Howling Coyotes in the Tall Pines

When Jared fell to his death in the small mountain town of Tall Pines (eponymous game by Ahva & Miles Gaborit), it shook up his classmates most of all. Heather had kept his love for Philip Tudor secret by claiming to be his girlfriend, which had created envy in his best friend Todd, who wanted Heather for his own. Greta knew of his fear of dying alone, but by the time she dropped her cynical facade, it was too late to help him.

Liam, the soft-hearted deputy who was distantly related and had umpired for Jared as a child, haplessly stumbled between suspects until narrowing his suspicions to local therapist, Dr. Tudor, PhD, but Jared’s classmates were responsible for finding most of the actual evidence. Philip revealed the affair his mother was having with Jared’s father, Jim Bernachovsky, and Heather and Greta found Dr. Tudor PhD’s bloody scarf in the Canyon’s coyote cave. Later, Raymond the handyman accidentally caught fire and died at a candlelight vigil when he confessed how greatly Jared’s utter lack of gratitude had hurt him. With no progress in the case, Todd led the student body to the police station in a drunken rage but died riding a moped home.

Liam kept running into Dr. Tudor PhD at night all over town and began to suspect her of lycanthropy, which she denied even after waking up, bloodied but with no memory in the old lodge. Eventually, the kids and Liam cornered Dr. Tudor PhD in the attic that Jared had fallen from, but she leapt from the window and disappeared with coyote howls echoing in the distance.

Dream Askew at the Vint Age Shop

This week, Avery Alder’s Dream Askew brought us to a post-apocalyptic world, one slowly deteriorating as apocalyptic waves overcome the populace. Our queer enclave consisted of Rabbit, leader of a religious sect intent on preventing the hierarchies of the past from infesting the present; Chief Proust, a nostalgic owner of Vint Age, a coffee shop and apparel story; Spector, whose workshop tried to preserve whatever could be useful: bikes, fruits, vegetables, meds, fermented grains; and a new arrival, Audi, victimized but competent, a former nurse who’d lost it all.

Rabbit and Chief Proust kept getting in each other’s way, leading to violence at Proust’s shindig to bring the enclave together, violence that burned out his shop. But the violence was abruptly ended when Rabbit saw a vision of a horde of warriors descending upon our enclave and destroying it. Working together, the enclave built a Potemkin settlement in an abandoned stadium and led the warriors, when they finally arrived, to destroy that false village rather than our real home.

Dialect of Barrelers

At the other table, we played Dialect by Kathryn Hymes and Hakan Seyalioglu, a game driven by the creation of a new language within an isolated enclave. Each turn we introduce new words for concepts or ideas on cards in our hand. In this session, we played a group of weapons smugglers in 1830s England known as the Barrelers. Our initial aspects were Smuggling (our metier), the Burlesque (our club, the Sirens), and the local threat, a mysterious serial killer. Prof. Patrick “Topper” Ropp, the tarot-reading oracle; Hannah “Nahhan” Geiger, the gang leader, Henry “Cap’n” Belvedeer, the earthy manager of Sirens; and Margaret “Rummy” Ransdell-Green, the operational mastermind of our business.

As we planned bigger and bigger jobs, the heat increased until the police presence replaced the serial killer as the biggest threat on our docks. Eventually, our gang was broken, our members arrested or killed. We had four different words for death (s.f.u.g., s’fume, Peter’d, p.u.d.), clearly a major part of our lives, and we expressed our worry by being “wracked”, and our printing press for forging manifests was known as the “forge.”

Fiasco on a London Stage

Tonight we played Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, with the London 1593 playset.

Two priests from the Vatican, Fr. Leo Amadeus a.k.a. “James Gurney” and a man who goes by “Bartholomew Oatcake”, travel to London with the goal of undermining the Church of England. Renowned actor Caston becomes romantically involved with Leo, while Bartholomew distributes radical atheist literature. Short on cash, Bartholomew and Caston start a business selling counterfeit tea. But tragedy strikes when they accidentally poison the Count’s daughter, the lovely Ursula Belch. With the help of some corned gunpowder procured by stage manager Puck Thump, the trio cause an explosion at Buckingham Palace. Caston escapes, stopping to take revenge on a man who insulted his shoulders, but both priests are defrocked for their exploits.

Flying through Fall of Magic

Our story this week, courtesy of Fall of Magic by Ross Cowman, was four characters traveling with the Magus to Umbra, where magic was born. Our fellowship consisted of Harp, a merchant of Istalia; Fawn, a giant of Mistwood; Piccolo, an apprentice of Ravenhall; and Caspian, a fugitive from Stormguard; each of whom accompanied the Magus seeking advantage: knowledge, redemption, companionship, salvation. We entered Barleytown seeking what we would need but it wasn’t until we entered the Mistwood that we found anything of value to our quest. The Magus summoned the Grey Ranger from the Spirit Lake, and Fawn collected an ancient skeleton that we later traded to Agnes for a silver key covered in runes in Istalia. The ghosts of Stormguard tracked us down the Spirit River and across the swamps but we escaped them aboard the Sea Wing and stopped at Heron Island before reaching Umbra. In Umbra, we again encountered Agnes but managed to use the silver key to open the silver castle to reveal the Glow. Carrying the Magus and clasping hands, we stepped into the glow and disappeared.

We managed to tell this story in a single session by consolidating locations and, on occasion, moving the Magus before everyone had had a scene. We passed up some opportunities to deepen individual stories or relationships, but there was no real cost to creating these mega-locations that moved the story along more quickly. I think it can work regularly to allow us to play this game more regularly.