Friday, January 12, 2018

Your little group of hirelings has been contacted about a job, and you’re on your way to meet your would-be employer.
You enter a wide, cluttered office. It looks more like a workshop, really. Strewn about are bits and pieces of machinery: gears, pipes, coils, chains, and the like. Mounted on the walls are a few more complete devices... which you notice are for the most part dangerous-looking clockwork weapons. A few thin rays of grayish sunlight filter through a pair of tall, grimy windows. Opposite the door you entered through is a massive desk of dark oak, almost hidden under piles of sketches, diagrams, a few letters, and even more half-finished inventions.
A man is sitting behind the desk, apparently absorbed in his work. It seems to involve a series of interconnected metal tubes. You assume he is the originator of the job posting you are pursuing.
I clear my throat before stepping further inside.
Pier doesn't wait, and walks up to the nearest gizmo on a wall to examine it.
I stand there with my arms crossed... but inside, my body is coiled like a spring, ready to leap into action at any sign of danger.
Coiled like a spring? What.... Uhm.. Right. Very saunters in, flips her hair over her shoulder, and looks around boredly.
The man looks up from his work. He has long, unkempt hair and rugged features. His clothes look expensive, but not sacrificing style for sturdiness.
"Ah, you must be the crew I contacted. Come in."
"That's right, sir. I'm Captain Mathilda Gearshifter. These are my associates: Pier Scorn, Flynn Capucine, and Very. We're the crew of the airship Irregular Circumstance."
"We have a ship?"
We have a ship, yes. Of course we have a ship. My character is not just a paladin and an engineer, but a pilot as well, after all.
Pssht. I know we have a ship, Marelle! I'm just playing my clueless weirdo character.
I slide back toward Mathilda and lean in. "I love women with their own airships."
"Oh, Pier... hahaha... Be serious, please."
I roll my eyes at them. "Get a room, you two."
...
...
That's kind of ironic coming from you, Nitrine.
Heh. I'm just playing my character too! Flynn is a fighter through and though, only interested in one thing: Kicking ass.
You know, like this one friend of ours.
I'll have you know that I have wide-ranging interests in a whole bunch of topics besides fighting.
Such as airships?
Such as airships!
The man has gotten up from his desk and moved up to your group. He's not yet tapping his foot impatiently, but only just. You can tell he wants to get down to business.
Leslie, what is your character doing?
Oh, I'll uh... what do we know about this guy? Would we have met him before?
Why don't you make me a Streetwise roll?
Okay, uhm... I have a bonus to that, I think. Let's see... That comes up to... 17.
You've definitely heard of him. He's a famous inventor. Actually, he's popularly known as THE Inventor. His name is Eddigan Lowson. There are a lot of inventors in the Cog-Nation, of course, and no doubt there are some more brilliant than him, but he's among the most successful, partly because of good business sense, and partly because of sheer badassery. He's used his self-designed weapons and his skill with them to defeat many a monster in defense of the city. Basically, he used to be an adventurer, like you.
Iiiinteresting....
I... that is, Very moves up to him, swaying her hips. "So what can we do for you, exactly? And... how much are you willing to pay for it?" I’m trying to be as suggestive as possible. Turning on the devilish charm.
Alright, roll it.
... Aw, man... that’s... that’s a terrible roll. Even with my insane Charm bonus it’s only 9.
He barely spares you a glance, then he answers your question... towards Mathilda. "I need you to transport someone to a location in the Basalt Teeth mountains. Quickly and -most of all- discreetly."
Very pouts.
What’s a Bezzleteat?
Basalt Teeth. It’s a mountain range about a hundred miles outside the city limits. Home to some of the highest mountains in the nation, and to a high density of cryptids. Very few people dare settle there, and even flying over them is generally considered risky. You’d know all that if you’d read the campaign setting handout our game master so graciously provided us with.
Thank you, Marelle. That’s a very good summary.
My pleasure.
"So.... is it you we’re transporting?"
"No. ... Come with me." He waves you all along and walks out of the office through a side door. Do you all follow?
Sure.
Yes.
Very follows.
Actually, Pier wants to have another look at the weapons on the wall.
Mathilda goes back to grab Pier by the arm and pulls him along.
Aww.
If the office half-seemed like a workshop, this room double-seems like one. There’s all sorts of equipment, sawing and drilling stations, cut-open engines on blocks, pieces of fuselage... lots of bigger machines still. You see sparks flying over in one corner, hear hammering in various places. You see a couple of workers, but you suspect more still are hidden behind all the machinery. The Inventor calls out: "Lenney!"
On a walkway above you comes a female voice in response: "Yeah?" You see a redhead in overalls leaning over the railing. He replies: "They’re here. Can you get Sylthia?"
The young lady nods and disappears from your view.
Disappears? By magic?
Haha, no. Nothing like that. There’s just another room up there that you can’t see from this angle. Soon Lenney comes back and makes her way to the staircase leading down to your level.
Hey!
There’s another girl with her. Now that they’re closer, you see Lenney is a classic tomboy, with freckles, overalls, work gloves... Her companion, in contrast, couldn’t seem less at home in a workshop like this. She’s short and almost unnaturally thin, her pale skin sometimes seems tinged with purple. Her hair is similarly clear-coloured, and there’s a strange etherealness to her. But at the same time, she seems very frail, almost sickly. Contributing to that sense is the series of dark patches running up the length of her bare right arm.
Ooh, a mysterious otherworldly waif. Now, that’s interesting.
I thought Flynn was only interested in fighting?
Make an Empathy roll for me, Nitrine.
Definitely not one of my better skills.
Hah.
But hey, good roll. Uh... 12.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice by the way Lenney is holding the pale girl’s -Sylthia’s- hand, and standing near her protectively, that there’s something between those two. In fact, as they approach your group, Sylthia seems hesitant, and leans in closer to the other woman, who in turn puts her arm around her.
Ahah! She’s totally into girls! That means Flynn has a chance!
No, Nitrine, I’m quite sure that’s not what that means.
Aaanyway. Lenney says "Alright, let’s go. I’m coming too." She seems impatient, but Eddigan extends a hand to halt her.
He tells you: "You see, young Sylthia here is ill, and no doctor in the city has been able to help her. A consultant of mine knows of a reclusive researcher who could perhaps do something. I have a map leading to his abode, and..." Lenney interrupts him "Then hurry and give them the map! We’re wasting time!"
I’ll uh... put a hand on her shoulder and try to calm her down. I mean, Very does.
Good, you do that. No need to roll. The Inventor nods at you, apparently grateful.
He then walks a short distance away, inviting your leader, Mathilda, to discuss the details. The rest of you can follow too.
I’ll follow him.
Yeah, me too.
I’ll stick with the ladies. But, like, act indifferent and cool.
Sure.
Eddigan shows you the map and offers some advice on getting there safely. Nothing you couldn’t have thought of yourself... like don’t fly too low in the passes, steer clear of vulture swarms, etc.
Vulture swarms?!
You’re not there!
Then he lowers his voice and gets a serious look. "The truth is, my consultant think those marks on Sylthia’s arm are a sign that an entity from a different plane is trying to manifest through her body. There’s also been a number of.. Strange happenings around her. This entity... let’s say we think it could be very dangerous. Dealing with this... well... dealing with this without killing her... would require very advanced and specialized magic, beyond any of us. This researcher is probably her only hope. You should also ...avoid any of the official authorities for the duration of this mission. Understood? I’ll send a message to my consultant as you depart, he should be able to meet you at the airship docks with some final details."
I don’t really like this... but if it’s to save an innocent girl’s life, Mathilda will nod in agreement.
He better be paying us extra for this!
You’re still not there! But Pier says those exact words.
He nods, as if that was expected. He raises his voice back to a more normal level: "I’ll pay you 200 pounds now, and 200 more on your successful return. But you must hurry."
Is that a lot of money? It sounded like we’d be preventing the apocalypse, here.
That is a lot of money.
Our entire airship is worth about a thousand pounds. So, that’s way more than a typical travel fare. I’ll say "Agreed." and shake his hand.
Wait... no... I... Shouldn’t we negotiate? I mean...
You’re not there either!
Very... while you’re placating Lenney’s impatience, you learn a few things about her and Sylthia. They’ve only been together a few months, but their feelings are obviously very strong. Lenney is a talented mechanic, working here in her brother’s workshop... and as she said, she plans to travel along with you, even though her presence is not strictly required by the mission. Sylthia is an orphan, she was working at an inn about a block from here until she got too sick to keep at it. She’s been...
Sobbity-sob! Are we ready to go?
I... guess so. The ship should be fully stocked and ready. Mathilda would have prepared all the necessary provisions ahead of time.
For going into monster-infested mountains?
We’re flying above the mountains! I don’t think we need to bring climbing gear or anything.
So you’re leaving and going to your ship? The Inventor hands you the promised money purse and bids you farewell. Are you taking Lenney with you?
Of course!
I mean, we could... not take her.
You’re not scoring with the waif either way, Nitrine.
She’s just gonna be angry and hate us, if we don’t take her.
And if she comes along, we don’t need to babysit the sick girl.
You people are awful.
Alright, the air docks aren’t very far away, but still... do you want to take any precautions? Perhaps to avoid too much scrutiny from authorities?
I can just throw my coat over the girl.
I think we’re fine.
I think... I think no one will pay any attention to that girl as long as Very walks in front. All eyes will just be on me.
Haha, I like it. Maybe give me a roll for that?
Is this Charm again? I got a 16... plus 8 is... 24.
Perfect! You walk three or four blocks and nobody even looks at the rest of you. Very struts a few paces ahead and blows kisses at her impromptu audience, turning a number of heads. You get to your ship without a hitch, save one or two wolf whistles.
Good job, Leslie!
Very!
The air docks are much like sea docks would be, except the sea is replaced by air.
No kidding.
They sit atop a tall cliff, with piers and mooring stations... There are airships of every size and shape coming and going. You find yours exactly where you left it.
Is the consultant already there?
It’s only been like fifteen minutes, you don’t think that was enough time for the Inventor’s message to reach him, and then for him to get here from wherever he was staying.
That makes sense. We should probably wait for him.
Eeeh...
It could be important!
Lenney looks back and forth between the lot of you, wondering what you’re all waiting for to get on the ship. Sylthia looks even more sickly than usual. The walk here clearly tired her out. Lenney is practically carrying her at this point.
I’ll take them both aboard and help them get settled. We have passenger cabins, right?
Yes, no problem. Lenney nods to you gratefully. Even Sylthia manages a thin, reedy "Thank you" as you help her up the gangplank.
Dang it, Leslie! Are you planning on stealing her from me?
I’m just being helpful!
Ahem. At this point you see a man stop in front of your ship. He’s wearing long robes and carrying a staff. His head is completely shaven and covered in mystical tattoos. It’s clearly a wizard.
Oh no.
He looks at your ship. The name emblazoned on the side tells him he’s in the right place, so he approaches your group. It seems like this is the Inventor’s consultant.
"OH NO."
What is it?
"I hate wizards."
Isn’t your character a wizard?
Wizards in this universe are a very tightly-ordered group. Almost a religious sect. They all have that shaved head and tattoos, for one thing.
That’s right. Pier is kind of a rebel. An outcast from wider wizard society. A rogue wizard.
Oh, so you’re dual classing?
Do I know this guy?
Not personally, I don’t think. Let’s say you’ve seen him around back in your school days. You know his name is Benticar Fairkey. He is a large man, probably as tall as you... but easily twice as wide. Still, he seems a placid sort, with calm, almost bored eyes.
Then he spots you, Pier. His expression doesn’t change, he just bows his head in greeting. "Former brother Pier."
"Eat coal and die, baldie."
"Now, now, now!" Mathilda steps in-between the two. "I’m Captain Gearshifter of the Irregular Circumstance. How may we help you, good sir?"
He slowly turns away from Pier and addresses you. "I believe I was sent here to help you." he says. He hands you a letter of recommendation he prepared. He says you should present it to the researcher when you reach his dwelling.
Oh! That’s bound to be useful. Good thing we waited for him, right?
I read it.
Nitrine!
That’s fine, it’s not even sealed or anything. He looks at you as you do, but he has no reaction. The letter is addressed to one Zulter Thrumm, and says pretty much what you would expect about your mission, plus of a lot of occult magi-babble. The other interesting detail you might find is that it names the entity whose mark may be on the girl as "Yiltash the Forgotten".
Well! I’ll never remember that.
I sigh and take the letter back from her, I fold it and slide it into a pocket. Then I bow apologetically to the wizard, and thank him for his help.
He seems just as unfazed as before, but he says: "I have prior engagements, but with how important this matter is, I could cancel them to accompany you, if you think I could be of assistance."
"Nope! We’re fine! You go do your business and let us do ours!" I start pulling everyone towards the ship and away from him.
I don’t think your character is strong enough to be pulling anybody, Zintiel.
It’s... probably best we don’t bring him along, considering how Pier interacts with him.
Yeeeep! I guarantee it.
Alright, he looks on as you all get onto the ship and get ready to cast off. Leslie, you’re back on deck after helping Lenney and Sylthia get settled in their cabin. When you left, Sylthia was resting on her cot, with Lenney at her side. I assume you all get busy with starting up the engines, detaching the mooring lines, and everything else needed to get going?
That sounds about right.
Yeah, let’s go! Adventure awaits!
Yay!
Woo! Now let’s meet some monsters and beat them up.
Funny you should say that.
Nooo....
You take off from the docks without a hitch, and turn north, as per the map the Inventor gave you. It should take a few hours to fly into the Basalt Teeth and find the researcher’s place. Who knows what could happen on the way?
You?
Nope, not even me! I’m going to roll on this random encounters table I prepared. Could be an air authority inspection, could be vulture swarms... or pirates! Let's find out.
Random! Yeah! I like random.
Surprising no one.
Ow! You hit me!
Surprising no one.
...
So what’s the result?
Uuuhh..... Never mind, I’ll just roll again.
What, why?
It’s just... It fell on the single most dangerous encounter on the table, and you guys are just starting out... I’d rather not throw this at you just yet.
Pssht... don’t you think we can take it?
Hey, I made a fighter character to get into fights! Lay it on us!
Girls, I’m not sure we...
You can’t just talk about that encounter and then not show us what it is!
You too, Marelle?!
Yes! Let’s do it!
Well... if you’re sure... just don’t blame me for what happens afterwards.
Woohoo!
Alright!
You fly straight toward the mountains for about an hour... the scenery is nice, but nothing much happens. Sylthia has recovered a little, and she and Lenney are both leaning against the railing, taking in the view and some fresh air. The dense air traffic from the city has thinned out by now, and even the big northern railroad, which you had been following for a while, has veered away a good distance back. Things are pretty calm.
And then...!
And then, a short gasp escapes Sylthia’s lips, and she clutches her forehead. She winces and staggers back from the railing, Lenney rushing to support her.
Very asks, "Is she okay? Is there anything I can do?"
Lenney shakes her head. "She gets these headaches sometimes... nothing much can be done except wait them out..." You notice the strange markings on her arm appear to be shifting and writhing... but if you stare at them they’re perfectly normal.
Check it out, she’s going to turn into a monster.
Sssh, quiet, Nitrine.
Suddenly her eyes, previously screwed shut from the pain, pop open and a beam of greenish white light erupts out of them. She screams, or you think she does because her mouth is open, but it only barely resembles a sound a human would make, and it seems to echo from every direction.
She’s turning into a monster.
The sky around the ship seems to coalesce into a thick slurry and darkens... the ship feels as though it’s crawling to a stop. In fact, though you can still hear the engine running, the propellers’ movement has become abnormally sluggish. You don’t see any eyes, but you feel like the surrounding mass is looking at you. Or maybe looking at Sylthia. She’s collapsed in foetal position now... silent, but her mouth still open in a horrible mute scream, her eyes glowing unnaturally. Solid shapes begin to form in the dark fog, and you can see tendrils wrapping around the ship and crawling onto the deck...
Roll initiative!
Finally! And I totally called it.
She didn’t turn into a monster, she just summoned one. I rolled 17.
Eh, it’s practically the same thing. 16.
I rolled an 8. No, those are two very different things.
I have 12.
Whatever, let’s just take this thing down!
Pier is up first! What do you do?
Would I have any idea what kind of creature this is?
Not offhand. You can spend your turn racking your brain for bits of old lore and make a knowledge roll, if you like.
Hmmm... No way, I’ll just blast it! I’ll cast an Aether Bolt at its face.
It having no face, I’ll just assume you’re attacking the darkness surrounding the ship?
Yeah, sure. I rolled a 19 to hit. And... 7 damage!
A bolt of blue lightning arcs from your staff up into the dark fog. The deck is briefly illuminated, but the bolt sort of fades with the distance, and you’re not sure whether it hit anything or not.
Aw, maaan.
Nitrine, you’re next.
Yessss. Flynn will draw her two daggers, Ignis and Fulmin, and say their respective magic words... then start slashing at the tentacles coming onto the deck!
There’s... currently four large tendrils you can see. One is heading... towards you. Another towards Pier... Two more are heading towards Lenney and Sylthia.
I’ll start by taking out the one near me... Does a 16 hit? That’d do... 10 damage. That includes 3 fire damage.
You cleave it clean in two. The tip flops around for a bit and starts to dissolve back into mist as the base quickly recoils back into the mass outside the ship.
Venom! In that case, for my second attack, I’ll run over to the lady passengers, and hit one of the tentacles going for them.
Hey, what about me?
21, that’s sure to hit. This time it’s... 9 damage, 4 of it lightning.
You make a deep gash in it, causing it to stop in its tracks, but that one doesn’t just dissolve like the first tendril. ...Now it’s their turn!
The one heading for Pier will lash out at him... that’s 12 to hit, for 7 damage.
Oof... I’m a wizard, of course that hits me.. Ugh... and that’s a good chunk of my HP, too...
Surprisingly, the tendril doesn’t grab on to you, it just swings right through your body, and you feel really cold as it does. The one you injured, Nitrine, which was going towards Sylthia, attacks you instead. That’s a 19 to hit, for 6 damage.
Bah, I can take it.
The third remaining one extends all the way to Sylthia and actually wraps around her leg, contrary to Pier’s experience. It seems to want to pull her away. For the moment, Lenney is hanging on, but there’s no telling how long that will last, especially if more tendrils join in.
Well, I guess we have to save the girl...
Oh, and... three more tendrils extend out of the cloud from all around the ship.
What??
One heads for... you, Mathilda.
I would be at the helm.
Another goes towards Sylthia as well, while the third one... towards Very. And it’s your turn, Leslie.
Eep! Has it reached Very yet? Can I move?
It’s still some distance away, it’s not obstructing your movement at all yet.
Okay... then I move around it and go help Lenney to free Sylthia.
Shouldn’t you be helping with the fight? There’s no telling how many of these’ll keep popping up!
My character’s a charmer, not a fighter! I don’t even have any weapons!
You gotta have something, isn’t your character a freaking demon?
Demonborn. It’s sort of a half demon. Anyway, I’m going to help pull the person who is the focus of our mission out of harm’s way.
Okay, you and Lenney manage to drag Sylthia’s immobile form away from the one tendril clinging to her. For now, anyway. Lenney motions to the door leading below deck. Maybe she’ll be safer down there?
Will she?
Only one way to find out. But it’s your turn now, Marelle.
I feel like we can’t really win against whatever this thing is. Our best bet is to get the ship going again and escape from it.
From where you are, you can see the propellers struggling to overcome some unseen obstacle. In fact, their engines are starting to heat up. Either you shut them down to avoid damage, or find a way to supercharge them and overcome what’s holding them back.
Just turn them off and come smash tentacles with us!
As captain, it’s my job to see the bigger picture. So I will head to the left propeller and see what I can do to supercharge it.
You have to jump over a tendril, but that one’s busy elsewhere, so you make it. Alright, I’m gonna need you to make a Tinker roll.
Does a 15 do it?
As a matter of fact... it doesn’t.
Aw.
There you go, you wasted your turn! We’re not gonna beat this thing if we don’t deal damage to it!
You killed one tentacle and hurt another, but three more showed up. And I’m pretty sure our game master rolled a die for that, so who knows how many could show up every turn? We won’t get anywhere unless we take out the core that they’re all spawning from. When my next turn comes around, I have this really big spell I could cast...
I’m not sure it has a core. It’s some sort of immaterial cloud! We really should just try to move outside it.
It’s just gonna follow us, don’t you think?
Whatever it is, shouldn’t our priority be to keep it from getting at Sylthia?
Fat lot of good it’ll do us to keep her safe if this thing starts damaging the ship and we crash.
The tentacle just passed through me, I’m not sure it can damage the ship
But it’s obstructing the propellers.
I guess the only thing we’re sure of, is this thing doesn’t make sense.
Ahem. Before we start the second round, Sylthia will suddenly grab your arm, Very.
Very how? ... ... Oh wait.
Her eyes are still glowing, after a fashion. When your gaze crosses them, you get flashes in your mind of a great darkness, like what you imagine the end of the world would be like.... You manage to shake it off, but you see the dark shapes along her arm have extended to the side of her face, and her pale hair is standing on end. Her mouth moves, but it takes several seconds before she finally manages to form words. She says...
Hello! Are you boys and girls having fun?
Daran! Hi! I uh... didn’t know you were here?
I just felt like dropping in.
Oh, hello! Who’s that, Leslie?
I... uh... you’ve already...
I’m Daran, pleased to meet you.
Hello, mysterious person! What brings you here?
Pssst... Check it out... She’s like... a real life mysterious waif!
Uh, everyone, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Daran. These are Zintiel, Nitrine, Marelle, and...
We’ve already met, actually. Looking good, Daran.
I’ll say.
Did you want to join us?
Oh no, no. I’m fine with just watching. I wouldn’t want to interrupt the flow of the game, or get in the way of your finely-tuned teamwork.
Alright, well, if you have any questions, let me know.
Where were we, again?
Err... Sylthia was about to say something...
Right! Thank you. It’s just a whisper... barely audible in all the chaos... she says: "Help me."
Now for the second round of combat, we’re back to the top of the initiative order. Which means Pier goes first.
Awesome! Now, last round was just a tiny bit of lightning to test things out, but now, I will unleash my most powerful spell! Hahahaha!
If you’re gonna throw everything you have at this thing, why not just use your bomb?
Bomb? I have a bomb?
How could you forget?! When we created our characters, the game master gave us each a magic item! I got this pair of magic daggers: Ignis and Fulmin, that deal fire and lightning damage.
And I got our airship, the Irregular Circumstance.
I... actually skipped the magic item and took a special race, instead. I just... Demonborn sounded really cool.
Oooooh, THAT bomb. Yeah, I remember that bomb. It’s actually more of a limited-range singularity detonator. It completely obliterates anything within a fifteen-foot sphere. But eeh... it’s kind of early in the game to use it. It’s a one-shot deal, unlike all YOUR items.
Well... We were told that this was the toughest random encounter on the table, weren't we?
What does being a Demonborn do, anyway, Leslie? Do you get any powers?
Most of them unlock at higher levels, I think... let me see.
Right now you get a magical bonus to all social rolls, as well as slight resistance to magic and the ability to use your claws to fight even without a weapon.
There you go! No excuse, you get clawin’.
You also get cosmetic effects, such as shadows seeming darker in your presence, and fires burning brighter.
Fire burning brighter, eh? Would that affect Nitrine’s fire-dagger?
Pre...sumably?
Right, so if Very hangs out with Flynn, Flynn’s dagger should deal extra damage!
That sounds good.
But who’ll stay with Sylthia and Lenney?
Mathilda will go protect Sylthia. You have a maul and you know how to use it, right?
Yeah... but I still think we should deal with the engines...
Lenney can do that. She’s a mechanic, right? It’s not like she can help with the fight, as far as we know.
As for me, instead of casting my big spell on my turn, I can cast a flying spell on Flynn. Then Very can grab onto her, and they can go right up in that cloud and take out the core.
That’s... a surprisingly good plan, Zintiel.
Yeah! I’ll go for it.
I... suppose?
That sounds fun, to be honest. Will it work, though? Only one way to find out... Zintiel, it’s your turn.
Alright, I cast Soar Aura on Flynn, then move next to where the waif is, to shield her from too many tentacles.
Right, I should be going next... can I delay until Very grabs on?
I’ll allow it.
But it’s the monster’s turn first. There are six active tendrils. That’s... one for each of you, actually. So, lets make this simple... I’ll just roll once, and you all either get hit or not based on your respective defenses, alright? Here we go... 15 to hit, doing 8 damage if successful.
Ooooow.
I dodge! Woo!
I’m also safe.
That hits me.
Lenney takes some damage as well. But she’s still alive. Sylthia doesn’t take damage, but she has a tendril wrapped around her leg again. And... 5 more tendrils materialize at the edges of the ship, converging on her position.
g!
Seriously?!
This looks pretty bad.
We’re fine, just stick to the plan. You in, Leslie?
I... guess I have no choice. It’s my turn now, right?
Correct. What are you doing?
Going with the plan... Very runs over to Flynn and climbs onto her back, holding on tight...
Hmm... hm. Hmmm-hmmm....
Nitrine, your flaming dagger starts burning brighter. You’re not sure how much extra damage it can deal yet, but you think it’s not zero. You can take your delayed action, now.
Great! I take off with Pier’s flying magic... Can I see where the center of this thing is?
It’s pretty much coming from all sides... make me a perception roll.
Twen-ty- one! Awesome! I fly straight for the core and attack it with all I got!
I didn’t say... fine, alright. You see that the dark fog is denser right in front and above the ship... as you get closer, you start to make out something close to an eye... or maybe two eyes. Very, you again catch a glimpse of the same darkness you felt within Sylthia earlier.
That’s where I want to hit! And I got a 22 to do it!
You definitely encounter some resistance as you sink your brightly-burning dagger into the indistinct haze. You feel as though the fire is especially effective against whatever this is. You can tell you’ve hurt it, as something that feels like a scream resonates throughout your body, even though there is no actual sound.
I’ll roll your special damage for you. I’m not going to tell you how much it is, but rest assured, it’s a lot. Now...
Hold on! I still have a second dagger to hit with!
What? Oh... right. Well, go ahead. That one does lightning damage, so no special modifiers are applied.
15 to hit, for 10 points of damage, 3 of which is lightning.
Okay! It’s not dead yet. Marelle, it’s your turn!
Okay... I feel like we’re surrounded by tentacles at this point...
There’s like fifteen of them coming from all directions!
It’s only eleven. But yes, that is still a lot.
I suppose sending Lenney to work on the engines with all that around is likely to get her killed, so I’ll try to join the group in the middle, where her and Sylthia and Pier already are.
And what’ll you do then?
I’m going to cast my Holy Barrier spell, and hope for the best?
Back to the start of the round... Zintiel, you’re up.
So this thing’s not dead yet... I feel like I need to cast my big spell.
Do you know where to aim it?
I’ll aim it at you!
Hey, now!
Hummm....
Tsss... I just mean, your giant flame dagger has to be some degree of visible, even through the fog, right? That tells me where the core of the monster is. I’ll aim right NEXT to you. Is that better?
Fiiine. Wouldn’t your bomb be even more effective, though?
We can do this without spending the one-time only bomb! I can do this spell once per day. If it’s still alive next turn, I’ll think about using the bomb.
If WE’re still alive next turn.
I’ll cast Z-Killer Barrage! It says: "A volley of red and black lightning bolts arc from your outstretched hand and converge on the target from every angle." I’ll roll this pile of dice here... 28 damage.
Noted. Flynn and Very, the lightning rushes past and sinks into the thing before you. You hear more of the soundless scream from earlier, but the entity still has plenty of energy. Now it’s the monster’s turn...
Hold on! Isn’t it my turn after Zintiel?
It was, but you delayed your spot in the initiative order last turn.
Yeah, LAST turn. But I should be back to my usual spot now, shouldn’t I?
Yes, that sounds right.
The rules say...
Hush, Marelle!
Fine, fine. Go ahead, Nitrine.
Okay! Maybe I can finish it this turn... I’ll start with my lightning dagger, just to keep the suspense going... 10 to hit for... 12 damage! Aww... I get a feeling that doesn’t hit.
Hm-hm... No, I’m afraid not. And now your big fire dagger?
CRITICAL! I rolled a natural 20! Hahahaha! In your face!
Venom! That HAS to kill it, right?
I sure hope so...
Does it?
I’ll roll the damage.
Yeah, it dies.
Woohoo!
Splendid! Good teamwork, everyone.
Who’re you again?
Huh... hum... So what happens?
The silent scream crescendos until you feel like your head is about to explode, then just abruptly stops. Flynn and Very are pushed back through the air as the vaguely denser area in the fog pops like a bubble. You see holes with burning edges forming in the darkness and expanding, like through a sheet of paper. When you get back your balance, you’re left floating about thirty feet above the ship.
Those of you down on the deck, you see the mass of tendrils that was moving towards you continue their movement, but progressively fade away like a dream blown apart by the wind... you hear the whirr of the engines stabilize and the propellers start to chug back to life.
Sylthia appears to have passed out, but her breathing is steady. Lenney cradles the form of her lover in her arms. She’s trying not to let it show, but there are tears in her eyes as she mouths a soft "Thank you" toward you all.
All in a day’s work, am I right?
I’m starting to think the money that guy is paying us might not be enough.
We can always re-negotiate when we come back.
Speaking of coming back, I’m going to land on the ship before this spell runs out.
Good idea. Even more so since the ship is slowly starting to move forward again. You can all rest and recover from your wounds as you approach the Basalt Teeth mountains.
And man, do I need to recover from wounds.
How are Sylthia and Lenney doing?
Soon enough, Lenney is bandaged-up and doing well physically. She seems hesitant to look any of you in the eye. Sylthia regains consciousness about an hour later, when you’re well into the mountains. She’s back to her original quiet, timid self... and seems to have no memory of the incident. But the strange marks on her skin have taken on a new, permanent appearance. They now frame her face and make her look kind of eerie.
The mountains are windy, and a light dusting of snow from the summits washes across the deck. You hear the distant bark of the vulture swarms you were warned about, but none of them show up near the ship. Following the Inventor’s map, you locate a large house, or possibly a small manor in a mostly-level clearing surrounded by pine trees. This is certainly the researcher’s dwelling you were sent to find.
Is there a good spot for us to land?
There is. You expect the man gets supplies by airship every so often.... Not many other ways to get to this extremely remote location. You set down the ship without too much trouble. Lenney still has to support Sylthia, but she’s on her feet and ready to go.
Let’s go, then!
As you climb down the ship and make your way towards the house, you hear a distant howling beyond the treeline. This area may be full of wolves... if you’re lucky. You don’t see any of them now, though. Sometimes you feel like you see something moving in the woods out of the corner of your eye, when you turn to look, it’s gone - if it was ever there.
Let’s... not linger.
The house’s wide double doors creak open as you approach. They are especially thick and sturdy-looking, and leave a groove in the thin cover of snow as they move. You surmise that they don’t open very often, and it would have taken considerable effort to do it yourselves. You see a chugging, rusty automaton doing the work for you. It appears to be an older model, in a bad state of disrepair. It’s hollow eyes don’t even look at you as you enter.
You’re now in a wide entrance hall, barely warmer than the chilly mountain air outside. The room seems to have been richly decorated at one time, but much like the automaton, everything is very old and neglected. This, along with the baroque forms of statues and paintings lend the whole place a creepy vibe. At the top of the stairs opposite you, a tall figure in long, fur-trimmed robes is coming down to meet you. You imagine this must be the researcher, Zulter Thrumm.
Both his hands are tucked into his sleeves, and it seems a scar crosses one of his eye sockets, and the orb itself is now a glass prosthetic. His head is completely shaved and covered in mystical tattoos.
Not another wizard?! My character hates wizards.
How did you NOT expect him to be a wizard?
He’s a researcher in occult matters... The person who knew about him and gave us a letter for him was also a wizard!
Even I’m not surprised at all.
Just playing character, you know? And he’s mad, now.
I throw my bomb at the guy.
What.
What?!
What?!!
What...
You heard me! I take out my singularity detonator and chuck it at him.
I can’t believe this! After you kept saying you didn’t want to use it so soon in a super tough battle, you just throw it away now?
And to kill the person we’re supposed to see for our quest?
And who’s supposed to be the only one able to help Sylthia?
And prevent a cosmic calamity from entering our universe?
My character just really really hates wizards, okay? Two in one day is too much to deal with.
Oh boy... okay. Uh... As he sees an object sail toward him... he raises right hand, and you can feel the air charge with electricity a he works some sort of magic. His hand appears to have been worn down to just bones, but it still moves like a living hand. His spell takes hold, and the bomb halts in mid-air a few feet away from him...
Cool, I detonate it.
...
... doesn’t detonate on impact?
It says here on impact, or when I speak the magic command word.
And if it’s "a few feet" away from him, he’s well within the blast radius.
Ugh...
...
...
...
Guess the campaign is going to need a new main antagonist.
WHAT?!
You mean... he was going to be the villain?!
He did seem kind of sinister...
Haha! Vindicated!
Yeeaah.... His work with extraplanar horrors was actually him trying to summon them. Sylthia was just the catalyst he needed to bring his mad designs to fruition... I need to rethink the whole campaign now...
Wow...
It was going to be this whole thing, you see.
Well, we all had fun... and it’s getting kind of late. So we can call it a night, and you can think about it before the next session, right?
Yeah, great game, neighbour! I’m looking forward to next week!
Next week, she says.
Keep the monsters coming, and I’ll keep beating them up.
Thank you, this was really fun.
Bye bye! See you next time.



Sprockets and Old Ones
Posted by Falingard on Friday, January 12, 2018, 1:00 PM

Updated!
This week, on Flaky pastry... something completely different! (and a little early)

So here we are... 700 pages of Flaky Pastry! But this latest page left me with a series of conundrums. For these hundredth pages, I usually step away from the 'main story', and give secondary characters a time to shine... but since the time of page 600, I've started doing Slices, which are basically just that all the time. I could turn the concept around, and use page 700 to go back to the main story for a time... but what even is the main story?

One thought I had was, since this would happen about two thirds of the way through the current Slice, Future Teens, I could just use the page to finish that story in one go... but that didn't feel awesome enough. Then I thought I could make a different kind of side story, starring all the main characters of the comic, but not really. I had, a while back, as a fun exercise, asked myself what the Flaky Pastry characters would come up with if they ever took up tabletop roleplaying. Perhaps a session of that would be a good story to tell for page 700! I even had another thing with steampunk characters I had created to use as NPCs in the game.

As I started coming up with ideas for the story, I eventually realized something... I could tell some sort of story, but for it to feel real, I kind of had to tell an entire roleplaying session from beginning to end... and there was kind of no way to do that in even the monstrously-sized comic pages I usually make for the hundredths. And besides, what would I show? Marelle, Nitrine and Zintiel as they play? Their roleplaying characters in-universe? A mixture of both? Perhaps there was a way out of this...

So I decided to do something radical. I would write a short story... just some text with a couple of illustrations. You may or may not realize this, but I'm not a writer. I can see some of you raising your eyebrows and making faces. How am I not a writer? I've been writing this webcomic for nearly 13 years! Well, that's true, but that is comic writing. It's just some dialog, with images doing most of the work. Actual prose scares me. Luckily, since this is an account of a roleplaying session, pretty much all it is is people talking. I can still let the images do the hard work. Still, this was a little scary for me. And then when I finally finished writing it, I had barely over a week left to do 20+ illustrations... Eeeeeh... that's fine, right?

Luckily, it was. Yay! I had planned to do a number of things during my winter holiday vacations, but I didn't end up doing all of them. I did do the most important, though. And that's Flaky Pastry page 700. The ability to create... just create whatever... is one of the most enjoyable things in life, to me. Sharing what I create and having people enjoy it is just a little below that, but still a significant source of joy. So even though this was a lot of work, it was worth it! As I do after basically every other hundredth page, I swear I'll make it smaller next time. Maybe. I dunno.

Oh, and Choice of Pastry is also still going on!

Art, Character and story Copyright © Félix Lavallée 2005-2018