“Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” Session 25 — Setting sail with Capt. Scarlet

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished LandsVistel’s Circus” Session 39.25, which Brian W. hosted in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 4 November 2013:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders.

Various groups of mercenaries and diplomats have fought humanoids in the northwestern borderlands, encountered pirates on the Sea of Nagendwa, and wandered the hostile Halmed Desert and the wide Plains of Sathendo….

“Vistel’s Circus,” Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s ” Vanished Lands ” heroic fantasy campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, as of autumn 2013:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; NGc, Lvl. 5
  • Hamfast Hammerfist [Brian W.]-male Zeda human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 5
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 5
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and former ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 5
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with owlbear cub “Oswald”; NGc, Lvl. 5
  • Tempestade [Josh C.]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), former roustabout, now a follower of Otih; CGl, Lvl. 5
  • Sir Torrel [Alex W.]-male Hifalendorin human Paladin of Otih, the lord of the sun and justic; LGn, Lvl. 5
  • Radius [Jason E.R./departed]-male Modron Paladin of Primus, lord of Nirvana; exiled to the Prime Material plane; LGn, Lvl. 5
From Ships and the Sea
Three Elven hulls

“25 December 1228 to 4 January 1227 B.C.E.:” The former circus performers and their allies had slayed three out of four giants attacking the Saganim (proto-Celtic) port of Sileran. Brig. Liam Muldoon declared that the threat of attack by the ghost fleet had passed for now.

Giacomo du Vane returns to Sileran’s damaged Magisterium (magic school/library) to study the Contact Spirit spell. Hamfast Hammerfist recuperates at the forge of Nersago (Vulkan/Moradin) and asks listens sailors’ rumors at various bars. Scully Strongbow acquires Tanglefoot and hollow arrows from alchemist Muriel Tekla at Tobin’s Emporium.

Tempestade considers going back to the Blackhorse Woods to ask the Grugach (Wild Elves) about their deity of time, but it would take too long. Instead, the time-displaced martial artist eats berries from Druid Malcom Wickham and hallucinates.

Corwin Windsong spends most of his time around the winter solstice with kinsman Cormac ap Morgan, the local earl, and Nydarelle, an Alvari (Sylvan Elf) Bard. The Saganim prince also asks Father Mathew at the temple of Edillon, lord of the winds, to restore Giacomo’s unnaturally colored eyes or hands.

Elsa Fairbottom gives generous donations to the temples of Nersago, Otih, and Gheket. The Dwarf nature priestess also acquires an enchanted shield (+1) and a wand of Cure Light Wounds. Sir Torrel reports to Father Bran at the tower of Otih. The priest of the lord of the sun and justice recommends that the Paladin go on a quest for a Holy Sword.

Still worried about his tattoo, which might be connected to the “Mad Mage,” Giacomo inquires about antimagical solutions. Hamfast sends some money north to his family in the Zeda kingdom and spends the rest on alcohol.

Scully spends time outdoors with owl “Owlicious” and Owlbear “Oswald.” Once Tempestade recovers from the “magic berries,” he huddles in the Moonbeam Inn for warmth. Corwin collects money from his friends and secretly takes Hamfast’s maul one night to be enchanted. The Bard also buys a Potion of Invisibility.

Elsa studies tomes on the Undead and the barbaric port of Gisar, where there is supposedly an obelisk that can help Tempestade return to his home to rescue fellow slaves. She also spends time with fellow Dwarf exile Burdag.

Sir Torrel keeps a wary eye on Megara Anteia, an Achaean (Mycenaean Greek) priestess of Gheket, as she rebuilds a temple to the mistress of witchcraft. Elsa calls her companions together to discuss plans for Falit, capital of the Ebir Sheikdom.

Tempestade hopes to ask at the city’s three towers of sorcery — Alchemy, Sight, and Wind — for information on his distant homeland. Giacomo notes that the Suthern (proto-Arabic) humans of the Halmed Desert are more comfortable with magic and the Djinn than most.

Hamfast says he just wants to make money. Scully wants to avoid other canine humanoids, such as Anpur (Jackal folk), Wolven, or Gnolls (Hyena folk). Elsa worries about “Capt. Jack Kildare’s” [Randy K.M./Non-Player Character] Undead pirates and rumors of evil Druids.

Corwin, Sir Torrel, Giacomo, and Elsa agree on the need to gather more information about the giant attack, the ghost fleet, and connections to the cult of Krakas, lord of the maelstrom. But first, the onetime “Vistel’s Circus” members must obtain passage from Sileran to Falit.

Hamfast’s drinking buddies tell him that the Dreaming Death, Northern Wind, Shameful Hoard, and Stormy Insanity are well-armed, if not particularly trustworthy. Scully hears that the fishing vessel Gull’s Wing and trade ship Friendly Moon may not be large enough to accommodate her group.

Corwin’s contacts recommend the Brave Duchess, Wise Chariot, White Surf, Clever Mare, and Cloud Challenger, which are approved by Saganim’s royal navy but are not very swift. Elsa asks about buying a ship but learns that it would cost many thousands of crowns (gold pieces).

The adventuring party eventually settles on the Foamrunner, a Thalassaquendi (western Sea Elven) schooner. Elsa talks with first mate Valagon and agrees to return at dusk to meet his captain. Passage would cost 8 g.p. per person.

The travelers find the white Foamrunner lit by lanterns, with an elegant dinner table set out. Valagon introduces Capt. Scarlet, a lithe Sea Elf with a red sash and a saber. She introduces the rest of her crew.

female pirate
Capt. Scarlet

Sir Torrel gives a blessing before the meal. Giacomo gets drunk from a rare Fey wine, but the Elves don’t seem to mind. Hamfast chats with laconic oarsmen Delrembor and Caeriseth and oarswoman Thenasquel before hauling Giacomo back to the inn.

Thanks to her training with “Sir Niac” [Mike F./N.P.C.], Scully can verify that the Foamrunner, which has outriggers in addition to a sleek hull and triangular sails, is seaworthy. Young Erasol and Cildor hang on every word of Tempestade’s travels, but they don’t recognize the oceans he describes.

Corwin flirts with Muriel, the rudder controller, and Araswe and Fingonel, female sailors usually on watch. Elsa gives Capt. Scarlet and Valagon bottles of liquor and compares notes with cook Curufinwe. She also asks for a special cabin for Oswald.

The next morning, the passengers bring their possessions aboard, and theFoamrunner sets sail southward. Capt. Scarlet shows Elsa and company charts of possible courses. One crosses the Bay of Ethalgo and passes through the Nali Strait. It is more direct and faster, but there is more risk of encountering corsairs from the Garku Nasit.

The other route goes east into the Sea of Nagendwa, with a stop at Emein Island before reaching Falit. There’s a greater chance of storms or pirates, but Capt. Scarlet is confident that she can outpace and outmaneuver any rivals, so the group chooses the seaward path.

The first day passes uneventfully. Fingonel spots a Dubwana (Hobgoblin) bireme to starboard, but it is too far away to be a threat. Wizard Giacomo needs Curufinwe’s help to recover from his hangover, and Fighter Hamfast and Paladin Torrel takes turns at the rigging and oars.

Bard Corwin plays his mandolin and continues flirting with Muriel. Druid Elsa and Ranger Scully communicate with a racing pod of dolphins, while Monk Tempestade enjoys the sunshine.

On the second day, clouds fill the sky, and Araswe notices something sinister. A ship flying the skull and crossbones bears down from the east, and Capt. Scarlet orders evasive maneuvers.

Corwin asks Valagon how he can help. Hamfast and Sir Torril join the crew on the oars, as the catamaran sharply turns and tilts out of the waves.

Giacomo readies offensive spells such as Fireball and Lightning Bolt, and Elsa watches for signs of the ghost fleet. Sniper Scully watches the approaching craft with a spyglass. Tempestade uses his Ring of Jumping and Boots of Spider Climb in the rigging to help unfurl sails.

Tense moments pass as the pirates close the distance, but the Foamrunner manages to change tack and make for the port of Naira. The other vessel breaks off its pursuit.

Scully and Tempestade stay with the Elven ship, which sends a few crew members ashore for supplies and brief leave. The would-be heroes head to the “Wobbling Crane” tavern, where they find that most of the patrons are humanoid rather than human.

Elsa is pleasantly surprised to find that the proprietor is a River Dwarf named Mathilda. They share a “Banyan Brew” before a card game catches their attention. Meanwhile, Rib Gnawer, a Sea Hag (aquatic Troll), takes a romantic interest in Hamfast.

Elsa and Sir Torrel sit down at a table with Bleeding Ulcer [Bruce/N.P.C.], the Merrow (aquatic Ogre) captain of the Undertow, and Kouracos Velthin [Beruk/N.P.C.], the Sahuagin (Shark man) captain of the Tentacled Mother.

Corwin divides his attention between belly dancers and the card game, which uses suits of clams, squid, eels, and whales. Hamfast chats with Rib Gnawer, first mate on the Undertow. She explains that several undersea races use sailing ships to transport trade goods and interact with surface dwellers.

Capt. Velthin beats Elsa during the first hand, and Bleeding Ulcer wins over Kouracos in the second. The stakes escalate, as the gamblers put coins, gems, and pearls on the sticky table. Elsa draws better cards than Kouracos and Bleeding Ulcer in the next rounds before her group makes a cautious withdrawal.

Back at the small harbor, Elsa reimburses Sir Torrel, and the passengers join the crew of the Foamrunner in keeping watch through the night. During the second watch, Elsa spots a man pushing a wheelbarrow across the deserted docks.

The well-spoken man introduces himself as “Barry” and explains that he is bringing rich soil back to his gardens. Sir Torrel’s Detect Evil gives him the sense that Barry would like to feed interlopers’ blood to his carnivorous plants. The Paladin warns the Druid against visiting the gardens, but Elsa’s interest is piqued….

I hope that everybody enjoyed our latest fantasy game, which will resume on Nov. 18. In the meantime, please make sure that your characters’ possessions are up to date on Obsidian Portal.

I look forward to wrapping up Geoff C.’s “Strange Tales From Chicago” superhero miniseries this coming Sunday, as well as to continuing Jason E.R.’s “Star Wars: Dark Times” scenario next Monday!

The “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” telecom group should now start on Nov. 17. Let the Game Masters know your availability for late November.

Catching up — sheep and pirates

I’m still catching up on work, unpacking, and game notes after the fun reunion with friends from high school and college a few weeks ago. I’ve started writing blog posts about the Boston Comic Con, the current season of genre television, and more, but in the meantime, here’s a quick report on this past weekend.

On Saturday, 28 April 2012, Janice and I went to Gore Place in Waltham, Massachusetts, for the 25th annual Sheepshearing Festival. I was impressed by the size of the event and the number of attendees. We enjoyed the herding dog demonstration, fair food, craft tents, and bluegrass music. Janice and I also took a brief tour of the early 19th century home of one of Massachusetts’ governors.

The next day, we met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. for lunch on Waltham’s Moody Street. We ate at Kabab & Tandoor, which is downstairs from an Indian grocer and part of an appetizing food court. We enjoyed the buffet of savory, spicy, and sweet items before going to the Landmark Embassy Cinemas nearby.

We caught a matinee of The Pirates! A Band of Misfits, the latest comedy from Aardman Animation, the studio responsible for Wallace & Gromit, among other things. We enjoyed the movie, which follows a hapless pirate captain (named “Pirate Captain” and voiced by Hugh Grant) in his quest to win the “Pirate of the Year Award.”

Aardman Animation's latest comedy
The Pirates!

Along the way, Pirate Captain and his eccentric crew — even for pirates — meet Charles Darwin (voiced by Martin Freeman, also known as Arthur Dent, Dr. Watson, and Bilbo Baggins) and an entirely unamused Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). Also important to the plot are a dodo, a dirigible, and Darwin’s monkey butler.

If this sounds delightfully chaotic, it is. The Pirates! has a lively Anglo-American voice cast, sight gags too numerous to catch in a single viewing, and good use of modern music (the Clash’s “London Calling” is most memorable). The movie, which combines stop-motion and computer animation, also alludes to real-world literature and science of the 19th century.

I enjoyed The Pirates! more than the past few Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, and I recommend the movie to anyone who likes animation, comedy, or swashbuckling and steampunk. The Pirates! is rated PG for some crude humor and slapstick violence, but most of the adult jokes will sail right over children’s heads. I’d give The Pirates! A Band of Misfits an 8.5 out of 10, a B+/A-, or four stars. This coming weekend is the opening of the much-anticipated Avengers live-action movie….