Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #3: “You Can’t Fight Tradition”

We had a couple of lineup changes this session, with one player returning after missing last time, and two players who couldn’t make it this time. Despite being short-handed, the group was able to complete the “tutorial level” adventure and get out into the wider world.

Spoiler Warning: Don’t say I didn’t warn you! This session completes the group’s run-through of I Smell A Rat, the introductory adventure from the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The campaign as a whole is set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting, though it’s been hard to tell, since the group has spent almost all their on-screen time locked in a cellar.

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Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #2: “LEEEROOOOY-“

Welcome to another thrilling tale of how a rag-tag bunch of dungeon delvers put themselves in harm’s way for the promise of gold… or if not gold, perhaps silver… and if not silver, maybe some nice-looking paste jewelry that we could pawn, or now that I think of it, with a little work we could pop those hinges right off, you know Erik the Scrapmonger would pay good copper for a hinge like that…

Spoiler Warning: Our heroes are currently playing their way through the back nine of I Smell A Rat, the adventure that came with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. We’re using it as a sort of “tutorial level” for a game set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s campaign setting. Beyond this point, there is a good change that one could be exposed to secret information from those sources. Beware!

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Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #1: “Bait and Switch”

Not dead yet!

… though you couldn’t tell it from the lack of new content around here. For the entire summer, my family has been moving from our long-time home to a new place on the far side of town. This has taken up just about every waking moment and all the spare energy, leaving next to none for gaming.

But now all that’s changed! (Great timing, too; I think one more weekend of unpacking boxes and moving furniture would have killed me…) We’re all moved, nearly all unpacked, and able to have folks over. Of course, the first time we entertain has to be a game day!

When last we spoke, the genre was Steampunk Monster Hunters. That had been working out quite well, but we had lost our dramatic momentum over the long break. We kicked around the idea of putting some kind of closure on the game, but in the end, we decided not to bother. As it happened, one passing mention of maybe running Dungeon Fantasy again led to such a grassroots surge of enthusiasm that we decided just to jump ship and return to the dungeon.

Furthermore, just to add to the excitement, we’ve added a new player. One of the kids has a fierce interest in role-playing games and is finally old enough to join the big kids’ table, so he’s come to play with the grown-ups. The group dubbed him “the Young Lion” and welcomed him in.

Spoiler Warning: Last time we played Dungeon Fantasy, inspired by others, I sent them into a mega-dungeon. That was fun, but I feel it’s good to change things up and keep them fresh. This time, I’m aiming for something with more wilderness adventure, with maybe some adventures in towns-that-aren’t-Town. My plan is to leverage The Citadel at Norðvorn and Dungeon Fantasy: Hall of Judgment later on, but for the first session, I’m running I Smell A Rat, the sample adventure that came with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. So, if you don’t want to accidentally run into any spoilers for any of those, you should probably skip this synopsis.

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Steampunk Monster Hunters #8: “Werewolves of the Orient Express”

We had another break in the regular schedule, and it looks like we’re going to have yet another one, coming up. Upheavals and changes in Real Life™️, you know.

Much accumulated experience was spent, with two big purchases standing out.

As previously mentioned, Mercy has been saving up for Ritual Adept, last session’s award gave her all the points she needed, and “conversations with an angel lead to increased enlightenment” gave an in-game explanation. Mercy has now effectively “multi-classed” to Sage/Witch. Ritual Adept removes a lot of the restrictions hampering free use of magic, but as we learned in this session, one’s Path skills are what determines what one can actually do, so I’m expecting Mercy’s skill levels to start leaping upwards next.

The other big expenditure came from Tommy Nine, who bought off Killjoy. When he fell into that haystack last session, something inside his mechanical workings broke. Whatever it was, it must have acted as some kind of inhibitor, because, when he woke up… he had regained access to his human emotions!

During the before-game conversation, a few economic points came up. First, that Nayler, being ridiculously wealthy, had been picking up the tab for the whole gang; second, that there wasn’t much reason for it, since all the PCs are either wealthy or non-human; third, that Nayler’s actual income is so high that he really can afford to throw money around like it’s nothing. This discussion had an impact on the party’s spending habits during the session.

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling; plucky boy hero
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando; not her first time on the front of a speeding locomotive
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero Sleuth; child celebrity
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage; knows the secrets of the universe
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie; unexpectedly adept with a sword
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, undercover mechanical man

What Happened

The group had a bit of downtime, at home in London, while Mercy questioned “Angelica”, the messenger angel in the form of a meek little girl who they had recently rescued from the faerie circus. During this time, Mercy had one of her “special” dreams, in which she was being chased through some dark, tunnel-like space, where an icy wind whistled, but she never caught sight of her pursuer.

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Steampunk Monster Hunters #7: “Oh, The Humanity”

We skipped a month, there, due to various illnesses and troubles, but this time, we had a full house. With Esmerelda, the changeling, captured and taken by the fae last session, we see the return of an old friend…

On the character development front, Mercy has been saving up for Ritual Adept, and Margaret invested a chunk of points in Magery and Path of Crossroads. We’re digging deeper into Ritual Path Magic, after a long time dabbling.

Who’s Who

  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando, American gunslinger
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero Sleuth, snoopy apprentice witch
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage, nanny to the supernatural
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie, lapdog of evil
  • Octavious Buttersnaps, Hired Gun Psi, last seen on a quest to handle a werewolf bite
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, undercover mechanical man

What Happened

The dispirited survivors of last session’s defeat sailed through the night aboard Nayler’s oversized balloon, as he tended Margaret’s wounds from the fight with the lamia. They returned to London, docking at Mercy’s townhouse, where they met Mercy and Tommy Nine.

Tommy had only just returned the night before from a mission to the Continent, helping track down a faerie smuggling ring operating between the Middle East and Britain. His team had discovered clues pointing towards a connection with Russia, which was being followed up by other members of his organization. Due to his status as no more than a coveted piece of equipment, no one particularly noticed either his absence or his return.

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Steampunk Monster Hunters #6: “Diplomacy”

We return to the game after the holiday hiatus! A couple of players weren’t able to make it, and their absence was truly felt…

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling; learning how to apply her inhuman powers to make her way in the human world
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando; rough-and-ready American gunslinger and proud of it!
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero Sleuth; “World’s Greatest Girl Detective” and aspiring witch
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie; half Sir Richard Francis Burton, half dissipated ’70’s rocker… with a balloon

What Happened

Mid-July, 1851, about a month after our heroes’ previous adventure, the group gathered on the beach at Brighton to meet with their contact from the Association, Charles Dickens. Lucretia brought along a giant wicker basket full of top-shelf wines and liquors, in case supplies ran low. Margaret brought along her Uncle Byron, who always enjoyed an opportunity to meet Mr Dickens. Taking advantage of the beach setting, Nayler wore his new, experimental bathing outfit. (He had taken advantage of downtime to come up with a couple of new inventions, including a concealed kerosene-powered backpack flamethrower and a holy water sprinkler.) Esmerelda, unsure of her place in the human world, chose to keep a low profile, and wrapped herself in glamour to appear as a remarkably large crab.

Mr Dickens raised his glass. “God save the Queen!”

Most of our heroes, Mr Dickens’ security entourage, nearby servants, and passers-by in all directions: “God save the Queen!”

Lucretia: “God bless America!”

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Ritual Path Magic and “Buffy”: Two Castings

This month’s game was called off, due to a combination of holidays, new jobs, and illness, so instead of a play synopsis, here’s some thoughts about a ritual from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe and two times we saw it cast on-screen. (Obviously, spoilers ahead, for the show that’s over 15 years old and one of the major building blocks of the Monster Hunters genre…)

Two times in season 6, we see Willow cast a ritual to bring a person back to life.

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Steampunk Monster Hunters #5: “Under The Thames”

In the face of the terrible revelation at the end of last session, Lucretia insisted on going out for many drinks with “my husband Octavious!” (Esmerelda, the changeling, in less-than-convincing disguise), and so, neither appears in this session.

At one point, I thought one of the heroes was going to sacrifice all but one of the group, including themselves, in an attempt to contain the threat. I’m told that there were multiple instances of PCs expecting to die, if not suffer an outright TPK.

Who’s Who

  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth, “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage, magical governess
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie, inventor and balloonist
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, mechanical man

What Happened

On the evening of Saturday, June 14, 1851, somewhat after sundown, aboard Nayler’s baroque two-story balloon, our intrepid band of monster hunters were surprised to hear that Wormley and Minister had already placed the ghosts of Masham, the evil witch behind the Great Fire of London, and his assistant into living bodies earlier that morning. He had a twelve-hour head-start pursuing his no-doubt apocalyptic schemes!

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Steampunk Monster Hunters #4: “Fly By Night”

The lesson of this session, for me, was that I’ve been underestimating how effective the team is in a fight.

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling, better at disguise than acting
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando, lush gunslinger
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth, “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage, magical governess
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie, inventor and balloonist
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, mechanical man

What Happened

The morning after the seance, Saturday, June 14, 1851, the patched-up group gathered for breakfast at Mercy’s with Ann Bell, who was still recovering from her near-zombie experience. They questioned her further about Wormley and Minister, establishing details of their schedules and how the salon was organized, learning that Wormley was older but remarkably vigorous, while Mr Minister was bookish and nervous. Hearing this, they began to re-think their infiltration plan. Instead, they decided to kidnap Minister and interrogate him.

Accordingly, after breakfast, they split up to work on different tasks. Nayler took Ann home in his steam carriage, then took the rest of the group back to his house to help prepare his balloon for flight, as their plans relied on a quick means of escape from the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, Esmerelda and Margaret disguised themselves, each in her own way, and staked out Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, watching for a chance to trail Minister.

As they watched, they actually got a look at Wormley, in person. At one point during the morning, he came outside the salon to smoke a cigar. Margaret got close enough to determine what brand of cigars he favored. Later, she would arrange to obtain a box of them, as part of a possible long con that never came together.

Late in the morning, they saw Minister leaving the salon on an errand to pick up office supplies, and shadowed him in turns. After several uneventful stops, late in the day, he returned to the salon and went upstairs to Wormley’s office. By this time, the others had silently arrived in Nayler’s oversized balloon, newly-equipped with a mounted version of the grabbering-gun.

Margaret took advantage of her own grabbering-gun and youthful agility to sneak to a position outside the office window, where she applied a stethoscope to eavesdrop on their conversation. From what she was able to make out, Minister was warning Wormley that someone was “onto [him]”, that they would be coming for him soon. Wormley expressed defiance, dismissing Minister, who left the office and the salon.

Esmerelda followed Minister closely, with Margaret trailing behind. As soon as Minister turned off the main road to take a shortcut through a narrow alley, Esmerelda quickly and quietly stepped up behind him. She ran up behind him and punched him once, decisively, in the base of the skull, immediately knocking him unconscious. Waving in the air support, Esmerelda and Margaret loaded the unconscious man into a cargo net to be hauled aboard, then used Margaret’s grabbering-gun to join the others themselves.

As the sun went down, they tied up Minister and gave him first aid, bringing him around to be interrogated. Under their questioning, he explained that Wormley was on high alert, knowing that someone was after him. Which someone, he wouldn’t say, only remarking that Wormley had many enemies from his travels around the world and extensive adventures. Minister claimed that Wormley had “learned secrets of the Orient” on these travels, presumably the source of his vitality and other abilities. Esmerelda had speculated that Wormley was actually a psychic vampire, and this seemed to support that theory.

Despite the fact that Wormley was on his guard, the party decided to attempt a direct assault. Leaving Minister tied to Nayler’s cot, they turned the balloon back to the skies over the salon.

In an attempt to take Wormley unawares, Esmerelda descended to the ground and entered the salon through the front door, taking on the appearance of Mr Minister. She went to Wormley’s office door. Finding it locked (and forgetting that she can pick locks), she called out to him, claiming to be Minister, returned with news. He threw open the door, grabbing her and dragging her into the room. As he did, he revealed that he had seen through her deception, activating his vampiric powers to drain the life from her!

Luckily, the others hadn’t been idle while all this was going on. Also approaching from the ground, Margaret had repeated her climbing feat from earlier, placing herself outside the office window, accompanied by Tommy. Seeing that their friend was in trouble, they responded: Margaret fired her pistol into Wormley’s leg, distracting him, then Tommy crashed through the window and charged towards the villain. Finding himself under attack, Wormley waved a hand at a door across the room, telekinetically throwing open its latch. A half-dozen zombie strongmen with handlebar mustaches, formerly patrons of the salon before being drained of their animal magnetism, burst into the room!

Meanwhile, the others had been making their own approach by balloon. Spotting a convenient skylight near Wormley’s office, Lucretia had fired the balloon-mounted grabbering-gun through it, anchoring a climbing line. Using the hook handle of her umbrella, Mercy slid down the cable to the salon’s roof, where she hid among the shadows. When all the shooting started, she made her way over the roof to drop down next to Margaret at the shattered office window. When the zombies menaced them both there, she pulled Margaret’s net from her shoulder bag and threw it over the first two in line, entangling them and blocking the others.

Following close behind Mercy, Lucretia also used the taut cable to slide from balloon to salon, while Nayler locked the balloon’s brass controls and went to check on Minister. This turned out to be a good move, as the clerk was just freeing himself from his bonds. Nayler drew his shotgun, but was reluctant to fire, knowing it would mean the man’s death. (Margaret, being the group’s conscience when it comes to the matter of killing humans, had earlier mentioned that it would be poor form to murder people outright, even if they do have psychic powers, and was even now shouting “Don’t kill the zombies, they can be cured!”) As the inventor hesitated, Minister displayed his own psychic abilities, battering Nayler’s mind with waves of fear. He was able to resist, throwing the heavy shotgun into Minister’s face, again knocking him out.

Inside the office, the melee was just heating up. Tommy was a whirling form in the thick of the zombies, using his iron-shod cane to batter their knees. Taken to the ground by the pain of having her life force drained, Esmerelda took advantage of her position to quickly tie Wormley’s shoelaces together, causing him to fall prone with a squawk when he tried to move to get a better look out the window at Margaret and Mercy, hoping to use his gaze of mental domination. Finding herself in the room that the zombies had come from, Lucretia followed them, kicking open the door and setting up a stream of bullets from her newest toy: a caplock submachine gun that Nayler had given her earlier. She sprayed the zombie’s legs with gunfire (“They’ll live!” she grumbled at Margaret’s questioning look) quickly crippling them and bringing them all to the floor.

As Wormley struggled to rise to his feet, Tommy quickly approached and kicked the man firmly in the head, killing him. (Horrified looks all around!) Luckily, Nayler entered only a second later, having secured Mr Minister and descended from the balloon. He was able to use cutting-edge medical science (plus a Gizmo, plus a couple of wildcard points) to bring the psychic (barely!) back to life.

Moving quickly, the group tidied up the scene of the crime. They restrained the still-snapping zombies, hauling them and Wormley up to the balloon with the cargo nets. Everyone but Esmerelda swarmed up into the balloon and fled.

As for Esmerelda, she assumed the appearance of Wormely and went downstairs to meet the authorities. There, she told an unbelievable story: the truth. As Wormley, she claimed that a mechanical man, a twelve year old girl, and her nanny had crashed in through her office window and shot up the place before suddenly fleeing. Unsurprisingly, the bobbies didn’t believe the story, and asked if “he” could come downtown with them to tell “his” story to their supervisors. Esmerelda agreed, but asked for an opportunity to freshen up. As soon as she was out of sight, she turned invisible and walked out, right past all the unaware policemen.

In the balloon, Mercy performed a ritual to restore the zombies back to their normal, human selves. The two psychics were tied up and bandaged. Taking care to avoid eye contact, they brought Wormley back to consciousness and asked him some questions.

The counterfeiting plates? Sold ’em, he said. Long gone. Money in the bank.

What about Masham, the evil wizard with apocalyptic plans? “Oh, him,” Wormley said, “we put him and his assistant in bodies this morning.”

To be continued…

Cool Point: Lucretia, for mowing down zombies wholesale without causing any human deaths – the rules, after all, are somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

Booby Point: Esmerelda, for failing to remember her lock picking skills in the face of a locked door…

 

Added Details

A couple of details that I think I missed:

Towards the end of the session, everybody but Lucretia had realized, one way or another, that “Octavious” wasn’t really Octavious. Several had seen through Esmerelda’s glamour, while the rest had noticed oddities of behavior. The group even started taking advantage of her ability to change appearance. Finally, she broke down and dropped the charade, declaring herself to be a changeling.

She had been part of a fae travelling circus, she explained, when she finally got fed up with her own kind and fled. During her travels, she had bumped in to Octavious, who was leaving London to find either a cure for lycanthropy or a nice farm where he could chase rabbits all day. He had shown her a kindness and they traded stories. Between them, they had hatched a plan: she would take Octavious’ face and position, hiding out from her past while offering support to his friends and family. She would be able to support their monster hunting mission while also sparing them worry over his absence.

Everybody accepted this fairly readily, at least initially, aside from Lucretia. For some time, she refused to accept the story, declaring that this “Octavious” was the original and it was all some complex delusion. In the end, she seemed to “agree to disagree”, saying they would “make it work”.

Afterwards, Tommy Nine slipped out to send a telegram to his handlers, informing them that he had located a fae who claimed to be a rogue, and requesting further instructions. Later on, he received a return telegram, telling him to observe and report, but if it seemed that she was about to initiate some supernatural trouble, he should immediately kill her.

 

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