On the Selene Archipelago

This week we played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter on the planet Mylar, which lies on the route of the Selene from Final Voyage of the Selene. We are Rosie Carson, aka The Peddler, an archeologist and criminal trader in relics who provides information to Hanz Burton a detective newly arrived on Mylar to investigate the death of local politician Fil Dash, uncle of Alen Dash, whose family and local pride lead them to guide the many tourists who visit the Cliffs, which has a view into the interstitial spaceways.

In Act I, the Peddler Rosie Carson meets with Hanz Burton at the Red Carpet Lounge after his arrival on Mylar via long-range pod. They discuss the plans for Mylar to become a trade hub and who might benefit if that were disrupted. Detective Burton next goes to Heaven’s View resort at the Cliffs to question Alen Dash about their uncle’s death. Uncle Fil had fallen, somehow, through the rift into interstitial space, but before that had been staying at the Margle Mansion near the Salt Sea. Alen Dash next goes to meet Prof. Carson at her Argos University office to discuss Farthing’s theories that the Cliffs were constructed by the Ancients who once lived on Mylar and built the sleek Monument where archeologists continue to dig and investigate.

In Act II, Detective Burton serves a warrant to the head of community security to gain entrance to the Margle Mansion. He learns that Margle Enterprises is the largest company and employer on the planet, finds the body of Mr. Margle with its throat slashed, documents related to his business and real estate dealings, a torn flag of Mylar, and a one-way ticket for the Selene. Next, Alen Dash finally visits the Monument, aided by Prof. Carson. They notice that the monument profile resembles the Cliffs themselves and find a hidden button activated by Alen’s Mylynial DNA. Walking down the seven-sided tunnel to a broad chamber, they discover a song engraved on the walls in an ancient Mylynial script and an oversized ocarina sitting on a pedestal. Finally, the Peddler is approached by a Consortium capo to serve as smuggler getting the goods from a planned heist onto the Selene and into the care of Lt. Kazarian. To ensure loyalty, the Consortium shows Carson live footage of goons outside her parent’s house and imply something could happen if she steps out of line.

In Act III, Detective Burton again meets with the Peddler Rosie Carson to put all the clues together. Uncle Fil and Margle were working to make Mylar a central trading hub but couldn’t get the Selene to take their Mylenium nuclear power generator onboard. They had tried to secure an alternative shipper to make a stop at Mylar when they both turned up dead. Burton is convinced that the local police are working with the crew of the Selene to maintain the Selene’s monopoly on Mylynial trade. Later, the Peddler Rosie Carson goes on the heist job, prepared to transfer the cargo to the Selene, but something goes wrong. The building bursts into flames, the crew comes stumbling out with the prize, and they all go careening through the streets trying for the spaceport but crash along the way. Rosie barely escapes with her life. Finally, Alen Dash arranges the Ancient’s song to be sung by a choir while they accompany on a replica of the Ancient ocarina. As the choir sings and the song echoes across the Cliffs, the entire edifice begins to rise into the sky. The Cliffs are, in actuality, the full size version of the device which the Monument of the Ancients is but a model.

The Google drawing of our map with the large monument replacing the Cliffs.

In the epilogue, we each go our own way. Hanz Burton finally leaves Mylar as a bartender aboard the Selene. Rosie Carson tries to cover her tracks and make everyone believe the Peddler died in that crash. And Alen Dash continues to study the history of their planet and the newfound controls for the rift to interstitial space that reside in the full-size Monument that was once the Cliffs.

For the Band

This week, we played a pair of games on For the Drama, a sweet game for children that could perhaps use another round of development called The Cat is Missing and a band on the tour before breaking up story called For the Band by Marie-Anne Cledan. In the later, our band was the boy band called the Alley Cats, which consisted of three members: bassist and bad boy Jaden, lead singer and guitarist Chad, and cat furry and electric accordionist Bernie. We were the support team of the group: driver Sheila, make-up and costume designer Donna, sound guy Tony, and venue booker Danny.

Sheila takes singing lessons from Bernie and writes a song about the open road that the band sings as if she might be a member, too. She knows that Bernie is the key to bands popularity, so she clips his and other members hair to give to the fans on the road, especially at the high school performance that was the hottest show of the tour. She originally became the groups driver as a way of hiding her love child with Bernie from the press and the fans. By the end of the tour when it seems the band will break up, she and Bernie are ready to confess the truth and be parents together of their now teenaged child, especially if it will save the band.

Donna does a good job and stays professional, but tells the paparazzi that one of the members used to run motocross to keep them mollified without betraying the group. She creates a tiff when she sides with temperamental Chad in a dispute over which of the members is better looking despite knowing that Jaden takes that crown. After she later comments on how warmed over Jaden looks due to a hangover after a rough night, Jaden won’t give her the time of day. Toward the end of the tour, she mockingly sings “yeah, yeah, yeah” into the live mic as the band does, and she tried to play it off as testing the equipment when Danny asked about it. She’s ready to move on and let the band dissolve by the end of the tour.

Tony gets his job as the sound guy almost entirely through luck when he steps into the role after the previous guy leaves the group. He doesn’t actually know how all the equipment works, but knows how to set the machine to the same settings that worked for the previous guy. Danny keeps his secret but resents the great appreciation that leads the band to give him a plaque for making them sound so good. Tony shares a luxury room with Jaden one night and learns about his secret crush on Chad. He always wonders whether the song about never letting you out of my sight that Jaden sings is really about Chad. When he thinks about quitting before he’s found out, Bernie comforts him and convinces him to stay. But when the band decides to break up, Tony decides he should go to school to learn the skill he’s always pretended to have.

Danny was fired by the band once after Jaden got upset about some small dressing room requirement that wasn’t provided. While away he booked for a Crosby, Still & Nash cover band and did such a good job that Alley Cats finally took him back. He continues to sabotage Jaden throughout the tour, leaving one small thing off at every stop to wheedle the guy. He is ready to finally leave the tour when the Bernie fans knock him to the ground after the show, but his dislike of his family keeps him away and on the road. He advised the band to finally make their White Album cover, but the band ignored him as usual. He’s already proved he can do just fine without them so doesn’t lift a finger to keep them together when they band talks of going their separate ways.

Maging Against Machines

This week, we played another session of Mage Against the Machine by Jordan Palmer with a different crew and cast. We are a group of mages who must travel back in time to prevent an otherwise unstoppable robot apocalypse, despite the damage that may do to reality and our own lives.

After our travels and interventions the apocalypse is voided but so are some of our personal histories. River’s cherished childhood memory of visiting a circus with his family turns into grief as tiny robots injure the crowd due to changes caused when Camile casts Twitchy and overrides the local AI programming. In another moment, Leopold casts Cheesy to bring pizza to a hungry family so Aster’s memory of playing with blocks with her mother remains intact and unchanged. In the new timeline, John never meets his wife through an online dating app because Aster casts Repulsive to make the app’s chatbot so unpleasant that no one uses it. And Leopold never reunites with his brother after Camile uses her shapeshifting abilities to infiltrate the prison where Mika, his revolutionary brother, is being held so he can return to lead the anti-AI movement.

An insectoid robot towers over three wizards in a circle casting a spell with Mage Against the Machine emblazoned overhead.
Mage Against the Machine cover art by Matthew Warwick courtesy of http://murderpub.com/.

River retains untouched his memory of meeting a beautiful girl with a halo of red hair on the day an AI bus driver glitched and attacked passengers after Aster casts Grounded to reset the driver’s AI and reground them to basic protocols. John’s memories of winning at the battlebot fights that helped the AI.net surpass all other forms of entertainment are inverted into shame at losing in the fights after Leopold casts Cagey to prevent the AI from ever noticing the fights. Camile’s memory of learning shapeshifting from her Grandmother had been a source of pride, but after John casts Reimaged to prevent a bionic arm from killing a king, it becomes a source of shame because her Grandmother had failed to take action when a similar incident had occurred long ago.

Aster’s memories of coming a wizard are lost as is Aster’s magic abilities as a consequence of our meddling in the timestream, and Leopold’s memory of becoming an ambassador becomes a source of shame for having collaborated with the AI regime. Camile’s memory of joining the city rescue mission and saving the life of a girl remains cherished and unchanged in the new timeline.

Featured

Black Lives Matter

I tend not to think of this site as public since its primary purpose is for us to track the games we play and provide a reminder of the stories we create together. I realized this weekend, though, that others do read it, including potential new players pointed here by our game listings on Meetup, so as a public site, we should speak up on the public protests and events happening in the U.S.

We at Story Games Westchester support the protests against police brutality because black lives matter. We support any and all efforts to reform and reimagine the U.S. criminal justice system, from policing through prosecution to prisons. These systems are racist and perpetrate violence against black, indigenous, and other people of color every day. The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others are only the ones we hear about. The daily toll aggressive policing takes on black and brown people remains largely hidden.

Gaming has its own prejudices that manifest in exclusion and harassment of BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ gamers. We oppose these acts and actively work to include and make welcome anyone who wants to play in our games. But we promise to do more to reach out to marginalized people in our efforts to introduce people to and promote playing improvised story games.

One of the reasons we play games is because they develop empathy and attune us to the feelings of others. We look out for one another at the table, and story games require everyone to have a voice and use it. We add our voice now to those calling for racial justice in America, in our lives, and at our game tables.

Palanquin

Tonight we played Palanquin by Jason Pitre with a full complement of Bearers successfully escorting the Heir to an overthrown queendom, Princess Ulkualzi, to her Aunt Baru’s house. In order to escape the palace, Illic the Shadow convinces a patrol of soldiers searching for the princess that we too were part of the coup and haters of the royal family. When we emerge from the secret tunnel, we find a police brigade blocking the exit. Malani the faithful tries to obscure our escape with shadow, but we’re too noisy and Periani the Hunter unsuccessfully tries to convince the police they’re needed to quell the unrest in another part of the palace. Finally, Ulu the Veteran takes matters into her own hands and cuts through the brigade with skill and ease. As we emerge from the castle, thousands of unquiet souls of the long dead rise up from the castle to threaten us, but Malani the Faithful steps forward again and puts the spirits to rest through a prayer that washes over them in blue light.

A dark-skinned woman in a cloak with an upraised hood glares off to the left in front of a fiery moon. Palanquin a roleplaying game of escape & trust is printed on the right side.
Image courtesy of Genesis of Legend Games.

After we enter the Purple Jungle, we’re threatened by giant jackals. Illic the shadow tries to throw them off our scent by creating a false trail but there are too many of them. So, Thanalor the Magister weaves a spell that reverses time and turns the jackals into harmless pups who accompany us on our journey. Next we encounter native wild ones who worship Devotita, but Periani the Hunter travels with the rare magical beast that is the symbol of Devotita and, being born with her mark, convinces the natives to lead us through the jungle growth. As we come to the jungle’s edge, a band of brigands seeking to ransom the princess to the coup-leaders surround us. Illic the Shadow attempts to outflank the brigands but the brigands cordon is not breached. Periani the Hunter then uses their magical companion to open a gap that allows us to slip past the brigands and escape to the Holy River.

As we pass through the village at the mouth of the Holy River, we learn that the temple at its center contains a powerful magical artifact that would endanger the princess if the priests complete their ritual. Illic the Shadow slips inside the temple to steal and replace the artifact, but a priest simply walks up to him and takes it back. Malani the Faithful sacrifices a jackal pup in the river and chants a spell to imprison the priests within their own minds, but the temple’s defenses dissipate his magic before it can take hold. Ulu the Veteran storms the temple, but her blows do not injure the priests, so she retreats in frustration. Periani the Hunter leads us to the river so we can escape, but the fisherman guarding the boats notice us and sound the alarm. The Heir decides to take the matter head-on, as we’ve done effectively throughout the journey, and walks up to the head priest and challenges him to take her or let her go. When the priest accepts and grabs her, Tanalor the Magister must save her by casting a spell that infuses the temple’s statues with demonic energy. The statues destroy the temple and carry the artifact back with them to hell, freeing the princess.

Finally safe now at Aunt Baru’s house, Princess Ulkualzi weighs the loyalty and contributions of each of her Bearers. She gives Illic the Shadow a steed and a week’s rations and suggests he use them. To Periani the Hunter, she offers a favor to be fulfilled at a future date. Malani the Faithful is allowed to stay with Aunt Baru for a month before he must return to the capital. Ulu the Veteran is rewarded for her long service with enough gold to retire in peace. And Thanalor the Magister is given the Heir’s sincere thanks.