Blackborow Reflection

We played Blackborow Academy by Becky Annison in this week’s session. The Blackborow Academy is a storied institution of learning for those with magical talent, and we are all former students and now teachers at Blackborow. We are Willa “Willow” Widowspeaks, teacher of potions and master of healing magic; Stanton “Stormy” Twombly, who commands the weather and teaches the Charms class; Quill Alkina, a master of Moon & Dream Magic who teaches Divination; and Romilda Wildwood, a (secret) werewolf who can communicate with all creatures and uses that ability when teaching Magical Creatures to the students.

Twenty years ago, not long after we had graduated from Blackborow, an evil known as the Shattered appeared on our shores. The shattered appeared as shards of a mirror that can infect people and slowly transform them into their mirror selves, right instead of left, evil instead of good. We banded together to stop the Shattered, but in the process we put our classmate, Nigel Limgrave, into a magical coma when we attempted to extract information from him. Each of us contributed to this grave error, and we each regret our part in it: Romilda for injuring him, Willow for failing to heal him, Stormy for naming him the target, and Quill for putting him to sleep.

Blackborow Academy Cover showing a stone bridge leading to a small castle.
Blackborow Academy cover image from Black Armada Games.

Today, something chilling happens. A student rushes into the teacher’s lounge screaming that they’ve found a dead body near the woods adjacent to the school. We go to protect the students and investigate. The body appears partially crystallized and wholly twisted into an unrecognizable form. Could this be the return of the Shattered? The victims didn’t look quite like this, but there are so many shards. Romilda stomps off into the woods to ask the animals what they may know about what happened. She learns there was a student, then the student was glass. A flash of light followed by the sound and spray of shattering glass.

While Romilda is away, Quill returns to her notes of recent prophetic dreams involving young Chloe Elbreen picking mirror shards from the skin of other students. Quill believes the girl may be destined to confront and defeat the Shattered. We argue over whether we must hide her away to protect her, or accept her fate and assist her destiny. Willow decides to make a reversal potion to restore the body to its previous state, so we can at least learn who was the victim. We cover her classes for her while she toils away at the potion, which takes days to complete. At last, when we apply the ointment to the body, time reverses for it until it returns to its original form. First it reassembles into a shape we recognize—a troublemaking student named Raphael Moor—but it continues regressing until it becomes a simple handheld mirror.

Magically searching the school reveals that Raphael is still alive, so this mirror self that shattered, we conclude, must have been Raphael using the mirror to conjure a duplicate self (to attend classes while he pursued other interests). Relieved that this doesn’t appear to be evidence of the return of the Shattered, we take up a very pressing matter. Quill thinks Raphael should be rewarded for his ingenuity and for nearly pulling off this very difficult spell, but the rest of us insist he be punished or at least discouraged from ever doing something like this again. We need him to think twice next time and to make some restitution now for endangering himself, his classmates, and his school. We fade to black as we walk down the hall, still disagreeing on what we’ll do when we reach young Raphael Moor.

These Words Within Me Burn

We played This Heart Within Me Burns by Sam Dunnewold this week, in which we play three adventurers who journey to the House of the Empty Goddess seeking to have a curse removed from one of our number. Jul is the accursed, a former circus performer who is always seeking another thrill, her mind now flooded with memories that are not her own. She is accompanied by Maggs, a former prisoner who once caused a man’s death and swears he’ll never be caged again, and Torcha, a former midwife seeking the woman who stole a young child she had ushered into this world.

Cover of This Heart Within Me Burns showing a red heart aflame.
Cover image for This Heart Within Me Burns from Story Synth.

It is Torcha’s thirst for revenge that leads to Jul’s curse, when she guides us into the lair of a hermit who has studied the lost tongues and been driven mad by the curse he discovered in them. Jul reads his notes before Torcha can and is struck down by the curse herself. Wracked by guilt for being so selfish, Torcha performs her usual ritual prayer after the adventure, lighting the incense candles while Maggs watches on silently. Maggs begins having to protect us from Jul during the night because she rises to attack us in her sleep, and when the memories overwhelm Jul, she speaks in strange ancient languages. Jul fears that she may never get to try her gliding suit, but otherwise thinks the new memories may be useful, may allow her to help others, a change in attitude that pleases Torcha. With her mind flooded with these ancient memories, we must go to the House of the Empty Goddess to appeal to she who empties the overflowing and fills the empty. Jul worries about the rumors of people being left empty husks, but what choice do we have. The memories flowing through her frighten us all, especially Maggs, who see them as the voices of the dead, at least one of whom has reason to want him dead too.

While the curse is not all gloom—Maggs no longer being dragged on Jul’s adrenaline runs and Torcha finding herself seeking hope and thinking less of revenge—Jul is often haunted by nightmarish memories and depends on Maggs to ground her. One day in a large city, while Maggs hides from the authorities, Jul goes running along the rooftops and ends up arrested, but Torcha uses her investigative contacts to free her. Another time on the road, we meet a traveling monk who will take nothing from us but bread and water, but who insists the curse is a conduit to lost knowledge from the long dead. Are we in danger from those who would take that knowledge? Each of us thinks of what could happen. Maggs thinks about losing his friends as well as his freedom. Torcha reflects on the terror of losing one’s mind and self of self. Jul remembers the fantastic stories told about her future by fortune-tellers at the circus after her parent’s abandoned her. She extracts a promise from Maggs to end her suffering if her mind goes completely, if she can no longer be saved.

At last, we reach the House of the Empty Goddess, an emotional moment. Torcha confesses to Maggs her fear that the curse will infect the Goddess. Maggs is comforted by an acolyte of the Goddess who tells him, “Be not afraid,” when she sees him worrying over having to fulfill his promise to Jul. And Jul herself fears that the only way to rid her of the curse will be for it to infect someone else. Inside, Jul is laid upon an altar in the center of a circle of acolytes of the Empty Goddess. They perform a ritual that calls forth a Babel of voices from her, each voice a memory and each spread among the gathered acolytes, diffusing the knowledge and making it both comprehensible and safe. Jul recovers and returns to her life of adventure, but more cautious now, though she is still occasionally plagued by nightmares. Just as Jul is emptied of the unwanted memories, a hole in Torcha’s knowledge is filled: the child lives, and she senses where she must go next in her search.

Maiden Voyage to Maiden Voyage to the Moon

We tried a game new to us this week, Maiden Voyage to the Moon by Stephanie Godfrey, in which we play in a world crafted by Edgar Rice Burroughs. We are the crew of the rocket ship, Barsoom, forced to crash-land on Earth’s totally unexplored Moon on our way to Mars. Our crew consists of Earth’s ambassador to Mars, Delta Equinox; the scientific liaison, Dr. MacGuffin; pilot of the Barsoom, Ace Proton; and Jimmy John, the massively strong on-board stevedore.

Painted landscape with a rocket ship under the words 'Maiden Voyage to the Moon: A retrofuturistic RPG'.
Image courtesy of S.R. Godfrey.

We begin our tale just having landed on the lunar surface, which is covered in a thick atmosphere that obscures the stars and keeps the temperature sweltering. As we prepare to leave the ship and explore, Jimmy John is moving boxes around in the storage hold, aiming to determine what unexpected or unexpectedly heavy cargo necessitated our emergency landing. No one, particularly Dr. MacGuffin, seems entirely comfortable leaving Jimmy alone with our equipment and supplies. After subtle cajoling, Jimmy feels being left behind would be being left out, so agrees to join the crew in exploring the surface.

Outside, the forest is filled with strange plants and unbelievable creatures. After watching a group of geometric creatures crossing in front of us yet again, Ace realizes that we’re no longer bushwhacking but on a footpath. We follow it until we emerge into an opening in the forest, where a group of achingly beautiful natives await us, some floating in on mechanical wings. Delta tries speaking to them in numerous languages, including Martian, to which they respond in an almost intelligible ancient dialect of the Martian tongue. When Delta plays them music from our portable phonograph, they grow quite excited and invite us back to their village.

In the Kalkar village (for that is their name), we are greeted by their chief and invited to share a meal, during which Ace and Delta negotiate a trade of aid and one of their wing apparatuses in exchange for some item from our ship. Afterward, Jimmy participates in an athletic game in which each team attempts to put a magnetically levitating ball into their opponent’s goal. Jimmy keeps using too much force and ends up exhausted, challenging Ace to do better. Ace decides to give it a go and manages to score a goal using finesse over force, but gains a rival among the Kalkar who resents the newcomer getting past him.

Back to our ship, we instruct the Kalkar to unload many crates filled with items we’d likely have to leave behind anyway to return to our journey to Mars. When Dr. MacGuffin cries out that one of his instruments is missing, we rush outside to find ourselves stopped by members of the tribe as we see one of their number rushing away with the doctor’s box. Jimmy swings his crowbar to knock the sword out of one of their hands, while MacGuffin and Ace pull their service revolvers. MacGuffin fires wildly, but Ace calmly levels his aim and fells the escaping thief. At that, the clearing fills with Kalkars armed and able to cut us off from our ship, leaving us in dire straits. Coming to our rescue, however, is another group of natives, dressed quite differently than the first, who drive off the Kalkars after a brief skirmish. We are now ready to meet the Laythe, who will become our friends, and one of whom will join our crew when we eventually leave this rock. But that is a story for another day.

Quiet Year in our Hill

We returned to the Quiet Year by Avery Alder this week to play as a colony of ants just emerged from a war with Ant Lion packs known as the Jackals. Our anthill sat on the ravaged side of a river in a forest, so we lacked leaves and sweets, and suffered from a shortage of ant-power after our numbers had been depleted during the war. Luckily as ants, we never suffer from a lack of cooperation to coordinate our actions and address problems. We do not have family units, but work, eat, and sleep together in troops that share a single mission.

Our story begins when we send a line of ants across the river to the standing forest to collect leaves and restock our stores. During the weeks of the gathering expeditions, heavy rains collapse one side of the hill, endangering our queen. Far from our hill, scouts find a strange rusted-out metallic hulk with round rubber objects at each corner, and some two-legged creatures come to the cabin across the river. Closer to home, the grasshopper peddler comes through, trading us sweets for some of our new leaf stores, but the anteater is spotted not far from our mound.

Quiet Year Map created with Google Drawing

We begin building new quarters for the queen deeper in the mound, to observe the two-legs, and to explore the mysterious hulk. Tragedy strikes when the troop sent to observe are captured by the two-legs instead; they are never heard from again. It turns out the rusted hulk provides excellent shelter to all underneath it. The queen and eggs are relocated to safer quarters, but the colony begins to wonder if we should become polygenic and set up a second queen for additional safety. While we grapple with these existential questions, other insects displaced by the war arrive at our mound seeking shelter, and we decide to welcome them and put them to work to alleviate our short-handedness. To accommodate these newcomers, we begin building new guest quarters to house them all.

Around this time, the two-legs plant an apple tree on our side of the river to honor a previous generation, and a troop of soldiers are lost to the anteater. We pledge to drive off the anteater and manage to redirect its attention across the river. We also decide that rather than becoming a single polygenic colony, we will send a second queen to create a new colony under the rusted hulk. The effort to build the guest quarters is repurposed to create a nursery to populate the new colony, a nursery run but the newcomers, who aren’t that skilled at food collection. A group of disgruntled troops tries to sabotage these efforts, but the tensions are eased somewhat when the newcomers share their rations with the dissidents. Another group builds a Summer Shrine near the rusted hulk to protect the colonies from the coming frosts and keep us warm.

After a new group of strangers, clearly infected with a fungal disease, have to be barred from entering our community, the shriners decide to hold a festival at the Summer Shrine obelisk. But things keep delaying the festival: the harshness of winter creates turmoil, we reject the festival organizer when he demands too much of the colony’s food, and the search for the missing grasshopper occupies the entire colony. We find the grasshopper, but before the festival can continue, the Frost Shepherds arrive, and our story ends.

Parley & Plunder & Sugar

This week we partook of Parley & Plunder by Stephanie Godfrey, a hack of Lasers & Feelings, as a crew of privateers charged by His Majesty’s government to disrupt French attempts to corner the sugar trade. Our command crew consists of Commander McTrick, who must lead in the Captain’s stead while he lies ailing in his cabin; navigator Leyola Aster, who loves maps above all else; and our helmsman Harrrvey, who hopes to become captain himself one day. In the lower decks, we have Kyrie, our adventurous gunner who loves nothing so much as a good fight; Storm Hawk, our dashing rigger whose romantic notion of piracy makes it hard for him to advance; and Ned Oldham, the grizzled old swabbie, who has previously held every job aboard ship but now only hopes to survive until retirement.

Our story begins with McTrick, Aster, and Harrrvey finding the directive to stop the French in the Captain’s quarters and debating how we should proceed. Aster eventually gets her wish and plots a course for us to sail seldom traveled seas to complete her maps. Meanwhile, below decks, Storm, Kyrie, and Ned entertain each other by relating yarns and memories. Ned tells the tale of how Captain Bancroft was able to sail his ship between two enemy craft in a deep fog to launch a broadside against each, thanks to the crew’s silence and his keen hearing. Kyrie talks about legends of another fog, one that ships sail into but only emerge empty, without her crew and no sign of what happened. Storm relates stories about mermaids and the paradise they live in below the waves, a paradise he wishes to see someday. Their tales turn to what’s going on with the Dauntless and how none of the crew seem to know where we’re headed or why. We beseech Commander McTrick to give the crew some guidance, but he seems miffed and suggests we direct all questions to navigator Aster. Aster’s answers fail to satisfy the crew, but she promises that we need sail but four more days before all will become clear.

Before those four days are up, however, we spot another ship slipping in behind us, a French Fleut. On the orders of Commander McTrick, Harrrvey wheels us around and we charge the French ship. McTrick leads the boarding party onto the other ship himself and fights his way through the throng to capture her captain and obtain his surrender. Among her spoils, Kyrie brings back a unique pewter mirror with strange carvings along its rim and handle. Upon examination, she, Storm, and Ned discover that the glass reflects an older version of the viewer. They take the mirror to Aster, not willing to risk the Commander seeing it, but worried it might be demonic or possessed. Aster uses it to see the finished map she’s been working on, and uses that glimpse of the future to complete her map and pinpoint the location of the island that we’ve been seeking.

McTrick, Aster, Kyrie, and Storm take the launch to explore the island. With Kyrie and Aster arguing over the mirror, McTrick finally learns of it and warns that it is the cursed mirror of Asperalda Nilda, the sea witch, and believed to drain the life from whoever looks into it. McTrick orders the pair to get rid of it before it kills someone, but Aster becomes such a pest that Kyrie lets the navigator keep it rather than bury it. Harrrvey comes ashore to warn them he saw a group of French soldiers marching through the jungle; they must surely have seen the ship. After regrouping aboard ship, McTrick takes another party ashore to ambush the French troops, which allows us to overwhelm the five soldiers, despite Ned sneaking off during the fighting. Before McTrick can question them, however, Ned returns with a warning that the fighting drew the attention of another squad of soldiers. With that warning, we leave Ned and Harrrvey in the clearing as bait, and when the second group arrives, our second ambush nets a bevy of prisoners for questioning.

This episode ends as we interrogate the prisoners and learn that this island is the focal point of the French efforts to monopolize the sugar trade. On the other side of this island is their fortified port and a large sugar growing and processing operation.

Fall of Magic: Ravenhall

This week we dipped our toes into Fall of Magic by Ross Cowman for an abbreviated session, getting through only a single location (in a game designed to require a dozen or so locations to complete).

Fall of Magic logo and scroll image from Heart of the Deernicorn.

We start with Fawn, a Ranger of the Mist Woods, relaxing on the footbridge over the river into Ravenhall, home of the fabled Magus. She notices oddities in the walk patterns of the various pilgrims and travelers. When someone ends up in the river, she decides to help the victim out of the water, and walks over, offering the end of her staff to pull the man out. From this soggy fellow, Fawn learns that people avoid Ravenhall now, driven off by the pall of dread that hangs over it.

Next we find Justice, the Crab Singer of Istallia, in the Rose Gardens. She wears a purple velvet dress and carries what looks like a lobster trap with her. She walks into a secret portion of the gardens, which are overgrown and wild from lack of attention. Once secluded, she sets down the cage and pulls out a few crabs, then begins to sing. The crabs scurry away and begin hunting the garden spiders, eating as they go.

Finally, we meet Azure, a Raven from Ravenhall, who stretches her wings and struts through what was once a fantastic menagerie, but now seems filled with sad mundane animals collected from the nearby fields and forests. Talking with the animal handlers, she learns that the wondrous magical creatures who once lived here are all gone now. Some of those creatures had been her friends—she recalls a hippogriff she was particularly close to. Is she—bird folk who walk upright but maintain the wings and feathers of their forebears—the last of the impossible creatures?

We three meet each other in the Great Hall awaiting an audience with the Magus, whose servants have laid out a great feast upon the table and invited them to eat. “The Magus will join you shortly,” they say, so we gather around the table and introduce ourselves, learning what calamity has brought each of us here: Justice summoned from Istallia to cull the spiders, Fawn sent by the Captain of the Grey Rangers, and Azure concerned over the disappearance of magical creatures. Just as we begin to suspect our concerns are related, the double doors across the room swing open and the Magus stands before us. We don’t know it yet, but we’re being recruited for a crucial mission to escort the Magus across the world, for magic is dying and so is the Magus.

Epitaph for a Misguided Hero

We played another game of Epitaph by Marc Hobbs this week, this time with all new players and in a fictional fantasy setting.

Premise

Grathar is a dwarf living her entire life underground, among the caves and underground lakes of the under dark. She relishes the tranquility of living below ground and the seriousness of her people as they mine the gems that power magical spells and devices in our world. When the gems are emptied of their magical power, they turn into colorful dust. She wants more than anything to have the frivolous jesters of the Academia banished because they besmirch and slander our ways with their jokes and their profligate tossing of the colorful gem powders.

Grathar (she/her)

Born 12th year of Austin Hjorth II — Died 75th year of Austin Hjorth III

Overhead shot of group of people sitting around a table covered in dishes while a warm glowing light shines from the right.
Epitaph cover courtesy of Less Than Three Games.

Timeline

Born: 12th year of Lord Austin Hjorth II in Crystome

Age 20

Festival accident that leaves her uncle Folum injured.

  • Snapshot: Marching jesters throwing colored dust, causing people and animals to turn to run, a pair of dwarfs in their path, the older dwarf (Folum) wrapping a protective arm around the younger (Grathar).
  • Reflection: Recognizes that her feelings then were too easy, too simple.

Age 23

A family trip to underground hot springs when her father plays the didgeridoo and teachers Grathar love of music.

  • Snapshot: Grathar sits rapt watching her father play a didgeridoo beside the hot springs, cementing her love of music and her appreciation for the solemnity of the underdark.
  • Reflection: Feels how this moment put her on an arduous path toward an abstract principle rather than the concrete people who make it meaningful.

Age 127

Cinteele Hjorth recalls the solemn protests at Academia Jesteria

  • Remembrance: Cinteele recalls how the dwarves marched so quietly in soft-soled shoes while waving their signs: “It’s not funny.” Grathar was never intentionally funny, but often inspired us to laugh a lot, especially in the student scripts the following semester. Praxus’ script won third place that year.

Age 202

Failed negotiation with an emissary from the surface world.

  • Scene: Larry the halfling questions Grathar about whether she could ever accept the sincerity of other people when they practice the traditions, but Grathar insists all must carry the same sincerity in their heart as she does.
  • Reflection: Grathar regrets not having gotten to know Larry better. She wonders what might have been if they had become friends and what the halfling might have done later in life.

Age 224

Barivar’s banishment.

  • Snapshot: Grathar looking on as Barivar is carted away, banished by Lord Austin Hjorth II, weighing in her hand the festival powder she will use to rescue and release him.
  • Reflection: Mostly she feels fondness for her adopted son, whom she loves so ferociously. But that nostalgia is tempered by her indignation she felt at the child being abandoned by those spiteful royals. Her whole life turned on this moment.

Age 224

Dedicating Barivar to the old ways at the Amethyst Springs, not long after adopting him from banishment.

  • Snapshot: Grathar holds the toddler Barivar in the dark at precisely the right moment to feel the silence and comforting weight of the dark, hums the resonant tone, and moves as the space beckons.
  • Reflection: Grathar feels her responsibility for Barivar replaced the responsibility she had previously felt to this point for the solemn and sombre traditions.

Age 341

Moments before her death with her friend Praxus at the Pearl Grotto.

  • Snapshot: Praxus throwing powder as they dance between the stalagmites, colorful dust turning the water multicolored, Grathar laughing and enjoying herself immensely.
  • Reflection: Proud to be and feel so free, so unlike where she had started.

Died: 75th year of Lord Austin Hjorth III in the Pearl Grotto

Grathar chokes when too much festival powder gets into her lungs while playing with her friend, Praxus, the Master Jester.

Eulogies

  • Praxus, devastated when Grathar dies because of their play, begins a new performance tradition where the jesters walk in silence in their softest shoes. The guffaws of audience usually break the silence thanks to the jester’s antics.
  • Barivar must conduct the traditional funeral rites for his beloved adoptive father. Afterward, he uses his tenuous royal connection to help spread Grathar’s ideals more widely.
  • Lord Austin Hjorth III, in his official capacity at the funeral, jovially recalls her bothersome youth and the grace and kindness she developed in her mellower, older years. He says all will miss the solid gentleness that had come to characterize her life.
  • Roknet Bellsod, Head of the Student Script Department and a good friend of Praxus, dedicates a trophy of a bronzed soft-shoe in Grathar’s name in the main hall trophy cabinet at the Academia Jesteria. Whenever people walk by and create enough vibrations, a bell springs out and rings loud.

Power & Grace & Nemeses

This week we played the Lasers & Feelings hack for superheroes Power & Grace by an unknown author. We are a newly-formed team of supers known as Outsiders, a well-financed and connected team of four supers led by Saving Grace, the legacy of one of the greatest heroes of the previous generation, a trained martial arts expert. Also on the team is science researcher Silver Streak with his frictionless field generator suit that allows him to move at super-speed; Psi-Klone who uses his telekinetic mutant powers to protect the populace; and Miss Fortune, a brooding mystic from another dimension who can barely control her bad luck powers. We have formed as the Outsiders because each of our arch-enemies—mutant mastermind Revolt, wacky gadgeteer Widget, psychic vampire Luckystrike, and chaotic blaster The Troll—have banded together into a villainous syndicate that we can’t hope to match alone.

Our story begins with Saving Grace getting an alert about syndicate activity at an abandoned cathedral, so he contacts Psi-Klone to join him. Recognizing the insignia of a mutant underworld gang on the boxes a group of suspicious characters are moving into the cathedral, Saving Grace springs into action and easily defeats the half-dozen mooks. When he enters the truck, a trap is sprung and he’s trapped inside. Psi-Klone uses his powers to unlock the truck, but Troll blasts him just as the tumblers turn. Together, Saving Grace and Psi-Klone take out Widget, but as Troll escapes, he activates the pre-wired truck bomb. Psi-Klone launches the truck straight up above the cathedral, so the explosion causes damage but no loss of life.

Having captured Widget, Miss Fortune releases her powers while questioning him about the syndicate’s plans. Unfortunately for him, he lets slip enough random details that Silver Streak can piece together the group’s intentions. While we were fighting at the cathedral, Revolt was fomenting dissension among the mutant population and will be unleashing them upon the diplomatic function at the old mansion that houses the Silesian embassy. The objective is to assassinate the Silesian dictator and start a war between the mutant and the human populations. Despite his crimes, we decide we must protect the dictator to save the world from such a war.

We split up and secret ourselves throughout the party: Miss Fortune serving appetizers, Psi-Klone mingling with the guests, Saving Grace guarding the dictator directly, and Silver Streak patrolling the perimeter. Miss Fortune leads a pair of disguised mutants deep into the mansion but gets lost herself. Saving Grace finds the guard detail’s decisions suspect. A mysterious woman extends Revolt’s offer for Psi-Klone, a fellow mutant, to walk away now before it’s too late. And Silver Streak runs into the initial frontal assault by the horde of mutant forces. Inside, Troll leads the assassination squad and blasts through the window where Saving Grace is protecting the dictator. Psi-Klone refuses Revolt’s offer, and running toward Saving Grace and radioing for an evac of the dictator, opens a hole in the wall for Silver Streak to run through. As the dictator disappears in a flash of silver, Saving Grace takes down the Troll. Psi-Klone creates a massive telekinetic vortex to occupy the attackers while the civilians escape, and Saving Grace dashes for the control room to find Miss Fortune.

Lost in the mansion, Miss Fortune has encountered her nemesis, Luckystrike. He tries to persuade her to join him, for they are the same, two sides of the same coin. His good luck countering her back luck, together she could live a normal life. The pressure to resist and protect herself from his mental assault overwhelms her, so Fortune’s powers go out of control, causing the mansion to begin shaking apart. Luckystrike always steps just out of the way of any falling debris, but Saving Grace locates her on the monitors and races to her aid. He engages Luckystrike in hand-to-hand, each dodging the other, neither able to land a solid blow, until Saving Grace stuns Luckystrike long enough for the pair to escape.

Outside, Silver Streak trips a few blocks from the mansion, felled by a Widget trap. As the giggling gadgeteer spews his venom at Silver Streak and pulls the trigger on his multi-gun, the Streak grabs the dictator and dashes away. In the blink of an eye, he has sped up a car park, dropped the dictator, circled back and come down on Widget from behind and above, just as the energy begins to emerge from the device. Psi-Klone flies into the sky to meet Revolt, who soars above the mansion, conjuring lightning. Revolt taunts him about the inevitability of the war; humans being so easy to provoke, it’s only a matter of time. After several exchanges, Psi-Klone knocks Revolt out of the sky using a car, and as he descends to the ground is joined by the rest of us. Revolt unleashes a ball of chain lightning, but working together, we manage to short out Revolt’s powers and knock him out, ending the fight.

In the epilogue, we see Silver Streak in his lab disassembling one of Widget’s devices, and Psi-Klone reaching out to the mutant community. Miss Fortune runs off to be alone, but later she receives a text from Saving Grace asking if she’s like to hang out.

Galactic Watering Hole

This week we played Galactic by Riley Rethal as a small group of strangers brought together to support the Liberation in defeating a Mandate blockade of water to a planet of rocky deserts and no political affiliation. We are Annabelle Sophie, a diplomat or a spy, who believes in peace but knows you can give no quarter to the Mandate; Pickles, an alien, a scoundrel, and a scofflaw out to bank some credits and pester the complacent; and repair-bot 2B-D5 (Two-bee), who collects favors hoping for a chance to build something truly special.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

Our story begins with Pickles in a cantina recognizing Annabelle Sophie as someone who’d gotten in their way on a recent job and deciding to confront the diplomat. Annabelle tries to brush off Pickles attention in order to keep a low profile, but Pickles won’t be dissuaded and pokes the diplomat until getting a rise from her. Annabelle pulls a knife to get the alien to back off, even though she’s never actually use it. Having been roped in by Pickles during the provocation phase, Two-bee tries to make peace between them and suggests they repair back to its repair depot. Once ensconced inside the repair depot, the group realizes they can work together on the water problem. Pickles knows of a comet coming through the system soon that could be a source of water the Mandate can’t control. Pickles has the comet’s trajectory and coordinates but needs a crew in order to make the rendezvous. Annabelle remains suspicious of Pickles, knowing that last job was paid for by the Mandate, but agrees to go along to keep an eye on them.

Pickles explains that their ship is in the police impound lot, so first they need to break in and bust out the ship. Unbeknownst to the others, Pickles doesn’t have a ship and will be stealing whichever ship suits their purposes. Annabelle uses her contacts to arrange for the guard to be away from the control room long enough for Two-bee to slip inside and access the terminal. Two-bee changes the sweep pattern of the patrol-bots to create a corridor through the lot for us to enter and take a ship. Pickles selects a ship, hot-wires it, and blasts out of the lot with us all aboard, but we bounce off one of the depot buildings on the way out.

In space, Pickles must take an oblique route to avoid the Mandate patrols, but that brings us to the rendezvous behind schedule, requiring us to adjust our intercept trajectory. As we begin our approach, the ship’s stabilizers come loose due to damage from our rocky take-off, requiring Two-bee to quickly effect repairs while we’re still flying. Thanks to its phenomenal success, we manage to land successfully on the surface of the comet. Because of our late arrival and the relatively small size of the ship we stole, we can only take a sample of water that we can use to secure funding for a proper harvest mission. Unfortunately, we launch ourselves up in the direction the comet is traveling. As we turn to get out of its way, the comet clips the ship and sends us tumbling off into deep space, bringing today’s adventure to a close.

Floating After the World Drowned

This week we explored the post-apocalyptic solarpunk After the World Drowned by David Harris in which we portray a group forging a paradise in a world after the waters have risen so only the highest points, whether natural or technological, are still above water. We are Mara, a crafter and weaver who set out on her own to escape her overlarge family; Dobbe, a warrior from an amphibious species who finds humanity fascinating; Ernestine, a refugee from a wealthy family who grew up in high-rise hotels and wants to spread beautiful design around the world; and Stuart, an older man who still remembers the time before the cataclysm and fears his age has left him unable to compete with the younger generation for scarce resources. Will we be able to forge this Ideal into the community we all need?

In the first Act, we learn that Stuart used to be a technician and taught his old community about how to use the remains of technology from the before times, using solar cells for power. He also names the long-bodied herbivorous lizards on the island, whose bodies sway as they run, swingbacks. He appreciates the leadership Jade offers the Ideal because she applies it so gently and with such empathy. Mara is frightened to discover someone she remembers from the raids on her family is a member of the Ideal, but she doesn’t know how to respond. She remembers how hard it was to leave her family, but with so many, it seemed necessary. Mara throws a stone in frustration and hits one of the swingbacks, which only fills her with guilt and regret. Ernestine keeps her sketchbook of designs a secret, afraid that people will see her work as frivolous and a waste of time. Ernestine gets into conflict with Mara when the latter discovers Ernestine has draped over a log a blanket Mara wove. They go back and forth about why she would do that, Ernestine explaining that she just thought it looked nice, beautifying things, but Mara concerned how it will rot in the rains. Dobbe has trouble assimilating to the human community, missing her old friend and sparring partner, Penny, so she latches onto the first human who pays her any attention, the same raider who Mara fears. The violence in their pasts is one of the things that draws and binds them together.

In Act 2, Stuart admires the broad-leafed ground cover that grows all over the island, dominating the underbrush, but chooses to live near the shore, facing east so the sun wakes him each morning as it rises. Mara leads us to building our houses in trees to avoid the ever rising waters, and retires one of her weaving materials, a native vine, as it becomes scarce from over-use and the encroachment of the broad-leafs. Dobbe takes comfort from the fighting staff she brought with her from her days as a warrior, and carries it with her whenever she goes off to her secret place to practice and recenter herself. A dispute arises in the community when one of the Ideal tries to adopt Dobbe as a pet, not understanding how humiliating that would be. Dobbe doesn’t take kindly but refrains from violence and allows the human to apologize without bringing the rest of the community into the conflict. Ernestine grows frustrated by the lack of a proper indoors once she discovers macaques eating our stores of fruit. She vows to find a way to use the combined skills of our diverse group to solve this problem. Her solution is a watertight room, sealed but carefully balanced, so it floats on the rising waters.

In Act 3, we see Dobbe adapting to living on land, sunning herself on the rocks away from everyone, but also learning not to lean on violence or power to deal with problems. Ernestine doesn’t stop with her floating room, which is sustainable and works with nature to create interior spaces, and goes on to lead us all to compost in the space the Ideal cleared long ago. Once the soil develops, she plants seedlings to restore the land to its previous state. As the Ideal continues to expand, in order to no longer take up the land, Stuart uses his technical knowledge and Ernestine’s floating design to help us expand out into the water instead of across the land.

In the coda, we each reflect on what makes us hopeful for the future. Dobbe finds hope in how she has managed to find peace living together with another species, proving it can work if you stay open-minded. Mara feels glad to be useful and sees our rustic utopia as the natural result of everyone working toward a single, clear goal. Stuart thinks it’s not just the goal, but the spirit of cooperation rather than competition that explains our success. Ernestine is the most ambitious, believing the floating rooms are a technology that can be used to reclaim the floors below the water’s surface in structures like the high-rises she grew up in.