Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Campaign Log 12: Horse Of Another Timbre

  The following is the campaign log for the twelfth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign, entitled A Horse Of Another Timbre. One of my players keeps a log of the scenes, and another maintains a quote list.  As usual, I have combined them with a few extra notes of my own after the fact.  I post them here several months after, which allows me to add in a few little clarifications without worrying too much about spoiling future plotlines for my players.

You can also Start from Session #1 or just pick up at Session 11.


The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys of Amber. A scientist.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum. 
  • Medore, nonbinary orphan of Dierdre .
  • Spinturnix, (aka Nix), son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos, and the long-dead Prince Osric of Amber. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels, such as the dashing Prince Bleys, Fiona the cleverest of Amberites by far, and Caine the least trustworthy in a family of murderous backstabbing bastards.

There's a few new NPCs as well, such as Brute, which is a huge and opinionated intelligent pig that works for Abn Haram. There's also this mysterious black unicorn that keeps getting attacked by the standard white unicorn that Amber reveres. 

Setting the Scene: When last we saw our heroes: Dalziel and Medore had taken the black unicorn to the vet. Maarit was exploring a mysterious staircase between worlds with auntie Fiona. Abn Haram was having drinks on Bleys' flag ship.


Campaign log: session 12:  1 February 2021, turn by turn

Scene 1 -  Abn Haram sailing toward Amber
Prince Bleys gets a trump call, looks like he's preparing to go against the King's fleet, or perhaps Caine's. The call ends with "I'll let him know that you saved his life."  Then he walks back over to Abn Haram and only says "You have an opportunity to earn your birthright." Caine may be the worst bastard of the family, but Bleys has his moments, too.

"You have an opportunity to earn your birthright. The Kingdom is in peril. My brother Caine has declared war against the King. It's treason that can't be tolerated. He has to be crushed, immediately, and without mercy. In the next few hours, I will kill him, in the name of the King.

The only problem is, a quarter of the Amber fleet stands between us. I have them outnumbered, victory is all but certain, but it will take hours. Do you have experience with boarding parties, or naval engagements? If you fight as well as your father, I could give you a ship, and together we can trim that timer down. My brother the King would be very grateful. He may even consent to let you claim your birthright at this end of things."

They speak about the ships between them. Abn Haram explains some hesitance but a willingness to try. Bleys sends Abn Haram to serve as a "strategic advisor" to The Prophecy and engage a pincer movement to bring the fleet into full engagement. Bleys will continue to captain The Daystar. They lay out a plan in which their two ships will roll up a flank if possible.

Abn Haram gets a tour of The Prophecy, which is rigged out for war in many exciting ways, and crewed by the Men of Avernus. Abn Haram tests the feel of the energy in the air and finds the magic more available than he would have expected. They come in around the corner and Haram's ship ends up in the Vanguard of the attack. The fleets:

- 90 ships with Caine's colors (less than a quarter of his fleet)

- 270 ships with Bleys' colors manned by Men of Avernus

- 15 ships of another color (?) - these are possibly Gerard's, or at least Amber-loyal naval vessels that are not in on Caine's conspiracy. They've been outnumbered and sort of trapped in the bay for two days.

Haram sends Steward up to the Crow's nest to look for sneaky ships being sneaky. They sail up and engage. Haram reflects on the idea that it seems like the fleet wasn't very well defended (or ready for an attack from the outside). Abn Haram starts firing shots with a crossbow, with great accuracy. The ship rams and connects. He boards the ship and goes for an enemy officer. Haram stops along the way and gathers forces and they join his cause. Bleys' men sure don't like Caine. Abn Haram wounds the captain grievously. Upon questioning, he reveals that the ships are in Rebma. The captain is killed by Bleys' men.

Scene 2 -  Medore attends Horse Surgery while Dalziel waits

Medore gets in an argument with the surgeon regarding anesthetic, demands that they give the horse/unicorn more. The medical staff is getting upset / worried / angry. The staff is surprised to find that she survives the anesthetic. She wakes up from the surgery far more quickly than they expect she would. They suggest that she shouldn't walk for some amount of time that Medore realizes is far too aggressive; he lets them know that she will recover rapidly but they should keep her sedated a bit longer. The Doc thought the surgery would be worse. They insist on staying with the horse recovering from its surgery.

Meanwhile, Dalziel ponders the pattern and envisions the animal hospital, and looks in on Medore. He tries to view a second location but draws back from that before risking physical injury.

Medore, upon listening to the various doctors' advice, feels the presence of a Tarot call. They make the doctors feel ignored. They also feel a bit confused by the strange call. They stand vigil all night and encounter no trouble.

Dalziel returns to the motel and then goes for a walk to find a car, but making effort not to walk too far and shift into another world. He finds an RV for sale  with a "moose trailer" attached, buys it, and drives to where the clinic is supposed to be, but it isn't there. She recovers quickly but the doctors are nervous about it.

In the morning, Dal arrives, Medore gets a moose-care kit.

Scene 3 - Nix into the Forest

Nix and his three conscripts ride into the woods, being stealthy and having trouble identifying weir calls over howling hunting dogs. They encounter four riders retreating down the path, with one injured man. The men report that they were ambushed north of a destroyed camp. Nix sends two of the riders to escort the wounded man to the castle to report the situation, and he asks the fourth man to join him (or trade his silver sword). Nix euthanises the bird and takes its identifying marker.

They ride on but the howling gets worse, and the man mentions that some of the hunting dogs are out of control and going wild. Nix calls their ride to a halt and reconsiders how they're proceeding. He doesn't want to unnecessarily risk their lives....

So he calls down the hunting bird and asks it to set up a perimeter. The men proceed toward the hunting camp.

Scene 4 - Maarit and Fiona go through a Purple door

Fiona picks up the machine gun and she and Maarit open the Purple door, which leads to an Oddly-Colored Castle which has eye-straining colors. It's like everything in this world exists in duplicate, overlapping but offset. One copy color-shifted teal, the other color-shifted purple. But it looks a lot like the dungeons beneath Amber, other than being maddeningly sickeningly out of phase. (The GM has a cool picture he shows the players of what it looks like, but doesn't have the rights to repost it on this blog.)

They go through and begin exploring. They find an empty guard post with stacks and stacks of months-old dirty dishes, and they find a desk with a locked drawer and an old lock.  On opening the drawer, Maarit finds a LogBook EyeSore;

They spend time examining the log, trying to decipher entries like the numbered B names. Fiona decodes the log and understands it to represent a betrayal on Bleys' part. Fiona declares it fake, or suggests this evidence is too sloppy. She doesn't believe it. 

 "That's... too convenient. My brothers don't leave smoking guns. I'm inclined to dismiss it out of hand. It's possible it was created by my subconscious control of pattern, as it's exactly what I wanted and it would appear to clear my name."

Fiona recognizes that the floorplan of the room you're in mimics some rooms back in the castle. They go out the door and find themselves among castle-like structures. Fiona discovers that they're "on a small island of matter floating in the vast emptiness of space." Maarit checks to see if they're alone.

Maarit and Fiona come to realize, perhaps, that the inside of the castle is bigger than the outside. They find an important door (the door that corresponds to the door of the Pattern Chamber if you transpose this map onto the map of the Dungeons back in Amber) and, upon opening it, find a big rocky cavern lit by flickering fire light that no longer strains the eye. Fiona suggests they can go explore that, but worries they'll get off course.  Maarit says she's not worried about her mother being there, so they can go on and explore.

She points to two doors, one that leads to apartments, the other that leads to the pattern. The apartments lead to DWORKIN's space! 

(GM's Note: It doesn't actually lead to Dworkin's cave near the Primal Pattern, just a place that looks very intentionally similar from the cave: essentially a shadow of that place. It takes the players another half dozen sessions to figure that out, because no one goes out of the cave to look at the Pattern in the meantime.)

Scene 5 - David on the Walls

A report from some of his men see that some of the men are coming back up the stairs and are carrying a fallen comrade slung over a horse. David learns that the Queen is in her bedchambers, gets word from the King's company on the beach: they reached the Faiella-Bionin, attempted to go down and found it blocked, and have moved on to see if the Tritons have pulled back to Cabra.

One of the returning scouts reports a fortress ransacked, one of Julian's hounds had to be put down, several of Julian's men were dead. The group pushed forward to see what they could find and they were attacked by The Weir and many were killed. David pressed for details and learned that it was a ravening pack of wier, led by a noble-like wier that wielded swords and led the pack as they ambushed and killed the soldiers.

Bells start ringing from the city and another runner shows up. He reports on the situation in the harbor. Bleys' fleet seems to be thrice the size of Caine's, but Caine's remaining fleet might flank on return. The runner says the City Watch was asking whose fleet is on the King's side. They also don't know whether to take a side. David tells them to "Make no assumptions. No forces of number are allowed within the city limits."

The battle has begun in the port. It's suspicious that none of the officers have returned from the wedding.

A bit later, a man shouts "Help! Help!" He rushes into the courtyard and pants as he gasps "which Prince do you serve?" The guards stand before him and answer "The King!" A couple guards run off to help. David asks the man how the attack is taking place. He thinks Caine's soldiers are attacking Vialle the Queen. Other soldiers attacked.

When David arrives, he finds soldiers standing guard by the suite, and other soldiers cleaning up a bunch of blood on the floor. David questions them, mentions the runner but uses a tricky name. When the guard is distracted for a moment, David takes out three of the four guards and then bursts into the room, where an officer and a soldier are trying to break into a second room.

David maneuvers to prevent the assassin's escape, lets him get injured, then demands "WHO?!" He says the name of the only other commanding officer Colonel LeDorne -- the guy in charge of the other half. David doesn't believe it.

He goes to the inner door, and tries talking to her but she doesn't answer. A voice inside says the Queen is "Beyond your grasp."  The soldier inside shouts out your names and a scribe inside writes the names of the soldiers in the book and throws the book out the window.

David tries to convince the Queen's guards he's trustworthy -- it seems like their story checks out.

1B - Abn Haram and The Thing Beneath The Bay

Abn Haram continues taking ships and sending them to the bottom. His usual tactic is to let the men board first, while he provides sniper fire, and then he goes in to help mop up. This keeps him well rested, and they take several ships in succession. Some they ram deep and send them down in a hurry, others they clear of crew and leave going down more slowly. The goal is speed, trying to roll up and envelop Caine's fleet in a hurry, for fear of Caine's potential reinforcements over the Rebman territorial waters.

Steward reports that she saw something dark beneath the waters, and she can't tell if its his Turtle or not.

The battles rage on, and are going well. Bleys did lose his flagship "The Daystar", but he transferred his banner to the largest of ships captured from Caine. Caine's flanks have collapsed, and the pocket is decisively being carried by Bleys' fleet.

Two ship boardings later, it becomes clear this dark shape is something else far more menacing. The water beneath one of Bleys' ships bubbles and boils and geysers, and then the ship breaks apart. This happens a few times as ship after ship is torn apart, each time by some boily geysery warning. Men who fall into the water near a targeted ship boil, but this seems incidental. The goal is clearly to destroy Bleys' fleet, not worry about individual sailors. (Andrew says in his head-cannon this is [The Thing Beneath The Lake], but the GM points out Oosland is far from here.)

The Prophecy is clearly next on the chopping block, and the Captain tries to outrun their doom. Steward comes down from the rigging, and Abn Haram hands her his card. A few seconds later the ship heaves to Port, and starts to come apart. Abn Haram dives into the water, and swims out far enough to avoid being boiled. He swims a long while, avoids getting destroyed from below, and swims fast enough to avoid being shot by Bleys' men who think he's just another Caine sailor in the water.

He reaches shore in the slummiest part of Amber (which is still pretty good), bloodied and battered but not severely wounded. Several of Bleys' men wash up as well. Most are arrested by the City Watch without much of a struggle, but he does see two of Bleys' men standing over a Watchman's body, presumably having killed him. To avoid being rounded up, Abn Haram breaks into a shack, and takes a nap under a tarp.

2B - On the Road with Medore and Dalziel

Medore and Dalziel drive around Oosland in an RV with the Black Unicorn in a Moose-carriage. Dalziel begins to realize that some parts of Oosland have more power (the GM says "are more real" but Dalziel refuses to see it that way). They are a couple of diners, and some historic monuments or scenic views that he thinks would make great paintings. One plaque mentions "On this spot in *YEAR*, General Barimen defeated the Roundheads." They travel around a bunch, staying out of trouble, and giving the Black Unicorn time to heal.

They discuss a plan: "What if we call Corwin, have him go to the Dungeons, and then we travel through to him and let the Black Unicorn walk the Pattern if she wants?"

4B - Maarit and Fiona poke around the studio

Maarit and Fiona explore Dworkins apartments, tommy gun in hand. Fiona looks around, calling out to see Dworkin is around, and when there's no answer, she returns to the studio part where Maarit has looked at the first three of [Dworkin's Most Recent Paintings] . Fiona cautions her not to touch the canvases themselves, and that Dworkin will almost certainly know that we've looked at them. Then she calls out "Dworkin, if you don't want us to look at these paintings, now is your chance to object!" She waits a beat, and then starts with canvas #1. Maarit stands at Painting 3 or 4, but is actually watching Fiona's reaction. Fi looks at the first one, an image of Chaos at the Abyss, and asks "are they all this abstract?"  Maarit says "They seem to zoom in closer in each one." Fi looks at #2, and bites her lip. It seems like maybe this means something to her. She goes to lift up the third drop cloth...

Since Maarit only looked at two of the paintings, she doesn't actually know for certain if they are exactly the same as the one's Dalziel had described to her yesterday. The first two were minimalist and abstract enough, and Maarit thought she was in the other place, so it would make sense that these are the ones that had been described in intricate detail in Dalziel's notebook.  If they are, then they would look like this:

...and a heavy breathing sound is heard from the other room. Really loud, really heavy. Dropping the cloth, she calls out "Dworkin?" again. Then she steps out into the kitchen, clutching the tommy gun. A floating snake covered with eyes passes by the open doorway to the cavern. (One might wonder if this is just the tail of Blinky, but they haven't seen that dragon yet.) Fiona realizes she's trespassing, and suspiciously carrying a machine gun, which is not a good look when you want to convince a relative (or a relative's guard-snake) you're not setting up to ambush them.

Fiona ushers Maarit back into the studio, pulls a card out of her pocket, and whisks herself and Maarit away to the Crooked Forest, somewhere in shadow.

4C - Maarit and Fiona have a very important conversation

They talk a bit about what all is going on, and what the weird LogBook EyeSore might mean, and who is behind all of this. Fi reiterates the possibility that the log was planted to make Bleys look guilty, like a deliberate piece of Dis-Information done to make Fiona mistrust Bleys. Maarit is having a hard time following, so she asks "what am I missing?" Fi opens up. Ho, boy, does she let some things off her chest. Crazy tinfoil hat nonsense, or maybe an earnest glimpse at the greatest secrets of the modern era? She gets very emotional about it all, and chews all the scenery.

She points out that there was a time when everyone thought Caine was dead, in the middle of the Black Road War. Corwin found Caine's body, along with the body of one of these Spur-hand Mafia guys. Fi did autopsies on both. Caine was definitely dead, but as Corwin tells it, Caine mere faked his own death, planted the other body to frame Corwin somehow, and tried to murder Corwin in his sleep (and failed). Then, at the final battle of the War, Caine appears and helps Amber win the day. His appearance wasn't decisive, but also wasn't too late to matter at all. Just in time to clear his name, and Corwin's name.

A few years before that, Corwin was also the only person present when Bleys took a fall of The Eastern Stair. Bleys supposedly didn't have a deck, and Corwin through his at him, but didn't have time to see if Bleys caught it. Then Corwin continued up the stairs, tried to kill Eric, failed, and ended up in the Dungeon. Bleys wasn't seen for years, but then showed up at the last battle of the War, the same battle where Caine showed up, under basically the same highly suspicious circumstances.

Fi found that hard to swallow. She'd talked to Bleys not long before he and Corwin went on that march. She says Bleys had a deck, and was supposed to call her for an escape if things got bad at all. She figured he'd call well before the last possible moment. You don't really want to leave it up to even your most trusted sibling to save your life, especially if them choosing inaction spells your own death. Bleys didn't call her, so she assumed for a few years he was dead.

Now this note suggests Bleys may have been in a double-cross situation, actually siding with Brand. Again, she says the brother she knows wouldn't leave a smoking gun like this around. So she knows to distrust the log... and yet, having read it, it has managed to poison her mind. She's often wondered about all these coincidences and faked deaths. The notion has crossed her mind, if Corwin's not the great hero he sells himself as, he could have murdered Bleys and Caine both, and produced dopplegangers to clear his name. She's thought it, but never bought into that logic because of a completely different secret that she also spills to Maarit.

At the battle at Chaos, the suddenly alive Caine fired two arrows at Brand. The first hit Brand in the throat, and while it wasn't instant-death, it was clearly good enough. They say the second arrow hit less cleanly, but as Brand fell backwards into the Abyss, he grabbed Dierdre by the hair and pulled her with. So Corwin says he saw.

But from Fiona's point of view, it was different. The second arrow wasn't badly placed, it was expertly done. It penetrated the elbow weakpoint in Dierdre's armor, pinning her to Brand, and ensuring she would plummet with him into the Void. Fi saw it, Random saw it, Bleys saw it, Caine obviously knew it, and it's likely Lord Chantris and Lord Feldane saw it too. And they've all been lying for 10 years.

Random wanted a peaceful reign, no fratricide, and he talked Bleys (if that truly is Bleys) and Fiona into being quiet for the sake of the peace. Fiona was against it, because if Corwin ever finds out, the three of them will look just as guilty as Caine. Corwin is doggedly persistent. If ever anyone were to let it slip that something was fishy, Corwin would worry it until he'd figured enough to start the bloodshed again. And let's be clear: she doesn't think Chantris and Feldane are up to the family's standards at lying. She's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Now she has a log that seems to confirm that Bleys is against her. What if it is true? What if things were more than they appeared in all these surprise survivals? Who could be behind it? Would Caine and Bleys work together? If Corwin was lying, does that mean he's calling the shots on their conspiracy? What if Corwin replaced Caine and Bleys? What if it goes further than that?

We always assumed we're hiding the truth of Caine killing Dierdre, and so thankful Corwin hasn't figured it out. We assume Corwin loved Dierdre like no other, because he tells us so again and again, and stays far from Amber in some place called "Paree" (Paris?) drinking and mourning. What if it's all an act? What if Corwin killed Dierdre because she's the only one who would see through his scheme? What if Corwin is so broken with grief because ordering Caine (or his double) to murder his favorite sister was a crime too far? What is Corwin's hand in all this trouble?

Then again, the log could be put there to poison her against Bleys. It's also theoretically possible, because of her high degree of control of Pattern, that her subconscious could have manifested this piece of damning (but false) evidence to justify her own paranoia.

It's a lot to think about.

Maarit says "Well, I'm supposed to go get an army that's waiting out there in shadow, and bring to Medore. Wanna come with?"

The Quotes Of Chaos

"More drugs! She’s burning through them too fast!" - Medore (Horse surgery)

“I let them know they did a serviceable job.”- Medore

“Shouldn’t have eaten those Fun-Yuns” - Dal

"I dont like the answer either, but I don’t trust either of them." - David


During the naval battle:

"Her job is to look for invisible ships or ships that can sail on land, things like that…" - Abn Haram

"I kinda want to break his back or something but that seems a little too showy, I’ll stab him in the guts so he isn’t going to die right away, but probably doesn’t feel like fighting." -Abn Haram's player

“Bleys is the one True God, First among equals! Ruler of the Gods!" - Sailors

"Well good thing he’s on our side."  - Abn Haram.



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

5 Parsecs Console

 I figured that if I'm playing this much Five Parsecs From Home, I might as well fancy-up the landing page for the campaign on Roll20. Didn't last more than a couple minutes before the Chief Engineer spilled engine oil all over the consoles. 


Monday, June 28, 2021

5 Parsecs Mission 5

Step-by-step breakdown of the fifth Mission in my Five Parsecs From Home campaign. 

Crew names are often abbreviated G to M, as explained in: Crew Roster, which also tells you about my team and a bit about their ship. See also the Index of my Five Parsecs articles for a list of previous Missions and other content.

Decide Whether to Travel: - Checking out our options, we look up Daret Vol 5. The Daret Vol system has basically no salvage laws, so we could make some money there salvaging wrecks in the local rings. But looking into it further, we realize they have similar import laws to Aceso Menrva Prime, so we won't be able to sell anything there, either. That mostly defeats the purpose of leaving Aceso Menrva Prime. We need to offload our current cargo somewhere before we can start packing in salvage. Back to the drawing board.

Crew Upkeep - 2
Ship Debt - paid 8
Ship Repairs - none needed
Medical Care - none needed

 Assign and Resolve Crew Tasks: -
Train - K
Trade - J,L
Explore - H,I
Repair Your Kit - M
Decoy - G

Noteworthy results from Tasks: -
J trades for an Instruction Book (bonus XP).
L trades for useless junk, because he doesn't always make the best decisions (and he had stripper money burning a hole in his pocket, due to his side job in Campaign Turn 4).
H'xex gets in a bar fight for 2 XP.
Inshubur picks up some local maps that score us a clue closer to the Strange Brain of the Skulker.
Moreva tries to fix the damaged combat armor, but can't quite get it ready in time for the mission.

Job Description: Next step of the "The Strange Brain of Skulker" Quest chain. This is NOT the Finale.

Deployment Conditions:  - Gloomy: Maximum visibility is 9”. Characters that fire can be fired upon at any range, however.

Notable Sights:  - Loot cache: Roll once on the Loot Table (p.131), it is 6" to the south of the center of the table.

Objective: -  Acquire: An item needed for the Quest is placed at the center of the table. A crew member must move into contact, take a Combat Action, and then move off the table. If the carrier becomes a casualty, roll 1D6: On a 1, the item is destroyed. Otherwise it can be picked up by spending a Combat Action at the location they fell. If you drive off the enemy, you can pick up the item at your own leisure.

Enemy Type: -  K'Erin Outlaws  (accompanied by a Precursor Wanderer)

3 regulars with Military Rifles , 1 specialist with Shotgun,  1 LT with rifle + Blade    

Also: 1 Unique: Precursor Wanderer

Green arrows are the PCs movement. Red arrows are the Enemy movement. Blue arrow is the the Objective being pulled out of the back of the wrecked truck. The Red X's are dead Enemies.  Everything is approximate, as my notes didn't really cover exact positioning, and and I only took pictures at the start and end of the Mission.

Round 1: - We all rush towards the bridge to get the object. The enemy does the same, but most of them aren't that close. H'Xex opens up on the Precursor Wanderer, but their Luck saves them. They are at least driven back significantly. Inshubur opens fire, and takes out the enemy shotgun specialist.

Round 2: - The Kid runs forward and grabs the datafile (objective) from the back of the shot-up truck. There's no longer anyone in charging distance, so H'Xex uses his Jump Belt to rocket out into the middle of the river and picks up the Loot Cache. Inshubur covers him on overwatch.

The enemy Precursor comes running back around the truck and shoots the Kid from point blank, but the laser is a glancing blow that only stuns him. A K'Erin Outlaw also runs onto the bridge. Their view of the kid is blocked by the Wanderer, so they shoot Leonidas instead, stunning him. Two K'Erin rush to the water's edge to shoot H'Xex. Inshubur kills one of them, but the LT stuns H'Xex and forces him back.

Leonidas gets his wits about him, and vaporizes the Precursor Wanderer. Juniper calmly crosses the street and unloads from close range on the K'Erin on the bridge, immolating him with eerie blue plasma flame.

Battle Event between Round 2 and 3 - Lost heart: The enemy has had enough of this fight. At the end of the next round, they will leave the field. (Which makes sense, as they've lost 4 of their 6 soldiers this round.)

Round 3: - Juniper kills the enemy LT, leaving a single K'Erin Outlaw on the field. He rolls 3 dice (4 of his buddies that fell in the previous turn, -1 die for stubborn), and bails. It's good that he did because H'Xex was stunned and within charge distance.

Analysis: - A few weird rules holes popped up in this battle.

Gloomy reduces range to 9", but anyone who fires can subsequently be shot at from further. Presumably this is muzzle flash giving away your position. But if fire during Slow Actions in one round and then Dash or Jump Belt away in Quick Actions the next round, the muzzle flash argument seems laughable. It would make more sense if the targetability was for an amount of time, or limited by location, maybe. Maybe we're supposed to be assuming that until you fire no one knows you're there at all, and then once you've shot they're now looking for you? The rule works just fine for a solitaire mini game, I guess, but it seems a little illogical and wouldn't work for an RPG.

UPDATE: Checked with the game designer on his Discord. He says it's intended that muzzle flash reveals you for just 1 Round. 

Stunned K'Erin PCs get contradictory. They must move to brawl if within normal movement, per page 16. They can't initiate a brawl if stunned, per page 40. If attacked by other brawlers "the attacker receives" a bonus die. Stunned NPCs do not initiate brawls, per page 41. Maybe they move to base contact and remove a stun marker but don't actually roll for brawling? That would seem to fit the spirit of the instructions, so I guess that's what I'll do when next it comes up in play.

UPDATE: Checked with the game designer on Discord. He says if they start their activation stunned, K'Erin PCs don't have to to rush into a brawl. Their rage is momentarily pacified by the close call.
The Stubborn ability on the K'Erin Outlaws is a little unclear if they ignore just the first dead Enemy per Battle, or the first dead Enemy per Round. I'm going with round, as that seems more impactful.


Resolve Rival Status: - Having been properly bloodied, they do not decide to cause trouble for us in the future.

Determine Quest Progress: - Success! Our next Quest Mission will be the conclusion of this Quest. The information we wanted was on the datacrystal in the wrecked truck. I checked, and we do NOT have to change planets to conclude the Quest.

Get Paid and Benefits of Success: -  6 credits, and a roll on the Loot Table: Combat Armor!  (So if I get the other set fixed next Turn, I'll have two characters in this.)

Battlefield Finds: - Nothing! Wa-Waaa.

Gather the Loot: - Damaged Unity Battle Sight,  and a Damaged Seeker Sight

Experience:  G.0 H.3 I.4 J.3 K.4 L.4 M.3   - First Kill: - I    Rookie: K   Unique: L

 Purchase Items: - Handgun for The Kid

 Campaign Event: - During routine maintenance, the gravitational adjuster got knocked out of alignment. Your ship suffers 2 points of Hull Damage.

 Character Event: - The Kid asks Leonidas about manliness and danger and if its okay to be scared. Turns out, it is. They both gain 1 XP. I'm sure it makes for a memorable and very special episode of the TV show.

Tick Story Clock: - Clock is at Zero. Next Turn the first Story Track Event happens!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Yig at Amaranthe

 A bit of world-building that I put into a handout during Session 11 of my current Amber Campaign.

This note arrived on the leg of one of Julian's messenger birds. The bird was dying, shot by one of the silver-headed arrows that Nix had given to Julian yesterday.  

(Nix is one of the PCs, the son of Prince Julian. The day before, Fiona had provided Nix with silvered arrows and asked him to give them to Julian without saying they were from her. Nix called Julian, and found him at just that moment being attacked by Werewolves, so the arrows were quite helpful.)

The blood on the note makes it hard to read, but it seems to say either "Yig it Amaranthe" which doesn't make any sense at all, or maybe "Yig at Amaranthe" which makes only a tiny bit more.

The handwriting is not Julians, but it is the handwriting of one of Julian's staff. Sir Tucker of House Bolero, who is a scribe and falconer in Julian's employ and often handles his messages.

Two facts known to Nix, that might help make more sense of this:

1) Amaranthe is the name of Nix's mother, who has been dead for many years. She lived in a cottage deep in Forest Arden during Nix's childhood.

2) As an academic from Oberon's Loupe, you know that tradition holds Yig (or Ygg) is the name of a tree that once served as a border marker at the limits of Amber's reach. There's an old poem that Nix read in Oberon's Loupe some years ago, about the creation of the sea routes between the Golden Circle Kingdoms during the Gahmery-Karm war. Off the top of his head, Nix can remember a few lines:

"Oberon's fleet in Hepania woke,

with beams of bone and sails of blood,

Oberon's fleet in Wallahall broke,

and Yig did sprout from wrecked wood."

Scholars who have analyzed the poem, and compared it to what is known of Royal History in that era, say that Yig was a tree that at furthest point south that Oberon's fleets traveled in that war. When a quarter of the fleet was dashed upon the rocks by a terrible storm in the shadow world of Wallahalla, Oberon interpreted it as a sign that there was no point in pursuing conquest any further south. Indeed it would be impractical to support fleets that far from Amber. This set the practical outer limits of the Golden Circle. There was a large oak growing at the on the rocks at which the ships were thrashed, and Oberon declared it the marker beyond which no captain should try to sail. The final boundary of the Golden Circle actually ended up several worlds north of that point by war's end, closer to Amber. Today, Hepania is part of the Golden Circle, but Wallahall is not.

There's another reference in one of the travelogues Nix has read, written centuries after that poem. It says that inhabitants of the world of Wallahalla worship a mighty red-leafed tree called Yigg, which they also call the World Ship. Things that are real cast shadows all about, so things done by the Royal Family of Amber are reflected in myriad shadow worlds. As a result magical trees appear in the myths and legends of a hundred worlds at least, and are often named something along the lines of Yig, Ygg, Yigga, Yggr, Wgga, Yrrda, Yggdrasil, Vggdrssil, etc.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Campaign Log: Session 11: A Horse Of Another Timbre

 The following is the campaign log for the eleventh session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign, entitled A Horse Of Another Timbre. One of my players keeps a log of the scenes, and another maintains a quote list.  As usual, I have combined them with a few extra notes of my own after the fact.  I post them here several months after, which allows me to add in a few little clarifications without worrying too much about spoiling future plotlines for my players.

You can also Start from Session #1 or just pick up at Session #10.


The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys of Amber. A scientist.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  • Spinturnix, (aka Nix), son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, nonbinary offspring orphan of Dierdre .
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos, and the long-dead Prince Osric of Amber. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels, such as the dashing Prince Bleys, and his extremely clever sister Fiona.

There's a few new NPCs as well, such as Brute, which is a huge and opinionated intelligent pig that works for Abn Haram. There's also this mysterious black unicorn that keeps getting attacked by the standard white unicorn that Amber reveres. 

Setting the Scene: When last we saw our heroes, most of them were in Amber. Nix was preparing to leave the castle, David had been given command of a guard unit whose top officers didn't come back from a wedding, Medore and Dalziel were hiding the black unicorn in a bedroom. Elsewhere, Abn Haram sailed the seas of the Golden Circle with his mother and his entourage,  and Maarit was exploring a mysterious staircase between worlds with auntie Fiona.

Campaign log:  Session #11:  18 January 2021, turn by turn

Scene 1 -  Nix trying to go home.
Tasked by Random to go get troops from Oberon's Loupe, Nix begins his journey home, only to encounter barriers. He's unable (or unwilling) to get a silver sword from the Armorer, unable to contact Fiona, and unable to walk the pattern (what with recovering from his Weir attack). He decides to seek out some of his father's men in town, or some merchants heading out, to see what he can learn and see if he can gain passage through Forest Arden to Oberon's Loupe.

Scene 2 - David goes to survey the troops
David surveys the troops and tries to find the "expendables" who might be useful but not that great. He sends some troops on a reconnaissance mission, then heals while his troops are exploring.

Scene 3 - Medore and Dalziel chillin

After Maarit left, the Black Unicorn gets up and looks for comfort. The unicorn wants to leave the room, Medore and Dalziel encourage her not to. Dalziel suggests it might not be a real unicorn. It wanders over by the medical supplies, then over to the bed. Medore and Dalziel start to doubt their plan. Encouraged by the unicorn, Medore sets up a Saline solution drip for the unicorn. It goes back to sleep.

Scene 4 - Abn Haram on a boat

Having vested the ship and its sails with conjured power, the ship remains ahead of the storm despite worsening seas. While Abn Haram is putting energy into increasing the size of the new turtle, Brute and Nykae get into an argument, which Haram has to go break up. 

Brute's POV: Your mom's just a jerk. She loves reminding me that she's a Lady of a Chaos, and your mom, and that I'm just supposed to do what she wants because she's so important. It's just like when she tried to get me to go rob the dungeon in Amber. I won't do it. She's not my mom. Not my boss. I ate the finger of a king! I don't have to listen to her.

Nykae's POV: Two tons of pig knocked my map on the deck, and stood on it. That map is vitally important. Maybe a ship like this isn't a good place for a swine!

 Haram checks to see if Brute has been enchanted. It seems as if she has not, even if something ultimately IS wrong. The ship stays ahead of the storm, but Steward reports from the crew that the storm doesn't seem so bad.

A ruckus happens and Abn Haram joins the crew on deck, where they're looking at the remnants of a ship, wrecked and floating, with people sad. Haram learns that they're the crew and passengers of the Medusa, sailing from Ikseth, bound for Begma. Haram encourages his mother to sail on, leaving the people to their doom.

Scene 5 - Maarit on The Grand Stair

In a big blue space with big stairs, and Fiona. Fiona reminds Maarit that there is a gangster somewhere nearby. They use a string to retrace their steps, then stop for a moment as Fiona thinks she gets a call but isn't able to connect to it. She considers that she might be able to connect if she really made an effort. They reflect a bit on the mathematical implications of the space. As they proceed, Maarit uses her necklace to try and track the man with the gun; it doesn't go so well. Fiona leads Maarit back to the gunman's platform.

As they position themselves where they can see the gangster. Maarit scrounges through the go bag and find's Medore's travel makeup. Maarit suggests the ol' "throwing the distraction" trick. Then prepares for battle.

Scene 1b - Nix goes to town.

Nix recruits two of his father's men who are on leave to return with him to look for Julian. He asks them to get any other men they can (they get three more) to ride into the forest. He gets a horse and a sword (and talks with the town constable), and tries his cards to reach Julian and Fiona once more each. He leads the five men into the forest to go to Julian's fortress.  On their ride through the valley of Garnath, he spots a wounded messenger bird and rescues it, finding a Blood-stained Bird-Note. It's one of Julian's messenger birds, impaled on a silver-headed arrow (like what Nix passed to Julian yesterday). The wound is fatal, and the bird gave everything it had reaching Nix.

GM's note: I shared some explanatory / world-building information with Nix's player at this point, things he character would already know that might help explain it. I'll post that to the blog tomorrow.

Scene 2b - David and the Chain-Of-Command

David meets Lord Denesh and discusses with him the state of the troops. Danesh clears the room to talk with David privately. David asks if he should continue focusing on the Eastern Stair. Danesh says that Random and some soldiers are going to handle the ongoing problem in Rebma. As Danesh leaves, he makes it clear that David is now the second in command of the castle until Danesh returns. David learns that most of the big names have gone on the battle, and that only royal nephews and nieces might still remain; he asks them to find out.

3b. Dalziel and Medore take a horse for a walk

Dalziel has eaten chickens and is feeling much better. When there's a knock on the door, he goes up. In talking to the steward, he learns that the King is marching on Rebma and has left the castle mostly empty. The consider whether leaving the castle might make sense. Dalziel and Medore look at the location card Dalziel took from Dworkin. Medore opens it up and allows the Black Unicorn to go through the card, following behind Dalziel. They encounter a local herding geese; the geese are afraid of the unicorn. The shepherdess is astonished at the Unicorn, and at Medore, and reveals some mad martial arts skills. She hasn't seen horses, but has seen Moose. She warns them about the Thing From The Lake that will eat them if they don't honk louder..

5B. Maarit stairs battle.

The stairs gangster is sitting eating steak and drinking wine. Maarit throws a plate from the messkit in the go-bag, which makes a clatter, and distracts him. He looks at the noise, and Maarit and Fiona run down 1 flight and up 2 flights of stairs unnoticed. As Fiona runs down another flight (now being a single level away from the gunman) the gangster turns and opens up. Fiona hits the deck and is pinned down. Maarit throws the camp cook kettle from the go-bag and hits the guy in the head, knocking him over. He sprays bullets up at Maarit's position. Though the door looks like the same flimsy construction as the floor panels, the bullets bounce off the door but tear the floor to hell. (Maarit concludes the doors being interdimensional portals makes them extra strong.)  While the gunman is distracted, Fiona rushes down the stairs at him, slides beneath the table, and wrestles with him out of view. Then she scuttles back. The gunman stands back up, pushes the table out of the way (and one chair falls into the void), aims the tommy gun square at Fiona and "click"... it's either out of ammo or jammed.

Maarit rushes down the stairs now and charges the gunman, who clutches his side and winces in pain before she even gets to him. She bowls him over easily so he's about a third over the edge of the platform, and starts pummeling him. She asks "are we going to play nice?" and like the cartoon villain he is, he spouts back "I ain't surrendering to a dame!" She hits him some more. He gets two strikes back at her, with the spurs on the backs of his hands giving her defensive wounds. But he's also bleeding profusely from his side, and starts spitting up blood. Maarit concludes that auntie Fiona must have had a hidden knife. The man is quickly subdued, but succumbs to his wounds almost immediately thereafter. Fiona acknowledges she stabbed him, but that his internal organs must be different than human, as that cut should have taken hours to bleed out.

4B. Abn Haram at Bleys's Fleet.

The storm is closing in, and then suddenly goes away. 200+ warships are now where the storm was, flying a banner with a Golden Sun on a Red Field: It's Prince Bleys's fleet.  Abn Haram decides to contact them with semaphore and ask to ride to Amber.  He, Brute, and Steward row a boat over. Bleys won't allow Brute aboard his ship, claiming it's against some sailor's superstition of the Men of Avernus who make up his crew. Abn Haram trumps Nykae, and passes Brute to her. She's not happy about it, but promises to keep his pet safe.

Abn Haram and Steward climb aboard one of Bleys's ships. There's a little bit of posturing, but Bleys makes Abn Haram retract a borderline insult he made in front of the men. "There are several ways I can take you to Amber, but I think we'll both prefer the version where you're in a comfortable room, drinking good brandy, and feeling that you have some freedom. He's takes all of Abn Haram's cards except his own (which Bleys does verify is Abn Haram and not a twin or shadow) and a location card in Chaos. So Abn Haram can escape if he needs to, but would be leaving Steward as a hostage.

Bleys and Abn Haram go below decks, drink good alcohol, and talk.

3C. Medore and Dalziel vet trip

Medore and Dalziel shadow walk to a world where there are no monsters, and there is a convenient emergency veterinarian. Along the way, Dalziel finds buried treasure, and takes some (but not all) of the rolls of cash he Patterned into existence, leaving the rest here for whatever shadowling buried them. At the vet, they see a llama in a cone of shame, and are surprised that the vets take their unicorn in stride. The prognosis is not good, at one point the doc saying he gives the Black Unicorn at best 30% odds to live, and they should prepare for the worst. It is compartment syndrome, caused by some sort of severe blunt trauma that fractured bone and caused internal bleeding (plus unrelated wounds from at least two different animals!)  Horse tranquilizers, X-rays, and transfusions, and invasive procedures to find the bleeder.

Medore stays with her during the procedure, but Dalziel heads down the road to the local "Hotel 3".

5C. Maarit at the Doors

They stand on the platform, next to 4 brightly colored doors (purple, cyan, yellow, and orange) and a wine rack.

The thug is dead, so they take his pistol and wallet and shove his body off the ledge. They still have 3 chairs, so they prop them under the handles of 3 doors to keep them closed. They wash some of the blood off with wine, so the situation is confusing for anyone stumbling across it (such as new gangster guards coming to take over later). Fiona grabs another bottle of wine for the road, and they turn the nob of the purple door.

4C. Abn Haram and Bleys Drink

Bleys says his son Dalziel is soft, and far too concerned with understanding laws of science that don't matter because the universe will always rewrite itself to align with his desires. "The laws of science are what I say they are." Bleys is full of himself, and insists that he always gets what he wants, and that there's only a handful of people who don't do exactly what he wants them to, nearly all of whom are blood relations. Abn Haram has a ton of questions about this, but Bleys really does seem to believe it all, and think very highly of himself. He says all of life is either war, business, or love, and claims to be supremely good at all three. It seems Abn Haram defines business very differently than Bleys does, but the elder Amberite doesn't explain what the difference really is.

They play a long game of actual chess, which Bleys wins, but Abn Haram doesn't get totally creamed. Bleys seems very willing to sacrifice pieces for the long term strategic advantage.

Eventually, an officer comes to tell them that they are passing Baylesport, and almost to Amber. Bleys and Abn Haram head above decks.

3D. Dalziel calls Bleys

In the "Hotel 3" (it's half as nice as the last hotel he'd been in), Dalziel watches some local news. Top story: tomorrow is the 8th Anniversary of the death of The Thing From The Lake, and everyone is thankful to the President for defeating it. What The Thing is, exactly, remains mysterious.

Dalziel calls Bleys, who is on a deck of a ship. The conversation is mostly one-sided, because Bleys is within earshot of Abn Haram, so speaks in brief terse sentences that conceal the nature of the call. He focuses a bit at one point, and gets some wordless communication through. He gives the impression to Dalziel that battle is about to be joined, and Abn Haram is nearby. Dalziel warns Bleys that there's more going on than he realizes, that Random is marching on Rebma and there's no royals in the castle. Dalziel says that something about it all seems suspicious to him, but he can't quite say why or what it means. There are definitely more forces at play than just Caine though. Wordlessly, Bleys seems to be asking if Dalziel thinks he should abort the attack, but Dalziel doesn't. Bleys also wordlessly indicates he's considering murdering Abn Haram right before they go into battle, but Dalziel thinks that's a mistake. He feels like Abn Haram and Nykae aren't part of the big plays going on, and seem at worst neutral towards Amber.  At that, Bleys says "I'll be sure to let him know that you just saved his life."


The Quotes Of Chaos

Medore, in a sentence:

"Medore, being a fashion whore, saves the day."

Things Said On The Boat

“She’s not my boss, Dad!” - Brute

"Do they look like they're particularly well fed on human flesh?" -Abn Haram

Nike: "We could leave a bucket of food for them." (Them being the starving people stranded on the raft out at sea.)
Abn Haram: "We could, but why would we?" 


Fiona and Maarit:

F: "I'm not the tactician that any of my brothers are, but I think if I come down that staircase as fast as I can, after the first few feet I'll have defillade from the man with the tommy gun..."

M: "I don’t know that word, but I assume it means ‘cover’


Conversations about the many Goose of Oosland:

It’s a wonderful day in shadow and you are a terrible goose. - Kaylin

Do it nae honk then?

“Doesn’t it take more than one chicken to create a population explosion.

Not if you try hard enough… Nature finds a way… You find a Jeff Goldblum and you mate with that.”


About your crazy theory that this black unicorn might be Deirdre transformed by magic.

“I will stroke the horn lightly."  - player

"It doesn’t appear to be loose.”  - GM


Bleys and Abn Haram:

B: “I find that the worlds do what I want them to."
AH: "All the time?"
B: "All the time."
AH: "That must be nice."
B: "Well, it is good to be me."

B: "Give it a few years and see what you grow into."

AH: "I’ve had quite a few years."

B: "Well then, forget what I said, and Despair."

Everything is either war, business, or love. - Bleys

Monday, June 21, 2021

Mission 4 (Five Parsecs From Home)

 5 Parsecs From Home campaign, Mission report #4. 5 Parsecs is a solitaire miniatures game, which I'm playing on Roll20. The game is a lot like Firefly or The Expanse, following the adventures of a small spaceship and their crew.

As a refresher, the crew of the merchant ship The Rhapsody of Inanna have names starting with the letters G to M. At various points in these posts, I will refer to them by just the first letter of a character's name.

  • G: GcViib, a standard Bot 
  • H: H'Xex, a K'Erin soldier 
  • I: Captain Inshubur Nastarastar, a Precursor hacker and spiritualist 
  • J: Marshal Juniper Sasparillax, a Human enforcer
  • K: The Kid, a Human technican / "Hopeful Rookie"
  • L: Leonidas, a Human military brat and scavenger 
  • M: Moreva, an alien Engineer


Upkeep and Ship Repairs: 2 upkeep on crew, 4 payment on ship, 1 interest increased on ship debt

Crew Tasks: - Moreva gets to take two actions this Turn, due to a character event last Turn.

Juniper goes to meet with a Patron about a job

M and I train. Moreva makes use of the disposible Teachbot to gain a total of +6 XP. 

For her second action, Moreva Trades, and gets a Stabilizer. I have no Heavy Weapons to attach it to, so it's mostly junk for now. When she goes trading, she brings along our bot G, who purchases some damaged Combat Armor. Moreva would be good at fixing that, but she's used up her action for this Turn, so the body armour just sits in our cargo hold for now.

L and H go Exploring. L finds a Quest Clue that will be helpful later. H samples the local cuisine, which it turns out is toxic, but since H'Xex is a K'Erin, he's immune to food poisoning, and kind of likes it.

The Kid plays Decoy to lure our enemies off our trail.

Job Offers: - My total is an 8, which would mean 1 existing patron job and 1 new patron job. I The Rules-as-Written really make your initial Patrons on the first world not do much, since you can easily start with 3 or more of them. It can also basically get you infinite Patrons, all of which will eventually go away at once if the planet gets invaded. It's clunky. I'm implementing a house rule option where if there's 2 new jobs, the first one is a random existing Patron. Then you roll 1d6 for the second job, with each existing Patron other than that first one getting numbered, and a roll above the existing Patrons generating a new Patron. That should make existing Patrons hand out jobs more often, eliminate dead ends from narrative/world-building, and fix the weird thing that can theoretically snowball into infinite Patrons over time.

My roll gets me a job from the Seraphim Foundation (which is the Orphan-Utility Program that Juniper graduated from), and from Segno Bioscience (the company to whom we'd brought Vital Info in the previous Turn).

Assign Equipment: - Trade GcViib's Plasma Rifle with Moreva's Shotgun. Last Turn I forgot to do that, and it resulted in M standing around with no enemies in range of her gun all game.

Battle Sequence:

Patron Mission: Segno Bioscience  (Patron from handing over the Vital Info on the Skulker Mercenaries. )  Type: Corporation.

Danger Pay: +1, 

Deployment Condition, if any? Small Encounter: A random crew member must sit out this fight. Reduce Enemy numbers by -1 (-2 if they now outnumber you).  

Notable Sight, if any?: REALLY Shiny Bits: Gain 2 Credits - it is 13" to the North of the center of the table.

Mission Objective? Secure: You must end 2 consecutive rounds with crew within 2” of the center of the table. A crew member with an enemy within 6” of them does not count. Once this is achieved, you Win. If you drive off the opposition, you can complete the objective at your leisure.

Enemy Type: - Hired Muscle - Black Ops Team

Numbers: +0   Panic: 1     Speed: 6”     Combat: +2     Tough: 5     AI: T     Weapons: 3A

2 regulars with Blast Rifle. High-damage but effective range of less than half the table.

Deploy: I'm in the north. The small encounter randomly removes Moreva for the turn, so I just have 5 figures. There's a notable sight up north as well, so I'm going to send a figure laterally to pick it up. Just for fun, I put three moving cars, and 3 parked cars, all on the map at random locations.

The green arrows are my PCs advancing. The yellow arrow is one PC running away after his only weapon breaks during the Battle Event between Round 2 and 3. The cyan arrow is H'Xex using his Jump Belt to fly over a building. The red arrows are the enemy Black Ops Team advancing. The purple arrows are the path of the random neutral cars I put on the map and moved 2d6" each turn. The blue box on the crosswalk in the upper middle was the Notable Sight, a box of valuables that must have fallen off a truck or something.

If the map looks familiar, it's basically reused from Mission 1. I was eager to get another game happening ASAP, and didn't want to take the time making another map. So I just moved a couple of parked cars, and called it good enough for gaming.

Round 1: - Bad guys advance in cover. We do the same, and Inshubur runs out in the street to grab the really shiny bits. Rolling 13" North of center for the notable sight on a map where I deployed in the North was basically free points. If the opposition had sniper rifles or infantry lasers it might have been a little trickier, but with just 16" range on their blasters, there was almost guaranteed to be at least one turn where I could stand out in the open to get the credits without worrying about incoming fire.

Round 2: - More advancing, using cars for cover. Kid gets up on a building and misses the sniper shot.

Battle Event between Round 2 and 3 - "Enemy reinforcements!" This is just about the worst possible result, as these are really tough foes, and it would double their numbers. So I spend a story point to reroll, and get "Ammo fault".  That means one random PC's main weapon stops working for the rest of the battle.

I remind myself that I should be narrating story points, so here we are:

The reason Moreva isn't at this small encounter, is that we detected enemy reinforcements several minutes out, so she took our transport away to decoy them. At the time, she'd been doing last-minute maintenance on The Kid's laser, which this interrupted, that's why his gun fails.

Round 3: - Inshubur fires and misses. One of the mercs fires at H'Xex, and stuns him, but he nopes out of sight with his Jump Belt. The Kid figures out his gun is broken, and tucks himself out of sight behind a tall building. Unfortunately, he's got no other weapons, so he's probably useless, and should bail in the next turn or two. Leonidas and Juniper can't quite get into range, so they maneuver behind cover. We're 3 turns in, and there have only been 4 shots, of which 3 are misses. I may need to use smaller maps.

Round 4: - An amazing initiative roll: 1,1,2,2,2. Leonidas climbs onto a roof and fires across the street, stunning the enemy on the opposing roof. Juniper follows him up the stair, and shoots the same guy twice. Inshubur prepares for Snap Fire. Remaining Black Ops baddie doesn't have range to anyone, so he moves forward. This leaves a tiny opening where he's in Inshubur's range and LOS in the open, so she Snap Fires. He's stunned, but has enough movement to get into cover even after being knocked back. But he can't return fire now because he's stunned.

Battle Event between Round 4 and 5: Clock is running out: At the end of the next round and each round thereafter, roll 1D6. On a 6, the game ends immediately, and you are unable to complete any objectives. You will not count as Holding the Field unless you clear the table of enemies before this happens.

Round 5: - The clock is ticking. Inshubur fires and misses. H'Xex jump-belts over traffic to engage the remaining Black Op. Shatter Axe for the win.

Analysis: -  Snap Fire isn't written up as clearly as it could be. It doesn't actually say that a character stunned mid-move gets rid of their Stun immediately, but I'm inferring that it should since it costs them their attack this turn. That's how I'm interpreting it, as the alternative would leave the NPCs more vulnerable and cost them attacks in two turns. The stun clearing instantly is also harder for the PCs, which is why I'm interpreting it as correct. After all NPCs don't get to interrupt at all, so it seems fair to make it a trade-off that's not always the best move a PC could take against high-toughness low-threat enemies. Sometimes, the better play will be to wait until all the enemies have moved, and then lay into them with multiple PCs at once.

I also feel like I may be using maps that are too large. We started really far apart, and it took a lot of turns just closing in. If that "The Clock Is Running Out" Battle Event had come up at the end of Round 2, I probably would have had a stalemate instead of a win, and stalemates have some rules vagueness that's not ideal. Shorter encounter distances wouldn't benefit the PCs so much as benefit whichever side has the shorter-range weaponry, and that's highly variable. This map is 44x44, and would have been better as 36x36, or if I just let characters deploy further in to the map. I didn't use all the space, mostly keeping the action to within 36x36, but I should probably deploy both sides closer to each other in future games. Technically, they only have to be 18" apart at the start of the first turn, and they were more than 20" apart at the start of this game.

Ironically, I may be under-charging for going up a ladder. I've been just charging 1 inch of vertical movement, but if these buildings were physical models, they'd be 1.25 to 2 inches tall. So I probably need to make one tweak to tighten up the map and speed things along, and then a second tweak to slow down one specific type of movement. 

It is game four, but I'm still kind of learning the system.


Rival Status: - Thankfully, the Black Ops baddies don't decide they need vengeance later.

Patron Status: - I completed the mission, locking in Segno Bioscience as a long-term Patron.

Pay and Benefits of Success: - (Base 3,  Danger Pay: +1,  REALLY Shiny Bits: Gain 2 Credits)  for a grand total of 6 credits.

Battlefield Finds: - Curious data stick: You obtain a Quest Clue.

Gather the Loot: - Nano-Doc: Prevent one roll on the post-battle Injury Table, no matter the source of the injury. You must decide before rolling the dice. Single-use.

XP and Upgrades:  G.0 H.3 I.3 J.4 K.5 L.3 M.1   - First Kill: - J    Rookie: K   The Black Ops mercs have the modifier: Tough fight:  a random survivor gains +1 XP. I roll it, and get the Kid. K  - The kid fails utterly this battle, but apparently learns a lot from it. 

Moreva falls further behind the party, so I'm glad she got that Teachbot in the pre-battle sequence.  I decide to give her 1 XP, as though she were in the Mission but got KO'd by stun in the first round. The reason for this is that she was selected as a mission participant, then removed by a random event. (Also, when I spent the story point, I narrated that it was her efforts that prevented the other enemies from joining the fight.)

Campaign Event: - The crew spends a night drinking, watching movies, and playing cards. +1 story point.

Character Event: - Leonidas earns a little on the side. (That sounds like he's a stripper, or gigolo.)  Receive +2 credits.


Thank you for reading this battle report. See also the Index of my Five Parsecs articles for additional content.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Mission 3 (Five Parsecs From Home)

This is a Battle Report (or "BatRep" as the kids say) for Mission 3 of my 5 Parsecs From Home campaign. 5 Parsecs is a solitaire miniatures game, which I'm playing on Roll20 mostly because my gaming table is otherwise occupied at the moment. So instead of actual miniatures, I'm using little token images on a virtual tabletop.

As a refresher, the crew of the merchant ship The Rhapsody of Inanna have names starting with the letters G to L M. At various points in these posts, I will no doubt refer to them by just the first letter of a character's name.

G: GcViib, a standard Bot
H: H'Xex, a K'Erin soldier
I: Captain Inshubur Nastarastar, a Precursor hacker and spiritualist
J: Marshal Juniper Sasparillax, a Human enforcer
K: The Kid, a Human technican / "Hopeful Rookie"
L: Leonidas, a Human military brat and scavenger

Character Spotlight:

Juniper Sasparillax was orphaned at a young age, but luckily lived on a world with strong social safety nets. She was provided with a home, a job, and a mentor in the Orphan Utility Program. Said mentor was an old Enforcer-Detective. At times she chafed or rebelled under the tightness of his guidance and their focus on being a productive member of society, but she also felt genuinely lucky to have not been cast out on the street by the slings and arrows of misfortune. When she left the orphanage, she entered the academy. She served for a few years in the Enforcers of the world she grew up on, but eventually, just for fun, saved up enough money to take an off-world vacation. She didn't expect to fall in love with star travel, but once she'd gotten a taste for it, the idea of spending the rest of her life on a single planet seemed intolerable. So she quit the Enforcers, and applied for a Freelancer license instead.

She has a soft spot in her heart for children in danger, remembering how frightening much of her own childhood was, and what a godsend the mentorship she'd received was. That's why she's now taken The Kid under her wing.


After the second Mission, I rolled up a random Event that added a 7th character to our crew. 

M: Moreva Madu, of the species known as "the Engineers". She's got a lot of Savvy, but very little Toughness.

Pre-Battle Log:

Upkeep and Ship Repairs: - 7 characters now. so upkeep costs extra. 3 creds per turn between ship and crew. (That's 2 credits cover the crew's needs, and 1 credit paying down my debt on the ship.)

Crew Tasks: -

H'Xex trains to raise his Toughness.

GcViib & Inshubur go trading, and get a hand gun and some marketable trade goods, the later of which will be valuable when we eventually travel to another world. The current world, Aceso Menrva Prime, has tight laws about reselling. This was rolled up on a random planet chart, and it basically prevents us from doing any of the default "sell stuff" actions.

Juniper & Leonidas explore together. They meet someone interesting, learning a Quest Clue, and meet an Alien Merchant. Juniper gives him her Scrap Pistol, and gets 5 credits for it! (As just mentioned, this planet's rules are that you can't sell things here, but I figured in this case it was the random roll of a Table, not the general selling option, so I decided to allow it since it's a rare event beyond the player's ability to intentionally trigger, and could well represent some sort of shady dealings.)

Moreva repairs the damaged trade goods gained in a the previous Turn (not the ones Inshubur just traded for, which are in good shape).  So now we have enough sellable inventory to start thinking about maybe making a potentially profitable voyage off-world.

The Kid played Decoy to keep our Rivals from tracking us down.

Job Offers: - No new ones, but we still have some from the earlier Turn(s).


Patron Job from Potential New Patron.  Mr Persi Manselli. 

Danger Pay is +1 Credit. 

Time Frame: must be completed this Turn (or, could have been completed the previous Turn, but I had other bugs to fry that time.)

Hazards is "Hot Job: After the Job, you will earn an enemy on 1-2 instead of just a roll of 1". 

Deployment Conditions:  - None

Notable Sights:  - REALLY Shiny Bits, 14" to the West of the center of the table. Value is 2 credits.

Objective: - Move Through: You Win the mission if at least 2 crew members move off the opposing battlefield edge. If you drive off all enemies, you Win as long as you have at least 2 crew members remaining.

Enemy Type: - Roving Threats - Large Bugs

Numbers: +2  Panic: 1   Speed: 5”     Combat: 1     Tough: 5     AI: R     Weapons: Mandibles

7 regulars with Mandibles (Melee Damage +1) , 1 pack leader with Combat 2

Easy Targets: +1 when firing at this enemy.

Stubborn: They ignore the first casualty of the battle when making a Morale check.


Deployment: We are in the North. They are rampaging, so they'll charge straight at us. I can only bring 6 models, so I leave GcViib back on the ship, since he can't get XP anyway. I forget to swap out his Plasma Rifle with Moreva's shotgun, so that's a mistake I should try to avoid in the future. Luckily, the slight downgrade in firepower didn't hose me too badly.

The movement arrows in the image above are approximate. I wasn't planning to blog the campaign when I played these first few Missions, so I didn't keep detailed notes on exactly where each Bug moved, nor the final position of H'Xex in the last turn, either.

Round 1: - Here they come! The Kid shoots one with his long-range Infantry Laser, but it just slows it down (stunned) for a second or two.

Round 2: - They continue rampaging towards us. The Kid and Inshubur hold their actions to interrupt. Kid misses, but Inshubur kills a bug. As the bugs bear down on him, H'Xex kills one with his shotgun. Juniper stuns one. Leonidas kills the pack leader.

Battle Event between Round 2 and 3 -  Possible reinforcements: Place 3 markers evenly spaced along the opposing battlefield edge. At the start of the Enemy Actions phase next round, select a random marker, and roll 1D6. On a 5-6, a new basic enemy figure is placed on the marker, otherwise it is removed. Roll for one marker per round until they are all gone. If a crew member moves within 3” of a marker, it is removed instantly.

Round 3: - One bug flees. (It's the one that the Kid had shot, so maybe the Kid did a better job than I thought.) Juniper is holding action to interrupt.   Possible bug reinforcements #1 doesn't show up.  Juniper hits a bug twice, but only double-stuns. Leonidas finishes it off.

H'Xex jump belts into one of them, and has an amazing battle. He wins, scores a natural 6, and the bug scores a natural 1. All three damage rolls are lower than its Toughness, so it is is triple stunned to death (plus, the knock-back slams it into the hedge, so it's technically a quadruple stun).

Round 4: - We totally fail initiative. Possible bug reinforcements #2 also doesn't show up. A bug rushes H'Xex, and he chops it in half. Juniper snipes the last one on the board... but since there's still a reinforcement token I decide to play out the turn.

Battle Event between Round 4 and 5: Tougher than expected: Select a random enemy figure. They receive +1 Toughness (to a maximum of 6) and remove all current stun markers on that figure. If one spawns from that reinforcement token, we'll assume it's Toughness 6.

Round 5: - H'Xex jumps towards the notable sight, but can't quite reach it. Possible bug reinforcements #3 also fails to spawn, ending the mission.

Analysis: - The large bugs aren't much of a threat, even on a map with a lot of hedges or similar features that give them cover but don't slow them down. At least not when I have multiple characters with Plasma Rifles, and one K'Erin with a Shatter Axe to stand out in front challenging them. But that's okay, they won't come up often, and there's always Black Zone and Red Zone options if they do show up again later in the campaign. 

Neither of my Battlefield Events made much of a difference this time, but I can see how they could have been a big deal in a longer battle, especially with more typical ranged opponents.

Now that the fight is over, I have to decide what to do about a notable sight that I was unable to reach. All the Objectives that require you to go somewhere and interact with something let you do it after the battle. Automatically if it would have been automatic during the fight. If it's the sort of thing you have to roll for during the battle, the only precedent I found in the rules is one where you get a single chance to roll after the battle, but can use any PC that's present and not KO'd. I don't completely want to just ignore the notable sights, as that would be boring, but I also don't want a situation where I intentionally don't shoot at targets out in the open for multiple Rounds because I'm trying to keep the battle running while we go after the treasure. A compromise that preserves the fun would be good. 

House Rule: I think I'm going to go with: if there's a Notable Sight on the board that wasn't picked up during the battle, each non-KO'd character can roll 1d6+Savvy. If any of them get a total of 6+, the Notable Sight is found. So it's best if I go after during the battle, but not a guaranteed failure if I am unable to do so but still win the fight, especially if most of my crew is intact. In this case, Inshubur and The Kid are Savvy 1, and Moreva is Savvy 2. So that's 1d6+0, 1d6+0, 1d6+0, 1d6+1, 1d6+1, 1d6+2, looking for at least one "6". Should be easy. Achieved on 2 of the 6 rolls. Feels about right: enough to make you want to take small risks to get the notable sight, but not so important that you'd be tempted to run into purely suicidal situations for it. If a lot of the crew gets KO'd you're less likely to find the thing, which feels reasonable, even if it is sort of kicking you while you're down. (Really, Co-Op and Solitaire games are usually more fun when they're challenging, any way.) It also gives a reason to invest in Savvy a bit, which is otherwise probably a dump stat for most characters.


Rival Status: - This was a Roving Threat, which never become Rivals. However, it was also a "Hot Job" Hazard, so it seemed like I should roll... which came up a "1". Apparently, somebody is upset that I killed the Large Bugs. I mark down an Unknown Rival... but decide I should roll for it now, because the rule about how unknown rivals work is really hard to find in the rulebook. For the record, it's on page 92, but not on either of the two pages that actually use the phrase "unknown rivals", so it doesn't come up easily in a search of the PDF.

For unknown rivals, you're supposed to roll twice on page 94, and choose whichever seems most interesting.  So my choices are Criminal Element - Skulker Brigands, or Interested Parties - Colonial Militia. Wow. It's my previous two battles come back to haunt me. (Technically the Skulkers had been Mercs, not Brigands, but that's still pretty cool since I'm Questing for The Strange Brain Of The Skulker).  I decide Skulker Brigands sounds like more fun. They are a group I've named the Ratlobe Kur, and they think themselves very clever.

Patron Status: -  Added Mr. Persi Manselli as a full Patron since the mission was successful

Pay and Benefits of Success: - 6 total: Base 3,  Really Shiny +2, and Danger Pay +1.

Battlefield Finds: - Debris worth 3 credits

Gather the Loot: - Teach-bot A character engaging in the Train crew task will earn 1D6 additional XP. Single-use.

XP and Upgrades:  G.0 H.4 I.3 J.3 K.4 L.3 M.3   - First Kill: - H     Rookie: K

Campaign Event: - "A bit of time on your hands" - The crew has a few days to do their own thing. Select two crew members at random and have each make a roll on the Exploration Table (p.80).

Leonidas decides he really likes it here on the planet Aceso Menrva Prime . This place is rather nice, really. When you are ready to leave this world, unless it is being Invaded, you must pay 1 story point or this crew member will decide to stay behind. If they do, you can keep their equipment, though.

Moreva picks up a delivery package and promises to bring it on to the next planet. 

That's an interesting tension, getting one thing that encourages me to move on to a new planet, and another result that discourages it. That's kind of cool.

Character Event: -  Moreva has a lot of time to burn. She can perform two Crew Actions next Campaign turn.


Thank you for reading!  See also the Index of my Five Parsecs articles for more content.

Corwin Is Wrong

 Spoiler Warning: I'm going to spoil a bit of book 5 of Roger Zelazny's Amber novels, and I'm also really going to spoil his unrelated short story "A Rose For Ecclesiastes". 


I say the following sentence frequently when I'm talking in person about Amber, but it dawned on me that I'm not sure I've ever put it directly in writing on this blog:

I believe that the thesis statement or through-line of the first five Amber novels is "Corwin is wrong." About everything. Every 50 pages, the reader discovers something new that he's wrong about. At least once per novel, the thing he was wrong about is huge and world-shaking, and utterly transforms our understanding of the universe. Being wrong is kind of Corwin's thing.

This is important. Not only because it's a major theme of the books, and critical to their mystery and procedural plotlines, but also because Corwin is a misogynist. He is instantly contemptuous and dismissive of his sisters in book one, writing them off as unimportant, incapable, and at best worthy of his big manly protection. This, like everything else, is an assessment about which Corwin is tragically wrong.  Deirdre is a bad-ass hyper-competent warrior-woman who cracks the spines of werewolves with her bare hands, and all of his sisters are way more clever and skilled then Corwin gives them credit for. To say more verges on spoiler territory, but if you don't understand that Corwin is wrong about everything, those early opinions he shares about his sisters in book one are hard to stomach.

I mean, yes the novels are older, and from a less-enlightened decade... and I'm not saying Corwin isn't a wrong headed pig...but I feel like the truth that is clearly there in the subtext (but just not on Corwin's conscious radar) is a lot less dated and objectionable than it seems upon first reading of the first book. A book whose title, unfortunately, also pushes the sexism by declaring in large font that only male heirs of Amber matter. Even knowing it's wrong and that's subtly the point, there are still passages that are cringe-inducing. It's a shame, because the books are full of wondrously imaginative concepts, multilayered mythologizing, vivid and unique imagery, and clever wordplay. All of that greatness is potentially rendered unpalatable by his main character's sexist worldview, and by the slow understated way the author gradually reveals the inaccuracy of this aspect of Corwin's philosophy, threaded amongst all the other flashier things he's likewise proven wrong about. I would have loved to see Deirdre or Fiona or Dara directly call him out on this BS, and they never do. 

Now, I'm obviously a Zelazny apologist, but I don't think I'm just forcing my own interpretation into the text. Corwin assumes his sisters are irrelevant to the succession struggle, but (and here's where that spoiler alert comes in) his sister Fiona in particular is absolutely critical to the outcome. Corwin is wrong about her, repeatedly.  She's more powerful than Corwin, and understands more of the universe's secret truths than nearly all of her siblings, and is a far smoother schemer than any of them. She employs magics that Corwin can't hope to understand, breaks the laws of the physics, and makes it look like child's play while she's at it. She makes an assassination attempt in a room full wary, hyper-vigilant warrior-gods, literally under their noses, and then calmly interacts with them all for an hour after the blade is found sticking out of someone's kidney before strolling away olly-olly-oxen-free. If she had not parted ways from Brand, the villian(s) would have won. But that's not exactly clear-cut feminism. I mean, you could interpret Fiona's witchy ways and changing allegiances as yet another form of misogyny on the part of the author, especially if the Amber novels are the only thing you've ever read by him. For a long time, I've hoped I was reading authorial intent correctly, but also worried that maybe I was just giving Zelazny way too much credit.

Recently, I read A Rose For Ecclesiastes, which was one of the first stories by Zelazny to have ever been published. It's a remarkably clever myth-laden tale of a human linguist meeting an alien culture and falling in love with an exotic alien woman. As you read through it, you find familiar tropes of the star-crossed lovers, with an undercurrent about an ancient prophecy and a dying civilization. You think you know where it's going, and the glorious but predictable way it will surely end. Then you get to the last two paragraphs, and the rug is pulled out from under the main character and the reader alike. Gallinger is as wrong as Corwin. The woman he's in love with does not reciprocate his feelings, and he's a big dumb wrong-headed idiot for not realizing it sooner. And where you might expect then the story to follow other tropes about him carrying a torch and trying to win her love, it instead just ends. The brief but powerful realization of the sudden completion of the story is clearly this: being the main character of your own life story does not automatically entitle you to the love and admiration of others. Neither does it guarantee that the truth of the  world in any way resembles your biased perceptions and opinions.  Sometimes you're just wrong, and the only mature response is to incorporate the new information, and move on. Apparently, that's been part of Zelazny's message from the very beginning. 

(That, or I'm falling victim to confirmation bias.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Horse Or 10

    The following is the campaign log for the tenth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign, entitled A Horse Of Another Timbre. One of my players keeps a log of the scenes, and another maintains a quote list.  As usual, I have combined them with a few extra notes of my own after the fact.  I post them here several months after, which allows me to add in a few little clarifications without worrying too much about spoiling future plotlines for my players.

You can also Start from Session #1 or just pick up at Session #9.


The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys of Amber. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  • Spinturnix, (aka Nix), son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, nonbinary offspring orphan of Dierdre
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos, and the long-dead Prince Osric of Amber 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels, such as Prince Caine, who's currently not getting along with King Random.   In this session, I also put the Spotted Men of Gahmery on screen for a scene, and they are a classic Amber deep cut that I don't think I'd ever used in 6 previous Amber campaigns.

There's a few new NPCs as well, such as Jinna the Scullion, a servant who keeps showing up at the peripheries of shenanigans in the castle. And then there's this mysterious black unicorn wandering about.

Setting the Scene: When last we saw our heroes, Dalz, Medore and Maarit where hiding a black unicorn in the castle. Nix and David were on the beach with Caine, and about to fight a bunch of werewolves that used to work for the deceased King Eric. 


Campaign log: 4 January 2021, turn by turn, Session #10

Scene 1 -  Dalziel, Medore, and Maarit hanging out with a unicorn.
Maarit fetches some snacks and supplies from town as they establish a base of operations. Dalziel, who is injured, reassures Medore that he can help bandage the wounded unicorn, which seems to have been attacked by the other unicorn. They debate the medical efficacy of potential treatments, and potential ways they could escape if attacked. Dalziel asks Medore to pack a "go bag" for him. Medore grudgingly agrees.

Medore pokes through Dalziel's notes. 

Scene 2 - Abn Haram goes on a journey with his Mom
Abn has prepared for the journey, so they're heading off on their sail, but he picks up his turtle before they go. Someone at the dock shouts at Nykae rudely. The shouter, a spotted man of Gahmery, is a different species, acts and looks pretty rude. He thought Nykae would be a cat. Their names are Jeddick and Narvis. They get very rude with Abn Haram, then shove him. So he tells Brute to go after him and Brute knocks the obnoxious one down and hurts him badly. In response, his pals pull out swords and menace Abn Haram.

Haram defends Brute, isn't looking to kill people, but will be non-lethal if it's convenient. The fight begets more fighting and soon there's a brawl going on. Haram badly wounds one of the men, their leader, who refuses to back down in any way, and Haram ends up killing him. The thugs are mostly wounded, in retreat.

They get the boat underway, and Haram pulls one of the thugs aboard. Haram and Nykae discuss whether the thugs were targeted assassins. Haram searches the pockets of the thug and finds a drawing that looks like Nykae in multiple forms, used purple and black to highlight her shape.

Scene 3 - On the beach with some weir and Caine - Nix and David
Caine's men form into a line with him. The wolves charge Caine while others try to flank the line of men to get behind the line. David goes to defend while Nix gathers spears. 

David successfully mangles the hand of one of the wolves.

Nix tries to intervene as a wolf kills one of the guards, the wolf springs at Nix and is impaled on the harpoon, swiping at Nix's face from atop the harpoon. It gauges Nix's arm, then David hacks at its neck and leaves it bloody and spraying blood all over Nix. The wolf backs away, trying to dis-impale itself.

David riles up the other werewolf, then returns to help Nix. Nix rolls up, following the harpoon to keep it between himself and the wolf. He casts BODILY DEFENSE, which causes a bright orange shimmer and gives more magic than would be expected in Amber. David decapitates the wolf menacing Nix, then turns to help the scrum.

Nix tries to call Fiona on the card and she's busy in the middle of something and got only sound. He disconnects. Next he tries to call Eric, who offers escape. Nix takes his hand and alerts David, then sends through the wounded soldier.

David engages the other wolves, teaming up with Caine to incapacitate the wolves using teamwork. After the foot-soldier wier are dispatched, the leader wier says "take me home now" and vanishes by means of Tarot. Caine throws a dagger after him and laments it.

Caine goes about killing and shredding the incapacitated weir. Nix sends the strongly wounded men through to the castle, thanks his uncle. David collects the dropped gauntlet, and he and Nix return to the castle through Random's card .

Scene 2b - Abn Haram 
Reveals to Nykae that the King suspects Caine of treachery. They sail into a storm and things look bad, but Abn Haram speaks with the ship's master and starts using magic to alter the ship for their benefit.

Scene 1b - Maarit in town, Medore in the castle, Dalziel recouperating
Maarit buys supplies, then calls Medore to let them know that things are going a little strange in town, then goes to investigate. She wanders toward a street preacher/ speaker who is identifying vessels in the port: "knife in the dark," the "lancer," the "vile venom." Maarit learns that out in the bay that a bunch of ships have put on signal lights at the same time, looks like an invasion fleet, so Maarit returns to the castle.

Scene 3b - David and Nix on the beach again
Caine warns that he's planning to invade Rebma and invites David to join him. David demurs and goes with Nix back to the castle. They arrive with four men in really bad shape, plus a badly injured Nix, They help with the triage.

A page comes running in to tell Random that there are "236 ships." Nix and Random (and David) discuss Julian's disappearance, and the weir attack. The King takes Nix and David to the kitchen to further discuss the events. David shares the events from the beach, including Caine's potential treachery and Medore's escape. Random worries about Rebma and scowls about Caine. 

They eat the meal Random prepared. (EDIT: David prepared.) In a discussion of the military, David suggests that perhaps the younger generation can help raise armies and defend Amber. Nix offers to bring troops from Oberon's Loupe, and Random agrees that this would be a good thing to do. Random tells David he'd like him to be in charge of parts of Random's military. He also considers recruiting Maarit and Dalziel as army leaders too.

Nix heads to Oberon's Loupe, David takes command of the 2nd regiment. 

The ships off shore look menacing but no invasion happens. They stop near Rebma.

GMs Addendum to Session 10:

Scene 1c - What to do about Rebma and/or the Unicorn - Maarit, Medore, Dalziel, Llewella, Corwin, Black Unicorn

Maarit calls Llewella to check in. Llewella is certain that Queen Psamathe of Rebma must be dead or captured, as its been enough hours that even if the Queen had been fighting the Tritons this whole time there almost has to have been an opportunity to slip off for a moment and call. Llewella will need to raise an army to try to retake the city, but this is difficult because it's outside her skillset and also there's that whole bit she was telling Maarit about the other night where someone keeps putting traps and puzzles in Llewella's way in shadow.

Medore has an army, however. Maarit brokers Medore offering their army to supplement Llewella's. It's a tech-based army but should retrain easily because underwater takes strategies similar to zero-G which they trained in. Medore's terms are basically that Llewella will later have to protect an unspecified 3rd party who helped defend Rebma earlier this night. Being a bit desperate, she agrees. Now, how to get the Army to her? Medore isn't ready to travel right now (as she has a badly injured unicorn), but she offers to give the army to Maarit to lead. All agreed, they hang up.

But how to get Maarit out to the army. They think of 4 ways: 1) walk the pattern 2) sneak through Arden 3) sneak past Caine's fleet 4) trump a family member who's far away.  Maarit writes all 4 on a piece of paper, along with: 5) something else. Her pendulum swings to something else. They try to brainstorm, but can't figure out what the else is with certainty.  A knocking sound happens in the hall way, draws closer, and eventually happens inside the wardrobe in this room. This starts creeping them out, as it might mean there's going to be an attack from the wardrobe.

They call Corwin, who is outside smoking in the dark. They consider going to him, but think better of it as that would be 4) not 5), and the Pendulum insisted 5).

Maarit draws a new diagram. It says A) Corwin  B) Tapestry/Door in the Turquoise Dining Room  C) Knocking. The pendulum swings back and forth between B & C, in rhythm with the previous knocking sound.  They decide maybe that means the knocking and the tapestry/door are the same thing somehow. So Maarit leaves the room, and heads to the Turquoise Dining Room.

Scene 4: What's Behind Door #2? (Maarit and eventually Fiona)

There's two people there, re-hanging the tapestry. They are Jinna the Scullion and Jeeves the Janitor. Jinna has lots of enthusiasm and questions for Maarit about the mysterious door, which only opens to a recess in the wall when Jinna opens it, but a few hours ago (after the unicorn appeared) opened to a mysterious foggy place where Fiona had cautiously gone to explore.

After much trial and error, Maarit is able to figure out how to open the door using her pendant. She calls out to Fiona in the fog, and gets a reply. There's some amusing banter as Maarit tries to ensure that this isn't some doppleganger or fog monster, and then Fiona does the same. Fiona says the place beyond is full of doors and stairs, an "Interstitional Space", a "Liminal Place", and the "Trough of the Sine Wave of Reality", the "Grand Stair" and "The In-Between". She's been seeking it for years, and tonight gained access for the first time. She would like Maarit to help her explore it, but they'll need some twine to mark their way in the maze.

Maarit sends Jinna the Scullion for twine, and she comes back with a bag full of knitting needles, spools and balls of yarn, and a half-finished miniature sweater for a yorkshire terrier. Fiona and Maarit send Jinna and Jeeves away. After some tests to ascertain that they'll be able to open the door again from either side, they both go into the In-Between, tie a good bit of yarn to the lock, and walk a bit from stair to stair until they find one with a good-sized landing at a door, where they can both sit down and talk, so there's no chance that what Fiona tells her will make Maarit fall into the foggy emptiness.

Here's the important bits of what she says:

  • This space was probably made by Dworkin, maybe Oberon. Trumps don't seem to work when you're here.
  • Fiona's been trying to access it for many years. Tonight is like the witching hour, samhain or all hallow's eve. For metaphysical reasons, the doors are easier to open tonight.
  • She had a vision that she would gain access to the door by having dinner with Maarit in that particular room, so she may have pulled a few strings to make that happen. Or maybe she innocently bumbled into Maarit, and instantly knew on seeing her that she was the woman from her vision, so then suggested dinner in that room. There's definitely a note of manipulativeness, but for a good cause.
  • The only person that Fiona knew had access to this place had been Brand, and she'd been trying to access it because.... (drum roll)... she believes that Brand engineered Sand's dissapearance, and used this place to do it. "So we might be able to find your mom!"
  • There is a hitch, in that Fiona saw, and fled from, a man on one of the millions of landings. A man with a Tommy Gun who shot at her, but didn't chase her. She'd been keeping intricate records of her walk before that, and got lost because of the attack.
  • A man with a gun means the mystery lies that way. Either he's a goon of Brand's, or an unknown enemy of Amber, or just a guard posted at an important door. Whichever way, that's worth a poke.

They move the string from the Amber door to this larger platform's doorknob, so that if anything goes wrong and the enemy is able to backtrack the route it doesn't lead them to Amber, but instead several doors off the mark. And then they head into danger/adventure.


 The Quotes Of Chaos:

Session 10: 1/4/2021

I have an understanding of medicine but mostly theoretical. I can show you a few things and between the two of us we should be able to keep it stable. -Dal    (Note: the “it” in question was a horse, so everyone assumed it was an intentional pun)

Werewolves are just the fishes of the forest. -Rolfe

You said Caine was with you… (to offscreen: Guards! More Guards) -Random

He arrives a half a second before his entrails do. - Rolfe

No…  nothing has changed, but I, however, must! - Medore

If there are too many dishes, I got to a shadow with fewer dishes! - Andrew

“(question about stats Abn Haram would clearly care about)... I’m asking for Cindy.” -Peter

“I had no idea he was one of the younger ones. No wonder nobody likes him.” - Jeremy, about Julian

(If you're looking for more quotes that used to be in this post, they were incorrectly labeled as being part of this session, but were actually part of Session 11 and have been moved there.)