Sunday, March 31, 2013

Space 1889: Riders of the Upper Nepenthans

Wherein a small group of stepperiders accompanies a pregnant woman to meet her future husband. A  story about glory and battle told at the fires of the Upper Nephentans.

Ranix the Warrior, Fazuuk the Seer and Tarn'k the Hunter are given the task of bringing the pregnant woman Kiszula to meet her future husband Prince Harka from the Lower Nephentan tribe. Among the stepperiders of Mars, it is taboo to marry within ones own tribe. Kiszula managed to get herself pregnant at the last tribal gathering and insists that the child is Prince Harka's. So the princes of the Upper and Lower Nepenthans brokered an agreement for a marriage between Kiszula and Prince Harka. Fazuuk, Ranix and Tarn'k are now suppossed to take Kiszula to the Ruumet Breer Graveyard located between the tribes' territories.

Tarn'k scouts ahead on his gashant while the other three Nephentans follow on their own gashants and with the gashant carrying the dowry for Kiszula. Travelling with a pregnant  Martian woman is exhausting. Her constant complaints are met with stoic silence by Ranix, chatter about the ancestors by Fazuuk, and an absent minded "Yes, Kiszula" by Tarn'k. Maybe that's why Tarn'k acts as an outrider.

Near the end of their journey to the Ruumet Breer Graveyard, Tarn'k encounters a carcass of a slain ruumet breer. From the wounds it looks like steppe tigers had slain the mighty beasts. In the distance, he spots a cave that might be the lair of the steppe tigers. He leads the group on a detour to avoid directly crossing through the steppe tiger territory.

At nightfall, they set up camp. Fazuuk proceeds to settle down Kiszula as comfortably as possible. Tarn'k builds the fire and Ranix keeps watch. Then Kiszula asks Tarn'k to come over and asks him to bed down next to her during the night, because she is cold. Tarn'k elegantly passes this task off to Fazuuk who tells Kiszula that he knows how difficult things are. Kiszula says he can't imagine what she is going through. Fazuuk tells her that the female ancestors also speak to him and thus he knows what to do. He gives her a broth of steppegras beer and herbs that settle her down - and make her somewhat delirious. She implies that Prince Harka wasn't alone with her when she got pregnant, that he didn't lead "his gashant to the watering hole" and that he isn't even interested in women. Surley, the ravings of a delirious mind and nowhere near the truth...

Later at night, during Tarn'k's watch, the young hunter suddenly hears a noise in the dark. He draws his bow, wakes Ranix, tells him to be silent and cautiously proceeds away from the fire. Indeed, they are not alone. Two steppe tigers are circling around the camp. Tarn'k shoots an arrow but narrowly misses one of them. Then the steppe tigers leap into the camp. Ranix get badly wounded, Tarn'k lets loose arrow after arrow and Fazuuk protects Kiszula and prays to the ancestors. Indeed, the ancestors are on the side of the Nepenthan warriors. Ranix manages to slay both steppetiger after Tarn'k has hit his them with arrows several times.

Afterwards, Ranix insists on moving the camp a bit; and in the morning hours, Ranix and Tarn'k start to gather trophies from the carcasses: teeths, parts of the furs and Tarn'k successfully removes one of the bone plates from a steppe tiger's skull. Fazuuk tries to get Kiszula to eat some raw steppetiger meat to make the unborn child stronger. Then the warriors and Kiszula continue their travels.

On the last day of their journey, Tarn'k finds some trails of heavily-loaded  gashants and as he arrives at the Ruumet Breer Graveyard, he finds a discarded metal flask with some clear liquid that smells and tastes alcoholic. The alcohol is much stronger than any steppebeer. Probably belonging to some red nosed invader.

After a while, the entourage of the Lower Nepenthans arrives. Their gashants look as if they were wounded and their leader Tenpashan demands to married to Kiszula. Fazuuk refuses and after some huffing and puffing by Tenpashan and his warriors, he gets to the bottom of the tale: Prince Harka was apparently shot down from his gashant by some red nose warriors that he tried to attach. Instead of helping him, Tenpashan ordered a tactical retreat. With the prince dead, he'll become the next chieftain of the Lower Nepenthans. Kiszula would be his fourth wife. Fazuuk then brokers an agreement: the Lower Nepenthans will guard Kiszula while Fazuuk, Ranix and Tarn'k will verify that Prince Harka is indeed dead. Also, if Kiszula marries Tenpashan, the Upper Nepenthans will receive eight rifles. That settled, the three warriors proceed to track the red noses.

Tarn'k can easily track the trail left by the gashants of the invaders. The red noses aren't particularly careful to conceal their tracks. They feel rather secure out here in the Nepenthes-Toth Steppe. As the night falls, and Phobos and Deimos rise in the sky, Tarn'k finds their encampment behind a hill. He sneaks closer, signalling Fazuuk and Ranix not to approach. Tarn'k sees several earthmen dressed in uniforms sitting around a campfire, drinking and joking while a lone guard patrols the perimeter. Also, he sees a cage large enough to hold captives with one huddled form inside. That could be Prince Harka.

Tarn'k reports back to the other two warriors and they formulate a plan. Ranix and Fazuuk will approach the camp to trade the prisoner, while Tarn'k will sneak around to the cage ready to free the prisoners, if Ranix and Fazuuk fail.

As Ranix and Fazuuk approach openly, the red noses call their officer forth. He speaks some Koline and the trade commences. But unfortunately, Tarn'k is discovered and all hell breaks loose. Ranix is gravely wounded by the sabre of the office, but with the help of Fazuuk's ancestors and Tarn'k's arrows raining down, the three Martians prove victorious.

Tarn'k opens the cage and discovers that there are not one but two prisoners. One is a savage High Martian without wings, the other one calls himself "Hamfreyy Laawreenz", a warrior of the Princess Kwin Vyktooreea, a might warrioress chieftain from Earth. Ranix collects the rifles and ammunition of the fallen invading warriors. Also, he claims the sabre as his trophy. The High Martian confirms to Tarn'k that Prince Harka is indeed dead.

Triumphant, but with sad news they return to Kiszula. Haamfreyy and the High Martian come with them, to be taken to one of the canals after the marriage ceremony. Fazuuk marries Kiszula and Tenpashan. The warrior return with 38 rifles, steppe tiger furs, and teeths and bones from the beasts to the Upper Nepenthans to be hailed as heroes and celebrated.

Note: I keep wanting to write "... her future ex-husband". Definitely reading too much After Elton.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Space 1889: Scandals in St. James's

Wherein five adventuresome gentlemen meet for a rather unintentionally scandalous evening at the Travellers Club in 1889. Acquaintances are made, the Russians make a move and dinner is interrupted.

The evening starts at the estate of the Sir Winston Lawrence, chanting can be heard from downstairs. As the head of the household investigates, he finds his daughter Elizabeth Lawrence listening to the chants of a human who tries to clean the house with fake Martian chants. Her sister Lydia is watching from the stairs. Sir Lawrence doesn't find that very amusing and has his Martian butler, Vincent, remove the fake Martian guru from the property. Vincent (his Martian name being unpronounceable to most humans) complies and while escorting the guru out, secretly retrieves the 20 pounds sterling that Miss Elizabeth had paid the fraudulent guru. Sir Lawrence has a stern talk with his daughter in the meantime and decides that it's best, if she gets married soon. Miss Elizabeth begs her father to not reconsider taking her to the dinner reception of Sir Robert Whitecliff at the Travellers' Club. Sir Lawrence relents and tells her that she can still come.

Meanwhile at the Travellers' Club, Humphrey Lawrence, the estranged and missing son of Sir Lawrence, is talking with his High Martian travelling companion. The winged monstrosity gulps down raw meat and speaks in a strange mixture of Martian and German.

William Herondale, gainfully employed with the Foreign Office in London and a second-degree nephew of Sir Lawrence, meets with Sir Pinterbottom at the request of Lady Amelia Pond, a woman playing in the Great Game for the British Intelligence agency. William had met Lady Amelia in Cambridge where she had recruited him for the British Intelligence agency. After spending some time in Istanbul and getting entangled with a Russian operative called Natasha Iswolska, William had returned to London and a new assignment with Sir Lawrence. Officially, his mother asked her uncle to employ him, but unofficial William is under orders of the British Intellegence agency.

Sir Pinterbottom sits on a bench and reads a newspaper as William approaches and sits down next to him. Pinterbottom tells him about the dinner reception at the Travellers' Club and more or less points out that this is important business that William is attending there. The young man should keep his eyes open.

In the evening, Mr Huntingdon, a veteran of the second Afghan war and a suitor of Miss Elizabeth is travelling by Hansom cab to the Travellers' Club to attend the same dinner reception as the other gentlemen. His cab is forced into a detour because of Irish dock workers rioting in St. James's. That is just a bit odd, because the dock worker union was suppossed to have ceased their strike some days ago. Nevertheless, Mr Huntingdon arrives at the club, limps in and deposites his big hunting rifle at the reception desk.

In the drawing room, others are already waiting. Sir Lawrence with his wife Margret and their daughters Elizabeth and Lydia, and the young aide William Herondale. Butler Vincent is standing discreetly on the side, ready to serve his master Sir Lawrence. Shortly after Mr Huntingdon enters, a big burly Russian named Ivan enters and asks the somewhat impatient Sir Lawrence and entourage to follow him to the ballroom. William finds this a bit odd, since the dinner reception will be held in the smoking room.

The assembled ladies and gentlemen follow Ivan and he leads them to meet with his employer, Duke Alexander Petrovitch Iswolski. When William is introduced to the duke, he reacts a bit impulsively and tells him to give his daughter Natasha his regards. Sir Lawrence is irritated by that. His aide is not supposed to speak before him. As introductions are finally made, Sir Lawrence belittles the Russian diplomat in a rather insulting manner. But that isn't what concerns the duke. He merely wants to present Sir Lawrence with a mutual acquaintance.

Humphrey Lawrence is waiting in an anteroom with several doors. He has been told by Mr Robert Whitecliff to wait there. Humphrey is patiently waiting for the dinner reception of Mr Robert Whitecliff to begin. He is wearing leather pants, boots and other rough travelling gear. Suddenly, one of the doors is opened by Ivan. Humphrey wonders why it is the door to the ballroom and not the door to the smoking room, when Duke Iswolski points to him and presents him to his father, Sir Lawrence. While doing so, he tells Sir Lawrence that Humphrey was found wandering the streets of Syrtis Major in a rather dishevelled state and slightly out of his mind. Humphrey is glad to see his father, but his father will have none of it, even implying that Humphrey is an imposter.

Miss Elizabeth swoons upon seeing her lost brother, but Mr Huntingdon manages to catch her and carries her to a nearby couch. He tells Vincent to get some water. The Martian butler leaves, but encounters Ivan who tells him that Sir Whitecliff is already waiting for his guests to arrive. Vincent goes back to the ballroom and tells Sir Lawrence that Sir Whitecliff is waiting. Duke Islowski leads Humphrey back into the anteroom. Everybody else leaves for the smoking room granting Miss Elizabeth and Mr Huntingdon some time alone. She complains about her tight corset and asks Mr Huntingdon to please loosen it a bit. Of course, the love-struck Mr Huntingdon complies. Then both of them go to the smoking room, just in time before Sir Lawrence sends Vincent to get his daughter.

Besides the entourage of Sir Lawrence and Duke Iswolski, Mr Runark is attending the dinner reception. Sir Whitecliff is a tycoon building etherships for her Majesty, Queen Victoria. The HMS Canterbury is his most recent project and is affected by delays. The dock workers strike is just one of many issues. The HMS Canterbury is suppossed to contain a lot of new and innovative designs, yet none of the patents have been registered yet. The maiden voyage will take the HMS Canterbury to Mars, but things are not going well. Apparently, Sir Whitecliff is getting desperate by inviting a Russian duke and his competitor Mr Runark to  dinner. He hopes to gain something here.

Before the dinner begins, Sir Whitecliff opens the door to the antechamber and introduces Humphrey to his family. None of the assembled guests hint at meeting Humphrey earlier already. Sir Lawrence greets his son a lot warmer than just minutes before and asks Vincent to pick out some suitable suits from among those stashed at the club. Vincent leads Humphrey upstairs to help him get changed. When the two return, the dinner has already started.

Mr Huntingdon flirts with Miss Elizabeth who tries to get William Herondale to join into the discussion too. William obliges and smiles at her. Something that Mr Huntingdon doesn't find very amusing. He gets into a duel of words with Mr Herondale. Mr Herondale likes the dance of words and secretly delights at appearing to flirt with Miss Elizabeth. Though his true target is Mr Runark. The other tycoon is rumored to still be single at a rather advanced age and to have a rather unseemly close relation to his personal secretary and aide. William know the secretary from meetings in circumstances best not mentioned in polite society. Now, William is casting occasional glances at Mr Runark. Mr Huntingdon elbows him in the side causing William to loose his composure on the first try. But finally, Mr Runark notices the young man's interest.

During dinner, Vincent uses the opportunity to nose around the club a bit. He notices Ivan, the butler and bodyguard of Duke Iswolski going upstairs. Discreetly, he follows him and observes that Ivan exchanges coin with a person guarding a door, saying something about 9 o'clock and the duke leaving at that time. Vincent looks around a bit and finds another door leading into the guarded room. There he picks the lock and carefully opens the door. On the other side, a High Martian is sitting in the room still chewing on raw meat and muttering words Koline and German.

Shortly before 9 o'clock, Ivan enters the smoking room and whispers to Duke Iswolski. The duke gets up and excuses himself from the dinner, since he has to attend to urgent business elsewhere.

After the duke leaves, the dinner is interrupted as an angry young man intrudes into the smoking room. He confronts Sir Whitecliff and apparently is his son Michael Whitecliff. Father and son go into the adjoing room. Then a loud noise is heard like someone hitting somebody right in the face. William very rashly jumps up and goes into the other room to see if everything is alright. Sir Lawrence tries to stop him by asking for a few words, but William brushes him aside more concerned with the well-being of Sir Whitecliff.  Unfortunately, invading a families privacy in Victorian times is a social gaffe. As he opens the door, he watches Michael Whitecliff storming out of the room and Sir Whitecliff holding a bloody handkerchief to his nose. William asks if everything is alright and then escorts Sir Whitecliff back into the room. None of the others have noticed the blood.

Sir Lawrence is rather angry at his aide, and even Miss Elizabeth is not so sure, if William will be adequate competition for Mr Huntingdon. Suddenly, noises can be heard from outside. Mr Herondale walks to the window and sees rioting dock workers in front of the club. They throw a brick through the window which narrowly misses Mr Herondale. From downstairs noise indicates that the front door has been broken open. Upstairs, Vincent sees the guard lifting his rifle, turning to the door and shooting through the door - presumably to kill the High Martian.

In Closing: This report is of course heavily biased by the person witnessing the events and reporting them to his superiors in the British Foreign Office.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monsterhearts: Devil Falls, AK Episode 3

In the third episode only three players were present: Max the hollow, Annalee the witch and Baron the infernal. A week has passed since the party and the disappearance of Chloe. The episode opens at the funeral of Erica. Annalee refuses to attend, therefore she isn't present. Max more or less watches impassively. Baron tries to throw some of the merrow ash into the grave, but is prevented from doing so by grandma April. The old witch wants to talk with Baron and grabs his ear. That's when he pushes her into the open grave. Max jumps down to help the elderly woman to get out. But apparently, she has broken her leg. The football team helps to get her out. Baron wants to runs off, but is stopped by Ms Chamberlain the homeroom teacher. She gives him detention for the rest of the week. Baron huffs off. Max follows him.

Meanwhile, Annalee has taken refuge in a quiet corner of the library. She gazes inward reaching for visions. She sees how Carol prays to Kal'Thoragh to set her free. The demon lord complies with her wishes and opens her cell door and loosens her straight-jacket. She attacks the nearest orderly and kills him by chewing through his neck with her bare teeth. Annalee feels that Carol is coming for her and Max. Frightened, she runs from the library into the arms of Spencer the groundskeeper. He corners her and she eventually faints. He carries her off into the gym.

During a short break, Max wonders where Annalee is. He asks around until he meets Misty, Iris and Amanda. They tell him that they haven't seen her at all. Baron hovers around the edge of the conversation, while Misty tentatively tries to flirt with Max telling him that she's sorry for what they did. But she also reminds him that without the witches he'd literally be nothing at all.

While Max is talking with the witches, Baron talks to his best friend Veronica. Then he suddenly has an insight where Annalee is. He sprints to the gym followed by the coven, Max and Veronica. Just in time they stop Spencer from doing something unmentionable to Annalee and wake her. Annalee runs out into the rain, while the three remaining witches turn on Spencer who is fleeing. Baron runs after Annalee, and Max goes after the witches.

The witches are standing at the edge of the hockey field, chanting. Spencer is climbing a ladder into the lighting rigging. Max suspects the obvious: the witches want Spencer to kill himself by jumping down to the hockey field. He starts to talk the witches out of their course of action. They don't really listen. In the end, Max grabs Misty to carry her away. Misty slams a pair of scissors into his back. Max is injured, but the circle is broken and Spencer survives.

Out on her way to the greenhouse, Annalee meets the merrow. The one that Chloe turned into. Baron stops in his tracks as well and flees into the greenhouse. He slams the door shut and cowers on the ground. Annalee is lunging with her knife at the throat of the merrow. Baron gazes into the abyss. Something unexpected happens. He sees a vision of how he can save himself from Kal'Thoragh by saving Annalee and trying to get away from his demonlord. He hears the words "God loves you." He gathers his courage and leaves the greenhouse to confront the merrow.

Annalee manages to wound the merrow, but it lashes out at her. Enough is enough. Annalee changes. Her hair becomes darker, her fingernails grow, she becomes her darkest self and casts an illusion. Suddenly, to Baron and the merrow she appears as an incarnation of Kal'Thoragh the Butcher. The merrow retreats in panic. Baron kneels down and sees that his demonlord reaches for him with his flaming sword. Annalee cuts of a lock of hair from a terrified Baron. The boy flees to the front of the school to get away from her.

Max, Baron and finally Annalee go to their sixth hour class: English Literature with Coach Delgado. Since Max and Baron arrive much too late, he gives them detention. Annalee arrives last, almost five minutes before the end of class. Delgado talks to her, giving her the choice between detention and joining the school newspaper. She opts for the latter. Then she tries to turn him on. He turns her down. She is hurt and turns all the books in class into bugs. Everyone freaks out. Except Baron and Max. Baron crushes the big bug in front of him and pulls its intestines out. Max watches calmly and suspecting something to be very wrong with Annalee. Annalee flirts openly with Gary who tries to protect his screaming girlfriend Faye. Delgado suffers a nervous breakdown. Class is over and Annalee persuades Gary to join her in the cellar for some hot kissing.

Annalee drags Gary down into the boiler room where they start making out. Kissing turns into much more. Afterwards, Gary gladly gives Annalee the friendship jewelry he shared with Faye. Annalee is happy, but not finished. As the two leave the cellar, they stumble upon a corpse. Another cheerleader has been killed. They inform Principal O'Rourke. But when they return with her, the corpse is gone.

After school's out, Max and Baron return from seeing the school nurse James who treated their wounds. They join Coach Delgado and the hockey team at the ice stadium. Zack is there, Baron's friend from the WoW guild, Veronica and Annalee. All three want to watch the hockey practice with Baron. Zack uses his iPad to tape the whole thing. Veronica doesn't like Annalee being there. She's afraid that the witch is after Baron who she's secretly in love with.

The hockey game between Team Max and Team Baron is surprisingly evenly matched. A whole lot of calling on dark powers is going on until Kal'Thoragh grants victory to Team Baron. Coach Delgado looks pleased that Baron is finally becoming a team player and offers him a place on the ice hockey team. Baron - to everyone's surprise - accepts.

Annalee is cheering Baron, and Veronica has had enough. She pushes Annalee into the row in front of her. But Annalee isn't intimidated. She causes all the hockey sticks to turn into snakes. Coach Delgado suffers another nervous breakdown. Zack runs out, leaving his iPad behind. Annalee snatches the iPad. Veronica also is visibly shaken. Delgado leaves to see the nurse and leaves Baron in charge. Baron simply ends the practice session by saying: "It's over."

TO BE CONTINUED

Notes:

  • Annalee is still in her darkest self. Currently, I am not sure who she harmed the most: Carol or Faye. I told her Carol. She said "Oh, that's easy. I just drive to Fairbanks, go and see her, and then apologize." If things would be that easy, we wouldn't play to find out...
  • The characters had another vision (not mentioned above) and know that Kal'Thoragh needs five dead girls before he can start to manifest.


Monsterhearts: Devil Falls, AK Episode 2

This was session I preped with a threat, a custom move and a love letter. Annalee the Witch, Max the Hollow, Cassidy the Werewolf and Baron the Infernal were joined by a new student, Gabriel the Angel. Gabriel knew that god loved Baron more than him, and Cassidy reminds him of heaven.

We cut back to the early afternoon and see that Baron drugs the beer with the green pills obtained from Paul. Just as Kal'Thorag the Butcher had commanded him to do. Then he goes back to the school and puts what is left of the pills into Boyd's locker. Boyd is the arrogant goaltender of the hockey team, and Coach Delgado's son. Baron doesn't like him in the least - though it is a mystery why.

Cassidy, Max and Gabriel arrive at the party early that evening. Cassidy and Gabriel both drink the drugged beer. Max doesn't, because he knows what is in there. Baron tricks Faye, the chaste and pure class president into drinking some of the beer too. Gary, her boyfriend keeps asking for Annalee who hasn't come to the party yet. The two fight a little and Faye stumps away frustrated. Just in that moment, Cassidy picks up screaming from beyond the hill leading back to town. Cassidy recognizes the scream as Annalee's. She runs off, followed closely by Gabriel and Baron.

When they reach a frightened Annalee, they see that she's attacked by a a hideous monster with green scales, black lanky hair and iron claws - the merrow that killed and almost ate Erica. They save Annalee from the monster and attack it. Baron and Gabriel hurl rocks and a golden glowing mug (Gabriel manifesting some of his powers). Cassidy changes into her wolf shape behind their backs and attacks the merrow viciously. The three of them bring the merrow down, while Annalee flees to the (questionable) safety of the party. There she meets Max and her friends Carol, Amanda, Misty and Iris. The five girls form a secret witches' coven. Carol, Amanda, Misty and Iris keep eyeing Max.

Meanwhile, Baron, Cassidy and Gabriel kill the merrow. Cassidy, still in wolf shape runs into the woods, and Gabriel follows her. Baron sits down besides the corpse of the merrow to gaze into the abyss listening for the commands of his master, Kal'Thorag. His demonic master answers and lets the body of the merrow burn into fine green dust. He commands Baron to take the dust and use it to turn someone into a merrow. Baron happily agrees.

Gabriel confronts the wolf and calls her on being Cassidy. Cassidy turns back into her human shape, and Gabriel lends her his jacket. Just then they are interrupted by Melissa, the head cheerleader, and her boyfriend Todd, the captain of the hockey team. They immediately suspect Cassidy and Gabriel as having had sex in the woods. Melissa giggles and makes fun of them. Then she and Todd run off to tell the others.

Finally, everyone is back at the party, happily drinking. Baron gets close to Chloe who had been pregnant with Kal'Thorag's child last summer, but choose to have an abortion. He puts some of the dust on her. She immediately begins to transform. Everyone is shocked, but nobody had noticed Baron doing the deed. As Chloe transforms slowly, hardly anyone notices. Annalee runs to her coven un order to do some magic. She wants the other students to flee. Together with her coven she enacts a big illusion of  approaching police sirens. Panic breaks out, everyone runs away. Gabriel and Cassidy drive off the merrow, before also fleeing. But now both are injured.

Carol collapses after doing the spell. Carol had been the designated driver and everyone else except Max has had something to drink. Max agrees to take Annalee and her friends home in Carol's pickup. On their way back to town, the car collides with a big black shape. Annalee blacks out. When she comes around again, she is alone in the car. Max and the witches are gone.

Cassidy and Gabriel end their flight at the football field behind the school. They start treating their wounds and eventually start kissing. Kisses turn into touches, touches turn into cast-off clothing. In the end, Melissa would be correct with her assumption.

In the meantime, Annalee walks home and tries to find out where Max is. She locks herself into her room and sacrifices Max' diary that she stole in order to cast a spell. She falls into a deep trance and enters Max' body. When Max opens his eyes, he is bound inside a cave, naked and in a ceremonial circle. Amanda, Misty and Iris are also there. Unbound, admiring their captive. As Amanda crawls all over him, Max gazes into the abyss. There he receives strange visions. He sees four girls (Amanda, Carol, Misty and Iris) forming a homunculous out of clay, praying and pouring life energy into the clay. Carol is not with the others. Instead, in the vision, in a small corner of the cave, she sacrifices to Kal'Thoragh. As she sheds her blood, the demon lord animates the clay creature who turns into Max. The hollow is tainted by the dark energies of Kal'Thoragh. Annalee's contact with Max gives him fleeting access to her spell powers. He confronts Amanda and casts a withering aging spell on her. As Amanda flees in horror, Misty and Iris etch a bit closer and Max, still bound, get's them to spill the story. They wanted their very own boytoy. That's why they created him. Annalee withdraws. Max convinces Iris and Misty to cut him loose. Then the two witches flee, leaving the still unconscious Carol behind.

Annalee has a good idea where the cave is located, even though she hasn't been there yet. She takes daddy's car and drives to the Devil Falls at the end of Crescent Lake. On her way there she tries to figure out how to help Max. She doesn't like where her thoughts are leading her. She suspects that Max was created as vessel for Kal'Thoragh. She wonders how to break the bond between demon lord and vessel, then she understands clearly that she has to kill Carol.

Max meets her halfway around Crescent Lake, but Annalee insists on going to the cave. There she plans to murder Carol, but in the end cannot bring herself to murder the unconscious girl in cold blood. Instead, Annalee and Max take her to grandma April. Annalee spills the story about Carol's involvement to her grandma late at night. The elderly witch binds Carol and the next day, she is taken to a mental hospital in Fairbanks.

Next morning in class, Ms Chamberlain the homeroom teacher announces that a new student will join the class. His name is Gabriel and he just moved to Devil Falls.

TO BE CONTINUED

Notes:
- Mostly went well. I should have let Annalee roll "Manipulate an NPC" to get her grandmother to help. But that roll didn't matter in the end.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stranger Shores: Character for a Hangout Game


On Thursday, I am GMing a hangout game in the Stranger Shore setting. The game is supposed to serve as a short introduction into FATE Core. I've prepared five characters for the players to choose from. The skills are already adjusted to reflect the latest changes to FATE Core. All characters still have aspects and skill slots for the players to customize them. The faction names are explained in this post. All characters start with Refresh 3, stress boxes are based on Physique and Will respectively (and thus not listed).

Malthusian Fallen Angel

Aspects:
High Concept: Fallen Angel
Faction: Malthusian Conspirator
Community: Shady Dealings

Skill Pyramid:
Great (+4): Contacts
Good (+3): Elemental Control (Light), Resources
Fair (+2): Fight, Shoot

Stunts & Extras: 

  • Sinister Reputation: You can use Contacts instead of Intimidation to create advantages based on the fear generated by the sinister reputation you’ve cultivated for yourself and all the shady associates you have.
  • Seven League Stride: By apparently walking straight into a wall or a shadow, the character can teleport to another location within one day travel of his current location. The player needs to spend a FATE point to use the stunt.
  • Elemental Control (Light): Can use light to overcome obstacles, create advantages, attack and defend.

Humanist Community Leader

Aspects:
High Concept: Coarse,yet gentle Ogre
Weakness: People & things are fragile
Faction: Humanist Spokesperson

Skill Pyramid:
Great (+4): Physique
Good (+3): Provoke, Empathy
Fair (+2): Fight,

Stunts & Extras: 
  • Brutal: Use Physique instead of Fighting to physically attack a physically unharmed opponent.
  • Tough Hide: Armor:2 vs all attacks causing physical stress.
  • Incredibly strong: gain +2 to Physique, when overcoming any physical obstacles to movement.

Demonic Geneticist

Aspects:
High Concept: Purified Demon
Weakness: Cold-wrought iron
Faction: Darwinist Geneticist
Job: Researcher at GenTech Industries

Skill Pyramid:
Great (+4): Lore
Good (+3): Elemental Control (Fire), Investigate
Fair (+2): Fight,

Stunts & Extras: 
  • Scientist: Gain +2 to Lore, when creating advantages related to biological research.
  • Flaming whip: Gain Weapon:2 when physically attacking with your flaming whip
  • Elemental Control: Fire. You can use fire to overcome obstacles, create advantages, attack and maybe even defend.

Iconoclast Warlock

Aspects:
High Concept: Wicked Warlock of the North
Weakness: For whom the bell tolls
Faction: Iconoclast clawing at the gates of Faerie

Skill Pyramid:
Great (+4): Witchcraft
Good (+3): Lore, Will
Fair (+2): Deceive, Notice

Stunts & Extras: 
  • Witchcraft: You can use the Witchcraft skill to overcome obstacles and create advantages
  • Warlock: You can use the Witchcraft skill to attack and defend.
  • Knowledgeable: You gain +2 with Lore when creating advantages related to the weaknesses of supernatural creatures

Albigensian Nephilim

Aspects:
High Concept: Haughty & arrogant Nephelim
Faction: Disgusted Abligensian
Community: Fear and Loathing in Juneau

Skill Pyramid:
Great (+4): Provoke
Good (+3): Sorcery, Will
Fair (+2): Fight,
Average (+1): Physique

Stunts & Extras: 
  • Indomitable: Armor:2 vs all with Provoke or Witchcraft/Sorcery attacks causing mental damage
  • Sorcery: You can use your Sorcery skill to overcome obstacles and create advantages
  • Curse Heaven! You can use Provoke instead of Sorcery to attack people in churches, cemetaries and other sacred places mentally

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Monsterhearts: Session Prep

Tomorrow, the second episode of Devil Falls, AK will be played. I've decided that I need some session prep. Not much, but three things need to be addressed:

  • Annalee the Witch was cheated out of her gaze into the abyss at her grandmother's house.
  • Player characters might encounter the Merrow of Lake Crescent.
  • Baron the Infernal will drug the beer supply at the party. What happens if a player character drinks some beer?

I've decided to address Annalee's gaze into the abyss with a custom move, because she was looking for some very specific information. Also, I am going to introduce that custom move as a love letter. The Merrow will be statted as a threat. It is not, as of itself a menace, but rather a threat attached to a menace. I think the real menace is something else. Drinking beer at the party will be a custom move also. It will be rolled with +dark.

Love Letter to Annalee

Dear Annalee,

since I completely misjudged the scene at your grandmother's house with your aunts being all mean to you and you hitting the books looking for answers to your previous visions, you are entitled to roll +dark after the stats are highlighted. Don't forget to add the +1 carry forward from your previous vision. On 10+,  you can choose choose two: 
  • You will learn that Cassidy can take the shape of a wolf
  • You carry +1 forward toward asking Cassidy for help against the merrow
  • You are cured of one condition.
On a 7-9 choose one:
  • You will learn that Cassidy can take the shape of a wolf and you gain the condition "drained".
  • You learned a confusing jumble of half-truths and maybe even suspect Cassidy to be the merrow.
On a 6- you take the condition "unloved" because you listened too much to your mean aunts.

Love & kisses
Your MC

The Merrow

The merrow constitutes a threat. It craves intimacy (isolate them), it offers power (shower them with outlandish gifts) and it has the capacity for sudden violence (outright kill someone they love). The merrow is a tough opponent and will require 8 harm before being killed.

  • Is there only one merrow?
  • Who awakened the merrow?
  • Who is using the merrow?
  • Who will be offered power by the merrow?

Drinking the Drugged Beer

When you drink from the beer that has been poisoned with drugs by Baron, roll +dark. On a 10+ choose three. On a 7-9, you can choose two.
  • Baron doesn't gain a string on you.
  • The next morning, you do not gain the condition "headache".
  • You don't carry +1 forward when lashing out physically at the party.
  • You do not end up making out publicly with another student from your homeroom.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monsterhearts: Cardiff, Wales Episode 2

We continued our Google Hangout game set in Cardiff, Wales. The player of our witch Merill couldn't join us. So it was up to Lucien the Serpentine, Morrigan the Ghoul and Mattieu the Selkie to continue wreaking emotional havoc.

At the end of the last episode, Marcel the transgender teen was kissing Morrigan. Both were rather surprised by this event. Thomas saw that and looked confused between at Lucien and Mattieu. Lucien used that opportunity to smile back and obviously trying to turn Thomas on. Mattieu became jealous almost instantly and jumped over two tables to slug Lucien. Lucien's nose started bleeding and he faked unconsciousness. John the quarterback, who was standing next to Lucien, looked menacingly at Mattieu and cracked his knuckles. Mattieu told Thomas that he needn't follow someone like Lucien around - ignoring John completely. But Thomas reacted shocked and more or less told Mattieu to tell Lucien that he was sorry, because Thomas didn't want to associate with bullies. Mattieu reluctantly woke Lucien up and told him that he was sorry.

Morrigan came over and joined the boys, asking Mattieu: "And you want to become class president?" Mattieu just replied: "Actually, no. I only ran for the office, because someone told me it would be fun." Thus more or less taking himself out of the race. Then he left with Thomas.

After school Morrigan observed Felix handing over money to an older boy. In exchange, he got some knockout pills. Morrigan remembered that Felix had been infatuated with another girl, before taking interest in Merall. Back then, Felix had resorted to stalking. Morrigan figured out that Felix probably uses the knockout pills to get the girl he "wants" at the moment. She confronts him about it. Felix knocks her backwards into a lanternpost, causing a serious laceration. Morrigan, being the Ghoul that she is, shruggs the wound off and intimidates Felix by implying that the pills are the only way for him to get a girl. He leaves in a huff and gets on the bus.

Lucien comes home to the family mansion and is greated by his father. His father asks him sternly if he succeeded in becoming class president. Lucien tells him meekly that the voting has been postponed until the next day. Then he asks his father for help. Reluctantly, his father tells him about secret drugs hidden in grandfather's cupboard. He tells Lucien not to take too much, since grandpa isn't around anymore to make new ones. Supposedly mixed with alcohol, the drugs make a person very prone to accepting suggestions. Lucien also gets the car to buy some alcohol. He doesn't notice that he is not alone in the car. His little sister Cassandra has snuck into the backseat.

At school, Mattieu serves detention. Mr Gilles ordered him to clean all the desks in the classroom. Then he leaves him alone. Thomas joins him. Apparently standing back a bit insecurely. Mattieu exchanges a few words about texting with him. Thomas finds it hilarious that Mattieu "pretends" not to know about mobile phones and texting. Mattieu steps up to Thomas and then grabs him by the shoulders. Thomas apparently knows what he is doing and embraces Mattieu. Suddenly, he confidently kisses Mattieu. Mattieu shrugs out of his jeans and t-shirt, Thomas practically  tears of his own clothes and they explore each other. Mattieu submerges himself in the sensation, sees the visions the water brings him and realizes that he isn't the first Selkie to seduce (or be seduced?) by Thomas. The ocean shows him visions of Thomas making out with Mattieu's halfbrother Louie. The realization crashes down on Mattieu like waves and he looses himself in Thomas' arms.

Later in the evening Amanda and Mattieu prepare the beach party. The create a small, illegal fire, gather some driftwood around the fire, near a ruined boathouse. Mattieu asks Amanda, if she has a mobile phone and John's number. Of course she has. Mattieu borrows the phone and texts John as Amanda that she would like to make out with him at the party. Amanda reads the text, just smiles and shrugs, apparently not minding. Mattieu has thus fulfilled his bargain with John who is responsible for getting the beer.

Lucien arrives at the party, and his sister Cassandra darts out of the car. She wears make-up, entirely too provacative clothes for a fourteen year old and wants to party with Lucien and his friends. Felix, Lydia and her boyfriend The Matt! approach. The Matt! finds it entirely uncool that Lucien brrought along his little sister. Lucien's popularity takes a big hit. Lucien takes out the vodka laced with grandpa's drugs and after some cajoling gets his sister to drink some. Then he tells her to go home. Alone. Slightly tipsy. Way to go with responsibility.

Then he joins the other students at the fire. He gets Felix to drink some of the vodka and asks him for help. Felix agrees to help in return for getting Cassandra's number from Lucien. Lucien doesn't hand out the number right away, but Felix will help nevertheless.

Morrigan arrives together with Marcel, Thomas and some friends. They walk over to Amanda and Mattieu. Thomas and Mattieu are both grinning at each other openly. To Morrigan it is pretty clear what happened and she tells them. Mattieu tells her that they did it at her desk, trying to gross her out. Morrigan just turns to the fire.

Lydia approaches and takes the opportunity to talk with Morrigan about the class presidency telling her that The Matt! and she are still uncertain who to vote for. If Morrigan is interested in winning their vote, Lydia suggests for her to join her and The Matt! at the boathouse later. Then she turns around and walks off. Morrigan gazes at her back and stares into the darkness beyond the fire, the world forming a tunnel leading to Lydia... and the her hunger awakens. Morrigan finds herself consumed by her hunger for fear and hungrily eyes Ed the nerd who used to be her best friend and the scumbag Felix.

Lucien gazes into the fire and let's his thoughts wander. Before his mind pictures of Lydia and the Matt! rise. They are passionately kissing inside the boathouse and start love-making. Then Lucien sees himself stepping out of the darkness and joining them.

Mattieu only has eyes for Thomas. He observes him sitting at the fire. He remembers how he felt in his arms and smells the salty ocean loosing himself in the moment. Suddenly he realizes that Thomas wants to break out from his live and feel the excitement of the world. Louie probably promised him to show Thomas another exciting world. For Mattieu it becomes clear what he has to do. He has to show Thomas who he really his. Then Thomas' heart will be his.

Meanwhile, Morrigan decides to go after Felix first. She approaches him, casting first a menacing shadow over John's back who is shielding Felix from her. Then she walks around Felix, approaches him from behind, whispers in his ears what she knows about him. What he does to the girls. Felix is already intimidate and caves in. He sinks to his knees while Morrigan sniffs the fear that he exudes. John tries to chase her off, but she ignores him. Then she takes Felix' face almost lovingly in her hands and draws nearer and literally tasting his cold sweat, running her tongue over his face.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Notes: I found the last scene really creepy, even though I suggested elements of it. The development between Mattieu and Thomas was unexpectedly quick. Finding out about his halfbrother irritates Mattieu. All in all, our MC handled the classroom scene very well.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Monsterhearts: Devil Falls, AK Episode 1

Because I still don't have a viable and agreeable setting for FATE Core, we decided jointly to finally give Monsterhearts a shot with my regular gaming group. Maybe playing Monsterhearts a week ago also had something to do with it.

Our game is set in the fictional town of Devil Falls, Alaska. It is located inland at the also completely fictional Lake Crescent. The eponymous waterfall flows into the lake at the northeastern end. The town is located to the south of the lake on a plain. At the western end of the lake lies the Hotel Crescent, a spa and wellness hotel. A small airport lies on the westside of town. Devil Falls High School is located in the northeastern corner of the city containing a hockey arena, a football field and a greenhouse.

Our cast so far consists of:

  • Annalee, a gifted witch
  • Baron, an infernal lackey of Kal'Thorag the Butcher
  • Cassidy, a werewolf born as a wolf and the only girl on the hockey team
  • Max, a homunculus hollow and another member of the hockey team

We meet them for the first time as their Tuesday homeroom class is about to start. Their elderly but strict teacher is Ms Chamberlain. On their way to class, Cassidy runs up to Mary-Jane, the star pupil, and asks her, if she could copy her homework. Mary-Jane agrees, but only if Cassidy gets back the lunch money that Veronica bullied from her the day before. Cassidy agrees and waits outside of class for Veronica. Veronica is quite a piece of work. She and Baron got expelled from their last school for suspected arson.

While Cassidy waits for Veronica, Paul tries to sell green pills to Annalee and Max. Max has latched on to Annalee quite firmly and takes his social clues from her to the point of twinning (at least that's how Cassidy sees it). Max just takes the drugs from Paul and then shuts him down. Annalee is a bit conflicted about the drug business and hasn't made up her mind yet how to feel about the pills.

When Baron and Veronica arrive, Cassidy tries to slug Veronica with a puck as she doesn't want to give the lunch money back. Veronica sidesteps Cassidy and slams her head into the railing on the gangway to the classroom. Cassidy is hurt. Baron tries to drag Veronica with him to the classroom, because they are already late. Cassidy observes the two and suddenly realizes that quiet, pyromanic, violent Veronica is very much into bad kid Baron. As Ms Chamberlain approaches and gives afterschool detention to all three, Cassidy tells Veronica that she will make sure Baron and Veronica get some time alone during detention, if Veronica hands back the lunch money.

In class, Ms Chamberlain announces that Erica, a popular girl and last year's homecoming queen, has been found dead near Lake Crescent. Apparently her body was mauled by a wild animal - probably a wolf. During the third hour a short memorial will be held in the auditorium. Baron uses this as an opportunity to mouth off to the teacher and even threatening her. After class, Ms Chamberlain walks Baron to the principal. There he threatens Principal Kate O'Rourke. She decides that she's had enough and calls the police to have Baron arrested as a potential homicidal maniac.

During the memorial for Erica, Cassidy tries to turn the planned party down at the lake into a memorial party instead of the year's welcoming party. Zack, a friend of Baron's, hears that, climbs on a chair and announces that Cassidy is inviting the whole school to a party at Lake Crescent. Max is furious at this display of inappropriate behavior and tackles Zack. Zack goes down and Principal O'Rourke notices the commotion. She orders detention for Cassidy, Max and Annalee (who is more or less innocent in all this). Cassidy tells her that she already has detention today and get O'Rourke to postpone the detention to Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at the police station, Baron has been placed in a cell. There he tries to gaze into the abyss and fails miserably. Instead, Kal'Thorag the Butcher appears to him and asks him to poison the beer keg at the party in the evening with the drug that comes as green pills. Baron agrees and Kal'thorag opens the cell door. Baron walks out of the police station without being noticed.

Back at school, lunch break has started. Max and Cassidy sit at the hockey team/cheerleader table, where Melissa announces that she will become homecoming queen this year as Erica is unable to compete. Max shuts her down in disgust. Annalee is also at the table flirting with Boyd, the arrogant goaltender that she secretly detests. Suddenly he kisses her squarely on the mouth (gives her want he thinks she wants). Breaking out in tears, she runs away.

Baron has arrived at school again and seeks out Paul in a dark corner to get the green pills from him. Paul spills that he hasn't them anymore, because Max took them from him. In the end, he tells Baron that he can have the pills, if he can take them from Max.

Baron arrives in the cafeteria just as Max hits Boyd for kissing Annalee. Then Max runs off to find her. Baron follows him. While searching Annalee, Baron tries to get the pills from Max. Max ends up hitting Baron on their way to greenhouse where they suspect Annalee is hiding.

Amidst all this commotion, Cassidy feels rather lonely and stares into her coke. There she gains a crystal clear vision while being exhausted from the events. She sees a large, reptilian shadow following Erica while she is jogging around the lake. As the shadowy monster suddenly attacks the blonde runner, a wolf hurls itself at the monster, preventing it from devouring Erica. The monster throws the wolf into the trees and slithers back into the lake. Cassidy realizes that she was the wolf and that she cannot remember any of this.

In the greenhouse, Annalee has her secret and sacred space. She gazes into the abyss and the abyss answers her. She also gets the vision that Cassidy gets and realizes that she needs the help of the wolf in order to fight the green-scaled monsters with the lanky black hair and the claws of iron. She calls her grandmother April, the only other witch in her family and asks for advice. Her granny asks her over for tea after school.

As she leaves the greenhouse, she runs into Baron and Max. Rather distraught she realizes that Baron is trying to get the drugs from Max. She urges Max to destroy the pills rather than give them to Baron. But Max refuses. When she tries to hit him as frustrated as she is, she stumbles and he catches her. Looking down, Annalee realizes in horror that she's stumbled in a large three toed footprint that resembles the claws of the green-scaled monster. Now completely sick, she asks Max to take her to the school nurse James.

Sixth hour has started. Annalee, Baron, Cassidy and Max are supposed to attend the English Literature class. But only Cassidy is in attendance as Coach Delgado starts the class. Mary-Jane is also there, remarking on the looks of Coach Delgado who is wearing a muscle shirt as usual. Cassidy is more interested in the actual lesson about an obscure poem attributed to William Blake that describes a hideous monster with green scales, black lanky hair and iron claws. Blake calls that monster a "merrow". Cassidy has a déja-vu. Max finally arrives, carrying a tardy slip for himself and Annalee. James has excused her from attending English Literature.

After school, Veronica and Cassidy start detention absent Baron who is meeting with Max. Max is attending hockey practice and meets with Baron. Baron finally gets his desperately needed drugs. Now he can set the diabolic plans of his infernal master into motion. Annalee visits her grandmother April and her aunts Mae and June. She drinks tea with them and is treated to a delicious cheesecake, but unfortunately not to any answers.

Later, Annalee makes her way to the party at the shores of Lake Crescent. Suddenly, she hears twigs and branches cracking behind her. She turns around, her eyes widen and she screams in fear. Unfortunately, the music from the party drowns out her scream...

TO BE CONTINUED

Notes:

  • Doing the homeroom seating chart was fun. I haven't even used a quarter of the awesome the players put in there.
  • The NPC sheet sucks for me. I need lines on that sheet.
  • Sketching Devil Falls on the community sheet was also not as rewarding as I thought. Going to redo that in MS Office Word.
  • The player most critical of the whole Monsterhearts told me afterwards it was fun and he'd like to play again.
  • I did a major goof-up with the scene at granny's house. I would have liked to dump some info regarding the werewolf on Annalee, but didn't realize how to do this. After having read this article on using gaze into the abyss as info dump/hitting the books, things have become much clearer. I should have let Annalee gaze into the abyss again (this time with the +1 forward for acting on the previous gaze into the abyss), this time with help from her grandmother. I am probably going to replay the scene at granny's home at the start of the next session with Annalee and have her roll +dark to find out about who the wolf in the vision is. After that we'll find out about Annalee's fate.
  • The story is coming nicely together. Baron will poison the beer keg (and mark XP for that). Annalee needs to find Cassidy. Cassidy knows what they are facing but has no idea what to do about the merrow. Max has become a willing accomplice in drugging an entire party.