Some Time Off

I had to go into hospital yesterday for an operation on both ears; it’s a long story but basically if I had the operation done there is a possibility that I will lose my hearing or become partially deaf. If I DIDN’T have the operation done then I would almost certainly go deaf. Some choice!

This means I’m off work atm and can’t hear at all (due to having my ears plugged up.) Fortunately, I’ve got lots or reading to catch up on.

As a get  well present, my wife had a choice between flowers and ‘Into the Deep’, for Numenera. She chose ‘Into the Deep’. A glance through today;  well impressed and the Wayfarers are almost certainly heading underwater soon (once I can GM again).

I’ve also been intending to run ‘Ashen Stars’; we tried ‘Night’s Black Agents’; liked the system but couldn’t get to grips with the setting. I bought the CR and I’m putting together a Laser crew; probably try this solo first, using the usual mish-mash of solo systems.

I can also update Uncanny Worlds; I’ve still got the wanderings of Sica Sendrillar to finish posting and that solo Game is still on-going.

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Grailstone IV

In the laboratory, they searched around for clues and other items. Judson found that the blobs in the cylinder reacted when he touched the cylinder; some moved towards him, some merged and moved away. In a total fit of madness, he embraced the cylinder and got Harrylock to do the same from the other side. The results were startling. The blobs broke up into thousands of swirling motes and a chirruping alarm sounded …

They decided to run further into the complex, reasoning that the guards would probably check on Sonny and Galadiir first. The door led into a triangular corridor, a further door led back into the hospital area. Judson peered in; there were the human children still on the beds, with three Varjellens working at the monitoring panels. The Varjellen patients and Kasten were gone. They sneaked through and out of the other door; exiting the building via the security room. They returned to the village and found somewhere to sleep.

The following morning they were awoken by the thunder of the grailstone; after breakfast they headed for the courtroom. Tienne and a squad of Varjellen soldiers intercepted them.

“You have seen too much. You are arrested.”

For a moment it looked like Harrylock would make a stand; Judson convinced him that taking on a Varjellen Death Squad would not be a good idea and so they surrendered.* They were taken to an empty triangular Varjellen house and locked in.

In the courtroom; Galadiir and Sonny looked in vain for Judson and Harrylock. Mayor Sollars opened the trial.

“We have discussed the evidence presented and have reached the conclusion based on the fact that the Scrivener cannot lie. Sonny Silver is …”

“Wait!” called Galadiir. “I have one more piece of evidence to present.” Tienne and Mallis registered annoyance (it is hard for a human to read a Varjellen’s emotions).

“Scrivener! Draw a full body picture of Sonny Silver as you see him today. Now draw a full body picture of him as you saw him on the day of the killings. Hold them up for comparison.”

There was a collective gasp around the court. The two pictures were identical, except that the Sonny on the day of the murder clearly had six fingers on each hand.

“So what!” yelled Constable Brandick? “Many of us are like that.” He held up his hands; he too had six fingers on each hand. Galadiir looked round the room; several humans had six fingers and, significantly, none of them seemed to be a twin.

Tienne leaned over and spoke quietly to Mayor Sollars; who rose and announced “This trial is adjourned. All villagers will return to their homes.”

Galadiir quickly used his Read Mind esotery. Mayor Sollars mind was blank; the overriding thought was to adjourn the trial and return people home. The humans began to leave; Galadiir made to follow them out but his way was blocked by two Varjellens.

“You must remain here. You know too much.” Galadiir looked behind him; two more Varjellens guarded the door to leading to the laboratory.

Back in the house; Judson scouted out the structure. The walls were made of synth; fairly tough. Harrylock selected a spot and punched it with his full strength**; after a couple of blows the wall gave way and there was a hole big enough for them to get through. They ran to the woods on the edge of the village and hid, using a vantage point to observe the court building. They saw the line of humans leaving; it looked like they were being escorted by the Varjellens. They crept closer and tried to follow a group of Varjellens back inside.

“State name and purpose”. They had forgotten about the security system!

The Wayfarers were all gathered in the courtroom, guarded by ten Varjellen soldiers. Tienne and Mallis entered the room. Tienne addressed them all.

“You have seen and know too much about what is being done here. *** Your minds will be re-forged and you are allowed to leave. It, however, (Tienne indicated Sonny), stays here.”

“Sonny comes with us. He is a free man; he did not kill anyone”

“It belongs to us. It was made here. It did not kill anyone; it was its twin. It was bought here to lure the twin back to continue the experiment.”

“Sonny was not made here, he had a mother. Look, he’s got a navel!” Sonny lifted his shirt; to their amazement, where his navel should be was three concentric rings of scar tissue. Judson remembered seeing these on the children in the hospital.

“It is part of an experiment; its twin mutated and became murderous. The experiment must continue to eradicate this problem before it occurs again.”

“Let’s get out of here,” said Sonny and activated a cypher; a jewelled belt that produced a plane of force, separating off some of the guards and Mallis. The Varjellens produced their Intellect-draining web guns and opened fire; whilst the other guards drew swords and advanced into melee. Galadiir froze one with his Ice Onslaught and went after Tienne. Sonny activated another cypher, a defensive Time Dilation nodule that made him very difficult to hit. Harrylock was struck by two of the webs and became Impaired; he had to take some time out to recover. Suddenly there was a burst of light and a Varjellen fell; bitten cleanly in two! The jubilation that the Wayfarer’s showed **** quickly turned to concern as the Fiend attacked both Harrylock and Sonny as well. Tienne backed out of the door; Galadiir unleashed a massive Ice Onslaught and Tienne fell; part-frozen in ice. With a massive crunching sound the ice splintered as Tienne was bitten in half by the Fiend.

With the death of Tienne the guards stopped fighting. Sonny reached over and took Tienne’s Varjellen sword as a memento. They left the village; no-one tried to stop them. Before they left, Galadiir spoke to Mayor Sollars and told them that the Varjellens were experimenting with breeding twins in the village and that anyone with six fingers was a mutation. Mayor Sollars calmly told him that she didn’t care; Galadiir got the impression that once the Varjellens had a new leader then everything would continue exactly as it had before.

They headed north-west, heading for the Steadfast. That evening; a glowing red sphere of energy approached over the trees and hovered. Inside were six figure; the nearest one waved to Sonny.

“Greetings, twin brother. I liked how you dealt with the lizards; the Hand of Six thanks you. See you in Akkoris.”

The sphere rose and flew off over the trees.

THE END

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GM notes

* See what I mean about red herrings? Never once did I refer to the Varjellen soldiers as being a Death Squad.

** Using Effort

*** The PC’s, of course, protested that they knew nothing; of course the Varjellens didn’t believe them.

**** “It’s Barry!” They have named the Penumbra Fiend and consider it a pet!

Again, a really good Game, with some interesting twists. Also, finally a good use of cyphers (the Wayfarers are reluctant to use them for some reason.)

XP:

2 for the adventure, 2 for finding out what was happening in Grailstone and 1 for Sonny for closing a Thread. All of the Wayfarers are now Tier 2.

Grailstone III

The Trial of Sonny Silver

                Harrylock pointed to the metal canister.

“Where can I get one of those?” The villager smiled. “A grail? You can’t buy one, they are not for sale. You have to live here.” He touched the top and the grail unfolded to reveal cartons of drinks and food; tightly folded swathes of cloth and packets of other unlabelled things. He held out a packet of sweetmeats. “Come, share with me.”

Judson and Harrylock found that there was no inn or market in Grailstone; the grails provided everything. The population was mixed; there were humans and Varjellen. The Varjellen lived in an enclave outside of the aldeia itself; a series of low triangular buildings surrounded a larger hexagonal structure.

4 Prevaen

Following the grail burst and breakfast, many people started flocking towards the hexagonal building. A door stood open; Judson entered into a trapezoid room with a triangular device in the centre. A metallic voice spoke.

“State name and purpose”

“Judson Deathdancer, here for the trial”

A panel slid open to reveal a triangular yellow badge that adhered to his clothing. A door to his right stood open and he passed through into a triangular chamber set out as a courtroom. Harrylock joined him. They saw Galadiir and Sonny at the back of the chamber, flanked by two humans and two Varjellen.

A sharp chime sounded and the mayor of the village spoke.

“This court is now in session; to pass judgement on the murder of the scientist Couleen and its workers by Sonny Silver.” She went on to introduce the members of the court.

Herself, Lebab Sollars, Mayor of Grailstone

Constable Brandick; constable of Grailstone.

Tienne, Varjellen, leader of the Varjellen community

Mallis, Varjellen scientist

Voornis, Varjellen commander of the squad that captured Sonny Silver.

To one side stood a Scrivener.

“We have inconvertible proof that Sonny Silver killed the scientist Couleen and its workers. Scrivener, step forward. Draw what you saw on the day of the murder. That is Sonny Silver. Scriveners cannot lie.”

Sonny suddenly had an echo; like the one in Shallamas. He looked around in amazement. He was in a scientific area; a laboratory of some kind full of apparatus he didn’t recognise. He saw himself and three Varjellens who lay dead and he was just smashing the skull of the fourth. As the echo faded, the man looked up and Sonny saw that it was not him; but someone who looked identical to him.

“Sonny Silver. Where is the scientist Couleen Soul Stone?”

“I don’t know; I’ve never had it.”

A series of demonstrations was done to show that grails could only be opened by their owner. Judson and Harrylock remarked on the high number of twins in the human audience. It was impossible to tell if any of the Varjellens were twins.

Then Constable Brandick produced another grail.

“This was found in the laboratory after you killed the scientist Couleen. It is yours and contains its Soul Stone. You will open it.”

Sonny tried; he put his hand on the grail. Nothing happened. He tried again and still the grail did not open. Galadiir stepped up.

“This is proof that my client is not guilty.”

“Scriveners cannot lie. Sonny Silver was there and murdered the scientist Couleen. This obviously is not his grail. We must search again.”

Mayor Sollars stood. “We will adjourn to consider this. The court will reconvene tomorrow.”

They all left the building, returning their badges.

Evening

Judson enquired about records of births and deaths. He was told that there were no records kept as no-one had ever seen the need to bother with them*. He then asked about where people were treated when they were sick; the reply was that the Varjellens looked after them. Hmm. Somewhat unusual; Varjellens are visitants and have a limited knowledge of human physiology. The Varjellen hospital is in the hexagonal building. Judson got Harrylock to punch him on the nose so that he could get in to the hospital**

Judson assumed that he would need a Varjellen to get inside, so he approached the nearest one.

“I need help, I am hurt. The robot went berserk.”

“Can it not reforge?” “No, I am a human.” “It is leaking bodily fluids. It will take it to the hospital.”

“State name and purpose”. “Judson Deathdancer and I was attacked by a robot”. The panel slid open and a yellow badge appeared. ***A door in the far wall slid open; Judson was escorted through a series of triangular corridors to a medical centre. Synth walls and white-lit; eighteen beds surrounded by diagnostic and treatment equipment. Eight of the beds were occupied by young human twins, asleep and linked to diagnostic devices. Two beds held young Varjellen. Judson was shown to a bed next to a human male who had a deep slash wound across his stomach. Judson lay back as a triangular device fastened itself over his nose and face.

The man turned and looked at Judson. “Hello. The name’s Kasten. Thank the Faith for the Varjellens and their medicine. I was out exploring round the village; I didn’t see what it was but something slashed my guts open. I barely made it back.”

“Was your twin with you?”

“I don’t have a twin. Not all of us do, you know.”

5 Prevaen

The following morning Judson left the hospital; his nose fully fixed. Kasten shared food out of his grail with him; Judson speculated as to why the grail worked without being placed on the grailstone. He found Harrylock waiting outside the door and they were first in line as the trial reconvened. Again they had to state their name and purpose to the security device.

The trial opened with a recap of the previous day; despite the fact that Sonny could not open the grail; there is the incontrovertible evidence that the Scrivener cannot lie; it recorded Sonny as being there and therefore he was. Galadiir proposed a demonstration using two pair of twins out of the audience; he managed to demonstrate that although the Scrivener cannot lie; it can be fooled. Constable Brandick refused to accept this; Galadiir used his mind-reading esotery to establish that Brandick was what he seemed to be (a narrow-minded prick who just wanted an easy life).

Mayor Sollars proposed a visit to the murder scene in the laboratory; Tienne was reluctant to allow this.

“It can serve no useful purpose to see where the scientist Couleen was murdered.”

“Why?” queried Galadiir. “It may have been something they were doing in the lab.”

“It will serve no purpose. The scientist Couleen was working on new ways of growing food for the village.”****

A vote was taken on the bench and Tienne was outvoted. Voornis casts the deciding vote and earns the enmity of Tienne. They were escorted along a corridor that smelt of ozone and into a trapezoid room. Four elongated transparent cylinders were arranged horizontally against the long wall; surrounded by a tangle of bio-organic machinery. In the centre of the room was a tall cylinder of green fluid, filled with floating pulsating blobs that constantly merged and separated. Another closed door was in the short wall.

Sonny gave a start. He has been here before, as a very young child.

Just as Sonny was about to say something to Galadiir, a Varjellen rushed in and spoke to Tienne and then to Voornis.

“Today’s trial is adjourned; we will reconvene tomorrow,” announced Mayor Sollars. “There has been a killing.”

Outside the building, a small crowd had gathered. Two Varjellens, twins*****, have been found dead. Both have been bitten in two. The Wayfarers exchanged glances – this sounds familiar.

Evening

Judson and Harrylock decided to get back into the building to have a snoop around – obviously Tienne is hiding something. Judson was of the opinion that they needed a Varjellen with them to get round the building. Harrylock suggested they talked to Voornis; after all, he had voted against Tienne.

Voornis agreed with them, it did not believe that Sonny killed Couleen. It did reveal that Couleen was the twin of Tienne. A spectacular show of persuasion by Harrylock convinced Voornis that they needed to investigate further; however it warned that it would have to uphold Tienne’s orders if required.

Once inside (all you had to do was walk to the door and state your name and purpose to get a security badge) they headed down the corridor. Harrylock opened another door and a short passage led to a triangular room with a floor to ceiling mesh grid. On the other side of the mesh was a tall column of silver metal. Rotating around it are globes of energy; at ground level they are green coloured. As they slowly spiral upwards they gradually change to purple; at the top of the column they discharge a purple bolt into a large globe set in the ceiling; then spiral down to the base of the column again.

“Didn’t the grailstone discharge with purple energy? This is what powers it.”******

In the centre of the triangular room was a tall cylinder of green fluid, filled with floating pulsating blobs that constantly merged and separated. They looked at this, but left it alone.

In the laboratory, they searched around for clues and other items. Judson found that the blobs in the cylinder reacted when he touched the cylinder; some moved towards him, some merged and moved away. In a total fit of madness, he embraced the cylinder and got Harrylock to do the same from the other side. The results were startling. The blobs broke up into thousands of swirling motes and a chirruping alarm sounded …

To be continued

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GM Notes

* They were forming the opinion that the Varjellens controlled the village.

** Yes, this was the best plan they came up with!

*** Even with a broken nose, Judson noticed that the Varjellens did not have to wear badges.

**** Galadiir picked up on this and tried to read Tienne’s mind – why did the village need to grow food if the grailstone provided everything? However, all he got was a jumble of strange alien thoughts.

***** So many Varjellen are twins as well.

****** Don’t you just love it when the players make these connections themselves!

I used part of the GUMSHOE system in this session. Rather than have them roll for clues; I gave them the important clues and let them draw their own conclusions. Secondary clues were either given on a successful roll or sometimes given as a freebie (e.g. the stuff that Voornis told them.)

There were no red herrings built in – the players provide those themselves. For example; Judson was convinced that you could only get into the building with a Varjellen present because he had not seen anyone enter without one and he didn’t try himself (because he needed to be taken to the hospital and he didn’t know that it was in the same building.)