Monday, 22 April 2013

Ebon Eaves: Chapter I

Our first session by Hangout lasted about three hours. Details of the town are in the Prelude post.

  • +Paul plays Father Aaron, a Devout. He is a Presbyterian priest, sent to Ebon Eaves for being difficult and asking too many questions. He wears formal vestments, has an open face with bright eyes, and is of slim build.
  • +Annette plays Amy Hearst, a Librarian. She's recently come to the town of Ebon Eaves to open a new library. She wears formal garments, has an open face with clever eyes, and has a lithe frame.


Amy's staying at the Partridge Boarding House, run single-handedly by the aging Mrs. Partridge, and home only to Amy and an unsociable old woman with dark eyes and milky-white skin. It's a Sunday, and despite not being particularly religious, Amy decides to bike to the church to hear Father Aaron's first sermon. It's foggy, but many other people are headed in the same direction.

After the sermon, Father Aaron greets his new parishioners at the door, including Mayor Wilson and his large extended family. Johnny Wilson, the mayor's twelve-year-old son, saw the ghost of Old Pope Manley at the Manley Manor a few weeks back. He asks the preacher how to deal with ghosts, but Father Aaron tells him there's no need, as they don't exist. The boy looks dubious. Aaron and Amy exchange a few words, and part ways. Amy decides to go for a bicycle ride along the stream, and after finishing his duties Father Aaron heads to the local tavern to seek some lunch.

A man on a ladder is repairing some of the lights out the front of the inn. A table of farm-hands quiets down as the priest enters, and talk softly among themselves. Father Aaron joins Julian Marlow, a dour, leathery old man sitting in the corner. Marlow seems unimpressed by all the talk of ghosts.

Riding along the road following the stream through town, Amy is waved down by an enthusiastic young lady, Marjory Debnam, a murder mystery enthusiast who recognises her as the new librarian. They discuss the haunting at Manley Manor, and decide to go up there to take a look in the light of day while providing moral support for each other. Marjory is reluctant to get too close to the eerie old boarded up house, but Amy pokes around a bit. She goes as far as the front porch, where she finds a piece of recently-cut copper wire. She tries to find out if there's a hidden wire connecting the house to the town's power supply, but instead from a certain point near the house she hears a hum which she theorises might be caused by a generator. Unfortunately the narrow window into the cellar is grimy, and she can't make out anything in the darkness beyond. As Marjory's courage is starting to evaporate, they return to town.

After the afternoon service, Father Aaron also decides to take a look at the Manley place. Around the back, he finds a reasonably new lid from a gasoline can lying among the leaf litter. Intrigued, he returns to town, deciding to see if he can find any records or historical accounts at the library when it opens tomorrow morning.


Amy is up bright and early; not even strange old ladies and cold fog can dampen her enthusiasm, for today is the day she opens her library! It's not a separate building in its own right, but a repurposed side-room of the Town Hall, now full of shelves, tables, and books. There are also some locked filing cabinets of council records that have been moved in here to free up space in the offices. Marjory stops by and brings some morning tea. Father Aaron also visits, and together he and Amy search the shelves for some accounts of local events.

They find a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings, which started about nine years ago, covering a series of disappearances. At first they were seen as individual cases, but soon the reporter was treating them as related events. Overall six men disappeared from the town; about half turned up dead, and the other half remained unsolved. Pope Manley, of Manley Manor, was one of the missing men. There were also news articles covering the class action of Rain vs. the U.S. which led to a large compensation payout for the victims of illegal government experiments in the town.

Father Aaron and Amy decide to check out the Manley Manor at dusk, to see if they can witness the lights. From the town, the mansion is concealed by thick trees, so they have to head up the driveway to take a closer look. In the gathering gloom, some of the lights are flickering on and off, sending silent beams across the clearing from between the boards nailed over the windows. They try the front door, but it's been nailed shut. They try the back door, but Father Aaron receives a nasty jolt from the metal handle that throws him backwards! He also learns that this door is locked.

They consider their options for entering the house - levering open the front door, bypassing the booby-trapped back door, or squeezing through the narrow window into the basement...

The first session started pretty slowly, which I was expecting, but I found it a little frustrating as a Keeper to try and figure out how to make Keeper Moves straight off the bat. I didn't want to jump out and yell "look weird stuff!" right away, but at the same time needed to prompt the players towards the mystery. I guess in the end I tried to do a little foreshadowing and announcing trouble until the players started asking questions.

Part of the problem, I think, was that most of my prep work was to do with those involved in conspiracies, who are not likely to be the most forthcoming about their motivations. I floundered a little trying to come up with a good way to ease into things, and eventually introduced a couple of improvised NPCs to talk about the weirdness with.

Once the PCs started poking about the haunted house, though, things really picked up and I felt the game mechanics engaging. Having re-read the introductory player info, I just need to keep in mind things like the generally weird behaviour of the townsfolk, and think of some ways to weave important NPCs into the PCs' life.

>>> Chapter II

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Complex: Episode 4

It's been a month between sessions, because we didn't want to have yet another game with only two players showing up. So, for the first time since Episode 1, we had the whole group together! Due to Daylight Savings starting in the Northern hemisphere while ending in the Southern, the session started two hours earlier than previously for me; I had to get up pretty early, but at least the game didn't run through my lunch time!

My schedule helped us to once more finish the session on time. It's basically just a list with "real world" times listed down the side, and cues to make sure certain meta-game events happen by certain times - when I expect to start the Opening Scenes, when we'll get to the Middle Bit, when to start heading towards a Climax and resolution, and when to call a halt so we have enough time to complete Tag Scenes before finishing on time.

Episode 4: Crime and Punishment

Starring (in alphabetical order):
  • +Lloyd Gyan as Aki Enoki, graduate student of biological anthropology on a gap year.
  • +David Miessler-Kubanek as Tony Pearson, the apartment's maintenance man, and an ex-hacker from California.
  • +Steve Moore as Takeshi Sekiguchi, a retired hit-man trying to keep a low profile.
Produced and Directed by Craig Judd

Takeshi returns from his business trip. He has just enough time to get inside, take off his shoes and loosen his tie, and start pouring a glass of scotch, when Aki knocks on his door. She's come to return the stolen whalebone statue, and tries to leave straight away, but he invites her in to see if they can clear the air between them. She resists, but in the end consents.

In a lower-floor hallway, Tony walks past Zoe on his way to a repair job. He tries to ignore her, but she apologises for the other night and asks if she could buy him a drink tonight at Casey's Pub. He agrees to meet her there at nine.

Just as they are about to part ways, the elevator door opens in front of them, and a man carrying several cases gets out and introduces himself as Brett, a new resident. Zoe departs as Tony helps Brett to his apartment. Brett subtly questions Tony about his origins. Tony becomes flustered as some inquiries cut a bit too close to home, and accidentally confirms that he's from California. He leaves in a hurry before he incriminates himself any further.

Sitting at opposite ends of his couch, Takeshi questions Aki about her obvious discomfort. She's reluctant to address the issue directly, but eventually admits it's because he carries guns. He claims that way of life is behind him, but she points out the hidden gun cabinet that Aomo told her about. However, she also tells him about Tony keeping people in the old prison, and that she thinks he's crazy-dangerous, and that she probably distrusts Tony more than she dislikes Takeshi. Takeshi agrees to talk to Tony about the situation, and Aki leaves.

While repairing a window, Tony hears the sound of spray-painting outside. He looks out, to see a guy in an olive raincoat "crouched" sideways on the sheer wall, spray-painting a Lizard tag. He ducks his head back inside, ignoring the call of "Warden!" from the guy. Instead, he heads up to Aki's balcony, where he manages to reach out and grab the guy's arm. The Lizard tells him that he'll stop painting if Tony lets him leave this place, but Tony tries to drag him inside. They struggle, and the Lizard drops his paint can and backpack to the concrete below.

Aki turns up to see Tony teetering on the edge of her balcony. She rushes over, and helps him drag the Lizard to "safety." Tony then pulls a wrench off his belt and attempts to knock the Lizard out, but the Lizard's tough skin and Aki's force-field prevent him from being hurt. In the struggle though, Tony is pushed back against the concrete wall and bangs his head.

Guided by a premonition that Aki's in danger, Takeshi makes an appearance too! He tries to nonviolently subdue the Lizard with Tony's assistance, but Aki's still using her force field to try and free the Lizard and stop the fighting. Takeshi uses his precognition to great effect, predicting his opponent's moves. Aki becomes worn out from prolonged use of her force field powers, and she passes out from the strain. The other two finally get the Lizard under control.

According to my episode outline, the Lizard was supposed to taunt a couple of people before returning at the end as a climactic chase and capture, followed by everyone arguing about what to do with him. However, we ended up having that climactic struggle in the middle of the episode! I should have made sure he was too far away from Tony to be grabbed, but I went with "be a fan of the PCs, make them look cool." Once he was embroiled in a Contest, there was no easy way for him to escape without Stressing Tony out, but his dice weren't good enough for that. It worked out OK in the end, though, and getting the fight out of the way earlier on left more time for dealing with moral quandaries.

While Aki's passed out, Tony and Takeshi discuss what to do with the Lizard. Takeshi wants to call the police, but Tony tells him about the prison. The Lizard has obvious "powers," and a green scaly skin, marking him as an escaped convict. Takeshi agrees to let Tony take the Lizard down to the sub-basement while he makes sure Aki is OK. 

Down in the prison, Tony throws the Lizard into his cell. He notices the word "Lizard" etched into the old stonework. As the guy tumbles into the cell, it looks as though a blur of light spills out of him and dissipates into the cell with a frustrated sigh. Afterwards, the guy in the raincoat loses his scaly appearance. Tony locks him in with a newly repaired latch, and considers using his 3D printer to make a replacement for the missing cell number tag. It's also about time for him to get ready for his meeting with Zoe.

Takeshi considers calling an ambulance for Aki, but she wakes up as he applies a damp cloth to her forehead. He tells her that Tony has run off to chase down the Lizard. Aki wants to show Takeshi the prison while Tony's out, but Takeshi does his best to distract and redirect her. They go downstairs and check out the dropped backpack and paint cans, not finding anything particularly interesting. Aki insists that now is the best time to show Takeshi the prison, but Takeshi resists; it's late, he's tired, it's been a long day, he has responsibilities as the building's owner not to violate people's privacy...

The two are at an impasse when Brett Leeding shows up and lets them both know he's moved in because everything seems to be happening around this building. Since he's Takeshi's friend and Aki's investigator, he tells the both of them that Zoe Elliott is a current Odyssey Tech employee, so you know... he thought they should know that. He then heads off to the pub, and Takeshi says he'll catch up with him later.

At Casey's Pub, Tony nonchalantly says hi to Bob and cruises over to Zoe's table, because it's totally not a date. Again. She apologises for running out on their dinner, but that things are so complicated... Tony says something touching and reassuring, and she smiles and touches his hand with hers. Tony calls a toast, but Zoe's hand begins to tremble and she drops her glass, pressing her hand to her head and crying out, "No! Not now!" Tony senses a spiritual presence growing, similar to Sheila but filled with dread and malevolence. He scoops Zoe up and begins to carry her out of the bar, but a glowing ball of miasma emerges from the wall and attacks him! With a burst of hatred and spiritual energy, it knocks him down. Just as he blacks out, he sees Zoe trying to hold the thing back...

Tag Scenes

Aki leads Takeshi down through Tony's "Dungeon" and into the prison. On the way, they reassess their opinions of each other. They arrive in front of the Lizard's cell, finding the guy still comatose on the floor, and Takeshi begins to realise the truth about Tony.

Lloyd changed Aki's Duty to "DUTY to those who have earned my respect," her Justice to "Show them that JUSTICE prevails," and her Relationship with Takeshi to "I should reconsider how I feel about TAKESHI, he's not such a bad guy after all."

Steve changed Takeshi's Justice to "I am the dispenser of JUSTICE," his Truth to "TRUTH is a valuable commodity to be dispensed sparingly," and his Relationship with Aki to "Aki needs protection from the horrors of the world."

Meanwhile, Tony regained consciousness, his eyes opening to bright sunshine. He struggled to his feet, red rock all around. The camera pans back, to show him on the very top of Ayers Rock, right in the heart of central Australia...

David didn't Challenge any of Tony's Values or Relationships, so he only had one Growth dice from Stress.



Firelight plays across the red-rock walls of an ancient cave. Paintings of animals, people, and spirits cover the walls. The air is filled with the thrum of didgeridoo and the clack of rhythm-sticks. A circle of men sit around the fire, their dark skin streaked with white ochre. At the head of the circle sits a white-bearded elder, deep in meditation.

His blind white eyes snap open as the music stops, and he speaks.

"Two have come. We must hurry."

Since the players frame their own tag scenes, Tony's finale was all on David! I just asked him where he wanted to wake up. It's a great plot development, and it's already sparking off ideas for next time. It looks like it will be "filmed" in two separate locations though, with not much chance for Tony to interact with the other two Leads. Time will tell whether he gets back to the Complex quickly, or just in time for the end of the episode.

>>> Episode 5

Monday, 15 April 2013

Ebon Eaves: Prelude

+Annette expressed an interest in playing an RPG with more than one player, since our Blood Hunter and Maid games have always been one-on-one. We recruited +Paul as a second player, and decided on tremulus - a game of Lovecraftian horror based on the Apocalypse World engine. I recently got a copy of the pre-release PDF from the Kickstarter, although I'm expecting a softcover book in the next few months.
  • +Paul plays Father Aaron, a Devout. He is a Presbyterian priest, sent to Ebon Eaves for being difficult and asking too many questions. He wears formal vestments, has an open face with bright eyes, and is of slim build.
  • +Annette plays Amy Hearst, a Librarian. She's recently come to the town of Ebon Eaves to open a new library. She wears formal garments, has an open face with clever eyes, and has a lithe frame.

I decided to use the "Playset" of Ebon Eaves that comes with the book. A Playset presents the players with two sets of seven questions (in this instance, about Local Colour and Town Lore), each of which requires three "yes" answers. This provides two sets of codes to cross-reference with a paragraph of information for the players, and a paragraph of secret information for the Keeper (GM). Each set of seven questions has 35 possible combinations.

For this iteration of Ebon Eaves, the players chose that the locals display strange behaviour, and it's an old town with a tragic past. In addition, there has been a history of ghost sightings, rumours of dark rituals, and there are several old or ruined buildings in or about the town. That led to the following player-facing information:

Ebon Eaves is a little known enclave located far off the beaten track. About fifty years ago, a lot of folks underwent secret government experiments. It made national headlines about five years ago, though the details of exactly what was done remain a mystery. In light of world events, the news faded rapidly. The residents settled for an undisclosed amount, but few have to work, though many carry on as they always have.

The old parts of Ebon Eaves are fashioned in a very classical Greek tradition. The Manley Manor stands apart. It seems to be far older and sits cozily but abandoned on the far edge of town near a dairy farm owned by Mayor Thad Wilson. Johnny, Thad’s youngest son, has claimed to have seen the spirit of old Manley moving through the house in the dead of night. No one paid him any mind until the house’s lights began flickering on and off three weeks ago, even though the power was cut off long ago. People now give the place a wide berth.

I spent a week or so building the basic outline of the town, and working up some dark and nefarious plots based on the secret Keeper information related to the above information, tying the two separate storylines (or "threads") into an interconnected cat's cradle of conspiracy waiting to be uncovered.

I decided that this Ebon Eaves was located in the foothills of Vermont, and that the game would start in the late Summer of 1923.

>>> Chapter I

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Primal Fantasy: The Feral preview

This is a work-in-progress Playbook from my World That Time Forgot re-skin of Apocalypse World, tweaked to run savage primeval fantasy in a world where people coexist with dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts.


In a dangerous world, you have learned to survive by embracing the wild. You are the one who melts into the jungle. The one who runs with beasts, as one of their own. The one who forsakes their humanity to answer their own savage heartbeat. The Feral.

Choose one set:
  • Fierce -1 Keen+1 Primal+1 Savage+0 Wild+2
  • Fierce-1 Keen+0 Primal+2 Savage-1 Wild+2
  • Fierce-2 Keen+1 Primal+1 Savage+1 Wild+2
  • Fierce-1 Keen+0 Primal+1 Savage+1 Wild+2

You get all the basic moves. Choose 2 feral moves.


Savage Heart: Gain +1wild (maximum +3).

Tooth and Claw: Whenever you inflict harm while unarmed, inflict +1harm.

Camouflage: When you blend into your surroundings, roll+wild. On a hit, hold 1. On a 10+, hold 2. While hiding, spend your hold 1-for-1 to:
  • Remain hidden at any time you would otherwise be discovered.
  • Make an unexpected appearance in a nearby area.
  • Take +1forward when you act from hiding.

Beast Speak: When you try to influence the behaviour of an animal or pack, roll+wild. On a hit, the animals keep doing what they want, but you can give them +1 or -1 forward. On a 10+ the animals change their behaviour and follow your command. On a miss, they turn on you.

Voice of the Wild: When you commune with the spirits alone and in the wilderness, roll+wild instead of roll+primal.

Pack Hunter: You belong to a pack of roughly a dozen human-sized predators, which treats you as one of their own (pack small 1-harm 0-armour savage). Decide on the type of animal, then choose two:
  • The pack has over 20 members. Medium instead of small.
  • The beasts have wicked teeth, claws, or other body weapons. +1harm.
  • The beasts have thick, armoured hide. +1armour.
  • The beasts are intelligent and cunning. -savage.
  • The pack considers you their alpha. Take +1ongoing when using Beast Speak on them.
  • The pack does not primarily hunt on the ground. Choose either +aquatic, +arboreal, or +flying.
And choose 1:
  • The pack is small, just a few individuals or a family group. -pack.
  • The pack is easily scattered in the face of danger. +flighty.
  • The pack’s power-structure is constantly being tested. +rivalry.
  • The pack’s food or territory is being impinged by something else. +competition.
  • The pack is very attached to their current habitat. +territorial.
*     *     *

I should note, I plan to have armour be even less common than in Apocalypse World. 1-armour will be the norm for combat-centric characters, and maybe only the Thunder Hunter will have 2-armour. That's why I've only given the basic pack creatures 1-harm.

I came up with the pack idea fairly late in the piece. I considered making it integral to the Playbook, like Choppers and their gangs, but in the end decided to keep the option open for people to play a Feral with no pack. Maybe it's a little weird to have "gain a pack" as a Move? Opinions are welcome - I could always make one Playbook for a pack-runner, and one for a solitary Feral.

I'm not sure if I should give the Feral an extra Move. As it stands, they start with 2 out of 5, and will pick up another 2 as advances. I'm not sure how many would be right; the average seems to be about 6, but characters with gangs or multiple concerns do seem to end up with fewer Moves (cv Hardholder, Chopper).
EDIT: I added Tooth and Claw, which I think rounds them out nicely.

I still haven't fully read through all of the AW Playbooks, which I really should do before I get too far into writing Playbooks of my own! Still, at the moment I'm mostly brainstorming ideas. I can edit and revise stuff later, when I have a full field of Playbooks assembled and ready to playtest.

I did notice that some Playbooks have a Move that gives +1 to their primary stat (taking it to +3), but other Playbooks have the same thing tucked away in their general advancement box. I'm not sure what's up with that, other than characters with it as a Move can start with the +3, whereas the others have to wait for an advance before they can pick it up.

Any advice, insights, or suggestions to do with Playbook development would be appreciated!

Skyship Islands 4

  • Alice plays Amarylis, a female Centaur barbarian with a warhammer and an attitude.
  • +Andrew is playing Inigo Yonez, a male Dwarven archaeologist.
  • +Melysa is playing Annona, a female Jungle Elf shaman.
  • Michael plays Engrin, a quiet male Human rogue armed with a crossbow.
  • I'm playing Zanne, the female Human captain of a small skyship. 

A chamber full of undead warriors stands between us and the next fragment of journal (concealed in a statue), and four pirates have just entered the chamber to boot!

The pirates began fighting their way through the skeletons and zombies, heading across the room towards the statue. We fought conservatively as we had the longer distance to travel, and also we didn't mind if the undead and pirates fought each other. 

Shortly after the fight began, we'd made little headway against the dozen or so skeletons and zombies, but two of the pirates were surrounded and overwhelmed by the shambling horde while their companions reached the statue. I held our entry doorway while Annona and Engrin provided covering fire from the corridor. Amarylis ran around smashing the undead, while Inigo moved to hold the doorway the pirates had entered from, to prevent them leaving with our treasure.

One of the pirates climbed the statue and prised the ruby eye from its forehead. The area surrounding the statue was immediately engulfed in flames, killing the hapless brigand sitting on it, and setting fire to one of the zombies. The only remaining pirate just managed to dive free of the flames, but Engrin's crossbow quickly put an end to his good fortune.

We quickly finished off the remaining undead. We met with no casualties, but several of us suffered injuries. Amarylis' wounds required the attention of Annona's healing magic.

The great ruby from the statue lay heat-fractured on the floor, but we took it to break into smaller gems. The blue sapphire we'd found in the first ruin fitted into the idol's eye socket, and revealed a magically concealed chamber in the base of the statue. We retrieved the journal fragment and returned to the ship.

From the journal, we learned that the next journal piece was on a flying island, in the ruin of an Elven city. We briefly considered raiding, sabotaging, or sinking the pirate vessel moored off the coast, but decided against it. Instead, we took to the skies and headed towards our next destination.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Primal Fantasy

A couple of weeks back, I had a thought that Apocalypse World might be hackable to run a savage, primal fantasy setting inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs (The Land/People that Time Forgot), Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World) and others - a prehistoric world where people live side by side with megafauna such as sabretooth cats and dinosaurs.

I think the AW engine is a reasonable fit for this genre because they are at the opposite ends of civilisation. Apocalypse World is set 50 years after civilisation ends, and a primeval setting occurs an untold time before the first true civilisations rise. There are similar themes and issues - savagery, scarcity, and the chance for larger-than-life characters to have a real impact on their surroundings.

So far I've just started mulling things over, and throwing some ideas into a document for later fleshing-out. I started with a brainstormed list of Playbooks:
  • Thunder Hunter - specialises in hunting megafauna.
  • Beast-Dancer - trains large dangerous pets.
  • Archer - hunts at a distance, from the shadows.
  • Shaman - wields spiritual influence.
  • Chieftain - responsible for the tribe.
  • Lorekeeper - draws on tribal and ancestral memories.
  • ??? - gathering and scouting.
  • Warrior - specialised in fighting other people.
  • Trapper - sets snares, pits, logfalls, builds stuff.

I also came up with a list of Stats, although they're pretty much just reskinned copies of the Apocalypse World stats. I suspect this may be because, at their heart, both settings are so similar. I may end up modifying some of the Basic Moves, though, which will alter the flavour of the game a little.

  • Savage - brutal, violent.
  • Wild - instinctive, unrestrained.
  • Draw/Allure? - personality, charisma.
  • Keen - senses, intellect.
  • Lore - connection to the ancestors.

I'll post updates when I get around to working on the Moves or the Playbooks. I'll also need to work out the best way to represent dinosaurs and such.