Friday, December 25, 2015

Fragments of the Last War 1.20 - A Game for Knights, part 1

My second GURPS game.  It ran smoothly again.  I intend to print out a combat maneuver sheet for next time.  Also, I need to make a list of everyone's disadvantages.

"I looked down at the chessboard.  The move with the knight was wrong.  I put it back where I have moved it form.  Knights had no meaning in this game.  It wasn't a game for knights."
                                                                                       Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Cymru, Tirane, Eifer
Ogronn 19, 21 OC

Louis Mentur woke with a massive headache.  Wiping the spittle from his face, he stumbled over empty wine bottles and out into the common room.  The underground headquarters of the North Cymru Irregulars was very warm this morning from the fire blazing in the massive common room hearth.

Their underground facility had several rooms off the common area and a hall and warren of rooms further underground.  "We need to hire a cook," Louis grumbled as he rummaged through the kitchen for something to eat.

From the magical and alchemical laboratory, Louis heard Nota'Cor yell.  "Do not turn my glass into candy anymore!"  Louis felt ill and held his head.

Through the door to a second room, Louis saw Grind dressed in a loincloth as he performed his morning kata.  "Today is shit," Louis rolled a cigarette and closed his eyes.

From the large wood and iron door leading to the front courtyard terrace of their headquarters came a pounding.  Louis slumped to the door and opened it to find a well-dressed, well-groomed dwarf standing before him.  "Good day to you, sir."

Louis pushed past the dwarf and peeked outside.  "I talked to the police.  I have a permit now."

"Yes, well."  The dwarf looked confused.  "I am here on behalf of the Cult of Desna.  Primarily our leader Mother Jahenna."  He eyed Louis suspiciously.  "I have a letter."

Grind appeared behind Louis and took the letter from him.  "Thank you, small man."  He opened the letter and read.  "She would like to speak with us now?"

"Yes, er..good..er..ogre."  He stared at Grind confused.  Then turned to leave.

Grind, Nota'Cor, and Louis dressed warmly for the day and soon made their way through the cold muddy streets toward East Cymru.

Along the way, they passed a dwarf shoving a halfing, who cried out.  "No, Smee.  Don't."

The dwarf scowled.  "Shut up, Fritz."  Louis shadowed the pair for a while, but soon returned to his comrades.

***

The temple of the cult of Desna was a fine stone building in a wooden structure Outer City.  Built during the first two decades after the opening of the Caers, the upper floor of the temple was an observatory for the worship of observation.  Inside the main structure, the Irregulars saw priests leading worshipers in song and dance while temple musicians played lyres and flutes.

Most of the Desna worshipers were not of "monstrous races" - as the dwarves described them (which means they were predominately human, gnome, halfling, and dwarf.)  However, in one corner they spotted a bugbear in a loincloth meditating and surrounding him sat an ur-akesh (half-orc) and a goblin.

Mother Jaheena - a middle aged human woman - greeted the trio as they stood in the middle of the temple.  Grind questioned her about the job.  To which, Jaheena told them that a piece of pure amber the size of a grapefruit had recently been stolen - four days earlier - and the Guard had no leads.  Grind negotiated both payment and spellcasting services.

She noted they stored it downstairs in a special warded room and it seems the wards were briefly suppressed during the theft.  There was no evidence of forced entry into the temple either.

After showing them - especially Nota'Cor - the storage room, Grind inquired about the bugbear.  Jaheena told them that Gar was a member of the temple staff - a caretaker - and had been with them for several years.

Grind asked to speak with Gar, and the bugbear mentioned during the interview that there was a underground entrance in the temple.  One of the subcellars had a loose stone that lead to a cavern.  He found it when he first came to the temple, but did not investigate it because the hole smelled of feces.  Gar did note that he covered the stone with heavy boxes.

They insisted on seeing the subcellar.  After seeing the hole, Grind asked Gar if he could make it bigger by removing more stones - he could - and said they wanted to investigate.

Gar replied.  "Oh man, yeah.  Let me get my things."

Grind questioned.  "Are you planning to accompany us?"

Gar laughed.  "Totally."

Inside the tunnel the were overwhelmed by the smell of feces and seawater, and had to tie wet rags to their faces in order to explore.  After some time, their tunnel opened into a larger cavern with multiple exits.  They continued on until Grind spotted light.  Dousing their own touches, they crept up on the light and found a dozen xzarts dumping debris rock from another tunnel.

Grind, Nota'Cor, and Louis stepped out of the shadows and frightened the xzarts.  Thanks to Gar and Louis, they managed to questioned these xzarts - none of them spoke dwarven - and learned 1) they were hired by a business in the Slipper District (a market in East Cymru) to clean a subcellar and 2) they had seen two humans(?) four days earlier in the passage going and returning from the temple direction.

***

In their initial interview, Mother Jaheena mentioned that the temple of the cult of Manoc in the south docks of South Cymru had been robbed three days before their own temple (the 12th of Ogronn.) Not being one who believes in coincidences, Louis insisted they investigate.

By mid-day, the weather had turned and begun to snow.  They trio walked across town, through the muddy but clean streets of East Cymru to the increasingly trash-laden streets of South Cymru.  Towering above the the crowd, Grind stared.  "These peasants are disgruntled."

"They live in shit," Louis shrugged.  "Who wouldn't be?"

Grind added.  "Perhaps.  But disgruntled peasants are dangerous."

"Nota'Cor is the best at being disgruntled," Nota'Cor commented.

As they contineud through South Cymru, several people pointed at Grind and said "That's him."

Louis distanced himself from his two companions and made his way through the crowd looking for a mark.  He spied a man in black leathers and a black poncho keeping off the light snow.  Passing quickly by, Louis cut the man's purse and hurried on quickly to meet his comrades.  In the purse was some silver and a bronze seven point star.

The temple of the cult of Manoc differed greatly from the temple of Desna.  For one the neighborhood was poorer, the streets were in worse shape, and the crowd looked more dangerous.  The temple itself was a single level wooden structure built on the top of a pier.

Grind and Nota'Cor waited outside in the light falling snow and, while waiting on Louis to join them, watched the sailors and fisherman enter the temple.  "Hoping the sea god spares them," Grind gestured toward the worshipers.

Once Louis rejoined them, the trio entered the temple.  Inside was warm and smelt of burning sage and chowder.  "Looks like they feed the kids, too." Louis noted.

Approaching an undine priest, Nota'Cor asked to speak with the head priest regarding some stolen driftwood.  The undine said they were mistaken and nothing had been stolen.   Only once Grind mentioned Mother Jaheena, did the undine nod and show them to the back.

As they waited, they said at a wooden table and were served hot fish chowder and ale.  In the middle of their meal a dwarven woman approached the table.  "I am Captain Lanori," she introduced herself.  "I understand Jaheena sent you."

Grind, his bulk towering over the room even while sitting, stated. "We want to know about your driftwood."

Lanori smiled.  "Of course, we don't like to mention it.  But finish your meal and I will show you."

Like the temple of Desna, the Cult of Manoc stored their holy icons in a warded room.  Immediately, however, Nota'Cor noticed the warding here did not protect from above and below, which he pointed out with delight.  "Nota'Cor is the best at warding," he declared.

Searching the room, Nota'Cor discovered the ceiling was loose and opened onto the roof.  Inquiring, Grind learned the temple had recently hired some locals to work on the roof.  Lanori didn't know much about them, but did recall they had been hired at the Sassy Pelican, a sailor bar nearby.

***

The trio decided to pay a visit to the Sassy Pelican, an average sailor bar near the South Docks.  Clean, but dated, a bronze pelican hung from a pole in front of the building.  The barkeep, Dominic, a one-eyed human, spoke with them and identified the workers as members of a local, yet ineffectual gang, the Dock Rats - a human and halfing gang.

He informed the group that they hung out at another place toward the south wall called, the Green Mold Inn.

***

The Green Mold Inn looked like a fairly new establishment and, despite it's name, well cared for at that.  When they walked in, the trio spotted a large table of goblinoids and orcs celebrating.  At one end of the bar, a troll sat drinking and scowling at Louis.  The innkeeper, a hobgoblin called Ricart, told the group they didn't like humans.  But Grind vouched for him. 

Louis bought drinks for the house to easy tensions, while Grind and Nota'Cor inquired about the Dock Rats. Ricart, while distrustful, was willing to talk with the ogre and ur-akesh.

He mentioned that he allowed the Dock Rats to come to his inn to drink because he charged them more and the regulars liked to intimidate them.  He also noted one of the humans, Jarzim, lived nearby with his mother.

***

After a questionable meal at the Green Mold Inn, the Irregulars decided to visit Jarzim's home.   Some blocks back from the oceanfront, the tenement home where Jarzim and his mother rented a pair of rooms was a newer, hastily constructed building.  As the Irregulars walked through the dirty streets becoming clean through snow accumulation, people on the street quickly moved inside.

Their building smelled of old food, unwashed bodies, and urine.  On the stairwell to the second floor, the trio met a goblin passed out drunk while children went through his pockets.

Finally, they found Jarzim's home and knocked.  A few moment's later the door opened and an elderly human woman looked out.  She was simply but cleanly dressed.  "Yes?" she asked.  "May I help you?"

"We are here about your son," Louis informed her.

The woman's face fell.  "Please don't hurt him!" she cried.

"Your son is involved in the robbery of two temples," Grind told her flatly. "We are looking for the Dock Rats and what they stole."

"If I help you, will you spare my son?"  she asked.

"We will try," Grind stated.

She sighed.  "Come in."

Inside, her rooms were well kept: faded curtains and seating, a small fire in a wood stove with a soup pot.  In the other room they could spy clothing in various stages of construction.  "I'm a seamstress.  I used to own a  shop in East Cymru, but had to sell it to meet my son's gambling debts."

Grind sat on the floor, while Louis and Nota'Cor took the chairs.  The woman put a kettle on the stove.  "Tea?" she asked.
 
Everyone agreed.  Though he would not admit it, Nota'Cor had never had tea before.  "It's Jarzim's cousin that is to blame," she said as they sat down to tea.  "He convinced my son to join the Dock Rats.  Pressured him really."  She looked frantic.  "Jarzim told me tonight they are robbing the temple of Abadar in East Cymru.  He doesn't want to do this, but he's in now."

"Why not go to the Guard with this information?" Louis asked.

The old woman shook her head.  "If I tell the Guard, at best my son is arrested and set to the east.  More likely he will be killed tonight."  She poured more tea. "I please try not to kill him."

Grind nodded.  As they were leaving, they heard crying through the walls.

Another great GURPS game, their non-combat skills for investigation and social interaction proved useful. 

The next part of the Fragments of the Last War Campaign and A Game for Knights arc is continued in Fragments of the Last War 1.21: A Game for Knights, part 2

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fragments of the Last War - Gods of Order in Eifer

The gods of Eifer are aloof figures, rarely granting their powers to mortals.  Eife, the World-Mother, and Sha, the Healer, most often among the Gods of Order bless others with their magics.  (Though some say Nethlys is magic.)  That said, they manifest differently on different Worlds (or not at all) and the power they grant may wax and wane with their presence.  Or they may not, who can say?

For ages, each major god had an associated cult and a slew of minor deities who attended.  Recently, the Cult of Grumbar has claimed that the Stone of Order is the primary god of Order and all other deities are either his servants or enemies.

The followers and priesthood of other deities don't agree with Grumbar (not yet anyway), but they are feeling pressured in all dwarven strongholds (i.e. the cities and caers) to comply.

Thus far the group has only come across two other major deities: Abadar, the god of Trade, and Desna, the god of the heavens.

Grumbar, the Stone, the Stone of Order

Originally a Khuzid (dwarvish) tutelary deity, the cult of Grumbar has flourished the the caers since the War of the Horrors.   While Abadar, the god of trade, had dominated what dwarven settlements existed on the surface before the Opening of the Caers 21 years earlier, now that the caer-dwarves are returning they bring Grumbar with them.

He promotes order above all things and calls his faithful to stamp out chaos - wherever they think to find it.   His places of worship are stone temples with polished marble menhirs in the center, often surrounded by candles or phosphorescent stones.  His symbol is the hammer and the stone. 

Grumbar's attendant gods were originally considered independent gods prior to the War of the Horrors, but now they are considered followers of the Stone. He and attendants are concerned with justice, tradition, ancestors, law, and champions.


Desna, the Butterfly of Heaven, the Great Dreamer

One of the eldest deities, Desna is said to have created the heavens to guard the worlds against the incursions of the Horrors.  She and her court are worshiped in the cause of reason, beauty and the arts.  Desna is also the patron of astrology, prophecy and navigation.  Some say she blesses thieves and the shadows.

Despite her pursuit of of peace, her followers are some of the most vigilant and tireless in their defense of all peoples against the Horrors of chaos.

Her temples are often open in the center to the sky or otherwise muralled domes with images of the stars upon them.  Her altars are built of fallen stars and placed within pools of water to reflect the heavens.  Her symbol is the butterfly and the moon.


Abadar, the Merchant, the Lord of Commerce

Beloved by as many if not more than Grumbar - even among the dwarves - Abadar, his priests, and his followers make economies of the settled world move.  Towns grow with his support.  He and his attendants oversee cities, building and construction, money and banking, and travel.

His shrines often dot well traveled roads and his temples serve as banks where wealth may be deposited for certificates good at any other temple.

Pushed from the West Cymru by the coming of Grumbar as a result of the High Priest's collaboration in Loren Gracchi's plan to marry his daughter Gilna to a human, the Cult of Abadar is struggling to return to prominence.  Furthermore and more importantly, the local temple has had to borrow heavily to meet it's financial obligations after the priests of Grumbar seized a portion of their vault wealth in fines.

His temples are banks first and foremost with an altar in the shape of a great gold key in the center.  His symbol is the key and the coin.


Manoc, Lord of the Sea and Storms, the Fury Born

Like all oceanic deities, Manoc is temperamental and prone to unpleasant (or violent) outbursts.   Sailors placate him, fishermen supplicate him for good catches, and farmers watch impotently while he brings or denies rain.

His temples are wooden, often built into docks or piers.  His altars may be anything brought from the sea - driftwood, coral, shell.  His symbol is a trident, a wave and a cloud.


Dyian, Master of War, the Tactician

The Cult of Dyian preaches that their god does not condone violence for its own sake, but rather is the patron of competition, athletics, bravery, and war in defense.  While this may be true, Dyian is invoked in may wars and conflicts - not all of so noble a cause - asking for victory.

Her temples resemble athletic training halls beside open fields.  Her altars are great silver shields with a white starburst.  Her symbols are a sword and shield.


Istis, our Lady of Fate, the Weaver of Destiny

Istis concerns herself with the fate of the Worlds and all that are in them - included the gods, the horrors, the fae and mortals.  She watches the flow of time and destiny.  For most, she sets their path inevitably on her loom.  For others, she smiles her Luck on them, letting them behind (not break) the pattern.  She is beseeched by all from gamblers to parents, the dying and the living.

Aloof from mortals and other gods alike, she seeks no cult (though all pray to her for fortune), she only acts when her Tapestry of Fate is threatened.  Her symbol is the hourglass and the shears.


Morrit, the Lord of the Dead, the Piper

Morrit collects the dead when Istis cuts their threads and brings them to their halls in his world were they wait.  Most are returned to the Wheel and are reborn.  A few travel on to realms of Order and Chaos.  His priests counsel the families of the dead and provide a range of funerary services.

Morrit opposes necromancy which he sees as breaking the Wheel and his Cult actively hunt necromancers.  His Cult ignores those who artificially extend their lives as they expect all - even the gods - will pass their way eventually.

His temples tend to be well kept, often bright with cut flowers.  Incense burns lightly in the center of the temple where his altar is a bonfire.  His symbol is the flame and flower.


Sha, the Healer, the Peace-bringer

Sha is a polymorphous god, shifting sexes (or even intersexed at times), and appearances at their desire.  They and their attendants promote peace, healing, friendship, compassion, and forgiveness.

Her temples are cozy places, welcoming, comfortable, with food for the needy (thus they are very popular among the poor).  Their altars are the hearth and symbol is a pair of bronze wings surrounding a circle.


Eife, the World-Mother, the Source

The World-Mother isn't just a deity.  She is also the world of Eifer itself.  She is all worlds that nurture life and yet she is also different to each world.  Eife and her attendants oversee the elements, the animals and plants, farming, hunting and husbandry, and the land.

Her temples vary in form depending on the local terrain: groves in forests, caves in the desert, aeries in the mountains.  Her altar is the world itself.  Her symbol is any leaf in a wooden knot.


Torru, the Crafter, Lord of Invention and Imagination

A god of creativity and industry, Torru teaches the benefits of work and labor.  He inspires invention and craft.  He blesses mining and lumbering.  Above all though he celebrates moderation and the excellence of a thing created.  Torru desires one perfect hammer to a hundred poor ones.

His temples are workshops.  His altars an anvil, a loom, or any other item of creation.  His symbol is the hand and the heart.


Nethlys, Lord of Magic, the Scholar and Mage

The Cult of Nethlys is made of mages, libraries, scholars, and explorers. They seek knowledge to be stored and shared.  Nethlys blesses scholarship and preservation above all.

Some say he is a wise old man of wisdom.  Some say a brilliant woman.  Some say the Lord of Magic saw all of Creation and it drove him mad.  They say his mind broke and burned half his form in magic.  Others say she is illuminated with all knowing and understanding and blind all who see her.

Nethlys and attendants protect knowledge, libraries, memory, magic, research, and teaching.  Temples are often libraries and altars runestones.  His symbol is the book and wand.  Her symbol the head and sun.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fragments of the Last War - Cymru Coinage

The dwarves of the cities and caers of Tirane use a common coinage, weighed and measured to facilitate trade.  The silver ceffy is the baseline coin ($1 in GURPS)

copper wenith
silver ceffy
gold gwin

We've never defined the coinage, so I figured it was a good time to do so.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Funeral of Gustav Waecter 3

The continuation of the Funeral of Gustav Waecter.

The Funeral of Gustav Waecter, part 1

The Funeral of Gustav Waecter, part 2

This game was played in Fate Core

Earth, England, Oxford 1928

Once again, the session begins with the characters seated around a table at the Bear pub in Oxford, England.  Louis recalls the time, Gustav asked him and the Tete de la Morte to join him in Berlin, and unsurprisingly for Louis, there he, Rudy, and Eugene were soon reunited with Andrew and Katherine.

*****

Earth, Germany, Berlin, 1926

A few days earlier, Louis Mentur received a telegram at the headquarters of the Tete de la Morte in Marseille, France.  Finishing the telegram, he glanced out over the harbor with his one good eye, and poured himself a glass of Bordeaux.

He then called for his assistant to find Rudy McGraw and Eugene.  When they arrived, he told them Waecter wanted them again.  This time in Berlin.  And it was likely they wouldn't return.  Rudy poured himself a glass of wine to stop his hands from shaking and asked.  "When do we go?"

Katherine O'Reilly already lived in Berlin, serving as a governess to a British family.  When she received the telegram from Waecter, she asked for a week off to visit her sick mother.

Andrew and Gustav arrived in Berlin in June of 1926.  Andrew had a long scar on his face and a damaged ear from the last gathering.  Gustav had greyed in the intervening years.  Now a lecturer at Oxford in History and Anthropology, his writing on the pre-celtic peoples of France had made him respected and reviled in academic circles.

Everyone met at a house on the outskirts of Berlin that Gustav'd let for the summer.  He informed them at once that Professor Adalbert, his local contact, had expressed concern for his safety just before he disappeared.  "I hope this is not like Tunisia," Louis grumbled.

Gustav and Katherine went directly to Adalbert's home with Eugene driving them.  Louis, Andrew and Rudy would followed and parked in the rear of the home.

As soon as they arrived, Gustav noticed the house was locked tight.  He used his own key to enter by the front and then let the others in the rear.  Eugene stayed in the car to keep watch.

The house had not yet been touched, but from the wreckage it seemed Adalbert left in a hurry.  In his library, they found numerous books on the occult and papers on his desk about the Society of Thule.

At this point, Eugene tapped the horn. A pair of milk trunks stopped down the street and men in some unrecognizable uniforms climbed out.  Near the rear another, short man followed; he seemed to Eugene to be directed the uniformed men.

Andrew and Rudy left the home for Eugene's position, while Gustav piled papers in the floor.  Katherine hid in the kitchen, and Louis stood by the door.

The men began firing at the house, and one wounded Andrew in the side.  Rudy, fired several shots at the men, and Eugene cranked the car and drove through the crowd.  Dispersing them momentarily.  Eugene Created an Advantage "Confusion."

It never ceases to amaze me that they fight on a neighborhood street.

The leader of the group held out his arms and fire erupted from one of his hands, destroying the foliage in front of the professor's house.  Rudy and Andrew ran terrified for cover.  The milk-truck soldiers advanced on the house.

After seeing the man summon fire, Louis called for a retreat and everyone fled through the back of the home to an alley to Louis' car.

With Andrew injured, they returned to Gustav's house where a medical doctor friend of Waecter's was summoned.

The next day, Gustav decided to waste little time and arranged for everyone but Andrew to visit the Thule society building in south Berlin.  Entering they were greeted by a well dressed middle aged German man.  After Gustav said he was here about Professor Adalbert, the group was shown to a library where they were left with refreshments.

Sometime later they heard a commotion from somewhere down the hall, and decided to investigate  the building.

Gustav and Louis headed upstairs, while Katherine, Eugene, and Rudy decided to investigate the bottom floor.  The building - constructed in the mid-19th century from all appearances - was decorated in rare wood panel walls and beautiful paintings and sculptures.

Making their way upstairs, Louis and Gustav overheard an argument in one of the rooms.  Through a partially closed door, they saw a crowd of suit dressed men being yelled at by the same man who led the assault on Professor Adalbert's home the day before.  This man was clearly angry at the loss of Adalbert's papers.

Louis cautioned Gustav that he did not want to tangle with another "damned sorcerer."

They approached another library where they found a metal box sitting on a desk.  While Gustav scanned the books, Louis checked then opened the box.

Inside was the severed head of Professor Adalbert, though from the base of the neck extended wires.
His eyes opened, giving Gustav a start, but Louis sighed.

Adalbert told them how he had been captured by the angry small man - the one who attacked his house later - and when he refused to cooperate his head was severed.  He noted his body was often tortured somewhere else as he felt everything.  Gustav told Adalbert he would help restore him, but Louis just shook his head.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "There is no cure."

"How do you know?" demanded Gustav.

"I know," Louis replied.

Adalbert frowned and then said.  "Do it."  Louis disconnected the wires to his head, killing the Professor.

Below, Katherine, and Rudy found a door to the basement.  Once downstairs, they found a room with a man's body hanging limply by wires and a large purple crystal surrounded by gold and silver rings inlaid in the floor.

Rudy unholstered his revolver and shot at the crystal, but the bullet vanished when it approached the rings.

Katherine head what she thought to be the voice of God telling her to approach and she did.  Rudy heard a voice saying he would understand everything if he approached and he did.  Eugene heard nothing. 

Eugene grabbed Katherine trying to prevent her from touching the crystal, but she shoved him away.  After she passed through the rings, she then touched the purple crystal and passed out.  Eugene was able to halt Rudy - tripped him - and once Katherine had touched the crystal, Rudy snapped out of his daze.

A bell - like a fire alarm bell - went off and Eugene and Rudy rushed Katherine upstairs where they met Louis and Gustav.  The group rushed for the front door, shooting their way through guards they tried to stop them.

As they drove away, Gustav turned to see the angry man standing in the doorway glaring at them.

***

Earth, England, Oxford 1928

The companions finished their drinks, said their goodbyes, and headed out into the English evening.