Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

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.

Technical Notes

In hopes of keeping things simple, I started off trying to stick to the rules from the big DFRPG boxed set. That didn’t last long. I couldn’t herd those cats. At least I managed to keep them restricted to races that won’t get kicked out of town for being monsters.

That’s how we ended up playing a mash-up of the boxed set rules with (mostly) templates from the Dungeon Fantasy PDFs.

I did manage to make one change that I had hoped to make for a long time: we’re using the weapons and armor from GURPS Low-Tech. My understanding is that DFRPG basically does the same. On average, this seems to have increased the price of armor across the board, and made leather armor heavier. This made a noticeable difference to the players. I suspect it might take longer for folks to upgrade to magic armor in this campaign, compared to the last, because first they’ll go through a couple of rounds of upgrading from leather to mail to expensive hand-tailored armor suits.

Who’s Who

  • A skinny Half-elf with an aggressive hairstyle, Blixa lost both his parents to violence at a young age, and has been mute ever since. Raised by wandering merchants, his core of smoldering rage and experience travelling the wilds make him a Barbarian. He has been travelling with a dwarf for some time, and now they’ve both joined a larger party.
  • Esen is a young, skinny Human Mentalist; as such, no one knows what to make of him. He wears a silver crown and shaves his head completely bald, but the really striking thing about his appearance is the tattoo of a third eye he has, directly in the middle of his forehead. If you hang around with him long enough, you start to get the impression that it moves…
  • The Great and Mysterious Blaadao Bla’Dae is an Elf Wizard who doesn’t follow any of the usual pantheon of gods, instead worshipping some sort of free-floating cloud of magical energy in outer space. He maintains Levitation at all times, only allowing his feet to touch the earth when he gets out of bed in the morning. He has presumably travelled from the elf-lands with…
  • The party’s healer is Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, an Elf Cleric of the love goddess. She treats her patron goddess more as a close personal friend than as a cosmic being to be worshipped and cowered at.
  • The Kid looks like an amazingly attractive elf, but is actually a Nymph Bard. The rumor is that he’s the black sheep of a noble family from a far-off land, travelling the world. The Kid has hair that looks like smoke. The Kid wears only the finest clothes, all in shades of purple. The Kid always speaks of The Kid in the third person.
  • As is no surprise from the name, Senderbloke Qwerthunderchugg the Naescott is a Dwarf. Perhaps less obvious, he is a Holy Warrior. He gets along well enough with non-dwarves, but he has a bit of trouble telling the different taller races apart. As he remarked, “You all look like a bunch of belly buttons to me…” He often partners with Blixa, having worked together before joining the party.
  • The man known only as Slingshot is a Human Scout. Despite his nickname, he is an archer. His background is a mystery, but from his coarse appearance and unwillingness to ever turn his back on anyone, including friends, he has clearly seen some stuff.

What Happened

All our heroes met on the boat to Ice Mountain, a thriving trade town in the far north of the Nordlonds, themselves far too the north of the more civilized lands. All having their own reasons for making the trip, they arrived in the summer, when seasonal traders and travelling merchants greatly increase the population of the town. Thanks to this seasonal trade, there was no room at the inn. Or the other inn. Or the next several inns.

Losing patience with this situation, The Kid turned to the nearest person in the common room of the latest inn and asked them if they were interested in some company. They agreed that they were, and the two headed upstairs. Sadly, that’s where it turned out that they had both been assuming that the other had a room, when actually, neither one did. The Kid turned without a word and left the random person standing on the first landing of the stairs.

At the foot of the stairs, The Kid was approached by a well-dressed businesswoman, who introduced herself as Lee. She claimed to be one of the younger generation of a wealthy family who operated a series of inns, who might be able to provide shelter to a group of adventurers, if that group were to be willing to perform a small job for her.

Intrigued, The Kid brought the offer back to the rest of the party, who agreed that this sounded like the best chance of sleeping indoors tonight. As a group, they returned to Lee, who agreed to tell them more as they walked up the street to one of her family’s establishments.

This establishment, she explained, had been managed for some time by her uncle Merle, until a short time ago, when he ceased communications. Lee had been dispatched to check on the business, finding it empty. In the cellar, she found a barred door, where she was able to hear disturbing scratching noises that put her in the mind of giant rats. Clearly, the inn cannot operate with a cellar full of giant rats, so she had come looking for some brave, strong adventurers to clear them all out. In exchange, she offered a weeks’ free room and board, plus a bounty. She named a price that she would pay for each rat head. The Kid immediately talked her into increasing that price.

The rewards seemed to suit the risks, so the party agreed to Lee’s terms. At her suggestion, they agreed to leave their extra gear in the kitchens with her while she let them through the cellar door and barred it behind them. Knock shave-and-a-haircut, she said, and she would lift the bar to let them back out. This, too, was agreeable, though they didn’t have much gear to leave.

Before starting on their adventure, they made preparations. Expecting subterranean darkness, Ray cast a spell on an arrow to make it glow with bright light, while Blaadao filled his hand with a ball of lightning. The Kid played a tune to raise their morale for battle, enchanting them all with foolhardy bravery.

When Lee raised the bar and threw open the door, the party stepped through to find themselves on a narrow wooden staircase in a huge, dark room. Esen used his telekinetic powers to fly the glowing arrow around the room like a swimming fish.

“Is that movement?” Ray asked, peering down into the cellar.

“It is,” Slingshot agreed, drawing an arrow.

With their ambush spoiled, giant spiders rushed out of the shadows and charged the stair! Luckily, the party was well-equipped with ranged weapons. Slingshot, with his longbow, and The Kid, with a bow-harp, cut down several of the spiders before they could even approach the stairs, but there were too many to stop them all.

Blixa and Sender hustled down to the foot of the stairs. Sender leapt over the rickety rail to the cellar floor to engage two spiders with his great axe. It was then that he made a terrible discovery. “My feet are stuck!” he called to the others. “Beware webs!”

Despite the warning, the headstrong Blixa charged off the stairs to aid his dwarven friend. Amazingly, he was able to tear his feet free from the sticky webs with his wiry strength and make it several yards across the cellar floor… but in the end, he, too, stood rooted in place.

Meanwhile, one of the spiders managed to scramble to the top of the stairs, where it tried to bite Slingshot. Esen had been sniping at distant spiders with his psychokinetic lash without coming to anyone’s particular notice, but it couldn’t be overlooked when he glared at the spider and knocked it off the scout with the power of his mind. That gave Slingshot the space he needed, and finished the beast off.

On the cellar floor, the entangled warriors defended themselves against the last of the spiders. In the end, unable to take a step to assist his partner, Sender was forced to throw his great axe in a desperate gamble that paid off. Shortly, our heroes held the cellar.

Blaadao levitated over to the stuck heroes and used magical flame to burn the webs off their feet. Luckily, everybody remembered their boots, so this didn’t require burning them. Once free, Sender lit a torch, and the two started working their way around the cellar, clearing webs. It didn’t take long before they started finding the dried, dessicated corpses of giant rats. As the two cleared webs, the others gathered the dead rats and dead spiders into two piles. Despite searching, nothing else of interest was found.

Nothing, that is, aside from a large pile of broken barrels, loose dirt, and debris in the far corner of the cellar. When the others remarked on this, Sender snorted. “Just like you talls, don’t know nothin’ about mining. That’s not a pile of dirt, that’s a blocked passage.”

Curious, the party set to work. Blixa and Sender, grumbling at the lack of decent tools, went to work clearing the pile of dirt, while the others rested and had a light snack. Work was well underway when sharp-eyed Slingshot noticed dirt falling from above the workers. He shouted a warning and grabbed his bow, as two huge spiders jumped from concealment!

The two warriors feverishly defended themselves, dodging bites while the others scrambled to their feet. Blaadao unleashed the full-power lightning bolt that he had been carrying all this time, destroying one of the spiders. The other went down under a combination of arrows and psychokinetic force. Big jump-scare, short battle.

The two went back to work and eventually cleared the tunnel enough to allow passage. It was a narrow, rough piece of construction, with splintered wood holding up damp earth walls. With Esen telekinetically flying the enchanted light arrow in front of them, they walked single-file through the narrow passage.

They found themselves standing in a hole in the wall of the city sewers. The sewers themselves ran in a straight line, left to right, carrying a knee-deep stream of sewage, but across the foul passage, they could see a few steps leading up out of the stream to a door, where a passage sloped down. They noticed a strange, greenish glow coming from further up that passage. The Kid had everyone hold their breath and be quiet while he listened, and would swear he detected the sound of giant scales on dry stone coming from further up the passage.

Curious, the party crossed the sewer, one by one, without anyone getting wet. Blaadao and Esen levitated, while the others took running leaps with varying degrees of grace.

It turned out that the green glow was from the Evil Runes carved on all the walls of the passage. Blaadao examined the runes from a distance, declaring that they would curse anyone crossing the passage or touching the runes, aside from those who had sold their souls to The Devil, but the curse could be resisted by those of strong constitution.

That was enough for Sender: he took off running down the passage at top speed, arriving at the far side unscathed (after making a HT roll). There, he found a door, but he turned to see how the others did.

Esen tried to take an analytical approach, poking one of the runes with his staff, held at arm’s length. This wasn’t enough distance to avoid the runes’ curse, so he was forced to make a HT roll, but succeeded. In hopes that this would give him some period of immunity, he tore off at a run to join the dwarf. It didn’t; he made another HT roll and again survived.

Blixa and The Kid also took the risk and made their HT rolls successfully, but the Slingshot wasn’t so lucky. When he failed his roll, he was struck by hellish heat and demonic thirst, taking fearsome injury.

At that, Blaadao and Ray hesitated, but by then, Sender had stopped paying close attention to events in the rear. Thinking that everyone had finally joined him, he threw open the door!

Inside, a six-armed demon with a snake tail lifted six deadly scimitars in challenge.

Immediately, the two warriors charged, Sender with a battle cry and Blixa in uncanny silence. The demon engaged them on the way, splitting its supernaturally-fast attacks between the two. Both fell away badly bloodied, but having little choice, pressed the attack. The demon parried both their attacks, but had two swords break in the process.

Slingshot fired his bow, putting arrows into both the demon’s eyes. Then, from the far side of the passage and through the open door, Blaadao and Ray unleashed their held attacks, another full-power lightning bolt and a similarly full-power sunbolt of holy light.

This huge amount of damage was enough to give the demon pause and shift the tide of battle. Quickly, everyone piled on and reduced the monster to hamburger. When the deed was done, the two lagging elves ran (or in Blaadao’s case, floated) through the runed tunnel, both resisting the evil runes’ curse.

Once they had a moment to look around, the party saw that the main piece of furniture in the room was an altar, obviously evil. A tapestry of hellish scenes dominated one wall, while the other held a doorway covered with a curtain. Finally, they found a hole blasted in the wall behind the altar.

Evil altars demand cleansing, so that’s what the group did. Ray led the ceremony with backup from Sender, while The Kid played religious music on his bow-harp. At the climax of the ceremony, after three hours (!) of prayers and chanting, Ray gave Blixa the signal. The half-elf barbarian struck the altar a mighty blow with his oversized maul, shattering it and breaking its infernal influence.

Esen spotted something in the debris and dove to grab it, finding that it was a large, wicked-looking dagger, clearly of ceremonial importance. “Whoa,” Blaadao said, remembering his training in disposing of dangerous magical wastes, “we better wrap that up for safety.” He pulled the tapestry off the wall…

… revealing a nook lined with a dozen zombies!

With a groan, the zombie horde stepped forward as one, raising their hands threateningly.

Sender stepped up into the entrance to the nook and turned undead.

With the exit blocked, the zombies were held at bay. While they moaned and threatened, the party pondered what to do with them, while Sender held his ground and his faith. In the end, Ray called upon her own faith, using a prayer to injure the zombies and force them to flee in fear. Still trapped, they did even more damage to each other in their frenzy to escape. After several applications of the spell, the last ragged zombie fell.

It was at this point, roughly eight hours into the delve, when it occurred to The Kid to ask, “Wait a minute, we’re on a mission to clear a cellar of rats. We’ve got a big pile of dead rats back in a cleared cellar. What are we doing way out here on the far side of the sewers, fighting demons and zombies and stuff?”

No one had a really good answer, but having come so far, they figured they might as well make camp and take a rest before their next move.

Experience

The standard award for each member of the group was 6 points.

Cool Point: The Great and Mysterious Blaadao Bla’Dae, for resoundingly appropriate theme music, played on a phone at a climactic moment

Booby Point: Senderbloke Qwerthunderchugg, the Naescott, for charging a full three feet into battle before being brought to a humiliating stop by unnoticed spider webs.

 

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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.

 

Steampunk Monster Hunters #3: “Breaking and Entering”

It’s been about two weeks, in game, since our last session. Octavious, worried about the possibility of becoming a werewolf, left to walk the earth in search of a cure, only to apparently come back just a few days later.

The Association has assigned Tommy Nine, a mechanical man with specialized expertise in hunting the fae, to the group. He is partly metal, well-dressed, carries a cane, and wears a bowler hat.

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth, “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment

What Happened

On the morning of Friday, June 13, 1851, our heroes gathered for a social occasion. Margaret’s Uncle Byron had invited everyone to brunch at a London cafe. The party was seated outside, in a street-side garden area. At the meal, Octavious made several uncharacteristic moves: chiefly, refusing alcohol.

As the party was eating, they were approached by a young woman who called out to Margaret with a familiar manner, identifying herself as “Bill Turpin”. Margaret recognized the name as a small-time counterfeiter who had appeared in one of her early cases. In that case, the authorities had never recovered the man’s set of counterfeiting plates, because they had failed to take him alive. When arrested, he had fled, and in his haste, fallen into some ropes and accidentally hung himself. The girl detective offered the woman a seat and a drink, gently soothing her and asking her to explain herself.

The woman told a rambling and almost incoherent story. She mentioned several particulars of the Turpin case which appeared to prove her to be the dead counterfeiter. When she mentioned Turpin’s favorite whiskey, Nayler pulled a pint of the very label from his pocket and poured the woman a stiff drink. This earned him a heartfelt blessing for his kindness.

She said that she had been “double-crossed”, that she had been offered a “second chance” but it had been a trick. She appeared to be ill. As the party watched, she muttered something about “losing her” and then seemed to go to sleep with her head on the table. Moments later, she snapped her head up, snarling and mouthing obscenities as she dove for Margaret’s throat!

Lucretia pulled one of her pistols and bashed the woman in the back of the head while Margaret danced away, using her grabbering gun to ascend out of easy reach. Nine struck at the woman’s legs with his iron-shod cane, but became entangled and thrown off-balance. Mercy followed Lucretia’s example, also pistol-whipping the crazed woman. Nayler threw an empty whiskey bottle at her head, to no avail. With her initial target out of reach, the woman went to attack Mercy, but was knocked out by an uppercut from Lucretia.

With the other cafe patrons and staff scattering from the sudden and unexpected violence, the party beat a hasty retreat. They wrapped the woman in Margaret’s net, then Nine tucked her under his arm and carried her away. They went to Mercy’s estate on the edge of London, as it was the closest of their homes.

Mercy and Nayler examined the woman. He was able to determine that she was still alive, while Mercy realized that despite appearances, the woman was not a zombie, but a victim. A part of her soul had been sucked out, leaving a vacuum that a ghost could easily slip into.

After some discussion, the party decided that they needed to call up the spirit of Bill Turpin to question him. Knowing Octavious was a medium, the party asked him to do the job, but he declined with a rambling excuse. Instead, Mercy offered to perform a ritual seance, but pointed out that she would need something connected to the spirit being sought.

Octavious offered to take care of the spiritual connection by himself, accepting Margaret’s copious notes about the Turpin case, but when he left, Margaret quietly followed and shadowed him. He briskly walked to a nearby alley, checking behind himself to make sure nobody was following. As soon as he was out of sight, his appearance was transformed, making him look like a policeman! As Margaret peered closely, she realized she could see through the veil of illusion to a thin, pale woman inside the bobby’s shell.

The mysterious, disguised woman went to Turpin’s wife’s address, where she knocked on the door. Between the knock and the door opening, Margaret slipped in under her arm, cheerfully joining in the deception. Turpin’s widow answered the door. Distracting the woman with patter and fast-talk, Margaret provided enough distraction to allow Esmerelda, the woman disguised as a bobby, to stealthily search for something connected to Bill Turpin. She found an etched souvenir shot glass, which she stealthily pocketed. The two said their goodbyes and exited, returning to Mercy’s house.

Meanwhile, Lucretia and Nayler tried to question the growling zombie. Nayler quickly grew bored when there were no easy results, so he wandered off to tinker with some gadgeteering project. Thus unencumbered by assistants and their questions, Lucretia was able to accomplish a miracle of interrogation, extracting the name “Ann Bell” from the howling, cursing beast. Mercy recognized the name as that of a semi-famous London athlete and lady wrestler.

When the party gathered again, Mercy’s projections for how the seance would go were not looking good. To help make up the large amounts of magical energy required, they decided they would engage in some animal sacrifice. Nayler stepped out and used some of his great wealth to buy a fine horse.

Back when Mercy had obtained the house, she had been on the lookout for a home with certain mystical properties, so she was lucky enough to have a minor place of power in her basement. They decided to hold the seance there, but this led to the question: how does one get a horse into a basement?

“Octavious” stepped up and displayed some uncharacteristic skill with animal handling, and got the horse in place. During this exercise, Nine and Nayler were able to see through her veil of glamour, but also decided not to say anything.

The midnight ritual was a harrowing experience, with everyone donating significant amounts of Fatigue and not a few Hit Points. Nayler whipped up a quick injection to restore his lost Fatigue. Candles flickered, shadows danced, nearly everybody got a nosebleed, and… they summoned the ghost of Bill Turpin for questioning.

Who was it that had double-crossed him? Wormley and Minister, he said. They had offered a second chance at life, but it didn’t “take”. (Mercy and Margaret, being followers of the local news, recognized the name “Wormley” from a newly-opened business, Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon.)

How did he know Ann? He didn’t, he said. She had been a victim in the plot.

Where were the hidden plates from his counterfeiting days? In life, he had hidden them behind a false panel in the belfry of a particular church, but he was certain they weren’t there any longer; he had offered their location as payment for his second chance at life.

Was there anything they could do for him? “Too late for me,” he replied, shaking the weights and chains of his mortal sins as he faded away, “look to yourself, that you might escape my terrible fate!”

Exhausted, the party found their beds. Margaret didn’t even make it that far, curling up in an overstuffed chain in Mercy’s office.

The next morning, several members of the party went to Ann’s address to investigate, while Mercy researched a cure for the afflicted woman.

After Esmerelda picked the lock to Ann’s house, the searchers found some paperwork linking Ann to Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, as well as pocketing some cash, loose valuables, and keepsakes. In the meantime, Mercy was able to use magic to restore the missing pieces of Ann’s soul, so when the searchers returned, they found the victim of their petty pilfering sitting up and looking at them. They returned most of the stolen goods, claiming to have recovered them from thieves.

When questioned, Ann had described her last memories, of Atticus Wormley approaching her in a menacing fashion. She remarked upon the frightfulness of his eyes, and specifically called him a “vampire”. (At that, everybody sat up straight.)

Wondering if they would find others under Wormley’s thrall, they asked Ann if she knew anything about other victims. She was able to recall mention of the name “Orlando Masham” but no details. This name was familiar to Mercy from legends. He had been a devil worshipper and powerful witch who had tried to destroy London in the Great Fire of 1666, only to be killed by a desperate team of monster hunters.

The party deduced that they’re dealing with a “vampire” who can somehow turn people into vessels for easy possession by ghosts, who is looking to provide a body to an evil witch who wants to destroy all of London – their first potential apocalypse!

Seeing no other obvious leads, the party prepared to infiltrate Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, with Lucretia leading the way as an accomplished athlete who might want to become a customer, while most of the others hang back, nearby but not obvious. Several members of the group have decided to load up with an expectation of violence.

To be continued…

Cool Point: Mercy, for the awesome feat of the seance

 

Steampunk Monster Hunters #2: “Aaoooooo”

Some of our protagonists chose to become consulting field agents for a shady Association, “on-screen”, last session. The newcomers have also signed up, in the background. There was some discussion, pre-game, concerning how far the Association can be trusted – “Do we really know who these people are?”, that kind of thing – but the majority of the group seemed to feel good about the group. On the one hand: the PCs want to hunt monsters, the Assocation wants monsters hunted, it’s win-win. On the other: any group that has Charles Dickens as a member must obviously be a force for good.

Who’s Who

  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando; wife of Octavious, tipsy and American
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth; “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage; governess with luggage that’s bigger on the inside
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie; wealthy, well-traveled, unhealthily sophisticated
  • Octavious Buttersnaps, Hired Gun Psi; husband of Lucretia, bitter and intoxicated

What Happened

Our heroes were all invited to breakfast at Dickens’ home on the morning of Sunday, 1 June 1851. As is the way of PCs, much attention was paid to the menu, including the obligatory cider joke, so let it be noted: there were kippers.

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