Tonight we played Venture by Riley Rethal as a group of adventurers living in a seaside port defined by a rivalry between its school of magic and its elegant cathedral. We are Jacques the Bard, Grifter the Rogue, Lordan the Wizard, Tabris the Cleric, and Malcolm the Fighter.
After working through our distrust of one another, we discover that the youth of the city have begun spreading graffiti through the use of magical vials of blue liquid. Through trial and error, we learn that when ingested the blue liquid enables the user to spray anti-religious words onto any surface. Through further investigation, we discover that the magic depends on the trapping of the spirit of newly reborn phoenixes. Struggling to return the young spirits to their rightful place, we perform a ritual to learn that a phoenix nests across the narrow sea atop a mountain, and promise to embark upon a quest to find it.
Tonight, we played Archipelago by Mathijs Holter in a comic book world of superheroes and villains with megalomaniacal plans. T Vanguard consists of team leader and time-displaced scientist adventurer, Prof. Anna Chronos; telepath and therapist at the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Spin Doctor; tech-enhanced speedster and daughter of villainous mastermind Dr. Sinister, Nightflame; and STAR Labs’ experiment and super-strong hero, Crossfit.
Our story begins with Prof. Chronos leading Spin Doctor and Nightflame to examine a long-dormant volcano where unusual activity has recently been detected. They are attacked by a gigantic cyborg spider that Spin Doctor defeats by blocking the mental signals used to control it. At STAR Labs, Dr. Jones informs Crossfit that his body is rejecting the nanobots that keep his enhancements working, so his powers and system may not be entirely stable. After the volcano incident, Spin Doctor returns to the Asylum to extract the information he needs from one of Dr. Sinister’s minions and learns of a nuclear bomb being set within the volcano. Back at Vanguard HQ, Dr. Sinister sends a hologram into the room of Nightflame to taunt her daughter and Prof. Chronos.
The whole team storms the volcano, which is now covered by a swarm of mechanical spiders. Crossfit strikes the ground to create an opening for Nightflame to rush inside and disarm the bomb, but then his powers fail him and the group is almost overrun by the spiders before his powers return as mysteriously as they left and they manage to escape with the disarmed nuke. Afterward, Nightflame and Spin Doctor concoct a plan to draw Dr. Sinister out to unveil her true plan and learn whether she truly cares for Nightflame by putting her into danger that only Dr. Sinister can protect her from. When Nightflame explains their plan to Prof. Chronos, the Prof. protests but relents when she realizes that Nightflame will go through with it on her own otherwise, and they discuss Prof. Chronos’s incomplete calculations to enable time travel. Finally, Spin Doctor visits an underworld diner to try gaining access to Dr. Sinister’s lair, but once he gets inside the island lair, his powers are neutralized and Sinister’s minions easily overpower him.
Our story concludes with a frontal assault on the Island of Dr. Sinister where each of us is shot by a “disintegration” ray that actually teleports us away into confinement, where a Dr. Sinister hologram visits each of us in turn. Sinister tempts Spin Doctor with a helmet to enhance his powers allowing him to manipulate matter as well as minds if he will pull one job for him afterward. When Spin Doctor agrees and puts on the helmet, the surge of power allows Spin Doctor to read Sinister’s mind and learn that she is not Nightflame’s biological mother. Dr. Sinister offers to repair and restore Crossfit’s systems and powers if he will join her organization, but the straight-laced hero refuses. Dr. Sinister tries to convince Nightflame to give up her mediocre team of heroes and return to lead Sinister’s army in the new world order, but then Nightflame gets a psychic flash of the information that Spin Doctor gleaned about her true parentage. Nightflame says that she’ll never join with Sinister but will work forever to stop her schemes and bring her to justice. Sinister’s hologram disappears and lock on Nightflame’s cell clicks open. Prof. Chronos and Dr. Sinister bargain back and forth, Chronos pleading for her team to be spared unlike her original team, lost in the Hidden Lands all those decades ago and Sinister showing where her time travel research went awry. Sinister agrees not to kill Vanguard and Chronos agrees to test her time travel device by stepping through to the past before her original expedition was lost.
In the epilogue, Nightflame frees her teammates and, as they’re freeing Crossfit, and elderly Prof. Chronos appears with a cure for his condition and they return to battle Dr. Sinister, who escapes through a portal like the one that Prof. Chronos had disappeared through an hour before.
Tonight we played Palanquin again, this time with only two bearers—the Bearers of Magic and Nature—to escort Princess Ulkualzi to her Aunt Baru’s home and safety. We begin, as always, in the kitchen with the Heir hiding from the sounds of the violent coup underway upstairs. The Hunter appears following a bear wandering through the halls and the Magister comes scrounging magical components from the kitchen supplies.
As we exit the kitchen attempting to flee the palace, an animated suit of armor blocks our path, but the Hunter and his companion tear the suit apart and we escape into the surrounding town among the people. As we make our way through the market district, we find we’re being trailed by feral wildcats, but the Magister distracts with a light show that confounds the cats, allowing us to slip into the smuggler tunnels beneath the capital. As we make our way through this sewer, on the lookout for cultists and reptilian creatures, a shadow appears before us, barring our way. The Hunter attempts to make an offering of poisonous mushrooms, but the incorporeal being ignores him. The Heir, however, recognizes the shadow as the Weeping Lady, a ghost who haunts the capital, and calls upon the power of her station to command her to let them pass.
We emerge from the tunnels into the purple jungle with its alligators and places of divine power and native peoples. We create a makeshift raft to travel downriver, but a fairy known as the Tempest appears and the river becomes dangerous as a violent storm rises. The Magister asks the fairy to stop but the storm worsens as ferocious fish fall from the sky. So, the Heir rallies her bearers to row for shore where they quickly light a fire to ward off the wilds and protect them until the storm passes. As we begin walking through the jungle, a wasp the size of a bull flies toward us, but the Magister is ready with a malodorous spray that drives the creature away.
Finally, we come to the demon wastes, littered with broken bones and dark overcast skies. If we can find the right gravesite, we’ll have the instructions we need to escape the wastes and emerge into Baru’s lands. First, we must overcome the shadow poison that seeps into our bodies and souls. The Magister casts a protective spell that shields us from its noxious effects, but as we come upon the graveyard, we are attacked by zombie skeletons emerging from the ground. The Hunter and his bear try to fight them off but they keep coming in unending waves. The Heir begins a holy prayer for deliverance, but the zombies reach up and grab her legs and cloak as she kneels. The Magister must act to save her before it’s too late. His incantations bring forth a horde of fiery beasts that fly about and destroy the zombies to save the Heir.
In Aunt Baru’s royal chambers, Princes Ulkualzi offers Periani the Hunter, Master of Nature, her most sincere thanks and appoints Tanalor the Magister, Master Sorcerer, to a place on her royal council.