Chaos Monks: Tengu and Dwarves

Chaos Monks

After two weeks of traveling and working on their show, the chaos monks finally closed in on the Yellow City. They scraped together enough from their performances to buy passage on a barge into the city.

  • Hum Lae. (Max) Rough warrior. (Storyteller and strongman.)
  • Lightcrash the Silver Edge. (Patrick) Extravagant performer. (Sleight of hand and drone pipes.)
  • Huan. (Tyler) Pragmatic opportunist. (Audience interaction.)

Lightcrash had a spell ready.

  • Soothing Cauldron: A spectral cauldron forms around a willing target within thirty feet. Caster must concentrate for five minutes, during which time the target is pulled down into the cauldron. At the end of five minutes, the cauldron dissipates, and the target has healed 1 hit point per caster’s level, OR been cured of one poison, curse, or disease. (Magical or powerful maladies or ruined organs/lost limbs may require an additional cost of the caster, GM decides.) The target will not remember what was seen and heard within the cauldron, only that it was wonderful.

They were traveling with Cho Juny, a snailish, and his tribe with their shell. Cho Juny knew Na Li Ka, a roacherd (cockroach herder) in the Kuan Loon neighborhood of Kwantoom, the City of Innocent Deaths (which was a walled city on one of the delta islands of the Yellow City.) For the traveling show, the snailish did wibbly dancing, and Curves was skilled in sphereplay to delight the crowds.

The last night they performed, a local roacherd gave them a roach to eat (about two and a half feet long, hefty and healthy) but instead of eating him they adopted him as Hum Lae’s pet Mr. Whips. (He got some nonobad jelly and some reward jelly to help train Mr. Whips to leave some things alone, and get a reward.)

Little Heavenly Murder (the Tengu ghetto)

They disembarked, taking the snailish with them, and while the snailish separated and chowed down on a municipal park, the monks tried to book passage downstream to Kuan Loon without success.

Hum LaeThey met a tengu named Zissix, who offered them a place to stay and a place to perform with lots of people nearby if they would just take out some garbage every day. They went with him, to the Tarmath Rookery, a five story building where tengu lived on every level. They had posts sticking out into a central shaft, where they would release their droppings; the monks could stay in a stifling underground gallery and perform in the square, but would have to haul out three carts of guano daily. (The humans already living there doing that didn’t seem happy.)

The monks declined, and offered Zissix a place in their performance (he didn’t hide his contempt of their show very well.) He let them leave, but offered the blessing of his people first, sprinkling them with a clear liquid.

As they rejoined their snailish and left, the snailish commented on their horrible smell; like yak gland or something. (The humans couldn’t smell anything.) Except Hum Lae, who smelled cooking from his region of the Mountains of the Moon, where he grew up.

They found The Teat, a teahouse selling pungent yak butter tea. Hum Lae was happy to get fried rice like at home, and the others got food as well. While they were there, they were approached by a dwarf, who offered them work that probably involved killing. They agreed, even though it was off-putting that he only acknowledged Hum Lae as a person. Leaving the snailish in a nearby park, they headed out.

They were following the dwarf back to his “yurt” when they were attacked by tengu thieves. The monks murdered them in short order, and looted their money, their message ribbons, and some of their weapons. (A kusarigama and some katar.)

Drinking With a Dwarf

They entered the dwarven ghetto within the tengu ghetto, with its tall polished walls and its windmill tower well over a hundred foot tall with fifty foot sails. In the stone “yurt” they shared a flask of dwarven drink with their still-nameless host. It exposed them to a stone’s view of time, and robbed them of three days as they lived through the effects. After that, they knew instinctively their host’s name was Skelman, and he acknowledged each of them as people.

They were worried about their snailish, and found them working in the scullery of a tea house, unhappy about this turn of events. They urged the snailish to be patient a while longer, while they helped the dwarf Skelman.

Skelman wanted to open a new goldsmith shop in Kuan Loon, and he wanted them to help him move his gold and supplies, and protect them. He had a contract to lease a building, that was very costly and time consuming to acquire.

They went with him, taking four big crates of gold and supplies, protecting it down the river and into Kuan Loon, where they took posession of his trapezoidal stone fortified shop. He was satisfied with its condition, and they enjoyed the rooftop garden it had, and admired its armored basement with its own well water supply.

Errands

Huan stayed to guard the shop, and Lightcrash took a crabbish boat upriver to deliver a message to the rest of Skelman’s people that the shop was ready for them. (Skelman took a big risk coming downriver without scouting it first, but saved a pile of money since the risk paid off and the shop was ready for him to take possession.) Also, to bring the snailish downriver.

Hum Lae took his pet roach Mr. Whips with him and spread some money around to find Na Li Ka. He closed in on the Singing Koi block, where she had her flock of roaches around a pond where the paving gave out at one end of the courtyard. Hum Lae told her who he was, and that the others were coming. (He also found out she had a club foot.) They chatted for a while, and he left Mr. Whips to breed with the Empress, one of the roaches “in heat.”

Na Li Ka also heard from Chan Chal, an apprentice crabbish breeder at the Shellshock Stable, that they might have some work for “flexible” people like chaos monks. They could check into that further, she could talk to Chal that night.

Meanwhile Lightcrash delivered the message to the dwarves and arranged passage for himself and the snailish on the barge. He went to collect the snailish, and a sneering thug with two thug buddies had a crabbish, and claimed the snailish shell as the payment for defaulting on the “contract” to work the scullery.

The thug attacked, battering Cho Juny down, as Lightcrash fought the crabbish. It sheared the blades off two of his spears, then cut one of the thugs in half (it was easily confused.) The other thug ran. Meanwhile, the leader attacked the snailish, who all piled on him and crushed/ate at him to death.

Lightcrash dodged the crabbish, who started eating the dead thug, and got all the snailish into the shell. They retreated, and the crabbish followed, causing trouble on the street and becoming the town guard’s problem. Once on the boat, Lightcrash used the Soothing Cauldron spell on Cho Juny, who recovered enough to make the rest of the snailish throw up the pieces of human they ate. (That’s not civilized.)

Kuan Loon

They all met at the docks, and Hum Lae agreed with Huan that working with dwarves (who were goldsmiths and had lots of money) was better than the life of a wandering performer. Lightcrash went with the snailish to the Singing Koi block, and the monks were separated.

The dwarves went to the new goldsmith shop and sang low resonant tones to each other while their hooded and masked human servants (and the chaos monks) looked on. Then they were officially installed there, and ready to set up for business.

After sleep, they got spells. Huan:

  • Transmuting Thorn. Must be cast on a thorn switch (vine or branch), turns it into an enchanted object adding +1 combat per level OR an object granting advantage to a task, lasts 1 minute per level.

Lightcrash:

  • Enlightening Stone. Cast on a stone, which is touched to a target, who must make a Will save or be stupefied for 1 minute per caster level, or until the target takes damage.
  • Lightning Light. Cast on a light source within 10 feet per caster level, the light arcs to the target (who must be within 10 feet per caster level) and automatically hits for 1d6 per caster level. The light that arcs goes out.
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Chaos Monks: Suckage

Chaos Monks

They began as prisoners in the Nine Towers prison. Stirge had been flying down among the prisoners and guards, causing deaths, including the death of a friend of theirs in the prison. His name was Win-Lur, and he was a sorcerer. They were gathered around him when he died, and the pinhole to the Chaos Realm breathed on them and they were changed into chaos monks.

  • Hum Lae. (Max) A tough fighter who likes to tell anecdotes.
  • Lightcrash the Silver Edge. (Patrick) A flamboyant monk performer.
  • Tsung Lao. (Tyler) He could use a lute for a weapon.

Lightcrash and Tsung Lao swirled with spellcasting energy.

  • Probability Nexus. After casting, for 10 minutes or 1 fight, can add advantage to 1 roll per level per encounter (after rolling.)
  • Time Silencing. As a free action, stop time. Get 1 extra attack per level, or 1 minute of movement per level.

The Warden pulled them in (and some other hapless prisoners) and told them that they could earn their freedom by going into Tower Seven, which was where the stirge were coming from. After they agreed to do that (or be thrown down a long staircase back to the prison) they talked to the Captain, a tough woman who told them that Sook-Jit took his gang and was banished to that tower so he’d stop fomenting unrest in the prison.

First they got an assortment of gear, whatever recent prisoners had confiscated that wasn’t yet parceled out or thrown away. Then they were given a portable altar to the Purple Lady, goddess of luck and latrines, and told to burn incense for an hour under the stirge nest to clear out the infestation. They were sent across the wall to the tower.

The Tower

They entered to find three gang members, who they put down with a brief fight. Then some tiny stirge swarmed them, and they managed to knock them down (Hum Lae resorted to using his shovel, gaining the nickname “Angry Shovel” which may or may not catch on.) They roasted and ate some of the little stirge in the small campfire before heading further up into the tower. (Better than prison food.)

They ran into some tougher foes who were lounging under the stirge nest, which was fleshy and leaking royal jelly as well as horrible stirges. After scouting the location, they were caught. They had a brutal fight where Hum Lae almost fell to a cleaver staff from the leader, who did actually kill Tsung Lao with hurled stirge-beak darts.

Fortunately, Huan (Tyler) was cowering on the stairs, and the touch of Chaos moved him to join in the fight. Clever use of time-stop, marbles, and bear traps carried the day along with violence, and they set up the altar and incense under the nest.

They heard a scout approach from below, and they ambushed him and wiped him out. Stirge flew down to investigate all the blood, and there was a short brutal fight where several of them lost more blood than they could easily spare. Woozy, they resolved it was time to move on. But there was something else downstairs.

Stirgeman

They went down to find an open secret trapdoor, and a tough guy with a stirge head emerging. In a burst of heroism, Hum Lae charged him and knocked him down the stairs. Unable to leave his brave companion, Lightcrash followed with his spear. Huan slammed the door behind them and nailed it shut with shivs as best he could.

The monks tumbled down the stairs with the stirgeman, stabbing and clawing and biting. Just as the stirgeman pinned Hum Lae and prepared to kill him, Lightcrash finished the stirgeman off with the spear. They retreated back up the stairs, not wanting to investigate deeper. Huan reluctantly let them out, but hurried up as the buzz of stirge approached.

They raced out to the sunlight, catching their breath and binding wounds. An hour later, they went back in and retrieved the shrine, seeing dead stirge all over and the nest badly damaged by the divine outhouse stench.

They were released down Justice Way, and they rejoined the world as free men.

Traveling Show

Hum Lae, Lightcrash, and Huan formed a rag-tag group of buskers to stretch the 10 silver they got from the Warden as far as possible. A week later, they managed to get enough coin from busking to carouse.

Lightcrash got a quest from the chaos-touched wife of a cockroach herder (Kim), who told him it was his destiny to save the leader of the Small Swords.

Hum Lae woke up to find he had a tile with an address; he remembered some low-level functionary plying him with alcohol the night before until he signed a contract of some kind, but he couldn’t remember what that was about.

The Contract

Hum Lae sold the group on his contract as a good thing, and they agreed to back him up (after a retelling of the story of how he heroically led the charge against the stirgeman.) They went to the posh mansion pagoda of a slugman, Yon Dae-Ho.

They met with the aristocrat, who explained one of his favorite gardens was currently infested with a shell of snail people, and they were to get rid of the snail people either by luring them away or murdering them all and leaving no witnesses (as he did not want to start a feud with the snail tribes.) They were promised 50 silver each if they succeeded.

They talked with his functionary, Yun, who explained snail people were like gypsies who traveled in a shell per family. He sent them on a wagon to the garden, where they saw the slime trail over the wall.

Snail People

They went into the curated garden, and saw how the snail people had already started eating the immaculate landscaping. (Snail people apparently love the plants slug people like to decorate with.) It pleased them some to see the order disrupted by hunger.

They found the shell, and the snail people around it. Snail people have only one eye stalk, and are slim and more eel-like than the slug people, bowed and spindly of limb and slick of body and mouth.

The chaos monks tried to persuade the snail people to join their traveling show, and put on a show for them; at first, they were losing the snail people’s interest, but then they used magic and talked about how the slug people were degenerate offshoot of snail people, and regained their attention.

  • Maddening Pyramid. Grants 1 armor, and foes must pass a morale test to attack you while the pyramid spins over your head (optionally spewing conspiracy theories.) Lasts 1 minute per level.

The monks offered the snails tasty reeds, elsewhere, and the snail people agreed to join their show. The snail people all smooshed together into one massive foot body, and went up in the shell, righting it, and slithering out of the garden and over to a pond with the monks.

They talked about what their show would be like. The snails were led by Cho Juny. Others didn’t share names, only nicknames; Slick, Curves, Slider, Crispy, Eyebite, and Mr. Salt (who looked kind of eroded and pickled.)

Juny’s clan offered them a gift of a jade coin each (worth a piece of gold) and 7 doses of the Perfume of the Perfect Cure. They were officially business partners. (And was romance budding between Hum Lae and Slick?)

Next stop: the Yellow City.

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Chaos Monks: Audition

Chaos Monks

They decided to join the Small Swords Society so they could raid the Hundred Pagodas, but first there was an audition. The night before they were in a crazy game of dominoes, so they ended up with a strange assortment of equipment (and no money to speak of) as they entered the Small Swords compound.

  • Branford (Slade) was once man overboard on a ship, and when he crawled out of the sea in an unfamiliar place he was not the same.
  • Shep (Dylan) was a coin clipper who was locked in a box by some angry customers once, and eventually the box broke open and he went on with his life, but something changed in him during that experience.

Small Swords

They saw the others trying to join; a champion of order and his entourage, a tough crabbish with some jewels in his carapace, a handful of street thugs, and more. They got their turn, talking with the Master of Arms Mochi Ruten during their audience with the guildmaster Hizen Sunli, a teenager.

Their task was to restore the mind of Waki, the top fighter of the Bronze Teeth club fighters. After all, they must be resourceful and clever, not just violent, to succeed in the Small Swords. They were given an introduction symbol to show Yaparkpangri, the tough leader of the club. Then they were sent out through a side door. Good luck!

Azulian House of Healing

They decided the best approach was to find someone with quality bandaging, find out where they got it, and consult healers about a head injury. They spotted a hobgoblin duke with bodyguards, and told the seneschel that intercepted them that they were arguing about whether the Duke got treatment from the best or not. The seneschal pointed them to the Azulian House of Healing, and the palanquin went on its way.

They saw all the beggars at the gate held back by guards, so they cased the huge compound, and saw several entry points. They ended up climbing a tree to get up on the wall, then following that to climb up to a balcony and get in to an upper level.

They snuck into a supply closet to find a female guard and a male nurse making out; interrupting the nookie session, they threatened to turn the lovers in. The guard attacked, and was battered unconscious while the nurse was threatened to keep quiet. They let the nurse bandage the guard (who they did not kill) in exchange for cooperation, the nurse leading them to a brain expert among the sluggish scholars here in the tower.

The nurse, Tam, complied and was eager to help them so they’d leave without things getting worse. She led them to Kyramana, the sluggish brain specialist, in the sluggish lounge where the scholars were relaxing. The monks prodded Tam to ask the sluggish how to treat a bad head injury without the advantage of sluggish expertise.

Kyramana explained that certain alchemical solutions were made for just that purpose, like the Sixty Two Feather Potions he had just made and given to the Arch Mage Fei-Ta. One of those potions would set everything right.

Grateful, Tam and the others withdrew (the monks stealing some healing supplies and at least one robe each because they felt so nice.) They disappeared into the city, and Tam gave them a twenty minute head start before reporting the break-in.

Fei-Ta’s Tower

They asked around and found their way to the ancient tower, and Branford disguised himself as a healer as Shep posed as the bodyguard. They talked to Yukkur, the solicitor eunuch, who had an eyepiece that let him identify them as chaos monks. He was delighted to see them, as he was worried about his master, who was projecting astrally that he was in trouble.

He had taken the Sixty Two Feather Potions up to his summoning chamber, and the summoning went wrong, automatically locking the chamber. Arch Mage Fei-Ta must have made it to his safe room, an interdimensional Casket of the Secluded Island. But he was trapped there.

Yukkur gave them a rune badge to back off the wind spirits bound to protect the tower, and took them upstairs and showed them the ledge to follow around to get to the window entry. Yukkur also gave them each an elbow-length glove that would lock in place on stone, to help them not fall.

The wind spirits bothered at them, but when the big wind spirit arrived, it begrudgingly acknowledged its service. Instead of them falling over a hundred feet to certain doom, they were blown into the chamber.

There they saw a mess, and the tipped-over casket. They activated it, going in to the otherdimensional refuge.

The Casket of the Secluded Island

There they ran into awkward swan-people-constructs, and had a bit of a scuffle on the dock before they just ran around them and got up to the gazebo. It had recreational scrying capacity, so they found the Arch Mage Fei-Ta and the potions. Then Shep took medicine for the massive resulting headache. They ran past more swan things to get into the house.

There they saw the courtyard was defended by a buzzing infinity-shaped segmented hummingbird thing. They tried hefting it out of the courtyard it was covering, but they were touched by stunning tendrils. They recovered in due time, but realized the arch mage had been stunned and his physiology was not as robust at rebooting as theirs.

They carried his couch in to the house and used medicine to revive him. He outfitted himself and sent his swans out in the yard, where a giant flying crystalline angelfish destroyed them, and the chaos monks hustled the arch mage down to the docks and through the dimensional portal.

Pain the the Brain

The arch mage gave them promise of a favor, and 100 silver for their help, as well as the potions they sought. They left the tower, talking to one of the less invisible spies around the arch mage’s territory and gaining a guide to the Bronze Teeth’s hangout. There they met with Gree, and Branford insisted it was about wanting to see Waki fight again; Gree bought it, and took them to the disabled fighter.

They administered the potion, and Waki recovered fully and immediately. They slipped away during the celebration, returning to the Small Swords compound.

Master of Arms Ruten was suitably impressed, and granted them each a sash/band with the Small Swords emblem. Then they feasted.

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World Between for Fictive Hack: Vampire Hunting

World Between Fictive NameplateThe Vampire of Echowood Vale did something to anger the local vampire ruler in Harrowfaust, so the word went out that the vampiric gaze and overwatch was removed from Echowood Vale. If mortals were to slay the Vampire of Echowood Vale, the Powers That Be would not retaliate.

Word went out through the underground network of secret symbols known as “Twitter” and found some desperate monster hunters ready to take the opportunity to cut this cancerous monster out of the World Between for good.

  • Ty, a bandit (Mark) first got the word and spread it, using pigeons.
  • Sunnhilde, a purifier (Kristy) was traveling with Andor the Bronzed, a zealot (Simon) and they got the word while waiting in a seedy tavern.
  • Kail, a Scarabaen questing knight (Michael) heard from a nun, who whispered the news to him while they were in bed.
  • Ragnell, a fighter (Shaun), heard the news as he looked for work in the taverns.
  • Maeve Galbraithe, an assassin, (Iris) got word through strange means.

They met in the Frolicking Veal, agreed to go out the next day, and spent an uneventful night.

Echowood Vale

After a couple hours of walking into the valley, along a road that sometimes clung to switchbacks on the shoulder of the hill rather than penetrating deep copses of trees, they found themselves looking at the tall tower of Echowood Vale. It had a shallow moat for protection, but no walls. It was defended by a ramshackle cadre of minions, who intercepted the incoming monster hunters and told them to go away.

They weren’t even done talking when Sunnhilde shot one in the face, and a general battle broke out where the minions fell back to defend the bridge but instead got tossed off by Ragnell and Andor, with those who ran to warn others picked off by gunfire.

The mighty men shoved the door to the castle manor off its wormeaten frame, bursting into the place. They shot down some more minions, and set to exploring.

A Stony Reception

Upstairs they found a room bathed in red and green light from the stained glass, with a statue of a preacher, a ruler, and a mother cradling a baby. They were waiting for it when the statues came to life, the preacher brandishing the mast like a weapon, the ruler whipping around his rod of office, and the mother gripping her ferocious stone baby by the ankle and swinging it around with abandon.

The hunters got kicked around a little, and Andor was knocked senseless, but they broke the statues and opened them up, smashing the warpstone gem at the center. Also they threw the bitey stone baby out the window.

Haunted

They explored the place, following the paths leading up and up, until they neared the top of the highest point. Crossing a narrow stone bridge 120 feet up, they encountered another stone construct that tried to hurl them from the bridge, but they dispatched it and continued on.

They found a bedroom, with a signet ring; an old place, undisturbed by the new occupant. They triggered a manifestation of Lady Echowood, who resented the cancer of the vampire and its creatures, but was bound to serve; she slammed the room shut and unseated it from the World Between briefly, then she vanished and released the doors and windows. Only now it was night.

Also, there was a horrible buzzing and nasal whining that penetrated their ears and set them on edge; somewhere, something was playing a supernaturally loud bagpipe, with great gusto.

Hounds of Hell

They continued exploring the rooms and towers, unnerved by howling. Upon opening a door to the courtyard, they were assaulted by a big black dog with glowing heat in its mouth, and a spray of gunfire settled it. They saw another down a dark corridor and shot it too.

All’s Well That Ends Well

They followed the sounds of the bagpipe and found the creature of the night proudly puffing away on the monstrous thing as he stood by the throne from which he ruled the ruins.

Maeve lined up her shot and assassinated the oblivious vampire with a single bullet before it even knew they were there. It was falling to dust before its remains sprayed across the floor. Even though the bagpipe burst, the monster hunters took pains to break the drones and make sure the hellish thing would never speak again.

After that, Sunnhilde went back up to the tower and opened a way to the World Above, allowing the ghost of Lady Echowood release (and they kept the signet ring.) Andor the Bronzed led a search downstairs, finding the vampire’s crypt and making sure there were no lurking surprises.

They left as the sun came up, their work finished.

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Guns of Telluria: Pretty Butterflies

I’m in the process of adapting Guns of Telluria from Into the Odd over to adapting Maze Rats. This was the first test.

Three veterans from the war met in the Battle of Topeka, and now traveled as guns for hire.

  • Irene Morgan (Iris) and her talking crow named Edgar.
  • Nettie Blair (Kristy) and her faithful horse Maximus.
  • Rhineholdt “Holt” Stoker (Bryan) and his faithful horse Ulysses.

All of them got an honorable discharge and had some medals, real war heroes. But they couldn’t go back to their lives before the Great War.

They were riding through the beautiful autumnal countryside towards the town of Johnsonville, where they saw smoke coming up and smelled delicious barbecue going on. They quickened their pace, because a public party was just the thing after some time on the road.

Butterflies!

Over the banks of wildflowers, the column of huge butterflies (each wing the size of a hand) with impossibly iridescent colors twisted towards the party. The townsfolk cried out in dismay as it approached, and they scattered. A butterfly landed on the face of a fellow next to Holt, and it had a carapace and multiple wavy heads, and suckers so it stuck to the panicking man’s face. Holt tried to remove it with a pocket knife, and it exploded, flinging him back.

Another butterfly latched onto Irene’s head, but she was wearing her glamor goggles (which cut out the butterfly color) and managed to pry the suckers loose so the butterfly didn’t blow her head off. They retreated into the barn, where a butterfly on the wall outside blew a head-sized hole in the boards.

They encountered a young man hiding in the barn. He told them the butterflies had come twice before, this was the third attack in two weeks. They came in broad daylight, blowing up heads and doorways, then they were gone. They came from the east, and the only things over there were the Jenkins farms (the Jenkins clan had quite a bit of interconnected territory and bloodlines) and Crawdad Hollow.

Mop-Up

With the explosive assault seemingly over, they went out to help. Holt wanted medical attention, but saw the disaster’s scope, and instead helped with triage (and caught the eye of a pretty nurse, who he studiously ignored.) He helped bring order while the doctor used a hot frypan to cauterize the stumps of struggling and screaming survivors of butterfly bombs.

Meanwhile Irene and Nettie went to the dry goods store which was mostly caved in by explosives, and helped get people out before it collapsed.

Reluctant to talk to authority figures any further, they mounted up and headed east, following the path of the bomber butterflies.

Jenkins Folk Ain’t Friendly

As they rode onto Jenkins land, a line of grubby farmers threatened them, telling them to turn back. Two had shotguns. Nettie, who had been granted a horrible power by the fey so she could open starving pits to swallow foes, unleashed that power and devoured one of the farmers. The others lost their nerve and sloped off, so the veterans rode on.

They found a Jenkins settlement, and a lean pack of hounds raced towards them bawling, but the horses kept their cool and Nettie fed them a sausage from the festival, getting a bunch of tail wagging best friends. A shabby farmer came out and told them to git, and abruptly turned his back when they talked about butterflies.

But one of his kids told them more (in exchange for a sausage.) There was the Stinky Man at Crawdad Hollow, and no one could see him, but he was the big boss. Before he could say more, his dad chased him off, and the veterans withdrew.

They saw a fey glyph of some kind on the Jenkins fencepost, and the boy told them they could follow the scarecrows to the Hollow. They saw the scarecrows also had a fey glyph stitched into the fabric of their faces, and were in a visible line, so they followed them.

Crawdad Hollow

They reached the Hollow, and saw a crumbling old pedastal at the “mouth” of a swampy mangrove area. There were butterflies at rest in the trees of the swamp, and the old stonework maybe was here, or maybe shifted in from contact with a fey realm. They approached, and whiffed the terrible stink of trench foot.

Irene tried to get a fix on the Stinky Man, who was hidden in a glamer. Holt got tossed off the pedastal with a telekinetic shove, and the others readied handfuls of iron filings and machetes or other weapons.

Holt readied his elephant gun for when he had a shot. The Stinky Man gloated he was going to use his summoning powers to take over Johnsonville, and then the world! (He was clearly a bit fuzzy on scale.) He telekinetically hurled Nettie from the platform, and she broke her neck on impact.

Irene caught a glimmer of the thing and threw her iron filing so they sparkled against the hidden hide; it was a man-sized lobster thing, invisible and gruesome, but Holt fired his cannon and destroyed it. Many pieces of the horrible thing plopped down in the swamp, and the crawdads gleefully went to work eating it.

The saddened veterans withdrew and immolated Nettie on a pyre in proper fashion, then moved on.

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Black Space Hack: Bloodsport

Gunther Kline (Shaun), Amaris Grayling (Bess) and DoTBSH_Cover_01ctor Doug (Simon) ended up kicking around together, and looking for work. They met with Captain Breaker, a leader in Shoova’s Lances (a mercenary company) because he offered a job.

They were to take Aliara Von Vayle, an aristocrat, and help her pick out an alternate identity as part of their ship crew (and the Lances would loan them a ship.) They get 200,000 credits split between survivors when she goes to a rendezvous point after Aldorian IV.

Of course, Aldorian IV is the site with the Freezethorp Detention Installation in deep orbit, so security is ferocious. The only way they are getting close is in a massive caravan that’s headed out there. Some nobles are going to a tournament where the warden thaws out the most dangerous mutants and pits them against each other in mortal combat, and where nobles gather in force you need a city of support personnel and luxury items. The mission is to get hired as an escort and to help haul cargo, and smuggle Von Vayle to the site. It’s ambiguous, and dangerous, but the pay is great; sure, they took the job. Captain Breaker gave Kline the key to the ship, and they were on their way.

New Names

They got aboard their ship, but “Lamentations” was a terrible name, so they renamed it “Strumpet.” They also went to meet with Von Vayle, finding her guarded by tough cyborg guards unhappy about being out in the open in a spaceport with their charge. Before the meeting, Amaris did some surreptitious quick research, finding out that the lady Aliara Von Vayle was the bursar for the entire Von Vayle fortune, making her a key figure in the economy of the sector. Her brother, DiArmond Von Vayle, was the Court Portraitist, and not her biggest fan. In fact, he had a bounty out on her so big all the bounty hunters in the sector were scouring the transpo corridors hunting her.

They met with her, and she seemed very trusting, dismissing her guards. For a disguise, she was planning on going full Void Sister with a burqa and memorized sign language. She also showed signs of technologically enhanced health; over 40 years old, she looked 20. She enthusiastically followed them to the ship, where Amaris dubbed her “Wacko Prescott” for a spacer name.

Joining Up

They flew to the asteroid base where Captain DeekDeek, a mutant warrior, was hiring on people for the big caravan. After a brief interview, they were hired on, and took on cargo, joining the caravan. Amaris wasted no time in using her nanokey to worm her way in through the security of the crate, finding that it was live eels for stupid expensive snacks for aristocrats; she locked it back up without mishap.

They did pop out of the tesserarch jump once, because there was a distress signal. A local hauler was being attacked by Graamin mutants. Even though there was a 500 credit bounty for those who were keen to help out, they declined; the whole thing was over shortly, spare tesserarch engines fitted to the Sunsetter hauler so it could limp back to civilization, and the caravan was once again in transit.

For most of the trip, “Wacko” took the captain’s advice and wore her confining garment, getting used to it. The others pursued various entertainments during the three day trip.

Arrival

When they arrived, and the cryoprison tugs managed the logistics of bringing people and supplies to the station, they were in the middle of a flurry of activity. Holes were cut in the base so modules could be added, for the comfort of the nobles. Upon boarding, they surrendered all weapons but knives.

There was a fight every two hours, twelve fights for the duration of the event. As the first fight started (twenty warriors against Axeface, who dispatched them all) Von Vayle finally revealed her true motive.

She was here to rescue one of the fighters, Spatterwrench. When Captain Kline guessed he was a past lover, she blushed and said he used to be a poet for the court, but his writing got political, and not only was he banished here but he was subjected to severe mutations to make him violent and dangerous.

She had plenty of money, and an Omnikey (rare technology) and her plan was to smuggle the key and a message to him. Then he could get through some of the internal security, they could meet him, and escape together. It was a pretty sketchy plan.

Various Misbehavior

Amaris and Von Vayle targeted a wealthy woman about Amaris’ size, and used the Omnikey to break into her docked suite. They found a servant there, who Amaris managed to incapacitate (though she got a nasty bite) and they stole a very expensive wardrobe made of extinct animal parts so she could command respect.

After the doctor sealed up her wound, Captain Kline and Doctor Doug headed down to get a ride back out to their ship; they succeeded in persuading the staff because of Doctor Doug’s pheremone persuasion. (He had pheremones, and the ability to manipulate fire with his mind, because he was an experiment to pay off his medical loans. As a result of the processes, he wasn’t very bright.)

They had to go out to the ship to get Amaris’ code patcher, and as they headed back Captain Kline used his technical skill and ability to focus in stressful situation to make an ID for them as a salvage company.

Meanwhile, Amaris tried to put the moves on the Warden, but he had so many requests for an audience (each with lovely side funding) that she couldn’t get to him. So, she targeted a lower official, suggesting she wanted some private time with a gladiator. Or the official. It wasn’t totally clear. Anyway, the official scanned her, and the dress showed up as stolen. (It had been reported with surprising speed.) The dress was removed, Amaris put in coveralls, and locked along with Von Vayle in a holding cell to be processed and kept at the facility, adding to the bottom line as the Court paid for more prisoners.

Von Vayle was NOT scanned, so she produced the Omnikey, and they got out of the holding cell. Von Vayle’s enhanced memory meant they could get into the ductwork, and from there maneuver, if they could evade the guards.

The guards were modular cybernetic units each about torso sized. They could form guards, or cover panels, or make centipedes, combining to add power to shielding or stunners or size. They were called Guardians.

The spacers dodged the Guardians and got into the ductwork, then managed to mostly evade the super-hot and super-cold and mechanical chompy bits, escaping into the pen where the gladiators were kept chained to posts.

The Escape

Von Vayle dodged between the grasping gladiators, but Amaris was snagged by one of the big dangerous mutants. She managed to form enough connection not to get twisted in half, but the situation got dire as Von Vayle confronted the former court poet. Turns out his wits were intact, and when she freed him they quickly had an escape plan.

Spatterwrench (formerly known as Sarnim Bellutha) got his massive wrench weapon, and rescued Amaris from the other mutant. Then they unlocked all the chains, and directed the gladiators to fight the rich people who were the real enemy.

The Warden showed up in power armor designed to quell this sort of super-riot, but the suit was not prepared for the ferocity of Spatterwrench’s onslaught, and it was torn open. Amaris fished through the remains in the cockpit to get the Warden’s ident. Now they could access EVERYTHING.

As the gladiator prisoners surged against the guards, Captain Kline and Doctor Doug charmed an employee into letting them out to the forklift tug (as salvage operators, which their license proved.) From there, Captain Kline started transmitting on an unused junk frequency as he closed in on the area where the facility was putting all the massive crates the supplies arrived in.

Inside, Amaris logged in as the Warden (took two terminals, because in the first one there were still some remains on it that gummed up the works more or less literally) and got more than she bargained for. The facility was so corrupt and secure that it had a data vault of encrypted secrets of the rich and powerful. Still, there was no way to transmit or retrieve the data–except she had a data vault installed in her head! She managed to get about 3/4 of the data, and on the operations side, she put a virus in the system that muddied up the ship records, and by then the fighting was too hot and too close; it was time to make a move if they were going to escape at all.

Amaris looked on the junk frequency and found Captain Kline, so they coordinated a meeting point. Kline used the ship to connect a container to the exit, and Amaris went with Von Vayle and Spatterwrench into the container. From there, they remote accessed the ship using the Warden’s codes, and had it meet them in unencumbered space. (Chaos reigned as the wealthy were piling out to their relatively secure ships and retreating.)

All’s Well

Aliara Von Vayle had coordinates in empty space, and they headed for those. They came out of the tesserarch right on top of a freighter that was patiently waiting, and after getting a secret communication channel established with Von Vayle, they let her put Spatterwrench back in the cargo and transfer to the other ship. Then they went on their own way.

Now they possessed a vast store of poisonously encrypted secrets of the rich and powerful; the priority would have to be extracting those secrets in a safe environment, slicing them open, and then leveraging them to make obscene amounts of wealth without being wiped out by the kill squads of aristocrats threatened by truth.

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Ghostbusters in Boston

I was in Boston meeting Miller and Bryan for the first time in person (as well as some of Miller’s friends.) This is the Ghostbusters game we played. The players built their franchises and their characters, which was at least as fun as the adventure itself.

The national Ghostbusters franchise (with Cora Smythe, director) has an annual Spengler Paranormal Elimination and Study Conference (SPEC). The theme this year was “Best Practices” with the informal objective of working on grant proposals to get funding to investigate why the ectoplasmic tides are rising worldwide. Boston was selected as the host city and franchise.

Three franchises sent reps to the conference.

Boston Ghostbusters

Their logo added a bowtie to the caught ghost. Their version of the theme song is performed by a string quartet.

They get around in a Mercedes G Wagon that has shrink-wrapped back-up jumpsuits in case they need to talk to people and have gotten messy–image is important. (The back door has a mirror so they can get the look ‘just so.’) The jumpsuits are black, with embroidered faux tuxedo black and white.

The main base is out on the sea fort, with a 1 car boat ferry. The containment unit for the ghosts is underwater, for security reasons.

They are on civic probation because the mayor’s son wants his own paranormal elimination franchise, and the Ghostbusters are competition, so one slip and the mayor is eager to shut them down. Their main defense is their reputation as completely competent ghost eliminators; no repeat business with them.

They are also on probation with the franchise licensing, because there are rumors they have indulged in “frightening”; releasing ghosts, then showing up and making a big deal of capturing them, to look like heroes and bilk the gullible of cash.

Jeraldo (pronounced ‘Heraldo’) is their gear maintenance expert, staff, and butler. He is a dignified Latin American butler with crisp manners and attention to detail.

Their presentation at the conference was going to be the metrics for how to measure the efficacy of a ghost capture field, and how to adjust and modulate how information is recorded to refine and improve the function of the traps themselves.

  • Theodore Biltmore (Kay) is totally by the book, local expert for tech and gear and also their occult scholar, into the crystals and moldy books. 3
  • Michael Masterson (Mark) is also into regulations, but he takes point on missions and serves as the team’s diplomat–talking to people. 3

Salem Ghostbusters

Their logo mounts the captured ghost on a broomstick. They are based in the Peabody Essex Museum. Rather than having an emergency vehicle, they have special permits for public transit systems, combined with collapsible Segue backpacks.

Salem is a problem, mounted on a trouble spot where supernatural energies converge. That keeps the supernatural threat level high enough to keep the franchise in business. They also rely on grant money, as they are a start-up out of MIT, part of a business incubator model.

They are on civic probation and franchise probation because of what happened to Trevor, last Halloween.

We don’t talk about what happened to Trevor.

Their presentation at the conference was going to be on city wide wards; apparently the light rail system was put in by an occultist, and with some supplemental flourishes, it serves as a massive restraining system to keep the energies under Salem in check. What can we learn about that so we can use it in other cities?

  • Quincy Hamilton (Anthony) is a savvy tech and gear man who runs point on missions. 2
  • Marco Peabody Essex (Miller) is a rebel, who handles the driving and finances for his team. 5

St. Louis Ghostbusters

Their logo puts the caught ghost in the St. Louis Arch. This hard-living franchise of paranormal exterminators is a family affair that used to be a laundry business, transitioning with the last of their funds to paranormal elimination (and dry cleaning). They still use the old laundry and the delivery truck for their new business.

Their funding stream is limited, so most of the gear is repurposed and doesn’t fit (and sometimes doesn’t work at all.) While they are resourceful and “out of the box thinkers” they have an uneasy relationship with the city because they blew up the St. Louis Arch–it may be the Gateway to the West, but a massive Ghost Dance on the plains sent shadowy herds of buffalo and long-gone warriors stampeding towards the real world through the gate, and they had to be stopped.

Ma runs the office and keeps the books, the biggest fan of her wayward boys, and a vicious combatant when faced with bureaucratic hurdles. (Before she married into the family, she was a bail bondsman.)

Their presentation at the conference was going to be on “practical ghostbusting” on a budget, with whatever materials were on hand. They didn’t even make a PowerPoint.

  • Cecil Howard (Bryan) is a hotshot always showing off what he can do with the tech and gear, and also serving as the enforcer if anything gets out of hand. 5
  • Morrigan Murphy (Dachary) was a hotshot too, always showing off, and the fixer who could find anyone or anything in St. Louis. She also ran point on the team missions. 3

The Conference

The day before, when Director Smythe arrived, she observed that they didn’t have sufficient space and energy supply for the convention at their current venue. Biltmore and Masterson scrambled, leaning on a local warehouse owner they’d serviced, and they got the whole conference rearranged in a brick building in Seaport that was adequate for the conference needs.

At the conference, they met Dylan Smunter, EPA oversight (outgoing supervision for Ghostbusters) and they also met the Department of Energy liaison who would be taking over. Things were going pretty well at the conference, the first presentation was smooth. That’s when they got the call from Boston HQ.

The Call

After the first presentation was over, they got a call from Jerald that there was an emergency just four blocks away; a class 3 apparition, potentially, and some class 2s and maybe even a few class 1s. Like some sort of warehouse rave for the undead.

Boston Ghostbusters quickly compelled the St. Louis Ghostbusters to put on their embroidered tux jumpsuits (“If you operate in our town, you must look the part,”) and while St. Louis and Boston headed down on the G Wagon, Salem sent their fancy drone ahead, with Hamilton piloting and Essex running the sensor array.

The first wave of Boston Ghostbusters went in; one was startled while taking readings, he fell and broke his arm. He made it out to the parking lot as they arrived, and said his partner was still in the warehouse; he made eye contact with something in there and he was just counting his fingers over and over again, totally freaked out.

They called in an ambulance, then the 4 Ghostbusters headed in cautiously. They were connected with the Salem Ghostbusters by tactical network, so they got some intelligence about what the drone was seeing.

Apparently there were a number of shambling level 1 spirits, but those were harmless (if startling) echoes of the dead. There were also 3 furtively moving level 2 spirits, more aggressive and aware but unable to do much more than jump scares and minor telekinesis. But somewhere in the static there might be something bigger.

They saw the level 1s, looked like normal people who died around this area over time. When they faced a level 2, it seemed to be wearing some sort of tattered prison uniform; they put it down with ropy cables of charged neutrinos, sort of sawing a boat in half and cutting a hole in the roof before getting a bead on the ghost.

Then the first wave Ghostbuster who lost his cool and was counting his fingers was executed. They turned to see the level 3 apparition, wearing combat fatigues and a gas mask (but missing legs.) The ghost had a machete that had a distressingly real edge.

As they brought their weapons to bear, it escaped, and they began a cat and mouse hunt through the warehouse. As this went on, the Salem Ghostbusters continued fine-tuning their instruments, and they saw a line of energy emanating from somewhere, feeding into the warehouse–as though ghosts were being transmitted there, or woken there. Using the drone’s fast flying capability, they traced the line of energy , zooming out over the open sea.

Meanwhile Biltmore found the ghost when it hurled its machete and pinned him to the wall through his shoulder bones. The others opened up, and managed to restrain the powerful ghost in a trap; the whole area went slack, the other ghosts vanishing.

The drone closed in on a lighthouse, where some paramilitary operatives were approaching the island in a speedboat. The drone got a good look as they ran in, shutting down the power on the transmission, and hauling the gear out to the boat. It looked like the work of Sal Godowski, a Russian scientist with some pretty unethical ideas about ghosts who was legally banned from working on the technology about ten years ago. As for the employees and speedboat, the drone took lots of pictures before it reached the end of its flight time and had to return or be lost.

The Ghostbusters got medical care for those who needed it, and the conference could go on, but there were dark questions raised about whether that haunting was intentional or not, and whether it was intended as some kind of sick test. The story was just beginning!

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