Friday, January 07, 2011

Episode One: Introductions and intersections

PLEASE NOTE: This is the original synopsis of the inaugural run of the City of Varo campaign. I will do my best to fill in Episodes 2-6 when time permits!

We started with Tillam (Matt's character), who was awoken in the
middle of the night by three people breaking into his shop. One of
them ended up getting crushed by one of the traps in the store, which
pretty much dropped a piano on anyone who didn't detect a pressure
plate on his staircase, and another was incapacitated. Unfortunately
the one who was left was the Big Bad, who grabbed the halfling by the
throat and demanded to know the whereabouts of his father. That's
when Tillam noticed that this very strong man in black was ticking.
Not actually knowing where his father was, Tillam confused the
intruder by answering as helpfully as he could, which only seemed to
further annoy his mysterious assailant, although in between the
punches and kicks Tillam did learn that his father had apparently
stolen something that this guy very desperately wanted back. That's
when Tillam's Aunt Fiore came charging in with a trident. The
clockwork man slapped her aside and ended up leaving in a huff.

Tillam interrogated the remaining live thug, who identified the man in
black as one Brother Malikus, who had hired him and his compatriot as
muscle; he then left the crippled thug go and scraped the remains of
the other one off his floor, looting what was left of the body for
good measure and chopping up the flesh for Xan (Schiavo's character),
who is always looking for cheap bait for his rat traps. Xan had been
returning from a hard night's work when he saw three men breaking into
Tillam's shop, but Schiavo being Schiavo he decided not to get
involved, although since he had broken one of his favorite traps he
did swing by the next morning.

Next up was Hrothgar (Mike's character), who had just completed his
epic journey from the Horn of Baeleraan back to Varo. Hrothgar had
been one of Arlix's favorite bodyguards, so when the old chieftain
went back to free Skraelingia there was no question that he would
accompany his boss and mentor. By the time they had arrived in
Rahker's Point, however, the Empire had already all but written off
its Far Eastern holdings as the Korumani succession war intensified,
so the remaining token garrison of Imperial troops was easily
overwhelmed even by a bunch of paunchy Skraeling expats. It is said
that more Skrae choked on their own vomit during the revelry which
followed the liberation of their homeland than died in the actual
fighting! Once the fun and games were over, though, a lot of
Varonized Skraelings suddenly felt very much homesick for the canals
of the City, especially once the Skraeling chieftains began squabbling
over who would rule what in the newly-independent Horn.

Disillusioned to say the least, Hrothgar caught the last Talanese beef run of the
season and found himself in Terminalia just after sunset, where he
made the mistake of opting for the Number One to get him back up to
Marilia, where he hoped to touch base with those countrymen who had
never left- Arlix, mindful that not all of his gang necessarily wanted
to return to Baeleraan, had also left a cache of goods in the basement
of the old Guild Hall and Hrothgar hoped that if nothing else he could
sell some stuff to start anew in Varo. After being reminded of why
everyone hates public transit in the City, Hrothgar finally gets to
Marilia, where he is harassed by a bunch of punk kids until the local
beat cop intervenes. Hrothgar inquires as to what happened to
Petrarch, and learns that he's now commissioner in Stabientia. Andre
walks him over to the Wyvern's Sting, cautioning him that there is
currently a gang war going on in adjacent Orsilia parish-- now that
Francesco Sabatini has gone to Egg Rock for twenty years, his
lieutenants are carving up his empire, and ever since Arlix's guild
left Marilia has been part of that domain, despite the local VPD's
efforts to maintain some semblance of law and order.

At the tavern Hrothgar meets some old comrades, but is stunned to find Arlix's
lieutenant Ingrid when he goes to check on the guild hall's cache.
Ingrid had also tired of the Horn quickly, and was one of the first
Skrae to return to Varo, and now that she's back she wants to put the
guild back together. Does Hrothgar want in? Of course he does.
Great, says Ingrid, but until we're on our feet again we may need to
do a little freelancing with the locals...

Caleb (Jamez' character) was hanging out at the local magicke shoppe
with his good dreadlocked rasta Laker voodoo friend Shamus, who was
telling him about the bizarre Cult of the Seven and why it's bad for
business- save for selling the rubes fertility drugs- when a Varonized
Salumar man comes to hire Caleb for his corpse whispering services.
Okay, he says, and after negotiating the price "Mister X" conducts
Caleb to the boat of a Shan-li fisherman named Hu (Derek's character),
who from time to time disposes of dead bodies for the local enforcers
by hanging them under his keel until the local fish make short order
of them.

Mister X tells Hu to haul up the body currently underneath
his boat and has Caleb ask the corpse: "Where is she?" The dead man
answers: "Fortuna." Then Mister X tells Caleb to ask a question in a
language that he doesn't understand; the corpse replies in the same
language, which prompts Mister X to draw his sword and attempt to kill
Caleb right there on the spot. Thinking quick, Caleb commands Mister
X to "swim," prompting him to drop his weapon and throw himself into
the canal, whereupon Hu fishes him out with his net (on a natural 20,
no less). Trying to keep his cool, Caleb demands the rest of his
payment and an explanation- all that Mister X says is that he is "an
investigator," and that the voodoo priest really doesn't want to know
any more than he already does. Caleb tells him to get the fuck out of
his sight, lest he bring down the wrath of the ancestors on his sorry
ass, and Mister X flees, leaving Caleb and Hu on the canalside.

Hu is about to go to Shan Li Town for a night of Three-Man betting and binge
drinking, and invites Caleb to come with. Not being much of a
partier, Caleb is about to say no, but then he senses that there is
something very unusual about this semi-retarded Shan-li fisherman (I'm
calling him the Shan-li Forrest Gump- "Life is like a box of
codfish!")... in fact, Derek chose as his Big Cookie that he was a
Man of Destiny, so this isn't even a DM kludge. Caleb says, what the
hell, sure, and a night of debauchery ensues.

Enter the sixth and final PC- Aleksi Petrovic (Larry's character),
young Bruuthalese gangsta wannabe. Son of a whore, Aleksi grew up on
the mean canals of Norollo, running with a crew of Bruuthalese kids
who did their best to try and impress the local powers that be,
usually getting themselves killed or sent off to Egg Rock for their
antics. Aleksi's best friend Giovanni Banacek- yes, his uncle was one
of the Banaceks involved in that whole white slavery debacle down in
the Southlands, why do you ask?- had been tapped a few months ago by
House Taiapetra, one of the oldest families on Stabientia that made
their fortune as stonecutters back when the Hill was three times
larger than it is now and the parish was still called Stabien's Town,
and Aleksi was just beginning to worry that he'd never see him again
when one night while drinking at Jasper's, one of the more popular
Oguntak dance halls, Giovanni comes up to him out of the blue looking
like your stereotypical made man.

He gives Aleksi a big hug, orders some expensive Salumar brandy, and informs his friend that he's been
talking him up with the Damin every since he started work for
Taiapetra, and now they want to give him a chance to prove himself by
pulling off a heist. The job is to extract a particular black box from
one Signore Septimo Ferrante, a young upstart daminolo with a villa on
the Lower Terrace. The pay is 250 minar per crew members (maximum 6
on the team), plus an additional 250 for information gathering and
expesnes. Oh, and they already have a security expert lined up for
him- it seems that one of the local locksmith businesses took out a
"House loan" with Taiapetra once they'd maxxed out their finances with
the cittadini...

Back to Tillam, who gets an early morning visit from one Inspector Ren
ibn Qom of the SQPVs. Strangely enough he's not interested in
inspecting licenses or anything like that, but instead he is
investigating the whereabouts of Tillam's adoptive father, who
apparently was involved in some shady dealings regarding a ship named
the Punchline, which was attacked on the high seas by privateers.
Tillam remembers seeing the name in his dad's books, and tells
Inspector Ren that he may be able to produce some information; Ren
gives him three days, and then tells him that while his father may not
have been the pirate responsible for the raid on the Punchline, that
he should be considered a very dangerous man nevertheless, and that
Tillam should exercise extreme caution if he should come back into
contact with him.

Back to Caleb, who falls asleep after nursing a very intoxicated Hu
back from Shan-Li Town and has
a wacky dream involving the unfamiliar language that Mister X used to
ask his second question from the corpse. In the dream he feels like
he is getting closer and closer to understanding the words, and then
when they finally make sense Caleb awakens to find himself bound and
immobile in some kind of airless closed container. He panics, then
wakes up for real with a start. What did the dream mean?
Frustratingly, all he can remember is that in the dream he knew what
those words meant, and that in that dream the words were being spoken
by a girl.

Back to Hrothgar, who after dusting off his brewing equipment starts
making a fresh batch of beer for the Wyvern's Sting (where he's being
allowed to stay for free), when Ingrid calls on him again and informs
him that she has a potential line on a job- it seems that she's
somewhat chummy with Giovanni Banacek, and had learned that House
Taiapetra has contracted a troubleshooting team that could use some
extra muscle. Hrothgar takes the lead and is instructed to meet up
with Aleksi in Norollo.

Back to Tillam, who at the end of a very long work day at the shop is
visited by Giovanni Banacek, who reminds him of his father's "House
loan" and its astronomically compounding interest. Taiapetra is
willing to waive all of said interest and reset the original loan to
the principal if Tillam agrees to do the heist; Tillam agrees and is
subsequently visited by Aleksi, and they begin talking over the nature
of the job. Since the sewers are probably the most expeditious way
into the villa, Tillam suggests they tap Xan, as he knows the
Stabientia sewage system better than anyone else he knows. At some
point Aleksi meets up with Hrothgar as well, and hey look at that-
it's 10pm and we've finally got four of the six PCs together!

Back to Caleb, who upon returning to the Magick Shoppe learns that his
regular contact (Tivoli) in the Stabientia Greenheads is in need of
his corpse whispering services- turns out the VPD found a body
floating along the Primo in the easternmost reaches of Stabientia,
near Anzo parish. Something gives Caleb a bad feeling about this, and
lo and behold, when they get to the crime scene whose body does he
recognize but that of Mister X! He speaks with dead, asking him two
questions: "Who killed you?" Answer: "Giovanni Banacek." And then,
the second question: "Translate in Varonian what you had me ask the
other corpse."

I'm not at liberty to share what the dead man responded, but boy, it's
a doozy! So Tivoli wants to know what's going on here, and Caleb
comes clean 100% with what's happened so far, including the tidbit
about the Fortuna; for some reason that name rings a bell with
Tivoli, who remembers that there's a captain putting up in the parish
for the winter whose boat is named the Fortuna: Heijun Kiin. He asks
Caleb to accompany him on his visit to Captain Kiin, as since Caleb is
Cebalese maybe his questioning will go a little more smoothly...

This was an exhausting but enjoyable session. As I wanted each player to get his own personal introduction to the City of Varo setting I ended up doing a lot of jumping around to try and get the plotlines to intersect. In fact we wouldn't have the entire group together on the same team until the end of Episode 3!

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