Askewed Dream Garden

Survivors of an apocalypse huddle in the remains of a city carrying gear, wearing punk outfits, and comforting one another before a greenish, yellow dawn.
Dream Askew cover art by Zev Chevat and Ezra Rose from Buried Without Ceremony.

Tonight we took the new edition of Dream Askew by Avery Alder out for a spin and discovered a group of queer folk struggling to bring a new world into being on the edges of the old. Our characters are Mischa the Torch, who leads a goddess worshipping cult to bring meaning into our lives; Shadow the Iris, touched by the Psychic Maelstrom and given the power to unearth lost memories and bring absolution; Fancy the Hawker, the genderfluid proprietor of a burlesque coffeehouse called the Sour Madeleine; and Jane Cavendish the Stitcher, whose loves of plants has made the community gardens in our reclaimed green space into a ecological cornucopia and the center of our queer enclave.

We begin our story when Shadow goes to Jane seeking help with easing the pain of Virginia, an aging drag queen in their care. With clinical detachment and little enthusiasm, Jane offers the ingredients for a regimen of tea that should keep Virginia alive. She seems more concerned that Shadow continues to provide succor and shelter to our recently deposed leader, Jacob, after he unsuccessfully tried to impose his will on the enclave and forcibly shut down Mischa’s cult.

We also learn that Jane has broken up with Mischa over the cult when Jane visits Mischa’s shrine during a ritual seeking moonflower seedlings. Jane knows that Mischa is trying to help people, but does not believe that misleading them and giving them false hope will help them deal with the realities of our situation. In a flashback to a few weeks before, we also see Mischa visit Fancy at the Madeleine after Jane had first broken up with her over the cult, seeking solace in the arms of Fancy, who doesn’t turn her away but doesn’t yet bring her in.

Meanwhile, Shadow is concerned that Fancy isn’t who they claim to be, having learned that before their fall, they had been just another office worker, married and straight. But as Fancy tells their tale of their apocalyptic fall and how they rebuilt themselves by abandoning the unity of the binary and letting themselves flow between the poles of male and female, Shadow comes to realize that Fancy may have changed from the past but is being genuine to their current self.

Jennifer, an acolyte, comes to Mischa worried about the group being leaderless and suggesting that Mischa step into the gap. Mischa opens her mind to the psychic maelstrom and senses another mind filled with hatred and a desire to control the enclave. Mischa goes to Shadow to validate her vision, and Shadow sees the face of the one who plans to profit from our enclave. When they get Jacob to sketch the face they saw in their trance, he is recognized as someone who slums it at the Sour Madeleine and had once slept with Jacob. Shadow brings the group together as a temporary ruling council for the enclave to address the threat. We decide to wait him out and confront him when we next comes to our enclave, but some of us are prepared to take extreme measures to bring him down, including manipulating his mind and even killing him if it will save us.

When he shows, Mischa approaches him with a lame pickup line and learns his name is Herman, a man who denigrates our enclave as fairyland, filled with weirdos, but weirdos who could make him a lot of money as entertainers back in the Society Intact. Herman plans to make himself as rich as possible to outlast the apocalypse and the collapse of what remains of society; he is a thug, an embezzler, and a human trafficker who plans to enslave us to assuage his selfish fears. Mischa tries to scare Herman off, but Herman shows his hand with a large contingent of the clientele that night being his men, armed and waiting. Backing away, Mischa lets our more aggressive members make their move, and before Herman has even begun to deploy his enforcers, Shadow has used Jane’s herbs to perform an absolution in reverse that heightens Herman’s guilt and remorse so that he retreats back to society and turns himself in to the police, where Jane’s contacts are ready to take his confession and put him away. The enclave is safe. For now.

Serial Homicide Unit

Tonight we played Serial Homicide Unit by Kat Miller and Michael S. Miller in which we create a group of potential victims of a serial killer and then participate as the investigation team trying to solve the serial homicides. We chose as the unifying theme of our killers murders to be he only attacked side characters from pop culture. Our characters included John Deegan, retired bassist from Queen who wanted the bands albums to keep selling; Jolyssa, YouTube make-up influencer who desired nothing so much as her parents’ approval; Sarcastic Flannel Dude from every teen sitcom who wanted to get a good price when selling his haunted Chevy; Charles from Brooklyn Nine Nine who wanted to cook a proper vegan meal that his cat Brunhilde would love; and Billy Mays, Oxyclean spokesperson who wanted his singing career to take off.

Serial Homicide Unit Cover depicting a blurred image of police officers outside police vehicles behind yellow tape saying "Police Line Do Not Cross".
Cover image via DriveThru RPG.

In the first round, Jolyssa went home to visit her parents only to discover that they had become Mennonites and dragged her off to service with them after making her wash off her face. Deegan got a call from his manager Phil Collins about a pending suit by Aerosmith against Queen for plagiarism, but Deegan turned it around when he asked Phil to play up the controversy to drive sales rather than pull the albums and let sales fall. When Flannel Dude met with his first prospective buyer, the ghost crashed the car during the road test. Charles took Brunhilde to the vet after she stopped eating or sleeping. Although the doctor at first thought she might have been replaced by a robot, the examination showed her to be in perfect health and promised to promote Charles’ cooking vlog. And Billy fails to get a meeting with anyone in the music industry but still manages to get Phil Collins to listen to his R&B demo tape.

Although he had previous victims, we jump straight to the investigation meeting after our killer murders Billy Mays. We learn that Billy’s body was found in an aquatic-themed strip/fetish club called Aquatica and that he had purchased tainted cocaine and been killed by a particularly bloodthirsty killer. There were frayed ropes and drag marks on the floor leading to his body in a position known as the hunched eagle, arms splayed, face squashed on the floor with buttocks raised in the air. Mays was a regular at the club who was well-known by staff and whose habits would have been easy to track. The psychic claims the club staff knows much more than they’re telling and that the hunched eagle is a secret sign of solidarity among the clients of Phil Collins. The mermaid tail discovered at the scene belonged to Mays rather than being a rental. And apparently Mays had had an altercation with another patron over possession of a particular club implement about a month prior to his death. Based on the totality of the clues, it is clear that the killer and the victim were acquainted.

In the second round of scenes, we see Flannel Dude overcome the limitation of there being too many haunted Chevys listed on Craigslist by getting the ghost Benjamin to argue with his prospective buyer, who wanted to recreate the experience of driving with his deceased wife. Charles must come to terms with Brunhilde’s desire to chase down and eat flies and bugs at the dog park rather than the vegan meals he’d prepared for her. We also learn that Billy May had helped Charles with his costume and provided him with GARLIC, a new cocaine based concoction, to include in his dishes for Brunhilde. Jolyssa overcomes the contamination of the nation’s make-up supply with rat poison by doing a special video expressing profound sympathy with the 17 victims while done up to appear to not be wearing make-up. And Deegan learns that kids are no longer listening to rock bands but streaming ASMR tracks of natural music instead.

Jolyssa is the killer’s next victim, found dead at a Mennonite seminary in an unnaturally clean kitchen upstate. The crime scene was covered in makeup remover and her skin contained traces of GARLIC. There were only vegetables in her digestive tract, and the food in her stomach was barely digested so likely the last thing she did was eat some vegetables. There were small cat paw tracks upstairs from the crime scene and the bug population had fallen at the seminary recently. The body was also left in the hunched eagle position and the cause of death was a GARLIC overdose. There were a number of aquatic-themed ASMR videos saved on Jolyssa’s computer.

These clues led the Unit to a successful indictment of Brunhilde the cat.