Family-Friendly Fiasco

This week, we tried another online session of Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, but this time we used the Insta-Setup from The Museum playset by Angela M. Webber and Richard Malena and skipped both the Tilt and the Aftermath tables to speed up play. We chose to set our story during a school sleepover/lock-in at a science museum. Our collection of school kids include troublemaker Steve and his reluctant accomplice Ari (teacher’s pet) who need to find out the truth about a creepy teddy bear that keeps appearing all over the museum. Steve, who brings all the Lasers, doesn’t get along with Gregoria and all her Feelings, but Gregoria and her online BFF Katie are determined to get revenge for mean comments on the videos of their favorite YouTuber, costumer and cosplayer Corynne Thorn. Katie is from a different school but knows Ari and her brother Ron, who answers to Spock as readily as his own name, from summer camp. Katie carries a secret torch for Spock while Ari has roped her brother into playing the recorder to accompany her singing in an upcoming talent show.

Our story begins with Gregoria and Katie meeting in real life for the first time as all the kids are filing into the museum’s cavernous entrance. Gregoria has profiled Corynne’s bully online and believes that she will be able to identify her if they fly their fandom flag and watch people’s reactions, but when they watch a Corynne video, a teacher confiscates Gregoria’s phone. Next Steve visits Ari as the kids are setting up sleeping bags in the atrium and talks to her about the mysterious teddy bear appearances and how it moves about the museum, convincing her to assist in the search for it but agreeing to wait until after band practice. At band practice, Ari must persuade Spock again to participate, but he agrees when she reminds him about the extra-credit, so they run through her number a few times with Steve waiting in the wings to begin the search. After practice, Katie catches up to Spock while he’s in the Egyptian wing of the museum in front of the famed empty sarcophagus. Spock explains all about grave-robbers and other facts about the exhibit while Katie manages to flirt without frightening him away.

Drawing of two women: girl Gregoria Spring in her school uniform and woman Corynne Thorn with multi-colored hair and platform shoes.

As Ari and Steve begin their search in earnest, they try to track the bear based on its previous appears, checking the Rocks and Minerals exhibit, the Egyptian room, and the Fossils and Dinosaur exhibits, but don’t find it until they go to the Air and Space room. Unfortunately, a teacher finds them, leading Steve to stuff the bear behind the seat of a plane, and carts them off to the administrator’s office, where Steve provokes the teacher to give him detention by constantly talking back. Gregoria shows up later in the same administrator’s office looking for her phone so she can confirm the online bully’s identity, but when Steve hears about her plan, he makes it clear that he thinks her whole plot is dumb—bullies are best ignored and not given attention.

The next morning at breakfast, Ari is talking with Gregoria about what it means to stand up to bullies and whether dropping laxatives in her drink is really the best way to teach her a lesson. Ari makes it clear that none of us think what she’s doing is right, but that we’d all support her if she wants to confront the girl and tell her how her actions are harmful. When she agrees, Ari lends Gregoria her phone to make the confirmation: the preppy-girl Karlaygh. Spock is sitting nearby and threatens to tell a teacher about their plans, but they convince him to back down once he understands that they won’t be playing any tricks, just talking. When Katie shows up and learns of the change in plans, it’s time to act because, as Spock points out, there she is. With the whole gang (sans Steve) behind her, Gregoria goes up to Karlaygh and confronts her on what she’s been doing online with Ari chiming in that these kinds of comments are wrong. Gregoria explains that Corynne is doing good in the world, raising money for charities and that when you attack her, you’re also attacking all those who love her and need her. Karlaygh tries to explain how she was having a bad day, but Gregoria points out the comments are on different days. Karlaygh backs down and says she’ll stop trolling for fun, but Gregoria says it’s okay to troll some people like politicians but regular people with followings don’t deserve it.

Later, once the teacher’s give the kids some free time, Steve leads the gang back to the Air & Space room where they find the bear but moved again, this time sitting in the pilot’s seat of a plane. Steve plans on cutting the bear open with his pocket knife to discover the truth but hears a small voice saying “No, that’s my bear” as he grabs it. Sitting behind the bear in the plane is a small boy about 4 or 5 years old, the son of a museum administrator who lives upstairs and often comes down to play in the evenings, even though he’s not supposed to. Steve makes him promise not to leave his bear around anymore so it won’t frighten the museum visitors. In epilogues, we see Ari freeze during the talent show, leaving Spock on stage to perform a recorder solo. Afterward, Spock thanks Ari for getting him up there and consoles her for not being able to perform. Much later, Gregoria goes to a meetup with Corynne and relates the whole story, but Corynne tells her not to worry about the haters and gives her a shout-out in her next video.

Microscopic Enchanted Forest

This week, we created the history of a forest in which various magical and supernatural creatures struggle to learn to live together beneath the vaulted canopy using Microscope by Ben Robbins.

Our history begins in a period of escalating conflicts between the various peoples when a forbidden child is born among the snake people, who are so long-lived that births are unusual and strictly regulated. This child promises to be a savior but none can yet foresee how. Not long after, Queen Uniqa of the unicorns and King Hip of the hippos marry and the hereditary Hippocorn Republic is born along with their first child. Shaka, the snake savior, becomes enraptured by the ideals this rising power embodies and joins the republican army under General Hiparth to become a great warrior. Decades later, General Hiparth deposes the monarch for interfering with the functioning of parliament but must seize personal control to restore order. The General rules the new Hippocorn Empire with an iron fist and begins by enslaving the gnomish peoples, who maintain their traditional parental gift to their children during the years of bondage by replacing gemstones with flowers trapped in amber. The forest spirits flee the Empire by going through their hidden portal to another realm. Meanwhile, the werewolves are rounded up into a ghetto to keep them from roaming the open forests, but the sprites create a black market to provide much needed goods to the suffering werewolves. Not long after anti-sprite slurs appear on birchbark signs in the forest, Shaka leads a rebellion to overthrow the Empire and defeats the emperox using a glove woven from hippocorn hair and weaponized with werewolf claws.

Hand drawing of a snake person, a hippocorn, and an air mermaid flying above them.

To replace the fallen Hippocorn Empire, a ruling council arises and determines in its first meeting that it serves to handle only those things that the individual communities cannot handle internally or that occur between communities. There is a bit of a controversy when two council members—the representatives of the gnomes and the mairmaids (air mermaids)—are found to be having an affair, causing people to question whether they were acting in the best interests of all. Gnomish weddings become famous and popular because gnomes invite everyone to every wedding and serve the finest foods. The Forest Council begins to collapse when the mairmaids become the Council hosts and monopolize power by moving the meetings into the clouds, where only flying creatures can participate, breaking the people’s faith in the council, which soon dissolves. With no council to keep the peace, the werewolves and mairmaids get into a dispute when the mairmaid lantern festival—a festival of lanterns filled with swirling smoke-filled bubbles and bright lights that ends with a giant rainbow lantern shining everywhere—disrupts the werewolf first-turning ceremony by throwing off too much light. Eventually, the two groups find a way to combine their activities and resolve the dispute on their own, which launches a renaissance of growing peace between forest creatures.

The Renaissance officially begins when now-old but still-vital snake person savior, Shaka, marries a werewolf princess, showing that different peoples can unite in peace. A group of malcontented hippocorns and sprites worried about the little folk being left behind unite in opposition to these events, but this does not deter the spirit of the age. The Spirit folk return and begin an art movement using diaphanous layers to create sounds, images, and sculptures known as Spirit Baroque that culminates in an enormous Woodstock festival where many peoples celebrate together. A new council forms after the festival’s success and the werewolves build a temple with a giant moonstone to commemorate this new period of uneasy peace. The sprites, no longer fearful of the new order, form an alliance with the centaurs. Elves and gnomes decide they can share a garden that they have both claimed for decades and build a compound together at the garden. In the compound, the elves teach the gnomes the magic necessary to reanimate the flowers trapped in their amber gifts, and together they populate the garden with these ancient flowers. The sprites begin creating fashion accessories out of castoff bits from various creatures, like hippocorn fur and mairmaid scales, showing off the beauty of syncretic art. Our history ends with the erection of a statue to honor Shaka after the end of their long, full life.

Cheating an Ungrateful City

Tonight we played two short games, Cheat Your Own Adventure by Shane Mclean and For the Ungrateful City by Alexi Sargeant.

In our game of (Don’t) Cheat Your Own Adventure in the world of Illuminati University, you find a special card with your name on it that provides access to unlimited funds. You decide to head over to the casino to place impossible bets, where you choose to play the Poisoned Chalice in which you bet that your clone doesn’t drink the poison. When your last remaining competition finally succumbs, she claims you were cheating and dares you to drink from the chalice to prove you’re not using anti-poison. You grab the cup and quaff it down, which imbues with you mysterious energy and power, so you leap through the window and become a superhero fighting crime throughout the city. You’re surrounded by villains one day when your powers mysteriously vanish, so you convince them you can fulfill their financial dreams and withdraw whatever funds they request using the card of limitless cash. As they’re leaving satisfied, you choose to join one villain named Bryan on a sailing voyage around the world, where he tells his story and says he’s ready to go straight. When he’s arrested at one port of call for his past crimes, you decide to return to the casino where you get embroiled with the mobsters who run the place, but since you’re related to one of them, they don’t harm you. Unfortunately, someone in the casino realizes that you’re underage for gambling in this city, so they call the authorities. Before they arrive, you revive your superpowers and fly off to resume fighting crime. After weeks of crime fighting, your grades at school begin to suffer, so you decide to find someone worthy of inheriting your powers and taking over your crime fighting duties. When you call down the lightning to transfer the powers, however, the lightning not only transfers the powers but takes your life. And since we refused to cheat, the story ends there.

In For the Ungrateful City, we are a group of superheroes in an underwater city that will soon face an unprecedented threat. Zip is a manipulator of electricity who can throw lightning bolts, leading most citizens to admire and fear her, the champion of the city’s downtrodden. Mr. Clear, who can turn invisible and erect force fields, dreams of the city’s potential to bring the people of air and water together, but is saddened to see the reality of their interactions turning cruel. Freefall, a human from the surface world, first came to the city with his mother and gran when 16 so the pressure of the oceans could offset the outward pressure caused by the emergence of his telekinetic powers. Jala is a water nymph with the ability to control water in all its forms who some fear could be more dangerous than the threat the city faces, but most believe the city leaders have her under control. Finally, the city’s official protector is Courage, whose brother had preceded him in the role before dying on a mysterious mission that the city leaders have yet to tell him about, but he knows the city’s secret foundations. When the threat finally materializes, we each choose to defend her—Freefall to earn the acceptance of her citizens, Mr. Clear because he sees beauty in her potential, Zip to protect the common people, and Courage to protect his brother’s legacy and the city’s past—all except one. Jala turns out to have been the looming threat all along and uses her vast power to try to take over the city as her teammates stand against her.

Truth & Daring: Never Croak!

Tonight we played Truth & Daring by Tim & Kristin Devine (a hack of Lasers & Feelings) about a group of kids who call ourselves the Tads and meet in The Tad Pad, a treehouse in the woods, full of walkie-talkies, camping gear, and fishing supplies. Our motto is “Frogs never croak!” and we mostly hang out at Toys 4U, a local shop. We are: Crystal a clumsy collector of all things whose determined to complete her Garbage Pail Kids set; Ray a dramatic artist whose always creating; Riley the mischievous new kid whose hand buzzer won’t be her biggest prank; Casey the curious woodsy explorer who plans to discover something, anything; Sal our would-be grifter seeking riches, honest or not; Joe the techie gamemaster with an extra set of dice and character sheets always at hand; Devon the daredevil athlete who wears a tracksuit and a small towel around his neck at all times; and Margaret our brainy nerd with her notebook of answers and several library books of info at the ready.

Hand drawing of some members of our group, including the creature in the water.

Our story begins with Casey, Sal, and Joe in the woods looking to show Riley the creature we’ve suspected lived there for years. After much tramping around and discussion, we decide that we’ll have better luck at night and agree for the whole club to sleep over together by the pond. Crystal has Devon and Ray over to her house to help her prepare for the sleepover, knowing her mom is over-protective. After recalling the messy accident when Ray spilled the Kool-Aid all over her kitchen for his spill-life, we decide that Devon must be the one to talk to Crystal’s mom about the sleepover, and Ray rushes out but bumps into Mrs. J on his way down the driveway.

That night at the sleepover, Riley wants a marshmallow roast, but we’re worried about starting a fire. As we talk about the creature, an amphibious thing with fur, Ray shows off his cubist rendering that may be cool but doesn’t help us visualize what we’re looking for. One of the marshmallows that we’ve tossed into the pond disappears, and we get very excited and begin tossing more marshmallows and watching them sink. Finally, the creature rises from the water like a great hairy frog with enormous bulging eyes and a taste for marshmallow. We lure it closer and Joe and Sal pet it, but is this a young one? What if its mother comes looking for it? We name the creature Marshmallow before it splashes back into the water. We all scramble to hide when we realize two people are traipsing out to the pond and beginning to walk around it in our direction. They seem to be two men working for the government who are taking readings of the pond; they notice an oddity at one point, something that will surely bring them back for another look in the future. Miraculously, they never notice us, not even Ray pretending to be a tree, and continue to move around to the far side of the pond.

The next day, back at the clubhouse, Casey and Margaret return from the pond with some strange-looking devices that seem to have been set up to continue taking readings. We decide we have to return them to the pond, but slightly sabotaged, but if we truly want to save Marshmallow and protect them, then we’re going to have to pull an even bigger prank…and get caught doing it. In a montage, you see us preparing our prank. Joe creates posters promoting our monster viewing at the marsh while Sal sells tickets to neighborhood kids for the viewing. Ray works in his studio creating an elaborate papier mache monster while Crystal collects fur and other bits from the forest for decorating the monster. Riley builds elaborate traps and create the right effect for viewers, including croaking sounds catapults to launch marsh muck while Margaret creates shoes for leaving fake monster footprints all around the marshes. Margaret also rigs up a way to set off the government scopes while Devon makes sure the grown-ups and other government goons find out about the viewing and show up at the right time.

We’re in the middle of our big show with the local kids when the government goons show up and see that the monster everyone is talking about is made of papier mache even if it does set off their radioscopes. Sal tries desperately to convince them that they owe us something for all this work, but they leave without arresting anyone convinced that they’ve been chasing our prank monster rather than a real one. After they’re gone, we all sit together out by the pond tossing marshmallows out to our friend and make a solemn promise never to reveal the truth about Marshmallow and to always protect it. Frogs never croak!

Street Magic Xanth

We played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Ascercion in this week’s session to create a magical and mysterious city called Xanth that sits at the nexus of time, with portals bringing people and technologies from throughout history together in a single place. The time-displaced residents mostly live in Timetown, whose raucous energy is contained by the disorienting technomagical barrier known as the Shift and whose residents ride the vomit comet more formally known as the Temporal Rail to loop through the ages. A would-be time autocrat is plucking dictators from history before their demise for storage in his Refuge, but his plans remain unknown. Under the city lie the Rimlands, a grim windowless land known for its oppressive heat and banging machinery and inhabited by the forgotten underclasses. Most denizens of Xanth would never venture there except for the Cavern of All Desires, where impish dwarfs drive dark bargains with ironic twists in exchange for your heart’s desire.

Shapes laying out our game of I'm Sorry Did You Say Street Magic.

On the surface are the City Square and Merlin’s Place. The latter is the neighborhood where magical creatures choose to dwell, with its old-timey cobblestone roads and thatched roofed buildings circling the ancient silver tree with the glowing lantern fruit, Thornglow. Thornglow is protected by the Glow Guardians, a group of kindly pacifist monks who initially oppose a druid who intends to live within the tree. In the end, the mayor vests the druid to live in the tree, which doubles the Guardians’s workload as the tree becomes a tourist attraction once there is someone to see. While some make hefty donations to support the druid’s upkeep, others worry about the future of the tree and what political fallout will result from this change. On the edges of Merlin’s Place is the Greenwood, a mystical river through a forest where smugglers sell their wares in dynamic swindles and scams, including one incompetent scammer, Rusty McCrusty but better known as Krusty.

The City Square itself is the central meeting place, the hub of government and commercial activity. Everyone is always rushing away from you at all hours there (“No time to talk” they say). The central landmark of the Square is Poet’s Corner, with a massive domed roof and space for all to stand and voice their thoughts. It’s the city’s primary icon and where the mayor makes seasonal speeches from its famed forty-two steps. Tucked away nearby is the Last Lagoon, a quasi-legal speakeasy where protestors gather and “mums the word”. Toward the end of our night, the Mayor makes a major speech in Poet’s Corner about the city’s plans for the future, which leads to public protests about the druid, worries about funding for the Zenubian Archives, controversy between opposing sides on a proposed ban of duplication magic, Thornglow sensing the city’s unrest and releasing calming pollen and seeds throughout Xanth that may counteract the attempts of the time-displaced dictators to sow unrest and begin their push for power.

High above the city floats the land of Zenubia, which consists entirely of floating buildings and constructs, including the Little Garden, a park with multiple fountains and a stone path that provides a little serenity in the technological marvel. Tethys the promising business student leads a study group in the Garden for her fellow students. People may enter the wealthy Zenubian enclave by taking the ferry at Sun’s Reach, a sunny canal that begins on the surface but stretches into the sky. The Zenubian Archives are a multimedia library with VR interfaces to supplement the traditional tomes that hold ancient knowledge, but first they must tear their eyes away from the flying atrium that carries up through the entire building. The official archivist is Sumara, a dedicated historian whose eccentricity cannot hide her extensive knowledge and who thought she had secured enough funding for the Archive until the mayor’s speech put that in doubt.

Dawn of the Ghost Invasion

This week we played Dawn of the Monster Invasion by Randy Lubin to tell the story of how Orangetown becomes overrun by ghosts and other spirits. We get our first glimpse of trouble when a crank medium holds a reading where many claim to have seen ghosts across the town, but one patron is especially irked not to have seen his mother. The performance quickly gets away from him as the audience peppers him with questions he doesn’t have any answers for. Next we catch up with the mayor of Orangetown at a press conference trying to dispel the persistent rumors about the strange happenings in the town since they broke ground on a new shopping complex at an ancient burial site. The mayor stresses that there is nothing to worry about, that everyone should continue about their business (Keep shopping!), that the missing firehouse is sure to be found soon, and that the town has set up temporary housing for anyone whose house has gone missing at the abandoned mental hospital and the drive-in theater where the axe murder took place all those years ago.

At a book signing with an entrance fee at the public library, a local author and serial cryer of wolf about paranormal phenomena peddles his new book and answers questions about the haunting hitting Orangetown and nearby municipalities. While the crowd doesn’t trust him, he insists that the danger is real. Then we join the Prepper Channel where we learn about the importance of an underground bunker and how to prepare for a ghostly apocalypse. If your bunker’s not underground, your mirrors covered, and your shelves stocked with months worth of canned goods, then you’re not ready, so “Stay safe, stay underground.” In town, the local grocer has decided now is the time to double prices, but the locals ponder out loud whether a riot might be a better solution. The grocer does make a few sales of “ghost repellant” but has long been sold out of dog food.

Next we join Kaylaug4gh at a protest where she argues that the town is racist against Ectoplasmic-Americans and how we must learn to stop trespassing on their land. Many people agree with the sentiment and discuss the rumor that this is designed to get increased Ectoplasmic-American representation in Congress, until we learn about the many mistakes the medium made with an online ghost kit and an over-mustarded sandwich. With the local response completely ineffective, FEMA leads a National Guard effort to evacuate the town and sweep out the ghosts. The gruff NG Colonel leading the operation takes questions from all concerned locals and remains unshaken as long as the choppers are on the way. Finally, the ghosts have taken over and demand that we flee or bow before their collective might, with one particular ghost manifesting before the entire town. While many agree to leave, others don’t want to abandon their homes and try to negotiate the degree of groveling required to stay. When the ghost demands to be left alone, FEMA agrees to make the evacuation order mandatory and begins moving folks out of town.

Parley & Plundering the Dreadnought

Tonight we played Parley & Plunder, a Lasers & Feelings hack by an unknown author. We are the crew of the good ship Dauntless, a fast sloop sailing under an English letter of marque, out to find our fortunes and stop French domination of the Caribbean. Our captain has been incapacitated but is well-tended by our experienced medic, so we senior members of the crew must guide the ship until Captain Maynard’s full recovery, which isn’t easy with such a disgruntled crew. Aquila is our dedicated navigator who seeks to master navigation through study of the stars. Our charming quartermaster is one John Silver, out more for his own fame and glory than anything else. Emerson, the adventurous cook, is more interested in culinary experiments even than stealing cool treasures. Two-Tonne Thad Thompson is a grizzled old gunner whose ready to finally get away with his buried treasure. Sheyron the Steed is ship’s carpenter and dedicated to his faithful dog Hendry.

We start our tale with the Dauntless sailing into the Port Royale with smoke billowing toward the sky from the thatch-roofed buildings as we see an enormous ship flying a French flag slipping away on the horizon. We dock and fan out into the town. Emerson leads a shopping trip into the quayside markets seeking supplies for our next foray, especially unusual fruits and vegetables such as rare peppers, while John Silver unsuccessfully tries to convince the rum runner to part with his wares on credit! (The cheek of the man.) Sheyron and Two-Tonne seek out intelligence on the French attack at the Squeaky Door Tavern and learn about the cost of the regular French assault, led by the Frenchman Commodore Fromage Aigre commanding the mighty Dreadnought. We end our story in Port Royale with the British unfurling posters offering a substantial reward for the capture of the Dreadnought or her captain.

We know that the great French ship was designed and built by the Marquis Rochefort, newly retired to French Guyana, and we intend to infiltrate his estate and steal the plans to the Dreadnought in order to take her. Using forged papers, Sheyron and Hendry join a large ball being thrown at the estate by the Marquis, and while they distract him, Aquila manages to serve the Marquis a drugged drink, which leaves his lovely wife alone. John Silver begins a concerted effort to charm her, and she takes him upstairs to show him the scale model of the Dreadnought on the landing. Emerson works in the kitchen and manages to lift the head butler’s massive keyring and pass it to Aquila, who leaves the party and sneaks past John Silver as he’s proposing elopement to Eliza the wife. She enters the Marquis’s study, emerges with the ship’s plans locked away, and is spotted by the butler just as she’s about to slip the keys back into his pocket, but covers by pretending to have found them fallen on the floor. As the rest of the crew melt away into the night, John Silver gallops away from the villa with the model under one arm and Eliza clasping tightly to his waist on the back of the Marquis’s best horse.

After studying the plans and learning the Dreadnoughts secret to being heavily armored without losing speed is a special paddle wheel propulsion system, we track down the ship moored in Port-au-Prince. Sneaking aboard at night, we set about sabotaging the ship to ensure she runs aground on British soil. Two-tonne knocks out some of the paddles themselves while Sheyron uses his carpentry skills to kink up the wheel. John Silver gets into a fight and Emerson returns with a bag of croissants and other French delicacies. Aquila steals the French star charts and replaces them with new charts that would be sure to lead them astray. We return to the Dauntless and follow the Dreadnought to be on hand when her charts and broken systems lead her to crash onto the beach at Port Royale.

When we visit the British governor, we collect our reward, agreeing to keep half the cash if we get to keep the Dreadnought herself. Aquila also gets copies of the royal star charts and Emerson collects some lovely papaya from the Governor’s gardens. And we sail our two ships off into the sunset.

Clash at the Ikara Archive

Tonight we played Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin, a new game on his Story Synth engine with a crew of eight heroes committed to protecting the encoded alien archive discovered on the planet Ikara research site. The scientists and researchers have reached out for help from us after having been threatened and attacked by stellar raiders. We are Stanislas the Sage, who wants to protect the knowledge stored at Ikara; Marcia the Untested warrior, who wants hopes to prove herself worthy in battle; Xander the Tinkerer, who wants to help the weak; Terg the Strategist, who wants to test his stratagems; Mitsumi the Tagalong, who wants to find a new place for herself after her husband’s recent passing; Geo the Charmer, who is following his patients and wants to keep everyone safe and happy; X4 the Veteran, a robot built as part of the archive by the ancient race that created it; and Lyric the Virtuoso, who wants to test his skill in a real life situation.

The Ikara archives is buried deep underground with only a single tunnel to access the alien archives, so we decide to turn that tunnel into a costly gauntlet the alien raiders must drive through. Their previous attacks have burned the countryside surrounding the archive complex. In preparation for the coming battle, Xander modifies the lab equipment into weapons and teaches the researchers how to use them. Terg has a skirmish with a bandit scout and learns their origins based on symbols upon their clothing. Unfortunately, recent volcanic activity could threaten the safety of the archives on Ikara, so we prepare precise evacuation protocols in case an eruption occurs. X4 activates the complex’s internal scanning and tracking systems and a flotilla of drone defenses to protect the archive core, but as Geo discovers, activating the defense systems accidentally erases some of the archives untranslated files. Finally, Lyric asks Terg to plan a complex of booby traps that Xander arms with high-powered lasers. Then Lyric tests the trap for effectiveness using his acrobatic fighting techniques.

Clash at Ikara in bold text.

As the battle begins, Mitsumi, wearing her husbands old armor and carrying his sword, fails to save the group of scientists first targeted by the robotic centaurs that comprise the first wave of the attack. Geo sees an incoming asteroid launched by the raiders but can do nothing but watch it crash into the planet, causing widespread devastation. X4 sees the scientists who revived them, in particular one scientist who taught them to communicate with the human researchers, endangered by raiders armed with automatic weaponry and intercedes to save her life, overriding their primary programming to protect the archive itself at all costs. However, Lyric leaps into the fray to retrieve X4’s memory core, which Xander is able to upload into the archive’s main computer systems, so that X4 becomes the archive base. Xander then rigs up a device to allow us to intercept the raider’s communications and predict their next moves. Terg wades into battle using his traps to undercut the raiders before finishing them off with his plasma katana. Then the raider leader arrives, a massive minotaur-like creature wielding twin plasma battle axes, as he begins to sweep through the tunnel into the archives, Stanislas steps forward to slow his assault, barely able to deflect his blows, constantly falling back as the raiders continue to move deeper into the complex, until at the appointed moment, Stanislas stumbles and Lyric flips in to pull him free just as Terg’s laser traps activate to fell the leader of the raiders, stopping their progress, and allowing us to turn them back.

After the battle, X4 now lives as the primary intelligence within the archive complex and spends his time assisting his beloved scientist in her research. Terg walks away after a job well done, returning to space. Xander stays on to heal from their wounds and to help rebuild and fortify the archive for the future. Lyric meets with X4 and asks them to initiate a daily training algorithm to help him hone his gymnastic craft. Geo decides to stay and open a rehab center for those who’ve suffered from trauma, including the veterans and scientists who survived the battle. Mitsumi stays on to serve as den mother, having realized that she is no warrior like her husband and bestows her armor on Marcia, who proved herself worthy during the fighting. And Stanislas stays on briefly to study what wisdom the archive has to offer before leaving to wander the stars once more.

Palanquin Across the Water

Tonight we played Palanquin by Jason Pitre in which we hear the tale of how five loyal courtiers escorted Princess Ulku-alzi to the safety of her aunt’s palace after her family had been killed in a coup. Besides the princess, our company includes Lan the Faithful who leads our worship of the goddesses; Ulu the Veteran whose heyday was long ago; Xanling the Scholar, an outcast from another land who has tutored the Princess; Periani the Hunter who saved the Princess’s life recently on her first royal hunt; and Illic the Shadow, a criminal who escaped out of the dungeons right into our flight.

We begin by fleeing the palace into the surrounding town, trying to find a way out through the night market. After procuring a cloak to hide the Princess, a group of soldiers from the palace begin searching the market. Illic the Shadow deftly guides the group away from the soldiers and into a dark alleyway filled with unsavory characters, so we avoid the patrols as we make our way into the smuggler’s tunnels beneath the city.

In these drainage tunnels we run into a number of problems, the least of which are the various creatures scurrying about, but little do we suspect that the creatures are fleeing the rising tide of the waters rushing into the tunnels. Ulu the Veteran tries to find a path he thinks he remembers from the war, but everywhere he turns leads deeper in rather than out. Xanling the Scholar finally finds a hidden compartment with a lever inside; he pulls the lever and a stone closes the tunnel behind us, cutting off the flow of water and the roar of the approaching flood. Next we encounter a group of the nights watch, rousting through the tunnels, but they’re no match for our Veteran, who disarms and routs them easily. But the greatest challenge is a lone palace guardsman who claims to be here to take the Princess to safety. First, Lan the Faithful tries to convince the guard he must be anointed in the waters before he can have the Princess, but the guard ignores her and grabs the Heir. The Scholar steps in to challenge the guard’s authority and position, but he appears to truly be a member of the palace guard. Losing patience and alarmed seeing the guard hurting the Heir in his grip, Periani the Hunter sends forth his falcon to attack the guard, which comes at the guard’s eyes with talons flashing, chasing him back up the entrance and away from us.

A young woman with long red hair and wearing a blue and white dress stands with one hand on her hip. Her limbs and dress have symbols on them and a sigil floats in the air in front of her. Lan the Faithful, Cleric of the Eternal Waters is written above and Palanquin 2-17-21 written below.

As we emerge from the tunnels at last, we see the holy river and a small village and remote temple across the water. We check that everyone is well and discover ticks covering the Princess’s cloak, which the Shadow brushes off before the Hunter gives her a tincture to protect her. Lan the Faithful asks the priests at the shore for a boat to cross the river, and they provide one, but rather than cross the river, we immediately head down it using magic-driven paddles. We are making good time until river pirates appear and surround the boat. Illic the Shadow tries to convince them that we’re poor travelers with nothing worth taking, but they know their quarry and persist. Lan the Faithful tosses each pirate a stone with the squiggly-lined sigil of Malsana, which immediately sends each into gastronomic distress, and we easily leave them behind as they retch and clutch their guts.

Safely ensconced in her Aunt Baru’s palace, Princess Ulku-azi judges the trustworthiness of each bearer and rewards them according to her judgment. To Ulu the Veteran, bearer of warfare who defeated the night watch in the tunnels, she grants a future favor from her royal person. Knowing that Periani the Hunter, bearer of nature who warded off the guardsman, cares not for worldly treasure, Her Highness bestows upon him a lifetime of hunting unmolested on royal grounds. She graciously gives Lan the Faithful, bearer of religion and the curser of stones, one week’s head start before being arrested, being too dangerous to walk free. Her Highness appoints Xanling the Scholar, bearer of society and learning who disguised her in the market and stopped the floodwaters, as royal counselor in the court. And for Illic the Shadow, convicted criminal who led her through the alley into the smuggler’s tunnels to escape the capital, she gifts a small chest of gold and a royal pardon for service well-rendered.

Death on the Selene

Tonight we played Final Voyage of the Selene by James Mullen in which we sail from node to node through substitial space on board the interstellar vessel The Selene. We begin our story seeing Lieutenant Kazarian awaking from a nightmare about a military squad in danger, drenched in sweat, and ordering a booking aboard the Selene. We see ambassador Masiri attending a wedding, accompanied by his wandering wife, between an Epsilon and Omicron, a joining that would cement the long-sought peace he had brokered between the two warring species, before boarding the Selene. In a montage, we watch Professor Caris board the Selene with a handful of plant specimens, then years later, staying on board because she feels close to a breakthrough, then more years later, again determined to make her breakthrough refusing to leave the ship, and again throughout the years. We see Chief Pryce, a cyborg engineer, getting dismissed from ship after ship, until the merchant marine office gives him one last chance aboard Selene. Finally, we follow Doctor Tsien getting spurred out of his dorm room and general dissipation to answer a job ad for a medical office aboard the Selene.

Act I begins with Chief Pryce visiting Doctor Tsien in the Med Bay and jacking himself into the Doctor’s medical systems and complaining about how his internal systems leak and the interface between organic and inorganic parts don’t always mesh well. Professor Caris sits down with Ambassador Masiri in the Lounge to partake of the flavored oxygen, enjoy the lively theremin music, and talk about the mysteries of the universe that she’s learned from her studies of plant life while sailing on the Selene. Later, the Ambassador visits Lt. Kazarian at the security office to assure her that the death threats against him by an Omicronian sect are very unlikely to come to fruition. Kazarian reports to the Med Bay as ordered to get a prescription to help with the nightmares so she can sleep, but the Doctor only half-heartedly listens and agrees to say he’s seen her when the captain asks even though she leaves without any meds.

In Act II, the Chief interrupts Lt. Kazarian searching the Ambassador’s suite when he comes to repair the sonic showers. She keeps rifling through things until she finds something on a datapad and leaves. Later, after having hacked the ship’s systems to see what she was up to, Chief Pryce confronts Kazarian about the unwarranted search and learns that Kazarian suspects the Ambassador of having betrayed her unit during the Earth-Omicron war at the Battle of Antares 3. Meanwhile, Doctor Tsien calls the Ambassador to the Med Bay to inform him that he appears to have an allergy to travel through the interstitial nodes and that if he continues making jumps he could die, so provides him with a powerful alien medication to help him stay awake but that can have devastating consequences if used incorrectly. Professor Caris meets with the Ambassador again and offers a number of natural remedies that could aid with his condition, but makes a point to explain the truth of her findings, that there is no god and nihilism is the only true creed because nothing we do matters. Distraught, Ambassador Masiri flees until next we see him calling Kazarian because he found his wife’s body, in pieces, in their suite, apparently an accident with the Doctor’s prescription.

Doctor Tsien begins Act III sitting at the bar nursing a drink and lamenting how his prescription caused a woman’s death. Chief Pryce sits with him and suggests that if he wants to do good, to make a difference, he has to actually make an effort to do something, anything, instead of sitting around bored all the time. Professor Caris corners the Ambassador and Kazarian in her cabin to discuss the life of plants and the reality of nihilism and in his grief, the Ambassador agrees that nothing matters, and storms out. Before he can escape, however, Lt. Kazarian confronts him about the information she discovered about the unexplained large deposit of Epsilonian credits to his account just before the Battle of Antares 3. The Ambassador explains that his wife came into a mysterious inheritance about that time, and Kazarian realizes that she may have blamed the wrong Masiri. Finally, we see Chief Pryce jacked into the ship’s engines siphoning off energy until some…thing goes from his systems back up the jack and into the ship itself. When this happens, the Selene lurches out of substial space and begins to break apart.

In the epilogue, Lt. Kazarian manages to drag herself and Ambassador Masiri to a lifepod, but the Ambassador dies from his exposure to the pure nodal energy during the crash. Doctor Tsien also makes it to the lifepod and goes on to develop a cure for nodal allergies. Professor Caris does not make it to a lifepod, but uses her plants to protect her and land safely upon a nearby moon, where she continues her research for hundreds of more years as she learns to use the plants to prolong her life. The last image we see is Chief Pryce floating among the ship’s debris, still jacked into the engine.