(Black Jaguar on Golden Scales, masked; Photograph by Wendelien Daan.)
Last Sunday was a good episode of this Oubliette campaign if I do say so myself! Things sort of took a turn in game preperations a few days before, but it ended up resulting in a really great session. Bernie had been here for the last session playing Xitari Atahwa, but it wasn't too hard to excuse him; I just assumed that his business with Duchess Danse Ballet Macabre was concluded off-camera, & then did my impression of his character-- it is a pretty good one-- saying his goodbyes & giving each of the players a gift of the "leaf of the moon lilly." With that, he made as mysterious an exit as an entrance, getting the members of his CULTure together onto the back of the oliphant & disappearing into the night. Mischief managed! That was just tidying up. Along with that, there were a few other points of interest. I'm going to start doing an Experience Point recap at the top of the session, since some Players said that would aid their book keeping. & we did the summary of last session, which caught us up quickly & succinctly while hilighting what had stuck with the Players & focusing them on the game...but first, one last thing!
Sam & Tracey & I have been going around around an idea that they had-- Sam's mad scientist Curie First-Light of the Stormstruck Tower, fresh off his work refurbishing The Singing Sword, has had an idea for crystalizing & purifying the ceramic sword that Tracey's character Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus won from a rival champion in a duel. A neat idea-- especially considering that Blue Glory has a crystal-theme in her character background-- but hammering out the specifics of the mechanics was taking forever. Evasive Striking, from Armory: Reloaded as the base? Frenzied Assault, from Slasher? The idea was to have the almost-invisible blade by-pass Defense in some way...anyhow, after too much back & forth, with James joining the discussion, we decided to just go with the rules for Enhanced Item & have the sword provide a straight no-frills bonus. Say the bonus to hit comes from negating Defense & blammo. Done. That was the side I was one, but then, I'm generally a "keep it simple, stupid" advocate for elegence. That settled, we were off!
(Danse Ballet Macabre; Tilda Swinton by Tim Walker.)
I started off the actual roleplaying part of the session with the simple question: where do you sleep? At the (oxymoronical) spartan feast, Spice Drop Duchess Danse Ballet Macabe had strongly suggested they sleep in the monastic cells in the ruins of the Ferra Incunabula Fortress. Eventually, after some discussion & being informed on how big the rooms were-- roughly large enough for one destriar & one humanoid occupant-- Blue Glory sleeps in one room with her mount Herakles Nightmare, who is so terrifying that anyone else would probably be unable to sleep from panic, while Curie locks himself into his exoskeleton, sleeping upright in his armor (& not recieveing any Willpower back) in the same room as Slumber Heart Dwells in the Blue House & his destriar, the Mononoke-like White Bodhisattva Annointed by Rose Water. Everyone all snug in their beds, I even make them roll to fall asleep. It is called mounting tension! That, & making people suspcious periodically is just good Narration, like using minis periodically for non-violent scenes; that way they don't automatically assume it is time to fight when you make them roll or bust out the dry erase mat. The players have somewhat fraught nightmares-- a horrific figure all in a bloody lace niqab, seizing the reigns of The Chariot, that kind of thing.
During the evening, Blue Glory took a moment to bluff a distraction for Dane Ballet Macabre & pull Lovelace aside. Lovelace is destined to be betrothed to Blue Glory's half-brother Black Jaguar, the treasonous Duke of the Sugar Plum Revolt & heir to the Licorice Duke...& more to the point, Blue Glory's childhood tormentor. We're not talking pulled pigtails & frogs in the bed, here. Blue Glory gives her sage advice; Lovelace is optimistic with the vigor of youth-- at thirty she is an adolescent Alpha-- but takes what Blue Glory has to say into her heart. She'll be cautious. Lovelace asks Blue Glory to help her get ready in the morning, & Blue Glory agrees-- though when morning comes, the hideous Herakles Nightmare is too spooky for Lovelace, who can't quite muster up the courage to approach & tell Glory she's going to start getting ready.
(Lovelace Vespers; Collections by Kacper Kasprzyk & Karen Langley (Dazed & Confused September 2011).)
& that isn't all Herakles Nightmare is up to; when Blue Glory sends him out to hunt in the morning, he refuses to go, staying close to her. Since Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus is able to speak All the Tongues of the Beasts & Birds after her mysterious sojourn in the Savage Lands, she asks him what is wrong-- & he says that everyone outside is "food now." & out they go, to see it confirmed-- everyone is dead. The Karnaks Savage the Perfumed Axe, Hopping Lace & their death-bantha destriar have been killed, along with the black & white horses of Curie's tinker's wagon-- his symbolic Chariot. A look at the arrows-- thick like arbalest bolts, made of perfectly straight but uncut wood-- are all the sign Slumberheart needs. This is the handiwork of Raphael Herald, the assassin who swore revenge on Slumberheart when the Duke chose to save the heir Miss Glass rather than Radfael's sister-lover, Tif'eret. Why he didn't kill them inside is a mystery. The Duchess says that they will build cairns for the Karnaks, but that they don't have time to deal with the massive (& literally mammoth) carcass of the destriar Hunger for Secret Life.
So, down two traveling companions-- two thinking, laughing companions; the brooding & charismatic Savage the Perfumed Axe, the affable & strong Hopping Lace who was a little bit in love with Blue Glory-- they are at last underway. Their destination? The Black Palace, the seat of the Licorice Duke, the heart of the Regent's power. Slumbering Heart Dwells in the Blue House is ready for his confrontation with Black Bear on Black Cedars, a follow-up to their legendary clash eighty years ago when the Licorice Duke broke Slumberheart's sword & killed his betrothed & partner, True Love Waits. & so, off they go into the Marchlands of the Black Palace, past the rainbow eucalyptus & the cedar trees, past the honey-fed bears & the salmon runs, the whole land alive but lived in, lotus shapes-- on of the sigils of the House-- woven into branches, landscaped into hills, carved into stones. Last time Curie & Blue Glory were here, this was where they were challenged to feats & labors by Champions-- both as tests of character & as part of the martial defense of the Palace-- & sure enough, they are greeted here by an ominous skull-faced figure with many javelins, on a coal-black destriar shod in shoes of smoking, burning metal.
(Black Jaguar on his destriar Great Plague of Hate; "Nightmare" by Tony DiTerlizzi.)
This is Black Jaguar-- now Black Jaguar on Golden Scales-- incognito as a Champion, though as Blue Glory & Slumberheart note, he doesn't have the authority to actually call himself that. He hasn't earned it. His mount is Great Plague of Hate, just fire resistant enough to wear the red-hot shoes, with an armadillo-like tail that can spread leprosy. Black Jaguar dismounts-- removing a metal skull mask & the antennae'd hood for a black lace skull mask-- & offers the Ordeal of Hot Water. A cauldron full of boiling water is placed, with a finite number of coins. Black Jaguar plunges his hand in & plucks out a coin. The rules are simple. You get a bashing point the first three times. Those upgrade to a lethal, & then three lethal are next...which upgrade to an aggravated, & then you start getting aggravated as the third degree burns get worse. Each attempt is a Resolve plus Stamina check, each successive time is minus one. & so, we commence. Blue Glory-- again, with strange Gifts given to her by the unknown events in the Savage World-- is fast, preternaturally fast. Slumberheart, bastion of Resolve, does well, & their pain bouys up Black Jaguar, the sadist. At last, Blue Glory wins, & as her token she keeps one of the golden coins, marked with the Henge rune for "Thorn."