Elementary & The Rusting Giants

We had only two players this week, so we played a pair of short mini-games on the  StorySynth engine. First, we played Elementary by Martin Dubuque, in which we are given a list of clues and must come up with the crime they describe. Our clues are Dolphin Statue, Ex-lover, Third Party, Medieval Dagger, Wife, Red Herring, Lizard, and Small Jacket. The crime is the murder of a wealthy man at his home in the tropics on the day of a big party on his estate. We have three primary suspects, the ex-lover, the wife, and the third party, his accountant, who all attended the event. Secretly the millionaire was running into money troubles and fought with his accountant about it. Later, he and his wife were arguing while the red herring was being served. She was angry about the ex-lover being at the party and grew increasingly heated while they talked. In a moment of anger, she grabbed the medieval dagger from the wall and plunged it into her husband. She went into the bathroom to wash off the blood that had splattered, but she couldn’t remove one spot, so put on a small jacket to cover it. When she started to return to the party, she was startled by a large lizard, so she killed it with the pointed dolphin statue. Once back at the party, she told anyone who asked that she had gone inside to grab her jacket because she had caught a chill.

Screenshot of the play invitation to The Rusting Giants in the StorySynth gallery. The picture is of three adventurers standing in front of a metal construct covered in green from overgrown plants and vines.
Image from StorySynth Gallery

The Merchant begins by entering a fallen limb of the Giant. He finds his way blocked by a wide chasm that he must cross to retrieve a cache of books and data disks and continue inside. He uses the vines growing along with walls to create enough support to shimmy across the narrow bit of armor that spans the chasm. Next, he makes his way into the command center of the Giant where he is threatened by another delver carrying a sword. The Merchant, in turn, draws his laser pistol and holds the man at bay while removing the Command Badge from the skeleton of the long-dead commander of the Giant and backs out of the bridge to safety. Afterward, he finds himself in a safe glade where the Giant’s torso opens to the sky and takes a moment to catch his breath and have a light meal. While eating he discovers a vein of nanite powder and collects it for later barter. As he enters the chamber with the Giant’s mechanical heart, he finds five wolf-cat beasts wrestling over a carcass. Rather than risk death trying to subdue them, he backs away the way he came to find another way through, abandoning the valuable pieces of the Giant’s armor here. The end of his dive is through another of the Giant’s limbs, where a mechanical warrior activates and rises to attack him. Instead, the Merchant uses the command badge taken from the bridge to override the default systems and deactivate these defense mechanisms. He then gathers the guns and a unique sword and returns to the village.

Meanwhile, the Pilgrim begins her dive by encountering a pair of feral children in the barrel of the Giant’s cannon. She lures the children to the surface with food and sends them on the path back to the local village. Next, she finds a working portable radio tuned to receive strange musical sounds, which she retrieves by avoiding a dangerous looking iridescent sludge dripping and pooling on the floor. Down the next passage, she finds herself in the living quarters of the Giant’s crew and finds a complete battery pack filled with batteries, each capable of powering an entire village for a year. A valuable find indeed. Blowing a pinch of nanite powder in the mechanisms, she unlocks a heavy metal door blocking entry into the cargo hold, opens it, and steps through. She determines that the cargo hold is safe, so takes a moment to pray and refresh herself. After her meal, she finds an unused and intact medical kit, a few smaller batteries, and materials that could be useful for construction. She’ll need to lead a team of villagers back to this place to extract the building materials and carry them to the village. Finally, she enters a chamber filled by a beautiful tree bearing fruit out of season, perhaps due to the unnatural warmth here. She asks the gods to bless the fruit and tastes it. It’s juicy and refreshing, so she takes a bagful to share with the villagers; perhaps they can harvest it when their winter supplies run low.

Back at the village, the Pilgrim and the Merchant meet up. The Merchant agrees to give the nanite powder and books to the Pilgrim in exchange for the med kit and a battery from the pack. The Pilgrim gifts the rest of her haul to the village.

Beast & Burrows

This week, we played a hacked together fantasy game combining elements of 1420 Beasts & Barrows by brine, 1400 Quest by James Lennox-Gordon, and 2400 Legends by Jason Tocci. We are a group of adventurers hired to rescue Favric, an acolyte of a local cult, from a bandit leader. We are Kaede the cat-folk Scout, Undyne the human Tinker, Raya the human Mage, and Logan the human-plant hybrid Mage.

We begin our search on the outskirts of town, but Undyne casts doubt on our mission. She believes it more likely that Favric was fleeing the cult and speculates that the bandit leader may have been his rescuer, or even his lover. Logan thinks we should fulfill our contract, no matter what. Kaede and Raya seek a middle ground, saying we should find Favric and ask him what he wants. But we can’t do anything until we find him. Kaede finds tracks in the woods that are likely the bandits’ trail. Raya decides to Scrye through the water and sees visions of a man she believes to be Favric, before a partially collapsed stone wall with a strange symbol on it. Logan believes the symbol may be magical, but Undyne says it’s related to the local mines,. She suggests we visit a friend of hers who owns one of these mines to ask him.

So, we go to the town of Abingdon to meet Undyne’s friend, Alan, who immediately suspects Undyne’s intentions, assuming she wants to borrow money. Raya draws the symbol she saw for Alan and asks if he knows anything about it. Alan says sure, its the sigil of the old Wizards Guild. They disbanded long ago after their tower exploded one night, bursting into flames. When pressed, he reveals the ruins of the tower are a days journey from Abingdon. Take the north road and head easterly into the hills. We thank him, buy him a drink, and leave for the north road.

We leave Logan in Abingdon to conduct his research and head north into the hills. We decide we need the answer to three questions: are the bandits at the collapsed Wizard’s Guild tower? Is Favric with them willingly or not? How do we rescue him, if necessary, or do next if it’s not. Kaede successfully sneaks into the camp setup at the tower but doesn’t return. After a few hours, Undyne and Raya decide they must investigate. Undyne is able to get close enough to determine that Kaede is still free but unable to get out without being seen. They decide they must mount a rescue.

Raya casts a spell to turn herself into an elephant, but can’t manage anything that large and settles for becoming a boar instead. The boar tears into the camp, causing havoc and mayhem that draws the attention of all those in the camp. Undyne is able to sneak in and meet up with Kaede, but they are spotted when they try to leave. Undyne attempts to convince one of the bandits that she’s friends with his sister. Although confused and delayed a bit, the bandit doesn’t believe her in the end, and a chase ensues. We each career through the woods until we’re able to find one another, and Raya casts a spell to mask us from the bandits perception. She can’t hold it for long, but long enough for us to find somewhere safer to hide.

We take this opportunity to compare notes. During his time in the camp, Kaede learned that these are definitely bandits, and probably the same bandits because one among them stands out as unlike the others, probably Favric, and Favric is definitely not their prisoner. He’s unfamiliar with their ways, but they’re all making an effort to include him. We decide we have to know for sure, so Undyne creates some colored powders and writes a note. Raya turns herself into a bird and delivers the note and two packets of powder to Favric. The note asks him to toss the blue one into the fire if he needs us to rescue him, and the red if he wants us to stop and leave him alone. Shortly thereafter, we see the red smoke and decide to leave this contract unfulfilled. We should probably avoid the town where they hired us to rescue Favric, but we can return to Abingdon to see how Logan has been getting on.

Mobland Archipelago

We dusted off Archipelago by Matthijs Holter to create a mobland story set in Chicago shortly after the stock market crash in the fall of 1929. There are three of us. Police Officer Jack, who lost all his savings in the crash. Jack’s broker is Lionel Bridges, whose brokerage is collapsing along with the market and is only a few steps in front of his creditors. Finally, Jack’s childhood friend is Tony, a mobster who runs the neighborhood, the local speakeasy and gambling dens.

Our story begins with Jack talking on the phone with Lionel because the bank is threatening to foreclose on his house. Lionel reassures him that the bank can’t possibly act quickly enough for him to lose his house; the bank will probably collapse first. The police chief comes in and orders him to investigate Tony; they want to shut the speakeasy down.

Down at his speakeasy, The Open Mouth, Tony is talking with Lionel and learns about another speakeasy that has opened up recently on the other side of the neighborhood, which shouldn’t be news to Tony but is. He tasks Lionel with finding out who runs the place. So, Lionel high tails it over the other joint and discovers that it’s run by the brothers who call themselves the Copperhead Gang. Unfortunately, he bumps into one of them on his way out, one who believes the crash is a hoax perpetrated by brokers to steal their client’s money. And he wants his money back now.

Next we see Jack meeting with Tony and offering to keep the police off his trail if Tony can help him with his money problems. He also tells him that Sam of the Copperheads believes in a conspiracy around the market crash. So, Tony goes to the drug store to confront the Copperhead brothers. When he mentions Lionel, Sam spouts off on his conspiracy theories while his brother, Giulio, leaves to find Lionel. Without his brother around, Tony overpowers Sam and leaves him inside after setting fire to the building. Across town, Giulio mows Lionel down in the street with a Tommy gun in a drive by. Then Giulio goes after Tony, firing indiscriminately into the Open Mouth and throwing Molotovs inside to set it ablaze in revenge for his brother.

Jack, having collected enough from Tony after his tip off, pays the bank off for his house but then hears about Guilio’s hit on Tony’s place. Shocked, he goes after Giulio alone, determined to bring him down. He manages to sneak his revolver into the Copperhead club and shoots Giulio but then he shoots himself. The camera pulls back from Jack’s dead body and stops high above it before the screen goes black.

End of the Line: Lucidity Alpha

In this week’s session, we tried End of the Line by April Kit Walsh from the StorySynth gallery, in which we play as the crew of an AI starship that is slated to be decommissioned and scrapped. We’re flying our ship, Lucidity Alpha, the first ship of their kind, to the scrapyard and preparing to say our goodbyes. Barnaby is a non-Terran health officer aboard the ship, in charge of our nutrition and wellness; Sian is the ship’s Terran pilot; and Coltin is the ship’s engineer who is half-Terran and has flown with Lucidity Alpha since the beginning.

During the flight, Coltin attempts to convince Lucida to allow him to download them onto a mobile medium. Lucida, however, does not believe they could fulfill their function or continue to be themselves if their consciousness is transferred to another form. Hurt by the rebuffing, Coltin grows suspicious and jealous of Barnaby as he perceives that Lucida is spending more time with Barnaby. Barnaby, for his part, sees Coltin as the least reliable member of the crew, blaming the deterioration of Lucida on the engineer. Coltin may understand engines, he thinks, but not how to nurture a whole being, especially one as complex as Lucida.

A starship with four engines, two outriggers to each side, flies past a world with light flaring off its edge toward the moon in the distance. The text below says: End of the Line, a storytelling game by April Kit Walsh. You are the crew of a sentient vessel on the way to being scrapped. Will you say goodbye?
End of the Line by April Kit Walsh cover image courtesy of StorySynth

Sian has long talks with Lucy while sitting at the controls, and comes to believe this is what they want, given the malfunctions they’ve been experiencing. We flash back to our last big mission, the one that lead to the Council deciding to decommission Lucida. We were surveying a planet at an important interstellar crossroads to determine the best place to erect a trading outpost. As we surveyed the planet, Lucida made some navigational mistakes (which Coltin detected and corrected) and then provided erroneous information on the planet. Those errors led to the building of the outpost in a spot that could not sustain it, leading to unnecessary deaths and the outpost being abandoned.

The relationship between Coltin and Barnaby is complicated not only by their conflict over Lucida, but also by their respective cultures. Coltin’s culture honors art above all else, seeing science and technology as remedial subjects with simple answers. Barnaby’s culture also frowns on technology but for a different reason; they believe technology should be subservient to the needs of organic life, which must be nurtured and addressed holistically. Each of them have come to see the shortcomings of their cultures’ ideas through their relationships with Lucida.

After the failure of the trading outpost but before the Council ordered Lucida to the scrapyards, we had one more important mission. We were exploring another world—a cold, rocky planet—for reasons we no longer remember. Sian climbed alone to one summit to get a better view and slipped into an icy crevasse, trapped and unconscious. After she failed to return, Lucida used her robotic drone to search for and find her, returning to the ship carrying her limp, frozen body to be treated by Barnaby. Many of us believe this shows that Lucida can still be relied on, can still make a contribution, but Lucida believes Sian almost dying shows they can no longer fulfill their purpose, that this confirms the Council’s judgment.

When we arrive at the scrapyards, it’s time to say goodbye and leave Lucida to her fate. While Sian is saddened to be losing her best friend, she tries to be supportive and bids Lucy farewell. Barnaby says nothing, wishing they could continue their journey together. Coltin, however, refuses to say goodbye, and refuses to leave Lucida here. Instead, he wrests control of the ship away from Lucida and takes her out past the scrapyards to a planet dedicated to preserving and studying history. Lucida One, being the first of their kind, is a living historical artifact, one that the archivists of this planet will protect and treasure. This gives Lucida a new purpose, Coltin says, to educate those who visit the archives. We feel confident the Council will allow Lucida to stay here, but will we face sanctions for having taken this action unilaterally?

The Duchess’ Gala Job

We took on The Job by J. Swaine this week, a Descended from the Queen game hosted on StorySynth. We are a crew planning and executing a heist, the target of the heist being the Queen in this version. Our crew is Lucky Seven, Shorty, Claire, and Thierry, but our leader is the King of Diamonds, who brought us all together and is renowned for his use of playing cards to send messages: to us, to the police, to his victims. He, and so we, specialize in high art theft. Our target for this job is an emerald necklace that supposedly brings “The Duchess’ Curse” upon those who possess it. Although superstitious Lucky Seven fears the curse, the main problem we face will be switching the necklace with a copy in the middle of a public gala at the museum where it will be on display.

A recent job of ours, to steal paintings from a museum in Paris, went horribly wrong when Jean-Claude decided to pilfer some extra canvases, which delayed our departure and forced us into a mad dash across the rooftops to escape. Jean-Claude’s carelessness got him kicked off the team, but not before Claire was injured badly enough that she won’t be accompanying into the gala on this job. Instead she goes on a scouting mission still limping and is mesmerized by the beauty of the jewel. She reaches out to touch it, but the matrons stopped her. If they hadn’t, she might have made a grab for it right there and made our job even harder.

Thierry is on this job to get the money to send his daughter to school, hoping that it will make amends for all those years he missed while away in prison. Lucky Seven doesn’t expect to use her contortionist skills on this job, but also doesn’t realize that she definitely will need to use her rudimentary French skills. Shorty has been, we are surprised to learn, preparing for this job for years, even apprenticing on diamond row in New York for a year to learn the gemology trade. He may know more about the Duchess than anyone, and his copy is exquisite, the finest work Thierry has ever seen. Claire hopes the job is done well and done quick, so she can retire to Nice to rest her foot and recover in splendor.

Once the job begins, Seven draws the attention of a gala patron who suspects her and keeps showing up and asking pointed questions. Shorty gets distracted talking to a cute waiter until Thierry reminds him to keep his mind on the job; we can’t have another Jean-Claude situation. Outside the museum, Claire spots a group of police moving in force toward the museum entrance and warns the crew. She calls in a bomb scare at an address down the street to pull the cops away from the museum. Over the radios, Shorty casually mentions he once touched the Duchess necklace while working at the museum, and Seven panics. Surely, we’re doomed now that the curse is upon us. Why, Claire wonders, couldn’t we have chosen anything else in the museum, something that doesn’t attract so many eyes and carry such a price. After having swapped the necklaces, we realize the police have created a cordon because of the bomb scare and are searching everyone’s bags. Seven hides the necklace in the suspicious patron’s hair to smuggle it through the checkpoint, and thinks our avoiding the curse is a sign that we’re destined to stick together.

Once we’re safe, Thierry tells us that the King of Diamonds has special plans for the necklace, plans that preclude us from delivering the necklace to the buyer as planned. Rather than lose out on the payday, we meet with the buyer on our own and collect. Thierry can pay for his daughter’s education (but will it win her heart), and Claire vacations in Nice as planned alongside Seven and Shorty. How long until the King of Diamonds catches up with us?

Nor Gloom of Night

Our game this week is Nor Gloom of Night by Emily Cambias, a postal hack of the 24XXsystem from Jason Tocci. In Nor Gloom of Night, we play the crew of a cargo ship making interplanetary deliveries for the postal service of the crumbling Earth empire. Our crew consists of Kwyn, the pacifist pilot; Hengin, the mail guard; Mario, the ship’s mechanic; Tobias Flint, a researcher and medic; Cara, a letter whisperer who hears voices from the packages; and our postmaster, Otar.

Our story begins with the ship backed up to the central Postal Depot orbiting Earth. Hengin is bringing a sled of packages aboard, so Otar asks Cara to listen to them. She says that she gets a bad feeling about one package in particular, an unmarked case that we’re supposed to delivery to coordinates in empty space near Mercury. Otar says it’ll be okay and directs us to the bridge for departure. As Kwyn fires up the engines, the computer offers to take us out on autopilot, but Kwyn rejects the offer and stays on manual, which triggers an unexpected advert protocol across the ship. Mario attempts to address the problem, but can’t get the ads to stop interrupting our trip. Unfortunately, the engines pause while the ads play, but thankfully, they’re almost all short 15-second spots.

Drawings of characters from the story: Cinder, Kwyn, and Otar in his postal cap.

Cara goes to the med-bay to see Tobias because her encounter with the package has left her feeling unwell. She tries to tell him how the other packages keep screaming that they’re in danger, but Tobias is more interested in his research. He gives her headache meds and goes back to his work. As we’re approaching Venus, Kwyn reports the engines are overheating. Mario begins shutting down nonessential systems to reduce the strain on the engines, and digs into the cooling system to see what he can do. Using the newly available power from the diverted systems, he manages to improve the cooling efficiency and end the threat of overheating. All this work has Kwyn tuckered out, so we stop at a station orbiting Venus to rest. On board, Otar uses his contacts to get us a decent lunch at the station cafeteria, but he gets a notification from Post Central that pay cuts are coming. Tobias spends his time sending messages back to Earth and succeeds at delaying any pay cuts for the moment, using his own contacts in the Postal hierarchy.

Back en route to our delivery coordinates, Kwyn sounds the alarm when several ships move into intercept courses. Our life scans indicate we’re outnumbered in personnel as well as ships, so Otar decides we’d better negotiate rather than fight. He and Hengin meet with the captain of the opposition. This other captain, Cinder, says we have to surrender the package because it’s a danger to the whole system. Otar’s sense of responsibility won’t let him relinquish, but Hengin suggests we could give it to them if they signed for it at the delivery address. With all parties agreed, we attach a tow cable between our ships and let them fly us to the coordinates. En route, Captain Cinder tries to convince Cara of the malevolence of the software inside the box, but she is already inclined to believe it.

When we arrive at the delivery point, we see a perfectly cylindrical object floating in space. There are no obvious doors, but Hengin suits up and escorts the package and Captain Cinder to the surface of the cylinder and gets Cinder to sign for the package. When Cinder tries to get back on our ship, Kwyn releases the tow cable and pulls away from the cylinder with the pair still below. Leaving Cinder behind, Hengin uses his spacewalking skills and maneuvering jetpack to rendezvous with the ship and crawls inside. We fly off and escape while Cinder’s crew is busy retrieving their captain.

A Noble Final Girl Sacrifice

In this week’s session, we played The Final Girl by Bret Gillan as a group of urban explorers spelunking through the tunnels below the city.

We begin our story with the group mustering for their delve. Linda is a programmer by day and greets her risk-taking friend Terza when she arrives. Terza, however, is not happy to see Dan the dentist when he rolls up behind her, followed by Jessie, an engineer and builder. As we gather our gear, Alan timidly asks Leona to wear a helmet cam since she’s so strong, but she is concentrating on her prep exercises and rebuffs him. Angel volunteers to wear the cam in their new spelunking helmet to help Alan with getting the footage for his art. As we begin our descent, Clara begins singing a show tune, showing off her broadway pipes. Hank finds her singing pleasant, but Kim, urban professional and mother, finds it disruptive and tells her to quiet down.

Gareth and Robin are leading the group down, Gareth always insisting he take the lead. Robin talks at him constantly until he explodes in anger and stomps off. He’s abruptly pulled up into the darkness above and wrapped into a web-sac by a gigantic spider-like creature. When Robin goes looking for him, the spider waits, drops on her, and bites down, snapping her neck. We see now that the spider’s body merges with the torso of a woman.

Following the sounds of Gareth’s voice, Dan, Linda, and Kim arrive moments later. While Linda and Kim go on talking and becoming friends, Dan wanders away on his own. Seeing something shiny on the floor, he bends down to pick it up, and the spider goes flying over him. Having missed Dan, the spider grabs Linda in her human arms and squeezes, breaking her back, and skitters back up into the shadows. Off in a side tunnel, Jessie is admiring the architecture of the tunnel and begins climbing a wall ladder, where he encounters a woman who claims to be trapped in an alcove. Her name, she says, is Rachnia. Alan and Angel yell for Jessie to come down, but he says he needs to help the woman. When a brick from above comes falling toward him, he tumbles backward away from the opening. Thwarted in bringing him to her, Rachnia throws a line of webbing down to grab Angel and pull him up into her hole.

Terza, Clara, and Leona are making their way down a tunnel when they see something that makes them stop. The walls themselves seem broken, and the light down the tunnel is fragmented. As they approach, they realize that the tunnel is criss-crossed by a gigantic web. Leona turns just in time to swat aside the spider jumping for her, but Terza and Clara aren’t as lucky. The spider manages to knock each of them into the webs, so she can take her time clamping her jaws onto their heads to silence their screams. Elsewhere, Jessie, Hank, and Dan have gathered in an abandoned subway car on one of the side tracks. Hank doesn’t believe Jessie and Dan about the lady or the spider, but then behind him, Rachnia says they are telling the truth and lunges for him. Hank slips away so she turns toward Jessie, but Dan pushes Jessie from behind toward the spider, causing the spider to miss Jessie and Dan to sprawl backwards. As he scrambles away, the spider skewers him where he lies, turns to web Hank into her arms, and scrambles off with her two latest victims.

The survivors have gathered to make a run for the surface: Leona, Jessie, Kim, and Alan. Jessie can’t believe he was fooled by the spider’s womanly appearance. The spider leaps at him again, saying “Don’t worry love; I won’t let you go,” but Jessie slips away again. Leona dodges an attack against her by doing a wall run, and Kim hits the spider hard across the face with her backpack when she turns to her. To protect Alan and the others, Leona pulls flares from her pack, lights them, and leaps at the spider in a direct assault. Her actions give the others time to dash up the stairs and back to the safety of the city lights. Jessie takes one last wistful glance over his shoulder, watching flames engulf the two as they fight.

Dawn of the Dragon Invasion

In the week’s session of Dawn of the Monster Invasion by Randy Lubin, we portrayed six speeches to follow the invasion and response to an incursion of dragons across the world.

Our story begins with a backpacker in a National Park telling everyone she can find about the bird-bat hybrids she saw flying in the fog on the mountaintop. She describes the leathery wings and long beaks but is puzzled when she remembers the long tail. Later, a herpetologist at a scientific conference presents his findings from his efforts to find and identify the creature the hiker saw. He believes that it is a dragon, although he’s willing to entertain other words for the creature. He tells about the long scorch marks like a flamethrower shot through the trees, but the other conference-goers believe his lifelong obsession with dragons is clouding his scientific judgement. Some think he may even have manipulated his data to draw his desired conclusion. Surely, there is another, simpler explanation.

The Bounders live-streamer goes out into the Park looking to prove the reports true by getting the creature, whatever it is, on film. His commenters include plenty of skeptics, people who say he’s using a green screen and not even in the park. He shows the world around him to prove his honesty, but then sees something that frightens him. He sees a bird and follows its flight so fails to see the small dragon that flits between trees behind him. A gigantic shadow passes over him, and he looks up when he hears the flapping of giant wings. He screams and the stream goes silent.

At a PTA meeting in a school across the state from the park, a mother named Susan exhorts everyone to prepare for the dragons, and to build their own bunker. You’ll need as much canned food and toilet paper as you can store. She has a sealed, safe concrete bunker in her basement and ends up inviting the other parents to stay with her when they start asking questions. She says she has plenty of water and fire extinguishers for the stay. One mother insists on bringing a bevy of tutors for her daughter to prepare her daughter for college once we emerge from the bunker in about five years. Susan storms off when that woman starts claiming ownership of the bunker for herself and threatens to kick Susan out. We’re all left wondering if the invitation still stands.

Many months later, after the dragons have begun appearing all over, ever closer to populated areas, a group of investors has gathered in a lone conference room to hear the pitch from one James Weldon. James wants to steal dragon eggs, raise and domesticate them, and open parks for people to see these creatures up close. They might even be able to ride them. Most of us doubt his ability to deliver, what with him never before having found a dragon egg or spent any time training them. Others think his monetization plan is too narrow, when there could be many other, more lucrative applications for domesticated dragons. Meanwhile across the country, a group of government bureaucrats are meeting with a researcher who insists that the best way to destroy these pests is by introducing reptile pathogens into their habitats. The hope is if you infect one of the large enclaves that the disease will spread to other areas, weakening the creatures enough to make eradication easy. Any collateral damage could easily be contained through quarantine protocols, he assures them. If the military can procure some test subjects and he can build out his team of experts, we can have a working prototype in a few short months.

However, his plan apparently fails because our final speech is made by a lizard person, a humanoid with reptilian eyes and scaly skin. She explains that now that her people have aided humanity, as requested, by telepathically controlling and calming the dragons, they will continue to control things here on the surface. And it won’t be necessary for our destructive human civilization to continue. They will order the dragons to delivery anything we may need to survive, and may even leave us with our precious internet for entertainment. Some lucky few of us have lizard person blood and will receive special privileges, including activation and training in the use of our dormant psychic abilities. She orders us all to go home and to stay out of trouble.

On the Galactic Rim

Our game this week is Galactic by Riley Rethal where we’re a group adventuring in a galaxy far, far away. We are fresh-faced, young scholar and innocent Nova, Liam; Yin, the tired Mechanic and her droid BeeDee; and Ayden Daviron, a Scoundrel who seems to know everyone.

Our story begins with Liam having a nightmarish vision of his older brother as a suffering child. Yin goes into his room to wake and calm the young Nova down. She’s worried about him and asks if he thinks the vision is the Force trying to guide him.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

When they first met, Liam sold his research books to pay for passage aboard Ayden’s ship. In exchange, Ayden agreed to fly wherever the kid’s search for his brother takes him, at least as long as his credits hold out. Now the visions guiding the young Nova are getting stronger and more disturbing.

Yin joined us mostly involuntarily after being stranded on a world at the edge of Mandate control after her baby, a souped-up starship had been stolen. Ayden, with Liam aboard, had hired Yin to repair his ship after something rattled loose and it became near impossible to keep her level, probably some stabilizer broken when he’d crashed into a tower while stealing it. In town while the repairs were underway, Ayden and Liam encountered a bounty hunter and outraced him back to the hanger, exchanging blaster fire along the way. Yin and BeeDee were still aboard and completing repairs when Ayden rocketed out of the dock and into space. He explained to us that the bounty on his head should really be on the head of his ex-partner, a Rhodian named Pons, who betrayed him and stole a shipment that left him in debt to some very unreasonable people.

After his nightmare from the opening, Liam meditates to determine his brother’s location, and eventually emerges to tell Ayden they need to visit a forest world. Is there one close by? Ayden flies us to a popular smuggler redoubt on a forest moon in the Ebonite system. We land safely because the smugglers all know Ayden, but that includes one outraged guy named Chett, who’s got old beef with the smuggler. Once they’re off the ship, Liam feels a strong pull and goes running off into the forest alone. Meanwhile, Ayden gets into a fight with Chett at the local cantina while Yin tries, unsuccessfully, to enjoy a drink. When we’re later driven from the bar, Yin notices her stolen ship in one of the docking bays. We concoct a plan for her to sneak aboard and steal it back while Ayden distracts the thief. Ayden walks up to the current owner as he’s working in the hangar, a man named Cylus, complaining about Chett. They exchange stories until Ayden asks if Cylus has any jobs that he could cut Ayden in on. But Cylus doesn’t trust Ayden and wants nothing to do with him. Unfortunately for Cylus, Yin sneaks aboard and gets away in her ship before he can react with anything more than a few ineffectual blaster bolts.

Out in the forest, Liam approaches an abandoned, crumbling Nova temple, drawn to it, sensing an intense presence within. Inside, he finds his brother, Victor, but Victor is strange, hard and uncaring. He says he’s been calling to the young Liam to bring him here, so he can join him. Liam learns that his brother has studied here to learn the ways of the dark side, which he needed to overcome his pain. Now that he’s mastered his pain, he plans to use this power to take down the Mandate, and he needs Liam’s help. Liam agrees to help Victor in his noble cause, but surely, they can do it without the dark side. Victor rejects his brother’s naïveté and insists they discover the other temples of power and master their dark secrets.

Once Yin and Ayden have reconnected, they go off to meet Liam at the temple. He’s clearly troubled when we find him, and we try to convince him to come with us, to join us in our adventures rather than getting involved in an impossible quest that’s going to get him killed. But Liam can’t abandon his brother now that he’s found him, so he pays Ayden for his passage. Unsure what else to do, Ayden and Yin watch Liam say goodbye and walk back into the temple, determined to save his brother and the galaxy at the same time.

The Disappearing Magic Circle

We returned, this week, to The Magic Circle by Jason Morningstar, in which we play the supernatural monsters living in the titular cul-de-sac. There are four of us. Ylda the writer is a werewolf who lives in #25 with her werewolf husband and two children. Zaragoza the injury attorney lives at the corner of the Circle and Joy Lane, from where he watches the whole neighborhood. Vedette Rasep is a former psychic whose soul is trapped inside a doll and who gets around by controlling the mind and body of whomever “owns” the doll. She lives at # 17 and makes a good living selling doll clothes for dolls and people on Etsy. Finally is Townes the golden retriever, who lives with a family with three children at # 26 and became super-intelligent after having been abducted by aliens. Townes leads our monthly council meetings.

Our first meeting is at Vedette’s house, although she fails to provide much edible for the group. Ylda begins the meeting by lamenting the teenagers hanging out in the forest and seriously interfering with her and Hordlak’s werewolf activities. She suggests we need a better youth center to keep them occupied elsewhere. Vedette thinks we should make them sick, or make one disappear, to ward off the others. Townes proposes the community build a skate park over in the undeveloped expansion lot. Ylda says she can speak to the other parents at school about where else the kids might go and gauge interest in a skate park. Townes agrees to follow the kids into the woods and see what they’re up to.

Zaragoza is irate about all the geese in the neighborhood and their droppings everywhere. Someone mentions geese love water; if there was a larger body of water nearby, perhaps they would simply leave. Zaragoza agrees to talk to the developer, who he knows from his legal work, about building a skate park and a water feature.

Townes brings the meeting around to the major problem facing the community: the recent disappearance of normal folks. He reveals that the father of his family has gone missing, and learns so has the friend of one of Ylda’s children. Zaragoza mentions that if a dozen people disappear, we can demand the state investigate rather than relying on the local police. We worry that state police might bring too much scrutiny to the area. Vedette suggests we publicize the disappearances, putting up flyers and signs, to scare folks into staying home and keeping their kids at home. It would help with the teens in the woods and maybe cut down on the vanishings. Along with these flyers, she will be putting up signs throughout the neighborhood directing people to her house because delivery people, who she depends on for her business, keep getting the addresses mixed up.

At our next meeting, Townes reports that the kids are out there being rebellious teens: smoking, drinking, littering, etc. Ylda says that the parents at the school are excited by the skate park idea, and Zaragoza says the developer is too. He won’t build a water feature to occupy the geese, but the skate park promises to be a big hit. We discuss whether and how Ylda’s family could hunt and drive off the geese, since the water idea fell through.

When we get back to the issue of the disappearances, Townes says he feels he must take direct action and plans on running away to begin searching for the vanished people. Vedette is concerned about him going alone and insists on accompanying him. Her psychic powers could be useful in finding and following clues, she says. Likewise, Ylda says that she can come to use her wolf-senses to get the scent and lead a chase. Zaragoza mentions he could release a bottled soul and ask them about the vanished, but makes no promise to do so. In the end, we all agree to meet the next morning after breakfast at Townes’ house to examine the family’s recovered car, then to follow the clues wherever they lead.

This is where we close the neighborhood meeting, and end our session. Could the disappearances be caused by a rival demon of Zaragoza, or aliens like those who took Townes, or some as yet unknown threat?