Not Embassy Champagne, but still: Space Beer.
It’s been a long time since last I posted a recap of one of our RPG sessions. We are still playing the same campaign, which means that a great deal has happened since the last post on the topic. I’ll try to fill in the gap later, but for now, here’s the session of July 5th, 2006. Present are Bo (playing Jack McDonald) and Israel (playing Winston Slade).
The setting: an alien (Blue) mothership, the same size as a giant pyramid, only bigger. Floating above the far side of the moon (somewhere between Luna-synchronous orbit and hopping distance from the surface). Present are Winston and Jack, two superheroes dedicated to protecting the Earth from the deadly onslaught of Ymir, the living planetoid; Dominique Daveroux, whose real name was revealed two sessions ago to be Nitocris (Ancient Greek for “omnipotent clipboard bearer”); The Captain, a superhero who had been trapped on this very mothership in a deleted version of reality for 30 years, and who knew
Dominique‘s real name; and also, the ship itself, or rather its AI consciousness, presenting itself as a woman called Borrella.
Having emerged back into reality and re-activated by Jack, Borrella wasted no time reactivating her crew (slaughtered 30 years ago by the Captain, Nitocris and their companions) from backups. However, one of these alien crewmen underwent a violent seizure while still in the reactivation tank. Borrella planned to abort and discard him, but the PCs prevailed upon her to provide him with the needed emergency medical care. While in the medical bay, the alien crewman shouted out (semi-telepathically, so that everyone understood him)
“It’s Here! It’s Awake!”
Borrella projects a virtual reality image taken from the faulty crewman’s head: A spot on the surface of the moon, seen from high above, not far from where the ship is hovering. It’s pitch black, and it’s visibly expanding…
And that’s where this session opens, really.
… it opens with Borrella replacing the image of the expanding black disc, taken from the crew member’s mind, with an image of the actual surface of the moon at that position. Which looks perfectly normal.
Except… the Captain spots something unusual. A tiny dark speck. Borrella increases the magnification, and slowly the speck resolves into a man. A single human walking on the surface of the moon. The man is wearing a suit, but it isn’t a spacesuit. He’s wearing a black version of Winston Slade’s white suit. He also looks an awful lot like him.
Donning spacesuits, Winston, the Captain and Nitocris clamber aboard some flying platform thing and go out of the ship to investigate. Jack doesn’t really need a spacesuit, and in fact has spent the transit from New York to the dark side of the moon studying how to expand his powers, based on ancient Blue psychic techniques uploaded into his brain by Borrella the last time they met. So he flies down, tugging the platform with the other 3 along with him.
They fly down to the surface and along it until they see someone who looks exactly like Winston (except with a black suit and black hair) walking along in the general direction of the ship. They stop and Jack hails him. The man waves back, but doesn’t speak. There is some messing about with trying to get Borrella set up a telepathic relay, but in the end I think what was settled on was they they give him a spacesuit. This is a blue crystalline face mask, which once put on, immediately “grows” the rest of the suit around the person (yes, the cool tech was described only when the NPC got around to using it. Quit you’re moaning, it’s the right way to edit this).
Anyway, once communication is established, the man in black tells them that he doesn’t remember much, except coming to on the surface of the moon; he saw the big pyramid space-ship thing, and began walking towards it. He agrees to accompany they company back to the mothership, and it emerges that he does have some memories, which he seems to share with Winston, at least up to a point during Winston and Jack’s visit to Ymir.
I think that the PCs revealed to Winston` that he is probably an artificial duplicate or clone of Winston. But it’s only when they get back to the ship and are practically in the airlock when Nitocris falls back and tells Jack and Winston that Winston` is made out of Ymirites.
(Ymirites are the semi-biological, inorganic nanites that Ymir is apparently mostly made up of. Jack and Winston were infected by Ymir, but Nitocris cured them in the last session by removing all the Ymirites from their body into a fold in space. Did I mention omnipotence?)
Jack gets angry with Nitocris for only revealing this now, when they are in the ship, instead of before, when they could still get rid of Winston` by chucking him into the sun. I’m not sure if Nitocris gave the lame reply of not having been sure before, but she does argue that they can’t chuck him into the sun, because whether he’s a construct or not, he’s definitely a living, thinking being: they can’t kill him anymore than they could agree for Borrella to discard the revived crewman with the seizures.
Winston takes this in stride, and explains the situation to his double, telling him that perhaps he can help them against Ymir – figure out if Ymir is controlling him, override this and use it against Ymir. The duplicate is less enthusiastic about this – “it’s hard to see the bright side when you end up being the copy,” but Winston assures him that this defeatist attitude is due to being played by the DM, and will improve once they share their player.
I’ll also note that the Ymirites are too heavily integrated into Winston`’s structure for him to be “cured” of them like Winston and Jack were cured by Nitocris.
They also get Borrella to scan the area where Winston` appeared, and Borrella detects that there has been some fall of scattered Ymirite particles there.
Inside, Borrella has done some extensive redecorating, setting up a heavily-quarantined suite for them beyond the airlock, decorated in the best 70s interior design fashion. Jack tells her to upgrade.
There is much discussion of what to do with Winston`, and more importantly, how to prepare for fighting Ymir. Winston has come up with an idea for a device that will scramble communications between different parts of Ymir by shifting the frequencies of electromagnetic radiation; this weapon is being constructed on Earth right now, by a different group of alien allies (Greens). In addition, an automated factory directly below them, constructed by Borrella telekinetically in the previous session, is busy building giant-sized Heim hyperspace drives, which they plan to fit on Ymir so that they can divert him into the sun, or just rip him apart by jumping parts of him into hyperspace in different directions.
The Captain points out that Winston` doesn’t seem to be whoever the agitated Blue crew member was referring to when he shouted “It’s Awake!”. On cue, Borrella shows them that there is something happening on the surface, about the hyperdrive factory: there’s a dark circle converging around the factory, a small army of Winston duplicates all dressed in black. Their expressions and movements, however, seem to indicate they are more zombie than sentient.
As Borrella tries to scan for the source of the attack, people on board the ship are overwhelmed by her psychic scream, followed by a worrying silence. The lights flicker, and then a face of a Blue crewman appears; he presents himself as “Operator Seven”, one of the ship’s crew; he explains that telepathic attack has caused the ship’s AI to disconnect outside communication and scanning, and that it is being repaired. Or rebooting, or something.
Tiring of inaction, Winston puts on a spacesuit and jumps out of an airlock, down to the surface of the moon (presumably the ship is not exactly in lunar stationary orbit anymore, and probably not hovering over New York either – Bo was worried about the length of the commute.) The Captain follows him, armed with two bayonets and wearing a Red, White and Blue space-suit.
Winston lands just as the Winstonites reach the perimeter of the hyperdrive factory complex, and leap up high in the air in unison, landing and sending coordinated ripples of chi to wreck havoc with the shifting, moving factory floor (all these nanotechnological parts); platforms fly up in the air, structures collapse, etc. Winston and the Captain both keep their footing and begin to run around and kick Winstonite ass.
Jack flies down into the carnage, and tries to rescue a nearly complete Heim hyperdrive. As he reaches it and pulls it loose, he notices that Winston is in some trouble: having leaped out of his spacesuit to avoid multiple attacks, he launches a series of leap-frog jumps and kicks, skip[ping from one attacking duplicate to another, until one of them lands a lucky shot and punches him in the solar plexus. Winston finds it hard to concentrate on not breathing in space, but just then, Jack snatches him, bundles him up, grabs the Heim drive with a free hand, and flies straight back up to the mothership.
The Captain? He’s hanging on to the Heim drive. NPCs have to fend for themselves…
Back on board the wounded mothership, Borrella still isn’t up to deploying her weapons. Winston doesn’t bother to waste time recovering from the refreshing breath of vaccum, and urges Winston` to join him and go back to kick more ass down in the attacked factory. Jack realizes that an effective attack on Ymir will require more than just one hyperdrive, so he grabs a floating platform and flies back down, rummaging through the factory and loading the hyperdrives onto the platform, which he leaves hovering at a safe distance above (out of range for Winstonite leaps, one presumes). Winston and Winston` kick ass, running interference for Jack as he does the heavy lifting.
Eventually, they clear out. Jack notices that one of the hyperdrives is infested with Ymirites, and chucks it into space(?) Once Jack, the platform and the Winstons clear, the remaining Winstonites seem to dissolve into Ymirite sludge which begins to assimilate the destroyed factory.
As they approach the spaceship, telepathic contact is restored, or rather Jack finds he can hear Nitocris/Dominique’s words in his head. The people in the ship have managed to locate the source of the telepathic attack, and probably the thing which is controlling the Ymirites and Winstonites: It’s location appears to Jack as a flaming crocodile on the ground, somewhere between the place where they met Winston` and the factory (the croc is a sigil superimposed on his field of vision by Nitocris). Jack leaves the platform and the Winstons up in the spaceship and rushes down to the spot indicated.
Jack begins to dig, throwing huge heaps of lunar soil and rock high up above him, and his efforts reveal clear marks of unnatural underground activity: tendrils and tracks and fibers, like branching roots or earthworms are threaded all through the ground in the area where he’s digging. As he continues unearthing them, he begins to feel pain in his head; this is to a psychic scream as being punched in the face is to the sound of a scream. But Jack continues to dig, grabbing the tendrils and pulling. The tendrils don’t tear – they appear to be made of some super-strong carbon-fiber matter – but the soil does yield, and Jack uproots the heart of this creature, a giant kernel or eyeball or something which keeps assaulting him psychically. He hefts it and hurls it up into space, aiming for the sun; then Winston and the newly-restored Borrella drop plasma bombs down on the spot, and on the factory as well, scorching away all the remnants of the Ymirite infection. Jack emerges from the flames unscathed (force field or not?) and flies back up.
They realize that the thing Jack just dealt with was not another of Ymir’s eggs(*), but apparently something else left by Ymir on his last visit – something that was activated by a signal from the Ymirites infecting Jack, Winston or their ship (Carmilla) when they returned from their visit to Ymir.
So, the session ends with everyone back aboard the ship; they have the Heim drives, and Carmilla (their other ship, the little one) is returning with the scrambler weapon the Greens have built; it’s time to launch the attack on Ymir; they contact Perseus and the android (I really need a guide to Who’s Who) and a translucent “door” opens up in the air, through which these powerful and dangerous NPCs will presumably step through next time. Will someone new accompany them? We’ll find out Wedensday…
- Among the aliens mucking about on Earth, the most prominent are the Blues (psionic, highly advanced, partially integrated into the human population and nearly extinct culturally) and Greens (super-adaptive, multi-species and multi-sexual, with complex social structures, diverse phenotypes and also high technology). I mentioned them earlier. Jack is partially Blue, which explains his powers.
- There are also Atlanteans. No one really knows what’s up with them.
- There are also the snotlings, a peaceful race that escaped from Ymir and have been hiding beneath a glacier in Greenland in their city of green ice.
- The snotlings stole an Egg from Ymir. This is some sort of seed which can self-assemble into an entire new living planetoid. Currently, it’s in the hands of Perseus Nemo, the elder male Atlantean. He’s not sharing.
- I could go on.
- About the actual session: we rolled dice 3-4 times, during the factory fight scene. I didn’t bother rolling dice during the whole bit with Jack and the alien monster, though. I think this says I/We don’t really trust the dice.
- I suspect that I omitted a lot. I hope for much buffing.
… But before we get back to our heroes, a few points about administrative things:
- We started playing with Bo (soon knocked out by my coffee, after being knocked out by KFC last session; we are starting to detect a pattern) and Israel, and were joined by Miller later – obviously, when the action picks up.
- System-wise, since last session we’ve sort-of twisted the Anti-Pool variant we’re using so much it’s now a pretzel. Briefly, you can’t spend any dice from your pool to augment your rolls; only other players can give you more dice for a roll. Also, I’m not sure if we keep the dice on a win or a lose, or if donating dice is “gambling” on someone’s actions and you get dice back, or a bonus. But if you can only gamble dice, not use them, what’s the point of hoarding them?
I think we need to work on the reward mechanic – what is the incentive, what is the behaviour we are trying to promote in ourselves? Cool stunt descriptions, I think, isn’t a motivation Bo wants to get behind.
So, the session.
They’re in a car, on a dirt track, when from the morning mist comes the wife of one of Slade’s buddies, let’s call him Jimmy Brown Fox (and let’s call her, oh, Ellen?), saying
They’re all dead. As Slade rolls down the window to ask what happened, they smell the smoke.
Turns out the shack out back, where Brown Fox kept Davreux, has burnt down. Ellen (I’m not going to keep calling her “his wife”) tells Slade that Davreux and both his guards were asleep in the shack at the time.
They dig through the rubble, where some neighbours are trying to help out, but find no signs of any person – they find Davreux belt buckle, and the remains of Brown Fox’s shoe, but no bones or human remains. Slade consoles Ellen, tells her that her husband and his friend probably survived, and takes her indoors.
Once indoors, Slade contacts the local Shaman (Weissefedder, a German expatriate whom the tribe has adopted, and who was reachable online via Jabber), and he comes over and together they try to cook up some ritual that will allow them to contact or locate Davreux and the two missing Indians. OK, actually Weissefedder brings over the drugs, and Slade guides Ellen in an act of automatic drawing, trying to picture where her husband ended up.
She draws an angle, like the corner of a box, but this quickly becomes a hillside studded with fir trees, and the coulds above become airships, and there is a trail of smoke rising from the hillside…
Slade wakes up Jack, who has fallen asleep on the sofa, and Alex, who is still sleeping in the car, and he tells Jack
Say your magic word.
They appear on the hillside and the air smells like the Metaphor (Israel came up with this term for the book-reality; it rocks). Soon they find Jimmy Brown Fox and Hank Gray Owl, Slade’s friends, who just recently managed to loosen their bonds and start a small fire. Jimmy tells Slade that they were in the shack, guarding Davreux, when all of a sudden there was someone else in the room with them, and they got hit on the head, tied up and came to on the hill. Apparently their assailants included a woman (or two), and they somehow flagged down a passing airship and left.
Slade leads them in constructing a big X on the hillside, and pretty soon they flag down another of these airships. The airships are very similar to the one they encountered in the desert of Daath, right down to the flying-carpet platform rafts they send down, and the red robes of the crewmen. They also speak telepathically. However, these crewmen are human, not birdlike aliens.
The locals take them up in their airship, a cigar-shaped thing made out of delicate metal fretwork, an open frame that is still somehow pressurized despite having no visible skin, and which is propelled with no visible power source or engine. The crew offer them refreshment, tell them that they’ve contacted another ship, which reports that it has indeed passengers matching the description of Dominique and co. The crew say they will meet this ship just as soon as they do some delivery along their route.
[ Here we break and pick up Miller ]
The airship approaches one of the Gates (like the Sapphire gate and the stonehenge thing we had last session). Below, they can see a group of people waiting, with a heap of crates to be loaded onboard the airship. But as the airship descends, another airship emerges from the clouds above, where it has been lurking unnoticed. It doesn’t respond to signals, and is getting dangerously close, so that it will ram the airship they are on. The crew members begin evacuating, and signal Slade, Jack, Alex and the Indians to join them. They clamber onto the last lifeboat (well, flying-carpet like platform), which is dangerously overloaded. Jack contemplates staying onboard and experiencing the crash first hand, but Slade convinces him he isn’t that invulnerable.
As the escape-raft totters away to the ground (or maybe before, not sure about this), Alex spots another of these flying rafts descend next to the gate and a couple of folks get off it and run into the gate while everyone is trying to get away. The two airships collide, horrifyingly slow. They don’t explode, just crash into each other and sink down. The escape raft lands, everyone takes cover, and the two entangled airships smash down onto the gate, sending giant shards of splintered metal flying everywhere.
Slade, Alex and Jack rush to the gate; there’s a giant dust cloud blocking the way, and when it clears they are confronted with a huge heap of giant metal pick-up sticks (dookim). They start digging and moving. Eventually, a rescue team arrives and starts clearing things out using giant floating discs (like Tenser‘s). In the meantime, there is some exposition by the crew of the other airship – apparently, their communications personel and pilots were disabled by their newly-acquired passengers, and the ship was sabotaged.
Eventually, the gate is cleared; Slade talks to the door and ascertains that Dominique passed through it; they step through.
It is dark, wet, raining. They are in a strange town, still in the metaphor; Alex’s super-senses pick up the smell of strange chickens, and also Dominique’s scent (he never smelled her before, but what-the-hell, if Slade can talk to doors, Alex can sniff them). They follow the scent to a pub. The people inside aren’t human, but those blue birdlike aliens. Except that to Alex they smell human, which is clearly wrong to him. They ask about Dominique, and are told she can through there, and asked directions to the Doctor’s tower.
They head to the Doctor’s tower, a 4-story building towering over the other buildings in this rustic village. They enter, hear voices coming from the top of the stairs. Leaving Jimmy and Hank below, they climb up.
The top room is the doctor’s study, filled with shelves, scrolls, a fancy desk, statuettes, a big telescope poking out of the window, and a tied-up and bruised birdlike Doctor in one corner; Davreux is arguing with Dominique, who is ignoring him and rifling through the shelves; her personal assistant is huddled in the corner, crying and in shock; Wang is facing the stairway and sees them coming in.
Slade, his white suit now as filthy as it could possibly get (ash, dust and rain all over it) walks past Wang and demands that Dominique explain herself; Jack hurried to untie the Doctor. Alex smiles at Wang. Dominique tries to ignore Slade, denies she was trying to destory the world, and eventually gets so exasperated when Slade actually tries to grab her arm that she stares at him and says:
Slade’s face bursts into flame. Well, not really, because he dodges, perhaps repelling the wave of heat with a facial chi-shield. In a smooth continued motion, he throws Dominique against the wall. Wang reacts to the onset of hostilities by exploding; in a flash, there’s a giant metallic lizard standing where he did before, with a vicious tail swinging. Alex whips out his Cornice and slices at the tail, which is lopped off and thrashes about. Slade calls up
the cannon-fodder Jimmy and Hank, and they rush up the stairs, allowing him to use Chi to bring down the floor beneath the Wang/Monster’s feet.
Except that Wangzilla does a split and stays standing. So Jack leaps on his back and twists and snaps his neck. But just as he does, the lizard explodes again, and becomes this viscious and vicious jelly that tries to engulf him. So Jack, enveloped by Jelly, leaps out the window into the rain, hitting the ground four stories down.
Slade turns to Dominique and tries to appeal to reason. There’s no need to keep fighting, he tells her. If she’ll tell them what she’s looking for, they’ll try to help her. She just has to stop hurting people.
What are you looking for?
Dominique considers this for a moment before responding.
I’m looking for my name, she says.
Another campaign session – number four, if you’re keeping score. It’s two weeks old, and I still have to summarize session five, because session six is upon us.
I really need a name for the campaign, so I can put it in a seperate blog category. I’m thinking “A Better World” or maybe just “Another World”. Because “Ozymandias” was taken…
At the lighthouse
- Baker examines the body of the lighthouse keeper, Trevor St. Cuthbert. He finds a small key on a curious piece of shell/fossil.
- Checking up on St. Cuthbert in the ETIA database, he learns that the man was aboard a ship that encountered an Unidentified Marine Object at sea, shortly after WW2. The ship reported seeing strange lights at night while crossing the Atlantic; the source of the lights was an unidentified object, round, which drew close to the ship, and sharks or dolphins were spotted around it. Some of the crew members reported incidents of missing time.
- Searching the house, they find in the bedroom a safe that can be unlocked by the key. The safe contains an old pistol and an old diary with 3 photographs: these were apparently taken during the very same ship voyage when St. Cuthbert’s crew-members saw the UMO. The first photo, taken in a British harbor, shows crew-members; the second, taken at sea and at night, is apparently (poor) photographic evidence of the UMO encounter; the third shows the crew-members and a young (14?) lad with an intense expression in a borrowed coat, which is perhaps referred to in the text of the diary as “our little stowaway”.
- Meanwhile, Jack is leafing through the book, studying the text and pictures (which all look fantastical, of no clear historical period), trying to download the solve from the Matrix into his cranium by sheer Bo stubbornness. He notices that the Knights have re-appeared in the illustration, and Dominique and her party are gone.
- By powerful concentration and a roll of the die, Jack stumbles upon some pronunciation, says a magic word (which I have written down at home) and WHAM (or some other suitable sound-effect; this is Bo’s department), they find themselves IN THE PICTURE IN THE BOOK.
In the city of Dis, and beyond.
- They show up in the book, on a city street in front of a grand mansion, surrounded by the Knights. The air smells strange, dry and lemony, and their surroundings are quite exotic and odd. From the doorway of the mansion descends a beautiful woman in an archaic dress, commands the knights to stand back, and invites Slade, McDonald and Baker into the mansion. She speaks to the Knights in a different voice than she speaks to the visitors – they understand that she is speaking to them telepathically.
- In the inner courtyard, by the fountain, introductions are made. The woman introduces herself as Carmilla of House Sapphire, and tells them they are in the city of Dis. When Jack asks what year it is, she tells him it is the year 30,425 to the reign of the first emperor. The people they are looking for (Dominique and co.)? Yes, they passed here before, they went through the Sapphire Gate.
- Inside the mansion is a vast central hall, where the PCs are offered strange refreshments, and see many people. At the far end of the hall is a huge triangular door of solid crystal: the Sapphire Door (or gate, I forget). Many have gone into the Sapphire Door, Carmilla tells them, but none have returned.
- Slade puts his hand on the door and tries to read its mind. Really. Israel will explain the Chi-ripple technobabble behind this. The door responds to touch with ripples of building heat, and Slade has visions of exotic and fantastic vistas. And then, the door pulses and he vanishes. Jack and Douglas touch the door and vanish too.
The desert of Daath
- They find themselves on the slope of a dune in what looks like a Martian desert. The air still smells strange and dry. 10 meters behind them is another almost identical crystal gate; above is a giant airship, lit up with bright beams shining down through the dusty gloom, like a cigar of delicate metal fretwork.
- From the airship descend two flat, diamond-shaped platforms, sort of flying carpets. Their crews greet them. They are not human, but rather gray-skinned, with bird-like faces and yellow eyes, and with 3 arms – a pair and a smaller arm nestled in the crock of the right one. However, they don’t appear to react to the newcomers’ being human – they just note that they wear strange clothes. The airshipmen tell them they are on another world, and that the planet is not inhabited – they live in orbit, or on a moon (not sure which it was). This place is called Daath, the aliens tell them.
The city that is Thaer
- After some talk, they head towards the gate behind them, and find themselves back in the streets of Dis – or rather, on what looks like a different version of it, more alien in architecture and inhabited not by humans, but by the same birdlike beings they met in the desert. Again, asking about Dominique and her cohorts, they are directed to a large structure, an amphitheatre enclosing a large open space, with what appears to be a larger version of Stonehenge in the center – except that the megaliths are actually gates.
- Questioning a beggar, they are directed to one of two possible doors (the beggar can’t direct them to a specific one). They pick one, and step through it.
- They find themselves in a space that is all milky white, and they seem to move in slow motion. At the far end of this space, they see another doorway, and the condensation imprint of a woman’s hourglass figure still lingering on the gates’ surface. They move towards it, slowed down, as if swimming.
Back in New York City
- And they find themselves in a bookstore, between two aisles, standing right above an open copy of The Black Book of the Silver City. Looking about, it seems a regular bookstore, with a bored girl with facial piercings manning the cash register. Outside, it’s night – around 4 AM – and they are back in New York (Manhattan; but is there any other part of New York City in our games?).
- Jack takes the book to the register. They ask the attendant if she’s seen Dominique and her crew. The girl vaguely recalls a very beautiful woman matching the description and some others passing through a couple of hours ago. Jack asks to buy the book. When she enters its details into the inventory computer though, she says it should be in the restricted section, and that she has to consult the manager (owner) before she can sell it.
- So they head out, Baker makes a call to the FBI/Police and puts out an APB on Dominique Davreux and her associates. Jack heads back to McDonalds, exchanges a few words with his old buddy Ivan, and then notices Alex sitting on the bar. Alex is tired, so they head back to Slade’s hotel – he gets another, (larger?) room there – and they crash, resting for the night.
- Baker, less tired, checks surveillance cameras in the street near the bookstore, and discovers that a car (registered to one of Davreux’s companies) stopped outside the bookstore, and Dominique and Wang got out of it, went into the bookstore, and came back a few minutes later.
- With this new information, they decide to head back to the bookstore, and check things out. Slade uses his chi-power for Psychometry, and sees ghost-images of Dominique and Wang walking into the store, finding a specific book in the aisle, taking it and replacing it with another, then leaving – once outside, their chi-traces mingle with the noise of the city and vanish.
- Jack tries to get the shop owner to sell him the book once more. The shop owner, bemused, says that this isn’t even his book; his shop has the cheaper and less prestigious trade paperback edition of the Black Book of the Silver City, while this is a rare collector’s edition. Baker checks online databases and registries and discovers that this might be a copy of the book purchased by a Mr. Perry Niemand in an Edinburgh auction a few years ago. These are apparently the only known copies of the book in private hands in the Eastern United States. And the store’s copy was taken by Dominque.
- Jack uses time-paradox-creating bullshit and player-fiat to invoke a fake ID, and tells the cashier that it’s his book, that he’s Perry Niemand. But Bo fails his roll, and behind him, someone says “I thought I was Perry Niemand”.
- Mr. Niemand takes his book and takes Slade, McDonald and Baker out for breakfast (at a place where McDonald can get a steak to compensate for the one he had to abandon in Boca Raton).
- OK, I tell a lie; I completely skipped the bit in the bookstore where, after brief introductions, the PCs (can I just call them the damn party?) try to find out if Niemand is aware of the book’s nature, and Jack says the magic word
Yahaworakg!while in his presence, transporting himself, Slade, Baker and Niemand to the city of Dis – and making the black knights appear in the middle of the bookstore. I am ignoring it because he undid it as soon as he realized what this caused. So maybe if I pretend it never happened, everyone will agree with me.
- ANYWAY, they go to eat breakfast with Niemand. And Niemand exposits about the Black Book of the Silver City. See, there were these aliens – what we’ve heard Malamud call
The Blues– who had psionic technology, who could alter reality with thought. But they wandered and were stranded far away from home, on a backwater world called Earth. Nobody knows when this happened, or what the circumstances were, because the aliens soon found themselves using their powers to re-write reality, first as part of fighting with other aliens (“the Greens”), and second as a way to ensure the continuation of their race: they altered reality to make themselves human, so that they could interbreed with the inhabitants of the planet where they were trapped. For the survival of their race, they unmade it.
But something survived: the Black Book, an attempt to preserve, or perhaps more truely to reconstruct, the reality of the “Silver City” that was lost.
- Niemand exchanges cards with Slade (Mr. Business Card Man), and wanders off, leaving the PCs to digest. It is sort-of agreed that Baker will head back to Boca Raton, to retrieve the book from Trevor St. Cuthbert’s lighthouse, and in general handle the paperwork there. Slade wants to check on Davreux, who might know something about Dominique’s plan or whereabouts.
So, Slade, Jack and Alex (dozing in the back seat) drive back up country to the Indian settlement where Slade deposited Davreux in the hands of his two Earth-friend buddies. But as they get there, they see a figure stumble out of the mist; it’s the wife of one of Slade’s friends, she’s got a shocked expression on her face, and she mutters
They’re all dead.
And we cut.
And now for my favorite segment, character liknesses (aka, trolling the internet for hours to make my characters look bad). There are Winston Slade and Douglas Baker (from Planetary: Crossing Worlds), Tilda Swinton as Carmilla of House Sapphire (to get a better image, I probably need to resort to Photoshop; I pictured a long, loose dress, and a more elaborate hairdo. Use your imagination, it’s better.
And last is Dominique Davreux (this should probably go into next session’s summary): I didn’t find any good pictures to use from Doberman, but I like this one.
Third RPG session recap. Or braindump, whatever.
Here’s the first one and here’s the second.
This week we were joined by Oren Genkin as our special guest star, playing special agent Douglas Baker from the ETIA. Still no Gingi, he’s doing a play.
I’ll also mention the system we used in both last session and this one. In the first session we had the “roll high on precentile dice” or in fights “roll higher than the NPC”, with higher roll winning and a mix of player/GM narrating the effects. We decided to try a more structured system, and I guessed that with this party, something that is more “meta” would be most appropriate, so I picked a pool variant (specifically, the one labelled “Anti-Pool Variation by Mark Whithers” on this page). We don’t use traits and allow other players to donate dice, and we haven’t used it all that much so far, or so it seems. It does pretty much eliminate fight scenes from the game, as demonstrated below.
So, Jack McDonald and Winston Slade are driving back from the reservation where they left Jacques Davreux. On the way they reflect that Davreux was acting strangely, as if trying to tip them off to what he was doing. Perhaps he was under the influence of someone? Perhaps his wife? Perhaps aliens? Perhaps his wife is an alien?
On cue, Winston gets a call from Dominique Davreux, asking if he knows where her husband is – he isn’t answering his phone, and she heard about the explosion in the New Jersey plant. Winston tells her that her husband is safe, at an undisclosed location, and that he really can’t tell her more on the phone. When can they meet? Dominique tells him she’s out of town, down in Boca Raton, Florida (Bo came up with the exact location), and she can meet him in a couple of days. Winston is very eager to meet her, and she sounds like she’s delaying. Also, she doesn’t sound too worried, or too curious. Just a criticism of how I played her there.
Shortly after, there’s another call, this time from Bernice Malamud, who asks to meet them urgently, and asks about the New Jersey explosion: apparently investigators on the site discovered remains of an alien superconducting metal in the debris.
They head for New York, and go to an ETIA safehouse, with valet parking. Winston taunts the valet, who as a government employee can not accept tips. They go into the safehouse itself, which is a Chinese restaurant, empty except for a minimal staff. In the back room, with a teapot ready on a lazy susan, is Bernice, and agent Douglas Baker, a plain looking guy in a plain gray suit. Bernice, I inform them, is dressed a lot less formally, and looks more like a college girl than a government officer. This throws Bo and I, who have been picturing her until now in a power suit (not the Iron Man kind, the business suit kind). They asked me if this is a change, and I say no, this is her usual attire. Although when they met her last, in the first session, she was probably in an orange coverall like the rest of the clean-up team.
Bernice introduces Douglas Baker, and Winston describes their run-in with Davreux, and speculates that he might be under some influence. Bernice focuses her attention on Jack McDonald. According to her, McDonald’s (the bar) is a hotbed of alien activity; Jack has some alien connection, and specifically she thinks he’s connected to a faction of aliens that are enemies of the faction that might have been pressuring Davreux. Bernice suggests that Davreux might have been trying to appeal to this faction through Jack.
They discuss aliens, and Bernice says that these two factions, the aliens that crash-landed in New Jersey in 1974 (well, at least their “seed-pod bearing gender” did) and their enemies, the ones that hang around McDonalds, have been called The Greens and The Blues by FETA. The ETIA doesn’t consider this politically correct, so they have a committee trying to come up with better names. It comes out in the conversation that the Blues are Psionic, and at their most powerful, they can rewrite reality. The Greens, apparently, are able to detect when reality gets rewritten. And so can Douglas Baker, who Bernice describes as
our Synchronicity Warfare Specialist [ here is omitted a long digression, in which Winston asks Jack to play around with his powers, to test Baker’s ability, and after rolling dice, Jack decides that revealing the full extent of his power would be dumb. So forget it, never happened.]
There’s also a digression in which Jack tells Bernice that they were thinking of setting up some kind of private venture to handle alien visitors that would be more friendly and hospitable than the ETIA, which Winston likens to the border police.
We were thinking less bureaucracy, more room service.
ANYWAY, Bernice is annoyed about all this weird shit that is going down, filling her desk with paperwork, and probably asks them to go sort it out. Or something. Maybe she just needed to vent.
Meanwhile, Baker is nudging them about Dominique, which Winston and Jack are planning to meet as soon as possible. In fact, Winston has already booked a private jet for Boca Raton, due to take off in a few hours. They agree that Douglas can tag along.
Until the plane takes off,
We sit in the hotel lobby and not drink martinis-I.
You really have no idea how sober people spend their time, do you?
So they fly down to Boca Raton in the private jet that Winston hired. After landing, Winston calls up Dominique, tells her he’s there and wants to meet her. She says she’s busy, but can meet them for Lunch at four.
They spend their time playing pool somewhere on the boardwalk (I assume there’s a boardwalk), not investigating or anything. At four, they show up at the restaurant Dominique suggested, which turns out to be a steakhouse, with a balcony out back that looks out onto the sea. Dominique, her bodyguard and her personal assistant are already seated and in the middle of eating their steaks. Dominique apologizes, says that they thought the meeting was at 15:00 [I. gave me a dirty look because he expected me as GM to make sure his character knew the precise time. But I as GM fancied having Dominique and her entourage chowing down on dead cows, in sharp contrast to the vegan place where they ate last ].
Winston uses his special power to try and detect if any of Dominique and her entourage are aliens, by sending a chi-ripple along the floor to resonate from their auras. We find that (1) we can’t really roll in secret using the system we chose, but we try: Israel invests so-and-so dice, I roll them plus one other without showing him the result. We also discover that (2) chi-ripples is a great name for a cereal.
The three seem normal to Slade, although he suspects that the fitted wooden floor might have thrown him off. Introductions are made, and then Slade asks to speak to Dominique in private, so they get up and head for the patio out back. The bodyguard (and the PCs) keep them in their sight, and Jack orders a steak.
Dominique asks Slade if she can see her husband or talk to him. Slade tells her she can’t, her husband is kept isolated for his own safety (or so I think she’s to assume). Slade asks her if she knows who might be in a position to influence Davreux to do what he did. Dominique names herself, Slade and a couple of others, and Slade arranges a bunch of coins on the railing of the balcony, and asks her to point to the one representing the person she thinks might have influenced Jacques to go nuts. Dominique refuses, and abruptly cuts the discussion off by saying
my steak is getting cold.
Winston follows her back to the table, and the PCs take their leave. Jack gives his steak a last longing look, musing that there are other steaks elsewhere. Winston launches into a rant about the evils of cattle farming and how they are the agro-consumerist manifestation of the same evil as NASA. Or something. Perhaps he doesn’t.
ANYWAY, the PCs head out, and back in the car decide to keep a discreet eye on Dominique and her crew. The best way to do this, Douglas suggests, is for him to make some calls and order satellite surveillance of Boca Raton. He does this, presenting himself as Thomas Mayhew of the CIA, is told that only the FBI or the meteorological service can order surveillance of a domestic target, makes some more calls, and it is done. The PCs drive back to their hotel, or the airport, but in midway, the satellite surveillance images being transmitted to Baker’s PDA show that Dominique and co. are heading out. The PCs hurry back, driving out of the urban area and finding the Davreux car heading up to a big lighthouse at the top of a cliff which forms a spur of land at the edge of a bay.
Parking the car at a safe distance, they decide that Jack and Winston will try to sneak up to the lighthouse, while Baker stays in the car where it’s safe, keeping track of the lighthouse using the satellite and keeping in touch with Slade through cellphone. Jack takes off his shirt and swims like a torpedo, while Winston skips and hops overt the surf like they do in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or Hero). As they approach the lighthouse from the sea, Slade manages to see a ruckus on a mid-level balcony – someone bursts out of the building, hits the rail, and then is hit by something or someone, knocked off the railing, and falls to the rocks below.
Slade lands on the lighthouse wall, clinging to it like a spider. He notices no one on the balcony. He looks down and sees that the man that fell is dead, papers scattered around him. Jack pulls himself out of the water, and grabs one of these papers. It’s an old tract, printed in the 19th century, about American foreign relations. He tosses it and heads for the front door of the lighthouse, reasoning that he’ll create a diversion for Slade.
Meanwhile, Slade peers into the doors that open into the balcony. The interior is dark, filled with books and bookshelves, and the rich smell of old printed matter. Also, he can hear three people, searching the books frantically. He jumps in and hides in the shadows, listening as Dominique and her crew mess about. And then everyone hears Jack’s loud knock at the door.
Slade leaps out and spider-mans his way down at top speed, but not before hearing a last exchange from the folks in the library.
What’s that? (in reaction to the knock) and
Never mind, I’ve found it from Dominique.
Jack forces the locked door open, and takes a look around the front room of the lighthouse. It’s big and crowded with books, furniture and brick-a-brack such as model sailing boats in glass cases, tribal masks, etc. There’s a kitchen to the side and a big spiral staircase heading up.
Slade dashes in and commiserates Jack for completely missing the idea of “stealthy approach”. Jack grumbles that he was setting up a diversion. There is some hurried half-whispered shouting, followed by a sudden noise from above.
Slade dashes back out and climbs back up the outside of the building. I think Jack actually calls out, but there’s no answer – just loud crashing and banging about from above.
Slade gets up on the balcony and peers in. There’s a fallen bookcase, and big dark figures moving about – five very tall men in ornate black armor, all spiky and weird, crashing about and banging against bookcases. There’s no sign of Dominique or her crew anywhere. There’s also an odd smell in the room.
Winston takes a snapshot of these “knights” and SMSs it to Baker (remember him?) Baker runs a query on the design through the ETIA’s databases.
Jack hears some heavy footsteps and then one of the armored knights falls down the spiral staircase, crashing on top of some furniture and pulverizing it. Jack draws back (or steps forward, or does something, or not. I just need a break here) and the knight rises from the wreckage, unharmed, steps forward and, upon being greeted by Jack, lifts his hand – and a huge triangular sword appears in it, with a very broad base tapering to a point. The knight hacks at Jack, who grabs his hand, crushes it (or tears it off – perhaps that came later), and diverts the blow so that the knight cuts through his own armor – the blade cuts through the armor with ease, and the air is filled with an odd smell.
Jack takes the sword and cracks open the armor. It’s hollow, except for a cold and weird-smelling vapor; there’s apparently some power-source and a skeletal control network on the inside, but no actual occupant. Hefting the sword, Jack trudges up the spiral staircase.
Meanwhile, Winston observes a big book open on a reading desk, about where Dominique was earlier. He moves closer hoping to sneak in and snatch the book, but the four remaining armored figures array themselves around the table, forming a square. Slade chooses to remain unseen (I think. not clear exactly on what he was or wasn’t doing).
Douglas gets some answers on his query, finally. The ETIA’s outsourced research team in Bangalore found an image of a knight in nearly identical armor fighting a highly stylized dragon in a 14th century occult/symbolist text. A footnote says something about the ETIA suspecting this symbolism, of St. George vs. the Dragon or Serpent, is something planted by the Blues – apparently, the Blues and Greens have been on Earth for a long time, and their touch is evident in these symbols (knight = Blues, dragon = Greens).
Just then, Jack burst into the room, and the knights attack him, one with a sword and one with a morning star. Jack steps into the fray and wipes out all four knights with a few sketchily describes sword-strokes and a single roll. This does highlight some of the system peculiarities, with player fiat annulling the entire fight, really. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a bit different from what we’re used to: Bo kept expecting me to describe outcomes, and I was a bit lax in encouraging him to do that. Note that now Bo has had two successful rolls and is down to not too many dice in his pool. Israel is better off, with some bad luck keeping him well stocked with dice.
Baker drives up the driveway, blocking Dominique’s car, and joins the others in the library. They examine the book on the table, and see that it is written in some weird alphabet that looks a bit like Gothic, but has more characters than the standard Latin ABC. Stranger and more noticeable, the book is open on a page with a woodcut illustration showing a strange quasi-medieval city, a big gate and a staircase beyond it. The fleeing figures of Dominique and her crew can be seen in the picture, climbing the staircase. And in front of the gate, there are four shadows, without figures to cast them.
They look through the book and Douglas Baker runs some more database queries on it. Apparently, it is a mystical text, or an 18th century forgery of one, something called The Black Book of the Silver City, written in a cypher using an invented alphabet with 36 letters. Different versions of this book were written by unconnected authors, apparently channeling some spiritual author. The concept of memetic intrusion is mentioned somewhere.
Winston, Jack and Douglas suggest various ways of recreating the ritual or whatever that Dominique apparently used to get into the book. Jack suggests just going into the book, but can’t figure out how. Winston suggests taking positions to match those of the figures in the picture. Douglas downloads info on different ways of pronouncing the language the book is written in. He picks one intuitively, Oren decides to roll all the dice in his pool, and…gets no successes. Israel donates him a bunch of dice, but these too fail to bring up any success. So I guess they’re stuck. Stupid system, why doesn’t it work when needed and fail only when we need to create suspense?
Meanwhile, quietly and without fuss, the armored knights fade away, and the sword as well.
Winston suddenly remembers that he’s supposed to meet Alex in LA in 5 hours, and is confident that with Alex with them, they will be four and able to recreate the ritual and step into the book. And with that, the session closes.
The lighthouse near Boca Raton looks like this (or, for an area shot, look at the third picture on this page). I was picturing something more like this (only higher up). The Cape Florida lighthouse (pictured here?) is better, and might just be close enough. Or we could pick something else.
Bernice Malamud is being played in my head by Sarah Silverman, because it’s more fun than the more obvious Janeane Garafolo:
I have no idea what Dominique looks like yet (although I did find myself downloading pictures of assorted babes all Saturday instead of writing the recap), but Davreux is either Malcolm McDowell (specifically from Entourage), or the baddie from the third Indiana Jones movie. And Wang is obviously The Rock.