Angel Tourism Street Magic

This week, we played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Asercion and created a grand, ornate, sprawling city that serves as the center of a great world religion but now sees more tourists than believers.

Downtown is the center of town where there is more shopping than cathedrals, but the roads are made of decorative colored bricks in patterns that come together at the very center into a central mosaic, the Angel Mural. All roads lead to Mural Square, but the origins of the mosaic are lost to the annals of time. Nearby is Hotel Row, a strip that caters to the many tourists who visit the city, famed for its nighttime amphitheater that’s hidden from the street view by the many hotels where laser light shows originate. Elsewhere in Downtown is Stenlake Art Museum full of modern art works and an arboretum, and Sten Lake itself, surrounded by a park with duck-shaped paddle boats for tourists to ride.

A crane waits at a bus stop overrun with water.
Image courtesy of Caro Asercion.

Working your way up from Sten Lake and Downtown, you come to the Holies, the neighborhood where the most temples and the offices of the faith’s hierarchy reside. Opalescent spires climb up the hills until you come to the Crystal Palace at the crest of the great hill, an animal sanctuary characterized by lush foliage, a sun-warmed, dense jungle right inside the city. At the bottom of the hill, closest to Downtown is where the Night Service is held 24 hours a day, providing unceasing ritual and regularity to the working people of the city, who come to visit it regularly as a right of passage. On the far side of the great hill lies Dry Bones Cemetery, which is creepy and largely deserted by the living. Its cobblestone paths and gnarled bare trees lead to the Heaven-bound Mausoleum, a massive crypt built centuries ago which leads underground into the heart of the hill, full of unlit torches and seemingly endless coffins. The Ghost Guide tries to keep the stories of the crypt and the cemetery alive, but the murder of crows who roost in the graveyard see themselves as the true protectors of the tomb and drive off those who become too curious.

Around the other side of Downtown lies the University District, which is large and friendly, full of cafes and restaurants and Art Deco university office buildings. The heart of the District is University Library with eagle statues atop its steel and mirrored glass facade. Next door to that is the Robert Burns Memorial Hedge Maze, constructed of varying shrubbery of multiple colors with an angel statue at the center. The most popular place in the District is the Fox Den, an open air asian bistro with the most famous foods and cherry blossom trees growing between the tables. The Burrow is the Den’s basement after-hours club with colored lights and 80s night, where the bartenders and DJs entertain into the wee hours. Cyrus the Aussie bartender is a notable standout and can always hook you up if you need a guy.

Three events punctuated our evening of play. The Angel Festival downtown brings in lots of tourist dollars to the city’s economy, even if they can be destructive and leave a mess. Sten Lake is the venue for an outdoor fundraiser to maintain the Crystal Palace, but it creates tension as the Holies resents that such events must be held Downtown. And the University holds regular Midnight Madness Movie nights at Dry Bones Cemetery, but such a widespread event is loud enough to wake the dead. Will it?

Power & Grace & Demons

This week we played Power & Grace the super heroic Lasers & Feelings hack by an unknown author (let us know if you know the creator). We are the Silver Guardians, a well-financed group of superheroes operating from our hidden island base who are always dealing with our overlarge rogues gallery. One of our number—Moonwind the alien acrobat—is missing for this adventure, but our newest member, Bolt the eager speedster, is available for her first adventure with the team. The series regulars who appear this time are: the Electric Shepherd, the arrogant controller of technology who believes the chips in his brain make him better than humanity; Heavy Metal the wisecracking cybernetic brawler from the future; and Glacier, a 7-foot tall ice spirit sent to protect the Earth bonded to a human being.

Our story begins with Electric Shepherd luring Glacier to a public park and convincing him to create multiple ice sculptures of her when a portal opens near a group of playing children, a portal showing a winged demon with a scorpion tail in another dimension. Shepherd tosses a phone into the demons mouth, which causes an explosion that starts a fire that endangers the children, but Glacier quells the flame with sheets of ice. Later, back at our base, Glacier and Shepherd reveal that they discovered magical cards from a game the kids were playing that must have opened the portal, and teenage Bolt explains that the cards are from a collectible card game called Demon Wars that kids all over are playing. The group decides to approach the creator of the game Dustin Kamil, so Bolt poses as a young fan to lure him into a park where we can question him without alarming the public. Before we can begin, however, he unfurls additional cards which summon a large creature that is the combination of a dragon, a squid, and a parrot. As we’re fighting the creature, Dustin attempts running away but is easily caught by Bolt, and the rest of the crew take out the creature through a combination of electrical overloads delivered through Glacier’s ice by Shepherd and a haymaker from Heavy Metal.

During questioning, Dustin mentions Dr. Arcane, which leads to the group investigating their old mystical foe and uncovering his plot to use this CCG to weaken the wall separating our world from a demonic realm to summon the dreaded beast, Ghraiodrih, which saps the will to enable him to enslave the whole country. Our research makes it clear that to summon the beast, he’ll need to cast a specific spell at Stonehenge, so we race there to stop him. Upon arrival, we learn he’s brought much of our rogues gallery with him, including the gelatinous Ooze, the unpredictable Wacky Arsonist, the megalomaniacal cat-man Leonine, and the Poison Child who drips with venom. But having fought these so many times before, we go to work taking each one out: Heavy Metal slams Leonine with a massive stone, Glacier freezes Ooze in place (although a small portion melts away into a nearby drain), the Arsonist is put to sleep by the gas from Shepherd’s drones, and Bolt brings down Dr. Arcane and the Child as they attempt to fly away using a mini-cyclone. Their scheme thwarted, we hand the villains over to the authorities and set about to clean up the Demon Wars game first by buying the company and replacing all the existing cursed cards with mundane facsimiles.

Gas Mining Archipelago

We played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter in a fascinating futuristic world where orbs and bubbles are the primary building blocks of society, a gas mining colony sent from Earth into the atmosphere of one of the outer planets. We live in a floating city above the surface, with tubes descending from the Steamworks into the atmosphere to collect rare gases needed back on Earth, a Food Lab where instant food pellets are manufactured, where the weather is manufactured and projected onto our bubble skies by weather control companies like BluSky, and a giant magnetic Accelerator is used to send our mined gasses toward Earth for pickup and collection. We are Jon Ronny, a food scientist at Food Lab tasked with finding new flavors; Sorter 5, an autonomous bot at the Steamworks who maintains a fan wiki about weather art; Zayre, the best gunner working at the Accelerator; and Quain, a renowned weather artist at BluSky who lives across the hall from Jon Ronny.

Our story begins with Sorter 5 making a routine drop-off of argon bubbles at the Accelerator for Zayre to fire off toward Earth in which Sorter 5 learns about a micro-weather concert soon to be held in the Plaza. After having gotten his new-flavor marching orders, Jon Ronny seeks ideas by exchanging messages with the administrator of the weather wiki and gets the Arthur theme song and images of weather and food as inspiration. Later Quain visits Jon while the chemist is busy in the kitchen concocting his latest food, chocolemon bars, and learns that Quain was inspired by the weather of his archival, Kaze. In the final scene of Act I, Zayre is approached by a pair of bumbling interns who have inadvertently sent a bubble of precious gas hurtling off-course. Zayre performs a series of mental calculations and uses a pair of empty bubbles to correct the course through a series of bank shots like a set of billiard balls in space.

As Act II begins, Jon Ronny tries pitches his new chocolemon bars to suits at the Food Lab, but they get lost in marketing ideas and separating the flavors, or making them diet, so he walks away to start his own independent food pill company called Better Pills to showcase his new flavors. After learning that the Steamworks will be replacing their generation of sorter with the latest generation, Sorter 5 is introduced to Dr. Moneybags, who wants to buy the robot to place in his collection as a fine example of their beautiful and stylish generation of bots, and getting paid to be admired seems like a good idea to them, at least as long as reasonable work hours can be negotiated. After Raze comes to work for BluSky, Quain and Raze are brought into HR to discuss the mess their making of the skies by competing with each other, and the way their animosity is poisoning the atmosphere at the office. To save their jobs, they each agree to make pleasing skies and refrain from backbiting at work. Meanwhile, Zayre receives a job offer to help develop Accelerator-powered human space travel, and has a long talk with her mother before deciding to take a chance and move to Earth for the role.

This Brain Within Me Burns

This week we played This Heart Within Me Burns by Sam Dunnewold from the StorySynth Gallery in which we play a troupe of adventurers who travel to the House of the Empty Goddess seeking to have a curse removed from one of our number. We are Imogene the fire-eating acrobat, Sigurd the unbathed Ratcatcher, Wes the orphaned Smith, Aramis the half-elven Minstrel, Wyn Stormborn the merchant turned Priest, and the curse-afflicted Jessica the Ranger. The curse has ransacked Jessica’s perception, leaving her face blind, but the condition is worsening as she forgets not only faces but common words, and perhaps eventually much more.

We’re traveling through rocky, scrubby hills during the humid months toward the House of the Empty Goddess. Few venture through this desolation, but Jessica fares well for she spent months in the Temple of the Silent One five years ago, so the curse has yet to isolate her. Imogene recalls the child Martina, who lived at the same boardinghouse she did before leaving for adventure, and the promises she made to return. Sigurd secretly blames himself for the curse upon Jessica, believing that when he abandoned his post as ratcatcher out of pique at city officials, the creatures have spread this curse wide. Wes is the first to notice when Jessica fails to recognize everyday objects, calling a spoon a sword, and confides his worries in Wyn. Aramis hopes this curse will teach us all a lesson about the dangers of arrogance and entitlement; we need some humbling, he thinks.

Imogene the acrobat balances a candle on top of a ball on top of her knees. In the background, another image of Imogene touching her foot to her head.

Wyn is at a loss, unable to use his magics to minister to us, he must learn to exercise compassion despite his faith not valuing such softness. When we stop in a small town, Imogene cooks a crème brûlée for a weary traveller but is haunted by his exclamation about the dangers of fire. Sigurd is wracked with guilt over his belief that he caused this plague that has swept up his comrade. Aramis, taking one for the team, entreats Sigurd to take a bath, but the ratcatcher remains unbathed. Wes remembers when he almost lost Wyn when the mountain trolls attacked and worries now about losing Jessica. Unbeknownst to us, Jessica knows whence the curse came, for tis the same calamity that befell her father after an angry client vowed that her father and all his line would suffer before he too began to forget faces, then objects, people, then everything.

The entire group becomes increasingly worried about Jessica, except perhaps Sigurd who is blinded by guilt and regrets ever leaving his work to go adventuring. Imogene has stopped using fire around Jessica, fearing that she might grab a flaming candle thinking it a comb or axe. Aramis regrets never having confessed his love to Jessica before it was too late. One morning, as the group is breaking camp, we discover that Jessica has scattered our items about the site in a crude circle, believing that Sigurd’s shoe and other items are swords, so Wyn walks Jessica into the trees to allow the group to complete the packing without her seeing the mistakes she has made. Wes used to celebrate each of our victories with a commemorative sword, but can’t imagine what to make for this adventure. Jessica feels that our bringing the Queen of Silence to mediate in the Elven-Dwarven War was worth it, despite her returning accursed, because it did some actual good in the world.

As we approach the House of the Empty Goddess, we’re each alone with our thoughts and our fears: that it will all be for naught, that we’ll have to trick the Goddess to help, that the Goddess is a myth and can offer nothing, that Jessica will worsen. In the temple, the priestess places Jessica inside an iron casket and asks us each to make a sacrifice to our Lady. If she deem the sacrifices worthy, then the curse will be lifted. Wes gives up his finest sword, Sigurd sacrifices his honor and agrees to bathe at last, Imogene sacrifices the candle she’s promised Martina, Wyn will retire to a monastery and make sacrifices to his god and to the Goddess daily, and Aramis will sacrifice his quest to master magic. Jessica explains about the family curse and agrees to give up her quest to become legendary if the curse is lifted. As we leave the temple, Jessica seemingly restored, Aramis begins to sing the love song he wrote for Jessica and the credits roll as the song continues to play.