September to May on the Love Balloon

Tonight we also played, in a separate breakout room, The Love Balloon by Ray Chou & Vincenzo Ferriero of Mythopoeia Games on board the Cloud 9, a cruise dirigible about to set sail into the sky. Our crew member is the ship’s bartender Natalie, who always has a kind word and seeks out fun wherever she flies. A pair of criminals disguised as musicians, Sarah and Gary, are staying in the Presidential Suite, with very different intentions. Henley Howard is back aboard the Cloud 9 in the Single Ensuite; he’s a salesman with a heart of gold and a never ending sales patter. In the Bachelor Suite is Al Own, a slime ball and inept pickup artist, who really just fears being alone. And in the Balcony View Suite is Jane, a dentist from Ohio, who has recently begun to lose her memory and wants one last chance at adventure before she can no longer travel.

The Love Balloon, a game of ... hijinks, humor & romance appears in the left hand corner with two figures dancing the Charleston to the right in a field of soft pink.

Our story begins with Natalie welcoming Jane aboard and giving her a tour of the Cloud 9’s many attractions on the way to her cabin. Henley Howard pitch meets Al and manages to sell him breath mints and shoe polish to help him in his attempts to woo the woman of his dreams. When Gary and Sarah check into their suite, it’s clear that Sarah calls the shots and is packing heat for protection, but Gary is the one paranoid about being found out. They’ve made off with the money from Gary’s employer, but have very different ideas about what to do with it. Sarah sends Gary off toward the bar while she plots alone.

Natalie and Henley have a nice chat outside the ship’s theatre, but he fails to sell her a retractable screwdriver, a pair of dice, monogrammed napkins, sunscreen, or a joke book, but she does decide to buy the coin changer and puts in an order for a set of decorative silly straws for the drinks. Al meets Sarah at the buffet, but she sends him packing easily enough, and he beats himself up over something silly he said about a spoon. Gary and Jane meet on the top deck and despite their difference in ages (he’s 28 and her 59), an easy rapport quickly develops between them.

When the ship docks at a Sky Castle, Henley encounters Gary at the end of the organized tour. Gary keeps buying everything the salesman offers and even insists on overpaying. He buys disposable cameras, perfume bottles, artificial flowers, gift wrapping and bags, and offers to finance the salesman’s supply runs. In return, Henley invites Gary to join him and upgrade his travels: “I’m not a traveling salesman as much as a wandering nuisance.” Meanwhile, Sarah and Jane meet at the ship’s pool and Sarah tries to dissuade Jane from pursuing Gary, despite having and wanting no claims on him herself. Jane, having little time to waste, just wants Sarah to let Gary make his own decision. Later, Al meets Natalie while crying into his beer at her bar. She tries to convince him that he’s trying too hard and needs to be more curious about the woman and more humble about himself if he wants to ever succeed in getting a woman’s attention. Natalie agrees to a walk later around the deck so he can practice being a genuine person.

As they walk along the deck, Al asks about her day and her trip, and after replying, she says he’s pretty fun when he’s behaving himself. Henley shows up and offers to sell Al a series of self-help books and women’s magazines to help him improve and learn more about women. Then Gary and Sarah arrive, and Gary gifts Al the package that he’d had been hesitating to spring for. When Jane arrives, Natalie and Al walk on, while Henley runs interference with Sarah so Jane and Gary can steal away to talk. It’s quickly apparent that they’ve developed feelings for each other, but before she can accept him, Jane confesses to Gary about her impending memory loss and the likelihood that if he chooses a life with her, he’ll end up spending more years taking care of her than adventuring with her. He replies, “I’d rather have memories to forget than no memories at all. Taking care of you doesn’t sound bad at all.” And they share their first kiss under the moonlight.

Each of them depart the ship, Al hugging Natalie for all the help and true friendship she’s given him, Sarah pretending to be as happy as a clam, and Henley leaving a case as a gift for the new couple. Natalie hands over the case to Jane and Gary as they come down hand-in-hand. Inside are books on memory loss & retention, a camera for freezing time, and brain teasers and puzzles to keep the brain limber with a note stamped “Paid in full”.

Until We Sink into the Twilight

Tonight we played Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobsson in which we play the natives running a hotel on a small island slowly sinking into the sea and the guests who visit the hotel. We are Kalea the hotel hotel manager, Leroy an eternal backpacker guest, Ari Kovair a fading star celebrity guest, and her son Ralph.

Our story begins when a sports fisherman is found dead on the beach, within sight distance from Ari’s room. She is furious that as a Gold Member of this hotel she has to deal with such gross situation and demands to Kalea that she and Ralph get rooms on the other side of the hotel.

The next day, Ralph and Leroy go hiking in the island. The view is majestic and there is a lot of interesting fauna here. There is a lake brimming with colorful fish that is very captivating. Not too far from the path that leads to the lake, Ralph finds the shallow grave where the fisherman was buried. The word “swine” is marked with black paint on the cross. Later that afternoon, back at the hotel, Ralph tells his mother about it and she is more and more concerned about the state of affairs at this hotel. Kalea keeps on appeasing her by bringing her drinks and promising her of coupons for her next stay at the hotel.

On the third day, the hotel has lost radio communication as some pumps failed overnight and the basement of the hotel flooded. Kalea is all disheveled from spending all morning cleaning the basement.. and tending to her demanding guests. When Ralph complains about how his room has not been made to his standards, Kalea hits back at him by pointing out that she went ahead and cleaned his shirt that was covered in black paint. Ralph ends up admitting that he was the one that wrote ‘swine’ on the cross previously as he had seen the fisherman staring at his mother when they checked into the hotel earlier.

On the fourth day, the three go back to the lake area as Ralph has to go clean the cross he vandalized earlier. While doing that, he finds a wedding ring near the grave. Ari notices that a hand is sticking out of the grave and now really wants to leave the island. Leroy pushes the group to hike further out and the reach the Lemur Bridge from which they appreciate a great view of the island. Back at the hotel in the afternoon, the group discusses a twenty year old newspaper clipping they found under a sofa that mentions of a murder that took place at the hotel then in 2001.

On the fifth day, Ralph confronts his mother as he overheard her coordinating on the radio (which was finally fixed) talking about the wedding plans she had with her publicist. Ralph is annoyed that this was not ever discussed with him… and that she keeps on calling his dad ‘her publicist’ instead of using his name. By now Ari is tired of this island and convinces Leroy to charter a sea-plane together for the next day to come pick them up and leave the island.

But on the sixth day, the group wakes up to the island sinking. In the morning the water is up to their ankles. They make their way into a row boat with a broken engine that the hotel had. Shortly after getting onto the boat, the island disappeared beneath the waves. As we are stranded in the middle of the ocean waiting for help, a skywriting plane flies over us, typing in the air “Happy New Year 2001!”

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

For the Headline on the Alien Ambassadors

Tonight we played The Case that will make the Headlines by Nicolas ‘Gulix’ Ronvel. Our characters are a group of newspaper reporters covering a high-profile meeting with alien ambassadors. We are Justin Case, who runs a paranormal blog on the side; Carol, obsessed with access to government officials; Odin, cursed with bad luck ever since entering the newspaper business; Fabrone Carbury, chenille suit enthusiast who’s wanted to be a reporter since childhood; Sam Smith, a paranoid columnist; and Sidra, passionate about journalistic ethics.

One year ago, Sidra got her first front-page story, covering a robbery and attempted heist. Odin was the first to congratulate her, musing that he’s never made it to the front page because the editors only give him unimportant stories to work on. Things were fine when he worked on the college newspaper with Fabrone, but his luck went bad when he became a professional reporter, and his envy of Fabrone’s assignments has soured their friendship. Sidra hasn’t been back on the front page since, but she’s hoping this case will get her there. Odin understands that if he messes up this story, he’s likely out of a job.

Fabrone and Carol often cover the same stories as part of the government press pool. Carol, who never goes back to the small town she grew up in now that she lives in the city, is not above making campaign donations as a bribe to get information out of politicians. Fabrone, inspired by her time covering U.N. meetings, is hoping to frame the alien summit story in a way that will bring people together, without turning people against the aliens. When Fabrone got this newspaper job in the city, she left behind her (now ex) girlfriend and their dog, but now she has a new girlfriend, a fashion designer who designs her suits.

Coworkers Sam and Carol used to regularly go out for drinks, but they’ve had a falling out over Sam’s latest story. He’s cast suspicions on the aliens and their motives; Carol thinks he’s ridiculous and finds his fear-mongering abhorrent. Furthermore, her government sources won’t talk to her anymore now that Sam has given their newspaper a reputation for criticizing their plans.

Justin needs his newspaper job to pay the bills, but his real passion is the blog he runs about paranormal and extraterrestrial activity. He spends his spare time watching paranormal documentaries and trawling YouTube for evidence, so he can share his stories with the world. Sidra doesn’t trust Justin not to fabricate stories in order to bring in more readers.

The alien meeting case brings back a painful memory for Fabrone: As a child, she made up a story about aliens for her handmade newspaper, complete with painted “alien rocks” and a dog dressed up as an alien, but her peers mocked her for being weird. Sam’s childhood also inspired his journalism, when he helped clear his neighbor/babysitter’s name after the neighborhood targeted her with false reports to Child Protective Services. His absent father wanted him to become a professional oboe player, but his heart belonged to journalism.

Odin’s contact meets him in a dark alley and gives him a strange package. The package contains a piece of alien technology that reveals the details of the aliens’ schedule… but Odin can’t read the information, because it’s written in an alien language.

Sam already has beef with Fabrone over her coverage of the U.N., and this story continues the trend. He dislikes her positive approach to the story, because he wants to alarm the masses. He used to envy Sidra, but now thinks she’s delusional like everyone else, because she doesn’t see the danger of the aliens.

When Justin invites Carol to dinner to discuss the case, Sidra is incensed. She doesn’t trust the pushy blogger not to pry into Carol’s personal life. Between this and his dubious blogging, Justin has gone too far. Sidra follows Justin to a bar and punches him in the face. Surprisingly, this is the wakeup call Justin needs to realize that he needs to tone down his obsessions, because they’re interfering with his newspaper job, and blogging doesn’t pay the bills.

At the last minute, the venue of the meeting is changed, because the original meeting place is near a paper mill, and paper pulp fumes are toxic to the aliens. Fabrone gets the scoop on this story, and is the first in line for the new venue.

Two weeks later, the meeting is over, and the world has moved on. Sidra never got a story submitted because she was poking into everyone else’s business, and her job is in jeopardy. Justin published conspiratorial rumors to his column and blog, and has been hired for a TV show about aliens. Carol published a dry story about government policy, which everyone ignored. Fabrone’s upbeat story got more attention from young reporters and the blogosphere than newspaper subscribers, but her photos of alien fabrics elevated her girlfriend’s fashion career. Odin’s newspaper went under the day after he published his story, due to a scandal in the publishing department; Odin moved to Connecticut, got married, opened a candle shop, and lived happily ever after. Sam broke into Odin’s home to steal the alien schedule and then disappeared, leaving a legacy of conspiracy theories around his disappearance.

For the Haunted Aether Island

We had some extra time after our session of For this Ungrateful City, so we also played The Lost Island by Steffen Jörg. Our characters are survivors of an airship crash in their world’s Bermuda Triangle, on a floating island not found on any map. We are medium Minerva, dentist Flavia, upper class Brenda Goodwitch, and areal cartographer Reginald.

Unfortunately, disaster has brought out the worst, or at least the crankiest, in us. As soon as we crash, Flavia starts complaining about the crew’s incompetence, and we start arguing: Reginald wants to explore, but the rest of us just want to get the ship fixed and leave. We eventually decide that the ship’s crew will make repairs, while Reginald and the vacationers explore the island.

Minerva notices that the island is absolutely full of human, or humanoid, ghosts and spirits, suggesting that it is not uninhabited. Reginald notices that his mapmaking compass has disappeared, and blames Flavia. Brenda misses her mansion full of servants, and her politically connected brother who will pay for anything.

On the fifth night after the crash, we make a campfire. Reginald is reminded of his childhood, when the world seemed bigger; a feeling this unplanned excursion has rekindled. Around the fire, we exchange secrets. Flavia confides that despite her success, she is afraid of the dark. Brenda confesses that she uses less-than-legal means to help her brother get ahead politically. Reginald is in no rush to get back to his loveless marriage. And Minerva notes enigmatically that she has helped cover up a murder… more than once.

During our extended stay on the island, Reginald teaches Flavia how to build a clay oven. She is impressed with his skills, and vows to support scouting programs when she returns home. Brenda is spends a rainstorm hiding under a rock ledge with Reginald, but has no desire to get any closer. Meanwhile, Minerva continues exploring, protected from the ghosts by the symbol she wears. She is terrified to discover an old ritual site that, unlike the rest of the island, is completely devoid of ghosts.

Finally, another ship appears out of the fog, here to rescue us and take us home. Reginald takes with him a bag of Neanderthal teeth found at the ritual site, after trading two of them to Flavia to get his compass back. Flavia looks forward to presenting the teeth at the next dentistry conference. Minerva takes with her the memory of this strange, haunted island. Brenda is just glad to be rid of this place and return home.

For the Secrets of Quail City

At the other table, we played For this Ungrateful City by Alexi Sargeant and Cloven Pine Games. We are the City Watch: indestructible Rollbar, refracted light artist Lux et Partiis, cold-powered Captain Winter, and people-powered paragon Echelon. The leaders of Quail City have called upon us to deal with a rising threat: supervillain Solstice has built a machine that fills the city with mind-control fog, encouraging the residents’ worst and most violent impulses.

Lux (a.k.a. George Harvey) has only come to town recently, but finds inspiration in the city’s breadth of culture and street artists. The city’s leaders have tasked him with restoring the old clock tower, with the help of his old-money friend Norman. He takes note of the residents’ civic pride that drives people to get involved, and its flip side, the cruelty reserved for people who are seen as taking advantage of the city. While many locals believe that Norman is one of these advantage-takers and that his kindness is a front, George knows that Norman’s enthusiasm for the common people is genuine.

Captain Winter is a scientist who gained his powers in a lab accident while trying to solve global warming, and rose to prominence after freezing the getaway car of some mobsters who were robbing a bank. He longs to be a hero and do anything to help the city, which inspires him with its sense of community and different groups of people working together. His faith in people recently inspired him to forgive an enemy, seeing their potential for good. While his powers are so strong that he could easily condemn the city to endless winter, the Captain is optimistic that the city will continue to appreciate his help.

Echelon, generally recognized as the leader of the City Watch, is widely renowned for his seemingly infinite skills and expertise. What most people don’t know is that he draws his knowledge from all the people around him, and in fact moved to this large city in order to have more people to draw power from. While the people love him, and have built a statue in his honor, the city’s political leaders and law enforcement dislike vigilantes and feel threatened by his popularity. Thanks to his powers, Echelon knows that the chief of police is Solstice’s son, and she plans to use her machine to make her son look like a hero by creating more crime in the city. Echelon respects Solstice’s brilliance, and is tempted by her offer to trade information on other criminals in exchange for staying out of her way.

Rollbar (a.k.a. Finley Holland) honed their powers of strength and durability in the underground fighting scene before joining the City Watch. After years of homelessness as a teen and young adult, during which they saw a friend die without any help, Rollbar feels they’ve seen the worst the city has to offer, and they’re skeptical of the vastly different treatment available to a member of the City Watch. Nevertheless, they’ve made a promise that if the city is in danger, they will be the last to leave. They don’t trust Lux, a newcomer who’s always skulking around and doesn’t want to be associated with the Watch. The fog machine frightens them, but they put on a brave face because the people need to believe it will be okay.

Finally, Solstice’s machine goes haywire, and all hell breaks loose in Quail City. Lux heads downtown to protect small businesses and people who need help, while Captain Winter goes to his lab in search of a scientific solution. Rollbar is relieved to have something they can fight, so they grab a sledgehammer and go with Echelon to the planetarium, where Solstice’s machine is hidden. Solstice pleads with the heroes not to destroy her machine, and plays on Rollbar’s resentment, asking why they should save a city that never cared about them. While Rollbar hesitates, we see George walking around downtown; in all the chaos, he didn’t have time to put on his usual disguise.

Back at the lab, Captain Winter has found the cure, which must be distributed via Solstice’s machine. He rushes to the planetarium, where Rollbar has shaken off Solstice’s influence and is about to destroy the machine with a sledgehammer. Just in time, the Captain freezes Rollbar mid-swing. Echelon, affected by all the emotions running wild in the city, lets slip that he’s known about Solstice’s machine for a long time, but was letting her run it without interference. Now that she’s out of control, she must be stopped by any means necessary, so Echelon starts brutally attacking the villain. Captain Winter dodges through their fight to get to the machine, where he plugs in the can of cure and reprograms the machine. A blue cloud rolls out over the city.

Downtown, George sees the city residents calm down and return to normal, wondering at the unusual fog that has turned to snow in the summer. He sneaks away before anyone can see him out of his disguise. Once the people of the city calm down, Echelon does too; he’s beaten and badly injured Solstice, but stops just in time to avoid killing her. The police chief is upset by what’s happened to his mom and throws us all in jail. Fortunately, before too long, Norman makes friends with the police chief, who sets us free and thanks us for saving the city.

For Some Drama

Tonight we divided into two tables, each of which played a pair of games Descended from the Queen at At one table, we played a session of The Lost Island by Steffen Jörg in which our plane crashing on a deserted island led us through fevered sickness with hallucinated voices and visions, burying the dead, arguments over whether to stay on shore or move inland, memories of our past lives, and eventually a rescue just as we’ve secured enough food to sustain us. As we leave the island, we take with us an appreciation of how precious time is, the importance of withholding judgment, the necessity of working together, and newfound confidence in our abilities in the face of hard times. The relationships we’ve formed may carry forward into our new lives.

Next we played a round of For the Crown by Monsieur Alceste in the kingdom of Shangrila, a land where your place is determined by the strength of your magic and where the elderly King Fangor lies ill after a long and prosperous reign. We are Faisal, the king’s brother and leader of his armies; Leona, a teenage wizard’s apprentice who has vast stores of untapped magical potential; Taro, advisor to the king these past five years who came from the lowest rungs of society; and Nogard, the king’s youngest son but also the only one with any aptitude for magic. Which of us will inherit the crown and become the new ruler of Shangrila?

Screenshot of For the Crown game portal.

We start with Leona attempting to form an alliance of the underclass against the aristocrats close to the king by meeting with Taro, who agrees that the next king should not be related to the current one. Of particular concern is Prince Nogard, who has long been rumored to be corrupted by dark magic and who even the king kept away from court for years. Taro believes she is the best choice because of her experience of all walks of life, but Prince Faisal has been loyal to the king for decades and has the most experience of any claimant. His failure at the Battle of Bone Bridge that led to the death of Taro’s uncle, however, has turned the adviser against him forever. Leona calls both Faisal and Taro together in a conclave to conspire against Nogard and his claim, but Faisal will do no more than to talk to his nephew about standing down from the contest while the other two agree to reveal to the people how twisted magic has made him.

When the neighboring kingdom turns militaristic and decides to test the strength of the ailing kingdom by invading, Nogard tasks Faisal with securing the capital and rides off to lead the army himself. While Nogard returns after successfully repelling the invaders, Taro secures a holy writ against him for practicing dark magic for which he must atone by performing light magic rituals. Nogard sees a chance to change his image and agrees to perform the rituals. But now it is time to choose the new ruler as King Fangor finally passes away at this dramatic moment. With Faisal, worried about his nephew’s ambition and corruption, refusing to back him and promising to serve the crown no matter who wears it and Taro throwing her support behind the upstart Leona, Nogard is thwarted and Leona is proclaimed the new ruler of Shangrila due to her vast magical powers.

Wizard’s Querulous Dream

Tonight we played The Wizard’s Querulous Dream by Jason Morningstar & Lizzie Stark as wizard’s arranging a royal marriage between the Black Mountain and Smallwood kingdoms, both beset by the rebels led by Wyoh. The future of both kingdoms rests on the success of this union. We must pick one of the two royal children from each kingdom to marry: Prince Chadwick or Princess Aster of Smallwood to marry either Prince Winthrop or Princess Tiffany of Black Mountain.

After debating the merits of each of the four possible pairings, we easily settle upon the combination of Princess Aster of Smallwood as regent and Princess Tiffany of Black Mountain as consort. We believe that Tiffany’s pageantry and popularity combined with Aster’s foresight and planning will guide the kingdom well.

Lasers & Feelings & Legends

Tonight we again played Lasers & Feelings as the crew of the Consortium ship Raptor in an encounter with the Hive Armada at the mouth to a quantum tunnel. With Captain Darcy once again confined to a medical pod after succumbing to a psychic entity, our crew consists of robotic scientist 32011J known as Jay, Kalista an alien seeking to explore new worlds, Sabik the ships erstwhile engineer returning after several years spent building xir social media presence, and the ship’s doctor Tase Duglas, who as ranking officer ends up serving as captain for the mission.

Two of our characters are depicted, the square bodied robot 32011J and the eight-eyed purple-skinned alien Kalista.

We begin with Sabik assembling our new science-bot and providing whatever upgrades xe can to the standard build-out while filming the whole thing for Rumblr. In the sick bay, Dr. Duglas consults with Kalista about the mysterious illness that has brought down the captain. In her travels, Kalista has seen the Void incapacitate people before but never heard of any effective treatment, and although some do recover, survivors usually lose a large portion of their memories. In a video for GalacticTube Sabik plays “who is more likely to” with Kalista. Although they agree that Kalista is more likely to steal the ship, get lost on the ship, get angry and punch a wall, or speak an alien language, they often both choose themselves. They agree, though, that Sabik is more likely to invent something useful. On the bridge, Dr. Duglas encounters the science-bot Jay for the first time, who informs him about finding a stable quantum tunnel through spacetime nearby. The robot points out that regulations require the Raptor to investigate, and that as the highest-ranking officer currently aboard, the Doctor must take command. Sabik offers to command the ship, but the conversation ends in a squabble between Sabik and Jay, so Dr. Duglas accepts his fate and orders the Raptor to make for the tunnel at best speed.

As we approach the quantum tunnel, we learn that a swarm of Hive ships are flying around the tunnel’s opening, and that on the other side of the tunnel lies a hitherto unknown planet. The Hive ships do not immediately respond to our hails, but finally convincing them to open a channel, they state their intention with the tunnel is “tear mending.” While we ponder what that might mean, we convene the officers to discuss our options. Jay and Kalista tell us of Hive legends involving a people known as the Irks who once conquered most of known space and were imprisoned on a far-off planet millennia ago after their final defeat. Scans indicate the mending the Hive wish to complete is collapsing the quantum tunnel entirely. As a unique natural phenomenon, Duglas decides that we must reach out to Consortium command for instructions and attempt to delay the Hive activity until command can assess their activity and determine if it’s allowed. We attempt to negotiate with the Hive, citing the terms of the Consortium-Hive treaty, but the Hive insist upon destroying the tunnel and huffily cut off all communication. In order to stop them, we have to place our ship between them and the tunnel entrance, raising our defensive screens to maximum power, even shutting down other systems, to withstand any Hive attacks. And attack they do. Our screens hold, but with the engines offline, one explosion knocks us backward into the tunnel, which sucks us through to the other side and sends the ship careening toward the unknown planet.

Sabik is able to restart the engines fast enough to prevent us from crashing uncontrolled into the planet, but not soon enough to keep us from being pulled down to the planet’s surface. As soon as we’re down, we’re contacted by Irk elders who offer whatever assistance they can and insist we accept their hospitality, which we gladly but warily accept as we’ll need more fuel to get back through the tunnel. The welcome we receive on this planet, which the Irks call Riciri, is friendly, and the Irks explain that no matter what may have been done by their people in the past, they’ve found peace on Riciri and wish only to know more of the galaxy beyond. While Kalista and Jay study their library and historical documents to learn what they can about the legendary Irks, Sabik spends the time interviewing as many Irks as xe can in order to make a documentary to tell their story. Now that we know the Irks are not a danger, we complete our refueling and fly back into the tunnel. Duglas orders Jay and Sabik to infiltrate the Hive network and bring their activity to a halt. In a cheeky bit of social media savvy, Sabik uploads the documentary xe made about the Irks into the Hive network, putting it on a loop so the Hive systems can’t do anything but play it on repeat, which brings the entire Hive armada to a complete halt.

With the time bought by our actions, the Consortium is able to stop the Hive’s tunnel deconstruction project through diplomatic channels, and the long negotiation to broker peace between the Hive and the Irks can begin.

Venture to the Dragon’s Mirror

Tonight we concluded our story using Venture by Riley Rethal about the quest to defeat to an evil wizard that we began last week. Our crew once again consists of Nelrim the Wizard, Alexander Smith the Paladin, Alder the Cleric, Perebraithe the Bard, Orenn the Rogue, and Melor the Fighter. When last we left our heroes, they had just met in the healing temple to prevent Orenn from dying after saving Perebraithe’s life and pledged to work together to bring down the dark wizard causing mayhem among the populace of Port Royal.

We begin still inside the healing temple and decide that the best way to find the dark wizard is for Alder to call upon the True Sight of her order. Orenn rips the binding from his recently stitched up arm and volunteers to be the ritual’s blood sacrifice. As Alder chants, storm clouds and lightning appear in the sky until the clouds suddenly part and a dead dove falls into the temple’s courtyard from the center of the cleared sky. When alder checks the dove, she finds a key embedded in its belly, then goes berserk and attacks Alexander Smith. Once Melor gets him in her grip, Perebraithe sings his calming tune until she returns to herself and tells us of the vision she had of a ruined hillside chapel, which Orenn identifies as the Chapel at the Dragon’s Mirror. We set out for the Dragon’s Mirror at first light.

On the road, Perebraithe asks Nelrim about the dark wizard and learns that he was banished to the astral plane and has no physical form, but has enough power to induce psychotic anger in people on this plane. The wizard had been initially defeated by forces led by the Marquis and so his revenge is now extended to the city itself since he can no longer attack the Marquis directly. As we near the Dragon’s Mirror, we see smoke billowing from the volcano reflected in the crystalline lake that gives the area its name. We stop at a stall run by a poor family and, while eating out soup, learn that the Chapel was once the center of a pilgrimage, but that the last pilgrimage festival was cancelled due to a large sinkhole that appeared on the road to the Chapel, out of which stream a swarm of oversized crabs. We debate whether they are normal-sized fire crabs or giant-sized normal crabs, but we remain unprepared when we come upon the sinkhole and several enormous crabs emerge and pull several horses underground with them.

Dismounted and disoriented, we manage to regroup further down the road behind some boulders and begin planning our next move while Orenn sneaks away and looks inside the sinkhole where he sees a tunnel but also a strange boulder with a keyhole in it. When we learn what Orenn has seen, we silence our feet with towels sneak to the sinkhole ourselves while Alexander Smith loudly clanks away in the other direction to distract the craps. Once at the sinkhole, Alder opens the boulder with the key taken from the dove. When the key turns the boulder flies into the air and shatters and out from the newly formed door flies a powerful being wearing darkened robes, who fries the remaining crabs with lightning. Have we released the dark wizard from the astral plane?

We regroup inside the temple, which is dedicated to the same order as Alexander Smith, and he leads us down into the catacombs below the temple where we discover the remains of the knights and paladins who died fighting the dark wizard alongside the Marquis. Nelrim reads the runes to learn that we must disrupt the dark wizard’s power and Perebraithe learns from the Marquis’s parrot that the Wizard’s true name is “Damascus.” Orenn notices the pattern of one funeral bier, recognizes it matches that of a dagger he picked up outside as we came in, and returns it to the paladin’s scabbard, causing the paladin to appear before us in spirit form. He says if we speak the name at the volcano’s lip, it will summon the wizard so we can destroy him once and for all.

And so we do. We climb to the volcano’s mouth, Nelrim prepares a moonbinding spell, Alexander Smith, Melor, and Orenn gird their weapons, and once we’re all ready, Perebraithe cries “Damascus” to summon the dark wizard. The spell holds him tight for just long enough for the weapons to find the marks, the wizard’s blood oozing into the volcano. Alder sees her opportunity and throws the key into the volcano and it seals itself with an audible pop; the volcano is gone. As the earth shakes, we run down the hill to see the lake begin to bubble then calm allowing us to see the largest fire crab of all time uncovered in the quake sitting at the bottom of the lake. As the crab is just sitting there, we opt to return and begin the long journey to Port Royal on foot, happy to put the Dragon’s mirror behind us.

Venture in Town

Tonight we played the first act of a story in Venture by Riley Rethal as a band of adventurers in a capital city at the sea, Port Royal, rife with rumors of curses and home to a magical academy. Our number include Nelrim the Wizard, Alexander Smith the Paladin, Alder the Cleric, Perebraithe the Bard, Orenn the Rogue, and Melor the Fighter.

Our story begins when Orenn brings an elegant, beautiful parrot to Perebraithe, who he names Windbright. After Perebraithe expresses his gratitude for the gift, Orenn promises to never leave his new friend’s side. When Alexander Smith arrives in Port Royal, he demands Melor direct him to the evil in the city, so he sends the paladin down to the docks. At the healing Temple, Alder is interrupted by Nelrim who has an experimental spell he’d like to try for healing people that would bypass the complicated process the clerics employ. While Alder is all for more ways to help people, she is worried about possible negative consequences. From out of those waiting for treatment, Alexander Smith, fresh from a beating on the docks, volunteers for Nelrim’s experimental treatment and asks after the curse he’s heard emanates from the Academy. We first hear about an evil wizard inspiring violence by luring victims into the woods and laying a curse upon them here. Nelrim and Alexander Smith continue discussing the evil wizard as they leave the temple, form an alliance to put an end to this curse, and pledge to recruit a party who can end the dark wizard’s plans, beginning with Melor.

Perebraithe and Orenn go for a walk along the waterfront zoological gardens where the nobility go to walk their unusual pets. The noble with the peacock on a golden chain is the first to greet them and note that Windbright looks like the Marquis’s parrot, but the nobleman with the emu insists they are remarkably similar. But Orenn begins to scarf down the emu’s snacks and Perebraithe cannot convince him to stop even after promising him a pastry if he leaves it alone. Orenn leaps into the water and returns to the surface pulling out a watch, a comb, a cloak, then a body. The noble runs off to retrieve the city guard who take charge of the body, who appears to be the Marquis and confiscate Perebraithe’s transit papers, which will prevent him from leaving the city. Orenn swam away but noticed strangle marks on the victim’s neck. In another part of the city, Melor reunites with his Alder after a long absence; they discuss the problems in the city and increased acts of violence that have kept the Temple full of those seeking healing. She suggests that the fighter seek out the strange wizard about his next job.

Having secured the services of Melor and hearing about the death of the Marquis, Nelrim is certain his death links to the activity of the dark wizard and decides to seek out the one’s who found the body. Catching up with the bard Perebraithe performing in a tavern, Nelrim and Alexander Smith discuss the dark wizard’s power and the mysterious death of the Marquis with Perebraithe and Orenn when a brawl breaks out in the tavern. Perebraithe calms the crowd using his powers, but the brawlers are acting unconsciously and don’t know why they started fighting. But the fighting continues and one senseless brawler comes at Perebraithe with a long dagger, so he dives in between and takes the blade in his arm. Arriving just in time to witness this, Melor smashes through the remaining brawlers and the crew race to the temple carrying the injured rogue. Melor leads them through streets filled by a crazed melee as the curse spreads throughout the city. When they reach the Temple, Alder is able to heal Orenn, and pledges to help the team in their battle against the evil wizard.