Monday, 18 September 2017

Solomon's Bedrooms

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about one of my favourite characters, Svetlana, that I've been thinking about quite a lot recently. For those not familiar with her, this is my Pathfinder character, full name Queen Svetlana Lian Surtova nee Chekhov, and I'm very, very fond of her. 

Like a lot of Pathfinder games, there's a risk of murder-hoboism which I've been seeing people talk about recently and I think that's why I've been thinking about this specific post, because it's about her bedrooms - her centres of living. The thing that prevents the hoboism aspect, at least. Despite my introduction to the post, I found writing about her rooms helped hook me deeper into her character and give me that closeness despite the fact we haven't played the game in ages. Which has me wanting to do this for other characters - which is where I'm running into a bit of a stumbling block, because I don't have a good idea of the rooms of either of my current characters. But I'll give it a go, starting with Solomon

Solomon hasn't had a bedroom since way before the game began, which means even the hammock on their little boat (the one you haven't met yet) is more permanent space than she's used to.

Her first room was the orphanage dormitory, with bunkbeds of boys. The blankets were worn, the mattresses thin, but it was all she'd ever known and suited her fine. There was nothing to personalise her bunk, but everyone knew their own and (generally) respected each others.

That changed when her periods started and she was shipped off to live with the Rev'd Barkwell's sister. She and her husband thought they were extremely generous in offering 'Sally' a comfortable bed and a room to herself, but the mattress was too soft and, being used to a room full of children, it was too quiet and lonely for her. There were dolls in this room, but she was too old to want to play with them. A small desk gave her a space intended for embroidery and bible study - she was dilligent with the latter, but not the former, seeing no point to the frills of stitching. It was never her room.

After she ran away and joined the Pony Express (or similar set up, seeing as we discovered after I wrote the background that the timing was wrong for her to have worked for them), her bedroom became a bedroll in the wilderness, and I think that's really the way she likes it. A campfire, a kettle, and her guitar. Out here, the quiet didn't bother her the way it did indoors. Out here, the stars keep her company.

Of course, that was before the nightmares started. Heading west in the hopes of finding answers, she's shared the trail and various dives with her new friends. They've recently 'acquired' a boat and all have their own space on it. Solomon isn't entirely comfortable with this, but Tesla (whom she normally has to share with, due to his poor hearing meaning he's the only one who can tolerate her screaming) sleeps in the boiler room with the ghost rock, Carson seems to want his own space, and she hasn't really got to know Chin. (No doubt if Honoria and Peter - the Rev'd's sister and her husband - had tried to teach Solomon more gently, more compassionately, she'd have learnt from them it wasn't appropriate for an unmarried woman to share a room with an unmarried man, but she left before that lesson took hold and it's never occurred to her to be a problem, what with God being her chaperone and all.) 

Solomon's space has a few photos in it - a hobby she took up after meeting the journalist Lacy O'Malley. Her guitar's there too, which frightens her because she's seen how easily boats can sink and she does not want to lose her guitar, the first thing she bought with the money from her first job as a pony messenger. A few notebooks with songs scribbled in. Her things are tucked beneath her bunk. It's a pretty bare space: she suffers too much wanderlust to have gathered enough possessions to make it anything else.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Deadlands - Sinking the Abysmal

Tam's food devoured, the enormity of the task before us starts to sink in. He wants us to destroy a warship - and not just any warship, but the most feared in all the Maze. Tesla's heard of something that might help. He pulls out his copy of the Smith & Robards catalogue and shows us: limpet mines. The price of them, though... and there's no guarantee we'd get them in time to meet Tam's deadline. Not ordering from Smith & Robards, anyway. Carson suggests approaching Dr Helstromme. The man terrifies me since seeing what he did to the area outside Lost Angels, but if he can provide us a tool like that, it would be useful. We send a telegram. We ask around to learn as much as we can of our target. What we learn frightens me more.

Even by my standards, I do not sleep well that night. Helstromme may be able to justify killing many to shorten his war, but I'm not so comfortable with it, even knowing that these people cause hurt, pain and fear along the coast. I resolve myself to it with thoughts of David and Jael and others in the Bible whose actions caused death, but the thought of what we are to do still raises bile.

In the morning, we return to Tam, finding him at breakfast. He eats distractingly slowly as we talk, but agrees to lend us a maze runner with a competent captain who has some knowledge of what it would take to break through the hull of a ghost-steel iron clad. A messenger is sent and Quan Dai arrives soon after. We're relieved to discover his English better than our broken Chinese. We agree to meet him at the dock the next day and head back to the Sunset Lodge to make our plans. Dillenger is running out of tea.

Another night of pre-emptive guilt and nightmares.

Charlie - Dr Helstromme's foreman - is waiting for us in the morning. Before anything, he points out that taking out Kang's warship will weaken the War Lord further, strengthening the Triads: take out a big fish, and things don't get better, other fish just get bigger. Even though we don't explain, he accepts we have our reasons and gives us 2 limpet mines. We owe Dr Helstromme a big  favour. A musketball of dread forms in my gut: we've earned this debt with a request for violence, so how will we be able to refuse if the payment required is similar? And with Dr Helstromme, I fear it will be.

Once Charlie's left, I raise this with the others. They don't seem concerned.

It's still early when we head out from the dock with Quan Dai, in his unnamed boat. An unnamed boat strikes me as ill-fortune, but he won't change it. My sense of foreboding grows.

We head towards where we've heard of recent sightings of the Abysmal, and soon find a burning mesa. This used to be a town called Boswell. Now it's a smouldering ruin. I throw up when I realise some of the wreckage are corpses, but Tesla spots something and the others go ashore. From my vantage point on the boat, I spot armed men heading towards the shore and am able to alert Tesla, Carson and Steve before they're seen. A short firefight follows - Tesla's badly hurt, but they win. Carson learns from one of the survivors that the warship will be returning for them the morning after tomorrow - the 12th October. We'll seek another mesa nearby, watch from there in the hopes it moors up overnight on the 11th and we can sneak over, but if necessary we can stay back and follow to attack it the next night.

A storm is on the horizon as we reach the second mesa. Tesla and I attempt to help Quan Dai prepare the boat while Steve and Carson take the row boat ashore. They haven't returned by the time the storm hits, leaving Tesla and I puking with the waves. The wind sounds like screaming - loud enough to drown out my nightmares, were any of us able to sleep that night. Steve and Carson return to let us know they survived the night, camped out in a cave that offered little shelter, then head back to the island to explore. I nap while Quan Dai hoses down Tesla - who bore the brunt of the weather's effects. I feel I've barely closed my eyes when Steve and Carson return with news: they've spotted a smokestack that could be our target. Despite my misgivings, my pulse quickens. It's too far away for action, and with the storm truly gone, too hot to sleep. The ship is still too far away when night comes and the temperature drops with those vagaries of the Maze. My teeth chatter. Tesla passes out with exhaustion and Steve moves him closer to the boiler. I curl up beside him to sleep while Carson and Steve keep watch.

I wake feeling refreshed. The Abysmal finally arrives, but we don't want to face it in the daylight. 3 small boats launch from it, each with a blue ogre aboard. The motor to the shore and quickly return. A fourth ogre appears on the deck with a woman - the autogyro pilot from the attack on the Good Intentions, Red Petal Su. She and one ogre go back to the shore, come back and she hops into the autogyro and flies east, towards Dragon's Breath. The Abysmal moves off soon after and we cautiously follow to another mesa, where it docks at a jetty by a cave. Steve arranges harnesses for Tesla and I, and we lower the rowboat, capsize and ballast it. I strip down to my shirt, then dive under with Tesla and the mines. It holds a little air pocket for our journey and gives us some buoyancy.

It's cold and dark under the water, murky with silt. We find the Abysmal all the same. Tesla fits the first mine and we steer the little boat round to the other side so he can fit the second. Time seems unreal down here, but he measures carefully so that they'll blow at the same time - with enough time for us to be far away. We start to move away, but a rumbling warns us the Abysmal is moving and the eddies disorient us. When I next surface, we're under jetty. I can hear people running around above, but it seems safe enough for us here for now, but we can't stay here forever. We creep along under the jetty to reach the island, then creep around the island to the other shore. We can hear dull rattling and thuds: cannon and gunfire.

We climb up the shore in time to hear our mines working beautifully, and continue round to seek the others.

It doesn't take long to find the wreck of our boat, Carson frantically searching through the remains. We catch him, try and calm him. It takes time, but eventually he explains the Abysmal attacked them. Quan Dai had a heart attack at the wheel, while Steve went down with the cannon fire that destroyed the boat. Carson himself is lucky to have survived. We help him search, but there's no sign of Steve.

Everything I'd left aboard the boat is gone. The gun is no great loss - couldn't use it anyway - but the hat was one I liked, and the boots had worn to that perfect point. No trousers and no coat could be a problem too. All distractions to forget there's no Steve. We make camp, cremate Quan Dai.

My hat washes up on the beach.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Deadlands - Welcome to the Explorers' Society. We fight monsters.

Back at Sunrise House, Dillenger explains there's normally strict rules to join the Explorers' Society, but these are interesting times and hands over rings. He says we can identify Explorer allies by asking what head is over the fireplace in the lounge of the London branch (a jackalope), then gives us some background.There have alwasy been monsters, but it got worse after the Battle of Gettysberg, where soldiers died... and carried on fighting. That was the first event of what's known as the Reckoning, led by Evil known as the Reckoners. It's a worldwide phenomenom, but particularly bad here. Carson blames the ghost rock, but Pennington-Smythe's less sure.

The Explorers' Society is just the latest carnation of the battle against evil, heading back to my namesake King Solomon's time. Their particular branch, the Twilight Lodge, can trace itself back to the Roman Empire. The Rangers and the Agents are also fighting against the Reckoners, but their ruthlessness and need to squash the truth makes them tenuous allies at best. Not that Dillenger advises telling the whole truth carelessly: he saw a village ripped apart by paranoia after they were told about a shapeshifter. So we need to help people learn how to fight monsters without telling them there are monsters...

We spend the following week getting to know Shan Fan while D & P-S head out of town to try and destroy the amulet. When they return, they explain they still couldn't and have had to hide it again. They want to get us into their vault: when Big Ears Tam destroyed the lodge building, the vault survived but it's locked - and Tam has the key. He won it in a poker game with a disgraced lodge member. They need to clear it out before they can leave town, and if we can help they'll reward us each with an item from it.

That evening, we head out to some gambling spots to try and find out more about the key and where it was lost. Steve and Carson make a few dollars but don't learn much - Tesla and I stay away from the tables and learn less. When we leave, there's 3 dodgy looking white guys follow, slinking away when they realise we've spotted them. I spot signs we're still being followed, but can't tell if its the same people. Nudge Carson, who ducks down an ally. Follow and find him lying on the floor, unresponsive and burning with fever. His eyes flicker and his pulse races. We carry him back to the hotel to find D & P-S gone again, so put him into a cool bath, where the water steams. Sit with him over night, and he seems ok by morning - just even hungrier than normal. Don't know what happened.

We're eating breakfast when red Tongs arrive to escort us to Tam: a few of Carson's more pointed questions evidently found their mark. The estate is bordered by a giant wall, with beautiful gardens in a traditional Chinese style. We're led to a central pagoda where Tam waits with a translator - and a table laden with food. We're given tea to drink and Tam, via his translator, says he's heard about us and our questions. A giant man (like the one who melted into the ground in the cave) steps into the sunlight as he says that. It's... unnerving.

Tam wants to know what we want. It's hard to concentrate with all that food in front of us that we aren't invited to eat, but Carson managed to describe the key and put together a story that it was a family heirloom lost by his idiot cousin. Tam recognises the key and says it'll take 2 weeks to get it - and we're to work for him for those 2 weeks if we want it.

He's happy for his lieutenants (that's Thin Noodles Ma and Ratskinner Hou) to play games on his turf, but not an outsider, and Warlord Kang is trying to muscle in. He was weakened when the bombs fell in Lost Angels, and Tam wants to weaken him further by attacking his seafleet. Our task will be to take out his flagship, The Abysmal, an iron clad that causes trouble throughout the Maze. Her captain is Red Petal Su. The rest is up to us.

As he walks away from the table, he says we can eat. We fall upon the fresh food.

Friday, 1 September 2017

FictionFriday - The Ghoul

The Ghoul

Whenever you go I’ll be by soon after
A womble, recycling life.
The mourners depart, I descend from the rafter
Wielding my flesh-paring knife.

I have no interest in your hair or your teeth
Someone else might but not me.
My taste's for your skin and the flesh there beneath,
Giblets and blood giving glee.

I walk through your body, your life barely lived
Taking whatever I need.
Giving no thought to the things that you’ve loved,
My motives are anger and greed.

I am the raven picking through your paper bones;
I am the bat chasing your ghost in the sky
I am the maggot stripping flesh from your home
I am the cat who walks on by.

I eat what I want, the rest is discarded
Your life lost in plastic bags.
A shallow grave, ashes scattered unregarded
Disposed of like dirty old rags.

We creep through your home, tearing flesh from your bones
Paper shredder helping you rot.
Erasing all signs of your life and your times.
Until finally you are not.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Deadlands - Wailing Horror

Husbit's reminded me it's been a while since I wrote up any Deadlands, which is true: nothing since March, and that was way later than it should have been. It's here if you wanna remind yourself. Time to rectify the delay.


Dillinger told us Pennington-Smythe had taken the Amulet of Rahashimir out of town to hide it, but he didn't know where. He suspected Big Ears Tam was behind Pennington-Smythe's disappearance, and warned us we wouldn't be able to just walk up to the compound and ask, and definitely wouldn't be able to break in. He suggested we ask around on the streets, see if we could find out from rumour if he's there. All the same, he drew us a map of Tam's estate and told us his lieutenants are Ratskinner Hou and Thin Noodles Ma. He sorted us rooms at the hotel, and we headed to the docks to see if Pennington-Smythe had hired a boat, which could be why he wasn't back yet.

We didn't learn anything about Pennington-Smythe at the docks, but as we asked around we learnt more about the lieutenants. Professionally, they're rivals, which is how Tam's meant to keep them under control, but actually they seem to be friends. Despite his name, Thin Noodles Ma is a huge man who runs the brothels, looking after his employees. Ratskinner Hou runs the opium trade and gets his name from his hat, made form the skin of an informant. There's a lot of politics - officially, Big Ears Tam's the "Dailo" and the other two are "Big Brothers". There's no open warfare between the gangs, more like a game. Tam's men - Tong - wear red, Thin Noodles Ma's men are in blue, and Ratskinner Hou's in green.

There's a fourth gang in town, which has a few people on edge because they're only ever seen with the Big Brothers and there's concern it could be a sign of warfare to come. Suspicion is they're from Warlord Kwan.

Noone has seen Pennington-Smythe, but we eventually hear a rumour of someone frogmarched to the Skids by blue Tongs (Thin Noodles Ma, then). It's the best we have to go on, so we head over. Dark by the time we get there, making the 4 Tongs stood outside the door more obvious. Steve and I approach to give Tesla and Carson cover so they can get into position. Carson's first bullet misses its target by fractions of an inch. The guy leaps to the roof and I scramble up to help him: he's great at range, but even worse in hand to hand than me. He falls as I get there, bleeding from the ear. Don't think that was the Tong... I manage to shove our opponent to the ground, jump down to land on him and scream for Tesla. It's a tough fight, but we prevail and free Pennington-Smythe. Between him and Tesla, Carson's back on his feet.

Pennington-Smythe hid the Amulet before he was captured, but they managed to find out where using telepathy. He and Carson explain they couldn't just lift information out of anyone as they walk past - there's a contest of wills needed, and they'd tied P-S down and stared into his eyes for minutes. He needs us to come with him to get it back before Noodle's men take it.

He leads us out of town. As we get closer to his hiding place, we can hear this pitching screaming that he insists is just the wind. There's about 12 people's worth of tracks, one larger and heavier than the others. Makes me think of the large blue man we fought on the Good Intentions. P-S hasn't heard of anything like that, dismisses it as fancy and says the footprints are more likely someone carrying something heavy.

He chucked the amulet down a hole, and that hole has been dynamited with the footprints leading in. As the smallest, I offer to go first. There's what looks to be a steep, deep drop but is only about 6ft, so the others jump where I scrambled. Steve spots the amulet on the floor, right where it landed after P-S threw it down, which is when P-S pointed out the dozen or so very fresh, very bloody corpses. Tesla collapses with a heart attack in shock; P-S saves him while Steve and I puke. 

And the very earth rises into a man-shaped, screaming thing. It attacks, and nothing anyone does makes it slow. P-S points out a tiny gem in its forehead, telling us to make that the target; he's the one to finally make the shot [OOC aside: I know this sounds like 'GMPC saves the day', but I was running Pennington-Smythe. If we have an NPC on our side in a combat, they're shared between us. I most often get control if there's only one because Solomon is a pacifist]. The gem shatters. Dust flies. A giant man rises from the bodies and  flees the room. We give chase. Bullets ping, but he seems unconcerned, then punches Tesla and I in our throats, winding us both and leaving me choking. The others eventually takes him down and he melts into the ground, like the blue guy we saw before. The amulet rests where he had been.

Before we leave, Carson spots a strange glowing lightning shape on the west wall. Closer inspection shows it to be made of some kind of glowing lichen. It doesn't mean anything to any of use, so we gather up the amulet and return to Sunrise House.

I feel like the smell of bodies will never leave me.

#RPGaDAY2017: Day 31 - What do you anticipate most in 2018?

This is a lovely question to finish on.

More Exalted. I'm really enjoying the world, the characters and the epicness of the plot. Resolving the Flood in Deadlands; defeating Reverand Grimme and making the world a slightly better place. Hopefully. Maybe a return to Aberrant, because the plot ended on a real cliffhanger I'd like to resolve. Also hoping to play the short Mage campaign Rich keeps talking about, which is quite a lot of gaming!

I've got the new Paranoia game - can't decide if I want to run it or convince someone else to run it, but I am hoping to play it in the next year.

The thing I'm most looking forward to is running the Buffy game for my aerial friends, if only because that means we'll have actually managed to move into our new home and all the stress of the past few months will be behind me!


RPGaDAY was started by Dave Chapman and is currently curated by RPG Brigade. To join in yourself, follow the questions in the graphic and blog, vlog, tweet, or otherwise share your responses with the hashtag RPGaDAY2017.