God Machine Chronicle – The World According to Maggy Pike : Part Three

IC blog of third God Machine Chronicle Session
Written by Kelly Grimshaw
Reproduced with permission from the author.

The best part of being asleep is the half and half just before you wake. My mind wakes up but my eyes don’t want to open,  its cold outside of my many, many blankets, mostly knitted gifts from my mother who doesn’t understand why their only daughter doesn’t give up slumming it as she so delicately calls it and come home. It’s not pride as my father calls it, I am happy with who I am and where I am and currently so is Luna is in her favourite spot on my feet which suits me fine, I don’t have to crawl to the dreaded space called under the bed to find my hot water bottle. I turn over, find a comfy spot and pull the blankets, Luna grumbles slightly as I dislodge her and taking this as her queue she jumps down and wanders off. Something tells me it’s not so she can go for a walk, her dragging her blanket and hiding under the coffee table in the front room after our outing to the bus stop yesterday is giving me a hint and judging from the bright light trying to invade my dark little cocoon from the window tells me there is no let up from the Artic conditions outside so I don’t plan to get out of bed any time soon.

I really should have learned over the past two but eventful days that even lying in bed all day is too much to ask.

A shrill shriek of something I recognise but my brain is refusing to process splits the contented silence. 

Then suddenly I realise that it is not the alarm clock but the fire alarm.

Oh shit!

I disentangle myself from the bed, falling out in the process; grab my clothes off the back of the arm chair-another one of my little gifts from my mum. She hates waste and will gladly donate her useless crap to others knowing she has done her bit and now it falls on the luckless person to take it graciously and either dispose of it themselves or use it. Her conscious is clear.

Trying to pull on my clothes and fight my way to the living room is a gymnastic feet in its self and really I shouldn’t have to worry about cardio for the rest of the week.

Luna tries to hide as I grab her lead, something I hate and she is better off than on and as a rule if no one is around I don’t bother. But as she is a Staffy the other occupants feel safer. She is unceremoniously pulled out and the chain is slipped over her neck as I am still traveling to the door. Out of habit I grab my brolly, again something that I can do without but as the owners of the flats have forgotten how the heating works in the corridors I don’t fancy getting wet and cold just because some turnip tried to relieve the monotony by seeing if the fire system still works. Besides dredds take a lot of time and effort to dry properly.

As I step outside the sprinklers are dying off, must be frozen in the pipes and there is a slight crunch under my faithful old Docs telling me that the pitiful amount of water is icing up nicely on the industrial sized ceramic tiled floor. 

My phone rings. Now usually this is a part of everyday modern life, nothing to write home about I hear you say but since the snow started to fall it signal has been nothing at best and in all honesty I actually stand there for a moment trying to work out what the noise is.

Pulling it out of my pocket I see that Catia is calling. She I have time for.

“Alright love?”

“Actually no.” Catia sounds flustered, but more so than usual, she had to drop out of nursing due to squeamishness and bless her it really doesn’t take much to make her flap.

What does she mean no? Come on woman your English even in the event of a bomb dropping on your home you say can’t complain or muss’nt grumble or the false safe yeah fine, what about you then gently ease into what is really bothering you.

She continues without pausing for me to respond or even breathe.

“there’s a riot at the pub, a kid got stuck in the middle, I got hit so set off the sprinklers to try to calm them down can you get hold of that guy, tall, dark hair, always wears a suit…”

“Yeah, Joe, I can try.” 

Ok so I take back the bit about the turnip, seems that she just panicked and tried anything.

I go back into the flat, let Luna off her lead and while I am hanging up my coat and brolly I check the signal on my phone. One bar. I have to chance it, a lot of good things Catia is, her ability to keep a clear and level head is not one of them. I flick through my last call list and hit Joe’s number.

After what seems the longest five seconds of my life so far a broken ringing tone can be heard.

“Yep” Joe answers, always the conversationalist.

I have no idea how long I have until I loose signal so I try to keep it quick.

“Catia just rang; apparently there is a riot at the residents meeting.”

“Say again?” I can hear his confusion and to be fair I see his point, a few old ladies who usually come for a moan about the youth of today and all the free tea and biscuits they can eat rioting, it does seem a bit overkill.

“Riot at the residents meeting, Kid got stuck in the middle, Catia got hit…” I pause for effect, one of Joes rules is no women no kids so this should be sorted soon.

“Where?”

“Red Lion.”

I hear a click as he hangs up. Well that’s my job done; Catia is now in the care of one of the people I trust so me going down as cavalry won’t do any good. 

I flick the boiler on; with all the adventures we seem to be having I have missed a couple of showers. Having almost a floors worth of plants growing around me doesn’t mean that I have to smell like a gardener’s armpit.

As soon as I flick off the shower the phone rings again. Twice in twenty minutes, must be my lucky day.

Drying off as quick as I can I see Joe wants a word.

“Hiya.”

“All sorted. Bring shovels.” As I hear the click of him hanging up telling me that is all. I stand in the bathroom bring shovels, what the fuck has he done and why do I have to bring the disposal gear? I dig out some clean clothes out of my laundry bag and quickly look round the growing rooms believing I will find at least one shovel I damn know I don’t have and after grabbing a couple of trowels and the entire spoon section of my cutlery draw and stuffing them into a embroidered draw string rucksack that already has my emergency stash of papers, green and other rolling stuff I may not be a clairvoyant but I can see a lot more stress that I can deal with sober in the not so distant future. I check Luna is ok for food, water and comfort I drop the latch and pull the door shut behind me.

Bugger, bugger, buggeration. Ok the pitifully small amount of water spat out of the sprinkler system has now frozen. I believe I need say no more than Bambie on ice. Got the picture? Good, let’s move on then.

I pull out my phone to ring Catia when I walk into her. 

“Strange question, do you own a shovel?”

I can see the swelling and violent colours of a black eye appearing whether they meant to hit her or not they caught her a good one.

“Erm no.”

“Come on then I shall explain on the way.”

“Where are we going?”

“To the pub.” I call over my shoulder.

Queue duet of Bambi on Ice. No its ok I can wait a minute.

Stepping through the remains of the double doors of the Red Lion we meet an obliterated room of kayos.

There is not a complete piece of bar room furniture left in the place. Glass is everywhere, pool cues snapped into matchstick sized shards, bits of cushion litter the floor. Oh no not even stuffed not so funny mascot survived.

Ron the ever fateful landlord is pushing the debris around with a broom. He looks done in. The way he occasionally jabs at the pile with the broom but doesn’t actually move it any wear shows just how defeated he is.

Reg looks up, terrified. He seems to relax when he sees me and Catia and leans on his brush.

“Sorry ladies can’t serve you right at this moment.” He points to the rubbish with a haunted look that only a man watching his livelihood going down the swanny can achieve.

“No worries love, it’s Joe we came to see and I was a bar maid once.” I try to sound cheerful.

“Oh well just serve yourselves and leave the money on the, on the…” he sighs and carries on.

Over to one side, at the end of the bar is Joe. Standing in his once immaculate suit, his not so highly polished shoes and the forever faithful Dell boy sheep skin coat. In his hand is a lit cigar, the first one stubbed out in a lonely ashtray that amazingly survived. On the remains of the bar are an empty bottle of scotch and half a bottle of Bourbon with a glass tumbler two thirds full and a pint of dark beer. Joe’s idea of a relaxing drink. 

I ignore the large heavy set and above all unconscious man laid out near to Joes feet and as I move round to perch myself on the pool table I also fail to mention the bean pole like figure of another who obviously choose to fight the wrong man today.

“I have trowels and spoons.”

Joe looks at me with a distinct lack of patients over the glass of bourbon.

“We don’t own shovels.” I explain as I pull out my emergency rolling kit and begin to build. Catia and Joe have a conversation that I will be honest, was not listening too until I hear Joe say “we can steal the digger.”

“Do you fancy that” Catia says

“What?” hoping that I would get a bit more of an explanation.

“Fancy stealing a digger.” Well that was stupid of me wasn’t it?”

Fuck it why not “Well I don’t have anything else planned today.”

Sweet baby Jesus on roller skates it is cold. I am sure I mentioned in earlier musings that I thought the Arctic was trying to broaden its horizons, we I know now that it has succeeded.

After I really don’t know how long we almost hypodermic three break through the wall of snow and begin to walk westwards. 

I have no idea where our destination is so I follow Catia and Joe as the look as if they know where they are going. This cannot be the case however, after a few minutes we turn the corner and low and behold in front of us is the glamorous entrance of Spectro Vale. 

Catia is convinced that we got somehow lost in the snow, it is a fair point, visibility is practically zero. But Joe doesn’t seem to have the same unshakeable belief.

“Where’s that bus stop.” His voice is almost lost to the moan of the wind.

I shout out instructions and we trudge on.

Hahaha! Yes one to the stoner! We struggle through to the sign poking out just above the snow line into a void of snow.

“SEE, SEE TOLD YOU!” I couldn’t help doing a little happy dance but stopped when I met Joes stare.

He seemed thoughtful for a second then spoke.

“Stay here, it’s safe and warm. Stay here until I come back.”

He builds a ramp to get over the wall and aft about ten steps he disappears into the blizzard like Scott of the Antarctic.

After about ten minutes the sound of snow being crushed underfoot is heard and Joe reappears with a perplexed bordering on angry look on his face.

Getting back to the cold but snow free shelter of the block we seem to be steered there by Joe to flat number thirteen on the first floor. It is easy to get into as the door is still missing and inside is completely unchanged. Off white paint all flats start with, the oval mirror draped in a dust sheet the sparse furniture also covered, hold on; there is something different. It is the flat we walked into yesterday. All furniture is in the proper place, not moved around as we left it. It seems strange that the janitor feels the need to tidy up but leave the door. Maybe they didn’t have one spare, what with no deliveries getting in and all.

As I am pondering the future of self-re-arranging furniture Catia has pulled off the sheet covering the mirror. She stairs into it, trying to find her own refection.

Deciding it will not appear; no matter how hard she looks Catia replaces the dust sheet and mutters “How is it connected?”

“Dunno, the snows not normal though.”

“Where were you going?” Catia asks

“To the building site but came back to the flats then same thing happened at the bus stop. Like it was making me double back.”

Joe explains that although he was tracing his steps so’s as not to cross his own path he seems to have been looped back regardless and cannot leave the safety of the block or the bus stop. 

Ok so we seem to have some form of tampering only so far known in fairy tales so that the huntsman gets lost in his own forest for all time. Oh joy.

“Like a mirror reflection” Catia replies looking at the huge oval outline.

“Yeah.” Joe answers following her gaze.

This is getting far too scary for me so while they are having this conversation I wander into the bedroom to look for more mirrors.

There is a familiar theme to the decor. Bare room and a space where a bed should be. There is one piece of furniture not covered by a sheet. A dressing table. 

Possibly no need for it being on its own in a sentience but don’t forget that a very humble wardrobe contained a whole other world.

On the dressing table was a small old hand mirror. Its mottled surface noticeably dull compared to its much bigger brother in the other room.

I pick it up as if it is about to explode and very carefully peer into the glass.

Nope no white rabbit, just me.

I sigh and with a small amount of confidence I brush the surface with my thumb. No ripple. 

I walk out of the room with it still in my hand and look at Catia.

“Is that one?”

“No, normal, well my hand doesn’t disappear.” I say slightly manically

“Does it reflect?” She asks

“Yeah, look.” I reply holding it up to her.

I go over to the mirror and I cave to the strange compulsion to put up the hand mirror to the other to see infinity.

While we are trying this little experiment Joe is repeatedly picking up the mirror moving it several feet, pushing his hand through and beginning again.

Catia positions it to show Joe. As he puts his hand into the mercury surface he disappears from the hand held mirror. We look at Joe, half expecting him not to be there and watching the actual him pull out his hand he reappears in the looking glass.

“I say we smash it.” He says biting his thumb and indicating to the domineering oval.

“It wouldn’t smash” I reply.

“What about smashing the frame?” He replies.

“I want to put Miles in front of it.”

“What? Go into his house and hold it in front of him like Nosferatu?” 

Before I have time to reply to Joe he takes the mirror out of my hand and pushes it through the silvery doorway followed by his head.

“This doesn’t reflect in the mirror world, it goes black.” 

“How many mirrors are there?” Catia asks with a look of quiet desperation.

“That we know of, four ish.” Joe replies calmly.

“I want to put them into each other.” Catia whispers.

“Welcome to the end of the world.” Joe mutters.

The shrill sound of a ring tone cuts through the silence. Joe pulls out his phone and looks at the screen. He swipes over the answer key.

“Morning Brian”. Believe it or not it is only half past nine in the morning.

“A riot.”

“Err yeah, downstairs.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Mirrors. Hold on.”

With the phone still to his ear Joe sticks his head through the portal. Pulls his head back out and for a moment the cool, calm, murderous exterior slips. He looks extremely flustered.

“Morning.” Brian’s northern tone comes from behind us.

“Come in I’ve got a job for you.”

Brian looks us up and down. For saying it is still early we are all looking a little worse for wear.

“What’s been going on? 

“Tried to leave and came back on ourselves.”

Brian, with a slight look of confusion waits for an explanation that makes sense.

“Try walking to the bus stop.” I add.

“We tried to walk from the block to the building site across the road and ended walking back to the front doors. Then we tried to go from the bus stop to the building site and the same thing happened again.” Joe explains further.

“You’re pulling me leg!” Brian says raising his voice.

“Yeah Brian, its all fun and games.” Joe answers dripping with sarcasm.

I have had enough of this. Why would we be making all this shit up as the boys continue I grab my bag and start rolling?

Catia flops down onto the sofa. She sighs loudly; it appears that all this is getting too much for the poor girl.

I finish rolling something Bob Marley would be proud of, plonk myself next to Catia and offer her first dibs.

“Go back into the mirror; go up to Miles’s flat.” I hear Joe say to Brian. 

“Ooh, phone, take it with him.” I say exhaling while I speak. 

“No, doesn’t work, when I stuck my head through I got a well-spoken voice saying “what has risen may fall and what has fallen will rise again.” Oh so now I know why he looked shaken after pulling his head back out.

“What do you mean, like a PA?” I ask

“No, through the phone as in speaking to you.” Joe explains.

Brian makes some sort of Star Trek reference, I can’t really remember what it was, I am a Dr Who girl meself and steps through.

It took about fifteen minutes for Brian to go his work and as I was stubbing the nub out on the sole of my boot he re-appears.

“Well that’s a bit of a bugger.” He remarks.

“What did you find?” Joe asks.

“Miles room has been swopped over.”

“What?” Joe questions

“Well, you know I said before that in the reflection everything was like props on a set? All cardboard and no substance yeah? Well Miles flat wasn’t like that. It was all real, tins were proper tins and the sofa was well a sofa. And it was the shit tip that we left two nights ago, complete with blueprints. But all the writing was in reverse, like when you hold writing up to a mirror,” Brian pauses for us to speak, or take a breath, he was getting quite flustered over the next bit of information.

“I remembered what you said about your phone not working properly so I tried ringing you. But what I actually got was the sound of static and a faint voice saying:

“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”

“Go back and find a mirror. Take this, it will turn black.” instructs Joe, handing him the seemingly innocent hand mirror.

“Aint the strangest thing that’s happened.” Brian replies. As he reached out to take the mirror, it must have brushed over where he had been bitten because he began to poke at his hand.

“Doesn’t feel right.”

Catia, with her nurses’ instinct reaches out to Brian and pulls his hand towards her.

“Where the bloody thing bit me.” He continues looking at Joe.

“What bit you?” Catia asks in the calm, careful tone of nurses training.

“Yesterday, clockwork things.” I think Brian has possibly lost a small amount of his power of speech. I noticed that where two puncture wounds should have been but was now just a patch of dry flaky skin but I didn’t say anything, we had enough to worry about.

“Something creepy.” Catia shudders.

“Check your room too.” Joe orders.

“Sacrificial lamb here.” Brian replies before vanishing again.

Joe pulled out a map and began to cross reference the numbers. 1 13 corresponded with the flat we were currently standing in but as that was the only match it was put down to coincidence.

As we had nothing else to do until Brian came back we began to come up with ideas for the numbers. Some of the less elaborate were for how many were either in control or not on each floor. How many mirrors were on each floor? How many people were in the building?

While we were discussing the infinite number of possibilities a horrible feeling began to creep up on me. The kind of feeling that starts as a shock in your stomach and falls down your legs making you cold as it goes.

“Has anyone checked their own mirrors?” I hesitate, I am not totally sure I want to know the answer.

“I don’t have any.” Joe shrugs.

“I am just going home for a moment.” I say as I back out of the door.

As I turn the corner onto my floor I see a hooded figure at my door. I hang back for a moment; I think they may have come to get me.

The hood moves, indicating that the figure has just checked to see if anyone is around, then begins to knock frantically. Personally I don’t see the clockwork men knocking.

“Can I help you luv?” I step out of the shadow of the stair well I can see one of the local ASBO crew.

He pulls down his hood to reveal a sweating, pasty looking, shaking mess of a lad not too much younger than me. I sigh inwardly I really don’t like seeing a body beginning cold turkey; it just shows how sad people let their lives get.

“Yeah. Erm me mate said.” He can hardly get his words out he’s got the shakes so bad. He thrusts his hand into his pocket and pulls out a handful of notes. He would gladly give me everything he owns at this point for a fix.

“Look, can we go inside. I don’t really want to do this out here.” I am surprised, most would gladly swop cash in a police station the state he’s in. I am hesitant though, the last couple of days have made me question everything.

I look him up and down, if the clockwork men can do such a bang up job of copying this wreck then we’re all doomed, we just don’t know it yet.

“Come on in.” I unlock the door and walk in. Luna goes crazy at my return but she quickly goes to her bed after a bit of fuss.

The lad sits down but he can’t sit still. I pull out a shoe box from under the table and look for my medical strength, this lad needs calming down. I roll a blunt and offer it to him. He takes it great fully and after a few drags it seems to help a little. 

“What can you get?”

“Just weed luv.” I reply taking the smoke.

“Don’t you do owt harder?” He looks crestfallen.

“No I just do weed.”

“Look, please, can’t you ask someone. Because of the snow no one has anything. We are getting really desperate. Please.”

“There is someone I can try. Do ya want a brew?”

I go to the kitchen and check my phone. Well will wonders never cease? Still one bar but it keeps disappearing. Ah well you never know.

“Yeah.” I hear Joe say.

“Don’t suppose you have anything stronger than weed on you?” There is no point saying hi its Maggie to this man, he really doesn’t do phone calls and the last time I said it his reply was yeah I know, the display screen told me. I took the hint after that.

“Not much, few sample bags; why?” 

“I’ve got a lad here with the shakes so bad I think he would give anyone with a fix everything he owned right now.”

“I’ll take it.” Joe replies without skipping a beat, a business man to the end.

“Well knowing where you are I can’t really send him to you.”

“Find out his address and I’ll drop by later.”

“Ok cool, listen, he says there are a few of his mates looking around too, there is almost nothing left because of the snow.”

“Yeah, yeah I’ll sort it.” And Joe hangs up.

“What’s your flat number luv? The lad I just spoke to is a bit busy right now but he can come round later.” I shout through to the front room as I finish making the tea.

“Second floor flat eighty one.” He answers relief dripping off his words like syrup.

I grab my phone and quickly text the address to Joe. My memory is worse than a rusty sieve.

“Thank you, thanks. Nice one, thanks.” 

I look up and he is closing the door behind him, well the state he was in at least he said thank you before he left. I pause; I know I came here to do something. I look round Oh yeah, mirrors.

It doesn’t take me long to dig out all the mirrors I own I am not the kind of gall that when asked if she is ready shouts back I said I would be ready in five minutes, stop asking every half hour! And it’s not like you need one to wash your face or brush your teeth.

I fight to push the window open. Eventually after I managed to shift enough snow and ice to home a penguin from around the frame I have a gap large enough to throw through and waste no time in doing so. On the last mirror though I something horrible. As it spun end over end I saw a pair of eyes that were most defiantly not mine staring back at me. No I agree it is not as horrible as some of us have seen (Brian) but when that happens to someone when they are not expecting it, it can throw you off.

It was only a brief glimpse, but to be honest that was enough before it was lost to the fog. I heard the smash then quickly shut the window, just in case. That and I was rapidly losing heat.

I grab the medical strength off the table and role another blunt. It is a bloody good job I am harvesting soon; with all the drama of the last few days I am going to be smoking my profit soon.

Slightly unsteadily I go back down the first floor, fault thirteen; I am not staying on my own for the foreseeable future.

“Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck!” Is just about all I can manage about now.

As I explain what happened to Joe, Catia is checking around behind me through her mirror compact. An action which is defiantly not helping my mood right now.

“Was it your reflection?” Joe askes without a trace of humour. Second straw braking.

“Look, I may grow strong shit but apart from today I have never touched it. And that was not me.” I say quietly through gritted teeth.

“I hate this building!” Joe says throwing his arms out wide.

“I want to burn it down? Why don’t we burn it down? In fact fuck it! Let’s burn it down.” Joe’s crusty exterior slips slightly again as he has a conversation all on his own, then suddenly, as if he realised what was going on it was back up.

“It isn’t snowing outside.” He said to me. 

Ooookay it isn’t back up it has totally cracked.

“Yes it is I got a face full of it when I was generating around.” I pause and do some rough maths work with the aid of my fingers. “Twenty eight years bad luck.” Shit, really that much?

“No, I rang the boys up earlier and outside this building as in the streets around the area are all clear. It is not snowing.

“Yes it is.” I say slowly and carefully, as not to excite him.

“Yes, here it is but not everywhere else it is not.”

“Well why not? What with everything else happing around here.” I concede. 

“Now I don’t know what usually happens, I’m not a Sy fi fan.”

Ah ha just my field.

“Well what usually happens is Dr Who turns up and saves the day.” I answer confidently.

“I don’t know who the hell you’re talking about but he had better hurry the fuck up.”

As we study the mirror again, willing it to show us something we hear a cough behind us.

Brian is in the doorway.

“Not disturbing you am I? Have I been through some shit today?”

“Really?” I ask a little manically.

“Really, really.” Brian answers mockingly.

I open my mouth to rip him a new one when he pulls aside his coat to reveal a mass of blood and bandages.

I shut my mouth again.

“You have, he has. Maybe it will make sense if we…”

I shush Joe into silence, a risky manoeuvre I know but it is worth it.

Sqeeek, sqeeek. Slurp splat.

Shit it’s the only understands English when it suits him cleaner.

Without a word we all come to the conclusion to leave the flat in the opposite direction, handily which is towards the Red Lion.

Which now sadly looks like a bad day in Bosnia, Sat at the end of the bar is Reg. Very drunk with a shot glass and an almost empty bottle.

Reg slides the bottle over to us and after fishing out some un-unbroken glasses and join him in a drink to mourn the passing of his livelihood 

“What a day.” Reg says to himself. He pours another drink for the group and in silence we drink our drinks.

Brian chooses this to be the perfect time to show is what he saw in mirror world.

Brian shows us all the picture of inside his flat, his own apartment; it seems, like almost every other reflection version of a place that I have heard him describe, as an imperfect reflection of his apartment. Brian explains he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, he pulled them back carefully he exposed a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it looked like the scarecrow figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, he caught the the covers with his foot exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he nnoticed with terror, there was fear in his voice. That there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.

There was the same scarecrow copy of Brartek sitting in Barteks flat which was disturbing enough but the video clip of the thing moving only its head when he says his name backwards was worse. 

After he had managed to jimmie the door open and walk inside, he can just make out a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as he circles round the chair warily he saw another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; he attemps to talk to the figure but got no response until he tried speaking backwards. The head begins to move on the screen, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Even though Brian is not in the picture it is easy to hear him trying to breathe slowly clearly uunnerved by it. He writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and tthrew it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reachedd up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note. There is a sharp intake of breath and the picture zooms on to its right arm. It is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”

The screen goes blank.

“At this point my phone rings. When I answer it over the crackling staticy noise he hears a voice that sounds like Barteks but only speaking backwards. He says wwhat are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again. Realizing that I am speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories. I drag the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Which was a bloody shock; I say a bloody shock I can tell you. I then step into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when I crawl out and attempts to speak to Bartek, the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting me square in the shoulder, the old gangster then shouts at me Which one are you? I’m the real one I reply, showing the blood from the hole in his shoulder, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who then directs me to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterize the wound, clean meself up like, in his bathroom cabinet. When I returns, having cleaned meself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realized that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks me whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when I look at him blankly, he explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions to me that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. Well you can imagine my surprise when I can’t remember the exact dates or times either; I then attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells me not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on us. 

Brian shakily tries to explain to Bartek about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm. When I wait for him to reply I realise that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, I leans over to check his pulse and I finds that the old man has died quietly. He took a deep breath and drank from the glass in front of him. Then he dipped into his pocket and dropped the bullet onto the wooden surface with a final thump.  

Brian, if you do ever read my diary then I am truly sorry. I was as high as a Hindu cow and obviously did not know what I was saying.

I am not one to blame the weed for people’s reactions. Usually I would say that whatever was said or done while high was what needed to be said or done anyway. However I may have to re label this particular stem of medical strength marijuana as I have absolutely no idea why I said what I said next.

“Well did you have someone elses reflection staring at you through your own mirror in your own home?”

Clearly Brian took a dim view on my attitude and we spent the next ten minutes arguing about how I could have been hallucinating and him not taking me seriously.

“Enough!” Joe shouts in his dad voice. We stop dead and Brian turns to Reg as if nothing has happened.

“When did it start snowing?”

“What?” Reg slurs.

“When did it start snowing lad?”

“I dunno.”

“Oh c’mon Reg, you must know.”

“I dunno why?” 

“Well Reg, you have to keep the bar and cellar stocked. It must be running low as no deliveries can come in.”

“We’re pretty well stocked. Ha well we were.” Reg 

“So if it’s pretty well stocked, as you say then you should have had a delivery quiet recently. So Reg, when did it start snowing?”

“Look I don’t see how this is going to help get my pub back to the way it was.” Reg starts getting very irritated about this line of questioning. Just like Brian said.

He storms off and possibly raids his personal stash of black label Vodka as he comes back with a full one in one hand and as he walks past the row of pint glasses he plucks one out and in one swift movement has filled it up four fingers from the rim. Skilfully done. As I am not much of a spirit drinker I feel it is time to roll another.

Brian is saying something about not wanting to go back to his flat, I don’t blood blame him. 

“I’d rather sleep in the cab and freeze to death than go back there tonight.” He says to Joe.

“Crash on my sofa and shut up.” I reply licking the paper and running my finger over it. 

He looks at his spaz hands as he called them and carried on the conversation with Joe.

I now give up.

However Joe does not.

“…there are none in her flat; she just chucked them all out the window. Brian that is not a good idea”

“I plan to take out my sack” I cannot help but to snigger slightly at this innocent remark “What was your plan to save my life?” Brian askes.

“Cut your arm off.” Joe says. Did I mention his people skills are epic?

I look to Catia f or a bit of female solidarity but the whole day plus a couple more smokes she is used to had all become too much for her because she is fast asleep curled up on the pool table. Letting the conversation roll over me my brain tries to grab my attention. What I have been hearing is a hissing sound coming from the speakers rigged up on the wall. Proper huge tatty 80’s jobs that probably fell off the back of the lorry but from the state of them weren’t caught in time.

“Reg?” 

“Yeah?”

“Are those speakers on?”

“Yeah, their plugged in but the mic’s off behind the bar.”

“Boys? The speakers just started hissing.”

“I am off to my bed” Brian announces, casually. 

He then writes down on his note pad Bartek said that the more you notice them, the more they notice you.

“Well I aint going with you.” Joe answers nodding his head. “Let’s have a chat outside.”

Joe picks up sleeping beauty and slings her over his shoulder. 

“Take her back to my flat for now.”

“Then I am going to smash the mirror” He calls over Catia.

Suddenly all four of our mobiles. Unknown number is flashing on the screens.

Joe sends it to answer phone while I and Brian press the answer button.

I try to ignore the feeling that I am about be sucked into the phone line.

Planning for my first G+ game

Okay, so a few friends of mine who I do LARP (Live-Action RolePlay) with and myself were chatting a while back about tabletop roleplaying and I was telling them about some of the games that i’m GMing at present; now most of them live a fair distance away and a couple of them were lamenting the lack of tabletop RPG action in their area, also, although we all meet up for weekends of LARP there’s not quite the same impetus to travel the length of the country in order to do a single night of tabletopping. Given that a few of us have been getting more into Google+ and Youtube recently (https://www.youtube.com/user/MrLARGEJO/) and i’ve seen numerous recording ‘actual-plays’ of people using G+ hangouts to play RP sessions over the net we talked about doing something similar; now life, as it often does, got in the way and we never really got to do anything about it as we were swept up in the chaos of the 2013 Lorien Trust LARP mainline seasion.
Recently I decided that we really should make an attempt at actually pushing forward with a session, partly because i’m keen to experiment more with G+ hangout roleplaying and also because i’m interested in seeing what it’s like tabletopping with people whom i’ve only ever really done LARP or boardgames before (both of which are quite different); so I set up a facebook event and arranged a date (this Sunday evening), but then of course we were left with the question of what do we play?
I have numerous RPGs on the shelves in my room but, given that this is the first TT experience for a couple of the players and that it was our first time at RPing over G+ I wanted something that was simple to pick up, kept the game very dramatic and allowed it to move along reasonably rapidly since we only have about four hours of gaming realistically since most of us have work the next day, I want to cram as much game into those four or so hours as possible. As usual when I want a good game to introduce new-comers to TT RPing i’ve turned to one of my favourite systems, Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) along with a brilliant G+ Fate roller extension (http://www.diceboy.com/).
One of the players is quite new to TT and wants some sort of easy to get into fantasy game because, although new to TT, the LARP that we do is fantasy based and he has experience of lots of fantasy films; this is fine, i’ve already done some consideration of how to adapt FAE to a D&D-esque setting (detailed in previous blog posts). For this game though, i’ve decided to keep things simple (anything not mentioned below is as it is in the core FAE book):
Aspects: In addition to their High Concept and Trouble, players will also have a Race aspect (dwarf, orc, etc) that can be invoked (as normal) whenever they perform an action that fits with the concept of their race (i’ll be keeping it pretty simple and stereotypical for this game, orcs are brutish and violent, dwarves are rigid, stoic craftsmen, etc etc).
Magic: In order to have magic a sorceror must have the Aspect ‘Sorceror’, they must also have a Stunt (or Stunts) that defines their type of magic; for example, a sorceror may have the Stunt ‘Fire magic’ and all of their spells will involved heat or fire in some way. Magic will use the normal action rules as described in FAE (attacking, defending, etc).
Equipment: Unless taken as a Stunt equipment is assumed to be of insufficient quality to make any real difference to the dice rolls, if taken as a Stunt then it can add the normal +2 to an appropriate situation.
Taking inspiration from the recent Dungeon World session that I ran, I intend to use the player character Aspects (and a brief Q&A with the players at the start after character gen) to create a rough map of the world and detail out the major threats/challenges, once we have this i’ll run with what i’ve got and see where it goes from there. Assuming all goes well with the technical side of things then the game will be recorded and uploaded to my Youtube Channel  when we’ve finished the session.

Dungeon World tester game Session Write-up

In the basement of a grocers in the city of Trademeet, Rundrig warily circled his opponent, the burly shaven headed man grinned as he stared back at him, from around came the cheers of the spectators; Jack smiled as he moved through the crowd, none of them knew his friend the dwarf fighter and so the odds on him has been long, if Rundrig won (and the poison that Jack had slipped the other combatant said his chances were good) then the young thief would clean up, minus his partners percentage of course, not that Rundrig knew anything about the poison, dwarven honour and all that.
Across town Xeno and Priscilla were exploring the bizarres and markets, accompanied by Sistranalle the elven bard who stared with delighted eyes at the bustle and general hubbub around him, whilst to the wizard Xeno this place represented a potential gold mine of arcane ingredients and ritual foci that he could use; his associate Jack had sloped off somewhere with the dwarf Rudrig, no doubt off to another prize fight, and so it looked as though he would have to resort to actually purchasing something for once. The sound of commotion drew them to where a bedraggled looking human figure was emptying various bric-a-brac out of a torn rucksack and attempting to sell it to passersby; Xeno was about to move on when, amidst the rubbish, he spotted a small pyramid like sculpture forged of blue/purple metal and inscribed with strange runes. Immediately recognising the script of his homeland and the arcane metal found thereon (although the language appeared to be in some kind of code), but trying to conceal his eagerness, Xeno offered the rough looking trader two healing potions for the sculpture; unfortunately something about the look in his eyes betrayed him and the shrewd seller claimed that it had been given to him as a gift and he could not think of selling it for such a paltry price.
Priscilla pointed out that the sellers story about receiving it as a gift contradicted what he had been telling another person as they had approached; backed up by her threats, and Xenos offer of a third potion, the old man agreed to sell it and passed it into the waiting arms of the human wizard. A few short streets away Durga, priest of the Dwarf Father had been attempting to preach his creed of honour and glory in battle to any who would listen, unfortunately this was a city of traders and merchants, not of glorious warriors although he did manage to attract a small gathering; as Xeno and Priscilla headed to a nearby tavern ‘The Cockatrice in Cider’, Sistranalle said that he would go and meet Rudrig. Spotting Sistranalle as he left the others, he finished his speech and ran to join them.
Arriving outside the grocers where Rudrig and Jack had told them to meet, Sistranalles elven hearing picked up the sounds of cheering and celebration from somewhere below the shop; walking in they were met by a kindly old woman called Doris who chatted merrily to them about her shop having the finest turnips in the Known World. Distracting the old woman by saying that his companion would like to try her famous turnip gumbo, Sistranalle located a hidden trapdoor down to a cellar and slipped down the stairway; charmed by Durga calling her a young woman, Doris mentioned that she was sure a strong, strapped dwarf like him could make a good living in the city, and asked if he’d ever considered fighting for money? Feigning interest, Durga allowed the woman to lead him down the trapdoor where he was in time to witness Rudrig deliver the finishing blow to his slightly dazed opponent as Jack rubbed his hands in glee and collected his prize money.
Doris escorted Durga over to an armoured human with a stern face who introduced himself as Captain Morgan of the Trademeet city guard and said that he’d willingly introduce Durga to some of his contacts if that was his wish; the Captain had been impressed by the fortitude of the dwarf Rudrig and, as he talked, it became obvious that the city guard were well aware of these “underground” fighting areas and actively encouraged it because it made it far easier for them to monitor and control violence in the city by giving it an outlet. Clapping his hands on the shoulders of his fellows Rudrig said that they should probably get going, after all Jack had volunteered to buy them all a drink from his winnings.
Pushing open the door of the ‘Cockatrice in Cider’ they were greeted by the sight of Priscilla gleefully challenging all and sundry to unarmed combat and arm wrestling for drinks (although the list of potential challengers was becoming shorter with every victory), Xeno was sat in a shaded alcove as he studied intently the sculpture that he had purchased; he could sense some sort of energy emanating from it and occasionally the writing seemed to glint with a warm golden sheen, but he could only make out the word dragon of the writing. Jack ordered some drinks and was soon scoping out a patron who seemed far too well dressed for such a low-class establishment, Rudrig is accompanied by Gregor, one of the others fighters, and the two of them commence getting extremely drunk.
Jack is about to follow his mark outside when suddenly there is a scream from outside, the door flies open and the man staggers inside on fire, falling to the floor; outside panicked crowds of people are running in a huge mob away from a large shadow that falls across the city, peering over Jack’s shoulder Sistranalle looks up and sees the shadow of a huge beast flying over the city, fire gouting from its lizard-like face. Shuddering the elf recognises one of the legendary fire-drakes from the ancient myths of his people, creatures who were deemed little more than fables even in the younger days of his people, long before they left to the west. Shrugging off his drunken haze Rudrig grasps his ancestral weapon and dashes up the stairs to the second floor of the building whilst Durga and Priscilla join Jack and Sistranalle at the door; the barbarian woman shoves the elven bard out of the way as a blast of white hot fire engulfs her, leaping into the air as her hair, flesh and clothes catch fire the warrior woman swings her weapon at the snarling beast.
Realising that the appearance of this beast cannot be coincidental, Xeno realises that he needs an opposing energy or a blood sacrifice to cancel out the energy beacon that his sculpture is broadcasting; refusing to fall back on the bloody religion of his people he eventually is joined by Sistranelle who channels tendrils of icey magic into the mage, who then sheds his own blood, falling as frozen crimson crystals onto the sculpture.
Outside the beast roars as Rudrig leaps from the second floor onto its back and sinks his axe into its flesh, gasping as the creature burning blood sears his skin, the dwarf fighter none-the-less holds on as it tries to shake him off and scrape him against nearby buildings. Xeno continues to shed his frozen blood over the sculpture and gradually the energy emanating from it stutters, slows and stops; with a bewildered roar the fire-drake suddenly loses interest in its rampage of destruction and with great beats of its wings begins to head westwards, Rudrig manages to leap from its back onto a nearby building before it soars too high and is lost in the clouds. Jack meanwhile has been tending to the delirious burned man and attempting to con the man out of his life savings into the bargain.
Days later the adventurers are rewarded for their saving of the city and many local buildings by the Master of the Brewers Guild, Marlow Tombé and each of them is gifted with 100 coins in recognition of their valiant defence of both the city and its citizens, but some questions remain unanswered, how did the sculpture get to the known world? Who was the strange merchant? And more unsettlingly, over the next couple of days, rumours begin to filter in from the dwarves of the western mountains that other drakes have been sighted, if this true what is bringing these creatures to the Known World? 

So what characters did we have in our recent Dungeon World game?

Recently I ran an impromptu tester game for Dungeon World for six of my local player, you can see my review of how it played here:
For this initial game we decided to just go with the basic options as presented on the Dungeon World character sheets, after genning characters we talked out the player characters bonds to each other and some elements of their backgrounds as directed by the rulebook; we ended up with the following characters:
  • Rundrig – Dwarf fighter – Come from a loud and proud family of warriors who have helped guard their dwarven mountain hold since memory began, his ancient axe has been handed down from father to son for many, many years. A few years before the game began, Rundrig freed Sistranalle from orcish slavers, allowing the elven bard to advise the barbarian Priscilla (saving her life); Rundrig considers that she owes him a life-debt although the barbarian woman does not agree, however the dwarf has sworn to protect the human wizard Xenos and worries about the abilities of Durga and Sistranalle to survive in the harsh environments where warriors such as himself tread.
  • Xeno – Human wizard – A sharp eye, wild haired human who comes from a mysterious land rules by powerful mages that lies somewhere across the western sea, knowledge of it having faded into myth and legend; not satisfied with the religious zealotry that his people head as a central tenant of their magics and outcast for his belief in magic as a science, Xeno fled eastwards to the known world. His arcane powers lead him to Priscilla, a vision of a shadow dragon and the girl telling him that she would play some pivotal role in the future of the world.
  • Jack – Human thief – A mysterious figure shrouded in mystery, the shifty thief tells contradicting stories of his background and wears the talismans of many gods hanging around his neck; working for Xeno he has stolen many things and arcane baubles for the wizard, including what seemed to be a roughly hewn jewel from the barbarian woman Priscilla, but that the human wizard Xeno knew to be a fossilised dragon egg.
  • Durga – Dwarf cleric – The older dwarf cleric has a sadness in his eyes and seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders; a follower of the Dwarf Father, god of honourable combat and conquest through strength of arms he places less value on upbringing or race and more on actions and deeds. Distrustful of Xeno and anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of the deities he none-the-less admires Priscilla’s strength and sees his attempts to convert her as a test worthy of his skills.
  • Sistranalle – Elf bard – One of the rare elves enamoured of the lives of the younger races, who chose to stay behind when his people sailed westwards across the sea to the mythic lands beyond human knowledge, Sistranalle finds beauty in the chaotically short lives of the younger races and, after being freed from orcish slavers by Rundrig and helped Priscilla escape from a desert basilisk he has set himself the task of chronicling her (mis)adventures. Delighted to have met the famous fighter Rudrig (who he had sung many ballads about), the elf has a friendly rivalry with the dwarf cleric Durga who, he thinks, takes life far too seriously; he accompanies the band playing ballads and histories on the mandalin that his father left behind as a memory of him. 
  • Priscilla the Triumphant – Human barbarian – A warrior from the icy northern wastes who travelled south, forsaking her tribe, when a new chief took over and outlawed women fighting alongside their men-folk; this did not sit well with Priscilla and she travelled south, reasoning that she could make a legend of herself in the soft southern lands beyond the deserts. She finds many of her new companions ways bewildering, especially Durga and his (amusing) attempts to convert her, she has appointed herself protector of Jack, knowing that the thief will eventually slip up and get himself in trouble; although unwilling to admit it she is flattered by Sistranalle’s attentions and sees in him someone who shares her thirst for glory.


All of these characters were created using the basic rules (including the names and epithets chosen) and by spending a bit of time chatting about the world elements connected with them; it probably took about half an hour in all, if that, to get ready to play.

Narrative Fighter Combat plug-in for FATE

Leading on from my recent Rogue Trader game (session 16, write-up here) i’ve been thinking about more fast-paced ways to represent aspects of the game such as fighter and space combat; currently i’m trialing the method below, it’s not really big or detailed enough to be classified as a ‘hack’ so i’m currently calling it a ‘plug-in.’
Narrative Vehicle Combat Plug-in

This plug-in is designed for vehicles of similar size and may require some tweaking if vehicles of a vastly different size are in combat; the plug-in is based on how mooks are statted in Fate Accelerated Edition.
Both vehicles receive three consequence boxes, 1 mild, 1 moderate and 1 severe they have no stress boxes but start taking consequences as soon as they get damaged (let’s face it, it’s more interesting to have your thrusters blown out or targeting systems damaged than simply ticking a stress box off).
The two vehicles use the drive skills of their pilots as the basis for the roll; work out which which vehicle has the better armaments and give it a +2 modifier to it’s attack roll, the other recieves a +0 modifier (although both pilots may use stunts if they have them). Then consider which vehicle is most maneuverable and give it a +2 to it’s defence roll.
Combat proceeds as per the normal rules in FATE core until one side is taken out of the fight or flees the combat. 

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 16: Falling Stars

Deacon Kiril leads Admiral Black and his party up to a large stone building in the centre of the Clan Drod settlement, two burly barbaric looking guards clad in furs standing blocking progress to this building, each has an archaic sawn-off shotgun hanging from his belt and numerous broken bits of circuitry and technology hanging from metal thonging around the blade of their spears. In the hall an extremely tall and muscular blonde hair man with pronounced canines sits in the long hall on a wooden and hide throne at the head of a lengthy wooden table, shrunken heads of defated foes and beasts hanging from the throne; Deacon Kiril introduced Admiral Black and his party to Baldur the Chief of Clan Drod.
“We are here on Imperial business and they are not yet Imperial citizens, they may be hostile to our empire.” – Lord Admiral Fortunus Black
The hugely statuesque chieftain stands up and greets Admiral Black in the manner of his people, offering out a huge joint of mammoth meat to the Lord Admiral; thinking that this must be some form of primitive breaking of bread ritual, Admiral Black takes a bite of the meat and hands it back, smiling the chieftain takes a bit himself and puts the meat back on the table seemingly satisfied. In fairly good Imperial Gothic the chieftain asks them to sit down and speak with him, although they are forced to bring an extra seat in to accomodate the massive bulk of Navigator York Benetec. Lord Admiral Black explains that he wishes to set up trade negotiations with Chief Baldur’s people, Baldur appears interested and says that he has great need of weapons to defend his people; as a demonstration of what they can provide Navigator Benetec demonstrates his hellgun, punching a hole through a haunch of meat, the tissue around the hole sizzled and cooking, following this Oberlieutenant Borsch fires his bolt pistol at a rock, it bucks wildly, a huge shell casing ejected over his shoulder as the rock explodes into fragments. As a final show force York Benetec pulls out Cornelius’ thunder hammer and, charging it, he smashes it down onto one of the remaining slabs of meat, it explodes with a roar of thunder that also shatters the table.
The clansmen seem incredibly impressed with the violent power of the thunder hammer and Chief Baldur asks whether Admiral Black can acquire more of the thunder hammers and what he would want in return; Fortunus explains that he wishes to trade for minerals in the area and workers/thralls to serve on Imperial vessels. Baldur seems amenable to this idea, saying that he needs such weapons to defend himself against a possibly aggressive alliance of the other clans that have rallied under a religious figure that has risen over the past couple of years. At this point York Benetec closes his eyes as he feels a psychic astropathic message incoming, he sees twin symbols, the eight point star of chaos or the warp and a skull symbol for danger; Benetec leans in close to the Admiral and informs him what he has seen.
Admiral Black apologises but says that they must leave, Baldur expresses his regret but as they leave Enginseer Pak performs a mental scan for tech in the are and picks up a small malfunctioning machine spirit from inside a hide bag hanging from the throne.
“When you return I may have something for your man of iron to look at.” – Chief Baldur of Clan Drod
Using a long-range vox link they summon their gun cutter to their location and climb aboard; they also contact the second gun cutter (the one that originally bought Borsch and Pak to the planet) telling it’s pilot to pick up their Rhino APC and return to the Venerus. Joergan Borsch takes the helm and they lift off into the lower atmosphere; suddenly Borsch shouts out that he has picked up two fighter craft entering the atmosphere from space, they are approaching the settlement on attack vector. Enginseer Pak conducts a brief scan and identifies the fighters as machines of an ancient Imperial design; realising that the settlement is undefended against such a attack Borsch flies past them and then cuts the engines briefly, using the gravity of the planet to slingshot the gun cutter back towards the fighters, his guns bark and one of the enemy vessels explodes in a fireball, the guncutter flying through the rain of debris. Immediately Enginseer Pak begins broadcasting a jamming signal to prevent the remaining fighter summoning help, however the enemy returns fire and hits one of their thrusters, looking at his display Borsch realises that they are losing altitude and have no chance of getting back to the Venerus with that amount of damage.
As the enemy vessel swings around for another pass, Borsch cuts all power to the engines, causing them to drop several feet and the bolts from the attacking fighter to sail harmlessly over them; shouting for Pak to restore the power he strafes the underbelly of the fighter and, although he does not do enough damage to cripple it, the enemy obviously thinks better of continuing it’s attack and flees back into the upper atmosphere where the damaged gun cutter cannot follow. Admiral Black briefly considers having Benetec send a psychic message to the Venerus to tell them to deal with the fighter and protect the planet but instead decides to have Pak use his in-built vox array to contact the secondary gun cutter and order it to take a message to the Venerus.
“I’m a navigator, not an astropath.” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak transmits the message that the planet is under attack and that the Venerus should establish a protective orbit and intercept the enemy fighter if possible; at this point Benetec winces in pain as he receives a second astropathic signal, two images, the symbol for chaos and the symbol for a warship, gritting his teeth in pain he explains that the chaos vessel they fought previously may have arrived in the system.
Trailing smoke from their damaged thrusted, Borsch has no choice but to land back on the planet and, leaving Pak to repair the damage, Benetec and Borsch head back to the settlement, whilst Lord Admiral black determines to visit Deacon Kiril; before they leave Oberlieutenant Borsch, seeking to fortify himself against the trials ahead grabs a bottle of surgical spirit from the gun cutters emergency medical kit. Arriving at Deacon Kiril’s hut, Admiral Black finds the old priest tutoring some of the native children in the holy Imperial psalms and stories; asking for a private word with the old priest, Black requests that he reveals all he knows about chaos. Kiril tells the Admiral that he has been trained by the Ecclesiarchy to resist the lying promises of the Ruinous Powers but that he is concerned two of the most barbaric clans, Blod and Klok, may have given themselves into heathen patron deities that may be nothing more than a guise for the gods of chaos. He also mentions that Clan Klok are a Sjomann/Navigator clan and that he has heard rumours they have a ship hidden by magic around something called the Eye of Byggmeister near the systems sun.
At the hall of Baldur, Borsch strides into the hall like he owns the place, only to find that he has interrupted a private meeting between Baldur and his generals, one of whom takes exception to this familiarity and smacks Borsch around the side of the head; it seems as though blood is about to be shed when Baldur stands and, with a forceful tone in his voice says simply “Enough.” His voice brooks no arguement and the warrior sits back down as Baldur apologises to Joergan Borsch; Benetec explains about recent events and says that he has heard the Drod clan maintain some sacred writings from their ancestors that lead to them rejecting the new-Sky Warrior. Nodding Baldur rummages in the bag hanging from his throne and produces a metallic cube that he places on the table, he calls it a speaking stone and says that it used to tell many tales of the Sky Warrior but that over the years it has fallen more quieter; running his hands over the box and murmuring a prayer in his native tongue the box hums for a couple of moments and then a flickering green fanged figure clan in the armour of the Adeptus Astartes appears in miniature above the box, projected from an apperture that opens in the top of it.
“…not survive my wounds, I will soon perish, but the thralls of my ship may yet live on this planet that I have bought them to for it is capable of bearing life. It is my wish that the blessed technology on my vessel not fall into enemy hands, I will set course for the sun of this system and it will become my tomb. It is my hope someone will find this and bring my people back to the Imperium. In the Emperor’s name!” – Unnamed Space Wolf Commander
York Benetec says that Admiral Black has come to return the chieftains people to the light of the Emperor as the Sky Warrior prophesised, he even says that their other ship has a Sjomann who has dealings with the brotherhood of the Sky Warrior and that they would be happy to see their lost kin returned.
Chief Baldur explains that his tribe have been approached by a person with a similar aspect to the Sky Warrior seeking their allegiance to the Sky Warrior Returned, however, where the ancient writings said that a serenity and peacefulness were felt in the presence of one born to fight for justice, Baldur felt only rage and darkness in the presence of this emissary. Attempting to stall (knowing that the Sky Warrior Returned had already rallied several of the other clans and that his own could not stand against them) Baldur asked for time to consider the request, as he speaks to Benetec, he has half a year remaining before he has to give his decision, although he has no plan to join this new Sky Warrior’s alliance. 
“You seem nearer in aspect to the Sky Warrior of old than this new false prophet” – Navigator York Benetec
“You do me much honour Sjomann” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Benetec tells Baldur that he believes this false prophet is called Lorgar, a twisted corruption of the true Sky Warrior’s ideals, and that they have encountered him previously. Chief Baldur explains that they have been expecting attack for a while and that he has been moving the women and young to caves in the mountains whilst his warriors have been making preparations to fight a last stand; the remaining clanships of Clan Drod have been pulled back and hide in the atmosphere of the nearby gas giant, Baldur tells them that his clan see this world as a sacred place because the Sky Warrior bought them here before they split into clans.
“And if it be our fate to fight and die here, then we will not flee from it, we will fight and we will die, making such a tale that our glory will live on forever.” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Admiral Black arrives at this point and catched the end of the conversation; Baldur says that he will understand if they do not wish to get involved, it is not their fight and they if they leave now seeking to avoid being perceived, he will understand and not think less of them; Admiral Black shrugs this off and says that they will stay and make their stand with the clansmen. At this point Admiral Blacks personal vox unit beeps and, through it, Pak tells him that the gun cutter is repaired but that the repair is only temporary, he can’t say how long it will last if the cutter runs into trouble; the Admiral thanks him and tells him to join them at the chieftains hut.
Baldur tells the group that one of his scouts reported seeing a fire in the sky and something falling from it, Borsch thinks from the description, that the fire may have been the exploding fighter that he shot down; Pak arrives at this point and says that if he can salvage parts from the fighter it may help improve his repairs on the gun cutter. The chief of the Drod clan leads them outside and shows that his men are preparing some strange two-legged saurian riding beasts to go and investigate the fallen item, he invites his new friends to join him and Admiral Black accepts despite Benetec looking entirely unthrilled about riding such a beast.
As they leave Admiral Black asks if Baldur has any Sjomann on the planet that he could speak to and the chief tells him that there is a Sjomann, Shulfar of Clan Krieg in the settlement and he will arrange and introduction on their return. The party (accompanying by Baldur and several of his warriors) begin to head through the valleys of the planet, the riding beasts taking strange springing steps; as they travel Benetec and the Admiral fall back to talk more privately, although the Admiral sees a grand opportunity for trade, York tells him that the opportunity is far greater, if they help deal with the chaos threat can potentially bring those clans not truly lost back into the light of the Emperor and that the Space Wolves would surely be grateful to the House of Black for the return of their lost people.
They emerge from the treeline on the lip of a huge crater, the sides of it being studded with twisted fragments of metal debris from the shattered fighter craft; locating a tree that had collapsed into the crater Pak begins picking his way down, followed by the others, leaving a couple of warriors with the riding beasts. Focussing the power of his third eye, York Benetec was able to perceive to his psychic vision a set of glowing footprints heading from the centre of the impact where he could see a monstrously large human shape outline, to the far edge of the crater, climbing up and heading into the tree line beyond.
“What on earth could have survived a fall like this?” – Lord Admiral Black
Piercing through the illusion of time, he witnessed a phantom of a power armoured huge figure with long black hair, black souless eyes and fangs climbing out of the crater, it removes a cracked Astartes helmet and, in frustration throws it to the far side of the crater where it sinks into the muck. Scrambling over to the spot in the present day Benetec digs out the Astartes helmet and finds that it looks like a snarling, cracked demonic visage; he tells Chief Baldur that this is the helmet of one of the false prophets.
“It may have been a helmet but it’s now my personal piss-pot” – Lord Admiral Black
Climbing up the far eye of the crater, against the rising moon and treeline Borsch sees a huge silhouetted figure, it turns red glowing eyes towards him and roars.

God Machine Chronicle – Man in the Mirror

Catia is sat in the Red Lion, a rough looking pub built in the lobby of the apartment block, although it’s not been trading much recently given that fresh deliveries have been entirely cut off by the snowstorm, the manager Redge has a long standing arrangement that he allows the Resident’s Association to use his backroom for meetings; normally the meetings consist of a few busy-bodies who meet up, rattle on for a few minutes and drink the odd shandy or lager, not today though, today the meeting is full of riles up residents who have been trapped in the apartment block together since the beginning of the storm, food is starting to run low and tempers are running high. Despite repeated calls for calm from the few cooler heads in the room (including Catia herself) and chance collision between a youth and a polish gentleman turns first into a shoving match and then into a full scale brawl with parties on both sides wading in, the English blaming the new wave of immigrants for stealing their friends houses, and the immigrants complaining at how they are being treated like dirt and spat upon; during the chaos Catia attempts to duck through the crowd and get clear, she pauses to snatch up a bewildered child on her way out, getting bumped and jostled in the progress, and delivers the young boy safely to his worried mother before advising the woman to take her son back to her own appartment and stay there. Thinking that some sort of distraction might stop the fighting Catia presses the emergency fire alarm, remembering too late that it will also set off the sprinklers in the corridors, they spray a brief gout of water onto the floors of the corridors throughout the building before the frozen pipes seize up and the water flow stops.
In her own room Maggie wakes up from an uneasy sleep to sound of a fire alarm ringing, she looks out the spyhole on her door and notices the slick wet floor of the corridor that has already started to freeze in the cold temperatures, before she can do anything more her mobile phone rings, it’s Catia who tells her what’s going on with riot and asks whether she’d be able to get Joe to help calm it down; Maggie says that she’ll see what she can do, rings Joe and tells him what’s going on in the Red Lion. Wasting no time Joe storms down to the pub where he finds the riot in full swing, spilling out of the pub into the foyer of the building, pushing his way through the crowd, staring down anyone who dares challenge him, Joe finds Redge crouched behind the bar; grabbed a pool cue he smashes it across the chest of the first person who gets too close to him and sends the man crashing to the floor, as a youth spins around with a flick knife Joe picks up a second pool cue and breaks it around the youths head, causing him to crumple in an unconscious heap. As a moments hush falls over the room and the riot pauses momentarily Joe says simply “Enough. Go home.”
Seeing the known to be ruthless criminal standing there holding half a bloody pool cue with two broken bodies lying at his feet the riots think discretion is the better part of valor and begin to disperse, although it is clear from the angry looks being exchanged that the matter is not over, it has just been paused momentarily, the main storm of protest is still to break. Joe checks his phone and is surprised to see that for the first time since the storm started he has a single bar of signal on his phone; ringing one of his boys he receives a garbled response before hanging up:
“Jo…ere ou…een…oads are…in…kay?”
Joe phones Maggie and asks her to bring Catia and meet him in the Red Lion and to bring a shovel, Maggie is only able to locate a small shovel that she uses for potting on her plants but she meets up with Catia and heads down to the pub, by the time they arrive Joe is drinking at the bar with Redge; initially the barman/owner looks a little worried that the rioters might have returned but he relaxes when he sees the two women and goes back to sweeping up the splintered furniture and smashed glass that the rioters have left in their wake. As Joe explains what has happened and that he thinks they should get out of the building (although he has not been able to get in touch with Brian yet), Catia recalls seeing a JCB on a building site to the west of the Specto Vale block just before the storm really kicked in, she suggests that they head to the site, take the digger and use it to make a break through the snowstorm. The three of them dig their way out of the front door of the tower block (which is now massively snowed in) and begin walking to the west, however, after a few minutes they find themselves approaching the Specto Vale entrance again; Catia thinks they must have got turned around since visibility is practically zero, Joe is not so sure though. Deciding to head to the bus stop they arrive and find that there is a still an area around it not touched by the snow, as Maggie described to them previously, Joe tells the girls to stay in the shelter and keep safe whilst he heads of to the building site; however, sure enough, a few minutes after he has left Joe finds himself heading back towards the bus stop, certain that something unusual is going he suggest that they return to the block.
Once they get back inside Joe directs them to the unoccupied flat 113 that they visited previously, the door still hangs in tatters where Joe kicked it off its hinges and the oval mirror is still inside; once the dust sheet is removed from the mirror Catia can see that the room is reflected in it but that they aren’t. Exploring the apartment Maggie finds a small hand mirror abandoned on a dresser in the bedroom, she takes it with her and hands it over to Joe who, acting on a hunch, puts his hand through the liquid-like surface of the large mirror whilst Maggie and Catia look at his reflection in the little mirror, they are surprised to see that his reflection in the little mirror disappears the moment his hand breaches the surface of the large mirror, and re-appears when he withdraws it. Taking the small mirror Joe plunges his head and arm through the surface of the large mirror, on the other side he sees the strange reflection realm, but the surface of the small mirror has turned black and non-reflective, although it returns to normal when he emerges from the large mirror back into our world.
Meanwhile Brian has woken up in his apartment, the sound of the fire bells having roused him from a nightmare about cogs, whirring gears and a strange ticking noise, looking outside his door he sees a frozen skin of water coating the floor of the corridor, confusing he picks up his phone and punches in Joe’s number; Joe explains to him about the riot and, on impulse, puts his phone holding hand and head through the large mirror whilst talking to Brian. Immediately Brian’s voice is replace by a crackling of static and just below it, a business-like voice repeats the phrase “What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again.”
As he heads down to meet the rest of them Brian notices that the wounds on his hand appear to have disappeared but there is a small patch of skin near his thumb where he appears to have lost all feeling and sensation.
Having trouble dealing with the concept of these strange mirrors and feeling beaten up after her experiences of the riot Catia flops down in a chair, a shocked look on her face, trying to be comforting Maggie pats her on the back and passes a large joint across to her, whilst this is going Joe has emerged from the large mirror just as Brian meets them in the flat. Joe suggest to Brian that he enter the mirror-verse and go to Mile’s room, nodding Brian enters the large mirror and makes his way through the twisted reflection version of Specto Vale to Miles room where he finds not the tidied up sanitary version of the room from their last visit but the messy, cluttered survivalists hidey hole of their first visit, however everything in there feels real and solid, not like the flimsy fake furniture and items in the rest of the mirror world, he pockets the blueprints he finds on the walls there and, thinking about what Joe has told him about phones in the mirror-verse attempts to make a call on his mobile. He is rewarded with the sound of static and a faint voice saying:
“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”
Unable to make sense of the number sequence Brian hangs up and heads to his own apartment; it seems (like almost every other reflection version of a place) as an imperfect reflection of his apartment and he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, gingerly pulling them back he exposes a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it would appear the scarecrow like figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, Brian knocks the covers exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he notices with terror that there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.
In our world Maggie has returned to her own flat, she is determined to throw all of her mirrors away but is distracted by the appearance of a jittery youth who is obviously some sort of addict experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he claims to be from one of the second floor flats and says that there aren’t any drugs coming in and that things are going to start getting ugly if people don’t get their fix, he’s heard that perhaps Maggie could hook him up. Maggie only carries weed and so she rings Joe who has a few small samples of harder stuff and agrees to sell the guy some if Maggie gets his apartment number; satisfied the grateful addict leaves and Maggie begins to systematically hurl all of her mirrors out of her apartment window where they shatter on the snowy floor below, however as she throws the last one Maggie swears that she sees eyes not her own staring back at her and then the mirror tumbles into the whiteness and crashes to the ground below.
Brian has traveled through the mirror-block of flats to the reflection of Bartek Prusee’s flat on the 13th floor, he jimmies the door open and walks inside, a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as Brian circles round the chair warily he sees another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; Brian attempts to talk to the figure but gets no response until he tries speaking backwards at which point the head begins to move, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Unnerved Brian writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and throws it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reaches up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note and Brian is horrified to see that its right arm is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”
Suddenly his phone rings and, when he answer it, over the crackling he hears a voice that sounds like Bartek speaking backwards saying “What are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again.” Realising that he is speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories, Brian drags the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Brian steps into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when he crawls out and attempts to speak to Bartek the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting Brian square in the shoulder, the old gangster shouts “Which one are you?”
“I’m the real one” replies Brian showing the blood from his fresh injury, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who directs Brian to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterise the wound, that he has in his bathroom cabinet. When Brian returns, having cleaned himself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realised that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks Brian whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when Brian looks at him blankly, explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. To Brian’s surprise he finds that he can’t remember the exact dates or times either; Brian attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells him not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on you.
Brian attempts to explain about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm, at the end of the conversation he notes that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, checking his pulse he finds that the old man has died quietly. 
Walking back down the first floor, the others are surprised when Brian walks in through the door rather than emerging out of the mirror but they don’t have much time to talk as Brian and Maggie (who has been explaining about the face in her mirror) hear the sound of a janitors wheeled cart approaching; still unsure of what is going on with the odd monosyllabic janitors they duck out of the apartment and head to the Red Lion where Redge has swept all the debris from the riot in a single pile and is now getting drunk. Brian shows the photos and video clips he has been taking in the mirror world on his smart phone and also the bullet that he removed from his shoulder, a brief argument breaks out when Maggie brings up the subject of the face in her mirror about whether she or Brian has had the worst day, this ends when Brian asks Redge about how his stock levels are doing and if he can remember what date the storm started; Redge seems to ponder it for a second before getting very irate and changing the subject, Brian holds this up as proof of what he has been saying to the others, they are not where they think that they are.
As Redge heads into the back room to get some more drinks Maggie notices a low hissing from two speakers fastened to the walls beside the bar, although Redge dismisses it as feedback from cheap speakers when asked, the group decide to ajourn their conversation to Maggie’s flat where Brian outlines his plan to re-enter the mirror world; Catia, obviously tired from her exertions during the riot falls asleep on one of the comfy chairs in the flat. At this point everyone’s mobile phone begins ringing simultaneously, Joe switches off both his and Catia’s phones whilst Maggie and Brian reach for theirs and press the answer button.

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 15: To Strive and not to Yield

Captain Pak gathers the men that he bought with him from the Rod Hant, sturdy space warriors all, whilst Admiral Black musters a group of his men including Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch of the 1st fighter squadron (nicknamed the ‘Void Krakens’) who wears a flight suit, bolt pistol and power sword; the sound of warning klaxxons blares throughout on ship, as the noise continues the crew begin to head to their posts with practiced efficiency whilst the Captain Pak and Admiral Black’s partys head towards where the alert has been triggered, the central mess room of the ship, stopping only briefly for Pak to leave some of his trusted tech-adepts in the teleportarium, ordering them to keep a lock on the senior officers so that, if they needed to, they could attempt to ‘port the officers out.
“Maybe the demon will eat the food and die?” – Oberlieutenat Joergen Borsch


As they draw closer the smell of blood fills the corridors and a strange humid, oppresive heat hangs over the area, in the distance there is a sound like a cross between a bull lowing and a man screaming; Pak suggests sending in the servo-skull but Admiral Black brushes his suggestion aside, hefts his power sword and charges into the main mess hall. The walls and floors of the mess room are splattered with blood, causing the Admiral to doubt his footing as he enters the chamber; in the centre of the room a large, crimson skinned demonic figure stands astride a pile of bodies and upturned furniture, it grips an obsidian weapon in one of its gore splattered claws. Admiral Black and Navigator Benetec both have a strange sensation that the blade itself is a seperate, hungry entity that cries out for the lives and souls of its victims; whilst the demon is intent on butchering the dying crew at it’s feet Black storms in, vaulting across the table and swinging his power sword through the air, however the tough, demonic hide turns aside most of the blows force, sending sparks cascading through the air. York Benetec runs in after the Admiral, trying not to slide on the blood drenched floor, striking it squarely with his crackling thunder hammer and causing the beast to give rent to an ear-splitting roar.
Still slightly injured from his previous exploits Captain Pak marshals his men around him and leads a coordinated support effort, the clan warriors flooding around the demon and stabbing at it with crude weapons, with the support of Pak’s mechandrite arm lashing out, they swamp the creature hack and stabbing at it. Oberlieutenant Borsch slides into the room and with a deafening boom discharges his bolt pistol, unfortunately missing the head of the beast and blowing a small crater in the floor of the chamber; roaring the demon throws off its attackers and stabs at Captain Pak with it’s hissing hellblade, his men grab their captain and pull him back trying to avoid the strike but the hilt of the blade strikes Pak on the side of his head, shattering the cappilaries in his eye and causing a large contusion to begin forming. The demon swings it’s blade towards Admiral Black who takes the blow on his own power sword sending flaming sparks spiraling through the air (setting fire to some of the furniture), the force of the blow throws the Admiral to the floor, winding him; picking himself up the Admiral gulps a lungfull of recycled air and charges back into the combat, determined not to let this evil creature triumph, swinging his sword he scores a shallow cut down the side of the creature, vile, hissing ichor sprays from the wound.
York Benetec pushes through the debris towards the creature, screaming his defiance of it and bringing down the thunder hammer he inherited from Confessor Cornelius, caving in the rib-cage of the creature, it struggles to stand for a moment, warp fire and bloody ichor leaking from its wound, before exploding in a shower of blood and gore, its deathcry fading in the air.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak checks that there is no further combat or incursions taking place on the Venerus before organising for the mess hall to be quarantined and cleaned up, 
Benetec notices that the creatures sword remains, its blade embedded in the floor of the chamber, and sees that another crewman has also spotted it and is reached his hand out for it; mindful of the dangers of such warp tainted objects and with little time to react Benetec fires his pistol, shooting the crew member dead before his hand has chance to close around the handle of the tainted weapon. Admiral Black and York Benetec sense a distortian of the air around the blade as blood from the slain crew member splatters on the weapon, realising that it could still pose a significant threat Benetec says that he needs the area cleared so that he can banish the foul sword back into the immaterium.
Once the chamber is clear Benetec begins to drain the warp energies from the weapon, syphoning them through his warp eye and allowing them to disperse into the immaterium, as it flickers and fades the deformed Navigator feels a faint echo of the rage and thirst for blood once imbued in the blade; meanwhile Lady Decusis Black has contacted the Admiral from the bridge, she is relieved to hear that her husband is safe and tells him that she never doubted that he would triumph over the chaos creature, she also reports that Tulius is well on the road to recovery.
Oberlieutenant Borsch and Pak begin making plans to visit the, as yet unnamed clan ship, Pak suggests that perhaps Borsch could assume command, in the same manner that he himeself did on the Rod Hant.
“Are you kidding? Have you seen the turning circle of those things? It’s the size of a planet!” – Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch
Sjomann Amelie is stood on the bridge as Admiral Black arrives there, guarded by an officer (presumably on the instructions of Lady Decusis-Black), he gives orders for the Sjomann to be taken to one of the vacant officers quarters. Two shuttles are prepared to approach the unnamed clan ship, the shuttle piloted by Objerlieutenant Borsch easily reaches the ship first and begins inspecting it for potential weaknesses; they both dock and use their vox systems to contact the ship and arrange to go aboard. The layout of the ship is very similar to the Rod Hant, one of the flanks of the ship is badly damaged but the crew has started to repair it; one of the Imperial troops that was left on the ship approaches looking concerned, he takes them through the ship to one of the weapons bays and they see that all of the crew are kneeling down as though in prayer all facing in the same direction, clasping a weapon to their breasts.
Borsch realises that the primitive clansmen appear to be facing towards where the Venerus is located; Sjomann Amelie says that although not part of this crew and thus not familiar with their rituals it is obviously one of their clan’s religious rites, the trooper points out that all crew members on the ship are doing the same thing, he has no idea what triggered it but it started with the Sjomann of the ship. Slightly worried, Pak contacts one of his servitors aboard the Rod Hant, the servitor in its monotone voice reports no change in activity aboard the vessel; Sjomann Amelie explains that, although her people try and remain above the clan warfare and their traditions, there are numerous deities that they worship and it may be any one of these that the crew are paying homage to. Pak contacts Admiral Black, as he is talking however the crew begin to return to their positions, the ceremony apparently concluded.
On the Venerus, York Benetec senses that the unnamed clan ship is attempting to enter the warp and stumbles into his sensorium chamber just in time to see a bright flash as the clan ship disappears into the warp, he immediately contacts Lord Admiral Black to inform him, the Admiral leaves Lady Decusis-Black, his wife, in charge of the Venerus before heading across to the Rod Hant with a contingent of tech-adepts, he plans to have both ships attempt to track and follow the unnamed ship (that still has Pak and Joergan onboard). Benetec warns that having a group of ships arriving simultaneously via the warp is unlikely, and he doubts the skill of the witch woman.
“There is a problem with this however, its already difficult enough for one navigator to follow a signal correctly, two is extremely difficult and I have no knowledge of the skills of this witch woman” – Navigator York Benetec
“Well, we’ll soon find out, wish me luck” – Lord Admiral Black
“I may see you in a few years Admiral” – York Benetec
Now on the Rod Hant, Admiral Black asks Sjomann Amelie whether she can follow the other ship through the warp, she says that with the appropriate rituals she will be able to follow the Solv Tann (apparently the name of the other ship) through what she calls the realm of the gods; watching the Sjomann begin her rituals, Admiral Black is struck by a strange, almost hypnotic pattern of bones and markings that she lays out around her as part of her ritual. Attempting to puzzle out the pattern the Admiral starts to see some sort of otherworldy pattern or connection between the objects, part of his mind seems to shy away from it, he can feel that the pattern is affecting his psyche and senses the opportunity for great power or destruction in the pattern. Steeling himself against all doubt and hungry for power, Admiral Black attempts to grasp the mind bending pattern laid out in front of him; unseen by the him his body begins a subtle serpentine change, retractable fangs and poison glands beginning to take shape below the skin of his jaw.
Admiral Black wakes up some moments later lying on the floor of the Sjomann’s chamber, from the humming of the engines around him it is obvious that during his convalescence the Rod Hant has entered the warp; both ships head for the Endeavour System but meet with resistance, a form of warp stasis around the system making it more hazardous to navigate there and lengthening the journey time; the Rod Hant and Venerus arrive almost simultaneously in the Endeavour System and quickly conduct scans, they don’t pick up any ships (besides themselves) in the vicinity, they assume that due to the vagaries of the warp that they have arrived before the other clan ship. Sjomann Amelie informs them that although many of the clans live on fleets of roving clan ships some of them live a more traditional planet-bound life on the large moon of Strive, she also explains that when the Sky Warrior returned, Clan Mord left their home amongst the asteroid belts (which they mined for minerals, competing with a clan of scavengers called Clan Kjempe) and went to join him; she explains that the main inhabitants of Strive are called Clan Drod and have a ship in orbit around the moon. Clan Drod are the only clan who refused to side outright with the Sky Warrior (although they didn’t openly rebel), she doesn’t know why but it was something to do with ancient writings preserved from their ancestors. The Sjomann cautions against approaching in ships belonging to another clan but says that they should be able to get hospitallity from them.
Admiral Black decides to visit the planet in a shuttle, taking the Sjomann and a small party with him, ordering the ships to wait for them, concealed in the asteroid fields of the system.
Oberlieutenant Borsch arrives on the bridge of the Solv Tann, he sees a hulking figure in the command chair barking orders in a growled primitive language; Borsch addresses him and is horrifed to see that the captain seems to have a twisted houndlike head, instinctively he fires his bolt pistol, punching a hole through the captain who is dead before his body hits the floor.
“Is there anyone else having a problem with surrendering?” – Oberlieutent Borsch
Borsch spots one other obvious mutant, a figure with ragged bat wings standing at one of the consoles, he kicks the Captains corpse out of the chair and sits down beckoning the winged figure over and asking him about their destination, the ragged figure replies “We return to our home system. Sjomann say it takes 35 Sjtel-links.” Captain Pak arrives on the bridge just as this is going on and, due to his greater knowledge of the clansmen, is able to estimate that 35 Sjtel-links is about 50 Imperial Days; frustrated Borsch puts another round in the old captains head for good measure.
On the moon of Strive, Admiral Blacks guncutter breaks through the slightly thin atmosphere of the massive moon; they locate a small valley amongst the monstly mountainous terrain, shielded by coniferous trees, about twenty miles away from a fairly large settlement. Landing they camouflage the guncutter whilst Admiral Black has the tech-adepts uncouple the Rhino APC from the ship and, with a churning of dirt, they begin heading toward the settlement.
“I wonder if this is where that Imperial Missionary went?” – Admiral Black
“Cornelius knew about that sort of thing and he’s dead, perhaps I should ask his thunder hammer?” – Navigator York Benetec
There is a permanent wooden city surrounded by a sea of hide tents, and the odd loose stonework building forming a strange melange of different building styles in the distance; as the APC approached one of the tech-adepts picks up an imperial power signature 50km to the west, Admiral Black orders them to head towards it and eventually they approach an old fashioned Imperial Shuttle, the outside of it bears the iconography of the Ecclesiarchy. Next to the shuttle are a couple of lean-tos that have been fabricated with materials of Imperial manufacture, as they approach a number of the primitive clans-folk start pointing excitedly and warily at the Rhino APC; as the Rhino pulls to a halt, an excited young native girl leads on old man wearing Imperial priest robes from one of the lean-tos, he’s a little doddery on his feet but he has a serene look to his face, he leans heavily on a gnarled walking stick with an iron skull and Imperial Aquila mounted atop it. The man introduces himself as Deacon Kiril.
“It’s good to see honest Imperial citizens in our little system” – Deacon Kiril
Admiral Black mentions Confessor Cornelius and Deacon Kiril is saddened to hear that Cornelius has died, the news hitting him heavily and forcing him to sit down on a cargo crate; in response to the Deacons queries the Admiral omits some of the details of Cornelius’ death but says that he died during a mutiny caused by the evil of a demon that penetrated the Venerus’ Gellar field. Deacon Kiril talks about the start that both he and his junior priests have begun bringing the clansmen back into the Emperor’s light, he says that it may even be possible that they are descendants of lost Imperial explorers.
“At my age, I believe it is possible I may never leave this world and our work may not be completed in my lifetime, but it is enough to know that we have started these people down the road to their own redemption” – Deacon Kiril
Kiril offers hospitallity to Admiral Black’s party, the Admiral accepts and explains that they are waiting for a ship that absconded into the warp with two of his crew, Sjomann Amelie explains that it was Clan Mord who absconded with the crew; the Deacon looks trouble and says that he’s heard some false religious figure has recently risen and has corrupted some of the tribes furthest from the Emperor. Although he hasn’t been off world to find out more of this, apparently a representative from this ‘Sky Warrior’ attempted to persuade the chief of Clan Drod to rally to their banner although the clan chief does not seem interested; apparently the more barbarous clans have flocked to the Sky Warriors banner.
Deacon Kiril shares a thick, hearty broth with the Admiral’s party, simple but nourishing fare and tells them that the planet is roamed by large mammoths that are hunted by the clansmen for their pelts, tusks and meat; there were once some great predators on the planet (including the dreaded Nak-tar) but the early clansmen hunted them to extinction either for food or as part of their barbaric coming of age rituals. Over the course of the next 20 days the Deacon explains that the clansmen build a lot of their ships in space, mostly in the asteroid belts and clusters throughout the system and that the chief of Clan Drod currently rules the planet, his clan being one of the few to maintain a permanent planetary presence; he believes that the religion of the clansmen is a primitive form of Emperor worship and agrees to arrange a meeting within the month between the clan chief and the Admiral.
Clan Drod have not come out in open opposition to the Sky Warrior (apparently because of some ancient writings that they have preserved from their ancestors) since if the other clans were to unite against Clan Drod (even though they are a large clan) they wouldn’t stand a chance; but he has made it clear that he is not interested.
“That Clan Drod has rejected this heresy speaks well of their reformation” – Navigator York Benetec
“It is my hopes that from the tiny acorns of this act the mighty oaks of righteousness my grow and that these people can be shepherded back to the Emperor, I fear the same may not be said of the other clans” – Deacon Kiril
One the Solv Tann, Borsch has discovered that Mikhil the winged is the first mate; Captain Pak asks him about the ceremony that they conducted shortly before entering the warp and the mutated crew member explains that the Sjomann had sensed the will of their patron deity Slaktin being made known in the world and they were offering him homage, he says that they faced the direction of where their God had entered the world and that his own wings were a blessing from the warrior God Slaktin, few aboard are worthy enough to carry such blessings. Oberlieutenant Borsch convinces Mikhil that he would like to assess the mightiest warriors and plans to gather all of those bearing the gifts of Slaktin in the cargo bay (actually he plans to slay the mutated crew).
Captain Pak begins to attempt to gain trust amongst the Clansmen onboard the Solv Tann, using his position as new Captain of the Rod Hant as leverage with the primitive crew; unlike the crew of the Rod Hant who accepted the leadership of Pak, the Oberlieutenant is forced to fight off challengers for his position as new Captain almost dailt, he is forced to kill about 15 members of the crew during the course of the challenges. As a method of trying to discourage this Borsch has the severed heads of his kills mounted on the back of the command chair. 
During the journey his sleep is troubled by dreams of conquest and blood, but he turns away from the dreams since he feels himself in danger of corruption as he takes the power of these others; he needs no-one else’s power or approval, only his own.
Many days later, on the moon of Strive, York Benetec wakes with a start when he receives an astropathic vision of the Solv Tann from the psychics aboard the Venerus.
“The other vessel has arrived.” – York Benetec
Under orders from Admiral Black Benetec transmits a vision to the astropaths on the Venerus showing their Imperial soldiers storming the Solv Tann and detaining the crew; in response to this the Venerus moves towards the Solv Tann, reinforcing the position of Borsch and Pak. Borsch orders the Sjomann to be bought to the bridge so that he cannot attempt to take the ship into the warp again, when he arrives the Sjomann is revealed to be a hulking brute of a man covered in blue tattoos with a top-knot, he aggressively demands to know why he has been bought to the bridge. Mikhil introduces the huge figure as Sjomann Nikolai; allowing Nikolai to see the severed heads of the captaincy challengers Oberlieutenant Borsch orders the Sjomann not to take the ship back into the warp without his instructions and then dismisses him.
Pak and Borsch are contacted by Lady Decusis-Black (aboard the Venerus) who asks them to join her onboard the larger vessel where she tells them about the Admiral’s current whereabouts, the two men take a shuttle and a compliment of crew down to the moon of Strive to join Admiral Black and his party.

Reflections on the Hunter the Vigil

Recently, as those who read my blog may have seen I played in a very enjoyable Hunter the Vigil game run by my friend Barry, previous IC write-ups can be found here:

In the game myself and three other players portrayed mortal members of an elite government agency known as the Vanguard Serial Crime Unit or VASCU for short, a sort of paranormal FBI style organisation introduced in the nWoD Slashers book who investigate serial crimes; after a prelude case where we discovered a mad woman using corpses to fertilise strange red plants in her basement although we were swiftly moved off the case and told that it had now fallen under the remit of Project VALKYRIE, an elite military organisation. Realising that it stunk of a cover up we uncovered a related case in the town of Greenvale where the connection had seemingly been overlooked and were able to get ourselves assigned to it, this lead to us being plunged into a small town of strange cults, odd red sacrificial tree circles, captive spirits and an urban legend known as the raincoat killer who stalked the streets of the town murdering at will whenever a heavy rain fell.
Originally the game was supposed to be part of our one-off Wednesday style of games however it overran by quite a bit, wrapping up at session five, I think the GM would be the first to admit that the one-off approach isn’t his preferred style and that (like most of us) he’s more used to running slightly longer campaigns; however the game was still very enjoyable and we achieved our objective (sort of) even if it was only by gunning down the leader of the cult (the local Sheriff George Woodman) and one of the characters (Agent Brockhurst) sacrificing himself against the urban legend killer whilst the rest of us escaped to call in a Project VALKYRIE clean up team. This might have seemed like an unsatisfying ending for some, however, as a fan of Cthulhu-esque games where the characters generally either die, go insane or escape by the skin of their teeth I was quite happy with it and the GM did a lovely little epilogue section for the player character that had died as his spirit moved into the afterlife.
After the game had finished we all had a little discussion, as we often do, about what had happened within the game and, given that it was an investigation scenario, how we had done in terms of unravelling it all.
There were a few interesting points raised in the discussion:
  • Certain parts of the plot were hinged around the players having access to certain powers/abilities when character sheets were altered late on in the character gen session so these abilities were no longer possessed it made the whole scenario a lot more difficult to unravel.
  • A couple of longer pauses (due to players RL schedules) between games made it more likely that odd little facts would be missed or forgotten despite myself taking fairly copious notes during the game sessions.
  • Some of the plot points were quite obvious to me on an OOC level, however, with my character not having the extensive knowledge of the world of darkness that I possess it was difficult to justify having certain knowledge IC or to make logical leaps without it seeming like OOC knowledge was being used.
  • Our characters were designed as stereotypes to facilitate jumping straight into the game; this worked fine during the first session but, as the game went on, the characters started to seem less real and more one-dimensional.
  • Because there was very little downtime, my own character (who had been severely injured at the end of session 3) was unable to participate to any great degree in the last two sessions.
  • Several aspects of the plot had to be jettisoned in order to bring the game to a satisfactory conclusion by the end of session 5.

Overall the game was very enjoyable and I had a great time playing the grizzled, haunted ex-cop shtick although it did highlight the fact that perhaps certain types of game or scenario are not as suited for one-off games as others. 

RPG Blog Carnival – September 2013: Location, Location, Location!

On Wil Hutton’s blog Aggregate Cognizance (http://rivetgeek.blogspot.co.uk/) I recently came across mention of something called the RPG Blog Carnival, intrigued I decided to have a look at it; the idea seems to be to get groups of bloggers to all write about a monthly topic to build a dialogue across many different blods, providing different viewpoints and ideas to the viewer. The way it works is that a blog discussing a monthly topic will post the RPG Carnival Logo and will link back to the ‘hosters’ post.
The topic for September 2013 is “Location, Location, Location!” which focuses on the in-game areas where the action occurs, the main post asks a number of questions regarding locations:
How do you choose a location?
I think that any choice of location has to be guided by three main priciples:
i) Is the location entertaining/desirable for the players?
ii) Does the location fit the internal logic of the game.
iii) Is there a need for the location?
The aim of any RPG ultimately should be to provide entertainment for players and the GM, when a location is being explicitly bought into focus in a game (ie. is the setting for a scene rather than just a brief bit of description) then I think it should be because there is a need for that location in the ongoing plotline of the game or because it will provide an entertaining interlude/encounter for the players. There are cerrtain types of location that players expect to be able to access in various different gaming genres and campaigns and, unless you are deliberately trying to make a contrast or break away from stereotypes then there’s no reason not to include these locations in your game, they provide an instantly recognisable hook for the players and also increase their enjoyment.
The most obvious example of this sort of location is probably the much-maligned tavern in a D&D-esque fantasy world; we all know the score in this location, there will be a gaggle of different fantasy races, most hard-bitten drinkers, gambling and being rowdy whilst being served foaming mugs of ale on strong wooden tables. This is a very easily recognisable scene and as such the players can slip into it without worrying so much about the setting and can just concentrate on portraying their characters reaction to it, however, because it is such a well known scene, any differences that the GM chooses to inject into the location will stand out even more, drawing the players attention to them; for example if the player party walked into a tavern and their were no torches lit and everyone is sat around silently with glum faces, they would be on their guard and know that something has probably occurred.
Any location has to have some sort of logic, now given that we are talking about fantasy worlds and games the definition of logic is stretched a bit, but it still needs to make some sort of sense within the rules you’ve established for your game world; it can be quite jarring when a location seems to have no connection to the landscape or setting around it, without some sort of rationale (that can be seen by the players) or intervening travel description it can make it seems as though the location has just been slapped into a setting without any real thought.
A final question I ask myself when considering putting a location into a game is whether it is really needed; after all if the players are just stopping off briefly at a tavern to feed and water before pressing on to the main part of the adventure then a brief description of their rest stop is all that is required (assuming that no additional plot or information is to be revealed at the tavern).
How do you represent a location?
I’ve never been a particular fan of loads of scenery and miniatures when it comes to laying out a location; although such things can look stunning and very visually impressive (my wife has a collection of Dwarven Forge scenery that is beautifully cast and painted) I find that such things get in the way of the action and the RPG feels more like a game when such props are used, if people enjoy using miniatures that’s fine for their games, but personally I find that focussing too much on the 5′ square gives a more tactical-miniatures game feel to a session rather than a smoothly flowing narrative which is what I strive for in my games.
The way that I tend to represent locations is by using index cards to represent each location, the cards can have facts or aspects of the location written on them, along with the name and a brief description, I then lay these out roughly on the table to show the relative positioning of the locations in the game to each other, drawing lines between them to show how they are linked up (and writing down any impediments to movement on the lines, a simplified example is shown below:
This style of location positioning is one that I adopted after playing the FATE RPG since it conveniently allows you to represent zones (as they are referred to in that system) and also display known information about the locations in an easily visible form, i’m a big fan of this since it allows the players to note aspects of interest in a location and to work them into the unfolding drama, for example, if a player sees that the cavern has an ‘uneven floor’ he may try to use it to trip an opponent and gain a momentary advantage in combat, or perhaps he hunkers low to the floor and uses the uneveness as cover or to hide his activities from prying eyes. Anything that gets the players more involved and invested in a location and the action going on there has to be a good thing for your game and the index card model fills this box for me without getting the players too hung up on exactly how wide the drinking hall is or how many squares long the corridor is; the index card method also allows you to zoom in or out, a single dungeon could have each room or corridor as a card if your game required it, conversely an entire house might only merit one index card depending on it’s narrative importance within the game session.
How do you modify a location?
In terms of modifying a location there are a few main reasons that i’d modify a location:
i) If the location is based on a real world location but requires altering to meet the needs of my game.
ii) If the location changes or is altered in some way in game.
iii) If the plot requires some sort of addition to the location.
If I am using a real world location then I will have taken some care when initially drafting out my session so that if it does require alteration to meet the needs of my game that I have done this before a session, these alterations can take numerous forms, whether the internal layout of the building requires altering or perhaps simply a matter of scale; a couple of times I have used maps of real world locations with many rooms and have then had several of the room collapsed to give it a ruined feeling and also to cut down on the amount of wandering about that the players have to do. I generally find that, if i’m using a map of a real world location that printing it out and then making some notes/alterations on it in pencil works well since you can change these and make additional notes during the session if you require it; since I use the index card mapping method mentioned above I also divide the location up into individual cards/zones (assuming that the location warrants multiple cards or zones) at this stage, drawing rectangles or shapes on the map and numbering/naming the zones.
When a location is altered in some way or the plot requires some sort of addition I generally handle it in game, this can cover everything from natural alterations like a rockfall, player action such as spilling a barrel of oil or setting something on fire or it could just be revealing another aspect of the scene that hadn’t been specified earlier; a player might ask “is there a wheeled trolley of some sort in this library?” and, if there isn’t a compelling reason not to include one, then i’ll probably add it since it encourages players to get involved and interact with the scenery more. Another strength of the index card method is that additional aspects of the scene can simply be noted down on the appropriate index cards as they are revealed; another design maxim that I have picked up recently from reading the excellent Dungeon World RPG is to “leave some blank space”, try not to describe 100% of a scene, focus mainly on a broad overview and then pick out a few interesting or relevant details, this gives you room to maneuvre or make additions/alterations when either the players or the plot demand it.
Improvising a location
This is sometimes necessary when the player party make an unexpected sidetrek or perhaps get caught up in a small throwaway bit of plot that really interests them; if this happens the advice I would give is to run with it, the players are showing you that they are interested in the bit of plot or aspect of your game that they are pursuing, rewarding them with a small scene is a great way to encourage them to get more immersed in the game and also gives them the feeling that they have some input in the game.
By using an index card and bearing in mind to only describe a location in overview with a few flecks of detail, you can easily (using your knowledge of where the player characters are) create a simple location for the players to explore and then feed off their questions and queries to expand it if necessary; if you are not so comfortable with coming up with things off the cuff you can always prepare a few cards containing generic locations in the time between games (perhaps with a small encounter or challenge written on the card) and then tote one of these out (perhaps tweaking it for the current terrain that the players are in) when the players go exploring.
For example: If the player characters are exploring a swamp and I pull out a ‘small village of isolated farmers’ location from my deck of random locations, it is easy enough for me to tweak this and say that the village is actually a reed built hamlet of bullywugs who farm fungus and mould from the damp earth at the edge of the swamp and whom have little contact with anyone outside the swamp; if the stats for the village elder had been noted on the back it is fairly easy to re-skin this and portray it as a bullywug tribal priest or something similar. 
Vehicles as locations
A category I feel that is sometimes overlooked in RPGs is the vehicle as a location; obviously small vehicles such as motorbikes and cars etc act solely as conveyances between different locations and aren’t locations in and of themselves, however what about larger vehicles such as spaceships or longboats (to give two examples) that, whilst useful as modes of travel, are also large enough to warrant being considered locations in their own right?
What I tend to do with these locations is, when the PCs are disembarking, if the vehicle is easily accessible I have this as a single zone/card and anyone entering this zone is considered to be aboard; should a more detailed exploration of the vehicle interior be required then additional zones can be added that branch off from the initial vehicle location (renaming the initial location ‘on deck’, ‘in the docking bay’ or something similar) allowing the PCs to explore in more detail; this is only generally necessary if something dramatic is occurring onboard, such as an attack by space pirates or something similar where the character’s ability to move through the vehicle is relevant to the plot, if not then I tend to just narrate them moving through the interior and accessing whichever chamber they wish without using detailed mapping.