Archive for October, 2012

The Amoth Conspiracy?

Posted: October 29, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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The construction of the Retreat

Back at the Microscope for a third session exploring our expanding sci-fi history – to catch up, you can read about sessions one and two. Tonight we learned a little more about humanity’s neighbors among the stars. We started off with me as the lens and the focus of those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG), the aliens fought by humans during the Jump Point War. Then LL took over and chose to focus on the amoth, with whom the TWSBG already had an alliance by the time they met humans.

Here’s a summary of the new history we created during this session:

  • Some time prior to human discovery of the jump point network and the Consolidation Wars, TWSBG had begun an expansion into space by launching many huge generation ships travelling at a significant fraction of light speed (c). These ships were point-and-go affairs and were intended to send back data on what they had observed to those on the TWSBG home-nest-world.
    • Other species might have considered this a waste of time, as even the most conservative TWSBG scientists expected to make a breakthrough in FTL technology in the near term, but recall the fundamental nature of the TWSBG: ever since the discovery that there were worlds beyond their own they had considered emerging from their home-nest-world a species imperative, an expand or die sort of thing.
  • One of these ships, called the Look-toward-the-third-yellow-star-from-the-one-who-dances-in-spring, was 37 years into its voyage of exploration and had reached approximately 0.93c when it collided explosively with a heretofore-unknown Dyson sphere. The ship was vaporized instantly and the sphere was thoroughly decimated.
    • The structure was the “home-sphere” of the amoth, a species that had never discovered (or sought out, perhaps) the secrets of FTL and had used all the resources of its home system to build its expansive new megastructure home.
    • Why wasn’t the sphere detected by TWSBG scientists before the ship was launched? We’re not sure but it seems likely that the amoth were a bit obsessive about using every bit of energy from their home star and that there was very little leakage, even in the infrared spectrum. The ship *might* have detected it before the collision (we’ll never know) but, by the time it had done so, it would have been very difficult to alter its course to avoid an object 2 AU in diameter.
    • The amoth, likewise, had little warning of the pending impact (as the TWSBG ship was travelling very near c). They evacuated as many as possible, taking whatever they could with them.
    • In the aftermath of the collision, the amoth scavenged what they could of their former home and used those materials to build “lifeboat” habitats. At the time they believed they were alone in the galaxy; no help from the outside would have been expected.
    • The light of the explosion reached the TWSBG home-nest-world nearly four decades after the impact…a painful reminder of the destruction they had wrought on the amoth (see below).
    • The amoth possess genetic memories. Their inner thoughts are filled with the voices of their ancestors. This can cause problems during psionic contact, especially under stress, when their mental barriers are lowered (again, see below).
  • Some time after the ship was launched, but before its collision, the TWSBG had discovered and begun using the jump point network to found colonies. One of those colonies was quite close to the amoth sphere and they detected the impact just a handful of years after it happened.
    • Some TWSBG scientist put two and two together and realized that the event had happened along the course of one of their STL ships. The TWSBG mapped a jump point to the system and a survey team was dispatched. The ship found the amoth in a terrible state, essentially clinging to flotsam for the last several years.
    • The TWSBG finally put the whole thing together: their actions had resulted in the near-destruction of another species’ home-nest-world. The impact of this had a profound effect on the entire society and a tremendous relief effort was put into place, eventually relocating the remaining amoth to a nearby habitable system. (LL replaced her “psi connection” legacy with “TWSBG cultural anguish.)
    • The TWSBG and the amoth became close allies and the amoth were helped to expand beyond their refugee world. Though many of the nearby worlds had already been claimed by the TWSBG, the amoth were welcome to settle on any TWSBG world. They were highly valued for their engineering abilities.
  • Much later, at the peace conference that heralded the end of the Jump Point War between humans and TWSBG, the TWSBG introduced humans to their amoth allies.
    • At a reception following the opening of diplomatic ties, a human representative casually asked an amoth diplomat about his homeworld. The amoth dignitary instantly collapsed, babbling incoherently. After he recovered, he told the tale of the destruction of home sphere in the voice of his ancestor.  TWSBG diplomats at the function were aghast and silent.
      • When the amoth ambassador collapsed, so did several of the human psi translators at the event. They would later recall that they suddenly heard millions of voices simultaneously. They likened it to being a drop of water in a vast ocean. One of the psis never recovered from the experience.
      • Fleet Admiral Omar Nakamura was on hand and listened to the ambassador’s story with interest…his mind running through any number of scenarios. Here’s where it stopped: 1) TWSBG ship nearly wipes out alien species in a freak “accident”, 2) TWSBG relief efforts take in refugees and take them to “safety”, 3) TWSBG gains valuable “partner” with a particular aptitude for engineering.
    • After the ambassador’s tale, the function was largely shut down…the dignitaries taking their leave out of respect (human), grief (amoth), or shame (TWSBG). Some stayed, however, including several among the human and amoth military contingents. An amoth naval liaison and his human counterpart discussed history at length, with a full recounting of the tale of the amoth home sphere’s destruction. The amoth officer wasn’t quite able to prevent his own suspicions from leaking across to his translator. He just “happened” to mention the name and whereabouts of a TWSBG liaison officer that might be able to fill in additional details.
    • Adm. Nakamura ordered the subtle questioning of TWSBG naval liaison officer Speak-coordinate-with-human-navy. During an emotional “interview”, the TWSBG officer conceded blame for the destruction of the amoth home-nest-world. He later lapsed into madness and was subsequently relieved of duty. Nakamura’s suspicions had, to his satisfaction, been confirmed.
  • During the construction of the Retreat, the amoth engineers proved their value many times over. Their knowledge of engineering, especially as applied to megastructures, essentially made the project feasible. Humans have taken to calling them “The Engineers”.

Okay. So. That session took things in directions we had never expected. What an absolute barrel of fun. We’re looking forward to next Monday.

NB1: I let Microscope designer, Ben Robbins, know we had posted a “review” of sorts and some gameplay recaps and he tweeted (twittered?) about it the other day (see capture below). His comment made me smile a little. He also let us in on the playtest of his new game, Kingdom, which is currently in development. It’s similar to Microscope but focuses on the fortunes of a single community and the characters that make it up. We’re going to try it out with our full Sunday group and I’ll post any results here. LL and I also want to maybe give it a go, setting our kingdom in this sci-fi setting…maybe the Retreat.

NB2: LL suggested that we should give more context for how things developed during the game. Will try to do that in future session recaps. For this one I should note that, as in previous sessions, the history developed pretty organically. I chose to look at the TWSBG as the focus when I was the lens and then created a new period about their expansion, pre-Consolidation Wars. LL ran with that and came up with the idea that pre-FTL TWSBG would build these big generation ships and shoot them off in every direction. Hey, they “survive by going” so it made sense. They had no destination in mind…just go, send back data, and maybe the rest of us will catch up later. Reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide. I wonder if they had any telephone handset sanitizers onboard? I decided it’d be a good idea if one of these crashed into a Dyson sphere. LL decided it was the amoth’s homeworld and that it had a major impact on TWSBG psyche (her legacy). Then LL picked the amoth as the focus. I came up with the relief effort. She came up with the idea that they had a racial memory and then we riffed on that with the scene at the peace conference where the amoth ambassador comes unglued, I decided maybe that’s where Nakamura started getting antsy and decided to interrogate a TWSBG about the incident, and then she went back and added in the amoth military liaison with suspicions and connected him to the victim of the interrogation. We’ve been trying very hard *not* to ponder this setting when we’re not playing…but, even if we had been, neither of us would have come up with anything like this series of events. It’s possible that Microscope is the most useful fiction brainstorming tool ever. Ben Robbins should market it to fiction authors…

NB3 (from LL): We’ve played three sessions of Microscope in our current setting. We also tinkered a bit with other settings before we settled into our current work. If you are interested in playing Microscope, I have some advice:

1. Don’t over think the setting, just play.
2. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak.
3. Avoid thinking about the game in between sessions.
4. Passively scan the cards already out there as you play.
5. Have eagerness for the unexpected.
6. Always look at the Palette (allowed/not allowed list) for inspiration.

Here is a good example of what can come out of those six things:

MA: The TWSBG exploration ship collides with a Dyson sphere and both were destroyed. He mused about the math and science of the situation, but that was all.
LL: I thought about the amoth. We hadn’t delved into them hardly at all. Then it hit me…or them rather. The collison MA played is how the two races met. MA didn’t hint the idea in any way. I never would have thought of that on my own. This catastrophic event then captured both our imaginations.

By session’s end we had fleshed out the amoth and brought them into the bigger picture.

One result that surprised me is how the amoth and TWSBG are so different and yet so tangled:

TWSBG: They have a biological imperative to go and explore to survive. Their worst nightmare happens. They destroy a “home nest” of another species.
Amoth: They have a genetic/ancestral memory. They just built upon what came before. We don’t know why. But it was a very sad and haunting fusion of the two species. We also retconned the amoth into helping build the Retreat because it was a natural fit.

MA and I didn’t plan any of this beforehand. Incredible stuff that neither of us would have come up with separately. I have no idea where this all is headed next session. I was still smiling the next day thinking about this level of pure creativity taking solid form.

This Sunday in Skull & Shackles, the PCs explored the castaway’s lodge, picked up some supplies for Man’s Promise, and received a concerning message from their spy still aboard. When we left off last week, Valana had just opened the door to the lodge and barely had time to take in the hanging corpse and awful stench before she was swarmed by flies flooding out of the stinking place.

Valana fell backward as the flies swarmed around her, biting fiercely. She turned and ran for the stockade gate with the flies still surrounding her. Killian, still examining the spyglass, thinks quickly and retrieves a torch and lights it. As Valana moves past Shiera the bugs go after her as well and they both continue toward the gate. Keeya creates some dancing lights in a vain attempt to draw the swarm off, but they appear to prefer the fresher meat offered by the two fleeing ladies. Afari realized there not much he can do so he too exits by the gate, followed by Keeya.

By now, even sturdy Valana has been badly bitten and she falls to the ground. More delicate, Shiera has also met her match and collapses near her friend. Still the flies swarm around the fallen crewmates. Realizing their danger, the group rallies: Keeya and Rosie both stop their rout and produce and light torches, charging into the swarm with Killian coming at the bugs from the other direction. Afari manifests a glowing humanoid form (MA: dancing lights again) and uses it to lead the swarm away from his comrades. This time it works, thanks to the burning flames wielded by Keeya, Killian, and Rosie!

Keeya lifts Shiera’s head and helps her drink the contents of the vials given to her by Harrigan after the taking of Promise. The healing effects of these potions bring her back to consciousness, thrashing and still trying to run to escape the cloud of biting insects. After she comes to her senses Shiera turns to Valana to help her, with a little assistance from blessed Besmara. Until now, Afari has been keeping a keen eye on his apparition and the swarm but now it has begun to break up, spreading out into the jungle.

After a brief rest, the group was ready to look into the lodge again. Inside they found a great deal of salvage from a Chelish ship called the Infernus: the former captain’s bed, a fine spice cabinet with waxed bags of pepper, suits of quality clothing, logs and charts, and so on. As Killian cataloged the lodge’s contents and Valana tapped the floor looking for secret compartments, Shiera examined the hanging corpse. As she drew near to do so…it grabbed at her! The man wasn’t dead after all, or so it seemed. Fortunately it missed and the others quickly surrounded it and put it to rest…again.

The final survivor of the Infernus was the ship’s former carpenter, Aaron Ivy…so they gathered from the scrawled notes they found in the margins of the ship’s logs and on the back of sea charts. There were originally several survivors of the storm that badly damaged their ship but the wreck had also torn open a cage containing the ship’s ghouls (MA: Yeah. What’s Golarion’s version of “WTF?!”) and several crewmen were infected by their bites. As the infection spread and more crewmembers died and rose again as ghouls. He managed to kill all but the three former ship’s whores…his locket containing a likeness of one of the three may explain his inability to finish off those particular creatures.

Ivy took refuge atop the ridge and built his stockade and lodge. He also cleared the jungle and planted the crops, though it was difficult to maintain these while dodging the former whores and the swarms of ghoul-fever-infected mosquitoes and bot flies. One day, several years ago, he was returning from the field and encountered his former love. She bit him and, though he escaped to his lodge, he soon took ill. Rather than die of the illness and rise as a ghoul, Ivy decided to take his own life by hanging.

Apparently he didn’t succeed. The Chelish hangman’s color is a delicate device and Ivy had donned it incorrectly. Instead of dying from a snapped neck, he must have hanged there for days before finally succumbing to the fever and turning into a ghoul. (MA: The wonder of the English language: “Hanged” is actually the correct usage, even though I so very much want to say “hung”)

With nothing much left to see, the group headed back to the field and gathered some corn and grains in sacks. Then they returned to the coconut palm beach for some coconuts and fresh crab, including three particularly large specimens. Finally, they headed back to the north shore and their gig, passing back through the swamp on their way. At the gig, they loaded their finds and looked to the Man’s Promise to see how things were on the ship.

Through the spyglass they saw the crew at work on repairs but one sailor was apparently loafing by the foreward rail, looking toward shore. It was Killian’s old friend, Crimson Cogward, keeping an eye out for their return. They signaled him and he disappeared, quickly replaced by the dark figure of Slippery Syl Lonegan. She took up her dagger and began flashing a signal toward them:

V: P and S plan maroon you. S wanted kill, P said exile. Some crew support. Friends all with you. Watch back. -SSL (MA: Honestly we don’t know what form this code took. I suppose it’s not Morse but surely there’s some sort of sailor mirror-flashing-sunlight code, right? Well, I guess there is now!)

The group flashed acknowledgement and then discussed what to do. They decided to stay the night on the island and rest up before returning to the ship and a confrontation with Scourge and Plugg. The night passed without event and they took up the gig at first light and headed back to Promise. The crew all took a break to greet them and unload the cargo. After it was done, Plugg faced the returning group, with Scourge grinning evilly at his side, and the massive Owlbear behind, club in hand.

He told them, somewhat uncertainly, “It looks as if you did well on the island. I’m glad, because it is going to be your new home…at least until you can catch the attention of a passing ship. You have become a disruptive influence on morale aboard ship and I can’t have you dividing the crew’s loyalties. We will leave you with some supplies and say goodbye in the morning, after the repairs are complete.”

And that’s where we left it. Other GMs and players of this AP will notice that our Plugg isn’t as bad as written. Scourge is every bit the scurvy jerk Richard Pett intended him to be but I didn’t take Plugg there. The PCs have actively attempted to do a good job on the ship and have worked hard to impress Plugg. He sees that, and doesn’t hate them, but he has Scourge in his ear and *does* see that they’ve built up a following aboard that’s more loyal to them than to him. That’s a situation that just can’t stand.

NB: I should have noted in the recap above that Ivy’s “journal” also dealt with the island’s grindylow population. The grindylows dwell in a series of sea caves on the island’s southwestern tip and harass passing ships, one of the reasons Ivy was never able to signal a ship for rescue. Infernus, like Man’s Promise, ran into a storm before its crash and there was a grindylow incursion during that storm as well. Crewmen were captured and never heard from again. Apparently the grindylows don’t venture inland so Ivy had little to do with them as long as he stayed away from the water…though they were a problem while the crew was trying to salvage what they could from Infernus before it sank. Some time ago they attacked another passing ship and captured crewmen. The ship itself survived the storm and attack and sent a rescue team to the cove…but it retreated without the missing crewmen and the ship went on its way. The PCs have decided that if Sandara Quinn and Concho are being held by the grindylows there’s not a lot they can do about it, so they’re going to abandon their former friends to their fates. Too bad. Sandara might have been able to do something about that ghoul fever four of the PC seem to have contracted while on the island…

The Retreat

Posted: October 22, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
Tags: , ,

Scouts locate a planetoid rich in the substance known as white-blank-curtain, the future home of the Retreat

LL and I were back at it with some more Microscope tonight, exploring the sci-fi history we started last week. Last session we defined the big picture, historical bookends, palette, and took a first pass at history and then a turn with me as the lens. The focus I chose to start us off was “psionics”, left deliberately vague so we could go wherever we wanted. LL finished off my lens turn by picking a legacy and adding a scene about that legacy, then she became the lens and chose the focus “The Retreat”.

Here’s what we learned about our history during this session:

  • The psionicist who destroyed the Neu Essen colony emitted a psionic “scream” that was heard by many human psis for a great distance. It was also heard by alien psis from the race encountered during the Jump Point War. In a close-up scene, we see an alien psi, still shaken by the outburst, conferring with his nest-mates over the feeling-memory of the “scream”. He-she-it shared what he-she-it thought-felt-heard, and they likened it to an almost-death-time-feeling.
  • A peace conference was held some time after the initial psionic dialog between humans and aliens resulted in a cease-fire between the combatants in the Jump Point War. The discussion was mediated by psi delegations from both sides. Among the results of that conference was a decision to create a place where psis from all races could gather to communicate knowledge and ideas and new psis could learn to use their gifts. This haven, which later became known as the “Retreat”, would be located off of the jump point network and be psionically shielded to isolate it from the outside universe.
    • The aliens fought by humans during the Jump Point War are called those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG, the nearest translation the psis could render) and are an r-selection creature from a harsh homeworld. They breed prolifically and have colonized the space within a wide range of their original world. Their thoughts make for odd translations when rendered into English. In addition to humans, they have met and befriended another race, called the Amoth.
    • The site for the Retreat was found by extensive scouting missions. It would be built inside of a moon-sized planetoid with a high concentration of what the TWSBG call white-empty-curtain, a substance that shields against psionic transmission. In addition to the material composition of the planetoid, other factors that lead to its selection were the fact that its system was currently unsettled and it lay approximately two weeks travel from any known jump point. Its system is low-value commercially and strategically.
    • During construction of the Retreat, aliens and humans worked together quite closely. There developed a slang-language-understanding between the participants that transcended psi-understanding-feeling. This might be the first step toward losing human distinctiveness in some sort of hybrid group culture.
  • Following the peace conference and prior to the location of the Retreat site, Fleet Admiral Omar Nakamura convened a secret meeting of top security advisors and experts to discuss the possibility of a future “psionic threat” to human security interests. The conference discussed the substance known as white-blank-curtain, henceforth referred to by these parties as the “Omega Compound”, and determined that acquiring and studying this material, and eventually laying in a stockpile of it, was an operational priority. Nakamura issued an eyes-only document called the Omega Order, detailing for senior naval personnel the standard operating procedures governing the Omega Compound.

LL and I really riffed off of each other this session. She came up with the Retreat concept and I went back to the peace conference to find its genesis and made it into a shielded psi haven. She came up with the special mineral and I made the humans nervous about psis and want to go get some of that for themselves. LL also, in her flashback to the psi’s memory-feel of the Neu Essen event, introduced some of the character of the aliens, which helped me imagine them as fast-breeding brood-raisers who have expanded quickly throughout their local space. She essentially created their weird speech…but I grokked it right away and jumped into that game with her. We don’t know jack about the Amoth…just made that up on the fly so we’d have another pawn on the table.

So. Yeah. Microscope sorta rocks! 🙂

NB: Check out what we pass around to keep track of who is the current lens. Yeah. We’re geeks…but I bet you are too!

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Posted: October 21, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
Tags: , , , ,

This Sunday in Skull & Shackles the PCs got down to exploring the island, looking for provisions for the Man’s Promise. Last session they had climbed a small outcropping of rock and spied some areas of interest.

The group talked it over and decided the best course of action would be to take the gig west along the coast to the ruined fishing village and then follow the path from there through the swamp to the large tent they had seen in the southwestern part of the swamp. From there they could venture further south toward the coconut palm grove and the overgrown crop field.

They pulled the gig ashore near the village and hid it well, in case any shipwreck survivors on the island might want it for themselves, then explored the ruins. The buildings of the village were all raised on stilts; prudent engineering, considering the entire area would probably be swamped at high tide. Most were barely standing and it was clear that the village had been abandoned for some time, likely decades. The tides had washed away any tracks that might have shown signs of recent activity and there was little clue as to what sort of people these may have been so the group headed south into the swamp, picking up traces of an old path that would allow them to avoid the worst of the swamp’s bogs and quicksand.

Not far from the village they reached a particularly boggy area that had, long ago, been made crossable by a small wooden bridge. The bridge had decayed to nearly nothing, however, leaving only a path of wooden pilings jutting from the muck. Wading or swimming across would be difficult at best and climbing the thin branches that arced above the area would be nearly impossible without extreme skill. Valana sized up the situation and decided that she could probably cross by jumping from piling to piling. They tied off a rope on a sturdy tree and she took the other end to tie on a tree across the bog, creating a makeshift bridge the others could shimmy across.

Valana accomplished her task with little effort, landing on the other side with a fancy display of acrobatics. She tied off the rope and the others began to cross. Unknown to the group, two rather large frogs had been submerged in the mire, watching the newcomers with interest. The hungry amphibians waited until Afari was almost to the other side and then struck, one lashed out with his long tongue and grabbed Afari’s hand, trying to pull him from the rope bridge. The other went for Keeya but missed his target and then tried for Killian. Afari and Shiera struck at the frogs with magical bolts while the others juggled bows while hanging from the rope. The scuffle went on for a few seconds until Keeya remembered herself and sang the frogs to sleep. They sank back into the bog and our friends finished crossing safely.

They followed the treacherous path for a while longer until Keeya began to pick up on the excitement of her pet raven, which had been flying over their heads to keep a lookout for trouble. They proceeded cautiously from that point and soon began to detect what had enticed the bird: the smell of decaying flesh. They stopped and Valana again took the lead, creeping stealthily up the path. Above the trees, she caught sight of the huge tent they had spied from the outcropping and caught a whiff of cheap perfume coming from that direction. She edged on carefully until she could see the tent in full. The path showed signs of much coming and going; bare human footprints and, oddly, what appeared to be the tracks of a woman’s high-heeled slipper. The area was littered with decomposing humanoid body parts. The tent itself bore roughly drawn caricatures of human faces in garish makeup. She headed back to the group to report and they decided to try to sneak past the gory spectacle; as leaving the path and crossing the wild swamp itself would likely prove more dangerous than whatever might be living there.

They were none too stealthy in their approach, however, and the tent’s denizens were ready for them, having heard the group bumbling down the path and taken up ambush positions. As they approached the tent, a scantily dressed slattern emerged from it and charged Valana (MA: See picture. Paizo artists, in the future please refrain from including undead underboob in your works. It’s just…disturbing.) She shouted to her hidden companions, “More customers! Grab them, my beauties!” whereupon two more of the ghoulish creatures emerged from the brush and made for Keeya. Both Valana and Keeya were rooted to the spot (MA: my favorite…not…phrase from the old Commodore 64 game Telengard. The ghouls were killer in that game too.) Killian rushed in to help, tripped the harlot that was mauling Keeya, only to be bitten on the ankle in return. He too stood frozen in fear.

As the creatures continued to gnaw and claw the petrified trio, Shiera and Afari pondered how to help. Shiera channeled the healing power of Besmara, causing the ghouls some discomfort, while Afari decided the best course of action would be to keep the monsters where they stood by making the ground around them slick with grease. (MA: This was a good move. I was worried about a TPK at this point because Shiera was only dealing a couple of points a round via channel and Afari’s acid splash damage was, on average, similar. Grease made the ghouls reconsider attacking the others, instead deciding they would just finish the meals they had on hand and deal with the rest later.) In fear for her friends, Shiera finally summoned the full fury of Besmara and sent the vile undead things to their final rest.

Shiera saw to her friends’ wounds, patching them up as best she could, though there was little she could do about the possibility they may have contracted some disease from the foul things. Then they explored the tent, a nasty place filled with decaying body parts and the rags of revealing clothing. In it they found a ship’s chest bearing a bronze plate inscribed with the name Infernus, which Killian thought might have belonged to a Chelish vessel. Given the nature of the clothing and accessories in the tent, it seemed likely that the creatures they had just fought had been Infernus’ ship’s whores who had somehow contracted ghoul fever. They recovered the few treasures that could be discovered in the whores’ boudoir and left the swamp. 

Back on firmer ground, the group followed the path south as it neared a beautiful white sand beach and the coconut palm beach they had seen from the outcropping. The trees were full of ripe coconuts and many had fallen to the ground. They noticed shattered coconuts at the base of a few of the trees and then saw that those trees each held a rather large coconut crab. The group decided to bring the gig around later to collect some coconuts, leaving the crabs alone for now. They continued along the path to the south, nearing the overgrown field. When they reached a fork in the road they decided to leave the field, too, for later and instead head up to the ridge and the survivor encampment they had seen there.

Along the rough, steeply rising path they found grisly totems: severed ghoul heads mounted on sticks, flies and other vermin infesting the rotting flesh. These were placed by the unknown survivor, the group surmised, to warn away the ghouls. At the top of the ridge they found a well-constructed stockade surrounding a large tree, draped with the remains of a sail, and a small lodge. The gate to the stockade was open and they entered cautiously. Inside they found a fresh-water spring and noticed a spyglass affixed to the south wall of the stockade. Killian, who had recently been speculating about why spyglasses were so expensive, went over to examine it. Looking through he saw that it was fixed and focused on a cove on the southwestern shore of the island…and that two grindylows were happily splashing in the surf there. Even better, they were wearing Sandara Quinn’s tricorn and Concho’s befeathered purple pimp hat!

Meanwhile, Valana pushed open the door to the lodge and beheld a grisly sight: a hooded corpse dangling from a Chelish hangman’s collar, an overturned stool beneath his feet. By the smell of things, the man had been dead for quite some time. The awful stench had, in fact, attracted a huge swarm of insects…and these flew straight at Valana’s face as she opened the door!

That’s where we left it on Sunday. We’ll find out what happens with Valana’s face-full of bugs and maybe something of the sad story of the last survivor of the Infernus next session. Stay tuned.

NB: The title of this post is, of course, a line from the song Lady Marmalade. LL began referring to the whores’ boudoir as the “Ghoul-in Rouge” at some point during the session. If I’ve never said so before, LL is one of those rare humans who could rake in millions of credits a year on the comedy circuit in Dralasite space. This behavior is exacerbated by the curiously potent maple-wheat ale homebrew I bring from time to time. I do encourage it because to try to suppress it would only make things much worse later on. If you don’t have lots of little earthquakes you’re going to eventually get a building-leveler…

Under the Microscope

Posted: October 17, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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We’ve played a couple more sessions of Ben Robbins’ excellent Microscope RPG, once with LL, HG and MA and again, last night, with just LL and MA. Neither resulted in a complete history yet (and how could a history ever be complete?) but we hope to continue both games at some point. I’ll be sure to post the results here when they’re more fleshed out.

The Sunday before last I didn’t feel much like running Skull & Shackles so LL and I broke out Microscope and introduced it to HG. He seemed a bit skeptical at first but quickly got into the flow of the game. LL suggested examining a history centering around super-powered humans and their effect on the world. The superhero genre is something with which LL is quite familiar. HG is less submerged in it…and I’m just now beginning to gain an appreciation. We hoped it would make for an interesting experiment.

We started with the concept that an alien invasion of Earth, shortly following the devastation of WWII, resulted in the emergence of powers – the effect of a tailored virus that wiped out much of humanity but resulted in the manifestation of amazing powers for a small fraction of the survivors. This start point was suggested, I believe, by HG. The end point, we decided, would be “all humans are super-powered”. We didn’t specify how that happens, but we classified it as “light” so I guess the supers didn’t kill off all of the normals. One of our “no” palette items was “no campiness”. We probably should have made that “minimal campiness” because LL, as is her wont, has already slipped in a little under the table… 🙂

We added “first-pass” history items and then LL and HG took turns playing the “lens”. Some of the key elements that emerged:

  • In the rubble of post-war, post-invasion Europe several survivors with powers banded together and managed to destroy an alien ship and capture another. They went on to lead the human resistance against the invading aliens, driving them back. This group eventually became known as “The First Five”.
  • Later, the First Five Foundation was established. It apparently sought to control the creation of new super-powered humans and secretly hoarded various alien technologies for its own use.
  • At some point, distrust of supers overcame the gratitude felt by ordinaries and their governments for the liberation of Earth from the alien invaders. Governments sought to control and harness supers. This movement solidified after the assassination of the chairman of a UN-equivalent organization. The chairman was making a plea for the governments of the Earth to better control its supers.

We’ll learn a lot more about the events on this parallel Earth when we play another session.

LL and I started up a new game last night, with the hopes of creating a setting we might be able to explore later with our group using a full RPG system. We chose to do a sci-fi history where humans expand from Earth, meet aliens, and then (somehow) end up alone in the galaxy. In our palette we chose to include psionics, cheap power, and megastructures and exclude limitless FTL travel and communications, humans in alien suits, universal translators, and ancient “precursor” aliens. Here’s some of what we know about the history from our session:

  • Humans expanded beyond the Earth to found colonies on other worlds. We don’t know if they used FTL or not but do know that, at some point, they discovered “jump points’ and how to use them to travel much more quickly than before. This resulted in the Consolidation Wars, which brought many of the colonies together under one united banner.
    • Travelling via jump points caused psionic abilities to appear in certain humans. The mechanism for this is, as yet, unspecified. Many of these people were initially taken for study and experimentation, a legacy that will likely cause problems later on.
    • During the Consolidation Wars, a border colony called Neu Essen was psionically destroyed by a crewman aboard one of the warships laying siege to the colony. She was distraught because her lover, another crewman, had been killed during the battle with the colony and lashed out subconsciously. This was an unprecedented display of psionic power. The “echoes” of her psionic outburst were “heard” by psionics at a great distance.
  • As humans explored the jump point “network” they encountered an alien species, who also travelled via jump points. Communication proved impossible and a war ensued. Later, a psionic crewman aboard a human warship found he could speak with the aliens telepathically. At some point psionic communications enabled the negotiation of a treaty and the end of the war.
    • Later discussions with humanity’s new alien friends revealed that their psions had heard the Neu Essen outburst but hadn’t understood what had happened at the time. This is, no doubt, something we’ll get back to.

So. There you have it. It’s definitely a work in progress, having only gotten through one focus in our short session. It seems promising, though…and it has certainly gone in directions neither LL nor I expected when we started. That’s the beauty of Microscope, I guess!