World Between: Plague of Wolves

World Between Fictive Nameplate

As soon as they left Gilbert, they were haunted by spies. Raptors with smoke wings, local law, bounty hunters; all of Harrowfaust seemed to be after them. They split up; Lady Bellwood led one group on a wild goose chase, and the other group continued with the book. We follow the group that went to Trivium, one of Harrowfaust’s mightiest cities.

  • Sunnhilde. (Kristy) Witch hunter with a damned book to deliver.
  • Ragnell. (Shaun) Fighter, budding templar.
  • Andor. (Simon) Zealot, brutal penitent.

Trivium At Last

After traveling 400 miles across 20 days, they reached the city. They went to the Ashwall neighborhood, ruled by the vampire Lady Louisa Goedde. They were going to meet with their contact, Mara Oldenburg, but she was dead. The neighborhood was having a werewolf problem.

A Werewolf Problem

Turns out, Goedde had invited a werewolf emissary of another noble to do some business three months ago. However, she failed to provide sufficiently sturdy restraints on the night of the transformation, so the werewolf escaped and bit some people.

Those people were tracked down and killed. Well, most of them. So the next full moon, the survivors bit some more people. THOSE people were tracked down and killed. Well, most of them. Now it was the third month after, and there were some survivors out there who were going to change into werewolves and bite people tonight.

Worse still, the werewolf’s name was Kendrick. That was the same monster that bit Andor’s sister and turned her into a werewolf, long ago. Unfortunately, the monster was far away by now, and there were more pressing matters at hand.

There were very few people on the streets, and numerous guard patrols, with higher than usual numbers. The heroes cooled their heels in the Besotted Owl, keeping an eye on the situation; they still needed to smuggle themselves and the dark book across the river into Caligari without being detected by Harrowfaust authorities.

The Town Guard Solution

They decided to volunteer to help out the town guard in rooting out and fighting werewolves. They made it quietly understood that in exchange they wanted quiet passage across the river, no questions asked. Captain Rennick more or less agreed, and they went on patrol.

They were headed for the Slops, a horrible part of the slum of Ashwall, where water collected against the wall but couldn’t get out so all the urban scum flowed into it. It was a great place to hide–if you don’t have to worry about disease or infection. It was the worst place for the city guards to have to search.

The Workhouse

That’s when they heard a ruckus at the workhouse. Both debtors and orphans were packed into the workhouse, imprisoned and forced to labor for the good of the city. Werewolves broke in, and in those close quarters the city guards would likely just barricade it and torch the whole thing, killing hundreds of unfortunates.

To save lives, the heroes grimly volunteered to go after the werewolves in the close confines of the workhouse. They burst in to the level where the werewolves were killing (and worse, biting) and confronted them, hurling them down and killing the lot of them. They also grimly killed everyone who was bitten, or suspected of being bitten. For all the innocents that died, many more were saved.

The heroes left the grisly work behind them, and the captain arranged them passage on a boat vetted by the town guards, no questions asked. Let us never speak of it again.

Across the River

They made it to the shadow city of Venksburg, across the river, in Caligari territory. There they met Bernhard Traub, Templar Knight of the Order of Bernus. He offered them help to get the book to Elmar Drach, Templar Master in Thronberg. Then the heroes could follow later, find him in Thronberg, and induct Ragnell into the Templar order.

Another Werewolf Problem

With the book off their minds, but spies still dogging them, they decided to look into a local missing persons problem, since the town was mobbing with anger. They quickly found that there were werewolves on this side of the river, probably escaped from Trivium. They followed the tracks from an animal kill; some of the brand new werewolves weren’t so savvy yet.

Wolf Cult

They found a cave where dozens of people were sleeping, and a shaman with several tricks up his sleeve was leading them. Once the fighting started, he activated a charm to turn on the lycanthropy even though it was the middle of the day, and the fighting got desperate as the people started getting much tougher. Still, the heroes carried the day, slaughtering all the werewolves including the shaman with all his tricks.

Job well done. Off to Trivium.

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World Between: The Ruined Abbey

World Between Fictive Nameplate


A group assembled in Harrowfaust for the purpose of weakening the monster population quietly; not challenging the forces in power, but doing what they could to improve the lot of the commoner.

  • Sunnhilde. (Kristy) A witch hunter.
  • Andor. (Simon) A penitent zealot.
  • Kael. (Michael) A questing knight from Scarabae, adding this round through Harrowfaust to his long travels.
  • Maeve. (Iris) An assassin with fey ties from the Shae Isles, here by way of the Iron Principalities.
  • Ragnell. (Shaun) A fighter with heavy armor, sword, and shield.
  • Ty. A bandit from lands where the ephemeral Encroachment from the World Below is all too commonplace.
  • Lady Vivian Bellwood. (Bess) A noblewoman, funding the expedition.

The Town of Gilbert

They arrived in Gilbert, which was rumored to be nearby to the ruined Abbey of Saint Tabitha. Gilbert was founded over 150 years ago as a hunting preserve, and the founders were generous church patrons who wanted to build a magnificent temple to the Lady near the town.

According to the tales, the abbey was built by humans with dwarven assistance, something about repaying the people for assistance rendered to the dwarves in the mountains nearby. It was buried by an earthquake a century ago.

Six weeks ago there was a minor tremor, then there were increasing reports of goblins, and people going missing. Duke Slaut didn’t want to have anything to do with it. However, Duin, a dwarf, put out word that he was willing to pay people to hunt goblins and put a stop to this. (His father worked on the chapel, and he’s wanted to see it since he was a young dwarf.)

Meeting Contacts

The hunters arrived, and met with Duin, agreeing to take the dwarf with them on the expedition (and keep him alive so they’d get paid.)

They also checked in with the Chapel of the Sea, the tallest building in town, a fancy chapel to the Lady. They met with Father Hugo and Brad and Thom, and decided to take Brad with them as a torchbearer.

They stayed in the Green Maid Inn. There they interviewed the only survivor of the last group to head into the abbey; his morale was broken and his memories unhelpful.

Heading Out

They followed Brad out to the site of the buried temple. On the way they were ambushed by goblins, who they handily dispatched, and they found the first signs of the Encroachment. Upon reaching the site, they found several possible ways in; a hole that descended to a huge echoing room, or a more manageable tunnel-like entrance with some foot traffic. They chose the tunnel-like entrance, pushing through an overgrown courtyard garden following some strange footprints. By now it was clear the Encroachment was leaking up from this place.

Into the Abbey

A zombie had been left in the reception area, muttering at them to go back. The zombie matched the description of one of the last waves of adventurers to brave the site. They chopped it down and proceeded.

They reached the pilgrim’s chapel, mostly collapsed, and faced goblin ambush. Again they won through, and continued on to the common room, finding the goblin camp now abandoned. They also found a door with something monstrous behind it, and left it alone.

The Dome of Tabitha

They found a giant room (with a hole in the ceiling) and observed the eight stations of the Circle of Virtues, and found the room to be free of Encroachment.

Further In

They passed through rooms for preparing the dead, and finally came to stairs leading down to a winding corridor waist-deep in water. Steeling themselves, they waded on as carefully as they could, in darkness since the corridor was also full of flammable gas. This was INSANELY BRAVE, but they got away with it, reaching the far side with no branching to the corridor, and no pits or monsters.

At the far end, they climbed out on the landing, and as they were composing themselves they faced a metal door enchanted to stay shut unless the proper words were spoken.

However, goblins opened it from the other side, and the group swiftly killed the goblins and propped the door open before it could close.


The witch hunter Sunnhilde and the Lady Bellwood decided to stay here and protect the only way out, and the rest of them continued on.

The Library

They found a library where a female goblin shaman was looting the temple’s books with her elite bodyguards, and they had a savage fight (the shaman threw a cobra at them) and managed to slay all the goblins just as reinforcements arrived, with a tough goblin leader with paired weapons leading another mob. Poor Brad fell in this fight, his torch setting his body alight.

After a brutal hallway slaughter, they continued on to find the kitchen and pantry, and avoid going into an area where giant spiders got in. They burst in on the leader of the goblins and his massive hound monster, slaying them. They temporarily stored their loot in this area before continuing on to where goblins guarded the stairs along with their pet sewer dumpling. The stairs led much deeper; a quick spate of murder later, they descended the stairs.

The Excavation

They got down to an area with a deliberate pool and more digging machinery. Following the stairs down, they found a pump room that was partially collapsed and in poor shape; they also heard something following them from the pool. They went back to investigate, but it retreated into the pool and they did not feel it wise to pursue.

The corridor below had a Y intersection, and the central part was carved like the prow of a ship (in honor of the Lady, of course.) Having found the pump room down one direction, they noticed the goblin tracks all headed the other direction, so they followed that. They found a dark room full of water that they decided to ignore. Reaching the stern of the “ship” they saw there was another passage that led deeper still, and also a branch leading to tombs.

Monsters At the Bottom

The corridor leading deeper had been opened by the eruption, and it may lead all the way to the World Below. Goblins issued up from it, and monsters, and there was a mighty battle. After the intruders won, they examined the tombs, finding one to “Ares Rex II, Heretic, May the Saints Forgive Him His Curiosity.” It was burst open from the inside.

They found the corpse of Ares, infused with energies from the World Below and the Encroachment, turned into a powerful lich. He had a pit where he could toss the dead, and they would crawl out; or maybe it was a pit to the World Below. He could cause it to heave, vomiting masses of the dead, and the heroes chopped through them trying to reach him.

Ares dropped a curse on Andor, rendering him blind and deaf; the panicked zealot kept swinging his mighty blade, nearly killing Ragnell, who managed to calm him down.

Ares swelled up into a demonic form, and as Sunnhilde (who had caught up to them)  smote the lich over and over with divine energies, Maeve managed to assassinate the creature with a magic blade.

Sunnhilde found Ares’ dark book of magic, the Magus Malificarum.

The Stern Shrine

As they were staggering out, sorely afflicted by their injuries and distressing experiences, they found a secret door at the “stern” of the ship corridor. It led in to an original shrine to the champion of the Luminous Hawk, Tabyth. There was a decanter with sweet liquid to simulate tears on the statue, and they applied it; the earth trembled, shutting the way to the World Below, and clearing all the Encroachment.

The cosmic moment also cleared Andor’s curse so he could see and hear again.


They escaped, and Duin paid them. They buried Brad, gave a brief account to the Father (omitting the part about the pagan shrine at the center, a shrine that the dwarves seemed to revere more in their craftsmanship than the Lady sections) and they were on their way.

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Chaos Monks, Mountains of the Moon. Dine and Dash

Chaos Monks MountainsThe monks met in Khalart, an orderly city on an island in the glacier-melt runoff flowing from the mountains.

  • Hum Lae (Max) Lvl 3. Thromil the Goldsmith sent him from the Yellow City to take a mysterious locked stone chest to Dhudek, leader of a dwarven ghetto in the Charikot Oligarchy.
  • Xiao Xiao (Jeremy) Lvl 1. A bald, weaselly, acid scarred former necromancer lackey with a shovel. He and his henchman Ping (topknot, light red jacket with camo not floral) accidentally poisoned the necromancer leader. Nyandak, mistress of the Jade Shadows seraglio, took him on as an agent after he dug something up for her; something that twisted chaos into him. Spellcaster.
  • Gazo (Lu) Lvl 1. She is thin, shaved, and covered in bad tattoos (except the good one, of the Jade Shadow sign, given her by Wangchuk Tenzin, mystic artist.) Roof runner.
  • Tu (Ted) Lvl 1. He is tall, lanky, and a bit lazy. He served the dragon lord Paytrack, but in contacting the dragon’s castoff material he got frayed to the point of chaos flowing into and through him, and he had to leave. He found easy work with Nyandak and the Jade Shadows seraglio.

Mountains of the Moon MapThe chaos monks met in Khalart because Xiao Xiao, Ping, Gazo, and Tu had escorted some plague victims this far south past the Thousand Throat army of bandits cutting off access on the Thirty Back Trail to Charikot. Now they were resting, preparing to head back, maybe with supplies (or maybe those could wait.) They were in a nice restaurant, overlooking the koi pond, out of sight of the main seating area. They found Hum Lae, who was happy to join them, so they could all head up through the mountains together.

What’s the Rush?

They were comfortable through breakfast, and charmed the wait staff romantically through lunch, but it was the manager who told them to leave as supper approached. He was scared off by the monks, so the owner came, with the town guard.

By this point Hum Lae was headed to the bathroom, so right in front of the owner and captain of the guard, he relieved himself on the wall instead of in the bathroom. That was the final straw, so three guards jumped Hum Lae in the hallway while six more piled in after the rest of them in the koi dining room.

Hum Lae slaughtered the first of the orderly town guards, and the rest withdrew to the main dining room; the furious captain of the guard was a short, muscled woman with hook swords. She cornered Hum Lae in the hallway, and he killed his way out past her. This scared off the rest of the guards, who retreated to regroup and return with numbers.

Before they pulled back, Gazo retreated by leaping into the koi pond when the guards burst in. Xiao Xiao incapacitated a guard with his Worm Loop spell, and Ping grabbed him and leaped out into the water, leaving Tu alone against five guards. Tu was doing alright with spear and shield, but was relieved when the guards pulled back. He tossed Gazo’s supplies out to her where she was swimming, but she couldn’t catch them and stay afloat, so much of it was lost. Ping swam to safety with Xiao Xiao, out of the koi pond, ignoring the stirring in the deeper waters.

  • Worm Loop. The target must test Strength or Dexterity or be constrained for 1 minute per caster level. OR, the spell can squeeze for a single round, and the target takes 1 hit point per caster level.

Hum Lae burst into the dining room with Tu, all bloody, and they took the stone chest and the rest of the supplies and retreated quickly to the rendezvous point by the north bridge.

North Bridge

Tu and Hum Lae tried to steal a pair of llama, but they were spotted by a kid who called the guard. Tu escaped with the llama while Hum Lae killed a couple of the guards and escaped. (Tu named them Yut & Yi.)

Meanwhile Tu stone a goat hooked to a cart. (Ping named the goat Mr. Pointy.)

Across the open courtyard, a dozen town guard were blocking escape by bridge. Ping drove the goat cart right at them while Xiao Xiao fired on the guards with a crossbow, and the rest of the monks charged at the guards. Gazo flipped on through, but the other monks killed about half the guards on their way by; the guards lost the stomach for the pursuit, and the monks escaped Khalart without further incident. (The llamas were left behind.)

  • Duplicating Insect. Spell lasts up to 1 hour per caster level. An insect appears in your mouth, it can be programmed to repeat any sound you want. Will tests to get special effects beyond baseline function. (Xiao Xiao’s new spell.)

The Void Herald

They traveled until they ran across a huge yakkish draped on a pile of a dozen or so human corpses, arranged like a fainting couch. He had a double-bitted scythe, and he was lounging on former members of the Thousand Throat bandit army. More corpses had been hurled off the nearby cliff.

He was tired, said he fought his way out of the world accidentally in a dwarven fortress, and was happy to be back where it was warmer (even in the cold.) He knew that the stone chest was coming this way, and wanted it to get through, but in the future they would not meet on friendly terms (though he allowed for the possibility Hum Lae could be his apprentice sometime in the future.) He spoke in hazy riddles and terrifying images, implying he would sleep then wake and eat all the corpses.

Sign of the Herald

They asked for a sign of his favor, since he wanted them to get through the Thousand Throats to Charikot. He dug a handful of something out of the corpse pile and offered it up; Xiao Xiao took him up on it, and received a bone spider; its body made of two shoulderblades, jointed ribs for legs, a spine tail. It can purr, it radiates cold, and it snuggled onto his shoulders and dropped his body temperature. Rudimentary telepathy and empathy, ability as a scout, can distract in combat but not inflict hit points; a Sign of the Void Herald too. It bonded with Xiao Xiao instead of trying to destroy him.

When they continued on and met a few soldiers of the bandit army, Xiao Xiao created a stone locust in his mouth that repeated some of the Void Herald’s words, and the bandits were all too eager to let them pass (especially since the effect was bolstered with some of the Void Herald’s supernatural menace.)

The rest of the trip to Charikot was uneventful, though bandits trailed them on the road.

  • Soul Cascade. The victim must pass a Will test or truthfully answer a question, and also volunteer some awful fact that has nothing to do with the matter at hand. The caster can ask 1 question per caster level.

Charikot At Last

A mercenary band in green armor guarded the entry towers to the valley, but they let the chaos monks through since they had legitimate business below. The monks headed to the Jade Shadows seraglio, the best one in the city state, where they met Nyandak.

The matron of the seraglio likes poison, and has a daughter who is an open secret (though people who go on about her family end up poisoned.) She has some kind of interest in chaos monks, which can’t be good. Still, she welcomed them and paid them for their troubles, gold tabs worth 20 silver.

Also, a stone assayer and regular customer, Kelsang, was there with a couple dwarves. Hum Lae was able to offload the stone chest for gold tabs worth 100 silver.

Finally, the monks could relax.

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Guns of Telluria in the Vale of the Iron God

Vale of the Iron God coverThe last big Simon Forster project I adapted was his Lottery Dungeon, before he started developing his hand-drawn maps.

Now that I’ve had a chance to look over his newest book of lairs, Vale of the Iron God, I think it’s time to adapt another of Simon’s projects to a custom rule set and do my own thing with it.

The setting is Guns of Telluria. An aristocratic house is charged with defending the valley and keeping the curious away, because ancient lore holds that the Iron God is buried in this vale. In the wake of a massive war between humanity and the fey, the possibility of an iron super-weapon is too intriguing to ignore. So, the aristocrat is fitting out an expedition with about twenty veterans and sending them into the valley to find out the truth of what it holds.

The mystic door will only be opened long enough for them to get through with their gear, then it will close. They will have to set up camp; the Cave of Bones is recommended as a starting position to get out of the harsh winter weather.

The setup of Simon’s book means I can pull out the maps and put them each on a page in Roll 20. Then I can get the monsters and treasure and such prepped for each, and adjust as needed between sessions. So, with a not-too-heinous setup, I can get the sandbox of the valley set up for as many expeditions as it takes for the veterans to find what facts may lurk behind the legend of the Iron God.

Moving under Vorn’s sight means I wanted to do rust and winter, so here’s a quick adjustment of the original image!

Vale_of_the_Iron_God_Guns of Telluria

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Blades in the Dark: Clockworkers. The Emperor of Goats

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

  • Pledge. (Elizabeth) An Akorosizan Slide.
  • Deadlock. (Shaun) A Dagger Islander Lurk.
  • Echo. (Iris) An Akorosian Whisper.
  • Needles. (Matthew) An Iruvian Cutter.
  • Zero. (Simon) An Iruvian Hound.

Flush with Coin and low on stress, the Clockworkers were positioned to really DO something. They looked around their new turf and found out Madame Phylo of the Redbud in Shaver’s Row was annoyed with the Shaggy Six; a pack of Skovs who left their territory to come to Shaver’s Row to drink and party, then return home leaving unpaid bills, broken furniture, and savaged locals. Without much Crowfeather presence, they would likely get worse, as the bluecoats just surround the area and monitor the situation until the Six leave on their own.

Freeplay 1: The Shaggy Six

They acquired a mass of Nightwort, a cheap and nasty knockout drug. They deployed their gang of lookouts to keep an eye out for the Shaggy Six. When the Six showed up, headed for the Gecko (a popular Dagger Islands themed bar, which means Industrial Gothic Tiki) the Clockworkers got enough notice to get in position.

There were only four members in the Shaggy Six, but one of them had a pet landeel (like a shark, with legs instead of fins, about 5 feet long and an appendage-amputating bite.) They picked fights with some locals, but Pledge pulled the locals over to drink with her and Echo. Deadlock dosed the Skov drinks, and the Skovs (who didn’t START drinking here) didn’t detect the drugs. They were incapacitated, and Needles fired some sleepy darts from her cane into the landeel. The bluecoats picked them up (they were already wanted for plenty of stuff, no need to frame them) and carted them away.

Freeplay 2: Humphry and the Betting Cages

Looking around their territory, they decided they’d like to take over the betting cages of the hagfish arena (now that they had Shaver’s Row; they might take this thing over one piece at a time.) The betting cages were a well-established information drop and money laundromat.

The man in charge was not with the Crows. He was a big Tycherosian named Humphry, and he had Tycherosian help. He ran a side business of selling custom bred pets, focusing on dewlap hounds (lizards with bacteria-loaded bites that were ugly-cute, big dog sized, and scaled instead of furred.)

They contemplated kidnapping and relocating him, or selling him to his enemies, or killing him outright. They decided to hang on to that “savvy” reputation and offer him something else he wanted more. Zero was still keen to steal the most amazing stud goat in Doskvol, Sparticus. Maybe offer him that magnificent goat for his experiments in breeding monsters, in exchange for his spot at the hagfish arena? Better check and make sure he’s into it before going to all the effort of stealing one of the hardest-to-fence objects in the city.

Pledge and Needles worked through Klyra, who owned a tavern and bought a dewlap hound (named “Snippy Snippy”) who agreed to vouch for them and set up a meet with Humphry so they could buy a dewlap hound of their own.

Escorted back to his throne room, they saw the stylish and magnificently-horned Tycherosian vamping on his throne (it had human skulls bolted on the arms, with something tasty on them, so the dewlap hound would lick them, distressing some visitors.) They got a tour of the breeding facility (some of it anyway) and found out he also had gas-belching burricks he had recently refined in their bloodlines.

They bought a dewlap hound egg, and he painted a sigil for Needles’ name on the egg so the creature would enter the world through her name and imprint on her.

They also pitched the idea of trading Sparticus for his business here; they managed to paint a captivating picture of what could be possible with such strong genetics, and they successfully got him excited about the idea. Now all they had to do was steal Sparticus, the best-defended goat in Doskvol.

To Steal the Emperor Goat

They had to spread some Coin around to basically buy time to do this heist right. Zero dressed in a gilly suit to observe the defenses for a couple weeks. Sparticus was owned by Baron Launius Krek IV, and his estate was in southern Barrowcleft against the massive outer wall, with an interior wall and a moat. On one side, eeleries, dark paddies of knee-deep water twitching with weeds and eels. On the other, radiant fields with glowing willows and crops planted in circles around them. The inner wall was staffed with snipers, and there was practically no cover. The main gate was one way in, and there was a sally port out to a greenspace on the other side, and that was it.

They found out a caravan came and went every three days, led by Captain Veers. Chael, a vicious thug, also knew they were connected to the Hive; he went to find out more, but sort of started punching people and got arrested. Both Veers and the baron were known to like antiques.

Zero smuggled Echo out to review the situation in the Ghost Field, and Echo saw that there was a reserve tank of electroplasm in a Ghost Field backup station. Even if something happened to the tanks on this side of the Mirror, the lightning wall would persist for a while. Also, that the design of the big electroplasmic fences was to pull in nearby ghosts, shred them, and use their energy for the fence; the harder they were hit, the more energy they drew from their attackers. More importantly, there was a ghost door between the outside of the inner wall by a water runoff, and the door to a tower to one of the lightning wall projectors inside the compound.

They studied an old diagram they found of making a harness that had syringes all slaved to a leather pull strap, so you put it on the goat and when you pulled the strap several syringes simultaneously injected to knock the goat out. After all, if Sparticus decided he didn’t want to be stolen, what would they do? He was stronger than all of them together, standing six foot at the shoulder. Deadlock cobbled together the harness and spent plenty of cash to get the best knockout drugs the crew could get their hands on.

Into the Compound

They borrowed an old goat, Minnie, and a wagon, and had their gang pull out any old furniture that looked like antiques, filling the wagon. They figured they’d fall in line with the caravan and get in; the baron liked a little mini market set up in his compound that he could visit without bothering to go into the city.

One bad engagement roll later, they were isolated in the murder hole between the gate into the tunnel through the wall and the gate out, portcullises down and arrow slits open. They presented the papers that Deadlock had forged (and spent a pretty penny on) and the papers were just good enough. They were escorted in to set up their wares, and it turns out after the urchins loaded the cart, they went out shopping for leviathan-hunter-related antiques and bought some actual pieces for their cover; fortunately, their wares stood up to cursory inspection.

While Pledge set up, the others slipped over to where some hats and coats of local servants were on a fencepost. There were pagodas for goats, with fresh fields for frolicking and grazing, and mangers. Then there was a palace, erected for Sparticus, the Emperor of Goats.

Getting to Sparticus

They surreptitiously sprinkled goat amp in the mangers of as many goats as they could, then blew the tiny horn summoning goats to supper. The goats were confused by the change of schedule, but obediently trotted out to their mangers, and moments later there was free-form pandemonium as goats were freaking out all over the place.

With the snipers busy trying to figure out what the hell was going on, the crew clambered up the back of the goat palace and through the vent, seeing the box seats overlooking the fresh grass and waterfall to care for Sparticus, Emperor of Goats. He was magnificent, almost glowing, with his recurve horns and double bar pupils in golden orbs. The goat ignored them, but his guardian did not.

A figure in lacquer armor with waterproofed fabrics and a mask drew a long sword and leaped into the rafters, ambushing them; they were all engaged with looking for the guardian, spotting him in time to cue Needles to fight him, and Needles dodged his savage attack. The four of them (plus Zero’s cat) kept the lone warrior busy, darting in strikes where they could, and put the guardian down. Needles knelt on his back and slit his throat, releasing black blood. Not wanting to think about that any further, they turned their attention to the goat, who seemed unbothered by the battle.

Deadlock figured out how to lower the elegant drawbridge, and Echo reached through the Ghost Field to touch the animal’s consciousness. She formed some kind of connection, so the goat would be patient and obedient–to a point. Deadlock and Zero managed to get the harness on the massive beast, and they led him out of his palace.

Getting Sparticus Out

All the snipers and servants and guards immediately oriented on Sparticus when the magnificent creature entered the open space. They acted fast, with Deadlock hurling a smokebomb in the air that detonated to cover a fairly large area, and they held on to Sparticus as Echo guided the giant goat towards the base of the lightning tower.

She used her spirit mask to unfold the ghost door, borrowing some of the incredible vitality of the Emperor of Goats, startled to feel a touch of the energy of the broken sun in his bones. The Ghost Door had been created by the Spirit Wardens, but there was some consonance between the beaks of the deathseeker crows and the horns of this gladiator goat, reducing the difficulty.

The door opened, and the four rogues plus the Emperor of Goats passed through. They found themselves in a chill space with black and blue-rimed stone breathing fog. They navigated quickly to the exit, but before they reached it, the goat’s guardian came for them, hurling a spear on a chain and nailing Needles in the back, ready to reel her back. The guardian’s slit throat was leaking black blood as though there was no gravity, and it formed a macabre cloak behind him.

Needles was not to be trifled with, and she dropped to her knees and resisted the tug, so the blade flipped free and twirled back towards the guardian that pursued them; they made the most of the moment and pushed through, exiting the Ghost Field and reaching the living side of the Mirror between the inner wall and the moat.

Back to Town

Echo managed to persuade Sparticus to swim the moat with them holding on, and Sparticus’ patience was just about exhausted. They headed back to the road, trusting that the shenanigans inside would keep the snipers busy, and putting a camo tarp over the Emperor of Goats to hide his glory.

They reached the road, where the urchin gang brought a heavy wagon intended for moving stone from the quarry through town. Coaxing Sparticus on it, Deadlock then pulled the leather strap and fired the injectors, knocking the noble beast out cold (and cementing its dislike of him for all time.)

The crew headed back to Crow’s Foot, using some gondoliers who owed them a favor and sneaking through back routes to get home without revealing their intensely valuable, illegal, and deadly cargo.

Meanwhile, Pledge was left on her own. She had prepared for this by purchasing an antique spyglass enchanted to color demonic energies yellow, and she offered it to Captain Veers if he would vouch for her; she became his niece, and six hours later they were allowed to return to the city.

Wrap Up

All the money they would make from this through side channels was choked off by either the need for absolute secrecy or the costs of restraints and care for the monster. They got a 3 Rep boost; it wasn’t clear what they had to do with it, but they were near it, and it was the most audacious theft in years. Deadlock’s work with harnesses and syringes paid off, and they got lots of tips and tricks for carrying stuff subtly.

The Hive was furious, and loomed large to make their lives miserable for the foreseeable future; they sent a diplomatic envoy to the Hive, targeting Captain Veers as he might be somewhat sympathetic, and offered to do a heist for them (now they proved they are capable) as a symbolic offering to make peace. The Hive reluctantly accepted their counter proposal.

They cleared off stress and Heat. Needles finished cementing her friendship with Madame Phylo of the Redbud on behalf of the crew. Echo finished decoding one of the two ledgers stolen from the Crowfeathers and sold it to Lyssa for 4 Coin, helping the somewhat depleted coffers of the crew.

As they settled in to taking over the betting cages as well as Shaver’s Row it was time to get ready for whatever the Hive might want next.

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Drink Spin Run: Investigative Games

I’m a guest on a podcast, talking about investigative games!

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Black Space: Lost Guardian 4. Monsters

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  • Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
  • Gasper. (Jesse) Disfigured ship’s medic.
  • Jan Klaya. (Jeremy) Charismatic sword mystic.

Clyde Bruskin was so skilled with tech that he could put in twice the effective tech hours, better than other spacers, so they left him to get the parts put in. It would take the tireless spacer 13 hours to install the burner and the scrubber, so they were on the clock to get the administrative permission to take off.

They asked Jack who else could grant permission to take off, and he told them Lt. Commander 1st Class Anna Graymalkin could do it. She was logged in to the Belarra Preserve.

Three spacers armored up and headed through the Fringe all over Telmar Bay to go check out the entrance.

They found the entry, but it had a “stay out” pole with various heads and masks on it, and a rusted bulkhead that Smitty’s drone buzzed to find out the other side was a deep pit, and beyond that a door guarded by the purple tough guys.

Reexamining their map, they saw the Tarmaxians were adjacent, and connected; maybe they would help.

Doctor Duke

They approached the Tarmaxian entrance, a spare staircase leading up to a bulkhead, flanked by autogun turrets tuned to a sensor fence. Smitty stepped out to parlay, and a Tarmaxian came down the stairs to chat with him.

He explained the Tarmaxians were mercenary bounty hunter doctors with high tech, distant from various factions in an attempt to stay neutral. Their connection to the Belarra Preserve (or The Garden as the Gardeners call it) was sealed by mutual agreement, except in case of emergency.

Rather than offering errands, Duke discouraged them from working with him, as it carried a price too high because he had to assure their trustworthiness. On the other hand, he encouraged them to escape Telmar Bay, so he told them about how the Gardeners had their own Garden of Eden and would see spacers as “Softies” who were mythical deity figures to them. Smitty thanked Doctor Duke for his time, and they headed back to the Garden.

The Garden

They asked nicely, and the Gardner guard extended the ramp and ushered them into the Garden, taking them to meet the Floating King on the Drifting Throne. In a hollow flanked by cliffs, they saw the King, on a throne flanked by seats and supplies, mounted on the stripped foundation of a hover bus, a meter above the ground. His throne had a killer bird skull on a stick to control its drift, which was slowly to starboard most of the time. King Driftsless welcomed them as Softies and ordered a Righteous Party, where they arranged boulders for the Softies to sit on, and entertained them with various meat and plants. Klaya sat on the Drifting Throne by the King.

Gasper was impressing the Gardeners with his ability to eat anything, and he got chummy with Shaman Nobelt (who had a pot belly.) He casually asked after Graymalkin’s login, and Nobelt freaked out and accused them of being monsters. It was up to the spacers to prove they were Softies, not monsters, or they faced death!

Klaya appealed to the King that surely they were not monsters, calming things down some. The King set a challenge that only Softies (not monsters) could do; fix the drift of his throne. They lacked the proper tools to do so, but he pointed out there were tools in a nearby cave, only a family of 3 deathbirds were living there. They had an egg, though, and if they were defeated there would be another Righteous Party and this time they’d eat the deathbird egg too. They had one hour.


The shaman led them to the cave; it was a garage. Smitty and Gasper took cover, and Klaya climbed up on top of the entry. Smitty shot at the birds, and they came out in a rush of fury; Klaya leaped down to ride one, missed, and ended up flat on her back with a deathbird stamping on her. It managed to wipe out her belt shield as she cut it badly.

The birds were gunned down by the spacers, and they checked out the garage, finding the big egg and also a back room with the necessary tools.

The Righteous Party

Returning to the King, Klaya took time to wash up while Smitty and Gasper worked on the throne; it was a puzzling design, and they were having trouble until they realized the stabilizing matrices were based on theremin technology, and they had to put their hands into the fields and do it manually. They fixed the throne.

The King declared himself anointed by the Softies as King Nodrift, and they had a righteous party that outshone the previous party. The spacers and the King also partook of the hardboiled deathbird egg, which was like rock candy mixed with teriyaki jerky (as close as their senses could interpret the new flavor and texture.) It was oddly affecting.

Shaman Nobelt took them to the Glowing Altar, hidden in a cliff. Graymalkin had been logged in for 425 years, and the Gardners prevented linguistic drift by watching her entertainment list, which included a lot of surfer shows and movies.

Feeling a strange reverence, the spacers enlisted Jack’s help to use Graymalkin’s credentials to authorize their escape. Then they looked deeper into the history of the ship.

Lost Guardian

The ship launched about 825 years ago, sister to the Colony Ship, aimed at a colony 2,000 years away. About 200 years out, they were hit by a cosmic mutagenic wave that killed or changed most of those on board; some made it to vaults built into the superstructure. Some engines exploded. Some engines ran on dimensional folding technology, so some parts of the ship were moved beyond detection or communication with the rest of the ship. Survivors mutated.

That was 625 years ago now. The vast self-replenishing ship could perhaps go on forever. It was over 100 miles long, some of that now in other dimensions. It was a mass of life and death dragged through the void that rivaled the density of some colonies on planets.

Downloading as much as they could into a data cube that they would have to build new technology to read, the spacers took what records they could and left the Glowing Altar as they found it. As the shaman said, push no red Xs, never turn it off. A snapshot to an ancient past.


King Nodrift was so impressed with them he let them ride his giant red triceratops back to their ship. They were mounted on a howdah on its back, and they saw some of the chasekin who were after them run afoul of some of the teksuppar who were after them. But they made it back safe, boarding the ship, putting in the last few hours of work, and blasting out into space.

As they parted ways, they saw the ship from space. In the void, its viewports and energy leaks and damage and displays formed their own constellations against the cosmic background. Then the spacers turned their backs on the spectacle and resumed their journey in Medusa’s Scow, back to the world they knew.

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