For the Butterfly Heir

We tried another Descended from the Queen game this week on StorySynth, For the Heir by Lynette, in which we are the companions to the latest in a long line of claimants to the Lost Throne. The Lost Throne has sat empty for many an age, and the empire ruled from it has long collapsed into various warring and disparate duchies. Our Heir is a gender ambiguous shape-shifter of apparent noble birth, blessed with a corona of fire. We companions are: Varsa, a ne’er-do-well who nevertheless fights viciously with his pole-arm; Sashi, master of the Mirror Blade who may be easily distracted but is indomitable when focused; Arman, horned fae who serves as magic teacher to the Heir; and Harna, a practical herbalist with potions for all occasions.

Varsa met the Heir after losing a dice game to the wrong people and making bets he lacked the coin to cover. The Heir arrived in all their phoenix-fire glory, which held the brutes in awe until they could spirit the two of them away. Arman is very close to the Heir because his connection to the Faerie Realm is essential to recovering the Lost Throne. Arman believes the rest of us are jealous of that closeness, but Sashi just wants to know what they do when they go off together and keeps butting in. Sashi was recruited on the quest because she is the Master of the Mirror Blade, known as the Fae-touched mirror, whose magic can cut through illusions and reveal the truth. Harna was the last to join the Heir’s quest, and remains the most skeptical. Her father was killed in a magical battle between the Heir and a rival when they met, and she can’t see how seating an Emperor can be worth the high price she has already had to pay.

Varsa once showed the Heir a thing of great beauty, the rare bioluminescent butterflies who emerge after the rain in this lone forest that we passed through. Seizing the moment, Varsa extracts a promise from the Heir to declare these woods off-limits, a preserve for the the butterflies alone. Harna is concerned about our apparent lack of direction; we seem to be wandering aimlessly, not knowing where to go or how to find the throne. When she asks Varna about it, he says not to worry because we’re all making it up as we go along. As we travel on, Sashi eventually wanders off the path, tempted by some shimmering or other in the forest. After we’ve gone on a mini-quest to rescue her, she admits that she’s easily distracted and asks us to help keep her on task. Despite Arman continuing to push the Heir to their limit with magic lessons, the Heir is grateful and uses what he’s taught them to conjure an especially rare set of blossoms as a gift for the flower fairy.

As we travel from town to town, Sashi has taken to jokingly calling herself the Heir’s adopted knight, but she’s said it so often that people have begun to wonder whether this story conceals a bigger secret, that Sashi is the Heir’s younger sister. There is no truth to these rumors, but Sashi can’t tamp them down. Another rumor that won’t go away is that Varsa used his staff to hypnotize the Heir and demand the creation of the preserve, but the Heir needed no such prodding once they’d seen the butterflies beauty for themselves. In a quiet moment, when Harna is discussing her potions with the Heir and mentions something she learned from her father, the Heir admits to barely knowing their parents, and Harna sees a bit of the vulnerability and humanity beneath the Heir’s outward calm. We all believe the Heir’s true form is the one we see every day, the one to which they return after transforming for a fight, the one with the fiery halo. But only Arman has seen their true form, when the Heir first came to Faerie asking to be made ready for their task. Arman’s initial lesson was how to conceal their true form, for glamours can protect them while seeking the throne.

When at least we reach the Lost Throne and our Heir moves to be anointed the true heir, they are attacked by rival claimants who’ve followed us here. We each act to protect our Heir. Varsa leaps at the attackers and takes the fight directly to them. Arman uses his illusions to confuse the attackers. Harna quaffs a potion that grows her to twenty feet tall and blocks them from following the Heir. Sashi accompanies the Heir, guarding their flank and send them on alone to the Throne while she addresses the final challenge, a challenge she meets but not without being permanently scarred.

After the battle, when the Heir has become the new Emperor, Sashi becomes a true knight and serves the Emperor until her retirement decades hence. Varsa holds the Emperor to their promise and the preserve is created, but then moves on, continuing to let his mouth get him into and out of trouble until the end. Harna asks to be made the Guardian of the butterfly preserve and lives on the edge of the luminescent forest. Arman returns to the Faerie Realms, not simply going home, but serving as ambassador between the two realms, confident the Emperor will allow human and fae folk to mingle once again.

Fedora Noir

This week we played Fedora Noir by Caroline Hobbs using the abbreviated version on StorySynth. Our hard-nosed Detective is Scarlett Lane and her protégé is Jimmy Olsen. The client and intriguing new flame is Simon Worthy.

The case begins with Simon bumping into Scarlett as she’s exiting her office. He explains that he is part of that Worthy family, and his older sister, who is being trained to take over the family business, is missing. Their father seems blithely unconcerned with her whereabouts, insisting that he’s spoken to her and she’s fine. Scarlett agrees to take the case, but both she and Jimmy are preoccupied by what went wrong in the last missing persons case, when they found a body instead of somebody.

Black and drawing of a fedora in dramatic lighting over the words 'Fedora Noir'.
Fedora Noir logo from Less Than Three Games.

The next morning at the Worthy estate, they interview the house staff and determine that Miss Cora Worthy planned her absence, packing enough for a few days, and was supposedly headed downtown when she drove off in her car. Also, someone visited the elder Mr. Worthy a few days after her disappearance, and it wasn’t a friendly exchange. Simon keeps trying to impress Scarlett with tales of his archeology studies at Princeton, but she’s too preoccupied by this case and the last.

Scarlett decides, against Simon’s wishes, to go talk to the father. He’s a stocky plutocrat who goes on about how his family built this town from nothing thanks to their transport investments. And his son, who’s obviously put us up to this, isn’t worthy of the Worthy name. He claims again to have spoken to the daughter and explains that she is away negotiating an important business deal for him, which he is not at liberty to discuss.

Back at their office, Jimmy confronts Scarlett over her failures in the previous case and how this one seems to be going the same way. Scarlett thinks how he’s right and she’s going to lose another one. Awkwardly, the return to the investigation and focus on researching the Worthys and their business, trying to determine where Miss Worthy may be; could she be working on a merger of the Pholly and Worthy transport lines?

Simon calls and asks Scarlett to join him downtown at the end of the subrail lines. When she gets there he leads her into the tunnel still under construction and shows her an amazing archeological find, an old structure buried below the surface of New Hudson, and right in the way of his family’s latest tunnel project. As they ponder what to do, Cora Worthy steps out of the shadows and admits she was working with their father to hide this discovery and save the subrail expansion.

Simon seems almost wounded when he reproaches Cora for being so like their father, but then Mr. Worthy arrives pointing a gun at us. As Scarlett steps into the line of fire to protect Simon, she begins regaling Mr. Worthy with information she’s gleaned from the investigation, still peppering him with questions. Unbeknownst to Mr. Worthy, Scarlett aims to distract him from the approaching Jimmy, who beans Mr. Worthy with a shovel taken from the dig. Scarlett springs for the gun and tells Simon to get the police.

Later, Jimmy and Scarlett make up from their argument earlier, thanking each other for their work and their partnership. And Simon finally convinces Scarlett to meet him outside the confines of the case, but she only agrees to a quick bite at Andy’s Diner.

Rusting Giant Delve

Screenshot of the play invitation to The Rusting Giants in the StorySynth gallery. The picture is of three adventurers standing in front of a metal construct covered in green from overgrown plants and vines.
Image from StorySynth Gallery

In this week’s session, we had one player entirely new to role-playing games and story games join us, so we returned to Rusting Giants by Faie Meredith Baker for another two-player session, in which we play scavengers delving into the remnants of massive mech-ships crashed on a low-tech planet.

The Outlaw enters the Giant and immediately finds himself a cache of books and data cards and a supply of small batteries of some value. Using his rope and rigging up a makeshift pulley, he manages to pry open the heavy armored door to delve deeper into the Giant. Next he enters the barrel of a massive cannon where an armored half-crab, half-human mechanical warrior blocks his way. After blinding the creature’s glowing eyes, he slips past it to enter a chamber where he retrieves the uniform and comm-badge of the Giant’s former commander. After swinging across a chasm in the next chamber, he encounters two feral children who refuse to be coaxed into returning with him to the village, even after accepting food from him. He collects a large battery pack, and returns to the surface and to the village.

The Pilgrim enters directly into the Giant’s control center with still active displays showing a cartoonish avatar’s face. Climbing up from there brings her into a chamber open to the sky but contaminated by a toxic sludge leaking from the walls that she must shield herself from using shards of the Giant’s armor. In the engine room, she encounters another salvager who threatens her with a sword. Maneuvering around until they’re in the right position, she unleashes a nanite flame spell to ignite the oil leaked onto the ground and leaves him behind in the flames. The next room is a medical lab with valuable medical supplies, but she decides to forego them rather than face the wolf-cat beasts who nest here. Later she finds a tree native to a region far to the south growing inside the Giant and bearing healthy fruit, and a cache of nanite powder nearby. She collects them and savors the sweet fruit. Before leaving the Giant for today, she recovers a functional radio from the abandoned living quarters of the long-dead crew.

Back at the village, the Outlaw and the Pilgrim meet at the local trader’s shop. While learning the prices the local merchant will offer for their treasures, the Outlaw asks if the Pilgrim knows anything about these books and data cards. The Pilgrim suggests he go someplace with access to great learning to get them properly assessed, and suggests he accompany her on her journey for she leaves for such a place in the morning. Not wanting to tarry long in this town that specializes in bilking traveling scavengers by offering too little and charging too much, the Outlaw agrees to travel with her. Apparently, she’s leading him to a pilgrimage site at the base of a volcano.