Tuesday 31 July 2018

Exalted - Hunting Beastmen pt 2

This is the story of our Exalted game, told from the point of view of my character, Cathak Taji. Click here for the index.
The next evening, Raging Tiger sent us after a party of beastmen to see what we could do - he'd be nearby in case we got into trouble. There were about 20 of them with a wolf-like appearance, settling at a campfire, cooking meat and squabbling over scraps. Something about them seemed to disappoint Raging Tiger.

Kito and I quickly planned our attack. I don't think either Rey or Tiger expected us to open with a flurry of Obsidian Butterflies through their tents, and a Blazing Raptor straight into their campfire. The beastmen certainly didn't, but none tried to flee and Kito stepped in front of me to take the blows as they charged.

The fight was fierce and bloody; we were victorious, but Kito was severely hurt. Raging Tiger carried him away with Rey in support, telling me it wouldn't be safe to follow. Unnerved but trusting them, I explored the camp, finding a few furs but no clues as to where the beastmen had come from or where they were heading. When the others returned, Kito was healed. Completely healed, no scars remained anywhere, not even the ones he'd picked up as a child. Weirder, his hair and skin had gone white, his eyes blue, paler than anyone from the North.

We continued on, a strange group. Time started to blur. We'd run into the occasional small band of beastmen, all easily dealt with.

After 2, maybe 3 weeks, Kito got Raging Tiger to tell us a bit more about the Children of Luna and the rules the existance of the beastmen breach. Luna doesn't have a strict code, but chooses those who've survived hardship, telling them they're chosen and now her warrior, and there's a duty of stewardship over the land that comes with this. It was this stewardship our quarry had breached: they were lording it over their creations and using them to encroach Raging Ti2ger's territory. We worried again about the military camp where we were based, but he reassured us he didn't mind as long as we didn't overhunt the area. He valued self-sufficiency and wouldn't be a hero, not wanting the people he'd helped to fall back into the same danger once he'd moved on. The way he said it, it sounded like there was a story there, but when we asked more, he gave us the same line we'd heard many time from the Emissary so many times: "another time, perhaps". He repeated that when we tried to ask about how he got chosen by Luna, then told us to sleep. We'd reached the mountains we'd need to climb to reach to the valley where we'd find the other Lunar.

It was a hard climb, steep with few handholds. The first rest point was about 100m up; just as I was pulling myself onto the ledge, there was a terrible rumbling, clamourous clanging from below me. Ray and Raging Tiger were already on the ledge: my eyes widened to realise it was Kito who'd fallen, and I screamed the kind of scream that froze my entire body. Raging Tiger swooped into a giant bird to carry him to us: we couldn't get into his armour, which meant we couldn't see how hurt he was, but at least meant he was alive. Tiger strapped him to his back as we continued; he was just about conscious by the time we made camp, and halfway through the next night's travel he was fine.

And eventually we looked out over the valley. It was beautiful, utterly idyllic, and without Tiger we'd never have found it. A small town of old buildings surrounded a stepped pyramid being reclaimed by the local vegetation, more akin to a jungle than a tundra. There was no snow, either, and the climate was warm and humid. We guessed the place to be at least 2,000 years old: it was clearly First Age, so possibly even older. Armed beastmen and unarmed people walked the streets. Tiger explained the pyramid at the heart was likely a powerful manse, judging by the effect. At Kito's question, he said it was likely the hearthstone was with the rogue Lunar, assuming there was a stone. At our surprised expressions, he explained not all manses have stones; some are built to a specific purpose instead.

We observed the town for a while. The normal people seemed to act as a serving class. Of the 60 or so beastmen, not all were combatants. One stood out from the rest, a pure bipedal snow leopard, of which the others were cruder, more human-looking simulcrams. This individual was smaller and compact than Raging Tiger's first appearance and carried a longsword. Concern passed over the face of our new friend: this wasn't our quarry, who's Aspect was Raven, but one of their followers. He was confident he could take on Raven, but not so sure about Leopard. As nervous as this made him, it worried us more. He suggested we - Rey, Kito and I - shoot at the beastmen and keep them occupied while he fought the Lunar. Shoot and move on, he reiterated. Kito and I cast Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, and we were ready.

The Leopard leapt to intercept Tiger as he walked brazenly into the town, yanking a di-klave from its arm. Slightly more than half the beastmen followed into the fight, so Rey joined Tiger while Kito and I ranged the jungle the other side of the river, shooting into the remainder until we had their attention. I stayed in the trees, shooting and moving to make it harder for them to pinpoint me, but one small group reached Kito and he had to switch to his blades - Rey joined him as more hurtled toward the melee. 

I saw 4 of the beastmen creeping into a hut and thought they were hiding from the fight until I saw them leave again with a cart-sized ballista! I took aim as they set it up, but they fired before I loosed. A ball of glowing blue energy expanded... exploded... killed them all! I swung my bow, seeking a new target.

Shoot and move. Shoot and move.

A group made a break for the temple, the pyramid. I killed one, but the other 5 ran inside. I looked around: only 3 remained. One threw a javelin at Kito - I shot it, and hid again. A glance showed me it was still standing, so I fired again as I wormed my way into a spot with vantage on the temple. This shot went through his side and embedded on a wall beyond, dripping heart's blood as he slumped to the floor. As I turned my attention back to the temple, I saw Kito running across the rooftops and fall into a building - before I could leave my hiding place, he'd recovered and continued on his path. I continued to mark the temple doors. 

Raging Tiger continued a blur against the Leopard while the last beastmen fell to Kito's swirling blades. It was then we noticed the humans milling around, armed with scythes, pitchforks and other utensils. Only one held a shortsword, and awkwardly at that. Kito investigated the ballista while Ray defeated the farmers. I kept my bow trained on the temple doors, waiting for the beastmen to come out with whatever threat they had in mind, but the corner of my eye saw the other, the Leopard, heading towards it, and Tiger's aura flaring as he spent Essence in response: a silver light building until it exploded out in a blinding flash, revealing a join-the-dots tiger roaring behind. The Leopard's blade span away as she fell in half.

The temple doors swung open. I saw fleeting black movement within and feathers falling out, and Tiger was there.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Aberrant - The Eruption

Told from the point of view of my character, Chrissie Walker aka Lisa 'The Phoenix' Moore, the Aberrant story index is here.
Forget what you read in the news profiles and on Wikipedia, I promised you the true story of how Hyperdrive and I Erupted.
It was 23rd March 1998, not a few days later. I had the day off and my brother and I were working towards some form of reconciliation; I'd come to his office to meet him for lunch. His idea, but now I can feel Benedict's fingers all over it. Especially seeing as Adam showed up as I was waiting, with a package from Benedict for Pete.

As my brother came down the stairs, a group of masked, armed men burst through the doors. All of us in the lobby area were swiftly tied up and put in a room. More hostages were led in soon after. 

It didn't take Adam long to free himself and then me. We manage to take out the two guards by surprising them, and tied them securely before untying the other hostages. Adam took the guns, surprised I wasn't prepared to carry one. We snuck back into the lobby. Seeing a clear route, we hurried the hostages out of the room to hide them in the lift shafts: there was space for them all below where the lift would settle, and it seemed very unlikely they'd be found by the intruders - who we suspected to be part of a group known as EM Tek.

The package from Benedict was sheets of paper covered in gibberish writing, that served as cover for a useful toolkit. As Adam slung it across his back, I saw him rubbing his forehead as if nursing as headache as bad as the one that had been bothering me all day. Neither of us were going to back down, though: there were too many people in danger in the building. 

We left the hostages. Pete joined us as we carefully climbed the stairs, but after we were shot at and he was nearly hit, he admitted he couldn't cope, he was too afraid, so we took him back to the lift shaft to look after everyone there. The stairs seemed too dangerous, so we used rope and other items in the toolkit to allow us to navigate the lift shaft and ventilation shafts as we made our way around the building, doing our best John McClane impressions until we reached the top floor. A helicopter circled overhead: we found marker pens and wrote in as large font as we could manage, backwards, to get their attention. They circled closer, and we could make out a return message that, with a bit of pointing, we realised was a radio frequency. As luck would have it, there was a radio in the toolkit.

The helicopter was from MI5. They didn't know much more than we did, but were excited to have us inside and active, even as civilians. We continued to explore the building, running into the occasional patrol. We avoided those we could, but ended in a fight with one and Adam shot a man. I raced over as he fell, but there was nothing I could do for him. We hid the body and continued - Adam a little shaken (to be honest, I was a little shaken: I saw death regularly, as a nurse in A&E, but I'd never seen a friend cause the death, even though he hadn't meant to).

The building should have been a busy office block; the empty rooms were eerie.

We took water and snacks from vending machines back to the lift shafts. It didn't seem to matter how much I drank, my head still felt like it was splitting in two.

We eventually made our way to the server room, and this is where we found what the bad guys were up to, hacking the server. We knocked out the few people here, and (with the help of the MI5 guy on the radio) shut down what they'd been doing - which was when the rest of the bad guys stormed in, shooting. 

We fled, running awkwardly and in fear, the stresses of the day building to a crescendo, our heads pounding like we were about to give birth to Athena, and it was all too much when...

When something happened, like the universe arriving within. I felt myself rise as though bathed in phoenix fire - as though the heart of a phoenix as the flames flooded the building, green flames healing everyone, even the guy Adam had shot and we'd left for dead. Storm clouds gathered outside. Adam was going through something similar, his newfound power shoving foes backwards, away from us and crushing - imploding - the weapons held by bad guys throughout the building (as red flames flickered from me to melt them beyond recognition once he was done).

The release was phenomenol.

As I sank back to the floor, a man stepped from the shadows, introducing himself as Montgomery...

We awoke in a strange holding cell. Montgomery returned to us and explained it was now 15th April. He told us about the arrival of Novas and that we'd Erupted before the others, before the explosion of the space ship, but that we should keep that very quiet.

An uneasy truce arose between us.

His facilities were good, but we were prisoners there, and we never felt any regret for deserting and rejoining Benedict at the first opportunity (just some disappointment and minor betrayal when, years later, I learnt they were friends and Benedict had been behind our kidnapping). 

Thursday 26 July 2018

Shadowrun - Before the Arcology

This is the first installment of the write up of notes from the first RPG I ever played where we weren't playing ourselves in our local area. I'm typing them as they are, which means they may not be fully coherent (I wrote them a long time ago and they don't include much explanation of terms from the game nor any explanation of who the characters are - and I don't remember now!) If you're familiar with my write ups, you'll know they're usually first person: these aren't. Index here.

1st run in Seattle. Darius Delmar contacted Kamaya & she met the Johnson in a pub with Ryan, Drazen, Razer-boy & Tark. They carried out a small run against Ares, getting a decker (Jaz) in & out, with time for her to recover some data. This data was used to set up a run for Tark, Ryan & Maya, as they call her. A bugs nest was discovered on Ares property, which they helped expose with Kent Ludbecker and his orc cameraman, Wayne. Insider trading earnt the Seattle Yaks, and consequently them, a lot of cred. The mission led to them developing goup karma.
After that was a run against a Yak-owned building. The team - Ryn, Lucifer & a heavily-cybered troll - did not meet her expectations, and she almost turned the job down. Instead, she let them provide a distraction whilst she, Tark and Jaz snuck in, aided by their contacts amongst the SeattleYaks (not fans of the Yaks being targetted). The troll died; Ryn and Luce were heavily injured. Jaz took control of the building; Tark turned Maya invisible and she snuck around, stole computers and successfully extracted 3 scientists. No one was killed: the people she came across were stunned instead. When Maya discovered the warehouse built new BTL chips, she trashed the machinery before returning. Calling in a final favour from Honzo, Tark saved the lives of Ryn and Luce, though admitted Luce was the killer of Honzo's nephew.

Her next run was a data rescue. Keneda, Ryan, Ryn and Tark helped, mostly with invisibility spells from the shaman and data recording from Keneda and Ryan. Maya's job was to knock the people officially there unconscious.

One of Tark's fellow wolf-shaman, Ranark, wanted help. Whilst setting up this run, Tark & Maya set up a magic group, allowing Maya to initiate. Ranark wanted them to rescue his ex from the new Renraku arcology. Ryan, Ranark & Diane Grayson, the target, got out safely, but Tark and Maya were trapped. The cat-shaman, brought to cast a bulletproof shield, was killed. Maya surrendered, forcing Tark to do the same. They were marched around, weapons taken, watched astrally & physically, and interrogated amidst some confusion.


And that seems a good place to break for now. Although this was short (less than the first of the 4 sides of A4), the rest takes place in the Arcology (with more detail in the action, but no better clue as to who anyone is...)

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Deadlands - Professor Vandergriff

This is a chapter in our Deadlands game, told from the perspective of my character, Solomon Blackbird. For the story so far, check out the index.
We walk away from the Chamber, dejected. Carson takes the telescope - he's spotted something that turns out to be a pillar of black smoke, thick and oily. It looks to be a couple of miles away, and with no better plan we head that way.

"It looks like smoke from a ghost rock boiler." None of us are going to argue with Tesla's expertise in that area.

It's pretty close now, so we creep cautiously up a hill to see  a man sat by the device belching out the smoke, with coffee brewing over a campfire, a rifle over his knee, and more guns on his belt... Chin, Carson and I huddle down to discuss what we're going to, only to look up to see Tesla walking up to him, bold as you like. The guy leaps up and points his rifle at Tesla before sidling over to a large hole beside th device, the boiler, and shouting into it before returning to the fire, still wary, still pointing the gun at Tesla, but at least not firing.

Chin heads to the other side of the hole, which we now notice has cables or pipes or something running from the machine into it. Tesla seems completely oblivious to any danger. I turn to Carson.

"I could go down, pretend to be looking after him?"

"That's not a bad idea. I'll stay here - signal me, and I'll be right there."

I run down the hill, calling for Tesla who ignores me - unlike the guard, who shouts "Wait!" in a worried Texan accent, then heads back to the hole and yells "BOSS!" I stay still, waiting. Despite his clear anxiety, I don't think he's about to start shooting wildly, but I'd still like to not look like a threat.

A head pops out of the hole. Dirty face, unbrushed and unwashed hair, and wild eyes, but a friendly voice. A weird scientist, who quickly recognises Tesla as the same and the two start chattering away. I signal Carson down as the scientist climbs out the hole; he saunters over, and Chin appears soon after. Professor Vandergriff introduces himself, then his guard as Fred - the guard goes to correct him, but Vandergriff, oblivious, continues talking and he shuts up. We introduce ourselves (though Carson uses the name "Elijah Cross"). The professor's got the same accent as Carson, Boston. I spot his signet ring and interrupt the others:

"What's over the mantle of the London Lodge?"

He responds by asking us the same question, which makes me a little uneasy, but Carson answers and he relaxes immediately. We tell him, then, about the glyphs, and he knows about them! There's one right here, in fact. 
We follow him into his hole. It's well-lit and littered with chicken carcasses. He'd learnt about the glyphs from the natives, knows they trigger earthquakes and has been experimenting. Before we can stop him, he grabs a chicken and smears its blood over the glyph, triggering a violent, terrifying quake. He wipes the glyph dow afterwards and tells us where he's found others - there's a lot more than we ever thought.

I'm finding it harder and harder to concentrate. It might be bright down here, but it's enclosed and stinks of chicken blood. I could feel my stomach tightening even before the tremors. I try to focus as we try to explain about using the glyphs to stop Grimme because a pawn of the Devil, the Reckoners, whatever, but creep my way back towards the entrance, waiting where I can breathe the fresh air but still see the others in case they need me.

Carson wants to bleed on this glyph while we're here, which Vandergriff finds exciting (I'd think callously, morbidly, if I wasn't used to how absorbed Tesla gets. I recognise this intense, focussed excitement). He pulls out a notebook and scribbles notes as Carson's blood makes the glyph glow, thickening the surrounding shadow - which reaches out and grabs Carson, pulling him in! Other shadows form and attack. Hearing the commotion, Fred pokes his head down then disappears. Chin's punches travel straight through the shadows, so he draws the Bless├Ęd Blade we used on the Sin Eater and slashes with that. The shadows around Tesla take him to the ground - I clamp down on my fears and get to him. As I search for his healing prod, Fred jumps down the hole and throws some kind of grenade canister, but the lid isn't secure and comes off before reaching the shadows, covering us in some kind of goo. Chin reaches Tesla and, cupping his palms over various heathen pressure points, gets upright at least - just in time for Fred to try throwing another grenade, which lands at his feet and ensnares all of us but Carson, still by the glyph, and Tesla, hobbling away. Fortunately, Carson's dealt with all the shadows around him and the ones by us are no match for his spells. The professor explains to Tesla where to find the reagent that will free the rest of us; although it feels like it, it doesn't take him long to find it.

Being back on the surface is a huge relief. Coffee's brewed; we rest and heal. The experience has left Vandergriff very animated. We talk more about our quest and our progress - he warns us that if someone (Grimme, Raven...) finds out what we're up to, they may try to undo our work, and offers to destroy his tunnel to protect this one. The glyph on the Isle of Ghost Tears seems pretty safe, but the Cave of the Wailing Horror is known to Tam and his men, and the one on Whateley Isle may already have been destroyed. We should probably spread out where we activate glyphs, to try to protect them.

We spend the night in their camp, and return to Shannonsberg in the morning. There's a Good Intentions message waiting for us in the copy of the Tombstone Epitaph we pick up:
Our Fellowship of Travellers will meet at the Fallen Angels Saloon in Perdition next Friday at precisely midnight. Your presence is requested by SQH.
It's Friday, 16th January 1880, so that gives us a week to get there. We leave at once.

After the frustration of the 37th Chamber and some general grumpiness in the group as we couldn't agree what we wanted to do, this was a very enjoyable interlude for me. We got some good roleplay going, with Tesla walking oblivious to potential danger and the heroic-flawed Carson and loyal-flawed Solomon trying to save him from himself. I think Chin's player was frustrated by the fight: I took control of 'Fred' and Husbit said to pick a couple of mad science powers I thought might help and I could use them as grenades - only I messed up both rolls and would have got the party killed if Carson were a less powerful huxter. I didn't mind so much: Solomon's useless in most combat, which I don't mind playing as/with when the rest of the party are on board and work to protect the useless character, but I've realised it doesn't suit this group so well and would have more regrets if I wasn't so fond of the character in other ways (turns out she's not particularly good at anything useful to the party, except storytelling, which is very valuable in the game, but she has a great backstory I like to explore, and she cares about the rest of the party, and I think that's important too). Fortunately, to combat (ha!) my uselessness in a fight, Husbit as GM will ensure there's at least occasionally an NPC for me to control who can help out. Then it just comes down to something I've found with Svetlana: my remarkable ability to roll botches in combat situations!