Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fragments of the Last War 2.1 - Caravan to the Frontier: Part 1, Departure

In volume 2, I decided to run a hybrid play-by-post and online game. The following begins the adventures of a squad of Cymru wardens.  It takes place four months after the events of FoLW 1.24, but only includes Dinty and Edwina from volume one.

***

The 15th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: in the city of Cymru, on the continent of Tirane, on the world of Eifer.
Horror from the Pit

In the months following the opening of the Horror-Portal to the south, the people of the city of Cymru had been on edge.  Many of the holy warriors and priests of Grumbar as well as Desna went to fight back the incursion.  The Cymru Counsel hired troops to accompany them, and later shipped all prisoners out to workgangs supporting the warzone and the other hinterlands.

Finally, winter came to an end, though barely.  In the months that followed the opening of the Portal, the weather had worsened.  Though never a bitter cold climate, the winter of the Year 21 and 22 after the Opening of the Caers experienced brutal snows and ocean storms.

After the dissolution of the North Cymru Irregulars, the members went their separate ways.  Malpais Rana woke from a fever dream and headed south to his people.  Grind and Piper traveled east in search of a hidden Fae city.  Louis went to bed one night and was not seen the next.  Nota’Cor, Rolli, Dinty, Edwina, and Al took the clockwork automaton, Zanpip, back to Professor Andalus before going their own ways.  Nota’Cor was determined to hunt the wizard Rista.  Rolli vanished as quickly as he had come.  Dinty returned to the service of the Temple of Desna - with some chastisement and penance from the Priestess.  Edwina returned to the streets, stealing what she could to buy medicine for her sister.  While Al, disappeared without word.

As the winter progressed, the Cymru Counsel formed the Cymru Wardens in an attempt to patrol and defend the villages and towns loyal to the city.  Since the noblin patrols had also gone south to fight the Horrors, the Wardens were also tasked to keep the roads open.

Recently, the goblin Dinty, with permission from the Temple of Desna, joined the Cymru Wardens.  Soon after he found the human, Edwina, jailed for theft and sentenced to serve on a work gang at the Horror-Portal. Dinty convinced the Cymru City Guard to reassign her to the Wardens.  For the next week, Dinty and Edwina split a bunk bed in the North Gate barracks along with other Warden recruits. The ten or so other recruits kept to themselves.

Finally the time came for the new Wardens to leave Cymru.  One afternoon during a particularly nasty rainstorm, one of the ranking members of the newly formed Cymru Wardens, entered the barracks, informed them that the next day they all marched north, and they would be divided into teams of five under a Warden Commander.

Just before evening mess, the recruits marched to the center of the barracks yard and stood still, while three wardens (a pair of dwarves, and a human) approached.  The two dwarves took turns calling names until they had five recruits and then led them away to eat.

The human stood before them looking wet and tired. He wore a visible symbol of the goddess Desna around his neck.  “I will spare you any embarrassment and not give a speech about how great you are.”  He eyed them.
Corporal Dinty

Dinty (a fine goblin of noble bearing with a prominent nose and devastatingly beady eyes that often looks confused) he knew from the Temple.  The human girl, he knew Dinty had recruited from jail.  Otso, the samsaran - a healer on loan from the temple of Morrit - stared off into space blinking and muttering.  Rounding out the group, was the enormous shmkia, Goreal, with its big bearlike head with small black eyes and wild coarse brown hair, snorted tiredly and stared at Dinty; the goblin simply nodded to the warden.

Scratching his butt, Dinty hocked a loogie and elbowed Edwina.  He was sure she wasn’t paying attention.  Edwina jumped with a start, blinked, and looked around quickly realizing she’d been staring again.  Dinty looked around at everything, except the behemoth bear staring at him.

The human cleared his throat.  “For those of you who do not know me, I am Hal Saldana, Paladin of the goddess Desna, blah, blah.”  He spit.  “Don’t think the paladin bit means I’m nice or only drink milk.  I was a soldier before Desna called me.  And in this business, I’m a soldier still.”  He stared up at Goreal.   “You have joined the Cymru Wardens.”  He eyed each member of the group.  “Your job will be the thankless task of defending the frontier and trying not to die.”  Spitting again, Hal walked back to his place in front.  “Therefore, you will need to learn to rely on your team members.  Or your ass will be a rotting corpse.”

“Dinty, you have been promoted the rank of Corporal in the Wardens for your experience, my familiarity with your skills, and your unfortunate membership in the North Cymru Irregulars.”  The human glanced down at the goblin.  “This isn’t the army.  You role will be support and logistics.  You will make sure this motley bunch pulls together.”  He pointed his thumb at the shmkia, “Sometimes, that just means pointing them in the right direction and hoping.”

“We will be recruiting more for our station as we travel, but until then this is your team.”  He saluted.  “Desna have pity on you all.  Dismissed until first light when we march out.”

Dismissed the new recruits shuffled off to mess before settling in to pack their gear and get ready for their journey.
Otso

Otso, the samsaran, watched the his squad mates depart with a cool detachment before slipping back to the barracks. He spread his last orchid flower petals on the floor and lit a stick of incense, then kneeling before his bunk, he prayed to Morrit the Piper, Lord of the Dead to protect them on their journey or else return them to the Wheel for rebirth without the taint of undeath.

He quietly focused on his breathing, trying to call up a memory of his before-lives, but his mind remained blank.  Smoothing his tunic with his thin blue hands, Otso smashed out the incense and gathered the flowers.

Opening the windows to the barracks, he let the flowers drift off in the spring winds.  “Well, time to eat.”

***

The 16th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: in the northwestern section of the city of Cymru

The next morning, up before dawn, Hal Saldana’s squad of Warden’s stood by the last wagon of the caravan.  A few minutes earlier, the paladin had led them here and told them that the Wardens had assigned this squad guard the rear of the caravan.  “It’s because I’m human,” he spoke bluntly.  “They’d prefer my squad in the back.  Less reliable, the Colonel said.”  He spat.  “I will be guarding the center wagons with the other paladins.”

He examined the squad.  “Dinty, I leave you in charge.   That means making sure everyone stays together, and if we are attacked try to keep everyone alive.”  He pointed at the shmkia.  “Goreal, you are too big for the wagon, so you will have to walk.  The rest of you can walk or ride.”  He nodded and looked at the sun, “Let’s hope the gods don’t decide to have fun with us today.”

Dinty saluted Saldana and then turned back to his squad.  “Right, you lot heard the man and by Holy Desna we’ll watch the rear like no other! Watch your backs, watch your squadies backs and above all else be wary of any four legged creatures we might encounter. They're all in on it!”  Otso frowned at the comments on four legged creatures.  “ Edwina you're with me. Goreal you stay 10 paces back as a rear rear guard and the samsaran can ride the wagon.”  Dinty skill Teamster at 10.   Roll 3d6.  Result 6.  Dinty skill Tactics at 10.  Roll 10

The samsaran climbed into the back of the wagon and stowed his pack and staff. “I am called Otso.” It was soon obvious to him that Dinty had worked caravans before as he expertly organized the wagon and the draft horses then positioned his team for defense.
Goreal

Goreal, wanting to add to the conversation, mumble his replies.  Being ten paces back, he realizes he’d have to raise his voice loudly for anyone to hear.  “That’ Dinty’s a little bossy,” he said, “but he seems to know what he’s doing.”

The samsaran sat among the bags of food and other supplies.  He watched the sky brighten as they traveled beyond the western gate. “The gulls have not arrived yet from the north,” he told Dinty.  “I can not recall a time in all my lives, when the gulls had not already come to Cymru this month of the year.”  Otso shook his head and watched the shmkia trying to listen and stay back.  “This summer will be unlike any other.  Cold and wetter in Cymru.  Who knows what it will be like in the village where we will be stationed.” Otso, Racial Memories - IQ 13, roll 11.  Skill Naturalist 13, roll 13

“I don’t know what birds have to do with anything,” Dinty replied surprised.  “I don’t think they're in on it.” He waved his hand toward Otso. “I try not to think about things I don’t understand.  Gawds, don’t give me a headhurt or you’ll get first watch at camp tonight.”

As if summoned, a shadow darkens the wagon as a winged creature flew overhead, silhouetted against the sun for just a moment. There was a whoosh, almost silent, as the creature’s wings beat against the sky, and then plummeted soundlessly toward the earth, it’s shadow widened on one of the goats being herded behind the wagon. As the creature rapidly draws closer, it shrieked a cry that is equal parts raptor and man.

As the creature fell, it came into clearer view. Roughly the shape of a man, but with huge feathered wings that opened to slow its descent, it spun at the last minute. Bringing its feet down toward the ground, huge black talons sprouted from clawed feet adorned with golden feathers. Brawling at 13 - Roll 9

The goat slammed against the ground, and the talons dug into its flesh, sending rivulets of blood streaming down the animal’s sides. It bleated, answering the beast’s shriek with a cry that was likewise almost human. The predator landed with a crouch atop its prey, then stood to its full height, easily a head taller than an average human.  A pair of huge yellow eyes took in the surroundings before its wings beat the air again; it rose.

Dinty and Goreal both have Combat Reflexes and made their Perception rolls against the surprise. Otso also reacted.  Everyone else was surprised this round.

Dinty shot a withering glare at Otso. “You brought this on us.” He pulled his crossbow and aimed it at the interloping avian terror. Calmly taking stock he said, “We’ll gladly exchange food for services. Far be it for me to prevent the death of a four leg, but you should know that if you steal our food not only do you break the law of Cymru. You also open yourself up to being its replacement in our stockpile. Licking his lips he looks pointedly at Goreal who is behind the raptor. What do you have to say fer yerself?”

Goreal moved menacingly towards the birdman, responding to Dinty's glance.  He prepared to strike or grapple and keep the thief from flying away.

The creature had startled the horses drawing the wagon, and the driver struggled to keep them in check. Otso scrambled toward him to lend a hand.

The Garuda eyed Dinty and his crossbow, then his talons reflexively tightened around the goat. However, his wings began to patter a little faster, and he slowly descended toward the ground. The goat, still alive, bleated in pain.  Something like confusion came over the creature’s avian face, but it made no move toward the long pole-arm strapped to its back, nor toward the roped harpoon looped around its belt. Finally, the bird-man spoke in a strangely accented Dwarvish.

“You would feed Nikala? You would bring a great dishonor to you and your family,” the Garuda said, folding his wings across his back completely.

Goreal watched for Dinty's command and wondered: "Why would the bird-man would kill the goat, if eating it will cause others dishonor?"

Dinty said. “I don't know nor care about all that honor and foolishness. I know that we could use a good pair of eyes to help us watch for danger and another sword arm never hurt the cause neither. If it makes you feel better we could let the bastard loose before you stole it.”

Nikala looked around, eyeing those who’ve stopped in their tracks at his intrusion. “This one is Nikala. This one will take your food and give you eyes. Yes. You have no honor, but neither has Nikala.”

The wagon driver driver with Otso’s aid steadied the horses.  Edwina, standing beside Dinty stared surprised at Nikala until finally she realized she had been staring.
Paladin Hal Saldana

From in front of the wagons, came yelling as the dwarf Warden Commander Angus Gravefury and paladin Hal Saldana approached the scene with guards in tow.  “Is this the thief that’s been raiding livestock?  Where are the nets?”  Hal Saldana raised his hand.  “A moment, Angus.”

Approaching the group, he paused.  Saldana stood over six feet tall.  Dressed simply in a common clothing and chainmail, only his symbol of Desna marked him as more than a mere soldier.  “Dinty, what is going on here?”  Eyeing the Garuda, “Any reason you flew into an armed caravan and killed a goat?”

Dinty mocked. “This one is Nikala. This is our new scout, he's taken my offer of food in return for keeping us aware of what might be creeping up on us. It's up to yerselves of course but I think we could use some eyes in the sky. Plus he looks like he could fell a horse in one blow!

Nikala eyed Saldana, regarding him with caution. “Nikala has no honor. Nikala must hunt. The brood no longer has need of us or our bloodlines.” Then, turning to Dinty, he says “Nikala does not like horse. Too much is wasted. Too many eyes to Nikala, make it hard to hunt.”

Dinty slapped his leg. “Do ya hear that cap’n he don't like horses neither! We definitely need him now.”

Hal stood for a moment then looked behind at the angry dwarf, Angus.  “Dinty, the godsdamn dwarves would as soon hang him as recruit him.”  Hal watched the garuda thoughtfully. Loudly he called,  “And you Nikala, you admit to stealing livestock?”

The paladin looked from the dwarves to Dinty.  What a day, he thought. “Ok. Nikala.  Do you accept the offer of pardon I, by way off the impertinent yet ever resourceful goblin Dinty, offer you?”  He stopped and started at the garuda. “Swearing, on whatever gods or honor you believe, your loyalty to the Cymru Wardens, to fight in defense of the people of the villages, the roads, the towns, etc, and also to stop killing their damn animals?”  Hal spat.

Nikala turns his eyes to the goat beneath him. It has bled out while the conversation continued. “I cannot bring this one back.” He catches himself. “No stealing. Only hunting. Only thought hunting was especially good around the stone ground nest. Sometimes, hunting is best close to the nest.”

Otso, the samsaran, walked closer.  “I’m afraid it is correct, Commander.   The goat is dead.”  Nearby, Edwina suppressed a snicker.

One of the dwarf commanders stepped forward.   “I dunno like this one bit,” he said, his voice thick with the accent of the eastern Caers.  “You want a bird to swear?”  Angus laughed.  “”Why not you’ve already got a bear?"  And pointed to Goreal who looked up at the mention of his name and gave a big toothy grin.

“Yes, Nikala will swear. Nikala has no honor but does not wish to be dishonorable.” The Garuda straightened, appearing strangely excited, youthful. “Nikala will bring you eyes. And bring you his blade. Nikala will bring you the sky for your kindnesses.”

Hal nodded. “Welcome to the Cymru Wardens, Nikala.”  He took his butterfly pendant and said a brief prayer.  “With us you will defend the roads, the villages, the towns, the people.”  He thought for a moment.  “And the livestock, from bandits, soldiers, monsters from beyond, and your run-of-the-mill goat-eater.”  He turned to Dinty.  “Show this one the ropes.  Best case we get it to the frontier where we can get him fully settled.”  He turned to the caravan.  “We’d best be on our way.”

Dinty laughed. “Right you are cap’n! All right you lot, back to it! Don't act like you've never seen a samsaran summon a birdman afore!"

Goreal interjected quietly “I have not”.

Dity waved the bear off.  "And you Nikala, time to start earning your keep.”

That night the caravan stopped at a waystation.  Camp was made.  Food was eaten.  Watches set.

Being used to a soldier's life, Dinty does what he always does. He says his prayers, sharpens his weapons and keeps a close eye from a sensible distance on the caravan horses. He makes his rounds and makes sure the others are doing their jobs. When he gets a chance he will extol upon Nikala the evils of horses and revel in Nikala’s “shared hatred” which he assumed was Nikala’s meaning when he said he "didn't like horses.”

The story continues with Fragments of the Last War 2.2 - Caravan to the Frontier: Part II, The Trial.

***

We've been using Google Docs for the PBP.  A good start but some kinks to work out.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.0 - Volume Two: MI-18

September 1915 to June 1916 - The United Kingdom
Dr. John Watson

Following their return from Paris, the Lamplighters, working with Doctor John Watson, began transitioning their organization to the Directorate of Military Intelligence,   While MI-18 would be part of the greater intelligence network, few were to know the true nature of their work.  Since the current cadre along with Dr. Watson were the senior members of the new organization, they sat down to identify the mission of MI-18.

 1.  Much like their predecessors, the group felt that defending the United Kingdom and the World from malevolent monstrous creatures and those who would use said creatures or lore to cause harm to humanity was the primary goal of MI 18.
  • They were still uncertain as to whether the rat-faced creatures represented a hostile threat.  
  • To this end, MI 18 purchased Merriweather's land near Recluver Kent, and has begun the setup of a building in place of the the old house where preparations can be made to enter the caves.  
  • Watson is looking for soldiers who can deal with what will find and then train them in the usage of flamethrowers.  
  • Bertrand spent time at his house in Shropshire understanding and eventually communicating with the Sword of Paracelus.   He soon began calling it the Sword of Fenrir, who despite "false propaganda" was an enemy of the aetheric Horrors. This marked the first usage of the phrase aetheric for the current Lamplighters.  
  • They worried about Bertrand Merriweather's mental health, but Allard and Doctor McKinley weren't much better.

2. With David Watson incapacitated, much of the history, artifacts, and libraries of the Lamplighters could not be found, leaving them with many questions about the secret history of England and those who defended it.
  • They identified the search for artifacts, books of lore, crystal-tech, and the histories and treasures of the Lamplighters as one of the major goals of MI-18.  
  • Allard Vick has helped set up the beginnings of a Library and Basement storage for non-dangerous artifacts at the new headquarters. 
  • When Dr. McKinley is not using it, he stores Der Gerbrachen Tram here.  
  • Lady Margaret Jameson, recruited to MI-18 by Reginald Smythe III, oversees the library and artifacts as Alaard is mostly in Oxford unless in the field.  
  • Lady Margaret also began studying the book, the Magnus, which Smythe bought for her at the Paris auction, and is learning Enochian and Dee's ceremonial magic.
  • Also, Jameson and Smythe began seeing each other socially and are courting.
Lady Margaret Jameson

3. Doctor Thomas McKinley and Alaard Vick both felt MI-18 needed research labs, and Alaard found an abandoned 19th century coal power plant near the house he and his daughter share.
  • Vick is a librarian at Oxford College, and because he revealed much of what he learned to his daughter, then tasked her with research, Dr. Watson found it necessary to bring her in.  The daughter is only a Dependent at this time, so she doesn't operate like an Ally for Alaard.
  • Alaard chose a building for his research with the ankh he purchased in Paris.  Contacting it in a meditative state, the ankh told him it was a servant of Isis and could teach him Kemetic magic. Alaard routinely has his mind filled with visions of the past and has even come to believe he might be a reincarnation of a god or pharaoh.  
  • I built a symbol magic system (with severe minuses) that relies on Thaumatology, Symbol Writing (Kemetic), Ritual Magic (Kemetic).  This permitted Alaard to begin learning symbols - thus far he knows Create and Protection as VH skills capped at the lowest of the previous skills.  He also takes a -5 to the rolls, but that can be reduced to a -4 if an hour is spent meditating before hand. (Meditate skill)
  • He then draws - failure makes the process take longer and a critical failure means he starts over - the symbol on something and activates it later.  The margin of success determines the Damage Resistance.  I am thinking he could receive either bonuses to his roll or to results if he used an additional skill like Calligraphy or even metal working for a longer affect.   
  • The ankh promises to teach him more, but we have already seen some strain on Alaard's mind.
  • Also, McKinley and his research biologist friend at Cambridge identified the blue spore and fungus as being ingenious to Lake Toba on the Island of Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies.
  • The doctor took over one warehouse of the research facility to grow his own fungi (including those he'd found in medieval France) under laboratory condition.   He noticed odd behaviors among the rats he injected with the blue spores, including their eyes turning blue.
  • McKinley also found, from his readings in Der Gerbrachen Tram, that smoking the spores and meditating could generate the dreamlike states he'd experienced before where he could share thoughts with this fellow Lamplighters even if they were hundreds of miles away.  He had a much harder time with one he didn't know.
  • His experiments with the blue spore, meditation, dreaming, and Der Gerbrachen Tram led him to a vision of the past in which Sherlock Holmes, Reginald Smythe II, Tali's father, and several others were in a glen in England rushing toward a wagon all while avoiding a giant anthropomorphic plant that sliced people in half with its scythe hand.  When the opened the wagon door and saw a man with no skin and no eyes sitting in a chair - very alive - McKinley woke screaming.  
  •  McKinley learned a Precognition advantage called Dream Visions and a linked Mind Reading and Telecommunications advantage called Dream Share.  They only work when he (and if he has a target) is/are dreaming.

4. Smythe and Ponzi felt that one of MI 18's important roles was to Gatekeep information regarding what they are currently calling the Unnatural.
  •  As such, they argued that much information needed to kept from the public.
  • Also, that those who possess such knowledge must be recruited or dealt with by violence, threats, bribes, etc. depending on the person.
  • Beyond, Alaard's project to examine libraries, Ponzi argued the need for a newspaper clippings office to look for any odd stories they needed to investigate.
  • Both Smythe and Ponzi mentioned they would use their different social networks (the elite and the criminal classes) to monitor anything outside the papers or police.
  • Dr. Thomas McKinley
  • Both spent time networking in their social circles.

5. Finally, Watson and Smythe - in agreement - reminded the team that as supporters of the English Crown (whether by birth in the case of Smythe, McKinley, and Merriwether or by adoption in the case of Vick (perhaps reluctantly) and Ponzi.) they had a duty to provide England with a Technological Advantage over their Enemies, current (the Central Powers), and possibly future (everyone else.)
  • They were particularly interested in finding more of the clockwork/crystal tech and hopefully replicating it.  
  • They were also interested in portal technology that could lead them to other worlds or times with technology they could use.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fragments of the Last War 2.0 - Volume Two: The Cymru Wardens

Volume One of Fragments of the Last War ended with the dispersal of the North Cymru Irregulars.  All original players have also moved on, so Volume Two will take place in the same universe, just after the end of FoLW 1.24, but will follow different characters.

When we left off the City of Cymru on the world of Eifer was ruled by a counsel of Dwarvish families and the Church of the Stone.  In the months following, Grind's breaking of the portal to the Horror dimension, a blight had formed some miles to the south, and the Church of the Stone began organizing a resistance to the creatures.

Consequently, the Cymru Counsel began recruiting for both the assault on the horrors and patrols to police and guard the outlying towns and villages in the area controlled by Cymru.

The story begins with the goblin Dinty, a follower of the butterfly goddess Desna and - unknown to most everyone else - a recent member of the North Cymru Irregulars.  Dinty had been on hand when the portal to the Horror dimension was broken open and had fled with the Irregulars.

When the Irregulars split up, Dinty returned with a caravan to Cymru.  Chastised by the priest of Desna for what had occurred, after a stink of penance in the temple, by the month of Equos Dinty decided to join the Cymru Wardens.  Due to his experience he was promoted to Corporal. 

Not longer afterwards, he ran into Edwina - a former street rat recruited by the Irregulars who participated in the assault on the warehouse. She had been arrested for theft and was being shipped south to provide manual labor in the assault against the Horrors.  Dinty recruited her into the Wardens.

Dinty and Edwina are to be sent north to the village of Melaotne where they would serve under the guidance of a paladin of  Desna. They meet the remaining members of the Warden party as they prepare to depart.

***

The first volume of FoLW began as a Pathfinder campaign, but quickly we tried out Savage Worlds, Fate Core, and Cortex Plus before settling on GURPS 4th edition.

This volume will be run in GURPS 4th edition and make use of Dungeon Fantasy.  I backed the Kickstarter, so once I receive my DF box we'll take a look at characters again.

That said, I am a fan of Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchman and all PCs will be created with the 125 point templates plus any 25 point or less race for a total of 150 point characters.  Duty and Patron for the Cymru Wardens will be added after character creation.

Dinty, as a participant in the North Cymru Irregulars and several operations, begins with 160 points.

Edwina participated in the Irregulars battle of the warehouse and begins with 152 points.

All other characters begin with 150 points.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.16

Previously, the Lamplighters recently lost in medieval France had been reunited with the remainder of their team (Smythe) in early 20th century England only to learn they were the remaining active members.  Granted there were retired Lamplighters like Doctor John Watson, Reginald Smythe II, and the Consultant (known now to be Sherlock Holmes), but none who had been active for some time.

King George V of the United Kingdom, after meeting with Watson and Holmes - his grandmother, Victoria, had spoken highly of Holmes - he decided to formally fold the Lamplighter into Military Intelligence.

Cast

Reginald Smythe III - son of Baron Reginald Smythe II, dilettante and veteran Lampligther.

Dr. Thomas McKinley - Army medical doctor and veteran of the Western Front. Senior most member of the cadre.

Bertrand Merriweather - haphazardly thrown into medieval France with the Lampligthers as he defended family property, now a seasoned member of the cadre.

Alaard Vick - Oxford librarian, Afrikaner veteran of the First Boer War, student of Egyptology (player previously played Jeffery Llywellyn.)

Geppeto Ponzi - importer, fence, and middleman from Sicily.  Associate of the Smythe family (player previously played Tali and the Zoog.)

***

Saturday, September 18, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The next evening the Lamplighters - Reginald Smythe III, Dr. Thomas McKinley, Bertrand Merriweather, Alaard Vick - met at Smythe's home in Paddington.  Joining them was a London-based "importer" and associate of the Smythe family, Geppetto Ponzi (cousin of the soon to be better known Ponzi.)

While leaving out discussion of their experiences with Horrors or in medieval France, Alaard and Geppetto were brought on board with the understanding that they were part of a British Crown operation to obtain specific items from an auction in Paris.

Alaard with his experience with the occult and Egyptology seemed very interested in the catalogue of items for sale.  McKinley, Smythe, and Merriweather did elaborate on the veracity of the occult. 

Ponzi with his connections to the London and Paris underworld as well as the ability to obtain information and items was brought on board to evaluate goods and distract any potential buyers.  He had no idea what he was getting into.

Having reviewed the catalogue, the group decided the items they wanted to give a closer look:
  • The Sword of Paracelus
  • The Diary of Nicholas Smythe - an ancestor of Reginald Smythe III
  • Der Gerbrachan Tram by Ludwig von Prinn - the author of De Vermis Mysteriis
  • Four Medallions dated to the Roman Empire - McKinley and Merriweather wanted to determine if these were similar to the medallions they had read about in the scroll
  • Egyptian Ankh of the Old Kingdom - Alaard wanted this badly

 ***

Tuesday, September 21, 1915 to Friday, September 24, 1915 - London, United Kingdom to Paris, French Republic

Just after midnight on September 21st, 1915, the Lamplighters boarded a small private yacht in the English town of Poole.  They traveled as quickly as the boat would allow and in a complete blackout.  McKinley's hands shook as he thought about u-boats.  The ship captain reminded them all that the minefields would probably keep the submarines out. Smythe reminded McKinley leaving at night was primarily to avoid being tracked by the Silver Spiral.
 
Soon they arrived in the middle of the night in the town of Goury.  There they were met by a private car and chauffeur that handed them a package and spoke the agreed on code words.  He acknowledged he been contracted by a man in Paris who matched the description of Sherlock Holmes' associate.

The trip to Paris took far longer than anyone expected road conditions were terrible and clogged with traffic.  The Battle of the Somme still raged to the east, and the military stopped them constantly checking for spies.

***

Saturday, September 25, 1915 to September, September 26, 1915 - Paris, French Republic

Smythe remarked that the city seemed less vibrant that it had when he was last here in 1911.  Alaard told them stories of being in Paris in the 1890s, while McKinley told them it was even more glum than when he had seen it a year before.  They had a few days in Paris to obtain evening wear for most of the cadre - only Merriweather and Smythe had adequate formal dress wear.  Smythe's Fashion Sense advantage helped dressed his companions in adequate white tie for the affair and thus avoid any minus for social interactions and influence rolls.

Ponzi reached out to his local contacts to arrange for his companions to obtain military handguns for the auction - just in case.

McKinley and Merriweather met with their local contact one Hercule Poirot - a former policeman now living in England.  He had agreed to travel to Paris to assist them at Holmes' urging.  Poirot, though he would not attend the auction, would help them should they require any assistance with the police or otherwise.

***

Monday, September 27, 1915 - Paris, French Republic

On the night of the auction, the Lamplighters traveled in Poirot's chauffeured car to the building in south Paris.  

They arrived early to mingle with the guests and decide what items they liked and what they thought might be junk.  Dr. John Watson had informed them that one of their duties was to recruit members for the new Lamplighters (ideally British), make contacts, and identify any opposition.

After viewing the ankh, Alaard decided he desperately need the item and would spend his own personal wealth rather than any money provided by the British government

Reginald, who had been entrusted with the government's resources, conferred with Ponzi and Alaard, agreeing they should attempt to purchase Der Gerbrachan Tram.

McKinley, on viewing the medallions, became a bit ill but confirmed they were identical to the ones mentioned in Tulius Varro's tale.

Merriweather told them he was going to try to buy the Sword of Paracelus with his own funds, though Smythe noted that if the auction price went beyond Bertand's funds then he would obtain it for the government.

Reginald in particular wanted the Diary of Nicholas Smythe for himself, while Ponzi set to distracting the other guests towards items of lesser importance.

The central piece everyone seemed interested in was a riveted brass head with hinged eyelids and jaws. It's origins and age were unknown.

As the guests drank champagne, chatted, and observed the auction items, the Lamplighters decided two attendees - both British - would make good recruits.  Lady Margaret Jameson, the daughter of a steel baron, was already socially familiar with Reginald Smythe III, and once she realized he too was interested in occult things she chatted with him all during dinner.

Both Alaard Vick and Sir Martin Murry were of the same age - their fifties - both had been young men during the First Boer War (though on opposite sides) and both had harrowing experiences with the unnatural in the colonies.  What could have been a difficult meeting of former combatants ended with mutual respect.  Diplomacy, reaction rolls.

Gepp Ponzi made the acquaintance of Count Nikolai Tychevski, who had fled Russia after annoying Rasputin and now lived in Greece and Paris.  The Count had heard of Gepp through mutual Paris underworld connections.  He himself had ties to the Parisian and Greek underworld.  After good Diplomacy/influence, the Count became available as a Contact advantage for Gepp.

They chatted with many others of the crowd, but made no progress in recruitment or contacts.

McKinley and Merriweather thought the German Klaus Hunderpress was not German at all, so they decided to watch him. 

After dinner they moved to another room for the auction.  Reginald bought the book, The Magus, for Lady Margaret. She was quite taken with it and Smythe; they made arrangements to see each other socially in London.   It's an 18th century English text on Enochian, Ceremonial Magic, Astrology, and Horror Lore.  It remains to be seen how she will take this new information, but Smythe's player did seem to think having her as an Ally or even Dependent if they two became engaged would be of interest.

Smythe also won his Diary, and for the British government he obtained the Roman medallions and Der Gerbrachan Tram. McKinley purchased an Inuit Shaman bag for "anthropological curiosity." Alaard spent his entire life savings for the ankh from ancient Egypt, while Merriweather was unable to buy the Sword of Paracelsus with his own money and had to rely on Smythe and the British government.

Everyone liked the auction.  If they were interested, I had them bid against competitors.  If not, someone got it for some price.  I kept track of what money the NPCs had.  They kept track of their own pools.

While they were waiting on the brass head, they all took lavatory and refreshment breaks.  Finally, they heard a scream from the other end of the building.  The auctioneer and one assistant ran off to investigate.  The Lamplighters stayed put. When they returned horrified, a crowd drew around them and Merriweather managed to sneak over to the Sword of Paracelus and touch it.  The black crystal in the hilt sparked and Merriweather - who failed his Epilepsy roll - passed out.

McKinley, Ponzi, and Alaard rushed to care for Merriweather, while Smythe, Lady Margaret, and Sir Martin followed the auctioneer to the scene of the scream.

***

Bertand lay naked in a cave.  He smelled a deep musk nearby.  Sitting up he realized he could see though dimly in the dark, and across the cave from him sat a great dire wolf like the bones he'd seen in the British Museum.  "What do you want?" the wolf asked him in his mind.

"I wanted the sword," Betrand sputtered.

"You can have it," the wolf sniffed, "if you are mine."

"I am yours."

***

After his seizure subsided, Bertrand Merriweather looked around for the sword, but it was nowhere to be seen.  His hand burned some and, glancing at it, he saw a strange pentagram-like tattoo of silver freshly burned on.  He also felt a tingling on his scalp.  Checking his bag, he realized his iron-wolf helm was gone. 

At the end of the hall, Smythe, Lady Margaret, and Sir Martin rushed into an open room behind the auctioneer.  There lay the bloody remains of one of the assistance with a blood trail to a dumbwaiter.

Sir Martin cried, "Not again!"  and stepped back into the hall.  Lady Margaret swore then laughed. "Does this happen to you often, Reginald?"

Smythe turned.  "Seems to be."  He pulled the auctioneer to him.  "Go back and collect my companions."

Sir Martin accompanied the auctioneer back to the main room.  There he found a glass of gin and sat down next to Alaard.

Merriweather, McKinley, and Ponzi followed the auctioneer to the scene of the murder.  On arrival, the Doctor examined the body.  "This fellow was torn apart by teeth," he said.  "The marks are similar to those on the bones in Kent."

They decided to head downstairs and track the dumbwaiter.  Smythe told the auctioneer to contact Poirot instead of the normal police and asked Lady Margaret to keep an eye on everything.  Reluctantly, she agreed.

Smythe, Merriweather, McKinley, and Ponzi gathered themselves and their hidden weapons, then descended first to the ground floor and then to the basement.  They found the gory entrance to the dumbwaiter and a series of vaults, one of which was open.  In the open vault, the found the back wall of brick and plaster had been knocked in from the other side and the passage led into the Paris underground. 

Merriweather, still a bit unsteady, found - Tracking roll - a variety of footprints in the dirt and mud of the tunnel, but noted the ones they wanted were barefeet quite like those of the rat-faced things of Kent.  Everyone but Ponzi swore and checked their guns.  Ponzi seemed confused and asked. "Rat-faced things?"

Before anyone responded they saw several large scorpion like creatures crawl from holes in the tunnel and rush at them.  Smythe, McKinley, and Merriweather - passed Fright Check - fired their pistols at the things, though no bullet seemed to penetrate their carapaces.

Ponzi - failed Fright Check - ran away screeching, yet, looking back the entire time, he did not see the thing that grabbed him, pulled a canvas bag over his head, and bound his limbs.

Smythe backed into a side tunnel to shake off the scorpion and he wast captured as well.  McKinley was stuck and felt the poison in his leg.  Merriweather suddenly dropped his gun, and the Sword of Paracelus was in his had and the iron wolf helm on his head.  He cut through the scorpions quickly as if they had no armor, then stopped to catch his breath.  The Sword and Helm seemed to vanish.

McKinley was trying to find something in his bag for the venom when a pale blue gas filled the tunnel and - Failed HT - they passed out.

***

Waking, some time later, the group found themselves bound to old wooden chairs to one side of a cavern filled with rat-faced things.  Ponzi was visibly distressed.  In the center of the room sat the bronze head on a shabby table.  Karl Hunderpress, wearing a purple robe and holding a long knife, smiled at them.

"Finally, you are awake!" He seemed gleeful.  "We can begin.  I will drain the blood from each of you into the head and ask a question.  Thank you for volunteering."  He laughed again.

Murmuring among the rat-faced things grew louder, and suddenly several of them seized Hunderpress, forced him over the brass head, and slit his throat with his own dagger.  As Hunderpress died and the blood soaked into the brass head, it opened its eyes and spoke.  Ponzi passed out.  Merriweather tried to make the sword appear, but nothing happened.

One of the rat-faced things growled at the brass head, which then responded in both a growl and what sounded like English.  "The Mother remains, but the King grows near.  Soon his children will pierce the shroud.  Go to her sacred places and prepare as you have been waiting."

The creatures piled away into various tunnels taking the brass head with them.  Soon only a few, including the one who asked the question, remained.  "You are Tali's friends.  The Mother has use of you," it hissed.  Before they left, the rat-faced things loosened the captured Lamplighter's bindings.

Once they had struggled free, they found their firearms and bags. McKinley sought to treat the scorpion sting, only to find it already healing.  Rummaging through Hunderpress' clothing, Merriweather found a pair of passports.  One German, in the name of Karl Hunderpress, and the other British, in the name of William Gabriel.

McKinley recalled - Eidetic Memory helps again - that Gabriel was the the Silver Spiral member who had threatened Harris Benjamin Harrison in the train car and who they believed had planned the black crystal attack on the Prime Minister.  No one but Benjamin had ever gotten a close look at the man.

Returning to the auction house, they met Hercule Poirot who arranged for the vault to be closed and the bodies removed.

Smythe told the group he would be accompanying Lady Margaret Jameson back to London.

Alaard and Sir Martin agreed to meet to discuss the events.

Ponzi exchanged contact information with Count Nikolai.

Paying for their items, the Lamplighters prepared to return to London.

***

It has been busy lately between work, a class in Javascript, and my two year old, but I have finally finished the last write up of Its Hour Come Round at Last - Part I.

In a way, this has been the prologue. Part I has been about the end of the Lamplighters as they are folded into the beginning of the modern British Intelligence Service.  The stories branched widely to reveal on a surface level the different types of stories they can pursue.

Next we will adding to or reworking characters and bringing them up to 150 points.  They will receive the Hidden Lores, some of the languages (like Middle French), and their Patron on top of this 150.

After that, we will spend a session reviewing Part I, identifying loose ends, clarifying what their characters have been doing between September 1915 and the early summer of 1916, and then what interests the group has.  Part II will move toward a sandbox approach as the players will bring up what they want to pursue and I will plan accordingly.  Furthermore, we may have several investigations going on at the same time.

I will be creating a set a 150 point combat characters as second character for each player.  They will be able to call in and substitute their character on a successful Patron roll.

Also, I am putting together a ring binder with sleeves to store my GM charts and pages detailing each characters disadvantages.  I will also be adding more complexity - such as body locations for injuries.

All in all it has been a good introduction to players who have never played GURPS and good experience for me in running GURPS.

This story will continue with Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.0.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.15

At the end of the previous session, the cadre finished reading the account of Tulius Varro - written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Furthermore, they rested for several days as Pierre and Jeffery healed - under the care of Dr. Thomas McKinley.

We began this session with the group discussing what else they learned in the monastery library and preparing to find a portal home.

***

Wednesday, September 13, 1206 - Auvergne, Kingdom of France

During his convalescence, Jeffery studied the monastery's documents.  Though trained in classical Latin rather than medieval Church Latin, he slowly read through the accounts of the region.  After days of rest and reading, he - with help from McKinley and Merriweather - found several stories that identified two different locations, which sounded like a portal.

One was undoubtedly the portal they arrived through, only the notes mentioned a black obelisk with inlaid silver writing, odd pictographs, and a purple crystal inlaid with blue.

The second was an archway to the south located on an island.

At first they wanted to go to the southern portal.  After some debate, the group considered their wounded and lack of supplies before deciding to examine the obelisk then return to the village of Les Hiboux.

On the trip to the monastery days before, they had traveled further north.  Now, jutting south toward the portal, they noticed the forest had changed since they had arrived a month earlier.  Slime molds clung to trees, large toadstools as big as dogs nestled under the trees, and giant blue puffballs as big as a man could be seen.  Dr. McKinley cautiously approached one puffball to take a sample - Biology (Mycology) - in hopes he could compare to the fungal spores back in London of 1915.

Camping their first night in the open, the Lamplighters found a small glade clear of fungus.  They strung a rope from the tree trunks, encircling the glade, and set watches.  While their ride out had been more raucous, now with three of their number dead (not including the crushed Zoog) as well as two injured, they were cautious and quiet.

***

Thursday, September 14, 1206 - Auvergne, Kingdom of France

Near dawn Harris Benjamin sat watch as the others slept;  the scent of smoke curled into the glade.  Always a careful individual - Cowardice disadvantage - he woke the group.  Merriweather offered to watch the horses and camp while the others made their way through the forest carefully avoiding any fungus.  Merriweather's player was absent and Tali/the Zoog's player ran Harris Benjamin for the session.  

Eventually they spied firelight and a murky clearing hidden by some kind of fog or mist.  McKinley realized they were looking at a group of Risen surrounding a pair of great iron cauldrons that bubbled blueish vapor into the air.  He quickly made everyone cover their mouths and noses and told them that the Risen were probably spreading the blue spores with the cauldrons.

Intuition is a tricky advantage.

After some discussion, they let loose a volley of crossbow bolts into the Risen and as a group proceeded to cut down the creatures with limited resistance.  After dumping some of the monastery wine into the vats, they put out the fires.  Pierre noted he would inform the King's army when they returned to Les Hiboux, and that they would have to begin hunting the Risen.

Back at camp, they cleaned the Risen gore off their clothes and blades, then packed and rode on toward where they had first arrived in this time/world.

Eventually, Pierre found the place he had met them and following Jeffery they walked south some twenty feet where they found the obelisk.  McKinley laughed wearily that they had been near the thing the whole time.

Approaching it, Harris touched the purple/blue crystal and examined the pictographs - he as the Quirk Likes Crystal Tech.  As he did a the sides of the stone slid open and pair of brass clockwork arms grabbed his head and began flashing purple light in his face.  Benjamin struggled to break free - he also failed his Fright Check.  A voice from inside the obelisk stated, "Inferior specimen" and tossed Harris Benjamin aside.

After no success attempting to translate the stone, Jeffery Llywellyn stepped up to it, was scanned, and had his head seized.  He did not resist and passed his Fright Check.  The voice from the stone stated,  "Subject accepted," and Llywellyn was brought close to the purple crystal. He heard a voice in his head. "What is your request?"

Jeffery said he wanted to open the portal back to his time/world. A smaller clockwork arm with a small purple crystal appeared above it.  It quickly inserted the small crystal into Llywellyn's head and dropped him.  McKinley rushed over but found no visible wound.

Jeffery felt strange as his head throbbed.  Suddenly, he could "see" power flowing from the obelisk into the cliff-face.  Inside he could "see" a larger set of crystals and clockwork.  He asked "What is going on?" and a voice in his head stated.  "Do you wish to use the Portal?"

He said.  "Yes, please open to the room we were in before arriving here."

The cliff-face rumbled and opened.  Inside they could see a great purple crystal sitting on an obsidian base surrounded by clockwork.  There were numerous corpses of British military and rat-faced things in the room as well.  McKinley and Benjamin rushed through the opening after saying goodbye to Pierre.  Llywellyn however informed them he would not be returning.  He intended to stay and help defeat the Risen. His friend, Bertrand Merriweather, shook his hand and they waved goodbye as the Portal closed.

Jeffery Llywellyn's departure - the player is creating a new character - means that I will not be revealing the mechanical affects of the crystal in his brain at this time.  However, I have discussed a follow up storyline or even new campaign where we pickup Jeffery and Pierre's story as they seek to stop the Risen plague.

***

Tuesday, September 14, 1915 - Reculver, Kent, United Kingdom

After, the hole in the cliff face closed, the group searched the Crystal room and gravel beach for any signs of life.  All of the rat-faced creatures were dead, though Benjamin managed to get several good photographs of them.  The British soldiers were also dead.  McKinley collected fifteen aluminum identity discs.  Hiding in one corner, they found Captain David Watson, their Lamplighter Control.

Watson did not recognize them.  McKinley decided after a quick Diagnosis that the man was in severe mental shock and needed professional treatment beyond his scope.

Merriweather found an open door - not unlike something from a U-boat, McKinley noted - and the trio plus Watson walked the long metal corridor until emerging at a cave west of Grays, Kent.  The Roman Galley Pub had a phone and McKinley contacted the Gasworks.

Meanwhile at his flat in London, Reginald Smythe III, sat reading a book about the occultist, John Dee.  That he was reading at all surprised his valet, Nigel, to no end.  His phone rang and soon Nigel informed Smythe that Dr. McKinley had contacted the Gasworks from Kent.  When Smythe asked the caller why the Gasworks didn't just contact someone to go get them, he was informed that this was exactly what was occurring by them contacting him.  Smythe was amused.

He and Nigel - with Nigel driving - left London that afternoon and made their way to Kent by the evening.  Reunited with Watson, McKinley, and Benjamin - and meeting Merriweather for the first time - they exchanged stories: medieval France, the Risen, the Roman scroll; the assault to find them, the creature in the pool, and Tali's disappearance.

***

Friday September 17, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The remaining Lamplighters returned to London on the 15th of September.  They were met at the Gasworks (the Lamplighter offices were now missing all the furnishings) by the Consultant.  He informed them that they were the remaining active Lamplighters who had not died, gone mad, or vanished.

He invited them to dine Friday that 17th at the home a friend of his - General George Mark Watson Macdonogh, lately at the Front.

Smythe, Merriweather, Dr. McKinley, and Benjamin - who had booked passage back to the United States and who had brought all his developed photos for the Consultant - met at Macdonoghs home.  There they met a Afrikaner, Alaard Vick, who worked at as a librarian at the Oxford University Library and possessed an immense knowledge of languages.

There they were informed that Macdonogh - a cousin of David Watson - was to take directorship of British Military Intelligence in January of 1916 and that the Lamplighters - by order of King George V - would as of January 1, 1916 cease to be a separate organization and become part of Military Intelligence.

Macdonogh told them he would appoint his cousin (the uncle of Captain David Watson) Doctor John Watson as the head of the new Intelligence section - he planned to reorganize the Directorate of Military Intelligence when taking over.  They met Dr. Watson and realized he was the author of the stories in the Strand Magazine they had all read as boys.

Smythe then realized that the Consultant was none other than Sherlock Holmes - former consultant detective, now retired except in the service of national security or issues related to the Lamplighters. 

They learned Watson and Holmes had been involved with the Lamplighters in the 1880s and that both knew Smythe's father and had known Tali's.

Smythe informed them he still intended to attend an auction in Paris ten days hence - a decision not that did not please Macdonogh, but which was supported by Holmes.

***

The session was a nice mixture of survival horror and roleplay.  Our campaign has one story left - the Paris Auction - before I intend to shift things from mission mode to a sandbox campaign where they take the lead on finding recruits, looking for clues, building libraries, finding out the history and the missing information about the Lamplighters, and generally working as senior agents for Dr. John Watson.

Everyone seemed pleased by the inclusion of fictional and historical persons as actual NPCs in the campaign and the future direction things were headed.

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.16.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.14

In the previous chapter, the Lamplighters, having barricaded themselves in the library of a ruined monastery to recuperate. gathered round Jeffery Llywellyn as he read a thousand year old scroll describing a series of events in the provinces of Britannia during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

***

Dies Jovis, Julius 6, 119 - Aquae Sulis, Britannia, SPQR

"That afternoon, we returned to Gaius' villa to refresh and see our children.  They had spent the day horseback riding and making music.  After the spa, I regretted not joining them.  Nonetheless, an early meal and bedtime awaited them, while we were to dine on on Gaius'  barge floating down the River [Avon].

"Our host had gone all out.   We dressed near twilight and rode to the docks carried on litters.  As we traveled we saw the lucky residents and guests dressed in their finery and heading for the play.  My wife noted with excitement that we would attend tomorrow.

"Once at the docks, I gasped.  To see here in Britannia of all places, such a barge.  Behold, the polished wood handrails, posts, and columns.  The bright canopy of colors covering nearly a third of the deck.  The couches piled with pillows.  A bowl of fruit and glass of wine waited each of us.  Behind our couches, a slave stood with a large ostrich feather fan.   A dozen black oars jutted into the water.

"Braziers were lit as we climbed the gangplank.  Gaius greeted us and promised a night of dining, music, and action.  We relaxed on our couches to sip wine and listen to the Greek musicians from that morning.

"The first part of the trip brought us through twilight.  Evening birdsong filled the air and the smells of cooked foods wafted up through the decks.  On either side of the bank we could see farms and orchards, and to the south a faint fog formed.

"A magician from Tyre, whose name I forget, entertained us with juggling as we ate boiled eggs, small rolls covered in poppy-seed and honey, and hot spicy pork sausages.  Plenty of wine and water with floating fruit satisfied our thirst.  My wife and I as well as the Ciceros ate with relish.  The strain of the day seemed to dissipate.  

"However, as the magician performed some trick with scarves, the barge lurched.  Gaius quickly returned to the desk.  He apologized but told us his pilot had knocked small hole in the hull as he clumsily steered the barge over some rocks.  However, he he knew a flat field nearby where we could continue our meal as repairs were made.

"Quintus immediately suspected foul play.  He seemed increasingly paranoid about eating or drinking, claiming we were all about to be victims.  Fortunately, Flavius calmed him to some degree.

"One shore, our meal continued under a great pavilion tent with pastry pies of wild boar, pickles and mushrooms.  The magician entertained us with sleight of hand.  Then we ate boiled crab stuffed with bread and cheese as a man and his little dog Muffin made us laugh.  Such an amusing dog.

"Two beautiful dancers entertained us as oysters and potatoes were served.  Gaius offered them for a night, and while I was tempted, my wife's look kept me quiet.  However, Flavius asked for both.

"Finally, a pair of gladiators went through some clever maneuvers as we ate chilled berries with honeyed cakes.  Flavius offered Gaius a handsome some for the gladiators to fight to the death.  One of them, the short one I think or no perhaps the tall one, was killed much to everyone's delight." 

I ran a brief combat between two low point fighters until one dropped to zero and I declared him dead.

"Finally, the repairs were complete, Gaius informed us we were an hour and a half delayed, but would be back in Aguae Sulis soon.

"Though night was warm for Britannia, there was still a damp chill. The braziers and wine helped.  Everyone dozed on their couches until we were close to town.  Flavius noticed first that it appeared we were gone longer than expected as the dawn was breaking to the east.

"The smell of smoke made us realize something wasn't right.  We stood by the rails toward the town watching the strange orange glow illuminate the night.  Then the wind shifted and the screams came with it.

"Rounding the bend, we saw the town in flames.  Boats moored on the docks were in flames.  People were running about with torches and weapons.  After we saw a woman in the distance jump to her death from a rooftop, Gaius told us he was taking the barge back down river.  He refused to come close to the town.

"Flavius was furious.  'My niece and nephew are at your villa!' he shouted.

"Gaius agreed to set the barge to shore and give those who wanted to go armor and a gladius, but he would not risk going into the town.  With some discussion, Flavius, Quintus, and myself decided to rescue the children, while Titus would accompany Servia and Julia to safety."  Titus' player had to leave early, so we found a good stopping point for him.

"Flavius claimed the armor of the slain gladiator as his own, then we three set ashore a mile from town.  After some discussion, Quintus and I agreed with Flavius that we should circle the town instead of going through it.  While it would add distance, we hoped to avoid the worse.

"Even then we could spy figures jumping to their deaths.  Near a granary on the edge of town we found several townspeople hung.   A nicely dressed patrician screamed, "He is here!" before dousing himself in oil and fire.

"Truly, the world had gone mad.

"Near a series of shops and homes we spotted a mob rushing toward us screaming.  'We have seen him!  We have seen the King!' We thought it best to hide, but Quintus knocked over a cart of wine jugs sending them crashing to the ground.  Flavius led us into an alley where we used debris to limit the attackers approach, and the three of us held off twenty men and women from whom reason had departed.

"The entire time Quintus yelled.  'I knew it!'

This encounter saw Flavius use Tactics to build a makeshift barrier and limit the assailants that could get them at a time.  

"The gods blessed us that day as we escaped with minimal harm.

***

"But at the villa we were not so lucky.  The gates of Gaius' home had been burst open, and many servants and slaves lay dead.  Among the survivors, we learned that the fires had begun not long after our troubles on the river.   The lunacy spread through the town as mobs rushed from villa to villa chanting.  'Give us your children and they shall be spared!  The Last King demands your children!'  Thinking they might be Briton raiders from the north, the servants hid the children.

"Unable to stop the onslaught, those who survived watched as the mob drug the children out of their hiding places - as if they knew - to a woman on a pale horse.  Tall and thin she wore white robes and a pale mask.  When she descended, they saw she wore a pendant with a strange symbol that seemed to writhe.  She spoke with children then blew a long horn.

"As they waited, she told the children, 'The King might choose you for a great honor.'

"Then a thing appeared form the sky.  Covered in hair, it landed - great wings held high - and snatched child away.  Soon two more appeared.  We wept but she just smiled and the mob moved on."

***

Dies Veneris, Julius 7, 119 - Aquae Sulis, Britannia, SPQR

"We quickly conversed and decided the arena was our destination.  Flavius noted with a calm yet distant demeanor that the dawn was not far off.  I didn't see how the night had passed so quickly.

"Weary, we struck on."  They were losing FP at this point as they rolled to stay awake.

"The town as quiet now.  The fires that had engulfed it the night before were dying down.  The screams had become silence.

"Overhead, in the inky night we spied lit by a pale light a boy flailing as he flew through the air.  Shortly there after we saw the thing of black fur, wings, and ram horns.  Quintus became ill now.  He was convinced that anyone we might would be dangerous.

"As we crossed the streets that stank of fire and blood we heard low crying but saw no one.  The street to the arena was particularly terrible with corpses everywhere and burned buildings.  The gates yawned open and above them an enormous torn banner read 'The King Arrives.'

"Dismounting we marched inside ready for any confrontation, but the air was dead and the silence watched us.  Bodies were everywhere - littering benches and aisles, tramped on staircases.  Some of those with swords had fought and killed, while others had fallen on their own blade.

"Stepping in the center of what would have been the gladiator arena, we saw the stage set with what appeared to be a throne room.  The actors in costume each lay dead, a pale mask in their hands, with no signs of violence but a look of profound horror on each of their faces.

"I struggled to stay calm by thinking of my daughter.  Flavius seethed at the waste.  Quintus suffered the most.  Deluded and afraid he stabbed each dead actor so they could not follow us.

"One of the black furred creatures swooped into the Senator's box, and when it did we saw three figures inside.  We marched with the silence of death to the arena steps and to the box.  Two creatures sat on the top of the arena watching us, but did nothing even though Quintus menaced them.

"Two stone columns flanked the Senator's box's great oak door.  On the door had been painted the strange symbol of the play.

"Flavius shoved it open, and as we entered we spied a man seated at a desk writing on wax tablets, a flat man and tall woman kneeling on the floor, and what remained of a man on the settee.  "Welcome of the Court of the King," the corpse wheezed and it flowed and oozed over the settee like an octopus not a man.

"I stumbled backwards as the fat man rushed Flavius and Quintus.  The pale woman began making strange gestures with her hands.  As she did, an odd glowing symbol appeared in the air.

"The man at the desk, Carbo, packed each wax tablet in a satchel and rushed to the window.  The great horned-bat thing appeared and made off with the satchel as Livius Carbo threw himself from the window.

"I gained enough sense to rush across the room only to see Carbo laying broken below.

"The woman finished her gestures and a light flowed into Quintus and Flavius, yet only Quintus backed away in horror.  Flavius yelled and buried his gladius in the fat man.

 "The woman began her gestures again and without much thought, though I am but a scholar, I buried my gladius in her throat.

"The creature on the settee laughed at us.  Flavius, now in a rage, having lost his reason like yet so very different than the cowering Quintus, yelled at it.  'Are you the King?'

"The creature wheezed.  As the sunlight poured into the room and the boneless thing began to dissolve into a grey dust, it rasped.  'I am not he.  I come to prepare the way for he who comes after me.'"

***

"We found the children in a room off the box along with nearly forty others.  Many of them never recovered from their shock.

"My daughter, Avinina, faired better than most.  Good feelings between my family and the Cicero's continued and she was eventually married to young, Philo.  The pair live outside of Roma now, managing the Cicero's interest in the City.

"Young Faulta had no recollection of anything that occurred.  Though even as a grown woman she will not go out at night.

"Quintus suffered progressively worse paranoia until he was locked away by his brother.

"Flavius' had trouble with his temper.  He never lived to serve in the family mercantile as he was killed fighting the Picts during the construction of the wall.  Some of his soldiers say he smiled when he died.

"Titus, Julia, and Servia were spared the worse of the events.  Titus returned to Londinium and after the death of his father became the family patriarch.  His sister Servia never remarried, but did move to Roma with her son years later.  She and my wife, Julia, remained friends up until my wife's death.

"And myself?  The things we saw I have never forgotten.  Most nights when I can not sleep I wander my home checking the windows and watching the sky.  There is a Stranger in the city, I think, and pace some more."

***

This session was inspired by Ripples from Carcosa.  While Call of Cthulhu / BRP is a decent system, one which I ran in the late 1990s, running GURPS this past year I have come to appreciate the depth of the characters.

I have wanted to pickup many of the the new GURPS titles, but will have to wait until I can afford them.

That said, I did get a new softcover print-on-demand of GURPS Thaumatology.    

The story of the Lamplighters returns with Its Hour Come Round At Last 1.15.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Zoog's Night Hymn

Previously, I looked at the Zoog's emotion control power, which I called it the Deep Song after Frederico Garcia Lorca and Billie Holiday.

For the Zoog's Sleep Power, I decided on Night Hymn after Longfellow though John Barrymore always tempts me. 

For the power itself, I started with Affliction (10 points per level) that also produces the Special Enhancement Incapacitation: Sleep that adds +150%  to the cost - now 25 points per level. (B35-36)

 Affliction comes standard (B35) with a range of 1/2D 10, Max, 100, Acc 3, Rof 1, Recoil 1.  I decided to best represent this, I would use Malediction at +100% to act like a regular spell (-1 per yard of range), but I wanted to limit it to hearing only.  Typically Sense-Based modifiers add +150% since they allow attacks to ignore DR, however since I have already added Malediction this will be a limitation to Malediction instead - Sense-Based: Hearing (-20%) (B106, 109).

This brings us to 31 points per level.

Then we want it to be an Area Effect (B102) at 4 yards with an Emanation limitation. (+80%) placing us at 41 points.

Next the ability is an Essence power - what I am using for Psionics or Magic - giving us a -10%.

Additionally, it costs 2 Fatigue Points to use (which means 8 Fatigue Points for the Area Effect) at another -10%.  This has the potential of being a one shot ability unless the Zoog gets an Energy Reserve.

I debated giving it a Limited Use limitation (-40%) but the Zoog is already pretty limited. I did decide to require a 15 second recharge so that the Zoog didn't just dominate any combat with a -20%.  (B120)

The Zoog seemed to annoy everyone with its music, so I later added a Nuisance Effect at -2 to reflect the irritating dirge-like quality of its song. (Powers 104)

Since the ability was a song, I debated whether I should require the Environmental Limitation (Air), but I decided the Sense-Based (Hearing) should cover it.

This brought the power to  Zoog's Night Hymn (Affliction 1 (Sleep +150%, Malediction with Sense-Based Hearing +80%, Area Effect - 4 yds +100%, Essence -10%, Costs 2 FP -10%, Nuisance Effect  2 -10%, Recharge 15 seconds -20%) [36/level]

This ability seems pricey for an area affect that causes sleep for minutes equal to the margin of failure and then stun.

Could I change it any more?

Does it need a limitation to only effect living creatures?

Maybe unless Sleep does that already.  Would it be different if I linked it to a Skill roll instead of an Attribute roll?

Is something inaccurate?

All in all I like GURPS Powers, but as Michael Wolf noted this took quite a bit or work and I still need to review it.

Just bought a new copy of Print-on-Demand GURPS Thaumatology, so I am going to play around with magic next.