Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Horse Of Another Timbre: Campaign Log, Session 4

 The following is the campaign log for the fourth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign. Most of this log was typed up by one my players (thanks, Brendan!) during the session. I've added a few notes of my own. 

You can Start from Session #1 or just Rewind to Session #3.

Campaign log: 12 October

Setting the Scene: The first few sessions were a failed assassination attempt and a murder investigation set against the backdrop of a banquet in Amber with visitors from Chaos. Tangential investigations continues in this session more than anything else.

The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan who never met her mother.
  • Spinturnix, son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, child of Dierdre, just recently arrived in Amber to learn Dierdre is dead.
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels. Not just the big-name Amber Royals, but also plenty of minor characters, such as Will and Dik, who only show up in a paragraph or three of a single novel each. I was particularly happy with the way I utilized Roger and Rolf, two castle guards from the novels. Another non-Royal is completely my own invention: Jinna the Scullion, who dispensed exposition and minor clues in several later sessions as well.

A few major Chaosites show up in this session: Nykae is the mother of one of the PC, and serves as General in the armies of her brother Sevran. Other minor Chaosites such as Brute and Steward are present as well, these are all connected to Abn Haram's character sheet in one way or another. Allies, minions, conjuration results, etc.

Scene 1: Abn Haram heads to the stable with Steward - Abn Haram, Steward, Brute in the stables of Castle Amber
Abn Haram stuck Kimchee in his eye. (He was trying to figure out if chemical weapons work in Amber.) Steward shows up with a painting, front/back, and some Amber chess pieces. 

That's the back of the painting. It's sort of a map.

Steward says she was on an errand for Abn Haram's mother, Nykae. They head for the stables.

Abn Haram wanders the castle some more, and Maarit (who was in the opposite end of the stables, see scene 3 below) decides to stay on his trail.

Abn Haram tries to use the Tarot to find his mother (the card grows cold but he cannot establish a connection). Haram asks a guard if he can have someone contact King Random, but no one is willing to do so. Haram goes to the library and marvels at the old timey technology. He browses the organizational materials, histories, scientific treatises, etc. Haram makes an excuse to head for the toilet when he senses contact through a Tarot.

It's his Uncle Sevran; they chat about the state of things. Sevran suggests Nykae might be injured, suggests it's suspicious that Haram hasn't seen her. Sevran tells Haram that Nykae was trying to get "some objects," directed toward an effort to reach Haram's father. Haram passes the chess set and painting through to Sevran. Sevran decides to bring Haram into his confidence in his mother's absence. Nykae and Sevran have been watching a hole in reality, which has been growing. Recently the hole ruptured and a "horse with a horn" came out of the hole, killed people, and escaped. Sevran's trackers went after it, but they haven't returned.

Sevran says he will assemble a group of people to try and force a call to Nykae. Haram gives Sevran's card to Steward to use to give Sevran regular updates. Maarit and Haram chat about Haram's pretend diarrhea that he used as an excuse to avoid being observed on his call.

Haram studied the painting before he passed it to Sevran - the painting is very old, has cracks where it was folded. No tarot quality to it, but the paints are very high quality. It has the potential to have some under painting. 

GM's Note: I have had very little luck in anticipating the motivations and actions of Abn Haram. His player always surprises me, which is really cool, but does sometime result in wasted efforts on my part. This map-like-thing (above) was clearly a secret the character's mother was interested in, with an implication that it was the whole point of her traveling to Amber. It was also implied to be related to the disappearance of his father (Osric). We're six months and a dozen sessions since that prop's introduction, and this thread has gone more or less nowhere. That's okay, the campaign has a lot of subplots, so there's plenty happening. It _may_ mean that this could prop back up later in the campaign if the plot ever slows down a bit. Which will probably feel like a cool call-back when and if that happens. Until and unless it does, though, I can't help but feel like it's a failure on my part. A bit of a fizzle in an otherwise excellent campaign.

Scene 2: Dalziel heads for the dungeon to check on the pattern - Dalziel, Rolf, Roger, and what's left of Will in Dungeons of Amber
Dalziel sees the guards Rolf and Roger, discovers that someone "fell" down the stairs. They report that someone tried to access the dungeon. The story Rolf tells: the guard Will came by with a junk of drink, they imbibed, then a person from the Court came by to try to get down the stairs, called himself "Thelkor," Will relieved Rolf while he whizzed, and when he returned, he found Will missing. Roger reported that Will fell down the stairs and had a burnt artifact. Dalziel examines the burnt object, which smells like a burned heavily-decayed body. The object that fell with Will has human-like teeth in it. Roger mentions he thought he saw a hand reaching from the burning corpse.

GM's Meta-Note: Rolf, Roger, and Will are actual minor characters from the Amber novels. All three are guards in Amber's dungeons. Of the three, only Roger gets any memorable lines or development in the books: he's basically an author-insert character. The books are written by Roger Zelazny, and Roger the guard is writing a novel at his guard post. My real-life name happens to be Rolfe, so I decided to give Rolf a tiny bit of development and screen time as well, as a tip of the hat. In one of these early sessions (probably this one) there was a fair bit of meta-/sub-text to the banter as Rolf and Roger talked about how they split the responsibilities of keeping the Pattern safe.

The pattern is glowing but seems undisturbed. Dalziel decides to secure the door with himself inside, sends Roger back to his post.

2b: Dalziel waits at the pattern. - Dalziel, Corwin, Dungeons of Amber
He uses the opportunity to study the pattern, attempting to draw it on a page, checking out the pattern. The proportions of the pattern keep messing up the drawing. Eventually, Corwin knocks on the door and Dalziel lets him in. They discuss the odd state of Will and his attacker. Dalziel worries about pattern whizzers. Corwin says he needs to go check the corpses in the murder scene; he asks Dalziel to go check on Maarit, and then to bed.

2c: Dalziels slumbers - Dalziel and Bleys
As he sleeps, Dalziel dreams of walking around the pattern, but its fire has gone out and instead it smokes, as if full of incense. Time stretches and he finds himself fruitlessly walking around the pattern, getting nowhere. He spots his father on the other side of the pattern, speaking to him but beyond being heard. Finally his father shouts at the top of his lungs and can barely be heard shouting, "Wake up, Dalziel! Wake up!"

As he wakes, he receives a Tarot contact from his dad. Bleys asks Dalziel for info (says Dalziel is the "most trustworthy" person there). He indicates that there's "blood in the water" and says Caine is up to something, and that there might be a war. He suggests Caine is mounting an offensive against Random, and says he can avoid taking a side by not being there. Dalziel suggests that the assassins LOOK like they were sent by Bleys.

Bleys ponders the idea that there is an impending coup, wonders if Corwin is still in the capital, thinking that having a powerful brother of the King in town would help keep Caine from advancing "his coup." He asks Dalziel to pass along the impression that Bleys is still there, contemplating the defense of the city. He also gives Dalziel a request to find or speak to David, and then suggests that Dalziel get David's message for Bleys.

They also discuss the burning bodies / burned bodies, and some magic / person who makes beings appear? They discuss whether someone else might be marshalling a new attack on Amber. Bleys, a bit annoyed, breaks things off. 

GM's Edit: The thing that caused Bleys to break off was Dalz thanking him for including him in things and not treating him like a child. Bleys said "let's not get all sappy about it" or something to that effect as he broke off the contact.

Scene 3: Maarit heads for the stables - Maarit, Mathis, Bronze
She looks for some guards on her way, adding the stables to their rosters. Then she finds a spot to sit in the stables where she can listen for Abn Haram to guard him, subtly. Steward sees Maarit and alerts Abn Haram to the surveillance. Haram goes back to sleep.

Maarit admires Bronze, a strangely-patterned horse (it's striped brown and green), and chats with a stablehand about it -- who reveals that these are "wonder horses." She and the stablehand open the idea that she might come back and ride the horse. Bronze belonged to Sand, whom Maarit has never met, but has been told is her mother. Bronze has been maintained in these stables for a very long time.

Scene 4: Medore questions Dik - Medore, Nix (Spinturnix), Dik in Castle Amber
Upon realizing Medore is trying to get Dik alone, Nix stays in the library while Medore walks toward Dik's quarters. Medore questions Dik about the messages written under the plates. Dik confesses that he smuggled a gift on behalf of Lady Karm to Abn Haram, some sort of light love token. Medore promises to protect Dik in exchange for his help finding out which Kitchen staff might have planted the message. Dik suggests Ginna the Scullion seems suspicious, as does the chef.

Dik mentions the message he had to give - "The door is open far below...Lady Karm remembers the debt owed to Gehenna's finest son... Many happy returns" - it was accompanied by a key. Dik hands out a folded-over handkerchief with a gravy-stain image of the key stuck on it. Medore assures Dik that he's protected.

4b: Medore meets up with Corwin - Medore, Corwin,
Medore asks Corwin about Lady Karm, that she's trying to reach out to the Chaosites.. Medore suggests that it was a servant who wrote the message, and Corwin agrees, but suggests it was done at the behest of a family member. Medore says it could have been "Jinna the Scullion" or "Chef Wilhelm." Corwin invites Medore to join him in the morning at the place where Corwin likes to go to remember Medore's mother.

Corwin asks more about Karm's message, Medore repeats the message to Corwin. They proceed to the ambassadorial suite, then stab some bodies and rifle through their clothes. The bodies start smoking after he stabs them; Corwin puts the smoking body in the bath tub and takes its clothes. They search the bodies to see if they're carrying any shared item. They each have a piece of iron jewelry, which Corwin finds significant. Corwin suggests he'd want the King to arrest the Chaos delegation. Corwin establishes that the murdered Chaosites smoke or burn when he stabs their corpses with Greyswandir; the assassins do NOT smoke.

Medore and Corwin discuss the next steps -- who they can trust, which door they think the key opens. Medore gives the gravy napkin to Corwin, then heads for the kitchen. He gossips with the kitchen staff and learns that the Chef yelled at everyone that night, was fussy for his table settings. Medore has a tasty dessert and reports to Corwin before he goes to bed.

Scene 5: David leaves Caine's ship - David, Caine and (Caine's nephew from Rebma?) aboard the Venom
As David leaves Caine's ship, he sees an eddy of water and a submarine from Rebma surfaces. The person on the ship calls out that his uncle is expecting him, and Caine's crew invites the unknown person aboard. David, having seen this, rows ashore and heads for his camp to go to bed. He arranges for an early call.  

5b. David makes breakfast - David in City of Amber then Castle Amber
David rises early, takes a run to the early markets, and then begins cooking breakfast for King Random. He learns that Chef Wilhelm has taken the morning off, so David makes the relatively simple dish: pancetta something something something (not at all simple). David has to rush and ends up giving the King a plate of total garbage. 

(David's Edit: In fact, I simply stopped curing the pancetta a few minutes early, so it may be only somewhat less salty than optimal. And the meal is pancetta, oysters, and crayfish in a soft scramble with Egg-Avocado toast, which I assure you is quite simple, in the grand scheme of culinary things: a protein scramble with toast, more or less. One must be mindful of what one puts in one's body, yes?)

GM's Edit: That is one of the great things about running your game online, and having logs and pages the players can access. Players can jump in and later clarify bits that others didn't catch the first time. I'm lucky to have such active participants.

Scene 6: Nix roams the castle - Nix (Spinturnix), Jinna the scullion, Hendon in Castle Amber
Nix spends about an hour researching a) recent events at the castle and b) methods of movement among shadow. After learning a bit, he leaves to try and dig up a little gossip with the scullery maid. He chats with Jinna, the scullery maid, who reveals that the banquet wasn't well attended, that Droppa MaPants chased everyone out with his bad performance, and that Lord Bleys was in charge. Nix learns that Chef Wilhelm demanded some time alone with the table settings, and later Bleys did the "yank the tablecloth" magic trick. Next, Nix seeks out Hendon to find lodgings. After revealing who his identity, Hendon eagerly helps Nix find rooms. Nix takes modest rooms near Julian's wing of the castle. Hendon tells Nix he'd be welcome to have lunch with King Random the next day.

Quote Log:

“I can still deny everything. I don’t know anything about it.” -Abn Haram

I rub a bit of Kimchee in my eye. Does it hurt?  I am a man of science after all!  - Peter/Abn Haram

"I'm giving him space, but also making sure that he doesn't get got." -Marit

“I’ll protect your secret, but in exchange, you will help me figure out who on the kitchen staff had motive to leave those messages.” -Medore

“My friends do very well… I protect my friends.” -Medore

“That does make sense… he is always trying to get in mah pants too.” -Kitchen Maid

“Yes, turns out Dick is the center of the universe.” -Rolfe

“I am in a bit of a hurry, I had a lot of that Kimchee.” -Abn Haram, hoping to not be followed into the bathroom

I supposed we should serve less Kimchee next time. -Marit

“I haven’t had a party this interesting in at least six months.” -Medore

"Family is far more plural than it used to be." -- Corwin, to Dalziel

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