“Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Session 40.13 — Tower and Tong

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.13, which was held on Sunday, 9 March 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rulesSkype, and an online dice roller, as of spring 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O.]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) from the Tiger Clan with a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 4
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 4
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H.]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 4

“12 to 16 April 1227 B.C.E.:” The wanderers questioned bandit Shiskikura Eiji about Undead farmers, and they smote ghoulish children at another abandoned farm. After confronting an angry mob of villagers, the group found and slayed three witches before deciding to leave Chin Mok.

Rather than stop in the villages of Chung Kwang Shui or Honeize, the team escorting Nannuattan emissary Lady Yun Aei-Yong decides to head directly across the eastern Plains of Sathendo. The town of Kuan Chou is 540 li (about 120 miles) east of Chin Mok, and a canal leads 224 li (50 miles) from it to Sogewa, the capital of Tong Sheng.

For the first time in weeks, the party rides across the wide-open grasslands without being attacked by bandits, Undead, or summoned monsters. The spring rains, however, slow their horses and Jung-Mo’s carriage, in which Lady Yun and her Draconian bodyguard Oh Kum Ja ride.

That night, Ember finds a campsite partly sheltered from the rain. While on first watch, Saigo notices Jung-Mo looking at a large egg inside a lacquered box. Saigo inquires about the unidentified brown and blue egg, and Jung-Mo asks him to keep it between them.

Later, during a thunderstorm, lightning illuminates a tower on a nearby hill. Sonny and Ember wake Saigo to report what they saw, and he agrees that it may be worth investigating on the way the next morning.

Toshi and Soske’ spot lights in the pagoda during the third and final watch of the night. The next morning, Jung-Mo and Toshi scout ahead. The Yakuza is stealthy, and the Wu Jen casts Chameleon for camouflage.

Jung-Mo senses movement within the stone tower and begins scaling it. Toshi casts Know History and learns that the pagoda is named Kai Sou Xian Haknam, or “the castle of Master Haknam.”

Unfortunately, Jung-Mo kicks out a loose brick and has to use Levitate to keep from falling or being seen by a guard. Toshi hides and Detects Magic from a number of sources. Wu Ember shifts into crane form and flies overhead to check on her companions.

They regroup with Saigo, Soske’ and the horses. The adventuring party decides to give the tower a wide berth. Samurai Saigo recognizes a pennant flying from the top as belonging to Zhan-Shi Hu Ho, a disgraced officer in the Shengtese army.

The next night, Spirit Folk Saigo and Jung-Mo hear animals but are not attacked during their watch. The caravan continues eastward, with no other people in sight. The Kwang Shui, Hothe, and Kuo Lui streams are easily forded, and the diplomatic escort arrives at the bustling town of Kuan Chou.

Shengtese humans Sonny and Soske’ know their way around. The Kensai is wary of certain clans, and the Shukenja hopes to avoid his meddling family. Shan Sao Toshi practices his martial arts in the morning with Sonny and asks about a Magisterium (magic school).

Saigo talks with Lady Yun about her plans for Sogewa. The representative of Gokuri says that she shouldn’t need an escort as she relays the truce to Duke Kou Fei Seng, but she will eventually need to travel north, to Bazran Hai in Saigo’s homeland of the Zedu kingdom.

Like Jung-Mo and Saigo, Ember hasn’t been to a large human city before, so she hopes to go sightseeing. While Saigo is still searching for his missing grandfather, Hengeyokai Ember wants to evade notice.

Saigo, Toshi, and Soske’ report to the local garrison at Kuan Chou. They meet Hiroshi Sanlang, a young warrior who recommends the “Happy Duck” hotel. The trio also passes vagrants and searches for a Magisterium but finds none.

Meanwhile, Ember, Sonny, and Jung-Mo stay with Lady Yun and Oh Kum Ja at the town gate. Chain master Sonny observes Monks among the street performers and acrobats, and Druid Ember looks out for fellow shapeshifters. Merchant Jung-Mo points out gangs of young men who might belong to the Tong or Yakuza.

Ember notices that the carriage’s curtain pulled aside, and Sonny asks Lady Yun to be more discreet. He leaves Jung-Mo at the reins as he runs after someone suspicious who has spotted the Dark Elf. After a brief chase, Sonny corners the man in an alley.

The goon tries to shove Sonny into a wall, but the Kensai dodges and punches him in the stomach. Despite being winded, the man calls for help and pulls a balisong (butterfly knife) from his orange sash.

Saigo, Toshi, and Jung-Mo return to the carriage and horses, and Ember sends Saigo and Toshi after Sonny. Ember and Jung-Mo look for a stable to get out of the street, while the others ask a beggar for directions.

Sonny tries to sweep his opponent’s leg, but he is nimble. Sonny strikes twice as Toshi and Saigo race members of the town guard to the scene. Wizard Toshi casts Updraft, lifting the man 30 feet and dropping him.

Saigo stalls the police by explaining how his friend was almost mugged. They find the man in the orange sash with broken bones. The sentries send for a healer and take the unconscious man into custody, but they also ask the knight and company to stay in town for a day or so in case they have further questions.

The travelers go to the “Happy Duck,” where they plan to take a barge on the canal between the Chuan Hosun and Chung Hsien rivers to speed their trip from Kuan Chou to Sogewa, capital of the Principality of Silado….

Remember to review your Player Character records on Obsidian Portal and let me know of any changes. In addition, note that our next “A New Dawn” virtual session on Sunday, 16 March 2014, will start a little later, around 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, because I’ll be getting back from a concert.

I also enjoyed last night’s “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” face-to-face game, and I look forward to resuming Jason E.R.’s “Glassworks: the Devil’s Den” superhero scenario next Monday. Don’t forget to reply to Thomas K.Y. regarding upcoming movies.

“Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus,” Session 39.34 — The circle of death

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.34, which Brian W. hosted in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 3 March 2014:

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 spring 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 7
  • Hamfast Hammerfist [Brian W.]-male Zeda (proto-Germanic) human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 7
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 7
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and former ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 7
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with Banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 7
  • Tempestade [Josh C.]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), former roustabout, now a follower of Otih; CGl, Lvl. 7
  • Sir Torrel [Alex W.]-male Hifalendorin human Paladin of Otih, the lord of the sun and justice; LGn, Lvl. 7
  • Radius [Jason E.R./departed]-male Modron Paladin of Primus, lord of Nirvana; exiled to the Prime Material plane; LGn, Lvl. 5
Zebra and hyena
On the savannas of Salhonif Island

“19 to 24 February 1227 B.C.E.:” On Salhonif Island, the explorers visited Estu, a village of civilized apes. They found Reptile Folk ruins, a disguised spy of the devil in the Ibafen Mountains, and a ziggurat with an idol and the Eye of Heaven, a magical gem possibly protecting the apes.

“Vistel’s Expedition” heads northwest toward the city-state of Selifa, across savannah rather than jungles. Scully and scout Makena Walabu lead the way across the dry grasslands. Giacomo’s back itches because the “Mad Mage” Ezra trapped in his tattoo senses the evil temple at volcanic Mt. Tilefa.

Hamfast explains to Elsa that their adventuring party chose the plains route over the rain forest because the latter has more spies of the Pit Fiend. Corwin reminds his companions that their primary mission is to get help from Queen Zapanga to find and free Lady Shadira, an Efreeti trapped in Shambling Mound form by devil Schm*ckF*ck.

Tempestade considers his plans to free fellow slaves from his own time by using a magical obelisk in the barbaric port of Gisar. He and Sir Torrel guard the porters and supplies.

The onetime performers’ hike is interrupted by seven hyenas. Flind Scully tries to warn them off with a snarl, but yelps indicate that the predators are surrounding the caravan. Hill Dwarf Elsa tries to Speak With Animals, but the hungry beasts continue to tighten their noose.

Hifalendorin human Giacomo casts Magic Missile, immediately killing three hyenas. Corwin wants to try Fireball, but the Ranger and Druid recommend against that in the dry brush. The Half-Elf instead casts Mirror Image.

Elsa Summons Woodland Beings, and two baobab Treants appear. Scully slays two of her distant cousins with arrows. Zeda human Hamfast swings his maul, mainly to clear the tall grasses around them and to fend off the creatures.

Tempestade, Sir Torrel, and Makena try to protect the porters. The pack runs around the large Treants. Elsa Wild Shapes into a lioness, and the remaining hyenas reluctantly lope away to rejoin the circle of life and death.

The Treants also leave. Scully uses the Lens of True Sight to verify that the dead are actually animals and not humanoid slaves or spies Polymorphed by the Baatezu.

That night, Elsa casts Grove of Respite, which creates fruit-bearing trees and a pool of potable water in the middle of the savannah! Hamfast and Corwin take the first watch and worry about disease-bearing insects and ravenous dinosaurs.

During the second watch, Giacomo and Scully hear the thunder of approaching hooves. A herd of zebras, which they have never seen before, streams around the camp. One of the striped equines at the back of the stampede falls, writhing in pain.

Ranger Scully wakes Bard Corwin, and they sneak out for a better look. The hapless zebra is covered in swarming army ants, which threaten to engulf those outside the oasis. The spellcasters protect themselves — Wizard Giacomo casts Invisibility, and Druid Elsa casts Repel Vermin.

Elsa then runs to the zebra to cast Cure Light Wounds, and Corwin casts Fly to stay above most of the insects. Giacomo joins him with Levitation. Scully runs back to the camp, where Fighter Hamfast and the others stay asleep.

Elsa uses Commune With Nature to assess the local area and sends the zebra back to its herd. Scully notes that other predators may still cull it, but that’s the way of nature.

The next day, the group beholds Selifa’s white stone walls. Guide Makena says that not only is the ancient city-state on the Bisuna River, but it’s also located where the plains, forest, and mountains come together, enabling farmers, hunters, and herders to coexist and contribute.

Corwin asks Makena about local inns, and she names the “Agali’s Cape” and the “Tilefa’s Tears.” The expedition goes to the first one to try dinner. Yetunde, the matronly proprietor, welcomes the visitors in Suthern.

Giacomo burns his tongue on spicy food, but Hamfast enjoys the shared meal enough to recommend staying at “Agali’s Cape.” Scully doesn’t like Yetunde’s wide hat and takes particular interest in the brontosaurus carpaccio.

Corwin offends their host by asking for female companionship for the night, so Elsa smoothes over the faux pas and trades plum wine for date wine. Makena later reports that the “Tilefa’s Tears” is quieter, but the group is satisfied with its choice.

The travelers retire to one of Yetunde’s guest houses, which has a fire pit surrounded by concentric clay ledges. The bottom one is for sitting by the fire and eating, the next ones are for storage, and the top tier has pillows and blankets for sleeping.

The next day, the former members of Vistel’s Circus hire a young man to wait in line to get them a royal audience. They then go to one of Selifa’s bustling markets. Coffee, chocolate, tropical fruit, and exotic stews fill the air with fragrance.

Most of the people are colorfully clad humans of certain tribes, with some tall plainsfolk, robed coastal traders, or stocky jungle dwellers. There are also Lizard People and a few demihumans in the city, including Agogwe (Halflings), Kitunusi (Gnomes), Ngoloko (Orcs), Utuchekulu (Dwarves), and Wakyambi (Elves; see D20 Nyambe).

Kobolds lurk in alleyways as bright clothes hang overhead. Elsa talks with Uzoma, an Utuchekulu whose tribe worships a mountain orisha. Her talk of sacrifices scares away the rest of the party. Giacomo buys spell components.

Hamfast buys souvenir fetishes and a flute, and Scully inquires about dyes and jewelry. She learns that gold and diamonds are somewhat more common in the Zarendo Islands than on the mainland, but iron and pearls are rarer and thus more valued.

Musa, an Ngoma (Bard), tells Corwin that artists gather in front of the palace each night to perform and compete for audience favor and coin. Elsa buys a bagpipe, and Corwin practices on the drums.

Hamfast and Elsa also notice various temples to the Zarendo pantheon. Elsa buys a long masterwork shield to present to Queen Zapanga. Giacomo and his homunculus familiar Gerald busy themselves enchanting his Wizard’s Staff.

Akinwole, who had waited in line, promises the outlanders that he will obtain a royal audience for the next day. As dusk falls, crowds move from the market to near the palace, where drummers and dancers quicken the pulse.

Hamfast and Elsa enjoy street food, while Elsa realizes that she needs to practice the bagpipe. Corwin strums his mandolin, and even though most of the islanders don’t understand what the Saganim prince is singing, they appreciate his melodies.

“Vistel’s Expedition” returns to the “Agali’s Cape” to await its summons to Selifa’s royal court….

I look forward to seeing everyone’s “Vanished Lands” characters in the new D20/FATE format on Obsidian Portal soon. Let me know if you need any help or if there are any people, sites, or items you’ll be looking for in Selifa before next Monday’s game.

In the meantime, I also look forward to our upcoming “Vanished LandsA New Dawn” and Jason E.R.’s “Glassworks: the Devil’s Den” sessions, as well as non-gaming events.

Happy 2014!

Friends and fellow role-players, I wish all of you and your families a healthy, prosperous, and Happy New Year! May 2014 bring us new and fun adventures together! -Gene

Boston-area role-playing games, spring 2014:

Vistel's Circus
Face-to-face “Vanished Lands” team

Other Boston-area RPGs, 2013:

  • Vortex: Terra’s Pride,” Gene D.’s telecom space opera, using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Skype, and Rolz
  • Barsoomian Adventures: the Tenth Ray of Mars,” Jason E.R.’s planetary romance, using Savage Worlds
  • Star Wars: Dark Times,” Jason E.R.’s space opera miniseries, using Savage Worlds
  • Red Dwarf, Beruk A.’s science fiction+ scenario
  • Dread, Brian W.’s Jenga-based social science fiction one-shot
  • A New Beginning: Mystic Adventures in the ‘Big D,'” Josh C.‘s modern supernatural miniseries, using FATE 3e Dresden Files
  • The Lizardmen of Xur’Kliz,” Josh C.’s fantasy one-shot, using Dungeon World
  • Steam Wars,” Josh C.’s steampunk samurai/space opera miniseries, using FATE Accelerated Edition (FAE), Google+, and Roll20
  • Telecom fantasy scenario by Josh C., using Microscope, Wushu, and Google+, and Roll20
  • Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Rich C.G.’s space opera one-shot
  • School Daze, Rich C.G.’s rules-light high-school scenarios
  • Strange Tales From Chicago,” Geoff C.’s superhero miniseries, using FAE, Skype, and Rolz
  • Redeemer or Destroyer,” Rob H.’s fantasy campaign, using Storyteller: Exalted, Wushu/Budo, Google+, and Roll20
Savage Worlds team
Star Wars: Dark Times group

“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.

“Strange Tales From Chicago” Session 3 — Chasing Earls

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for the third “Drop Squad” telecom session, which was held on Sunday, 3 November 2013:

Player Characters for “Strange Tales From Chicago,” Geoff C.’s street-level superhero game, using FATE Accelerated Edition, Skype, and an online dice roller:

  • Fightin’ Fritz” [Gene D.]-male human, flashy Tank, wants to pound knuckleheads, knows all the brawlers about town
  • Capt. Grommet” [Beruk A.]-machine whisperer, wants to get back at the man; knows lots of techies
  • The Crocodile” [Byron V.O.]-old tough guy, wants to clean up the city and get paid
  • Dr. Occult” [Josh C.]-master of occult, seeking enlightenment; knows stage magicians
  • Angel of the Night” [Sara F.]-gargoyle-themed guardian of the city, lives above a library

>>Chicago, “3 to 4 October 1982:” The “Drop Squad,” an eccentric group of private investigators, had helped the Chicago police look into tainted medicine. Our would-be heroes had followed leads from a pharmacy to the warehouse district.

The team followed four goons from the “Salty Dog” bar and confronted them. The quartet claimed that someone named “Earl” had hired them. However, the well-dressed man proved difficult to find because witness descriptions didn’t match between official records of charity events, Bernie’s Diner, and the “Old Watch House,” a high-end brothel.

Men in suits
Men in 1980s suits

The Drop Squad finally catches a break, spotting Earl at Bernie’s Diner. Figthin’ Fritz and Capt. Grommet head to their car, while the Crocodile steps outside and throws a ketchup bottle. Unfortunately, he hits an old woman on the crowded city streets.

The Angel of the Night, who has been watching from a nearby rooftop, jumps and glides in pursuit of the man in the suit. Dr. Occult gives chase on foot, following Earl into an alley.

Croc hops into the “Dropmobile,” which weaves through evening rush-hour traffic in an attempt to outmaneuver the suspect. Dr. Occult throws a lasso, but Earl is slippery. Angel climbs a wall to get the drop on the blond man.

Fritz, Croc, and Capt. Grommet smash through a pane of glass, knock over a fruit stand, and catch some air as their car burns rubber through Chicago’s streets. Croc hurls a set of headphones at Earl, who simply slides over the hood.

Earl enters a building, and Grommet takes the wheel so that Fritz and Croc can get out. Croc rips open a door, and he and Dr. Occult head to the basement. Fritz circles around the block to keep an eye on rear exits, while Angel descends.

Despite sporadic walkie-talkie contact, the P.I.s tighten their noose. Dr. Occult briefly slows Earl, as Croc runs down a spiral staircase to join them.

Meanwhile, outside, Fritz finds an acquaintance named Steve who mentions that there is an off-limits door from the basement leading into the sewers. Fritz and Angel head down.

Dr. Occult and Croc jump on Earl and tie him up. However, he now appears to be a slight Asian-American, if in the same suit! Earl recognizes Dr. Occult from one of his charity gigs, but nobody can explain the shift in appearance.

Croc, Dr. Occult, and Capt. Grommet take Earl to Office Fine at the police station. Fritz and Angel follow Steve’s directions into the sewers. Their hunch that Earl knew of it as a getaway route prove correct when they reach an outlet into the bay.

Croc watches Earl’s interrogation, but the suspect isn’t communicative. Capt. Grommet confirms the sewer route after talking with some engineer friends, and he and Dr. Occult meet Fritz and Angel back on the street.

At Croc’s request, Officer Fine has threads from Earl’s suit tested, but they reveal nothing about his strange ability to change appearance. When Earl asks for his lawyer, the Chicago police have no evidence to hold him.

The Drop Squad picks up another lead and visits Irwin Reginald, a civil servant and the brother of accountant Irwin Regis. He admits approving incomplete forms for public events for Earl, who bribed him regularly. Irwin’s description of his benefactor is yet another version.

Mr. Giovanni escorts the suspect back to freedom, and Dr. Occult is disturbed by so many Earls. However, the Drop Squad soon learns that Earl’s lawyer is a member of a local crime family, at whose warehouse guards fired at Angel a few nights before.

In addition, Lucille from the “Old Watch House” contacts Croc. She says that Earl had been doing public relations for the mob and that he left a bag at the brothel. The group picks it up and finds medicine bottles, which it immediately turns over to the police lab.

The Drop Squad prepares to return to the warehouse district in the hope of tracking down the tainted drugs and the mystery of the multiple Earls….