"Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" Session 40.24 — Avoiding a civil war

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.24, which was held on Sunday, 20 July 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the D20 Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rulesSkype, and an online dice roller, as of summer 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O./absent]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) from the Tiger Clan with a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 6
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 6
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H.]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 6

“13 to 15 May 1227 B.C.E.:” The explorers narrowly evaded bulettes while riding across the steppes to scout out a large army approaching the city of Sogewa. They met Lady Fu Hao, commander of the Shang forces, and obtained a few days to return to the city before the rogue Prince Zu Ji is besieged.

After some discussion about what to do next, the team goes to the manor of Duke Kou Fei Seng, the former ruler of Tong Sheng who assigned it to investigate the army. Toshi stays at Silado Palace to watch Gokuri emissary Lady Yun Aei-Yong.

The wanderers find the duke under house arrest. Soske’ recognizes a guard as one of the mercenaries who arrived with Prince Zu Ji, now clad in imperial livery. Saigo explains that they have already reported to the prince, who gave them permission to talk to the duke.

Jung-Mo and Ember flirt to distract eavesdroppers in the garden, and Saigo quietly tells Duke Kou Fei Seng about how the emperor’s favored concubine is approaching Sogewa with about 10,000 soldiers. Sonny adds that Lady Fu Hao is not afraid to sack the city if she deems it necessary.

The duke says that their “mutual friend is also resting comfortably,” referring toGen. Wang Tung, who had sought to prevent the group from reporting to him on growing unrest in the province but is in secret custody. Sonny says that the general might yet be useful.

Kou Fei Seng agrees to tell Saigo and Jung-Mo about hidden passages into the palace, but he does not want to know the details of their plans to deal with the prince and prevent a siege of Sogewa. The travelers thank the duke for his help and discuss their options on the way back to their guest quarters.

Jung-Mo observes that although Lady Fu Hao commands a large army, a provincial capital such as Sogewa still has the advantage of numbers and defense. The “Spirit Folk merchant” also says that it’s more important to avoid bloodshed than take sides.

Sonny concurs that, given the choice between the aggressive female general and Prince Zu Ji, he’d prefer to divert their conflict from harming common folk. The Shengtese human suggests spreading misinformation to distract the duplicitous prince.

Crane Hengeyokai (recently revealed as an exiled gold dragon) Ember wonders aloud if it would be possible to evacuate Sogewa, but the others say it would be too difficult without cooperation from various clan leaders in the prince’s court.

Saigo wants to infiltrate the palace and capture the crown prince to deliver to the queen, but Sonny notes that there is a high probablility of tripping an alarm and being trapped. The Bamboo Spirit Folk considers disguising himself to pose as Zu Ji, but his men would soon see through such a ruse.

Soske’ warns that further disruptions of the principality’s leadership would feed the growing chaos, and the Shengtese human urges his companions to avoid drawing weapons for as long as possible. The adventurers eventually agree to consult Lady Yun.

They find more imperial sentries and attendants surrounding the Gokuri delegate. Draconian bodyguard Oh Kum Ja is pleased with her new scale armor. Sonny, Saigo, and Ember request a private audience, and Jung-Mo and Soske’ cautiously follow.

Ember sings to Jung-Mo to distract anyone listening in. Saigo tells Lady Yun about Prince Zu Ji’s defiance of his father, the distant Emperor Zi Zhao, and Lady Fu Hao’s army. The Nannuattan woman offers to give the prince asylum as way to get him to leave the city-state.

Sonny and Soske’ aren’t sure the prince will accept, and Jung-Mo and Ember don’t trust Lady Yun. Still, the party goes with her back to the prince. Jung-Mo and Toshi stealthily check out side passages.

Lady Yun tells Prince Zu Ji that it would be better if he visited his subjects in the countryside rather than fight in Sogewa. The sly Dark Elf says that Gokuri and Tong Sheng can both benefit from trade and closer association, and that the prince can return later as triumphant liberator. He agrees to travel with her north, toward Akilu Castle.

Prince Zu Ji says that he will be ready to leave with Lady Yun the next morning, before Lady Fu Hao’s arrival. Jung-Mo and Sonny later note that the Nannuattan now stand to gain, regardless of who takes control of the city.

Samurai Saigo writes a letter to Lady Fu Hao telling her where to intercept the prince. Ember and Toshi shift to owl form to go out to the army. Shukenja Soske’ avoids his nosy family and casts Wind Walk to accompany the Druid and Wu Jen.

Yakuza Jung-Mo watches Toshi’s tiger Amaya, and Kensai Sonny keeps a close watch on Lady Yun. Saigo heads to the House of the Red Lotus for a night’s entertainment.

As they fly over Sogewa’s tiled roofs, Ember, Toshi, and Soske’ see Wizards’ familiars, as well as Lady Liao Qianru, an ancient red-scaled dragon. They hastily change course to avoid her [Byron owes Beruk “candy”] and fly eastward over the Plains of Sathendo.

The trio sees a farmer’s cart being attacked by five large vampiric bats, but it does not pause in its task. Several li later, tents and Shang banners appear on the horizon. Soske’ signals to land inside the outer perimeter but before the bulk of the camp.

Ember presents a battle standard of a brass foo creature to gain admission to a portable pavilion. She notices a few simian Vanara among the armored humans, as well as recently captured bulettes. Soske’s True Seeing reveals a glamour and wards.

Lady Fu Hao studies maps of Sogewa with generals Zhi and Hou Gao. The scouts relay Saigo’s message and report on the unnatural bat swarms. Lady Fu orders Gen. Zhi to still go to the city but not to engage its militia.

Gen. Hou Gao takes a portion of the army to sweep north to look for Undead and potential ambushes. Axe-wielding Fu plans to apprehend Prince Zu Ji herself and bring him back to the city rather than execute him, as per the group’s recommendation.

Ember warns the emperor’s concubine about a chromatic dragon in the city, and Soske’ casts Find the Path to help Gen. Hou find the vampire nest. Meanwhile, back in Sogewa….

Byron, we missed you again at last night’s game, but I hope you’ll be able to rejoin us in the coming weeks! While the Boston-area, face-to-face group won’t meet tonight, I look forward to continuing the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” campaign as well as Bruce’s “Eberron/Reign of Winter” miniseries.

In the meantime, remember to look at the latest character record template on Obsidian Portal as we prepare for Level 7.

"Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" Session 40.23 — Bulettes, battle axe, and back to Silado Palace

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.23, which was held on Sunday, 14 July 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the D20 Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rulesSkype, and an online dice roller, as of summer 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O./absent]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) from the Tiger Clan with a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 6
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 6
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 6
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H./absent]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 6

“9 to 12 May 1227 B.C.E.:” After accepting a mission to scout out an unidentified army approaching Sogewa, the capital of Tong Sheng, a band of explorers fought Ninjas and three creatures cursed for intemperate desires. The group continued across the wide Plains of Sathendo.

Sonny recommends approaching the army as a band of merchants and discreetly asking about its intentions. Saigo notes that he and Ember could pose as a Spirit Folk couple, with Shengtese humans Sonny and Soske’ as locals.

Ember wants to return to the skies to continue scouting; she had previously seen signs of large burrowing beasts. Soske’ points out that the adventuring party is too well armed and doesn’t have enough trade goods to pass as peasants.

Jung-Mo, who usually presents himself as a wealthy wanderer, stays out of sight to watch the band’s back for more foes. Toshi studies arcane spells and offers to accompany Ember in bird form.

Ember shifts into crane form and flies east over the steppes. The Hengeyokai again sees the upturned earth from bulettes, or land sharks, and she stays out of arrow range as she passes over numerous rows of armored soldiers. Ember observes a foo creature battle standard and heads back to her companions.

To cross the wilderness quickly, Saigo removes any extra gear and supplies from the horses and leaves Jung-Mo and Toshi to guard the cache. The Shan Sao Wu Jen casts Gaseous Form and Haste to help the others avoid the bulettes.

Even so, one of the land sharks leaps up and manages to take two bites out of Soske’ as he carries Sonny and Saigo across the grasslands via Wind Walk. Wu Ember leads the way to rocky ground.

Shukenja Soske’ heals himself while waiting for the army to approach. Samurai Saigo identifies the heraldry that Ember saw as that of the Shang Empire, based in distant Yin.

A high-ranking scout with a fierce steed and large bird of prey rides up to the group. Sonny warns the imperial officer about the bulettes and asks to be taken to his leader. Gen. Hou Gao personally escorts the explorers through the ranks of thousands of troops.

Most of the Shang soldiers wear banded bronze armor and carry spears and broad swords. Chariots and archers march alongside wagons of supplies. The elite troops wear scale and carry a variety of weapons. Sonny recognizes the chrysanthemum standard of the imperial house.

Shang army

Imperial army

Gen. Gao brings the newcomers before the august presence of Lady Fu Hao, who commands about 10,000 men and is a priestess as well as Emperor Zi Zhao’s favored concubine (out of 60). She wears fine armor and listens to the group’s formal introductions.

Kensai Sonny reports that Prince Zu Ji has assumed control over Sogewa, the provincial capital, and Lady Fu says that is not the will of his father, the emperor. Soske’ describes the Undead and other manifestations of growing chaos that he has encountered, and the oracle says that she has sensed similar problems.

The empress compliments Ember’s manners from the Celestial Court, and the exile uses a magical mirror to reveal her true nature as a dragon to her friends and Lady Fu. They are surprised but supportive.

Lady Fu recognizes the Saigo family name and asks about his grandfather Shinso, who the knight says is missing. Wu Ding’s concubine offers to help in any way she can, but she is determined to destroy any traitors first.

The diplomats ask the queen for time to avoid a bloody siege of Sogewa, in which many innocents would suffer. Lady Fu acknowledges that it may take her forces a few additional days to cross the lands of the bulettes, but she promises to inflict her full wrath against any who oppose the mandate of heaven.

Lady Fu leaps up, draws a battle axe from her back, and cuts the head off a standard before gracefully landing on her feet. She gives the brass piece to Ember as a token of her command.

Soske’ agrees to swear fealty to the empress, but the priest hesitates when he recognizes her axe, which he saw in a vision that indicated that the blade would change the course of history. Lady Fu offers a whistling long sword instead, and as Soske’ puts his hand on it to swear, he glimpses armies clashing on the way to his prophesied destiny.

Saigo and company depart and ride back to Sogewa, collecting Jung-Mo and Toshi on the way. Ember is upset about revealing herself as a draconic outcast, but the entire group is unwavering in respecting the Druid’s honor.

Soske’ casts Air Walk upon his horse to avoid the bulettes. Sonny, Saigo, and Jung-Mo follow at full gallop, and Ember and Toshi fly overhead. Saigo gets bitten but manages to keep running, and Sonny and Ember distract the monster with artillery.

The scouts and their exhausted horses eventually return to the rice paddies and wheat fields surrounding Sogewa. Six sentries stop them and ask for identification. Armored Saigo says that he was sent by Duke Kou Fei Seng to investigate the approaching army.

The guards decide to ride with the party into the city, and Soske’ recognizes akatar (punching dagger) of the Scorpion Clan. The travelers are wary as they are brought to the inner tiers and sprawling Silado Palace.

Flanked by aristocrats from numerous clans, Prince Zu Ji greets the team. Saigo reports on the bulettes but claims that he did not directly engage the approaching army. The crown prince orders the militia to muster more troops for the realm’s defense.

Sisters Bai Lei Qing and Dao Lei Qing again offer to bring the travelers to their quarters, but Sonny asks to speak with Lady Yun Aei-Yong first. Smiling Li Keng brings them to the Nannuattan (eastern Dark Elf) emissary of Gokuri.

Soske’ asks Lady Yun, whom the group had been assigned to escort, how she has been for the past few days. The sly delegate says that she has met more potential allies in the Crab, Crane, and Dragon clans and that Prince Zu Ji has agreed to extend trade between Gokuri and Tong Sheng.

Sonny and Saigo think that Lady Yun might be useful in helping them get closer to the prince, but Soske’ and Jung-Mo don’t trust her. Ember and Toshi warn their friends to watch out for clan politics, which could complicate opening the city to Lady Fu’s army peacefully.

After a brief rest, Saigo says that the next thing to do is to visit Duke Kou Fei Seng, the prior ruler of Sogewa, who had taken rogue Gen. Wang Tung into custody before being placed under house arrest himself….

It was great to resume our adventures, and Dexter and Byron, we missed you! Note that I’ve added recent acquisitions to my bibliography, including the retro-clone Arrows of Indrathe BRP-based Celestial Empireand the FATE-based Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade.

Speaking of which, I’ve updated my D20/FATE house rules slightly; let me know what you think. I look forward to Bruce’s “PathfinderEberron/Reign of Winter” miniseries, starting tonight, and remember to watch the scheduling threads on our message boards.

Fun and games in June and July 2014

As usual, the start of summer has been busy. On Saturday, 21 June 2014, Janice and I went to the Compleat Strategist in Boston for Free RPG Day. We then met role-players Beruk A., Rich C.G., and some of Rich's friends at Pandemonium Books & Games in Cambridge, Mass.

I picked up free fantasy supplements for Castles & Crusades, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Pathfinder, as well as quickstarters for the superhero Valiant Universe and cyberpunk/fantasy Shadowrun. Clearly, I'm still in a retro-clone, old-school Renaissance (OSR) frame of mind.

Other recent acquisitions include Arrows of Indra, Celestial Empire, and the FATE (Core) Freeport Companion, all of which should be useful for my long-running "Vanished Lands" campaign, which is currently using D20/FATE house rules.

As you may have seen by now, I ran four games in one week! After the latest Creation Star Trek convention in Boston (more on that later), I ran my usual "Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" telecom team on Sunday, June 22. The Player Characters encountered monsters while scouting an army approaching the city of Sogewa.

On Monday, June 23, the "Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" face-to-face group continued its adventures. That adventuring party has traveled through time to free some slaves.

Byron V.O., an alumnus of the Boston-area groups who now lives in St. Louis and participates in "A New Dawn" via Skype, stayed with Janice and me after a business trip back east. On Friday, June 27, I ran an extra "Vistel's Expedition" session, and Byron and I were pleased at the strong turnout.

Byron V.O.'s June 2014 visit

"Vistel's Expedition," summer 2014

On Saturday, June 28, I ran "Star Trek: Restoration," and it was nice to host a smaller group for the first time since moving from Needham to Waltham, Mass. The crew of the U.S.S. Rotha was involved in a tense standoff with Romulan warbirds!

After that afternoon session, we met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. and Josh C. for a solid Italian dinner at Fiorella's in Newton. Byron, who is always a good houseguest and fun gaming companion, left on Sunday, June 29.

On Monday, June 30, Josh ran a one-shot of Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, using FATE Core (reminding me of what I like and what I'd tweak). That wuxia (Asian-style fantasy) scenario was among the one-shots and miniseries my groups have tried out each summer in between longer campaigns.

Pregenerated P.C.s for "Hammer, Don't Touch This!" — Josh C.'s Tianxia one-shot at Brian W.'s home in Newton, Mass.:

  • "Ma Wei Sheng" [Gene D.]-male eastern human, wandering nobleman, taciturn warrior determined to get out from his family's shadow and make a name for himself
  • "Smiling Ox" [Beruk A.]-male human, master of the Demon Hammer, boastful brute with large appetites and a heart of gold
  • "Sister Chuntao" [Brian W.]-female human, Bodhist nun and former thief, conscious of checkered past and seeking harmony, with monkey Sun
  • "Jasmina" [Sara F.]-female tiger, talking animal with scars and a strong sense of justice
  • "Han 'Dragon Dog' Ping" [Bruce K.]-male human, enthusiastic young adventurer and working-class hero
  • "Yee Wong" [Rich C.G.]-male human, old Daoist wizard, immortal but absent-minded and irascible alchemist
  • "Wolf-Eyed Yue" [Brian S.]-female human, wild woman and member of the secret White Widow sect devoted to helping women defend themselves

The Boston-area and telecom games took a break around the Independence Day weekend, during which Janice and I hosted one of our nieces. During the latest "JasonCon" on Monday, July 7, Jason E.R. (whose "Glassworks: the Devil's Den" superhero scenario using Icons: Great Power recently ended) graciously hosted Rich's School Daze, a narrative, rules-light game typically focusing on high school archetypes.

P.C.s for Rich C.G.'s third School Daze session, held in Reading, Mass.:

  • "Emo Wallach" [Gene D.]-male human goth, junior at Trowbridge High School specializing in art and comfortable in dank spaces; discovered a dead dog and classmate during a stormy night at Camp Crystal Lake; later a friend of "Reasonable Squid" reporter Cynthia Hoskins
  • "Chuck Taylor" [Jason E.R.]-male human jock, Trowbridge senior and friend of "Fighting Krakens" water polo Coach Bronkowski and his bullying son Murphy, helped defeat a homicidal alien with surprise tire-iron attacks; after a change of heart, became a nerd defender
  • "Brandon Shaw" [Bruce K.]-male human, shop yank and Trowbridge junior, prone to bad humor; fancies himself a ladies' man and good with an axe in a scrap
  • "Alan Morris" [Brian S.]-male human Trowbridge senior and budding filmmaker; friend of Henry Lee Jackson, an old hermit with a hook hand; recorded attack by assistant camp leader "Ms. Bellum," who was actually a mantis-like alien; dating Chuck's younger sister Tracy
  • "Feskilado 'Fesky' Mepeselph" [Erik R.]-male human Trowbridge senior, science and clank/electronics expert; snuck pet dogs and cat into camp; later found beheaded, and cat Severus was revealed as an alien guardian

I expect "A New Dawn" to resume this coming Sunday, July 13, and Bruce K. will begin his "Eberron/Pathfinder: Reign of Winter" miniseries next Monday. So many games, so little time!

In related news, the Dungeons & Dragons (5e/"Next") Basic Rules have been released. While there are no earth-shattering revelations, especially after a lengthy playtest period, I'm pleased that Wizards of the Coast released this as a free PDF.

As I've noted elsewhere, this looks closer to what I would have preferred for D&D4e, with a mix of AD&D2 style and D&D3.5/D20/4e rules. We'll still have to wait and see whether D&D5e will tempt role-players away from Pathfinder, OSR, and various indie systems.

"Star Trek: Restoration" Episode 2 — Driving the wedge

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for our second Star Trek session, which I hosted in Waltham, Mass., during Byron V.O.’s visit on Saturday, 28 June 2014:

“Space, the final frontier. Our starship’s mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Almost four decades after the Enterprise-E fought the Borg and Remans [Nemesis], among others, the United Federation of Planets (U.F.P.) and other interstellar states in the Alpha Quadrant are slowly recovering from wars and ecological disasters. A refitted vessel takes a new crew on its first missions of defense, diplomacy, and exploration….

Player Characters for Gene D.’s “Star Trek: Restoration” space opera scenario, using D20 Prime DirectiveFATE 3e Starblazer Adventures, Mindjammer 2e, Bulldogs, and house rules, summer 2014:

  • “Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kyerak” [Bruce K.]-half-Vulcan with a temper, in the U.S.S. Rotha’s command division
  • “Lt. Orzzek Kalifa” [Byron V.O.]-male Andorian (blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae), assertive science officer
  • “Froot” [Rich C.G.]-male Ferengi (short, large-eared extraterrestrial) merchant and negotiator, DaiMon and owner of the trade vessel Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Kimbal Tegan” [Beruk A.]-male Trill (long-lived symbiont), operations specialist aboard the Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Lt. Jarric Jameson” [Dexter V.H./absent]-male genetically modified human colonist (former Maquis) communications and wilderness survival expert aboard the Rotha
  • “Lt. Mari Killu” [Sara F./absent]-female Caitian (felinoid) security/tactical officer
  • “Lt. Boran’ Gorir” [Josh C./absent]-male Jem’Hadar (bio-engineered Dominion soldier), aggressive envoy/engineer

Previously, in “Star Trek: Restoration,” the U.S.S. Rotha was assigned to bring representatives of the Klingon Empire home through the Neutral Zone. However, several crew members were murdered, and junior officers were forced to subdue a Gorn and an Orion. In addition, the junior officers uncovered an Undine disguised with a holo-emitter.

“Stardate 95248.01 (2 April 2418):” Two Valdore -class Romulan warbirds decloak, and Capt. Andelina Nobatu brings the U.S.S.Rotha to yellow alert. Lt. Kyerak and Lt. Orzzek Kalifa race to the bridge. The Vulcan takes the helm from En. Brandon Marks, and the Andorian sits at an auxiliary science station to process scan results for Edosian Lt. K’dex.

The rest of the Rotha ‘s 900 Starfleet personnel ready for battle. Lt. Jarrick Jameson and Lt. Mari Killu prepare to repel potential boarders, and Lt. Boran’ Gorir diverts energy to shields. Tensions are high as Subcommander Vurik of the Varguille demands that Capt. Nobatu hand over the Klingon emissaries, the Orion D’naar and the Gorn “Hands of Giblets.”

The Terran human captain successfully asks for some time and has a quick conference with her bridge crew. Kyerak recommends patience, impressing first officer Cmdr. Nasami Wahid.

Kalifa notes that Romulan cloaking technology has continued to advance in reaction to Federation sensors, but he believes he can compensate when acquiring targets for photon torpedoes.

The meeting is interrupted when another vessel drops out of warp. A small Ferengi trader hails the assembled ships. DaiMon Froot quickly assesses the standoff and offers the Love’s Latinum Lost as a neutral meeting place for negotiations.

Despite the Ferengi’s insulting tone, Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik agree to send representatives. On the way to a transporter room, Lt. Kyerak stops by the “Starlight Lounge” to pick up some Andorian ale from Bolian bartender Mr. Vallcin. Lt. Kalifa asks holographic chief medical officer “Dr. Jones” for autopsy results on the Undine.

DaiMon Froot offers beetle snuff to Kyerak upon his arrival and introduces his colleague, Kimbal Tegan, a laid-back Trill. Kalifa is skeptical of the newcomers’ claim that they just happened to be passing through the Neutral Zone.

Subcommander Miral Gaius and Lt. Koval Solius beam over from the Romulan warbirds. They claim that the U.F.P. has been working with Klingon spies to further undermine the Rihannsu Empire.

Froot notes that according to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, “Peace is good for business, but war is even better.” Still, he manages to keep the Starfleet and Romulan delegates from coming to blows.

Mr. Kyerak manages to shrug off Lt. Solius’ insults about his half-Vulcan heritage and explains that the Rotha was indeed bringing passengers to Q’onos, but an incident with a would-be assassin led to the Orion and Gorn being wounded and placed in protective custody.

Subcommander Gaius offers to escort the Federation starship through the Neutral Zone. Confident Lt. Kalifa begins devising a plan to distract and outmaneuver the grim Romulans. Tegan notes that traveling together presents opportunities for all.

Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik cautiously concur, and the four ships head toward Klingon space. Froot gives Kyerak and Kalifa a Tribble, and Tegan celebrates and irritates by hacking into subspace channels and broadcasting old Earth music.

Back on the Rotha, Lt. Kalifa gives the Tribble to Lt. K’dex to put into stasis. Lt. Kyerak asks Cmdr. Wahid and chief of security Pierre McDonnough for permission to interrogate the prisoners, but they warn him to avoid unnecessary force.

Kyerak brings Lt. Artemis Borellis, a Betazed counselor, to the brig. He and Orzzek question green-skinned D’naar and reptilian Hands of Giblets separately. The Orion pirate claims ignorance and is not intimidated by the Starfleet officers.

The Gorn, however, admits that the Klingons and Romulans have been working together on a stealth weapon, possibly the Undine itself. Lt. Borellis observes that it’s possible the delegation included the Undine as a spy without the full awareness of even the Klingons.

The officers report to the captain, who agrees that driving a wedge between the two Federation foes is better than allowing them to collaborate with the Undine. Lt. Kalifa asks Froot if it would be possible for the Love’s Latinum Lost to broadcast an Undine bio signal to the Klingons and say that the Romulans have somehow lost control of their mission.

There is an awkward moment when Cmdr. Wahid recognizes fellow Trill Tegan from a past life. After some discussion, the Ferengi trader and Starfleet crew devise another plan. As they and the Romulans approach Camp Khitomer, Vor’cha-class battle cruisers decloak.

Capt. Nobatu tells Cmdr. Korral that a routine scan detected the Undine, who was then killed. She tells the Klingon commander that D’naar and Hands of Giblets had sent a message to unknown recipients before they were incarcerated.

DaiMon Froot jumps in to say that the Love’s Latinum Lost intercepted a message between the Romulans and the Cardassian Union. Already incensed over the failure of the diplomatic mission, Korral berates Subcommander Vurik for the perceived betrayal.

The Klingon cruisers begin firing on the Romulan ships, and theRotha takes advantage of the skirmish to make evasive maneuvers and head back toward Federation space. It takes only light damage. Engineer Lt.Cmdr. Akira Gorou extends the refitted Ambassador-class Rotha’s warp bubble and shields to bring theLove’s Latinum Lost along.

At Starbase 24, Capt. Nobatu recommends the Love’s Latinum Lostfor upgrades. Froot thanks the captain, who he says “is not bad for a hooman female.” Kimbal avoids Nasami, and Orzzek makes sure that the Orion and Gorn prisoners are safely transferred.

Cmdr. Wahid meets privately with Lt. Kyerak. She offers him a covert mission to a lost Federation colony. The planet has devolved technologically, and according to the Prime Directive, its inhabitants must be left alone until proper First Contact is made.

However, Nasami says, other interstellar states have no such reluctance about exploiting more primitive worlds. She asks Kyerak to take a small squad undercover to find and “eliminate” any outside interference. The executive officer gives him a day to consider.

In the Rotha’s Starlight Lounge, Kyerak asks Kalifa, Froot, and Kimbal to join him. Kalifa agrees with the necessity of the mission but is uncomfortable with the idea of terminating any opposition and not talking with the captain.

Froot readily agrees to help bring the team to the nonaligned system as an itinerant merchant. Kimbal, who recalls a past life as a Starfleet officer, is surprised at the covert and potentially lethal nature of the mission. He agrees to come along to keep an eye on rogue Federation factions.

Kyerak tells Cmdr. Wahid that he accepts and that he hopes for a promotion. The U.F.P. agents and neutral traders begin preparing aliases and gear….

I hope that those of you who role-played in this scenario enjoyed it as much as I did hosting and running it! Thanks again to all who participated in this and the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” session, as well as dinner at Fiorella’s for Byron’s visit.

This year’s Creation Star Trek convention in Boston was indeed inspirational. I look forward to continuing the voyages of the crew of the U.S.S. Rotha sometime, and live long and prosper….

"Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" Session 39.43 — Guitar heroes

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.43, which Rich C.G. hosted in Waltham, Mass., on Friday, 27 June 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders.

Various groups of mercenaries and diplomats have fought humanoids in the northwestern borderlands, encountered pirates on the Sea of Nagendwa, and wandered the hostile Halmed Desert and the wide Plains of Sathendo….

“Vistel’s Circus,” Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s "Vanished Lands" heroic fantasy campaign, using the D20 Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and FATE3e Legends of Anglerre, as of summer 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 9
  • Hamfast Hammerfist [Brian W.]-male Zeda (proto-Germanic) human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 9
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 9
  • Tempestade [Josh C.]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), former roustabout, now a follower of Otih; CGl, Lvl. 9
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and former ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 9
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with Banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 9
  • Rhys Davies [Drew S.]-male Tinker Gnome (Minoi) clockwork gadgeteer; TNg, Lvl. 9

(See previous notes for Paladins “Radius” [Jason E.R.] and “Sir Torrel” [Alex W.].)

“14 to 15 March 1884 A.D./C.E.:” The would-be heroes rested in the chambers of a vampire and a banshee beneath Gisar’s ruined Magisterium (magic school/library). They fought cultists of Krakas, a spectre, and a gargoyle. The group also encountered four golems, a gelatinous cube, and Draconian priests of Tiamat before activating an obelisk and traveling to Tempestade’s time….

Giacomo checks to make sure that he is in control rather than his cursed tattoo of the “Mad Mage” Ezra. Scully notices that someone other than Gregor Kratakis, a fellow member of the Order of the Golden Lion, has traveled with “Vistel’s Expedition.”

The man falls into the Brazilian jungle and defensively casts Darkness and Detect Curse before talking. “Melchior” [guest Byron V.O.] has been summoned from Thadenis, capital of the (proto-Celtic) human kingdom of Saganim. Corwin explains the situation to his countryman.

Tempestade climbs a tree to get his bearings and recognizes the trading post of Rio de Cidade. Elsa Wild Shapes into a toucan, while Rhys verifies that his clockwork devices still work. Back in barbaric Gisar, Hamfast continues carousing.

“Vistel’s Expedition” debates on how to rescue slaves from Tempestade’s former plantation and get them back to the “Vanished Lands.” Capoeirista Tempestade recommends talking to people in the village before going to Pais Doce.

Cleric Melchior, who has traveled through time before, warns Wizard Giacomo and Bard Corwin that their arcane spells may not work reliably. Ranger Scully and Druid Elsa sense their patron Mekkil (Gaia), but not as strongly as they expect.

Tinker Gnome Rhys, however, is excited at the prospect of encountering more technology. Hifalendorin human Giacomo Polymorphs his homunculus familiar Gerald into a monkey. Gnoll Scully dons a Hat of Disguise to appear as an attractive woman, since Tempestade says most of the locals are human.

Saganim human Melchior notes that the team should have a plan and that it would be better to bring the escapees somewhere other than vampire-ruled Gisar. Half-Elf Corwin wants to spend as little time in the future as possible.

Scully suggests entering Rio de Cidade as “Vistel’s Circus,” since most of the group has experience as performers. Hill Dwarf Elsa, whose winged cat Penryn is back in Gisar with Hamfast, agrees. Tempestade leads the way toward the river port.

Giacomo casts Comprehend Languages, and Corwin casts Know the Words. Melchior uses a scroll of Tongues to speak Portuguese. They buy clothing to blend in. Tempestade, Scully, and Corwin go to the local church, where they talk with Padre Franco, a Jesuit sympathetic to the peasants’ plight.

The Roman Catholic priest says that Armadeiras Fonseca, the leader of Tempestade’s mocambo (rebel band), recently visited Rio de Cidade for supplies. Taciturn Tempestade is glad to learn that his onetime allies are still alive, because he remembers them being slaughtered as he was sent thousands of years back in time to find help.

Meanwhile, the rest of the company goes to the town hall. On the way, wary Giacomo and burly Scully restrain curious Rhys from running to a steamboat at the docks. They promise to let him look at it later. Foppishly disguised Melchior and intrepid Elsa Detect Undead and ask a clerk about maps and records.

They see Lord Yves d’Agneau, owner of the Pais Doce estate, giving orders to servant Brizida Magalhaes. After some introductions, Lord d’Agneau insists that the carnival folk come for dinner and stay the night before arranging a performance for his restive slaves. Giacomo proffers a lace handkerchief gift (so he can magically track the man later).

Nimble Tempestade runs out into the jungle to find Armadeiras, followed by Scully, who Wild Shapes into a falcon, and her owl “Owlicious.” Prince Corwin rejoins the others with a planned rendezvous at the church.

But first, they follow a red-headed man matching Tempestade’s description of the nature spirit who sent him through time. The short sorcerer boards the steamboat, much to Rhys’ delight.

Rogerio Ribeiro says he knows why they have come and proves his power by emptying the cargo hold of sugarcane and lumber with the snap of his fingers. He and Lord d’Agneau have already been in the state of Mina Gerais for centuries and are longtime trading partners.

Still, Corwin and Elsa ask for help evacuating about 100 slaves, and the imp says he can take them “upriver,” meaning back to their home time, if not necessarily back to Gisar.

In return, Ribeiro wants them to take a message — “I sacrifice a rook” — back to the Pit Fiend they encountered in the Zarendo Islands. Giacomo and Melchior are reluctant to make such a deal, but they agree that securing the slaves’ freedom is a top priority. Rhys is just happy to examine the boat’s steam engine.

Tempestade and Scully find Armadeiras at a mocambo camp deep in the Amazon rain forest. They warn him that a planned rebellion is doomed without their help. Armadeiras agrees to accompany them back to the village and to tell his forces to wait.

The voyagers regroup at the church before going to Pais Doce for dinner. Giacomo once again presents himself as “the Mysterious,” and Melchior casts Heroes’ Feast to refresh his friends. Scully poses as a “warrior princess” circus act, and Tempestade gets help dressing as a Suthern/Arabian prince.

Corwin regains lost spells through Restoration and wears a white linen suit, while Elsa remains in bird form and perches on his shoulder. Rhys studies the steamboat, which he learns can turn into an airship!

The adventuring party goes to Tempestade’s former plantation, passing guards in mechanized walkers. Lord d’Agneau is a gracious host, offering many delicacies and suspicious red beverages. Giacomo covertly casts Detect Magic and finds wards above the windows and doors.

Melchior senses Undead and declines the wine. Scully smells blood, and Tempestade silently swears vengeance against his former master. Corwin recognizes servant Brizida, and Elsa nudges him to keep the conversation light by talking about art.

Diminuitive Rhys jumps onto the table to eat, and he later excuses himself to find out how the servants are bringing food so quickly from the distant kitchen. The Tinker Gnome finds a wheeled robot with metal arms and a hotplate, and he quickly stuffs it into his Bag of Holding. Pleased with himself, Rhys returns to dinner.

After the meal, Melchior and Corwin create a diversion by offering to entertain Lord d’Agneau and his household. Melchior plays his mandolin “Jolene” and casts Charm and Obscuring Mist.

Scully follows Brizida to a lavatory, where the woman draws daggers from her corset! Giacomo, Elsa, and Rhys go to aid Scully, while Tempestade prepares to fight in the foggy hall. Lord d’Agneau reveals his true form, with no hair, sharp teeth and claws, and a long, tentacle-like tongue.

Melchior cast Web, slowing the slave owner. In return, Lord d’Agneau tries to drain his memories but can’t because of the Cleric’s ring of Mind Shield. Corwin’s Symbol of Death has no effect on the Outsider. Tempestade lights the drapes with a candle.

Brizida slashes at Scully, who draws her sword in close quarters. Elsa casts Silence and heads back to the lounge, while Rhys shoots his repeating crossbow. Giacomo smacks the would-be assassin with his staff.

In the misty main hall, Melchior casts Sound Lance and Shadow Bolt, and Lord d’Agneau summons two vampires. Corwin casts Storm Bolts and Ice Storm, and quick-thinking Tempestade throws the burning curtains on d’Agneau. Elsa joins that battle by Wild Shaping into a dire bear.

Brizida cuts Scully with a poisoned dagger, but the Ranger and Rhys hit her as well. Giacomo finishes her, and Rhys goes to prepare the steamboat for passengers.

The vampires claw at Melchior and Corwin, who casts Magic Missiles. Melchior calls upon Ulandt, lady of the night, and Channels Positive Energy. Violet light heals his allies and harms the Undead.

Similarly, Elsa invokes Mekkil, goddess of nature, for a green glow. Tempestade calls upon Otih, lord of the sun and justice (similar to the Christ), for a yellow burst, which destroys Lord d’Agneau. Corwin finishes off the vampires, and Melchior casts Consecrate.

Elsa recommends that Tempestade hold off on burning down the manor house until all the slaves have left, and Melchior and Corwin search the area. They find the following items:

  • Alaria’s Saddle Blanket (3 preset steed forms, up to CR4; claimed by Scully)
  • Deck of Illusions (claimed by Melchior, who gave masterwork mandolin “Jolene” to Corwin)
  • Ring of Resistance (+ 2; claimed by Elsa)
  • Ring of Water Walking (claimed by Tempestade)
  • Vial of poison (from Brizida; claimed by Scully)

Tempestade readies to rally the slaves to escape from Pais Doce, as Giacomo readies his Robe of Blending to impersonate the late Lord d’Agneau and delay raising an alarm….

Boston-area face-to-face groups

"Vistel's Expedition," summer 2014

I hope that everyone enjoyed our extra games and Byron’s visit! I’ll try to post my notes for our second “Star TrekRestoration” session later this week.

Congrats again to Drew on your wedding, and good luck to Thomas & Kai-Yin and Sara & Josh with your upcoming nuptials! Our thoughts are also with ailing Stuart in New York. I look forward to seeing most of you at our next one-shot.