Saturday, 28 March 2015

Deadlands Noir: A Case of Courvoisier (part 1)



A short summary of last night's Deadlands Noir action for the benefit of my players before my addled brain forgets it all...

New Orleans, 12th August 1935

The detectives are invited to dinner at Sanzone's, the Italian restaurant in the French Quarter rumoured to be owned by the Black Hand crime syndicate. Here they meet with Mike "The Stick" Whelan, a senior member of the Black Hand, who has a job for them. Player characters present at the meeting include:

  • Ramsey 'My cat doesn't like you' Gordon, delusional patent scientist with his cat McCavity
  • Nukara 'Trench Knife' Vestal, female detective and a damned Yankee
  • Le Ralf, aka Trust Fund, French dilettante and student of voodoo
  • Doctor Francis 'Not the face' LeBoeuf, a Veteran of the Concrete Jungle

Only Gordon managed to smuggle a weapon into Sanzone's, namely a switchblade. All other firearms had to be left at the cloak room.

Whelan says the Black Hand has lost a truck with 10 cases of fine French brandy which came off a boat in the port of New Orleans a week ago. The truck was loaded up and drove off into the night, but has since vanished. Despite efforts to find it by the mob, no sign of the truck or its four guardians has been uncovered. Whelan wants the detectives to locate the brandy, the missing four men, and says he will pay $30 per day plus throw in a case of the brandy (worth $200) if they can return it.

The detectives start off by breaking into the flat of the truck's driver, Jean-Michel Bascon, a Creole (the other three men are Sicilians and trusted by the Black Hand as a result). This is in a very poor area of Gentilly. They find a voodoo lucky charm but no evidence that Bascon has been there recently. Gordon believes Bascon has packed his belongings and left. LeRalf thinks the voodoo charm has been made by a skilled bokkor (it provides him with a temporary bennie).

13th August

New Orleans from the air, 1935


The detectives visit the mother of Guido / Marcello Pantorini, the twin twentysomethings who were also in the truck. She says she has not seen them. She has a high opinion of Mike Whelan. Her sons were religious, she says, regular church goers and studying Latin with Father Joseph McNelis at Loyola University, which is run by the Jesuits. She gives the detectives a photo of her sons.

They also visit the wife of Tomasso Friuli, the other missing man, who was in charge of the operation. She confesses to having seen him in the street in Lakeview recently, but he ignored her. This was two days ago. He completely blanked her and she is now very upset and worried. She offers the detectives money not to shop him to the Black Hand and to give them time to escape New Orleans.

Scouting around the Lakeview street market where Mrs Friuli saw her husband, the detectives interview an old Italian man who is shining shoes. He saw the incident she described, and says Tomasso was moving in a wooden or puppet-like manner. He is paid to keep an eye out for Tomasso and ring the detectives if he sees him.

The detectives then travel to Loyola University where they speak with Father McNelis. He denies having seen the Pantorini twins recently, and says they missed a Latin lesson with him. He thinks their mother would like them to train as priests. LeBoeuf notices one of McNelis' bookcases seems slightly out of alignment. McCavity, Gordon's cat, sees a black cat sunning itself on the window sill outside, and tells the scientist that it is not, in fact, a cat. Gordon goes outside to see if he can find it, but the animal has vanished. Nobody else sees the cat. LeRalf asks the priest whether he knows anything about voodoo or the occult and McNelis says he is relatively ignorant on these topics, but the detectives can tell he is lying to them.

The detectives drive to the docks in Algiers to speak to some of the labourers who unloaded the brandy. They say they saw nothing out of the ordinary, although the detectives do spot and speak to a tramp, Davison Dauphin, who they see lurking near a warehouse. He has a pet rat called Billy and regards the cat loving Gordon with suspicion. He says he saw the truck drive south from the docks, on a road out of town, with one of the passengers looking like he was asleep. He also saw the driver (Bascon) earlier speaking with two black men who were watching the ship. He has not seen the men since. The detectives return to the docks where LeRalf seeks to intimidate the teamsters with a voodoo spell in an effort to learn more information, but doesn't get anywhere.

The detectives decide to go to the New Orleans police HQ on Lafayette Square, where they bribe a desk sergeant to search the records for any reports relating to the missing truck.

As the sun goes down the detectives visit a number of bars and restaurants in the French Quarter. They pop into the Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. He they have dinner and speak with Fat Dan Waller, the owner (who helped organise the meeting with Texas Ranger Andrew Dauterive in a previous episode). He has a bottle of the missing brandy, and confesses to having bought a case from Bascon a couple of days ago. He claims he didn't know it belonged to the Black Hand. Bascon has said he will return tomorrow with another case, which Fat Dan interested in purchasing.

The detectives spend some time in the evening doing their own things (LeRalf buys a violin case and visits his shrine), before regrouping to try to break into Loyola University. They get into Father McNelis' room through an open window, and find the priest dead, with his throat cut. The book shelf is moved aside and they discover shelves of books on demonology. LeRalf takes some. On the desk they find a two-day old newspaper with an article about the murder of police detective Mick Brandon, who was found floating in the canal, also with his throat cut. In Father McNelis' pocket Gordon finds a pair of tickets to a performance by a singer called Ann-Marie Duchamps at the Angel's Rest bar on Baronne Street, scheduled for the following evening (14th August). The detectives flee the crime scene, and are spotted by a night watchman, but he takes cover when LeBoeuf successfully bluffs him. He may have got a look at LeBoeuf before the detectives fled into the night.

LeRalf retreats to his luxury hotel to study the demonology books and finds a receipt in one from the Yellow Sign book shop on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.

14th August

I'll have a croissant with that please...
The detectives lurk at the Absinthe House, having coffee and croissants, for a couple of hours in the morning. Eventually Bascon arrives on a bicycle. He comes into the bar with some brandy bottles where he is surprised by LeBoeuf. He manages to draw his revolver first, and wings LeBoeuf before he is hit by Gordon's death ray and then shot in the guts by LeRalf. The detectives spirit him out the back with help from Fat Dan and into their truck.

On the way to Sanzone's the wounded Bascon tries to persuade LeBoeuf not to hand him over to the Black Hand. He confesses he was paid by rival crime syndicate the Red Sect to help them steal the brandy. The Red Sect plans to eventually sell it themselves. Bascon says the brandy is hidden on an abandoned plantation at St Marchant in Jefferson County, south of the city, which is where the Pantarino boys are. Bascon has been hiding out in the old New Orleans police building, where he has been trying to sell some of the brandy himself before skipping town. The theft was concocted by a Red Sect bokkor called Bon Bon Lescartier, who lives on a houseboat on the canal near the Charity Hospital cemetery in Lakeview. This, Bascon says, is where Friuli is too. He warns the detectives about crossing the Red Sect.

The detectives arrive at Sanzone's where they hand the bleeding Bascon over to Whelan's thugs. The Stick himself is there but scoffs at their talk of voodoo, whereupon LeRalf casts a fear spell on him, shocking the gangster temporarily. He recovers quickly and flies into a rage, ordering his men to throw the Frenchman out of the restaurant and then tells Gordon and LeBoeuf they have 24 hours to get his brandy back "or else."

The detectives search the abandoned old police HQ on Tulane Street, where they find Bascon's hideout plus $160 of his money hidden in a mattress. They also travel back to the current police HQ to speak to their contact there. He says the the sheriff in Jefferson County has recovered the missing truck from the bayou, where it was found by two boys out fishing. Gordon asks about the murdered detective Brandon, and the sergeant recalls that another man was slain in a similar manner recently, Matthew Sanderson, owner of the Yellow Sign book store...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Secession: a post cyberpunk setting



This is a post-cyberpunk setting I've been tooling around with since about 2005. It was originally dreamed up as a spot UK background for Shadowrun, where it was used for a few months. Apocryphally, is postulates a much greater level of involvement in UK politics for UKIP than was evident in 2005. In addition, this was written before the financial difficulties awaiting the global economy post 2008. I've filed off the Sixth World edges of the setting and redomiciled it in the Interface Zero setting from Gun Metal Games. I've also recalibrated the default for player characters to law enforcement; it originally had the PCs running a night club called the Scream as a front for a smuggling operation.

Circa 2088 AD the UK is bankrupt (following an ill-timed decision to secede from the Greater Eurasian Union when the UKIP took power) and an environmental disaster zone to boot. London is now a crumbling and flooded urban wasteland, with the UK's political capital relocated to Manchester.

In order to raise much-needed hard currency, the UK sold the Isle of Wight to the Consortium, a powerful syndicate of mega-corporations, granting it extraterritoriality in the process. Renamed Secession, the island has turned into the premier corporate enclave in Western Europe, and has been connected to the continent by high-speed underwater rail links (Paris in 45 minutes from Newport Central, Madrid in 90).

Secession has been divided into corporate zones, each one the private fiefdom of one of the members of the Consortium. A large central zone, the Newport Hub, remains a mutually shared area for cheaper housing, factories, light industrial facilities, etc. Movement between corporate zones is restricted. [I've not really decided the extent to which such restrictions are imposed - as in Paranoia, residents probably have multi-zone access dependent on their status / security clearance].

Across the water, in southern England, the county of Hampshire is now almost entirely under concrete. The economic success of Secession has led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs in businesses serving Secession, and resulted in a construction boom that created a massive new urban sprawl stretching from Bournemouth in the west to Bognor in the east, and as far north as Basingstoke and Andover, all of which are now suburbs. The only area not under concrete is the New Forest, originally slated as a nature reserve, now rented out for research purposes by a number of non-Consortium players (e.g. the Russian mega-corp Zhivny Zat).

Solent City has been going through somewhat of a recession in recent years: while the wealthier financial and residential waterfront districts have maintained their primacy, and rivalled the glamour of the capital Manchester, the loss of masses of jobs that followed a cooling of relations between the Consortium and the UK has led to unrest and poverty.

Solent City has always had a refugee problem, and large shanty towns still cluster along its northern and eastern edges. Now poverty and gang politics are becoming more widespread, particularly as the overall economic and political situation in the UK, the Sick Man of Europe, continues to deteriorate.

The default setting has player characters as cops or freelance operators based in the Newport Hub in Secession, which has become a hive for illegal offshore businesses operating outside the jurisdiction of the UK and European Federation. This includes everything from smuggling, to software piracy, illegal decking, unsanctioned genetic research, and arms dealing. [In Shadowrun they owned a night club called The Scream, which they used as a front operation for smuggling activities.]

The police force in Secession (SecFor) is jointly funded by the seven mega corps responsible for the island. Officially neutral, its officers can enforce Secession regs across all the corporate zones. Technically, no employees of any of the megacorps in Secession have extraterritorial status. In reality, life is a little more complex than that..

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Deadlands Noir: Looking for Lucy (part the second)



This session summary follows on from last week's session, which you can read here. We were missing one of the original detectives, who was replaced with a voodoo priest, Le Ralf.

Player characters participating in this session:

  • Nikara Vestal - a top secret investigator, but a poor shot
  • Ramsey Gordon - a delusional patent scientist who talks to cats
  • Ross Leboeuf - a medical doctor and a Veteran of the Concrete Jungle, nursing a comatose wife
  • Le Ralf - an overconfident and corrupt French dilettante, a practitioner of voodoo magic

New Orleans, 1st August 1935 

The detectives become increasingly convinced that Lucy the poodle is being held by the Black Hand crime syndicated at Sanzone's restaurant in the French Quarter. Canvassing of street level contacts uncovers the name of an Italian butcher who sells meat to Sanzone's. Luigi, a teenaged delivery boy is bribed to reveal that there was a poodle being kept at the restaurant, but it wasn't there when he made his delivery yesterday, although it was there the day before.

The detectives then decide to go back to their contacts again, seeking details on services provided to the US consulate on Dauphine Street. They locate a cleaner who tells them nobody lives there, it is purely used as an office by US diplomatic staff. Eventually, the detectives decide to stake out the consulate and see what happens.

Despite a somewhat amateurish effort, the watchers go undetected when a man leaves the consulate matching the description of the bearded man who burgled the Hayes house on the night of 23 July. He is carrying two suitcases and gets into a car. His cursory inspection of the street fails to detect Doctor Leboeuf gaping at him from the cafe across the way. NB: Leboeuf's player rolled a 2 on his Stealth, but the Agent rolled snake eyes on his Notice of d8 and his d6 Wild die!

The detectives scramble for their vehicles as their quarry's sedan pulls away, heading north. Again, he fails to notice his tails in the traffic, as they follow him north to Lake Pontchartrain. He heads east along Lakeshore Drive, eventually stopping at a jetty. As he is getting out of his car, Le Ralf pulls up and opens fire on him with his Thompson SMG. Although wounded, the agent takes cover behind his car. Le Ralf jumps out of his car and beats him unconscious.

As this is happening, a second, younger agent appears on a boat moored to the jetty and opens fire on the detectives. A shoot out begins, with Le Ralf and Gordon both taking hits while Leboeuf ties up the wounded agent.

As the gun battle rages, a horrible bloated monstrosity clambers out of the lake onto the boat and attacks the agent. As he turns to grapple with it, he is shot in the back of the head by Gordon. The detectives bundle the wounded agent into their car as the creature runs after them. It jumps onto the back of the car with Gordon and Leboeuf in it, but Gordon manages to shake it off with some handy Driving (and an adrenalin rush caused by a failed Fear check).

Leboeuf searches the prisoner's bags, and finds a vial of clear liquid hidden in his shaving cream, as well as a US passport identifying him as Basil Zlonim. They drive to a remote woodland on the outskirts of town to question him. Threats of violence, including injecting the serum into him, seem to work and he reveals that:

  • It was he who tried to buy the serum from Colonel Hayes originally, and he murdered Hayes when they failed to agree on a price
  • He was approached by the Black Hand recently, offering to sell him the serum
  • He broke into the Hayes mansion looking for the serum
  • He finally paid the Black Hand $1500 for the vial
  • He dealt with a Black Hand captain called Mike 'The Stick' Whelan
  • He believes the serum to be capable of reanimating the dead: the Confederate government developed it for use in the trenches during the Great War, to keep the Allied armies in the field
Agent Zlonim begs the detectives to get him out of town and offers them another $1500, but they decline.

The detectives find a phone at a roadside service station and manage to contact General Hebert who in turn agrees to put them in touch with the Texas Rangers. He arranges a meeting in the evening at the Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. Here they finally meet Andrew Dauterive of the Texas Rangers, who takes custody of the vial and the Union spy Zlonim. Leboeuf has extracted a small sample of the serum from the vial using a syringe in advance of the meeting.

Dauterive is grateful for the detectives' help in recovering the serum, and but is not interested in protecting them from the Black Hand, other than offering to help them to get out of town. He says dealing with the Black Hand is the job of the New Orleans Police Department, and openly admits many of them are corrupt.

Andrew Dauterive - Texas Ranger


The detectives sell Zlonim's car and gun to another patent scientist who is friendly with Gordon. They then send Luigi to Sanzone's to arrange a meeting with Mike the Stick at a Chinese restaurant off Lafayette Square the following morning.

2nd August 1935

The meeting with the Black Hand takes place. The detectives give Mike the Stick his $1500, claiming they got it off Zlonim/Zane, who double-crossed the Black Hand by murdering Herman Whelan and taking the cash. The Stick seems unconvinced, but accepts their story in the end. He agrees to return the poodle Lucy to Kathleen Hayes by the end of the day. He also tells the detectives he might need them for a job involving the Red Sect, a rival crew that the Black Hand has been locking horns with recently.

Lucy the poodle is duly returned to her mistress, who gratefully pays the detectives the rest of their $80 fee.

Roll credits...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Milestones in gaming #6: SLA Industries

In the mid-1990s I was living in London and working for the Financial Times. I wasn't then part of a regular gaming group and probably would not have had time for one anyway, as I was too busy getting myself established as a journalist and learning the ropes, so to speak.

However, I did have an irregular gaming group, and we did meet up two or three times a year, usually for an entire weekend of RPGing that often also involved large quantities of beer and a pub crawl on the Saturday night. It was a great time to be 25 and in London.

At this point in time we had been playing a lot of Shadowrun with a side order of Call of Cthulhu when it suited. And it was Shadowrun that got us onto SLA Industries. One member of our group decided he wanted to spend some time behind the GM's screen, and while he loved the cyberpunk milieu of Shadowrun, he didn't feel there was room for a second campaign in the same world. Somewhere he stumbled across SLA Industries, and cobbled together a campaign in the dark and twisted super city of Mort.

Boy, what a campaign that was. In this dystopian vision of a decaying urban jungle, the default party is a freelance team of heavily armed operatives ("Slops" in game terminology) who bid for and are awarded contracts by SLA Industries, the massive corporation that dominates Mort. These can range from going into the sewers to hunt aliens to tracking down one of the many serial killers that haunt the city. It is a particularly dark and twisted vision which mixes elements from Alien, Bladerunner, Escape From New York and The Crow, spiced up with a slice of 'magic'. Drugs and violence were a regular component. Given the GM was a qualified pharmacologist who also worked in a specialist poisons unit advising casualty doctors, you can imagine how graphic the in-game crime reports were!

At the time, the idea of systemically dangerous terrorist groups, private armies, and companies bigger than countries, seemed edgy and dangerous. Living now in the world of Al Qaeda and Blackwater, it feels more tame. The future of the 1990s is increasingly our present.

The characters were similarly twisted. There were some bizarre racial backgrounds, like Frothers, warped echoes of Scottish highland clan warriors fuelled by combat drugs and wielding power claymores, or Stormers, genetically engineered super soldiers that were good for fighting but little else (PC Stormers ended up sitting in the back of our armoured personnel carrier until needed).

Why was this a gaming milestone (and why does it qualify for this series of posts)? I guess because this ended up being the biggest, longest, most sprawling RPG campaign I've ever played in. It probably started around 1994, and reached its bloody conclusion in 2003. In between, I got married, left journalism (for the first time - I returned in 2004), left London, and started a family. Most of the key player characters survived, although there were a number of close shaves, and at least one fatality.

The core plot was the hunt for an elusive serial killer, who turned out to be three killers, the real one and two copy cats. But there were plenty of other missions happening at the same time, while the team relentlessly pursued a better media profile and advertising opportunities.

Organised crime was a big element, and we were never sure whether we were working for the Mob or against it, from one week to the next. The fire power also became more absurd, as the game's designers added more equipment to the mix. Yet somehow poignantly, when we finally cornered our killer in 2003, he turned out to be an ordinary Joe, working in a hospital, who had nothing but a scalpel to defend himself with against a battle-hardened, seven foot tall alien Shaktar, a member of a warrior cult with state of the art armour, automatic weapons and laser targeting. The killer's greatest defence was his ability to stay anonymous and pass unnoticed under the eyes of a security state. Once that was gone, the rest was easy.

My brother, who played the team's Ebon (a psychic elf), sat back at the end of it all and said: "I am never, ever going to play in such a beard-grayingly long campaign again."

Perhaps everyone ends up playing in a campaign like this once in a gaming lifetime. It is not defined by the game itself, or the setting. It is defined by where you happen to be in time and place, the niche it occupies in your life's story, and the way it reflects who you were at that time. It can never be replicated. The people who take part are also critical to the whole experience and inevitably, gaming groups will drift apart as members' priorities shift or they move further away (even abroad).

Somewhere I still have my players' pack, literally a mound of crime reports, character sheets, maps, calendars, tables, background briefings, the in-game newsletter which appeared every six months or so...it was a massive exercise, truly a labour of love that I fear will never be repeated. It was a monster campaign, a veritable white whale of gaming goodness, and I loved every minute.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Deadlands Noir: Looking for Lucy (part the first)

This is a quick summary of last week's Deadlands Noir session (aka Looking for Lucy), primarily for the benefit of my players, so that they can refresh their memories before next week  - if we manage to reconvene. This is an entirely home brew adventure, primarily because I found the campaign included in the Deadlands Noir book poor enough to be virtually unplayable, so readers planning to play in the Deadlands Noir setting need not worry about spoilers.

The premise of the story is that the PCs are all detectives in New Orleans, who have recently established their own agency. However, because they are relatively new at this lark, and only one of them has had any previous experience, another is - gulp - from the North, they have not been able to generate much in the way of business. However, they have been advertising in the newspapers and canvassing some of the wealthier neighbourhoods, and their luck may be about to change.

A quick summary of the Player Characters:
  • Nikara Vestal - a young female Yankee sleuth, down from New York, relatively new in town
  • Ramsey Gordon - a delusional patent scientist who talks to cats
  • Lee De Ville - a Harrowed private eye, recently back from the dead
  • Doctor "The Doctor" LeBoeuf - a medical doctor and a Veteran of the Concrete Jungle, nursing a comatose wife

30 July 1935 - New Orleans

The partners of a struggling - and yet to be named - detective agency have taken their first call for business. They travel down to the Garden District of the city to meet Kathleen "Kitty" Hayes, the attractive 30-year-old widow of Colonel Dashiel Hayes, late of the Confederate Army, who disappeared while on a boating trip in the Bayou a year ago. Colonel Hayes has recently been pronounced dead by a Louisiana court. The widow Hayes lives in a large mansion with grounds not far from the river.

Kitty Hayes' poodle, Lucy, a valuable pedigree animal given to her by her late husband three years ago (1932) has gone missing from her kennel in the yard three nights past. The detectives are offered a retainer of $20 per day to find her, with $20 paid in advance to cover expenses. They take some photos of the house and gardens. Mrs Whelan's handsome young butler Oliver Tournier shows them the kennels. A number of clues come to light during the visit:

  • Tournier has only been working for the Hayes household for six months, replacing the elderly butler Herman Whelan who had served the late Colonel. Kitty Hayes decided it was time for Whelan to retire, and replaced him with Tournier, who used to work in the kitchens for a wealthy friend of hers.
  • There were no signs of a break in. Hayes has two dogs, and her other animal, an Alsatian, was left in the kennel. The gate to the kennel enclosure was found to be unlocked, with no sign that it was forced.
  • De Ville found a cigarette stub from an Italian brand that is imported and favoured by members of the Black Hand, the city's foremost organised crime syndicate.
  • Vestal found a stub of Italian salami that smelled strongly of chemicals.
  • Tournier also reveals that he had disturbed an intruder in the late Colonel's study a week ago, a man in a blue suit with a fedora who might have had a beard. He escaped. Nothing seemed to have been taken.
  • De Ville remembers that the Black Hand owns and runs a restaurant called Sanzone's on Chartres Street.
  • The detectives notice a photo of Colonel Whelan and another man wearing Confederate Army captain's uniforms from the Great War era, with a background of arid desert, possibly New Mexico or Arizona.

The detectives travel to see Whelan at his home, little more than a shack in the Lower Ninth ward. He proves uncooperative and surly. The detectives decide to watch the house and follow Whelan when he leaves. Vestal and De Ville stay behind, breaking into the house where they find dog droppings and white dog hair in the back yard. In addition, they discover $500 in Confederate dollars under a loose floor board and bags of $1000 in US Federal mint gold coins.

Doc Leboeuf and Gordon follow Whelan to Chartres Street, where they see him go inside Salzone's. Gordon returns to the detectives' offices with the Doc to analyse the Italian sausage, which they find is heavily laced with a medication commonly prescribed for insomnia. Gordon develops Vestal's film and is shocked to see a bloated and decayed face peering into the drawing room window in the corner of one of the pictures. Leboeuf speculates that it looks like Colonel Hayes.

The detectives decide to bank most of the money they have found in a reputable bank with less likelihood of mob connections, using the rest to buy a second hand old model sedan to replace Gordon's clapped out truck.

During the night De Ville's manitou makes a bid to take control, but fails. De Ville picks up +1 Dominion over his manitou.



31 July 1935

The detectives return to the Hayes house to report on their progress and scout around some more. They find some large naked footprints in the garden from the day before. They also search Hayes' study and find some written correspondence between Colonel Hayes and a man called 'Zane' from June / July 1934 in which they are discussing the sale of an item for around $20,000! An address for Zane is discovered: the Lansing Apartments on Cleveland Street. It is obvious Hayes and Zane were planning to meet shortly before the Colonel disappeared.

Mrs Hayes identifies the other man in army uniform in the photo as Captain - later General - Jean Hebert, who served with her husband in New Mexico during the Great War. He is now living in the Camp Nicholls Veterans Home on Moss Street, in Bayou St John. He and Hayes were close throughout their military careers.

The detectives are allowed to look into Hayes' safe and find a dog collar tucked into the back. It has a secret compartment small enough to hide an object the size of a bullet. Further examination of some of Lucy's other collars finds similar compartments.

Mrs Hayes tells the detectives her husband used to fish regularly in the Bayou. The man who looked after his boat, a Cajun called Milus Barbeau, left New Orleans not long after the Colonel disappeared, to live in the small bayou township of Trois Rivieres.

Gordon suspects that the widow and the butler may have more than just a professional relationship.

A visit to the Lansing Apartments, and a discussion with the landlord, finds that the mysterious Zane was a Yankee with a goatee who rented the apartment with cash, but was hardly ever there. He stopped renting the place almost a year ago. He was sometimes accompanied by a younger man with chiselled good looks and an ex-military bearing. The landlord has not seen them since last summer.

The detectives visited the Camp Nicholls Veterans Home where Doc Leboeuf bluffed his way in to see General Hebert, who is elderly and wheelchair bound (at least 70 years old). The General tells the detectives he and Colonel Hayes were part of the security detail for a top secret weapons research establishment in the New Mexico desert which the Confederate government was using during the Great War. While they were there, a vial of a chemical compound the scientists were working on went missing. It was the only sample they had and it was never successfully reproduced. Hebert says he did not suspect Hayes at the time, but considers it possible he may have stolen the weapon because of ethical worries. He refuses to provide further detail on what the chemical does, but stresses that it should not fall into the wrong hands.

Leaving the veterans' home, the detectives are confronted by two smartly dressed men - possibly Black Hand gangsters - who warn them they have 24 hours to return the money they have taken from Whelan, bringing it to them at Sanzone's restaurant, or face the consequences.

The detectives decide to pay another visit to Whelan, and break into his house when their knocks are not answered. Whelan attacks them with a machete, but is fried to death by Gordon's laser pistol before he can strike. The detectives hastily depart, leaving his smoking corpse in the hallway.

De Ville spends the rest of the day canvassing his street level informants. He learns that 'Zane' is thought to be the alias of a US spy currently operating in New Orleans, although no one knows his true identity. He is believed to work for the Agency, Washington's elite covert operations bureau. De Ville also knows that the US government maintains a consulate in the city on Dauphine Street.

Night falls over the Big Easy...

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Those pesky Herani!

So, what's been happening in Dragon Pass lately...? I've included my notes in italics, usually to explain some of the decision making process behind the events. I'm still feeling my way here, and no longer benefit from the advice of the tutorial program. I occasionally consult the ring, and their advice seems sound, although I'm now worried about the fact that we don't have a trickster on the ring, after Bastakos was kicked off it (possibly for doing his job - see below).

Enfrew, a thane of the Heran clan, complained that Bastakos insulted him, and said there would be a feud if we did not punish our trickster. We removed Bastakos from the ring. Enfrew was pleased by our justice, and the people were happy that Bastakos’s insults would no longer seem to come from the entire clan.

Harvar complained that his wife Ferena dishonored him by interrupting a duel with Iskalli of the Boskovi. The clan ring said that Ferena had Harvar’s best interests at heart. “Tell that to the goose-egg on my head!” Harvar protested. He was told that this was not a matter for the clan ring. The people were happy that the ring was wise enough not to involve itself in a petty dispute. As for Harvar and Iskalli, they have an understanding whereby each avoids the other, and so have not yet come to blows.

1331
The god-talkers said we needed to learn one of Odayla’s blessings.

The pig-herder Offir left his grave every night to demand food from his family. We prepared a huge feast, which the revenant devoured. Then he sat back, belched, and was still. His family gave him a cheerful burial, placing heavy stones on top of his grave in case he got peckish again.

We were raided by the Herani. The Heran clan burned 2 steads. Varsens was wounded while facing the Heran charge. He survived thanks to our auxiliaries. Although we held the field, we weren’t able to take any captives. Astella distinguished herself in the fighting.

We sent Kulbrast with gifts to the Greenwings.

We learned that the Herani had declared a feud against us (No, really? I think it was the burning of the two steadings that might have given it away...)

Our scouts found a strange clan of beast folk who were like ducks. With justice and mercy, we offered peace to the duck people, who henceforth gave our clan a place of honor in their songs.

The harvest was plentiful.

Heran warriors kidnapped Oranda, the daughter of the chief, and took her back to their tula. We decided to make peace with the Heran clan. The Herani refused to end the feud. They would not return Oranda, and the people lamented her loss.

We were unable to conduct a raid against the Herani due to a winter storm. (I think raids during winter are strongly discouraged by the game, in any event. Plus, the Herani are some way away.)

1332
The god-talkers said we needed to learn one of Ernalda’s blessings.

Harsaltar, a Lhankor Mhy god-talker from the Isolting clan, told us there was a secret buried in one of our fields. After much digging, we found a Bowl of Plenty.

We reorganized as a War clan. (This was largely due to the fact that the problem with the Herani does not look like it will go away anytime soon, and I can't bring myself to offer them an olive branch).

We persuaded the Anzarni to let our raiders cross their tula. We raided the Herani and eluded their patrols. Although we held the field, we weren’t able to take any captives. (I have hoped we could swap some important captives for Oranda, but we botched this and came away empty handed).

A couple from another clan offered to sell us the Winking Sapphire. We said that the treasure was obviously stolen, and that they should tell us who they had taken it from, or suffer harm. They admitted that they’d taken it from a bandit, who in turn had taken it from the Blue Jays. We declined their offer. They left, saying that the Antorlings would certainly meet their price.

Varsens began the Storm Tribe heroquest. Varsens was told by Ernalda to make a tribe, so that he could challenge the Emperor. But the Doubting Wheel rolled up and told Varsens not to make a tribe. He said, “I will not be bad like the Emperor, for freedom is my essence.” The Doubting Wheel rolled around Varsens three times, and then said, “It is true. I would have to take away every other part of you before reaching your freedom, which is deep down inside you.” Then it shrank down and became a tiny thing, small enough for Varsens to put in his purse. Varsens found Yinkin, who said he would join the tribe if Varsens could defeat the champions of the Plant Tribe. Varsens fought Sharp Green and let Yinkin fight Rustling Veins. Varsens blunted the many swords of Sharp Green, which gave it power. Yinkin defeated his foe, but said, “Your Storm Tribe will only be half useful. There is only half a chance that I will come to this confederation moot of yours.” Varsens found the Knowing God trapped inside a great cube. He hit the cube. The cube was not broken, but Varsens’s hand was. (Varsens made a bit of a mess of this. It might have something to do with the fact that he is not a Storm worshipper. Not sure what Yinkin was yapping about - what confederation moot?)

Someone killed some of our horses. We made the claim before their clan ring. They denied that they had slain our horses. Orlaront, who argued our case with them, thought they were lying. (The tribe in question is not mentioned here - I think they were the Greenwings. This time I was guided by the ring, who seemed pretty sure it was them).

While plowing the fields, the carls found something strange. It was the enormous skull of some kind of dragon creature. We used it to decorate our clan hall. (This looks like a triceratops skull).

So, in summary, we had our first heroquest, which didn't go as well as hoped. The tribe is drifting more towards a war footing. We built a shrine to Humakt, for example, and we've been investing more in war magic.This has been driven entirely by the actions of the Herani. I'm a little concerned that my popularity with the tribe has been waning, and am not sure how to rectify this other than throwing the odd party.

Monday, 9 March 2015

King of Dragon Pass - first year done!

I've started putting my toe into Glorantha again. Like the background to games like Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader, any RPG that draws on Glorantha mines a deep background of history and mythology which writers and gamers have been working on for more than 30 years. It can be difficult, when you're a player used to Dungeons and Dragons, where gods largely take a back seat to the proceedings, other than lending some divine power to the party's cleric, to get your head around a world that, if anything, is more complex and sophisticated than Middle Earth.

Hence, King of Dragon Pass, which is available in the iStore, is a good introduction to the world and legends of Glorantha. In this case, your're running a tribe in Dragon Pass, one that has only recently moved there and is trying to find its feet. The game works well on the iPhone as it does not seem to require a bigger screen as it is not a graphics intense offering. Lords of Waterdeep, which I'm now playing on the iPad and enjoying immensely, might look a bit cramped on the iPhone, although I confess freely to not having tried it yet on a smaller screen.

KoDP feels a bit like a Fighting Fantasy game book, except you are making decisions which will affect the fortunes of your tribe.

I intend to chronicle my tribe's history on this blog, for as long as the game holds my attention, and perhaps include a little explanation of some of the background that the game explores. I have no idea at this stage how easy it is for a tribe to be wiped out, so its annals may be curtailed sooner rather than later. But the game is convenient to dip into when you are waiting in a queue or taking a train ride, so long as the phone's battery holds up. The background music is a bit irritating, and I've not yet worked out how you turn that off.

KoDP generates a history for the tribe as you go along, so that you can refer back to your exploits, and I will be publishing it here as I progress.

Starting background


During the marriage of Orlanth and Ernalda, the Anmangarn men whooped and drank with Orlanth, making Orlanth our main deity. Our clan’s earliest famous event was when Roitina, lady of dance, first performed the Clan-Making Dance. During the Storm Age, we adopted strangers into our clan. Our worst enemies in those days were the trolls.

We were originally a Balanced Clan. At the Dawn, we first awakened Orlanth, the Father. Our attitude toward dragons and their ilk was neutral; we did not go along with them nor actively make war on them.

The above background is really determined by a series of initial choices the player makes, a little like rolling up your starting character in Pendragon. Before the Dragon Wars in Glorantha, the Orlanthi were somewhat divided between those who supported the Empire of the Wyrms' Friends and those who resisted it. This seems to be part of the background to the Second Age, which was used for the Mongoose Publishing version of RuneQuest.

And thus it begins...


1329

We made the dangerous trek to Dragon Pass, and claimed more land than we needed, to grow into. We built a clan hall, some steads, and a temple to Orlanth. But when we left Heortland, we lost much of our connection with the gods.

1330

The alynx spirits chased off the vermin spirits; there would be few rats this year.

The Issaries priestess Sora Goodseller came to our clan and asked if we had any white horses to trade. We had no white horses. We offered a different horse, but she only wanted a white.

Eonislara, betrothed to Jorator of the Isolting clan, was seduced by Korol, the notorious troublemaking poet of the Heran clan. We went to the Herani and said that we expected Korol to marry her. “You mistake my intentions,” Korol said. “I meant not to eat the whole cake, but merely to sample the dough.” When our people heard this, they were outraged.

We raided the Herani and eluded their patrols. We drove the Herani from the battlefield, and were able to plunder their tula. We celebrated the humbling of lecherous Korol’s clan.

We were raided by the Horse Nomads. Orlaront caused great damage to a group of Horse Nomads who were attempting to circle behind us. We drove the Horse Nomads off, and their survivors left without plundering our tula.

NB - Orlaront - I think - is one of the cast of characters who acts as the clan's ring, an advisory council that you can turn to for their opinions. They are a little like a modern cabinet, in that some of them seem to also have particular areas of knowledge or responsibility, like health or farming.

Eonislara turned out to be pregnant. Her kinfolk were embarrassed. We left the matter to her kinfolk. People were happy that the ring did not interfere.

Explorers found the warrior Astella, who fled from the injustice of the Pharaoh, and said we should give her asylum. We adopted her as a weaponthane. The people were glad to welcome a foe of the Pharaoh.

The harvest was plentiful.

****

So there you have it, the first year completed in Dragon Pass, and right now the clan is looking good, although I'm expecting we'll get some trouble from the Herani in the future. I'm a little more concerned about Astella, as she brings with her the wrath of the Pharaoh. I was personally not keen to give her a place in the clan, but most of the ring and indeed the tribe wanted to keep her. The Pharaoh, it seems, is not popular around here. We had lost one of our weaponthanes in the fight with the Horse Nomads, and Astella is handy in a fight, so I made her a weaponthane. Some of the women in the ring thought this was going a bit far, and perhaps they will become jealous of her, but if conflict arises, we can always attach her to a future exploring party.

I've been helped to a large extent by the game's tutorial feature, which has guided me through the first year. We shall see how well we do without it in the future.

Glorantha-wise

Orlanth: One of the many sons of the god Umath, known for early his rivalry with the gods of light, particularly Yelm, whom he killed with the weapon Death. Considered to be responsible for the Lesser Darkness as a result, which also allowed Chaos to creep into the world.  Remorsefully, he rallied the Lightbringer deities, and was confirmed chief of the Air Gods. He currently has three commonly recognised aspects, namely Orlanth Adventurous (adventurers), Orlanth Thunderous (weather / storms), and Orlanth Rex (kings / nobles / poets). In Prax, he is not known under his Thunderous aspect, as Storm Bull is considered lord of storms there.