Monday, March 31, 2008

I Prefer Jazz Anyway

Session Three: Music To Calm The Soul
Note: This session was stolen from RPG.Net's Roleplaying Actual Play thread. As such, credit goes to the original author, walkerp. While I'm at it, I took inspiration from the excellent comic miniseries Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way for some modifications to the nefarious villains of the piece.

Available: Maurice LeBec, Sir Alistair Montgomery, Chloe M

After their adventure in Africa, the party were granted some down-time, and offered tickets to the opening performance of a symphony that has swept through Europe to high acclaim. Reluctantly accepting the tickets, the party were whisked away to New York, and the famous Carnegie Hall.

Arriving at the show, Sir Alistair spotted an old acquaintance of his, Doctor Deedes, and wandered off to join him in the parquet. Maurice and Chloe headed upwards to the first balcony area, but did not sit together. Chloe had spotted a well known adventurer, Jack Savage, and pointedly chose to ignore him.

As the music began, Maurice realised he was experiencing something wonderful. His knowledge of the Arts meant that he was aware that this was truly as great as the reports from Europe were claiming. The music was astonishing, and he soon found himself taken away by it all.

At the break, the party joined up briefly in the bar and discussed the show so far, as well as having time to chat to fellow attendees. But, with a mere fifteen minutes for the intermission, they learned little of value save that everyone seemed to be enjoying it in varying degrees.

The second half of the show was a little different. Very shortly after it began, Chloe noticed that people were staring more intently at the orchestra than usual, and some had their heads tilted slightly to one side, while a small few were even drooling. Looking around, she noticed that Maurice has seemingly fallen asleep!! Sir Alistair noticed his friend acting strangely, as well as an unusually strong sensation of calm. Using a handy Gadget he just so happened to have with him, he found that something was producing a frequency that mimicked and caused a state similar to REM sleep in the people who could hear it. It was clear someone was tampering with the audience.

Chloe woke Maurice, who proceeded to scale the walls and head along the drapes and balcony boxes towards the stage. Sir Alistair attempted to awaken Doctor Deedes and some others, but was met with resistance. The music changed and all the hypnotised people began to crowd around him chanting in a monotonous voice "Don't stop the music. Don't stop the music..." At the same time, Chloe spotted men moving through the crowd, hold large sacks. They were dressed in impeccable tuxedos and every one of them wore a small domino mask. As they passed through the zombiefied high society of New York, they simply held out the bags and people put wallets, jewelery and anything else of value willingly into them.

Despite drifting off to sleep again while clinging to some drapes, Maurice reached the stage and leaped down to attack the conductor. Sir Alistair fended off zombies, trying desperately not to hurt anyone, but pushing to get towards the men in the domino masks. Chloe raced down the back stairs to try to get to the stage, and almost ran into some more domino masks who were on the way up.

After dropping the curtains and various other items on the orchestra, Maurice managed to stop the symphony long enough to pound on the conductor. The violinists were firing bows using their instruments like bow and arrows, and the orchestra proved themselves capable of a fight. Chloe spotted someone in the rigging about the stage, and climbed the ladder to investigate, but was almost blasted away by an ear piercing sound. Sir Alistair took down one of the men in domino masks before the hypnotic effects wore off and people began to press towards the exits. He caught a brief glimpse of one of them reaching to remove his mask, and then they vanished into the crowd!

With the conductor beaten and bruised, and himself not much better, Maurice pulled the conductor through the trapdoor in the stage for questioning. Getting only babbling, incoherent phrases and the odd unexplainable apology to an unnamed someone. Heading back up to the stage, Maurice spotted Chloe dangling off the ladder and went to help. Sir Alistair was determined to examine the instruments immediately. Up on the catwalk, Chloe and Maurice confronted a shadowy figure. He was wearing a cape with a high collar, and over his mouth was a piece of grated metal. He roared at the two adventurers, sending them rolling back alone the catwalk, and Chloe almost fell. "You ruined this symphony", he said. "But our Apocalypse Suite goes on! This shall not be the last time we meet!", and with that, he seemed to drop from the far end of the catwalk.

Chloe and Maurice raced back down, but neither could see the enemy, and Sir Alistair seemed to have not noticed anyone moving. Rushing down below the stage, they discovered the body of the conductor, blood weeping from his eyes, nose and ears. Frozen on his face is a look of unnatural horror. Sir Alistair's cursory examination revealed that he was most likely killed by a sonic device bursting blood vessels in his head. Investigating the area reveals a simple pulley lift shaft that runs from the catwalk to under the stage. Going up, a skylight is open, letting in the cool New York night air.

A round of questioning the captured domino masked man, as well as a few of the orchestra, revealed some interesting facts about the symphony and it's creator, though nothing to help track him now. Sir Alistair was intrigued by the devices he found in the instruments that allowed them to be attuned to the frequencies of the human mind, putting it into a trance-like state. Naturally, he pocketed one for further study. Handing all the captives over to the police and spending some time relaying their own findings, the party then called it a night and headed back to their hotel rooms for some well deserved sleep.

Not a bad night at all this one. Everyone got to do lots, and had a ball of a time. The session ran on just enough for the night, feeling neither rushed, nor dragged out. It was interesting to put the PCs up against a non-physical threat, making them role Rapport, Resolve and Arts more than Guns, Might and Athletics. Fun, and funny, and while the original author pointed out that it ran late for him, I found it to be a nicely paced, enjoyably session with just the right mix of action and investigation for my group.

Truth And The Nile

Session Two: Welcome to the Jungle

Available: Maurice LeBec, Hank Scopio, Sir Alistair Montgomery, Chloe M

Called to the Society again, the party were brought up to speed on some missing members, two of the original founding members of AP, Reginald and Sarah, who had been searching for the True Source of the Nile. On Donald Fairfaxs information, the party were instructed to travel to the National History Museum in Cairo, retrieve an artifact, and then travel on to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to pick up Reginald and Sarah's trail.

Arriving in Egypt the party questioned the museum curator, and noticed that some of the shadows in the exhibition hall were unexplainably "off", but the huge overhead skylight washed the room in harsh African sunlight, so further investigation proved pointless.

The following morning, the party boarded a zeppelin bound for Kigali with the required artifact, an ancient Egyptian urn. While relaxing on board, they noticed the headline on a newspaper: "History Museum Attacked. Priceless Artifacts Stolen" and discovered that robed attackers broke into the museum late last night and made off with random artifacts. Most interesting was that they came in through the skylight in the room that had contained the urn! Dun, dun, duuuuuunnnnnnn...

The discussions on the implications of this were cut short as robed assailants attacked the zeppelin, arriving on board via bi-plane. Getting up into the main body of the zeppelin, the party discovered two dead crew members on the walkway that circles the gasbags. Before they even had time to investigate, they were attacked by the robed figures, who flung knives across great distance with stunning force. One acrobatically enriched combat scene later and the attackers were defeated and revealed as (unsurprising to everyone at the table) gorillas!!

In Kigali, they spent some time investigating the disappearance of Reginald and Sarah. In fact, they spent longer than I had anticipated, but came up with lots of ways to track an impossible trail and they discovered that the missing members had been in the company of a pygmy tribe before they disappeared.

While investigating the hotel room Reginald and Sarah had been using, the group were quick to note a lack of any sign of a struggle or forced entry. Questioning the staff, they learned that the missing couple had gone to their room, but were not seen leaving. Only a single burn mark on the carpet hinted at anything unusual. Sir Alistair questioned the nature of the mark, and upon closer examination discovered it was created by a high energy electrical discharge. Stupidly, I made Ray role for this, but when he questioned it, he had the puzzle solved already, even naming his nemesis, Doctor Eternity, as being involved. I should have just thrown him one, if not two Fate Points straight away without a role and confirmed his suspicions, instead he wasted a bunch of Points on rerolls as he just kept rolling minus'!! Ah well. I learned for the future.

Resting over night, the party proceeded into the thick jungle in the morning light and followed Reginald and Sarah's trail toward the Source of the Nile. Before they knew it they were surrounded by a large tribe of pygmy's, bows and spears pointed at the adventurers. After leaving the team to sweat for a little bit, an English speaking voice told everyone to calm down.

A tall figure dressed entirely in purple, with a black domino mask stepped out into view to address the PCs. After some introductions, the Phantom admitted to having met Reginald and Sarah, as well as offering the assistance of some of the native people to safely return to Kigali. After expositing some plot, and answering all he could, regretted that he had other business to attend to for now and vanished into the jungle once more, taking the tribe with him.

Proceeding on to the temple, the party discovered evidence of movement all around the site, as well as evidence of recent movement into and out of the temple itself. Moving into the temple, they were tricked into a trap room. Behind a metal grate in the high ceiling, the imposing face of a bespectacled gorilla looked down on the group. "Give me the urn."

A Brief Tangent: This is the first, and so far only time that I have done something that I completely regret in hindsight. In my haste to wrap up the adventure for the night, as the investigating in Kigali went on far longer than I expected, I had the lead gorilla talk, and express his desire. Looking back, there was no need for him to speak. He could have grunted and groaned, pointed and flailed. The party already knew what he was after. Plus, having him talk made him just another villain, but in a primate suit. Leaving him with just the Language of the Primates would have added something unique to his character. Besides, nothing he actually ended up saying was vital or required.

The party refused to relinquish the urn, and the room began to flood quickly to drown the characters. I had planned on the Phantom showing up at the Last Possible Second to rescue the team, but instead they came up with a great escape plan of their own, and I decided to let them enjoy the fruits of their teamwork. Bursting into the upper room, the party found themselves in a cylindrical room with a domed ceiling, an unopened sarcophagus with a pedestal at the head and beyond that was a finely carved stone chair, upon which the head gorilla was awkwardly seated, surrounded by minions.

Combat wrapped up with the lead gorilla leaping for Hank, getting shot in the chest, crashing into the Unsteady Floor (a Sticky Aspect placed on the room by one of the PCs!) and falling through, into the Flooded Room below. Once things had settled, the body of the gorilla was nowhere to be found! This, of course, lead to chants of You Thought I was Dead, Not All Gorillas Are Poor Swimmers, and Hardly the Last Time We'll See Him from the players. Honestly, I was just writing him off as dead at the time. I was far too tired to be clever, but when my players did the work for me, I knew what had to be done. Oh yes! He will return!!

Only one thing remained. The urn, and the not-at-all-obviously-placed pedestal! Cracking open the sarcophagus first, they found an undisturbed Pharaoh's body, mummified in the traditional manner. Placing the urn on the pedestal, a mechanism activated, opening a small window in the ceiling allowing light to pass through some crystal directing it straight down on the pedestal. Originating from the urn, light shone out onto the cylindrical walls, showing a surprisingly detailed map of the eastern half of the African continent, the flow of the Nile, and the location of the temple. Sir Alistair took some photographs of the strange phenomenon, then, after some further investigations and questioning the GM about various factors, the urn was removed from the pedestal and the party made their way back to Kigali.

In this session, the players used Fate Points far more, and benefited from them as well. I messed up once or twice, as I pointed out above, but over all, I was once again happy with how things went. This game ran a little late, and I had to cut some content to get it done in the session, but the players had a blast, and everyone seemed pleased with the outcome. The urn is important to the overarching plot, while still being an interesting discussion point for that session. After mutated shrewmen and intelligent gorillas, I promised regular humans for session three, and almost lived up to that promise...

It Ain't An Easy Job


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mutant Healing Factor Or Medication?

Honestly, I don't care which, though having a mutant healing factor would be far cooler! Either way, I feel much better this fine Sunday morning! I woke up with only a very mild discomfort, was able to get out of bed without sounding like a 90 year old, and managed to put on both my socks straight away!! Yesterday, I managed to get on my right sock after a struggle and substantial discomfort, but I spent the next two hours wandering the house with only one sock before eventually getting the left one on.

Also, thanks to a wonderful suggestion from Yvonne, that sage among mortals, I was able to have a shower without getting the dressing on my wound wet! Yay! I feel clean, and I think the hot shower helped make me feel a bit better as well.

Edit: Well shit. This hadn't even been posted ten minutes when I suddenly got very dizzy and violently nauseous. My head began to burn, sweat was pouring off my forehead, and I went as white as the background here. I made it to the toilet, but thankfully didn't get sick. That is not an experience I really want while I'm recovering from surgery. Claire says that it might have been a reaction to the medication, but after sitting on the cold bathroom floor a few minutes I feel better now. Hopefully it was just a once off thing.

Guess that rules out any mutant powers then...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Things Denis Can't Do

Since my little operation, cough and laugh are high on the list! Both require movement of the diaphragm and stomach, and both cause me considerable discomfort!

Getting a general anesthetic is an odd sensation. I went in around 3pm, Thursday. I remember talking to the nice nurse and anesthesiologist, and joking about various bits and pieces. I was told that they were first giving me medicine to just make me feel "good", and I might feel a prickly sensation on the back of my arm where the drip was. I felt the sensation, but pointed out that I didn't feel any different. The anesthesiologist told me that one of the doctors had a theory that the medicine takes longer to affect people who can hold their drink better, but I pointed out I don't drink. He said something about throwing that theory out the window. The nurse explained that it can come on quiet fast, and she had seen lots of people saying "This isn't wooooooooooorkinnnnnnng........" and they were gone!

And that's it! That's all I remember. I was fine. I was looking up at the big lights, trying to see if things would start to change, or swim, or blur, listening to the staff chatting around me and suddenly I was waking up in recovery! Someone asked me if I was alright, and I tried to ask for the time, but my mouth was all dry and scratchy. It was 7:30! One second it was somewhere around 3pm, and the very next second it was 7:30! My groggy mind swam trying to understand what had just happened, then I remembered why I was there and felt the surgical dressing. After spending an indeterminate time in recovery, I was wheeled back down to my bed, where Claire had been waiting all that time.

Unfortunately, I wasn't exactly in the mood for talking, so I told her everything was alright, and sent her home. Then I lay on my back, and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Schrödinger's Patient

I might be going into hospital today for a minor operation, but thanks to the wonderous Irish Health System, I don't know for sure yet. I'm currently awaiting a call to let me know whether or not there is a bed available.

Thus, at this moment, as far as I am concerened, there is both a bed available, and not. The quatum wave form for the availablity of a bed will not be broken until my mobile phone rings and I answer.

Suddenly, my life seems very... binary...

Edit: Well, the results are in! I'm going in, but not until 7pm, instead of 2pm, and they're putting me in a different ward! Sucess, but only barely.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Should We Just Call The FF?

Session One: Adventuring 101- Thrilling Tales and Monstrous Creatures

Available: Sir Alistair, Ares Astral, Maurice LeBec

The groups contact at Atlantic Philanthropy (AP), Donald Fairfax, informed the attending members of trouble in Chicago. Reports were coming through of unusual disappearances and large holes around the city. The party was to travel to Chicago immediately and make contact with an associate of the Society, Professor Harvey Dale.

On arriving at Chicago they were greeted by a Friendly and Talkative taxi driver who filled them in on the large science labs overlooking the city, what little he knew of the Professor and the rumours that were spreading through every district about what might be really going on. Suspicions were firmly on the labs, but there was no time to think them out, as another car slammed into the side of the taxi, putting both through a shop window!

An Elephant Sized badger stood between the party and the remains of the entrance to a hospital. Obviously Bad Tempered and Out of Control, it was thrashing and causing chaos! Two Japanese tourists raced past the shop window screaming something about a mutant dinosaur. After being driven into, set on fire and generally shot at, the monstrous creature was lured up onto a building and onto the tracks of an elevated train, frying itself and shorting out the line! Ares investigated the remains, with the assistance of Sir Alistair, before both clambered down the ruins and headed toward Maurice, who had made it into the hospital.

Maurice had discovered that the creature had come up through the hospital floor with some more unnatural friends, and was seemingly lead by a small, grotesque man who, according to one hysterical nurse, referred to himself as "The Mushroomoid". The hole they came up was already filled in, and the creature dealt with.

As Chicago's finest arrived on the scene, the party chose to beat a hasty retreat instead of having to stand around answering questions. The ventured on to the labs, using a car Maurice appropriated.

Greeted warmly by the staff at the labs, the party was immediately brought down an elevator into a large, advanced lab, and was met by Prof. Dale, who showed them an interesting goo that had been discovered and delivered to his labs some months ago. Only in the last few days have they made any progress with it, as running an electrical current through the goo causes it to move, shift and reach out tiny fingers of goo. However, they discovered too late that their experiments were coinciding with the strange occurrences in the city, and fear there may be a connection.

After some brief talking, the lab began to shake and rumble, and the party, after making successful Alertness rolls, felt as though they were back in the elevator again. The lights went out, and everything and everyone was plunged into darkness. Maurice's excellent night vision allowed him to see strange creatures moving in the shadows, and over the din of the chaos, he heard a high-pitched voice command "The gir*crash*! Take *crash, bang*rl! Pretty girl. So commands the Migh*crash, bang, wallop*manoid!!"

Lights come up, and a hole leading out of the base of the lab into a cavern is found. Once in the cavern, it becomes clear that the labs have been Sunken Into the Ground, and now only the top floor of the building remains above ground. Following some tunnels leading down and towards the city, the party ended up in a huge, deep chasm with a spiral walkway leading all the way down, and several dodgy looking bridges criss-crossing the cavern. Wandering downwards they hear scratching and scraping noises from several of the tunnels leading off this central area. Below, a blue glow illuminates the floor of the cavern from a side tunnel, and strange creatures can be seen scurrying around. Reaching the floor, the creatures turn out to be blind Naked Mole Rats! Huge, blind, naked mole rats! Everyone made Stealth checks, Maurice blending seamlessly into the shadows, while Ares trips on a rock and stumbles into Sir Alistair, both falling loudly onto the cold rock floor. Some mole rats wandered over to investigate, but a quick bright flash of a torch into their faces caused them to reel back in horror and flee.

Investigating the blue glow, the party discovered a smaller cave with a Tesla Coil, a Mysterious Contraption, made of bits and pieces of various stolen things from the city, a pedestal with the goo positioned between the Tesla Coil pylons, and a badger in front of it. Just the regular kind! And finally, to one side of the cave was an impish, ugly man, siting on a rough stone throne, with a female lab technician chained to the wall, as all good Damsel In Distress' should be!

The small figure gestured dramatically, and complained loudly about surface dwellers invading his Subterranean Empire, sacred home of "The Mighty Shrewmanoid"!! Yup. Turns out, the nurse has misheard him, much to his annoyance once the party explained questioned it. This brought howls of laughter from all three players who had been quizzing everyone in the labs earlier about intelligent fungus, and discussing among themselves how to defeat a plant-based opponent!

Combat ensued, someone shot the Mysterious Contraption, Maurice used the shadows to get to behind the Shrewmanoid, Sir Alistair was horrified by a Star Faced Mole, and Ares tussled with a large, but not elephant sized badger! Once the dust cleared, Maurice had a wire around the Shrewmanoids neck and a few rounds of combat was brought to a dignified conclusion. Dragging the villain to the labs, with the rescued lab assistant in tow. Questioning him got all the answers they needed, before handing him over to the authorities.

Overall, the first session went well. Most importantly, everyone had a blast, there were lots of fun moments and laughter, and the players got right into the spirit of the game! None of us really made much use of Fate Points, and I needed to reread combat before the next week. Also, I learnt that I need to be harsher in combat. Characters can take a lot, and don't go down easily. I tend to be cautious in dealing damage as I don't want to remove players from the game. Mechanically, though, that's a rather difficult thing to do, so I need to be more ruthless with what my NPCs can do!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Let's Get This Party Started

Session Zero: Character Generation
Note: While this first session was going to be CharGen and the start of an adventure to get everyone going, CharGen ran on longer than expected.

Spirit of the Century, for anyone reading that hasn't played it is an awesome experience in and of itself. Rather like the City of Heroes character generator, you can have tonnes and tonnes of fun just throwing up characters and playing with ideas. And that is what happened for this group. Two of the five players were familiar with the rules, while the other three's experiences of role-playing were mostly limited to White Wolf's World of Darkness. It took them a long time to wrap their heads around the freedom SotC's CharGen system gave them, particularly in relation to creating Aspects.

A brief word on the CharGen system for SotC in case you're unfamiliar with it. As it's a pulp style game, character names usually include dramatic, short descriptions, such as Doc Savage, Man of Bronze. Aspects are character traits illustrated through phrases or character quotes, like "First on the Scene", or "Where Did You Come From?" They are completely up to the player to invent. Players tag them by saying things like "Ah! But perhaps Jet arrives early and is "First on the Scene"?!?" gaining additional successes to the role, or affecting the flow of the story. Interesting Aspects should be ones that the GM can compel to put the PC in harms way, by saying "Ah! But Jet arrives early and is "First on the Scene"", before throwing him early into a conflict, now horribly outnumbered and awaiting back-up!

As well as aspects, you then get to choose from a list of Skills. You get one Superb, two Great, three Good, four Fair and five Average, with everything you didn't pick considered at Mediocre. These are things like Athletics, Drive, Pilot, Fists, Science and so on. I'll include the top three each player choose in the character descriptions below. Players then get five Stunts, special abilities related to their Skills.

One of the most interesting parts of SotC CharGen is the concept of Novels. As everyone is essentially a pulp hero, they each have their own novel, the story that outlines their background. However, they also guest star in two other PC's novels, allowing the game to start with everyone knowing some others in the group, if not all of them! This is really handy, as it eliminates the "Why are we all here?" problem most stories have to deal with. There is already a connection between the PC's, and the game starts with them all working for Atlantic Philanthropy, operating out of Boston. The novels all contribute to Aspects that the PC has.

Other than any interesting background they care to create for themselves, they're done. Sounds simple, but the freedom involved leads to hilariously difficult choices to be made and interesting co-operative character development among the group.

So, without further ado, the party as it stands is as follows:

Maurice LeBec, Retired Gentleman Thief (Gar)
Novel: The Man In The Fog
Sample Aspects:
The Man in the Fog; The Style Justifies the Means; So, Your Plan Requires my Death?; Your (Chloe, see below) Sister Stole my Heart
Skills: Burglary, Stealth, Sleight of Hand
Guest Staring In: The Chrono Catastrophe; Lipstick on a Shattered Mirror

Sir Alistair Montgomery, Inventor to His Majesty King George V of England (Ray)
The Chrono Catastrophe
Sample Aspects:
If Wishes Were Horses; Never Enough Cogs; Pull it out of my Hat; For King and Country; The Evil Dr. Eternity!
Engineering, Academics, Science
Guest Starring In:
The Man In The Fog; Areas Astral Vs. The Ice Queen of Mars

Chloe "The Siren" M
Novel: Lipstick on a Shattered Mirror
Sample Aspects:
Old Flame; Exit, Stage Right; Where Did That Come From?; At the Last Possible Second
Deceit, Rapport, Alertness
Guest Starring In:
The Chrono Catastrophe; Hank Scorpio in The Mystery of the Blood Medallion

Hank Scopio, P.I. (Tom)
Novel: Hank Scorpio in The Mystery of the Blood Medallion
Sample Aspects:
Don't Lie to Me!; And it all went Dark; Of all the Gin Joints; Dames...
Investigation, Rapport, Drive
Guest Starring In:
The Man In The Fog; Lipstick on a Shattered Mirror

Ares Astral, Prince of Mars
Novel: Areas Astral Vs. The Ice Queen of Mars
Sample Aspects:
Things Man was not Meant to Know; Stranger in a Strange Land; I Never Suspected my own Brother!; Ares, my Friend! My Camel is your Camel!; If Only we had More Time
Mysteries, Resolve, Guns
Guest Starring In: The Man In The Fog; The Chrono Catastrophe

And there we have it! An interesting bunch that have given me food for thought! They are a great group to game with, and everyone is really getting into the pulp swing of things! Hopefully I'll have some time to write about each of the adventures they've been on so far soon. I'd like to keep a record of how things go, and where I feel I could have improved on it.

For now, though, don't touch that dial! Keep watching for further updates, and more thrilling adventures!