Superheroic Archipelago

Tonight, we played Archipelago by Mathijs Holter in a comic book world of superheroes and villains with megalomaniacal plans. T Vanguard consists of team leader and time-displaced scientist adventurer, Prof. Anna Chronos; telepath and therapist at the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Spin Doctor; tech-enhanced speedster and daughter of villainous mastermind Dr. Sinister, Nightflame; and STAR Labs’ experiment and super-strong hero, Crossfit.

Our story begins with Prof. Chronos leading Spin Doctor and Nightflame to examine a long-dormant volcano where unusual activity has recently been detected. They are attacked by a gigantic cyborg spider that Spin Doctor defeats by blocking the mental signals used to control it. At STAR Labs, Dr. Jones informs Crossfit that his body is rejecting the nanobots that keep his enhancements working, so his powers and system may not be entirely stable. After the volcano incident, Spin Doctor returns to the Asylum to extract the information he needs from one of Dr. Sinister’s minions and learns of a nuclear bomb being set within the volcano. Back at Vanguard HQ, Dr. Sinister sends a hologram into the room of Nightflame to taunt her daughter and Prof. Chronos.

The whole team storms the volcano, which is now covered by a swarm of mechanical spiders. Crossfit strikes the ground to create an opening for Nightflame to rush inside and disarm the bomb, but then his powers fail him and the group is almost overrun by the spiders before his powers return as mysteriously as they left and they manage to escape with the disarmed nuke. Afterward, Nightflame and Spin Doctor concoct a plan to draw Dr. Sinister out to unveil her true plan and learn whether she truly cares for Nightflame by putting her into danger that only Dr. Sinister can protect her from. When Nightflame explains their plan to Prof. Chronos, the Prof. protests but relents when she realizes that Nightflame will go through with it on her own otherwise, and they discuss Prof. Chronos’s incomplete calculations to enable time travel. Finally, Spin Doctor visits an underworld diner to try gaining access to Dr. Sinister’s lair, but once he gets inside the island lair, his powers are neutralized and Sinister’s minions easily overpower him.

Our story concludes with a frontal assault on the Island of Dr. Sinister where each of us is shot by a “disintegration” ray that actually teleports us away into confinement, where a Dr. Sinister hologram visits each of us in turn. Sinister tempts Spin Doctor with a helmet to enhance his powers allowing him to manipulate matter as well as minds if he will pull one job for him afterward. When Spin Doctor agrees and puts on the helmet, the surge of power allows Spin Doctor to read Sinister’s mind and learn that she is not Nightflame’s biological mother. Dr. Sinister offers to repair and restore Crossfit’s systems and powers if he will join her organization, but the straight-laced hero refuses. Dr. Sinister tries to convince Nightflame to give up her mediocre team of heroes and return to lead Sinister’s army in the new world order, but then Nightflame gets a psychic flash of the information that Spin Doctor gleaned about her true parentage. Nightflame says that she’ll never join with Sinister but will work forever to stop her schemes and bring her to justice. Sinister’s hologram disappears and lock on Nightflame’s cell clicks open. Prof. Chronos and Dr. Sinister bargain back and forth, Chronos pleading for her team to be spared unlike her original team, lost in the Hidden Lands all those decades ago and Sinister showing where her time travel research went awry. Sinister agrees not to kill Vanguard and Chronos agrees to test her time travel device by stepping through to the past before her original expedition was lost.

In the epilogue, Nightflame frees her teammates and, as they’re freeing Crossfit, and elderly Prof. Chronos appears with a cure for his condition and they return to battle Dr. Sinister, who escapes through a portal like the one that Prof. Chronos had disappeared through an hour before.

On the Selene Archipelago

This week we played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter on the planet Mylar, which lies on the route of the Selene from Final Voyage of the Selene. We are Rosie Carson, aka The Peddler, an archeologist and criminal trader in relics who provides information to Hanz Burton a detective newly arrived on Mylar to investigate the death of local politician Fil Dash, uncle of Alen Dash, whose family and local pride lead them to guide the many tourists who visit the Cliffs, which has a view into the interstitial spaceways.

In Act I, the Peddler Rosie Carson meets with Hanz Burton at the Red Carpet Lounge after his arrival on Mylar via long-range pod. They discuss the plans for Mylar to become a trade hub and who might benefit if that were disrupted. Detective Burton next goes to Heaven’s View resort at the Cliffs to question Alen Dash about their uncle’s death. Uncle Fil had fallen, somehow, through the rift into interstitial space, but before that had been staying at the Margle Mansion near the Salt Sea. Alen Dash next goes to meet Prof. Carson at her Argos University office to discuss Farthing’s theories that the Cliffs were constructed by the Ancients who once lived on Mylar and built the sleek Monument where archeologists continue to dig and investigate.

In Act II, Detective Burton serves a warrant to the head of community security to gain entrance to the Margle Mansion. He learns that Margle Enterprises is the largest company and employer on the planet, finds the body of Mr. Margle with its throat slashed, documents related to his business and real estate dealings, a torn flag of Mylar, and a one-way ticket for the Selene. Next, Alen Dash finally visits the Monument, aided by Prof. Carson. They notice that the monument profile resembles the Cliffs themselves and find a hidden button activated by Alen’s Mylynial DNA. Walking down the seven-sided tunnel to a broad chamber, they discover a song engraved on the walls in an ancient Mylynial script and an oversized ocarina sitting on a pedestal. Finally, the Peddler is approached by a Consortium capo to serve as smuggler getting the goods from a planned heist onto the Selene and into the care of Lt. Kazarian. To ensure loyalty, the Consortium shows Carson live footage of goons outside her parent’s house and imply something could happen if she steps out of line.

In Act III, Detective Burton again meets with the Peddler Rosie Carson to put all the clues together. Uncle Fil and Margle were working to make Mylar a central trading hub but couldn’t get the Selene to take their Mylenium nuclear power generator onboard. They had tried to secure an alternative shipper to make a stop at Mylar when they both turned up dead. Burton is convinced that the local police are working with the crew of the Selene to maintain the Selene’s monopoly on Mylynial trade. Later, the Peddler Rosie Carson goes on the heist job, prepared to transfer the cargo to the Selene, but something goes wrong. The building bursts into flames, the crew comes stumbling out with the prize, and they all go careening through the streets trying for the spaceport but crash along the way. Rosie barely escapes with her life. Finally, Alen Dash arranges the Ancient’s song to be sung by a choir while they accompany on a replica of the Ancient ocarina. As the choir sings and the song echoes across the Cliffs, the entire edifice begins to rise into the sky. The Cliffs are, in actuality, the full size version of the device which the Monument of the Ancients is but a model.

The Google drawing of our map with the large monument replacing the Cliffs.

In the epilogue, we each go our own way. Hanz Burton finally leaves Mylar as a bartender aboard the Selene. Rosie Carson tries to cover her tracks and make everyone believe the Peddler died in that crash. And Alen Dash continues to study the history of their planet and the newfound controls for the rift to interstitial space that reside in the full-size Monument that was once the Cliffs.

Archipelago: Galactic Grandees

Tonight we played another session of Archipelago by Matthijs Holter in a galaxy teetering on the brink of war and peace. Our cast includes Henry DeVoit, who is the eldest son of the galaxy’s richest man who lives on the LuxStar satellite that orbits techno-planet Cesta Prime and owns VoidStar Ventures; James Medow, who personally owns two-thirds of the farmlands on agricultural planet Medowpotamia; Pandora Spocks, a native of the planet Gardenia who flies the vast empty reaches between these planets, carrying food to whoever needs it, especially the prisoners of the Ice Blockade; Zara Third, CEO of Speedy Ships Monopoly and inventor of the finest propulsion systems known; and Linton Balor, the duly elected president of the Mining Guild, which hews precious minerals and resources out of the Diamond Belt, a dense and impassable cluster of asteroids that block off one end of this sector.

Map of our sector of the galaxy with character card standees in the background.

Our adventure begins with Zara Third relaxing in the artificial planet known as the Chill Zone where she encounters James Medow and Henry DeVoit splashing their riches. While Zara tries to impress these old-money luminaries with tales of her latest transport contract and propulsion systems, the pair instead mock her for being common and full of impossible ideas. While James complains about the stuffy decor of the LuxStar, Henry laments having to wait to come into his inheritance and challenges Zara to enter the races to go against his father’s ships. Across the system, Linton Balor and his miners have boarded Pandora Spocks ship to inspect her cargo. While Pandora tries to convince Balor that he’s sold out and needs to join her cause, they are interrupted by a news flash that weapons-grade plasma lasers have been developed and the miners begin to wonder if they can adapt them for their business needs. After flying on with her cargo, Pandora lands on Medowpotamia and tries to enlist James Medow and his farm workers in her socialist scheme to feed all the hungry in the galaxy, but learns that the wealthy are selfishly interested in nothing but profit. The farm workers, however, might be a different story.

After losing his entire monthly allowance betting against Zara in the races (and James having teasingly bet on the newcomer and minted credits), Henry is chastised by his father David DeVoit and forced to abase himself in front of his friend, whose stock rises in the eyes of the great patriarch. In order to successfully smuggle agricultural products stolen from Medowpotamia with the help of local farm workers, Pandora must bribe guild officials when her forged and incomplete manifests are discovered. Having won big at the races, Zara Third negotiates the purchase of a large second-hand rocket thruster from the mining guild who uses them to shuttle enormous asteroids out of the way of their operations. We also see Balor and the mining guild working feverishly to perfect and master the use of the new plasma lasers for mining and to cut through the densest of rocks in the Diamond Belt.

Pandora leads her farm workers back to their families where she inspires them to direct action to take over the farms they work, thus beginning the great worker uprising of Medowpotamia that could transform the planet into socialist commune. Tired of living under his father’s thumb, Henry DeVoit hires Medowpotamian security personnel to assassinate his father and make it appear that he was killed in the uprising. He is relaxing in the Chill Zone with his mother when he learns that his father has written him out of his will and given his shares to James Medow. Zara Third hosts a product demonstration to show off her new propulsion systems, but instead launches her second-hand rocket while attached to the LuxStar, sending it careering through space toward Medowpotamia. When the LuxStar arrives at Medowpotamia, James purchases the now abandoned husk and remodels it to match the farmhouse aesthetic he loves and moves into his new home where he can continue to look down safely upon his world and the farmers in revolt. Months later as Balor’s mining guild continues using the reconfigured plasma weapons to mine the asteroid belt with newfound efficiency, they eventually push through the field into the empty space beyond where they discover something they could never have imagined, a dragon larger than a thousand stars asleep inside the cage formed by the Diamond Belt asteroids. Now that the belt has been weakened from all their laser-powered mining activity, is the galaxy safe?

Marooned on an Archipelago in Archipelago

Tonight we played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter as a group of people who wash up on an archipelago of small islands, many having mysteriously appeared on, above, or near the islands from somewhere quite distant. Our cast starts with Siobhan Donaghy, a magical researcher and minor internet celebrity who has come to our island believing it to be someplace else. She is joined by Flora Madison who swam to the island after the cruise ship where she was the racket pro sank nearby. One day while swimming in the surf, she rescues Captain Mitch Leonard whose small passenger boat also sank as it neared the island.

Mitch is grieving for his lost crew and boat and only beginning to acclimate to the island when his cousin Fisher Walker, a former clown-in-training falls from the sky. He’d been skydiving over Arizona before he landed outside the slapdash Tiki bar the group had set up on the island. They decide that they must explore the island more including the inactive volcano they jokingly refer to as Machu Pichu.

Map of two islands connected by a sand bar and surrounded by Archipelago cards and phrases.

Siobhan and Fisher explore the foot of the volcano using her magical research equipment including a scanning device. Mysteriously, in Fisher’s hands, the device allows him to digitally capture whatever he points it at. He manages to digitize mangoes, a magically crafted rhubarb, and flaming lava lizards at Pichu. He starts calling the device his PokeDex and begins randomly capturing things wherever he goes.

When Jay Moscowicz, a tech entrepreneur whose web platform specializing in reaction videos—r.eac.tr—made him billions, cruised up to the island on his yacht to survey his most recent acquisition, the group think they might be saved. But when Jay, Mitch, and Flora try to motor away in his boat, things start to disappear including the helm used to steer the ship. Rather than blunder forward blindly, they return crestfallen to the island, which according to readings they took before abandoning the ship appears to be in a different location than what they had thought, a location called 47-G12.

One day a sand bar appears on one end of the island and Fisher, Flora, and Mitch cross it to find a smaller island and the ruins of an outdoor theater with the words “47 sons and 12 daughters” written on the side in Spanish. Fisher keeps putting more things into his PokeDex and reveals some of what he’s captured so far, including a wrecked ship and a ship’s helm wheel. But inside the theater, they find a giant rooster that turns on Flora when she tries to tame it, chasing her to the top of the ruins. Suddenly, a traffic helicopter crashes nearby and Fisher captures their camera having already snagged the chopper’s stabilizing rotor.

Back at the main island, Jay explores and marvels at its beauty and splendor; he begins to wonder if leaving is so important. On cliffs overlooking a beautiful cove, he finds a trickle of fresh water coming through the rocks. Later he goes with Siobhan to the volcano, where he learns that his assistant has disappeared. She convinces him that the volcano is the center of the magical nexus that is key to reconnecting them to the real world and getting them all home.

While Flora sits trapped atop the theater wall, Fisher is catching and releasing so many things in such rapid succession from his PokeDex, that the device’s sounds cascade into a musical crescendo unlike anything any of them have ever heard. Mitch is beginning to understand the ways of the island, and after he speaks of it with reverence and gratitude, a pillar of sand rises up to rescue Flora from her perch. “The Island provides” becomes his mantra.

When the crew reunite, Flora sends Siobhan into the theater to touch the rooster, saying it will be the best workout of her life. And Jay gets help from Fisher and his PokeDex to dig out the trickle into a sustained fountain of fresh water that perhaps they can tap to survive for longer on the island. In the climax, Siobhan takes them all into the well of Machu Pichu, draws a glyph into the dirt, lines the team around it with incense, and chants an incantation. At first it seems her ritual has failed, but then the glyph sinks into the ground and the lava begins to flow into the markings. As the rest of the well begins to fill with lava, everyone runs to safety outside the volcano, but each must now come to terms with the prospect of a lengthy stay on these islands.

Archipelago on Mars

Tonight’s story, courtesy of Archipelago by Matthijs Holter, was of a Martian Colony, newly terraformed to allow one to breathe on the surface. It was a time of political agitation as some had begun to wonder why we needed to remain under Earth’s yoke and others preferred to remain close and at peace with Earth. Our cast included the prison warden and master of the underworld, Astrid; potato magnate Ken Bekerson; spaceport and trade official Quinn Payson; agriculture scientist and Martian patriot, Stace Marchon; shrinekeeper aspiring author Kersten; Senator Kent Carmichael, dedicated to maintaining peace; and Governor General Darcy Ycrod, dedicated to Governor General Darcy Ycrod.

The conflict centered around the Bekerson’s attempts to get rich by maintaining his monopoly, and the Governor General’s intention to increase the population of Mars through immigration, which required new businesses to create jobs. The independence movement kept growing in power and staged protests and overran festivals to make their voices heard. Amidst the chaos, Senator Carmichael sought the evidence to unseat the Governor General. We left the story unresolved at night’s end.

Archipelago Piratical Merfolk

Tonight we played a piratical session of Archipelago by Matthijs Holter. In this Caribbean world, the merfolk and humans have just emerged from a war under a tenuous peace. Resentments remain on both sides, with the merpeople divided on how to react to humanity’s continued presence and incursions into their territories. Mermaid Princess Aphrodite believes humans can’t be trusted and should be driven away, while her sister Princess Viviana is enamoured with human culture and dynamism, while their uncle leads a mission to convert humans to merfolk ways. Meanwhile, Bloody Lisbet is planning a heist of Port Harbor from her ship the Stonewall Mutiny, sending her first mate, Luc Sweetcheeks into town where he discovers their magical treasures and encountered old shipmate, Half-Beard, who was recruiting a crew for his own ship. In the end, he charms, converts, or cows the merfolk, but the humans begin to fight amongst themselves once Lisbet steals the payroll and the economy begins to collapse. During the disturbance, the humans fire an ancient artifact into the air, and it begins to sing, bringing a moment of peace and quiet to all the lands, creating a chance of a new beginning between the two peoples.

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Archipelago at the Eye

Archipelago map of space station and other interstellar landmarks

Tonight we played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter, in a galaxy plagued by piracy in orbit about a central black hole known as “The Eye”. Our cast included Lilymane, a roboticist who manages to midwife a robot/human hybrid born from the womb. She would learn that her hybrid had developed a grave condition and spend most of the adventure trying to save them. Her godchild is Bjakjjon, the hybrid torn between two species, who would ultimately decide to convert their biologics into robotics and abandon humanity entirely, leaving Lilymane in the hands of pirates. 

To aid her in diagnosing Bjakjjon, Lilymane enlists noted antimatter scientist, Wyo-Ming, whose research attracts the attention of Captain Barbery. His pirates, Cass the pilot and Sam the drunken gunner, infiltrate Space U and kidnap Dr. Wyo-Ming, Lilymane, and Bjakjjon. Along the way, Sam meets and is rejected by his long-lost son, and Cass comes to accept that she’ll never be able to walk away from flying or piracy.

When they return to Barbery’s cruiser, The Guillotine, they discover him agreeing to help Aulrana, an insectoid rebel from the planet Swelter, in her efforts to free the planet from outside domination. Cass and Sam plus the Captain’s robot first mate Simon (C5-MX) blow-up the Federation’s control satellites, but they crash on the surface, destroying the Federation outpost and killing much of the indigenous population. Meanwhile Wyo-Ming has fallen for Captain Barbery’s charm and they marry on the cubic pleasure station, 3D, where Simon encounters a media mogul who hires him to create a comedy about piracy for the VR vids.