I banged out a character sheet for Coriolis in Adobe Ilustrator today. It’s based on the official version, but should less ink-intensive and has as a bit more room for talents.
TL/DR: It’s great!
The English translation of Aquelarre was kickstarted by Stewart Wieck back in 2015. Aquelarre has a venerable history. It was published in Spain nearly thirty years ago. Tragically, Mr. Wieck passed away before it was fulfilled. Fortunately, Nocturnal Media and (I think) Chaosium stepped up to see this project completed. I do know they’ve had some trouble shipping to international backers.
Aquelarre is a mighty tome. It weighs about five pounds, over 560 pages long, glossy interior, beautiful illustrations and layout. The binding looks good, but with a book of this size you will want to treat it with care. The campaign did offer a “Brevarium” – a black and white rule book that was supposed to be half the size. I sure wish I had picked up a copy for the gaming table.
Before jumping into the review, I want to take a quick detour and talk about the language of the book. The author is loquacious. I’m pretty sure this book could have been half the size and lost none of the content with a tighter writing style. Here’s an example from the section on Poison:
As if there weren’t enough situations that can injure a character, one more must be added: poisoning. Whether administered with malicious intent, used by certain animals or creatures, or consumed totally by accident, characters may encounter the pernicious effects of poison on a multitude of occasions so that they might wish to raise their Taste percentage and different Knowledges, if they don’t wish to end their days with their face planted in the bowl of hot soup they were savoring.
The Introduction contains many of the standards you see in role-playing games: what is a role-playing game, dice conventions, glossary, history of the game itself and an example of play. After that, the book is broken into five sections each consisting of several chapters.
Liber I: Mechanica describes character creation, the game system, healing and combat. Characters can be generated randomly or with the “free choice” method. Throughout the chapter they provide examples of each. Characters are fairly detailed, you determine the kingdom you are form, religion, profession (which determines your starting skills), and so forth. There are “Boons and Banes”, essentially advantages and disadvantages. The game system is described next. Aquelarre’s game system is obviously derived from Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing system (BRP). If you are familiar with BRP, you will find Aquelarre and easy game to pick up. If you are not familiar with BRP, I am not sure if this is the best presentation to learn the system. It depends on how easily you can digest the author’s prose. Healing and damage are described in the next chapter. As the game is set in medieval Spain and there is not a lot of magical healing available this is a pretty important chapter. This is not a game where your hit points quickly regenerate after a fight. If your character is injured, you can expect to be laid up for a while. The final chapter in this section is devoted to combat. Again, those familiar with BRP should be right at home here. Combat looks deadly. Wear armor if you can. From a mechanical standpoint, Aquelarre is one of the crunchiest BRP variants that I have seen. It’s got hit locations, major wounds, a different damage bonus system based on weapon type, a fairly lengthy selection of skills and character choices.
Liber II: Metaphysic describes the character’s world view, magic and theology. Your character’s world view plays a central role in this game. Do you believe in an orderly universe, ruled by God? If so, you are rational. Conversely, if you believe in magic, and the fae, you are irrational. There are game mechanics around this choice and they are on a sliding scale of 100 points. As you become more irrational, you lose points in rational. This remind me of traits from Pendragon such as Chaste/Lustful. Irrational characters are drawn to magic, and if you desire to play a magician that is the path you will take. Rational characters are drawn to God and may perform miracles of faith. It is very hard to maintain rationality in the game. Seeing demons will often cause you to become more irrational. It’s a really cool system. The next two chapters in this section describe magical spells and the powers of faith. The spells and rituals are very evocative.
Liber III: Cosmograpica is the “Monster Manual” of the game. There are over 100 pages of creatures to spring upon your characters. An entire chapter is devoted to devils and demons. Angels get their own chapter too. The last chapter in this section is devoted to the monsters of medieval Spain. While many of the creatures are familiar, they all have an Iberian spin and are sure to surprise and challenge your players. You could build a great scenario around each of these creatures and ideas kept popping into my head while I read this chapter.
Liber IV: Medievalia describes the game world. Aquelarre is set in reconquista Spain in the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries. The actual time of the game is left vague, but timelines of major events are provided to help game masters give a sense of the campaign. This section was fantastic. It is a period I know very little about and I am impressed with the detail presented by the author. There are descriptions of all the kingdoms of the period, the various social classes, what it was like for Jews and Muslims during the time, life in general. The author wants your game to live and breath the medieval and provides you with all the tools you need to immerse yourself in this period. The section ends with a chapter on game mastering Aquellare. It’s great stuff!
Liber V: Tales contains three adventures. The first is a solo adventure, the other two are more traditional adventures. I don’t want to describe the adventures too much for fear of spoilers, but they look like fun and will at least help game masters come up with ideas on what to do with this game.
The final section is this book is a series of appendices containing information on equipment and goods, the monetary and measurement systems, names, locations, a battle system, maps and character sheet.
I highly recommend this game. Even if you do not run it, this is a beautiful book chock full of terrifying monsters and history. At the time of this review, Aquelarre does not appear to be for sale. There is a translation of the introduction available at DriveThruRPG. Keep an eye on the Kickstarter I guess.
TL/DR: Great resource, kludgy system
Elizabethan Adventures is a roleplaying game set in 16th century England. This is a great and somewhat underserved period for gaming. Adventure abounds: court intrigue, the Spanish threat, friction on the Scottish border, exploration of the New World and piracy are all possible campaign types. The game is written by Matthew Walhead and it is truly a labor of love. There are two volumes to the game: the Player’s Book containing the basic game rules and character generation and the Gamemaster’s Book which describes the world, ships, travel and so forth. The game system appears to derive from the Basic Roleplaying System (BRP) that Chaosium developed for Runequest and Call of Cthulhu.
I have the hard cover volumes from DriveThruRPG. The covers are simple and elegant. The interiors are full color. Illustrations are mainly pictures (I’m pretty sure they are culled from movie stills), period engravings and some really nice line drawings of weapons and ships. These are print on demand books, so you’ll need to take care on the binding. I’m really glad the author chose to spilt the books into two volumes for this reason. Overall, the quality looks good.
The Player’s Book begins with a short introduction and then jumps into Character Creation. This is very much a “traditional roleplaying game”, but it does have a bit of a twist. All players must come up with a concept of a “Hidden Character”. What this really boils down to, is that every player in the game has some sort of secret – unknown to the other players – that may put them at odds with their fellow adventurers from time to time. It’s a cool idea and will engender a healthy level of paranoia amongst your players. Next, players choose gender, social class (called Social Estate) and roll or use a point-allocation system to determine attributes. There are ten attributes in the game: Agility, Appearance, Charisma, Confidence, Constitution, Instinct, Intelligence, Memory, Quickness and Strength. The sheer number of attributes was my immediate clue that the author was a “splitter” rather than a “lumper” when it came to game design. Secondary attributes such as Fate Points (a luck mechanism), Hit Points and Damage Bonus come next. After that the player can choose from a short list of Special Traits – basically advantages. Finally, the player chooses one or more Professions for his character to determine the skills he begins play with. The section wraps up with determining other character traits (age, name, etc.) and a discussion on how the experience system works.
The next chapter is Professions. There are 45 pages devoted to the professions available to characters; serious overkill. I guess somebody, somewhere may wish to write up a dairymaid or a cheesemonger… I’ll be honest. I skimmed over most of this section, only spending time reading the more adventurous or interesting careers. There are some really cool pieces of information in this section. For example, I knew that barbers and surgeons were closely related in the middle ages. I didn’t know that many barbers ran bath houses and effectively doubled as pimps.
The next chapter is devoted to skills. It begins with a discussion of the game system. Elizabethan Adventures uses 1D20 for the primary die to resolve tasks. The player attempts to roll below their skill level (there are the usual modifiers and such) to see if they succeed at a task. There are rules for critical success and failure. The game system will feel very familiar to anyone who’s played BRP; it basically replaces the percentile roll with 1D20. Next we’re onto an exhaustive list of skills. Combat skills, in particular, have a crazy number of combinations. You don’t choose weapon skills (like Rapier), but rather a fighting style. All fine and good, until you see the list: Broadsword & Broadsword, Broadsword & Cloak, Broadsword & Dagger, Broadsword & Shield. Now repeat, replacing Rapier for Broadsword in the previous sentence… There are a large number of skills for crafting, social and other areas. I’ve gotten to the point in my gaming life where detailed lists of skills just turn me off. I like like skills that have a broad application, rather than specializations.
Combat is the focus of the next chapter. I found the Combat Matrix a little tricky to read at first. It is similar to Legend from Mongoose – an implementation of BRP that I never cared for. All weapons have damage for slash, thrust or bashing attacks. There didn’t seem to be an advantage to using any mode over the other, so I am not sure why a player would ever choose a lesser damage attack. Parrying is also a little complex. Each weapon has a decimal multiplier that you apply to the character’s skill to determine his chance to parry. It’s similar to GURPS, but varies by weapon. I like the idea, but I am not a big fan of how it is implemented. Overall, I think combat would be slow.
The final chapter in the Player’s Book is on Injury & Health. The game has hit locations and a major wound system. Combat looks like it would be pretty deadly and in a world where there is no magical healing your character can expect to be laid up for some time after a skirmish – if he doesn’t die from infection that is… Other sources of damage such as falling and poison are detailed in this chapter. It is rounded out with how to recover damage from the quackery that passes for medicine in the sixteenth century.
The Player’s Book ends with a series of tables for character creation, weights and measures, weapon statistics and so forth. It’s handy to have all this in one place so the GM doesn’t need to flip around chapters to find it.
The Gamemaster’s Book begins with a chapter on – wait for it – Gamemastering. The author assumes that you are not purchasing this game as your first foray into roleplay, so it is relatively brief. It has information on how to motivate your party and keep them “on task” with good group goals during the session. One of the things that I liked was how the author encouraged the GM to consider the edges of the world as an area where more fantastical things could happen. For example, the kingdom of Prester John may lie somewhere beyond Tartary and King Solon’s Mines are surely hidden somewhere in deepest Africa.
The next chapter focuses on the Game World. The author discusses the various Social Estates and religions of the time. Next, he launches into Witchcraft. The GM is free to allow more otherworldly aspects in their game. Witchcraft and religion can be more than just mummery for those who believe. A note for the faint of heart, Witchcraft is considered the worship of Satan in this game – no nature-worship here. An overview of the world comes next. I really enjoyed this section and honestly learned a lot of history while perusing it. Transportation and travel speed, money and prices and a small bestiary round out the chapter.
Ships & Sailing is the next chapter. This is the time of the Sea Dogs. Hawkins, Raleigh, Drake and many others were commissioned as privateers and preyed on Spanish shipping mercilessly. There are rules for building and outfitting a ship, navigation and combat.
London is the focus of the next chapter. There are period maps of the entire city along with a gazetteer of many of the most famous and interesting locations. Anyone who wishes to run a game in London in this time period would be well-served to pick up this book. Quite frankly, I felt it was the best part of the whole game. The author could easily cut this out of the GM book and sell it as a systemless setting guide. And maybe he’s done it… There is a PDF of the London Map available for sale; I am not sure if it contains the gazetteer.
The final chapter is an introductory adventure. The characters spend a night at a coaching inn and where all sorts of skulldrudgery takes place. I got a strong “Rough Night at the Three Feathers” vibe from this adventure.
I’ve long noodled over running a game set in this time period. I’ve read a fair amount of history and historical fiction set in this time period. The author really knows his stuff! I’d highly recommend this game as a resource. I’m less sold on the system itself. This is really a matter of my own tastes. It is built on BRP so I know it is going to work. It’s just a lot crunchier than I like now-a-days. If I were to start a game in this period, I’d start with FGU’s Flashing Blades and tweak appropriately.
Elizabethan Adventures is available at DriveThruRPG.
TL/DR: It’s good, but don’t buy yet…
Shotguns and Sorcery the Roleplaying Game is based on the fantasy-noir novels from Matt Forbeck. Mr. Forbeck is credited as the lead writer on the game, while Robert Schwalb (of Shadow of the Demon Lord fame) has written the rules. The game was kickstarted in November 2014 with a delivery date of December 2015. I got my copy a few months ago and finally read through it. Was it worth the wait? Nope. Is it any good? Yes.
If you are not aware of Forbeck’s stories, the Shotguns and Sorcery universe is a bash of the fantasy and detective-noir genres. The author has created a world where only one city still exists. The rest of the continent is overrun by hordes of zombies. The action takes place in a crowded metropolis. Various fantasy races all occupy this city and there is a pretty strict class system with Elves at the top, Goblins at the bottom and humans somewhere in the middle.
Shotguns and Sorcery is a 270+ page hardback, with a nice matte-finished cover. The interior is full color, non-glossy paper. The illustrations are nice; kind of a comic book style. The artist, Jeremy Mohler (who is also the creator of the kickstarter), farmed out some of the coloring of his work to other artists. It shows. Many images are a lot “flatter” than others. The book itself looks ok. I don’t think the binding will put up with much abuse at the game table. It feels like the kind of product I’d get from a print on demand company.
The books is divided into seven “parts”, each composed of one or more chapters, and an appendix. I’m going to sum up some of the “parts” quickly. Part 1: Getting Started, is the introduction most role playing games start with. Part 3: Playing the Game, is pretty much a cut-and-paste of the Cypher System rules. Part 7: The Game Master, offers advice on how to run the game; again similar to what many RPGs do. The appendix has a character sheet and the backer list from the Kickstarter. I’ll go into a little more detail on the other parts since they are really where the “new stuff” is located.
Part 2: Character Creation is composed of five chapters and the layout and contents should be familiar to anyone who has played a Cypher System game. Characters in Shotguns and Sorcery follow the “I am a (descriptor), (type) who (focus)” model, but also adds “race” to the mix. Race does add some new cruft to the system. It determines the character’s starting stat pools and sometimes gives them a mechanical benefit akin to a descriptor. The races outlined are dwarf, elf, halfling, human and orc. I do wish the author could have added gnomes, goblins and a few other races that inhabit Dragon City instead of punting it to the GM. Type is the next chapter. Players may choose from Freelance (thief/fighter/mage), Veteran (warrior) and Wizard (magic user). I got a strong Jack, Glaive, Nano feel from the types, but overall I think they work with the game. I do wish they’d done a full-blown thief-type instead of rolling it into the Freelance. Chapters six and seven describe the Descriptor and Focus. They look like they were pulled or reskinned from the Cypher System (version one) rulebook. Finally, chapter eight describes equipment. This chapter looked like a standard list of medieval adventuring gear with firearms tacked on. Now, I haven’t read all of the stories in this universe, but from the couple I did read I got a pretty strong 1930’s vibe for technology. Yeah, magic replaces a lot of it – glow globes instead of electric lights and flying carpets instead of cars, but still…
Part 4: Setting outlines the Dragon City, the many organizations and peoples in it. It also expands upon the world in general. As it turns out, there are far away kingdoms that have not been overrun by a horde of zombies!
Part 5: Creatures and Characters, is chock full of monsters. This is a pretty comprehensive “monster manual” for any fantasy game using the Cypher System. It’s something we really haven’t gotten in any published product to date and I think it’d be very useful to any GM who wanted to run D&D under these rules.
Part 6: Magic Items, has a good 10 pages of interesting magical items. Cyphers exist in Shotguns and Sorcery: they are one-use magic items like potions or scrolls. I really liked how some of the magical items were implemented in the game. You can actually get gear that doesn’t have an exhaustion rate to worry about. Again, this is all useful information for any GM who wants to run a more standard fantasy campaign using Cypher System.
If you’ve read through the Zaibatsu game posts, you’ll see a couple jabs at the Kickstarter campaign. I think Mohler went into this with the best of intentions, but fumbled the execution. I was sure I’d never see the book. By the time I got my copy, the excitement had worn off. I doubt I’ll ever run this, but I can mine it for ideas.
I really want to recommend this game, but won’t. Reason: The non-US backers are still waiting for their hard copies. Don’t give this guy your money until he squares up with the folks who helped fund this game.
TL/DR: Buy it now, before the machinations of the Red Druids sink fair Lemuria beneath the waves!
I am a big fan of Barbarians of Lemuria. I backed the kickstarter for the Mythic edition and have run nearly every published adventure for my gaming group. BoL is a great game to break out when another GM needs a break and you don’t feel like playing a board game. I only wish it had more adventures… Well, I guess my prayers to Morgazzon have finally been answered by the good folks at Ludospherik!
The book begins with some interesting background information on the world of Lemuria. Five pages are devoted to the discussion of the calendar of Sartarla, the holidays and a few adventure seeds. It’s little tidbits of information like this that can really make a game come to life.
The next sixteen pages are devoted to the Khanate, that stretch of plains lying to the east of Valgard. Rules are provided for players that wish to create heroes from this region. The cities, wonders and creatures that inhabit the lands are sketched out as well. The chapter ends with more adventure seeds.
Finally, we get five fully detailed adventures (about 100 pages of material) that will test the mettle of the stoutest hero. The adventures take the characters all over Lemurian, and even beyond!
I think “Bored to Death” may be the hardest one to run. It requires the GM to be “on it” in order to keep the action moving along, but not let the characters figure out who is responsible too soon. I really think a timeline of events would help me run this adventure more effectively.
“The Three Chests” is going to make a great “one-shot” adventure. The players portray Kalukan slave-warriors of the Witch Queen. It’s an interesting adventure with a cool twist. Pre-generated characters are provided for the players, and I would probably stick with them for the adventure. I do have a Kalukan player in my current game and this might be an interesting adventure to have him go on though…
I purchased the standard, hard cover book. The binding looks pretty sturdy. The interior artwork is great. I didn’t notice a lot of typos. This is a solid translation from French by someone who clearly knows the game system. Kudos to Jeffrey Probst to his work on this book!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I highly recommend this book. Lemurian Chronicles is available from DriveThruRPG.com
TL/DR: It’s really good!
I, Filbanto, shall type with my left hand…
I love the Hyperborean cycle tales. Set in the dim reaches of the past, in a land that faces destruction by an advancing sheet of glacial ice – I guess it ticks all the boxes of what interested me in college (I dual majored in Archaelogy and Geology).
Deepest Darkest Eden is a collection of short stories and poems set in the proto-continent envisioned by Clark Ashton Smith. As with most anthologies there are some tales that really struck a chord with me and others that (pardon the pun) left me cold.
My favorite tale was “Daughter of the Elk Goddess” by John R. Fultz. This was a great adventure that really channelled the ‘sword and sorcery’ tales of the old pulps. Atanequ could certainly hold his own against Kull or Elak if push came to shove. I shan’t spoil the ending of the tale, but anyone who appreciates Smith’s work will certainly chuckle at it.
“To Walk Night…Alone…” by Joseph S. Pulver Jr. was, quite frankly, a slog to get through. Being the second story in the anthology, I started to despair that I’d bought a real stinker. I think I know what the author was trying to accomplish with this style of writing, but it just didn’t work for me.
Overall, I’d recommend the anthology for lovers of Smith’s works. Deepest Darkest Eden is available at Amazon.com.
TL/DR: They’re ok.
Every now and again I think about how cool it’d be to run a game set in Zothique. I’ll dig out my Clark Ashton Smith books and read through the stories looking for inspiration. When the bug hit me this time, I figured “surely somebody has written up a story since the Toad God took old C.A. Smith to his bosom”. I stumbled across a novel and two collections of short stories written by Ran Cartwright: The Darkening, Sorceries Gnydron, and Sorceries Zothique. Technically, the first two, being set in Gnydron, predate Zothique, but what’s 850,000 years when we’re peering a billion years into our future.
I didn’t go into these books with high expectations. Smith had a way with words that few authors can capture. Cartwright has some interesting stories in these collections, but none of them capture the black humor you get in a C.A. Smith story. In fact – and I guess I should insert a spoiler alert here – most of the stories just end in a bloody mess. I almost felt like the author couldn’t figure out a way to end the tale, so he just killed off all his characters to wrap things up.
Out of the three books, I think The Darkening was the best. The collections of short stories can be mined for adventure ideas for games like Barbarians of Lemuria or Conan, but beware of a TPK.
As for gaming in Zothique, G.R. Hager has written up guidelines for D20. I’d likely use Barbarians of Lemuria.
It’s me Maga, again. I’m tellin’ Jenny what to write on this letter to you. He says the paper’s too wet and it’s prob’ly gonna come apart when he scratches on it, but it’s all I got. The paper was in my pack, brung here from Keford. And the pack was on my back when we went down under the ocean to the bottom where the water ran out and there was land again.
The last I told you, we was in a dark cave where some bugs lived. Well, the bugs stopped comin’ and we rested and I smoked a fag. Then we left the cave and the town where all the people got stolen. Then we left to go back to Keford to see the Aeon Priestess lady and the pirate king. What? Oh, Jenny says he’s Ayderman the Masturstrate.
So then, we was on the road riding them big ole critters some more for a long time and we saw some of them mad-faced glaives we seen before, heading back into Navarene. One of them told us their old leader, Dilron, and the other bad ones stayed over in Ghan to go fuck with the woodmen some more. Then we was getting’ near Keford and Pyx, the little owl that Ildrak wears on his shoulder, went up real high and said he saw some men hidin’ up a ways behind a big rock. One of them men ain’t no man, just that mutie bastard called Octy. I said, “It’s gotta go, ‘fore he fouls the gene pool.” That’s what Mama always said anyways, “Maga we’re just lucky you’re one of a kind, so, see… it’s your duty to not let the gene pool get any worse.” Not sure what she meant, ‘cept to kill them muties.
So, then, Ildrak sneaks way, way around the back of them men hiding over there, sneaky bastard, and then he uses this crazy cypher to stick his hand way, way across the empty field and then he dropped a bomb right in their laps and it blows up real good. Them men and Dilron and and Octy are all blowed up and then me and you, what? It’s Jemmy? Whatever, Jenny. And me and Jenny and Dudley start riding them critters real fast at the rocks, and them men is scared and running away, so we start fighting them, and I shoot down Octy pretty quick ‘cuz he was a mutie pussy. But Dudley’s having a bad time with Dilron, and Dudley is bleedin’ real bad and fighting a couple them other men too. Ildrak is shooting some beam gun from the behind the rocks, ‘cept I don’t think he knew how to work it proper and then he broke it. So me and Jenny help Dudley out and we finally knock Dilron’s men down and Jenny shoots Dilron with that dart gun he sewed on his arm and Dilron ain’t dead, but can’t move, but then I whacked him dead ‘cuz he was a mutie-lover.. Them glaives ain’t got nothing valuable ‘cept Dilron has some nice armor, but then we leave it’ cuz if you’re gonna wear it, people will think you are a mutie-lover.
So at Keford, the Aeon lady gives us stuff so we can go to the bottom of the ocean and find them metal men that has been stealin’ everyone. It’s a mask for breathing and some pills that keep us from being crushed like a bug by all that water on top of us. We go out on a boat with some of Ayderman’s men and then we lower the anchor chain. Then like two hours later it lands and we go down in the water with our masks and stuff. Everyone else wears some suit to keep them warm. Me, I like cold water so I go bare chested like Pa showed me. “Keep divin, son,” he’d say, “ dive a little deeper next time, son, and try goin’ real deep in one of them caves where them harrier-sharks live, pretty sure there’s treasure.”
We finally touch the bottom of the ocean and it is dark down there. We followed Jenny’s flesh compass and some other thing Dudley was carryin’ that told us where the metal men was, and they was pointin’ different ways, so we din’t follow any of them and then found a shimmery place in the water where it was real warm in there and I could breathe real good, better than I ever did up on the land. So we followed along until we come to a door in a blue-metal building. We went in and found another inside room still full of water with a big window of another room with air in it. We went up a ladder into that room and then took off our masks and such, and my smokes was still dry so I had a fag. Then Ildrak made a bunch a noise opening a door and a metal man came after us all. I don’t know why back home in Hyrem, we kill’t like two of them metal men apiece, but this one was real tough and I kept slippin on the wet floor, and ‘fore I know it Ildrak is frozen by the metal man’s dart, and then ‘fore I know it I am frozen by another dart. And Jenny and Dudley gotta kill that robot themselves. And they do and then they wait a long time I still can’t do nothin’ ‘cept move my eye a little. Then they got bored and they open another door and I hear a big long fight and it sounds mostly like Jenny beating on a metal man with a boat-hook. Then it’s real quiet. Then they come drag us frozen ones into a big room and now I can sit up and I look over and there’s Julletine, my cousin’s brother’s wife, lookin’ all pale and sickly. She told us she’s the last from Hyrem and everyone else been pumped full of stuff from tubes by the metal men and shoved through into some kinda doorway, ‘cept not like a normal doorway.
Uncle, we’re kinda fucked again, and I wish you was here with us. We’re all beat up and Ildrak can move his big toe only. And now somehow we gotta figure out about that weird doorway and get ourselves and Julletine outta the bottom of the ocean. And maybe along the way, find my other uncle’s sister and my uncle’s sister’s daughter, too.
“Fuck Kozo. How did I let you ass-hats talk me into coming to this shithole?”
Suko Guro took a drag from his Golden Bat cigarette while scanning the interior of The Osaka Corral. The nightclub, done up in an American old west theme, is crowded and smoky. Holographic images of ancient Hollywood actors like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne mingle with patrons dressed as cowpokes and dancehall girls. Over on the karaoke stage, a man wearing a bowler is mangling an old Marty Robbins song.
Toshiro ambles over to the table. He’s in full cowboy mode: spurs, chaps, vest, even a ten-gallon hat perched on his head and a plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He spits out a stream of brown juice, striking the side of the spittoon a meter away.
“I’m up next.” He says wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“How’d ya manage that?” Kozo asks.
“Told that fucker running the soundboard I was going to shove a grenade up his ass if he didn’t let me jump the queue.”
“One little kiss, then Felina good-bye…” Echoes weakly through the speakers. Desultory applause breaks out.
“Gotta go pardners.” Toshiro grins. He swaggers over to the stage, grabs the microphone from the grinning singer, then gives him a firm shove.
“Now y’all gonna hear a song I wrote myself.” He says in a terrible western accent.
I’m down to my very last square
Oh, my poor derriere
I think I’m gonna cry
’cause it’s only single ply
And there ain’t no more TP anywhere
Now I’m just an ordinary man
Spending some time on the can
Here is the scoop
Just had a juicy poop
And I don’t want to get it on my hand
Oh why did I eat at Taco Bell?
Guess it’s ’cause the food they serve is swell
I polished off my order
Got the runs at the border
Now it feels like my colon is in hell
Well I’m almost done on the pot
And truly, I gave it all I got
I’m headin’ for the shower
Scrub my behind for an hour
I hope this won’t happen a lot
Now I’m down to my very last square
And I know that you really don’t care
But if you have a poo
Hope it don’t happen to you
Or at least you have a change of underwear
I’ve not written this much in ages and my fingers already hurt from penning Maga’s letter. If I hadn’t told him we were nearly out of paper, I think he’d have rambled on more… Anyhow, back to my tale:
Magistrate Neomal told us to travel to Keyford for aid. Aydermen, the magistrate of that place could send food and aid to our village as well as word to the King of Ghan. Apparently, Dudley had travelled to Keyford several years ago and knew this man. Jemmy’s mother told us to find an Aeon priestess named Terishini. She thought this woman might be able to shed some light on the automata that had attacked our village. We found a boat that had survived the attack and spent the remainder of the day repairing and stocking it. Keyford was a good day and a half away and the trip was uneventful.
Keyford is a rough and tumble place. Most of the inhabitants make their living harvesting lumber from the Westwood. There is a sizable number of merchant sailors in town as well. Brawls are common as the lumbermen and seafarers let off steam. We landed our craft at the docks, and began making our way to the town proper, when we spied a group of men pushing a cart full of weapons, household goods and other objects. They were led by an obvious mutant, and Maga was immediately spoiling for a fight. Dudley and I went to speak to the men and while engaged in conversation, I noticed an insectoid limb with the same type of biological dart projector we had seen attached to the automata that had invaded our village.
We pressed the men for more information on where they had found that dart projector. Their leader, who was becoming increasingly belligerent spat out Isolon, a village in Navarene, a neighboring realm, and then turned and struck one of the men I was conversing with. Dudley immediately struck him back. With a snarl, the man pulled out a pick and prepared to attack. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt struck him in the chest! Maga reloaded his weapon, while the mutant swung at Dudley, but seeing he was outclassed the man turned and fled. Maga chased him down and killed him! Jemmy and I were stunned at how quickly things escalated.
Once they had calmed down, the other men gave as a little more information. Apparently, Isolon had been attacked. A sole survivor had made her way to Bodrov and told her story. These men thought to loot the village and sell the plunder in Keyford where they were unlikely to be questioned. The men seemed somewhat relieved that their former leader was no more. We let them keep their loot and made our way to Keyford.
Our first stop was to see the Aeon priestess. Terishini was cordial, but gave us no immediate answers. She promised to contact members of her order for more information and encouraged us to investigate the village of Isolon to see if we could discover any more clues.
We next went to see Aydermen. He was very concerned and dispatched people to help the survivors of our village. He agreed that we should investigate Isolon since the incident seemed related to the attack on our home. He outfitted us with mounts and provisions from the journey and set us up in an inn for the night.
In the common room of the inn, we heard several rumors. One was a tale of an old crone from the Westwood who rails that something will emerge from that benighted forest and sweep the surrounding kingdoms away. More importantly, we also heard that a small town north of Harmuth was attacked in a manner similar to Isolon and our home.
Isolon was a couple of days travel from Keyford. Travelling by Aneen is a most unpleasant experience, the gait of the creature takes some getting used to. Other than queasy stomachs and saddle sores, we encountered no troubles on our first day. On the second day, we met a troop of thirty or more warriors from Bodrov, led by a man named Dilron.
Dilron was travelling into Ghan on a mission of revenge. The survivor from Isolon had said that woodsmen had attacked her home. We attempted to reason with him, arguing that we had evidence to the contrary and the attack on our village bore such striking similarity to the one on Isolon that some other force must be at work. The man’s mind was made up, and we could not engage such a force of men, so we stood aside. I sent Pyx back to Keystone with a message for Aydermen, warning him that a war party was entering his territory.
We continued to Isolon finding it deserted and looted. There were signs of a struggle and some odd-colored blood in places. We found a trail of blood that led out of the village, to the west. Eventually, we found a crater that had been marked off by some kind of warning totems setup by the locals. We explored the crater and Maga stumbled into an underground chamber.
It was literally a web of passages beneath the ground. Each room seemed to have a couple passages going down and a couple going up. As we explored the place, we were attacked by an insect-like being. It created realistic illusions and attacked with some sort of mental energy. I was sorely wounded in the ensuing fight. The insect arm we recovered in Keystone obviously came from one of these beings. We explored the place, eventually defeating a number of these creatures and finally found ourselves in a chamber with an underground river. Bodies of these insect-beings were piled in this chamber. The right arms of the creatures had been severed and they looked as though they had been “cooked” from the inside out.
This is another piece of a puzzle, but we still have no clear picture of what is happening. We theorize that these creatures were some unwitting or unwilling pawn of whatever created those biological dart throwers. I am a little concerned about Jemmy, who took it upon himself to graft one of those things onto his arm…