Around the Whirl

Tonight we played Around the Realm by Randy Lubin on his new storysynth game engine. We play to create the journey of lifelong BFFs Nella and Bly as they travel around the Whirl of islands that make up their archipelago. Once we’ve proven our resourcefulness and bravery, we’ll be offered the coveted position of Curators of Antiquities at the Magical Library of the mega-city Boppicity. If we can return home before the summer solstice, we will win the role.

Our journey begins leaving the city on foot rather than via boat because we crave to get away from the crowds and hustle we’ve known all our lives. As we finally leave the city behind us and enter the lush jungles that surround our tropical home, our way is blocked by someone chanting as they write upon the ground, actions which cause the jungle vines to grow and engulf us. Bly decides that this is too much and uses her coif fixative and a small flame to blow a path through the foliage, but at the cost of losing our pack animals and the weight they carried. We soon reach Treetopia, a city in the trees and eco-paradise filled with exotic animals and goods from all over the jungle sold in its sprawling bazaar. Two guards take us to the palace, claiming that Nella is the princess whose father is demanding to see her. Once locked in the princess’s chambers, we hurriedly search for the secret exit the princess must use to escape and find it. We pass the princess returning on our way out through the secret passage. Nella and Princess Pardoo become fast friends, despite looking so much alike.

Two anime cartoon girls walk together. One has a heart-shaped eye-patch and long hair and the other has a scarf and a pair of high buns on top of her head.
Nella & Bly traveling around the Realm.

We leave Treetopia aboard at an ancient flying ship whose decks and holds are mostly off-limits as it’s run more like a museum than a passenger vessel. We’re soon attacked by Sky Pirates riding giant birds and wearing jump-jet backpacks that allow them to fly from the backs of the birds to the ship’s deck. As they line us up to begin confiscating our valuables, Nella uses her extensive knowledge of birds and bird languages to speak in cockatoo to the pirate’s birds and convince them to help us by knocking the pirates overboard. Our reputation is already being burnished by our defeat of the Sky Pirates, and the ship diverts to the nearest port, which is Aslanta, a city built into the crest of a great mountain, filled with intricate tunnels, vaulted chambers, mechanical lifts, and a mini-rail system. The city goes into lockdown not long after we arrive due to the sudden outbreak of a mysterious illness, but Nella recognizes the illness from her studies and knows how to manufacture a cure. She just needs that medicinal herb that grows at the base of the mountain….

After curing the illness, we join an Aslantan expedition down the mountain seeking powerful artifacts that must be hauled out by mighty turtles pulling enchanted bubble carts. We’re met along the way by a team of archeologists who claim to have found what we’re looking for and who are willing to show us where to find the artifacts for a fee. Bly recognizes their shady intentions and subtly undermines the teams trust in them by asking more and more pointed questions and identifying the inconsistencies in their claims, until the con men decide to leave for more gullible marks. We come to a formerly great mining community that has become a kind of mine-inspired theme park that caters to visitors by re-enacting mining activity, providing thrilling rides, and mining costumes. When Bly tries to leave with a small gem she found on one of the rides, the gatekeepers demand that she fill out a specific form, get it stamped by the park commissioner, and get it endorsed by two deputy park commissioners. Nella tries to reason with them and understand the specifics of the regulations, and Bly tries to slip away while the gatekeepers are preoccupied but is stopped at the secondary checkpoint and forced to relinquish the stone before we can leave the park.

We leave on the back’s of domesticated dragons with iridescent wings who fly over the Levitating Isles with one guide and passenger per dragon. But the Isles are plagued by Rock Storms when landslides result in dirt and stones falling up into the sky. We may be grounded for some time, but Nella knows that if you feed dragons, even domesticated ones, enough garlic, it will activate their natural fire breath, which can melt and disenchant the levitating stones, allowing us to cross over to the next great city, Necropolis, a haunting city ruled by a decadent elite consisting of death mages who have reanimated skeletons to serve their every whim. When we arrive, Nella comments on how foolish the whole thing is since we’re all skeletons inside and all end up skeletons in the end. This stray comment foments discord and revolution among the skeletons, who rebel against their masters. To escape (and make friends), Nella teaches them the skeleton dance and leads the entire city in the steps, which allows us to slip away while the revolution continues behind us.

Arriving home just days before the solstice, we win our dream job as Curators, which is ever so exciting and quite a relief. Our trip has been more eventful than we had ever expected.