Tag Archives: actual play

Spire – Session 2 – Operation Highwayman

midwife

Theratrix, Midwife

We go deal with the casino people who hold Quartermaster Bob’s gambling debts, and trade them the drugs we stole from the Roaring Boys for the note to them. Then we go steal a payroll and figure out the combat system.

Complete First Battle!

  • Tariq steals Roaring Boys gangster wear and weapons, four sets.
  • Team plants evidence of Quartermaster Bob’s gambling debts in Roaring Boys territory.
  • Team attempts to steal payroll destined for Factory level guard station as it is passing thru Roaring Boys HQ on the Farming level.
  • Lyddia uses their access to Guard HQ to access the payroll route, then alter the paperwork to have it pass thru Roaring Boys territory.
  • Payroll: 4 guards with clubs & good armor, one halberd, one gun. 4 durts with ill fitting armor & carrying the payroll.
  • More equipment is purchased, including some weapons.
  • Plan: ropes in the water to prevent the boats from moving. One team fires guns and spells from shore, while Grella runs along the rope to attack those in the boat.
  • Plan as executed: Tariq shoots the guard leader with a pistol.  Lyddia follows suit.  Guard leader drops.  Tamar drops from a bridge via rope onto the barge, cutting the halberd bearing guard.  Slav the Blood Witch sprays the barge around Tamar with eyeball blood. Several durts pull up a ladder, drop it onto the bridge.  Tariq shoots a porter.  The guard picks up the captain’s pistol and dies from a shrike pistol shot from Lyddia.  One porter swims for it; Tamar spots his leech covered back but opts to cut another guard down.  The last guard dies from multiple attacks from the rest of the team.
  • Tamar threatens a surrendering porter with, “Don’t tell them the Roaring Boys did this!” One of the surviving porters takes note of Tamar’s distinct eyebrows above the Roaring Boys distinct face hiding kerchief.
  • They escape with the payroll, the guard’s pistol, and their lives. Four porters are left alive; those on the boat are told to loot the guard bodies for the silver they lifted from the payroll. The porters accept the bribe.
  • The team takes their payroll to a secret place for counting. Tariq takes a single coin from it, which Lyddia notes in a diary.

Success! We are glad we put a lot of work into our tactical plan because the combat system isn’t real forgiving, and we’re not real combat monsters.

Drow Fact of the Day: All drow are forced by the Aelfir to serve a “durance”, or mandatory service, when they become adults.

Brain Crystals and Crime Lords

After the heist, Tariq arrives at the Hive to find the staff very agitated. The lightning professors are in denial and/or accusing each other about the crystals growing out of back of prisoner’s heads. They are putting crystals into prisoners heads, one of those people died.  The guards are busy interrogating the durt porters from the stolen payroll run; this involves torture and screaming.  Tariq arrives at Lt Langley’s office to announce he overheard that the Roaring Boys pulled the payroll heist and Quartermaster Bob had something to do with it.

But “brain crystals” sounds like something we should look into, as we want to co-opt the prison, not have some weird alien hivemind or something do it for us. So we gather intel…

  • The University’s Applied Galvanics Department is researching at the prison for purposes of warfare for execution/brainwashing and/or fighting. The “Cult of Intelligence” found a Crystal Mind buried nearby. They broke off chunks and placed them into their brains to form a group mind. They are experimenting at the prison for reasons unknown.  They get the name of Tristan Avanod, an ex-student, who claimed to be in the Cult of Intelligence.
  • Slav figures out there are two criminal groups involved with the Crystal Mind shards. Group 1 is led by Lord Veq Light-Through-Splintered-Glass, a councilman and high elf.  Group 2 is let by “The Wicked Mr Alas,” a drow and head of a landlord family seeking further power via criminal enterprises.
  • Bohemians are indulging in crystal addiction on Ivory Row.

The team speculates quite a bit on what all of this means. They decide to approach Wicked Mr Alas. This ends up not being all that simple and requires another round of intel gathering. We determine he operates in “Ivory Row” so find out about it first.

  • Ivory Row is owned by three factions:
    • a high elf heiress Cruel Lady Thorns on Silk (also patron of a Bloodwitch)
    • a drow noble woman who conspired with the high elves (who became a Bloodwitch during high society party)
    • a human cleric Archbishop Wynn who worships the high elf gods. He refuses life extending surgeries.  Rumor has it he is buying up land to build monuments to the high elf gods.
  • Other Ivory Row powers:
    • The Sunlight Collective – not an organized group of bohemians who like partying and cults and such things.
    • The Hidden – drow squatters hiding in the abandoned mansions of long gone rich. They hid quietly and steal quietly from the rich houses nearby.

The group travels up Spire via Perch to Ivory Row to gather more info on the Wicked Mr Alas.

  • Tamar spies on the bohemians to find Mr Itz’Bin, a Hidden drow, who owes allegiance to Wicked Mr Alas. Mr Itz’Bin is a lieutenant, dresses as a hidden with items of wealth displayed openly, plus an illegal rapier and parrying blade.
  • Slav uses religious circles to find that Wicked Mr Alas is interested in the gods and acquiring relics of said gods. He has found that all gods have failed him so he defiles the relics.  He is dealing with the various occult groups as “fire power”.
  • Tariq goes thru high society and finds how to contact Wicked Mr Alas… you start with one of his lieutenants unless you are very powerful and thus can jump to the head of the line. Taking something from him or some
  • Lyddia uses academia to talk to the bohemians. He sells them narcotics. He drives cultists bohemians out of his territory to the point of murder via Gentle-On-Blinded Orbs an enormous elf (augmented by muscle surgery, is blind, and sees via hearing).
  • The point thus far: Wicked Mr Alas would like the bloodwitch and the vermissian sage, but not Abu and Tamar.  He has lots of criminal connections and wants to be The Godfather of the spire.

So this means that the factions vying for power in the Hive (Prison) are:

  • The Guards
  • Crime Lord Wicked Mr Alas – wants to save or comfort his own troops who are imprisoned, gain intelligence from his enemies.
  • Councilman Light-Through-Splintered-Glass – same as Mr Alas.
  • Cult of the Intelligence – followers are being arrested
  • Dept of Applied Galvanics – want to experiment with crystals largely via shock therapy to those implanted with them
  • Us, your friendly neighborhood revolutionaries

A vague plan emerges.

  • Meet Mr Itz-Bin and make nice with Wicked Mr Alas.
  • Destroy councilman
  • Destroy Cult of the Intelligence
  • Make nice with Applied Galvanics

We exercise this plan… Next time!

Spire – Session 1 – Operation Get Inside

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Abu Al-Nisr, Carrion Priest

Well hello all!  I know it’s been a sparse year of blogging, but work, life, and actual gaming have had to come first.  I’m paring down on other commitments so hope to add some fun content here.

Let’s start with some session summaries from our Spire campaign I described back in October.   Go read that again to remind yourself of the characters and setup.

First, as a group we decided what we wanted our revolutionary goal to be to stomp out the hated aelfir (or “honkeys” as they are also known). This involves hours of us figuring out the complex society and geography of the Spire.

War Goal:  Liberate the Hive, the prison, for the Ministry.  Here’s our basic intel on the place.

  • Entire cell blocks are basically suspended by chains and dumped to everyone’s death in case of trouble
  • Prisoners of the Hive include:
    • gnolls they want to keep
    • experiments and pets – the Menagerie
    • political prisoners
    • warriors
  • Run by the Guard
    • ill trained and equipped
    • working poor, living in Middle City
    • local folk trying to earn a living and maybe make the city a better place to live
  • Warden Wind-Before-Dawn, high elf, torture tourist
  • Captain Blessed, human mercenary, guard captain to Hive
  • Commissioner Armon LeVop, drow, administers the Guard stations around Middle City.
  • Baub the Quartermaster, human.
  • Lieutenant Ziminar Langley, drow.
  • Drow guards are mostly durance, rest are career
  • Corruption is rampant due to unpaid durance workers.
  • Visited by high elves who participate in torture tourism

Drow Fact of the Day – the six virtues of the drow people are:

  • Tenacity
  • Community
  • Grace
  • Vigilance
  • Sagacity
  • Theory

Our first milestone we decide on along this path is to identify four guardsmen to identify as friends and get promoted within the prison so we have powerful allies.

We also decide to hijack the guard payroll to destabilize the situation. It is held at the Quince Tear Guard station.

Operational plan:

  • pick a patsy in the Guard to be fingered as the insider
  • pick a patsy in the crime circles to be fingered as the robbers
  • pick a replacement for the Guard patsy
  • steal the money
  • launder the money

We gather intel. The Quartermaster and employees at Quince Tear Guard Station are:

  • Baub the quartermaster is a drow collaborator. He is also corrupt – he steals from the widows and orphans fund to pay kickbacks. He owes money/markers to a casino on next city level up. We decide he’s the patsy.
  • Lt. Langley is a Drow nationalist we tag to replace Quartermaster Baub, who will run the widows and orphans fund for primarily for drow benefit. Three husbands.  Upper class drow. Went to university.  Guard durance.

Therratix the midwife, acting as a medic at the prison, gains Langley’s blood after she is shivved by a prisoner. Slav the blood witch reads the blood and learns Langley is having an affair with a human.  She loves her career over her human lover, a professor at University, named Professor “Lightning” Thule.  Given time and effort the team is able to convince Langley that her lover is a liability, so she ends it and owes the team an obligation.

The cell steals drugs from the Roaring Boys, so they have an excuse to be patsies for the payroll robbery.  Drugs stolen from Roaring Boys (including Corpse Fruit, which create hallucinations of the dead, and God Smoke – a euphoric and pain dulling drug) are traded to the casino in exchange to the title for Baub’s debts to said casino.

The cell collects evidence of Quartermaster Baub’s huge gambling debts and theft from the W&O fund. Again, this is to make him a patsy for the payroll robbery, as the inside man for the Roaring Boys.

We end the session prepared to rob a Guard payroll!

New Campaign – Spire

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Spire

Our newest campaign is based on the Spire RPG.  This is a cool high-concept game – we are all drow living in the Spire, which is a China Mieville-esque super weird giant tower where each level is a whole neighborhood.

But the elves have conquered it and keep us down as an oppressed underclass (along with their human lackeys).  Therefore, we foment rebellion! It’s like Vornheim meets Bas-Lag meets Menzoberranzan meets the Black Panthers and the IRA. Good stuff!

I recently read Melvin Van Peebles’ book Panther and racial politics are a big deal nowadays, so it’s interesting to explore it as a batch of privileged white guys.

Here’s our characters:

  • Firebrand-lo

    Firebrand

    Abu Al-Nisr (Paul), a carrion priest and clutch mate to Tamar and Tariq. He has a hyena to help devour the dead, as is only proper.

  • Tariq Al-Nisr (Me), a firebrand and clutch mate to Abu and Tamar.  He brought Slav into the revolution the old fashioned way, sexing her into radicalization.
  • “Fortunate” Tamar Al-Nisr (Bruce), a Bound and clutch mate to Abu and Tariq.  He rescued Lyddia Jath when she fell from the Perch.
  • Lyddia Jath (Chris), a Vermissian sage. She knows Abu’s secret, which is that he was captured by the gnolls and joined them in fighting the drow army.
  • Theratrix (Matt), a midwife. She saved Abu’s life during the war, not realizing he was fighting alongside the gnolls.
  • Slav (Patrick), a blood witch. She has tasted Lyddia’s blood and believes she’s fated to kill Tariq.
  • Krieth (Kat), a human emissary. Appeared briefly and was gone just as fast.  For the best, humans aren’t trustworthy.

The game system is pretty Apocalypse-y.  Our initial direction for liberating the Spire is to compromise the Hive, the big ass prison blocks, and use that to recruit people to overthrow the hated high elves!  Word of our adventures will come…

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The Spire (Aboveground)

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Fourteenth Session

waterspoutFourteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Escape the Eye” – The shore team returns to the Araska, counts their loot, and sets their course for the Shackles. But a giant waterspout intervenes.

It’s just some giant lizard fighting and then they get back to the Araska with their prize.  But navigating the Eye of Abendego is no picnic, another waterspout bangs up the Araska.  I keep rolling hot on the random weather table.

Then they pass the Bloody Vengeance on its way to the Green Blood on Black Rock local monster fighting festivities! They seem interested so I’ll have more on that next time.

But then, another random weather roll…  How many 00’s can one set of dice hold?  It’s the largest waterspout possible, F5 style. Eek!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Thirteenth Session

wendifa

The Wendifa

Thirteenth Session (12 page pdf) – “The Key To War Machine, Part III” – An epic fight with juju zombies and a Wendifa (female witch doctor) has lasting effects as they scour the tomb for the amulet of the Terraken.

Bonus: Jitikai the Wendifa’s Character Sheet (pdf)

More dungeoneering, and then a fight with a Juju oracle! Voodoo all over the place; juju zombies, she zombifies and mind-controls party members.  Fun!  They even leave her alive… Kinda.

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Twelfth Session

Twelfth Session (8 page pdf) – “The Key To cannibalWar Machine, Part II” – Cannibals apparently infest the crypt, which in addition to normal crypt dangers keeps the pirates on their toes – and losing some, to the grinding bear traps all over the area.

It’s all sodden dungeon crawling with cannibals this session!  Still using “Tomb of the Necrophage” from Tombs of Golarion.

Easter egg – the cannibal’s chant of “Upote, maepote, maepu, maedepote” is from one of my favorite Karl Orff pieces, “De temporum fine comoedia“.

 

 

Freak Watch – Session Six

The Freak Watch continues their heroics!  See the campaign page for more.

Session Six Session Summary (3 page pdf)

Well, thanks to La Catrina teleporting her possessed mom inside the mansion, now Smorgascorpse himself is on the rampage.  Which is the silliest villain name ever.  But, he summons zombies, takes control of the ghost of Meriweather Lewis, yadda yadda. We execute a complicated plot including a “make the baby disappear like in Willow” gambit and eventually bust his lame skull up.

But, he’ll be back… Floating necromancer skulls are hard to kill.  We decide to go steal more bits for a ritual to put him away for good.  Paul randomly decides they’re at an abandoned amusement park in the Philippines.  Then we google it and find out there really is an abandoned amusement park in the Philippines named “Fantasy World” which is a great cover for an underground SKULL base.

But sadly, this is the last session summary.  We played another time or two and finished out the campaign, but Chris wanted to focus more on playing the game and less on the session summaries because so much of the game’s focus is the interpersonal relationships and personal journey of the characters, and session summarizing kinda gets in the way of interaction.  It’s easier for “long round” mechanics games like Pathfinder, but it can be hard to keep up and participate well in an Apocalypse type game.

Never fear, we all live, Kid Kafka gets turned back human and gets a big ol’ kiss from Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade! La Catrina and The Infamous Wasp make up and decide to be real heroes their own way.

I enjoyed playing La Catrina, the emo Hispanic teenage girl with various family ties. Masks is a good system, we are loving the various Powered by the Apocalypse games and how people can really mold them to suit the exact kind of feel they are looking for.  This campaign definitely came off as “Young Justice”-y and the teenage mind-changing and self-discovery, and the up and down relationships with peers and adults, were deeply hooked both into the roleplay but also the game mechanics in a very satisfying way.

Freak Watch – Session Five

The Freak Watch continues their heroics!  See the campaign page for more.

Session Five Session Summary (5 page pdf)

First, we go to the HQ of the Los Muertos motorcycle gang to call in a favor from Centipede. Then, Kid Kafka disappears into a cocoon.  And La Catrina’s mother gets possessed!

Finally, the group all comes together to fight a killer robot and bunch of goons trying to deliver an explosive statue.

I take a lot of joy in always using a different word for the Infamous Wasp’s name (Incredulous Wasp?  Inconsolable Wasp?) and arguing with him about race and gender politics. He basically is a black teen whose mentor (The Question) has become a Rush Limbaugh style radio host which La Catrina finds incredibly vexing; depending on the state of their relationship her reaction varies from gentle ribbing to “what is wrong with you, you Urkel looking pendejo.”

Freak Watch – Session Four

The Freak Watch continues their heroics!  See the campaign page for more.

Session Four Session Summary (3 page pdf)

Kid Kafka has a bad experience at a Denny’s (par for the course) and then when we find out Junior Musto is going to steal a hovercraft that Rory Limbo is building for the Atomic Skull, we decide to steal it first!

The Masks rules continue to balance us between superheroic action and teen interpersonal drama in an entertaining way.  And Paul takes with good humor our lack of knowledge of the fringes of the DC universe. (La Catrina keeps getting Lady Shiva mixed up with The Centipede because obviously someone named Lady Shiva would have multiple arms, right, it just stands to reason…)

Freak Watch – Session Three

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

Session Three Session Summary (5 page pdf)

This session begins with the ghost of Meriweather Lewis hectoring Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade in the haunted mansion that serves as our base.  He warns of a supernatural threat poking around.

smorgascorpse

La Catrina’s Artist’s Rendering Of What Smorgascorpse Must Look Like

La Catrina, Infamous Wasp, and Kid Kafka are driving back from Whitey Gated Community when she calls.  La Catrina, happy to get away from her continuing argument with Wasp, teleports there and they drink Boone’s Farm and commiserate till Zombie Marco probes the perimeter… Apparently TVS raised him (a former capoeira-oriented hero) to help in some fight. He demands she give the shadowblade back to “Smorgascorpse”, some enemy necromancer of TVS’es.

Then the rest of the group shows up, and TVS gets a text from the boys she met in Session One and we go to an underground club to meet them.

So it’s hard to get across in the session summary all the emotions and stuff involved in the session. It’s easy to write down the physical action, but in Masks the emotional action is as important (and it’s what a lot of the mechanics are about).  From La Catrina’s point of view, she went and got paired off with some boring guy who started talking smack about the killer “ripper roach” – obviously Kid Kafka – and got her mad. He missed the increasingly dangerous glint in her eyes as she led him on with “ooo tell me more,” and then she lures him over to an alley to “stand guard while she throws up” and then makes an illusion of the giant killer roach, panicking him.  Kid Kafka and Wasp “come to her rescue” and she’s laughing, she tries to get Kafka to feel good about her “sticking up for him” but he gets mad instead and they have an argument with various game moves involved. 

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Paladin Cat!

Then there’s a fight with a bag lady or something, she didn’t pay as much attention to that, though when the zombie rat swarm went towards the club full of kids she did make an illusion of a phalanx of paladin cats that turned them away!Anyway, then we steal a safe, and then we go to a zombie hobo jungle.  Plot ensues. The most interesting part is when Kid Kafka gets overwhelmed with zombies and la Catrina tries to leap into the horde to teleport him out but fails, she suddenly becomes possessed by Santa Muerte, which works well in the short term but then TVS smacks her right out of Catrina. So that seems like it’ll be some long term conflict.

Freak Watch – Session Two

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

Session Two Session Summary (4 page pdf)

This session starts with a little vignette for each character.  Kid Kafka goes to see an entomologist friend, La Catrina goes home to see her mother, and The Infamous Wasp goes to the radio studio where the former Question hosts a fringe conservative talk radio show. Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade is not in attendance.

juniormusto

Junior Musto

But then a bunch of bikers – the Los Muertos gang that La Catrina’s brother Lalo is still a part of – roll into the college and start making trouble.  Kid Kafka’s on the scene; the rest of us get over there. Wasp fights all the bikers while Kid Kafka and La Catrina rescue some scientist from Junior Musto (Darkman on crystal meth). Turns out he is a SKULL scientist (you know, some naughty science organization like they have).

The rest of the session is us making him get us into his gated community – apparently all the people working for this plastics company aren’t just in a normal gated community but like an across-a-ferry, super-high-security, ethnics-certainly-not-welcome kind of community. We scope out his house and KK and Catrina drink some of his beers and get a selfie of the underage Catrina sitting in  his lap with a beer for later blackmail purposes.  The super proper Wasp doesn’t like this and sulks outside and he and Catrina engage in an epic text message argument that gets her all upset (actually inflicting the Guilty condition!). But, she got to call him “a square-ass Urkel wanna-be.”

The end of session moves squiggle our stats around!  Stats aren’t fixed in this game, they go up and down with moves, at least at the end of each session and sometimes more. It explains why some of those teen supers are hell on wheels in some episodes and pathetic losers in others!

Freak Watch – Session One

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

tidwell-deaths-head-moth-red-web

Death’s Head Moth

Session One Session Summary (9 page pdf)

The first session of Masks is interactive character creation. Paul handed out the playbooks, and I picked the Delinquent; Chris, the Protege; Patrick, The Transformed; and Tim, the Doomed.  He told us we were in Hub City, which is the Detroit-like home of The Question from DC Comics. We came up with…

La Catrina, ex-gang Hispanic girl who got Santa Muerte type powers of illusion and teleportation following a gang shootout. She is a graffiti artist; the graphic above is a representative sample of her work, usually left somewhere inaccessible for someone without her powers.

The Infamous Wasp, a young black man who is the protege of The Question, the retired Rorshach-like former hero of Hub City. He detects and fights and bosses us around.

Kid Kafka, who was transformed into a roach-man on some archaeological dig gone wrong. We’re pretty sure he was a honky before becoming a bug. He has big bug powers (being strong, being indestructible).

Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade, whose name is obviously inspired by the Deadpool movie, is a gender-ambiguous Asian emo. She’s a necromancer and telekinetic and has some magic witchblade thing.

We came up with a backstory driven by the system’s questions about how we came together and had battled The Banshee And The Wailers and generally crashed at TVS’ haunted mansion. (Haunted by the ghost of Meriweather Lewis, I’ll note.)

The first session was mostly a softball; we went to a traveling Egyptian exhibit and were interrupted by “Seismic Prime” and “Centipede” busting up the road and causing trouble. It helped get us used to the mechanics – there’s no ‘roll to bust heads’ maneuver – here, look at the moves for yourself. There’s adult moves to act more directly but even “Directly Engage a Threat” doesn’t do, like, damage to them. A lot of the action – between PCs and NPCs, but also between PCs, are the softer moves.  I finally “defeated” Centipede with Pierce The Mask after rattling her some; she gave me info and scuttled off with me now having Influence over her. Fights generally aren’t to the death or even to the unconsciousness.

An interesting attribute of the rules is that in Dungeon World, our previous Powered by the Apocalypse campaign, the moves are pretty standalone. In Masks there seem to often be logical followup moves and a lot of the collateral effects are e.g. gaining Influence or even causing someone’s stats to shift.

After the fight, both Kid Kafka and TVS had gotten flak from the locals (roach and vampire are attacking, run!), and Wasp and I went back to the mansion and used various moves like “Comfort or Support” on them. In the end it all went well! Paul declared he’d have to put a stop to that.

Our session summaries are less in depth than some campaigns because we’re moving fast and Chris wants to participate in the fun and not just write it down!  I’m also taking notes and adding bits and pieces in post. Enjoy!