Fiasco at the Museum

It was supposed to be a run of the mill field trip to the museum for Mr. Chess’s 7th grade class. Windy Charles, Jesse’s mother, had agreed to join the class as a chaperone and all arrangements had been done with the museum’s facilitator Derek. To the surprise of everyone, one of Mr Chess’s students, Etheldred (a 16 yr old time travelling woman from medieval times) happened to be online BFFs with Windy due to their constant conversations on the CatHolic forum.

Upon arriving at the museum, things were looking bright as there was a new Pompei exhibit…but at the edge of the exhibit there was a mysterious secluded room containing a shrine to a Teddy Bear. Derek had warned the adults that this room was out of bounds as it was under investigation. Windy and Mr. Chess kept on disregarding this warning though; Mr. Chess was fascinated by all the historic artifacts it contained, while Windy was looking for a secluded place to seduce Mr. Chess. In the middle of the room, a Teddy Bear was carefully placed, surrounded by 5 candles.

The field trip included an overnight stay at the museum. Mr. Chess woke up in the middle of the night, finding the Teddy Bear next to him. And as he lifted it up, he got covered in blood, which scared him greatly. He returned the Teddy Bear to the shrine and noticed that a candle had been put out.

Meanwhile, Ethelred was approached by the time police as they were looking for a time traveling criminal from Bearsalot that had escaped.

Later that morning, Derek was looking for his keys in the shrine room. And while looking for them, the Teddy Bear came to life and revealed itself to be Ted DeBoer, a time traveling being that was seeking a new host to possess. Luckily for Ted, Derek was right there.

Afterwards, Mr. Chess and Windy continued showing the museum to the kids, paying particularly close attention to the 12th century French literature section. There they were chased by Ted/Derek who attempted to slaughter everyone with a dull knife. Mr. Chess was holding the door closed as Ted/Derek pushed to get into it. Etheldred was touched by this act of selflessness of her teacher and used her ukelele to set back time, saving everyone from the possessed Derek.

Derek went back to the day before, just before the school buses show up. Maybe he will be able to keep the shrine secured this time?

Mr. Chess actually goes into the future, where word got out of how miserable the field trip was. He is shamed by the PTA and the school principal, forcing him to quit.

Etheldred went back to medieval times, where she was considered a witch.

Windy Charles went into the future as well. Her ex learned of the danger their son had been exposed to, so Windy ended up losing custody and alimony. She was rejected by Mr. Chess, and to make life even worse, her online BFF never logged back on.

Archives of an Abomination

Tonight we tried a second session of Archives of the Sky by Aaron A. Reed in hopes that the mechanics will engage more strongly with a smaller crew, and they do. Six characters is really too many for this game, but it worked great with four.

We played as the House of Gears, committed to building and keeping our secrets and remaining human. Our crew consists of Apogee the Engineer who always keeps a promise, Daedalus the Architect who values freedom above all else, Zero the Machinist who finds the truth no matter the cost, and Pebble the codebreaker who always destroys abominations and keeps our secrets safe.

Our mission begins with a trip to the Defiance system to build fortifications for the populace to protect them from the Endgamers, a movement dedicated to destroying the immortal houses. Not only do they oppose all houses, but their constructs are ramshackle perversions of the very idea of building. Their poor designs are abominations that set Pebble on edge.

When we meet with the Governor of the central planet, he explains how they want us to quickly put up some basic fortifications to delay the invading Endgamers and protect the planet’s mines. His insistence on a constrained budget and speed of construction is a challenge to our creative freedom and high standards, but we press on and begin decrypting the messages they’ve intercepted from the Endgame and determine that their plans are more advanced than anyone suspected; the invasion will arrive in a short six weeks. We then learn more about what they’re mining here and how the volatile plasma by-product of their mining has a nasty side effect: it robs those exposed to its radiation of free will. Rather than build grand fortifications, we decide to build orbital weapons to protect the planet, weapons laced with the explosive plasma, but can we complete our job and get out before the invasion arrives?

Pebble and Zero discover the miners work for the Wormhole Theocracy and the Governor plans to use the plasma to mind-control entire planets by lacing it into a drug and distributing it across the galaxy. We now have a clear dilemma: will we complete our job and build the weapons or will we leave so the Endgame can destroy the Governor and his plans? In a tense scene, Apogee convinces first Daedalus and Zero that we must keep our promise and keep true to our identity as builders, then all three work on Pebble to convince her that our mission is more important than politics. While she accedes to our plan, she knows that we should have destroyed his abominable plan and swears to never again allow such an abomination to stand.

Companion’s Tell of Hero’s End

Tonight we played Companion’s Tale by Laura Simpson to create a world with magic and heroes and ancient gods and traditions, and to tell the tale of how the last hero brought about the end of this Age and the beginning of a new one.

Our world centers on an ancient crater where the old gods crashed to Earth, leaving their artifacts scattered about our lands. We are a people who know we cannot rely upon our fallen gods and so must be self-reliant and industrious to achieve prosperity. In fact, it is taboo for us to return to the crater to collect the totems of the gods. The priests of the old gods wield magic but one can only advance by defeating another priest in personal combat. Recently, the traditional bonds of respect and fealty in our society have begun to unravel as the young have begun to shortchange their elders when making their offerings of wealth. It is this world from which the last Hero emerges.

In Act I, we learn about the Iron Queen who became an herbal healer after a head injury and whose herbs eventually turn sour and sickening, of the priest who began levitating everywhere after losing use of his legs in a fight with a challenger, of the elder who broke the taboo and mined the crater only to emerge with his eyes sealed and a handful of glowing gems that people still search for, and of the family whose first born lost the ability to work and responded by forming a woodworking manufactory known as the Plankers. We also meet the Oracle who seeks the Hero’s aid after having a vision of a remnant of an old god trapped in a suit of armor being held captive by a distant king. The Hero is reluctant to help until the Oracle promises to pay him with an ancient and magical silver coin, but the Oracle doesn’t have the coin and the Hero still awaits payment. Another companion is the First Born who the Hero sires in contravention of a prophecy and who is given into the combative care of the priests in fulfillment of an oath. Our third companion is the Rival who is driven out after the Hero falsely accuses her of endangering children during a flood in which they both try to rescue a drowning child. A festival has arisen in honor of the purging of the Rival at the site of the flood even though the rescued child is struck mute in response. Finally, we meet the Monster, a traveler who witnessed a ritual being conducted by priests as they try to sacrifice a falcon, the most human-like of animals, to balance out the birth and counteract the prophecy’s curse with their magic. During the ceremony, the spirit of the falcon enters the traveler and ever since he has transformed into a falcon and finds it ever harder to return to human form.

In Act 2, we hear of the time of the warlords, when each priest led an army that fought for control leading us to the ritual of personal combat to allow for peace in our society, and of the elder who created and exploited a wood scarcity, and of the dire shortage of falcons that causes a crisis in our sacrificial rituals due to the twin calamities of the distant king creating a massive falcon aviary and our free falcons becoming stricken with plague from the bad herbs. We also meet the Rescued, who had been a knight of that distant king but was sentenced to death for the treason of loving a foreigner, the Rival. When the Hero pulls him from the gallows, the Rescued agrees to return and protect the Hero’s people from Northern invaders if the Hero will finally reveal the truth about the flood and the Rival. The next companion is the Childhood Friend who tells us of how an encounter with a shining sword in the woods changed the Hero from a kind boy into the mean-spirited and covetous man we know today. The Outsider tells of the great battle against the Northern invaders during which the Rescued created the opening for the Hero to turn back the foreign tide. Finally, the Spy reveals to us his mission from the priests to follow the Hero and prepare him to pay the price for having broken the magical cycles when he defied the prophecy.

The world changes irrevocably in Act 3, when we learn that the armor-clad remnant of the old god was lost by the Hero when an earthquake swallowed it on the way back from the distant kingdom, that an ancient nursery rhyme about the floating priest is missing a line that may have recently been rediscovered, that Northern defectors still walk our lands, and that the ongoing search for the sightless one’s gems is futile. The Oracle tells us of the vision that the priest’s decisions are guided not by our welfare but by an effort to prepare us for the coming doom and we learn that the teens have been hoarding money in preparation for an overthrow of the priests. The First-Born decides they can stand it no longer and walks into the crater with a sick falcon, while the priests prepare for one final sacrifice. The Rival tells us of how she tries and fails to stop the Hero from chasing the First Born into the crater, while the Plankers ally themselves with the Teens and the Healers follow the Plankers’ lead. The Monster can no longer take human form but finds the lost silver coin and drops it into the crater for the Hero, as predicted in the lost line of the ancient rhyme.

In the climax, the priests arrive at the crater and sacrifice the Spy to stave off the doom, but their efforts fail. Once the Hero brings his shining sword and the silver coin to the center of the crater, the combination of ancient artifacts from the crash cause an implosion that buries the priests, the Hero, and the last remnants of magic and the old gods far below the surface. Only the Monster transformed forever into a Falcon is left as the final witness of magic and the ancient ways. Left behind is a whole new world without magic or heroes, a world of money, consumption, and industry as envisioned and made reality by the Plankers and the Teens, our merchants and monied interests.

Ribbon Driving to New Orleans

In this week’s story game, we hit the road with Ribbon Drive by Avery Alder, on a trip from our home in Idaho to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and for our boy Chester Springhill to meet up with his lady love Jenny for the first time. After listening to “Jenny” by Walk the Moon and “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” by Train, we had a full crew in a wheelchair van owned by Zach Leon, who wants to find love and become a DJ. Our trip was bankrolled by Art Pendleton, the neglected son of TV billionaire Louise Pendleton and better known as Bullet, who was determined to spend a wad on this trip and transform himself into a law-abiding superhero. Chadwick Grey is determined too, determined to get the hell out of Idaho and go fishing on the Mississippi. Sam Renfro is all about the food and can’t wait to eat his way down Bourbon Street and maybe open his own restaurant. Chloe West, a rescue worker and beekeeper, has a secret agenda and also hopes to start a new life far away from here. Finally, Kurt Olsen, a Boise night club owner and former trapeze artist, joins the group hoping to find a psychic in N’awlins who can help him communicate with his deceased partner and find the peace to return to circus life.

Ribbon Drive Cover - A road leading into a sunset

We hit the road in Zach’s van but get stopped before we even hit the state line by a police officer looking to harass a motley group like ours, but Bullet drops his mom’s name and gets us through. When we try to check into a hotel in Wyoming, it’s all full up from a Mary Kay convention, so we press on into Nebraska, where Chloe heads into the cornfields alone to dump whatever she’s been carrying in that bag. When we hit Omaha, Zach upgrades us to a tour bus outfitted like a rocket ship, but not until Chloe uses her photographic memory to help him remember his credit card numbers after he realizes he’s lost his wallet. While hanging out waiting for the bus upgrades including installation of the bidet, the crew hang out and talk about their dreams: Grey and fishing, Sam and food, Bullet and his secret lair. Others chat about their suspicions with Kurt questioning Chloe’s odd behavior, and many wondering if Jenny will turn out to be everything she claims. At a Medieval-themed steak house in Kansas City, the group helps Sam think of a name for his restaurant and Bullet promises him financial backing.

In Arkansas, they visit the Mystic Caverns despite Grey’s paranoia about safety, but turns out he was right to come outfitted to the nines because a cave-in leaves them stranded until Chloe uses her rescue skills to create a hole that firefighters can exploit with the jaws of life to pull them free. After that, they’re all anxious to hit NOLA, but talk about what to do next turns to New York City, with Grey, Zach, Chloe, and Kurt all aiming for setting up and working a place on the East Side: maybe a Circus-themed night club, or just an Irish themed pub, or a psychic N’awlins themed bar. Chester finally meets Jenny and she was all he’d thought she would be, kind and loving and free to join us in our wanderings.

We didn’t play long enough to find the true protagonist of the story, no one truly letting go of their dreams but all getting a taste of accomplishment and continuing to wish for the future, but perhaps sometimes the dreams in our heads are more part of the journey than of the destination.

Ten Candles on the Moon

Group in the dark surrounded by mysterious monstersTen Candles by Stephen Dewey provided us the framework to create a story on Moonbase Artemis tonight, where the sun has disappeared and disaster struck, causing our power cells to begin to fail. We quickly decide to abandon the base and escape on the rocket before life support gives out completely. Dr. Jacklyn Keats and comm specialist Barron G. Ouda lead cook André Botacello off into the darkening station in search of survivors and colleagues to rescue while pilot Mott Z. Rella and Chief Engineer Genevieve Piro begin to prep our escape rocket for take off.

Team Rescue quickly hit an impasse when they encountered a door sealed to protect against the hull breach on the other side. After crawling through the duct work, they enter the generator room to find two engineers who agree to come with them but are acting disturbingly strangely. Barron, who had heard the final message received by the station warning about the impending Them invasion, attacked one engineer, who caught the oversized wrench in mid-swing. The lights flicker and the engineers are gone; it’s Them in human form.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket use a ServerBot to repair the breach in the tunnel to the launchpad and begin launch preparations. Mott activates the launch sequence activating a one hour countdown. When Piro notices strange gravity readings, Mott decides to bypass safety protocols and shortens the countdown by 10 minutes. While searching the rocket, Mott also encounters one of Them and determines to get off the surface as soon as possible. Piro deciphers a morse code blinking light at the end of the station, a call for help, and declares they don’t have enough fuel. Mott goes back into the tunnel to retrieve more fuel but stumbles and falls.

Across the station, the rescue team decide to return to the rocket by racing across the lunar surface, but the outer airlock door jams and when they try exiting through the hull breach, they find Them lurking outside the station. After shimmying back through the ductwork, they work together to bring needed fuel and equipment back to the launchpad, but stop when they reach the tunnel where they see one of Them killing Mott, who believes They are his wife. Barron tries to blow the tunnel to destroy Them, but accidentally immolates himself. André tries to climb the ladder into the rocket but slips and falls to his death. Piro stops the launch sequence and sends the crews final personal logs into space aboard ServerBot. Keats runs into the rocket, and the two of them activate the self-destruct mechanism to prevent Them from ever leaving the moon.