Monday, December 31, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXIX

When last we left our heroes, the group lost two months of time, wound up in Phoenix, and traveled to Sweet Water, Arizona, city of tomorrow!

The group (David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, Ruby, and Rufina) is taking the tour and passing beneath the statue of a grim, gaunt, gas-masked figure.  Eventually, the tour ends, depositing them in front of a random building.  When the group asks around for information regarding the city, they are told that the city is arranged in rings; The Doctor and The Well are located in the center ring, A, while people of the group's caliber would likely prefer to stay at a place such as the Ambassador, in B ring.  (And yes, you can hear residents capitalize "The Doctor" and "The Ring.")

Father Seward suspects the statue of the grim, gaunt, gas-masked man is The Doctor, and the same man who killed the original population of Sweet Water.

Armed with this information, the group goes to find the Ambassador.  Along the way, Ruby spots a commotion and alerts the others — several people are being pulled out of a bar by officers.  One is brought out on a stretcher as the peace officers lift a sheet over his face.  The others don't know the portly man on the stretcher, but Rex O'Malley instantly recognizes his cousin, Samuel O'Malley, a Texas Ranger.  Rex addresses the peace officers, and they take him aside so that he may identify the body.  When he positively identifies Samuel, the peace officers explain that the man apparently died of a heart attack and tell him to check the precinct later so that he can gather his cousin's personal effects.  The officer in question gives him a calling card printed on some strange material — the iridescence and feel of it is almost reminiscent of bone.

Rex returns, explaining this development and acknowledging that few O'Malleys go quietly.  The group then walks until they are directed to some manner of elevated trolley, which whizzes through the city.  From this vantage point, the group can plainly see that most of the city is uninhabited, apparently awaiting more occupants.  Dirigibles are tethered to some of the tallest buildings, although some are free-floating, and many of the buildings are positively enormous, certainly beyond the manufacturing abilities of any known to the group.

The group is deposited by the Ambassador and walks the rest of the way.  As they approach, a woman appears to be exiting a carriage; she seems pleased to see someone of such bearing as Ruby O'Flahertie (she is quite tickled to meet a Southern belle), and introduces herself as Duchess Abigail.  She invites David and Ruby to dinner later as she enters the hotel.

David checks into the hotel while the group examines the lobby.  Porters run to and fro, while strange doors slide open and closed, apparently depositing visitors in other portions of the hotel.  When David rejoins the group, a porter takes them into one of the chambers.  He closes the door and takes them to one of the higher floors — over 300 feet in the air! — before opening the doors and guiding them to their room.

The place is enormous.  The sitting room is heavily windowed, offering a grand view of Sweet Water.  The same sights of skyscrapers and dirigibles greet the party, but from this angle, a tower in the center of town is visible.  It is of unknown construction and tapers toward the top.  The various and irregularly-spaced windows are reminiscent of loopholes on a medieval turret.  Wide steps rise from street level and lead to a door at the tower's base; people swarm in and out of the tower, and some who leave appear to be in a state of almost religious ecstasy.

This, then, is The Well.

The room itself also bears a pneumatic tube system, as well as a pedestal that generates a field of cold to keep the ice block frozen.

Also, there's ice.  In the middle of Arizona.

As the group discusses things, Rex decides to get his cousin's effects.  He takes his leave.

Arriving at the police station, Rex speaks to the person at the reception desk and waits while Samuel O'Malley's effects are retrieved.  The police indicate that his cousin's body will be vacuum sealed for burial and await Rex at the front gate.  He also indicates that Sam had a billfold, a Bible, a telegram, a sidearm (the gun being held at the front gate for whenever Rex leaves) and several hundred rounds of ammunition.  Rex thanks the officer and returns to the Ambassador.

Meanwhile, the windows in the sitting room prompt a discussion of adding curtains, but after the other rooms are investigated (in addition to an indoor outhouse, the suite has eleven bedrooms, some of which are windowless) this is ultimately abandoned as drawing too much attention.  The group proceeds to claim rooms, and Jeb starts to remove the mirror from his room.  It is large, bulky, and strangely heavy; the group investigates the mirror, but can determine nothing additionally abnormal about it.

Rex returns to the hotel suite and starts going through Samuel's effects.  The Bible is almost unremarkable, although the first page of Revelation has the phrase "It ends where it began" written at the top.  The billfold contains some cash, as one might expect, and the ammunition is otherwise unremarkable.  It is quickly divided among the group.

The telegram, on the other hand, suggests that Rex sent his cousin to Sweet Water to aid three people (two women and a man, assumed by all involved to be the contingent of David, Ruby, and Rufina) while Rex was in Texas.

From this, the group surmises that it had some manner of plan currently lost to them.

Finally deciding that he wishes to better determine what is happening around the city, particularly in the dirigibles, Jeb goes to get a spyglass.  After convincing the porter that he would rather do it on his own, and determining he is not an astronomer, he asks for directions and finds a hobbyist's shop.  After investigating the spyglasses and asking if he has anything stronger, the annoyed man directs him to an astronomer's shop.

At the astronomy shop, Jeb indicates he wants something weaker than a telescope.  The man directs him back to the hobby shop.

The annoyed man, seeing Jeb again, finally indicates that he can do something.  He directs Jeb to a private home whose occupant may have what he needs.

When he arrives at the home, a German butler greets him and ushers him inside.  He waits for a moment before a man comes out and greets him; he dimly recalls seeing the man at the poker game in San Francisco. The man is Herr Doktor Morrow, and he does not seem happy to see Jeb; his annoyance suggests he has encountered Jeb previously and considers him too oafish to trust in his house..  During the conversation, he inquires about Jeb's companions' arms — the group would later suspect that Morrow may have built them — and offers Jeb a spyglass of his own design as well as a slice of pie if he will get out of his house and not bother him again.  With the agreement struck, he gives Jeb the spyglass and is prepared to show him out when Jeb recalls that pie was mentioned.  He gets him a slice of pie, and has him eat quickly and leave.

Meanwhile, the group continues to settle into the hotel suite.  Ruby uses the pneumatic tubes to send a message to Duchess Abigail to confirm dinner plans; she does not receive a response from the Duchess, but she does receive a response from the hotel indicating the message was received.

A little bit later, there is a knock on the door.  The messenger has a package for delivery to Ruby Manning — which is odd because she did not register under that name — and drops it off.  After some deliberation, Father Seward opens it (figuring he would be most likely to survive a trapped parcel) and finds a set of strange-looking eggbeaters and a note.  He returns this to Ruby, and she reads the note, indicating that Brent Manning has sent them the "Richmond" eggbeaters they requested.  Close inspection reveals firearm components among the eggbeaters.

Apparently, part of the group's plan involved weapon smuggling.

When Jeb returns, the group shares their revelation and he tells them about visiting with Dr. Morrow.  The group is very perplexed about all the plans they seem to have made during their two months of missing time.

Jeb decides to look around the city using his new spyglass.  He first looks at the dirigibles, and sees nothing untoward on them.  In looking elsewhere, he catches a flash of movement, almost as if someone were watching him and fled before he could get a good look.

Finally, with Jeb's new spyglass, attention turns toward The Well.  There is some deliberation culminating in the decision that Rex and Rufina will go to the The Well to see what there is to see.

***********************************

Not a game note, just a generic update: posting continues to be slow, but will hopefully pick back up within the next month or so.  We'll see how things go.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Crux of Eternity replay

Two replays for the price of one today: Crux of Eternity on Obsidian Portal is relatively up-to-date.  Read about it if you want.

The PCs are currently wandering the mean streets of Scandshar, attempting to learn about the fate of a missing abolitionist agent.  Also, by the sound of his voice, the most powerful crime lord in the city might be an undisputed champion of freestyle.

Also, I stuffed a Marx Brothers reference in my game in the person of Lydia the Tattooed Lady.  Naturally, you should probably hear the original song to add some culture to your bacterial culture:

Deadlands, Part XXVIII

When last we left our heroes, the group traveled to Buena Vista, and learns some things from Silas the angel at Catalina's Rose.  They decided to travel west to Sweet Water, Arizona.

Having just left Catalina's Rose, the group travels to the local inn to sleep.  They purchase three rooms; David and Father Seward occupy one, Jeb and Rex occupy another, and Ruby and Rufina occupy still another room.

Father Seward awakens first.  Light is already shining through the window, which is open and overlooking the...city.

The room is a fairly nice hotel room, evidently in some manner of city.  Judging by the view out the window, it is probably on the second story.  The general view and dry, desert air reminds Father Seward of Phoenix, although he would have been there so long ago that he would barely recognize the place.

Father Seward is tied, rather tightly, to a chair.  Jeb is also sitting in a chair across from the Father.  He is asleep with a rifle in his hand.  Rex is asleep in bed.  A chair is jammed under the doorknob to prevent the door from opening.

After collecting himself, Father Seward considers his options and decides to go with the simplest — he asks what he did.  Jeb and Rex awaken, with guns at the ready, to find much the same confusing scene.

They don't recall anything past sleeping in Buena Vista, either.

Father Seward convinces the pair to untie him, as he is just as confused as they are, and the group goes through their things.  Their items are more or less intact, although they appear to have seen use — a little money has been spent, clothes have been mended or are brand new, and the like.

Rex goes downstairs to get a paper, passing a well-dressed couple along the way, and returns to the room.  It appears that they are in Phoenix, Arizona, and that it is early December (although still 1877).  When last they were in Buena Vista, it was early October.

Father Seward wanders downstairs and tries his senile old man schtick on the innkeeper, trying to convince him that he does not precisely recall his traveling companions.  Didn't he come among five, with three other men and two women?  The innkeeper only recalls two others, both male.

When Father Seward rejoins Jeb and Rex, they begin discussing their options to reunite with the rest of the group, assuming they're in the same hotel and even the same city.

Ruby awakens as the urge to vomit overtakes her.  She hangs her head over the side of the bed and vomits into a bedpan set there for that purpose.  After the confusion subsides, she has the opportunity to see that she is sleeping in a fairly nice hotel room.  The window overlooks a city, evidently in the desert.  Rufina is sleeping in a chair, the sword held in her right hand.  The tip is dug into the floor with enough force that it could probably stand on its own were she not holding it.  David, much to Ruby's surprise, is sleeping next to her.

Even more shocking, she quickly notes that her missing left hand has been replaced with a mechanical one.  An object of clockwork, it bears gauges and tubes of all sorts.  It responds more slowly than her other hand, but otherwise reacts as one might expect.  As she moves it, a gauge vents and the needle goes from red to green.

Rufina also has a similar replacement for her missing left arm.  She also bears a notable scar on her face that disappears into the neckline of her shirt.  A trickle of blood flows down her left arm, over the mechanical one.

Ruby awakens David, who undergoes the same level of discovery as she.  Both surmise that the last thing they recall is going to sleep in Buena Vista in separate rooms.  David similarly discovers a mechanical left hand.

After the excitement dies down, both decide to awaken Rufina.  They get the sword away from her first, and noting the blood, check her arm.  The phrase "FORGOTTEN NOT FORGIVEN" is carved into her arm; the skin caked under the fingernails of her right hand suggests that she did the deed herself.  Finally, the pair awakens her.  She similarly last recalls sleeping in Buena Vista.  She investigates the phrase on her arm, the mechanical hand, and finally the scar on her face — the latter apparently travels down, around the curve of her breast before terminating at the navel.  Everyone begins discussing what to do before trying to find their bearings in this unknown desert city.

A knock at the door interrupts Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex.  It is a member of the hotel staff, informing them that breakfast is ready and their stagecoach leaves in two hours.

David, Ruby, and Rufina receive a similar knock, from a member of the hotel staff, informing them that breakfast is ready and their stagecoach leaves in two hours.  David asks for the destination; it is Sweet Water, as per his instructions.

At the sound of David's voice, the other door opens.  Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex evidently hold the room across from David, Ruby, and Rufina.  David convenes with them while the ladies get ready; he informs them of the mechanical hands, while they inform him of the fact that they're in Phoenix, and two months have passed.

Given the circumstances, everyone prepares for breakfast.  The two groups are seated separately in a large dining room; the two tables are not particularly close together.

Two things of note occur during breakfast — a man comes with a pitcher of water to pour into their mechanical arms.  Additionally, a man tells Ruby that appropriate arrangements have been made regarding her "condition."  David, having also been mentioned as her husband, is similarly referenced as the child's father.

Apparently, Ruby is pregnant.  David determines that she is, perhaps, around two months along, although it could be shorter.  If morning sickness stops within two weeks, it is likely Brent Manning's baby.  If not, well, then it could be David's.  Who knows, really?

Additionally, a man comes around and informs Rufina that due to scheduling, there will be only one stagecoach for two groups, and the man she doesn't like will be forced into the same stagecoach.  Is this acceptable?  She says it is.

Similarly, the man approaches Father Seward and indicates that the stagecoach will be shared with another party, and the woman he seems to dislike will be forced to ride with them.  Seward accepts this, saying that God teaches forgiveness.

Before the stagecoach disembarks, David acquires some more bullets and food for the group.  He also shares the information regarding Ruby, and Rufina mentions her message from the porter.  Since Father Seward received a similar message, he suspects they don't like each other.

Given the circumstances, Rufina decides to reveal her story before they disembark.  Once, long ago, she had a husband.  Children.  A whole family.  Her husband was not particularly wise, and after some failed ventures, ended up transplanting his whole family to the prairie.  They lived in a sod house on the prairie, but winter was most brutal that year.  A blizzard swept through and trapped the family.  Hunger and cabin fever took its toll; Rufina's husband went mad, and attacked the family.  Rufina lost her arm in the struggle, and her children...

Well, at the end of it, she torched the house and left.  Her dead husband, whatever he is now, is the spirit who resides in Father Seward.  She is Henrietta.  She doesn't know what his plans are, but that is her tale.

Additionally, her scar is referenced.  Examination and discussion suggests it is a knife wound, possibly a torture wound.  Rex asks if Seward carries a knife, and he says he does not.  Only Jeb routinely carries a knife, and given the state of their memories, it is unclear how it was inflicted.

Once all arrangements are made, the group loads into the stagecoach.  The journey to Sweet Water is a couple of days.

The ride is uneventful.  One night, Rex causes quite a stir as he awakens suddenly.  He says he will explain in the light.  The next day, he says he had a dream — a memory.  In his hotel room, Father Seward tied to a chair, struggling against his bonds.  Struggling to get at Cobb, whose hands are covered in some purple fluid, just as he reaches into Rex's brain.

Evidently, Cobb manipulated their memories, likely causing them to forget.  This comforts absolutely no one.

Particularly when they contemplate the possibility that Cobb is the father of Ruby's baby.

Finally, they arrive in terrain where sandy desert turns to salt flat.  The cracked land resembles dried riverbed.  A city of spires reaches heavenward in the distance.  Past the city, is appears that a waterway has been appropriated for municipal use.  As the group approaches, it is obvious that Sweet Water is apparently built as a series of concentric circles, and the whole architecture moves, allowing the rings to rotate independently of each other.  Father Seward suggests it might be some manner of ritual apparatus, assuming Sweet Water is built on occult principles.

The stagecoach arrives outside the gate — more like an aperture or porthole — and allows the group to disembark.  Several others are entering the city, and the group follows suit.

Inside, there is a line bound by velvet ropes.  Eventually, the group arrives at the front.  Individuals are allowed to bring one weapon, or two if they are applying for residency.  The attendant asks for the reason of the visit: business, pleasure, or residency.  Father Seward goes first, declaring "pleasure" (my comment being that "spreading the Good News is always joyful.")  He then walks through without declaring his sidearm.

The open doorway leads down a long, circular hallway.  Made of glass, rotating gears are clearly visible within the hallway.  As Father Seward walks down, some sort of alarm is triggered as he is eventually overcome by the weight of his metal objects and pulled to the floor.  The line is stopped, and several guardsmen escort him out.  He again invokes his senile old man schtick, and is allowed to attempt again.  This time, he checks his rifle with the front, retaining his sidearm for the trip into Sweet Water.

Having seen the example, the others similarly rearrange their weapons.  Ruby briefly considers residency to retain both her guns, but is convinced otherwise.  Finally, everyone is appropriately arranged to enter Sweet Water.  They mostly declare "business."

The group arrives in the city, and finds it just the wonder one would expect.  Several people flit about on moving walkways.  Automata clean the streets of refuse.  As they go on the tour for newcomers, a statue of a grim, gaunt man wearing a gas mask looms triumphantly overhead.  Father Seward idly wonders if it is the man he saw in vision back in San Francisco, although he would be hard-pressed to say.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Secret Santicore 2012: Random Equipment

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Secret Santicore 2012 will not be released.  Wampus Country details the affair here.

But, individual Santicorians (Santicorons? Santicoids?) are posting their stuff, so I figured I might as well do the same.

I was requested to make a random chart for starting equipment.  This was rather daunting as there are several excellent starting equipment charts currently available — Hill Cantons made one, Untimately made one, and Abulafia has one (I'm sure I missed some good ones, but those form a good starting point).

Anyway, without further ado, here it is.  If you have need of a random equipment list for starting-level old-school D&D characters, hopefully it meets your needs.

Secret Santicore 2012: Random Starting Equipment

Addendum: In lieu of a pdf, Santicore articles will be released by the production staff on http://santicore.blogspot.com/.  Read 'em, they're good for you!

Addendum 2, Electric Boogaloo: Here's my entry, evidently from another Secret Santicore blog.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Convention Book: NWO

I did come across this the other day: White Wolf just released Convention Book: N.W.O. for Mage: the Ascension.

This is incredibly exciting news.

Back before White Wolf ended the classic World of Darkness line, they only published Convention Book: Iteration X, leaving the other Technocracy Conventions without revised books.  Although I never really delved into the splatbooks for World of Darkness, the fact that a new Mage: the Ascension book is being published after eight years is notable.

What with Mage being one of my favorite games and all.

Incidentally, I suspect we'll probably see a 20th anniversary edition of Mage within the next year or so; White Wolf already released one for Vampire, and they successfully Kickstarted one for Werewolf, so that's a thing for doin'.  I'm also aware that they're doing an Ascension/Awakening translation guide as they did for Vampire and Werewolf, so that's a thing, too.

A Quick Update

I still have been otherwise engaged, although gaming has continued as usual.  There should be a Deadlands replay next week, for example, and I'll likely be updating the Crux of Eternity page within the very near future, but there probably won't be any additional game resources at the moment.

I will say, though, that I learned I could take a fair number of baboons in a fight.  So there's that.

How many baboons could you take in a fight? (armed only with a giant dildo)
Created by Oatmeal

Monday, November 26, 2012

When life gives you lemons, make Unknown Armies

Here are some random things around the internet.

Windows 95 Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks is a Tumblr depicting a Windows 95 gone horribly wrong.  Subtle occult forces are at work here.  You should read it.

Arashi at The Felling Blade brought "They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside" to my attention.  After thirteen years of nothing, computer algorithms managed to crack the code found within an old manuscript — only to raise further questions.  The manuscript evidently discusses a society known as the Oculists, but anecdotal evidence suggests they might be a Freemason front, formed as a layer of deception to prevent persecution.  Or perhaps not.  Scholars aren't precisely certain.

Nicole at A Really Well-Made Buttonhole informed me of The 5 Most Ridiculously Unjust Religious Afterlives.  A standard Cracked.com list, it discusses Zoroastrians, Aztecs, Rastafarians, Ancestor Veneration, and the Ancient Egyptians.  Naturally, it's a little flip and prone to hyperbole, but comparative religion is always of interest.

Nicole further showed me Monster Mummies of Japan, a collection of mummies depicting, unsurprisingly, Japanese monsters.  Oni, mermaids, kappa, tengu, raijū, and self-mummified monks are all displayed and discussed.  Worth a look.

For something a little less occultedSean B at Wine and Savages reposted this Regency Name Generator.  Exactly what it says on the tin.  For all the Algernon Melbournes and Beatrice Prestons of the world, this is for you.

Children of the Night

Deal with it.
(Spoilers for The Giovanni Chronicles ahead.  You have been warned.)

Dig this: I'm back where I started.  This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of stepping back into Vampire: the Masquerade (although as a player this time).  Blake over at Mythology started running The Giovanni Chronicles: The Last Supper (and presumably plans to run the whole saga).

A bit of back story: I own these books.  I haven't read them (as I wasn't planning on running them, I had no reason to look them over, particularly since I always heard someone or other would be keen on running them instead), but I bought them off E. M. Lamb from Malleus Blogstrorum aeons ago.  I've heard good things, but I never had the chance to run or play.

So here we are.

I have the distinction of playing one Sædís Ragnarsdóttir, recently Embraced into Clan Brujah:

Picture Elle Driver, but younger and angrier.  If that's even possible.
She kicks ass.  Earlier in the session, she had to leave her men behind; she told them to memorize the face of the man with whom she was traveling, and if she did not return, they were to kill that man.  If they didn't, she would claw her way from her grave and find them.

They've seen her rage before, so they had no doubt.

The funny part is that she was mortal then, and I wasn't saying that because I was playing Vampire — I said it because she's actually a pagan, her men know this, and it seemed like an effective threat.  (She has one eye out of emulation of old Odin, after all.)

So...now she's a vampire (or as she's been calling it, a draugr).  That will be a funny story when she finds her crew again.

A couple of notes: Blake's running Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition.  It's roughly the same as Revised Edition (3e) Vampire, but has a couple of changes ported from new World of Darkness (all physical Disciplines cost Vitae, although in keeping with oWoD sensibilities, each one has a passive effect that works without blood expenditure) and Orpheus (no Dodge skill, just the Athletics talent).  I'm sure I'll pick it up in the not-too-distant future.

On the module itself: We're not terribly far into it because there's a large amount of exposition (I'm pretty sure we're past the bulk of it now, but it's a thing).  The group starts as mortals, goes through a shovelhead Embrace at the hands of Clan Giovanni's conspirators, get snatched by Hardestadt, and are given a reprieve from Final Death due to the intervention of Durga Syn.

The current mission is to train as Cainites until their Giovanni conspirator sires, no doubt determining the group to be alive, decide to Summon the fledgling coterie to the conspiracy's current location.  The coterie will then act as spies from within, informing Hardestadt and his allies of Clan Giovanni's activities.

It was certainly fun.  The module, at least in the early stages (and since there are four books of it, likely throughout) features the favored enemy of the OSR, railroading.  However, I found that this allows a certain amount of drama to come out — as players, we all knew we weren't going to survive the night, so we might as well make the most of it.  (Sædís tried to fight to the vampires, as did her newfound bro, Sir Jacques, to no avail).

Additionally, as I've said before, I don't necessarily mind a poverty of options so long as the cage isn't obvious — our doom was heavily telegraphed, but we theoretically have a choice in cooperating with Hardestadt (the fact that we're going to be Summoned by our sires is probably non-negiotiable, but we can totally betray Hardestadt if we so choose).

And now: quotes.

"Occam's Razor says the easiest solution is to stab them with a razor."

"Tell me, what were you told of your host?"
"He's...an Italian."
"Yes...?"
"They're...not Jews.  Are they?"

"Looking at him, the best way I can describe this, he is so hideous it makes you angry."

"Surrender now and I will spare you.  If you surrender."
"We just woke up, you assholes!"

"Durga Syn looks like a wrinkly scrotum with The Big Book of British Smiles?  Thanks, Blake.  You ruined Vampire for me."

Addendum: Blake wrote up the session over at his blog.  So there's that.

Also, while I talked about my character, I said nothing about the others!  In addition to Sædís the Brujah, we had:

Baron Wolfgang von Schlusselheim, scourge of Bavaria, Embraced into Clan Gangrel.  Played by Nicole.  He's a baron, but there's a strong implication that he stole his title.
Bartolomeo Montalban, Papal Agent, Embraced into Clan Tremere.  Played by TS.  At least I think she was playing Bartolomeo.  As befits a prospective Tremere, the fellow didn't talk much.
Father Niklas von Ausburg, Church Historian, Embraced into Clan Nosferatu.  Played by E. M. Lamb.  A doddering old priest.
Horace Pemperidge, Travelling Minstrel, Embraced into Clan Malkavian.  Played by FS.  A fabulous bard.
Paola di Toscana, Brothel Matron, Embraced into Clan Lasombra.  Played by Tini.  Accompanied by three of her working girls and probably the most social among us.
Sir Jacques Lapideau, Knight of Flowers, Embraced into Clan Toreador.  Played by frankietuesday3.  A French anointed knight, he and Sædís are bros for unlife.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXVII

When last we left our heroes, they were the guests of the esteemed philanthropist, Brent Manning.  They learned a little more of Cobb's affairs, and left for Buena Vista by way of Lynchburg.

The train ride is uneventful.  The group stops in Lynchburg and decides to resupply and rest.  Lynchburg is quite impressive with its electric lighting; Rufina even inquires with one of the security guards at the power plant about how it all works (something about turbines and potential energy; it's all quite modern!).

The group also manages to grab a paper; Sweet Water, Arizona is definitely the city of the future.  Despite the lack of surrounding features for comparison, it features towering skyscrapers made of steel.  (By description, I imagine Lang's Metropolis in terms of architecture.)

After weighing its options, the group decides to hire a carriage for the journey to Buena Vista.  The trip takes a couple of days, and as the carriage finds itself in a mountain pass, the group sees trouble ahead — from their vantage points, Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex see a group of men assaulting a woman.  They appear to be gathered more or less in a circle, and are jeering at her and shoving her.  The woman, for her part, seems to be barely resisting.  All signs suggest it will probably escalate quickly and messily.

The carriage stops.  Everyone prepares their guns.  Jeb and Rex are at the ready.  The group of men have now stopped what they were doing to watch the proceedings.  They have, however, boxed the woman so that she cannot leave.

Father Seward steps out of the carriage, followed by David Hood.  The group's apparent leader rides out of the throng to address them.  He sizes David up, and presumably noting the tinhorn's attire, asks what they're doing in this region.  Father Seward stares him down and replies, "Lookin' fer creeps like you."  The men are admonished to leave the woman behind and go.  David, Jeb, Rex, and Ruby all brandish guns to accentuate the statement; Rufina shows her sword.  Father Seward starts counting down from five.  When he hits zero, he fires in the air.

Despite the protests of the gang, the leader says they're leaving.  They do so.

Rufina approaches the woman as she picks herself up; Father Seward also approaches, but stays back as he's aware he's a bandaged man in a priest's collar.  The woman just keeps walking down the road; even when Rufina grabs her arm, she just tries to pull away and keep walking.

Rufina doesn't get much out of her, but learning that she is headed to Buena Vista, Rufina convinces the woman to agree to ride with the group.  She tries to give her some water, but for the most part, the woman doesn't speak and doesn't really respond.  She just sits quietly with a thousand yard stare.

The carriage approaches Buena Vista as night falls.  It is just a crossroads in the mountains featuring a row of buildings along one side.  The inhabitants wandering the streets appear predominantly Hispanic.  A church sits at the far end.  Off to the side is a large building.  The church and the other building are the only two with lights burning.  As the carriage stops, the woman walks out and starts walking to the other building, which is apparently some manner of brothel, barely tolerated by the locals.

After some debate, the group follows the woman.  The woman wanders up a hill to the brothel, a place called Catalina's Rose, as proclaimed by the sign without.  As the group approaches the building, a bittersweet feeling overwhelms them.  The woman opens the door and the sound of a raucous party emanates from within before she closes the door.  There are windows, but they are frosted as if cold.

Rufina opens the door.  It appears to be some manner of establishment with women dressed as high-class prostitutes.  A lone man plays a piano; the tune is somewhat familiar, but cannot be placed.  Rufina enters.  As Father Seward enters, he starts suffering convulsions, and a sound emanates from his chest like something being shaken in a paper bag.  He manages to uncomfortably drag himself inside.  David, Jeb, Rex, and Ruby all enter; as each person enters, the sense of sadness that overwhelmed them as they approached leaves.

As everyone enters and the door closes behind them, the piano player runs his fingers down the keys and turns around.  He seems to have knowledge of everyone there (he indicates that Rufina is hiding something), and he has some of the ladies fetch a chair for Father Seward as well as food and drink for all.

Introductions are made; the man's name is Silas.  Strangely, the seer with the United States government is also named Silas, and this man indicates that he shares some arcane connection with the seer Silas.  He also explains that he does not know why the group was brought to Catalina's Rose, but perhaps that will become clear during the course of conversation.

Around this time, Jeb goes off with a woman.  It swiftly becomes clear that actual sex is off the table here; she makes Jeb feel welcome and very pleasant, but the line is always drawn at sexual contact.

In fact, even though the women are joyous, many of them have the same thousand yard stare as the woman before.  Of her, there is no sign.

Silas explains that he was an angel who fell in love with a woman; this love trapped him in an in-between place.  This place is Catalina's Rose.  It has not always appeared this way or in this place, but it is usually somewhere, attracting travelers in need.  All the women within have been abused, the victims of violence.  This is an in-between place for them as well, somewhere where they can rest until they feel themselves worthy of God's grace and can enter into Heaven.

Rufina is initially suspicious, but the group is slowly but surely put at ease by Silas' demeanor and responses. Father Seward asks about the Talmud Company and its operations, which causes the building to shake.  Jeb looks distinctly uneasy.  Silas explains that Catalina expressed her displeasure at the mention of that agency for reasons that Silas will not yet reveal.  Silas further explains that Talmud is not only a book, but also means "knowledge."  When the Talmud Company is mentioned again and the building rumbles, Jeb runs out the door and stays out for the rest of the evening.

During the course of the conversation, several things become apparent: primarily, that the group is not well-equipped enough to tackle the Hellgate in Georgia.  Going there will summon all the forces of Hell to deal with the problem, and the group probably does not have what it needs to defend against that.  Likewise, there is probably little reason to investigate the Talmud Company in New Orleans as of yet, for similar reasons.

Silas also indicates that he stabbed Satan at one point when he was a full angel — he recognizes Seward as being around due to Satan's influence.  Silas offers that Seward may be damned, but he is definitely still around for a purpose.  When Rufina asks, however, he says that it is highly unlikely that Seward can be exorcised and still live.  (If Seward dies, however, the evil spirit within him will die also.)

Silas also notes that Satan (or Cobb, if you prefer) is the sort of fellow to play the long con.  "Losing" the gamble that stuck him in mortal form was probably one of his plots, although the ultimate goal of that plot is unknown.

Silas notes Sweet Water, Arizona, and suggests that the architecture there is distinctly demonic.  Fell forces are gathered in Sweet Water for an unknown purpose.

Silas further reveals an ability to know the state of a soul.  Father Seward asks if his daughter, Antonia, has ever come through.  Silas says no; in fact, she still lives, after a fashion.  As Seward nods solemnly, Rufina puts a hand on his shoulder.  Silas does not know where, however.

Rufina also asks obliquely about people close to her, and Silas says they are safe.

Father Seward also asks about the ghostly Gentleman, deigning to describe his history, the woman he killed, and the pregnancy he didn't know she had at the time.  Silas reveals that the Gentleman is not the soul of her child, although he does not clarify the identity of that entity.

Silas cannot answer how Hood and Seward are connected, other than they are from Boston and have both dealt with Cobb in the past.  However, most of those present have dealt with Cobb, and are bound through that means.

Finally, Silas admonishes the group to kill Cobb.  He sees them off, wishing them well; he gives his regards to Ruby, and indicates that it may be possible to save Jake.  Before they leave, Silas indicates that Catalina's Rose is open to them any time, and both Ruby and Rufina may claim a place in it.

The group leaves Catalina's Rose to find Jeb outside, playing the mandolin and weeping.  The group returns to Buena Vista to plan their next move, presumably to Sweet Water.

******************************

So, a personal anecdote from this session.

I believe it was the first edition Vampire Player's Guide that featured (among other things) an essay by Mark Rein-Hagen.  If my congealing memory serves, he talks about roleplaying being procedural (fighting orcs, saving princesses, and so forth), but players keep coming back for those moments that grab you.  He didn't say it, but I imagine he was talking about immersion — when you're in the game and it just flows.

It doesn't happen to me terribly often, but it happened this session.  Father Seward stepped out of the carriage, and David followed him.  When the GM described the look on the bandit leader's face, I immediately thought, Oh shit.  Conclusions: He was sizing up David and saw a moneyed individual.  Easy prey.  We're going to get robbed and murdered, aren't we?

My initial plan was to overawe the bandits and hope to avoid combat (we're good with our guns, but five on fourteen is still pretty abysmal).  That plan stayed, but when I realized that we might look the least bit weak, I had a moment of panic.  I'm just winging it.

So, the bandit leader asks something to the effect, "What're you folks doin' in a place like this?"  I respond without thinking; my voice drops into a Christian Bale Batman growl as I reply, "Lookin' fer creeps like you."  The table explodes in laughter because nobody knows where in the Hell that response came from.  I roll a 14 on my intimidation roll.  Everybody shows their guns.  Crisis averted.

It was a totally Meisner moment.

Usually, I'm GMing, but I feel like I still have those moments — when I'm exhausted and sweating after running a session, I know it was a good session.  There was a climactic combat, or a tense social scene, or some other memorable event.  I don't play as often, so I don't get it from that side nearly as often.  It's neat.

Also, an aside for dramatic irony purposes: when Seward was in the afterlife and Cobb put the other guy inside him, the man initially asked for him to say, "Hello," to Rufina.  It wasn't until her player and our GM discussed it that they realized the spirit would know her as Henrietta.

So there you go.  Rufina's about the only person whose history is a mystery to us, which is probably why Silas kept stressing that maybe she should share some things.  'Cause, y'know.  We're bound by fate, and apparently have all dealt with the Devil himself at some point.  (For the record, Father Seward knows that she has some familiarity with the spirit inside him, but he doesn't know that she's Henrietta.  Only that she probably knows Henrietta.  He hasn't mentioned that to anybody else yet.)

And now we're onto modernist Babylon.  It's guaranteed to be ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All's Quiet on the Western Front

Real life has overtaken blogging, so consequentially, you'll likely be receiving mostly Deadlands replays for a little bit.

I do have something to share with you, though.  I recently discovered a game produced by Mongoose Publishing called Infernum; my impression is that it's out-of-print, although one can still find the game secondhand.  Additionally, Mongoose has pdfs on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, and the core book is apparently free-to-download.  It's based on the whole 3.x/OGL thing, and so uses a variation of the D&D 3e ruleset.

The Buzz: This is a sandbox campaign set in the Judeo-Christian Hell (heavily influenced by the Divine Comedy, among other sources).  Lucifer is missing, and the demonic Houses of Hell have settled into an uneasy truce.  Of course, with a truce so uneasy, anything could tip the balance and cause the quiet sniping and cold war to burn into a full-blown war among factions...

Adding to this mess is the fact that angels still occasionally fall into Hell, and humans are there, too.  (How do humans have any power at all in the hierarchy of Hell?  Demons are bound by covenants and human magic.  Humans aren't.  How do you get rid of a sorcerer binding you into service?  Hire another human to stab him in the back.)  In fact, there's an entire order of human paladins called the Knights of the Harrowing; when their citadel fell into Hell during the Crusades, they said, "Well, looks like we have a mission from God," and decided to wage war on Hell itself.

I've only had the chance to skim the first volume, but it gives an overview of Hell as well as three race-as-class options: demons (the default choice), humans, and fallen angels.  Since Hell is fueled by suffering and exists outside of rational time, there's neat stuff, like weird magic and Hell-crafted engines of destruction (mundane guns and such fall into Hell, too).  Later volumes introduce variant rules and such, as they often do — I'm told one of the books features pregenerated characters, and one of those characters is a human marine whose base fell into Hell; he carries a shotgun and a chainsaw.

So far, the concept is pretty neat.  Turning Hell into a sandbox-style hexcrawl would be a huge undertaking (the landscape is pretty big), but certainly not beyond a dedicated GM's scope.  Additionally, while the aspect of levels might be a turn-off to some, the fact that it's OGL means that a whole bunch of resources are out there for GMs to use (and it could be easily used for a FLAILSNAILS-style campaign, too).

Anyway, I recommend checking it out, especially because the first volume is still free.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXVI

When last we left our heroes, they buried their dead, found a mysterious connection to a fallen Union officer, and reunited with Ruby O'Flahertie's estranged (and very drunk) husband, Brent Manning.

She is busy confronting him when he gets woozy and vomits.  After some terse discussion, Brent's solicitor (and  presumed lover) takes him away so he can get cleaned up.  The party — David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, Ruby, and Rufina — are invited to stay.  They are led to a sitting room with refreshment for about an hour while the house servants busily clean the aftermath of Brent's rampage.  Given the opportunity to read the paper, there is an article on a Sweetwater, Arizona, which is supposed to be the a model city of the future.  It is apparently about to be opened to the public.

Father Seward is a touch nervous, as he recalls Sweetwater from his dreams in San Francisco.  In his dreams, a man on a sick horse crossed out the "191" on the population sign, replacing it with a big "0."  Did he see the past or the future?  Nobody knows.

There are also some stories on the chaos in Boston and the reclusive actions of philanthropist Brent Manning.

Finally, servants arrive and offer to show everyone to their rooms.  They are welcome to relax until dinnertime.  Most people stay in their rooms and get settled, although Rex goes wandering, much to the consternation of the servants who are still trying to desperately clean.

Eventually, the call to dinner is sounded, and everyone comes down to the dining room.

Brent Manning and his solicitor are present, and after Ruby is seated, everyone sits.  Brent is obviously still a touch unwell, but he apologizes for his earlier behavior.  Father Seward says grace, and everyone starts to eat.  Astute observers might note that Father Seward tends toward the meat dishes and alcohol.

Conversation is relatively light, all things considered, although he does mention to Ruby that he feels the need to atone for many things he has done.  In that vein, he attempted to purchase her family's land.  However, he found he couldn't; a New Orleans-based company  called the Talmud Company (Father Seward informs Mr. Manning of the religious symbolism behind the company) has purchased much of the land in that area.  In fact, through his research and contacts, Manning has determined they're the largest single landowner in the United States.

Brent Manning does note that a single parcel of land is not owned by the Talmud Company; that piece is owned by a Bostonian landowner whom David Hood recognizes as new money who made his money is real estate.  Father Seward, however, notes that Bashiel did take land deeds, among other things, from City Hall in Boston.

Strangely, the purchased land is being guarded by the Union Army.

Brent Manning turns all his papers on the matter over to Ruby for her perusal.

Manning also notes that he wishes them to stay the night as he plans on throwing a party for Ruby's return tomorrow.

After dinner, David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, Rufina, and Brent's solicitor Vincent retire to a sitting room for tobacco and drinks.  Brent wishes to speak to Ruby alone.

Conversation in the sitting room is fairly light, although Vincent is obviously uncomfortable among people.  Father Seward determines his accent to be from Connecticut, although Vincent indicates that he is not native; wherever he came before Yale, he has chosen a different destiny and does not speak of his life before.  Jeb asks for help in researching the letter, and he says he will with Brent's blessing.

Meanwhile, Brent speaks to Ruby.  They speak of their marriage, and he again apologizes for what he has done.  He indicates that he does truly love her, but he is concerned that he cannot provide what she needs, particularly since he is a man of certain...appetites.  He does indicate that he misses her, and that they were great lovers together.  He also suggests that, perhaps, if the party goes well, they could be great together again.

Perhaps.

Ruby finally asks about something that's been nagging her — she remembers someone on his side at the wedding, a fellow named Cobb.  Brent says he doesn't know a Cobb, could she offer any details?  She mentions purple gloves, and Brent pales and leaves the room.  Ruby follows, and finds that he is going to his study.  He pulls out a ledger and flips until he finds a page with a photograph.  The photograph depicts Brent's father sitting in a chair.  Cornelius Cobb stands behind him, with a hand upon his shoulder.  Ruby recognizes the fear in Mr. Manning's face.  Brent tells her that his father was found dead, floating in the James River, the day after this photograph was taken.  Police said it was an accident, but he always had a suspicion the man in that photograph was behind the incident, although he never had a name until now.

When their conversation is finished, Brent takes her hand — noting the stuffed glove, he is about to say nothing when he decides to ask her if Cobb was involved; she says no — to lead her back to the sitting room with the others.

Everyone gathers again.  Jeb's request regarding the letter is noted, although he finds he cannot give it to Brent or Vincent — an attempt to do so opens a wound in his leg, like the wound that became infected on Sullivan — so they decide to translate the letter and give them a copy before they leave.  Brent informs Vincent that he does not have to attend the party tomorrow night, much to Vincent's relief.  Finally, vague plans are made for shopping, tailoring suits, and hunting before the party.  Brent then takes his leave to retire to bed, and says he will see everyone for breakfast tomorrow.

Ruby tells everyone of Brent's connection to Cobb, and they look at the ledger.  Strangely, they see what appears to be Jake reflected in Cobb's eyes.  He appears to be silently screaming, beating on the inner surface of Cobb's eyes as if on glass.  After the image disappears, David catches something out of the corner of his eye, almost as if Cobb smirks at him from the photograph.

The group checks the photograph, and finds it dated July 4, 1873.

There is some discussion of future plans at Rex's urging.  Presently, they are to go to Buena Vista; the current plan is to go to Atlanta, barring any particular revelations in Buena Vista.  Other possible areas of interest include New Orleans and Sweetwater, Arizona, although the last will likely wait, at least for a time.

The next day, they awake for breakfast.  When Ruby returns to her room, she finds a love letter from Brent that quietly suggests a place where fancy prosthetics can be purchased.  As planned, they go into town to get evening wear tailored for the party (and Ruby gets an articulated wooden hand), and they go shopping; Rex buys some dime novels, while David and Father Seward go hunting for occult books.  Jeb finds something that he does not describe, but he evidently went searching for the underbelly of Richmond.  Ruby stays at the Manning house to investigate the ledgers, but she finds nothing else of note.

David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, and Rufina join Brent Manning to go hunting; David and Rufina aren't terribly good with guns, but Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex haul back roughly twenty turkeys, and are really only stopped when Manning quietly suggests that he is going hunting with the governor next week, and wishes to have turkeys left to shoot.

Everyone retires to the house to prepare for the gathering.  It is a huge soirée; the governor and state senators are in attendance, as well as local and noted socialites.  Ruby is introduced to everyone of note.  David, Jeb, and Rex are all found by lovely young women, while Brent sends a woman Rufina's way, apparently having pegged her as a lesbian.  However, Rufina politely rejects the young woman's advances, even if the woman does steal a kiss before the end of the evening.  Father Seward in evening wear and bandages is quite the life of the party, although he does not attract the attention of young women in the way the other three men do.

Finally, the party winds down.  David, Jeb, and Rex all retire with their paramours.  Ruby slips into Brent's room late, after everyone else retires to bed; he does not comment on her hand, although he does comment on her missing belly button.  Father Seward and Rufina both sleep alone, which likely suits both just fine.

Given his proclivities for light sleeping, coupled with the fact that he only sleeps a couple of hours a night, Father Seward is awake to hear doors quietly open and close in the morning, and the pad of footsteps pass his door.  He chuckles every time.

The next morning, everyone breakfasts together and prepares to leave the Manning estate.  Brent welcomes everyone as family, and tells them they are always welcome in his house.  He offers two last items — train fare to Lynchburg, and two dueling pistols.  They are his father's, and he asks that they be used to kill Cornelius Cobb (and not be used in the defense of a Union soldier).  He gives one to Jeb, and after deliberation, the other goes to Ruby.

After fond farewells, the group makes their way to the train station to depart for Lynchburg.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Message Across Aeons

This was something that was discussed in my house with some frequency as a child, and so I was most humored when James Hutchings at Teleleli wrote about the basic problem of communicating the danger of toxic waste sites to future generations.



Think about it.  The above radiation symbol looks a little like an angel, or a wheel.  It could be a holy symbol, or a mystical artifact.  After several generations, its original intent could be lost.

Other symbols suffer the same problem.  If you put a sign with a whole human body, and an arrow pointing to a skeleton, a future culture could easily interpret this in reverse and assume they've found an ancient, buried life elixir.

The challenge involves determining how to communicate with a culture that does not yet exist.  Several ideas have been proposed, and redundancy has been encouraged.  The current idea is to make burial sites look as foreboding as possible, as if the very land itself is sick and dissuades travelers from staying.  Others wish to put warnings in as many languages as possible, and leave spaces so that future cultures may write warnings in their local languages.  Other ideas include passing tales of the land into oral history — essentially building new mythologies to warn people of the sickness in the land.

Various ideas have been proposed regarding the last — some have suggested putting strangely-colored plants in the region, or plants with warning messages encoded in their DNA (there is an alphabet associated with the genetic code, so this is entirely feasible).  Another idea involves inserting genetic code into cats (domesticated cats being considered more-or-less constant human companions) that causes them to change color in the presence of radiation.  This trait will then be seeded into collective culture by use of myth and fairy tales (if a cat changes color, the land is sick and you should leave).  Some have suggested an "atomic priesthood," which would tend to these sites and keep away interlopers.  My personal favorite is simply placing a large concentration of human remains on the site so as to ward off any future seekers.

For obvious reasons, all markers must be large and lack value, lest they be moved by future civilizations.

Of course, many theorists suggest that marking the site in any fashion marks it as valuable (something any DM can appreciate), and that the wisest course of action is to avoid marking the site at all.

That certainly flows with the James Raggi mindset, anyway.

In addition to Hutchings' article at Teleleli, further information is available at Damn Interesting, Wikipedia, and Grist.

Gaming applications are obvious to anyone who plays D&D, Gamma World, or any similar sort of post-apocalyptic game.  Dungeon delvers in particular are famous for ignoring blatant warnings of danger to go raiding tombs, and so would be perfect for this sort of thing.

Lemons from the Hedge

Back from when I ran False in Some Sense, Nicole happened to record a segment from Story 6, Chapter 2.  In this, William Puckett, recently stolen by the True Fae and returned as a changeling, brings an enchanted fruit from the Hedge to a suspected Fetch by the name of Officer Hayward.  Hilarity ensues.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sharpened Hooks: The Divine Order of the Mediatrix

The Roman Catholic Church has been accused of corruption and mired in scandal throughout the centuries, but all these pale in comparison to the bloody work Mother Church must perform.  Were the governments of the world to learn of the state of affairs, the controversy would likely destroy the Church.

The unfortunate side effect is that the world would probably die with it.

Hernán Cortés declared himself victorious over the Aztec Empire on August 13, 1521, when he and Xicotencatl the Younger took Tenochtitlan.

Had he known how wrong he was, he likely would have left the Aztecs to their bloody work.

The few scholars in the know differ about what happened.  Most agree that the Aztecs encountered ancient deities and accidentally awoke them, but managed to find a way to placate them with blood sacrifice.  Some theories claim that the conflict between these deities shaped the New World — as the Mexicas saw a vision of an eagle eating a snake atop a cactus, a symbolic battle for the identity of the young United States centered around whether a serpent or eagle should be the national animal.  One theory theory tells a convoluted tale of cocaine mummies and a pre-Colombian trade route between Egypt and Central America, claiming that the mummified corpses of the deities Horus and Set were conveyed to the New World, and their spirits forced nightly to do battle with Apophis.  (Some wags, reading too many Conan the Barbarian tales, claim Set is the snake-deity.)

Whatever the case, the original Mexica people awoke something great and terrible, something which had to be placated with bloody sacrifices.  When Cortés destroyed the Aztec Empire, he destroyed the last members of a cult dedicated to keeping these deities asleep (or providing the energy they need to keep the world turning, depending upon the source).

Having uncovered the secret, Cortés and his men were forced to take up the duties of the priesthood.  What had begun as a tale of God, gold, and glory ended as a horror story.  Fearing for his soul, he contacted the Catholic Church.

Based on this information, a secret cult arose within the Church.  Dedicated to keeping the dread gods asleep and keeping their existence secret, this group of monks started the terrible work of providing new sacrifices.  The cult likely took the name of the Divine Order of the Mediatrix in the 17th century, attempting to forge a symbolic connection with the grace of the Virgin Mary as well as the comparatively recent (and culturally native) Our Lady of Guadalupe and the pagan goddess Tonantzin that preceded her.

The Divine Order of the Mediatrix is a small order of monks with a special dispensation from the Holy See to perform the sacrifices necessary to keep the world turning, and to hide all evidence of this conspiracy.  Traditionally, the Pope is unaware of the Order of the Mediatrix, although some certainly are.  Typically, it is the quiet ranks of scholars, cardinals, and administrative personnel that organize and maintain the secret.

As for the order's methods, they are just as bloody as one might imagine.  Numbers vary, but one might estimate roughly 40 serial killers active at any given time worldwide.  At least one is probably a Mediatrician.  It is also likely that a sizable portion of the missing persons reported each year (roughly a million, according to some reports) are similarly victims of the Order of the Mediatrix.

As for using this in a game, an early modern game might feature the Divine Order of the Mediatrix as it struggles to survive and perform its grim work.  A modern-day game might feature the Mediatricians as the current conspiracy of killers for Christ, struggling to maintain their faith amidst modern technology and raw, cosmic horror.

In addition to the order of monks from which the Divine Order of the Mediatrix derives its name, the Mediatricians are aided by a cadre of exorcist-priests, therapists, and lay people who are necessary to keep the organization running.

(You can probably blame this all on my recent viewing of The Cabin in the Woods, along with my recent reading of The God That Crawls.  I'm going to say that there's probably a fair share of Delta Green, too.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

159 XP for a Level-0 Commoner

A British man, armed with a basic metal detector, finds 40 Roman gold coins.  He and a few others return to the site, and find 119 more.

The haul is reported to be worth roughly £100,000 ($160,000).

Neat stuff.  Read about it here.

Deadlands, Part XXV

When last we left our heroes, the survivors (relatively speaking) reunited, attempted to engage Bashiel, received some information and supplies from the Army, and prepared to go to the town of Buena Vista, Virginia.

The next few days are a flurry of activity.  The group gets supplies from the Army and whatever stores are open in town.  David Hood settles Father Seward's debt with the silversmith.  The group also informs the newly-arrived representatives of the Catholic Church about the Doomsday Clock, and they agree to move it.  As David Hood speaks French, Father Seward speaks Spanish, and Rufina speaks Mandarin, the group copies the ritual required to stop the clock into English, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.  Copies are given to the Catholic Church and also placed within the Hood family Bible for safe-keeping.

It is also noteworthy that crows have started following Father Seward.

Finally, the funerals begin.  There are funerals for the Hood family, funerals for the lawyers at Seward & Taft, and the group has a small funeral for Jake.  As they finish speaking their remembrances of Jake, Cobb arrives.  Father Seward asks him, "Do you want to say any words, Scratch?"  Cobb shoots him an angry, chilling look before breaking into a smile and stepping upon the grave to put out his cigarillo on the headstone.  Ruby spits on him, and he shoots her a similar look.  His expression then lightens, he wipes off the spit, looks at it, and says, "Yeah, that's fair."  He then takes his leave.

This prompts a discussion with their new companion Rex, who knows nothing of Cobb.  It is explained that he is the Devil trapped in human form due to a lost wager in Georgia many years ago.  Additionally, he drove David Hood's family to madness, stole Father Seward's daughter, trained Jake in the black arts, and had a presence at Ruby's wedding (possibly because the Hellgate he used to access the world initially existed on her family's plantation plot).  This prompts Rufina to realize something, and she pulls Father Seward aside to explain a dream-vision she had.  A female shaman led four men — each representing a different animal, specifically a wolf, a bear, an eagle, and a crow — in a ritual to purify their corrupted land.  The purification required the four to ritually rape a young girl, evidently Father Seward's daughter by description.

She also indicates that she is familiar with the spirit inside Seward, and that the creature should never be allowed to meet Henrietta.  Perhaps there is a way to exorcise this entity?

No funeral is held for John Michael Patrick O'Flahertie as Ruby wants him to be remembered in Georgia.  Shortly thereafter, Father Seward quietly goes down to the pier.  He explains his purpose to a nearby clergyman (the Catholic Church has people watching the Doomsday Clock until it can be quietly moved), and then dives into the water and gets a piece of the charred riverboat where John O'Flahertie died (the thought of trying to find his remains is outweighed by the fear of accidentally stumbling into the Clock and reactivating it).

Finally, the group has settled its affairs.  The party needs to travel to Connecticut by wagon so that they may catch a train headed south to Richmond, Virginia.  From there, they should be able to travel by foot, horse, or wagon to Buena Vista.

The journey to Connecticut is rainy, and is marred by one strange occurrence.  The group becomes aware of a follower behind them, and they manage to determine that the rider (in Union uniform) is slumped over his horse.  Father Seward, gifted with far sight from his time beyond the grave, sees that the rider is probably dead and the horse is badly malnourished.  As the rider approaches, his head raises and declares a letter for Jeb.  Everybody is wary, but when Father Seward goes to grab it, the mail carrier pulls it away.  Jeb grabs the letter, and the rider declares that there is no more mail.  He rides back the way he came.

As Jeb cannot read, David Hood reads the letter.  It is correspondence from one Sullivan to his very dear Sarah, and is evidently a wartime love letter.  It is dated July 14, 1861.  Nobody can determine any relation to Jeb, but they decide that perhaps they can find answers on their journey.

The train ride is uneventful, a welcome respite from the past few weeks.  When they arrive in Washington, D.C., they decide to take a day to inquire at the Army archives.  The request is fruitful — using a letter of marque from General Sully, they are able to gain the services of an archivist who says he will attempt to see what he can learn by tomorrow morning.  They wander around D.C. in the meantime, and one of the crows following Seward settles on his shoulder and pecks at him.  He takes a swing at it and it flies off, prompting a question about what they mean.  Father Seward explains that they are psychopomps in some Indian cultures,  meant to convey the dead to the World Tree.  When everybody asks how he knows that, he explains that he read a great deal both theologically and for personal research.  He also takes the opportunity to explain what Rufina told him about his daughter.

The next morning, they visit the archivist and learn that the letter possibly refers to one General Sullivan Ballou, killed by sniper fire at Bull Run.

Jeb, incidentally, was a sniper at Bull Run.  He admits that he recalls little about what happened there, as an explosion seems to have damaged his memory.

David Hood records the archivist's name — Thomas Johnson — and suggests that he will pass it along to General Sully.  The group then catches the train to continue onto Richmond.

While on the train, they discussed whether they would attend to Ruby's business in Richmond or the mysterious business in Buena Vista first.  They decide on Ruby's business.

As such, they agree to accompany Ruby to meet her estranged husband, Brent Manning.  They arrive to his estate by carriage, and find a black bow tied over the gate; the house is obviously in mourning.  The group wonders about who died; Father Seward suggests that Manning probably heard about the trouble in Boston and presumes Ruby dead.

An old Negro attendant answers their summons and seems very surprised when they say that Ruby O'Flahertie wishes to speak with Mr. Manning.  He trundles off.  A gunshot is heard within the house, and the butler is seen running back outside, followed by a disheveled man.  He has a gun in one hand, a bottle of liquor in the other, and appears to be wearing a woman's bathrobe over his pajamas.  He is admonishing the butler for playing dirty tricks on him.

Another man follows the drunken Brent Manning.  He, on the other hand, is well-dressed, but he is unknown to Ruby.  He appears to be comforting Brent.

As Brent approaches, Ruby steps out and addresses him.  He is shocked and begins weeping tears of joy; he runs for the gate, stumbles, stands up, and attempts to open the gate.  Unable to maneuver around the bow, he shoots it, sending shreds of black ribbon everywhere.  He finally pushes the gate open.

He runs at Ruby but meets her hand instead, as she pushes the disheveled Brent away.  Rex snatches his pistol while he's preoccupied.

Blubbering, he describes how distraught he was when he heard about the troubles in Boston, to which his companion replies, "Yes, he was inconsolable," while his hand slips into Brent's.

***************************

We play a little fast and loose with history (the poker game should bear that out), but having a primary document from history appear is still pretty neat.  (One of the things I really enjoy about games set in the "real world" is the fact that it is easier to establish verisimilitude than it is in fictional settings.)

(And for the GM: don't worry, I only looked for the text of the letter given the details you gave us.  I didn't look up any details regarding Sullivan himself, so your plot secrets are safe.  For now.)

Also, after slogging through a world of occult horror, the revelation of Brent Manning's homosexuality was unexpected but incredibly relieving.  Contrary to the typical attitudes of the time, I'm guessing the group as a whole doesn't care about his sexual orientation because he's not engaging in assault, murder, cannibalism, or attempting to end the world.

I'm guessing Cobb only appeared because he has a vested interest in Ruby's family, but we don't know that for sure.  Manning could still be some sort of psycho-killer cannibal occultist, I guess, but he's hopefully mundane.

Hopefully.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Persons of Interest: Loturik the Bound, Kolyarut

Loturik the Bound

Loturik the Bound is one of the Inevitables, order-aligned extraplanar constructs originating from Mechanus (and thusly making them spiritual kin to the Modrons).  Specifically, Loturik is a Kolyarut, a type of Inevitable that hunts oathbreakers.  They are known to be the most personable of the Inevitables because they will actually deign to speak to their chosen prey, and may even attempt to negotiate a settlement (so, rather than killing the oathbreaker, they may simply convince the person to uphold the broken bargain).

In this case, Loturik the Bound is occasionally seen around Sigil, and is identified as a member of the Planar Trade Consortium.  Scholars can think of no reason why a Kolyarut would willingly serve any authority less than its duty, but rumors suggest that Loturik, as his moniker suggests, is bound to the will of the Planar Trade Consortium.

Rumors suggest that no less authority than Estevan himself (an oni mage and a key leader of the Consortium) tricked this rogue Kolyarut into forging an oath with the wily magus.  If this is true, Loturik is bound to serve because it cannot break its own oath without defying its base nature.

Loturik is currently thought to be gathering adventuring parties to help cultivate the town called Skyfall in a grim and distant Prime Material World known as Carcosa.  Special attention is to be paid to the ruins below the town, as there is apparently wealth to be had down there.

(Also, the above image was found on http://www.themistway.com/Ravenloft-Session14-DMC.html at the phrase, "human-shaped clockwork automaton.")

An Auspicious Time for Megadungeons

I go silent for a week and a half, and a bunch of stuff happens.  The OSR blogosphere (yes, I hate that Web 2.0 Newspeak as much as you do, but sharks die if they stop swimming*) has been blowing up with things regarding megadungeons, largely because of the perceived failure of James Maliszewski's Dwimmermount (truly, you're just best off reading about the whole debacle on The Other Side, because he gathers several of the salient links for your perusal).

For my part, I don't really have an opinion on the matter.  I supported the project, but I have no real issue with the delays ("Do you want the job done right, or do you want it done fast?").  And I don't have an opinion on the "empty space" thing because I haven't read the digital materials Autarch has been releasing, mostly because I've just been that busy.

Ah, well.

Anyway, this is humorous because I received several parcels on Monday.  One was a blotter pad of graph paper so I can start sketching the first few levels of my Carcosan megadungeon.  Another was a miniature of a Kolyarut (here's the D&D 3.x version and the Pathfinder version) whom I plan on using to represent a Planar Trade Consortium agent with business regarding that very same megadungeon.  Finally, my copies of Barrowmaze I and II arrived that very same day.  I haven't had the chance to read through them yet, but still, megadungeons.

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