Truth & Daring: Vandal Edition

Tonight, thanks to Truth & Daring by Tim & Kristin Divine, we had six intrepid twelve-year-olds in a club called the Pathfinders determined to save their clubhouse and find the creature lost in the forest: Alex the curious explorer, Martha the clumsy new kid, Zane the sneaky collector, Dirk the daredevil leader, Penny the mischievous Inventor, and Zo the daredevil explorer.

Sale flyer for Truth and Daring game stating its for fans of Goonies, E.T. & Stranger Things. Made with love and laser feelings by Tim & Kristin Devine.
Image courtesy of DiceUp games via DriveThruRPG

At first the group was primarily worried about the possibility of the old shed in the cul-de-sac where they meet being torn down and plan how to protect their clubhouse, or at least get an early warning if anyone comes to tear it down. Before they begin, however, they decide to investigate the gigantic red feather that Alex found in the woods earlier in the week. As they enter the woods, the see Principal Johnson trekking off on his own with a mass of mysterious equipment. Penny remembers that she had heard him talking about needing a Geiger counter for his next expedition. Before Alex finds another giant feather, Dirk hits Mr. Johnson with a mud ball and Zo decides to crack his windshield with a rock. Mr. Johnson catches them both, but the entire group manages to dash away, do Mr. Johnson goes to speak directly to the delinquents’ parents.

After debriefing back at the clubhouse and the sudden disintegration of the new red feather, Zane maps out a more thorough plan to find more feathers and track down the mysterious bird. Their search leads them inside a large storm culvert where they find massive scratch marks in the cement where something had been clawing at the ground, and instantly everyone is fearful that a werewolf may have attacked their elusive bird. Could Mr. Johnson be a werewolf? The tracks lead them to a fallen over tree whose leaves and branches create a cavernous enclosure. Zo & Zane crawl inside to discover an enormous birdlike creature standing at least 6 feet tall with red feathers and vicious claws. After the bird is unimpressed but undisturbed by their offering of Cool-Ranch Doritos, Dirk pokes it in the eye and scares it away. Is Mr. Johnson a were-bird?

They continue to search through the entire vacation week, but have found no more signs of it by the time school resumes. While taking a shortcut through the teacher’s parking lot, Martha spots more of the red feathers near Mr. Johnson’s car and rallies the gang, who slip out of history class and try to pick open the trunk of the car. When a newly installed alarm goes off, Penny is able to disable it before anyone shows up, but gets her arm caught under the dashboard. Dirk gives the trunk a wallop with his wrench and the trunk swings open. Inside, they find Mr. Johnson’s ID for a experimental facility up on Sugar Hill run by MEGA Corp, more feathers and some rope. After cutting Penny loose from the dashboard, they race up Sugar Hill and disguise themselves, two to a trench-coat, as Mr. Johnson and staff and walk right in! Once inside they dodge discovery and search until they find the bird wired up with electrodes in a holding cage. Alex frees the bird from the electric wires using his yo-yo, which gets tangled in the wires and left behind. They race out of the facility, helping the bird limp along between their arms, and careen down the hill on their bikes.

Back at the clubhouse, they wonder if it might be a phoenix and they have to restrain Dirk from testing to see if can emerge from the ashes. The group thinks the bird can help protect their clubhouse, so they vow to finally clean up enough that the bird can safely live inside it. They name the bird Georgette and the species the Free Bird, and mail a postcard off to a local TV station to announce their find.

Kingdom of Cheer

Tonight we played Kingdom by Ben Robbins. Our Kingdom was intergalactic cheerleading squad Novalicious, and our characters were Raquelle the Captain (Power), Moonica the Choreographer (Touchstone), Reese the Spokesmodel (Perspective), and Tammy the Trainer (Perspective).

Two chess pieces drawn on the cover of Kingdom RPG
Cover image courtesy of Lame Mage Productions.

Our first crossroad: should Novalicious sign the sponsorship deal with Rockit5 Energy Drink? We met with Mike Arad, the corporate representative of Rockit5, who promised to feature us in a scandalous new ad directed by up-and-coming music videographer Parzival, famous for his headless and topless videos, to be followed by live appearances across the galaxy. We keep meeting but failing to come to a single opinion on this subject, and Raquelle tries to concoct a plan with Tammy to develop an antidote or inhibiting regimen that will counteract the physical effects of Rockit5, which we know can wreck the body, but nothing seems to work. Finally, we reach out to our old sponsors—the Squeaky Clean Glass Cleaning Company—to see if they can sweeten their offer and lead us from this temptation, but the best they can offer is complete artistic freedom within the confines of a glass cleaning commercial. As we’re preparing our routine for whichever offer we take, Rockit5’s competitor Comet6 threatens to destroy us if we do the spot. In the end, we decide to sign with Rockit5, which leads to a raid of our dormitory by Comet6 agents, who fall in love with Reese and spirit the team to the finals in a rocket hearse. Despite our competing at finals this year, the advert gets us little exposure because in the video all our heads were replaced with horse heads and the Novalicious name never appears.

Our second crossroad: do we kick Emmy out of the team after we learn she used to perform with our rivals? Emmy has been Reese’s understudy as the face of the team and Reese keeps getting injured so has become suspicious of Emmy’s motives and the team’s loyalty and love for her. She feels her fears are confirmed when Raquelle insists that Emmy appear in the upcoming exhibition, even if she’ll be wearing a helmet so people won’t necessarily know who is atop the pyramid. Tammy tries to convince Reese that the team loves her and asks whether she could live with herself if Emmy were gone, but Reese remains suspicious. Finally, Raquelle decides we won’t kick out Emmy but will instead send Reese and Emmy on the Spirit-Stick Challenge, to try to get the two girls to bond, but instead the squad’s ship is attacked by the Poetic Justice Pirates. The trials of the pirate raid bring the team together and eclipses our internal squabbles, so we again make it to finals.

Crawling to Death

Rain beats down through overhanging trees into the waters of a swamp
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Tonight we played Carolina Death Crawl by Jason Morningstar, which puts us in the role of North Carolina natives who serve in the Union Army marching from the coast to destroy Rocky Mount Depot then back to the sea. Our company consists of Lt. Charles Comfort, Sgt. Lemuel Dunham, Pvt Henry Ross-Tucker, and Bugler Pembroke Shanks. After disgracing ourselves in the raids of Greenville and Tarboro through cowardice, avarice, and cussedness, we’re left behind when General Potter turns his army back east, and must race to catch up before we’re killed by Johnny Reb or strung up as deserters by our beloved Union soldiers.

Cover of Carolina Death Crawl featured a stylized upturned skull
Cover art courtesy of Bully Pulpit Games.

As we make our way, we continue our murderous, destructive ways, killing first the wife then the sisters of a spy who’d earned our ire back in Tarboro, then the tables turn when we encounter three ghostly figures in white who drag Bugler Shanks into the swamps in vengeance. The next day we find a union baby in a basket; we try to place our blue Moses with the Rebel pharaoh, but they insist we help them in their attack upon a bridge where we discover Shanks’ corpse stuffed in the ammunition chest of a limber wagon. Captivated by the vision of a burning church, Sgt. Dunham wanders into the swamps and dies when caught in a bear trap. Finally, after Pvt. Ross-Tucker frees himself from an apocalyptic scene with a whore, a midget, and a hydrophobic hound, Lt. Charles Comfort threatens not to rescue some Union soldiers from drowning in a quarry pit unless they speak on our behalf when we reunite with the army. Once the soldiers are back on solid ground, they kill Comfort, and turning to our Private, pronounced him a good and loyal soldier, and thus did he rejoin General Potter’s forces as they enter New Bern.

Until We Sink in Emeralds

We played Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobsson and discovered a family-run hotel on an island in the warm waters of the Pacific.

Photo courtesy David Stanley at Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

Just before we arrived, a fisherman was found dead on the beach next to a cliff. Marge, the hotel’s caretaker, wanted to hide this from the hotel guests. But her teenage son, Philip Bartholomew, wanted to explore and poke the body. The two hotel guests were Ethel, a gossiping retiree who kept talking about her love conquests back in LA, and Quentin, a charming, wannabe sun worshiper who wanted to teach Philip his ways.

We came to learn that the fisherman who was found dead was Frankfurton, Ethel’s boyfriend whom she was expecting to meet on the island later in the week. Eventually a proper burial was prepared for Frank’s body. Unfortunately, his headstone was vandalized the next day with the word “swine” written in black ink. There was a lot of confusion regarding who may have done it, since Philip’s calligraphy classes and Ethel’s peculiar makeup routine left both with ink-stained hands.

The next day, while serving breakfast, a seagull ate Ethel’s breakfast as soon as it was served, and dropped dead in the sand. After investigating, it became clear that it was poisoned. Someone had laced the maple butter used on the bacon to try to kill Ethel! It was obvious the poisoned bacon could not have been meant for Quentin as he was a vegetarian. While arguing with one another, Ethel figured out that she and Quentin were actually being targeted for murder by Jack, the travelling pastor who frequented the island and gave services via radio.

The next day, the island finally sank, and both guests and the hotel family found themselves on a boat. There we learned that Jack was killing people to prevent them from mining emeralds from the island’s cliffs, as there was a legend saying the island would sink if these emeralds ever left the island… and it was there we also learned that Quentin had filled his coat with the emeralds!

Quiet Hatpennings at the Mall

White playmat with map of the mall and symbols of all the things that happened in our game.
Quiet Year map of our mall after the zombie apocalypse.

Tonight, we had a Quiet Year (by Avery Alder) in a burned out mall where a hundred souls have sought refuge now that the Jackals, the hoard of zombies who until recently ravaged our land, have been defeated. Our society is built around the rites of the wishing fountain at the mall’s center, where we plead with the fates and they take more than our coins from us in exchange. Early in the year, a series of events shape us profoundly: the pre-teen girls form a hermetic enclave in the Claire shop, a man named Joel who has been ravaged by Jackals but remains uninfected arrives, and a pack of wild dogs arrive and begin nosing through Jackal corpses as they thaw in the mall’s parking lot. More pressing, however, is the war that begins with the Moneytaking Clan, who kidnap and murder our emissaries and attack any who come near. By scavenging far and near, we accumulate enough guns and makeshift weapons to teach them not to mess with us. Soon thereafter, the Claires begin scientific experiments on Joel.

To deal with our shortages of food, sleep, and shelter, we plant veggies in the median strips in the parking lot, compile every available piece of bedding or cushioning, and work to repair any holes in the outer walls. But across the parking lot a jeep of soldiers arrives and set up camp; soon afterward a small band of Jackal stragglers arrive. The two groups fight and the Jackals are wiped out, but the soldiers mysteriously disappear that night. To restore the communities connection and trust, the former mall employees begin planning an orgy festival, but the planning goes poorly and the event fails to come together. Joel and several of the elderly members of the community are found dead in various places. No one knows why. And winter is coming.

We build fire barrels to warm the halls, but tests reveal that a number of our members have contracted the Jackal disease so must be quarantined; the Claires inject one of the employees with an unknown substance and throw him into the quarantine. Coins mysteriously reappear in the fountain after having been thrown out long ago. We harvest our vegetables and collect some miraculously still frozen goods from a local Arby’s in preparation for the coming cold. The Claires reveal that the employee they threw into quarantine was a test of the vaccine they created from their experiments on Joel, and they inoculate the population. We’re ready for winter when the Frost Shepherds, at last, arrive to evacuate us from our home.