Another Querulous Dram

This week we played The Wizard’s Querulous Dram by Lizzie Stark and Jason Morningstar a second time, playing wizards who meet via scrying devices to choose which of the heirs from two neighboring kingdoms will marry to form one larger kingdom. Once again the choice was too easy and obvious for us, so before we play again, we need to change the descriptions of the four possible heirs to create more controversy. This time our negotiations between the small kingdoms of Black Mountain and Smallwood is presided over by Dobra the Mysterious, a swamp witch who’s being blackmailed by Prince Winthrop and is most concerned with plentiful issue from the royal pairing (you can’t eat royal babies if their aren’t any royal babies). Representing Smallwood are Hegedus the Fair, their Secretary of Magic, who’s learning the dark arts from Prince Winthrop and who believes victory for Black Mountain’s democratic rebels is inevitable and must be prepared for; and Gyongi the Proud, their Court Wizard and secret father of the rebel leader who wants the Smallwood heir appointed monarch and not consort. The representatives from Black Mountain are Zoltin the Serious, their Secretary of Magic, who truly wants whatever is best for both lands but whose work is complicated by the adoration of Princess Tiffany; and Belobor the Wizard of No and Court Wizard, who seeks to destroy the rebels above all but wants to keep Prince Chadwick as their lover at the same time.

We settle fairly quickly on the pairing of the two Princesses, Tiffany of Black Mountain, the most beautiful and lover of celebrations, marrying Aster of Smallwood, who over-plans and overachieves at everything but has not-so-secret sympathies for the democracy rebels. This satisfies the Smallwood sympathies for the rebels, but Gyongi must accept Aster being relegated to consort, for Belobor insists Tiffany be monarch to protect royal prerogative. To further mollify Gyongi, the new capital shall be in Smallwood, although the combined army shall be led by a Black Mountain general, so perhaps there is still danger. Dobra is concerned about the question of children, but the others promise to use their magics to ensure the line continues, so she has no objections. The wedding is held in Black Mountain serving Smallwood delicacies, to symbolize the unity of the new kingdom before the new rulers head off to Smallwood to begin their reign.

An incomplete drawing of two princesses holding hands, one with purple eyeshadow and shawl, the other in pink.

Time Venture

This week we delved into Venture by Riley Rethal once more, this time as a group of adventurers living on the Taiga against the great mountains in a small outpost town, Hadna, on the edges of a great empire. Our group includes the lanky and pale, silent and secretive rogue Dave; Reinhardt the Just, a paladin who believes in a higher power and is dedicated to protecting the weak; the ripped and rash fighter, Lydia, whose more likely to let loose with her wrapped knuckles in a bar than sell her sword arm; Quill the wizard in a witch’s hat too lazy to ever cast a spell; and Ivris the cleric who serves Unphin the Unmoving, god of the mountains.

Our story begins with Lydia and Quill returning to Hadna from a mountain trek arguing about why Lydia insists that Quill walk into town. In Hadna itself, Ivris interrogates Dave about the clock he’s lost to Elnor and his gang and whether he can get it back with the help of a little magic. Reinhardt approaches Lydia about her family and how our group has replaced the families we left behind or lost, as Lydia’s was in the great war, and each believes that the Watchmaker’s clock can change one’s fate. In a tavern, Quill keeps pressuring Ivris to come back to her bed, but the cleric rebuffs her advances. Finally, Dave asks Reinhardt to lead their effort to recover his lost clock, which is magical and an heirloom.

After Lydia acquires a cart and donkey to carry Quill, we make our way through the seedy back-alleys to the underground tavern where Elnor’s gang dwells. Elnor tells us about his obsession with clocks and time, calling his gang the Keepers of Time. He tells us about a prophecy he found on the back of Dave’s clock and explains his plan to capture time by controlling all the timekeepers in Hadna, even the King’s pocket watch. While Reinhardt and the rest of us keep Elnor and gang’s attention, Dave swipes the clock back and quietly walks away; before anyone notices, he’s gone.

We catch up with Dave ourselves later and immediately escape into the hills with him, the clock, and the donkey cart. When we examine the clock, we discover that Elnor misread the prophecy entirely: it wasn’t about five fools gathering, but being placed in the light of the full moon, which at the right moment, will reveal the Watchmaker’s will. Dave explains how he found the clock from a man frozen in an avalanche and how it saved him from servitude to cruel masters. Out in the mountains, Dave discovers that if he (but no one else) moves the hands of the clock, which had stopped working long ago, he can shift us through time, so we shift ourselves to the night of the full moon. Under its light, Dave speaks in the voice of the Watchmaker, asking what needs to be rectified. It seems we each get to change one moment in history, to correct one mistake.

Lydia returns to a moment before her family and home were destroyed in the war and rescues a peace envoy whose mission could avert the war entirely. Dave returns to improve his parent’s lives, so they will not be so destitute and uncaring as to sell him into servitude. Reinhardt changes a rescue of the king he performed, so the assassins don’t get as close and the king doesn’t become paranoid and fearful. Quill understands better how to approach Ivris about her experiments in exploring dreams in the hopes of finding a god’s true name and succeeds in getting the cleric’s cooperation back at the tavern. And Ivris decides to save her moment for another day.

Raised by Mechs & Working for the Corp

This week we played a pair of games in the Story Synth Gallery that we’d not played before. First we played Raised by Mechs by Ralph D’Amico in which we are the biological remnants of humanity birthed and raised by a mechanical mother on a distant world and now entering our teen years. We remember the thrum of machinery when we gestated inside mother so sleep better with white noise, but not all embryos survived so mother recycled those that did not. We honor their passing as our internal holidays, the memory of them being enforced by Mother on all of us. One of us has a mechanical arm after mother replaced the one destroyed through an accident. Another of us has her filtration system to replace a failed kidney, and one of us was saved from an attack by the wild creatures of this planet. Others of us are comforted by the video gaming screen Mother provides, and she always sits us down together for dinner to monitor our health and ensure proper nutrition.

Mother was once our entire lander but as their systems began to fail, nuts and bolts found loose throughout our home, a system repair and reboot was necessary, after which Mother no longer extends throughout the entire lander, limited to a few keys systems and her remote. During the downtime, she left her most loyal son in charge, which makes him feel important and powerful. Afterward, she implants a communication relay inside his mind so she can see through his eyes and communicate with him when she can no longer be present. Mother grieves for the programmers she left behind on Earth, and for fear of failing in the mission, so we fear when she grasps us and puts us in isolation when we disobey or endanger ourselves.

Some of us believe that we’re ready to live on our own, but mother insists such ideas are dangerous. Mother tells us that we need her to survive and that the life on this planet is unintelligent and can be appropriated for our use. But even her most loyal son begins to doubt her on this, seeing that the Earth we come from was dying due to overuse and callousness. We believe we must learn to love nature, live sustainably, and avoid killing. We do not expect to find other humans in space—evolution doesn’t work that way—but human settlers find us and we must decide whether to go with them. We each consider leaving Mother, but each decide to stay either because of loyalty or fear or the great adventure, we believe that we are different than the humans we left behind and do not want to break up our family.

Next we played a quick session of Working for the Corp by Ken Davidson in which we play the security team at a megacorp in a cyberpunk future, fending off an infiltration by Runners trying to steal precious Corp intel. We struggle with the corporate rules and office politics, the neural feedback from the interfaces, the knowledge that the Corp will take whatever we make, with the technicalities that keep us in our place, with the rating system that grades each worker, with the mysterious projects we’re not allowed to understand even as we work on them, and the rumors of mergers orchestrated through blackmail. In the end, only one of us chooses to defend the company outright, while the rest of us protect ourselves or open the door on our our way out.

Until We Sink into Secrets

During our last play session, we played Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobsson.

We are:

  • Martin, the hotel manager with a sunny disposition who used to be an activities director on a cruise line.
  • Ira, an adventurous pilot that did an emergency landing on the island as she became obsessed in her adventures forgetting to give her plane the maintenance it needed.
  • Cricket, the surfer who has been chasing the biggest waves. They heard of an upcoming storm that would bring the biggest waves in the world to this island and now they want to be here to ride them.
  • Bill, the hotel caretaker who is very handy but gets nervous around guests, and
  • Howard, the gossiping retiree who left a hectic career in journalism and is on the island to wind down.

As we play, ominous things keep on happening on the island. The first day, the only other guest at the hotel, a sport fisherman, is found dead on the island at the base of a cliff. Martin insists that there is nothing to see and that all guests should avoid the scene as the authorities are handling the investigation.

On the second day, on a palm tree behind the hotel, a message appears carved saying: “We Meet Again Martin”. The typically jovial manager starts acting weird and is suddenly hard to find on the premises.

On the third day, a seagull dies after eating Martin’s sandwich. While Martin freaks out about this and goes into hiding again. The rest of the guests discuss what is the best way of mourning the death of the seagull.

On the fourth day, Cricket finds a large bone at the beach while surfing. They bring it back to the hotel to show it off. Ira thinks the bone should be donated to a voodoo priestess in Wisconsin as she knows it will be put to good use there. Martin wants the bone gone from the island.

On the fifth day, two strangers appear on the island. They are rough, loud, and get visibly drunk as time passes. They leave eventually. This leads Martin to confess that the island is controlled by a Spanish cartel and they came to threaten him as they thought he had killed their esteemed guest, the fisherman, who was from an Italian organized crime family.

On the sixth day, the island sinks. The guests had gone to the cliff to see if they could learn more about the fisherman and Cricket to catch the biggest waves that were expected that morning… but the island sank instead and we are all now in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, waiting to be rescued. Except Ira who is trying to pull her plane out of the sunk island… it makes a great anchor.