that's when this huge cartwheel of fire rolled through and it fell in half! And we looked around and saw this man and his name was Hak and he saved us and looked over Kito and it turned out even though he'd been bitten nearly in half he wasn't actually hurt and Hak cooked us yummy food with a fire from a gem and watched over us as we slept and when we got up he'd painted all these symbols over our boat and then he had to leave us because he was going the wrong way and when we carried on the boat was really easy to use and really fast and we think that was the night we turned 8.

And then we made it to Thorns and steered our little boat into the harbour and docked it up and Kito was too scared to get out so I got out first and helped him out and that was how we got there.

 ~~~

* It was one normal-sized, normal wolf, but we can forgive an excited young girl for her hyperbole. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Ida Brown (Deadlands thief)

When we started Deadlands, I created 4 characters: Lizbeth Hunter, the gunslinger I played for a few sessions way back when; Solomon Blackbird, the character I'm playing now; Valeria Black, a huxster I have yet to play; and an unnamed thief. We built them using the card draw variation, and the thief ended up with lower stats than the others. I couldn't think of a name for her and, though I liked the concept, I wasn't planning on playing her to begin with so didn't worry too much about it. But I wanted to do a blog post today and I wasn't in the mood to write up the game (even though I want to catch up and I want to catch up the other games too), so I dug out the character sheet - and set to adjusting it, based on what I now know of the game.

I searched for popular girls names of the era and attached a surname. I haven't written a proper background, as this may change (as the surname might): Bells, who plays Tesla in our current Deadlands game and my character's twin brother in Exalted, has mentioned a similar character to me that he'd like to play, and I suggested they could be siblings: I really enjoy playing characters that have a strong bond with his. So I figured he can write the main background and I'll slide in around it, and similarly adapt her name to suit.

STATS
Attributes & Skills
Agility D12
        - Fighting D8
        - Lockpicking D8
        - Stealth D8

Smarts D6
        - Notice D6
        - Streetwise D6

Spirit D6
        - Guts D6

Strength D6
        - Climbing D4

Vigour D6

Hindrances & Edges
Clueless (major) (-2 penalty on all common knowledge rolls)(I switched out 'small', which reduces toughness by 1, having discovered how important toughness is, and was tempted by 'curious', but I took that for Valeria. May well go to 'curious' anyway, because it's one of those flaws I really enjoy roleplaying)
Wanted (minor) (clearly stole something from someone I shouldn't have!)
Quirk (minor) (constantly eating nuts & seeds, with a tendancy to leave a trail of husks behind her)
Lucky (extra benny!)



I've got ideas for a voodooist blessed and an alchemist or gun-toting mad scientist, so they may follow one day...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Deadlands - Tam's War: Betrayal at the Kumite

When Tesla and I wake in the morning, Carson is still picking through the wreckage. He'd managed to find the rest of my clothes, but still nothing of Steve. No food and only one small rowboat to get us anywhere. We're discussing our bleak prospects when we spot a Chinese lad, maybe a couple of years younger than me, watching us. His name's Chin. He was born in Shan Fan but came out here to mine ghost rock and scrape some sort of living after his parents died. The arrival of Kang's men means he doesn't really want to be here any more, so offers to come with us back to Shan Fan. He's also got a small rowboat and, more importantly, an idea how to navigate the Maze. We row hard and manage to reach the cliffs of the mainland before dusk. Tesla's still pretty beaten up, but between us we manage forage up enough food to convince our grumbling bellies to let us sleep, and we managed to keep that up for the 2 days it took us to walk back to Shan Fan.
As we approach, we see encampments around the outskirts: refugees, presumably, from Lost Angels - but the thought of Lost Angels triggers the memory of the army camp we saw there. I see Tesla and Carson shiver with the same thought. We thread our way through and into Shan Fan, then across town to Tam. Chin looks a little surprised, but knows a shortcut - which we quickly realise would be a lot quicker if we went through Stinktown... still, he does know the town better than we do.
We're welcomed into Tam's estate. He's heard of our success and considers the loss of the boat and its captain "acceptable". I suppress my shudder.
He's happy enough that we're fed more food than we've seen since leaving Helstromme's company, and offers to put us up for the night. Through his translator, in the morning he explains he now wants one of us to fight in a 'Kumite' the next day: a martial arts championship. With an excited glint in his eye, Chin volunteers.
Tam takes the rest of us with him to watch. We see Tam's lieutenants in the audience, and a few other faces we recognise (though no Explorers). Carson spots a white man dressed like a mayor sat next to Kwan. Tam's translator says he calls himself 'Emperor Joshua Norton I'. Kwan is rumoured to have seen in a vision quest that he would help a white man become "king of the land beyond the mountains". He decided this referred to California, and that Joshua was the man. No one knows where he found Joshua.
The fights are fast. Chin does pretty well in the first round, but goes out in the second. The final winner is someone called Chin Hsueh Wong, a fighter from somewhere called the '37th Chamber', fighting for Kwan. He's a phenomenal fighter, but prideful. As the final fight ends, everyone is startled by the sound of gunfire. 3 of the blue ogres appear and bee line for Tam - who uses his translator to point out to us that if he dies, we won't get the key that was the whole point of us working for him. Long Haired Tony, the sheriff of Shan Fan, joins us as we start to flee.
There's chaos and confusion as the ogres and other soldiers - all in Kang's colours - tear their way through the spectators. Chairs flying people screaming. I spot that Tam's lieutenants managed to make themselves scarce before this all started, and Kwan and his 'emperor' have vanished. 
We fight our way across the floor, trying to keep away from the ogres. Other fighters manage to get in our way, but we wrestle past. Tesla and Carson weren't allowed to bring their weapons, which makes the fight harder, but Tesla manages to take one goon out with a chair. He drags the last one with us, unconscious.
Back at Tam's estate, they tie the goon to a chair and take turns shouting and threatening. He takes it all in with an air of utter calm. My heart sinks: I think I know how to get through to him, and it isn't something I want to do, but nothing else is working.
With reluctance, I leave Tesla, Carson and Chin to their attempts (who knows, they might get somewhere afterall and I won't have to do this), and speak with Tam's men to see if they can get me certain herbs - and a small, airtight room. With that arranged, I return to the others, and they haven't managed to break the guy. I ask them to bring him (on his chair), put him in the middle of the room, and then leave. Carson is reluctant, but I turn to him and let the shadows that always surround me - that I normally try to hide - flare out and turn the full force of my one-eyed gaze on him... and he relents. I shut the door behind him and light the herbs, light a flickery torch behind me to enhance those vile shadows. Initially, he treats me with the same disinterest as the others, but as the smoke builds his eyes become wild and his calm - and coherence - melt away. My own self-control is severely eroded as he gabbles what he knows.
I crawl to the door and open it shortly before Carson and the others were going to break in to make sure I was ok: this took longer than I'd hoped. I pass out in the fresh air.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Chrissie's Bedrooms

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Solomon's bedrooms and commented I found it hard because I didn't really know much about the rooms for either of the characters I'm currently playing. I was thinking Taji in additioan to Solomon, but after I finished the piece I realised that while I'm not currently playing Chrissie her story isn't finished and we will be going back to her - and I have a pretty god idea of her rooms. The flat she was living in when the Aberrant game started was one I described to my GM in detail, because I had such a complete idea of what it looked like. 

So here's Chrissie's bedrooms.

~~~

The Room at her Parents' House
It's a large room for a small child. The door is in the wall opposite the window; the bed sticks our from the wall between, a rug at the foot. Above the head of the bed are two shelves. The one within the reach of a child has a couple of tatty teddies on it, and well-worn books of nursery rhymes and Beatrix Potter. Above it, the other shelf has a few pristine china dolls and some other children's books she mustn't touch. Closer to the window but on the same wall as the bed is a door to a cupboard with her clothes. The corner of the room opposie the door and bed holds a large dolls house, raised on a table and held within a glass case. Her mother has the key. There is a desk in the other corner opposite the bed, with a few of her paintings stuck to the wall above it. Beside the desk is a large cabinet. The drawers hold uniforms for the various hobbies her parents have signed her up to; behind glass, the shelves above hold a few trophies she's very proud of - ballet and gymnastics, mostly, but also a couple for horse riding.

As a teenager, the white and floral walls have been painted black with cheap paint, damaged sections covered with posters, which replace the childish paintings. The dolls house and toys have gone (the battered Beatrix Potter now hidden in a desk drawer). The external window cill is pockmarked with cigarette burns and the room has an unpleasant smell: too much deoderant, which she believes hides the smell of smoke better than it does. The trophies are still in the cabinet, and there are more, but they've been thrown in with no care: frustration and teenage angst have made her cynical. Books and clothes litter the floor. An electric guitar sits by its amp where the dolls house had been, but she can't play it.

It's her brother's friend Bill who finds the booze stashed beneath the bed and in the clothes cupboard, and the stash of pain killers and razer blades in the bedside drawers. He's the one who helps her find the help she needs to combat the depression her parents never even suspected.

As soon as she moved out for uni, the room was redecorated and scrubbed out to be a guest room, as though she'd never been there.

The Room in London
The flat is the top floor of a small building in Croyden, London. Like the teenage iteration of her childhood room, this one is dark, but because the blinds are usually drawn rather than because the walls are black. A free-standing wardrobe purportedly holds her clothes: a couple of smart outfits for interviews, a couple of wedding/funeral approriate dresses, a lot of goth/metalhead style clothing, and some fitness gear, with a drawer at the bottom for udnerwear. Most of it's strewn across the flat, however. The bed's a double, feet pointing to the main window, duvet rumpled. A bedside cabinet holds a couple books or medical journals, perhaps with a notebook for annotations. Mostly such things are in the second bedroom, which she uses as an office. There is almost certainly at least one cup of half-drunk tea somewhere in the room, and probably some unwashed plates: her meticulous neatness and cleanliness at the hospital/lab does not extend to her living space.

Her favourite thing is the skylight, which she often opens at night to lean out and feel kissed by the stars. If it's dry and she's feeling particularly daring, she'll even crawl out onto the roof and sit there, just watching. After erupting, this becomes even more common, and the skylights in the flat are her primary means of entry and egress (because why would you walk when you can fly?)

The Room in Cambridge
For the first time, Chrissie shares her bedroom (with Steve, who'd lived 2 floors below her in London), which means she reins in at least some of her natural untidiness. Her clothes are all hung up in her half of their built-in wardrobe. The floor is clear.

The room is a little larger than the one at her parents. Again, the bed is on the wall between that with the door and that with the window, and again has a large rug at the foot. The walls are not painted a dark colour and the curtains are frequently opened, making the room feel lighter and airier than she's used to. The window is large enough she can easily use it as a door, and Steve's good about making sure it's open if he's expecting her back soon.

She has a stack of papers - recent scientific research in many fields, current politics, whatever has caught her attention at that time - by her side of the bed, with a few notebooks filled with tiny, cryptic writing and organised in a coded method that makes sense to her vast intelligence but which would leave most baffled. One of her favourite things about erupting is the amount of time she has available now. She rarely sleeps because she doesn't see the point, but will come to bed with Steve because that's part of building a relationship, so she uses the time to read and work on her own papers. She usually remembers to leave a note when she's done and has flown off on some errand or other, or just to see Adam: there's a miniature whiteboard by the window for this purpose.

Friday, 29 September 2017

FictionFriday - Lonely Throne

I really wanted to write something for FictionFriday but lacked inspiration*. So I dug out an old notebook from when I was at school and found lyrics to a song. If I can just decipher my handwriting... 


You've seen it all before
You've lived in other lands
You've seen devils climb and angels fall
You've danced across sun-baked sands
You've listened to wild-cats call
You've cut off thieving hands

Chorus:
Give up your crown to me
Relinquish your ord and sceptre
Stop trying to live your life alone

You've danced where the angels mourn
You've seen innocence in eyes of child
You've ridden plains on a unicorn
You've seen murderers act mild
You've heard demons laugh and cherubs scorn
You've watched fear turn wild

Chorus

You've seen where elephants place their dead
You've drunk clean water from a stream
You've danced with angels on a pin head
You've climbed mountains into dreams
You've thought before every word you've said
You've listened to faeries scream

Chorus

You've taken wild-cats, made them tame
You've seen things you thought weren't there
You've felt pity for things you've slain
You've not been afraid to show you're scared
You've taught elves to play your game
You've shown people when you care

Chorus

You've lived your life by choice alone
You've flown pegasi across the sky
You've learnt things no one's ever known
You've seen beauty in the tears you cry
It's time you learnt to share your throne
It's time you met my eye

 

~~~



*Not entirely true - I've got a supervillain and a superhero I want to write stories for, each inspired by chronic pain. I haven't quite worked out the details for either, though. I work on the characters a little bit whenever my pain levels bother me - villain when I'm grumpy and wish others could feel what I feel; hero when I'm feeling heroic with my ability to cope ;-)