Numenera/Strange: Just in the Nick of Space/Time

The session before last, the group descended into the labyrinthine warren of passages that snaked their way beneath the surface of the world known only as Hell by it’s occupants. They navigated through a series rooms connected together by tubes. Some were dangerous, filled with otherworldly energies that warped the very fabric of their beings, whilst others were dangers of a more mundane type; a rusted pipe bursting and filling the room with flames, among others.

Their mistreatment of their guide saw him scuttle off into the darkness, leaving them to navigate unaided, but eventually they found their way to a huge hall lined with discs, portals to other worlds. There must have been millions within view. In the centre of the dome-arched room stood a great black pillar and the agents, mutated and tired but otherwise fine, explored. They started trying to learn more and find a way out, as Selena could see the invisible energies in the room – it was heavily radioactive.

Upon the pillar was a strange computer of sorts and Mafini interfaced with it, becoming one with the computer and all it knew. He opened a doorway back home to Earth, but being one with the machine he couldn’t leave.

This session started with the others agreeing to send Selena through the portal to report in and get help.

Stepping through the portal, Selena was confronted by alarms and armed guards and was demanded to identify herself, since she looked different to her normal Earth self due to travelling via apposite gate. She briefly panicked and the situation was compounded by the fact she had no memories of Estate training, since she was her clone.

Bhaltair has been trying to get Mafini to respond and accidentally injured him in the process. Taking his leave, he soon followed Selena to Earth and manage to defuse the situation forming there, despite being a strange blue man with a chainsaw arm. After a very quick debrief the situation was explained and several armed and radiation-suited staff followed the others to assist in an extraction.

However, Mafini/Machine (Machini?), responding to the injury and an incursion of outsiders from a gate, went into high alert and activated it’s remaining cache of security droids. A fight ensued and the support team were killed, but not before they managed to take out half the robot force. Whilst Asher and Selena fought the remaining droids, Bhaltair pulled Mafini from the interface, causing him immense pain and then tried to access it himself, but couldn’t due to his crystal coating. He tried using his chainsaw to slice away a layer of crystal to expose bare flesh, but messed it up, almost severing his hand in the process. With his stump pressed into the interface, he merged with the machine.

The Machine/Bhaltair (Bhachine?) issued a restart and reboot order. The radiation in the room receded and the remaining droids shutdown. Selena, with her sight beyond sight, could see the radiation retreating but then saw some bad news: it was forming some kind of highly concentrated energy ball deep below the control room they were in, one that if unleashed would be strong enough to kill them all instantly.

After a failed attempt to connect again, Mafini joined Bhaltair using the spare interface at Bhaltair’s console (as the others had shut off and Bhaltair with his stump was only using one half of it). The Machine/Mafini/Bhaltair (Mafichiltair?) managed to reprogram part of Mafini’s mind with the instructions on how to manually override and repair the failing singularity core that powered the Machine. On that note, Mafini and Bhaltair ejected and Mafini immediately ran to sort things out, Asher joining him as Selena and Bhaltair rested and tried to deal with his near-severed hand.

Mafini and Asher made their way through faulty, dangerous lift-shafts and rooms full of strange devices, falling afoul of some accidental traps and cypher-eating moths until they came across a stairwell filled with slime. Mafini made use of a temporal viewer he’d found and looked into the future. He saw himself looking into the temporal viewer, then they decided to take action – the slime attacked with strange pseudopods and they were nearly at the edge of death when the viewer cut out. Clearly they needed to do a different course of action.

Trying to communicate with the slime was painful and it was clearly insane with pain and rage. Trying to convey some meaning to it, they explained they needed to access the singularity core to fix it, so they could return it to it’s native world. There seemed no response until the floor of the stairwell dissolved, eaten away by the slime to reveal a 50ft drop into the singularity room.

In a daring feat of acrobatics, both Asher and Mafini made their way down through the hole into the room. In the mean time, Bhaltair had healed (more or less) his hand using a chiurgeon sphere artifact. Selena decided to follow the others down and Bhaltair came after. Selena was as graceful as a cat and made her way flawlessly to the singularity room but Bhaltair, being injured and heavily obese was not so lucky. He fell at the first hurdle and in an effort to stop himself plummeting to his death down the lift shaft, used his chainsaw against the wall to try and slow his descent. Sadly, this awoke a swarm of chance moths that, sensing the innate cypher power of his crystal skin, attacked and drained it until his skin replacement fell off, crumbling to dust and leaving a skinless man in immense pain cowering at the bottom of a lift-shaft. He activated his sphere again and it began printing him new skin, but the moths attacked it, and it malfunctioned as it was losing power. It finished the job, but his skin was a crazy pattern of glitched shapes, colours and textures. Picking himself up, he made his way to the singularity room.

All together, the group decided that ejecting the core (which would cause the entire pocket universe they were in to collapse into the Ninth World) wasn’t an option, even with their extremely short time left before the energy burst fried them all as the core came back online. Instead, using Selena’s energy sight, she worked out how to repair or at least manipulate the shielding around the singularity to divert the energy blast away from them. The others tried their best, but the slime was still fighting them and the spikes that lined the walls to shape the energy fields were heavy and dangerous. They didn’t make it in time. With barely 10 seconds left, they took drastic action and Selena tried to damage the containment rings of the singularity but failed. Ay the very last second, Bhaltair leapt up and in the final moments plunged his chainsaw into the containment rings, causing the singularity to destabilise and collapse.

The whole of existence disappeared and for an eternity the group were trapped in a formless void, then like the sound of rushing water in reverse, the universe rushed back to meet them and they found themselves in the Ninth World, they guessed, based on the humans around and the green-tinted moon in the sky. The people weren’t talking in Truth however, so wherever they were, it wasn’t the Steadfast any more.

Octogenarian Cocaine Tea: A Gangster London Fiasco

f-fiasco

I introduced the group I’ve been playing Microscope with to Fiasco last night. We played the Gangster London playset, since I’ve played it before and could hopefully provide some helpful prompts or ideas if we got stuck.

The Setup

We had 5 players in all, and after the setup, we ended up with the following:

George Jameson, a middle-age step-dad.

He had a Crime – drug dealers relationship with Gay “The Baroness” Shepherd, and they needed to get laid to rekindle an old romance.

Gay “The Baroness” Shepherd, an octogenarian woman who certainly isn’t the sweet old lady she appears to be.

She had an odd relationship with Harry the Hammer – they worked at the salvation army together and between them had the extra legal “most dangerous little weapon you ever laid your dirty little hands on”.

Harry the Hammer, a simple thug and real son of George Jameson.

He had a romance – don’t like each other much but can’t stop shagging relationship with Peter the Preacher and between them they wanted to get revenge against a family member.

Peter the Preacher, a reverend at a local church.

He had a doctor/patient relationship with Kat McGuiness, George’s older step-daughter. Together they were sitting on 3 hand grenades. Kat is trying to help Peter come to terms with the self-destructive relationship he is in with Harry.

Kat McGuiness, psychiatrist and step-daughter of George.

She had a parent/child relationship with George and they were sitting on £10k in 5p pieces.

All in all, sounds like a bunch of terrible people destined for terrible things. Sounds like a Fiasco in the making!

Act One

Round One

We kicked off with George and “The Baroness” working in the back of their Salvation Army store. In typical poor decision making style for Fiasco characters, their production/cutting facility also doubled as a crack den for their customers. George was lamenting how much of a frigid bitch his new wife was and how much his step-daughter hated him. He wanted to get laid, bad. One thing lead to another, fade to black.

Leaving George in post-coital slumber, “The Baroness” took to running the storefront and was making a fairly obvious drug deal with some clientele when the cops so up. When questioned about the white powder on the counter top, shoe explains it away as sugar from making tea, sweeping it into a mug and drinking it down.

Harry, who actually owns the shop, is working in the back when, unattended and unsupervised, one of the crack-heads from out back gets the bright idea to grab a brick of cocaine and dash for it out of the front door – the same front door the police are leaving through right now. Shit gets real and everyone runs for it – all except George who is still asleep in the back and “The Baroness” who pulls the sweet old lady routine, even as she starts tripping balls.

Peter, in the church next door, hears the ruckus and when harry bursts in looking for sanctuary, hides him and tells the police everything next door is George’s fault.

Skip ahead to the police station. George had his phone call and his wife sent Kat to bail him out. Instead of bailing him out, Kat dumps him in it even deeper in exchange for an immunity deal (she was at the Salvation Army buying drugs and was scared she’d be implicated).

Round Two

George bribes the cops with a promise he can get them £10k if they just let him go. Cut ahead to a month or so later, things have settled down and George is on thin-fucking-ice with the cops, what he didn’t tell them it that it’s in 5p pieces and so he has been dragging heavy bags of coins in lumps of £500 as often as he can to them without looking suspicious. Unfortunately today he gets mugged and in the fight, he brains his assailant in broad daylight with a heavy bag of coins, spilling them everywhere and leaving bleeding, possibly dead man in the street. He flees.

“The Baroness” is recovering in hospital after a drug-overdose. She takes advantage of her situation to raid the hospitals methadone supply and any other pharmaceutical grade narcotics she can get her hands on before she high-tails it out of there – she’s not losing out because of this stupid situation.

Harry is at the Salvation Army store again, trying to clean up the mess and get things back in order. George arrives and in his desperate state steals everything in the store safe. Furious, the simple Harry phones the police to report the theft, once again getting them involved in his business, something they were only just forgetting about.

Harry and Peter meet up for the love part of the love/hate relationship. Cleaning up, police come in to take statements, see if Peter heard about this reported theft.

Kat has been following her step-father because she wants the money. With a old war-time hand-grenade in hand, she catches up with him after the theft and threatens him for the cash. Afraid and cornered, George drops it and flees.

The Tilt

The Tilt introduced two further complications to this comedy of errors, paranoia – a stranger comes to settle a score, and mayhem – cold-blooded score-settling. Some people don’t like being fucked with and now it’s time to clean house.

We ended the session there, Act Two should be quite the fiasco.

So this morning I couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, but I was bored, so what did I do?

I used my phone to ssh into my media pc. From there I installed x11vnc on the machine. Then I installed a VNC client on my phone. Then I used vnc to connect to the media pc so I could reconfigure some GUI software to provide a remote control interface. Then I installed a remote control app for my phone for the software, used it set up some tasks I wanted done in the background, then I streamed a movie from the media pc to VLC on my phone.

A lot of work so I can lay in bed and do nothing :)

My Wife Tried to Kill Me Last Night

My wife tried to kill me last night. I’d just saved her life and when I needed her to return the favour she stabbed me in the back. Literally. Then tried to convince everyone else I was beyond saving and should be left in the gutter.

Now this might sound terrible, but this all happened in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and it was glorious.

For those not in the know, I’ve been playing an evil ranger in a party otherwise entirely formed of good aligned characters. My particular brand of evil isn’t the insane baby-in-a-blender kind but the “ends justify the means” kind of evil. Everything is permitted, no atrocity is off limits, as long as it is for the greater glory of nature, even if it means, albeit temporarily, allying himself with the enemies of nature to achieve his goals.

Daraja Dreyer, the ranger in question, has been plotting and scheming since the beginning. His plans are convoluted and full of ass-covering – often designed so that even multiple outcomes, even diametrically opposed ones, are of benefit to him in some way. In a city that was under siege by orcs and bugbears and other such creatures, some of the things Daraja has done include:

  • Getting rid of the massive amounts of dead at the city walls (because there was fear necromancers would raise them) by selling them to necromancers of a different faction, under the agreement that they would take them against the source of the siege armies. Of course, the necromancers didn’t do that, but they didn’t attack either, so it’s still a win in Daraja’s book as it exchanges a known and imminent threat, for a known later one.
  • Discovered not one, but two evil churches in the undergrounds of the city, made allies of them both.
  • Sold an enemy who betrayed the party to sacrifice in one of the evil churches. Did so by hiring the betrayers own employees to betray him.
  • Used his new employees, under the auspices of ‘helping the homeless’ to round up vagabonds and bums and sell them to sacrifice for massive profit (and thus draining the coffers of his evil allies).
  • Used the money to buy several buildings in the city, began renovating, started a cleaning and renovations business staffed by peasants he is giving a second chance to. With the sheer amount of money he has, he can afford to pay them all for over a year before he runs out of cash.
  • One of his properties is a possessed house that devours and enslaves souls. Threatening to burn it down gets him some free ghostly henchmen, which he uses to add another layer of indirection between himself and his less savoury activities. Some of his other properties are haunted, uses his ghost henchmen to capture and enslave the other ghosts, making the properties safer and more valuable and getting more workers.
  • Uses his network of peasants as eyes and ears, behind the total legitimate front of his businesses. Also uses the adoration of his ‘outreach’ program to promote himself, move into larger, more influential circles. Many people will suffer if something happens to him, making him valuable to the forces of good.
  • Uses his ghosts to reach out to a necromancer that remains hidden and secretive, using the sale of his soul-house as bait to draw him out. Sells the house, but because of his ghostly messenger, now knows where the guy is based.
  • Reveals that he has discovered the necromancer who killed a famous paladin, plus his terrible allies, to the Church of Pelor, in order to gain more praise and fame amongst the good folk of the city.
  • Also learns through his network that his fellow party now definitely suspect him of terrible things. Plans to get them killed in the same attack on the necromancer by the Pelor initiates in all the confusion (with a little help from the necromancers own ally, a dangerous criminal Daraja manages to persuade to work with him instead).
  • Plan goes wrong, but he instead ‘arrives late’, kills the necromancers allies, destroys (mostly) the evidence of his deal with the necromancer but gets caught in an explosion.

It was after the explosion that Elowen, the officer of the City Watch he was in a party with (played by my wife), stabbed him in the back whilst he was injured and then tried to convince everyone it was too late to save him. Luckily the fools are good people and some of the initiates survived, initiates which think very fondly of Daraja due to his donations and good works, so the party was persuaded to try and save him anyway, which worked.

Of course, now he has some serious problems, but he has some powerful allies, both good and evil. While the rest of the party are little more than hirelings under the thumb of a politician, he’s been securing his influence and power base, so unless they plan on quietly trying to make him disappear whilst he is physically vulnerable, he has far more options than they do.

Microscope

Tonight I played my first proper, in-person game of Microscope, an awesome history building game from Lame Mage. The idea is to use it to develop the setting for a future campaign but we have yet to see whether that’ll pan out.

I don’t have the notes from the session so I can’t yet post up the history, but I can give a brief summary of highlights.

The overall theme was the last of humanity returning home and if I recall we started with the last generation ship waking up and ended on humanity settling down. We also ended up with a very hard sci-fi setting due to our palette banning FTL and bullshit magical hand-wavy energy weapons and force fields.

Over the course of the history, we ended up with a decidedly dark tone. Early in the time line it turned out a single man was responsible for 75% of the ships population bring euthanised. We had mass extinctions of intelligent races, wars, the destruction of old earth, the search for old earth, settling a planet, rediscovering lost technology, assassination conspiracies and I reckon a good deal more is in order before we want to stop developing the time line.

All in all it was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to both developing the time line further and playing in the setting we’ve created.

Return to the Ninth World

After a very long hiatus due to Christmas, conflicting schedules and other issues, my The Strange/Numenera hybrid game had another session last night.

The team, having debriefed from their last mission, were approved to return back to the Ninth World recursion as the research team were very eager to discover more about this dense apposite gate cluster they had found. Translating back in, the players arrived where they left – the prison portal room, but in the intervening time the earthquake the had translated away from seemed to have left it’s mark, caving in much of the room and blocking the convention exit. With some luck, they could crawl out through a hole in the ceiling but Bhaltair, ever the strange one, entered the portal immediately and the others soon followed.

The group found themselves on a small platform coated with grime and gore, suspended in a huge, grey void. Crimson lights twinkled in and out of existence in the far distance except in one direction where there seemed to be a dark black sphere hanging in the grey expanse. From their platform, a beam of metal stretched out towards the sphere in the distance and they could also observe other platforms suspended in the air. There seemed to be no floor, so they feared falling into the abyss.

Stretching and straining to see if they could spot anything of interest, Selena slipped on the gore-encrusted platform and fell into space, pulling Asher with her as her tried to save her. Instead of plummeting to their doom, they found that once they had fell a few feet away gravity no longer applied and they were left floating in space. Mafini used his jetpack cypher to help them whilst Bhaltair, fascinated with the area examined the gore, and finding nothing of interest, explored down the beam towards the sphere. With the others in tow, Mafini decided to show off his new jetpack, flying after Bhaltair and spiraling around the beam. However, his lack of skill as piloting jetpacks, let alone in a zero-gravity environment, sent him hurtling off and he crashed into another platform, knocking two figures off and sending them flying into space. The recovered them, only to find one of them was long dead. The man looked malnourished and was more than a little crazy, claiming they were trapped in hell and that he was trying to find a way out for himself and his wife, who was sleeping.

They got very little information out of him but Selena, using her power of sight confirmed some of his babblings – the lights they saw far off were apposite gates, but they seemed dangerously unstable, opening and closing at random for a split second and generating dangerous energy.

Whilst they continued to question the old man, Mafini travelled past Bhaltair to explore the beam and incurred the wrath of a swarm of giant moths with sharp, scissor-like mandibles. With quick thinking he used is powers of illusion and Spinner trickery to convince the moths he was one of them, but by this time Bhaltair had caught up and they attacked him instead. A fight ensued and the moths were quickly dispatched.

Bhaltair used his biomorph cypher to induce a permanent mutation, but rather than use a mutation, we used something else from a new Numenera supplement I’m working on. This caused one of his arms to be replaced with an organic chainsaw. He later was given another biomorph injector by Mafini which made him turn translucent in direct sunlight.

Eventually everyone grouped together and they continued down the beam. Nearing the sphere, it was clear they were walking towards the surface of a planet and from their vantage point perpendicular to the surface they could see various settlements and strange pits in the surface of the black and barren world. As they came close to the surface, the gravity abruptly switched and they fell to the ground, luckily avoiding too much damage, Mafini landing safely using his jetpack.

The group decide to investigate a nearby settlement, and find it inhabited by terribly deformed mutants. Bhaltair and Mafini, using his illusions, approach and the situation rapidly devolves into a battle involving the two guards and their summoned leader, an immense, foul blob of a man with a huge axe. A chainsaw suppository and a rocket powered spear later, the group make short work of them. The camp they were trying to enter is little more than a collection of filth and ruin, full of a rabble of deformed mutants, clearly cannibals, based on the remains strewn about. A girl is trapped in a cage, but she runs when released. One of the mutants, one that seems much less deformed than the others, begs to come with the newcomers, telling them he can be useful, that he looks so normal because he is a runner, one of the few that can explore the mazes below the surface and come back to tell the tale with strange foods and animals that seem to appear there.

After some discussion, the group decide that exploring the maze is their best bet of finding their way out of this place.

Barely coherent ramblings on 2014 and beyond

It’s hard to really review 2014 because I barely remember any of it, not because of some drug or alcohol fueled binge but just my poor memory and a general lack of anything memorable.

I can’t really think of any major achievements or failures for the last year or any big changes. Life has basically been the same old same old. This isn’t a bad thing though and it isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

Slowly making an effort to do more writing, mostly games writing, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it. I’m never going to be the next Monte Cooke or anything but it’s nice to see my work out there and in print.

Money isn’t too much of an issue but I’m still stuck in a place where is really difficult to change my circumstances in that regard. Too many burdens with too many conditions upon change requiring too much risk or sacrifice. I could just jump in and damn the consequences, but it’s not just my life that effects.

Reached that point in life where friends and family are all having children. I don’t see me joining them any time soon for a number of reasons. It’s nice to see them happy and making families of their own though.

I’m having my usual end of year depression. So high a concentration of celebrations and socially obligated cheer generally puts me in a bad mood for what would otherwise be a nice holiday. It’s hard not to think of the future as anything other than an abyss. I’ve already fallen in, as have we all, best we can do is enjoy the fall.

Poetic melodramatics aside, I do have hope for the new year. I have the power to instigate change if I want to, despite any obstacles. All problems can be overcome with enough effort. One of those problems I need to deal with is complacency. I’ve always considered myself to be content, but really it’s more apathy than anything else. I’ve become complacent and uncaring and those are the biggest obstacles to achieving anything, far larger than anything external to myself. Once again, I find myself looking inwards, ever the introvert.

I need to improve my health, likely to blame for many of my issues either directly or indirectly. Over the last six years or so I’ve just become a barely mobile lump and that needs to change. Even with my memory, I can feel the difference between who I am now and who I was 6 years ago. I can feel myself dying and despite how little I care for this world is rather stay in it a bit longer, at least long enough to have a chance at changing my attitude before my corpse scorches the earth with its acid bitterness.

I feel ridiculous and find this whole post so far greatly amusing. The semi-depressed musings and overly dramatic introspection are as much jokes as they are real. Hilarious, or hysteria? A question I find myself asking ask too frequently.

I have a strange relationship with sadness, it’s one of the few emotions I enjoy. Unlike happiness which always seems nebulous, fleeting and hard to remember, sadness sticks around, leaves a mark and generally gives you more bang for your buck, so to speak. I genuinely find sadness both satisfying and entertaining, at least my own or that created in fiction. I’d not wish it on others and besides, it’s a very personal thing, sadness, I doubt other’s own brands really elicit the same response in them as mine does in me.

Is this all the work of a persona, or is it really me? Is there a difference? When observing myself through introspection is hard not to feel like the third person narrator to the character in the story. Maybe it’s that sense of disconnection that makes many things harder, easier and just plain odd.

Anyway, barely coherent stream of consciousness over.

Happy New Year.