Monday, August 18, 2014

Nobody Expects Plants

I got my hands on a really evil Shadowrun sourcebook: Parabotany. Yes, it's all plants, mutated, awakened/magical and fairly normal ones. And no-one ever expects plants to be anything else than scenery. Most of the plants are fairly harmless or even useful, especially for an awakened character. But some can get characters in serious trouble. Most plants I have seen used by GMs (mostly in fantasy games) are half-sentient and I'm not a fan of this.

Plants are quite awesome the way they are, not intelligent but well-prepared for survival with a bag of tricks we ignore at our own risk. Plants communicate. Plants fight and plants move. So you pick some salad for a meal and suddenly the rest of the salad turns poisonous because the first plants gives off a chemical signal 'I'm being attacked!'? Plants that use you as an unwilling seed carrier, maybe by lodging sharp seeds in your skin, all the plants in the area at once? Plants that can call animals that protect them when they are being picked or trampled? Plants do all that. Now let's ramp it up, add some magic to the mix and the lush meadow your character is walking through suddenly is a battlefield.

I have some favourites from the Parabotany and State of the Art sourcebooks, like the giant tumbleweed and the perfectly harmless looking grass with seeds that will shatter on contact, capable of sandblasting a car or person. My players are already a bit paranoid about the animals they encounter during their roadtrip. By the time they reach Boston, they will probably twitch nervously at the sight of a tuft of grass.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something Went Wrong

We were a GM short for our last Deadlands session and so we played Something Went Wrong instead. It's a short, fast game, very light on rules: a group of experienced adventurers go on a last dungeon crawl to set themselves up for life. They have seen and done it all, so what could go wrong?

Character creations is done after assigning a class, an alignment and four stats. Oh, and a piece of loot, like the Jet-Black Dagger of Masterful Stabbing our group favoured. The GM sets up the encounter with the help of a random table and after one round of combat, passes the job of GM off to the player on her left. And just when everything is going really well, the GM has access to some more random tables with creative mishaps for everyone.

Our groupd had characters like Lootina the Thief, Cohen the Barbarian and the Great Fumblerado and fought against four dragons, four koalas and four tiny giants. People were roasted, tiny giants crawled up pants legs, koalas were clubbed to death with other koalas and a dwarf appearing out of nowhere served beer for everyone in an unexpected interlude. Somehow, everyone but two characters survived. One was killed, revived and then killed again when Cohen's axe slipped. Sorry about that.

If you're ever in need of a game for one evening that doesn't take a lot of explaining, is playable by a large group (we were six) and doesn't take itself seriously at all, check out Something Went Wrong. You can download it for free (or pay what you want) at Drive Thru RPG or at archive.org.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Deadlands: Ghouls

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

last time

You'd think that we would have been getting the hell out of Dodge after last time, but Etienne had new orders and those were to clean up the mess Miss Graves made. In an open fight we didn't stand a chance and we came up with some sort of plan: burn them out.

Why don't I just mind my own business and let someone else deal with this crap? Hm. I'm not sure I rightly know. I've spent a good deal of my life keeping my head down and listening to other people tell stories around the campfire, only half believing it. I've seen a thing or two myself, no-one gets as old as I around here and doesn't, not when you spend most of your time outside, far from any town. There's some weird stuff and it's everywhere. For the longest time it was enough that I made it through, didn't give much thought to other people. Most of them didn't give a damn about me, after all. But now - I've come to care about these people, I won't abandon them. And seeing to it that those monsters are taken care of, it's a purpose. And it's a damn sight better than being told that I'm too old and no more use to anyone.

Right. Burn them out. We bought up three huge barrels of petroleum and all the sticks of dynamite and bottles of nitroglycerin the town had to offer. And we packed our stuff and got the horses because there was no way this was going to be quiet and we better be ready to get away quickly. I don't know how, but Etienne even got the doctor to come along. We found the entrance to the ghouls' lair and they had tunnels all over the place. I got right up to their, I don't know what to call it, a big hall where they were all together, talking about how they were going to stay. Or rather getting told by their...king? The biggest and strongest of them all in any case, I wouldn't have liked to get on his wrong side.

We put some smaller barrels of petroleum in the tunnels. I had seen a crack in the ceiling of the hall that they used as a chimney and Elisabeth and me went to look for it topside, took a big barrel and some dynamite with us. Etienne, Kenneth and Alan stayed below to clean up any ghouls that might survive. It took some searching, but we found the crack. The soil was loose and if we had tried to get too close with the huge barrel, it probably would have collapsed. So we took a bundle of dynamite, lit the fuse and lowered it on a piece of rope, then dropped it when it was clear of soil and roots and ran like hell.

The explosion threw us even further, dropped what felt like a whole tree on me, but it rolled off then the soil started to slide beneath us. Somehow, we got a hold of some roots and pulled out of the hole. I could hear screaming and yelling from below - not all the ghouls were dead, but it didn't sound like they were going to make trouble any longer.

When we got back to the hole, we could see black smoke coming from it and the doctor said she could hear shots. I didn't hear much but the ringing in my ears. Kenneth was already topside, a bit singed around the edges. Alan and Etienne had been busy cleaning up the rest of the mess, but by the time we got to them, they were all done. Alan had been clawed and bitten and he blacked out while the doc was treating him. Etienne was, well, Etienne. I think he'd probably shrug it off if someone took an arm or leg. Elisabeth offered to heal Alan and me. He agreed and with a prayer, she healed all his wounds. I give her that, her faith can do good things. I still didn't want it, I would have felt like a liar if I did.

The good people of Dodge were already on their way to see what had happened and we made ourselves scarce. Etienne still had something to do in town, so we met up a few miles west. Over breakfast, we talked and Elisabeth made a joke to Etienne about laying on hands. He asked if she maybe wanted to lose her hand and made a grab for her. He didn't mean nothing by it, but I still flinched, almost punching him because I wasn't sure who was doing the grabbing, Etienne or the other guy. Etienne took me aside later and said that I would notice if the other guy took over, but I'm not going to rely on that. I've seen what can happen and I'm won't do any guessing and maybe guess wrong. I told him as much and he took it as the warning I meant it to be.

We're going West now. Etienne has been ordered to California and we're going with him. It's going to be quite a trek, especially this late in the year. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm not used to staying in one place too long and I'm restless after the months spend with the tribe, although I felt right at home there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Deadlands: Berserk

last time

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

We decided to check on Miss Graves and her compaion, but met only Mr Frakes who asked us to come back later and we didn't press the issue. On our way back to the saloon, I spotted footprints walking through an alley. Just footprints, not a person in sight. Etienne didn't see anything and when we took a closer look, there was just a cat. But the footprints were still there, small ones, form someone who didn't weigh all that much. My money was on Miss Graves, just a suspicion. It didn't get any better when we caught up with her later at the hotel and she lied every time she opened her mouth.

Elisabeht talked with Anna Morgan, the wife of the minister, who was somehow involved in the whole story around Garret, a Northener spy Graves and Frakes had been trying to catch. Anna admitted to being a spy for the South, right before she was dragged into a hole opening in her own kitchen floor by a monster. We were too slow to help her, especially since the tunnel caved in. So we took to knocking on doors and asking people to let us check their cellar and we did find a trace, followed it to the US Signal office. There, Kenneth and me walked into the cellar with just a candle and I couldn't blame you if you called us stupid.

The floor broke away under Kenneth and something grabbed him. I dropped the candle, held onto him, pulled him back and we stumbled out of the cellar, Kenneth bleeding from deep wounds, just in time to run into Frakes. Who just turns on his heel when he noticed the smell coming from the open door, like something long dead frying in the sun, and says he has to go. Alan and me followed him back to the hotel and pushed out way into his room, demanding answers. Yeah, this wasn't the day for clever decisions.

By now it was pretty clear that Graves was behind this, that the monster was probably Garret and things didn't get any better when Frajes had his guns trained on us. I could hear Badger growling, he wasn't happy about the idea of just letting Frakes push us around and probably putting a bullet in our heads. I turned and attacked, not what Frakes expected and I got my hands on his gun. I also got a bullet in my leg and that was when I lost it. I can't really remember what happened. No. That's a lie. I can remember it, it's just that...I never was a violent man. I can hold my own in a fight, but I never fought like this, fought to kill. And kill I did, I beat Frakes to death with his own gun. Alan later told me that he didn't dare get into my way and I guess that was a wise decision. There's a price I pay for the help Badger gives me.

We tried to grab Miss Graves, but she attacked us with some kind of spell, a blue ball of fire that went clean through the wall. And she turned invisible, didn't I say she could? So she escaped us and when we were alone, I finally calmed down. Frakes had managed to put some more bullets in me and with the fury gone, the pain hit me. I collapsed and I woke up only a day later. In jail, together with Alan because the law doesn't look kindly on people who murder citizens in good standing.

While I was out, Etienne went to Boot Hill with Kenneth and Elisabeth and there, they found Miss Graves, doing some kind of spell to raise the dead. Elisabeth blinded her and she lost control of the ghuls who killed her. Etienne came face to face with Garret who told him that he had to the count of ten to get as far away as possible. Of course Etienne just walked away slowly, if there's one thing he never did even when he was alive it was run away. Garret attacked and got killed by Etienne and Kenneth, who had brought Masterton and his deputies along.

We were in luck - since Frakes and Graves were spies, the judge didn't see the need to do more than recommend that we leave Dodge City as soon as possible. We didn't need telling, to be honest.

next time

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Steal this Selkie

Cast of characters:
Glitzy - fixer
Fog - scavenger and unwilling leader of the group
Zoé - street girl
Stanley - street doc
Jet - professional thief
Rusty - pilot and data courier

The campaign is on Obsidian Portal

Last time, I introduced a couple of selkies (seal-human shapeshifters) kept in the New England Aquarium as a bit of flavour. Of course my players decided to free them. In a manner very untypical for Shadowrun, they talked about their plan for all of, I don't know, thirty minutes and then just went ahead. If you don't play Shadowrun: entire sessions can be spent planning a good run and it's entirely possible for the run to last much shorter than the planning phase.

This time, they are flying by the seat of their pants. There isn't much of a plan except: talk to the selkies, ask if they want out, walk out with them. And basically, that's how it went down because I'm not going to throw much of a security force at them in an aquarium. The hard part of the plan comes now because the selkies, in their human form, are extremely attractive and really stand out. People will remember seeing them. Also, everyone in the group's thinking about sex, just at the back of their mind, but the thought and the desire is there. A couple of drunk guys on the subway were distracted by Zoé, who now has to deal with them. On a dimly-lit parking place next to the hotel where the group is bringing the selkies. And by deal with them I mean that the plan is to knock them all out with the help of Fog.

And then they either drive the selkies a hundred miles or so up or down the coast or, and I really love this, they fly them to Seattle. Get them an illegal SIN (passport) and just smuggle them out of the country and then back in again (the middle of the US is now the Native American Nations). This would be asking for trouble even if Rusty wasn't in trouble with some other runners who want the data he's carrying around in his head and who might just think this is important enough to try and catch them at the first stopover in the NAN.

Players, and I include myself here, do such wonderfully stupid things. Just because they can or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The selkie run is incredibly stupid, but it's brilliant roleplaying, very much in character. I'm enjoying myself very much and I think my players do, too.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bees!

IMG_7966

This is my hive, it's a top bar hive I built using instructions from The Barefoot Beekeeper. It's basically a big box on stilts, with bars covering it and a roof. The bars are for the bees to hang their combs from and give me easy access without disturbing the bees too much.

Some of the bees
bee2

this, I believe, is a drone, a male bee - it's not visible here, but his eyes were enormous
bee1

and here's the whole swarm, two days after moving in
swarm

I got the swarm from another beekeeper and I was very excited and a bit afraid they'd all fly off. I did spray them with water to keep them from flying, but I had never done this before. But they were very well behaved. I only got stung three times, all at once, I think I must have pinched those bees by accident.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a hand full of live bees. That I learned on this day.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Selkies

I took over as GM for the Shadowrun Rat's Nest group for a while. The group stole a ton of chocolate at a run in Seattle and now they're trying to sell it to the Irish mob in Boston. I planned to give the characters a day in Boston to get their bearings (and to give the mb time to examine the chocolate...wich is fake and not made form cocoa, a fact the players would rather keep secret).

So they do a bit of sightseeing and I mention the Boston Aquarium. They go there and since one sourcebooks says that there are merepeople there, I mention that as well. Merrows, but I couldn't remember and went with Selkies. They are sentinent beings, but their former home, the Boston harbour, has been polluted and they have been spending the last twenty years in that aquarium.

You probably see where this is going. The characters are already planning a run on the aquarium to free the Selkies and, here come the part I really love, want to take them to Seattle to set them free there. Through several airport security checks - at least they do have their own plane - and with hundreds of miles of perfectly good coastline just outside Boston. But I'm not going to spoil the fun and say anything.